Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year In Review

It's almost time to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014.  I could wax on poetic about how its been a good year.  Lots of family time, vacations, income, roof over our head.  But I am not going to say that.  Instead, what I will tell you is something I learned from the patients who I worked with who were dying.

Every day is beautiful. The ones that are rainy, the ones that you have seemingly nothing to do.  The ones that are sad.  They are all the days you are alive and filled with possibilities, if you so choose.

It's all perspective really. Just think of all you are grateful for.  All the things that maybe you take for granted.  Its an old adage that you don't know what you have until its gone.  And it really is so true.

Instead of complaining which yes, of course, I do sometimes, I try to remember those words, "Every day is beautiful".  So true.  I am grateful for each and every day.  Maybe take a moment today to reflect on ten things that you are grateful for.

The following are some posts that have been popular with all of you over 2013.  I am grateful to have had the food and recipes to share.  And grateful for you for stopping by and even sharing them with others through Pinterest.

Cranberry Bread

Homemade Ketchup

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Asiago Peppercorn Dressing
Magic Bars

Tomato Pie

Monday, December 30, 2013


Some appetizers we have loved over the years. Kickin' Queso, pictured above was one of my favorites. It went pretty fast.


Edamame Dip

Swedish Meatballs

Asian Flavored Crab Cakes

Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Gouda

Wanted to share with you some great soup.  Very simple.  Very delicious.  Pick the best ingredients because this soup totally relies on the ingredients being the best.

We were on our Anniversary trip to Cape Cod when I made this soup.  I did not have a blender to puree it but it didn't matter, it totally was delicious.

It was a bit chilly that day so it felt like warmth being breathed into our bodies, right to our core. We had it first while we waited to dig into our lobster.  It was truly a magical evening and the soup was no exception.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Gouda
printer ready copy here

1 butternut squash, cleaned and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 quart chicken stock*
1 Crispin apple or Granny Smith, skinned and chopped
8 ounces smoked gouda, divided
s and p to taste

In soup pot, sauté onion in butter until lightly golden.  Add butternut squash and cook in butter and onion for about five minutes.  Add in stock and apples.  Cook for twenty minutes.  Blend.  Place in serving bowls and divide cheese among bowls.

*Traders Joe's Free Range Broth.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dog Treats

You can't bake a ton of cookies and not bake a treat for your dog. Well, I couldn't, not this year.  It has been way too long since I baked her a treat.
Yes, the verdict is out on whether you should give your dog any grain at all. Some say yes, some say no.  If you feed your dog regular dog food, then you are already giving them grain.  Some people that give their dog all raw food would totally object to this treat.

For me however, I feel that while dogs ancestry goes back to wolves who do not eat much grain.  Dogs have evolved over the centuries and changed.  In owning a dog, my opinion is that dogs love their meat (well, and peanut butter) they will eat anything when they are hungry.  And my guess, however uneducated it might be in the field of wolves, is that if they were hungry, they would eat whatever was available too.

In conclusion, it's totally up to you.

Just a little side note about the peanut butter.  My kids and I did a little experiment one day.  Mind you, it totally was in fun with a side of serious.  We put a piece of meat on the floor and a few feet away we put a glop of peanut butter about the same size to see which one she would go to first.  She smelled the meat first but did not eat it.  Ate the peanut butter and quickly went back to the meat.  What did we prove?  Even dogs eat dessert first.
Dog Treats
Unscientific but yet delicious
Printable recipe here.

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup pork fat*
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (yes, the verdict is out on that too)
1 large egg
1/2 cup cold water

Mix all the ingredients together.  Shape into logs and press flat.  Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, flip the treats.  Place back in oven.  Turn oven off.  Leave treats in oven until it cools.  This will dry them out so they are crispy to eat.

Interesting articles both pro and con on the subject of feeding dogs.

Dog Food Advisor article: Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores?- by Mike Sagman
The Wild Side:  Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores?  by The Wild Side Blog
Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores by Marks Dog Blog

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ham in the Crockpot

Aren't crock pots wonderful?  I have two.  One oval and one round.  I do use both of them.  I feel like I really need to use them more.  Its always great to come home to a meal already prepared.  Like you have your own personal chef.  

This is not the best picture. But this is the best way to prepare ham, especially if you have things to do.  You can tuck that sweet little ham in the crock pot for the day while you go out sledding or shopping or skiing or whatever.  Then when you come home you can cook up whatever sides you like and you are good to go for dinner.

I don't cook a lot of hams but when I do this is my preferred way to do it.

Ham in the Crock Pot
Printable Version Here

1 1/2 cups brown sugar, divided
1 can pineapple chunks or crushed
1 ham (I used a spiral sliced ham)

In the crock pot, place a cup of brown sugar at the bottom, smoothing it out in a thin layer.  Place your ham on top of the brown sugar.  Pour the can of pineapple over top.  Then sprinkle about a 1/2 cup more of brown sugar on top.  Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours. Crock temps can vary, adjust accordingly.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!

 Free Victorian Angel Image
Christmas means many things to us.  Traditions, togetherness, food, get togethers, outings...  It has been a beautiful season for us.  I am very appreciative of what we have.  
A tree to dream by.

Elf toilet papering our light fixture.  Lots of fun with Elf.

Lots of snow to play in.

Greetings to all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


I went to the store today because I had to get one more thing.  I went to Kohls to get some lounge pants for my Dad and I had to stop and laugh.  The store was filled with last minute, procrastinating men. It's particularly funny because my husband does the same thing.  And I know, he probably is out there right now as I write this.  He said he is going to the gym but is he really... ?

Sometimes I am amused by this and sometimes it irks me.  Why can't he have the foresight to think of me early on, consider what I might like... and then go and buy it- you know, like, a couple weeks ago.  Why?  Is this a man thing?  Or is this my husband and a few other procrastinating men out there?

Well, if you are home and not last minute shopping- make some scones.  Have them tomorrow morning for breakfast with some jam on them and a spot of tea.

Buttermilk Scones
Printable version here.
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter

Beat together the buttermilk, egg and sugar.  In another bowl, combine 3 cups flour together with the baking powder, soda and salt.

Add about 2/3 of the flour mixture to the buttermilk and stir well.

Gradually add the melted butter, incorporating it thoroughly into the mixture.

Stir in the remaining flour mixture. At this point you can add whatever you like.  Raisins, chips, blueberries, cranberries...

A little more flour may be necessary to form a stiff dough.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for several minutes.

Shape into a circle and cut into 8 triangles. I put them into my scone pan.

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Err on the side to short in the oven because they can dry out easily if left in too long.

If you have them the next day, pop them into the microwave for about 20 seconds.  My daughter likes them with some butter and some sugar sprinkled over them.

Tell you about my sweet potato version soon...

Now, for some pictures of she-wolf with her Christmas duds on.  I do have to say that Caina loves wearing fancy collars. 

Does this face say "love" or what.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chocolate Pistachio Thumbprints

Today I really wanted to make cookies.  But I wanted to make scones just a little bit more.  Packaged up a few scones with a jar of peach amaretto jam, and sent it off with my daughter's friends parents.  Hope they like scones.  I will be passing the recipe onto you soon.  A great scone.  I did a little experimentation and came up with a scone recipe of my own.  One more time to test and I will pass that one along to you as well.

Then I sat myself down at my sewing machine and worked on some last minute gifts.  It has been very relaxing even though it is last minute. So the cookies never became a reality.  One less cookie around here is probably a good thing.

These cookies from the cookie exchange are real beauties aren't they?  A nice addition to your cookie tray.  They are decorative and delicious. 

Chocolate Pistachio Thumbprints
Printable can be found here.

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/2 oz. package of pistachio pudding and pie filling mix
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
3/4 cup to 1 1/4 cups finely chopped pistachios

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 3 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons shortening

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a couple cookie sheets.  I like to use a lot of cookie sheets and then have them already to go.  I never put cookies on a warmed pan.  They will spread quite  a bit if you do that.

In a large bowl cream butter and sugar together.  Add in extract, pudding mix and egg.  Add flour and 1/2 cups chocolate chips, until well blended. Shape into 1 inch balls, roll in nuts.  Place two inches apart on a baking sheet.  With thumb make an indentation in center of cookie.  Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, until edges are lightly brown. Cool one minute before removing from cookie sheet.  Cool.

In small bowl combine the filling ingredients and stir until smooth.  Spoon a scant teaspoon into indentation.  Melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and shortening in the microwave.  Drizzle onto cookies.  Makes 3 to 4 dozen.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chocolate Crinkles

A miracle happened to me yesterday.  Okay, that is a slight dramatization.  I went to the store to get six Christmas gifts for people.  I had a list in my hand and everything was at the one store- things I had never seen there before.  All the sizes were available even though the departments were looking a bit sparse.  I then walked up to the register- no line. Drove home- all within an hour.  I was amazed.  Did not expect that at all.  Done! I can stay home now if I want to.

Well, except for the post office... There is always just one more thing to do.  Ha.  Thank goodness.  I totally appreciate that there are things to do.

Time to bake some more cookies. 

This is one of my all time favorite cookies.  Oatmeal Cookies.  Soft Molasses Cookies.  Shortbread or cut outs. And these crinkle cookies!

What I drew on my Chalk door.

Love these.  If you want to make them mint add a teaspoon of mint extract.
Printable can be found here

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil (your choice- but not Olive Oil)
3 - 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
powdered sugar for rolling

Combine first four ingredients.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Beat until incorporated. Stir in milk. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking powder.  Stir that into the batter.  Chill at least one hour.  Using a tablespoon shape into balls.  Roll in powdered sugar.  Place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 375F.  While warm, dip in powdered sugar again.  Yield 4 dozen.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chocolate Meatball Cookie

One of the cookies made for the exchange was a "chocolate meatball cookie".  My friends family calls these Chocolate Tutu's.  You can find slight variations on the recipe as with most recipes.  I like mine with a little less spice in them.  I like the spice, dont get me wrong, but for me it throws me off when mixed with chocolate.  I think I would probably go with omitting the cloves and the nutmeg or maybe just a pinch of them- say a teaspoon of each instead of a tablespoon. I put a few other modifications based on another recipe.

In looking these up on Google a few years ago I only found one person who had made them.  I was so excited.  I made them that year (find that recipe here)but have not made them since.  I think I just forgot about them.  Now, if you look up chocolate tutu you will find quite a few recipes.

I did find a bakery online when I did my search that sells them and defines them as such:  A traditional Sicilian cookie, also known as “Toto” or “Tetu”.  Round Chocolate cookies with walnut chunks and chocolate chips, coated with a light glaze.

My husband is Sicilian and has never heard of these.  But then, his mother was not a baker.  She just wasn't into baking.  She was an absolutely beautiful woman, pure of heart and lovely to be around.  I miss her so much.  I often wish she was here to see her Grandkids and enjoy their silliness.  I imagine her watching on in spirit.

I will digress and tell you a story about how beautiful she was.  When my husband took me home to meet his folks of course I was very nervous.  When I walked into the room and met her she greeted me with kisses.  Tons of kisses on my cheek as was her m.o.  I felt so instantly loved and welcomed.  Any nervousness I felt instantly vanished.  Besos/Kisses to Nona from her Grand kids and all of us!

Chocolate Meatball Cookie
From the cookie exchange but altered with my recipe a little.

1 cup shortening or butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon cinnamon (1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon cloves (1/4 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon nutmeg (1/2 teaspoon)
5 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup cocoa powder
5 cups flour
1 cup milk
1 cup mini chocolate chips
add ins: raisins, cherries or nuts

Preheat oven to 375F and grease a few cookie sheets.

Cream shortening and sugar together until creamy.  Add in eggs, one at a time.  In another bowl combine dry ingredients together.  Add dry ingredients to the shortening mix in increments, alternating with the milk.  Add in mini chocolate chips or whatever add ins you want.

Form into 1 inch balls.  Place "meatballs" on greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool one minute and transfer to wire rack.

While still warm, glaze the cookies.

1 box confectioner's sugar
1 cup cocoa
1 cup water

or you can omit the cocoa, as some people do, and just do a plain confectioners glaze.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gingerbread Muffins

Christmas time just isn't Christmas time without gingerbread.

I am working on a duffle bag for my daughter.  I realized when she went to her last sleepover that she really does not have a duffle bag.  I decided that she really needs one of her own, not to borrow mine all the time.  Not that I mind, but its kind of a way to make her feel older- that she can go places on her own with her own set of traveling stuff.  Does that sound silly?  Well, if it does, I am just silly like that.

As much as I want her to be a kid, I also want her to strike out on her own.  It's a bittersweet thing for me.  Oh, the places you will go.  Dear sweet daughter of mine.   Ah, but not just yet, you have some growing to do first.

Gingerbread Muffins
Adapted from this recipe at Epicurious

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup mild-flavored molasses
1 1/3 cups cold water

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Use cupcake papers for about 18 regular sized muffins.

Whisk flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt in medium bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat unsalted butter and sugar in large bowl to blend. Add large eggs one at a time and beat to blend. Beat in molasses. Add dry ingredients, beating until blended. Gradually add 1 1/3 cups cold water and beat until incorporated. Divide batter equally among 18 prepared muffin cups.

Bake gingerbread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 10 minutes. Remove muffins from pan and place on rack over sheet of foil.

More Cookie Swap Cookies coming... (just a little break to tell you about the muffins.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thumb Print Cookies

Wrapping, shopping, decorating, elf shananigans, parties, get togethers, Holiday specials... whoa there is a lot to do.  Everyone is busy.  Remember to treat yourself this Holiday season to a little relaxation somewhere a long the line.  If you absolutely can't because you have to much to do. Remember to breathe.  Take a deep breath periodically and remind yourself the world wont fall apart if you forgot to do something.  Deep breath...

Hope you have found some time for a little bit of tea and maybe one of these cookies with it.  These are very good.

Thumb Print Cookies
1 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts
jar of the jelly you like- strawberry or raspberry are good choices.

Mix butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla together thoroughly.  Stir in flour and salt.  Mold dough into balls with hands and roll in finely shopped nuts.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 375F for five minutes.  Remove from oven and make a thumb print in top of each cookie.  Return to oven and bake for five to nine minutes more.  When cool, fill thumb prints with jelly.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies

These taste almost exactly like a Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie.  And that is very dangerous to Lori.  Because as the Weight Watchers meeting instructor said in a meeting long ago, "Isn't the sleeve of Thin Mints one serving?"  Ha.  While I am not a binge eater, at least not for many years, I can overdo totally with these cookies.  So, this is one of those make and give away, right away cookies.

Does that give you an idea of how delicious they are?

So, are you buried in last minute Christmas preparations.  I am a little.  I just finished one project for my brother and sister in law.  I am working on a project for my daughter.  Oh, I can't wait to see it.  It has been fun making it. Of course most things on the sewing machine are fun for me lately.  It used to be fun in the kitchen but that all shifted a couple years ago. I still like baking and cooking but not nearly as much as I like sewing. People can't eat your creations in five minutes when you sew.

Yes, some of my friends call me a domestic diva.  You know what?  I totally love it. Grateful for every minute of my home and time in my home.

Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups flour
2 arge eggs
1/2 teaspoo salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Combine butter, brown sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat until melted, add chocolate chips and stir until partially melted.  Pour into mixing bowl.  Let cool 10 minutes.  Beat in eggs one at a time on high speed.  Add flour, salt and baking soda on low speed until well blended.  Refrigerate for one hour.

Roll dough into balls and bake at 350F for 10 minutes.  Then put 1/2 of an Andes Mint on top and let melt.  Cool on rack.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Cookie Exchange

 I went to a Christmas cookie exchange the other day.  I am super excited about going because I have not gone to one in many years.  I like them because you can try out new recipes and get a variety of cookies for cookie trays without having to bake all those cookies.  This one was also a party and a make it paper craft gathering.  The woman that hosted it is a Stampin'Up Representative. 
Over the next few days I would like to share with you some of the cookies that were shared because I think they all were amazing.
Here is a list of the cookies exchanged:  chocolate meatball cookie, jam thumb prints cookies, pistachio cookie, mint crinkles, and Andes mint cookies. Stay tuned over the next few days to learn more about these cookies.

Some yummy party favors.

Some of the cards that had been given to her I just had to take pictures of- so cute.

 Here is my packaged Cheery Cherry Cookies with a little ornament on top.