Monday, December 30, 2013

Colorful Cannoli Dip for New Years

I will probably say this every year, but I cannot believe that another year has come and is almost gone. I think that time has sped up since I started having kids. With that said, 2013 has been a great year for both myself and all my loved ones. I learned a lot bout myself and learned to be a bit more forgiving and gentle with myself. Especially in regards to how I parent my children.

For the past few years, any celebration that used to exist in my life (clubs, up all night and very questionable behaviors)  has been replaced with quiet nights on the couch with my husband, while the kids are nestled in their beds. Typically I would be in bed before the ball even dropped.  But now that the kids are a "bit" older, this year we are venturing out for New Years to a friend's party.

It should be fun and of course I will need to bring something! I actually made this cannoli dip for my son's first birthday and it was a stellar hit, but I always felt that the dippers bit needed adjusting. I used sugar cookies and assorted graham crackers, but felt that they didn't pair up as nicely as I would have liked them. So for this fun and festive version I decided to use pieces of sugar cones, which pairs perfectly with this dip! At some point I will take the time to develop a good sugar cone recipe, but for now any old store bought version will do the job!

This is what you need......

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Rainbow Cookies

Years back just a few small steps in to my new life living clean and drug free, I had found a job in a bagel/bakery/cafe type of place. I made the worst money ever, but it was the biggest stepping stone to self sufficiency on my journey of recovery. It taught me to value the money I had and not to spend it without any regard to how long it actually took me to make it.

Although the pay was terrible it was a great learning experience, even though I didn't know that at the time. One of the lead bakers there was a sort of mad baking genius, everything he created was as beautiful as it was delicious. As were his rainbow cookies....hands down the best I ever had.  They were always so moist and flavorful and try as I might I was never able to reproduce his version.

I typically make a standard rainbow cookie every year for Christmas and although the recipe I use isn't bad, there was always something tugging at me telling me that "something" was not right, so to speak. Offhand I never knew what that was, and the only and I mean only reason I changed up my recipe and tweaked it was because my kids distracted me at the grocery store and I purchased Almond filling over almond paste.

Funny how life works like that, because that changed led me closer to those lovely delicious rainbow cookies I used to eat. Now these seem like a difficult cookie to make, when in fact they are not, there are just a few extra steps which take a little more time, but the end result and colorful wow factor are always worth it!

This is what you will need....
  • 1 Can (12.5 oz each) Almond Filling
  • 1 Cups of butter softened
  • 1 Cups of sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tsp. Almond Extract
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup of Seedless Raspberry Preserves
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup of Orange Marmalade
  • 8 oz chocolate
  • Green, red and yellow gel food coloring
  • Wax paper/parchment paper
Before I go any further, let me note some things, I made a double batch of this so the pictures you see are a reflection of that. Using the recipe above your layers will be thinner. I also use gel food coloring to get intense bright colors which can be purchased at most local craft stores in the baking/decorating section. Standard regular food coloring like the McCormick brand you will find in the supermarket, will not give you colors as bright, but will color it slightly.  Keep that in mind

Cream together your butter, sugar, almond extract and almond filling. Add in your eggs and mix well. 

Add in the flour a cup at a time until well combined. 

Split the batter into three separate bowls and color accordingly.

I lined a 13x9 baking pan with spray oil and wax paper (you can also use parchment paper) and spread the batter in to the pan. However you want to do this step is fine, in the past I have even used a baking sheet, splitting the difference between the colors. 

Be forewarned this is thick and a bit of a pain to spread, use and offset spatula to spread it around evenly.

Bake at 350 for about 7-10 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown. The middle should be springy, not mushy. Bake all three layers and let fully cool.

Cover a cutting board or baking sheet with a sheet of wax/parchment  paper. This is where the bottom layer will go for now and the wax/parchment will catch all the mess. Place your bottom layer, which for now is the yellow layer on the sheet of wax/parchment paper. Cover the yellow layer with orange marmalade and spread it all over the top. Place the red layer on top of this. Now spread the raspberry on top of this and cover the top fully. Place the green layer on top. Now wrap the entire thing with saran wrap tightly so that it squishes together and put it in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight.

This step is where it all comes together, flavors melding with flavors giving the cookies it's signature flavor.
Take out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, before coating with chocolate or else the chocolate will be setting as you are trying to cover it and you will just get mad at the cookies (or me.). Melt your chocolate, I used Ghiradelli 60% cocoa baking chips and they melted wonderfully and spread easily. They also didn't crack when I cut the squares later on.a Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate all over the top, covering it evenly, you can cover the sides as well, but it isn't necessary.

After the chocolate has set fully, using a sharp knife cut in to squares! Clean the knife in between each slice to ensure clean cuts!

Enjoy!! And I hope these add a little something extra to whatever celebration you bring them to!

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Gingerbread House of Cards Collaboration

For years now my sisters and I have gathered at my Mothers house around this time of year to decorate gingerbread houses. For a while it was me with my nieces and nephew, as my sisters both had their kids a bit earlier than me. But for the past few years I have been fortunate enough to be able to continue this tradition on with my own kids.

Truth be told they just like shoveling candy unabashed into their mouths and the actual decorating of the houses last as only as long as the sugar rush. So the decorating part is not as artistic and creative as it is just a reason to just eat candy :)

So when I was approached by Rebecca /The Cookie Architect to collaborate in a group project in creating a Gingerbread House of Cards out of decorated cookies, I was super excited, becaeu now I would be able to get all sorts of creative. In the words of The Cookie Architect the genius behind all of this, here is a quick synopsis of the project....

Twenty-eight amazing cookie artists joined me in constructing a House of Cards out of decorated gingerbread cookies. The card deck was inspired by one designed by modernist architects Charles and Ray Eames

I was sent a cookie and instructed to decorated each side and then share the inspiration behind my design.
I had decided that I wanted to recreate a window scene. I have always had a strange obsession with the stories behind window displays, especially bakeries, toy stores and candy/ice cream shoppes.

In my early twenties when I was attending art school in NYC, I used to love the over the top decorating that would occur in the windows throughout the city ans Macy's window display always has held a special place in my heart.

I wanted to recreate that.

I started out great with time to spare and then I dropped the cookie and all but destroyed it. Of course I didn't take any pictures. But Rebecca (The Cookie Architect) was kind enough to resend me another one. (I buttered her up her with fresh cookies I had made) I had to rush through it in order to get it done and back to her so I wasn't able to give it as much care as I would have liked. But I love the end result!

I wanted to get in as much detail as possible without over-killing it....and I think I may have stopped one second before overkill :)

Now the other side of the card was more of an experiment of sorts as I tried some new piping techniques using only a piping bag and no tips A good first attempt and a method that I could possibly do well with. When I actually have time to sit and decorate cookies in a few years when  my kids go to school :)

You can see all the details of this amazing collaboration in the Facebook Album {{HERE}} This is where you can see all the different cards and all the amazing artists responsible for them! And you can also read Rebecca's blog post {{HERE}}

Hope you enjoy!!

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Cookies with Cream Cheese Glaze

I've been up my eyeballs in cookie lately.

Life always seems to happen like that for me, things will be uneventful and all sorts of smooth and then without warning, a whole bunch of stuff just shows up on my doorstep one morning smiling with coffee all set to overwhelm me.

That is what the past few weeks have been like.

Before I had kids I loved periods like that, it always pushed my creative limits and allowed me to do and try things in order to broaden my horizons and if I wanted I had the option to nap in-between. But now with three little ones underfoot, most of the time I just want to sit on the floor and cry because it all gets to be too much.

But something wonderful came out of my busy "moment" a new cookie recipe.

Well it's more of an inspired recipe as it's beginnings came from the Cinna-Bum roll out cookies from Sweet Hope Cookies. When I tried the roll out version last year for cookies for some Christmas tree cookie pops I had made. from that moment on all I did was dream about these cookies. They are that good. The only problem for me was that they were a roll out cookie, whose purpose in my mind begs to be decorated, which as much as I LOVE to do, can't find enough time to make them. So I don't typically make them unless I am making a decorated cookie.

But the flavor combo and the possibility of a cookie never stopped gnawing at the edge of my mind. So I made it into a drop cookie and you know what. They are just as awesome. 

Cinnamon roll cookies with cream cheese glaze.

This is what you will need.....

For the cookies...
2 1/3 Cup All Purpose flour
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/4 Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp.Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Package vanilla instant pudding (3.5 oz)
1/2 Cup of Cinnamon Baking chips divided.
1/2 cup of white chocolate baking chips divided

Pre- heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix the brown butter and sugars. Add in vanilla extract and eggs and mix well. Add in pudding and mix well. Add in baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix again. Add in the flour a little bit at a time until fully incorporated.

Now this is an important step before adding in the assorted chips. Take half of the divided cinnamon baking chips and white chocolate baking chips and chop them finely. You could even throw them in the blender and let it do it's magic. This step is important and also something I did not come up with all by myself, as this is an important step in making those wonderful roll outs I spoke of earlier. As the cookies bake they melt away into the cookie, providing a lot of flavor. Mix in the remaining chips whole.

I use a Tbsp. measurement and scoop them all onto a baking sheet into rounded scoops. You can flatten them a bit if you like. Bake for 9-10 minutes. I took mine out of the oven at 10 minutes and they still were pretty soft on top, that is how I like them, if you want them baked a bit longer give them another minute or so. Also keep in mind that all ovens have some variables, so at around 7-8 minutes keep an eye on them to see how far you want to go with baking them.

After they have completely cooled you can get them all lined up to be ready to be glazed. I placed them on a wax paper lined baking sheet, to catch any of the overflow from the glaze.

For the glaze....
  • 2 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Milk or heavy cream to thin the glaze to a consistency you like.
In a bowl mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until smooth and well combined. Stir in milk or heavy cream to slowly to create a  glaze thin enough to drizzle over the cookies. Let them set for a bit before packaging or stacking.

But  for eating, you can do that immediately.

These are a prefect cookie to add to your holiday baking schedule, as these are now a favorite and will be a permanent addition to my holiday baking!!

So before you go let me know, what's you favorite holiday cookie???

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Soft and Crispy Brown Butter Pecan Caramel Cookies

Guess what folks???

The Christmas season is officially upon us! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. But now it's time to move on from the turkey and start embracing the wonder of the upcoming season. For me this means a lot ot things, but it also means cookies.

Lots and lots of cookies.

Ever since I was little I can remember my Mother was always busy preparing for Christmas with a lovely assortment of cookies she made to pass along some sweet holiday cheer to family, friends and neighbors.

I also do this now as they always are a welcome gift. And I think I definitely score some points with my kids teachers as they are always VERY happy to receive treats of any kind from me. But seriously, cookies packaged in a tin, mason jar, on a platter or wrapped up pretty in  box with a bow make great little gifts that just about anyone enjoys.

I have  a lot of new additions I am adding onto the menu this year and I will start with these.

Brown Butter Pecan Caramel cookies.

When I first tried these I firmly believe I died and went to cookie heaven, but because I may or may not be biased towards my own personal taste preferences, I decided to share them with  people. Based upon the reactions from several independent sources, it was concluded that these are freaking amazing and need to be shared with the world

These potentially have the power to help move us closer to world peace...

Sweet, buttery, soft and crispy with these have that extra ummpppphh of the browned butter that just builds upon the flavor and pull all the ingredients together in a group hug that embraces your taste buds in an amazing way.

This is what you will need to make them....
  • 2 1/3 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 Cup Brown Butter (how to make here)
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar (white)
  • 1 Package 3.5 oz Instant White Chocolate Pudding   (If you can't find this Vanilla flavor will work.)
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Pecans
  • 1/4 Cup White Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 Cup Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Caramels
  • Parchment paper for lining your cookie sheets
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add your brown butter with your sugars and mix well. Add in vanilla extract mix and eggs and mix. Add in instant pudding mix and combine all ingredients well. In a bowl add in flour salt and baking soda and mix well, add into batter 1/4 cup at at time until incorporated well.

Now add in all the fun stuff.  I choose to add in pecans, caramels, white chocolate chips and regular chocolate chips, because that was the flavor combo I was looking for, so keep in mind you can add in whatever you like and not add in whatever you like. Either way you do it, these will still be the best cookies in the history of ever!

I scooped them onto a baking sheet using a tbsp. measuring spoon to keep the sizes consistent. If you want them to make a bit flatter rather then fluffier, pat them down a bit before you bake them.

Bake for 9-11 minute. The tops should be slightly golden brown.

Pour yourself a tall, cool glass of cold milk and embrace the deliciousness.

And if you are feeling extra adventurous, before you bake them strategically place a caramel smack dab in the middle, so when you take a bite you will get something like this. No other words are needed and you are welcome :)

Seriously though, these cookies were such a great surprise and such a hit with others that I just needed to share them with you all. And I do hope you will try them and feel the same way about them!!

SO what is your favorite stuff to add into cookies?????

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Easy Brown Butter {{ How to Make Perfect }}

I'm slow on trends I always have been and I'm sure I always will. I have always been the type of person that went with her own flow and when I got on board with whatever was trending at some point, typically it has already come and gone.

So let's talk brown butter?? Have ever had it? Tried making it? Never heard of it???

For me I know brown butter was sooooo last blogging season, I watch bloggers rave about it for a while, but never bothered to jump in to using it. So essentially it is new to me and I'm sure I am not alone in that. I came across it by chance when I was making a batch of Ghee (a totally other story.) And what I realized when making it is that the smell was close to divine and it reminded me of the nutty scent that the butter takes on when making butter crunch.

After doing a lot of intense of research (that translate that I Googled Brown Butter )I decided to try and make a batch. Needless to say this is something I wish I had paid more attention to. It is so painless and easy to make and when added to recipes it creates a whole new take on taste.

Trust, when I tell you that added to baked goods it kicks up the flavor ten fold and makes a good dessert so much better, like cookies. Have a great cookie recipe, well then this addition will make it a fabulous cookie recipe.  I went nuts trying it out in a million and one recipes, so I will start sharing my once great now transformed  fabulous cookie recipes next week. :)

The recipe I was "experimenting" with called for one cup of butter, so that is that amount I used to make a batch. I'm sure you can make more if you wanted to, but for me I tend to only make what I need at any given moment in time.

I started by placing one cup of butter in a small pan on medium heat to begin melting it. You don't want to heat it up to fast and burn it, so take you time. As it starts to melt, you will see the milk proteins beginning to separate from the butter fat.

It will begin to get frothy and bubbly, and a film of foam will float  on top. Keep it going on a low to medium heat as it continues to cook/. Swirl the pan or give it a stir every now and again to keep it browning evenly. Don't walk away or go do something else, as this is something that once it "turns" you want to be there.

As it continues to cook and the milk proteins continue to separate they will begin to float to the bottom and brown. It will start emitting a very nutty delicious smell. It's at this point you want to remove it from the heat as it will continue to brown off the heat and you do not want to burn the butter.

Transfer it to a heat safe container to cool off a bit. You can use it in recipes immediately or let it set up a bit.

Enjoy the yumminess!!!

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Holiday Magic Giveaway {{Cash Prize $1100}}

Giveaways are fun ,especially when they are for cash AND especially when they are right around the holiday when the need to pad our pockets a little more is more pronounced. My kids have a ridiculously long list of things, demands really of what they would like for the holiday season, so a bit of extra money would help that along.

Although at the same time I think they are completely nuts, because there is no way in the galaxy they are getting even a quarter of what they want (demand) I'm trying to undo the spoiling damage that has been done in the past few years and bringing back to the idea and freedom of simplicity.

I'll let you know if it works or if they just laugh at me :) 

Anyway let's get on with it.This giveaway would not be possible without an awesome group of bloggers and businesses. They include Spaceships and Laser BeamsMighty DelightyThis Little MamaDesign DazzleA Wife A Mom A LIfePaperCandeeDoodlecraftMade by Cristina MarieSquared Party PrintablesBellaGrey DesignsPetite Bebe, I DO invitations by michelleMore Than PaperPSA EssentialsYumtasticsBauble YumzPartystockPretty My PartyAngelina's Dream PartiesParty With the WarriorsWe Heart PartiesGiggles GaloreJ'adore Lexie CoutureFancy Cakes LLCInkberry Cards + DesignCupcake Wishes & Birthday DreamsSamantha Walker LLCI Will InvitationsTempo di FestaRibbons Unlimited, Inc.Young Adult Moneybabiesartroom and Hello My Sweet. And that's not even everyone! Take a look at the Rafflecopter form to see everyone who so generously provided sponsorship.

$1100 Holiday Magic Cash Giveaway

November 21, 2013 at 12:00am - December 16, 2013 at 12:00am
Open Worldwide
PRIZE: One winner will receive $1100 USD payable via PayPal
Eligibility and Rules: This giveaway runs from 12:00AM ET on November 21, 2013 to 12:00AM ET on December 16, 2013. It is open to individuals over the age of the majority in their home country. The winner will be chosen randomly through the Rafflecopter form. It is the sole responsibility of the winner to adhere to all laws in their respective country, which includes payments to any governing tax body. This giveaway is void in any country where it is prohibited by law.
Claiming Prize: The prize will be sent via PayPal. The winner must claim their prize within 48 hours of receiving notice. If you do not claim your prize within this time frame, your entry will be void and another winner will be drawn. We don't want to have to do that! Please ensure that the email spaceshipsandlaserbeams [at] gmail [dot] com is on your "safe list."
Disclosure: This giveaway is a blogger-sponsored event that is in no way affiliated with PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or any other social media channel. If you have questions, email Stephanie at Spaceships and Laser Beams at spaceshipsandlaserbeams [at] gmail [dot] com.

Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter!

None of the entries are mandatory but the more entries you do, the more chances you have to win!
(If you're running low on time, you can come back as many times as you like to finish the form and optimize your chances.)

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Good Luck!!

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Delicious & Easy Spilt Pea Soup with Ham

It's a cold day here in New York. When I dropped the kiddoddles of at preschool this morning I was pretty surprised at how the cold air bit at our skin. It has been relatively warm here considering it's mid-November, so the cold was fast reminder that winter is well on its way.

I don't know about anyone else, but once the colder weather makes its appearance I want soup. Lots of it and in any and every variety that there is. Which brings me to a new favorite of mine.

Split pea soup.
Photo Credit
Strangely enough I made it all through my entire childhood and adulthood without ever trying this salty, yummy soup. I have encountered it more times that I care to admit, but never felt compelled to try it. Once I did, I understood the allure of this thick soup that has the capacity to fill the belly and warm the soul.

We had a ham bone leftover from a previous meal and my hub's told me that he was craving some pea soup. So this is how my day was spent. It's an easy enough recipe as the only time really spent is the minimal prep work and giving it a few stirs through out the day as it simmers down on the stove.

This is what you will need...
  • Leftover ham and ham bone
  • 6-7 Cups of chicken stock
  • 2 Medium Carrots chopped and qaurtered
  • 1 Package split peas (16 oz)
  • 1 Medium onion roughly chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. Butter
In a large pot add in 2 tbsp butter. on low-medium heat. Chop your onion, garlic and carrots and add them to the pot. Cook until the onions are clear and carrots begin to soften. Add in your chicken stock, Ham bone chopped ham and spit peas and bring to a simmer. Once it all begins to simmer lower the heat a bit and let it cook down. The peas will all but disintegrate in the soup, giving it the trademark thickness it is known for.
I let mine sit on the stove all day, so by the time we eat at dinner time it is a thick, salty yummy meal. I top it off with some large, yummy, buttery browned croutons that I make, but store bought croutons work just as well!!

Hope you enjoy and this warms your family meals as much as it does mine!

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Monday, November 18, 2013

What Are You Baking On???

When I first started baking at home, I used a regular old baking sheet that can be found at any local grocery store. It did what I needed it to do initially, but as my baking adventures started venturing into different areas, it just didn't hold up to the standards I was looking for. Fast forward a few years to the present and you will find  me exclusively using aluminum baking sheets like this one.

I find them easy to use, they don't warp and the do the job I need them to do, so why should I use anything else. Typically I probably wouldn't have bothered trying anything else. But then I was contacted by the makers of Heirloom Baking Sheets to see if I wanted to try using one of their products. Since they offered it to me for free I figured I had nothing to lose by trying it out.

At first glance I didn't know what to think about it. It was shiny and pretty and had a nice weight to it, it was super thin with no sides, made of 100% stainless steel. When I started reading about how to bake with it is when it caught my attention fully. As it claimed that no parchment paper or greasing of the sheet was necessary.


That is something I can get on board with. I can't even tell you how many times I have been caught of guard in the kitchen not realizing too late (like at 11pm with a whole lotta dough to bake) that I am out of parchment. I use it religiously, as I like that my cookies never burn or brown too much when I use it.

So to say that I was super surprised that not only did my cookies not, burn or brown too much, they baked evenly and perfectly and came right off of the baking sheet with ease. They are all made in the USA as well, so that is a huge bonus for me as I will always buy USA made if and when possible!!

I used it for the cookies baked last week for the holiday vendor sale I participated in. I actually used my favorite and I mean favorite Cinnamon roll cookie recipe called Cinna-Bum Cookies from Sweet Hope Cookies read her post to understand the name more.  Lots of cookies baked to perfection and decorated to match!!

Best part of the deal is that because I liked the cookie sheet so much Heirloom has offered me a coupon code in which you would receive 10% off 2 or more sheets (limit 10) so you can have perfectly baked cookies as well!! Coupon Code is valid until 11/30/13 and is MDNOV13 just in time to get one to use for all that holiday baking or to purchase for the avid baker in your life!!!

To learn more about the Heirloom baking sheet please visit theme {{HERE}}

What kind of baking sheet do you use??? And would you ever consider trying something new???

Thanks for reading along!!

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