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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Ghirardelli Pumpkin Spice Squares, so glad I didn’t discover these sooner….

I filled the family’s stockings with a variety of Ghirardelli squares so that everyone could get a candy that they liked. I had never tasted the Pumpkin Squares until  Christmas day, and I am so glad that I hadn’t. My closet would have been filled with bags of these. They have the best of 3 worlds; Caramel, Milk Chocolate, and Pumpkin. It is taking all of my will power to stay away from the grocery store, and not buy up all of the left overs….If you haven’t tried these yet, you should. Seasonal candy really is a treat and I’ll add these to my favorites list.

Photo courtesy of


Packaging cookies and cookie dough for Christmas gifts

I love to bake. I’m sure this is because I love to eat cookies….

photo from a great blog, room to inspire


Giving cookies away at this time of year is a perfect way to join my baking obsession, and gift giving. Here are some good ideas for packaging up those tasty treats.

First, you could make your own slice-and-bake cookie dough and freeze in in logs. Wrap those logs up with wax paper and a cute label. Also, include the recipe so more can be made. Here’s a the site where I found the above photo

Here’s a great use for Pringle’s cans!

photo from jen morris bog

I like to find pretty, orphaned china dishes and bowls at thrift stores and package the treats inside.

Of course, Martha always has perfect packaging ideas. She also has a list of the kinds of cookies that are best for shipping and freezing.

As I have said before, I love to make gingerbread cookies for Christmas, but any good cookie makes a perfect gift. The possibilities are endless, and everyone loves to get cookies, so start baking and make the world a better place!

Trader Joe’s Macarons, almost as good as a trip to Paris!

Yesterday I served these at a party and I must admit, I ate quite a few.

Let me start by saying that the macarons from a bakery are always the best. However, these are a great alternative, and I was thrilled when I spotted them.

You can find these in the freezer section. The packaging keeps the fragile cookies from breaking and they need to thaw for 30 minutes. Don’t let them stand at room temperature for too long before serving, because they can get too soft, and lose that great crisp shell. These are perfect for tea/coffee/snacks/impressing friends. And the best part is that they reasonably inexpensive, considering what they are.

They are made in 2 flavors;  chocolate and vanilla. The vanilla ones are my favorite. I’d love to see these come in more flavors, like strawberry or mocha.

A blog called serious eats has some good photos and  info on these delicious cookies. So, buy a box or 2, you’ll be glad that you did.

Eggnog – Love it or hate it?

Eggnog is the black licorice of Christmas. You either love it, or…NOT.

I am in the love it camp. The real thing, made at home, is the best. I like it a little thinner, so I use half and half instead of cream, and then a little whole milk if it’s still too thick.

Some recipes call for cooking the eggs, and some recipes call for raw eggs with a whole lot of liquor, which cooks the eggs, or sterilizes them, or just sterilizes your stomach, I don’t know which.

Here’s Paula Deen sharing her  recipe that calls for only a wee amount of liquor per serving, and uses milk and cream . Alton Brown also has a recipe on the same site. with versions for cooked, and uncooked eggs. Both recipes are highly rated.

The Eggnog that takes the cake for liquor amounts is from Epicurious. It is highly rated, and it is the uncooked kind.

Looking for a lighter version? Try Cooking Light’s recipe. Their recipes are always winners.

If you buy it at the store, look for the “light” version and doctor it up with the liquor of your choice. My favorite additions are Kahlua and rum, or Kahlua and brandy. I think the coffee flavor compliments the sweetness, plus the bite of the brandy keeps you from chugging the whole mug. Don’t forget the fresh ground nutmeg. This will make it seem almost homemade….

Speaking of mugs, I think eggnog should be served in some kind of festive mug, not a juice glass for the love of Christmas. It’s a special drink, and should be treated with the respect it deserves.

Photo credit: Paula Deen’s eggnog

Christmas candy and cookies: a few of my favorite things…

There are a few special sweets that only get made, and eaten at this time of year. Maybe that’s why they are so special. Or, maybe that’s why this time of year is so special. People will  make, and eat candy and cookies while not feeling a bit of guilt. In fact you’re supposed to eat it, or risk being visited by three ghosts. So, here are a few of my favorites. I’d love to hear about holiday treats that are special to you.

I adore candy bark, especially milk chocolate/white chocolate/peppermint variety. It’s very easy to make as my friend Vanessa from Southern Living will now show you:

Wow, that’s so easy. Here’s a layered version that looks amazing and would make a great gift (but I’d probably eat most of it before it made it into the packaging.)

This comes from the blog Taste of Koko. I’m going to make this really soon, maybe even tonight. I’d leave work right now if I could…..

Now let’s talk gingerbread cookies.

I have a recipe that includes a weird ingredient….wait for it…Jello cook and serve butterscotch pudding. Like I said, weird.

I came upon this recipe on allrecipes. com after I had made some killer gingerbread cookies for a neighbor, and then lost/forgot what recipe I used. She kept raving about those cookies, so the pressure was on. I made a lot of batches trying to recreate them, and then stumbled on this recipe. It’s so easy. Often, I make the dough one day and keep it in the refrigerator, and make the cookies later.

A few tips: roll the chilled dough between sheets of parchment paper, cut out the shapes and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Chill the cookie sheet for 5 minutes in the refrigerator before baking. This will keep the cookies from spreading too much. Sometimes I just use red hots for buttons, and call it good, or they can be naked (no one has been offended yet). I also cut them into stars and hearts to change it up a bit.

Yesterday I tried a simple peppermint icing and it made them even better.

I whisked 1/2 c. powdered sugar with about 4 Tablespoons cream, and 1/8 tsp peppermint extract. I added more cream, teaspoon by teaspoon, until it was the consistency I wanted. Then, I spooned the icing into a zip top sandwich bag, cut off a tiny bit of the corner of the bag, and piped little button and smiley faces on the cooled cookies. The icing needs to dry for at least 1/2 hour before storing or stacking the cookies. I’ll update this post with a photo next time I make another batch, which will probably be in the next few days.

Everyone loves these gingerbread cookies. My kids empty the cookie jar, and take them in their lunches. When you make these, let me know what you think.

Candy Give-away! That’s right, free candy!

No need to rub your eyes…it’s all true! I’m sending samples of yummy Cadbury, Nestles, Ritter Sport, and what ever else I can fit in a package and send it to the lucky person who is 1st to comment on my blog today. Ok, this is really a way for me to get this candy out of my reach while I can still fit in my pants!

Have a sweet weekend!