Tag Archives: christmas

Last Minute Crock Pot Christmas “Crack”

27 Dec

Honestly – I don’t know who comes up with these names. “Christmas Crack?” I mean, I know it’s just supposed to be funny like “Oh it’s as addicting as crack!” but it’s not the most descriptive name is it? Like – what’s IN IT? Well, I guess it doesn’t matter what’s in it or what it’s called, as long as it’s delicious, right? Well – this one certainly delivers on being tasty!

Crock Pot Christmas Crack
(Recipe Courtesy of Just A Pinch)

Ingredients
1 jar(s) unsalted peanuts, 16 oz
1 jar(s) salted peanuts, 16 oz.
1 bag(s) semi-sweet chocolate chips, 12 oz
1 bag(s) milk chocolate chips, 12 oz
2 bag(s) peanut butter chips, 10 oz each
2 pkg white almond bark or vanilla candy coating, 1 lb each
Directions
1. Layer all ingredients in a large Crock Pot (starting with peanuts).
2. Break apart the bark into chunks and place into the Crock Pot as the last layer.
3. Turn the pot on low, cover with lid, and leave sitting for 1 hour.
4. Then, remove the lid and stir to combine.
5. Replace lid and leave sitting for another 30 minutes keeping an eye to make sure it doesn’t burn.
6. Stir again. Then spoon mixture onto wax paper or non-stick aluminum foil.
7. Allow candy to harden for at least 1 hour. Enjoy!

Christmas may be over, but the need for quick and easy to make homemade gifts NEVER ends – and this “crack” makes the perfect gift for any occasion!

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The Day Of Cookies

14 Dec

As someone who loves to bake, I have always enjoyed baking for others, and when the holidays roll around, I like to make a BUNCH of cookies to share with my loved ones – what better way to let family and friends know how much you care than with goodies baked with love?

This year I decided that instead of trying to bake in the evenings and on weekends inbetween activities and such, I would just take a day off from work for baking – a day where my husband was at work and my son was at daycare, so that I could focus on the task at hand – COOKIES!

If you’re planning on doing some Christmas baking – here’s a few tips:
-Pick cookies that all cook at the same temperature
-Stick with the “tried and true” – this is NOT a time to try out new recipes – stick to what you know!
-Prep ahead of time if you can – get the supplies the week before, make the dough(s) the night before, get out all your bakeware before you start, etc

In following my own advice, I chose these 3 recipes (that all baked at 375 – which made my life much easier!)
White Chocolate Craisin Cookies – everyone loves these!
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies – I replaced half of the chocolate chips with Christmas M&M’s for a festive touch
Peanut Butter Cup Cookies – an easy (but delicious!) one I could throw together between batches of the other 2

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I prepped the doughs the night before – two double batches of each (that’s a LOT OF DOUGH!) and I also unwrapped the peanut butter cups the night before, too

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Just a fraction of the delicious results

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All frozen and ready to pull out as needed for gifts, parties, and snacking of course!

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When you realize it’s only Tuesday…but then you remember Mom made you cookies! (as his shirt says, he’s just here for the cookies anyway!)

So – to recap:
-Set aside some time JUST for baking – take a day off like I did, send the kids (and husband!) to the grandparents, do what you need to do to get an empty house so you can focus on baking and get it all done at once with no interruptions!
-Pick recipes that can all bake at the same temperature
-Do as much prep ahead of time as you can – supply shopping, dough making etc
-Don’t use this as an experiment – stick with recipes you know and trust!

When it comes time to actually bake – crank up the Christmas music, slap on an apron – and HAVE FUN! Baking should feel like something you WANT to do – not a chore you HAVE to get done – for me, following the tips I outlined help ensure I have a good time – and that I am baking with LOVE!

Happy Baking!

Holiday Gift Ideas For Bakers

3 Dec

The holiday season is upon us! Carols, snow, lights, trees, baking and SHOPPING are all on my “to-do” list this year – and baking is the one I am most looking forward to – measuring and mixing, feeling the kitchen fill up with the scent of cookies and cakes while Christmas carols play softly in the background – that’s my favorite Christmas tradition.

Me, my turkey, my boy and my Minnie Mouse Apron on Thanksgiving!

Me, my turkey, my boy and my Minnie Mouse Apron on  Thanksgiving!

If you know someone like me who LOVES baking, but you aren’t sure what to get them this year, then check out my list of Holiday Gift Ideas For The Baker In Your Life:

A Really Good Spatula: A thick bladed, wooden handled spatula is a must have for every baker out there – as scraping the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated is an essential part of most any recipe. I love my spatula so much I even wrote about it last year, and a set like this would be a great addition to any Baker’s utensil collection!

Cookie Cutters: Ok, so most bakers probably have at least some cookie cutters already, but if you could find a unique one for them that fits their personality, it’s a great (and usually pretty cheap!) gift option. For example, I love Disney, and dogs, and reading – so any type of cookie cutter that is related to those themes would be something I would LOVE to receive. Or you can give a set of mini cookie cutters – like these adorable animals, or some seasonally appropriate Mini Christmas cookie cutters

An Apron: Ok, so this one may seem kind of lame – but aprons have come a long way – they are no longer just some frilly thing that housewives wear – they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. If you’re crafty, you can sew your baker a custom one like my mother in law did for me – it is Minnie Mouse themed on one side, and apple patterned on the other – two of my very favorite things! If you aren’t great with a sewing machine, then check out the TONS of amazing options on Etsy – all you have to do is search for “apron” and up come a whole bunch of results, and the great thing about Etsy is that most shops will work with you to customize your gift to your specifications – so initials, words, material – it’s all able to be chosen by you to create a super amazing gift for your baker

Tools For Their Littlest Bakers: Most bakers enjoy sharing their love of baking with others – I know I do – and I can’t WAIT until my son is old enough to help me roll out dough and cut the shapes out with cookie cutters. If the baker on your shopping list has kids or nieces or nephews, you might want to consider getting them something they can use with them – like a Kid-friendly cupcake decorating set, or a copy of this Better Homes & Gardens Junior Cookbook

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Something Pretty and Shiny: My husband got me this necklace a few years ago for Christmas – and I just love it. You can find necklaces, bracelets, earring and more on etsy – I’ve seen ones with little whisk and spoon charms too – perfect for a baker!

Baking-Themed Gift Basket: You can put a ton of different things in here – a roll of parchment paper, kitchen towels, cute measuring spoons, an apron, a cookbook, nice wooden spoons or spatulas – and you can package it all up nicely in a big mixing bowl or measuring cup. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just some things you think your baker might like, put together with love and care. Wal-Mart currently has a new line of Pioneer Woman cookware & dinnerware – it’s decorative, with plenty of different pieces to pick from, and best of all – it won’t break the bank, and would make a perfect addition to your gift basket!

A Kitchen Aid Mixer: This is the ultimate kitchen tool that every baker lusts after – I have a vintage one from the 50’s that still works great, so not only is it cool and old school, but I didn’t have to pay for it (as it was my grandmother’s) – so that makes me extra happy – as they are NOT cheap – the smallest models start at around $200, and go up from there. One that is big enough to handle a double or triple batch of cookies will run around $500 or more. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it – and it’s a gift your baker will absolutely LOVE. Bonus – they come in all kinds of colors now, so you can even get one that will match their kitchen!

A Recipe Book Stand/Tablet Stand: Give one of these so your baker can keep their recipes nearby and easy to read. You could go for an easy to clean, budget friendly plastic version, or you could go with a slightly more decorative version. If your baker likes to get most of their recipes electronically, then check out this awesome kitchen mount/stand for Ipad/tablets – perfect for viewing recipes or watching how to videos on different cooking and baking techniques

Hopefully these ideas will help you check at least one person off your shopping list – and if you’re a baker like me, then you may want to consider asking Santa for some of these items – they will make your Christmas even more Merry and Bright!

Skip The Frosting With These Sugar Cookie Candy Canes

10 Dec

I am a HUGE  Christmas cookie fan – and this year I wanted to try a new twist on the classic frosted sugar cookie– so I was browsing the internet and decided to whip up these adorable treats

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Candy cane shaped sugar cookies – aren’t they adorable? They were really easy too…

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I just whipped up a batch of sugar cookie dough split it in half and then added red food dye gel to one half and mixed well so all of it was fully red (I used my trusty kitchen aid mixer to avoid having red dyed hands!)

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Then I took small chunks of each color and rolled them into strips, then rolled them together into one big twisted cookie dough log

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Then the log got broken into pieces and rolled and shaped into individual candy canes

I baked them at 350 for 8 minutes and let them cool on their trays for 5 minutes before I transferred them to cooling racks

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Then once they were cool I froze some for later this month – and did the obligatory taste test of course. They tasted perfect – you get that great sugar cookie taste without the sometimes too sweet frosting. They will look great at all your holiday gatherings- and they will taste great too!

Christmas Means Cookies – And LOTS Of Them!

18 Dec

Caroling, ornaments, lights, presents, shopping, eggnog, family….just a few of the things that come to mind when I think of Christmas. But what’s the first thing I think of when thinking about the holiday season? Why, COOKIES, of course!

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Last year, I made Christmas cookies as gifts for people – a LOT of cookies….and it took a lot of time. Was it worth it? Debatable, because it IS great to give something homemade as a gift, but I do know one thing for sure – I won’t be doing that again anytime soon!

 

This year, I had no real reason to make any cookies, which meant I could take my time and pick which ones I wanted to make and actually make them for fun!

 

So what did I make? Well, there were the Sugar cookies – and since I couldn’t decide which recipe to use, I made two batches (cuz you can never have too many cookies, right?)

 

And what could be more perfect for Christmas that Peppermint Patty cookies, a chocolate cookie sandwich filled with minty creamy frosting…yum

 

Gingerbread men are a classic Christmas cookie, and while I enjoy the taste, I am not a fan of the ginger”snap”/crunchy cookie. So I found these Soft Gingersnaps, which combined the unique taste of the gingersnap with a nice soft, chewy cookie (perfect with some milk!)

 

Then there were these …..

 

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Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies Long name, super delicious results! chocolate, fruit and oats (so you can pretend they are healthy!) combine to make an amazing treat. If you only have time to make one kind of cookie this Christmas, I highly recommend these – they are easy and unique, plus they taste great

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Ingredients:
2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 5-ounce package Ocean Spray® Craisins® Original Dried Cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter or margarine and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Makes approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

**The only thing I like to add is some cinnamon and nutmeg, just a pinch of each, I feel like it really adds to the flavor!

 

So those are my top picks for Christmas Cookies, but I would love to know what kinds you are baking – either for fun or for gifts!

Cookies As Christmas Gifts – The Snickerdoodle Pinwheel

25 Mar

Since I love baking so much, I thought it would be a fun idea to give everyone cookie tins for Christmas this past year. Because honestly, what is better than receiving a tin full of yummy cookies that were baked with love?

I decided to include Snickerdoodle Pinwheels in my cookie tins, a cookie introduced to me by my mother in law (who is a seriously amazing baker and cake decorator). So I decided to make them for all 12 tins, and I realized I would need 6 batches of them (each batch makes 2 ‘rolls’ of dough, which you then slice and bake and each roll will give you about 2 dozen cookies)

My 6 batches of dough (it was a LOT of cookie dough!)

 

My husband loves helping me (and is in no way scared of screwing up and dealing with the wrath of Catie!)

 

The end result – a delicious buttery cookie with yummy sweet cinnamon sugar inside. They almost look too pretty to eat!

Here’s the recipe:

Snickerdoodle Pinwheels

Yield: about 5 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • For the cookies:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • For the cinnamon mixture:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions

  1. Cream butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla; beat until combined. Sift in flour and baking powder. Mix just until combined, being careful not to overmix. Dump dough onto counter and knead 2 or 3 times just to incorporate any leftover flour. Divide into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about an hour.
  2. To make cinnamon mixture, combine sugar and cinnamon. Melt butter; set aside.
  3. Working with one disc of dough at a time, roll out into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle on a floured surface. Brush dough with half of the melted butter. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon mixture. Starting from one of the short sides, roll into a tight log. Wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with other disc. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375F.
  5. Use a sharp knife to cut dough into 1/4-inch rounds; place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are just slightly golden. Cool on wire rack.

These freeze easily which worked perfectly for me because I like to be prepared and organized ahead of time, so I was able to make and bake these in early December and then assemble the tins closer to Christmas time.

Would I make these again? In a heartbeat. Would I make so many of them again? No, definitely not, and I would probably not include them in cookie tins again. They are amazing and taste and look great and the dough is not difficult to make, but they are somewhat labor intensive when it comes to rolling it out into a rectangle, and then rolling it super tight to ensure you get that perfect pinwheel shape.

This year I think I am going to give everyone else cookie mix in a jar, and make just one perfect batch of snickerdoodle pinwheels and eat them all myself (well, maybe I will share a few with my husband if he is nice to me….we will see!)

Cute Cookie Shortcuts For Every Season….Including Disney Season?

19 Mar

I am the first to admit I am a huge Disney World fan, so much so that I have another blog dedicated to the reasons why Disney World is fun for adults too (not just kids!), so anytime I can Disney-fy something, I usually take advantage, and baking is no exception

Which is why I was thrilled to see these at adorable Valentine’s Day themed ready to bake cookies at my grocery store (they also had ones with Cinderella’s slipper on them)

And I also recently spotted these cute Minnie Mouse Easter ones (how exactly they fit into an “Easter” theme I am not sure, but they are still cute, and made double sense for me since I will be spending Easter in Disney World!)

These adorable cookies are a great project you can let your kids help with, because they are fast and easy and basically just involved plopping some dough chunks onto a cookie sheet

Another plus is they come in varieties for pretty much every season and occasion you can think of, from halloween to spring to easter to christmas to thanksgiving to st patrick’s day to valentine’s day to spring…..ok, you get the idea! Check out Pillsbury’s full line of cookies Here

One slight negative I have found with this type of cookie is that when they bake, they don’t spread out as nicely as I would like – I bake them for longer than stated on the package thinking this might help them spread, but it doesn’t…..

I personally miss the rolls of slice n bake cookies with the picture images in them, sometimes the images got a little distorted when you cut them, but I found as long as the dough was nice and cold and you cut it with a sharp knife, that wasn’t really an issue. My grocery store doesn’t seem to carry the rolls of dough with the images on them anymore, just the pre formed ‘ready to bake’ ones, which honestly doesn’t deter me from buying them, I just wish they came out more flat!

….And that also doesn’t stop me from eating (a lot of) them!