Monday, December 31, 2012

(Almost a) New Year

It has undoubtedly been an incredible year in my life. When 2012 began, I had a boyfriend. Now I have a husband. Now I have a whole new family in addition to my own. I have a stepdaughter. When 2012 began, I was a teaching assistant. Now I have a full-time job with a salary and benefits. When 2012 began, I had a year and a half left of grad school. Now I'm down to 4 months. I've lost friends, gained friends, taken trips, spent money, watched a lot of tv, cooked some delicious meals, honeymooned, and so many more things. I even backed my car into my in-laws' house... my first "accident!" 

I planned a wedding, I set off the fire alarm in our apartment trying to cook a steak, and I finally got a flamingo. I saw my first IMAX movie, ate the most delicious butternut squash soup imaginable, made it through another 2 semesters of grad school, and was a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding. I even got elbowed in the throat while trying to take a photo of Khloe Kardashian at a work event in August (true story!). I attended 3 superb concerts: Mat Kearney, Coldplay, and NEEDTOBREATHE.

I spent a lot of time being sad and trying to understand why things change the way they do. I was stressed out, upset, and cried in front of my husband more times than he'd prefer. I made people angry and I was angry, too. I was never too sad to let any of the negativity outweigh the overwhelming positivity in my life. I blogged for the entire year and love it even more now than I did 365 days ago.

I first shared this survey on Flamingos in Raincoats last new year's eve, but I've actually been filling it out every year since 2004! I've changed a lot since age 16 and I love reading my old surveys every year.

{Chapel Hill, NC | December 30, 2012}

1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before? I got married. I think that trumps anything else.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions and will you make more for next year? I don't like to make resolutions. Each year I just hope to make positive changes in my life and have an even happier and more successful year than the year before.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not this year!

4. Did anyone close to you die? My great aunt Frances died this year at age 95. I can't be sad about the death of someone who lived such a long, full life.

5. What countries did you visit? I didn't leave the USA this year!

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012? A. PUPPY.

7. What date(s) from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? January 21 (the day I got engaged) and May 9 (the day I got married) were the best 2 days of my year by far!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? I started my first full-time job while still in grad school!

9. What was your biggest failure? For several different reasons I spent a large part of my year questioning whether or not i'm a decent person to the people I care about. It made me pretty miserable at times.

10. Did you suffer any illness or injury? No!

11. What was the best thing you bought? I bought my own wedding dress 10 days before my wedding, which was pretty special. And I bought a cruise to the Bahamas for our first anniversary/grad school graduation. We set sail may 13th! 

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? I don't like question #12...

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? ...or question #13.

14. Where did most of your money go? Rent. Ugggh.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? In random order: getting engaged, getting married, honeymooning in Disney World, changing my last name, Granddaddy's birthday, my friend Dianna getting engaged, scoring an internship, scoring a full-time job, Market America International Convention, weekend getaway to Wilmington, and my blog redesign.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012? Probably too obvious of a choice, but "We Are Young" by Fun.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder? Happier!!!!!
ii. Thinner or fatter? Fatter. Oops.
iii. Richer or poorer? Definitely richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Working on my thesis for grad school.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Being stressed out over everything imaginable.

20. How did you spend Christmas? We spent Christmas Eve with Brandon's family and Christmas Day with my family. Christmas morning was spent at home at our apartment opening our stockings, watching One Tree Hill and eating hash browns. :)

21. Did you fall in love in 2012? I was in love when the year started and I'm in love now. 

22. What was your favorite tv program? Brandon and I discovered Downton Abbey this year! 

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? I don't hate anyone!

24. What was your greatest musical discovery? See #16

25. What did you want and get? A new camera, to go to Disney World

26. What did you want and not get? A puppy, a better camera

27. What was your favorite film of the year? I really enjoyed The Hobbit and What to Expect When You're Expecting was surprisingly hilarious. Skyfall was the best by far.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 24 on June 10th. Brandon had to work during the day (how anticlimactic!) and we ate dinner with my family at Village Tavern at night. 

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I'm really not sure. It was a pretty great year!

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012? I started a corporate job which made me feel fancy and also made me feel like I could afford fancy clothes.

31. What kept you sane? Brandon

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Darren Criss

33. Who did you miss? At different points in the year: Hannah, Amanda, Meghan, Meridith, Jennifer

34. Who was the best new person you met? Kerri and all of my other co-workers (note: I'm typing this on my lunch break and Laura, a co-worker, is sitting next to me saying "meeeeeeeeeeee!")

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012: You can't make everybody happy all the time.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: "Oh, and you and I know all too well about the hell and paradise right here on earth." (Life, The Avett Brothers)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: A Recap

As promised, I'm here to recap my experience baking 12 days of Christmas cookies. If you missed one of the posts, here they are in order:

By the end of this project, I had used over 17 sticks of butter, 11 cups of sugar, 16 eggs, and 17 cups of flour... not to mention lots of chocolate chips, coconut flakes, sprinkles, and caramels. I learned a few things along the way, too:

#1- Parchment paper is the best kitchen invention ever. EVER!
#2- Cookie dough scoops are a close second
#3- You will get burned by your oven someday
#4- Owning pretty aprons is pretty pointless if you never wear them
#5- Making 12 batches of cookies in a row is expensive

My very favorite batch of cookies was #4- the Jam Thumbprint. they were perfect and buttery, but not too sweet. I want to make them again with assorted flavors of jam... maybe blackberry and raspberry in addition to strawberry.

My least favorite batch had to be the Caramel Apple Cider. I'm just really not a fan of getting caramel stuck in my teeth! The Girl Scout Samoas were the most difficult to make and the Blueberry Cheesecake were probably the easiest. The biggest crowd pleasers were the Oreo Snowballs.

I joked about making 12 days of Christmas rice next year and maybe I will! Any suggestions for my next "12 days?" I certainly have plenty of time to plan! :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012 Christmas Card

It's that weird time of night... it's technically Christmas Day (12:09 am as I write this sentence), but I haven't gone to sleep yet, so it still feels like Christmas Eve. Brandon told me I'd better go to sleep or else Santa won't come. Of course he's still in our living room, planted on the couch, playing with the Nook he unwrapped tonight from his parents...

Anyway, I realized yesterday that I never shared our 2012 Christmas card with the blogging world and that simply won't do, since it was quite a process. I knew I wanted to design my own card, so I did!

I love this card. I love the colors and the font and the photo from our wedding day. Since I designed it myself and was having it printed at Walmart, I did a test run first and only ordered one print. When I went to pick it up, it was blurry (especially the Merry Christmas banner). Bummed, I paid for the print and returned home to do some editing. I tried some little tricks I've learned about designing (trust me- I have to know lots of tricks because I don't have Adobe Creative Suite!) and ordered another print.

The next day, I drove to Walmart on my lunch break, where I waited 20 minutes to be helped in the photo department. I should mention that this was back before Thanksgiving- not a super busy time. Much to my surprise and the photo lab technician's blank expressionless stare, the text on this photo was also fuzzy. Bah humbug! Again, I paid for the print and left the store.

As I was super busy with school and work at the time and very overwhelmed without a lot of free time, I completely caved and turned to Shutterfly for help. I had a coupon code to use, so I chose a design I liked and made our card there. And I like this version, too!

Less than 2 days after I placed our order from Shutterfly I discovered Tinyprints. *sigh* I didn't think it could get better than Shutterfly, but I was wrong. Next year I'll design another card myself, get frustrated at Walmart, then log on to Tinyprints and create a cool card with the help of professional designers & printers. I can't wait!

Monday, December 24, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Sprinkle Compost

Well friends, we've come to the end. I'm here to share cookie recipe #12. A compost cookie was a natural pick for my last recipe- I needed something that would use up a lot of the ingredients I had left over from all the other batches! Even after making these cookies, I still have no shortage of eggs, butter, chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut. It's been a fun project but I'll be honest- no more cookies will be made in this house for a long time. I'm all cookied out! ;) Stay tuned for a recap of my project the day after tomorrow featuring lessons I've learned and the tools that got me through 12 batches of cookies. Merry Christmas Eve to ya!

1.5 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 c loosely packed brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 t vanilla extract
2 c all purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 c chocolate chips
1/2 c crushed potato chips
1/2 c butterscotch chips
1/2 c crushed pretzels
1/2 c crushed graham crackers
1/2 c rainbow sprinkles
1/4 c chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a large bowl, blend sugars and butter until combined. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix until combined, again. Gradually add flour mixture and continue to mix until just blended. With a spoon, fold in all remaining ingredients.

Roll dough into 1-1.5 inch balls and place on cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Hannah's cookie note: The purpose of compost cookies is to throw in some random ingredients! Feel free to add anything! I've looked at lots of compost cookie recipes and some of them include flavored potato chips, coffee grinds, cereal, raisins, oats, and candy bars!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Girl Scout Samoas

I've never been a big fan of coconut (one obvious exception: coconut rum), so I never liked Girl Scout Samoas when I was a kid. Or when I was a teenager. I've only developed a taste for them in the last few years and now they are my absolute favorite! I was excited to try this homemade samoas recipe. I've gotta say... I don't see a big similarity between this and the Girl Scout cookie, but these are still very, very good... one of the most unique cookies I've made so far!

1/2 c sugar
3/4 c butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla
2 c all purpose flour
1/4 t salt

3 c shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12 oz soft caramel candies
1/4 t salt
3 T milk
10 oz dark or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan, or use parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. At a low speed, gradually add in flour and salt until combined. The dough may be crumbly- that's fine!

Spread dough out on baking pan with a spatula into an even layer. This will be your cookie base. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until edges begin to brown. Cool in pan.

When the cookie base comes out of the oven, turn the temperature down to 300 degrees. Spread coconut in an even layer in a separate baking pan and toast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5- until coconut is golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking pan.

Unwrap caramels and place them in a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Add salt and milk and microwave until smooth, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Fold in coconut with a spatula. Spread coconut caramel mix on top of the cookie base in an even layer and allow to cool completely.

Once cool, use a pizza cutter to cut into 24 cookie bars. Once bars are cut, melt chocolate in a small bowl until smooth, stirring frequently. Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of wax paper or parchment paper. (I used salad tongs to dip each cookie.) Drizzle any remaining chocolate on top of the cookies with a small spoon. Let chocolate set completely before placing in an airtight container. (I put my cookies in the freezer for a bit to speed up the process).

Hannah's cookie note: This recipe has several steps, but don't be overwhelmed... just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to make these!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Melting Moments

I found this recipe on another blog that I love and immediately emailed Amanda to ask if I could borrow it for a 12 Days of Christmas Cookies post. She happily obliged and here it is!

1 c butter, softened
2 c flour
2 T powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract

1/4 c + a few tablespoons powdered sugar
2 T butter, softened
2 T boiling water
1 t vanilla
sprinkles or food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter with vanilla. Add flour and powdered sugar and continue to mix until well combined. Form dough into small, compact balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and press each cookie with a fork dipped in sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes until cookies begin to brown.

While cookies are baking, cream together all ingredients for the frosting until fluffy. Start with 1/4 c powdered sugar and add additional tablespoons if needed, to taste. Mix sprinkles or food coloring into the frosting. I used my peppermint flavored red sprinkles.

Remove cookies from oven and carefully place on wire rack to cool completely. Frost the bottom of a cookie and place another on top to make a cookie sandwich.

Hannah's cookie note: These cookies definitely get their name because they melt in your mouth... and for that matter, they crumble in your hand, too! They're buttery and perfectly sweet, but fall right apart if you're not careful! The best tip I have is to make very small cookies- the smaller they are, the less likely they are to fall apart.

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Gluten-Free Oatmeal

So far I've made 8 batches of cookies that have come to work with me to be distributed to my co-workers. My boss hasn't been able to eat any of them. Let me just say in the most eloquent of ways: It must suck not to be able to have gluten. Yup.

He asked me the other day if I was going to make a gluten-free cookie at any point and I was already way ahead of him! I had been planning to add a gluten-free recipe to the mix but just hadn't found one yet. This one originally came from Martha Stewart, who can do no wrong (with cookies at least, not with money).

As this is my first gluten-free baking attempt I'm not sure if I consider it a success or not. The cookies have a wonderful flavor but they either baked very flat or very crumbly. And the consistency kind of seems like scooping oatmeal out of a box and eating it without cooking it. Hmm... in my husband's words, "these taste like a big bowl of oatmeal in a cookie." He didn't follow up with whether that was a good thing or not. At any rate, I've written too much already so let's get to the recipe!

4.5 c gluten-free old fashioned oats, divided
2 T cornstarch
1.5 t cinnamon
1 t gluten-free baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter @ room temperature
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 t vanilla extract
3/4 c chocolate chips
3/4 c raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender or food processor, process 1.5 c oats into a fine meal. Whisk them together with cornstarch, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together salt and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add in dry mix until combined. Fold in remaining oats, chocolate chips and raisins.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop cookies into balls about 2 T in size and place on sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are golden brown around the edges, between 15-18 minutes. Cool on sheet for at least 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Hannah's cookie note: The original recipe reminded me that although oats are typically gluten free, they may have been processed in facilities that handle wheat. It's best to find a package that specifies gluten-free on the label. In this case, that package was huge. Anybody want to have a gluten-free oatmeal party? I have lots of oats!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Turtle

I bought a huge bag of Kraft caramels for one of my earlier recipes and took the rest of the caramels in to work to sit in a bowl on my desk. When I found this recipe, I scooped them back up and brought them home thinking that I would save money on this recipe because I already had caramels. Little did I know that a bag of pecan bits would cost nearly $6. Sigh. This has become an expensive venture! Next year I'm going to have to do 12 days of Christmas rice. Rice is cheap.

TURTLE COOKIES (1.5-2 dozen)
1 c all purpose flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
1/4 t salt
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 c sugar
1 large egg, separated + 1 additional egg white
2 T milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/4 c finely chopped pecans
14 soft caramel candies
3 T heavy cream
2 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1 t shortening

Combine flour, cocoa and salt and set aside. With mixer on medium-high speed, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, milk and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture a little a time until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour, until chilled.

Whisk egg whites in a bowl until frothy. Place pecans in another bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and dip in egg whites, then roll in pecans. Place on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Make an indentation in the center of each ball with your thumb or with the bottom of a 1/2 t measuring spoon. bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Microwave caramels and cream, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Fill each indentation with about 1/2 t of the caramel and allow cookies to cool on the pan. For the chocolate drizzle, place chocolate chips and shortening in a small Ziploc bag and allow bag to float in a large bowl of hot water. Once the chocolate has began to melt, gently knead the bag until mixture is entirely smooth. Snip a tiny corner of the bag and use bag to lightly drizzle each cookie with chocolate. Allow cookies to cool completely on wire racks.

Hannah's cookie note: I'd be curious to sprinkle just a tiny bit of sea salt on these to see how it changes the flavor. Too bad I don't have any!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Oreo Snowball

My co-worker Andrew has been the official taste tester of this project and I haven't heard him complaining very much...

..until I made these cookies. When he first tasted one, he was not happy. He was not happy because they were so delicious he knew that no other cookie could ever compare. True story! With that disclaimer, here's the recipe. Make them right now. Go!

1 pkg. regular Oreos
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 bag white chocolate chips (maybe more!)
sprinkles (optional)

Crush Oreos. There are many ways to do this. I put them all in a gallon-sized bag and hit them repeatedly with a plastic tumbler. You could also use a food processor if you're fancy. Combine Oreos and cream cheese. There are also many ways to do this. The original recipe I followed suggested a blender. I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I'm sure a hand mixer would work just as well. Come to think of it, using your hands would work well, too.

Roll into balls, about the size of a walnut. You can really do whatever size you want since you're not baking them. Place on wax paper on a cookie sheet and stick in freezer to harden for at least an hour. Once hard, melt white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Stick a toothpick in each Oreo ball and dip them in the melted chocolate to coat.

If you'd like, sprinkle some of the Oreo balls with sprinkles (or coconut!). Chill or freeze until chocolate is set. Serve and wait for a spectacular reaction. ;)

Hannah's cookie note: Ok, can someone help me with dipping things in chocolate? It began to harden too quickly, so the chocolate got globby (apparently that's not a word according to Blogger) and wouldn't coat the Oreo balls smoothly. I also ran really low on chocolate and ended up using another half bag of chips because the coating was so thick. Help!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Cheese


Good advice regarding my favorite food. ;)

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Butterscotch Chip

Butterscotch is my #1 favorite kind of pudding, so I knew I had to make these cookies as soon as I saw that butterscotch pudding mix was one of the ingredients. They have lots of other fun ingredients, too! ;)

1 c butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 c quick oats
2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1 (3.4 oz) instant butterscotch pudding
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c butterscotch chips
1 c coarsely crushed pretzels

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and both kinds of sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix again.

Combine the oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and pudding mix in a separate bowl. Slowly add flour mixture to the mixing bowl and beat until combined. With a spoon, mix in chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and pretzels.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Hannah's cookie note: No notes for this one! They're pretty easy!

Monday, December 17, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Caramel Apple Cider

I'm not a huge caramel fan because I don't like that it gets stuck in your teeth. Ick. These cookies are a nice exception, though. The original recipe suggested heating them for a few seconds in the microwave before eating, so that the caramel center softens a bit. Another suggestion was to place the cookie over a mug of warm coffee/cider/hot chocolate long enough for the center to heat.

I tried the second suggestion when I got to work the other morning. I made a cup of hot chocolate, perched my cookie on top, and began writing some tweets for the day. I looked up a few minutes later and my cookie was nowhere to be found. That's right, it melted so much that it crumpled and fell into the cup. Make sure when you heat your cookies that you pay attention!

1 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1 box instant apple cider mix (7.4 oz- 10 packets)
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
3 c all purpose flour
1 bag kraft caramels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.

With a mixer, cream together butter, sugar, salt and apple cider packets. Beat in eggs one at a time, add vanilla and mix well. Gradually add flour mixture and continue beating until just combined. Refrigerate dough for an hour.

Unwrap caramels. Scoop out cookie dough into balls, each about the size of a walnut. Place a caramel in the middle of each and wrap dough around it, covering completely. Place on baking sheets at least 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies begin to brown around the edges. When cookies are done, slide parchment off of baking sheets onto the counter for cookies to cool. Allow cookies to cool on the parchment until they've cooled but are still a bit warm. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to finish cooling upside down.

Hannah's cookie note: Pay special attention to the cooling instructions! If you transfer cookies to the wire rack before they're ready, you're at risk for the caramels to fall right out from the center of the cookie! Sounds impossible, but trust me... it can happen. ;)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Jam Thumbprint

Guess I was in thumbprint mode because I followed my Cocoa Thumbprint Cookies with these. This is my favorite recipe from the first half of this project. YUM!

1 3/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1.5 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 c sugar + more for rolling
1 egg
1 1/8 t vanilla extract
1/3 c strawberry jam (or raspberry, etc)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. 

In another bowl, whip the butter and sugar together with a mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until just combined. Slowly beat in dry ingredients a little at a time, until just incorporated. 

Scoop the dough into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheet and make a thumbprint in the center of each one. Fill each indention with about 3/4 t jam.

Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet or wire racks.

Hannah's cookie note: My cookies came out flat. Anybody know of a good tip to avoid that?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Cocoa Thumbprint

These cookies are chocolatey. Really chocolatey. That's all I have to say. :)

1.5 c all purpose flour
1 1/4 c sugar
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
6 T unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c powdered sugar
sprinkles, mini marshmallows, mini candy, coconut flakes, etc... for filling

Whisk the flour, 3/4 c sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and eggs and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until chilled.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place the powdered sugar and the remaining regular sugar in two separate, small bowls. Measure out dough into balls by tablespoonful and roll in sugar, followed by powdered sugar. Place one inch apart on baking sheet. 

Lightly flatten each ball with your fingers and place a deep thumbprint in the center. Fill each cookie with whatever filling you choose. Bake for 10 minutes, until cookies begin to crack. Allow to cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Hannah's cookie note: The marshmallows were my favorite filling by far! I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the red sprinkles I bought were peppermint flavored. Try to find them at your grocery store! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Brown Butter Snickerdoodle

I've never browned butter before, so I was curious about how it would change the flavor of this cookie. Let's just say that I'm a big fan.

2.5 c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
2 t cream of tartar
2.5 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 c dark brown sugar, packed tightly
3/4 c sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 t vanilla extract
1 T plain greek yogurt

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, 1/2 t cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. As it begins to foam, whisk continuously until it begins to brown and smell nutty. When it browns, immediately transfer to a bowl to cool.

With an electric mixer, mix the butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 c sugar until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time and mix until just incorporated.

Chill your dough for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator so it's as cold as possible. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Roll dough into balls about the size of 2 T. Roll through the sugar mixture before placing on baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8-11 minutes for a soft, chewy cookie, 13-15 for a crunchy one. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Hannah's cookie note: I wanted crunchy cookies, so I added a few minutes to the bake time and it definitely made a difference!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Blueberry Cheesecake

I've been looking forward to this for weeks and weeks! Today, I begin my collection of 12 Days of Christmas Cookies. It's been a challenge to find time to bake, but I'm so glad that I did. I discovered lots of great new recipes that I hope you'll try out this holiday season.

I'm going to share recipes in the order in which I made them. Without further ado...

2 boxes jiffy blueberry muffin mix
4 oz cream cheese @ room temperature
1 stick margarine @ room temperature
1/2 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1.5 c white chocolate chips

Cream together margarine, sugar, and cream cheese. Add eggs one at a time until blended. Add muffin mix and mix well. Fold in white chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Drop by tablespoonfulls on a greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart (they will spread out!). Bake for 13-15 minutes or until cookies begin to brown around the edges. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Hannah's cookie note: Brandon said we should call these blueberry muffin cookies because you can't really taste any of the "cheesecake" part. They will come out very, very flat. That's ok, it's supposed to happen!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Last week, my dad turned 60 and I was very excited! Today, my granddaddy turned 90 and I'm excited all over again! Granddaddy is another one of my favorite people in the world.

On Sunday night, we threw him a birthday party. Mom was in charge of food (along with my aunts), and I was in charge of decorations.

The location was the Alpha Chapel- a little venue in Bethania, NC where Granddaddy lives and where my parents lived when I was born. It was the perfect location!

This birthday banner was the last thing I made and I love it! I'm going to have to recycle it for future parties. I hope my friends like black and mint green!

These decorations for the tables were simple... something else I'll recycle for the future with different banners!

We bought a miniature helium tank and did all of the balloons ourselves. Let me tell you- it was worth it to avoid the hassle of getting them blown up elsewhere and having to transport them!

I've decided that no party is complete without paper straws. I fell in love with them when I was planning our wedding reception and intend to use them for all of our parties in the future.

The party was a big success and Granddaddy can't stop talking about it. I'm so happy that at age 90, after all the things he's done and all the things he's seen, a birthday party still impresses him. Happy birthday Granddaddy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012



My international list currently includes: England (again), Ireland, Greece, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey and China. Anything I should add?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday Morning

I had big BIG plans to sleep in late today. I assumed that "late" would be around 9 am. When my husband got up to use the restroom at 7, I woke up. He came back to bed and immediately fell back asleep.

I did not.


So here I am before 8 am, yet again, ready to take on the day. I think i'll start by browsing Grumpy Cat memes. What are you up to today?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RECIPE: Christmas Punch

Today's recipe is super easy and will take you approximately 90 seconds to make. Seriously.

ginger ale (I prefer Seagram's)
apple juice
cranberry juice

Mix equal parts liquids. Stir and enjoy! You may find that you like a little more ginger ale to make it more "punch"y. Experiment and let me know how it turns out.

...See, I told you it was the easiest recipe ever! I feel silly for even posting it now. ;)

Monday, December 3, 2012


Today is the birthday of a very special person- my dad. He's 60! If you know me in real life, you know that my dad is one of my favorite people on the planet my favorite person on the planet. He is awesome.

He has dedicated his life to our family, making us his sole priority at all times. He is a hard worker, a talented craftsman, and an all around mr. fix it. He is the most unselfish person I know. Case in point: I begged him to tell me what to fix for his special birthday dinner. He refused to name a dish and told me to make my favorite. I did remember to make his favorite dessert, though:

He and I both love banana pudding. :) Don't expect to see this in a future recipe post, though. All I did was use the recipe from the Nilla Wafer box.

Last year, I threw up a bunch of cute photos from my childhood for Dad's birthday. This year, I went even deeper into the vault:

Almost every picture I found of the two of us together was one where we were laughing or smiling. We laugh and smile a lot now, too:

Happy birthday Dad, I love you!