Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recipe: Peppermint Mocha Cookies

So I was sitting around the other day dreaming about Starbucks Peppermint Mochas (as I tend to do all holiday season), and suddenly (as if divinely inspired) I thought, "If only I could make these... at home...in cookie form!"

I was inspired by the Mint Chocolate Cookies Brittany posted the other day. But with a baby at home, just the thought of making the different layers was exhausting.

So I spent half a morning searching for the perfect recipe for Peppermint Mochas in cookie form, that met the following criteria:

1. Chocolate + Coffee + Peppermint.  I found a lot with 2/3 but I needed all 3
2. Quick and Easy....no different layers, no melting chocolate..I don't have that kind of time.
3. Doesn't use too much butter...because the dog ate 3 out of the 4 sticks of my last package...uggghh..
4. Clearly looks like a mint-chocolate cookie. I didn't want to surprise anybody who thought they were eating a purely chocolate cookie

I searched all over the internet and couldn't find the perfect recipe. So I combined a few to make my own. Oh my goodness...they are amazing! It's like nibbling on a peppermint mocha anytime you want...and what could be better than that?? Perhaps nibbling on a peppermint mocha cookie while drinking a peppermint mocha...whoa...now there's a thought!

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 T. espresso powder* dissolved in 2 T water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup Flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt

*Used 1 package of Starbucks VIA powder coffee mix


1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
4 T butter, softened
2 tsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla.
1-2 Drops Peppermint Extract (a little goes a looong way!)
**Small volume, so beat until smooth in a small bowl.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter, sugar, egg yolk, milk, and vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt. Combine with butter mixture. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Press thumb gently in center of each cookie. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. As soon as cookies are removed from oven, spoon about 1/4 teaspoon filling in thumbprint.  Cool on wire rack.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just wanted to share because I thought it was funny :-)  This is me "rolling-out" pizza dough. I think it's genius!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Different Kind of Cookie

I saw Barefoot Contessa make these on her show and thought they looked pretty good. I was looking for a cookie that was a little different. These are like fruit cake but in cookie form. To be honest I've never even tried fruit cake before. I know it gets a bad wrap but it definitely is festive and from the reviews I read everyone seemed to love these, and they were a great alternative to fruitcake. They were flaky and crispy from the butter and chewy from the fruit and not too sweet. Worth a try if you are looking for something a little different and fun.

A few comments:
- I'm not a fan of cherries so I used cranberries instead, I think the cherry flavor can be a bit over powering so I would recommend cranberries.
- I added a little less cloves because its such a strong spice and added a little nutmeg and cinnamon to make it more holidayish.
- I used walnuts because that's what I had, it was good.
- Plan ahead because you need to let the fruit sit overnight in prepared liquid.

Dried Fruit Cookies


  • 1/2 pound dried figs
  • 1/4 pound raisins
  • 2 ounces candied cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 ounces chopped pecans
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour


Snip off the hard stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don't overmix! Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl. Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on ungreased sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden.

link to recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/dried-fruit-cookies-recipe/index.html


Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Few Blog Updates

Hey guys...just wanted to let you know I added a few new things to the blog.

One is the "LinkWithin" at the end of each post. It offers some suggestions for posts of similar topics to check out. A nice way to navigate around the blog.

The other is the "Labels" on the right sidebar. There is a spot in the bottom right corner when you are writing a post to put in a  "Label", basically the category the post falls under, ie. recipes, crafts, homemaking, etc. We should also put our names. Can you go back and add them for the posts you've already written when you have time?

That's it for now. Great job on the posts! I'm getting some great ideas and encouragement from you both. I'm trying to finalize my font color for posts. What do you guys think? Purple is very B...Green is very Teppy...I'm not sure what I am. Am I just plain black??


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Freezer Cooking: Getting Started

So speaking of getting back on track..I know I've been promising to give you guys some tips on my freezer cooking for months now. Well, the thing is, I did such a good job of stocking up before the baby was born, I'm just now, 5 months later, needing to do some cooking again!
I got the idea from MoneySavingMom and it's one of those things that really changed my life for the better. It is so great to be able to have hot, homemade meals every night with hardly any prep time. And it's not just for dinners..also works great for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and desserts. It also is one of my tricks for keeping our grocery budget around $40/week.  This last stock-up probably took me around 4 hours spead out during baby nap times and cost probably around $75-$100, I splurged a little since I haven't done any major cooking in literally months. I won't have to do any major cooking now (unless I want to, which is part of the fun..taking off the pressure to HAVE to cook) for the next month.

I'll give you some of my favorite tips and recipes. It's probably a little overwhelming, so I'll break it down into a few posts.

Tip #1:  The biggest tip and easiest way to start is to make at least double of something you are making anyways. For example, if you are making a lasagna for dinner, make 2-3 and freeze the others. It's hardly any extra work and now you have another meal ready to go. And then freeze dinner leftovers in lunch size portions for you husbands to grab for lunches.

Tip #2:  Take one ingredient and use in a number of different dishes. I usually focus on one meat at a time, and base that on what's on sale.  

For example:
Ground Beef:
Meat Loaf (make a big batch and freeze in single meal-sized portions)
Meatballs (freeze in a bag and serve with pasta or use for meatball subs)
Taco Meat
Brown Bag Burritos (these are awesome. Individually wrapped burritos ready to grab-and-go. I usually add rice too to make them a little more hardy)

*Fajitas (cook with peppers and onions and seasoning)
*Cooked, breaded chicken breasts. Can use reheat and serve as is or use for other dishes like chicken parm.
*Chicken breasts frozen in a marinade (this is one of my favorite tips) bbq, teriyaki, italian dressing, taco sauce, curry sauce, etc.  I usually always do this right when I get home from the grocery store. It's a small step. But sometimes just deciding what to make is so tough when you're exhausted and don't feel like cooking.  I'll go.. "okay, I have some chicken breasts in BBQ sauce..I'll through that in the oven, heat up some baked beans and serve with some rolls." And dinner is done with 5-10 minutes prep time and little thought.

This might be the easiest way to start. I'll make an entire bag of rice and use it to make different types of meals:
Asian - veggies, teriyaki sauce, chicken
Mexican - brown bag burritos, or make mexican rice with a little seasoning
Indian - curry sauce, chicken, any veggies on hand
Side dishes...cooked rice freezes pretty well and good to have on hand for a side dish.

Hope that helps to get you guys started. Let me know if you try it and have any success!!


B's Secrets to Easy Entertaining

So I'm having what is really my first girls night. I've had my girlfriends over before of course, but I've never had an official "girls night party". And there are a few new girls coming that I've recently become friends with. I'm really looking forward to it! I plan to make it super Christmasy! 

I got stressed for a matter of a second, trying to think of what to make for food and wanting to impress everyone. But I quickly realized that the food isn't what it's all about. It is about getting the girls together and enjoying eachothers company! If I got stressed about what I would make every time I wanted to have people over I would probably never have company! 

So I think I found the secret to easy entertaining. Taking very simple ingredients and recipes and making it fancy! Tiffany, I loved all those recipes you sent me and those were exactly what I was looking for; simple, old-school food for large crowds that everyone loves! Such as dips and the classic cheese & veggie platter. I don't know how many times I've had people over and made the most basic, easiest thing in the world, and people would just "Wow" over it. I was always shocked. "Really? Its just BBQ chicken..."  But my secret weapon is to present it really beautifully on some fancy dishes and always garnish! Really fools your guest into thinking its something special and complex that took you forever to make!

I think you guys know Austin and my style by now. Laid-back and comfy! And my food is no different. I like to serve things my guest maybe wouldn't expect, but makes them feel all warm and fuzzy and right at home! For example a big pot of soup. I would say my second biggest tip to fun and easy entertaining is to do things that are YOU and that you are comfortable with. We aren't all Giada de Laurentiis! (even though I secretly wish I was) and I think your guest will really enjoy your own personal style. 


Getting Back on Track

Sorry I've been MIA for awhile. I've been in sort of a weird place lately...a cross between a funk and feeling really great, like I'm coming out of the survival mode fog and getting my life back on track now since the baby. I think I'm just getting to a place where I feel like I have things a little more under control and can start thinking about being productive again..which is great and exciting..but I don't even know where to start. For one, I've been trying to cut back on computer time until I can learn to control myself better. I was starting to waste so much time.

I'm so proud of you guys for keeping things going here! I'm excited to try those cookies Steph (and I'm so in love with the white peppermint mochas at starbucks too! I spilled one all over my car the other day and didn't even care because it smelled so good...at first....not so much now).

And I'm excited to hear how your party turns out B. I totally agree about the fine art of simple entertaining. I want my guests to feel relaxed and not like I'm all stressed out trying to throw the perfect party for them but that I'm just happy to have their company. 

I'll try to get back to regular posting. I'm working on a series on the Freezer Cooking I've been doing lately, and I have some great new recipes to share from that too.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies of All Time!!

Ok you guys have got to try these cookies! Guaranteed best chocolate chip cookies you've ever had! They are a Paula Deen recipe in my Betty Crocker cookie booklet. 

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 C. butter

1 1/2 C. creamy peanut butter

2 1/2 C. packed brown sugar

2 whole eggs

1 egg white

1/2 C. sour cream

2 t. vanilla

3 1/2 C. Better for Bread flour (* I used all-purpose flour and they came out awesome)

3 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

1 C. mini semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter & peanut butter until creamy. Add brown sugar, beat until creamy. Beat in eggs, egg white, sour cream, and vanilla. gradually beat in salt, baking soda, and flour. Stir in chocolate chips.

2. On ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by heaping tablespoon, 2 inches apart.

3. Bake 10-15 min.or until lightly browned.

Seriously. Do yourself a favor and make these. You're welcome.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Yummy Cookies!

Chocolate-Mint Layered Cookies

3/4 C. butter

3/4 C. sugar

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

2 1/4  C. all-purpose flour

1/4 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

9 oz. bag semisweet chocolate chips

1 T. all-purpose flour

9 drops green food color

1 t. mint extract

1 t shortening or canola oil

1. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. On low speed, beat in baking powder, salt, and 2 1/4 C. flour until dough forms. Divide dough in half (about 1 1/4 C. each) place 1 portion in medium bowl.

2. In small microwavable bowl, microwave 1/2 C. of the chocolate chips on High 30-60 seconds or until melted. (*I made it 3/4 C. chocolate) Stir until smooth, cool. Add melted chocolate to dough in medium bowl; knead until well combined. To remaining dough, add 1 T. flour, the food color and mint extract; mix until blended. Wrap each portion of dough in waxed paper; refrigerate 30 minutes.

3. Pat chocolate dough into rectangle shapes. Place between sheets of waxed paper (*don't use flour. You need dough sticky). Roll to 10x6 inch rectangle, patting into shape with fingers as needed to retain rectangle shape. Repeat with green dough. Remove wax paper on dough, except for one bottom sheet on counter. Layer dough one on top of another. Press down firmly. Cut 3 equal stripes lengthwise in dough. Stack stripes so they are layered and press down firmly. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices. Trim dough as needed. On ungreased cookie sheet, place slices 2-inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges start to brown. Cool completely.

5. In small microwavable bowl, microwave remaining 1 C. chocolate chips and add the shortening (*I didn't have shortening so I used canola oil and it worked just fine). Melt in microwave. Dip one edge of cookie in chocolate. Cool completely.

I was in the market for a different kind of Christmas cookie. I was bored with the traditional sugar cookie and chocolate chip. I wanted something different but still festive. I came across this recipe in a Betty Crocker Christmas cookie booklet and thought I would give it a go. It was fun to make something different and boy are they yummy! Nice and chocolaty and the mint isn't too over-powering. 

Mint is my new favorite this season! I used to not like mint, well I shouldn't say I didn't like it, I just never gave it a chance! It never sounded appealing to me. But that all changed when I had my first peppermint mocha at Starbucks. It was like Christmas in a cup! Now I think mint is the taste of the Holidays and I want to do everything in mint!

I think you gals should try this recipe. They are definitely a "Wow" cookie because of the layered mint and chocolate, and I guarantee any place you bring them they will be one-of-a-kind and quite special. Happy baking!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

No one knows Christmas like Dickens! :)  What I find so amazing about Christmas is that it is the one time of year where the world is united in joy and love. I'm not saying we have world peace, but most people do seem to be in a special kind of mood. I think it is so amazing to walk into almost any store and see decorations everywhere and Christmas music playing. In the evenings people are home with their families around the Christmas tree, making cookies. It is the one time of year where almost every household is contributing to at least one Christmas tradition at any given time of the Christmas season. And what I thought of when I was reading that quote in A Christmas Carol is that the magic of Christmas expands not only geographically, but time as well. People feel the same way about Christmas today, as they did around the turn of the century. Because Christmas is love and happiness, and that will never go out of style!

Those are great memories, Steph! And would definitely make my list as well. Going to find our Christmas tree was always so special and magical. Is it me or do Christmas trees have an energy about them? Like they are almost alive, just waiting for some nice family to take them home. And you have to pick the one that really speaks to you! Just me? Ok. Ha I used to get so attached to the Christmas tree. It was always so sad for me to see it out on the curb after the Holidays. Because it brought us so much joy. Do you guys remember how we used to have our "secret fort" behind the tree? We thought we were pretty sneaky!

Another one of my favorite memories was the Christmas we got our doll house. After Dad spent probably hours putting it together, I remember sitting in the den playing with it. I was so excited about that doll house! I remember we got a lot of snow that year on Christmas (at least I think so, I could be making that up to have the perfect memory) and there was Christmas music playing, and Mom was in the kitchen cooking. It is a really special memory to me!


Lessons from a Christmas Carol

Every year at Christmas I want to read A Christmas Carol but never actually get around to doing it. So this year I am going to do it. I started reading it last night and here is an excerpt from the book below. I really like the way the nephew in the story explains Christmas.

"Nephew!" returned the uncle, sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."
"Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew.  "But you don't keep it."
"Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge.  "Much good may it do you!  Much good it has ever done you!"
"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew.  "Christmas among the rest.  But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"

It makes sense that a holidays that celebrates the birth of Christ who was perfect in love, would be a holiday that is full of love, joy, peace, and beauty. No wonder we get that warm fuzzy feeling around Christmas time. It really is the one time of year that people seem to slow down and focus on family and reflect on their lives and "open their shut-ups hearts freely". Hopefully it can be a feeling that carries people throughout the year and can keep the peace and joy in their hearts.

A few of my favorite memories off the top of my head (because I have tons)...
- An obvious one is dancing around to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD while decorating the tree. I remember one year in particular, we were decorating the tree and mom was baking cookies and we were watching Christmas shoes on TV. The was an exceptionally magical year.

- One of my very favorite memories. I'm not sure why but this is one of my most magical memories. Me, dad, and Britt went to get a tree from the YMCA. Not sure why we went there but we did. Tiff you were home sick. I remember it was dark out and the snow was falling heavily and Britt and I walked around the aisles of trees pretending we were in an enchanted forest. When we got home the house was all clean and the lights were dim and there was a Christmas candle burning. I was in an exceptionally Christmasy mood so I went into my room and created my own winter wonderland. I'm not sure if you guys remember that or not, but I used to just go nuts with decorations in my room. I used to LOVE doing that. Then I would have the family walk into my Christmas world and "ooo" and "ahhh" all the work I did. For some reason the night really stands out in my mind.

I have lots more but that's just a start :)


Thursday, December 2, 2010

I haven't forgotten about the blog, I'm just not very good with it I don't think. I'm never quite sure what to say. But I guess that will only get better with practice. Plus I usually don't have a computer or a camera. Austin and I are looking into a new laptop for me so I know that will make a huge difference! But I have been trying my best to keep up with my "plan" for myself. I'm trying to constantly work on ways to better myself and my life. Notice I use the word "trying". I start to stray here and there, but at least I have a plan and I'm aware when I start to stray. It's always in the back of my mind. This month I want to focus on Christmas. And I mean REALLY focus on it. About everything Christmas means. The happiness and warmth, love for family and friends, the cozy peaceful feeling it brings. The pure magic of it! I really don't want the holiday to just pass on by with out really embracing it! I want to do at least one Christmasy thing every day. Even if its just relaxing by the Christmas tree with a cup of hot chocolate and letting my mind wander. I'm trying to do more meaningful things with my evenings. And what I mean by "meaningful" doesn't always mean it has to take a lot of effort, or any effort at all really. Like I said sometimes just sitting quietly, with the TV off, is the most wonderful thing you can do for yourself.

I was wondering if you guys have a favorite Christmas memory. It will give you something to think about that's for sure! Because I know we always had the most amazing Christmases. In fact I'm going to reflect on this one myself for a while and get back to you!