Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Triple Chip Cookies

Here in Victoria, we have a Christmas tradition. My family, along with our church, put on an outdoor Christmas Nativity Pageant for the community. We bundle up (and I mean bundle- it can be cold!) and dress up in costumes to put on  the story of Jesus' birth. This year marks the 25th anniversary, and I can say that I have been in it for at least 20 of those 25. My favourite year was when the hubs and I were Mary and Joseph and our middle son was the baby Jesus. Check it out at www.christmasnativity.ca

This year I was asked to make cookies for the performers. There are 4 shows a night, so in between shows, there is a little tent with hot chocolate and cookies for the cast and crew. My favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe is the one we grew up on, from good old Betty Crocker. But Leah had a brainwave to add butterscotch and white morsels to it, just to punch it up a bit. It is genius, really. Leah has made these a ton, so really it's her recipe and I'm just the one posting it. Team effort, right? I like them best right out of the oven, but cookies are cookies, so they're good anytime. Even at 11:30 at night, when you should be in bed, but your husband asks you to stay up and watch him play Zelda.

Triple Chip Chip Cookies

3/4 cup granulated sugar                                      
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
2  1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I ommitted)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- Heat oven to 375ºF.
-  Mix sugars, butter and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt.
- Stir in nuts (if using) and chocolate chips.
- Drop  by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown (centers will be soft).
- Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet.
- Cool on wire rack.


Skor Shortbread Meltaways

Last week was my middle son's preschool Christmas party. I think you would be hard pressed to be in a more adorable, more Christmassy place. 15 three year olds, dressed in their favourite Christmas clothes, who want nothing more than to sing "Frosty the Snowman" to their parents. When we (the parents) walked in the door, they were all properly seated at the snack table just waiting foir us. 15 little voices cheering, "Mommy!" or "Daddy!".  Heart melting, really. We ate special Christmas snacks , made crafts and sang Christmas songs. It was a perfect morning.

When I have 3 teenage sons who will be embarrased at the very thought of me trying to give a hug, or (gasp!) even a kiss, I will remember this morning. Remember the little 3 year old arms wrapped around me, so proud to introduce me to his friends and teachers.

This little get-together was a potluck, so naturally, there were way too many cookies. People tend to bring cookies to things like this. But there was one cookie that took the cake, if you will. It was amazing. Melt-in-your-mouth, knock-your-socks-off amazing. I needed the recipe, and I needed it now. One of the moms got the recipe from a co-worker, and was nice enough to pass it on it me. Well, random co-worker, thank you. You made my Christmas a little tastier.

Skor Shortbread Meltaways

  1 cup butter, softened
  ½ cup icing sugar
  1 1/3 cup flour
  2 tsp vanilla
  ½ cup corn starch
  1/4 tsp salt
  1 cup Chipits Skor Toffee Bits
  ¾ tsp baking powder

- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (the cookies sick!)
- Beat butter, icing sugar and vanilla until light and creamy.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt and toffee bits.
- Stir this mixture into butter mixture. Combine well.
- Roll heaping Tbsp. of dough into balls.
- Leave as is or pat down for flatter cookie.
- Place on cookie sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.
- Bake in centre of oven for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden.
- Let cool on pan for 5 minutes to set. Sprinkle with icing sugar
- Will keep in tight container for a week or freeze


Monday, 19 December 2011

Snowflake Cookies

What says Christmas more than a snowflake sugar cookie? Well, if you lived on the East Coast, or even somewhere in the middle of North America, this would probably make sense. But for us west-coasters, we need to fake it. Yes, even in Canada. Here, in the lovely city of Victoria, the average snowfall per year is 26 centimetres (which is less than one foot). Vancouver and Seattle are probably around the same. So we make snow in cookies instead. Some may even prefer it this way.

Amanda and I spend the better part of a weekend making these sparkling little flakes, and it was well worth the effort. They are delicious. And pretty. Your friends, co-workers, and families will be happy. I promise.

Sugar Cookies

1  1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

- Cream butter and sugar until smooth
- Beat in your eggs and vanilla
- Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt
- Divide in two and chill in refridgerator for at least one hour
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees ferenheit
- Roll out on a floured surface, and cut out with Christmassy cookie cutters
- Bake for 6- 8 minutes, allow to cool on wire rack

Sugar Cookie Icing

One package of powdered sugar
Food colouring gel
Your favourite royal icing recipe

- Put the powdered sugar in a big bowl and add water until it's thick enough to pipe around the edge of the cookies. You will want it about as thick as royal icing.
- Divide into bowls, one for each colour- save some white to pipe patterns on top
- Put in piping bag (I like a #3 piping tip) or ziplock pag with a small snip in the corner
- Pipe around edges of cookie and allow to dry
- Once all cookies are piped, water down the icing until it's fairly soft, about the consistency of      whipping cream. Make sure to save some thick so you can pipe a pattern on top
- Using a small spoon, fill cookies and allow to dry
- Pipe a pretty pattern on top of the dried snowflakes.


Avocado Brushetta

I have this friend. She is lovely. Do you have a lovely friend? Probably. If not, you should get one. They're pretty great. Especially when your friend is good in the kitchen like mine. She made this once for me and I was hooked. No exaggeration. I make this about once a week. Sometimes even twice.
The hubs likes it just as much as me, maybe more.

It is probably intended as an appetizer, or side. But for us, it is the whole meal. Why eat something else when you know it won't taste as good as this? It has kind of turned into our Friday routine. 

Kids in bed- check
Pajamas on- check
Bruschetta made- check
Modern Family in the DVD player- check (feel free to substitute for something else equally awesome)

This "meal" has some very appealing perks to it, too. First, it's fast. I'm talking 5 minutes and you're done. Second, it's good for you. Tomatoes, avocado, olive oil, (ok fine, there's parmesan cheese, but we'll count it as the protein). Third, it's awesome. I mean awesome. Now go buy some avocados. Trust me.

Avocado Bruschetta

2 medium, ripe avocados
2 large tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 loaf fresh french bread
more parmesan

-Slice french bread and lay on a cookie sheet
-Spread with butter and sprinkle with parmesan cheese
-Broil on high for about 2 minutes (Watch it! It burns fast!)
-Slice avocados and tomatoes and throw in a bowl. Add the oil, cheese and garlic powder. Mix. Spoon on top of toasted bread.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas cupcakes

Could you be having a week like mine? The kind where you are so busy that every second is scheduled and crammed with things that NEED to get done? Could you also, like me, decide that making cupcakes, just because they're yummy, is a good idea? Then you should be my friend, cuz I like people who think that baking chocolate is always top priority.

I don't have a recipe to share for these ones. I actually never measure my frosting recipe. I know what goes in it of course, and I promise that someday soon I will actually sit and figure out the measurements for the frosting. It is actually really yummy. 
So..... If you want to make some christmasy cupcakes, do what I did:

Step 1. Ignore your responsibilities and children for the morning.
Step 2.  Make your favourite chocolate cupcakes. (double it because cake is yummy, and you should eat more than your fair share)
Step 3. Make your favourite frosting recipe. Add some peppermint extract.
Step 4. Sprinkle sugar crystals and crushed candy canes over the top.
Step 5. Eat several of them before the kids come downstairs and try to eat them.  You are the one who made them, you should benefit from your hard work. You might want to leave them one each... I guess...if you're nicer than I am.


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Homestyle Crock-pot Chili

Oh, my beloved crock-pot. I love love love my crock-pot. Truly, I believe that my survival as a mother is based on this invention. When I know I have a busy day (and let's be honest, most of them are), my first thought is usually, "What ingredients do I have that, if thrown into the crock-pot, will come out tasting like a meal?".

I got my crock-pot for Christmas when I was 17 years old. What 17 year old, you might ask, wants a crock-pot for Christmas? Well, I sure did. And it was a very useful gift too. I use it at least once a week, often more.

This chili can be made without a crock-pot too, I just like the ease of making dinner in the morning and not having to think about it for the rest of the day.   

Homestyle Crock-pot Chili

1 pound lean ground beef
1 large green pepper
1 medium onion,
3 cloves garlic
4 stalks celery
2 cans tomato soup
1  15oz can red kidney beans
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper

- Brown ground beef and transfer to crock-pot
- Chop pepper, onion, garlic and celery and sautee in the same skillet as beef for 5 minutes until   slightly soft, and toss into crock-pot on top of the beef
- Add the tomato soup and kidney beans (don't drain them)
- Add spices and salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix all together, add more seasoning if you like it hot.
-Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8.


Monday, 12 December 2011

Honeyed Gingerbread

5. The big one. Halfway to double digits. Kindergarten. One whole hand. Whichever way you slice it, 5 years old is a big deal. So of course, my big 5 year old boy started planning his party months ago. After weeks of researching and calling, we decided on a kindergym party. You know, you rent out the whole gym at a rec center and they fill it with bikes, balls, slides, and even a bouncy castle. What 5 year old would not like this? He was so excited, and with a max of 25 kids, he could invite almost his whole class. Perfect. Except not so.

It turned out his best (and I mean very best) friend would be gone. Gone for Christmas. His little heart was crushed. So, rather than just having the party without his bestie along side, he wanted to cancel the whole thing. We have a pretty small house, so his options were to keep the party as is, or to have it at our house with only 9 kids one week earlier. Guess what he chose.

So now, how to keep 9 small children entertained for 2 hours in the middle of December. Well, with candy, of course. And cookies. And icing. Put them all together and you get one hyper, delicious mess. And one happy 5 year old.

Gumdrop Buttons

Goodie bags- Mugs with candy canes, hot chocolate, caramel chocolates and stickers.

What's a cookie without sprinkles?

My big 5 year old!
Little bro.

Meticulous. This boy is a perfectionist.

Happy Birthday Baby!
Now, in theory I like gingerbread, but it's mostly based on the smell of it. Because every time I actually eat some, all I can taste is molasses. Gross. But, I figured that honey is about the same consistency as molasses, but about a billion times tastier. So I combined them.

Honeyed Gingerbread Cookies
5 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp  ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 cup sugar
2 sticks softened butter
2/3 cup fancy molasses
1/2 cup creamed honey
2 egg whites

- Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves with a wire whisk.
- Cream butter and sugar until combined in stand mixer.
- Add molasses, honey and egg whites to sugar and butter mixture.
- Change beaters to cookie paddles and slowly add the flour mixture. (If you don't have a mixer, use
   your hands.)
- Divide dough into 3 or 4 balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 2 or more hours.

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut out with cookie cutters.
- Bake on greased cookie sheet for 7-9 minutes.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Peppermint hot chocolate soft serve ice cream

I am crazy for ice cream.  Like,  the song should go, "I scream, I scream, I scream for ice cream." Never mind everyone else. Actually, my sisters could be included in that. Not a visit with each other goes by without a trip to the store searching for the best ice cream we can find.

If I ask my husband what kind of ice cream we have in the freezer, and he replies, "vanilla", I tell him that doesn't count.  Don't get me wrong, vanilla is great with things, but on it's own, it just doesn't excite me.  So, last night, after my husband rolled his eyes at me (because he insists that vanilla ice cream is still ice cream), I decided that instead of getting out of my pajamas and venturing to the store, I would try and turn that ol' vanilla into qualifiable ice cream. 

Since it is Christmas time, and it is morally wrong to use flavors that are not reminiscent of the season, I got out the two things that I have been living off of lately.  Hot chocolate powder, and peppermint coffee creamer.  I threw it together, whipped it up, and voila. The perfect remedy. Peppermint hot chocolate ice cream. (of course since I beat it with my hand mixer, it turned it creamy, like soft-serve).

Want to make some of your own? Well, here you go:

2 cups vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup hot chocolate powder
2 Tbsp. peppermint coffee creamer
1 candy cane (optional)

Throw the whole shebang into a bowl, and beat with a hand mixer. Put it in your favourite christmasy bowl, and top with candy cane bits. (which I like to put in a sandwich baggie, and whack it with a rolling pin).

Eat it. All of it. And be happy......cuz you will be.


Monday, 5 December 2011

Eggnog Pancakes

About 7 years ago, when my husband and I were engaged, he had some dental work done. Quite a bit, actually. Enough to sedate him and drug him up pretty good. (And if you knew him, you would know that it doesn't take much to drug him. One Sudafed and he is done for the night. Pretty funny to watch, too.) But I am getting sidetracked.

Anyhow, I went over to his place after work to check up on him, make sure he wasn't caught in the blinds or something. He was pretty groggy on the couch, and I tried to let him sleep, but he was so distracted. He could hardly speak because his mouth hurt, and so all I could make out was "eggnog".
"Eggnog?" I asked. "PLEASE! I need some eggnog!!" He was getting louder. Eggnog eggnog eggnog. I would have loved nothing more than to fulfill his request, but you see, it was July. They don't make eggnog in July. At least not where I live. I tried, as nicely as I could, to let him down easy, but he was pretty mad. In fact, he didn't talk to me for the rest of the day. This may or may not have been the drugs. Still not sure.

Well, one thing I promised when we got married was to keep him in eggnog from October to December every year. I have not failed. We may not have milk, fresh fruit, or even bread. But you can bet your boots we have eggnog. These are dedicated to him.

Eggnog Pancakes

1  1/2 cup flour
3  1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1  1/3 cup eggnog
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter

-Mix your dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
-Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wire whisk.
-Heat a lighty oiled or sprayed frying pan or electric griddle over medium-high heat.
-Scoop dollops of batter onto the griddle, using about 1/3 cup per pancake.
-Brown on both sides and top with syrup (maple, if you have it!) and powdered sugar.


Peppermint Dark and White Chocolate Bark

Once, a few years ago, my sister-in-law and I were all set to do some Christmas baking. Aprons on, oven on, Christmas music on. Ready, set, go. She has an out-of-this-world candy cane cookie recipe. We had the dough mixed up, ready for the candy. So, I opened the box of candy canes, rolling pin in hand, ready to smash them all to bits. Which I did. For some reason, I love smashing things. Like in Super Smash Brothers. But that's a different story.

Anyhoo, during the candy cane smashing process, some candy wound up in my mouth. I don't really know how it happened. BUT- it wasn't peppermint. They sure looked like candy canes, the box definitely said peppermint on it. but there was no flavour. It was just sugar. No mint. I tasted another cane. No mint. The whole box was like this. It was bizarre, I suppose they just forgot to add the flavouring. I wonder how many boxed turned out that that. So now, out of habit I suppose, I always check my candy canes before using them. These ones are definitely peppermint. Make sure yours are too!

Peppermint Bark

12 ounces dark chcolate, chopped
12 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 box peppermint candy canes, crushed

-Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil
-In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate. Mix in about half of the candy canes. Spread in bottom of the pan. Let chocolate cool until not quite hardened. If you're in a hurry, stick in the fridge, or outside if it's cold enough. I put mine on the deck.

-Melt white chocolate. Pour over the dark. Sprinkle with remaining candy canes. Run a butter knife over top to create a marbled effect. Let harden completely. Break into pieces.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Skor Bark

Some mornings, I wake up, take 35 seconds to shower, hap-hazardly throw cereal into bowls, quickly pack lunches, and attempt to make sure that the boys hair is at least somewhat flat on their heads before rushing out the door for school. Some mornings, I remember to set my alarm so that I am showered, dressed, the house is cleaned, and a warm breakfast is waiting on the table by the time everyone else is up. And some mornings, I wake up with baking on the brain. I can think of nothing else. Which means else nothing gets done. Those days are good and bad. Bad, because it means I am wearing sweats for the school drop off (which we are a good 10 minutes late for), the house is a disaster, along with the kids hair of course, and breakfast was most likely a cereal bar and a quick chug of milk. Good, because when everyone gets home, the snack that day is awesome. And most likely the dessert. And, on really good days, dinner too.

But you see, it's not really my fault. Food has this way of burrowing itself inside my head. I can't help it if it makes other things leave in its place. Things like common sense. For example, telling my husband who is dressing the children that no, camoflauge pants do not match with cowboy boots. Or that it's not a good idea to play house under the baby's crib while he is still sleeping in it.

Well, today was one of those days. In my defense, it is December now which means Christmas baking. Lots of Christmas baking. It's 2:00 pm and breakfast dishes are still on the table. Shameful. But it was worth it in the end. I filled 6 tins today. So there.

Happy Baking!

Peanut Butter and Skor Bit Bark

10 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup salted peanuts
1 1/4 cup skor baking bits
8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

-Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler, or in a stainless steel bowl over a pot of water. Set aside 2 tbsp for later. Pour the rest into a foiled 9x9 inch pan. Let cool in the fridge until hardened.
- Melt white chocolate and peanut butter in a double boiler. Remove from heat. Stir in peanuts. Let cool for about 10 mins, then pour on the hardened dark chocolate. Sprinkle with about half of the skor bits. Let cool again.
- Melt milk chocolate in a double boiler. Pour on top of the cooled bark. Sprinkle with remaining skor bits. Reheat the reserved dark chocolate and drizzle over the top with a spoon. Let cool completely in the fridge and cut up however you like.