Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy 2011!

Enjoy a safe and fun holiday weekend! 

We'll be in touch in the new year!!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Making Cookies, Candies and Memories....

I have hosted a cookie baking/candy making night with both daughter-in-loves and our precious granddaughters for several years now. Wanted to share some pictures and recipes from our fun times together this last week.

From left to right:
Lyn (the mom - we always get comments about how young she looks in her mid-30's!), (oops - sorry Lyn!=) Chloe, Nana & Charlie

(The big tray of dipped peanut butter balls was cooling by the stove when this picture
was taken and they missed getting in the picture!)

These are two favorites that we always make for the holidays...

PRETZELS PRETTIES

(I am still not sure why they have a different name in my cookbook, but it's still the same delicious recipe..and it's easy peasy!)

48 - 50 mini pretzels
48 - 50 rolos or chocolate kisses
1 small bag peanut M & M's

Preheat oven to 275. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Lay pretzels over top; place a rolo or kiss in the center of each one. Bake 4 - 5 minute until chocolate is softened.  Remove from oven; place an M & M on each, pressing down slighty to adhere the chocolate to the pretzel.  Cool a few minutes; refrigerate (or set in a cold garage) until chocolate is firm.  Store at room temperature.  (We've done as many as 90 at once by covering a big cookie sheet)

This is such an awesome recipe because you can make as many, or as few, as you want.  Make just enough to fill a plate to give away or several platesful. I love it because it's an easy recipe for kids to help with.

PEANUT BUTTER BALLS
(this recipe can be cut in half or even in fourths)

1 lb. margarine, melted
5 c. smooth peanut butter
2-1/2 - 3 lb. powdered sugar
1 Tb. vanilla extract
1-1/2 - 2 (12 ozs) pkgs. semi sweet or milk chocolate chips
2 (heaping) Tb. Crisco

In large pot, stir peanut butter into melted margarine; when blended, add vanilla and enough powdered sugar until slightly crumbly.  Make balls the size of large marbles while mixture is slightly warm.  Place on waxed paper lined cookie sheets.  Refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and Crisco together in double boiler; keep warm.  Dip chilled balls in chocolate, placing back onto waxed paper to chill and set up.

Beings I live in Ohio and am a 'buckeye'.....folks around here dip these delicious treats part way into the chocolate, making them look like buckeyes. 

I've been making these for over 40 years, and have always dipped them all the way, but feel free to do as you please...

Here's our little guy Caden enjoying a cookie while we were busy in the kitchen.  He watched tv with his Papa and stayed out of our way while we were busy. 


Then last Saturday, daughter-in-love, Kym, and granddaughter, Ashtyn, came over and spent several hours in the kitchen with me.  Ashtyn is 16 and involved in sports and last year was the first time she had missed our cookie baking night, so it felt extra special for her to be here this year.  She's our firstborn grandchild - oh how quickly they grow! Guess that makes me old(er) huh?  (I always credit becoming a Nana with allowing my gray hair to show thru...I colored it before then, but after I became a Nana, it didn't matter so much anymore that I had a head of gray hair (in my mid 40's)  Grandchildren are our reward!



Can you tell we were busy!!!???

This is a picture of one of the platesful I gave away after we had fun stirrin' up lots of goodies...

Clockwise from left front:
Mixed Nut Bars - Chocolate peanut butter cookie cups -
Fudgy mint cookies - Saltine toffee - Pecan pie bars -
caramel truffles in the middle

(Just so you know....some of those things were made BEFORE our time together!)

Just in case you're just about 'cookied out' I will share just one of these recipes.  It takes 2 ingredients and is easy peasy!! In fact, I think it's so easy, I put it in the "Kid's Corner" of my cookbook...


CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE CUPS

1 - 15 oz. roll refrigerated ready-to-slice peanut butter
(or choco chip) cookie dough

48 miniature peanut butter cup candies

Preheat oven to 350. Slice cookie dough into 3/4-inch slices.  Cut each slice into quarters.  Place each quarter into ungreased mini muffin pans.  Bake 8 - 10 minutes (dough will rise during baking). Remove from oven and immediately press an unwrapped peanut butter cup gently and evenly into cookie.  Cool before removing from pan.  Refrigerate until firm. 
Yield: 4 dozen cookies.

(We ran out of peanut butter cups, so we used 2 peanut M & M's in the rest of them.  They turned out adorable too.)

We have 2 long distance granddaughters who I don't get to bake cookies with very often, but wanted to include a picture of them taken this week. We went there (nearly 3 hrs. one way) to see Claira in her school program, and then went back to their house for them to open gifts.  In this picture, Kaity and Claira are wearing the new princess nightgowns (complete with 'magic wands')
we got for them.


Whether you're stirring things up, or gobbling them down, enjoy a great time with family this holy holiday season!

It's a busy time of year - I've decided to take time off from blogging for about 10 days.  I have much sorting/organizing/pitching/cleaning (even defrosting!) to get done in my house, so I will catch you once again in the new year.

Season's Eatings & Merry CHRISTmas to all!!!!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Amazing Ritz Cracker Candies

If you're not going 'full bore' in the kitchen this time of the year, maybe you're getting to do some 'winding down' like I hope to this coming week.

Things have been a-buzzing in my kitchen and I've already given away many plates of goodies, and still have just a few more things left to make.  Gotta
use up those ingredients before the new year flies in and I need to make a committment to eat healthier.

Until then...trust me, I am REALLY enjoying the goodies this time of year!

I plan to share some pictures from my recent 'memory making' times with family and pictures of some of our creations in an upcoming post.  It's been great fun and worth the effort to make memories together.

I've made a similar recipe to the first one below for many years - so yummy.  We always put peanut butter between two crackers and dip them in chocolate, but don't add the peppermint. Amazing how good something that simple tastes. 


Adding the candy cane sprinkles & extract would give it some holiday pizazz.


Try 'em...you'll like 'em...






Mint Thins

1 pkg. (8 squares) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted, slightly cooled
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract,optional
1 sleeve RITZ Crackers (36 crackers)
1 candy cane (6 inch), crushed, optional



MIX chocolate and extract.


DIP crackers in chocolate, turning to completely coat each cracker. Carefully scrape off excess chocolate. Place crackers in single layer on waxed paper-covered baking sheets; sprinkle with crushed candy.


REFRIGERATE 30 min. or until chocolate is firm.


These are a few ritz 'sandwiches' we made at our cookie baking/candy making time together last Sat.  Granddaughter Ashtyn got to add the sprinkles...MMM!



 ****************************************

OK - I already had this post typed up and scheduled, and then I read this
lovely post by my blogger friend Libby.  She's a military wife, so I'm pretty
partial to her :-} and I get such a kick out of knowing more about the cooking classes she's sharing with other military gals.  I would have loved that -
all of us being away from our families for the holidays, and having someone sharing her ideas to help us make our own memories in the kitchen.  Awesome!

Anyway - she has the recipe and her picture for the 'ritz cookies' as we've called them, so I want to include this post from "Cooking with Libby"....

Check her out....click on the link below...

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies


She's got some great ideas and I do hope you'll give them a try!

Stay tuned for more ideas to make gifts from your kitchen.  Christmas is only 4 days away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Delicious & Easy Pumpkin Cake Roll

This is a recipe I've made for almost 40 years!  It really isn't as difficult as it may seem - hope it's something your family will enjoy this holiday season too.  It's definitely one of our family favorites!

Give it a try!  It's an impressive dish and I'm guessing you'll want to make it
for Christmas. 



pumpkin roll
PUMPKIN CAKE ROLL

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup solid pack pumpkin
1 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


Preheat oven to 375. Grease jelly roll pan - 10" X 15" X 1". (I like to line the bottom with waxed paper - after greasing pan -  to ensure the bottom of the cake comes out in one piece)  Beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes. Gradually add sugar; stir in pumpkin and lemon juice. In a separate bowl, stir flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt together. Fold into the pumpkin mixture. Spread in prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake 15 minutes. Turn upside down onto a towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. ( I loosen the edges first) Remove waxed paper, roll up the cake and towel together, while still warm. Let cool to room temperature.  Unroll and spread with cream cheese frosting.

FROSTING:

8 ozs. cream cheese, softened
4 Tb. butter or margarine, softened
1-1/4  cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla


Beat cream cheese and margarine until smooth - mix in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Frost cake - roll up and chill until serving.  Can be made a few days ahead.

Linked to Melt in your Mouth Monday

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Very Special Gift

I just had to share the picture of a very special Christmas gift given to me by my dear friend Margie.  She has a knack for 'special touches' and is the ultimate 'party planner'.
(A big reason why I invited her to go to St. Kitts with me earlier this year - she knows how to have F.U.N!)

How I appreciate her thoughtfulness in giving me this one-of-a-kind gift this year!

She had this spiffy and sparkly chef's hat ornament personalized with "The Better Baker...Published 2010".  How sweet sweet sweet!!!

THANKS MARGIE! 

Friday, December 10, 2010

THE BETTER BAKER hits the road! *-*

HAPPY! HAPPY!  JOY!  JOY!  HAPPY!  HAPPY! JOY!!!

Lookie!  Lookie!  What my darlin' hubby did for me!  We just got it done yesterday and I couldn't be more pleased! 

 How fun is this?



AND...the man who did the lettering bought 2 cookbooks from me - a woman who works in the same building bought 3!  Yesterday was a very very good day.

I also won a "Cook Once a Month" cookbook from my friend Jane Doiron's blog.  Yippee!!!

God continues to blow my socks off in all these special blessings! TO HIM BE THE GLORY!

Christmas Recipes, Tips & Tricks - Oh My!

First of all, I want to wish my dear daughter Deb a very happy birthday today.  How grateful I am that she made me a mommy.  She's such an inspiration in my life and I continue to learn much about life and faith from her. 


HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEETHEART!  MY FIRST BABY!!!


A couple of years ago,  Deb - The Queen Mommy - interviewed me and shared the questions/answers on her blog.  I think this may have some ideas worthy of passing along to you - especially this time of the year.  Hope you find something to help you sllliiide through this very busy month. 

(We did this interview 2 years ago - before I had my cookbook published.  Now I have 300 of my most favorite recipes under one cover.  What a huge favor I did for myself without even realizing it!)

Q: How do you prepare for your holiday activities (calendar, lists, etc.)?


I make notes on a desk calendar for any activities going on from day to day, including cookie baking, cookie exchanges, Christmas concerts, etc.

I keep a pocket file folder in my recipe drawer – I have many – but one I have marked “Holidays”. I keep my favorite recipes there so I don’t have to dig through all my recipes to try to find a holiday favorite. I also use small photo albums (you know – the inexpensive ones from my local dollar store or walmart) and place recipes from newspaper/magazines in them, and mark each of them with the kind of recipes they contain. I have one marked “Cookies” that I refer to often. Others are ‘desserts’ ’9″ X 13″ pan desserts’ ‘snacks and appetizers’, etc. etc. I stand these little albums on end so I can easily see the one I’m looking for.

I keep a Christmas Card record book from year to year – that way I can make changes in addresses when needed (I include the year of change also), and I keep track of whom I send to and receive from. Most record books are good for 5-8 years. I keep a list of gifts I give to friends and customers from year to year so I will vary the kitchen ‘goodies’ I share with them and don’t repeat – unless it’s one of their favorites, which I record, also.


Q: What shortcuts and time savers do you rely on during your holiday preparations?

As I mentioned previously, I keep a list of recipes written out for review & reference. I try to make every minute count – get up and do something while a commercial comes on TV, and I always make myself lists so I don't have to remember what I need to do next.

One thing I do to keep things moving along in the kitchen, is to keep hot sudsy water in the sink all the time I’m working there, and wash dishes when I have a minute in between things. It helps keep the counter cleared and dishes can dry (use HOT water to rinse) and you can put them away when you have another few minutes.


Sometimes, we just have to prioritize. I do that often during this very busy month. And I have to consider what REALLY needs to be done first – usually, according to the day of the week it needs to be ready. We gotta ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’….I always record comments on new recipes – ‘excellent’….’rubbery’ (just did that today with a sugar free cookie I tried =) If the recipe isn’t in a book, and I’m not wild about it, I usually throw it away and keep trying other new ones.


Q: What homemade gifts do you like to give? How do you package them?

I believe gifts from the heart are the very best kind - when we give part of ourselves....our time, the work of our hands and our thoughtfulness away.


(KEEP SCROLLING FOR RECIPES) 
(While a newspaper photographer was here earlier this week taking pictures to go along with my monthly newspaper food column, being published next week, I took a few pictures of my own...so fun to get my cookbook in this picture!)


Chocolate Pretzel Rings (page 152 in my cookbook)  are fun to make with kids, and make a LOT so giving them away by themselves or along with other goodies is nice. If you can keep from eating them all…

(My living room decorations this year - I love snowmen & penguins)

Fruited Oatmeal Mix (page 148) is a nice gift to give – it’s warm and filling and is a healthier option, too! It can be bagged and tucked into a pretty tin or given in a pretty gift jar.

Q: How do you prepare for last minute party invitations or gift ideas?

I buy things (on sale) throughout the year – candles, books, calendars, Avon, and have two file drawers in my desk with gifts in them, so I can look through and see if I can find anything ‘fitting’ for the person I desire it for. And I always have something edible made up – even if it’s in the freezer.

 **RECIPES**
Let’s not forget to organize our heart and minds so that we keep the focus on the true meaning of each holiday.  Enjoy this special time with your family and friends because spending meaningful & quality time with your loved ones will mean so much more than any gift you give them.


WHITE CHRISTMAS MIX
1 lb. white chocolate (or vanilla almond bark)

Melt in double boiler or microwave according to directions

Mix together:

3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex (or combined – 6 cups crispix cereal)
3 cups Cheerios
2 cups mini pretzels
2 cups peanuts
1 lg. bag of M & M’s – plain or peanut (optional) (We love using the holiday mix)
Pour white chocolate over everything and mix well. Let dry and place into gift containers.


CHOCOLATE PRETZEL RINGS


13 oz bag Rolos (or about 7 single rolls)
1 bag tiny twists pretzels
1 bag peanut M & M’s – (again, those holiday ones add a special touch)

Line cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Lay out pretzels, place one unwrapped rolo on top of Pretzel. Bake at 300 for 5 -6 minutes or until chocolate becomes shiny.

Take out of oven, place M&M on each one, pushing down on rolo so it adheres to pretzel.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then place entire sheet in fridge or cold room to set for at least 1 hour. This is so great because you can make few or many at a time. A cookie sheet full will make 70-90 treats. May also top with pecan halves instead of M & M’s.

FRUITED OATMEAL MIX

6 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apples or dried banana chips or any dried diced fruit
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tsps. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
(Yield: 7 cups of mix/two batches – each makes 7 servings of oatmeal)

Directions to include with gift:
For each serving:

1/2 cup fruited oatmeal mix
3/4 cup water

In a deep microwave-safe bowl, combine mix and water. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds; stir. Cook 20-30 seconds longer or until bubbly. let stand for 1 – 2 minutes.

A healthy gift – I used splenda, splenda brown sugar, and reduced sodium salt….Delicious!






White Christmas Mix (Page 150 in my cookbook=) is a very yummy, easy & pretty holiday gift to give. Giving it in the holiday printed zipper-seal bags is nice because you can see how pretty the mix is. Even plain ziploc bags, decorated with curly ribbons is ‘fun.’

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chocolate-Cream Cheese-Peanut Butter Bars

Oh yeh!  With all those things in a bar, you know this has gotta be a winner!

I do love The Life of a Foodie and Her Family blog and find myself printing many of her recipes.

I tried her recipe for these delicious bars over Thanksgiving - and since I didn't have my
camera to take a picture (Canon just mailed me another one - hurrah) I am going to
share her post, recipe and picture! 

Thanks Lynn!

Chocolate-Cream Cheese-Peanut Butter Bars




These are great - oh how I love peanut butter and chocolate.  This definitely satisfies any craving for either.  Try 'em - you're sure to like 'em!


Cookie Base & Topping:


1 pouch (1 lb. 1.5 ozs) peanut butter cookie mix
3 Tb. oil
1 Tb. water
1 egg

Filling:

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup crunchy or creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom only of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie base and topping ingredients until soft dough forms. Shape 6 (1-inch) balls of dough. On ungreased cookie sheet, place balls 2 inches apart; flatten in crisscross pattern with fork.

Press remaining dough in pan. Bake cookies and base 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Reserve cookies for topping.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and butter uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and stirred smooth. Spread evenly over bars. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar and whipping cream with electric mixer on low speed until blended. Beat on high speed about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Spread over chocolate layer.

Crush reserved cookies; sprinkle over cream cheese layer. Press in lightly. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. For bars, cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.