Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to All.
I am feeling truly blessed today.
We had a lovely dinner with my Mom last night. She gave me this Beautiful Christmas ornament. She has always inspired me at Christmas time. Her house is always beautifully decorated. And she loves a pretty tree.

She also made us Cinnamon Rolls.
There is not a recipe today. I have not mustered up the ambition to make rolls. Between my Mother and youngest sister, I am all good on rolls.
My Husband made me a lovely fire for Christmas.
My family is getting together later on today at my Moms. We are doing something different. Lasagna for dinner. No Beef or Ham. Breaking another tradition. We are slowly trying to simplify our Holiday traditions.
Some of us are bringing appetizers and some desserts. I am making a Chocolate Mint Cream Pie. A slice of Heaven. It is not made yet, but I will get motivated soon.
Merry Christmas to all and Enjoy your Day.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

Merry almost Christmas. Today is our Christmas party at work. More pigging out.... I am going to explode. For the past two weeks there has been food at work. Just when you think you might run out of something, another vendor sends more food.

This is my Christmas tree. I just love Christmas trees.

This is a Frazier Fur that my Husband and I went out and cut down. My Husband's job is to bring it in the house and put it into the stand. The rest is mine. Last year we changed to LED cool white lights. The glow is so beautiful. There is over 800 lights on this tree. I love ornaments. Over the years, I have collected many different types of ornaments. Various colors and styles. I do not think I could have a tree with all the same color and size ornaments on it. Several years ago, I saw Peacock Feathers in the tops of trees at Marshall Fields. I hunted down Feathers and have been using them since.

This year I have decided to include my baking into some of my Christmas presents. Some of my coworkers will receive bags of Caramel Pop/Corn Puffs. I am also making mini loaves of Banana Bread for my neighbor ladies. They are also getting a few more items. I am so lucky to have wonderful neighbors. This recipe has been made before. It is absolutely heavenly. It is a moist intense flavored banana bread. It almost tastes like a Chocolate Cake with Banana undertones. And YES, another way to make banana bread. Who would have thought. Banana Bread for Christmas, yummy.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread
slightly adapted from Beckybakes.net

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - room temp
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 riped bananas
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans and place on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. set aside

Using a large bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute until soft. Add both sugars and beat for two more minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg. Reduce speed to low on mixer and add in bananas and mix. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing until they disappear. Still on low, add the buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cover bread loosely with a foil tent to keep the top from getting to dark. Continue to bake for another 40 - 45 minutes. (total baking time is between 70 and 75 minutes. Test with a toothpick into the center for fine crumbs. Transfer pan to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Once cooled, invent onto plate.

Rich, Dark Chocolate flavor

Such a beautiful color. It looks great on a plate and definitely taste great.

Black Cherry playing with my Christmas decorations
Wishing everyone a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Projects

The weeks just keep flying away.... Where has the time gone? Every year, I always want to be better organized and not freak out. NEXT Tuesday is Christmas. My Christmas shopping is close to being done. A few gift certificates to complete some presents.

There has been no holiday baking. Not really sure when that will happen... At least I am off on Christmas eve. I have a whole day to finish up.

For almost twenty years, I have been sending out my own handmade stamped and embossed Christmas cards. It is a huge project, but I really like doing it. It takes a tremendous amount of time, and no matter how early I start, it always takes longer than I anticipate. And this year was no different.

A Snowman with Cardinals is the theme of this years' card. Very special people in my life receive cards.

This card started with Plain white card stock. A layer of Green, a layer of Red and then the actual Stamped card. Then all of the coloring. I also used some glitter glue for the Snowman's buttons. The layering of paper gives the card some weight. 

This inside of this card was very simple. There was also layering of different size paper. Some coloring of the cardinals. Just a signature and I was done. TIMES 75 cards. Yikes...

This was another project that I tackled this year. All over Pinterest  there were tomato cages with lights and some green garland. I started out that way, and realized that was just not enough for me. So off to the Dollar store  I went and found two $10.00 four foot trees. Shoved them up the middle of the tomato cages and I was in business. Shatterproof ornaments were inexpensive and some pics and I was done. I had a few pieces of burlap left over from my place mats, covered the base, viola. Done.

We drilled small holes into the container, used zip ties and attached the cages to the container.

They look great from the street. We put some sand in the bottom of the container for weight.

For many years, I have purchased real evergreen wreaths. They smell fabulous and look great. But in January the wreaths were dead and all the decorations need to be removed. So this year I purchased plain artificial wreaths and decorated them. I used some of my existing decorations and added a few more to match with all of my new stuff. And when January comes, they will go into a bag and into the attic.

We used different colored light bulbs to reflect differently off of the wreaths.

The Christmas Trees sit right below the wreaths. Together they add a color punch to my driveway.

Also on Pinterest, I saw all of these beautiful garlands for front entry ways. I had to do it. I was not sure how it would hang, but in my mind, that would be solved. That was my Husbands job....

Several years ago, I made a lighted garland for staircase near my front door. Very pretty and made such a grand entrance when you walked into my house. The first Christmas we had Apple Jax (CAT), she was very destructive to the garland. She found it to be the best play toy in the world. All night long she would 
pick and play. The next Christmas, the garland did not go up.

I measured the garland, decided to purchase two piece of plain greenery and go from there. I had some artificial poinsettia's on hand, and purchased more shatterproof ornaments. The garland and the greenery wrapped together. Using florist wire to attach all of the ornaments. I recycle my old garland and made it absolutely beautiful. We used the clips to hold the lights to the gutters and attached the garland with zip ties. The garland going down the newel post was also attached with zip ties. Very secure.

I also made the baskets with the left over burlap and the extra ornaments. 

With the exception of the cards, all of these projects will be able to be used next year.
It was a lot of work, but I really enjoy the Holidays and dressing up my House.

I will definitely take a picture of my tree. It is absolutely beautiful this year.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sunflower Seed Cookies

Today is my youngest sister's birthday. I still remember the day she was born. It was an exceptionally warm December day. I was ten years old and already had two sisters. We were so happy to add another girl to our group. My sister change the dynamics of our family. There had been seven years since a child was born, so this new sister made for a new "baby" in our family. My parents had taken many pictures of me when I was a baby, being the oldest. The next two girls some pictures, but this new baby. LOADS of pictures. I am not sharing any bad pictures today. (upside down picture in an early posting provides that)

Yesterday, I was talking to my Mom about dinner for my sister's birthday. My mother was looking for a specific cookie recipe. I do not think she found it. BUT, she came across this recipe for Sunflower Seed Cookies. She rattled off the recipe, and I went home last night and made cookies. These are fabulous. I could eat the whole container. My Mother's aunt Hilda gave her the recipe many years ago. Hilda is from George, Iowa and she can also be found in the Hope Reformed Church cookbook. I am sending her a thank you note for this wonderful recipe. We really should have made these sooner.

These are a fabulous tea cookie. Not to sweet, just enough salt from the sunflower seeds. A perfect blend of ingredients that just melt in your mouth.

Sunflower Seed Cookies
adapted from Hilda Hilbrands

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup oil
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 - 4 cups flour
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Set aside

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, oil and sugar. Cream together until smooth.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
Add in baking powder, baking soda, and flour, gently mix in.
Fold in coconut and sunflower seeds until incorporated.
Using your cookie scoop, place dough on baking sheets and cook for 8 - 10 minutes. The edges should be just starting to turn brown.

just the perfect color. Brown on the edges.

Happy Birthday to my youngest sister on her National Holiday
and thank you to my Great Aunt Hilda for a fabulous cookie recipe. 

Sadly, these will be gone soon. A package shipped off to Colorado for my Stepson.
Some for my sister and her Birthday Holiday, and the rest to a few special friends.
I love sharing good cookies. Bringing Smiles 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sour Cream Raisin Pie

As all the leftovers are finally gone and the last morsel of pie is GONE, I sat back to think about Thanksgiving this year. My Mother had caught a cold, and we postponed are celebration to Friday. It turned out great. My Husband and I were able to do something we have never done before on Thanksgiving day, we went for a motorcycle ride. It was 60 degrees out and some sun.

Sporting some pretty motorcycle hair........

On Friday, the weather had changed and reality was back. We were able to all be at my Mom's house. She was feeling much better. No one had anywhere they needed to go that day, so we enjoyed the afternoon together. My Mom made the Turkey, stuffing and both potatoes. My sisters and I made all the sides and desserts. It was delicious feast and the placemats looked great.

One of our Thanksgiving traditions is Sour Cream Raisin Pie. In our family, a Thanksgiving without Raisin Pie would make the holiday incomplete. Most people probably have never had Raisin Pie and they are missing out. If you love Raisins, you would love Raisin Pie.

The Raisin Pie recipe comes out of the Hope Reformed Church cookbook. 100 year edition. I have had this cookbook since 1992.  Hope Reformed Church is in George, Iowa. Both of my Gandparents are buried in the cemetary next to the church. George Iowa is a blip on the map and a long ways from home.

Raisin Pie is a quick recipe. (have we heard this before) It makes an eight inch pie. It is not a huge pie so it is perfect for that once a year indulgence. This pie SHOULD have meringue. It would look finished, but I have not mastered meringue yet. Mine is always flat and lackluster. The recipe calls for three egg whites whipped up and gently placed on the pie and put under the broiler for a minute until lightly brown. Watch closely.

Sour Cream Raisin Pie
adapted from 2 recipes in the Hope Reformed Church Cookbook


1 baked pie crust
2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups of warm water
1 cup of granulated sugar
3 eggs beaten
3/4 cup of milk
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup of sour cream or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg


Bake pie crust to directions and let cool. Or make your own.

Submerge raisins in warm water and let soak for 10 minutes or so. Set aside

In a saucepan over medium heat, add sugar and beaten eggs. Mix together. Add milk and combine.
Stir in flour. Continue to stir until it thickens.
Remove from heat, add sour cream, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix together.
Drain raisins. Add raisins to the custard mixture
Pour into cooled pie crust. Smooth out and let set up. DONE!

soaking raisins in two cup measuring container

Sour cream added to the custard mixture to thicken

Adding raisins and mixing together

Poured into a cooled slightly over-cooked crust and smoothed out

Rich, Earthy and Very Delicious. A compliment to a Thanksgiving Feast.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Burlap Placemats

Happy Thanksgiving. I decided this year we need to jazz up our Thanksgiving table, so onto the Internet I surfed. I found these wonderful placemats on Pinterest.com. My Mother ask me why we needed placemats, if there was a tablecloth. I really did not have an anwser for her other then "they are cool." I am always up for an Arts and Craft project. I really should have gone to Art School. Maybe in another life.

This project took me a bit longer than I anticipated. Which is always true with any project. 
This would also be a great project to do with your kids. Everyone is Thankful for something different. This project leaves room for interpretation. You could always do a table runner if the was more suitable for you. It is crazy notion that cutting fabric, pulling threads stencilling and painting fabric would make for
a wonderful Sunday afternoon.

Cutting the fabric
 By establishing straight lines in the beginning, you will make this such an easier project. There is very little cutting. Burlap seems to work better when you are pulling threads.You maintained straight lines by pulling the threads out.
You could fray around your mat as much as you want.
Inserting the ribbon after pulling out threads
I found this Fall Ribbon at the Dollar Store. The ribbon had wire on the edges, so once it was in place,
it held its own. When it was wove through the burlap, it just needed to be flattened down. 
I really like the touch it added to the placemat.

My helper Apple Jax.
 She was incharge of the ribbon playing and flattening out the placemats

Stencilling the words and then painting in the letters. Each placemat said a different word.
You could free hand your letters. I had old fashioned block stencils that worked perfectly.
According to the original post on Pinterest, they used a Sharpie to color in the letters.

These placemats will be perfect for Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Last night, I was working on my second bakery order for my friend Ursula. She wanted a loaf of the Banana Nutella Bread to take to friends for Thanksgiving. When you make the Nutella Banana bread, please make sure you swirl the Nutella with the Banana Bread dough. My first loaf had a big glob of filling in the middle of it. I had a bad feeling when I took it out of the oven. It tasted great, looked great but cut horrible. So I decided at eight o'clock at night to make a second loaf. It turned out perfect. But in between my two bread loaves, I made these lovely Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Cookies. If you like Oatmeal Raisin cookies, then you should like these. A soft cookie packed with flavors in every bite.

The fresh cranberries, so tart, the fresh apples, just sweet enough and oatmeal. Hearty and Delicious.

This recipe makes a small batch of cookies. I made 28 small size cookies. The recipe stated that it would make 24 cookies. Perfect for quick cookie fix or company during this time of year or breakfast on the go.

Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Cookies
Slightly adapted from jellytoastblog.com


1/2 cup (1stick) butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup of Oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh apples
zest of 1 orange


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpat or Parchment Paper. Set aside

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside

In a bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, mix. Add vanilla and orange zest and mix until incorporated.

With the mixer on low, gently add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until just incorporated. Add oats and gently mix. Fold in chopped fruit with a spatula. Do not over mix.

Scoop dough with cookie scoop and place on lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges "JUST" start to turn brown. Allow to cool on the sheets for five minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cover and store at room temperature.

The mixing bowl is filled with fruit. I was worried that the cookies would spread, but they did not.

Can you see all the fruit. I am really glad I found this recipe.  
Yummy ~~ and as always, Husband approved

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Apple Walnut Bread

Last night I was so ambitious. For dinner we had Meatloaf and Scallopped Potatoes. The meatloaf was delicious. The dinner remainded me of my childhood. My Mom would make meatloaf and creamy potatoes regularly. It filled us up and we loved it. I took a picture with my cell phone. I posted it on Facebook. I made a large pan of Meatloaf. Not really sure who will be eating all of this since we are only three people at my house again. Lots of left overs. Great for lunch.

 There is no presentation here. Not plated all pretty with the potatoes on the side and a garnish. Just Dinner

So for dessert, since we were not full enough from this huge dinner, I made an Apple Walnut Bread. This bread is so moist and not overly sweet. You get to enjoy the earthiness of the Apples and Walnuts. I found this recipe two years ago, and have made it several times. I made this bread for the fundraiser I worked at a few weeks ago. It makes one nice size loaf or four mini loaves. Perfect for gift giving.

ALSO, If you have a jar of Apple Butter in the back of the frig, pull it out. Apple Butter throws this bread over the TOP. And sadly my Apple Butter is now gone. 

Apple Walnut Bread
adapted from sparklingink.com

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 ounces (1/2 stick) melted butter
1/3 dark Karo syrup
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 apples (1 1/2 cup grated or finely chopped)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan and set aside.
Peel and finely chop or grate apples.
Combine flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. 
In a large bowl of a stand mixer, add yogurt, brown sugar, melted butter, syrup and mix. Add eggs one at a time and mix. Add vanilla and mix.
Gently mix in dry ingredients until just combined.
Add in Apples and Walnuts and mix until combined.
Scoop batter into loaf pan. Top with Cinnamon and sprinkle some brown sugar.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan. Invert and place on a plate.

a hearty batter mixed with the Apples and Walnuts

 The Cinnamon and Brown Sugar add a nice sweet topping

I really wish I had taken a picture with the Apple Butter, but it really tasted great plain.

Furthermore, I am usually not this ambitious at all. Just a Fluke.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Marble Coffee Cake

I had a wonderful weekend. There were no parties, no catering, no where to go, nothing. Just Sunday Funday.... Different from other Sundays. It was also a NO Makeup Sunday!! And I got to stay home all day. It was truly a wonderful day. Some people may say this is 'boring" or "lame", but I enjoyed my self. I was also able to partake in an old family tradition, I took a nap. You have got to love life once in a while. Granted, I still did laundry and cleaned the house and those things do not change. My Husband also threw out his back on Saturday, so I was also a nurse, but somewhere along the line, I really enjoyed my day.

I can across this recipe, sitting in the Dentist's office last Thursday. Terrible tooth ache. I believe I cracked a filling. The Dentist was hinting at a Root Canal and Crown, but through some pleading (by ME) she inserted a medicated filling. I have to go back next week for the real silver filling. I really did not want to provide her with a Thanksgiving bonus.

Marble Coffee Cake. This recipe just sounded wonderful. I really like cake. Almost any cake. Just really good cake. The filling is a combination of Mini Chocolate Chips, Brown Sugar and Cinnamon. Such a wonderful combination of flavors. A simple glaze on top to seal in all of these delicious tastes.

Marble Coffee Cake
slightly adapted by insidebrucrewlife.com

For the Cake
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Filling
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup mini chocolate chips
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons water

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a regular size bundt pan. Set aside
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add yogurt and vanilla. 
Slowly add dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix until all just incorporated.

Mix together filling ingredients. Spread half of the batter into your bundt pan. Sprinkle in one cup of the filling mix. Spread the rest of the batter into the bundt pan. Sprinkle with the rest of the filling mixture. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Let cool in pan for 10-20 minutes. Invert onto a cake plate and cool.

Mix together the powdered sugar and water. Drizzle over the top of the cake. Let sit before slicing.

Spooning the filling onto the batter

I had debated about adding the glaze. I am glad I did. The glaze gave the cake such a nice color.

As I enjoyed my tea and ate my cake ~~ I was remained that Life is good, even on a Sunday in November.

I brought a plate of cake to work today, my coworkers goobled it up. Coffee cake and coffee are a great way to start a work week.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pumpkin Blondies

On Saturday, my friend Mary and I celebrated her birthday. We had a lovely leisurely lunch and did some local shopping. It was nice shopping local. It is not something we do enough of.

I made her a batch of these lovely blondies. I had found the recipe on Thursday and made them on Saturday. They are super moist and flavorful. Just an explosion of flavors in your mouth. These bars would be great for a party or outing. They are a tall bar in a 9 x 13 pan. They cut very nicely also.

I pulled out this baking dish for the photo. My Mother gave it to me for Christmas last year. Never been used. I really need an idea of something to bake in it.

Pumpkin Blondies
adapted from browneyedbaker.com


2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks) melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 (15ounce) can pure pumpkin puree
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, add melted butter and both sugars. Mix until completely smooth. Add egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add pumpkin and mix thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Fold in butterscotch and white chocolate chips and pecans. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Until knife comes out clean. Set pan on wire rack to cool completely. Cut bars and start eating. Bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. IF they last that long.

It is a full bowl of batter. This is a very satisfying little dessert.

They are also husband approved and Mary wants the recipe.