Merry Christmas Cookies!


 Sam’s second playdate was a success!  Our friends Jess (the mama) and Cayden came over this afternoon.  First order of business: lunch!  The boys had quite a feast- eggplant fries courtesy of Jess- yum!, cheese, chicken, roast acorn squash, and tofu- the mom’s had sandwiches!

Sam was in awe of Cayden’s ability to walk- he’s so close to crawling!

See!  Crawling is so close, yet so far- finally getting that belly off the ground.  Go Sammy, go!

Then they played pass the pacifier (ew, but funny) and tease the doggie!

Next up- tissue paper shredding!  Who knew we had so many fun things to play with at our house?  They were so sweet with each other- Sam definitely needs to hang out with other kiddos more often.  Mama is old news- other babies are so fun to poke and be poked by!

While the boys crawled, cruised, walked, and fell over, Jess and I got busy decorating!  I’ve mentioned my 1st edition Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book before- I still love it.  It’s just so…of the times.  It suggests broiled grapefruit, peanut butter-bacon canapes, and jellied bouillon for appetizers and has a three page spread on table service.

Considering how much I enjoy keeping house, I think I was born in the wrong era.    Though I’m pretty sure my Where the Wild Things Are t-shirt would not have been considered appropriate mommy attire for a playdate…or ever.

I followed the recipe for the light dough:
1/3 cup soft shortening (I used unsalted butter)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup honey (I used half honey, half maple syrup)
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Mix together thoroughly: shortening/butter, sugar, egg, honey, and vanilla.  Sift together and stir in: flour, baking soda, and salt.
Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes (I baked for 8 minutes and they came out perfect!)
These have a definite honey taste and are super sweet, but isn’t that what you want in a iced sugar cookie?  Besides, I think people who say things are “too sweet” are bonkers.  
Rather than dealing with homemade frosting, I bought the Betty Crocker cookie icing.  It worked perfectly and was pretty much mess free- love!  The taste isn’t half bad either…I love how I’m being so non-committal about the taste- I’ve eaten like 7 cookies!  They are delicious. 
Must give them all away NOW.   

This one is clearly my favorite- that white blob would be a shout out to my hometown!

Tea Crazy


Since I started staying home home with Sam, I’ve developed a few routines.  Dishes are done in the morning, pajama Tuesdays, toys picked up just before bed, ironing on Thursdays, and a cup of tea every afternoon. I brew it shortly after Sam goes down for his afternoon nap and savor the warmth and silence. 

I’m kind of obsessed with the holiday teas that are out right now.  The Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride from Celestial Seasonings is so delightful that I bought 4 boxes when I finally found them again at Target!  Candy Cane Lane is a great palate cleanser.  And, cross my heart, the Eggnogg’n from Bigelow ACTUALLY tastes like eggnog.   Now if you’re an eggnog hater (and if you are- I hope you know you are on the naughty list!), you’re not gonna be a fan.  But if you’re a eggnog loving, Christmas song singing elf, you’ll be all over this brew.  I’ve also had the Gingerbread Spice tea which is wonderful with a bit of sugar and milk. 

Tea is served up in one of my truly awesome mugs- the Christmas Disney Spode cup lives in our cupboard all year long and I bought the lemon one at a church auction 7 years ago.  
And the cow mug…well, she’s just a moosterpiece (get it!?). 

These opinions are all my own- I wasn’t compensated for any of my rave reviews…but I’m not opposed to the idea.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies in a Jar


In an effort to have a more homemade (and affordable) Christmas, I decided to put together some cookie mixes to give away to friends and family.  My sister did this last year and it was lovely!  
I wanted to make these cookies super simple so I decided to use melted butter in the recipe rather than softened butter.  I can’t make it any easier than melting, cooling, dumping, and stirring- if you can’t handle that, you oughta pour yourself a Bailey’s and take a holiday hiatus.  

I bought my jars at Stop and Shop where I got 12 quart jars for $10.  While you’re buying the jars, let me also recommend that you buy a funnel.  I didn’t and well…let’s be honest.  There was a lot of spillage.  Pretty sure I’ll be sweeping up flour and sugar for days to come.  Don’t be like me!  

This is not a quick project, but I did enjoy it!  I made 8 jars in total- if you’re gonna go through the steps, you might as well make a bunch!  I put How I Met Your Mother on Netflix and measured away!

Layer the following ingredients in 1 quart jar starting with the raisins on the bottom and ending with the flour on top.  See picture above!  Each jar makes roughly 36 cookies.

1 1/4 cups flour (I used a whole wheat/white blend)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup raisins

Attach the following directions to each jar of cookie mix!  To make it extra special, you could also include a cookie scoop like this one.  Cookie scoops make perfect cookies attainable for everyone!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Preheat oven to 350.
Empty contents of jar into large mixing bowl.  Stir to combine ingredients.
In a separate bowl, melt one stick (1/2 cup) of butter and let cool.  To butter, add two eggs, and 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract.  Whisk to combine.
Add butter/egg mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.    Drop tablespoonfuls of batter 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes.
Ingredients: white and whole wheat flour, old fashioned oats, raisins, baking powder, baking soda, salt, white sugar, brown sugar

Pumpkin Pie Kettle Corn


Who doesn’t love kettle corn?  Crazy people.  There’s nothing not to love about something that’s crunchy, salty, and sweet- the triple threat of yumminess.

Nick and I regularly snack on popcorn.  We used the air popper until we woke Sam up one night with it- no snack is worth waking a sleeping baby.   Unless we want to pop corn in the basement, we needed an alternative- enter the stove top!

Making kettle corn at home is surprisingly easy, if a bit messy.  You also need to be vigilant- this is not something you can set and forget unless you want to burn down your house (or ruin a pan).  

Before I send you on your merry way, let’s discuss one more thing. Oftentimes in cooking, more is more.  What recipe doesn’t benefit from a bit more butter or another slice of bacon?  This recipe is not one of those.  I’ll leave you with this warning: if you augment the spices in this recipe, you risk having potpourri to eat rather than kettle corn.  Spice at your own risk!

Pumpkin Pie Kettle Corn

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 ground cinnamon
1/4 cup + 1 tsp granulated white sugar
 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup (6 oz.) popcorn kernels

In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin pie spice, ground cinnamon, 1 tsp sugar, and sea salt.  Stir to combine and set aside.

In a large pot that has a tight fitting lid (I use a large stock pot that I also use for cooking pasta) add the olive oil, 1/4 cup sugar, and popcorn kernels.  Using a wooden spoon, stir to make sure all kernels are coated with oil and sugar.

Place lid on pan and put the pan over medium heat.  Stand close by so you can hear the sizzling begin and the popcorn begin to pop.  As the popcorn pops, frequently raise the pan an inch or two off the heat and shake from side to side, about every 2 minutes or so.  This ensure that the popcorn doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Continue to do this until the popping slows to about 1 pop per 5 seconds.  In total, the popping time is less than 5 minutes.

Once the popcorn is popped, remove the pan from the heat.   Immediately pour the popcorn into a large serving bowl and add the sugar/spice/salt mixture.  To ensure even distribution, I sprinkle half of the sugar/spice/salt mixture over the popcorn, stir to coat, and then sprinkle the rest and stir to coat. 

Makes roughly 11 cups of popcorn
Serving = 2 cups
Total servings ~5
Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving= 5

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


Since joining Weight Watchers, I’ve been looking for satisfying snacks that don’t cost me a lot of points.  I pair this hummus with a cup of sugar snap peas for some mid-afternoon crunch.  This cheerful dip celebrates the colors of the season- it’s vibrant orange-red color brightens up any plate.

This is hardly a recipe.  If anything, it’s just a list of ingredients that are easily adaptable to create any kind of glorious chickpea dip that your heart desires! 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste), optional but recommended
2 tbsp olive oil
10 oz. canned or fresh chickpeas *If using canned make sure to drain and rinse.
5 oz. roasted red peppers, packed in water
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional, but still recommended
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 tsp sea salt

Add all ingredients to a food processor.  Blend until smooth.  If the mixture becomes too thick, add tablespoons of water, one at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.

Serving size: 2 tablespoons
Servings: 12
WW Points Plus: 2 per serving

Dig in!

Potato Bacon Soup

Ask and ye shall receive.  This lovely soup was a gift to my dear husband, who requested it a few weeks ago.  It was so good I got a mid-dinner kiss.  You should make this for your sweetheart and reap the rewards!

 Potato Bacon Soup
6 slices center cut bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 tsp olive oil
2 small onions, diced
2 pounds potatoes, diced
4 cups vegetable broth (I used two bouillon cubes dissolved in 4 cups of hot water because that’s what I had)
2 cups 1% milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, fry up the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 5-8 minutes.  Drain off fat and remove bacon bits to a plate covered in two paper towels to drain. Wipe out the pan with paper towels, but do not wash.

Add the olive oil and heat pan over medium low.  Add the onions and stir.  Sprinkle in about 1/4 tsp of sea salt to get the onions to sweat out their lovely juices.  Saute onions until they begin to soften, but do not let them brown.

Into the hot pan with the onions, add about a cup of the vegetable broth.  Scrape up all the fond and deglaze the pan.  Let the broth cook out for about 2 minutes, stirring continuously.  Add the rest of the broth and the potatoes.  Bring to a bubble over medium high heat and the reduce back to medium.  Cook covered until the potatoes are soft, around 20 minutes. 

Measure out your milk and, if it’s cold,  add a few scoops of the hot broth to it to bring it to temperature. Add it to the soup and stir to combine.

Add two thirds of the bacon bits to the soup.

Using an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor, blend the soup to a smooth consistency.  This is key.  Because the soup has neither cream nor butter, this step really creates a velvety mouthfeel without added butterfat. 

Makes 6 servings.  Top with reserved bacon bits and some cheese, if desired. 

Weight Watchers Points Plus– 5 per 1.5 cup serving

Super Fast Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits


Sometimes, you just need a biscuit.

Nothing fancy, just a bite of bready goodness to get you started on the right track.  Or maybe you just came back from a run and think you need some carbs to replenish your glycogen stores…because you know, 3 miles really wipes you out.

This would be the recipe for you.  I made these free-form, which is code for ugly.  You could shape them and an egg wash to the top to make them prettier, if you’re into that sort of thing.  But that would make them just regular cinnamon sugar biscuits, instead of super fast. 

Super Fast Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 425.

In a medium mixing bowl, add whole wheat flour, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.  Using either your hands or a pastry cutter, mix well until brown sugar is well incorporated and distributed into the flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, add the milk and egg.  Gentle whisk to combine.

Add milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Using a 1/4 measuring cup, measure out 6 biscuits.  Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes. Place on rack and cool slightly.  Best served warm with butter and jam. 

Total time: 15 minutes.  From oven to blog in 30.  

My best burger and fries

Burgers and fries…I’m not sure that there is much else to say besides that you should make this immediately. 

My Best Burger
1 pound ground beef
1/2 small onion
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (2 good shakes)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper (a few good grinds)

In a large bowl, add the ground beef.  Grate the onion over the ground beef using a microplane or the small-holed side of a box grater.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper.  Using your hands, gently mix until well-combined. 

Form into 4 patties and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to grill.  I’m not going to tell you how to grill them because if you don’t already know how to do that, I’m not sure anyone can help you.

Serves 4 (or 2).

Truffle Oil and Parmesan French Fries
3 medium russet potatoes, washed (and peeled, if you’re into that kind of thing)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper (a few good grinds)
1 oz. Parmesan cheese
3 tsp truffle oil

Preheat oven to 450.  Slice the potatoes into 2 inch by 1/2 sticks.  Place on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and mix well with your hands until all potatoes are evenly coated. 

Bake for 30 minutes, turning fries once halfway through.

After the fries are done grate the Parmesan over the top and drizzle on the truffle oil before removing fries from the baking sheet.  Toss to coat. 

Serves 2 very hungry, happy people.

I served this gorgeous dinner alongside Dark and Stormy cocktails.  Recipe here.  So completely refreshing. 

A race to remember

I missed running.  After running a half marathon last year, I lost my drive.  Burn out is totally real, plus I had pretty much crippled my hips with poor training.  
Then I got pregnant and had the perfect excuse to stick to walking.  Running with a basketball attached to your front is awkward and ya know, I didn’t want the baby to fall out.  
After Sam was born all I wanted to do was get out of the house, but my stupid c-section benched me for 6 weeks.  Around week 4 I decided to throw caution to the wind and walk the dog.  I didn’t die.  At week 8, I ran my first mile and I’ve been trying to get my groove back ever since.
But then I had another excuse- I was SO tired.  There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as torture- after weeks of no sleep, I would have confessed to pretty much anything just to get some shut eye.
I signed up for the Memphis Soul 5K BBQ run in the midst of my postpartum haze.  I  figured it would motivate me to get in shape.
It didn’t. 
And then…out of nowhere…a miracle happened.  Sam slept through the night.  12 beautiful hours of peace and quiet.  Then, he did it again.  And again.  A whole week of glorious sleep- I was beyond thrilled.  

My cheer squad!

Any race that starts at a bar has got to be a good time.

This would be my pace- what up, slow folks?  The 10 minute pace group was HUGE and likely full of a more than a few liars.  10 minute miles are no joke. 

I finished in 36:27 which would be a 11:44 minute mile- booyeah!

And then I came home and made bread.  I know, I know- not the best way to cool down, but so, so worth it.  Plus, since I didn’t buy bread this week, Nick’s sandwiches would have been very sad without it.

I followed this recipe from TheKitchn to the letter and it was wonderful! The tutorials were also super helpful.

Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m one of those fancy bloggers who gets everything all set up and pretty and uses a light box to get the perfect shot….then I stop being polite and start getting real.  Please note the giant stuffed carrot in the background. 

Does anyone else think that sea monkeys and yeast are the same thing?  Alive, yet not alive…and 100% weird.

Kneading is seriously so much fun.

My first rise was in the oven with just the light on.  This provides just enough warmth to get the dough puffing.

Check out that crumb!!!          

If only I had a video of the bread happy dance I did after this came out of the oven…I probably wouldn’t post it, but I would watch it on bad days and remember how completely awesome I am.

Finally, a PSA for you, good readers- don’t start making bread at 6:45 PM.  You will be up LATE.