What’s Christmas About

IMG_7769

These are 3 of my grandchildren.  And it’s rare to see them all getting along at the same time!  So when we were almost done setting up the tree, I had to capture these precious moments to keep and now share.

Khali is the little one on the left.  She just turned 2 in October.  She came to live with me in May of 2012.  Brooklyn just turned 10 in October and that’s her brother Caleb she’s holding on to (hoping he won’t drop her), he turns 9 in January.  Those two have lived with me since 2008.

As I’m typing this I realize I have a pretty big smile on my face and tears are starting to form in my eyes.  Most days with the kids aren’t always presenting a smile.  For those of you that have kids old enough to bicker and battle with each other you know what I’m talking about.  And when those days happen, or should I say when those moments happen, it can be tough.

IMG_7767These kids go to school and play with friends that have a mom and most likely a dad that take care of them.  And my two have a grandma they call Nana that they live with.  They’ve been through struggles most of us as adults can’t even imagine seeing or going through.

When their friends ask why they live with their grandma, they aren’t really sure what to say.  But I tell them that they have a home that is filled with love and a grandma that has chosen to have them live with them because that’s just how life turned out to be.

IMG_7755I’ve said this many times before, I may not be perfect (well ok, most days I think I am!!!), but I do what I can and I do what I have to  where help is needed.  And when there are children involved, our hearts should all be willing to give.

As I grow older and wiser as time goes by, I’ve realized that what I’m doing is one of the most important things in not just my life, but their lives.  And though they have hurt and pain and so many unanswered questions, they are my life.  And I would do it all again if I had to.

IMG_7770The smile on their faces are priceless.   You can’t take that away.

IMG_7772That’s our tree.  We got a real one this year.  The house smells fabulous.  And it couldn’t be any prettier.  It was decorated with love and caring little hands.  (We had some dogs that had to make their presence known too – that’s Coco).

IMG_7746

IMG_7751

I’ve done my best this year to teach the kids the true meaning of Christmas.  Yes, we all love waking up on that morning to see what’s been left under the tree for us. And sometimes that meaning falls short.  But I want the kids to know why we set up our tree.  What each piece means.  What the star means, what the candy cane represents, what the gifts that Jesus got mean.  I want the kids to know and learn as much as they can each and every year.  Enjoy your family/friends and the time you spend with them this year.

This Christmas I pray for each and every family to have a home filled with love.  A family that they can lean on.  Someone to put a smile on their face.  Opening a gift will give that joy for a moment, but the true joy is the meaning of life and family.  If you don’t have that I pray you find people in your life that will be that for you.

May many new memories be made for you and yours.  May you have a blessed holiday and the beginning of a wonderful new year.

From our home to yours.

Patricia

“Lofthouse” Cookies for Santa

IMG_7808

Christmas Eve is just a couple of days away.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t in the baking mood this year.  I had went to Jodi’s house and got a container of cookies, toffee and other goodies to leave out for Santa.  BUT, I knew my grandkids needed to make the cookies and decorate them themselves for Santa.  It just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t.

I thought for sure we had a sugar cookie recipe on our own site that we use each year for christmas baking, but I just didn’t find it.  And I’m thinking I didn’t find it because I needed to make these instead.  I got to Target at least 4 times per week.  I walk past the Lofthouse cookies and so want to buy them.  Most times I don’t but I did last week.  Not for me of course, but for the kids (ok I had one).  But these cookies are so good.  So when I went to my go to site for a recipe (Brown Eyed Baker) the first one that came up was this one.  I HAD TO MAKE THESE.

Let me say that I did buy a pack of Pillsbury Sugar Cookie dough JUST in case I may have needed it!  Yay for me, I didn’t.  These turned out really well.  Not quite as sweet as the store bought ones but pretty dang good.    BEB did have a recipe for the frosting in her site as well but I made a different cream cheese frosting (click this link to see how I made it).  The only reason I made the cream cheese frosting is because I didn’t have Heavy Cream and had no intentions of running back to the store again.

I’m not going to  say that these were easy to make.  It’s not hard to make them, it’s just me that is a bit on edge when trying to bake something new.  Especially when they’re for Santa, the big event you know.  There’s a lot riding on these cookies for the big guy.  If he didn’t like them, well then that could determine what he left under the tree!

IMG_7782

Yep, I added the first bit of flour for the cookies and of course it flew out all over.  I had to laugh and capture this on camera!  Not pretty in here at that time at all, but I had fun!  It landed on my feet and all!!!

IMG_7788Here’s the dough just waiting in the fridge patiently for me to take out and roll it out.

IMG_7789One of my issues with making dough for these kinds of cookies is that the dough always sticks to my rolling pin or the counter and I get frustrated and just use the pre made stuff from the store.  But this time I had great success.  Not sure what I did different but I only had it stick to the counter a bit and after I added a bit more flour it was just fine.

IMG_7791They turned out just perfect!!!!!!

IMG_7798

Next up?  The frosting.  I used the cream cheese frosting not just because I didn’t have the Heavy Cream and didn’t want to go to Target, but it’s one of our favorite here!!!

IMG_7800

Here’s the green bowl!

IMG_7802Here’s the red.  It looks a little pink but I started to run out of the red food coloring!!!!

IMG_7803Doubtful that this batch will last until Tuesday night.  Good thing I save a lot of them just in case.

Brooklyn helped a bit and frosted some of the cookies for Santa.

IMG_7815She did a pretty good job!!!!!

IMG_7817

Her finished product.

I should have some left over to bring to our Christmas Eve dinner!!

This year has gone by fast.  Times have changed, the kids have grown older, but one thing remains the same.  I’m very blessed to have a home to take care of my grandkids that have come to be with me.  Most have this time to spend on their own after their kids have grown doing what they want.  I’ve chosen to give up that freedom and take in kids and give them love and a home.  I may not be perfect and I may not always do the right things but I have faith that God will provide for us as He has for the past 7 years.  I’m thankful at this time of the year that I can not only give the gifts that will be opened on Christmas day but the gift of what Christmas is truly about.

May your home be blessed with love, hope and joy this holiday season.

From our home to yours…Happy Holidays.  May the new year bring your hopes and dreams to reality.

“Lofthouse” Cookies for Santa
Recipe Type: Cookies
Author: Patricia
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 7 mins
Total time: 37 mins
Ingredients
  • For the Cookies:
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups sour cream
Instructions
  1. DIRECTIONS:
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat beater attached, cream the butter and granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat at low speed until combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Dough will be a bit “sticky”. Divide dough into two sections. Flatten into rectangles about 1½ inches thick, then wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least two hours until firm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  6. Flour the countertop and the top of the dough. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes, until pale golden. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Cook cookies completely before frosting.
  7. Once cookies have cooled completely, frost and add sprinkles. Allow frosting to set, then store in an air-tight container. Let cookies sit for several hours before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

Two Girls Cooking – Patricia 😉

Source

Brown Eyed Baker

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

 With Christmas approaching faster than I’d like and the cookie exchange even closer, I did more baking tonight.   These turned out to be a bigger hit than the Apricot Cookies last week.  Dare I say that I got an email from Betty Crocker today and found these on the site?  Do I say that I made the sugar cookies that came out of a bag  Yep, the mix sure did.  I know that Jodi has a recipe on our site for sugar cookies that she made for the holidays, but I wanted to see how these would turn out before attempting them with the homemade dough first.

Before I even got the 2nd pan in the oven there were only 5 left out of the 12 that came out.

I put the 2nd pan in the oven and Brooklyn couldn’t wait for them to come out!

When Craig ate the first cookie, he asked me what I did different from the cookies I had made last week.  I wanted to giggle a bit and tell him not much.  But the Betty Crocker bag was on the counter!  So I picked it up, showed him..he said he was going to tell on me that I didn’t make these by scratch if I brought them to the exchange.  Go ahead Mr. Craig, I already told Mary I may use this recipe and she said it was fine! Ha!

If you’re looking for ideas for baking cookies for the holiday visit Betty Crocker, there are many more to choose from.  And more that I may be trying before Santa comes for a visit to our house!!

These were super easy.  They were really good (I ate at least 4 of them myself).  I even used a jelly that had less sugar added and you can’t even tell the difference.  Though I’m not sure at this point in time it really matters!!

 

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
3 tablespoons Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 cup white vanilla baking chips
Red or green sugar, if desired (I only had pink so I left this out).
  • Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, egg and flour until dough forms.
  • Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls; place 2-inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Using thumb or handle of wooden spoon, make indentation in center of each cookie. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon jam into each indentation.
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.
  • In small microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips on High 1 to 2 minutes or until chips are melted; stir until smooth. Spoon melted chips into small resealable plastic bag; cut small hole in corner of bag. Squeeze bag gently to drizzle melted chips over cookies. Sprinkle with colored sugar.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.  I am am actually having a good time trying to find what I’m going to bring to this party.  Some may turn out and some might not. But either way the kids and I are having a good time.  
Have a great week.
Patricia – Two Girls Cooking

Candy Cane Marshmallows

I found this recipe while looking for something new to make for the holidays. I’ve only worked with egg whites once or twice before and wasn’t very successful. I like a challenge now and then so I thought I’d give these a shot. I felt a little like a mad scientist: sugar brewing over here, gelatin over there, egg whites in the mixer. I had a good time making these, maybe because I felt like I won- I beat the egg whites! It was so neat to see it grow in volume as it whipped together. When it was all done I was (overly) proud of my marshmallows. They are light and fluffy, with just enough (not too much) peppermint flavor. I think it would be fun to experiment with different flavor extracts and see how they taste. I shared them with anyone who’d try one, and even got a couple requests for the recipe!


Candy Cane Marshmallows
(from Martha Stewart)
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups water, divided
4 pkg (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin (1 Box)
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 large egg whites
2 tsp red food coloring
Powdered Sugar


Coat a 13X9 pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray, and set pan aside. Put sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 cup water in a heatproof bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in extract; set aside.
Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture; with mixer running, gradually add to egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick, 12 to 15 minutes.

Pour mixture into lined pan. Working quickly, drop dots of red food coloring across surface of marshmallow. Using a toothpick, swirl food coloring into marshmallow to create a marbleized effect. Let marshmallow stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight. Cut into squares.


A few things I learned that might come in handy:
* The original recipe used an 8 in square pan. The marshmallows were very tall, I ended up cutting them in half. I prefer the 13X9 pan size.
* These are quite sticky, but if you roll them in powdered sugar and brush off the excess they don’t stick anymore. I did this to the top and sides before starting to cut my second batch and they went much easier.
* Using a pizza cutter to roll through went a lot faster and smoother than a knife.


Scott got a chocolate fountain for Christmas with my family last weekend. I think these will be great for our first chocolate fondue! I know I said in my last post that was all of my holiday treats; but I promise, I really am done now with holiday treats. For this year…  🙂
– Jodi

Holiday Treat Extravaganza!

It’s been quite a while since my last post. I don’t want you to think this is due to a lack of baking though. In fact, I’ve been baking and cooking so much I haven’t had time to post it all! There was the Cheese Ball, the Peanut Butter Kiss cookies and the dipped pretzels. Those I do every year because they are favorites around here, my sister’s been asking for weeks for the kiss cookies. My mom loves these spritz cookies, so I always make a double batch. That’s a whole lot of spritz! I use the recipe that came with my cookie press, and they come out great every time. They’re like a little crisp sugar cookie.

Spritz Cookies
1-1/2 cups butter or margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
(Makes 6 dozen cookies)


Preheat oven to 400° F. Thoroughly cream butter and sugar. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract; beat well. Stir together flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing to make a smooth dough. Do not chill. Place dough into Cookie Press and press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown on bottom. Remove cookies from sheet and cool.
I then frost them with a very simple icing and decorate: Mix 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tbsp milk and 1/4 tsp almond extract until smooth. If too dry add a little milk, if too runny add a little powdered sugar.

Each year I also use the holidays as an excuse to try out a bunch of new sweet treats too. Here’s a couple for you to try out.


Toffee Bars
These are very thin crisp bars that have a light toffee flavor and a milk chocolate top. I was hoping the toffee flavor would be more obvious because I love toffee, but they are still tasty and very simple to make.




1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 bag milk chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350, grease a jelly roll pan. In a medium bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat until smooth. Beat in flour. Press mixture into pan and bake for 15 minutes. Immediately after removing pan from the oven place the chocolate on top and allow to melt. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the surface with a spatula.  These are easiest to cut while still warm.


Chewy Caramel Oatmeal Bars
These were a new one, but have been such a hit they are gone already! I will be making another batch this week for sure. The recipe calls for a bag of caramels, but I felt ambitious and used homemade caramel from this recipe instead (told you I’ve been busy!). These are rich, so I cut them small before serving.


2 cups flour
2 cups quick oats
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted,
1 12 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 14 oz bag caramels
5 tbsp milk


Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in melted butter until thoroughly mixed. Press half the mixture into a 13X9 baking pan. Bake for 10 min, then sprinkle the chocolate chips on the baked crust. Microwave the caramels and milk on high for about 3 minutes or until caramels are melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Sprinkle remaining half of oat mixture on caramel layer. Bake for 20 minutes, cool completely and cut into bars.

Oreo and Nutter Butter Truffles
The Oreo version of these Scott’s sister made last year and I loved them. So when I went to look up the recipe I found it along with a variation with Nutter Butter cookies. Oh yum! I won’t repost the recipe, just click the link above. You’ll be glad you did! 🙂


I think I’m almost done making holiday treats, and I’ll definitely share if I do make some more.

One last thing I wanted to share was the holiday treat Scott cooked up for me this year. He surprised me with a trip to New York City last weekend. How exciting!! I’ve always wanted to see the city all lit up for the holidays, especially the big tree in Rockefeller Plaza. So we headed east with plans to see the tree and skate on the rink on Saturday night. We saw the tree (it was gorgeous!) and waited in the long line to skate, and I will admit I got a bit impatient… “let’s just skip this, we can come back tomorrow or something”. He was adamant, we were skating and doing it now. After a couple turns around the rink, I found out why. He led me to the center of the ice, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! Oh wow! I, of course, said Yes!
We had a great time the rest of the weekend and did find time to do one other thing I always wanted to do in NY- stand outside on the plaza for the Today show. We set the DVR at home before we left just in case, and we were on (see clips here)! Just behind Matt Lauer and Al Roker (I shook Al’s hand!). We also had our picture taken for their blog. We had an amazing trip, a memorable proposal and what a sweet guy! 🙂


Happy Holidays!
– Jodi

My Favorite Holiday Treats

 

Besides the recipes Patricia and I made with the kids last night, I have a few more favorite holiday treats I like to make every year. I’ve been making these throughout the past week or so, and thought I’d just post them all at once.  🙂

Cheese Ball
My mom used to make this every year and I always looked forward to it (I still call it “My Mom’s Cheese Ball”). Now I make a double batch every year and share it with her and everyone else. If you put it in smaller containers it freezes well, and just take it out the day before you need it.

2 8 oz pkgs of Cream Cheese
8 oz of shredded cheddar
1 lb velveeta cheese, cut up
1/2 lb butter or margarine
1 tbsp chopped onion or shallot
1 tbsp pimento
2 pkgs dried beef, cut up

Set cheeses and butter in a 3 qt mixing bowl to soften. Then mix well with a beater. I throw the onion, pimento and dried beef into the food processor so I don’t have to chop it all up by hand. Add the chopped onion, pimento and beef to the cheese mixture and Mix well.

White Pretzels
1 pkg white bark
1 bag pretzels

Melt the white bark on the stove (see peppermint bark below). Drop in pretzels, a few at a time. I use a fork to pick them out, let the extra bark can drip off. Place on wax or parchment paper to harden. I place in the fridge for about 20 min to speed it up. 

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
about 48 Hershey Kisses (unwrapped, of course!)

Heat oven to 375. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Add shortening and peanut butter and mix until smooth. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Shape dough into balls, and roll in sugar. Bake for 10-12 min. Top each with a Hershey Kiss. The chocolate will get melty, so let these sit and harden before storing.

– Jodi