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December 2017

5 Days of Christmas Cookies!!

Christmas cookies are one of my favorite things about the holiday season. I love eating them, baking them and gifting them! Every year I would bake 3 batches of at least 6-7 types of cookies to enjoy and give to friends and family. Then kids happened and there went baking all those cookies. I still made the chocolate chip and Hershey kiss cookies that my kids love so much, but that’s about it.  This year the kids are a bit older (and all three are in school for 2 overlapping hours 4 days a week!!) so I am going to attempt a more delicious cookie tray this year! 🙂

Each day this week I will post the recipe and some pictures for a type of cookie or two. I am going to start with the most basic ones and if all goes well hopefully they will get better each day.

One thing you will notice with each recipe I make – whatever the standard cookie size is, I probably cut it at least in half. And that’s because I love a small cookie. This way I can eat more of them. Actually, I started to notice at holiday parties and family gatherings, people take a bite or two of a cookie then put it down and that’s it. The rest lands right in the garbage. I think sometimes people just want to taste a cookie and not commit to a massive snack. Also, making smaller cookies yields more cookies per batch. This is extremely helpful when putting together so many cookie trays for gifts and parties.

DAY 1 – Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

The first cookie I am going to start with is just a basic chocolate chip cookie. I’ve tried so many different recipes – Martha Stewart, America’s Test Kitchen, several “Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever” recipes from Pinterest – and I always go back to the Nestle Toll House recipe! It tastes just as good, if not better, than any other recipe I’ve tried and it’s super simple. Check out the recipe here.

Ohhh….and a side note about storing cookies. This is something I heard years ago (no idea where) and it’s worked perfectly. Store cookies in an airtight container with a slice of white bread in the container. You can even cover tightly with plastic wrap before placing the lid on. I’ve been able to store most cookies at least 2 weeks this way! (I have no idea about the science behind this, but it works and that’s all that matters!)

DAY 2 – Hershey Kiss Cookies

Hershey Kiss cookies are a classic in our house. Growing up my mom and grandmother made them every year and this is the one cookie I’ve made every year since I’ve been married. They are fun to make and a good one for the kids to help out with! There are SO many recipes for these – sometimes they are called Peanut Butter Blossoms, Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies, etc. and in our house simply Hershey Kiss Cookies. The recipes will all be very similar – the main thing to look for is that the recipe calls for only butter – some will use part butter and part shortening. All butter is the way to go! Check this recipe out here.

DAY 3 – Christmas Cookie Sparkles

The prettiest cookie trays (in my opinion) are full of color. I always struggle with adding color because I tend to make quick and easy drop cookies (standard cookie dough color and probably some sort of chocolate) that all look similar. I came across Sally’s Baking Addiction and had to try some of these beautiful (and so very tasty) cookies! These in particular caught my eye because I’ve had the sprinkles this requires for quite a while and could never seem to use them up. These do kind of sparkle and are the perfect addition to this year’s cookie tray 🙂 I have varied the recipe only slightly, you can find it here.

DAY 4 – Funfetti Shortbread Bites and Striped Fudge Cookie Sandwiches

Two amazing cookies today! I came across the Funfetti Shortbread Bites on Pinterest. Mini cookies and absolutely adorable. Much easier to make than I expected too! These are a perfect filler for any cookie tray! Check out the recipe with my pictures and comments here, or visit Cooking Classy for the original recipe!

The next one is for all you chocolate lovers (that’s me!). These take time to make but they are SO worth it! This is another recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction – a website I can’t seem to get enough of this season! Usually I don’t like any recipe that requires rolling out dough (why I will never bake a pie from scratch), but I made an exception for these!!! Check out my version of the recipe and pictures here.

DAY 5 – Spritz Cookies and Peanut Butter Munchies

Day 5 is here a day late – we were up until 3am wrapping gifts…..so I needed at least a little sleep to get through the craziness today will be! The first cookie for today is a spritz cookie. I make these because they taste great, they add some color to my cookie trays, and they have the potential to look so pretty! However, I never seem to have much luck with my cookie press and half of my cookies break on me 🙁 But I make these most years hoping for the best! Spritz cookie recipes are all about the same, check it out here.

It’s only fitting that I end with a chocolate peanut butter cookie. It’s a recipe I found in 2004 (that’s the year I graduated from college, didn’t realize I started baking back then, but that’s what it says on the bottom of the magazine page that’s torn out with the recipe on it) and I remember the first time I made it for my husband it was by far his favorite cookie. I haven’t made this one in years so am really looking forward to having it again this year! Here’s the recipe for Peanut Butter Munchies.

 

 

 

10 More Days Until Christmas…Still Time to Get Your Artisanal Eggnog!!

I’m not an eggnog person. I probably never even really tried it, but the thought of it – no way! So when I heard of a local homemade artisanal eggnog I was skeptical. But the amazing mom who makes it is known to be great in the kitchen, so maybe this was the time to finally give it a try! I was at a ladies shopping event at my boys nursery school and she had a table set up with samples. Perfect! I made my way over and tried the chocolate hazelnut….so this was like a milkshake but with alcohol. Does it get any better???? Because I am so picky (don’t like coffee and typical favorite flavors) I stuck with just the chocolate, but from what I overheard everyone saying, the other flavors may have been even better! So I wanted to know more. As a working mom of three kids – how do you come up with this unique and awesome idea? How is there time to make all of this? Anything new to look forward to in the future? So I went to Marielle for the answers!

Marielle grew up in a large family in the Dominican Republic, which means she grew up around a lot of cooking. Her mom, aunts and cousins were all cooks. However, as a kid, cooking didn’t interest Marielle very much. All she could make was spaghetti and cheese paste for her favorite “sandwichitos”.

After college, she moved to Miami and started cooking more, but still not much. That changed when her younger brother came to live with her. He disliked most of what she made and felt that the quantities were too small. They became members of a wholesale food club, and he made amazing dishes from scratch – everything from pork crackling to lasagna and everything in large quantities.

Inspired by her brother, she developed a love for cooking. She then began hosting holiday dinners at her place for friends and family. Most of her friends were also from the Dominican Republic, so she would make dishes that reminded everyone of life back on the island, like sweet plantain casserole. One of their favorite holiday drinks was traditional ponche, or eggnog.  She made her mom’s almond ponche recipe every year, which made everyone nostalgic for the DR.

In 2010, her and her then-boyfriend, now-husband Andrew, moved to New York City. In 2016, after 8 years of busy city life, they moved to the ‘burbs’ with their three children. Here they found more time to socialize and make good friends. This past November, Marielle made her mom’s ponche again to prep for Thanksgiving. Her husband said it was so tasty that she should start selling it.

Marielle and her family

That seemed like a far-fetched idea. How would she be able to find time to manage her full-time job, three kids, and the house? She was skeptical, but then found some motivation when her cousin Laura told her about a class she had taken all about eggnog.  This prompted her to experiment with different spice blends. She eventually settled on six flavors—chocolate hazelnut, dulce de leche, pistachio, coffee, gingerbread, and the original almond recipe from her mom.

She started handing out samples to friends and family, who encouraged her to bottle and sell it. And that is how Salute! Artisanal Eggnog was born. Like Marielle, there are a lot of people in the US that miss holiday traditions from the Dominican Republic. Salute! is her way of bringing a little bit of home in DR here to the States.

With no plans of slowing down, she is working on new flavors for next year and is excited to be working on a new product line of fruit liqueurs. Each Salute! Product is made with high-quality ingredients, no preservatives, and love. Cheers!

To order, email ponchesalute@gmail.com or call 786.556.4021. Follow her on Instagram @ponchesalute

 

Brownie + Fudge + Peanut Butter = Heaven

I was recently at the grocery store and a new Betty Crocker brownie mix caught my eye – Fudge Molten Lava. It sounded pretty amazing so I bought a box to try and it didn’t disappoint!!! However, I didn’t love the packet of chocolate fudge that came with it – it was difficult to get all of the chocolate out of the packet and it didn’t spread evenly or easily. And maybe I would have liked even more fudge…. But I loved this concept of molten lava brownies and figured there had be a better way to do something similar, and maybe make it taste even better (think peanut butter). So I played around with this just a little bit and on the second try – NAILED it! The entire plate of brownies disappeared in about 90 seconds.(And it can’t get much easier than this either!)

All you need is:

  • a box of Betty Brocker Fudge brownie mix (even the classic Milk Chocolate will work fine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 jar Smucker’s Hot Fudge Topping (11.75 oz)
  • 1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter baking chips
  1. Grease the bottom and sides of 8 x 8 inch baking pan (I love the Baker’s Joy spray). Preheat oven to 350º F. Adjust rack to middle of the oven.
  2. Combine brownie mix, eggs, oil and water and mix with a rubber spatula until well combined and batter is smooth.
  3. Pour half the batter into the baking pan, so that the bottom of the pan is just covered.

4. Scoop about 1/3 jar of the hot fudge topping into  plastic sandwich bag. Cut off one of the corners of the sandwich bag – just small enough to allow a thin line of fudge to squeeze out.

    

5. Squeeze the fudge out in lines running both horizontal and diagonal as shown below.

6. Sprinkle as many peanut butter chips on top of the fudge as you would like. (Just omit this step if any peanut allergies, or if for some reason you don’t love peanut butter).

7. Pour the remaining brownie batter over the fudge and peanut butter chips.

8. Bake on the middle rack for about 35-40 minutes. Baking time will vary by oven. The edges of the brownie should crisp up and slightly pull in from the edge of the pan. The middle should be firm if you shake the pan, but a toothpick inserted will still come out with fudge on it.

9. Let rest for 2 hours, cut with a plastic knife and enjoy!

These are seriously the BEST brownies I’ve ever had in my LIFE – and I’ve had my share of brownies!!! Go ahead and try these – I would love to know what you think!!

xoxo

** Note – I did try making these with actual peanut butter the first time around, rather than the peanut butter baking chips. It was good, but the baking chips are better.