Sunday, December 22, 2013

A wonderful announcement....

If you aren't immediate family or friends with me on facebook, you may have missed the announcement....

Nate & I are having another baby!!

I am 8 weeks; due July 24th. 

We are extremely excited, and I have been doing excessive amounts of baking and cooking so far, so when I am feeling good, you can expect lots of fun recipes!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

With all the things I enjoy that have pumpkin in them, it may be a surprise that I don't like pumpkin pie. I think it's the texture. I don't mind the taste, the texture is just... weird.

However, since plenty of people in my family do enjoy pumpkin pie, I started making it for the holidays a few years ago. (And it's slightly hard to make a recipe when you can never judge if there is anything that needs to be changed about it....) Apparently, it's quite awesome.  I'll take their word for it, because I've tried it and thought "meh, it's still pumpkin pie." 

So, if you haven't decided on what to make for dessert for Christmas.... everyone (but me) loves pumpkin pie! This is exceptionally easy to make, too. I haven't seen or played with other recipes, for the simple reason that this is so easy and I never get any complaints or "maybe you should try doing x" comments.

One thing that could be fun to do (and I did this with my apple pies too) is use cookie cutters to make pretty designs around the edge. Obviously, for pumpkin pie, I wanted cookie cutter pumpkins on top! I wish I had some smaller cookie cutters, but since no one wants small cookies.... I don't. ;)

Remember, comments are love! 

(Oh, and I apologize profusely for the picture. I made this one for Thanksgiving, and forgot to take a picture til I got to Mama's. At that point, I didn't have the camera; just my cruddy camera phone. The shine on the top of the pie was some slight condensation; I had to put the warm pie in the carrier for the trip. Oops.)

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 Cups all-Purpose flour
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/3 Cup shortening
  • 4-5 Tablespoons cold water
  • 15 Ounces canned pumpkin
  • 14 Ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Redi-whip

If using a store-bought crust, skip the first 5 ingredients and steps 2-5, and prepare crust as directed.
  1. Heat oven to 425°. 
  2. In a medium bowl stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea size. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the flour mixture, gently toss with a fork. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 tablespoon of the water at a time, until all the flour mixture is moistened. Form pastry into a ball.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, slightly flatten pastry. Roll pastry from center to edges into a circle about 12” in diameter.
  4. Wrap pastry circle around the rolling pin. Unroll into a 9” pie plate. Ease into pie plate without stretching it.
  5. Trim pastry to ½” beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry. Crimp edges as desired.
  6. Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices, and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Pour into crust.
  7. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°; bake an additional 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted 1” from crust comes out clean. Cool. Garnish as desired.
Serves: 8 Yields: 1 pie
Prep Time: 15 Cook Time: 50

Source (for original): Taste of Home for the pie itself, Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook for the crust

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Sugar Cookies

I think that my favorite thing about this time of year is the baking, candy-making, and sharing. I've made 2 batches of peppermint bark, 6 batches of hard candy, 3 (successful) batches of fudge, 1 batch of buckeyes, and 1 batch of Christmas Sugar Cookies. We are keeping some of each for our house, but most of what I have made has been parceled out to family & friends, and I love it!!

These are on my baking list for every Christmas, and have been on the list since before I was the one doing the baking! I can't remember Mama ever getting to Christmas without making at least one batch. (And when the three of us kids were younger, I remember at least a couple years where the cookies were gone long before Christmas, and we would beg for another batch...) 

To me, these are the perfect Christmas cookie. They are slightly crunchy if you don't frost them, but frosting them makes them perfectly soft! 

Remember, comments are love! And may get you on the cookie-tray list next year. ;) 

Christmas Sugar Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups butter-flavored Crisco
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tubs store-bought frosting (or homemade if desired) (And I know, everyone's first comment when I say that it's Betty Crocker or whatever is "Serena, you use storebought frosting???" But, that's the way Mama has always done it, and I honestly don't think the storebought tastes any better than any homemade recipe I have seen for frosting like this. If you find a frosting recipe for cookies like this that you insist is way better than the can, share it with me!!)

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; beat until fluffy.
  3. Stir together dry ingredients; add alternately with milk to creamed mixture. If dough is too sticky to handle, add flour. 
  4. Roll 1/4” thick on well-floured surface, cut with cookie cutters.
  5. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 minutes. Cool on rack; frost and decorate as desired.
About 75 cookies
2-3 hours (including decorating)
Source (for original): Mama (and I don't think she even knows where she got this one)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Grandma Mickey's Buckeyes

Originally published 12/12/13, updated 12/14/16.

Sorry for the lack of posts.... I've been slacking for awhile. Between being busy with various things, and then the 3 of us have been feeling pretty cruddy for a week or so... sorry! 

To make up for being lazy, I'm sharing an AMAZING recipe today. Have you ever had buckeyes? (Some people just call them peanut butter balls, too.) Sweet peanut butter goodness dipped in melted chocolate.... it's absolutely amazing. One batch makes two extra large cookie sheets full of buckeyes... that's a lot of peanut-butter-chocolate-amazingness. And I'm fairly certain that my Grandma makes the best buckeyes ever. You think I'm biased, and I am, but that's also a true statement. I have had completely unbiased people tell me that I make the best buckeyes they've ever had, and since I make them just like my Grandma.... I'm sticking to my "best ever" theory.

However, my Grandma is a lot more brave than I am. When my cousins & I were kids, she would have us over to make buckeyes before Christmas. I don't remember how many cousins could usually make it, but there are 12 of us total, and even if only half of us were there.... that's a big mess. I think she might be a saint.

This is what happened when Gabriel was 'helping' me during the rolling stage...

(I had measured out the powdered sugar, and got a little on the table. That's what he proceeded to do.) 

Since Nate was at work the next day when I went to dip them, I wasn't brave enough to have Gabriel around to help with that too... I did it after he went to bed. Maybe next year...

Anyways, on to the recipe! If you've never had these, I strongly suggest trying them!! They are heavenly. :)

Remember, comments are love! 

Printable Recipe
Grandma Mickey’s Buckeyes

  • 3 pounds powdered sugar
  • 2 pounds peanut butter
  • 1 pound butter, softened
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 1 bar paraffin wax
  1. Mix together powdered sugar, peanut butter, and butter. (Note: You will not be able to do all of this with your mixer. I mix together the peanut butter & butter, then slowly add in the powdered sugar until I am afraid it's going to kill my mixer. At that point, I mix by hand.)
  2. Roll into small balls; refrigerate overnight. (Or freeze for a couple hours, if you want to do it all in one day.)
  3. Melt together chocolate chips and paraffin wax, preferably in a double boiler. Dip balls in chocolate mixture using toothpicks to spear. Drop on wax paper. Chill.
Approx 100
45 min + cooling, then another 30-45 minutes

Nutrition Facts *I calculate nutrition facts for reference only, this is not done scientifically


Source (for original): the best Grandma ever ;)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Homemade Werther's Caramels

I am usually up for the challenge of making something new, so when my big brother requested that I make homemade Werther's, I decided to give it a shot. 

I've had other homemade caramels before--the soft, chewy kind. I honestly wasn't fond of the flavor of those, so I was a little nervous about making some myself. Then I found a recipe that said they tasted like the hard Werther's candies, so I was off to the store to get some cream! (The only thing it required that I don't usually have in my cupboards.)

These things were definitely a hit! They are very hard--at first, then they soften in your mouth. The taste is perfect. They taste just like Werther's. (And now, typing about them, I'm going to have to go get one; please excuse me....) 

I knew I wasn't going to see my big brother for awhile, so I had originally planned on just making another batch closer to when I was going to see him.... but then I decided to surprise him and mail out a care package! He was pretty happy too; but I'm not sure if he was more excited about the caramels or the picture his nephew colored for him!

My only complaint is how hard they are to cut. I let them cool too long, not realizing they would get as hard as they did, and couldn't cut them easily. (It turned into a long, painful process.) When making these, I would recommend scoring them early on in the hardening process, or cutting early. (Similar to what many people do with hard candy.) 

Aside from that, I won't change anything for next time. I think I will try one of the soft caramel chew recipes in the future, but these are most definitely on my make-again list!

Remember, comments are love!


  • 3 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a 3 quart (or larger) pan, (Note: I used a 3 quart saucepan, and was afraid it was going to boil over. It never did, but it had me nervous the whole time) melt butter over low heat. 
  2. Once melted, add sugar, corn syrup, cream, and salt. Insert candy thermometer (making sure not to touch the bottom of the pan), and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. 
  3. (While boiling, grease a medium cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil.)
  4. Once it comes to a full boil, swirl the pot slightly but do not stir. Boil to hard ball stage, 250° - 266°. Remove from heat, then add in vanilla.
  5. Pour immediately into greased cookie sheet. Allow to cool slightly, then score with oiled knife or pizza cutter. Wrap in wax paper (if desired), store at room temperature.
1 hour

Source (for original): Instructables

Friday, November 22, 2013

Peppermint Bark: Trying to beat Russell Stover's at their own game....

The hard thing about working in retail is that there is always soooo much candy to tempt me. Personally, Russell Stover's caramels are usually my downfall--the ones that are available seasonally. Caramel Hearts, Caramel Pumpkins, Caramel Santas, Caramel Eggs.... really, Russell Stover's makes the best caramel. (The really unfortunate thing is that my boss is aware of this, and I swear he buys extra for every holiday because he knows I'll eat it.) 

However, one of my coworkers is basically addicted to their Peppermint Bark Snowmen. When I've wanted something sweet at work lately, I've got either that or the Peppermint Bark Candy bars. 

Really, don't they look yummy? I know those are poor quality pictures (just what I found online), but trust me--they are amazing. Fairly addicting too, and I think those might be my new favorite. (I had a caramel pumpkin that got  too close to my stove this fall, and the chocolate tasted funny, so now I'm off caramel for awhile.) The only problem was that I was convinced that I could make that at home, even if not quite to that caliber.

So, I got some candy coating, peppermint extract, candy canes, and went to work.

First experiment was a flop, in my opinion. I discovered that I really don't care for peppermint extract. The other people that I shared it with (coworkers, family, etc) thought it was great, but I couldn't get past the flavor of the extract. It wasn't close enough to the Russell Stover's candy, and there's just something about the taste that bothered me.

Second experiment was much better, but I made the mistake of buying Log House candy coating vs the Meijer brand that I had bought before. The texture was... funny. I don't really know how to describe it, it was just off. (And no, in case you were wondering--I am not the only one who thought so.) I would recommend against buying that brand, unless it's the only one available. 

For the second experiment, I tried using about 1/4 dram of Lorann Peppermint Oil. (The kind you use for making hard candy.) That, combined with the candy canes, gave it a wonderful peppermint flavor. Next time I might try toning it down a little, but we'll see.

We all agreed that the second try was much, much better. However, this is like the Candy Bark I made around Halloween.... you can't really go wrong! Play with it, see what you like! Try adding different types of candy canes (have you seen the flavors of candy canes they have??? I had to search to find normal ones at Meijer!), different oil flavors (obviously making sure it's the edible kind; Lorann makes a ton), etc. Have fun with it! 

Let me know what you do! I love to get different ideas. :)

Remember, comments are love!


Peppermint Candy Bark

  • 8 ounces chocolate candy coating
  • 10 ounces vanilla candy coating
  • 1/4 dram peppermint oil
  • 3-4 candy canes, broken into small chunks

  1. Melt chocolate candy coating in a double-boiler.
  2. Meanwhile, place aluminum foil in a 8”x8” baking pan, going at least 1” up all sides. Ounce chocolate is melted, pour into pan. Refrigerate while melting vanilla.
  3. Melt vanilla candy coating in a double-boiler; add peppermint oil once melted. Remove from heat, stir in candy canes.
  4. Remove pan from fridge; carefully pour vanilla over chocolate, small sections at a time. (Chocolate will not be completely hard.)
  5. Let harden, then break into small (or large!) pieces. Enjoy!

30 minutes

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Egg Nog Cookies: The Taste of Christmas

So, a week or so ago, I volunteered to make cookies for Nate's coworker's going away party. By volunteered, of course, I mean that Nate volunteered me.

I couldn't decide what to make, then I forgot what day it was going to be, so Nate almost had to just take some of the caramels I made last night. (Recipe to follow in a day or so, so stay tuned!)

Then, when Gabriel & I had to make a grocery store run this morning, I splurged & got some egg nog.... which gave me the idea of egg nog cookies! One Pinterest search & a couple hours later, these are packed & ready to go to work with Nate! (Well, some of them. We may have eaten a couple a lot.) 

If you like egg nog, you should definitely try these!!! Nate has decided these are my new Christmas cookies. (He's not a huge fan of my sugar cookies, which I'll never understand. I eat myself to the point of nausea on them every year.) Gabriel ate his so fast that I thought he dropped it: I gave him one, turned as I took a bite of mine, then when I looked to see what he thought, I couldn't see any cookie. I asked "Gabriel, did you drop your cookie?" and he opened his hand to show me the 1/2 bite he had left. I would say they are a hit. ;)

Between the egg nog & the nutmeg, these just taste like Christmas. And at 111 calories each (for a batch of 40).... you can't go wrong!

I'm going to tell myself that as I eat the remaining half dozen I left out for our family....  

Remember, comments are love! 

Egg Nog Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour    
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon    
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice     
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter-flavored Crisco     
  • 1/2 cup + 3 - 5 tablespoons eggnog, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla     
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and ½ teaspoon nutmeg in a bowl; set aside.
  3. Cream Crisco and sugar in an electric mixer. Add ½ cup eggnog, vanilla, and egg yolks. Mix on medium until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients, mix until smooth.
  4. Place by rounded teaspoonful onto parchment covered or lightly greased baking sheet. (Alternatively, flour hands lightly and form into small balls.)
  5. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. 
  6. IF DESIRED: Meanwhile, in small mixer bowl, beat powdered sugar and butter together until well blended; add 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Gradually beat in 3 to 5 tablespoons egg nog until icing is desired consistency. (I added the minimum amount, iced half the cookies, then added a little more to ice the rest. My preference, if icing them at all, is the minimum amount of egg nog.) However, these cookies don't even really need the icing. Next time, I'm leaving a lot more without it.
Approximately 3 ½ dozen
1 ½ hours

Nutrition Facts
111 calories (per 40 cookies)

Source (for original): The Girl Who Ate Everything