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A Your Tray or Mine Recipe and an Online Cookie Swap: Chocolate Buttersweets

19 Dec
Chocolate Buttersweets

These are my other top favorite cookie from our trays!

This week I was invited to participate in such a fun activity: a digital cookie exchange! Now, you know how much I love cookies, and what a fun idea to do an online recipe swap! I was invited by Patience Brewster, a company that offers a unique line of handmade, hand painted ornaments and gifts for holiday and every day decor.  Their products are so beautiful! Every piece in the collection is based on original artwork by artist/designer Patience Brewster and is filled with intricate details and fanciful designs. You can read more about the company here.

As I was going through my favorite cookie recipes, trying to decide which one to choose for today’s online cookie exchange with Patience Brewster, I had such a hard time deciding! Not just any cookie would do. Ultimately I decided to run the recipe for one of my top two favorite Christmas cookies, the Chocolate Buttersweets. These cookies were the ultimate equivalent of a beautiful Patience Brewster ornament, in a cookie. Hand-glazed, multi-step, multi-layer, delectable cookies, beautiful confections….it’s a perfect fit.

Below you’ll find the step-by-step instructions for this cookie. I hope you’ll give it a try, and I certainly hope that you’ll go on over to the Patience Brewster site and and take a look at their beautiful creations.

In the meantime, I’d like to tag my friend Paula over at My Soup for You and invite her to join in on our online cookie exchange! Paula is a wonderful cook and baker, and I know she’ll be doing some baking this weekend, too! In fact, I’d like to challenge all of my readers and fellow bloggers. Link up a great cookie recipe in the comments here, blog about a good cookie recipe on your own blog, or share a cookie recipe wherever you share, and tag us all!

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ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 19, 2011

When I first began the Your Tray or Mine series of recipes earlier this month, I began with the Chocolate Thumbprints, which I said were one of my top two favorite cookie recipes from the trays my mom and I do. Today’s cookie, the Chocolate Buttersweets, are my other top favorite cookie on the tray.

This recipe is not complicated, although it does have three distinct steps: the cookie, the filling and the frosting. Because the cookie should be frosted when it’s warm (but not hot) I recommend prepping the filling first, so that it’s ready. Then make your cookies, and after they are filled, make your frosting and frost the filled cookies.

INGREDIENTS

Cookie base for chocolate buttersweets

If you have a wooden spoon with a round handle, you can use it to poke the holes in the tops of the cookies before baking.

Cookies:
1 cup margarine or butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour

**Filling:
6 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
4 TBL flour
2 tsp vanilla

Frosting:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 TBL butter or margarine
4 TBL water
1 cup confectioners sugar

DIRECTIONS:
**Prepare the filling first. The cookies, when done, need to be filled while warm. Have the filling ready to go.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

FOR COOKIES:
1) In large bowl cream together butter, confectioners sugar, salt and vanilla.
2) Gradually add flour to creamed mixture, mix well.
3) Roll dough into 1″ balls, placing them 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
4) Press hole in center of each cookie with finger or the handle end of wooden spoon (if handle is round, not flat.)
5) Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until edges are lightly brown.
6) Fill while warm
7) Frost

Filled Chocolate Buttersweets

Step two: fill the cookies while warm.

FOR FILLING:
Soften cream cheese. Blend in sugar, flour, vanilla. Cream well. Fill cookies.

FOR FROSTING:
In small saucepan melt chocolate chips, butter, and water over low heat. Stir constantly. Stir in confectioners sugar and mix well. Will be lumpy at first until the sugar melts. Spoon a little frosting onto each cookie.

What’s for Christmas dinner: Make ahead twice baked potatoes

17 Dec
Christmas Dinner: pork chop with homemade applesauce, green beans, twice baked potatoes, butternut squash

Today’s post is all about the potatoes.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 28, 2011

Yesterday I wrote the first part of my post about our Christmas dinner, which is a great meal for any occasion:  roasted pork chops, homemade applesauce, Twice-Baked Potatoes, sauteed green beans and butternut squash.

At the end of the post I promised that I’d be sharing the make-ahead process that Don uses for the Twice-Baked Potatoes, which also provides you with a ready-made appetizer: potato skins.

To begin, you need baking potatoes. I get mine at Aldi’s. They sell the perfect sized and shaped potatoes in a big bag so that you don’t have to hand pick every single one. I buy two bags of them.

Early in the day on Christmas Eve, they go in the oven to be baked just as you would for any baked potato. Don bakes them at 400 degrees for one hour.

After that, they cool on top of the stove for two hours.

Potato skins

You want to take off the tops, but leave enough potato on them to make a hearty potato skin appetizer. You don’t want just skin.

At that time, Don cuts the top skin off of the potatoes, putting the tops in a serving dish to be used as Potato Skins for the next day and leaving the bottoms on the tray to be used for the Twice Baked Potatoes.

potato shells

You don’t want to scrape right down to the skin, leave enough flesh on the skin for a sturdy shell.

The next step is to scoop all of the potato flesh out of the skins, and into a mixing bowl.

making mashed potatoes for twice baked potoatoes

Next, you make mashed potatoes.

Next, you make the filling. We use butter, milk or half and half, salt, pepper and cheddar cheese, mashing the mixture just as you would for mashed potatoes.

Then, you fill the potato skins back up again. They should be slightly more full than they were before because of the added cheese, milk and butter.

Wrap the entire tray with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

On Christmas morning, when it’s time to cook, take your potatoes out. Let them sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to bring the temperature up a bit. Bake them in the oven 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of each one, and broil for a few minutes until brown and crispy. Eat and Enjoy!

Twice Baked Potatoes

Good enough to eat!

Additionally, to make your potato skins appetizer, you use the tops of the skins from the day before, sprinkling them with any toppings you’d like. We use cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Broil them for a few minutes in the oven before serving. We serve with a side of sour cream.

And the winner is……

15 Dec
Announcing the winner of Baking Day at Grandma's!

Announcing the winner of Baking Day at Grandma’s!

Today’s the day!

Last week I told you that today I’d be announcing the person who had won a copy of Anika and Christopher Denise’s book, “Baking Day at Grandma’s,” and today’s the day!

The winner is……..Stephanie Bernaba!!!

Stephanie, just in time for the holidays, you can now add “Baking Day at Grandma’s” to your nine-book-a-night bedtime story routine!

I know that you will love the story as much as I do, and you’ll enjoy baking Grandma Rose’s special recipe at the end, too!

Please email your mailing address to: info@anikadenise.com so that a book can be sent to you!

If you were not a winner and you’d still like your own copy, you can find a copy on the Barnes and Noble website or on Amazon.com.

Congratulations Stephanie, and thanks to the author and illustrator, Anika and Chris for a beautiful story to share!

Family Movie Night and Two Books: The Snowman, Some Snowflakes and a Craft

12 Dec
The Snowman movie based on the book

This movie is quick, 23 minutes long and is based on the book by Raymond Briggs

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 16, 2011

Today is Friday, our wind-down night and often-times we have a Family Movie Night, as I said in last Friday’s post. Yesterday’s recipe was for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, which I said make me think of snowflakes, even though they are chocolate based cookies. That thought of snowflakes leads me to today’s movie, book and craft for kids.

When I was an elementary teacher, the book, “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs was one of my favorites to use as a wintertime activity with the kids. A wordless book, it had gorgeous illustrations, depicting a boy’s journey with a snowman. I used to love having the kids make their own version of the words to go along with the pictures.

That book is now a movie, and although I have not seen it, I wish I had it! According to the description on Amazon, it is based on live action flying footage. It sounds fantastic!

This is the same book that our family had for years until just last week.

The book that I used to have is now gone, donated just a couple of weeks ago, by my generous kids who each year have to make a big pile of books and toys for children who don’t have much, just before Christmas.

Clearly they couldn’t read my mind and know that I was going to use that very book in my blog post this week. When I heard it was gone, I almost went after it but my husband assured me they were putting the boxes on a truck as he was dropping them off, it was gone. So, instead, I am including the picture from Amazon. Sigh…I loved that book.

Speaking of books and snowflakes, when my daughter Caroline was in first grade, she checked out this very cool book about William Bently, a man who studied snowflakes. It includes really amazing photos of snowflakes and my kids were thoroughly intrigued by it. It truly shows that every snowflake is unique.

To me, nothing says winter crafts like paper snowflakes. One year I had my kids make snowflakes for all of the windows in the house (this was not an overwhelming task, we don’t have a ton of windows!) Each of their snowflakes was different and unique, just like real snowflakes. I loved the ones they put up on my bedroom windows so much that I never take them down. My side of the bed is the window side and I happen to sleep on my left side so I look out the window all the time when I’m laying there in the mornings just waking up. I love seeing those snowflakes.

Therefore, my craft for the day is just that: simple.paper.snowflakes.

Enjoy!

Paper snowflakes made by the kids

Every snowflake is different and unique, just like the children who make them!

Paper snowflakes made by our girls

I keep my paper snowflakes on my window all year long!

Hanukkah is coming! Here’s a complete meal and craft for you!

10 Dec
Menorah clip art

Happy Hanukkah!

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 17, 2011

We are not Jewish, but over the years we have been blessed to know many Jewish friends. When we were first married, we moved to New Jersey. Some of the first people we met there were our friends Max and Jamie, an Italian-Jewish-African American couple whose passion for good food and good times matched our own. They gave us the following brisket recipe in 1996 and we’ve been making it ever since and I think of them fondly every time we do. Accompanying the brisket recipe is a recipe for Latkes, a potato pancake, which we actually make frequently throughout the year because we love them so much. And of course, this post contains a coordinating craft to go along with it. It’s truly the whole package for you!

Max and Jamie sent this recipe to us in 1998 after we had moved back to New England. It’s not perfectly measured out, a lot of winging it, but it’s worth it! I do not have a photograph of this meal because I have not made it since I started this blog in September but I promise that the next time we make it, I will take and post photos.

HANUKKAH BRISKET

INGREDIENTS

One brisket

one medium to large onion

several carrots

a few cans of tomato sauce

DIRECTIONS

1) First chop the onion and cook it a bit in a big pot with a bit of oil (vegetable, corn, canola, whatever)

2) Put the brisket in the pot with the onion and brown it on both sides.

3) Add one can of water for each can of tomato sauce until the brisket is covered. The number of cans varies depending on the size of the can. Let the brisket cook in the liquid for one hour.

4) After about 45 minutes add the carrots (cut into medium sized pieces) to the pot. (Jamie wrote: I usually add about 3-4 carrots. You don’t want to add too many or the sauce will take on too much of a carrot flavor.)

5) After the hour is up, take the brisket out of the pot and slice it. Either with or against the grain works fine, whatever you prefer.

6) Put the brisket back into the pot and cook for another half hour.

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mmmmm…latkes!

LATKES

Elizabeth actually brought this recipe home from second grade in 2010 and I enjoy using it, it’s an easy one, although we’ve used several others in the past.

INGREDIENTS

3 large potatoes, grated

1 small onion, grated

2 beaten eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

pinch of pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Heat half a cup of oil in a frying pan.

Drop a tablespoonful of the potato mixture in the pan.

Fry until the pancake is brown and crispy on the edges.

Turn and fry on the other side.

Drain the latkes on a paper towel.

Some people enjoy sour cream with their potato pancakes, others enjoy applesauce with theirs. I am an applesauce girl all the way, and I’m including my super-simple homemade applesauce recipe below, but see which you prefer!

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Homemade Applesauce

Homemade applesauce makes a perfect topping for latkes!

HOMEMADE APPLESAUCE

There are so many homemade applesauce recipes out there, and I’ve used a few of them, including a great crockpot recipe which makes a huge amount. But, for a meal like this, I’d use my usual go-to recipe that I of course, learned from my mom when we were growing up.

INGREDIENTS

1 three pound bag of apples (like Cortland or Macintosh) peeled and sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup water

THAT’S IT!!

DIRECTIONS

Peel them, slice them, throw them in the pan, dump in the water and cinnamon stick.

Wait til it boils, which happens quickly, and then simmer for 20 minutes. Mash them and eat!

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Menorah Craft for Hanukkah

Here are the handprint Menorahs my girls made with Caroline last weekend

HANUKKAH CRAFT FOR KIDS

Caroline recently decided to do this craft with her sisters after she saw it in a Highlights magazine. I thought it was so cute and perfect to post with today’s recipes. It’s super easy and her sisters really enjoyed it. They also went online and looked up what real menorahs looked like, while doing their own version of them.

For this craft you need:

one sheet of white paper

two hands for hand prints

one ink pad (I recommend water based ink)

one sheet of yellow construction paper for flames

scissors and glue sticks

Your Tray or Mine? Cookie Tray Recipe of the Day: Chocolate Chip Butterballs

8 Dec

These cookies could be made with nuts instead of chocolate chips if you prefer!

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 5, 2011

Today’s recipe is another one of my favorite cookie recipes, one we’ve made for years and years. Way back when I was a Girl Scout, I used to participate in the Girl Scout Bake Off each year and one of the years I earned second place with these cookies! That’s how long my family has been making them.

We call them Chocolate Chip Butterballs, but they have many other names: Snowballs, Mexican Wedding Balls, Hazelnut Balls and probably other names I don’t even know about.

Traditionally they are made with nuts. I don’t like nuts, my family never baked with nuts growing up and I don’t either We all really love Chocolate Chips though, so my mom has always subbed in the chocolate chips for nuts. You can choose either mini chips or the regular sized chips. Personally, I prefer the big ones, but if you don’t, switch them for the minis instead. If you’re into tasting batter, this one is safe to eat, there are no eggs in this recipe. I’m always pretty sure I’d come out with about six more cookies in each batch if I ate less batter!

This recipe can be made fast and easy if you have extra set(s) of hands to help you roll the batter into balls! This is one I often let my kids help with. I don’t usually have them roll the hot ones in the sugar though, even though I use a spoon for that. Their “part” is the cold batter getting rolled into the balls for baking.

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what the coordinating kids’ activities are for this recipe!

Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Butterball Cookies

INGREDIENTS

2 cups flour **for a healthier version, I have used one cup of wheat flour mixed with one cup of white flour**
1 cup butter or margarine  **for a healthier version I have substituted “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” for regular**
4 TBL granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

one 12 oz. package chocolate chips

Bowl of confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS

Combine flour, butter, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla in bowl of electric mixer. Mix well.

Add in chocolate chips, mix them into the batter.

Refrigerate dough 30 minutes (or longer.)

Form into 1″ balls, place on cookie sheet. These don’t spread, so you can put a lot on a sheet, no need to spread them out a ton.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

Cool only slightly, maybe a minute or so, and then roll each one in a bowl of confectioner’s sugar.

Roll a second time in confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Fun Friday: Book Review and Giveaway!

5 Dec
I was so excited to go and get my copy of Anika and Chris's new book! You're going to want your own copy too!

I was so excited to go and get my copy of Anika and Chris’s new book! You’re going to want your own copy too!

What’s more fun on a Friday than a giveaway?!

You might be thinking, maybe a giveaway that includes something yummy to eat?

You’ve got it!!

I do lots of book reviews and lots of giveaways, but it’s always more special to me when I know the author of the book personally.

Therefore, today’s review and giveaway is an extra-special one.

Last spring, I participated in the 2014 Providence Listen To Your Mother show, and I had the honor and privilege of sharing the stage with so many wonderful, talented women.

Anika Denise was one of those women. Anika told a wonderful, funny and yet emotional story about her children and their experience with their pet fish. You can hear her story here.

Today’s book review is another story by Anika Denise, a children’s book author, and it holds special meaning for me personally as well. The story behind this sweet children’s book, “Baking Day at Grandma’s” is from Anika’s own childhood as she grew up spending time with her Grandma Rose. Her story reminds me of my own two grandmothers and my mother, and the rich tradition of baking together that has been instilled in me as well as the rich tradition of giving. It’s a tradition I’ve written about each December on my blog as I share my own Grandma Rose’s recipe for her Italian Wine Biscuits and as I’ve shared my Grandma Grello’s recipe for her Christmas Prune Cookies. I’ve written about the years I spent growing up, baking with my mom so that my brother and I could go off delivering trays of cookies each Christmas Eve day. It’s a memory that I hold dear to me, and I’ll continue to share them again this holiday season, beginning next week.

In the book trailer (link below), Anika talks about the fact that growing up she spent a great many summers and winter vacations with her Grandma Rose. I too, spent summers and school vacations with my grandparents, making special memories with them and learning their cooking skills. My kids now spend time baking with my mother as well and carrying on that special bond and tradition.

As I flipped through my book, I found each illustration to be more beautiful than the last.

As I flipped through my book, I found each illustration to be more beautiful than the last.

Christopher Denise is the amazingly talented illustrator of “Baking Day at Grandma’s” and in the trailer below he explains where much of his stunning scenery is derived. Each illustration in the book is more beautiful than the last, and the Denise team does a wonderful job of both showing and telling such a sweet story, one can’t help but love it.

One of the best parts of the book, is the recipe Anika shares in the back of the book. It’s her Grandma Rose’s recipe for chocolate cake, and it provides a perfect opportunity for families to bake together, to spend special time together and even (here goes the teacher in me again) to throw in a little hands-on kitchen math and science. I won’t share the recipe here, of course, but when you get your own copy of the book, you’re going to love that extra-special touch.

Given that the holidays are coming up, I think that “Baking Day at Grandma’s” makes a perfect gift! Being a person who loves themed gifts, I can just imagine a kid-sized apron, maybe a matching adult-sized apron, and some cute baking supplies added in. It’d be a wonderful treat for anyone–child or adult, and a great tradition starter or an add-on to an already existing tradition of baking and sharing!

Listen in this trailer for the book, as Anika and her husband Chris, speak about how this story came to be, and then enter my giveaway for your own copy of the book!

HERE’S HOW YOU WIN:

Leave me a comment below telling me who you’d like to have this book for, and why!

Entries will be accepted until Sunday, December 14, and one lucky winner of their very own copy of “Baking Day at Grandma’s” by Anika Denise and Christopher Denise will be announced on Monday December 15.

**This contest is open only to those in the continental United States!**

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