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Monday, December 10, 2012

Gingerbread House Mortar

Best possible recipe for holding together your Christmas time creations.

Those windows are made out of a sliced
3 Musketeers candy bar . . . the only good use for
said candy bar, in my opinion . . .
Here is a HOT TIP I got from my sweet sister Hanna: save unwanted Halloween candy for making gingerbread houses.  It only costs you the miles you put on your sneakers on Halloween night.  Since 2012 is the year our family SHATTERED our former candy record (we got 603 pieces of candy total!), we had a ton of candy to work with.  And you can mold Laffy Taffy and Tootsie Rolls into anything.

Leftover Halloween candy for decorating . . .
I assemble all the houses (just with graham crackers) while my kids are at school, and then we decorate them when they get home, usually on a Monday for Family Home Evening. This stuff only takes about 10 minutes to dry and harden.



Our 2010 creations
Our 2012 creations
My best friend Cori's beautiful creation--
she used licroice to make the "bricks"
Check out Cori's delicious recipes on this site.
My pink and purpaliscious g-bread house.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cream and Spice Muffins


These muffins are my favorite on a cold winter morning, because they have just a hint of sweetness . . . and a savory, warm, "holiday" kind of taste.  I have mentioned before how my Aunt Kristie sent me a surprise package in the mail when we lived in Arkansas: it was a wonderful and beautiful cookbook called 1 Mix, 100 Muffins, by Susanna Tee.  [I just found out she has a new book called Whoopies! and it is on my Christmas wishlist, Allen Santa].


Growing up in a family of eight kids, we didn't have muffins very often, but whenever we did have them, it was always with hot cereal.  It has always seemed incredibly opulent to me to have a breakfast in which muffins are the main (or only) course.  Consequently, I don't really eat muffins without Cream O'Wheat or oatmeal or hot cracked wheat cereal.

If you don't like Cream O' Wheat, know that I feel
sorry for you.  From the bottom of my heart.
I have great memories of my dad making hot breakfast every morning.  We had cold cereal for breakfast only on Saturday mornings--other than that, it was an after-school snack.  Thanks to this tradition, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for me.  I wake up hungry every morning, whether I am up at 5:30 or 7:00 or 10:00.  Cold cereal satisfies my hunger for about one hour, so I still eat a hot breakfast most mornings: usually eggs and whole wheat toast, or oatmeal and toast.

But muffins make my breakfast special.  And my square muffin pan pushes "special" to "amazing."



If you want to try out something new for breakfast, this is a great muffin to get you started.  I also think they're a great complimentary treat for hot cocoa.

Square Muffin Pans use regular old muffin liners--when you fill them
with muffin batter, they form into the shape.
Like so . . .
Out of the oven and ready for dusting.
Winter wonderland . . .
My kids love it when I get out the muffin rack.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.  If it's not sweet enough for you, may I suggest my all-time favorite muffin?  Cinnamon Ripples . . .


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cori's Frosted Brownies

These have been favorites of mine since I was a teenager. And they are ridiculously fast and easy to make.

My best friend Cori always whipped these up when she needed a quick dessert, and it was my favorite thing to have at her house (she is waaaaaaaaaaaaay older than I am).  Now I whip it up for my company and kids' friends when I need a dessert quickly, deliciously, and chocolate-ly satisfying.

My almost-five-year-old, Mollie
{She likes the brownies more when I add sprinkles}
You know how sometimes food tastes better in your memory than it does when you try it again years later?  This is not like that.  I can't believe the only chocolate ingredient is cocoa powder--these are so rich and satisfying.  If someone tells you you can't make brownies as good as "from a box," . . . RUN.  That is patently FALSE, and these brownies are the proof.



Plus, why not put frosting on your brownie?  Live a little.

These brownies will have a perfect, light brown crust when
they are  finished baking. Let the pan cool before frosting.

Perfect dessert for a neighbor gift or thank-you!
Include the recipe and write a note on the back.
If you think this is good, you should check out Cori's other contributions.  Two of my all-time favorite dinners are from Cori: Oven-Fried Chicken Monterey and Chicken Parmesan Magnifico.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Greek Feta Dip with Baguettes

My sister Bonnie is one of the best hostesses around.  Not only does she make delicious food that people love, she is also better at setting a pretty table and arranging everything to look its best than anyone I know.  When she told me about this Feta dip, and raved about how quickly it had been devoured, I knew I had to try it.


I made it when I last hosted book club, and it was a hit!  I had people calling me the next day for the recipe.

The best part is that this has got to be one of the easiest recipes on this blog.  There is no actual cooking involved.  It's all knife and spoon work, people.  In fact, you can make it by looking at these pictures--you don't even (gasp!) need the recipe card.

Step 1: drizzle olive oil in large platter
{Dice your tomatoes & chop your green onions}
Step 2: scatter diced tomatoes over olive oil
Step 3: add green onions
Step 4: crumble Feta over top of tomatoes & onions
Greek seasoning is what MAKES this.  You can find it with the
spices in almost any grocery store.  I have never had it before this
recipe, but it's delish!  Plus "an ancient Greek formula" sounds
soooooooo official . . . 
Step 5: Sprinkle generously with Greek seasoning
Step 6: gently combine all ingredients in platter
Serve and enjoy!
I made TWO platters of this stuff at book club and they were all gone before the night's end.  I loved it so much I made it again three days later so my husband could enjoy some.  Thanks for the great party food, Bon!
Book club party food.  We read the book The Egg and I by
Betty MacDonald--one of my all-time favorites.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dutch Apple Cheese Muffins

These muffins are just a tad more time consuming than most, but so worth the effort. I got the recipe from Cook's Country, the best cooking magazine ever [click here for more of my C's-C favorites].  The picture in the magazine was so mouthwatering I had to try them myself.


The only "extra" things you are doing with these muffins is coring, peeling, and slicing two apples, and making a yummy glaze that you brush on halfway through the baking time.  They really don't take that long, particularly if you have a corer/peeler/slicer.  I used one Pink Lady and on Jonathan apple this time around, because that's what I had in my fridge.

Arrange the apple slices on top of the thick muffin
batter, pressing gently to help them adhere
It looks pretty even before you bake it . . .
This is after it's baked for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan
and brush glaze on top of each muffin
Mmmmm . . . Glaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaze . . .
Bake till it gets all caramelly on top . . . mmmmm . . . caramelly
I had to make fancy muffins to use the totally
fancy
and beautiful muffin tier that my sister
Bonnie MADE for me!!!  It was such a thoughtful
gift and it really dressed up the table. 
Muffins + oatmeal + pretty place settings = perfect breakfast
The glaze makes the muffin liners sticky, so I put each muffin in an
extra liner so they wouldn't stick to the tier or the table.  Bonnie
also gave me a ton of cute muffin liners for my birthday . . .
you can never have too many, people.
Muffin, Undressed.
The cheddar cheese in each muffin is what puts them over the top.
You cannot go wrong with these ones.  Not only are they delicious and satisfying---they're so pretty that they put cupcakes to shame!