Merry Christmas!

As we are enjoying the eve of Christmas around here with anticipation of feasting with friends and celebrations with family, I hope that you are also enjoying your loved ones during this holiday season.

I have a very special video to share with you – I’ve watched it many times the past couple weeks. I hope you enjoy!

I’ll be back to blogging on a regular basis after the first of the year.

2012 Christmas Card

See you soon!

 

The mischievous elf

Christmas is over and the decorations are all put away until next year…

and Jingle the Elf has gone back to the North Pole to hang out with Santa and the other elves until it’s time for him to come back to visit us next year.

I thought, though, that I’d share with you the final exploits of Jingle’s visit to us…

I think he really outdid himself this year. I’m beginning to wonder what next year will bring – the more he is with us, the more mischief he gets into.

You can see what I mean:

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There were “snow angels” on the kitchen counter (in my flour)

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And lights in the hurricane lamps…

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A little fishing expedition in the fish tank (that, thankfully, yielded no fish)

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And a date with Barbie (he has a thing for Barbies, I think)

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Played games with the critters…img_0678

And ate some kisses… which he ate and shared with the girls.

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Reading Christmas stories…

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Flying with the unicorns in Little Bit’s room…

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A zipline (!) in the family room…img_0947

He watched some TV and took over the remote control…imgp3995

Loved on Little Bit’s snowman…

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Did some hanging around (while we were gone to Ammi’s no less – SuperMan reported nightly on his activities from the night before)

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We came home from Ammi’s to find he’d set up a swing set of sorts in the living room…

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The girls were pretty amazed to find this whirling around in the living room.  I wonder what the housekeepers thought when they came that day?

And the final night was quite a blowout party, apparently, with the Barbies and some New Years’ Eve type décor (complete with strobe lights and disco balls)

Oh my.

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Tiny game of Uno… so funny!

So, while the girls are missing Jingle this week, I can’t say I’m sad to see him go.  There were quite a few messes to clean up and I’m thinking next year, Jingle needs to bring his own clean-up crew!!

Best-Ever Banana Bread

We’re hanging out at Grandma’s this week, so I’m revisiting some of my favorite holiday recipes and sharing them with you.

Every one needs a good banana bread recipe.

Seriously.

Everyone should have one.

It’s not rocket science to bake and it tastes so good.

And, it’s a great, easy to make, gift at holiday time.

My mom and I used to bake thousands (or so it seemed) during the holidays when I was growing up. She’d use these cute little mini-loaf pans and mini-muffin pans and we’d bake banana bread for what seemed like days. And then we’d give it all away.

Because that’s what we Italian women do. We feed people to show them we love them.

It’s how we do things.

Anyway, I had my great-grandma’s recipe that Mom and I had used for years – my whole life, I think – and I never strayed from that.

Then, I found a recipe somewhere browsing on the web that claimed it was the “best banana bread ever” and I thought I should at least give it a shot and see how it compared to Grandma’s recipe.

Well, all I can say is I hope Grandma forgives me.

It really is the best banana bread I’ve eaten. And when I bake it I can’t seem to keep it around long enough to give it away. My family gobbles it up.

So, if you want a really good banana bread recipe to add to your recipe book, here you go.  I’ve altered it just a teeny bit from the original with the addition of some flaxseed meal to make it a little healthier. I like the nuttiness it gives the bread, even if you leave out the nuts the recipe calls for (Big Girl doesn’t like the nuts so this is my compromise)

You can leave that out (the flaxseed) if you want. It doesn’t affect the texture of the bread if you do.

BEST-EVER BANANA BREAD

Ingredients:

4 whole, overripe bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 whole egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp flaxseed meal
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Put the peeled bananas in a bowl and mash with a wooden spoon or potato masher.
  3. Add melted butter and mix together.
  4. Add sugar, egg, vanilla.
  5. Sprinkle baking soda, salt & cinnamon and mix together with banana mixture.
  6. Add flour and combine.
  7. Finally, add flaxseed and pecans.
  8. Pour into well greased loaf pan. (you can use one 4×8 loaf pan or 3 small loaf pans)
  9. Bake for one hour (the large loaf pan)
  10. Cool on a rack before serving.

(if it lives that long – mine always “mysteriously” has a slice cut out of it (or two or three) before it cools)

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World’s Best Oatmeal Cookies

I’m visiting Mom this week – so I thought I’d share some of my favorite cookie recipes with you while we’re away.

And this is one of my family’s favorites.

I have it on good authority (as in everyone I’ve ever baked these for) that these are the best oatmeal cookies you will ever eat.

I will also confess and tell you it’s not my original recipe. There is a gal that cooks for the scrapbook retreats that I used to go to and this is a modification of her grandma’s cookie recipe. I tried them there and absolutely fell in love with them. There are no oatmeal cookies to compare.IMG_0168

These are a chewy texture cookie. Not crunchy, but not gooey either.  Just right.

You start the cookies the day before you bake them. I think the overnight soak in the brown sugar and oil is what makes these cookies so chewy and good.

I used the blueberry flavored Craisins in the batch I made this year.  I thought they were particularly good, although I’ve used raisins and plain Craisins in the past and they were good, too.

A couple more tips – you really do have to use the parchment paper that is called for. And you really do  need to let them cool thoroughly before you move them off the paper. If you don’t, the cookies will fall apart. Trust me, I’ve tried it and had disastrous results.

Ok, here’s the recipe.  Do let me know if you try them and what your loved ones think of them.

WORLD’S BEST OATMEAL COOKIES

Ingredients:

4 cups oatmeal (not instant)
2 cups brown sugar (I have successfully substituted 1 cup brown sugar Splenda blend)
1 cup oil (I have used safflower, vegetable, and canola)

Instructions:

Mix these together in a large bowl or zip top bag. Store in refrigerator overnight.

The next day, transfer to a mixing bowl and add:

3 well-beaten eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup craisins
(optional) 1 cup chopped nuts

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper-covered cookie sheets. They do not spread much so you can fit them relatively closely together.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Slide parchment paper off cookie sheet and transfer to cooling racks. Let cookies cool completely before removing from parchment paper.

Stores for at least a week (if they last that long!) in a sealed container.

Oatmeal Lace Cookie

I thought I would share another family cookie recipe with you all… as I mentioned yesterday the girls and I are hanging out this week with family – enjoying some cousin time.

This recipe is one that was made by one of the ladies at my 2005 cookie swap.  They are yummy delicious and so light and crispy.  I hope you enjoy them.

I experimented and made them with some instant Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal instead of plain quick cooking oats.  I also added 1/2 tsp of almond extract. Everything tastes better with almond extract.

Oh.my.goodness. SO, so yummy.

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Can you see how thin and crispy they are? And yet, the little apple bits are chewy and sweet in there.

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Just so you know, if you happen to break one as you are pulling it off of the foil, you must consume the evidence.

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Here’s the recipe. I have to go get the rest out of the oven now. They are calling to me…

Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp four
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Instructions:

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg and vanilla. Add flour, salt, and oatmeal, mixing well.  Drop by teaspoons onto foil-lined pans.  Bake at 350F for 5-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool before removing from foil.

*foil is important – parchment paper won’t give them the brown crispiness. They just get chewy and beige. Oh, and they spread; a lot. So be sure you give them plenty of room to grow.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen. (unless you break a few)

Santa’s Surprises

I’m vacationing this week at my Mom’s house – my brother and family are visiting and we’re in full cousin-crazy-playtime here.  I thought I’d share some of my favorite cookie/holiday sweets recipes with you this week while we’re livin’ the good life at Grandma’s house.

Here’s one of my favorite cookies (from my pre-surgery days) –

Santa’s Surprises –

It’s a yummy concoction made of peanut butter, brown sugar and the “surprise” inside:

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Now, let’s get baking! (or mixing, as we must do before we can bake!)

In a large mixing bowl you will combine 2 sticks of butter (I used one salted, one unsalted), 1 cup of creamy peanut butter, and 1 cup of light brown sugar (sounds good already, doesn’t it?)

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Next, add in 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Mix and add 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

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You will end up with a nice dough like this:

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Then, cover your dough and let it chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.

After it’s chilled thoroughly, take the dough by teaspoon-sized pieces and flatten into round circles.

Place one Snickers mini on top of the dough circle and shape the dough around the candy. (your hands will smell so yummy when you are done!)

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Place each ball of dough onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 F for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on a cooling rack. 

Note: you will want to let them cool before you handle them too much. I put them on parchment paper on the cookie sheet and I slide the entire sheet of parchment paper onto the cooling rack.  This allows the “gooey” insides to cool and set. If you pick them up too soon, they break open – and, then, well, you have to eat the evidence!

IF you want to go all-out, drizzle them with some melted chocolate. They never last long enough at my house for me to do this, though!

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I hope you enjoy!

And, here’s the complete recipe, without my commentary and photography:

Santa’s Surprises

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag Snickers Miniatures

Instructions:

  1. Cream butter, peanut butter, brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Slowly, add eggs and vanilla (mixer should be on low)
  3. Add flour, baking soda & salt.
  4. Cover and chill dough 2-3 hours.
  5. Divide dough into teaspoon-sized balls. Flatten into circles.
  6. Wrap dough ball around Snickers mini.
  7. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325F for 10-12 minutes.
  8. Cool on wire rack.
  9. Drizzle with melted chocolate (optional).

Oh, and here is a BONUS RECIPE

Oreo Ice Dream

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
1 large tub of Cool Whip whipped cream (I never said it was low fat!)
1 package of Oreo Cookies, crushed

Mix all three ingredients in a LARGE bowl.  Place in freezer to set.

ENJOY.  (and you WILL enjoy.  it is “awesome,” according to the pre-teens in the house)

I’m Baking today

I’m baking today.

Just some simple things for the family – Little Bit’s favorite oatmeal cookies, some fresh bread, and maybe trying my hand at some granola.

Getting my lists together – food to fix for the party on Saturday night, things I want to take to Mom’s next week, final gifts to pick up on my day off, tasks to complete before the holiday break begins… I couldn’t survive without my lists.

That’s what my day is going to be like.

How about yours?