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Recital (Catching-Up)

Recital (Catching-Up)

Baylor Music Studio Spring Recital–cookies, kids, parents, music–always somewhat the same, but always new too!

Nathan and Katya played a duet together for the first time, and Nathan’s clarinet teacher came for one of the performances to play a clarinet duet with him as well.  We sure heard some good music from so many students!

Oh, and in case you are wondering, the cookie selections included…

Meringues

Coconut Macaroons

Sugar Cookie Sandwiches with Strawberry Icing

Pecan Brownies

Raspberry Oatmeal Squares

Toffee Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Orange Ricotta Cookies

Almond Cream Cheese Bars

Classic Chocolate Chippers with Walnuts

Easter (Catching-Up)

Easter (Catching-Up)

Wow, I haven’t downloaded pictures from my phone or posted on the blog in 3 months.  What happened?!!

I suppose there are plenty of explanations–life happened, work and church and school and family and whatever else.  The kids are bigger, they aren’t here doing cute stuff every 5 minutes all day long, and there are so many good things to spend time on.

However, for my faithful followers there are still some fun photos and seasonal events to share.  I’ll try to get caught up and break the silence so it isn’t so daunting to post over the summer!

Here is Catching-Up #1–Easter pics.  I’m not sure they need much explanation, they are what they are!

 

A Girl in Love

A Girl in Love

Get ready to fall in love…

Katya had the chance to go with her Sunday school teacher to see a litter of the sweetest, fluffiest Golden Retrievers ever!!  She was so thrilled, and had a wonderful time soaking in the puppy wonderfulness.

As if that wasn’t enough to fill her nearly-9-year-old girl heart, the dog breeder also let her visit the horse and hold the Ragdoll cat.


Thanks to her teacher for arranging this special outing, and to the dog breeder for filling this little girl’s love bucket!  (Can you tell that these photos just make my heart happy?!)

Pasta with Sausage and Fennel

Pasta with Sausage and Fennel

Another random holiday photo share, and another recipe at the end.  Today’s pictures feature our gingerbread construction.  First, the gingerbread items arrive in the mail.  They are safely stored away until the ideal moment arrives.

On a calm afternoon, it’s time to pair off and go to work.  Two teams, two gingerbread projects, and the last of the coloring tablecloth to catch all the crumbs!

The finished products are proudly displayed for quite a while (although the jelly beans start disappearing remarkably quickly…)

Good work, builders!

Print Recipe
Pasta with Sausage and Fennel
This pasta recipe isn't that hard to assemble, and the fennel and fun pasta shapes make it a good meal for entertaining guests. Don't be afraid of fennel's licorice-y reputation. Its flavor mellows nicely when cooked, and no one at our table was bothered by it. This dish is also surprisingly good as a leftover, which is unusual for pasta.
Course Main Dish
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet or electric frying pan over medium high heat. Add sausage and brown, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon.
  3. Cut thick stalks off the fennel bulb (reserving leafy fronds for garnish). Remove the core of the fennel bulb and slice the rest into thin strips. Slice the onion half thinly as well. Halve the cherry tomatoes or chop regular tomatoes.
  4. Add fennel and onion to sausage. Cook 6 minutes and reduce heat to medium.
  5. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Cook 3 minutes or just until warmed. Garnish with fennel fronds if desired.
  6. Serve immediately with plenty of Parmesan cheese.
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Twas the Night Before School Started…

Twas the Night Before School Started…

After titling this post, I briefly considered writing it in the style of Clement Moore’s famous poem, and then quickly discarded the idea as involving entirely too much thinking.  Sorry, my creativity didn’t make it past the title!  But, now that my “children are nestled all snug in their beds” I decided to take a quick moment to share some Christmas memories before life lurches back to full swing in the morning.

Our break has been delightfully full of an excellent mix of events and relaxation (and sometimes both at the same moment.)  The first week was more crowded with holiday festivities including various groups of family and friends, while the second week was more laid back with lots of game playing, playdates, and hanging around home.  Here are a few of my favorite pics:

Nathan and Katya are now professional Christmas card assemblers.  Keep them in mind for next year’s holiday mailings!

One child was Gabriel in the annual Christmas pageant, and the other was a sheep.  Can you tell which was which?  (We will be hosting private viewings of the DVD for any and all interested parties, popcorn and hot tea included in the price of admission)

Our annual light-looking drive is always a highlight.  Eating drive-through fast food in the car while roaming in search of some of the best lights Than can find is always an evening I look forward to 🙂  We enjoyed sharing the trip with a few extra guests, and by the end Katya just had to give up and go to sleep beside me.

SO MANY kind boxes arrived in the mail from various loved family members, and we spread out the fun by opening each one at a separate time.  Love it!!

Our Christmas Day gathering was a simple and cozy one, featuring baked potato soup, yummy extras brought by my aunt and cousin, and good time with various people from both sides of the family.  I am so grateful for each year I get to celebrate with these beloved people.

Our holiday time has been a season of joy, family, warmth, and hope.  There is so much to be grateful for, and all of it is God’s rich and undeserved grace.

Annual Cookie Review

Annual Cookie Review

In case you haven’t noticed, the last twelve posts have been a very brief monthly wrap-up combined with a cookie recipe.  Here is a list of all the posts:

January-Hot Cocoa Cookies

February-Raspberry Almond Thumbprints

March-Cream Cheese Almond Bars

April-Sugar Cookie Bears

May-Peppermint Swirls

June-Candy Cane Thumbprints

July-Orange Shortbread

August-Mexican Wedding Cakes

September-Peanut Butter Pretzels

October-Citrus Gumdrops

November-Chocolate Crinkles

December-Gingerbread

There are several other holiday treats that didn’t make this year’s list, so if you ate something at my house and I didn’t share the recipe, let me know and I’ll put it up!

 

Hot Cocoa Cookies

Hot Cocoa Cookies

January in Review, and Christmas Cookie #1

A favorite photo…

A few highlights…

  • Returning from Senegal
  • Sharing photos and trip stories with so many kind audiences
  • Settling back into routines (and getting snow!)

And a cookie recipe to go with it!

Print Recipe
Hot Cocoa Cookies
These were near the top of Nathan's list this year, and are always popular at my recital. They just look so festive. The soft texture of the base cookie is also appealing. The original recipe is from glorioustreats.com via Pinterest.
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Icing Ingredients
Toppings
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Icing Ingredients
Toppings
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan or microwave safe bowl, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring frequently. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
  2. In a mixer bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, and vanilla on low until well combined.
  3. Add the melted chocolate mixture and blend well.
  4. Gently mix in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined.
  5. Cover the dough and refrigerate about 1 hour. If making the dough a day ahead, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.
  6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease at least two baking sheets. Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to put the dough on the prepared sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake about 12 minutes.
  7. While the cookies bake, cut large marshmallows in half for a total of 50 marshmallow pieces. (You can also use 4-5 mini marshmallows per cookie). When the cookies have baked, remove the tray from the oven. Press one marshmallow half (or 4-5 mini marshmallows) onto each cookie. Return the hot cookies to the oven and bake another 3 minutes or until the marshmallows have puffed up and adhered to the cookie.
  8. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for a few minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
  9. When cookies are cool, combine all icing ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together well. Icing should be pourable but not too runny, so adjust consistency with additional powdered sugar or hot water.
  10. Place cookies on cooling rack over a baking sheet to catch drips. Spoon a small amount of icing on top of each marshmallow. After icing just a few cookies, top with sprinkles before the icing sets. Continue icing and sprinkling until everything looks festive.
  11. Allow icing to dry and set for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

These cookies stay soft and pretty for at least 1 week or more after baking.

Original recipe: http://www.glorioustreats.com/2013/12/hot-cocoa-cookies.html

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Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

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One more fall post, and then I promise some pictures from our Thanksgiving travels, followed by lots of Christmas recipes.

These cookies won Nathan’s vote for favorite fall treat.  I think he grabbed one every time he walked past the cookie jar!  Maybe that’s why he is almost tall enough to look me right in the eye…  Love this growing young man so much!!

Print Recipe
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
These soft cookies are full of satisfactory fall flavor while still meeting my need for chocolate. I got the recipe from a good friend at a cookie exchange many years ago, and it is certainly on our autumn treat rotation. Thanks, Becki!
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease cookie sheets.
  2. Beat butter and brown sugar in a large mixer bowl until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Beat in pumpkin.
  3. With mixer on low, add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Mix just until combined.
  4. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and nuts if desired. Don't overmix.
  5. Drop by rounded spoonful or cookie scoop onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 about 12 minutes or until set and beginning to brown on the bottom. Try not to overbake--Nathan loves them soft!
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Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

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Katya’s favorite fall treat has now been made 4 times this season!  It turns out that these cider caramels are pretty popular, and the more we hand out as gifts the more requests we get.  Katya helped me make the first batch, learning a lot about both the waiting and the rushing that goes into home candy making.  Katya left the cooking of subsequent batches up to me, but both she and Nathan had a wonderful time handing out these delectable treats to teachers and friends.  Yum!

(And no, there are no leaves in the caramels–the photo shows Katya licking off the caramel spoon in one hand while doing a wax-leaf dipping project with the other.  Crazy kid!)

Print Recipe
Apple Cider Caramels
These delicious homemade caramels have a slight spiced cider flavor that makes them particularly special. The temperature of candy making is always a bit tricky, but even if they turn out harder than desired they can be broken apart with a mallet and enjoyed just the same.
Course Candy, Dessert
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Course Candy, Dessert
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for 15-20 minutes or until cider is reduced to 1/3 cup. Keep an eye on it--it goes from thick to burned pretty fast!
  2. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Coat with a bit of cooking spray or rub with the butter wrapper to grease. Set aside.
  3. While the cider is boiling, get out a second saucepan. Pour 1/3 cup whipping cream into a glass measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1/2 cup. Pour that into the empty saucepan. Add sugar and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees. (At my altitude, it is actually 222 degrees).
  4. While sugar mixture heats, keep pouring the apple cider into a clean glass measuring cup until it is only 1/3 cup. When it has reduced enough, pour it into that measuring cup and let it cool. While it cools, stir in remaining 2/3 cup cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Mix well.
  5. When the sugar mixture has reached temperature, remove it from heat and slowly whisk in the cider cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until everything is melted and mixed.
  6. Return the pan to low heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees (236 degrees at my altitude). This part can take a really long time--sometimes 20 minutes or more!
  7. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Careful, it is a bit tricky to pour! Let the caramels cool completely at room temperature. It takes several hours, so try just leaving it overnight.
  8. Hopefully the caramels are soft enough that you can use kitchen shears to cut them into long strips, and then cut them into 1/2 inch squares. You can try to individually wrap them in squares of waxed paper, or put them into mini muffin papers which is much easier!
Recipe Notes

Recipe from Our Best Bites: http://ourbestbites.com/2010/11/apple-cider-caramels/

Sometimes my caramels set up unusually hard, and I have to break them into bite-sized pieces with a kitchen mallet.  Sometimes they are a bit soft and when I put them in the mini muffin papers they gradually take on the shape of their container.  Either way, they taste good and are totally worth the work!

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Praline Meringue Puffs

Praline Meringue Puffs

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If you decide to host a tea party for an American Girl doll’s birthday, you need to make cream puffs.

If you make cream puffs you will have to use several egg yolks for the perfect pastry cream.

If you use egg yolks for the pastry cream, you will have egg whites left over.

If you have egg whites left over, you will need to make meringue cookies.

If you make meringue cookies, you will want to try a new kind.

If you try a new kind of meringue cookies, someone will ask you for the recipe.

If someone asks you for the recipe, you better post it on the blog.

And all that from a little doll’s tea party!

Print Recipe
Praline Meringue Puffs
These meringue cookies are super sweet and satisfyingly nutty. They are more on the chewy side rather than the crunchy side, a good thing for many (even though it disappointed Nathan!) They give good praline flavor without the need to actually crystallize the pecans.
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, place the pecans and pulse 3-5 times until the pecans are coarsely chopped. Add the flour, 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, and the salt. Pulse once or twice more to combine.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy and opaque. Increase the mixer speed and beat until whites begin to form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the white sugar until the whites form glossy peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar and the vanilla. Continue beating until the meringue is stiff and smooth when rubbed between the fingers.
  4. Lightly fold the pecan mixture into the meringue mixture just until evenly incorporated. Don't mix too much or the meringue will deflate.
  5. Use a small cookie scoop or two spoons to drop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets by heaping tablespoonfuls. Space about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake all the cookies at the same time. Bake for about 10-12 minutes if you want chewier meringues, or rotate the sheets at 10 minutes and bake an additional 10 minutes (total of 18-20 minutes) for crunchier cookies. Cookies are done when they are lightly colored all over.
  7. Let cookies cool completely on parchment or foil before attempting to remove. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.
Recipe Notes

This recipe came from The All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett.

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