Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Cutout Cookies

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'm not going to post an entire recipe today. Instead, I'm simply going to refer you to the King Arthur Flour website, where you can find the recipe for the Christmas Cutout Cookies some friends and I tried this year.

The dough rolled and cut pretty nicely, but other than that, they were your typical butter/sugar cookies.

Here is a photo of a few of the ones we decorated:

Yes, that is a mini tree cookie inside the large snowglobe and a mini snowman cookie inside the middle snowglobe.

We used the King Arthur recipe for royal icing. While this recipe was a little easier to make than the traditional royal icing I make (using the Wilton recipe), it certainly wasn't any easier to work with. In fact, I found it to be rather a pain. My right hand cramped up so bad from squeezing the icing bag that I couldn't fully open my fingers for a half hour or so after decorating.

If I make sugar cutout cookies again, I think I'm sticking with buttercream icing. It takes longer to dry, but it goes on more smoothly and (in my humble opinion) tastes better.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Cookies: Candy Cane Snowballs

I've made several different cookies over the years that require crushed candy canes on top. These are pretty good. I don't know if they are my favorite of the candy cane cookies (I think I may actually like these better), but I do like the white chocolate instead of the icing on top of these.

Candy Cane Snowballs

2 cups butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans
8 oz. white chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed candy canes

Cream butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and then gradually add the flour. Stir in chopped pecans. Refrigerate 3-4 hours for easier handling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly brown. Cool on wire rack.

Melt white chocolate in the microwave until smooth. (The package directions suggested one minute at 70% power, stir, and then 15 second increments as necessary.) Dip the top of each cookie into the chocolate and then the crushed candy canes.

Instead of always dipping the cookie in the chocolate, I tried putting the melted white chocolate in a decorating bag and squeezing it on top of the cookies. That was a little easier than dipping them. I also tried just sprinkling the candy canes on top, but I think dipping the cookies in the crushed candy canes actually resulted in better coverage.

Yields: about 5 dozen cookies

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

I adapted this recipe from the Kraft website. The original version had candy canes in the cake itself. I was worried about the cake ending up crunchy. They also suggested using cool whip for the icing. I used buttercream icing with peppermint extract.

The cake was made to celebrate a special occasion at work, so I didn't add the crushed candy cane decorations until it was time to serve it. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so the only photo I have is one of the last piece that was left and I was able to take home. (Update: a co-worker has sent me a photo she took with her phone--I've added it to the end.)

Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

Ingredients for cake:
1 Devil's Food cake mix
1 instant chocolate pudding packet
8 oz. sour cream
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Ingredients for icing and decorating:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (e.g. Crisco)
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 tablespoons water
4 cups powdered sugar
about eight small candy canes, crushed

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray cake pans with cooking spray. In a mixer, beat the first six ingredients until thoroughly blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire racks.

Once cake has cooled completely, make the icing by beating together the vegetable shortening, margarine, vanilla, peppermint extract, and water. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

To decorate the cake, I first iced the bottom layer and sprinkled a few crushed candy canes on top. Then I placed the second layer on top and iced the entire cake. The final candy cane decorations were not added until just before serving because I didn't want them to bleed into the icing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Apricot Pinwheels

I wanted to use up some apricot preserves so I used a recipe for "Sweet Jam Swirls" (which you can find here) as the basis for this recipe.

The cookies turned out pretty well, but I think they'd work better with a very thin layer of jelly as opposed to the preserves I used. Still tasty, though!

Apricot Pinwheels

1 package (18 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
8 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup flour
8 rounded teaspoons apricot preserves
2 tablespoons sugar

Soften cream cheese (an hour at room temperature or 15-20 seconds in microwave). Let cookie dough set out at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In large mixer bowl, beat together cream cheese, cookie dough, and flour until well blended. Divide dough into four equal pieces. Wrap each in plastic wrap and freeze for an hour.

Removing one piece at a time from the freezer, roll into a square about 5 or 6 inches wide. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.

Spread two rounded teaspoons of preserves on the square. Leave a half inch bare at the end you will roll toward since the preserves tend to ooze.
Roll into logs, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with baking spray. Cut logs into 1/4-inch slices. Place on greased sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on sheet for one minute before removing to cooling rack.

Yields: about 4 dozen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Homemade Butterfinger Bars with Only Three Ingredients

A friend told me about this recipe, so of course I looked it up online and it's all over the web. In case you haven't seen this yet, here's how to make your own Butterfinger Bars with only three ingredients.

This recipe is so good it literally got a round of applause at work.

Homemade Butterfinger Bars

1 lb. bag of candy corn (about 2-1/2 cups)
1 small jar (16 oz.) of peanut butter
about 12 oz. of chocolate for melting (I used 12 1-oz. squares of Baker's semi-sweet chocolate, but you could also use chocolate chips or Wilton candy melts)

Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper or waxed paper. (You can also use a 9 x 9 pan; your pieces will just end up thinner.)

In a medium-sized bowl, microwave the candy corn for one minute on high. Stir. Microwave another 30 seconds and stir again. Continue microwaving and stirring at 30 second intervals until thoroughly melted. (This should take a total of 2-3 minutes.)

Immediately add the peanut butter and stir until smooth. Turn into prepared pan and press smooth with rubber spatula. (Do this quickly because it hardens fairly fast. Do not be tempted to lick the bowl--it's hot!)

Let cool for an hour or two. Remove from pan and set on cutting board. Cut into small pieces.

In a small bowl, microwave the chocolate until melted. Use the same technique as you used for the candy corn (one minute on high; stir; 30 seconds; stir). Use a fork to dip the candy corn/peanut butter pieces into the melted chocolate.
Let harden on sheet lined with parchment paper or waxed paper. Once chocolate cools and hardens, store in airtight container.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kahlua Orange Fudge

This fudge recipe is extremely sweet! A small bite is all you need. My recommendation is to make it only when you are having many people over for dinner. :)

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Kahlua Orange Fudge

2-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons Kahlua
1 package (12 oz.) white chocolate chips
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow fluff
1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Line a 13x9 inch pan with foil, leaving some extra foil over the edge. Lightly butter the foil.

Lightly butter large microwavable bowl. Combine sugar, sour cream, butter, and Kahlua in prepared bowl. Microwave on high for 10-12 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes. Continue microwaving until mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Add white chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff, and grated orange peel. Stir until smooth. Pour into greased and lined pan. Use a buttered spatula to smooth it into corners.

While the fudge is still warm, score it into small pieces. When it has fully cooled, lifted it out of the pan using the excess foil on the sides. Place it on a cutting board and slice it along the scored lines.

Store in airtight container.

Yields: about 80 small squares

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mudslide Cookies

A friend gave me a recipe box called Chocolate Bliss (Music Cooks) as a gift. Inside are ten recipe cards and a music CD to play while you are making or enjoying the recipes.

I made only one minor change to this recipe. I used milk chocolate chips instead of the semisweet ones in the original recipe. If you are a huge chocolate fan, you will love these cookies because they are what the name implies: a whole mudslide full of chocolate.

P.S. If you want more recipes like this, you can buy the Chocolate Bliss recipe box online at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Mudslide Cookies

1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, the unsweetened chocolate, and the bittersweet chocolate. It is best to cut the chocolate into smaller pieces (I cut the 1-ounce squares in half) and then melt them on high for 30 seconds. Stir and melt again for another 30 seconds. Stir again. If they are still some unmelted chocolate pieces, continue cooking and stirring every 30 seconds.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar on high for 3 minutes. The mixture should become pale and somewhat fluffy. Add the chocolate mixture and the vanilla. Beat on medium speed for one minute. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just blended. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.

Use a small cookie scooper to drop batter onto prepared cookie sheet. The batter will be rather runny so don't expect perfectly rounded scoops of dough.

Bake for 12-14 minutes. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.

Yields: about 36 cookies.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

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How to Stripe Your Icing

Ever wonder how bakeries get more than one color in their icing decorations? The trick is called "striping," and it's actually pretty easy to do. All you need are decorating bags, clean paintbrushes, icing, and gel icing colors.

These cupcakes were for a birthday party for two of my nephews. The theme of the party was Cars. I couldn't find any good Cars muffin cups or cupcake decorations, so I just used these generic car and truck muffin cups I found at JoAnn's and then striped the icing. The older boys said they looked cool. :)

How to Stripe Your Icing

What You'll Need:
1) decorating bag(s)
2) gel icing colors
3) icing
4) clean paintbrushes (ones that you've never actually used with paint!)

There are two ways you can do this. If you've got good quality gel icing colors, dip your paintbrush in the color you want to strip your icing. Run your paintbrush up the inside of your decorating bag. You can repeat this process on the opposite side of the bag with the same color or a different color. Then fill the bag with white icing. As you push the icing through the bag, the color you striped along the inside of the bag will transfer to your icing.

If you have the liquid kind of food coloring instead of gel colors, you can still create the same effect with a slightly different procedure. In small bowls, mix some icing with the color you want. Then use a small spatula or knife to spread some of the icing along the inside edge of the decorating bag. Repeat again on the opposite side. Fill the rest of the bag with white icing.

For the above cupcakes, I didn't have the right kind of gel icing color, so I used this last method with small amounts of blue and green icing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Apple Crumble Squares

This recipe was originally in a Family Circle magazine. I cut it out over a year ago. I meant to make it then, but I think I got caught up in making too many pumpkin recipes last fall. Now that apple season is here again, I finally found a chance to make them when we were asked to bring treats into work to celebrate Boss's Day last week.

Apple Crumble Squares

Ingredients for cake:
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup apricot preserves

Ingredients for topping:
2 cups flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a jelly roll pan with cooking spray.

For the cake, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each. On low speed, beat in almond extract, flour, and salt. Spread into pan.

Spread apple slices over top of cake. Put apricot preserves in microwave-safe dish and melt on 50% power for 30-40 seconds or until it is easy to spread. Brush apple slices with melted preserves. Bake for 25 minutes.

In medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir in butter until mixture is thoroughly moistened and becomes crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over cake. Bake another 35 minutes.

Cool on wire racks completely before dusting with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.

Yields: about 24 squares

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Baked Stuffed Apples

Years ago, I watched a Rachel Ray episode where she made these baked apples. Since I love apple crisp, I quickly jotted down this recipe as best as I could remember it. The recipe has remained on a scrap of paper for years now. Every year I think, "I'm gonna make this!" Well, last night, I finally did.

According to my scribbled notes, it looks like Rachel Ray recommended using McIntosh apples or anything crisp. All I had at homes was a Braeburn apple and some Granny Smith apples. I'm saving the Granny Smith apples for my next recipe, so I used the Braeburn for this one.

The apple turned out fairly well, but I wonder if it would have been better with a different type of apple. Also, I must admit I prefer good old apple crisp to this. In fact, after I finished eating the baked apple, I was really in the mood for some apple crisp!

Baked Stuffed Apples

4 apples
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts (I substituted pecans, and it turned out O.K.)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Trim the top of the apple. If the apple doesn't stand upright on its own, you can trim the bottom as well. Scoop out the center of the apple with a melonballer. (I don't own a melonballer, so I ended up using my grapefruit knife.)

Blend the remaining ingredients together with your hands. The mixture should become crumbly. Fill the cavity in each apple with the mixture.

Place the apples in a shallow pan. (I used a pie plate.) Add a little water to the bottom of the pan.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Butterscotch Bliss Cookies

This week's cookies are a re-vamping of my very first entry. This time I used butterscotch chips in place of peanut butter chips.

The best part about these cookies is how soft and chewy they are, even days after baking them.

Butterscotch Bliss Cookies


1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
1 ½ cups white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs (beaten)
2 ½ cups flour
¾ cups chocolate chips
¾ cups butterscotch chips
2 cups coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl.

Then mix in the white sugar and the brown sugar. Add the salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Mix well.

In a small bowl, beat the two eggs. Add the beaten eggs to the mixture in the large bowl and stir thoroughly.

Add about half of the flour and incorporate it into the dough. Then add the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut. Stir until the chips are evenly distributed.

Finally add the remainder of the flour and mix well. Drops by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. To make sure your cookies remain moist, remove them before they start to really brown.

Cool cookies for two minutes before transferring from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

Yields about 5 dozen cookies.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wedding Cake

I didn't make this wedding cake, but I couldn't help but post the photo. The cake is from my friends' wedding this weekend. It was a lovely cake, a beautiful ceremony, and a fun evening!

I'll be back tomorrow with a new cookie recipe.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Waiting and Waiting and Waiting

Fives years ago, I had an article accepted for
Hopscotch for Girls magazine. Guess what arrived in the mail today? The October 2011 issue with my article in it!

So how did a five-year-old article end up in a new magazine? Well, let's just say the publishing industry is as glacial-paced as the rumors say it is. :)

Actually, I knew when it was accepted that it would be published in the October 2011 issue.
Hopscotch is part of the Fun for Kidz Magazine Group. All of their issues are based on themes, and I had written my article on the history of women's marathons specifically for their issue titled "Foot Fun," which had been planned five years in advance.

When they sent their acceptance postcard back in 2006, I followed their instructions for submitting the manuscript via email. For five years, I didn't hear anything further from them. I was beginning to think it wouldn't be published after all. Then on October 1, a mysterious check arrived in the mail. I ran to my local library to see if they had the new
Hopscotch issue yet, but no luck. Their most recent copy was the August/September issue.

And then today . . . my author's copy was in mail. :)
It was my very first accepted manuscript. And now I can add it to my slowly growing pile of publication credits.

Oh, and I'll be hounding all of my local public libraries to make sure their October issue is prominently displayed. :)

(If you know a girl between the ages of 8-12 who might like a fun, wholesome magazine, you can check out
Hopscotch here. There is also a boys' magazine called Boys' Quest. Samples of both magazines can be found in most public libraries.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Squared Cookies

These cookies have twice the chocolate and twice the peanut butter, so some friends and I decided we should call them Chocolate Peanut Butter2 Cookies. (I couldn't get the number 2 in superscript in the title.)

This recipe is adapted from the September issue of the King Arthur's Flour catalog. I added a bit more water than they called for, and substituted both peanut butter chips and chocolate chip for the mini peanut butter cups in the original recipe. I also used salted butter instead of unsalted.

Chocolate Peanut Butter2 Cookies

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2-1/2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 375. Grease cookie sheets.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

In a mixer bowl, beat together the sugars, butter and peanut butter. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and water. At a slow speed, gradually add in the dry ingredients until thoroughly incorporated. Stir in both kinds of chips.

Scoop onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 7-8 minutes. You should be able to smell the chocolate. Cool for one minute before removing to wire racks.

Yields: about 50 cookies

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

I made this for a party at work a couple weeks ago. It disappeared even faster than the Black Forest Gateau, even though it came out a little more "done" than I would have liked. If I make it again I'm going to watch the baking time very carefully.

Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold butter
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sour cream

Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with wax paper. Spray paper and sides with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl, prepare the crumb filling and topping by mixing together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut 4 tablespoons of cold butter into small pieces and then mix into sugar and cinnamon using a pastry blender. Add the walnuts. Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Alternate adding flour mixture and sour cream to the butter, eggs, and sugar.

Pour half of butter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Top with remaining batter and then remaining cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Bake 50-60 minutes. Let stand in pan for 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Black Forest Gateau

When I saw this recipe in a cookbook, I had to look up the word "gateau." (French words and I just don't get along.) It turns out that "gateau" simply means "fancy cake." I guess that's fitting for this cake.

I love black forest cake, and someday I'll have to post my high school German teacher's super easy recipe for black forest cake. (It's truly a cake, and not a fancy "gateau.")

Here is my version of the Black Forest Gateau.

Black Forest Gateau

5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons butter, melted
15-ounce can of dark sweet cherries, pitted
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
4 tablespoons kirsch/cherry brandy (optional)
a few maraschino cherries with stems (optional)
chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Cut a piece of wax paper into 2 circles to match the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans. Place a wax paper circle on the bottom of each pan and then spray the pans with cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixer bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar for 10 minutes. Mixture should become thick and pale. Sift together the flour and cocoa. Fold gently into egg and sugar mixture. Melt the butter and fold in gradually.

Pour batter into cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes. Cake should spring back when touched lightly. Cool for 5 minutes and then turn onto wire rack. Peel off wax paper.

While cake is cooling, drain and chop cherries. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and incorporate into whipped cream. Take two-thirds of the cream and mix with chopped cherries.

Split each cooled cake horizontally. (If desired, you can sprinkle each layer with a tablespoon of cherry brandy.) Place one layer on cake plate. Spread one-third of cherry whipped cream on top. Place another layer on top. Spread with cherry whipped cream. Repeat one more time and then place finally layer on top.

Use reserved whipped cream to frost cake.

To achieve the decorated version in my photo. Place some of the plain whipped cream in a decorating bag with a star tip and make rosettes along the top and stars along the bottom. Drop chocolate sprinkles inside circle of rosettes. Make three large rosettes in center of cake and place a maraschino cherry in each rosette. Sift powdered sugar over top for frosted look.

Yields: about 16 servings

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How to Make a Dora Cake

Buying a character cake pan is always an option when your child wants their favorite cartoon character on their birthday cake. But what if you can't find that cake pan or you're worried that you'll spend $13 only to use the cake pan once because next year your child has a new favorite? This is when I use my old transfer technique!

Dora Birthday Cake

I found this photo of Dora online. Then I copied it into a Word document and made the picture big enough that it would cover most of a 9 x 13 pan. Then I used my transfer technique which you can find on this blog entry.

I did the best I could matching the colors and then added a couple buttercream flowers in the corners since I noticed Dora is often pictured with bright orange flowers around her. I used tip 2D to create the flowers on some waxed paper. Then I threw them in the freezer to harden for a few minutes. After I arranged them in the corners, I added a few silk leaves that I bought at the craft store.

Because there was little room to write "Happy Birthday," I decided to make it look like Dora was saying it. On a purple index card, I wrote the Happy Birthday message. I glued it to the back of another purple index card and taped a lollipop stick in between the two. Then I inserted the stick end into the cake so that the message would stand up.

Presto! A Dora birthday cake!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review: The Me Project by Kathi Lipp

Do you long to make baking or perhaps food photography your career? Or do you just have a dream to take your food obsession to the next level? :)

If you've got a goal to accomplish (food-related or otherwise) but have no idea where to start, you might want to check out Kathi Lipp's book The Me Project: 21 Days to Living the Life You've Always Wanted.

If you've been following my blog, you know I started reading this book several weeks ago. I had originally planned on reading the book as intended--one "project" at a time for 21 days--but life never goes as planned, so I flew through the last seven chapters yesterday to post my review on time.

This book was almost exactly what I thought it would be. Yes, it reminded me of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Both books talk about following your passion one step and one day at a time, and both talk about your passion being from God.

Cameron emphasizes that God is the Creator, and thus all creative acts and thoughts come from Him. He wants us to be creative! We shouldn't feel guilty about our artistic endeavors. God is the ultimate artist. Why wouldn't He want us to be artists, too?

Kathi Lipp has a similar belief. If we pray and we listen to Him, God will always lead us down the right path. We shouldn't feel guilty about following our dreams; our dreams were planted in our hearts by God. Our goal is to use our God-given talents as God intended, in whatever life He has uniquely designed for us. (Sounds a lot like what I used to tell my Catholic school students!)

As I also predicted, Lipp's book at times reminded me of Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly. In chapter 3, Lipp tells us to start a 50/50 journal, basically a journal in which you write down 50 goals you want to accomplish in the next 50 years. When I read this, I thought, Hey, wait a minute! I've done this before.

I hopped up, ran to my nightstand, and sure enough, there it was. A folded piece of loose-leaf paper numbered 1-50. Last year when I heard Matthew Kelly speak, one of his requests was that we all go home and write down 100 goals for ourselves, a task he made all his employees do.

I unfolded my piece of paper. Only 29 goals. Yikes, I was behind! For the next few days, I tried to add more goals. I'm still only at 43, but maybe that's a good thing. The truth is, I think I could come up with a longer list of goals I've already accomplished.

So who should read this book? Busy moms who feel unfulfilled.

I wouldn't recommend this book to men. The intended audience is clearly women.

And to be perfectly honest, I'd have hesitations about recommending it to single women. As someone with a lot of experience in this area, I cringed after the first few chapters. It's clear the author is expecting moms to read this, and it feels like, once again, the single woman got shafted.

You see, Lipp talks at length about using her husband for support while at the same time explaining that women need to take time for themselves. They can't devote all their time to their husbands and children, letting their own dreams fall to the wayside.

While I wholeheartedly agree with Lipp, I can't help thinking of those women whose dream might be to become a wife and mother. To hear a woman with a husband and kids complain her life isn't all she thought it would be could be a little stab in the heart to some women. Let's fact it, some women never find their soul mates no matter how many times they ask God for a life partner. And even if they are lucky enough to find a man who loves them and is willing to marry them, the woman still might not be able to have the children she wants.

And then there's the kind of single woman who is perfectly content to be single. She's come to terms with the unmarried vocation God is calling her to. (See this book by Catholic author Beth Knobbe for an example of that.) Even that kind of self-assured woman might get a little squirmy during the opening chapters of this book. Lipp seems to be saying that husbands and kids can take up most of a woman's time, keeping her from working on her dreams.

Gee, is that all that gets in the way? If that's true, I should be J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie, and C.S. Lewis all rolled into one by now! I've got so much free time on my hands because I'm not caring for a husband and kids, why haven't I made more of my life?

O.K. I'm exaggerating, but you see how guilt can quickly set it. All I'm saying is that I think there's room for another book in this market, one aimed at single women who want to accomplish whatever plans God has intended for them.

The good news is that Lipp delivers her 21 steps with a lot of humor and a realistic perspective on life. She isn't a preacher on a soapbox telling you what to do. She seems like the kind of woman you want to chat with at the coffeeshop--and she'd be more than happy if you paid for her latte. :)

Lipp deftly weaves in inspirational quotes from everyone from Walt Disney to Samuel Johnson while still tying in plenty of scriptural passages. Her ideas are do-able and she provides practical examples from people who have followed her advice.

So if you know a busy mom who needs a jumpstart to following her dreams, consider sending her The Me Project. It's a little spiritual booster shot for creative women.

Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project, serves as food writer for Nickelodeon, and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four teenagers and young adults. For more information visit her website:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cranberry Walnut Brownies

Sometimes I make a dessert with the intention of posting it on this blog, and then I almost forget to snap a photo before the dessert disappears!

Such is the case with these brownies.

I brought them into work. My team loved them, and I brought home a few leftovers. Then what? Yesterday I realized there were only two left, and I hadn't taken a picture yet! So the photo you see below is of the last two remaining brownies. They aren't as moist as they first were, but I have to say that the dried cranberries seemed to keep the brownies moist longer than usual.

Cranberry Walnut Brownies

10 tablespoons butter
5 oz. semisweet chocolate
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9 x 9 inch pan with foil. Spray with cooking spray.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate and butter 2 minutes on high. Stir every 30 seconds. If necessary, continue to melt at 30 second increments.

Stir in both kinds of sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla. Add flour and stir. Mix in dried cranberries and walnuts. Spread into pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes until knife comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Are you crafty?

If you are crafty and like to make jewelry, you should check out my my sister-in-law's business, Studio 66. In fact, she was just featured on the blog Mom Invented! It's a blog about moms who've started their own businesses. Cool, huh?

Check it out!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Shower Dessert: Flower Petit Fours

This afternoon I'm off to a bridal shower with a floral theme, and that reminded me of these flower petit fours that I made last year for a baby shower. (I can't believe it's taken me this long to get this recipe on the blog!)

Because of the mini muffin cups, these petit fours are easier to make than the traditional style of baking a large pan and then cutting it into a bunch of tiny cakes. Plus, they're cute and darn tasty! :)

Flower Petit Fours

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line mini muffin pan with mini muffin cups.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In mixer bowl, beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat thoroughly. Add lemon zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream. Mix well. Scoop into mini muffin cups.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. (To be honest, it's been a while since I made these, so keep an eye on your cupcakes as they bake. Use the good old toothpick test.)


To make the flower design, you'll need about 1/2 cup green icing, 1 1/2 cups icing tinted in whatever color you want your flowers to be, and Wilton Sugar Pearl Sprinkles.

I started the decorating by putting three sets of leaves (tip #68) around the edge of each mini cupcake.

Then I used pink and peach icing to make rosettes on top of each cupcake. You can use a star tip like #21 or #32. For the center of each flower, I dropped 3 Wilton Sugar Pearls in the middle of each rosette.

As you can see from the picture below, I served this petit fours with some homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Yields: about 40 petit fours

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Club Anyone?

In a couple weeks, I'm going to be doing something completely new for me on this blog. I'll be participating in a Book Blog Tour!

As many of you know, I follow a lot of publishing and writing blogs. One of the blogs I follow (Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner) had a guest post by Christian author and speaker Kathi Lipp. She was offering a free copy of her latest book
The Me Project: 21 Days to Living the Life You've Always Wanted to the first 35 people willing to review her book on their blogs.

Free book? Well, sign me up! :)

I look forward to comparing this book to Julia Cameron's
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, which my sister-in-law recommended last year. I've already read the first few chapters of The Me Project, and I can also see similarities between Kathy's message and that of Catholic speaker and author Matthew Kelly.

Anyway, if anyone else out there has already read
The Me Project or would like to "read along" with me over the next couple weeks, drop me a line. I'd love to compare notes before I post my review on Sept. 6.

Here's what the back cover of the book has to say in case you might be interested in snatching a copy of the book yourself. (The book's only about $10-12, and yes, you can get it on your Kindle or your Nook.)

"Have daily demands caused you to set aside your goals and dreams? How might your life be different if you took a few minutes every day for 21 days to put your dreams on 'project status'?

The Me Project provides fun, creative, and doable daily steps for you to actually live out the dreams God has planted in your heart. Kathi Lipp's warm tone and laugh-out-loud humor will motivate you to take action each day toward bringing purpose back into life. And it will give you the confidence you need to accomplish your dreams in the midst of your already busy schedule."
Let me know if you've read the book or plan on reading it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

No-Bake Cookies: Chocolate Peanut Butter Drops

The weather is starting to cool off here a little, but it still felt a little too warm yesterday afternoon to turn on the oven. That's why I decided to try a "no-bake" cookie. The cooking part is done on the stove top, so your kitchen doesn't get so hot. These were pretty fast and easy to make, and they disappeared just as quickly.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Drops

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup butterscotch chips (optional)

In a saucepan, mix the sugar, cocoa, and milk. Add the butter and cook over medium heat until butter melts and mixture begins to boil. Stir occasionally. Boil for one minute.

Remove from heat and add vanilla, salt, peanut butter, and oats.

Use a small cookie scooper to drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto waxed. Press a few butterscotch chips into cookies, if desired. Cool for at least an hour.

Yields: about 40 cookies.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blueberry Cream Pie

My mom has made this pie for as long as I can remember. This was my first attempt making it, and I have to say it was fairly easy to make.

I like this pie better than a straight blueberry pie because the pudding layer helps to sweeten any tartness from the blueberries.

Blueberry Cream Pie

1 baked 9" pie shell (graham cracker crust works too)
1 package vanilla cook and serve pudding (not instant pudding)
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Prepare your pie shell. You can use my mom's recipe here.

Once the pie crust is cooled, you can start to make the cream layer. Cook pudding in saucepan as directed with 2 cups milk. Add butter and vanilla to hot pudding. Stir until butter melts. Let pudding cool 2-3 minutes. Stir again. Let cool another 2-3 minutes and stir once more.

Pour slightly cooled pudding into pie crust. Put in fridge while you make blueberry topping.

In another saucepan, stir cornstarch and sugar together. Add 1 cup of blueberries, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cook over low heat, mashing and stirring until mixture thickens and clears. (You can use the back of a wooden spoon to do the mashing or an old-fashioned potato masher.)

Turn off heat and add last cup of blueberries. Cool 15 minutes before spooning over cream filling. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Of course, Cool Whip always makes a good bonus topping. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I made these cookies a while ago, but never got them on the blog. I can't say they were my favorite, but if you like nutty cookies, you'll probably enjoy these.


1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Cream butter. Beat in honey, salt, and almond extract. Gradually add in flour and then stir in pecans or walnuts.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Roll dough into balls and place two inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake 35 minutes.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before rolling in powdered sugar. Allow to cool fully and then roll in powdered sugar.

Yields: about 3 dozen cookies