Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Happy Holidays!!

Whew! It has been busy in my kitchen! The ovens were working overtime! I wanted to share some of the fun creations I 've been working on. Many,many cookies left my kitchen and became a part of many special celebrations, and for that, I am grateful. Here are a few of the many orders filled this past month.

A trio of platters waiting to be wrapped.

Chocolate covered Oreos and truffles! Yum!

Chocolate sleighs wrapped and ready to go.
Gifts for teachers.

Just when I thought I was finished, I baked some more!

 Lollipops for the class parties.

 Lots of platters this month.
 These chocolate candy cottages were one of my favorite projects!
 I enjoyed making these sleighs as well. Each was filled with kisses and a trio of mini sugar cookies.

December was sweet indeed! Now ,I am looking for a bit of down time, then we head right into football season! Chocolate covered Oreos,designed like footballs,of course, will be one of many treats available!

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Have a sweet week!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Latest Cookie Creations

 The fall is always a busy baking time. Here are a few of the platters and sweets I have been working on.

 I made many, many Halloween themed chocolate covered Oreos.
 Lots of Halloween sweets....bats,ghosts and loads of pumpkins. Then, it was all about the turkeys. I will have many more Thanksgiving themed goodies to share soon.

I also had an opportunity to make and send cookies overseas to a soldier through the Operation Cookie Takeover Program. I have participated in this program twice, and look forward to doing it again in the spring. It's a great way to show appreciation for the men and women who serve our country.
October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This platter was a special request and I love the way it turned out.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Tip # 3 - Essential Thanksgiving Tools

Hosting and preparing a Thanksgiving meal can be less stressful if you have the proper kitchen tools. There is a multitude of gadgets to choose from, but really only a few are absolutely necessary to get the job done. Below is a list of "must haves" as well as some extras that will help you create a wonderful meal with minimal stress. Planning ahead, and checking to see what tools you may need is key, after all, who wants to run out Thanksgiving morning in search of a vegetable peeler or a roasting pan?

Essentail Tools:
-roasting pan
-medium saucepan( 2 or more)
-baking dishes(for sides)
-large mixing bowls
-large spoons for mixing
-vegetable peeler
-meat thermometer(more accurate than the pop up button)
-carving knife
-cutting board
-measuring cups(liquid and dry)
-measuring spoons
-potato masher
-colander(to drain your potatoes)
-oven mitts or dish towels

Many people get caught up in buying all of the gadgets in the holiday catalogs, and if you enjoy doing that, then feel free. The items listed above should be sufficient, but if you really want to go all out, then here are a few more that may be helpful.
-kitchen twine
-fat separator
-food processor(works fast, but a knife works well too)
-turkey lifters
-mandoline(for slicing vegetables)
-potato ricer

However you decide to equip your kitchen, your prep will be easier if you stick with the essentials. Be sure to have them where you can find them too, no need to spend two hours searching for your whisk when it is time to make the gravy! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tip #2 - Stocking Your Pantry

It is that time of year again! The smell of turkey is in the air. For some, the stress is mounting, but that can be alleviated if you plan ahead. A well stocked pantry is the key to success in the kitchen. Below is a list of suggested items to keep on hand. Again, these are only suggestions, you may need more or less than what I have listed.

Essential Pantry Items:

-cooking spices(sage,rosemary,thyme,salt,pepper)
-baking spices(cinnamon,cloves,ginger,nutmeg,pumpkin pie spice)
- pure vanilla extract(no imitation)
-cranberry sauce(if you enjoy the canned cranberries)
-stuffing mix(if that s your preference)
-dried fruits(cranberries,cherries,figs,apricots)
-baking soda
-baking powder
-chicken stock
-dried mushrooms(great in a pinch,a little water and they are ready)
-bread crumbs
-evaporated milk
-sweetened condensed milk
-cocoa powder
-instant coffee
-chocolate chips

   These are just basic pantry staples. Be sure to make lists for your personal needs, and shop as far in advance as possible. With a bit of planning and a well stocked pantry, you are on your way to a terrific Thanksgiving!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tip # 1 - Preparing For Fall - Crumb Crust

   As we head into a season filled with holidays and the gathering of  friends and family, we find ourselves looking to make our baking and cooking faster and easier. We want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with the ones we love. This month, I am going to give you a few shortcuts and tips to help prepare ahead of time, so when guests arrive, there is no need panic. A few quick tricks can make entertaining less stressful and more fun.
   It is now fall and that means pie! I find that one of the reasons many people do not bake pie from scratch is because of the time it takes to make pie crust. Yet, not all pie crust needs to be made of dough,nor does it need to be difficult.With a little advanced preparation, putting a pie together can be quick and fun!
   One of the things I like to do when I have an extra few minutes , is to make and store crumbs. I use ginger snaps, graham crackers, chocolate chips,sugar cookies and Oreos, pulverize them in my food processor, and store them in mason jars. Another  way to store them is to place them in freezer bags and keep frozen until needed. Many people like to bake the crust before adding the filling, but I prefer not to, especially if I am baking the pie. I prefer a softer crust. However, if I am using the crust for any type of unbaked pie, I will bake the plain crust at 350 degrees for approximately 10-15 minutes, let cool, then fill.
   Not only is this a great way to be a step ahead when making a pie that requires a cookie or cracker crust, the crumbs can also be used as a  topping for ice-cream, yogurt, or smoothies.
  If you want to prepare one step further, you can  use  the recipe below(quick and easy) for a crumb crust, fit it into a pie plate, then wrap the pie plate tightly with plastic wrap and store in the freezer until needed. When you are ready , take it out, add your desired filling and bake. Easy and stress-free.

Cookie Crust:

Approximately 20-25 cookies of your choice
1/4 c. melted butter
 -Pulverize the cookies in a food processor. Add the melted butter and mix together until all of the crumbs are coated.
- Pour into a pie plate, and using either a dry measuring cup or your hands, press down firmly so the crumbs fit into the shape of the plate.
-The crust can be used immediately or wrapped well and stored inthe freezer for up to three months.

Graham Cracker Crust:
-1/4 c. melted butter
- 1/4 c.  sugar
-pinch salt
    Mix all ingredients together and fit into desired pie plate. Use immediately, or wrap tightly and store in the freezer until needed.
***You can also add a touch of cinnamon ,if desired.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lots of Cookies!

 I am so happy to be back to blogging again! It has been a while, but I have been busy baking many,many cookies, and arranging platters for friends and family! Above is a platter for a Fourth of July party. Below  are a few pictures of what I have been up to over the past few months. Now I am looking forward to once again sharing new recipes, ideas, and gardening tips with all of you! Stop by, and see what's cooking!
     This platter was made for an Easter celebration.
 This one for a teacher's retirement luncheon!
 Monsters for a young boy's birthday bash!
 A fourth birthday platter for a boy who loves monster trucks!
 This first birthday party had a jungle theme.

 A thank you platter...just because.
 Here are a few wedding favors. The bride chose these adorable starfish cookies, packaged with brown sugar (sand). She also requested chocolate and vanilla cupcakes! Delicious!

Have a sweet day!