Monday, December 14, 2009

Oreo Chocolate Bark

I discovered a new blogger this week! It's Leigh from Your Home Based Mom. She has an amazing collection of recipes including: Oreo Chocolate Bark. I knew it would be a simple enough Christmas treat that I could make with the kiddos. How do YOU eat an Oreo? Well, here is one way... and it's not holding back on taste or calories!

After our FHE (please read more about that in the next paragraph) we followed Leigh's recipe. (We used chocolate melts, white and milk chocolate, AND the peanut butter is a must!) We then placed our pan of yumminess in the fridge and read two chapters out of The Titan's Curse while it hardened back up. The kids cannot believe their eyes: chocolate, more chocolate, peanut butter and Oreo cookies! I was going to resist a piece, after all running (yep, I said running) on the treadmill today was HARD and it wasn't going to be for nothing! Nope it was for a 1" somewhat squarish piece of Oreo Chocolate Bark. It was very, very good and we're going to have to share some LOVE. Don't you wish you were our neighbor?

Speaking of love, that was the theme of our FHE tonight. I read the chapter on Love in the book A Christmas Treasury for Latter-day Saint Families. These quotes are especially nice to ponder:

"Christmas is more than trees and twinkling lights, more than toys and gifts and baubles of a hundred varieties. It is love. It is the love of the Son of God for all mankind. It reaches beyond our power to comprehend. It is magnificent and beautiful." - President Gordon B. Hinckley

"One of the remarkable qualities about God's love for us is that not only do we experience it as validating and affirming, but it also produces growth and change in us. It literally moves us forward, toward Him and our own eventual exaltation. It is a sculpting, correcting, and purposeful kind of love." - Virginia Pearce
We talked about how love is one of Jesus Christ's characteristics and we are asked to love others as he does. Each day this week we are writing down a reason we love each other and placing that slip of paper in the appropriate family member's stocking. Next week we will read them as a family. Trying to stir up some love and create some bonding.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cookie Exchange- A real life one,this time...

It is nice to have such a variety of cookies without all that work! This afternoon I attended my first cookie exchange. How fun! Whomever thought up this little party idea is just brilliant. Awhile ago I talked about the virtual cookie exchanges, see those ramblings HERE.

Going to a real cookie exchange was a lot of fun and you get to actually taste the cookies!! If you want to throw together a last minute cookie exchange party then pick up some ideas at Creative Homemaking,, and Cookie Exchange has some great photos and tons of ideas!) ,

I thought I'd share a cookie I had never tasted or even heard of before: Orange Creamsicle Cookies, from the kitchen of my next door neighbor, sweet and friendly Judy.

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

1 pouch (1 lb. 1.5 oz.) Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. orange extract
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
2 drops red food coloring
5 drops yellow food coloring
1 bag (12 oz.) white vanilla baking chips (2 cups)
1 Tbsp. water

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir all ingredients, except baking chips, until soft dough forms. Stir in baking chips.
  2. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough with 1 1/2 Tbsp. size cookie scoop or by rounded teaspoons about 2" apart.
  3. Bake 10 minutes or just until dough is set. (Do NOT overbake) Cool for 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cookie racks. Cool completely. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

A domestic accomplishment

Now, to some this might sound silly but, cooking meat is not really my thing. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I've been a vegetarian since age twelve. I don't mind cooking meat for the family but, frankly it's just been a domestic skill that has been improving over the past 13 1/2 years and I'm still learning. My husband used to need a saw to get through dinner. Today we used the regular old butter knife!

Domestic Accomplishment: Top Round London Broil

Cooked the way my husband likes it... others might like it just a bit more pink.

What I've learned about this particular cut of meat (thanks to several instructions I read on the internet)....
  1. It's best when broiled on HIGH with the oven door left slightly ajar. Some say this left their homes a bit smoky... didn't happen here, not even a little bit.
  2. Some believe scoring the meat or piercing it all over with a fork helps to tenderize it a bit
  3. You can use marinade but, a few opinions said it does nothing to tenderize the meat, it only enhances flavor. I went with a dry rub (Montreal Steak Seasoning) - because that is what I had handy. Plus: last minute dinner= no time for marinades.
  4. Use a meat thermometer and test for doneness. Watch closely, it cooks up quickly!

I am feeling a bit more confident that I will not totally ruin the "Roast Beef" come Christmas dinner. My Mother-in-Law will be here... she probably has it mastered. Her expertise and my small domestic accomplishment of cooking this less expensive cut of beef might mean even the Grinch will like it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Making cookies with Mrs. Claus

My mother-in-law bought this Mrs. Claus for our family several years ago. It sits in our kitchen each Christmas season and oversees all the holiday baking. What Christmas season would be complete without making some cookies to share with the neighbors?

Tonight we made Ranger Cookies. I tasted these for the first time a few months ago and they are super moist, yet they have a crunch to them. The recipe went straight into my favorite recipe booklet...

Ranger Cookies

1/2 c. margarine or butter
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. Rice Krispies cereal
1 1/3 c. flaked coconut

Beat margarine with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add about half of the flour, sugars, egg, vanilla, and baking soda. Beat until thoroughly combined. Beat in remaining flour. Stir in cereal and coconut. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Grinch's "ROAST BEAST"

Tonight we watched the original cartoon How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Such a wonderful story for cuddling up on the sofa with your kiddos. I love the message it sends that even without the presents, decorations, etc... you cannot take away the holiday spirit. Those Hoo's knew exactly what celebrating Christ's birth is all about!

I love the Grinch's dog, Max. He is adorable. I also love that they serve "Roast Beast" for dinner. I've decided that I'm going to adopt this new tradition of serving "Roast Beast" for our Christmas dinner. Sometimes we have ham, sometimes turkey and sometimes roast. But, I am really liking the "Roast Beast".

So, here is what I want to make for Christmas dinner this year: Pioneer Woman's Roasted Beef Tenderloin a.k.a Heaven on a Fork. I'm not sure if the Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond would like it if I copied her photo to give you a sneak peak... so follow the link and check out what's on my Christmas dinner menu this year! I'm going to have to go and buy a meat thermometer. Meat is the hardest thing for me to cook. Period. It just is.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Seasonal Barn Star

I love barn stars!! Decorating them with scrapbook paper is a fun to way to make a cute seasonal ornament to hang onto a tree or a door knob. Maybe you've seen these all over the internet. I've been noticing them for awhile now.

I didn't use any one's instructions, just winged it. It was simpler to make than I suspected it would be.

Here's what I did: You press a piece of regular white printer paper on top of the star, bending it so it's tight against a point. Trace it; cut out the pattern. Trace the pattern onto the decorative paper; cut out. Slather a matte paper mache' onto the backside of the patterned paper and onto the point of the star. Glue down, pressing to make sure it doesn't bubble and the edges are stuck tight. (use your fingers to gently rub) Let it dry for several hours on wax paper and string a ribbon through one point (mine already had a hole).
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Friday, December 4, 2009

Santa Pancakes for dinner

The kiddos had the best time eating this yummy dinner. Simple to make: pancakes, cherry pie filling, a few chocolate chips and a can of whipped topping. Sure, there's a lot of sugar in there... we only have Santa Pancakes once a year. Serve with some bacon and milk to balance out the fruit and sugar! :-)
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bringing the Spirit into Christmas

I enjoyed an article in the Idaho Statesman this past weekend about a few local Baptist churches who are doing something called "Advent Conspiracy".

Often I've wondered how to make the Christmas season a more spiritual one for my family and this article gave me a few new ideas...

First: They ask their members to buy one less gift this season and to give the money to a charity instead. You can choose your own charity or go to the store with the kids and let them pick out a gift & drop it off at the local fire station. This is an activity on our advent calendar I just made. The kids will use their allowance.

Second: The article asks: "What did Jesus give? The answer: He gave Himself." Service & Love should be demonstrated throughout the year, but certainly even more so around Christmas in gratitude, celebration and rememberance of our Savior.

Here are a few service ideas for around the home and in the community:

December Service Ideas

Third: Give more presence and fewer presents. You hear all the time about how kids just really want more time with their parents. I believe it!

In October I celebrated my birthday. Instead of stuff this year I asked for a weekend away with my husband. He took me to Seattle and we saw Joseph & the Technicolor Dream Coat, took a ferry to Bainbridge Island, enjoyed a dinner with friends we hadn't seen in ten years +, and had a fun Seattle-style breakfast downtown. I loved it! Best gift ever, it was great for our relationship and a lot of fun! I had my husband's complete attention and he had mine- that doesn't happen a whole lot with our responsibilities.

Fourth: Homemade gifts that take time, thought and sacrifice to make will limit commercialism and encourage giving from the heart. Knit a scarf, make a scrapbook, frame a favorite photo, a favorite dessert, an album of photographs, a coupon book for service or activities....

I know more of you are reading this blog than leave quotes, so share some love and tell me:

What do you do to make Christmas less commercialized and Spiritual?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Andes Mint Cookies

Have you all been invited to a Christmas cookie exchange yet? Perhaps you didn't get an invitation and you would like to be invited to a virtual cookie exchange? There are a few of those out there. Check out: Little Birdie Secrets, Our Plain and Simple Life, Designer Digitals, Frugal Creativity, or check out the Blog Catalog. Your thighs will love the virtual cookies and you can probably find a few recipes that will be worth the occasional real indulgence!

I know some families spend a day this month baking tasty treats to put on plates for friends and family. I usually don't do that... but thought I'd join in a virtual cookie exchange just for the fun of it!

I found the recipe for these Andes Mint Cookies on Becky Higgins' blog about a year ago. I HEART Andes Mints so I thought I'd give them a try and they have been a big hit with the crowds each and every time I do. Oh, and just so you know, I never have any extra mints left so don't sneak any... but, don't worry they are still delicious melted on top of a gooey cookie fresh from the oven!

Andes Mint Cookies
(makes approximately 4 dozen)

3/4 c. butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 package)
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 boxes Andes Mints, unwrapped

Heat the butter, brown sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add chocolate chips and stir until completely melted. Cool for 10 minutes. Pour chocolate mixture into a large mixing bowl and add eggs. Stir well and then add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix together and chill in fridge for 45 minutes. Roll into balls (like 1 to 1- 1/2" big). Place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and immediately place a mint on top of each cookie. Allow to melt for 2 minutes and with a knife swirl the chocolate around to create a pretty green/brown swirly pattern. Allow to cool. (Chocolate will harden after cooling) But, I always eat one while the chocolate is melted. :-)

Just so you know: These cookies freeze very well. I usually bake half the recipe and freeze the other half. Once the cookie balls are on the cookie sheet I place the cookie sheet in the freezer and let the cookies harden up for 20 minutes. Then I remove them from the cookie sheet and put them in a labeled ziplock bag. (This process keeps them from sticking together) Freeze the cookie balls and when you are ready to bake them take the desired amount out and put on a cookie sheet. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes and then bake as instructed above.
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A new Christmas Advent Calendar Idea

Over at the Blue Cricket Design blog I found an adorable advent calendar that is just perfect for me because I already have way too many Christmas decorations and the size is small!! Besides, it is SO CUTE!! Click HERE to go see it. Amy at The Idea Room also has an advent calendar idea. Click HERE to see Amy's list.

So, I've made my own. The kids are going to love this!!

It's a great way to help make sure you get in all of the fun activities that somehow get skipped if you don't plan them out. I actually had a hard time coming up with 25 activities. But here is our "personalized" list:

Decembe 09r Advent Events