Christmas of cooking!

This is the Christmas of cooking supplies!!! I was blessed with gifts that are going to help me in the kitchen and I can’t wait to use them. My bestest friend Jamie, knows how much I want to go to Italy so she is always good about getting me gifts that involve Italian cookbooks, food or gadgets.

This year she bought me a pizza stone and a cookbook with 100 different pizza recipes. I think I’ve decided that I want to cook through that cookbook and put it on here. I LOVE pizza and would love to get good at making it. Should be an interesting process since I’ve never owned a pizza stone or made pizza dough from scratch. But what’s a “novice cook diary” if I didn’t have something to write about. You’ll get to watch my successes and failures through the cookbook and hear a few yummy recipes for pizza you can make yourself. Get excited!! I love making bread so pizza dough should be easy…right?

My brother-in-law Phil had me in the gift exchange this year and I mostly had kitchen gadgets on my list this year. He did REALLY good and bought me a knife block and a toaster oven, which our kitchen is without. I miss having a toaster oven to just heat up leftovers or broil a few things. So, I’m excited for the mini luxury…not pun intended….and having sharp knives is going to be AWESOME! It’s so nice to own a few nice kitchen things for once. I usually never buy myself these kinds of things because I don’t really want to worry about them being taken care of in a kitchen of 5 cooks so this is a real treat! I may not be very great about sharing my knives :)

My parents ended up getting me and gift that I have been wanting for work, but always felt like it was a little silly. I’m not a coffee drinker but I LOVE ice tea :) So I’ve always wanted an ice tea maker for work.
We have a small refrigerator at work that I never really wanted to use to keep the ice tea cold since it would take up too much room in that little thing. So, I thought the ideal set up would be a little fridge and the ice tea maker. And that is exactly what they got me! I’m so excited to start making ice tea at work!! No need to buy drinks at the Talon any more!!!

Anyways, I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas…let me know what foodie gifts you got!!


Salted Peanut Butter-Toffee Thumbprint Cookies

Tis the season for making Christmas cookies! I am not an avid baker, but this time of year, it seems like you should be participating in the baking fun! This year I am a little more inspired since I have two cookie exchange parties to go to :)

Am I the only one that stresses over which cookies I should make?!? I’m gone on to so many sites and looked at so many recipes. I assume I’m not alone in secretly wanting to have THE BEST cookie of the whole party…and what does it really earn me other then bragging rights and the thought that everyone thinks I’m an incredible baker! Nevermind…it’s worth fighting for!!!

So, Cookie Exchange number 1 was with work friends. Registrar ladies seem to have the tradition and I got an invite this year :) Thanks to Jeri Price for organizing it for all of us. It was a really fun time to connect and get excited about the food of the season. I loved having a bin of cookies to take away and a few recipes at that. Definitely something I hope to be apart of in the years to come.

So, I decided on this recipe this year since it’s a nice combination of all the flavors I like in a cookie…chocolate, toffee, and peanut butter! They ended up being really good so I highly recommend this recipe! You can find it here: Salted-Peanut-Butter-Toffee-Thumbprints. Something you should know about this recipe is that you will need to refrigerate your dough for 1 hour. I didn’t read that in the recipe but got lucky (since I did them the night before) and had an hour to refrigerate while I went to church last week. Score :)

Here we go…

Step 1: Mix together your dry ingredients…flour, salt, baking soda. Sadly, this is one of those recipes that requires a lot of dishes. The end product is worth it but make sure you have a few bowls ready to go.

Step 2: Melt your butter in the microwave. I put mine in for 1 min in a Pyrex measuring cup which did the trick.

Step 3: While waiting for melted butter, use a separate bowl and measure out your brown sugar and granulated sugar. When butter is melted, that can be poured in on top and mixed up.

Step 4: Still working with your sugar mixture you will add your egg, peanut butter and vanilla  and  mix it up.

HINT: I used one of the tips that I posted earlier about how to get sticky ingredients out of a measuring cup…..the tip was to run your measuring cup under hot water before adding the sticky ingredient. Ideally it just slides right out of the measuring cup.

I am happy to report can IT WORKS! See how clean the cup is after just one little spoon-out of encouragement?! It was way less mess to clean up in the measuring cup. I will be doing THIS again!

Step 5: Mix together you wet ingredients mixture with the flour mixture a little at a time….key work here is MIX! Don’t do what I did and try to WISK the ingredients togehter. I know better and had quite the time banging out the wisk. I got it cleaned out and was able to continue mixing but…just thought I would give that word of wisdom.

Step 6: The next thing to do is refrigerate our dough. The recipe calls asks that you put it in for an hour to 1 day. I think mine was in for 3 our so hours which was great. It firmed up and was easy to work with when it was time to roll and bake. While the dough is refrigerating you can start in with prepping your peanuts.

Step 7: So if you’re anything like me…there is always that one appliance that you love to use, but also hate to pull out because it’s in that obscure place in your kitchen.

Our counter tops are full with knife blocks, toasters, blenders, etc. so my food processor will not fit on the counter top at all times. It’s just too big. You can see in this picture that mine is on the VERY top shelf of our pantry and I am way too short to be reaching up there! So, here is my solution…I think everyone needs this in their kitchen if you don’t already…especially for the shorties out there! 

But I digress….

Step 8: The toffee peanuts that these cookies get rolled in is what makes them different from normal peanut butter cookies. I think I would like to try this with chocolate chip cookies! Right?! Wouldn’t that be yummy. Something to do in the future.

So onto chopping…You’ll notice that the first picture here looks  very clean and put together…however, there was a lot of work to get to it looking like that. For the life of me, I couldn’t get the top on the stand.

I kept trying to turn it on and it was not being friendly because I didn’t have the cup on there correctly.

So, I’m mostly putting this little picture below as a reminder to myself since I don’t use this kitchen gadget that often….JESSICA…LINE UP THE ARROWS. It will snap on if you do this! Don’t forget!! Below is the handsome result if you snap everything on correctly…imagine that. I used the tin that the peanuts came in to save the pieces till it was roll time.

You’ll notice two containers that and I’ll be candid and say I had to buy the second because I had started eating out of the first tin and quickly realized I did not have enough to do this recipe. Thankfully they were cheap at Ralphs the week I was making these :)

Step 9: When your dough is cool and ready to work with you will begin making the dough balls and rolling them in your toffee peanut pieces you have chopped up. My recommendation is that you push the pieces into the dough balls like I’m showing here. I was not as generous as the recipe pictures show they should look like so next time I’ll possibly roll the tough with some toffee pieces in the middle and outside. There can never been too much toffee! They don’t really spread out on the baking sheet so don’t worry about there only being an inch between your cookies. You’ll put them in the oven for 13 to 15 min at 325 degrees. I kept them on the longer side which did the trick.

Step 10: At some point you will need to do your thumb print part of the cookie making process. I decided I would do them when there were still about 3 min left on the timer. This ended up being a good way to start the process. When you pull them out, they have basically puffed up again in the last 3 min. However, you’ve already started the depression in the middle and helped spread out the cookies by doing it in the oven. So, when I did it again when they came out it was prepped. The recipe says to do differently, however, this worked well for me. You can see in the oven picture how the cookies have not really spread out like chocolate chip cookies do. The picture to the right shows that by doing them in the oven, they end up being a little bit rounder and less like a drop cookie.

Step 10: I have mentioned in my Oreo truffle recipe post that I STINK at melting chocolate to pipe on anything. It is SO not my forte in when it comes to baking and if I ever see it in a recipe I get nervous about giving it a try.  That has changed! This recipe gave instructions on how to end melt chocolate. Most recipes say…melt your chocolate…with no help on how to go about the process. I love this recipe for educating me and not assuming I already knew how to do it. This tip is officially the way I will melt chocolate I am wanting to pipe chocolate.

The instructions say to put some hot water in a bowl and place your piping bag (AKA plastic bag) in the bowl and let the chocolate melt. This works amazingly well and I’ll be translating this tip the next time I make those Oreo truffles.  When your chocolate is melted…you may need to work the bag a big with your fingers to feel if you have it completely smooth. I pulled it in and out of the water a few times to feel it and make sure it was melting correctly. I think it took a total of 10 min to get it ready for pipping. And I have to say that when you get chocolate to melt well it is fun to do :) I ended up having to make two bags of chocolate chips up to pipe in the thumbprints of all my cookies, but it was still way easier then I’ve done in the past. HURRAY for learning a new trick!!

Step 11: Finishing up the cookies can be your choice..I thought of a few ways to top the cookies since they were needing something extra to stand out. I had a lot of broken up peanuts that I ended up placing on top of the cookies to doll them up a bit. I liked the look since it kind of appeared that a reindeer had left it’s hoof print in the chocolate…or at least I liked to think so ;) I had some festive cupcake holders that I put the cookies in which made them easier to store and very easy for people to grab…..Anyways I hope that you give these a try and got a few tips for your cookie making this season! Enjoy :) 


Cheesy Garlic Bread

I realized that I never posted the recipe for the cheesy garlic bread that goes amazingly well with the squash soup. I just made the soup this week so I will post some pictures from my experience…and it’s quite the experience :)

Anyways…here’s the recipe for the bread. Haven’t tried it yet, but if you do, let me know what you think!

Cheesy Garlic Bread

  • 2 T. Unsalted Butter
  • 2 T. garlic, minced
  • 1 pre-made pizza crust, such as Boboli (12″)
  • 5 oz. fresh mozzarella, silced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 T. thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 2 t. chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Melt butter with garlic in a small saucepan over low heat, brush over pizza crust, then top with cheese, salt, and pepper.
  3. Bake bread directly on the oven rack until cheese is melted and bubbly, 10 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with herbs, and slice into 8 wedges.

Did you know…

So I just found this amazing blog via Pinterest…yes, I’m addicted too :0) If you’re not on there yet, just let me know and I’ll invite you. You’ll be more inspired then you have been in a long time. There are so many great recipes, pictures, crafty ideas and more to keep you entertained and busy for hours. I know…like you need one more site to get addicted to. But after you read these fun tips and trick below you may change your mind.

The blog is written by Julie Hammond and called DIY Home Sweet Home. In this particular post she writes about bouncing around from sites finding these little gems of information. I want to make sure to give credit since she did all the work and I just stumbled upon them. I want to post them here to share, but as much so I can remember them too! Her original post can be found here. I’ve just narrowed down the list to those dealing with food items but she offers a bunch more for household things. Below the pictures are her little messages and thoughts and then the list at the end are her additional finds…Enjoy!

You can flip a toaster on its side and grill cheese in it. – Source
Reynolds Wrap has lock in taps to hold the roll in place – Source
The color on the bread tab indicates how fresh the bread is – Source
You can divide and store ground meat in a zip loc bag. Just break off how much you need and keep the rest in the freezer for later. So much easier than dividing and  individually wrapping each pound or half pound. –Source
Marshmallows can cure a soar throat. Perfect for kids who wont take their medicine. – Source
You can freeze cupcake batter for later use. – Source
Mozzarella is super easy to make. – Source
You can make your own laundry soap. – Source
Save money and make your own vanilla extract. – Source
If you break your blender jar you can replace it with a mason jar. – Source
You can cook pumpkin in a crock pot and then freeze it for later use. – Source
Cereal canisters make the perfect trashcan for your car. – Source
Have you had enough?
Well here are a few more.
  1. Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.. I didn’t know that!
  2. Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!
  3. Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.
  4. Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.
  5. To make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.
  6. Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic,  and at the end of the recipe if you want a stronger taste of garlic.
  7. Reheat Pizza Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.
  8. Easy Deviled Eggs: Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up.  Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg.  Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.
  9. Expanding Frosting: When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size.  You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.
  10. Reheating refrigerated bread: To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.
  11. To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn’t hurt the plant and the squirrels won’t come near it.
  12. Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don’t dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.
  13. Goodbye Fruit Flies: To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2′ with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup an d gone forever!
  14. Need to cut some corn off the cob. Use your bundt pan. Place the ear on the opening in the center of the pan, and as you slide the knife down the ear, all the kernels will collect in the main part of the pan.