Holiday Mail For Heros

This year when you write out your holiday cards, write an extra one for Holiday Mail for Heros. Holiday cards are collected and distributed to service members, veterans, and their families. Many service members spend their holiday season away from their loved ones. Express your thanks to those who have served to protect us.

Cards must be postmarked no later than December 10th in order for them to be sorted and distributed in time for the holidays.

You can send your cards to the address below:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD
20791-5456

Here is a list of guidelines that are from the Holiday Mail for Heroes website:

Do…

  • Include your heartfelt sentiments and sign all cards
  • Entitle cards with generic terms such as “Dear Service Member, Family or Veteran”
  • Limit cards to 15 per person or 50 for school class or business group
  • Bundle groups of cards in single, large envelopes

Don’t…

  • Send letters, care packages or monetary gifts
  • Include personal information such as home or email addresses
  • Use glitter – excessive amounts can aggravate health issues of wounded recipients
  • Include inserts of any kind as they must be removed in the screening process

Thank you for helping to support our service members!

http://redcrosschat.org/2010/10/26/holiday-mail-for-heroes-2010/

Posted by on December 5th, 2010

Swedish Ginger Thins

Swedish Ginger Thins is a tradition that we started just a couple years ago. These are my mom’s cookies to make. They are so light and thin, and they melt in your mouth. But they’re full of that classic ginger cookie flavor.

12863_193972694299_76622504299_3031349_4374777_nSwedish Ginger Thins

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 Cup softened butter
  • 1/2 Cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 Cup well-chilled heavy cream
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • Garnish- sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and spices.
  2. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream until it just holds stiff peaks.
  3. In another large bowl beat butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. On low speed, beat in corn syrup and whipped cream, beating until cream is just combined. Add flour mixture and beat until combined well.
  4. Form dough into a disk. Chill disk wrapped in plastic wrap until firm. About 2 hours and up to 2 days.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  6. Cut dough into quarters and work with one quarter at a time, keeping remaining dough covered and  chilled.
  7. Roll dough out between two sheets of wax paper. Using wax paper helps prevent adding unnecessary flour which can make cookie tough. Roll dough as thin as possible, about 1/8 inch or thinner. Using 2-3 inch cookie cutters, cut out cookies and transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  8. Top each cookie with a sliced almond. Bake in the oven on the upper and lower thirds of the oven switching the position of the sheets about half way through baking, until cookies puff and then collapse slightly, about 6 minutes.
  9. Cool cookies on the sheet for 1 minute before transfering to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about 150 cookies

Posted by on December 5th, 2010

Christmas Rum Balls

Every year for Christmas my mom and I have a “Cookie Sunday” where we would set the day aside for making that year’s Christmas cookies. It was always the perfect girl’s day. The Rum Balls on the other hand were always the boys’ responsibility! The Rum Balls are my dad and brothers’ favorite and they are always more than willing to help out with making them. In addition to being delicious, these cookies are easy because they do not need to be baked!

Christmas Rum Balls

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups crushed Vanilla Wafers
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 Cup Rum or Brandy of your choice
  • Powdered sugar for rolling

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. In a smaller bowl whisk together the honey and rum.
  3. Add wet ingredients slowly to crumb mixture mixing with your hands until dough is wet enough to hold together.
  4. Roll dough into 1″ balls and roll in powder sugar. It should make about 3 dozen bite size cookies.
  5. Let the Rum Balls ripen at least 12 hours. It’s tempting to start eating them right away, but the longer you can hold off the better they will taste!
Posted by on December 4th, 2010

Old Fashioned Ice Box Cookies

Here is another recipe from my grandma’s recipe box. Although, I’m pretty sure this is just copied out of her very old Betty Crocker Cookbook… But I prefer the recipe card with Grandma’s handwriting! I remember when I was little asking my grandma what an ice box was. And for you youngin’s like me who still might not know, it’s just what they used to call a refrigerator!

As a child these melt in your mouth cookies were always my favorite and I loved helping Grandma make them! And at my house, once a cookie becomes your favorite, it becomes your responsibility to bake it for Christmas.

Now, the original recipe calls for 1 Cup of butter. But at the bottom my grandma made a note saying to use half margarine and half butter. So this is how I wrote out the recipe. I don’t questions my grandma, I just do as she says!

img_2576

Ice Box Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Margarine
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Cup Flour
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Garnishes(sprinkles, colored sugars, or chopped nuts)

Instructions

  1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Beat in flour and salt.
  2. Shape dough into two logs. Roll the logs in chopped nuts, sprinkles, or colored sugars.
  3. Wrap the logs in wax paper and refrigerate a few hours or until hardened.
  4. Slice the dough and bake at 350 degrees for about 13 minutes.
Posted by on December 3rd, 2010

Good Cookies

Every year for Christmas we make our famous Good Cookies, or as the old yellowed family recipe card says “Colleen’s Good Cookies”.  And the name Good Cookies is an understatement. These delicious cookies have a little bit of everything in them. They’re crunchy, yet light and they melt in your mouth! And to top it all off, they’re so easy to make!

I always remember helping make these as a child at Christmas. My job was to help chop the nuts and crush the corn flakes. Then right before the cookies were to go in the oven, my mom would have sprinkle on the red and green sugars! These cookies also happen to be one of my Sister-in-law’s favorites. My grandma made up batches of petite Good Cookies to serve at the sweets table for their wedding reception!

Now our recipe card just has the ingredients and the cooking temperature. Now for someone who makes a lot of cookies, you may be able to figure out how to mix them up. But for those of you who don’t bake a lot, don’t worry, I’ve included instructions for you!

Colleen’s Good Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Oil
  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Beaten Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 Cup Rolled Oats
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Crushed Corn Fakes
  • 3 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Cup Chopped Walnuts
  • Red and Green Sugars for decorating

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Now like most cookie recipes you start off by creaming the fats (the oil and butter) with your sugars (white and brown) until light and fluffy. Then add your eggs and vanilla.
  3. Next you can start adding your dry ingredients, adding the nuts last.
  4. Once the ingredients are all incorporated you can start spooning the dough out onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. They do spread, so I recommend using a tablespoon’s worth of cookie dough to make 12 for a standard cookie sheet. Sprinkle on colored sugars and bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden! Once you make a sheet and see how they spread, you will have a guideline on how large you can make them.
  5. Let cool a few minutes on your cookie sheet then transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Cookies will get crispier  as they cool.

Posted by on December 2nd, 2010

Sweet Potato Casserole with Gingersnap Streusel

I found this recipe in Parenting Magazine and I decided that we had to try it for Thanksgiving. It was different from how we usually make our sweet potatoes, you know the kind with the marshmallows on top? Well this sounded even better. Mashed sweet potatoes topped with the lovely gingersnap streusel, laced with the delicate flavor of maple. It was the perfect addition to our holiday dinner! So if you’re looking for a new twist on an old classic, this is it!

Sweet Potato Casserole with Gingersnap Streusel

  • 5 pounds of sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided, plus more for boiling potatoes
  • 15-20 coarsely broken gingersnap cookies (we used Nabisco GingerSnaps)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into bits
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (you can splurge on the expensive stuff, but we used cheap pancake syrup and it was still delicious!)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • cooking spray
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with the cooking spray.
  2. Place the chunks of potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover them. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer about 14-16 minutes or until potatoes are very tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool
  3. For the topping, put the gingersnaps, flour, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Pulse once or twice, then add the butter and pulse a few more times so that the cookies are in small chunks.
  4. Once the potatoes are cool, remove the skins and mash with a potato masher.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, half-and-half, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs and remaining salt. Add the mashed potatoes and mix together. Then add the potatoes to your baking dish. Then sprinkle the topping on top of the potatoes.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until lightly browned.

You can view the original recipe by following the link below.

http://www.parenting.com/recipes-article/Mom/Recipes/Sweet-Potato-Casserole-with-Gingersnap-Streusel-1000085630

Posted by on December 1st, 2010

Taste of Autumn

It has been a long time since I’ve had the time to post anything,I’ve been so busy lately. But my favorite time of year is here, Thanksgiving! I have so many things to be thankful for. My family, my friends, my wonderful boyfriend, my precious pets, a job, a roof over my head, and food in my stomach! I think that now money is tight and when jobs are hard to come by, it is more important than ever to be thankful for what you have.

The first on my list of things that I’m thankful is my family. And while we might not always agree on things I know that they will ALWAYS be there for me! This Thanksgiving is particularly special. It is the first Thanksgiving that I am an Aunt! And my wonderful brother and sister-in-law came up to Chicago from Texas to visit. And of course they brought my adorable baby nephew. To celebrate their arrival we had a big family dinner on Sunday. And of course I had to make a special dessert! I made Pumpkin cake with a Maple Glaze, a Pecan Rum Tart, and delicious Maple Syrup ice cream!

This Maple Syrup ice cream was SO easy to make and a perfect accent to our autumn themed desserts. And the best part of the recipe is that you don’t need an ice cream machine! I highly recommend this to accompany your Thanksgiving desserts!

Maple Syrup Ice Cream – makes about 2 quarts

  • 4 Large Egg Yolks
  • 3/4 Cup Pure Grade A Maple Syrup
  • 1 1/2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  1. Place the 4 egg yolks in the bowl of your electric mixer with the whisk attachment. Then in a small saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil.
  2. Once the maple syrup has come to a boil, turn on the electric mixer to high speed. Slowly pour the maple syrup into the eggs in a steady stream. Make sure that non of it falls on the whisk.
  3. Reduce speed to medium and mix for 10 minutes, or until mixture is cool, pale yellow, and has increased in volume.
  4. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks. Then gently fold the maple syrup mixture with the whipped cream. Put the mixture into a air tight container and freeze for a minimum of 4 hours before serving. Ice cream keeps up to 2 weeks.


Posted by on November 22nd, 2010

Spring is here…

… and Easter is on it’s way! To celebrate, I made panoramic sugar eggs! I used to make these beautiful decorations with my mom for Easter and give them as gifts. It’s been years since I’ve made them, but I decided it would be fun! I was excited to be able to share these edible center pieces with friends and family. 

Easter Eggs

 

I also made an Easter basket cake! It was red velvet cake with raspberry filling and chocolate frosting. I decorated the sides of the cake with a basket weave. Then I used a mold to make a hollow chocolate bunny for the top of the cake. I filled in the basket with some green grass that I made. You can make green coconut grass by mixing green food coloring with a little water. Stir the water in with your coconut until all of the coconut is green. I spread it onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and put into a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes. This will dry the coconut. Then all I had left to do was add a couple jelly bean “eggs” and some spring flowers that I made! I was really happy with the results!

Easter Basket

 

I hope you and your family had a lovely Easter weekend! Happy Spring!

Posted by on April 13th, 2010

Preparing for a new addition to the family

Today we hosted a baby shower for my brother and sister-in-law. It was a unique style baby shower because unfortunately they live in Texas and were unable to make the trip to Chicago. So friends and family gathered for a lovely afternoon and of course cake! We enjoyed an adorable video that my brother and sister-in-law put together of them and the baby’s bedroom to share with all of us. In turn, we took pictures and a short video to share with them what they missed.

My mom and grandma made the wonderful spread of food. We had fruit salsa, cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, strawberry salad, pinwheel sandwiches, and dirty diapers!

img_7520

Dirty diapers are the funniest thing that I’ve seen. My mom found the recipe online.  You cook up some ground beef with onion and garlic. Then you use the croissant dough that you buy in the tubes. You take the triangles of dough, put a triangle of cheese, lay the cooked meat on top then fold over the corners of the dough the way you would fold a diaper! So silly!

img_7521 

For dessert I made some delicious chocolates which were also made up in little take-out containers as party favors. I made yellow ones that were filled with white chocolate and dried cherries flavored with Kirsch brandy. The blue ones are milk chocolate flavored with coffee and Kahlua. The brown ones are dark chocolate flavored with Grand Marnier. My favorite of the three was probably the Kahlua flavor. YUM!

img_7508 

The cake I made was three layers of white almond sour cream cake filled with raspberry and bavarian creme. Oh sooooo good! I love almond, and with raspberry? Even better! I iced the cakes in buttercream and did all of the decorations in fondant to match the paper goods at the party. Here it is! 

img_75231

Posted by on March 7th, 2010

Celebrating 100 Years!

 

A couple weeks ago my Grandma and my Papa went up to northern Wisconsin to visit Papa’s aunt. They were going to celebrate Aunt Evey’s 100th birthday! Not too many people get to live to be 100. It was most definitely the first 100th birthday cake that I’ve ever made! 

I wanted to make something very feminine and elegant, different from my typical whimsical style. I baked a yellow cake in an oval cake pan. I love the oval shape because it is different from the traditional round or rectangle sheet cake, and I think it is very feminine. For the decorations I took the time to make all the flowers by hand out of gumpaste.

 

apple blossoms and daisies

apple blossoms and daisies

 

I started by making apple blossoms and white daisies. It’s been so cold this winter, I wanted to add a touch of spring to the cake. I used some cutters that I had to cut the flowers out of rolled gumpaste. Then I used my gumpaste tools to form and shape each petal. I also made some teeny tiny violet forget-me-not flowers. I made centers for the flowers out of gumpaste and lightly brushed the centers with vodka to dampen them. Then I dipped the flowers into granulated sugar. The sugar only stuck to the parts of the flower that I brushed with vodka and made the centers sparkle. For the daisies I made yellow centers and dipped in yellow sugar. 

 

gumpaste roses

gumpaste roses

Next I hand made pink and yellow roses. I always make extra just in case some break. When gumpaste dries it is very hard and brittle like porcelain and it can break very easily. The petals on the roses are so thin and delicate that it doesn’t take much for them to crack. Once the roses dried I lightly brushed them with my pearl luster dust. 

rose and flowers

rose and flowers

 

 

I made two different size leaves for my flowers. I colored my gumpaste a mossy green and rolled it out thinly. I used my leaf cutters to cut out the shape and then pressed each leaf in a silicone mold that gave it the vines and texture. Using a special tool I thinned the edges of the leaves and created a jagged edge that is so common of rose leaves. I propped the leaves over some crumpled paper towels to dry. This way the wouldn’t be completely flat and they had some shape. Once they dried, I dusted their edges lightly with a green petal dust to create a little variation in color.

 

spray of flowers

spray of flowers

Once all of my flowers and leaves were dried and attached to their stems it was time create a spray of flowers. I used floral tape to tape together the stems creating small bunches of flowers and leaves. Then I arranged my smaller bunches of flowers onto my cake. I saved some smaller flowers to use to fill in holes and gaps in my arrangement. 

Once my flowers were all arranged on my cake it was time to write on it. I chose to write in lavender because the yellow and pink would be too pale. The lavender writing also highlighted the forget-me-nots in my flowers.

Here is the final result!

 

The finished cake!

The finished cake!

This cake survived the  several hour car ride in the trunk all the way from Chicago to northern Wisconsin. This cake took a long time to assemble, but it gave me no troubles. I’m very happy with the results and from what I heard, the birthday girl liked it too!

Posted by on March 4th, 2010