perennial favorite christmas cookies

Have you been baking up a storm already? I've only just begun. I've been mostly making and freezing the dough so that when there's an event, I can bake the cookies morning of. As a Christmas present to Brother #3, I'm freezing assorted cookie dough balls so that he can have fresh baked cookies whenever the mood hits.

I was asked by The Chicago BFF what cookies I was baking this year. The list includes these:

Crack Toffee- this year I'm adding some pretzels on top. 
I like the addition as it balances out the sweetness with its
salty, crunchy presence.

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Almond Roca Pretzel Cookies- my new favorite compost combo
(I'm really digging the pretzel crunch and salt, can you tell?)

What's on your list? If you care to share, I'd love to expand my cookie horizons!


candy cane blossoms

I'm always on the hunt for a new Christmas cookie to bake. These looked like they were fun, festive, and fabulous to take to a holiday party.

The dough is pretty much a stiff sugar cookie dough which you roll into balls and smother with sprinkles. The kisses are stuck on after the cookies are baked.

Please be patient and wait the 2-3 minutes before putting them on, or else you'll get something like this—


maple chai tea

I have been enjoying the chai tea concentrate for the past month, 
yet when I saw this recipe, I still had to give it a go, 


pumpkin cream cheese pie

I'm about one pumpkin away from exploding, and you wouldn't know it, as I've posted nothing with pumpkin in it. That doesn't mean that pounds of pumpkin haven't traipsed their way through my door.

I had to revisit my favorites, pumpkin bread with pecan streusel and pumpkin whoopie pies. Then I had to make way for pies. I tried the standard. I wanted more. This recipe, found on foodnetwork.com, caught my eye. With its inclusion of a block of cream cheese, it's not quite a cheesecake, nor is it quite a custard.


wicked witch's hat and broomstick

Wonderfully, Wickedly Simple Witches' Hats and Broomsticks

If you are looking for a fun, easy, festive snack to throw together with or for the kids, look no further.


less is more — an apple tart

Less is more.

The phrase, popularized by the architect, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, came to mind when I ate the apple tart. Simplicity, bare essentials, beauty, and clarity— these are words that apply both to his philosophy of design and this dessert.


shirley temple

I'm a little embarrassed to say that with all these years of ordering Shirley Temples for my kids, I've never known what exactly goes into one. With The Niece's birthday lunch coming up and my wanting to serve a festive drink, I can now tell you not only what goes into Shirley Temples, but what grenadine is.


charleston, south carolina

The Hubs and I have had a hankering to visit Charleston for ages. We'd heard about all their good eats and were overdue for a just-the-two-of-us vacay. Thanks to Visiting Little Sis watching The Kids, we got to jet away at the end of June. Oh-so-hot, but oh-so-good. (Yes, I've been sitting on this post for awhile!)

Much of the fun of a trip is the research, planning and anticipation, and in our case, there was a lot of it. Where? When? How much? Dinner only? Reservations needed? High priority? 

Let's just say spread sheets were involved.


it's august?!

Holy Cannoli, another month has flown by. Has it whizzed by for you too?


where i've been...

It's been a long hiatus.

I wish I could say I've been around the world and back. Machu Picchu, Galapagos Islands, the Great Wall and Angkor Wat... only in my dreams.


crème brûlée french toast

Hands down, this is my #1 favorite breakfast food. I could have it at least once a week, and I would, if only someone else would eat it with me. Though it saddens me that The Family generally prefers savory to sweet in the AM, my hips are thanking them! The french toast casserole generally shows up once a year at a brunch. The London Brother visit spurred me to make it last week.


banana buttermilk muffins

Oui! Yes! Another way to use up those spotted bananas on the counter.

This one is a healthy option. Well, healthier than some of the other choices out there. I love the light texture, the low fat content (only 2 tablespoons of oil!) and the combination of wheat and all-purpose flours. The walnuts contribute heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, but if you prefer a little decadence, sub in some chocolate chips.


sour cream coffee cake

I love me a good sour cream coffee cake.

Culled from an old Bon Appetit issue, this recipe is a Jinx and Jefferson Morgan creation. I normally have a terrible memory, but who can forget a name like Jinx? I've tweaked it over the years, reducing the baking soda and adding a little butter and salt. (As an aside, I googled them and now they're owners of a resort in the British Virgin Isles. Sounds like a great, idyllic life!)


bunny butt cake

I came, I saw, I laughed, I baked. I was wandering around on pinterest and spotted the bunny butt ... it was love and giggles at first sight. What a hilarious, happy, smile-inducing cake, and I don't think one can say that about many cakes. Can you?


mint chocolate chip shake

Saint Paddy's Day is right around the corner, and green's been on my mind. Green libations, more specifically.

The first green drink I experienced was gross; my mom bamboozled me into buying barley green. I threw out the container five years past expiration date having had ingested one serving. I think also of The Healthy Sister-in-law making breakfast smoothies with the added nutritional punch of take-your-pick kale/spinach. (The Nieces and Nephew were not big fans.)


lucky oreo balls

While surfing through my blog, The Son saw these oreo truffles and requested that I make them again. It's been two years since we last had them— I don't know why I haven't revisited the recipe, as they are super easy to throw together, requiring only three ingredients, four if you count sprinkles.


keep calm

Blogging has been, at best, sporadic the past nine months. A variety of reasons have contributed to the slowdown:

health issues (I am trying to eat better, exercise more and bake less, though with a dearth of sweets, I've found the chips)
on demand tv viewing (so easy to while away the time in front of that box,)
and (brace yourself)



What a catchy name for a cookie. Makes you want to do a little happy dance.

I found the recipe in an old Pillsbury Butter Cookie Cookbook. Ann Pillsbury had collected a bunch of European cookie recipes and said this one is from Sweden. I'll have to confer with The Swedish Friend and see what she says, but in the meanwhile, here it is!


cook's country texas sheet cake

“It’s deja vu all over again”
Yogi Berra

I know I just made this cake. But The Illinois BFF, upon receiving my last post, sang the praises of it. She said, "Have you tried the Cook's Country Texas Sheet Cake? It's fabulous." She said that whenever she makes it, people go gaga over it.

I had a dinner party in need of a dessert. I like gaga. I like fabulous. Perfect!


texas sheet cake

I came across this recipe in my alumni magazine. One of our alums, Jennifer Jones, is the Pastry Chef for the Rick Bayless' well-known Chicago restaurants, Topolobampo, Frontera Grill and XOCO. She makes this cake for staff meals and parties (in other words, you won't be finding this on their restaurant menu.)


apricot almond bar

What do you do when your dad gives you a 3 lb. bag of dried apricots? You go hunting for a recipe, that's what you do.

Luckily for me, The Gourmet Cookie Book had a lovely recipe with dried apricots, dating from the 1960's (!) I tweaked it ever so slightly, with some puréeing and a little salt and butter addition. In fact, it's quite similar to the Cherry Pecan Bars that I made awhile back. So I cross-referenced with that recipe and ended up with this one.


48 Hours in Boston

We spent 48 hours in Beantown.

Translate that into "how many seafood restaurants can we squeeze in without kids revolting?"

We hit two in as many days (canceling reservations at another) and enjoyed both.

We definitely recommend a stop at Island Creek Oyster Bar for their oyster sliders and their raw Island Creek Oysters. Kettle chips with the Lobster Roll were also delicious. Fried clams were a huge hit with the kids; we had to order a second round, because it never made its way down the adult end of the table!


Happy New Year!

We celebrated with a whirlwind "Boston in 48 hours."

(Food details forthcoming.)

How did you ring it in?

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