Thursday, December 24, 2015

festive snowmen cookies: circa 1986

I still remember the magazine article my mom has folded a hundred times in her brown, over stuffed, cracked recipe book. She found the recipe the year after I was born {1986} and it has frosting stuck to it. These cookie snowmen are my favorite cookies to make for Christmas and all winter long. Although, this crazy warm weather doesn't make it feel like either. 

As Finn slept off his cold, Kensi and I were able to spend one on one time together making these fun and sweet treats. To make a snowman we rolled a 1 inch ball for the bottom, 3/4 inch for the middle and 1/2 inch ball for the top. Place them very close together so they touch and press down on them gently. Kensi loves to the add the two mini chocolate chips for the eyes and two to three cinnamon red hots for the buttons. Sometimes she insists on leaving the cinnamon red hots off hers. "Too spicy for me mama, you eat them." Gladly, my sweet girl. 
Pop the semi-decorated snowmen into the oven at 325 degrees F for 18-20 minutes. Let them cool completely. 

Once cooled, make a simple frosting {we used Royal Icing for a firm setup} and use a piping bag and your favorite tip. We like to use a star tip. Pipe a scarf between the head and torso. Then use the piping as glue to stick the halved peanut butter cup to the top of the head and add a little more frosting to cover the seam. Finish by dusting with powdered sugar. 

Mini Peanut Butter Cups OR Hershey Kisses, halved {hat}
Mini Chocolate Chips {eyes}
Cinnamon Red Hots {buttons}
Icing {scarf}
Powdered Sugar {snow}

This is the same article where we scored one of my favorite sugar cookie doughs. I love the flavor because it calls for almond and coconut extract. You can find the recipe HERE, this dough does need to chill before being used. Decorating is the best part. With a hat, little scarf and dusting of snow, these little men {and women} are ready to go!

Our church held a cookie competition for the kids which we all know the cookies are made by the parents with help from the kids. We made our little snowman because it's a simple cookie Kensi can help create. We packed all our snow people up, took them to church, and registered under Kensi and Finn. Mr. and Mrs. Claus came as a surprise visit and tried every cookie. At the end of the night our pastor gathered all the kids who baked cookies in front of the stage and announced the winners for third and second place. The kids were all so excited! They did a drumroll for the first place winner and it was....'The Snowman' by Kensi and Finn! Kensi was shocked she won and then immediately became scared to death and clung to Mike. She feared going up to the stage to claim her prize and was nearly in tears. Once she was able to calm down and realized her and Finn actually won they gave each other high fives and kisses. The cutest thing I may have ever seen! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

the jolliest bunch of a**holes this side of the nuthouse

We're certainly jolly and we're certainly nutty over here. Last night our life group opted for a movie night. There's no greater movie than the notoriously obnoxious Christmas Vacation. I grew up watching this movie every Christmas with my older brothers. They would laugh hysterically and I would join along having no freakin idea why a line was so funny. I love this movie so much and it's so nostalgic for me. Mike and I enjoy watching Christmas Vacation several times during the Christmas season and again when we celebrate Christmas in July. It never gets old.

In honor of celebrating Christmas Griswold style, Mike and I made a nutty snack to tap into our nuthouse Giswold side. We made three different types of nuts: sweet & spicy, chocolate covered and candied. It's a perfect snack to put out for a crowd because there really is something that sparks joy for everyone.

Sweet & Spicy Cashews
Originally from our friend Sarah who made these for our super bowl party earlier this year. I couldn't keep my hands out of this bowl! It is the perfect balance of sweet, savory and spicy. 

16 oz Dry Roasted Cashews, unsalted
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake nuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 5 minutes. While the nuts are baking, in a bowl mix together brown sugar, Rosemary, salt, cayenne and melted butter. When nuts are done, remove them from oven and add them into the butter mixture. Stir until the bits are evenly coated. Then, place the nut mixture back onto the lined baking sheet and bake 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Chocolate Covered Peanuts
These sweet nuggets are so easy. All that's needed is salted peanuts and chocolate chips. Mike loves these and looks forward to them every year. 
Confession: I'm really sorry, but have zero measurements for this recipe. I simple throw a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips into a microwave safe glass bowl and heat in in 30 second intervals until it's smooth and melted. Then I toss in salted peanuts, mix it up and using two spoons I glob little nuggets on to my parchment paper. Pop them in the fridge for a couple hours for them to set up and serve! If you like more chocolate, then add less peanuts or vice versa.

Cinnamon Candied Almonds
You know the smell of those cinnamon almonds served up in paper cones at the malls? That's exactly what these are. I can never leave the mall without buying one and munching on them while shopping. It's an addiction and I'm so glad I can make them at home and save the extra cash. Plus the smell ignites Christmas spirit in your house. 

1 Egg White
1 Tablespoon Water
3 cups Raw Almonds
1/2 cup White Sugar
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
Pinch of Salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Mix sugars and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. Whisk water and egg white until frothy. Fold almonds with fluffy egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Mix until well coated. Spread almonds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and bake for 25-30 minutes

All three of these recipes are not only delicious, but incredibly easy! I hope you get a chance to make them for a snack this Christmas and New Years! 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

cinnamon roll delivery

I'm covered in flour, smell like cinnamon and I'm sure I taste like sugar. I've been rolling dough and making cinnamon rolls the last couple days. At our house we believe the best way to someone's heart is through food. There's something so special and comforting when someone spends the time to bake up something delish. You know they really care when they take the time to do so because food is love. It's simple and incredibly heartwarming. I love thinking about what may have happened in the kitchen when we receive food gifts.
Each year Mike and I gift sweet treats for Christmas. We started this our second year in Maryland when I exchanged gifts with my administrative staff at school. Something I didn't expect to do. I was caught off guard and felt a little panicked since we didn't have much money and I needed to give gifts to five co-coworkers whom I worked closely with, but my mom always told me everyone loves food and I come from a long line of home taught bakers and makers. That year I baked so many different sweets and it was a hit! So we keep it going each year with Christmas and sometimes even Valentine's Day. We also try and send a care package back to Maryland full of goodies just for those special co-workers.
We don't go crazy making dozens of different sweets anymore {other than for ourselves}, we stick to what has become the most requested treat. Cinnamon rolls.  I swear the number grows year after year, I don't know if it’s the butter, the cinnamon {I highly recommend Penzey’s Vietnamese is hands down the BEST cinnamon} or the delicious coffee-maple frosting. They simply melt in your mouth. I love making them and I love how excited our friends and family get when they see the wrapped pan of cinnamon rolls. This year we made 28 pans of cinnamon rolls. I'm a little exhausted, but it's one of my favorite sweets to make this time of year.
We've been making these cinnamon rolls the last few years and this year I think I figured out the packaging. I used a white cloth napkin {I found mine at Hobby Lobby in the crafting section with t-shirts, bags, hats, etc.} and lots of fun ribbon and yarn. Kensi and I spent one night on the couch making pom poms and they are the perfect pop of festive colored fun for each package. I love the mix up of bright colors and traditional red and green. It makes the packaging young and fun, especially with purple glittered ribbon, courtesy of Kensi.

Once everything was wrapped up, Kensi loaded up our wagon and pushed it up and down the street, eager to ring each doorbell while trying not to knock over Christmas decorations. We may or may not have knocked over two or three mini Christmas trees. Shhhh! We had so much fun delivering our sweet treats and wish our neighbors a Merry Christmas and we hope everyone enjoys them again this year!

Friday, December 18, 2015

baby doll high chair

This year Mike and I are making two of the kids' Christmas gifts: a doll high chair and a teepee {stay tuned for our teepee}. Kensi discovered the American Girl Doll magazine and has circled literally everything in it. She loves her baby doll Finn gave her at the hospital a year ago and baby comes with us everywhere. Kensi has made it very clear baby doll needs her own bed, stocking on the fireplace and a high chair. She even spent some of her own piggy bank money to buy a Christmas pillow for baby doll from the dollar bin at Target. Baby doll is our third child, hence the need to celebrate her birthday Thanksgiving morning with a candle in our cheesecake and then again on Finn's birthday. She's such a mommy girl.
We found plans from our go to gal, Ana White, for a simple and cute baby doll high chair. {She has tons of baby doll furniture, go check it out!} It really didn't take much lumber or time for that matter. Mike and I were able to complete the whole project in a day and it cost less than $15 to make with the help of already having paint and stain in the garage leftover from previous projects.

Mike cut all the pieces, I stained them and then he put it all together for me. We found our 2 inch screws to be too long and ended up recutting a few pieces. We ended up just using screws to assemble the chair without pocket holes. We gave the high chair one coat of dark stain and gave the legs a dipped look with white paint, along with painting the middle back board. It's timeless, modern and the perfect addition to our playroom, dining room, family know, wherever it will get dragged.
It turned out super cute and Kensi was so excited to get it early. It's light weight and it's already getting toted around the house. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

baby on the hip doesn’t stop the dip

Every Monday is our life group night. It's a small group from our church we joined almost two years ago come spring. A few weeks ago our pastor gave each family an envelope of $50 and challenged us to bless someone however we saw fit. Some choose to give it away as a tip, others help specific needs get met like helping pay someone's bills. Our small group decided to bank all our money and match it to spread as much love as we could. After throwing several ideas around we all chose to fulfill angel tree wishes for foster children in our county and make necessity bags for the homeless.
By pooling all our money we were able to bless several people from the Angel tree and purchase quite a few items for our bags. We filled each bag with underwear, socks, gloves, a hat, Chapstick, hand sanitizer, hand warmers, a toiletry kit, granola bars and gift cards. Last night was our night to assemble all our goodies and since it was a night of giving I made a little goodie snack for all of us. 
I’ve been waiting for a good opportunity to try a pretzel recipe I found on Pinterest months ago, but I was a little intimidated because it was a pretzel. I can’t pin point what seems so intimidating other than a really good pretzel seems to have a lot to live up to and I didn’t want to disappoint. On top of trying a new recipe and picking up the house for our group to meet, Finn was a cling on mess. He just needed extra love more than usual and felt the need to be held all. day. long. This made cooking and in particular making pretzels a bit challenging. So with a baby on my hip as I made the dough, kneaded it, somehow flipped it into a bowl, let it rise, rolled the dough into balls and got them in the oven...this recipe turned out good great! My only mishap was with the cheese sauce, instead of adding jalapeño, I added a pinch of cayenne pepper and then I added too much cheese too fast and it became gritty, but come on now....the flavor was there and I was holding Finn the entire time! 
Everyone was surprised by the fun snack and it was loved by all. Yes, I can say loved because all of our friends pinned it later that night. 
I’d call that a success and a good end to a Monday.

Click HERE for the recipe.

a beachy december afternoon

This morning Mike and I woke up and cozied up on the couch with coffee while Kens and Finn chomped on toast and happily played with Legos on the floor. It was such a lazy morning, but we all throroughly enjoyed it. It warmed up quickly so we decided to make a trip to the beach. It still weirds me out that we live in a beach town, but that's just the Midwest girl inside of me.

When we arrived to Wrightsville the temp began to drop and storm clouds began to move in, but it was none the less beautiful. We planned just to walk, but Kens and Finn were so excited to run around and collect seashells. We had a few instances where Mike and I kinda flipped out because Finn had a fistful of sand heading towards his mouth. He is such a crazy little man and always keeps us on our toes.

Speaking of toes, we dipped our feet in the Atlantic chilly water. Although cold, it was still refreshing and crazy because after all it's freaking December!

Friday, December 11, 2015

i will not go into debt

to amp up my Instagram. It's easy for me to get caught up in all the pretty pictures of people's homes. Especially when I'm sitting here looking at my less than perfect, generic house and decor. Mike and I have chosen to take a road far less traveled, a road where we will soon be debt free. We are making our house a home slowly. We have a strict budget that allows us a couple house projects for the entire year and a few small decor updates each month, most that require DIY. If you were to come into our house there are only nooks and corners completed. Everything else is in progress, it seems we have clutter, we just have poor storage. Another job on our to do list. We have barely any art on the walls, no hardware on our cabinets and a stamp for a tv. We will get there, slowly. We take it one little project at a time and sometimes I have to remind myself that it is in fact okay; because it's not worth going into debt to make my Instagrsm photos look pretty. They will get there, soon. Very soon. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

a gingerbread house that was hit by a candy snowstorm

I have never made a gingerbread house in my life. This weekend my mom, Kensi and I attempted to make a gingerbread house....from scratch. If you have been reading my blog for some time now, then you know I like to make a lot of things from scratch. It's a sense of accomplishment I love when something actually turns out well. 
We used the queen of all bakers, Martha Stewart, for a fool proof, to die for, Gingerbread. It's so delicious, we couldn't keep the fridge closed long enough for it to firm up because we kept sneaking bites; we think it’s the black pepper in it that gives it the perfect spice and keeps us coming back for more.
So after letting it sit overnight in the fridge, we cut all the pieces using her template and then some fun extras like mini gingerbread men, trees, stars and reindeer. If you do choose to cut and bake little mini pieces, only bake them for about 9-10 minutes because they brown up fast being so small. 

Martha's royal icing recipe calls for meringue powder. Honestly, I had never heard of it or knew such a thing existed, but you can find it online or at a Michael's or Hobby Lobby store. More than likely if your craft store carries Wilton, they will have it. This made the frosting shiny, firm and so pretty. 

I really wanted my house to turn out well. I’m a perfectionist and I can totally spaz out if I’m overwhelmed when I’m trying to concentrate and I have to admit, I totally did. I spased out on Mike, poor guy; but it was only because my whole house collapsed when I was trying to do too many things at once. However, once I got it back up and standing {btw, Martha’s tip of using water bottles to help hold the pieces up works like a charm} I was good! I got the hang of piping, which turned out to be pretty easy when you’re suing the right tip. My mom and I recommend a #1 tip and a #4 star tip along with some disposable pastry bags for ease of clean up.

We used a lot of different candies for decorating such as coconut, sprinkles, gumdrops, mini m&m's, snow-caps and itty bitty marshmallows {again, Hobby Lobby in the baking aisle}. We had so much fun decorating although I know I’m going to be finding sprinkles all over my floor for next several weeks MONTHS!
Like I said, I have never made a gingerbread house before and it has been many, many years since my mom has made one. We took different approaches to each of our houses. I assembled my whole house first and then added the frosting to the roof and other decorations, whereas my mom frosted her entire roof and then assembled it. Not good. The roof was far too heavy and kept sliding down, making all the walls collapse inward. It was a mess and just ended up like this....
Epic fail. This is the house that literally looks like it was hit by a tornado. But, it still tastes delicious, no doubt about that! Since my mom and Kensi's house was a fail, they made two little ones out of graham crackers. Evidently, Kensi really enjoys landscaping. She has the idea that more is more. The more the merrier! This the season to be merry, so why not?  
We really had a lot of fun creating these sweet houses, even the ones that were hit by the tornado and candy snowstorm! I can see this becoming a tradition and a recipe we'll use again and again. 
Sugar high anyone?!?! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

merry & bright

It's definitely feeling like Christmas at our house and we made sure to kick off the season right away. My mom is visiting all week and we have filled each day with lots of Christmas festivness! 
We spent Saturday evening strolling through the beautiful Airlie Gardens. The air was crisp and cool, the kids were snuggled in the stroller with cozies and the entire garden was speckled with thousands of Christmas lights, it was truly beautiful. 

Each section of the garden was uniquely decorated. Kens and Finn loved walking through a tunnel of trees that danced and shimmered in reds and greens. While my mom was taken aback by gardens filled with individual lit hyacinth flowers.

The whole night became even better when we stumbled upon the snack tent which served local wine, hot cocoa and popcorn to snack on as you floated through the lit gardens. To top it off, Santa was waiting for us at the end! Kensi was so eager and kept practicing what she was going to ask the big man in red: a purple stroller and a high chair. Not to forget Finn would also like a choo choo train. She did so well and spoke so clear, proud mama moment right there. However, Finn had a different experience. So cute. I was dying.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

happy birthday eve finnley michael

Our sweet, handsome, little boy is turning one tomorrow. We can hardly believe how quickly this came and what an incredible little guy he is becoming. 
Finnbar, you are the biggest flirt. Our hearts nearly burst every time you smile because it is so contagious. You never cease to amaze us with your ambition to get into and destroy everything you can get your little hands on. You are our wild child. You love to be silly, scream with excitement and laugh hysterically at your big sis. You love wrestling with daddy and snuggling with mama. You never pass up a chance for snuggles. You love giving high fives and sloppy wet kisses when we least expect it. You love anything with wheels and constantly yell 'vroom vroom' or 'bub' when we sing Slippery Fish. 
We are so in love with you and the person you're becoming. We are so honored and truly blessed that we get to be to be your parents. Our family had no idea what we were missing until we met you. Happy Birthday Eve Love, our sweet little nugget. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

love your melon

Everyone is talking about how they're giving back, whether it's on Tuesdays or everyday leading up to Christmas. There are some really fun ways to give back, but the one I'm sharing today is a campaign. My awesome niece is a nursing student and filled me in on this awesome campaign called Love Your Melon.
It was founded by two college sophomores from St. Thomas University in 2012 whose goal was to raise awareness for childhood cancer and give every child in America who is battling cancer a hat. Since launching, Love Your Melon has given 45,000 hats to children in the United States from their original buy one, give one. In celebration of their accomplishment, Love Your Melon is now partnering with the Pinky Swear Foundation, who directly help and support families and children battling cancer, and the CureSearch to help fund research to end childhood cancer.
This is my beautiful niece sporting her Love Your Melon beanie, isn’t she just adorable? There are so many colors to choose from as well; my favorite is the Aztec Pink and Speckled Salmon for a little bit of girly pop! The hats are so warm, cozy and stylish, perfect for a bundled up day of playing in the snow or just to grab a coffee with your love.
 This is such an awesome mission and I love how it has grown, as over 200 colleges and universities nationwide are involved to promote this campaign in their own cities. When you make your purchase you can choose a campus crew from a participating school to support the cause. If you need a little help I know the students at The University of Nebraska Medical Center would be delighted to have your support.
So this winter when you’re looking to buy yourself a soft, comfy hat to keep your head warm, consider Love Your Melon.  All the products are made here in the U.S. and they’re specifically made to be very soft for the comfort of the cancer patients. Love Your Melon make great Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers, plus you’re giving in two ways and not just one! Let’s spread the love world wide.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

create: tree collar

Over the weekend our Facebook and Instagram feeds blew up with everyone sharing their trimmed Christmas trees. This year we found our tree from a local who has a tree farm just north of us. Our tree is fat and full this year, once it was up I trimmed enough branches to fill a large trash bag, but will use some of it as garland for our mantle and above the kitchen cabinets. 

This year Kensi was able to actually hang ornaments and understand the concept of decorating. I love our tree so much for the mere fact that Kensi decorated one branch with about four ornaments and continuted her strategy throughout the night. There are clusters everywhere and it makes my heart just overflow with joy because she was so proud of her beautiful work. One thing our tree has been lacking since we said 'I do' over six years ago is a tree skirt. We've often just thrown a blanket underneath to cover up the tree stand, but this year was going to be the first year it would be done properly and Mike needed a project! I asked him to copy cat this galvanized tree collar from Crate&Barrel. I adore this tree collar for its modern farmhouse feel and since we've never had a tree skirt we thought it would be a fun, inexpensive and easy DIY. 
To make our tree collar we bought a 15 gallon galvanized bucket to fit over our tree stand from the hardware store. Using our Dremmel, Mike cut the steel bottom out and then used a grinding attachment tool to smooth out the rough edge and it was done! This whole project took less than twenty minutes!
Very easy and inexpensive especially for those on a strict budget, but still seeking some style, even at the base of a Christmas tree! 

Monday, November 30, 2015

stocking stuffer favorites

This year has been so much fun as our kids have learned to play together and we’ve watched their interests and imaginations soar. They are always so silly and laughing with one another it always cracks us up when they get on a case of the uncontrollable giggles! They love playing with our play kitchen and Kensi is constantly pretending she’s running a diner. She grabs a book of some sort and turns it into a menu so one of us can order food. I found this cute diner bell to add to her kitchen and she is going to have a cow! And I'm going to go insane listening to this thing ding all day long. 'Can I take your order please? *ding* Can I have a snack mama? *ding* would you like to play kitchen Finn? *ding*
 Aside from playing diner with kensi, Finn loves things with wheels, stacking blocks and music. Mike found these small speakers on Black Friday for each of their rooms so we can really turn up the volume for our dance parties that tend to take place frequently. 
It’s so much fun playing with our two crazies, they have the best imaginations so their stocking inspiration is based on their love for pretend play.

I just love the fun flamingo chopsticks this year. It’s great for introducing new cultures in the kitchen and easy for kiddos to grasp. Kensi loves eating with chopsticks whenever we grab sushi or takeout and I know she’s going to enjoy having these to choose from in the drawer. A little reminder, there are still a few Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals going on. Head on over to The Land of Nod to snatch up stocking stuffers while they all ship for a flat rate of $4.95. You may also be able to snag a few gifts marked down 20% as well. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

happy thanksgiving

We want to wish all our readers a very Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are. We are so thankful for each of you and for keeping me inspired to write and share our delightfully chaotic life through recipes, projects, DIY's and craziness. Thank you. 

Happy Friday Eve and Happy Holidays! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

thanksgiving sweets, ginger-cider cheesecake

Anyone else get lots of food magazines? I have a select few I love and a few I got free from different products we’ve purchased. My favorite magazines are by far the seasonal holiday editions. I tend to buy a few random ones every year, in fact while I was still hanging out in the hospital with Finn last year, my mom brought me 4 or 5 different ones to help pass the time. 
A couple weeks ago I received the latest Better Homes and Gardens magazine. They featured a story on Kimberly Schlapman from a little country group called Little Big Town, you may have heard of her :) She shared some of her family recipes from her grandmother.....seriously guys those are the best ones to keep! We made her Maw Maw’s biscuits this weekend and they were nothing short of amazing. Another recipe I was dying to try (unfortunately not Kimberly’s) was the Ginger Cider Cheesecake.  After I read the ingredients to Mike {that’s what we do at night, read recipes to each other...that’s normal, right?} he said ‘we HAVE to make that for Thanksgiving!’ I completely agree with him, I would love to have this at Thanksgiving, but it is a new recipe so a backup pie in case this was a disaster needs to be ready to go!

I put everything together this morning and it was super simple! There is lots of ginger in this cheesecake, so if you’re not a fan just cut it back. There’s also a tart cranberry cider glaze that goes on top and it is beautiful. But I’m not sure if Kensi will dig it so it’s being left on the side and we can each drizzle our own on tomorrow. I did sneak a fork-full from the outside just so I could taste the ginger snap crust with the cheesecake and this baby did not disappoint! The gingersnap crust is the perfect pairing for the cheesecake. They compliment each other so well! I promise if you love ginger and cheesecake this will steal the spotlight on the dessert table!
I hope you enjoy, Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Ginger-Cider Cheesecake
Hands On Time: 45 min.
Total Time: 5 hr, 15 min.
30 Gingersnaps (7oz) plus more for topping
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter, melted (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. White Sugar
3 - 8oz packages Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
3 Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Apple Cider
3 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped Candied Ginger
2 Tbsp. grated Fresh Ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For crust, place the 30 gingersnaps in a food processor; process until fine. Add melted butter and the 1 Tbsp. white sugar, process until combined. Press mixture into bottom and 1-1/2 inches up the side of a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.
For filing, in a large bowl beat cream cheese, the remaining 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, and flour with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in cider until just combined. Stir in eggs, candied ginger, and fresh ginger. Pour into crust lined pan. Arrange additional gingersnaps over top. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until edges puff and center is nearly set.
Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Use a knife to loosen cheesecake from sides of pan. Cool 30 minutes more. Remove sides of pan. Col completely. Cover. Chill 3 to 4 hours before serving.
To serve, spoon Cranberry Glaze over cheesecake. Sprinkle with fresh sage leaves, if desired. Makes 12 servings.

Cranberry Glaze
In a small saucepan combine 1 cup apple cider, 1 cup fresh cranberries, and 1/4 cup white sugar. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar, reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, 25 minutes or until syrupy, Cool and serve.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

thanksgiving menu

I'm so pumped for thanksgiving this week. This is the first year I actually feel I have a grip on it because I prepped everything. Starting Monday, I peeled and cut all the potatoes and let them sit in a bath of salted water in the fridge overnight. This morning I boiled them off and assembled everything. The ham and turkey have been thawed and the turkey is cozy in the fridge with a dry brine. All the veggies are chopped and ready to go for the other dishes. I'm such a procrastinator, this is just crazy!
The last two thanksgivings have been duds for us. I don't know what our deal was, maybe it was because we weren't with our AZ fam because we can usually rock it out when we celebrate Thanksgiving together, but everything was just blah. My attempt to fix it for this year started weeks ago and I scraped everything we've done in the past and trying all new recipes. It may sound a bit risky, but I'm confident in what I've chosen for our fam. Here's our menu for tomorrow, we kept it simple and classic.

| Potatoes | Cornbread Dressing | Rosemary Dinner Rolls | Ginger-Cider Cheesecake |

The herb butter is sooooo good. We’re following my sis and brother in law this year for their turkey recipe and they had the bright idea of using this butter for the turkey {rub it under the skin and all the nooks and crannies}. We first had this last Christmas when my brother in law made it and served in on top of steaks. Ridiculous! We’ve added it to mashed potatoes and green beans. It’s so divine it can literally go on anything.

Herb Butter
8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, 1 stick at room temperature
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs; parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and basil
1 Shallot, minced fine as dust
1-1/2 teaspoons Cracked Black Pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar

Place butter in a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or whisk until light and creamy. Beat in the herbs, shallot, cracked pepper and vinegar. 
Place mixed butter onto plastic wrap and roll into a log. Place in refrigerator until firm. Slice and serve.

Once I was done prepping today, Mike came home early. The kiddos were so excited to see him and even more excited our weekend begins tomorrow with daddy. Before the sun went down we all spent some time outside. It was so chilly and called for hats and coats. Finn loves to take his hat off any chance he gets and Kensi loves to by his second mom and put it back on. Such a bunch of goof balls. Love them to pieces!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Eve here....eek! I'm so excited and so thankful!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

the sweetest holiday

I love making, baking and creating especially this time of the year. The sweet warm smell of cinnamon always sends me over and I can't help but indulge in sweets. I'm so excited this year because I love trying and sharing new recipes and projects so why not share them with all of our readers. Get ready for some yummy, scrumptious desserts coming each week from our cozy kitchen to yours, along with fun and easy projects to help make a great Christmas!
Earlier this week Kensi asked to make Christmas cookies, but since I didn't have the dough made yet we agreed to make a decadent chocolate brownie cake. Kensi thought it was pretty cool to make a brownie because she has a plush dog named Brownie. So during the entire time baking she was talking up a storm about how much Brownie was going to love his brownie. The mind of a three year old, I love it! 
So we decided to call this recipe Kensi's Brownie Cake. It's very simple and fool-proof to put together. It has a fudge like texture that's perfect when paired with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream. I really love that the recipe can fit anyone's chocolate preference. If you like it sweeter use a milk chocolate or if you love dark chocolate go for a chocolate that has a higher cocoa content. Personally, we are dark chocolate kind of people so semi sweet chocolate chips works great for our little fam! 

Kensi's Brownie Cake
 1/2 cup Unsalted Buttwr, room temperature 
1 cup White Sugar
2 large Eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/8 teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
5 oz Semisweet Chocolate Chips
Powdered Sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 inch cake pan with foil. Use a pastry brush and lightly butter the foil. 
In an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat until blended. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again until blended. Add the salt and 1/4 cup of flour, beat well. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in two batches, beating after each addition. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is combined. 
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler set over simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool just slightly. Add the chocolate Ito the batter and mix well pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing out the top. 
Bake the cake for 20-25 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack. Once cooled remove cake from pan and dish with powdered sugar. Slice into wedges for serving. 

Wishing everyone a sweet Friday Eve!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

hello thirty

Yesterday I turned 30! I can hardly believe  I kissed my twenties adios last night, but I did it proudly. My dear little family has spoiled me all week long and made yesterday the cherry on top. We spent the morning hitting Dixie for breakfast and doing small little family fun things like riding the train at the mall, hit a few of my favorite local shops, grabbed some delicious sweets and devoured sushi for dinner. Not to mention some how between all that we took Finn to get another haircut and the girl BUTCHERED IT! She cut all her cute bangs straight off! And I mean straight across his forehead. Mike says he looks like Moe from The Three Stooges! SMH. It's so bad, I can only pray for a miracle to happen and make his hair quickly grow out somewhat for his birthday in a few weeks. Luckily, we got this cute pick before the butchering took place. Until then it's getting styled every day. 

Regardless of the awful hair cut, the Hubster surprised me with the sweetest video he made with all my family and close friends sending their birthday wishes from all across the country. Mike wanted me to listen to the video at dinner, but within ten seconds I could feel the tears building and knew there was no way I could control myself so I waited until we got into the car. It blew me away. I was shaking and bawling and laughing. I was so overwhelmed with how much love was being sent to me in that moment. Living away from so many incredible people is so hard to do each day and I often forget how deep that love really is, but last night I was reminded and I'm so thankful. 
So as many cling on to their twenties, I'm dancing into my thirties with so much love, happiness, laughter and hope for I know this decade is going to kick my twenties' ass! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Earlier this year I became super frustrated with my Pinterest boards just trying to fish through all the pins to find some of my favorite recipes. Honestly, a lot of the recipes on Pinterest I have found are either hit or miss and trying to remember if that one recipe was a winner or just flat out sucked was a pain in the neck because I always forgot to delete bad pins. I had the bright idea of creating a made board to put all my favorite tried recipes. It’s helped tremendously especially if the hubster goes to find one, he at least knows exactly where to go. So today I’m sharing a fun fall menu with only recipes from my made board.
I found the chicken skillet recipe awhile ago and finally made it, this is  one of the best chicken dishes we have ever tried, ever. The recipe calls for wine, I didn’t have it and substituted half beer half chicken stock and it was divine. The cauliflower garlic rice is just as amazing and could be a meal all on it’s own, but I love serving a starch with the chicken skillet and this mixes up the normal rice or mashed potatoes. Every meal needs some sort of veggie and we love anything green and roasted. Right now we’re all about roasted broccoli with olive oil, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. This recipe for green beans is delicious, but don’t fret about getting fresh’s not the season for them so head over to your freezer aisle and grab a bag. I like to keep a huge bag from Costco in our freezer and it works every time, my only suggestion is cooking them a little longer since they are going in frozen and don’t thaw them! You’ll have a soppy wet mushy mess!!!! 
Lastly, dessert. Fall screams anything and everything pumpkin, apple or cranberry so for this menu I had to share something that fit. I found this pumpkin cobbler recipe last year and it’s a twist on pumpkin pie. The custard filling is creamy and smooth while the crust brings just a little bit of a crunch. Top it off with a scoop of ice cream or fresh whipped cream and you’ll be heaven. 
Okay, confession time. I was so excited to make this pumpkin cobbler recipe I couldn't wait until dessert tonight so I made it for brunch. Which actually totally worked out because this is so yummy you can serve for breakfast, lunch, dinner or you know that 2 am late night snack. If you’re not a fan of pumpkin, but still want something sweet and easy, check out the Easy Apple Croissants ... another gem. 

Happy Wednesday and Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2015

white is my new black

Over the weekend we filled Finn’s dresser and arranged his room. Mike so badly wants to take Finn’s dresser for our room so we’re now on the hunt for another dresser to flip. I was also able to paint Kensi’s room, something that I’ve been meaning to do since we began transitioning her room into her big girl room about a year and half ago. I don’t know why, but her room is so hard for me to design. I’m not sure if it’s all the little trinkets she likes to hold onto or the layout of her room, but it’s a struggle. 

Back to the paint part, the room was originally Sherwin Williams Functional Gray and I decided to paint her ceiling pink. Once the ceiling was painted if brought out the green in the gray so it had to go. I decided to go light and bright with white. Sherwin Williams Elder White. It definitely brightens up the room and it’s soft enough to still show the trim work. It has made a world of a difference and I’ll working my way into Finn’s room as well and then I’ll head into the master bedroom.  My arms are already sore from just one bedroom, I hate to think about how sore they’re going to be once I’m done. Yikes!

Friday, November 6, 2015

his first masterpiece

We’ve been cooped up in the house literally all week. One car is on the fritz and it’s been raining, so not being able to really drive or go outside has made us all a little crazy. Kensi and Finn have been playing non-stop which is great, but Kensi is really into pretending to fly on an airplane to visit grandmas and grandpas and then we have to go pick people up and fly to Disney World. But it doesn’t stop there, we also pretend we’re going on rides and swim and eat and meet the characters. She seriously has our trip planned down to every small detail once we go. But let me just give you the sprinkle to top off all this awesome pretend play....she insists on having a packed suitcase AND it has to go everywhere with us. The other night once Mike came home from work we ran a couple of errands and the suitcase had to come with US! Of course our dog Stella was flipping out because she thought we were leaving her and all that jazz. But she sure is cute pulling a suitcase behind her wherever we go.

Aside from all our pretend play this week, Finn is just in complete destroy mode. I mean there is a trail of where he has been and I can’t keep up with him. He just goes from one cabinet to a drawer to a basket to Stella’s food to who knows what! So to help calm everyone down for a bit we decided to paint. Finn has not yet experienced paint so we {Kensi and I} thought today would be a good day. And it went really well for about 15 seconds....then he ate the paint and flipped out because of the taste but continued to put his hands covered in more paint in his mouth. It was a 15 second success and a 2 minutes disaster. However, we did get his first little painting masterpiece which was a win for the day! Now I need a glass of wine, or two. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

paint, stain and hardware

It always takes us awhile to get projects done around our house for two reasons: 1) making up my mind and 2) budget. Finn's room still isn't finished mostly because we've been waiting on his dresser. The one we bought in January from a consignment store. If you don’t remember click on the link below the photo to see. The coloring had a lot of orange in it and the hardware was just bad. Once we got it in the garage and sanded/stripped everything away there was beautiful detail work in the drawers and top. It took a few trial runs to figure out exactly what we wanted to do with it once we stripped the whole thing down. We initially wanted to paint it and my parents who love antiques nearly died. Luckily for them, after I painted a couple of the big drawers I didn't like it and neither did Mike, so we went back to stripping. We figured out staining would be the best way to show it’s true beauty and found a beautiful special walnut color. Because we have a round sander it was difficult getting into the corners unless we did it by hand, but it actually left behind this really pretty worn look that we both fell in love with.
Then it was time for hardware. I wanted something modern, but our hardware was two different widths 2.5 and 4 inches. Did you know 4 inch hardware isn't carried in most stores? This threw another wrench into our project. We ended up finding a killer deal on some sleek and simple hardware that brought the whole dresser together. 
Once we hauled it upstairs I could finally put everything together! We still need to paint which will hopefully be a project for this weekend and then we can share his finished room!
Sprinkles On Top © . Design by FCD.