Oh my, so many things to tell! And oh, so little time. Deep breath. Okay.
A bunch of lady friends and I got together (it's a yearly tradition here) and we had a "white elephant" Christmas ornament exchange party. It's so fun every year to see all the Christmas ornaments everyone picks out and to see which you'll end up with. We take turns picking a wrapped gift (ornament) to open and going around the room, at which time each person can decide to either pick another gift or steal from someone who has already opened one if they really want that ornament. There are always so many neat, fun, festive ornaments. After one has been "stolen" two times, it cannot be taken again. We have a great time with that and then what else, lots of chatting and FOOD! This one seems to have been "the star of the show", and I'm just talking about the things I made. Lots of other gals made some yummy stuff, too--my kind of stuff-like veggies and dips and fresh fruit and Chex Muddy Buddies! Yum! There was a lot of food and it was ALL good! I forgot to photograph the spinach/artichoke dip I made, but stay tuned for the recipe! It was SO easy to make. Bliss, back to bliss!
Cranberry Bliss Bars
I got the recipe for these from none other than my baking blogger pal, Anna at Cookie Madness. She made them a month or two ago and I always thought they looked great and kept them in the back of my mind for a time when I thought they'd be great. While for some reason, I felt like there was something missing, like a nut or something, everyone else thought they were GREAT! Anna mentioned that this is a clone that has been going around for a bar cookie sold at Starbucks. Here is the recipe as I made them, but you can get Anna's and see hers here. I made them almost exactly as Anna, but used a 15x10 baking sheet and I think she used a 9x13, so I ended up doubling the frosting and toppings. My recipe below already has the amounts doubled.
Cranberry Bliss Bars
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or orange extract--which would really be good)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
6 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat)
4 tablespoons butter, softened
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or orange extract)
2/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
2-3 tablespoons grated orange rind (add to the cranberries when chopping)
2/3 cup (4 oz.) white chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate (I used Baker's white chocolate)
1 teaspoon canola oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 15x10 inch baking sheet with parchment paper or No-Stick foil (love this stuff!).
Beat together butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla (or orange extract) and beat until combined. Add the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt and mix just until combined. Stir in the cranberries and white chips. Do not over mix.
Spread batter in prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. (Mine only took 15, Anna suggests 23-24 min. for the 15x10, so start checking after 15 minutes with a toothpick inserted in the center. It should come out mostly clean.) Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add vanilla (or orange) and powdered sugar and beat until frosting is fluffy. You may want to add a teaspoon or two of milk if you'd like. I did! Spread evenly over cooled bars.
Topping: Use a zester to remove the outer orange from the rind of an orange. Chop the dried cranberries coarsely. Sprinkle the cranberry/orange zest over the frosted bars.
For the final topping, melt the while chocolate and oil in 20 second increments in a microwave safe bowl. Put a plastic sandwich bag inside a small glass and open it up. Pour the melted chocolate in the bag, let all the extra air out of the bag and zip it up. Snip a tiny hole in one corner of the bag and drizzle the chocolate over the bars. To remove the bars from the pan, pick it up the by the overhung edges of parchment or foil and set them on a cutting board. I like this method much better than cutting the bars in the pan, but either works.
I did really like the added orange flavor to the bars and would probably try them next time with orange extract instead of vanilla. Obviously the bars aren't as thick making them in a 15x10 pan as they would be in a 9x13, but it works great for a crowd!
I also made some yummy (who could resist these!) Peanut Butter Crunch Balls. I found the recipe for these at Jenn's Baking Chamber. Man, she makes some yummy looking stuff! These were quick and easy and de-licious, especially if you are a peanut butter/chocolate lover! I made these exactly as her recipe stated. The recipe made about 50 balls. I covered about 3 dozen in chocolate and threw the rest in the freezer for another time.
Peanut Butter Crunch Balls
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 tablespoons peanut butter (your choice)
2 cups crispy rice cereal
1 cup peanut butter chips
2 cups (1 package) milk chocolate chips (you can use semi-sweet, too, but I like milk chocolate with peanut butter the best)
Melt butter in medium sized saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and peanut butter and continue melting stirring constantly until melted and well combined. Remove from heat and add crispy rice cereal and stir until mixed together completely. Add peanut butter chips and stir until melted in and mixed together. Form balls (whatever size you want, but I did them fairly small-about 1 teaspoon and set them on wax paper on a baking sheet. Your hands will get pretty greasy--but it's fun! I then put the balls in a very cold place (our garage sizes "refrigerator"--gotta love winter for that reason!) You could refrigerate them or even freeze them, or also coat them in chocolate immediately.
Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe dish in 20 second increments. Roll each ball in chocolate and set on wax paper. Cool in refrigerator or garage! ;)
Next I made a quick palate cleansing peppermint bark. So simple and minty and Christmas-y! I got the recipe for this from The Hungry Housewife. Leslie is yet another great blogger, baker/cook and beautiful lady who makes me laugh when she posts things on her blog. I halved her recipe and well, made a little boo-boo, but you'd never know it. Her pictures of her bark are much better than mine, but it tastes divine! I will post the recipe as I made it, but when you're done with my blog, click on the link to Leslie's and check out her bark and her BLOG!
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons whipping cream--(I forgot to add the cream and wanted to make this recipe because I had this exact amount to use up--oops!)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 oz. peppermint candies (I used red/wht/green mini candy canes, broken up) *See note.
Melt semi-sweet chocolate in glass bowl in microwave in 20 second intervals. Stir until smooth (here's where you could/would also add the cream and the mint extract, I forgot and added the mint to the white chocolate and completely forgot the cream). Pour melted chocolate on foil lined baking sheet and spread to about 10x6 layer. Set in fridge (or cold garage on top of the deep freeze!) to harden. In the meantime, melt white chocolate the same way. Add mint extract. Stir until smooth. Pour the white chocolate over the hardened chocolate and smooth out to edges. Sprinkle with candy mints. Set back in cooler to harden.
*I beat the candy to a pulp (in a plastic sandwich bag) with a rolling pin, so much so that there was a lot of minty/sugary powder, so I added that (having strained it through a fine strainer) to the melted white chocolate so it wasn't wasted. It added a little extra crunch and color and was yummy!
We're not done yet! Last (for today), but not least. I totally made this one up. Feel pretty good about that, as I don't often just make up a recipe and really wasn't sure this was even going to work, but it did and it's good! Strawberry Oreo Fudge! What? Yes, I concocted some "fudge" using strawberry flavored marshmallows, white chocolate and a container of strawberry frosting! Really, I thought of this because I found the container of frosting (Pillsbury!) in our food storage and it was about to pass its expiration date, so I wanted to use it up. I'm not sure why I bought it--we just aren't cake and frosting people here, but for some reason I bought it about a year ago and it sat in the storage for that long. (Sometimes when cake mixes and frosting are really on sale, I buy a bunch!)
Strawberry Oreo Fudge--I thought it was interesting that everything I used in this was a name brand item!
1--10 oz. container Pillsbury strawberry frosting
6 oz. Kraft strawberry marshmallows
6 oz. Hershey's Cookies N Creme Kisses, chopped up
4 oz. mini Oreos, cut in half
8 oz. 365 Degrees Brand White Chocolate Chips (You could just use 14 oz. white chocolate if you can't find the Cookies N Creme Kisses)
2 oz. Hershey's Bliss Dark Chocolates, unwrapped (duh!) and chopped, melted
Melt mallows, kisses and white chocolate in large glass bowl in microwave in 30 second intervals. When melted together and smooth, add the frosting and microwave another 30 seconds and mix together well. Add chopped Oreos and stir carefully. Pour and spread evenly in a no-stick foil or regular foil sprayed lightly with cooking spray) lined 9x9 baking pan. Let harden--that cold garage, I'm telling you, it's the best!
Cut into squares, but I used a cute little candy cane cookie cutter and drizzled them with 2 oz. of melted chocolate.
The Oreos were a great addition to the strawberry flavor. Though Kevin doesn't even like traditional chocolate fudge and thought just hearing the words strawberry fudge was going to make him sick (I know HE'S the sick one!), a lot of people really liked this, including me. Had to stay away from it, so not to keep eating them! Try it sometime!
Oh, you'd think that'd be enough, but noooo...there's more. Stay tuned for the Tuesday's With Dorie addition to this goody feast---cute, iced and decorated sugar cookies! See ya'll Tuesday!
Did you ever see a cuter little booty in too big 'a pants?
He was just a jammin' away on the little piano. Until he heard the click of the camera and had to turn around for a pose. Stay tuned, the hair is going to get cut. ;(
Really, it's time, but I will be SO sad!
Love the morning bed head!
And one more booty shot, I can't resist! And oh, if we gals could have curls like that! ; )
And that's a wrap folks.