Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cookies! Holiday's Past Cookies! Because I Just Have To Share!

So I know Christmas is over and the New Year is UPON us!   But I really just have a few cookies that were baked over the last few weeks that I haven't been able to share yet, and want to.  Why?  Because they were/are that good and you need to know about them! ; )  Besides that, most of them don't have to be Christmas cookies, they are good for anytime ! 

The first cookie I want you too see/have the recipe for hails from none other than Anna from Cookie Madness.  She made these in November and I fell in love with them.  Okay, maybe it was just lust or puppy love, but I needed to make them.  So I did, for a Christmas cookie exchange December 11.  (I told you I was a little behind!)

Chocolate Caramel Turtle Treasures!  Go to the link to Anna's blog above and get the recipe.  I followed it to a tee.


I used a little "trick" I'd been hearing about for the caramel.  Boil a can of Borden's Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (label removed) in a pot, completely covering the can with water at all times, for four hours.  The milk "magically" turns to an amazing caramel.  See--




If you're a turtle's candy lover, these cookies are for you!  The really nice chocolate cookie dough is rolled in chopped pecans, indented for the caramel crater and baked, then filled with caramel, topped with a whole toasted pecan, and drizzled with melted chocolate.  It's a mouthful to describe and a delicious mouthful to eat!  (Thanks, Anna!--she used melted candy caramels to fill her cookies and it worked great, too.) 




The next thing I made for the Christmas plates that I wanted to share with you were from a recipe I received when I went to a cookie baking class at our local health foods/organic store, The Merc, with my friend, Ellen!  (Hi Ellen!)  What a fun class.  Sit and watch the teacher make yummy cookies, get the recipes, and taste all the cookies!  Right up my alley! ; )  These were my favorite cookies that were  made that night.  She showed us how to make our own caramel by just cooking sugar on the stove until it caramelized.  When it was up to the proper temperature, she added a little butter, a lot of cream and vanilla. 

I didn't do that.  Hello, too much work (although I may do it that way someday)!  I used more of that caramelized sweetened condensed milk I'd made, which by the way was fat free.  (I always buy the fat free kind.)  Here's the recipe, and the homemade caramel, which I'll include for you.  These "bars" are so good and rich, that they really can be cut pretty small, even in to about one inch squares, which is what I did.


Chocolate Caramel Bars (a.k.a. Danger Bars), true source unknown

For dough:

1  1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup quick cooking oats

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1  1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar


6 oz. (about 1 cup) semi sweet chocolate chips (or bittersweet) 

4 oz. walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Sweetened condensed milk homemade caramel (boil 1 can of milk completely covered at all times in large pot of water for four hours, cool before opening can)

Cookie dough:

Combine the flour, oats, baking soda and salt in medium sized bowl.  Whisk together, set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Stir in the dry ingredients just until homogenous and crumbly.  Scoop out one cup of the "crumbles" and set aside.

Butter the sides only of a 9x13 inch baking pan. (I line my pan with foil for easy release!)  Press the remaining crumbs of dough into the pan in an even layer.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. 

Spread the caramel evenly over the cooled crust.  Scatter the walnuts, chocolate and reserved crumbs of dough evenly over the caramel.  Return to the oven and bake until the caramel is bubbling over the entire surface of the bars--about 20 minutes.

Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan.  Use a small sharp knife or metal spatula to separate the bars from the sides of the pan.   Lift from the pan onto a cutting board.  Cut into desired sized bars.  Store in an airtight container with wax paper in between layers.


The condensed milk caramel was perfect with these.  It was soft and gooey and didn't get  more hardened and sticky, but the bars held together well.  These dangerous little bites of heaven were given away as fast as I could get rid of them!

Oh, there were so many other things I did for the holiday baking and some I didn't even photograph!

Paula Deen's Mexican Wedding Cookies are a favorite of mine and I pretty much make them every year.  She makes hers in crescent shapes, I did some flattened and some as snowballs.  They are so "flaky" and tender and nutty.


And lastly, although there's a lot more that went on the plates that I just won't get to, but I have a confession to make.  I love these---


Chocolate and white chocolate covered pretzels (these are Snyder's brand sourdough nugget pretzels).  I made a lot of these!  But the secret is that I always thought it was white chocolate that I liked so much.  I like the white ones better than the chocolate ones.   But I just discovered that it's not white chocolate that I enjoy so much with these, it's those big blocks of vanilla almond bark!  Yep.  I'll admit it.  Those cheap, big blocks of vanilla badness are my weakness here.  So there.  These were so easy to make, obviously just melt the chocolate or almond bark of your choice and dunk whatever pretzels you want in it.  Lift them with a fork out of the chocolate and place them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with holiday sprinkles.  Let harden.   Again, I love my garage sized "freezer" this time of year.  Right outside our door to the garage is a deep freeze that perfectly holds many air tight packaged goodies until they are ready for use.  We've even been keeping gallons of milk out there--it's been that cold!  I do miss that in the summer when there is nowhere to put things to cool.

So, there you have it--just some of the goodies I made this Christmas.  There's more, but a few I've already posted in the past and some will just go unwritten for now.  Stay tuned though, because I baked more stuff today--some yummy, healthy Girl Scout Samoa wannabes and what else, chocolate chip cookies!

Have a wonderful, safe New Year!

TWD--Tall and Creamy Cheesecake!

This week's Tuesday's With Dorie recipe was chosen by Anne of Anne Strawberry.  You can find the recipe for the cheesecake on her yummy, great, cool, fun blog that I've linked above.  It's also in Dorie Greenspan's great book, Baking From My Home To Yours.  Get the book!  You've got to go see Anne's take on this cheesecake!  Yummy!  I made the cheesecake on the 23rd so we could eat it for dessert on Christmas Eve.


I went basically plain.  I don't often make a cheesecake that calls for more than two packages of cream cheese, mostly because then it's getting expensive and I think there are some good cheesecakes out there that only need two packages.  That said, I'm super glad I tried this recipe--that calls for four packages (2 pounds!) of cream cheese.  It's definitely good and a step above my usual cheesecakes. 

I changed a few things, but not much.  I always only buy and use 1/3 less fat cream cheese, so that is what I used for this cheesecake.  The recipe also suggests any combination amounts of sour cream and heavy cream in the amount of 1  1/3 cups.  I used one half plus one third cups of sour cream (also light) and 1/2 cup heavy cream. 

And then the only other thing I didn't do that was part of the recipe is the dreaded water bath.  I just didn't want to bother with it and I knew that many others successfully made their cheesecakes without baking it in a water bath.  I knew it could cause cracks in the cheesecake, but I was okay with that.

Here's my beautiful cheesecake baked and ready to sit in the hot-warm-cooling turned off oven with the door propped open for one hour.  Nice!


It was a little darker on top than I wanted, but I was delighted there were no cracks and it was so tall looking!

I had to run a few errands, so I turned off the oven and instructed Kevin to leave it alone until the timer went off and to carefully remove it from the oven.  He told me during the course of the hour, it began shrinking a little.  Why?  Well, my only guess is because of the water bath, because other than that, I followed Dorie's recipe to a tee.  Others have told me it could be because it got too cool too fast or vise versa.  Who knows?  Well, it made a perfect indentation for my planned canned cherry pie filling (Kevin's favorite topping for cheesecake).


I decided not to put cherries over the whole thing, as I knew we'd be eating it over several days.  So we put the cherries on individual pieces.


Does a water bath also prevent the top from browning?

It doesn't really matter, the cheesecake was good.  Kevin thought it was a little too "sour" from the sour cream, and next time I'd use more cream instead.  And because we all just need a lot more fat in our diets!  Pashaw!

Thanks for the great Tall and Creamy pick this week, Anne!  You can check out all the other baker's cheesecakes, too!  Man, I'll bet there's some good ones out there!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winner, Winner, Winner!

We have picked a winner for my giveaway--the digital kitchen scale and chopping mats!

[DSCF0586[3].jpg]   [DSCF0587[3].jpg] 

We had a lot of fun picking the winner.  I thought it would be neat to involve all the guys here at our house.  We put each of the names of those who left comments telling me their middle names in a bowl and each of the four boys picked a name.  Then we put those four names in a bowl and Kevin picked the winner from the four names.





We were able to get Sam to narrow it down to one pick.

Then we took the four names the boys had picked and put them in a bowl and let Kevin pick the winner from the four chosen.


You know, Kevin always mentions how the only pictures of him on this blog are of him being or looking silly, well folks, look what I have to deal with! ; )

Okay, and the winner is................................



Anonymous Susan Brown said...

My middle name used to be Lynn, but when I got married I changed it to my maiden name, Mullins.
Love your website!
Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2008 10:57 AM


CONGRATULATIONS, SUSAN BROWN!  Please email me at kevnkoi at hotmail dot com as soon as possible with your mailing information and I'll get those prizes sent off to you, probably Monday!  If I don't hear from you by Monday morning, I'll go ahead and pick another name.

You will be so happy with the digital scale, I use mine everyday!  And have been chopping things like crazy on my new mats.  ENJOY and Congratulations!

This was a lot of fun and I enjoyed seeing everyone's middle names!  Thanks for playing.  My one year "blogaversary" is coming up in February, so stay tuned!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas To All! (Be Sure To Check Out My Giveaway Below Before the Deadline!) Recipe for Spinach/Artichoke Dip

How cute is this?

DSCF0818 DSCF0819 DSCF0822

Me Want Cookies!

I told Kevin I want to start collecting cookie jars and here's the first one he picked out for me for Christmas!  How cute and fun!  If he gets me one or two more, I'll need a nice cabinet/hutch to put them in to display!

Back up to Christmas Eve.  We had Bob and Tes and Beka Woolery over for a simple dinner with Honeybaked ham, and lots of finger foods.  I made spinach/artichoke dip (love that stuff).  Made up a recipe for it and it turned out so good.  Here's how I made it:

Spinach/Artichoke Dip

7 oz. (or 8--1 pkg., I just had 7) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, room temperature

9 oz. bag fresh spinach

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup light mayo

3 cloves garlic, minced (I use a garlic press)

4 shakes of Tabasco (or to taste)

1 can artichoke hearts

1/4 cup Kraft 2% milk shredded mozzarella cheese and more for top

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated and more for top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Saute two cloves of garlic in the olive oil for about 30 seconds in a large skillet, add the whole bag of spinach and wilt it down for a few minutes.   Add the spinach and can of artichokes to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse it four times to break up the spinach and artichokes.  Add the cream cheese, sour cream, mayo and one clove of garlic to the food processor and pulse again until ingredients are combined.  Add the mozzarella, parmesan and Tabasco and pulse briefly one or two times.  Add all the creamed mixture to the baking dish and spread evenly.  Sprinkle extra cheese on top.   Bake for 20-30 minutes until top is golden and cheese is bubbly.  Serve with crackers.


I love this stuff!

Anyway, we had dinner and dessert (see that on my next TWD) and cleaned up so we could make our gingerbread trains.  For the last 4 years or so, we have made it a tradition to do gingerbread houses on Christmas Eve.  I usually make the gingerbread (slaving away cutting enough pieces for 4-5 houses, small ones) and then I make about a quadruple batch of royal icing and each adult helps a kid.  Works great, but this year I found gingerbread train kits to assemble and decorate and despite the not-so-greatest icing it came with and a few challenges getting the engines to hold up and such, we had a great time with these and I loved that it was so much less work for me!

Bob and Kevin both helped Taylor with his train, Tes helped Parker and I helped Scott.  Thanks to Beka for keeping Sam entertained also!

Random pictures of the evening--


Somebody was snitching icing and had green teeth to prove it!  ; )





Yes, Taylor has a black eye.  We're not going to talk about his big brother's foot to the eye!





Sam was having a ball dancing with Beka to music on the piano (it's digital and plays lots of music).


Blurry, but SO CUTE and happy!


Taylor's train.


Parker's train.  His train was really having a hard time staying up, but with LOTS of green icing, we got it to stay.  The trains are solid today!


Scott's train.


Choo-choo!  All aboard!


And how was your Christmas?!  Ours has been nice and relaxing and fun.  (If I leave out the part about removing all the toys and games from their boxes where they are twisty wired in so good and tight that we're surprised the kids are playing with anything.)  The boys (Scott and Parker, especially) are so excited about the new Wii and Guitar Hero.  We really didn't want to get them this, they already have Game Cube and it drives me nuts with all the fighting and such, but what are ya supposed to do when that is the only thing on their wish list?  (Besides that, I think Kevin really wanted Guitar Hero!)

We have thought this whole year that Parker (only 7) no longer believes in you-know-who.  Because Scott has spoiled it for him and told the truth, but then out of the blue two days ago Parker was talking like he DOES believe.  I have been telling them when they ask often about the truth that if they don't think "he's" real, then he won't come.  So on the 23rd (two days ago!) Parker wrote this cute letter to Santa.


Out of nowhere.  He's never even really mentioned wanting a dog before.  I explained to him that he cannot ask Santa for something at the last minute like that.  Kevin does not like dogs, at all.  I have tried to explain to him that someday we just might have to get the boys a dog.  Cute, little ones are okay with me, but I know they are a lot of work, and I'd rather wait until Sam is a little older.  So Parker decided to stick with his desire for Wii.

Kevin and I worked hard Christmas Eve, not going to bed until 12:30 a.m. (Gotta stop saving ALL present wrapping until the night before!)  Sam woke up at 5:30 and I could not get back to sleep after that.  Our friends, Bob and Tes, were coming over at 7 a.m. as they always like watching the kids open their presents.  We woke up the boys at 7:00 and had them all wait and take turns entering the "Christmas" room (our dining room with no dining table, but a piano and the tree).  Taylor was SO excited to see a big box with the Playmobil Pirate Ship for him and Scott and Parker nearly fell into the tree running to the Wii and Guitar Hero sitting in front of everything.  It took Sam a minute to figure out what was going on, but he was instantly drawn to the toy workbench he'd gotten (I knew he'd like it, he was with me when he helped pick it out!--love it when they're clueless!)  He ran over to the bench and was all over it.   After all the mass confusion, we passed out all the presents and opened them one by one, youngest to oldest.  Some of the orderliness did not sit well with Sam, but we got through it.  Because the Wii and Guitar Hero cost so much, the boys didn't really get much else.  I'd bought a bunch of board games and such and they each opened about three other gifts.

Great quote of the day, by Parker while they were right in the excitement of seeing that Santa had brought them Wii and Guitar Hero,  "So Scott, do you believe in Santa now?!!"

I'm just going to post more random pictures now.


Didn't get a very good picture of the tree as the only lights on before everyone got up were the tree lights.  Love the ornament bareness at the bottom of the tree, of course, Sam wouldn't leave stuff alone over these last few weeks and would often bring me a broken ornament!  I also usually put red bows on the tree, but didn't this year.




I literally woke Sam up, carried him out and he was quite groggy, but he instantly saw his toy and got over to it as fast as he could.

I didn't get a good picture of the boys rejoicing over the Wii.


Santa brought Sam a work bench and a power saw with lots of tools, he seems to love them.  Bob and Tes also got him a cool kid's measuring tape.



Bob and Tes gave Parker this really cool ATM machine bank that is programmed so only Parker can get in it and has a credit card for it and can really put his money in it to save money.  (May be safer than a real bank!)



A cool Jayhawk clock for Kevin's office from Bob and Tes.  Thanks B & T for all the gifts!



Love this next one!  Taylor was opening it.


Got it!




Sam got tired of going one by one and waiting his turn and just started opening his new Sit and Spin.




Taylor loves this kind of imaginative play type of stuff.  It's a pet carrying case with a little dog in it and all kinds of vet doctor tools. 


Kevin loves the game RISK, this kind of game bores me to tears, but Scott also likes this kind of game.  They already played one game of it today, it took about two hours......zzzzz................


Let's not get too close up on this one!  Thanks for the great frog cookie jar, Kev!  (And for the new laptop you bought me a few weeks ago for my early Christmas present!)




Measuring things.




T & T sticker bookin' it.


Putting together the @&%$#% Playmobil pirate ship.  It says on the box that assembly should take about 1 1/2 hours, I think it took about 3!  I didn't take a picture of it all put together, but it IS pretty cool.  Taylor loves it.


I'll have to try to get some pictures of Scott and Parker playing Guitar Hero and Wii.  I never made it downstairs with the camera to do so.  Kevin said later today that the Guitar Hero is really hard and that even Parker is really good and keeps doing better than him.  Not sure he'll stand for that for too long! ; )

Fat and sassy and happy.  Christmas was here and now it's gone.  Just need to remember to take a moment or two to reflect its true meaning, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  On Christmas eve, we often "reinact" the nativity, but this year we watched a short video presentation of it.  Happy Birthday, Jesus and Thank You for all you did for us, we try to live by Your example!

Merry Christmas, All, and if you didn't see my last post, you have until Friday, Dec. 26, midnight to leave me a comment on my last post to enter to win my giveaway prizes, an awesome digital kitchen scale and some chopping mats!