Tag Archives: baking

20. Get Into The Christmas Spirit

20 Dec

Well, with only 5 days until Christmas morning, hopefully we’re all in the “Christmas Spirit” already. But if you’re not, don’t fret…sometimes its difficult if you’re still working or in school this week. Being busy seriously throws a crimp into the excitement of Christmas, but it doesn’t have to! How about trying one of these things each day leading up to Christmas Day:

1. Make a Gingerbread House – This is a simple way to get excited for the upcoming holiday. If you want to make it more fun, why not have a decorating competition where you make gingerbread houses as an individual or as a team, and then have someone judge them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Watch a Christmas movie every night leading up to Christmas Day – This is never a bad idea…hey, I started watching Christmas movies back in November! :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Bake Cookies – Cut out sugar cookie dough with cookie cutters, bake, and then frost and decorate them…this tradition has been in my family forever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Ride Around to Look at Christmas Lights – This is usually a lot of fun…its always neat to see the creative ways that people decorate for Christmas. Some houses even do lights coordinated with music!

 

 

5. Christmas Exhibits/Events – Busch Gardens now does “ChristmasTown“, there are all kinds of Christmas decoration exhibits at museums and such, live nativity scenes, Christmas concerts etc…the list goes on :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-xoxo

13. Holiday Baking: Gingerbread

13 Dec

Gingerbread just screams “Christmas” to me…it comes in so many forms: cookies, cakes, Gingerbread houses, ornaments, etc. One way or the other, you probably encounter some form of Gingerbread during the holidays! Here are some ways to incorporate it into your holiday season:

1. Gingerbread House, $9.99 at World Market…shameless plug for the ‘Market, since my Dad works in the corp. division ;) I love making Gingerbread houses during Christmas…its your chance to showcase your talent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. “Gingerbread” Ornaments – Very easy to make…here is a recipe and directions for how to make these!

 

An example of what it looks like when ready!

 

 

3. Colonial Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies – Recipe can be found here. This recipe is excellent!

 

Its currently “blizzarding” at my house, which is really rare for this area (especially before Christmas!)…this is our second snow before Christmas, in fact. I LOVE it. It reminds me of the good ol’ days in the ‘Burg, where we got snow every single day it felt like. Except, I like it a whole lot more here than I did there, because HERE the whole place shuts down if it snows. There, life goes on…you have to go out in the snow…haha ;)

-xoxo

11. Holiday Baking: Christmas Cookies!

11 Dec

Saturday was “Christmas Cookie” baking day at my house…and it literally took all day (plus some extra time on Sunday!). I thought I’d list the cookies (and the recipes, if possible!) for the cookies that I made :)

1. Chocolate Chip Cookies – I talked about these in this post!

2. Gingerbread Cookies – Actually used a Betty Crocker boxed mix for these, and used cookie cutters to cut them out!

3. Sugar Cookies – Used Pillsbury refrigerated dough, and used cookie cutters to cut them out and then frost them!

4. White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Cranberry Dreams – Recipe can be found here. These are excellent!

5. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – Used a Domino Sugar recipe found here.

6. Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Crackers – Sooo good! Very easy…here’s a recipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Butterscotch Haystacks – These are always a hit! Here’s a recipe. There are also MANY variations of these!

8. Eggnog Caramels – I used Allie’s recipe found here. These are SO good. Especially dipped in chocolate!

9. Christmas M&M Cookies – Used the same recipe as for Chocolate Chip Cookies, but used Christmas M&Ms instead of chocolate chips!

10. Peppermint Bark – I just took melted White Chocolate & Chocolate and added crushed candy canes. Let harden, then crack it into small pieces (similar to peanut brittle)! Very easy! Here’s a recipe from Paula Deen just in case!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope these ideas are helpful…Happy Baking! ;)

-xoxo

3. Holiday Baking: Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 Dec

My trademark recipe has been Chocolate Chip Cookies ever since I was a teenager. I used to get requests for me to bring them to high school holiday parties, and still get requests to bring them to birthday parties, potlucks, family gatherings, etc. My secret is not really that much of a secret: I follow the Toll House recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I add one small ingredient to mine (that actually adds significant flavor!). Here’s the recipe, along with my “secret” ingredient:

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I actually don’t put the nuts in mine, but they’re good either way!)
  • MY SECRET INGREDIENT: Cinnamon…It really makes a difference! Add 1tsp. or so…I usually don’t measure mine out, I just eyeball it. But if you’re not a cinnamon fan, don’t overdo it!

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 375° F. 

COMBINE flour, baking soda, CINNAMON, and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts (optional). Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

SLICE AND BAKE COOKIE VARIATION:
PREPARE
dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.

Even though I didn’t invent the recipe, my adaptation makes a difference for some reason, and everyone LOVES these cookies. It may be because I go overboard with the chocolate chips sometimes, too….haha :) Enjoy!
-xoxo

Adventures of the Week ;)

10 May

Wow the past week or so has been pretty busy. Wednesday was the last day of classes, so Thursday I decided to have some fun :) After I went to the gym for a nice run, the boy and I drove out on the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit an awesome winery. I’ve been there before, but unfortunately wasn’t 21, so I couldn’t do a wine tasting. So I was pumped this time around…I love this winery…their wine is amazing. The lady who did our wine tasting was ahem, very generous with the sampling…needless to say I was sufficiently tipsy at the end of that. Ha ha. Then we took a short tour of the winery, which is really cool. I think Thursday was by far the prettiest day I’ve seen this year, so we drove on the Parkway for a while and stopped at different overlooks to see the gorgeous mountains. I will say this part of the state is so pretty in the summer :)

Friday, I spent the day studying for my 7:45am Saturday exam and took a gym break in the afternoon. I studied until way too late Friday night and got maybe 5 hours of sleep before I had to take my exam. So glad that’s over with! I had plans to go to Hot Yoga on Saturday morning after my exam, so I stopped at Starbucks for coffee to kill some time before I went to the studio. It was a perfect day for yoga…I’ve had a pretty intense workout week, so it was nice to stretch and sweat out toxins. Saturday afternoon, we decided to hike to a local waterfall…its so pretty. I went once my freshman year of college during the Fall, so it was nice to go back in late Spring and see how pretty it is :) It was an awesome 4-mile hike, and we took our time and just enjoyed the day. Its almost like I’m on vacation…even though I still have one more exam to go!

Sunday we stayed in and I cleaned up and did laundry…the necessities. I guess not every day can be a vacation day ;) I got in a nice 7-miler, especially since the weather was SO great yesterday. Then, we spent the evening watching movies. And I was avoiding studying, of course.

Today, well, I had plans to “study” for my essay exam tomorrow morning at 7:45m…what is up with my exams being so early?! I haven’t gotten around to studying…yet. But I was being domestic and made a healthy (cake mix + egg whites + applesauce) cake for the boy…and cleaned the kitchen…and now I am about to go to the gym. Nothing like procrastinating. Oh and did I mention One Tree Hill comes on tonight??? Studying looks like a no-go. Kidding. I do need to at least review the material…just severely lacking motivation nowadays…especially since I graduate in FOUR days ;)

-xoxo

Holidays, here and gone…

28 Dec

Christmas always seems to get here so quickly and end so quickly…but regardless, it was really nice :) I stayed super busy all last week…last minute shopping, wrapping presents, painting my wine glasses, baking cookies, and going to holiday parties. Saw some old HS friends last Monday, which was nice. Reallllly pushed it with last minute shopping on Tuesday, but I got my mom a really pretty Dooney & Bourke bag! Wednesday, I finished the wine glasses that I had been painting in UVA & VT colors. They turned out really good! On Christmas Eve, we went to church for the annual candlelight service and then my dad bought us coffee and we drove around and saw pretty Christmas lights…and baked up a storm when I got home that night, too!

Christmas morning, I went to my boyfriend’s family for breakfast and opening presents with them. It was really nice and everyone got nice gifts :) Afterwards, my boyfriend went back to my house with me to open presents with my family…it was still only 10am at this point. Soooo early! Saw my neighbors for a few minutes and then we watched the Christmas parade on TV and opened our gifts. I got lots of running things, which is basically all I asked for. I got the iFitness belt which “Chic Runner” Danica reviews here. It’s really great and I highly recommend it for runners! I think everyone in my family knew all I wanted was running things, because I got a lot of nice running gear from all my family members. Can’t wait until its cold(er) here so I can use some of the things!

Even though Christmas is over, the parties are obviously not. Last night, I went with my boyfriend to another of his family’s parties, and we have my dad’s family party here on Sunday…so its like Christmas/New Years party in one! Speaking of New Years, I can hardly wait to watch the Chic-Fil-A Bowl game…really want to see my Hokies beat Tennessee! So no matter what the NYE plans are, I will be somewhere there is a TV with the big game on it!!!

-xoxo

Winter Wonderland :)

21 Dec

It’s soooo nice to say that the semester is completely over with! And I just found out I have a 3.8 GPA, which means Dean’s List AND the fact that I’ve never had a GPA that high in college is just exciting! I have truly been discouraged by grades in college up until this semester, as I came from high school were I had a 4.3 GPA to barely making a 3.0 each semester. But now I beat my goal :) Just means I have to keep that up for my next & LAST semester in college!!!

The holiday parties started this past weekend, as I went to my boyfriend’s sister’s Annual Christmas party on Friday. It was a great time and got to spend time with some of my favorites :) Saturday, I went shopping with my Mama…we’re sooo behind on shopping, and still have a little to do! The day was perfect…not to mention, we even got a dusting of snow…even though the rest of VA got like two FEET of snow. But hey, you take what you can get! Sunday, my family went to Greenville, NC to my aunt’s house for our annual Christmas party with my Mama’s fam. It was really nice and it’s always fun spending time with family & friends.

I can hardly believe that Christmas is in 4 more days! This month has gone by so quickly, and I feel like there is still so much to do! Today has already been productive, though…I have started painting the wine glasses for my fav Hokies & Wahoo fans and they’re turning out great! I also baked three batches of sugar cookies…now we get to frost them…my favorite part :) Still have a lot of baking to do, but I’m about to get in a good, long run since its a nice 45 degrees…perfect running weather. Need to get back on the marathon training plan…I’ve been doing a lot of cross-training (Spinning, elliptical,etc.) because my right Quad has been hurting. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it a long ways today…need to get ready and go since today is the shortest day of the year!

-xoxo

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas ;)

12 Dec

My dad and I went to pick out a fresh Christmas tree Thursday night to put in the formal dining room, which really makes the house smell Christmassy (is that a word?)! Of course, my boyfriend proceeded to tell me that my family is crazy because we have…well, more than one Christmas tree in our house. Since when is that crazy? All my life I’ve grown up hoping to have Christmases like the ones portrayed in Southern Living, and decorating every room of the house just makes the holidays that much more exciting to me. So…there are actually two big Christmas trees: one in the family room and one in the dining room, which happens to be a gorgeous view to people walking in the front door! And there are two small trees upstairs, as well as one on each side of the front door. Sooo that makes 6? Okay. I don’t consider that too crazy, it’s just…festive :) Christmas just happens to be my favorite holiday, so I get a little carried away at being creative!  In fact, I have the “brilliant” idea to etch the official VT and UVA symbols into wine glasses and beer mugs for some of my favorite people ;) The glass etching kit is available at Michael’s which can be found here, and you can buy plain wine/beer glasses anywhere. I have seen them at Garden Ridge and Walmart, and I’m sure Michael’s has those too. My only issue is finding a way to cut the VT and UVA symbols into a stencil without screwing it up! I wish you could buy die cuts with the official symbols but I have yet to see those! We’ll see….that’s my plan for the next week, along with baking lots of cookies :)

-xoxo

The end is in sight :)

8 Dec

As I was driving to Norfolk on Monday for classes, I realized that it was the last Monday morning I’ll drive to ODU for classes. It’s bittersweet actually. I started out the semester out of my comfort zone, commuting to a new university, away from my home of Virginia Tech. It was very different. For one, living at home. And driving 45 minutes to class (on a GOOD day with no traffic…however, it was more like 60 minutes when there was traffic). But regardless, I believe I grew up a lot this semester. I treated school more like a career, rather than dragging myself to class just because. I truly enjoyed every one of my classes, and I feel like my professors were so knowledgeable and personable, much more so than professors I had while at Tech. Granted, I still know many Tech professors who are excellent people. While it was always supposed to be for only one semester, I would probably have considered staying at ODU if it were not for me graduating early from Tech in May 2010. I knew that if I remained at ODU, I would have to go to school for one more year in order to complete all of their “core classes” before graduating. So, I will be back at Tech in the Spring…hopefully it will be a good semester and I’ll be able to fully enjoy my last few months in Blacksburg!

So I’m nearing the end of my ODU career, and I truly believe that it was one of my favorite semesters of college, if not the favorite. My grades have reflected how much I enjoyed all of my classes, as well as how focused I was during the semester. Okay, okay…I know most of my friends think that I enjoyed ODU because my boyfriend also attends there, but actually we did not see each other that often around school. Okay, maybe once or twice a day…haha. Yes, I was very blessed to be able to see him on a regular basis, unlike last year being at Tech. We only saw each other a few weekends during the semesters, and it was a challenging long-distance relationship. However, we  learned that it is possible and it makes each time we’re together that much more special! Now, just one more semester apart…then summer…and then probably even FARTHER apart while I’m in law school…but it’s going to be fine :)

Now…Christmas is almost hereeeee! :) That is enough to make my life seem perfect right about now, even with all the papers I’ve been writing lately. I think I’ll be sooo tired of my laptop by the time this semester ends! On Sunday, I went with my family and my boyfriend to Williamsburg, VA for the Grand Illumination. It is a tradition in my family, and its such a wonderful night to get everyone in the Christmas spirit! First off, I am a sucker for colonial history, and since we live nearby Williamburg, I’ve been there more times than I can count. By the way, they have AWESOME outlet stores if you’re ever in the area! :) Anyways, the Grand Illumination is so great and its old-fashioned, so you get to enjoy the hot cider, fresh gingerbread, and the warm fires burning in front of the historic buildings. All at once, the “lighting” of the town occurs, which is basically candles that are lit in all the windows downtown. Right after, there is a magnificent fireworks show that is better than any other I’ve seen. They have some of the most unique fireworks, too. This year did not disappoint, either. The weather was perfect and just cold enough…it felt like the holidays were finally upon us! People were walking around singing Christmas carols, and had it not been for the abundance of cell phones attached to people’s ears(!), it would have seemed like we were living in the past. I highly recommend making a trip to see it next year! :)

Speaking of Christmas…I’ve done NO shopping!!! I feel like December is already going by so quickly, and I’m still sitting home doing work pretty much all the time. Ahhh…just til Friday. Have to keep reminding myself! I cannot wait until the holiday parties begin…two of them are only a week and a half away, so that’s exciting! Shopping and cookie-baking are definitely in order very soon…can’t wait! :)

-xoxo