Sunday, December 30, 2007

Costa Rica!

Christmas in Costa Rica - a very good thing.

view from our infinity pool

rest of our villa

Dave and I on the canopy tour

Pretty sunset

Another gorgeous sunset

Dave and I drinking (him a fruity mango daiquiri and me a local beer) at a restaurant in Playa Flamingo

Some more I just got from Lyssa:

being dramatic after an exhausting diving day

Thursday, December 20, 2007

fun with flour(+ butter, sugar, chocolate, etc)

Holiday baking time has arrived. I tried 4 new recipes and all are really great. Dave's favorite were the peanut butter cookies, my boss loved the chocolate peppermint, and mine may have been the ginger. Pics and recipes all below!

Cranberry-Walnut Swirls

Originally From Southern Living
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (I use butter)
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup ground walnuts (I used pecans)
1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beating until blended. Gradually add flour, baking powder, and salt, beating until blended. Cover and chill 1 hour.
Combine cranberries, walnuts, and orange rind.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 10-inch square. Sprinkle with cranberry mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border on 2 opposite sides.
Roll up dough, jellyroll fashion, beginning at a bordered side. Cover and freeze 8 hours. (I just stored in fridge overnight)
Cut roll into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place slices on lightly greased baking sheets.
Bake on top oven rack at 375° for 14 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Freeze up to 1 month, if desired.
Yield = Makes 3 dozen

Ginger, Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Peppermint Cookies: all 3 recipes found on Baking Blonde's blog(which is great!)

Ginger Cookies: from Baking Blonde
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened (I used butter)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Peanut Butter Cookies: on Baking Blonde
1 3/4 cups plus 2 TBS flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups natural creamy peanut butter, (make sure to stir it to combine the oil and solid mixture)
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 TBS unsalted butter, room temperature (NOT too soft)
2 eggs
2 TBS light Karo corn syrup
1 TBS vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350.
In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl blend together the peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar, and butter on low speed until JUST combined, making sure not to over mix. With the mixer turned off, add the eggs, corn syrup and vanilla extract and beat on low until JUST combined.

Slowly add the flour mixture until just combined. Stop mixer before the flour is completely incorporated to prevent over mixing and finish by hand.The dough should a little sticky.

Using the Pampered Chef Medium size scoop, shape the cookie dough into balls Place formed dough balls on parchment lined cookie sheets. With the tines of fork dipped in sugar, lightly press and flatten each ball making a crisscross pattern.

Bake cookies 9-11 minutes until they are JUST SET and start to show a tiny amount of light brown color on the edges. Cool the cookies in the pan for a minute. Then, transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies: on Baking Blonde
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup butter flavor Crisco (I just used all butter)
3/4 cups + 2 TBS sugar
1 egg, room temp
1/2 tsp peppermint extract (not oil)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Ghiradelli cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup White chocolate chips
1/2 cup Andes Peppermint chips (the white and red ones) (NOT the regular green/chocolate Ande's mints!!)
Sugar (for rolling dough balls)

Preheat oven to 350.Line baking sheet with Parchement paper.
In medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, soda, baking powder and salt. Set asideCream the butter and Crisco. Add the sugar and beat until blended. Add egg and peppermint extract, beat until well combined.

Fold in with a spatula the flour/cocoa mixture. Mix with a blender 10 seconds to combine. Fold in the white chocolate chips and Andes chips. Using a medium cookie scoop form dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each dough ball in a cup of sugar to lightly coat. Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 9-10 minutes or until edges are firm and the center appears slighlty soft, don't overbake. Cool on baking sheet 3-5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

the downsides to not declawing


he looks so cute but has a mean streak when you try to cut his nails.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Decorating fun

Decorating begins. Note the stockings over the fireplace I made by hand a few years ago for our first Christmas together. Oh yeah baby - move over Martha.

Dave places the star where the hacked off tree stub resides.

Finished product - that white blob under the tree is Mellow.

Minnie under the tree

Dave's favorite fire hazard. His late grandmother's homemade Christmas tree with electric wiring from the 50's. Scary.

Oh Christmas Tree

Dave and I took our annual visit to Nelson's Christmas Tree Farm - the only one in Indiana that I could find which grows cut-your-own Fraser Firs. It's such a cute little farm with hot chocolate and even Santa came to visit. It was freeeeeeezing cold but we found a great tree.

We chopped off the top b/c it was a bit awkward...but then I felt bad and regretted it.

The finished product