Chewy Spring M&M Cookies

Wedding prep can be tricky. There are so many little things that go into one day; that it causes a bride (or groom) to lose focus.

For me, I've struggled with this idea, hating the thought of getting caught up in it, but feeling pulled to do so. As much as I want the best food, music and atmosphere, I also want it to reflect Chad and I. Which for us, means being very simple. No frills. No "foo-foo." Which is also against the wedding chatter, emails, ads and articles I'm innundated with daily.

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One "little" thing we have done during our wedding prep is take "pre-marital classes" of sorts, required by my hometown church where we'll be married. This prep has turned out to be the most important step in the chaos of wedding planning. Especially with the couple we met with last weekend. We sat in their living room and chatted over good, local coffee (Custom Cup!). We learned about their life, we talked about our life, and we didn't once discuss our wedding colors, flowers or shoes. We talked about love, forgiveness, struggles - the bigger picture that continues loooong after one's wedding day. The most important parts of wedding prep that are often the least talked about! 

...I know, this seems deep for a cookie post, but it's the truth! 

Years from now, I may not remember the color of my flower girls' shoes, programs or whether the food tasted good. But, I'll remember meeting with this couple and how inspired I was, and how Chad and I grew as a couple leading up to the big day. 

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Today, I'm sharing with you these spring-inspired cookies. I brought a bag of these cookies with me last weekend since the couple we met with had 4 little kids.

I gave them cookies and they gave us two inspiring books. It's these simple gestures that help shape who we are.

 Chewy Spring M&M Cookies

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups spring-colored M&M candies  

Directions:  

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. 
  3. In a mixture, blend the sugars and butter until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolk, mixing. Add in the vanilla.  
  4. Slowly add in the flour mixture, until combined.  
  5. Add in the M&M's to mix.  
  6. Using a cookie scoop, scoop the dough on to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 9-10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking. After 10 minutes, take out of turning golden brown or leave in for another minute or two if the middle is still under-baked.
  7. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet and then remove to a wire rack.
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This recipe will make enough for your whole family to enjoy! My family was all home last weekend and I put the extra cookies in a cookie jar on our counter.

They don't last long! 

GUEST POST: Edith's Ice Cream Cone Cake Pops

Memories. Some start later in life. Some start young. Some are starting today

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When I look at my little three and four-year-old nieces bopping around the kitchen, I see their memories starting right then.

My niece Edith bakes with her mom - my sister - in their Brooklyn apartment. She sprinkles, decorates and saves a cookie for her daddy. With her apron tied, she pretends she's on "Edith's Baking Show" as she cracks the eggs and peeks into the oven to see if the cookies are done. 

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There's something special about toddlers. When you're around them, you want their excitement for life and the simplest of things to rub off on you - and the rest of the world. Their dreams are big and minds open. 

Creativity truly shines in the kitchen. Whether it be your child, sibling, niece or nephew - allow them to stir, decorate and taste their baking masterpieces. Whisk pancakes for breakfast, mix up muffins for snacking and bake cookies for sweet treats. And do what Edith did...make these ice cream cone cake pops for Valentine's Day. 

Edith would say these are beautiful. And you know what? They really are.

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If you make the whole batch, it will make about 48 cake pops. Perfect for a party! :)

Edith's Ice Cream Cone Cake Pops

(Adapted from Bakerella & makes 48 cake pops)

  • 1 box Red Velvet cake mix (bake as directed on box for 9x13-inch cake)
  • 1 container white frosting (16 oz.)
  • Wax paper
  • 48 ounces (3 lbs) Pink Melting Chocolate (Edith uses Wilton Brand Pink Melting Chocolate)  
  • 16 ounces (1 lb) Milk Chocolate
  • Valentine's Day-colored sprinkles
  • Valentine's Day-colored M&M's
  • Sugar ice cream cones and/or lollipop sticks, about 50 (you will need a lollipop stick for dipping)
  • Styrofoam block

Directions: 

  1. Bake the red velvet cake according to directions.
  2. After cake is baked and cooled completely, crumble into a large bowl.
  3. Mix thoroughly with 3/4 of the container of frosting. (Use the back of a large spoon or use your fingers to mix together.) You may not need all of the frosting, so start out by using half of the can and add more if you need to. (You will not use the remaining frosting.)
  4. Roll mixture into quarter-size balls and place on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50 balls)
  5. Keep the cake balls chilled in the refrigerator.
  6. Cut the tops off the sugar cones, so that the width of the opening is about 1 1/4 inches.
  7. Make holes in the Styrofoam by using a lollipop stick and work it around in a circular motion until you have an opening in the Styrofoam that mimics the bottom of the sugar cone. 
  8. Melt the chocolate: In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the pink melting chocolate in the microwave, in about 30-second intervals, stirring in between.
  9. When you are ready to coat, take a few cake balls out of the refrigerator. One at a time, dip a cake ball into the melted pink chocolate to coat, then insert a lollipop stick into the ball to lift it out. Transfer the coated ball onto an ice cream cone and remove the stick. The coated cake ball should rest nicely on the open part of the cone. Any excess coating will drop down and enhance the look of the "ice cream" on the cone. 
  10. Place the cones on the Styrofoam to dry completely. 
  11. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave like you did the pink melting chocolate. Spoon a small amount over the very top of the ice cream cone. One at a time, attach an M&M on the top. Then, sprinkle with a few sprinkles while the milk chocolate is still melted. 
  12. Return to the Styrofoam to dry completely.  
  13. Enjoy! 
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Bake something with the little ones this week. I have a feeling you will learn a thing or two from them. And even better if it's for Valentine's Day! 

Spiced Mixed Nuts {sugar-free}

Do I make waaaay to many roasted nuts? Yes, most likely. 

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But, it's my current addiction, so I'm just gunna continue on my way...

Today's recipe is a great, spicy nut to switch up the usual store-bought cocktail nuts. Hey, why not make some this weekend for your Super Bowl festivities?!

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Spiced Mixed Nuts

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • ½ cup pecan halves  
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • few pinches of sea salt

Directions: 

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the nuts and toss until the nuts are completed coated. 
  3. In a small bowl, combine all the spices. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the nuts and toss until coated with the mixture. 
  4. Arrange the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden. Toss halfway through baking. 
  5. Take out of oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about an hour. Then, break up the nuts and put into serving bowls or store in large mason jars. 
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When I make my own roasted nut mixes at home, I know exactly what's going in them. See ya later hidden sugars, processed oils and weird preservatives!

Thyme Roasted Walnuts

Brrrr! I think just about everyone can agree that winter is officially here...  

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It hit me when I laced up my shoes to go on a  long morning run. As I started out, the bitter cold went right through my gloves, hat and layers... and just stuck there. I found myself wondering, one - why the heck do I run again?! And then two - looking at the morning sun streaming through the trees, reflecting off the park's snow, and as I waved to a group of runners, I realized the feeling I get when I run is why I keep lacing up my shoes. Feeling of being stronger, lighter and a bit more free. Even in the cold. 

And then, walking back into the warmth of my home, I find myself not wanting to leave. Because when it's so cold and snowy out, it's my perfect excuse to spend some much-needed quality time in my own kitchen. Simmering, roasting and baking anything in the oven. 

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A jar of dried thyme & a bag of raw walnuts are all you need for this toasty, warm snack. 

There is something I love the minute you roast walnuts. The nuts develop an addictive toasted flavor.

I make these to top salads, but they are great all on their own. Store in a mason jar on your counter and give your winter salads an upgrade! 

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 Thyme Roasted Walnuts

  • 2 cups raw walnut halves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Toss the nuts with the oil, thyme and salt. Spread out onto a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, tossing after 10 minutes.  
  3. Let cool on the sheet pan and then store in a mason jar at room temperature.

 

 

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Stay warm & spend some time in your kitchen! :)

Lavender Roasted Almonds

A little over a year ago, I began reading a lot about the benefits of soaking and then dehydrating nuts.

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When you soak nuts in water, it breaks down enzyme inhibitors that make nuts hard for you to digest - making it easier.

After soaking, you dehydrate the nuts. Which, if you don't have a dehydrator, means placing them in the oven at 200 degrees for 10 hours. But, you can cut down the process by roasting the nuts about 30 minutes at 300 degrees and then increasing the oven to 400 degrees and roasting for 10 more minutes. This is the method I prefer... because I've never quite mastered the patience thing.  

The added bonus of soaking and roasting -  an extra-crunchy nut. For real. I love it!

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My favorite nuts to soak & roast are almonds, as in the recipe below. 

I use lavender because I have a jar of dried lavender in my kitchen. It's the result of last summer's prosperous lavender plant. Plus, it makes your daily almond snack not-so-ordinary.  

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If you don't have lavender, you can also use rosemary! I love that as well.  

Lavender Roasted Almonds

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil  
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender, ground

Directions: 

  1. Soak the almonds in a container filled with water and a dash of sea salt. Make sure there is about an inch of water covering the almonds. Soak for 24 hours at room temperature. 
  2. Drain the almonds and place in a bowl. Toss with the salt and olive oil.
  3. Roast in a 300 degree oven on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toss almonds halfway through roasting.
  4. While the nuts are roasting, muddle the dried lavender so it's coarsely ground.
  5. After the nuts have been roasting about 30 minutes, take the nuts out of the oven and sprinkle the lavender over the nuts and toss lightly.  
  6. Increase the oven to 400 degrees and place the almonds back in the oven and roast for 10 more minutes. 
  7. Take out, let cool and serve. Or, store in a mason jar on your counter. 

 

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Happy Saturday!! 

Mom's Classic Buttermilk Pancakes

How did this year go by so fast? ...and how is it that we are always talking about how time flies!? 

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As a steady rain fell here in the Midwest for a majority of the holiday weekend, my childhood home was filled with my family. Being the second youngest of six kids, the house is now filled with not only us kids, but also spouses and grandkids. My mom leaves chocolates on the beds for us when we arrive, buys freshly ground coffee for the morning (or for all day) and then she makes breakfast... just like when we were growing up.  

Every time I come home, memories flood the walls. And most of them come straight from the kitchen. My mom has always had a certain way around her kitchen - her large, clear jars of sugar and flour line the counter, her Kitchen Aid is ready to use at any given moment and her aprons hang on hooks by the back stairs. There is always a bin of different chocolate chips and chopped nuts in the cabinet, ready for baking. 

There's dishes my mom has been making since before I was even born. Dishes that immediately remind me of home. Among them are these pancakes. Still today, my mom whips up a batch of these for my nieces, pours the batter into the same yellow pitcher she's used for years, then pours the batter onto a hot, buttered griddle. Perfect pancakes every time.

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There are some food memories that will stick with me forever. Ones that are so special, words cannot describe. And this is one of them.

My Mom's Famous Buttermilk Pancakes

(Serves 3-4 people)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions: 

  1. To a mixer, add the eggs, buttermilk and oil and mix until well combined. Add in the remaining ingredients and beat until no clumps are in the batter.
  2. Tip: If you don't have buttermilk, just add about 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to regular/skim milk. If the batter seems too thin, add a bit more flour.
  3. Butter a hot griddle. Pour small rounds of batter on the griddle and cook a few minutes until bubbles form on top of the pancake. Once the bottom of the pancake seems golden brown, flip the pancake and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side.
  4. Remove from griddle and place on a plate covered with a towel to keep the pancakes warm while you make the rest. Once ready to serve, top with maple syrup. You can also top with chopped bananas, strawberries and powdered sugar.
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My mom has taken this recipe and broken it down depending on how many people she is serving. The original recipes serves 8. Here, it is cut in half to serve 4 (depending on the size of the pancake and hunger-level!). 

Or, she just makes a big batch and freezes any leftovers. That way, you can just warm the pancakes in the microwave as you want them. 

 

apple pastry squares

A family recipe. 

It's usually something that your grandparent or parent has made over the years. Maybe they got it from their friend at a party, or read it in a cookbook they've had since they were married.

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My mom has a wooden recipe box in a cabinet in her kitchen. Inside, it's filled with weathered note cards, handwritten with recipes from friends and family. My grandmother's peanut butter cookies or a friend's oreo dirt cake. The edges are ripped and stained. And "XXX" written in the corner means it's a winner of a recipe. These, to me, are family recipes. 

And from that little box come these pastry squares. 

These are sweet and the icing makes them irresistible. My mom made these for our Christmas dinner the other night. In a crowded downstairs filled with screaming kids, lots of laughter and family - these pastry squares were served on a white platter on the dessert table.  And one by one, they disappeared. 

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Add it to your recipe box, share it with a friend, make it for your next family dinner and enjoy this sweet treat. 

Apple Pastry Squares

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4-6 tart apples, peeled and sliced (such as granny smith)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions: 

  1. Make the pastry: In a bowl, mix 2 cups of flour (reserve 2 tablespoons) and shortening and salt together - using a fork, cut the shortening into the flour until it is a crumbly mixture. To the flour mixture, add the yolks, lemon juice and water. Pack the mixture up into two balls. Roll one ball out on a floured surface into a rectangle that you will lay into a 13x9 inch pan. 
  2. Make the filling: In a bowl, mix the sliced apples, sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix together and spread out on top of the pastry that's in the pan. Roll out the second half of the pastry dough and lay on top of apple mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.     
  3. Make the Topping: Mix together powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla and milk into a bowl until blended. While the baked apple pastry is still warm, spread the icing on the top of the pastry. 
  4. Cut into squares and serve. You can store these squares in the refrigerator until ready to serve. These are great warm or cold!
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Hope everyone had a happy holiday! I sure don't want it to end... 

And before you part ways and head home, snag your favorite family recipe. Years from now, you'll be happy you did!  

Candied Cashews

Need a last minute gift idea?  

Just grab some cashews and roast these addicting cinnamon-sugar coated nuts. 

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On a daily basis, I've cut sugar entirely from my diet for several health reasons. But, around the Christmas season, these candied cashews always become an exception and a treat.  I give them as gifts, mail a bag to friends, bring some home to my family and I currently have a jar of them sitting on my counter. 

Your guests will love them, your significant other will love them, your co-workers will love them... and you will too!

Candied Cashews

  • 3 cups raw, unsalted whole cashews (a little over 1 pound)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt  (omit if cashews are already salted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Directions: 

  1. In a bowl, beat the egg whites and the vanilla together with a whisk, until frothy. About 30-60 seconds. Toss in the cashews to coat. 
  2. In a large, gallon-sized Ziploc bag, add the sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Shake it all together to combine. 
  3. Pour the covered nuts into the bag and seal.  Toss/shake the mixture in the bag to coat all the nuts.  It will be moist and the sugar will look dissolved. 
  4. Once completely coated, spread out the sugared nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
  5. Bake at 275 degrees for about an hour. Toss the cashews every 15 minutes. 
  6. Take out and let cool on the sheet pan. Then, break up and store in an air-tight container or mason jar. 

 

 

 

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Added bonus - your kitchen will smell amazing. :)

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Each year, as the Christmas season comes around, I'm rolling out sugar cookies at least once...or twice.

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When I'm at home, making Christmas cookies usually involves whichever family members I can round up to help decorate...which usually ends up being my sister Sarah and me decorating the cookies as the rest enjoy the results. And the past few years, my nieces have come into the picture, helping roll out the dough and decorating the cooled cookies.

Decorating cookies has become a tradition I look forward to every year. Because no matter what - it's always fun, messy and sweet. You can't worry about getting flour all over or making a mess. These are memories you are forming, flour and all (and it only comes around a few times a year!).

It's time to cherish it! 

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This is my go-to recipe for cut-out sugar cookies.  I can't ever seem to stray from it.  I recommend adding it to your holiday recipe arsenal!  

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry-flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions: 

  1. In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add in the vanilla and egg and mix to combine. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the salt and baking powder. Gradually add to the butter mixture, beating to combined. 
  3. Add in the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. You may need add more milk if the mixture is too dry. 
  4. Form the dough into a flattened disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate 1 hour. 
  5. When you are ready to make the cookies, sprinkle flour on a clean work surface. 
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Flour the rolling pin and roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out desired shapes and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Bake about 9 minutes, or until edge are juuust about to turn golden brown (but not yet golden brown!)  Take them out and let them cool 5 minutes on the sheet and transfer to a wire rack.  Over-baking these cookies will create a crunchier cookie. Taking them out before golden will ensure these are nice and soft! 
  9. Once cool, decorate with icing (recipe below)

Cookie Decorating Icing

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted and softened
  • 5 tablespoons (or more) milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: 

  1. Cream together the butter and vanilla until fluffy and creamy. Add in slowly the powdered sugar, little by little. You can start adding in the milk as you alternate adding in the sugar. 
  2. Beat until becomes a fluffy icing - a few minutes. 
  3. Divide into bowls and color with desired food coloring. 
  4. To decorate: Use a pastry bag or Ziploc with a corner cut off, and spoon icing in the bag and pipe onto the cookies.

 

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Now, I made these cookies pictures above with a 5-year old.  So we didn't get too fancy with the decorating...

But, for an easy trick to get beautiful cookie-decorating results, I recommend placing the icing into plastic Ziploc bags and snipping off one corner.  Then, just pipe the desired design onto the cookies.