Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! I pray that you have a blessed holiday filled with family and friends, and that you experience the glory of Christ this season. May the peace of His love fill your heart this Christmas!

Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:11-14

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Virtual Cookie Exchange!

Today, I am joining in the Virtual Cookie Exchange hosted by Tracey at The Cottage Industry. If you are visiting from Tracey's party, welcome!

Earlier this month, we had a full weekend of hosting several Christmas parties to celebrate the season with friends. I made a cookie tower full of holiday sweets to treat our guests, including three of my favorite holiday cookies: Turtle Bars, Russian Teacakes & Buckeyes. I'd love to share the recipes with you!

Turtle Bars:

1 roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough (I use Pillsbury)
1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
3 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 jar caramel ice cream topping (I use Smucker's)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (16 squares)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. (325 degrees for a dark or nonstick pan) Press the roll of cookie dough evenly in the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9 inch pan.
Sprinkle 1 cup of the chocolate chips and 1 1/2 cups of the pecans over dough; lightly press into dough. Set aside.
In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Stir in brown sugar, caramel topping and graham cracker crumbs. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Pour over crust in pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 1/2 cups pecans.
Bake 25 to 32 minutes or until edges are deep golden brown and pecans are lightly toasted. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes; loosen sides from the pan with a knife, but do not cut. Cool completely, about 3 hours longer. (For firmer bars, let stand an additional 2 hours.) For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows.

Russian Teacakes:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (I chop them in the food processor.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix thoroughly butter, sugar and vanilla. Work in flour, salt & nuts until the dough holds together. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. While warm, roll in powdered sugar. Cool and roll in sugar again.

Candy Buckeyes:
I grew up in Ohio, and the buckeye tree is our state tree. Candy buckeyes are a local favorite and a treat that we made every Christmas as a child. They are one of my absolute favorite sweet treats and I love them cold, straight out of the refrigerator!

18 oz jar of peanut butter (my favorite for baking is Jif!)
2 sticks butter, softened
1 lb. plus 1 cup sifted powdered sugar

chocolate for dipping: 12 oz of semisweet chocolate chips plus a tbls. of shortening

Place sugar in a large bowl, add butter & peanut butter and mix in using hands until smooth. Pat dough into a large ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Roll into 1 inch balls, place onto a wax paper covered cookie sheet and chill thoroughly until firm. (This helps with the dipping!)
Melt the chocolate chips and shortening together until smooth. (Note: I used my Little Dipper (a mini crockpot) this year and it was by the far the easiest chocolate dipping I have ever done! No worries about scorching the chocolate or burning my arm with a double broiler. If you don't have a little dipper you can melt the chocolate in a double broiler or in the microwave.)
Spear balls with a toothpick & dip in chocolate, leaving a round spot of the peanut butter showing on the top. (See photo.) Place on wax paper & smooth over the toothpick hole with your finger. Chill to set the chocolate and enjoy!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Finals Week Survival Kits

This week was finals week for the students we work with at the University of Texas. I have many memories of my finals weeks in college....too little sleep, hours and hours and hours of studying & writing lengthy papers, countless cups of coffee, dreaded scan trons and blue books, not washing my hair for days, but managing to squeeze in fun and laughter with friends in between marathon study sessions.

As a way to love on & encourage the girls I disciple, I surprised them on dead day during their marathon study sessions with a "Finals Survival Kit." A basket of goodies filled with their favorite snacks, hot chocolate for when they are totally coffeed out, notecards and magnetic bookmarks to mark their spot in their textbooks, and a gel mask for mornings of puffy eyes after nights of little sleep.

(Side note: Everyone should have a gel mask! Keep it in the refrigerator and pull it out on mornings when you've not gotten enough sleep or when you have puffy eyes from crying. I've had one for years and it's gotten quite a lot of use!)

I love these girls and their hearts to serve Jesus and others & enjoyed doing a little something to brighten their day during their exam week! Do you have a student in your life? Let them know that you care by surprising them with a little love in the midst of their exams or a heavy project week. We all need a little extra love sometimes! Who can you encourage this week?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Strawberry Cream Cookies

With the holiday season comes festive parties, entertaining, and baking. I wanted to share a super easy, no-mess recipe for delicious cookie bites that have a beautiful presentation. The red and white color combination is perfect for the holiday season or for a summer BBQ.

If you need a fast and simple festive dessert for a party you're hosting or to bring as a guest, these Strawberry Cream Cookies are a perfect choice!

Supplies & Ingredients:
Mini Muffin Pans
1 package of break apart sugar cookie dough
1 can of Duncan Hines Cream Cheese frosting
1 package of strawberries

Break apart the cookie dough and place one square of dough in each muffin cup. Don't worry about pressing the dough into the mold; it will naturally form to the muffin shape as it bakes. Bake as directed on the package for time & temperature.

When set but still warm, remove the cookies from the mini muffin pan and place on a cooling rack.

Wash the strawberries and slice them lengthwise into thirds (or halves for smaller strawberries.)

When the cookies are cool, place a dollop of cream cheese frosting on each cookie & top with a strawberry slice.

Since I first had this treat at my friend Kari's party, I've made them for several groups and have gotten rave reviews every time. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Earrings & More...

I can't believe it has almost been an entire month since my last post! Where has the time gone?

Things have been crazy busy around here, from fall festivities to a staff conference straight into the Thanksgiving holiday, and now we've had our first round of Christmas parties this weekend!

We also had some very special guests who visited our home a few weeks ago, and we had to get ready for them to stop by. I can't share the details yet, but if Truman & I are selected, it will be a huge blessing and a very fun experience. I hope to be able to share some fun news in the next few weeks!

For those of you who missed me and messaged to check in and see where I've been, thank you! It was sweet to get your messages.

I've recently gotten back into making jewelry after a long break. Between getting married, traveling and moving, my bead collection was put away for quite awhile.

My sister-in-law Carita is fabulous at making earrings, so a couple of months ago, we got together and she taught me some new techniques. These are a few of the pairs of earrings that I made.

We've had another marathon jewelry making session since then and created several necklaces with some unique beads. I'll share some of those as well as soon as I have a chance to photograph them!

I have a ton of fun new things to share from my time away...from projects to recipes to excursions around town. I'll be a busy blogger for the next couple of weeks! Promise!