Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cookie Monster Challenge

I love cookies. I'm an unapologetic cookie monster and I love to bake. I'm a connoisseur of cookies, if you will, but I'm not a cookie snob. I have no problem making a batch of slice and bake cookies, in fact I think Toll House ready-to-bake cookies are downright delicious. But, I've never made box cookies... until now.

Last week, I picked up a box of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Shortbread Cookie Mix. They only sell it at Target, and every time I see it there, I am tempted. But, this time it was on sale-- the magic word-- so I finally picked it up. The directions are ridiculously easy: blend dry cookie mix and one and a half sticks of butter. That's it. Instant shortbread dough. Ridiculous, right? Plus, the box has three separate packages of cookie mix, so you can make smaller batches if you'd like. Amazing, no?

Cookie #1: I suppose I decided that with such an easy recipe I could pull out some of the tricks up my sleeve (the ones I make as I go along) and do some "cookie doctoring". Or maybe it was guilt about making yummy cookies from a box that made me feel like I needed to put more effort into it! Anyhoo, for whatever reason, I challenged myself to a cookie throw-down...with myself. I started with the cookie recipe suggested on the box: form 1-inch balls, bake, then press a chocolate wafer into each one. Cookies sampled. Passed yummy test. Success.

Cookie #2: I'm not a cook. You couldn't make a meal out of anything in our pantry unless you call stuffing mix, tomato paste and canned peaches a meal. Seriously, I just checked the pantry. But, if you turn to the baking section, you'll find a healthy toolbox just waiting for cookie doctoring. So, I dive in and come out with dark chocolate wafers and vanilla. I give you Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies With Extra Vanilla. Catchy, eh? By the way, my only beef with the magic cookie dough: there are exactly 24 chocolate wafers per cookie mix bag. They claim each batch yields two dozen cookies, but I found that I could make about 40. Good thing I always have extra baking and melting chocolate in the pantry. P.S.- If you choose to add any extra liquid ingredient to your recipe, like vanilla or apple juice, make sure you balance it out with a bit of flour to maintain the dough's consistency.

Cookie #3: Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies. The great part of this cookie challenge is that I was able to use some flavorings that have been patiently waiting in the baking section for their time in the sun. So, this recipe stars almond extract and raspberry preserves. I added almond extract to the dough to taste, then formed the multi-talented 1-inch balls and made a "thumbprint" in them with a wine cork--washed of course. It works so much better than your thumb or a melon-baller, because it makes a perfect little pool that holds the filling and doesn't let it spill out and make your cookies ugly. I topped them off with a dusting of powdered sugar so they don't look exactly like the other cookies. I'm not a pastry chef after all!

Cookie #4: Orange Almond Cookies. Feel free to help me out with fancier names. Almond Bisquits al'Orange, perhaps? This time I added minced almonds and orange zest from one jumbo orange to the dough, baked the cookies, then let them cool. I made a light glaze with powdered sugar, a bit of water and orange extract. It adds a little more sweetness to the cookie and really gives it it's orange flavor. After I iced the cookies, I sprinkled a bit more orange zest on top not only to make them pretty, but more importantly so people would know they are orange flavored, so they don't take one bite and remember they hate oranges.

So, there you have it. The Great Cookie Challenge of 2008. I had plans for some cookie bars, but I used the wrong kind of caramels and it turned into a rock. Then, I thought peppermint, but decided against it since it seemed too Christmas-y. I think I did pretty well. A few for chocolate lovers and a few fruit-flavored yummies. Something for every taste. P.S.--the things in the middle are peanut butter balls. More on those later.

One last note, if you'd like to do your own "cookie doctoring", but don't have a box of cookie mix, use Martha Stewart's shortbread recipe. It's my favorite. Plus, you'll find that she has loads of shortbread variations using that one recipe. But, it's a whole lot more fun when you concoct your own!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Angel Party Turns Ten!

This is the first of two posts about the Angel Party, an annual shindig I throw with friends each year to celebrate the holidays and collect gifts for a local nonprofit. This year was the 10th Anniversary of the party! In honor of the momentous occasion, I wanted to add a few new goodies. Here they are in all their heavenly glory!

I created this door sign with a pair of giant angel wings, some chipboard letters, gold glitter and beautimous gold ribbon. So simple and really gorgeous. I love how it turned out.

I decided to use a white theme for the Angel Party this year. These snowball table decorations were super easy with Styrofoam balls in various sizes, craft glue, fake snow and a little glitter. I used a red table cloth and silver and white ceramic serving dishes. I also scattered some "pearls" that my friends, Christy and Jenny pulled off of some Christmas berry floral pics.

The first time a guest attends the Angel Party, she is given a pair of wings in the form of a cute little brooch. Every year she returns, she gets a little gold star to add to her wings. This year, everyone who attended also got a little gold bell in honor of the tenth anniversary.

Another Angel Party tradition is the party favor that each angel leaves with at the end of the evening. Every year, I give everyone an angel ornament for their tree. Sometimes, the ornament has a spot to write "Angel Party" and the year on it. I bought these plaster ornaments and painted and glittered them myself. I wanted to keep a white theme this year, so I painted them in white and pearl paint and sprinkled pearl glitter on them. I think they are super cute!

Tune in for more Angel Party fun!

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Zoiks! I've been tagged!

I was tagged by Tiffan Tales!

The rules:
1. Place a link to the person that tagged you.
2. List seven unusual things about yourself.
3. Tag (and link to) seven other bloggers at the end of your post, and post on their blogs to let them know they’ve been tagged.

Seven unusual things about me--(actually, I'm doing seven things you may not know about me since I think I'm pretty usual.)
1. I was born with a bow on my head, a paintbrush in one hand and a whisk in the other. Seriously.
2. I can play the piano, but haven't tinkled the ivories in about 20 years. So, I would need sheet music and LOTS of practice!
3. I was a cheerleader in Jr. High and used to be on the swim team.
4. When I was in High School I went to Jamaica to help build a church. It was the trip of a lifetime!
5. I like sardines on my pizza.
6. I can't eat apples. They like, gag me with a spoon.
7. I watch the Girls Next Door. I know!

I'm tagging the following 7 super cool blogs. Check them out!
Plein Texas
Suburban Hippie
Boardroom to Playroom
Erica In The News
Pinks And Needles
Behind Blue Eyes
Michelle's Charm World

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It Must Be My Lucky Month!

Just thought I'd spread the fun photo of my Thanksgiving place setting was one of 10 winners (out of 130 entries) on My prize is Martha Stewart's Cooking School Cookbook.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Minnie, I'm Comin'!

Thanks to everyone who voted for my cookie, "Snowball Greetings from the North Pole." I won second place for my week! My prize is the Wilton Ultimate Tool Caddy and a 53-piece cake decorating set! Two new items that I didn't have before. Woo hoo!

My photo should be up on the winners page in a week. At the end of the contest, which is around Christmas, the Wilton people will choose one cookie of the 18 finalists to receive the Grand Prize, a trip for 4 to Disney World. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yippee! I'm a winner!

I am just catching up on blog reading and I realized that I won my first ever blog giveaway in November (first ever to enter, too!) I get to purchase one of Kimmie K's cutie dolls at The Whimsy Patch for 50% off! Mmmmm. Which dolly to buy.

Check out her dolls. They are precious.
Thanks, Kimmie!!!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas North Poll

Get it? North Pole, poll questionnaire? Yeah, I know it doesn't work. But I really wanted it to.

Courtesy of Christy...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I like to get gift wrapping and ribbons to match my Christmas tree every year. I know. I'm an overachiever.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial. We got this cool tree at Lowe's when we moved into our new house. It's tall and slim and the slim part about it is pretty cool because I can cover the whole tree without having to own 20 years worth of ornaments.

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the week after Thanksgiving. Like now.

4. Do you like eggnog? I've never had homemade eggnog. The stuff in the carton is grody.

5. Favorite gift received as a child? Can't think of just one. I had a lot of awesome gifts growing up. My favorites tended to be arts & crafts related

6. Hardest person to buy for? Uncles

7. Easiest person to buy for? Mom. I usually buy her clothes and a piece of Christmas Spode.

8. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. A carved wood one from Paraguay, a small clay one from Mexico, a large clay one from Mexico and Grandma's glass one

9. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

11. Favorite Christmas movie? White Christmas. I like to sing along.

12. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually around late November. Sometimes I pick up things here and there throughout the year, then forget where I hid them.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No. But, I do send some to Second Blessing.

14. Best Christmas traditions? Helping Mom set up her tree. Playing games on Christmas eve.

15. Lights on the tree? Pre-lit tree

16. Favorite Christmas song? Hmmmm. I love What Child is This

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Travel to Victoria, TX usually every other year.

18. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Dasher & Dancer & Prancer & Vixen, Comet & Cupid & Donner & Blitzen and Rudolph. If I don't say it that way with all the "ands", I'll forget them. Oh, and do you know about Olive, the Other Reindeer?

19. Angel on the tree top or a star? Usually a star with a huge bow, but I found a beautiful gold glittery crown at the Nutcracker Market this year that I'm going to use. I'm pretty excited about that.

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning, unless we are in Victoria, then we open the Garza presents on Christmas Eve.

21. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Christmas Day is so short.

22. Favorite ornament theme or color? I change it up every year. Just keepin' it real. I really love my lion ornaments.

23. Favorite for Christmas dinner? I guess that would be honey baked ham.

24. Favorite Christmas breakfast? I don't really eat breakfast. But, brunch tends to be leftovers.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Clothes and a trip to Disney World! Thanks for voting for my cookie! I have my fingers crossed! Not really, because that would be hard to do when your typing.

How do you do Christmas?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Green + Red = Christmas

So, I was reading blogs tonight and was sooooo surprised to see a post about me! My girl Kandi wrote about my wedding in her blog today called "Their Heart on our Tree". It's so amazing that I just have to send a shout out to my ADPi sister-4-evah! Girrrrl, you made me cry my own tears! I love you, lady!

Kandi was a very gracious bridesmaid and I am blessed that I have had her in my life for over 15 years. I was truly honored to stand in Kandi's wedding, which was over 10 years ago! Kandi married Stephen, a former SMU cheerleader who was one of our “fraternity brothers” and is an all-around excellent guy. Her wedding was beautiful, too...very elegant. She gave her bridesmaids little silver hope chest boxes. Mine still sits on my chest of drawers.

What does this have to do with Christmas? Not much except her wedding color was forest green and mine was cranberry red; and as it turns out, green + red = Christmas. Am I right? Am I right? Check us out!

P.S.- Kandi, I believe I am in possession of the circle-journal and will go hunting for it in a couple weeks. Promise. ;)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving Everyday

We had our first Thanksgiving in our house this year.  My parents-in-law, sister, brother-in-law and parents came over for a late lunch. It was great. We had cranberries, potato salad, acorn squash, corn casserole, two kinds of stuffing and a fried turkey. I tell you what--that fried turkey was so good that I don't think I'll ever eat turkey the other way again. I like the dark meat with crispy skin. It's like a layer of turkey jerky with juicy goodness underneath!

Here's "my" famous corn casserole recipe that one of my favorite friends, Jennifer, shared with me. It's really her mom's recipe:

Carolyn's Corn Casserole

2- 6 oz. pkgs cornbread mix
1 stick butter
2 eggs
2- 15 oz. cans kernel corn, drained
2 - 15 oz. cans cream-style corn
2 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Melt butter in 9"x13" pan. (I use Pyrex)
3. In a big bowl, beat eggs
4. Add in corn, sour cream, sugar, cornbread mix and melted butter (from the Pyrex pan) and mix well.
5. Pour batter back into pan
6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until brown on top and around edges.

I spent the night before Thanksgiving decorating the table and dessert table which is the console that I usually have in the living room. I bought a brown table cloth and pumpkin place mats. They matched my amber and fig Pottery Barn plates perfectly! And, I was very excited to be able to use my Grandma's amber drink glasses. Since I only have four, I just alternated them with clear glasses. (I'm going to start searching for more amber glasses to match Grandma's on Ebay.)

Instead of using place cards, I decided to make place decorations that would serve as a Thanksgiving activity. So, I cut leaves out of sturdy paper then used a couple beaded picks which I wrapped together with floral tape and tied them all together with a brown satin ribbon. Before we ate, I asked everyone to write things they were thankful for on their leaf and to take it home and put it somewhere they would see it everyday, like on their mirror or in their wallet. That way, whenever they see it, they can stop and thank God for their blessings and have Thanksgiving everyday throughout the year. I think everyone appreciated it. Yay for Thanksgiving!

click on photo to enlarge

Click on the image below to print your very own recipe card.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Disney or Bust!

Hello, chickadees! I entered a cookie in the 2008 Cookie Decorating Contest sponsored by Wilton. Grand Prize is a trip to Disney World, and mama needs a new pair of Mickey ears!

My cookie is called "Snowball Greetings from the North Pole" and per contest rules, the entire piece is edible; although, it's been sitting around several days, so eating it is probably not the best idea anymore! In case you're wondering, I made a large cookie for the tree skirt and used an inverted ice cream cone for the tree. All the decorations were created with fondant.

Voting for my contest entry begins Tuesday at noon and ends Sunday, also at noon. So pretty-please with a cherry on top, vote for me once every day of the contest! To vote for my cookie, click on the photo below. When you get to the voting page, find my cookie, click on the “Choose Me” button, then click on the red button on the left under the cookie picture that says “Submit Your Vote”. If you forget to click on that button, your vote won’t be counted. Thanks for your support, chickadees!