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28 WEEKS

New pregnancy entry on Bites of Life!!  I can’t believe the difference a few weeks makes.  Growing bump=growing babies!!

 

A lot of bloggers ask “What is your favorite cookie?”  Have you ever tried to answer that question??  It’s tough to narrow down the choices to just one cookie.  There are so many good cookies out there.  It all depends on what kind of mood you are in.  I won’t bore you with a list of different ones, but tough question right??  Or is it?

Anytime I have answered that question I always list at least 4 or 5.  Like a lot of other things in life, I prefer options and not to be shackled down by 1 particular favorite.  But there is undoubtedly a reoccurring cookie that always makes the list.  A frosted sugar cookie!  I can never turn it down.  There are a few rules though:  1) Sugar cookie must be soft  2)  Sugar cookie can be thin as long as it’s soft and kind of buttery (you know, like the tube of sugar cookie dough you buy in the refrigerator section at the grocery store.  Slightly under baked, those things are money.)  3.  Sugar cookie MUST have a 2:1 frosting to cookie ratio.  Thicker the cookie, that frosting better be piled on.

Although this cookie is always on the list, I have NEVER made a sugar cookie before.  I was always worried I would have too much flour on my countertop and dough, then they would turn out floury, or I would roll them too thick or too thin.  Besides it was so much easier to run to the store and pick up some Lofthouse cookies.  Instant gratification!  Lofthouse, as much as I love you, this homemade version is amazing!!  The cookie itself turned out pretty darn close to the original.  So soft and fluffy!  The best part, if my cookie was a bit too thick, I get to pile as much frosting on as I want!  Valentine’s Day is around the corner.  Have you started thinking about what to give all the “sweets” in your life?

(Printable Recipe)

Lofthouse Style Sugar Cookies

Recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod via RecipeSecrets.net

Makes 5-6 dozen cookies

Sugar Cookie Ingredients

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5-6 tbsp heavy cream

Sugar Cookie Directions

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

2.  In another large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla extract and sour cream, beat on low speed until combined.

3.  With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients and mix just until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.  If your dough is a little sticky, that’s ok.  Place 2 large rectangles of plastic wrap on counter.  Divide dough into 2 equal portions and flatten into 1 1/2 inch thick rectangles.  Chill into refrigerator for alt east 2 hours or overnight.

4.  When ready to bake:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats and set aside.

5.  Lightly flour the countertop and the top of the dough.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into 1/4 inch thickness.  Using cookie cutters, cut out cookies and place onto prepared pans.  Dip cookie cutters in pile of flour if needed to keep dough from sticking.  Bake for 7 minutes or until cookies are starting to turn slightly golden brown around the edges.  Immediately transfer cookies to a cooling rack when removed from oven.  Allow cookies to cool completely before frosting.

Buttercream Directions

1.  In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed for about 2-3 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and continue to beat until light and fluffy.  Slowly beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time until fully incorporated.  Add salt.  Beat for an additional 1-2 minutes until smooth.  Add heavy cream, 1 tbsp at a time.  Continue to beat on medium-high speed for another 1-2 minutes until desired consistency as been met.  Add food coloring if desired.

2.  Once cookies have cooled completely, add frosting and sprinkles.  Allow frosting to set and then store in an air tight container.

I am adding a section to the blog called ‘Bites of Life’.  This page will host a more personal view of my life outside the kitchen.  There were so many times last summer that I wanted to share pictures with you guys but resisted because it didn’t “flow” with food.  Well, now that we have 2 little ones on the way, I have a feeling there will be many more tidbits to share and fun stories to tell.   Back in October I announced that we are expecting twins and I have been meaning to post some pictures of the growing belly.  It seems like ever since Christmas, each week I double in size.  Keep growing babies!!

Hope you guys enjoy the new section!!

26 WEEKS

How far along are you?  26 weeks (27 week on Monday)

Total Weight Gain:  24 pounds

How big are the babies?  2 lbs 2oz and 2 lbs 3 oz (as of Jan 12)

Maternity Clothes?  Most definitely.  I live in leggings and yoga pants when I can.

Sleep:  Getting increasingly difficult to get comfortable.

Food Cravings:  Still anything cold and/or fruity.  Ice cream, fro yo, ice chips, popsicles, fruit.  The colder the better.

Food Aversions:  No aversions but I am changing up what I eat slightly due to heartburn.  I really miss tomatoes!

Movement?  Tons!  At the last ultrasound we found out that both feet are up by my ribs on the right side.  They are constantly kicking each other and playing.  Atleast I like to think they are playing and not fighting already.  So cute!  They are most active after I eat.

Symptoms:  Terrible heartburn

Gender:  We are not finding out.  :)

Belly Button In or Out?  Unfortunately it’s been out for some time.  I hope it goes back.

Labor Signs?  None yet.  I keep telling them to make themselves comfy because they have a ways to go.  Hopefully not having labor signs yet means they are listening.

What I miss?  Sleeping on my stomach.

What I am looking forward to?  This weekend I have two friends coming down to visit!  Can’t wait!!

Next appt:  Tues Jan 31st.  It’s the dreaded 1 hr glucose test.  Fingers crossed I pass, but I’m not feeling very hopeful.

A few weeks ago I did my FIRST EVER guest post!!!  I was so excited when I saw on twitter that Lindsay from The Lean Green Blog was looking for guest bloggers over the holidays.  Ofcourse, in my typical overly excited fashion, I shot Lindsay a tweet back to sign me up!!!  Linsday’s blog is a good mix of everyday health and fitness, along with recipes to keep you on track.  I wanted to share something that was more on the healthy side to stick with her theme.  These Chipotle & Rosemary Spiced Nuts were perfect.  They are a great combo of sweet, savory, and spicy and would make a great addition to your Super Bowl Party menu (aka…they go great with a lager!).

Head over to Lindsay’s blog for the recipe and some more pics!

HAPPY (belated) NEW YEAR!!!!  

I know it’s been some time since my last post and I apologize.  I took some time off during the holidays to spend with family and travel Ohio for Christmas gatherings and a baby shower.  When we got back I was totally exhausted getting back into the work week that I took a bit longer than expected off from the blog.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to 2012 as much as we are!

While I was home we spent many hours in the kitchen!  I love baking and cooking with my family!  It’s always fun and I always guarantee to make a mess.  I felt so bad for my parent’s carpet.  I bet there is dried batter in more places than they care to know about.  Oops!  On the menu Christmas morning was this Pear Spice Cake I found over on Joy’s blog.  I love spice cake and knew that a pear one would make a perfect treat on that special day.

Original plan was to eat around 11:30am.  Well, an hour and a half past that we were finally sitting down.  The prep work turned out to be a bit more involved than I originally planned, or maybe it was because I was simply enjoying making it and not rushing through the steps.  Regardless, this spice cake is well worth it!  It was AMAZING!!!  Perfect flavor, texture, spice, and the praline topping was pure heaven!  The idea of turning this into a repeat Christmas cake was not only mentioned, but I’m pretty sure demanded.  This would make a great addition to any brunch menu, holidays or not.  Did I happen to mention it reheats very well…added bonus!!

(Printable Recipe)

Pear Spice Cake with Walnut Praline Topping

Recipe from Joy the Baker

Pear Spice Cake Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 pears, peeled, cored, and diced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 to 1 1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup walnuts, toasted, cooled, and finely chopped

Walnut Praline Topping

  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Pear Spice Cake Directions

1.  Make sure rack is in the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour bundt pan.  Set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4-5 minutes for a hand mixer and about 3 minutes in a stand mixer.  Be sure to scrape the bowl every few minutes.  Add yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla extract.  Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Mix well after each addition.  Fold in pear pieces and chopped walnuts.

4.  In a separate bowl with cleaned beaters, beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks.  Gently fold whites into batter until fully combined.

5.  Spoon batter into prepared bundt pan, smoothing top, and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.  Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  If serving warm, start walnut praline topping while cake is cooling.  Invert onto rack to cool.

Walnut Praline Topping Directions

1.  In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, whipping cream and 1/2 cup butter over medium-high heat until smooth.  Boil for 3 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in walnut pieces.  Spoon warm topping over cake.

Notes:

  • I reduced the amount of walnuts in both the cake and topping due to personal preference.  
  • When topping is first placed over cake it will run down the sides, this is ok.  It forms a wonderful pool in the middle that is absolutely divine.  If you prefer to have more topping on the cake itself, allow topping to cool slightly before spreading on cake.  Next time I think I will let it cool for a bit.  
  • This cake is delicious with pear, but would also be good with apple pieces as well.

Caramel Party Mix

I am sooo excited to share this recipe with you guys!!  Not only is it AMAZING but it’s a family recipe!  We make it every year for the holidays, a family tradition for sure.  I always remember my mom making it once the holiday season was in full swing.  She would have a bowl with her morning coffee and perhaps a handful after dinner.  About 5 or so years ago I started making it as well because there was no way I could wait until Christmas week to partake.  There are many ways I follow in my mom’s footsteps and this is no exception.  Piping hot coffee in one hand, small bowl of caramel party mix in the other.  Life is good!

This caramely mix has made an appearance at numerous holiday parties and been given as countless homemade gifts.  It’s always a hit!!  I like to think the obsession goes somewhat like this for a newbie:  “Caramel Party Mix…hmm…sounds pretty good.  First few pieces are consumed, this stuff is GOOD!  Another few pieces maybe even a handful later, what is this??  It’s so addicting!  Email is composed and the recipe is requested!”  2 years ago I made it for some co-workers and got a request from them the next year to have another bag, and if I could make that bag bigger than last year that would be great!

Enough talking it up….what does it taste like?!?  Well……it’s sweet and caramely and crunchy and addicting!!!  Soo addicting!  Don’t be turned away by the hour baking time.  It’s well worth the every -15-minute stirring process.  If you have some left over cereal from making salty party mix, give this one a try!  You will be hooked.  Coffee drinker?  Start your morning off right and add this to your pre-breakfast roundup.  It’s especially yummy sitting in front of a fire on a crisp winter morning.   Not that it changes the taste, but it creates a relaxing picture, doesn’t it??  I hope you enjoy this sweet treat as much as we do!!

(Printable Recipe)

Caramel Party Mix

Ingredients

  • 10 cups cereal (cereal recommendations listed below)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter, unsalted
  • 1/3 cup light Karo syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
Cereal Recommendations
  • 2 cups rice chex
  • 2 cups corn chex
  • 2 cups bugels
  • 1 cup kix cereal
  • 1 cup cheerios
  • 1 overflowing cup of pretzels
  • 1 cup peanuts OR you can do 1/2 peanuts 1/2 cashews

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Place cereal in a large foil pan.  Set aside.

2.  In a large saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, light corn syrup and vanilla extract over medium-low heat.  Stir frequently until butter is melted and mixture is combined.  Allow mixture to come to a rolling boil, allow to boil for 45 seconds to 1 minute.  Remove pan from heat and add baking soda.  Stir quickly to combine, the mixture will expand which is what you want.  Pour caramel mixture over cereal.  Stir cereal and caramel until well combined.

3.  Bake  for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

 

Notes:

  • I use a turkey roaster pan to make the party mix in.  You can find foil ones at Wal-Mart for about $1.  The nice thing about the foil pans, they are disposable.  It looks similar to this. 
  • While cooling, stir occasionally to make sure mix doesn’t stick to pan.  
  • Sample Often!  

Did I get your attention??!?

A reader informed me tonight that the amount of salt in the Peppermint Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies was too high, and indeed it was.  I apologize to anyone that has made them already.  Luckily she said they still turned out really good but you could taste the salt.  Sorry.  :(

So….if you printed out that recipe already, change the salt to 1/4 tsp.  If you have not printed it out but this reminded you that you wanted to, no fear, it’s been updated in the printable link.  Print away!  :)

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