Cookies & Bars

Stained Glass Cookies

Stained glass cookies

sn’t it funny how life has a way of teaching us what matters most. A few days    before Christmas my mom was hospitalized. We soon learned that her condition has left her unable to return home and care for herself. The girls and I have been busy managing her needs with our crazy schedules. This has left no time for baking or blogging.

We are now in the process of finding a new normal. This week as we got back to baking I realized something. No matter how busy life gets and the demands placed on us we need to find balance, make time to center ourselves and find our happy place. My happy place is in my kitchen with my girls by my side covered in flour asking if anyone remembered to set the timer.

Stained glass cookies are very popular around Christmas. They were on our “to-bake” list but as our holiday baking was abruptly cut short we have decided to switch holidays. I think the vibrant color in these decorative cookies lend themselves perfectly to Valentines Day. The heart shape cut out with sparkling red and pink jewel-toned centers are the perfect home-made gifts.

Traditionally stained glass cookies are made by pouring hot candy cooked to hard crack stage in the center of a butter cookie. As much as I love the look of these beautiful cookies, who has time to make hard candy every time they want to make cookies? My mother was a master at making homemade suckers and hard candies…my mom had time for many things that as a working mom I do not. This recipe is the solution for those of us who have limited baking hours in our day. Bake the butter cookie from scratch…then cheat a little on the stained glass portion. By crushing store bought hard candy you can cut an hour off the time these cookies would normally take to make. We love the flavor of Jolly Ranchers and used them in this recipe but you are welcome to substitute for another hard candy if you have a favorite.

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Peppermint Marshmallow Cookies

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o you have any foods that instantly take you back to your childhood? Marshmallow surprise cookies are one of those foods for me. Helping my mom push the marshmallows on top of the warm cookies and then putting them back in the oven and watching through the glass as they puff up. Everything about these cookies is a child’s food fantasy.

When I was young I lived in a very small rural country town. The town was so small and quaint there was even a local church cookbook. Everyone put their very best recipes in the cookbook…and everyone had the cookbook. When I became a mother making cookies with my own kids, I inherited my mom’s copy of this cookbook. One December while looking for one of my grandmother’s candy recipes I came across these cookies. I was instantly taken back to days of baking with my own mother and I knew I had to reinvent this cookie.

Now, I have altered the cookie to be a more dense, moist cookie, with homemade marshmallow. Since it was December and I was in Christmas cookie mode I also added crushed candy canes, but they are still reminiscent of the inspiring small town cookbook original. Bake these cookies today and just try to stop the child in you from sticking your finger in the gooey marshmallow center!!!

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Soft Christmas Sugar Cookies

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aking sugar cookies with my kids, packaging them in neatly wrapped boxes and delivering them to the neighbors is as much a holiday tradition at my house as Santa Clause coming Christmas morning. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without flour-covered aprons and the crunch of sugar sprinkles lightly dusting the entire kitchen.

As a new mom, I often became frustrated at the imperfect cookies little hands would create. As the years pass my favorite, most cherished cookies are the unique cookies so covered with sprinkles you can hardly tell frosting is the adhering glue to the brightly colored sugar. This year as my son dug through my cookie cutter bin to create an entire zoo of cookies with complete disregard for the season I could only smile. Smile and hear my mothers voice in my head reminding me of how quickly they grow up.

So, if some of my neighbors receive a giraffe or elephant instead of a reindeer this holiday season, I will be content with the wisdom raising four children has given me. For you see, it is not about my friends and neighbors receiving perfectly impressive cookies. It is about the memories I created with Grayson, while he was still excited to bake with me…and who’s to say a giraffe cant pull a sleigh anyway.

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Mint Brownie Christmas Trees

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rom sugar cookies to brownies, my daughter Kennedy has a theory that baked goods taste better in Christmas shapes. These are our traditional brownies cut into triangles and frosted into trees. We have tried to explain to Kennedy that a geometric shape doesn’t change the ingredients but she is convinced they taste better, so we appease her. Mint pairs so perfectly with chocolate brownies that if you are going to frost green trees…they must be mint! Try these brownies and you be the judge. Do tree shapes taste better than squares?

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Christmas Spritz Cookies

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pritz cookies not only taste amazing but are fun to make as well. If you don’t have a cookie press you can use a pastry bag with a large piping tip, but you have been warned they are not as much fun as pulling the trigger on a cookie press. A perfectly shaped cookie shoots through the disc in a second. You can make bakery-style cookies just as quickly as you can fill a barrel and pull the trigger. I realize this description makes baking cookies sound like an old western movie standoff. Bake these cookies and you will soon see how much fun making cookies can be.

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Chocolate Coconut Haystack

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his is quite simply the easiest recipe you will ever make. It only requires two ingredients…but two perfectly paired ingredients. Even people who think they hate coconut, love the nutty flavor of toasted coconut in mounds of milk chocolate. It is amazing how crunchy the coconut stays completely enrobed in chocolate.

Any candy store I visit is immediately scoured for coconut haystacks. Every box of chocolates I receive is instantly searched for a coconut cluster.  They are classic flavors you can never go wrong with. Sometimes a truffle or cream center can be disappointing, but never a haystack.

This is without a doubt the quickest candy to make, which is helpful as it gets so many requests. It is hard to explain just how good these mounds of chocolate are without popping one in your mouth.  The oil from the toasted coconut gives the milk chocolate a beautiful crisp sheen. The only thing that rivals how amazing they look is just how great they taste!

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Extra Creamy Sea Salt Caramels-

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h, the love-hate relationship we have with homemade caramels at our house. We love to give these requested caramels to neighbors as Christmas gifts but oh, how we hate to wrap each individual caramel.

When caramel making day arrives we cut hundreds of little squares of parchment to individually wrap each buttery, soft mass of goodness. This process requires patience and several really good Christmas movies. The girls and I make and pour the trays of caramel. While the caramel cools and sets up we cut the squares of parchment.  Now, comes the most important step… Pop in a Christmas movie and start wrapping. We usually start with “Christmas Vacation” but very often supplying the whole neighborhood with irresistible caramel requires the entire Tim Allen “Santa Clause” series.

Try these rich, buttery caramels and you too will transform family movie night into family caramel wrapping movie night…enjoy!

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Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes


omething about the warm earthy flavor of pumpkin, paired with the tangy accents of cream cheese, come together to create the perfect cupcake! This recipe Processed with VSCO with a6 presetcreates a light and airy cupcake that is still capable of holding a cream cheese frosting. Every year at Thanksgiving dinner, I am always surprised to have a couple guests who don’t like pie…not eating pumpkin pie on thanksgiving seems like an insult on the holiday itself. This recipe was created to embody all of the traditional pumpkin pie flavors without the density and texture that can often turn people off to pie. This year satisfy all of your guests with a cupcake that will rival even the best pumpkin pie at the table.

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Spritz Butter Cookies


rom the time my kids were old enough to stand on a kitchen stool to help bake, they would ask “Mom, can we make those cookies you shoot with the gun”. To an outsider it may sound like we make some pretty strange cookies at our house. As a disclaimer, my Processed with VSCO with a6 presetkids were never in any danger, they just didn’t know the difference between a cookie press and a gun. They thought it was the greatest thing in the world to pull the trigger forcing dough through the disk and releasing a perfectly shaped cookie on the cookie sheet. These little cookies are so simple and easy to make, yet look so professional. People will assume you bought them at a bakery.  My kids are a little older now, but we still affectionately refer to the cookie press as the “cookie gun”. Try these addictive little cookies for your next holiday gathering. They are as much fun to make as they are yummy to eat…just ask my kiddos.

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