Homemade Strawberry Marshmallows

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omemade marshmallows are so easy and fun to make that I am surprised anyone is still buying the bagged version. Seriously, they are nothing alike. The homemade version is so silky smooth, light and fluffy…seriously amazing! The best part is creating your own flavors. I have been making my own marshmallows for years because of the flavor options you can create. Vanilla bean marshmallow creates a smores that makes camping a luxurious culinary experience.IMG_1055

For Valentines Day this year, we decided to take the recipe up a notch by adding freeze-dried strawberries to the mix. The result was so yummy I was left wondering why it took so long to try. Many people add artificial strawberry flavoring to marshmallows, but extracts can’t come close to this fresh flavor. Even adding fresh strawberries cooked down into a syrup does not provide the concentrated fresh flavor that freeze-dried pulverized strawberries create.

Cut the marshmallow into heart shapes and the possibilities are endless. Toss them in sanding sugars and sprinkles for a stand-alone confection or put them on top of a steaming mug of hot chocolate on a cold morning. I have to admit the strawberry flavor begs to be dipped in chocolate. Homemade strawberry marshmallows dipped in chocolate, decorated and packed in a box make the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

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Superbowl Chex Mix

superbowl chexmix


his Chex mix is better than the halftime show! Everything about this ooey-gooey mix is incredibly addictive. Just one taste will make your guests wonder what sets this mix apart…psst…it’s the honey. Whether you are tailgating or having fifty of your closest friends and family over for the big game, make sure you make enough or it could disappear before the coin toss.




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Cream Cheese Buttermints

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From the time I was a little girl cream cheese buttermints were served at every baby shower and wedding, I can remember.  If the event involved a fancy dress you could be assured these melt in your mouth morsels were being served.

When I got engaged my mother offered to make her “town-renowned” wedding mints. I will never forget the night before my wedding. I was so nervous…I couldn’t sleep a wink. As I paced the floor worrying about caterers, florists, and the weather I felt the knots in my stomach tighten. Going over every single detail in my mind, I remembered the cream cheese buttermints in the kitchen. I nervously ate mints for what felt like an entire night.

Now, I can’t say for sure if it was the calming effect of the peppermint on my nervous stomach or the comfort of knowing they were my mom’s mints, but I can say I walked down the aisle the next day and twenty years later I am still making the same cream cheese buttermints.

This week I was organizing my cupboard of candy molds when I came across the exact heart-shaped mold we used to make the mints for my wedding day. I decided to reinvent these mints for Valentine’s Day with a little more shimmer, sparkle, and pizazz than a wedding or baby shower. Try these incredibly addictive mints and you will soon see why this vintage recipe has become a family tradition.

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Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies

thumbprintSomething about these cookies makes me feel like a kid in kindergarten finger painting for the very first time. Rolling the dough in sparkling sugars. Making the heart shape by pressing your fingers into the dough, then filling the pressed shape full of jam.  I know these are traditional Christmas cookies, but they are just so much fun to make. I had these on my list of cookies to make and post at Christmas, but due to my unrealistic baking schedule during December, many of my Christmas projects have become Valentines’ Day baking projects (just wait until you see my cupid gingerbread men).  Yes, I bite off more than I can chew…or bake as the case may be, but I think you will agree these heart-filled cookies make the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

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Valentine Patch-Work Cookies

shape swap #2Can I just say how much fun these cookies are to make! Making these cookies looked like a baking game of musical chairs around the kitchen island. After the large heart cookie shapes were cut and chilled, the real fun began. The girls and I took out the chilled cookie sheets and began using mini heart cookie cutters to cut, sand with sugar, then swap for the center of a contrasting cookie. We worked fast to ensure the dough would stay firm and perfectly fit the previously cut cookie.

I am always looking for new ways to make sugar cookies. While making stained glass cookies this week the idea came to me to create the same look with different colored dough instead of hard candy. All sugar cookies are not the same. Some sugar cookies are soft and cakey, pairing perfectly with American buttercream. Other sugar cookies are buttery and dense taking on more of a shortbread flavor. I think it is a good idea to have several sugar cookie recipes in your arsenal depending on the project you are working on. I am not going to lie…our most requested recipe is our sour cream sugar cookie. This cookie is unbelievably soft but isn’t my dough of choice for intricate cookie cutters or detailed frosting work. 

For this cookie, I knew I wanted to create a patchwork of shapes. The dough would need to be sturdy enough to be cut, lifted, and patched into a completely different cookie. I started with a butter cookie base. I eliminated all leavening agents as I didn’t want the cookie to puff or swell while baking. Next, and most important I added cornstarch. Can I just say that in cookies cornstarch is a magical white powder that is pure witchcraft! Wheat flour has proteins that form gluten strands. While gluten gives great structure to bread it doesn’t always produce the perfect soft texture and tender crumble for a cookie. The addition of corn starch inhibits this structure and softens the cookie. I played with the amount of cornstarch until I found an amount that created a soft cookie and held a perfectly sharp edge.

I don’t know if I had more fun creating my own cookies or watching the combinations my girls would come up with. Kennedy is detail-oriented needing every edge perfectly aligned, while Maddie is the Picasso of sanding sugar, dusting every cookie with bright colors. Isn’t it funny how they get older and bigger, but their little personalities stay the same. Creating recipes and playing with my girls…I can’t imagine a better day!!!

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Linzer Cookies

Traditional European Linzer cookies have always been a family favorite at our house. We like to make them just about as much as we like to eat them. Don’t let these fancy little cookies fool you, they look difficult but are actually very simple and fun to make. Adapted from the lattice topped Austrian Linzer torte, this fruit filled cookie has become a holiday icon around the world.

This year we changed our recipe to include cardamom. It is no secret in reading my recipes that cardamom is my favorite spice. But, oh my…added to this almond butter cookie, it is amazing!!!  Many people add lemon to their linzer dough. While I love these cookies with lemon zest, cardamom adds a deeper and more intricate lemon flavor. You really must try this recipe…one simple spice makes all the difference.

My daughter Kennedy’s favorite filling is plum. Plum jam is seedless, tangy and creates the most beautiful crimson color through the tiny cut window. Citrus curds are also a fun option to fill the cookies with in spring using flower-shaped cutouts.

With so many shapes to choose from, don’t let Christmas be the only time you enjoy these buttery cookies. Red or pink jam and a heart shaped cookie cutter will quickly turn these dainty cookies into the perfect Valentine’s Day gift!

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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

christmas tree flatlay


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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