December 6, 2015

Christmas Potpourri

In hunting around for nice gifts to give my staff this year, I searched high and low on Pinterest.  I finally settled on this simple but classic gift: Christmas in a jar, via Nest of Posies.  I enjoyed the free printables, too!  All you do is put some spices, a small orange, and rosemary in a jar.  Bring a pot of water to a boil, dump out the jar contents, and simmer all day.  Definitely an easy way to get the house smelling perfect for the holidays.
Now, I couldn't find mulling spices at the grocery store, but raiding my spice cabinet did the trick just fine.  I'll be sharing these with my group tomorrow, so fingers crossed that they enjoy the gifts!

Cranberry and Brie Pastry Bites

Today's update is to share a really easy, quick appetizer recipe I made over Thanksgiving.  I've been wanting to make this for ages, but in my household cranberries and brie just aren't appetizing for some reason.  So instead, I made this as an appetizer Thanksgiving day, which was happily gobbled up by my in-laws, and again that same week for a family game night.  Trust me- tuck this away for future reference when you need a nice, impressive snack with minimal effort!  The original recipe comes courtesy of Yummy Mummy Kitchen's blog, and she has plenty of other good things to check out as well.

Cranberry and Brie Pastry Bites
Makes 16


  • 1 puff pastry sheet, thawed (I use Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1 4-oz wedge Brie cheese, or 1 container of snack-size Brie wedges, opened and divided into 16 portions
  • 1/3 cup homemade or store bought cranberry sauce (whole berry; not jelly)
  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry rectangle.  Using a pizza cutter, cut into 16 small squares.
  3. Place pastry squares into muffin tin, pressing down gently in each opening.  Bake 8 minutes or until pastry begins to turn golden brown.
  4. Remove muffin tin from oven and use the back of a spoon to gently press down in the center of each pastry square to create room for filling.
  5. Place a portion of brie onto each pastry square.  Top with about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cranberry sauce.
  6. Place muffin tin back into oven for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is soft and pastry is golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven, gently remove from muffin tins and cool on a wire rack.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Optional: Top with toasted pecans and/or sugared cranberries.

October 14, 2015

Apple Cream Cheese Danishes

After a recent outing to an apple orchard, I found myself with an abundance of apples.  I plan to make a pie, but in the meantime I've been enjoying a modified version of these apple dumplings found on Southern Bite.  I was suspicious of the Sprite used in the recipe, but after searching similar recipes found some used Mt. Dew, others used Sprite, etc., so clearly the carbonation was doing... something... to help with these.  I shrugged and ran with it, and have no regrets.  What I DID change was to sneak some cream cheese and cinnamon sugar inside these ooey gooey dumplings, which I am re-branding as danishes.

Apple Cream Cheese Danishes
Makes 8


  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced into 8 slices
  • 1 tube crescent rolls (8 count)
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (mixture of ~1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 6 oz Sprite
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a square baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
  2. Unroll the crescent rolls and separate into triangles.  Spread a bit of cream cheese along the bottom of each triangle.  Place an apple slice on top.  Sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar.  Roll up in crescent roll dough and pinch seams closed.
  3. Place danishes in prepared baking dish, evenly spaced.
  4. Mix melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, and flour in a medium bowl until well combined.  Pour over danishes.
  5. Pour Sprite down center and sides of baking dish (not over the danishes themselves).
  6. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until tops are golden and danishes are baked all the way through.
I wish you could smell these!

Just your basic white girl, wearing a scarf, loving fall, and baking all things apple and pumpkin.

October 11, 2015

Rustic Pumpkin Apple Bites

These little guys have been lurking on my Pinterest desserts page for a LONG time, and I finally made them last weekend.  Perfect for fall, with a nice oatmeal crust, these are not too sweet and not too heavy.  They make a nice little treat, and would be perfect for a Halloween party or even packed along for a picnic.  I did adapt my recipe a bit from Zestful Lou's, but appreciate the idea she planted!

Pumpkin Apple Bites

Makes 12 bites


For the crust

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon milk
For the filling
  • 3 tablespoons pureed pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons apple butter (I used caramel apple butter- YUM)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together filling ingredients.
  3. Place dry crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined.  Then, with food processor running, slowly pour in melted butter and then milk.  Process until combined.
  4. Scoop a tablespoon of crust dough and press into mini muffin tin.  Press down and up sides of the tin.  Repeat in each spot on the muffin tin.  You will have a bit of crust mixture left over- reserve.
  5. Scoop 1-2 teaspoons of filling into each crust.  Sprinkle a little of the remaining crust mixture over each bite.
  6. Bake 12-15 minutes or until filling is set.  The filling will be puffed up when you take the bites out of the oven, but will settle as everything cools.
  7. Place muffin tin on a drying rack, and allow bites to cool completely before gently removing from tin.
Crust ingredients.  They smell amazing together!

All mixed with the butter and milk.

So rustic and delicious.

Crochet Pyramid Buddy

I have a stack of projects to post, which can only mean that it is FALL!  Time for coziness in the house, making comfort food, and crafting goodies.  First up, we have this little creation that my son requested.  He tasked me with making crochet aliens which was an out there ask, but we designed these little creatures together and had fun doing it.  The last of the set was to be a pyramid.  I couldn't find a good pyramid pattern on Pinterest, but followed this good one for a triangle.  I just took that to make 4 triangles, and a square base (20 rows of 20 SC- same size as the pyramid base).

After attaching the triangles to each other and putting on the eyes, this guy needed some character.  I added hair which went a long way to upping his cute factor, and gave him a fun smile that went around one of his triangle edges.  I adding stuffing and was sewing on the base, when my son said I should leave the tails hanging instead of weaving them in.  He liked the little jellyfish legs.

Lesson at the heart of this: you can make all kinds of crochet nonsense with some basic patterns and letting yourself go with the flow.  It doesn't have to look perfect.  Just enjoy it. :)

August 24, 2015

Lemon Surprise Cookies


I tried a new cookie recipe yesterday and am very glad to share this success with others.  It's a chewy, sweet but tart, light cookie that's perfect for summer (or the tail end of summer, as everyone is feeling heading up to labor day).  It reminds me a bit of my chocolate peanut butter surprise cookies as far as technique goes, so I made a batch of those as well for my lucky coworkers.
The recipe comes courtesy of SewLicious Home Decor.  I've only made a few edits to make the instructions a bit easier for me to follow.  Enjoy!

Lemon Surprise Cookies
Yields approx. 2 dozen cookies
Prep time: 1-2 hours (filling needs to freeze before baking)
Bake time: 10 minutes



  • 1 box supreme white cake mix (just using the powder mix; you do not prepare it as directed on the box)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (not butter)
  • 3.4-oz box lemon Jello instant pudding mix
Cheesecake Filling
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Prepare cheesecake filling, mixing together all ingredients until creamy.  Spoon teaspoon-size dollops onto prepared baking sheet.  Place in freezer 1 hour or more until set.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the cookie ingredients (cake mix, eggs, oil, and pudding mix).  Turn dough out onto saran wrap and refrigerate until cheesecake filling is set.
  4. When filling is firm, preheat oven to 350° and assemble cookies.  Scoop 1-2 tablespoons of cookie dough and flatten into a circle in your palm.  Place a frozen dollop of cheesecake filling into center, and roll cookie dough around the filling, being careful to close up all seams.  Roll into a ball.
  5. Place balls of dough with filling centers on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake 8-12 minutes or until set.  The tops won't brown, but the bottoms will.
  7. Remove from oven and gently press down each cookie with a spatula or the bottom of a cup to flatten slightly.  Let sit on baking sheet 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.
  8. Serve warm, or cool completely before storing.
Aaa!  They just look so summery and yummy!  I wish I could give you smell-o-vision, too.

Mmm- delicious filling.

August 23, 2015

Carpenter's Star Christmas Quilt Part 1

If there's one thing I've learned from my overdue blogging, it's that I forget the details from my crafts and recipes.  Trying to avoid that, I'm going to start detailing some of the exciting specifics as I begin piecing together my newest quilt!  It's a gorgeous carpenter's star I first saw on this quilt on Pinterest.  I figured out my own pattern from that (sadly, the link only showed the final quilting- not the pattern), and I made a quilt for my mother-in-law last Christmas.  A couple more baby quilts later, I wanted to revive the carpenter's star pattern for a red and white Christmas quilt for my family.  I am well aware that it is still summer, but I like having plenty of time to poke around and work on a quilt.  I made the one for my mother-in-law in a breakneck 6 weeks last winter and I have no need to repeat that frenzy.

So, those details I mentioned:


Fabric (for twin size quilt)
[Note: will result in plenty of extra fabric (~1/3 yard per color), which I count as a good thing for inevitable bad cuts, poor calculation (cough cough), stains, loved ones running off with bits of fabric, or other quilting- or life-related issues.)
  • 4 yards white fabric
  • 4 yards red fabric
  • 1/2 yard binding fabric
  • 4 1/2 yards backing fabric
  • Twin quilt batting- high loft
  • Red thread
  • White thread

For the quilt top, I ended up getting 4 different patterns of red fabric (1 yard each), 3 patterns of white fabric (1 yard each), and 1 pattern with holly leaves- a mix of red, white, and green, as an accent stand in for some white parts of the star (1 yard).  I got a different red for the binding, and am using one of my red quilt top patterns for the backing (so for that pattern, I got 5 1/2 yards of fabric total).  With a 20% off coupon, the supplies all cost ~$80 I think.

Squares and Half-Square Triangles (HSTs)
  • For each color, cut 12 squares and 24 HSTs
  • Squares measure 5 1/2" square
  • HSTs cut from 5 7/8" squares; end triangle measurement is 5 7/8 x 5 7/8 x 8 1/4; HSTs sewn together will measure 5 1/2" square, the same as your regular squares
I definitely needed to capture these measurements because I did NOT remember my sizes from the last star quilt.  I tried looking up some handy dandy charts online, and unfortunately the one I followed was off, perhaps because I wasn't cutting my HSTs the same way they were.  There are a lot of great tricks to save you time, but they require you to have multiple triangle pairs of the same two fabrics, which is not the case in my quilt.  What I did was cut each larger square, and cut it in half to get 2 triangles.  That likely threw off my end measurements to be bigger than the blossom heart quilts table.  Live and learn, right?  I had a lot of excess fabric so I cut new squares (now 5 1/2" square) to match my larger assembled HST squares.

After hours of cutting and laying out the pieces in the pattern, here's where I wound up:

As you can see, my designated spot in the living room was too small, so I had to lay out portions on the couch.  That's ok.  :)  You can see the few spots where I swapped out an all-white portion for the holly pattern.  I originally had the holly scattered throughout the white parts and it was too distracting, so I consolidated into designated groups and was much happier.

I currently have 4 or 5 rows sewn together, so I'm about 1/4 of the way through the quilt top rows.  Onward and upward!

June 18, 2015

Summer Squash and Herb Gratin

This delicious zucchini and squash dish comes courtesy of a cookbook my brother and sister-in-law got me for Christmas, The New Southern Table.  Summery and cheesy with amazing crispy breadcrumbs on top!  It's really similar to my cheesy baked zucchini but with a richer taste and texture because it is sauteed first, and of course because of the gratin.  Mmmm.

Summer Squash and Herb Gratin
Serves 2-3 as a side dish


  • 1 large zucchini, cut into slices and then quartered
  • 1 large squash, cut into slices and then quartered
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place the squash quarters in a colander and generously season with the salt.  Let sit 20 minutes, rinse with cold water, then thoroughly dry with a kitchen towel.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium-size skillet over medium heat.  When the butter melts, swirl the pan for 2-4 minutes, or until the butter is lightly browned.  Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, 2-4 minutes or until the bread crumbs are browned.  Transfer to a bowl, and stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.
  4. Heat the olive oil and remaining tablespoon of butter in the same saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the squash first, then the garlic, and cook.  Stir often and cook 6-8 minutes, or until the squash is tender and brown in spots.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan, seasonings, and pepper to taste.
  5. Transfer the squash to a shallow, oven-proof dish, such as a pie dish or casserole dish.  Top with the Parmesan and bread crumb mixture and bake 20-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

March 4, 2015

Christopher and the Purple Crayon

My son recently celebrated his 5th birthday, and one of his gifts was the classic book, Harold and the Purple Crayon.  It left quite the impression on my little artist, and he wanted to make his own version of the book.  Here are pics of his book, with some notes to explain it along the way.  Enjoy.

While Harold starts with the moon, Christopher chose the sun.  Maybe it's because he's golden.

Apple trees


Picnic lunch

The hungry moose and porcupine get to eat the lunch leftovers.

Hot air balloon

Hot air balloon lands on the grass at Christopher's house.

February 8, 2015

One Pot Chicken and Rice

Oh little blog, how neglected you are!  I've been cooking and crafting away since the holidays, but not taking time to enter the fun details here.  This recipe is the perfect example.  I made it for the first time December 10th (according to the date stamp on the photo) and have easily made it a half dozen times since then.  Each time I have to go to the pin, rather than using my own tweaked notes!  Crazysauce.  So let's try to remedy that, shall we?

The original recipe comes courtesy of Natasha's Kitchen, and kudos to her for finding such a flavorful way to pull these common ingredients together.  I've tried other chicken and rice casseroles that included broccoli and cheese but somehow failed to come together as well as this one does.  I'm also happy to share that after just a couple times making this recipe, I was able to find the tweaks I needed to get it just right in my eyes.  One of those involves knife skills.  Fun!

One Pot Chicken and Rice

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cook time: 30 min
Serves: 4-6

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks (skinny sticks, ~2" long; see tutorial here), though I prefer julienne
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 cup white wine, such as Chardonnay (or 1/2 cup water:1/2 cup chicken broth mixture)
  • 5 cups hot chicken broth (I usually warm it up in a separate pot, which makes this a two-pot meal, but you can microwave it, too)
  • 2 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1 head garlic, top and some of the peel cut off but leaving root in tact (see here)
  • 1/3 cup fresh curly parsley (not flat leaf), chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  1. You definitely need to prep all of your ingredients beforehand!  Have them nicely laid out in the order you'll need them.
  2. Heat oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a dutch oven (large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid) on medium/high heat.  Stir in onion, carrots, and 1 teaspoon of the salt and turn heat down to medium.  Sautee until soft and golden, 8-10 minutes.  If onion begins to brown too quickly, turn heat down to medium/low.
  3. Add chicken, the other teaspoon of salt, pepper, and bay leaves.  Saute until chicken is golden all over, 5 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and add the white wine.  Boil down the wine, scraping the bottom, until most of the wine has evaporated (3-5 minutes).
  5. Add the hot chicken broth, then stir in the rice.
  6. Nestle the cut and partially peeled head of garlic into the center of the pot.  Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.
  7. Turn off the heat, scoop out the garlic head and discard, and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until melted and incorporated.  Then stir in the parsley and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Serve with a small sprinkle of Parmesan on top.
Looks so great as it all cooks up!  I can taste it now.  Gaah!

January 4, 2015

Cheesy Pesto Rolls

I've been loving on recipes from How Sweet It Is for years now, and once again find another winner with this delicious pesto bread.  They're packed with flavor, an amazing balance of soft with crispy cheesy tops, and just right for sprucing up any dinner.
On a side note, this recipe makes the rolls from scratch.  You could easily use store-bought rolls and top them with the pesto and cheeses, but you won't get anywhere near the rich flavor and amazing texture you get with the from-scratch approach.

Cheesy Pesto Rolls

Makes: 14 large rolls  Total Time: 3 hours


  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 packet (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup basil pesto, divided (I bought a jar of pesto, but you can easily make some by blending fresh basil and olive oil in a blender or food processor)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for topping
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 6 ounces fontina cheese, freshly grated
  • Chopped fresh basil for garnish
  1. Mix the warm milk and water in the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment.  Add the yeast and honey, then the olive oil.  Let stand until foamy (about 15 minutes).  Note: The foaming will be obvious.  If the mixture looks the same as when you started, your yeast may not be good.  If so, start again with another packet of yeast.
  2. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of the pesto, and 1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  Mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated.  Switch to the dough hook, knead on low speed, and slowly add the remaining 1 cup of flour.  Mix on low speed for 5-6 minutes.  The dough should be slightly sticky but still pull away from the sides of the bowl.  If it's too sticky, slowly add more flour until silky in appearance.
  3. Oil a large bowl.  Turn out the dough into the oiled bowl, cover with a damp dish cloth, and set in a warm place (such as on top of a warm oven).  Let stand 1 1/2 to 2 hours until dough is roughly doubled in size.
  4. Lightly flour a work surface, gently turn your dough out onto the surface, and knead a few times.  Tear off 12-15 equal pieces of dough.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°.  Brush a large oven-safe skillet with melted butter.  Roll your pieces of dough into balls and place in the skillet.  Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with the grated fontina cheese.  Spread the pesto on top and between the rolls.
  6. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden and cooked through.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with some more parmigiano-reggiano cheese and chopped fresh basil.  Serve warm.
Little dough balls waiting for the pan.

Nestled in, topped with cheese and pesto.  Already smells great!

Loooook at that golden amazing wonderfulness!

Pro tip: Whenever you make something with a skillet in the oven, put an oven mitt on the handle when you take it out.  This way, when you inevitably reach for the handle, you touch the mitt and not the blazing hot handle.


I don't care that I'm writing this at 9 am.  I want some RIGHTNOW.