Smells Like Christmas Spirit

There is nothing that makes my home feel more in the Christmas Spirit than a good simmering potpourri. Once as the yuletide scent hits the room you will find me Singing & Dancing while baking cookies, wrapping gift, and making new holiday creations.

I feel like this time of year all my favorite stores have a distinct Christmas smell. So I wanted to create my own. Experimenting with cranberries, oranges, cinnamon, rosemary, and vanilla, I came up with my “Christmas Scent”.

The fun part is there is NO WRONG WAY to make your Christmas Scent. Play with your favorite smells and ingredients.

Fruits: Slice up fresh oranges or throw in dried oranges. You can use mandarin oranges, tangerines, clementines or lemons. They all work and smell wonderful.

Fresh Rosemary or Pine: This adds the depth scent and screams Christmas.

Cranberries: These are not a must but I believe they make your potpourri beautiful and add to the aroma. This time of year cranberries are easy to find.

Vanilla: use the extract or pop open a vanilla bean

Cinnamon: The powder or the sticks. The sticks are easy to find on Amazon or even your local grocery store.

Whole Cloves: A few go along way!

Simmering Potpourri

Cut oranges in slices. Add all your ingredients to a large pot (or slow cooker). Add water to fill pot to 3/4 full.

Bring pot to a boil. Then take the potpourri to a simmer. Enjoy it for hours. Keep an eye on it to add water as needed. Never leave it unattended for an extended period of time. You don’t want the water to completely evaporate.

Make it a Gift

Add all the potpourri items to a cellophane bag and tie it up with a cute bow. Tie on the directions. You have a gift all ready to go.

Keep Singing & Dancing,

The GRINCH Milkshake

I have to share this fun, green drink to celebrate my friend The Grinch.  You know, the Grinch is like so many of us.  This guy had some emotional wounds.  Some deep scars that started all the way back in childhood.  So The Grinch developed coping mechanisms (like I have and maybe you have) and even sequestered himself away from any sort of hurt.  He found a place so far away from anyone that could hurt him.  That cynical, grumpy attitude was really just a protective suit for The Grinch.  Ever put one of those on?  But The Grinch, even sequestered, protected, and guarded, was so lonely and missing connection.

I loved it when Jim Carry played The Grinch.  The character who flips the table is Cindy Lou Who.  Just a little girl who stayed curious.  You know we don’t do this enough.  I am so guilty of forming my opinions and moving on when someone’s expressions or enthusiasm does not match mine.  Maybe when someone’s values are different or they don’t share my beliefs, I easily move on.  But not Cindy Lou Who!  Cindy was invested!  Cindy Lou Who stayed curious and wanted to see the good in The Grinch.  Cindy knew something caused The Grinch to be this way and she knew he had a heart.  Even when everyone doubted Cindy, she still believed in The Grinch.  

My heart is to be more like Cindy Lou Who.  I want to look for the good.  I want to see past the protective walls that are built.  I want to see the heart of the person.  I want to stay curious until we get there.

To celebrate this season, we are celebrating with these fun Grinch Milkshakes!  A little reminder to my family that The Grinch just needed someone to believe in him.  Who can you believe in this Christmas?

The GRINCH Milkshake
(makes 2 milkshakes)

2 cups vanilla ice cream (I used Blue Bell)
¼ cup whole milk, plus more if needed
Green food gel – a few drops until desired color
Whipped cream, for garnish
Christmas Sprinkles
Candy Cane
6oz white chocolate or white almond bark

Melt white chocolate in the microwave until melted. Put the sprinkles in an open mouth bowl that the rim of glass will fit into.  Working one at a time, dip the rim of the milkshake glass into the chocolate. Immediately press the chocolate coated rim into the sprinkles, pressing lightly. Turn cups upright to dry completely.

Combine the ice cream, milk, and green food gel in a blender.  Puree on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until well-blended.  If the milkshake is too thick, add 2 tablespoons more milk at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Pour into two milkshake glasses. Garnished with whipped cream, sprinkles, candy cane, and fun straw.

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chips Cookies

On the mission to make several new treats this holiday season, this was a new one I attempted. Now, have you ever skipped a few steps in baking. It is usually not a wise decision. This recipes begins with a cake mix. I was not sure I was sold on this but it worked. I adapted the recipe a little to make it work for me. But you will see from my notes below that I would definitely create a different drizzle next time. The cookies were good but did not give me that total red velvet taste I love. I think the cream cheese drizzle would take care of that. If you make that change to the recipe, let me know! (and send a picture.) I also update this recipe once I do too. Enjoy the wonderful smells in your kitchen this season. 
Merry Christmas! -Amanda


                                  Red Velvet White Chocolate Chips Cookies

1 box Red Velvet cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
1 t baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup + 2 T vegetable oil
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips (use another 1/2 cup to press in before baking)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 lb white almond bark

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Using a mixer, mix together the cake mix and baking powder. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, and vanilla together. Add the egg mixture to the cake mixture and stir to form a dough. This is the tricky part, you must make sure all the cake mix is dissolved and there are no “dry pockets.” The dough will be oily. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
Drop 9 rounded balls of dough, about 1 1/2 T of dough each, onto prepared baking sheet. Press in a a few more white chocolate chips on top of the cookie dough balls. This is completely for presentation. 
Bake each batch for 9 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle each cookie with confectioners’ sugar. Allow to cool completely on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Melt almond bark in microwave. Stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted. Drizzle melted almond bark over cookies. Allow to dry.

**Now- the next time I make these cookies, I will make a cream cheese drizzle for the cookies.
Something like this:
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract
3 to 4 T milk
Beat cream cheese until very creamy. Beat in powdered sugar. Stir in vanilla. Add 3 tablespoons milk. Totally combine. Add more milk to get desired consistency for drizzling.

Texas Sheet Cake Cookies

Hello December! There is something about this month that makes me think I need to bake every day! I’m a realist with an active eight month old and nine year old so I have set the goal of at least 5 new baking recipes this season. You know those recipes you have set aside all year or torn out of magazine, that is the ones I’m after. I have a limited amount of time for baking (basically during nap time) and I will be sharing what I have learned.

This little cookie has snuck into our house and is crazy insane IF you love chocolate and fudge. Being from Texas, our sheet cake shows up at lots of get togethers. So I wanted to make a cookie inspired by this famous cake. After combining four different recipes, I think I found something that works. My son and I are fudge lovers. So the icing on these cookies gave us complete happiness. See what you think! If you have a cookie, candy, or treat recipe that you are dying to try- send it my way. I’m feeling crazy! As you are cooking, baking, decorating, wrapping, etc.- don’t get so overwhelmed or crazy that you forget what this whole season is about.
Singing and Dancing to Sufjan Stevens!- Amanda


Texas Sheet Cake Cookies

½ cup butter, room temperature
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 t baking powder
½ t salt
1⅓ cup flour
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

½ cup butter
2 T cocoa powder
3 T milk
2½ cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light, scrape sides frequently. Add egg and vanilla. Continue mixing until well blended. Mix in baking powder and salt. Turn mixer to low and slowly add in flour. Dough will be thick. In the microwave, heat chocolate chips on high in 30 second increments until melted, stirring after every 30 seconds. Mix melted chocolate directly into cookie dough until evenly mixed. Drop dough by a tablespoon sized mounds onto baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes until cookies appear set. They will still be very soft on the inside. You do not want to over bake. Trust me. Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool.
Now let’s make the icing- In a medium saucepan combine butter, cocoa powder and milk over medium heat. Continue to whisk until all is melted together. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar. Finally add the pecans. Pour icing over cookies and allow icing to set before serving. Seriously let these cookies just take a bath in the chocolate goodness. Once cooled, prepare yourself. Then store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Look at those cookies taking a warm, chocolate bath!

Look at those cookies taking a warm, chocolate bath!

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Is there anything that says Christmas more than ginger cookies? It’s that time of year that everyone wants a ginger cookie or two.  Several years ago I was determined to find that perfect, easy, and traditional recipe.  With several experiments in the kitchen, polling friends, and conducting my own taste tests, I found the recipe I give to you now.  You still have several weeks to enjoy this holiday classic.  Your family, friends, and coworkers will thank you!  -Amanda

photo-89Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 extra large egg

1 t vanilla

1/4 cup regular unsulphured molasses

1 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the center.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.  Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  With mixer on medium speed, beat in the egg, vanilla, and molasses, until the mixture no longer looks curdled.  Scrape the sides with a rubber spatula several times while mixing.  Mix in flour mixture on low speed.  The batter will be rather stiff.

Place some granulated sugar on a small plate.  Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to form 1/4 cup portions of dough.  Or I have been using a cookie dough scoop to make a little smaller cookies.  Transfer the dough to your hands and roll each portion into a rough ball, then roll each ball into the sugar.  Place six (large) or nine (small) sugared balls on each baking sheet, spacing evenly, because they will spread during baking.  Dampen your fingers with water and press down lightly on each cookie to flatten it a little and dampen the top.  Refrigerate one filled baking sheet while the other bakes.

Bake for 9- 10 minutes, or until the cookies have spread and are slightly firm to the touch.  Rotate the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet.

Makes 20-22 large (1/4 cup) cookies or 37-30 (dough scoop measurement) cookies

Cranberry Sauce

Why yes, I know it comes in a can!  So does shrimp but that does not mean it’s okay to serve.  Freshly made cranberry sauce makes the whole meal come together.  It was simple and a hit on our Thanksgiving table.  I predict this little number will be a regular with turkey in the Fuller home. Chunk the Can!-Amanda photo-90

Cranberry Sauce

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 3 oranges)

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground ginger

Dash of ground cloves

1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries

1 T grated orange rind

Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook 12 minutes or until cranberries pop. Remove from heat; stir in rind. Cool completely. Serve chilled or at room temperature.