Happy New Year!

This year has gone by so quickly. Every year since I got married there has been something big happen, this year it was a big move. We loaded up all our belongings and said goodbye to Cedar Falls/Waterloo, IA (which was my home since August 2001) and moved our family to Omaha, NE. We are really enjoying Omaha, and being only two hours away from family.

I am excited to see what 2009 will bring (hopefully a new house by the end of the year). This new years eve I am celebrating it quietly with my husband and little girls. Today I have been thinking about resolutions, since it is so common to make them this time of year. Last year I wanted to lose weight, and I did really well with that resolution. I lost twenty-five pounds, TWENTY-FIVE lbs in 2008. That was all the baby weight I gained with Penelope. This year I am not going to resolve to lose more weight, although a little bit would be nice. Some of my resolutions include finding a church that will meet the needs of my family, develop and maintain a healthier lifestyle, and learn to cook vegan/vegetarian dishes.

I have been so blessed in 2008 and I look forward to what God has in store for 2009. Have a SAFE New Year!

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The BEST Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

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Last week we had a cookie decorating play date. We had so much fun decorating our gingerbread people and our sugar cookies. Many cookies were “lost” during the decorating process. Our little friend M concentrated so hard on completely covering her Christmas tree cookie in yellow frosting that I don’t think she decorated that many cookies. Sasha and Penelope were more into eating the cookies than worrying about whether or not they were adequately covered in frosting.

I found my sugar cookie recipe on one of my favorite blogs (Pinch My Salt). Nicole made her recipe for Halloween cookies. She uses powdered sugar and a tiny bit of almond extract, which I believe makes these cookies the BEST COOKIES EVER! I will be using this recipe for my Christmas cookies from now on; I may even use them for my Valentine’s day cookies, St. Patrick’s day cookies, April Fool’s day cookies, and every other holiday they are THAT good. Thank-you Nicole, we now have a family favorite that I am sure is going to become a tradition. I am sure her recipe for cream cheese frosting is lovely, however I decided to use a powdered sugar frosting that would harden. You must make these cookies, at least once. ENJOY!

Check out her recipe here.

If you want to read more about our gingerbread people check it out here.

Here are some photos of our decorating.

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Here is M concentrating so hard on her yellow Christmas tree.

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Sasha enjoying her hard work!

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Penelope ate her cookie so fast. I told you these cookies were good!

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Here are some of our sugar cookies and gingerbread people.

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Here is M’s cookie that she worked so hard on. More sprinkes ended up on the plate than the cookie, oh well.

Gingerbread Men and Women

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This year I made real gingerbread people. Last year I made them from a dry mix I bought in a box. The real deal is no comparison, these little cookie people get better each day. The girls and I had some friends over for a cookie decorating extravaganza. I think everyone involved had lots of fun. I told the girls that we were going to “paint” the cookies with frosting, this excited Sasha (2 1/2) and our friend M (almost 2). We used popsicle sticks as our paintbrushes, which worked wonderfully for our needs. The cookies may not win any awards for beautiful design, but I think they are the best looking gingerbread cookies I’ve ever seen.

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My girls kept eating the cookies. As you can see Sasha hardly has any frosting on her cookie, just enough to say she frosted it.

I got the recipe from Martha Stewart’s website, and it was delicious. This week I will be making more gingerbread people for our families. We also made cut out sugar cookies, I will post the recipe tomorrow.

Martha’s Gingerbread People

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The frosting is a powdered sugar, a tiny splash of vanilla, and a splash of milk. I used Wilton’s Icing Color in red, blue, green and yellow.

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Low Fat Pumpkin Bars

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Tis the season for stuffing our faces. Sounds pretty doesn’t it? From October 1 until January 1 is when my willpower is tested constantly.  In October I had celebrated  three years of marriage with my husband, two birthdays (next year it will be three), and Halloween. November brought three Thanksgiving dinners (eek!), now December we celebrated my SIL’s 30th birthday, and we will have a Christmas Eve dinner and three Christmas dinners. Now I wish I could say that I did not over indulge; I did however, try to eat consciously. It must have worked because the first time in a long time I am actually losing weight during this long holiday season (WOOP WOOP!).

We currently live in an apartment that does not allow for entertaining the whole family, so until I am able to host my first holiday meal, I will have to bring something to the dinner table that I know will not completely sabotage my waist line. These pumpkin bars are fabulous if I do say so myself, and they are a dessert that isn’t going to ruin your diet.  This recipe was emailed to me from Sparkpeople.com recipe of the day. These bars are delicious and moist, a great alternative to pumpkin pie. No one will know that they only have 67 calories per serving if you don’t tell them! ENJOY!

PUMPKIN BARS
serves: 48

2 cups flour
1-1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light butter or margarine, softened (I used Smart Balance)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 large egg whites
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin pie filling
1 cup carrot, finely shredded

Cream cheese topping:
4 oz light cream cheese, softened (I used fat free)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon skim milk

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 15 x 10 jellyroll pan.
Prepare Filling:
In small bowl: combine flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder & baking soda.
In larger bowl: Beat sugar, butter and brown sugar until crumbly. Add eggs, egg whites, pumpkin pie mix and carrots. Beat until well blended. Add flour mixture and mix until well blended. Spread onto greased pan.
Prepare Cream Cheese topping:
Mix together cream cheese, sugar and milk until thoroughly blended.
Drop teaspoonfuls of topping over pumpkin batter and swirl mixture with a butter knife.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake tester (inserted in center) comes out clean.
Cool in pan completely on wire rack before cutting into 48 squares.

NUTRITION INFO (per serving)
Calories: 67.2
Fat: 0.9 g
Carbohydrates: 13.6 g
Protein: 1.4 g

Apple Pie with Strudel Topping

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What’s more American than apple pie? Apple pie is probably one of my favorites pies. There are all sorts of variations of this pie. You can find double crust, lattice top, strudel top, crumble top and so on. I have never made my own pie crust, this is something I want to try and have several recipes bookmarked. For this pie, I used store bought pie crust, the kind you unroll and place in your pie dish. I did however, make my own studel topping. This is a great dish to serve during the holidays.

APPLE PIE WITH STRUDEL TOPPING
1 (9 inch) pie shell
5 cups apples (it is nice to use a variety)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

STRUDEL TOPPING
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Unroll pastry shell into pie pan and place in freezer. Place peeled, cored and sliced apples in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine 2 tablespoons flour, white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Toss with apples until they are evenly coated. Remove pie shell from freezer. Place apple mixture in pie shell. Cover lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil, do not seal. Bake 10 minutes.

Make Strudel Topping: Combine flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, and oats. Mix thoroughly, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Remove filling from oven and sprinkle strudel on top.

Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. Bake pie 35 to 40 minutes, until strudel is browned. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning.

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    Happy Mother’s Day

    Five Generations
    Great Grandma Bonnie, Sasha, Grandma Michelle
    Great Great Grandma Dorothy, Penelope, Momma Jamie

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. You may think you have a great mother, but you probably haven’t met my mom. I have the WORLD’S BEST MOM. My mom stayed home to raise her three children. When I was a child she ran a small in home daycare to generate extra income. She sacrificed selflessly to ensure her children were happy, and that we had what we needed. She provided an example of a loving Christian wife and mother. She is my role model. Happy Mother’s Day mom, I love you.

    I love you with all my heart cake!

    Lately it seems like I have the best intentions of writing, I just never follow through with them. Ugh! My goal is to post something more often. I have so many recipes and photos of different food that I haven’t posted yet. This weekend I was really ambitious, I made homemade doughnuts, that is going to be another post, however.

    I made this heart cake for Alex on Valentine’s Day. It was delicious! Target had heart shaped silicone pans on sale for $2.50 after Christmas, so I picked one up and stashed it away until Valentine’s day. I have to apologize, I was going to make a cake from scratch. I was determined to make a beautiful made from scratch heart shaped cake, I even bought cake flour at the store. But… that didn’t happen. I was so busy on Valentine’s day, running around trying to make sure everything was just perfect, that I resorted to the fail-safe boxed cake mix. I did take the time to make my own buttercream frosting!

    I baked the cake according to package directions. It was my first time cooking with a silicone pan so I was a little unsure of how long it would take to bake. Heads up –it took 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. Once the cake came out of the oven I let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool completely before working with it. Once the cake was completely cooled, I sliced it in half. I then took a generous amount of buttercream frosting and spread it on top of the bottom layer, replaced the lid and completely covered the cake with the remaining frosting. I garnished the cake with chocolate covered strawberries. It was a beautiful and tasty dessert.

    I got the buttercream frosting recipe from Wilton.

    Buttercream Recipe
    (Medium Consistency)
    1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
    1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
    1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract
    4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
    2 tablespoons milk In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

    YIELD: Makes about 3 cups.

    For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.

    For Pure White Icing (stiff consistency), omit butter; substitute an additional 1/2 cup shortening for butter and 1/2 teaspoon No-Color Butter Flavor. Add up to 4 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk to thin for icing cakes.