Oreo Cookies and Cream Cookies

So today was supposed to be the day for the Christmas season to officially begin in the Jones home.  Monday after Thanksgiving is our tradition.  The tree goes up during the day and then we decorate it together as a family after dinner.  I also get the Christmas lights up on the house for their big unveiling once it gets dark.

Unfortunately, my hubby and child #3 are still out of town from Thanksgiving so it is a no-go on the tree tonight.  As far as the Christmas lights....I have no gutters to attach them to right now!  We are in the midst of a never-ending remodel on the outside of our house.  Complete new roof, siding, gutters and trim.  It will be great if it ever gets done when it is done, but right now, I am stuck looking like the complete Scrooge of the neighborhood.
So since I can't decorate, I thought I would bake instead.  I love trying new recipes for the holidays and these are a great cookie to add to your Christmas cookie repertoire.  My 17 year old declared them to be her new favorite cookie.  That is quite an endorsement!  I think it is impossible to go wrong with a cookie packed with Oreos, white and semisweet chocolate.
Oreo Cookies and Cream Cookies
makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies
recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 C room temperature butter
3/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C sugar
4.2 ounce package instant Oreo pudding mix
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 C semi sweet chocolate chips
1 C white chocolate chips
5 Oreos, chopped small

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In your electric mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the dry pudding mix until completely mixed in.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until combined.  Scrape down the sides of your bowl.  Add the vanilla and mix again.
2.  Add the salt, flour and baking soda and mix until completely incorporated.  Add the chips and pieces of Oreos and mix just until combined.  Don't pulverize the Oreo pieces.  Using a 1 1/2" cookie scoop, place level scoops of dough on your ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes until just set.  Don't over bake!  They will look pale in color.  Allow the cookies to cool on the hot cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

Tangerine Cranberry Muffins

We absolutely adore surprising our children.  Especially the teenagers.  We are the best at taking something amazing and lying about it fudging the details to make it seem like something lousy.

For example, we had our teenagers convinced that last week, our family needed to drive down to Galveston, TX to help out a friend who "needed our help moving into her older home and work on some major renovations before the house was clean enough to live in."  Doesn't that sound just like something teenagers would love to go and do?  We are so mean :)
Instead of a week of dirty, menial work, our family spent a gorgeous week on the inaugural cruise of the brand new Carnival ship out of Galveston.  SURPRISE!

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful that the Lord has blessed me with 6 beautiful children and an amazing husband. We have more fun together than I think we really should.  I am thankful that the Lord has blessed us so abundantly with memories that my children will be sharing with their own children and grandchildren.  
To make our Thanksgiving breakfast extra special, I have made these outstanding muffins.  These are a tradition in our home at the holidays and I was shocked to see that I had never posted the recipe in all the previous years.
How can you not feel in the holiday spirit looking at these gorgeous, fresh cranberries dotted throughout the muffin?

I know it sounds anal, but the mixing process for these muffins really is important so don't just dump it all in the mixer.  Take a few extra seconds to do it right and you will love the results!
Tangerine Cranberry Muffins
makes 12 large muffins
(recipe adapted from The Best Recipe)

3 C flour
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
10 Tb butter, room temperature
1 C minus 1 Tb sugar
1 Tb finely grated tangerine zest (I also make these with orange zest if I don't have tangerines, but use less zest, about 2 tsp)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 C plain yogurt
1 C finely chopped fresh cranberries

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease the rims of your muffin tins and then line them with a paper liner.  If you don't grease the edges, the muffins will stick to your pan as they rise.   In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
2.  In your electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl about half way through.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and scrape down the bowl after each egg is added.
3.  Add half of the flour mixture and mix in, then mix in a third of the yogurt.  Mix in half of remaining flour then half of the remaining yogurt.  Repeat one more time with remaining flour mixture and yogurt.  Do not over-mix!  Add the cranberries and fold them in by hand with a rubber spatula.
4.  Divide the batter evenly between your 12 muffins.  The batter will be piled above the top of your liners, but that is how it is supposed to be.  Bake for 25-30 minutes and golden brown.  Remove from the pan to cool.

Spiced Carrot Muffins

People are always shocked when I tell them what I do M-F mornings at 6:30 am.  Their mouths hang open slightly to discover I voluntarily teach a religious education class to 10 high school students in my area.  They are completely dumbfounded that there are 10 high school kids who would choose to do that instead of sleep.  That should be testament enough to why I love teaching these amazing young men and women.  They are truly a blessing to my life.

I wouldn't give up this opportunity for anything, but it does cause me a bit of a struggle at home each morning.  Since my sweet hubby travels most weeks and my oldest two attend my class, the rest of the kids are left to fend for themselves.  They do a great job, but I know they miss me being home to help them get ready for school, and they are especially tired of having cereal every morning for breakfast.
To help them break the cereal trend, I have started making batches of muffins and freezing them.  Now, instead of a boring bowl of rice crispies, they grab a muffin and some homemade yogurt instead.  It is much easier on the budget, not to mention healthier!  They really liked these muffins and they are perfect for the fall flavors.

I like to keep muffins in my freezer that are individually stored in a sandwich sized ziplock bag.  To freeze them, place them on a cookie sheet in your freezer.  When they are completely frozen, place them in a sandwich size bag, remove all the air you can, then return to the freezer.
Spiced Carrot Muffins
adapted from Everyday Food, Jan 2004
(makes 12 muffins)
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C plain yogurt
4 Tb melted butter
1 egg
2 T milk
2 C shredded carrots, about 3 medium

1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line your muffin tin with paper liners.
2.  In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and whisk together well.  In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, butter, egg and milk until smooth.  Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in the wet.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the wet into the dry until about half way combined, then add the carrots and gently continue to fold until incorporated.  Do not over mix.
3.  Evenly scoop your batter into the 12 liners and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the muffin tin and cool completely on a rack.

Salted Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Bars

It is a sad, sad day in the Jones household.  We no longer have a baby to hold, snuggle and rock to sleep.  She is a full blown 2 year old who continually reminds us that she is a "big girl" and "no baby!"

Can you believe it has been two years since Micah was born???   It just isn't fair.  In fact, when the day comes for me to stand before my Heavenly Father, I will definitely bring up the unfair balance between the baby years and the teenage years.  
(....please don't look too closely at my store-bought cake.....I had just flown in from Dallas and didn't have time to bake one.  Sacrilegious coming from me, I know)
Now that my "big girl" is so big, she loves to help me in the kitchen.  Today in fact, she opened the freezer, took out a popsicle and opened the package all by herself.  She was quite proud of herself.  I was shocked!

After she finished her popsicle, she climbed up on the counter and helped me with these bars.  They are so good and easy enough for a 2-year old to help.  In fact, if you are searching for an impressive, yet easy cookie to bake for Christmas, this is the one!  Once I added the sprinkle of coarse salt, the perfection was complete.
Salted Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Bars
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
(makes 24 bars)
For the shortbread:
1 C butter, room temperature
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

For the topping:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 C toffee bits
3/4 tsp coarse kosher salt (not part of the original recipe, but completes the flavor!)

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with non-stick spray.
2.  In your electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of your bowl, add the vanilla and mix again.  Add the flour, salt, and cinnamon.  Mix just until the flour is incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and with a rubber spatula, mix in the 3 ounces of finely chopped chocolate.
3.  Transfer the dough to the baking dish and evenly press it down across the bottom.  Bake for 18-20 minutes until the shortbread is bubbling.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the chocolate chips.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes until the chocolate melts then spread it evenly across the cookies.  Sprinkle evenly over the top of the bars both the toffee pieces and the salt.  Use your hand to gently press the toffee into the chocolate.
4.  Allow to cool, then place the pan in your fridge to turn the chocolate hard.  To cut, remove the foil from the pan, the peel away the foil from the bars.  Use a sharp knife to cut into pieces.

200th post!! Here are my favorites....

I can't believe I have posted 200 recipes!  Crazy...but so fun!

Hard to pick my favorites, but after much debate, here are my favorites, plus a quick reason why I love them more than the others.  (Just don't tell the other 170 recipes.....they would be crushed)

So in no particular order, my favorite 30 so far.  The picture above shows them in order starting at the top left corner.

Brownie Crunch Ice Cream Cake
I could eat the whole pan without a single struggle.  So simple to make.
Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Stuffed Crispy Treats
It is like taking all of my favorite flavors into one ooey, gooey treat.
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
They take some time, but the best cinnamon rolls I have ever made.
Salted Caramel Pretzel Popcorn Bars
I adore caramel corn and these are a fun bar version.
Hard Boiled Egg Chocolate Chip Cookies
Sounds disgusting, but they are HANDS DOWN the best chocolate chip cookies....EVER!
Oatmeal Dinner Rolls
Dense, moist and chewy.  Slather on the butter and complete heaven.
Marshmallow Fondant
While I would take buttercream frosting any day over fondant, this has been so fun to learn to use and tastes so much better than regular fondant.  It has opened a whole new world to me when it comes to cake decorating.
Salted Toffee Graham Squares
Another great salty/sweet combo.
Island Pork Tenderloin with Black Beans and Mango Salsa
I use this a lot of entertain and people always tell me how scared they were to try it, then couldn't stop eating it.
Molten Chocolate Cakes
Just add a large scoop of vanilla ice cream and just die!
Snickerdoodle Blondies
A much easier way to make snickerdoodles instead of rolling them all out one at a time.
Update Peanut Butter Bars
The most frequently made cookie recipe in my house.
Buttermilk Syrup
If you are going to do syrup, might as well do it right!
Homemade Laundry Detergent
While I can't tell you how this tastes (ewww), it has been a lifesaver for my grocery budget.
Hoagie Rolls
Crusty and chewy on the outside while tender on the inside.  So worth every minute they take to make.
Oatmeal Cake
One more I could eat the whole pan without a single hesitation.  Again, sounds weird, but OUTSTANDING!
Praline Sweet Potatoes
Thanksgiving staple in our home.  Get rid of those lousy marshmallow covered ones you make!
Lemon Coffee Cake
A nice switch from a classic coffee cake and has a great, moist lemon flavor.
Cheese Ball
Why do I only make this twice a year?  I could eat this with a spoon!
Zucchini Pineapple Carrot Muffins
When you have a ton of zucchini from your garden, make batches of these for your freezer.  So much better than plain old zucchini bread!
Root Beer Float Cake
The root beer enhances this chocolate cake and makes it so dense and moist.
Saltine Toffee Candy
Another salty/sweet treat that is so easy and with ingredients I always have in the cupboard.
Low Carb Pancakes and Waffles
My salvation for the past few months as I try to lose those last few pounds after baby #6.
I won't lie.  These take time, but you will never buy store bought bagels again.  Honest.
Thick and Chewy Double Chocolate Mint Cookies
Chocolate/mint are #2 when it comes to flavor combos, right after salty/sweet.  This cookie is dense and moist.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
The cake is the perfect texture and perfectly topped with this frosting.  I wouldn't dream of changing this combination.
Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
Don't want cupcakes, just bake it in a pan instead.  Want to feel better about eating them?  Call them mufins :)
Chicken, Avocado and Bacon Pasta Salad
Love the creamy avocado in this salad that mixes with the chicken and bacon.  Perfection!
Cookies and Cream Crispy Treats
Oreos are my favorite cookie.  Rice crispy treats are #2.  This combines the best of both worlds.
Raspberry Peach Scones
I love these scones so much.  If you don't like the fruit flavor, just change what you like.  Plain, chocolate chip, raisin, apple....whatever!