Cran-Raspberry Pina Colada Slush

Happy 2012 to all my faithful and supportive readers!  If I was a drinking woman, I would raise my glass to your amazing success for the upcoming year.  So instead, I raise my glass full of this intoxicating mixture :)  

This is a recipe people insist on getting before leaving the party.  It is so simple, but kicks all other lousy party punches/slushes right out the door.  This is the perfect way to welcome in the new year for those who like life on the sober side.  Yes, I'm sure you could add some alcohol, but please don't ask me for recommendations.  I have no clue! (insert your favorite Mormon joke here....)
Cran-Raspberry Pina Colada Slush
(makes enough to fill a large punch bowl twice)
2 - 46 ounce bottles of cran-raspberry juice
1 bottle pina colada mix
2 - 2 liter bottles of raspberry ginger ale

1.  Mix together the juice and pina colada mix until combined.  Divide it between two gallon size freezer bags and lay them on a large cookie sheet in your freezer until solid.
2.  Remove the bags from the freezer 30 minutes before serving and allow to melt slightly.  Use a rolling pin to smash one bag of the frozen mixture.  Dump into the punch bowl and add one bottle of ginger ale.  Repeat with the remaining frozen mixture and ginger ale once the first batch is gone.

Corn Flake Cookies

Baking with my kids is always a such a long process and the results are never picture perfect.  However, baking Christmas cookies with my four year old this week humbled me a lot.  The pure joy on his face and in his words helped me get over my obsessive control issues.

His little hands weren't strong enough to squeeze my cookie scoop, but he insisted on doing it himself.  Each tray of 12 cookies took at least 15 minutes just to squeeze onto the pan.  But I was patient.

He smashed each cookie so flat that I had to reform them when he wasn't watching.  He almost caught me a couple times...

I tried to keep the red and green sugars separate but he insisted on using both colors on every cookie.  He was right.  They looked better that way.

Yep, it was one of those days that I realized I should have more often. Something so simple I was going to do anyway, so why not include him?  It meant so much to him.  In fact, as each member of our family returned home that evening, he took at least 10 minutes with each one of them and told them how he had made the Christmas cookies.  Completely adorable.
These are my kids favorite cookie that I made every year for Christmas.  Buttery, crunchy from the flakes and the slight almond flavor really is outstanding.  My favorite is still my Grandmother's Italian pizzelles, but these are a close second for me.  These also have a great shelf life, which makes them perfect for the holidays.
Corn Flake Cookies
(makes 28 cookies with 1 1/2" scoop)
1 C butter, room temperature
1/2 C sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 C crushed corn flakes (I usually use Frosted Flakes because that is what I have on hand)
2 1/4 C flour
colored sugar (use whatever color is appropriate for the season!)

1.  Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Use your mixer with the paddle attachment and beat together the butter and sugar until light.  Add the egg yolk, almond and salt.  Beat and then scrape down the sides of the bowl.
2.  Add the crushed corn flakes and mix in.  Add the flour and mix on low until completely combined.  It is a dry dough.  Using a 1 1/2" cookie scoop, level out each portion and place on your non-greased pan.  Dip a fork lightly in flour and press down slightly on the top of the cookie in both directions to make the grid pattern.  Sprinkle on the colored sugar.
3.  Bake for 12 minutes until just beginning to brown.  Do not over-bake!  Remove immediately from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container for 2 to 3 weeks.

Low Carb Sugar Free Chocolate Cheesecake with Almond Crust

Trying to live such a specific lifestyle for food during the past 8 months is challenging enough on a normal day, but when it is the holidays, it is near impossible.  All of those amazing foods that define the holidays call out to you from Thanksgiving to New Years.  

I need to develop a few more recipes like this one to help me survive all of the food I am surrounded by constantly.  The crust is so nutty, salty and delicious.  The filling.....well, divine just doesn't describe it well enough.  If you are living the low carb life and you love chocolate, I strongly suggest demand that you make this cake!
The only problem I had with my recipe was not wrapping my pan tight enough with the tin foil.  Since it is baked in a water bath, some of the water leaked into the crust and made part of it soggy.  Don't despair though, it didn't keep us from eating it :)
Low Carb Sugar Free Chocolate Cheesecake with Almond Crust
(makes one 10" cheesecake)
For the Crust:
2 C whole raw almonds
5 Tb butter
2 Tb Truvia sweetener
*Note - I greatly prefer Truvia to Splenda, but if you insist on using it, use 5 Tb of Splenda.  Please though, go get some Truvia.  No nasty aftertaste!!!
For the Cake:
12 ounces quality sugar free chocolate, chopped
2 - 8 ounce packages of light cream cheese (neuftachel), room temperature
7 Tb Truvia sweetener *See note above if using Splenda.  Make this portion 1 1/8C Splenda
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C hot decaffeinated coffee
2 tsp vanilla

1.  Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Tightly wrap the bottom and sides of a 10"springform pan with aluminum foil.  If not wrapped properly, you will end up with very soggy almonds as a result!
2.  Process the almonds in your food processor until very finely chopped.  Add the butter and Truvia, then pulse until combined completely.  Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of your pan and bake until golden brown around the edges, about 15-20 minutes.  Allow crust to cool while you assemble the cake.
3.  Microwave the chocolate for 1 minute and stir.  Microwave in 30 second intervals until completely melted.  Set aside to cool.
4.  In your mixer with the whisk attached, beat the room temperature cream cheese for a couple minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the Truvia and mix again.  Add the room temperature eggs, one at a time and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each egg is beaten in.
5.  Add the salt and vanilla into hot coffee.  Add this mixture to the cream cheese and beat until blended.  With the mixer on low, add the melted chocolate slowly and allow it to combine completely.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix well again.
6.  Pour the filling into the now cooled crust and place the foil wrapped pan in a larger roasting pan.  Put them into the oven, then fill the roasting pan half way with very hot water.  Bake for 50 minutes or until center is firm.  If your pan is a 9" pan, it will take closer to 60 minutes to bake.
7.  Leave the cheesecake in the oven, turn off the oven, and crack open the oven door.  Allow the cake to cool in the oven for 1 hour.  Remove the cake from the oven and unwrap it from the foil.  Allow it to cool completely on a cooling rack.
8.  After completely cooled, cover with foil and chill overnight in the fridge.  Before removing the ring of the springform pan, run a butter knife along the outside.  To cut, use a long, thin knife that has been dipped in hot water.  Cut straight down and don't drag the knife back and forth.  Before making any additional cuts, rinse and wipe off the blade completely.

Lofthouse Sugar Cookies

Yep, this recipe is just like those amazing cookies at your store.  You know the ones we all give-in to because we go shopping hungry?  Those ones that are so addictive, there is no way to eat just one.
These are just as good and don't cost $3 for 10 little cookies :)  You're welcome.

You can frost them the classic pink, but just like the ones at the store, mix it up depending on the season/holiday.  Time to find all those fun sprinkles in the back of your cabinet!
These babies are even better a day or two later, so show some control now and you will be rewarded later.  Now that I think about it, isn't that the truth for all the good stuff in life???
Lofthouse Sugar Cookies
(makes 5-6 dozen cookies)
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

For the Cookies
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups sour cream

For the Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons heavy cream

1. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat beater attached, cream the butter and granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat at low speed until combined.
3. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Dough will be a bit “sticky”. Divide dough into two sections. Flatten into rectangles about 1½ inches thick, then wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least two hours until firm.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
5. Flour the countertop and the top of the dough. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes, until pale golden. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Cook cookies completely before frosting.
6. To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and vanilla. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar and the pinch of salt. Once smooth and creamy, add in heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, then beat at medium-high speed for a minute or two until light and fluffy. If desired, add food coloring and beat until combined.
7. Once cookies have cooled completely, frost and add sprinkles. Allow frosting to set, then store in an air-tight container. Let cookies sit for several hours before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

Deviled Eggs

About a year after my hubby and I were married, we attended a Christmas party with a large group of other newlyweds.  For the white elephant gift exchange, everyone brought the worst/most outrageous wedding present we had received.  I can't remember what we brought, but let me tell you, there were some hideously ugly and awkward gifts at that party.  

Makes you wonder what people are thinking when they are standing at the Wal-mart, in front of the cheetah shower curtain and think..."Yeah!  They would love this!"
The dish in this picture was one of those gifts.  I mean, at first, I couldn't even figure out what it was.  When my mom explained it was a platter for deviled eggs, I thought she was joking.  Are deviled eggs that important to someone's diet that they have a special dish to serve them on???

Apparently so.  Another great life lesson learned.  So, thank you odd-gift-giving lady.  My marriage has been greatly enhanced by the presence of your weird looking plate.
Deviled Eggs
(makes 14 filled egg halves)
from The New Best Recipe

7 large eggs
3/4 tsp spicy brown mustard
3 Tb mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip!)
1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

1.  Place eggs in a medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Remove the pan from the heat and cover.  Let stand for 10 minutes the transfer eggs to an ice water bath for 5 minutes to cool.
2.  Peel eggs and slice each in half lengthwise.  Remove the yolks to a small bowl.  Mash the yolks with a fork until large lumps are gone.  Add the remaining ingredients and mash with a rubber spatula against the side of the bowl until smooth.
3.  Fit a pastry bag with a large open star tip, or use a ziplock bag with a small piece snipped from the corner. Fill the bag with the egg mixture and pipe it into the egg white halves.