Tag Archives: Holidays

Valentine Cupcakes, Cookies, and Cheesecake

Valentine cupcakes were a hit for Valentine’s Day this year. Kate and I baked up a gorgeous batch of chocolate frosted strawberry cupcakes with adorable Valentine sprinkles. We couldn’t seem to stop there because we followed that up with some of the cutest sugar cookies frosted with a lemon frosting and, again, more Valentine sprinkles.

Valentine cupcakes

Over the last year Kate and I have really gotten in to baking treats for holidays. We bake treats from scratch throughout the year everything from chocolate chip bar cookies to brownies, but we’ve never really focused on holiday treats aside from traditional Christmas things. It used to be that we would bake sugar cookies at Christmas and maybe an angel food cake at Easter. We changed it up this year by adding to our cookie cutter collection.

We bought a set of different sized heart shaped cookie cutters for Valentine’s Day. Then we ran across the cutest shamrock cookie cutters so now we have plans for St. Patrick’s Day cookies. And, we’ve already stocked up on Easter shaped cookie cutters as well.

But, back to Valentine’s Day! The Valentine cupcakes were inspired by Kate finding the most adorable red and white polka dot cupcake liners. The Valentine cupcakes became our spin on chocolate covered strawberries by using a strawberry flavored cake batter and homemade fudge frosting.

cherry cheesecake for Valentine's DayMy gift to Mike this year was a cherry cheesecake. Cheesecake is his absolute favorite dessert and I’ve finally gotten around to learning how to make cheesecake. Christmas marked my first New York style cheesecake and for Maggie’s 10th birthday I made a triple chocolate cheesecake.

So, for Valentine’s Day it seemed only right to make a decadent cheesecake with a homemade cherry topping. Although the picture doesn’t do it justice, it was a huge hit. I’ve actually found that making cheesecakes from scratch isn’t all that hard and it’s so worth the trouble!!!

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie

I tested out new recipes over the holidays. Christmas marked the first time I had ever made a cheesecake from scratch. It turned out so well that I tempted fate and made another successful run for Maggie’s 10th birthday, a triple chocolate cheesecake.

My husband loves apple pie, cheesecake, and pecan pie. Not in that order. I make his favorite apple pie for Thanksgiving every year and this year I tried my hand at pecan pie and the aforementioned cheesecake.

Chocolate Pecan PieI’ve never been a fan of pecan pie. I like pecans, although usually I’m not really big on having them in cookies, brownies, fudge, etc. Until last December the only pecan pies I had tried were store bought and I just wasn’t a fan of the gooey, sticky, gelatinous filling with pecans perched on top.

Google made finding a recipe easy, unfortunately, most recipes called for corn syrup and I’m not a big fan of that either. I finally found a pecan pie recipe by Trisha Yearwood that I decided to try.

I make my own pie crust from scratch so I started with that. The pecan pie I made for Christmas followed her recipe exactly. I decided to make another pie after New Year’s because Kate and I felt like whipping something up one afternoon. This time I added a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the recipe. I also don’t go to the trouble of arranging pecan halves on the top of the pie, I chop them all up and mix them all right into the pie filling.

Here’s the recipe with my alterations. 🙂

Pecan Pie

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick butter), melted
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
One 9-inch deep dish pie shell, unbaked, or homemade pastry

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs until creamy. Add the chopped pecans, chocolate chips, melted butter, milk, flour and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

Bake the pie for 55 minutes. Check for doneness by shaking the pan slightly. The pie should be firm with only a slight jiggle in the center. It will set more as it cools.

Mike's Christmas Trees, Christmas Decorations

Christmas Season 2013

The Christmas Season of 2013 is in full swing around here. The decorations are up throughout the house, the tree has been selected from our favorite tree lot and decorated, and the front yard is lit up like a… well, like a Christmas tree.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it somewhere before, but I never participate in “Black Friday” I don’t support it and I never have. I am also in hearty disagreement with stores being open on Thanksgiving and the ridiculous rush and trampling for “bargains” beginning on the evening of a very day in which people should be ensconced in their homes watching a parade, playing board games, or napping after a big holiday meal. Christmas shopping is not a sport for me. The gifts I select are heartfelt and chosen with thought, not sales tags, in mind.

We spent Thanksgiving weekend decorating the house, picking out our Christmas tree and watching Christmas movies with the girls. It couldn’t have been a more perfect weekend to start off the Christmas season.

Of course, the Christmas tree has been a new source for creating mischief for the worst cat ever. Vi likes to hide under the tree and pounce out at anyone who passes by. I’m just glad she hasn’t tried to climb the tree or attack the ornaments.

Christmas Season 2013

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. ~ Burton Hillis

Now that we’ve set the scene for the Christmas season we’re looking forward to lots of seasonal activities and Christmas adventures. We have friends coming in from out of town for a weekend and lots of baking and candy making to do. And, of course, the start of the new year means that Maggie will be turning 10!

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home. ~ Charles Dickens

So much has changed over the last ten years. Even though some of it has been uncomfortable, I am so happy where I am now. Our lives are filled with people who bring so much joy, happiness, love, and laughter into it that I can’t help but feel very blessed and incredibly grateful. The Christmas season is the perfect time of year to reflect on all those things and begin looking forward to all the new adventures of the coming year.

Christmas Season Fun

– Going out for a drive to look at Christmas lights
– Watching all of our favorite holiday movies
– Making Christmas goodies for friends
– Attending a Christmas concert
– planning Christmas Day dinner
– Christmas baking

What holiday celebrations and traditions do you have planned this month?