Countdown to 2012: Best Dessert Recipes of 2011

Today as 2011 comes to an end, I will be sharing my favorite dessert recipes from the past year. Here's a sampling of the most viewed desserts from my kitchen this year:

 1. No-Bake Cookie Balls

2. Lemon Cookies

3. Blueberry Cream Cheese Pound Cake

4. Rocky Road Cheesecake

Happy New Year!


Countdown to 2012: Crockpot Favorites 2011

Today I am looking back at my favorite crockpot recipes from 2011. Here are several of my crockpot recipes that received lots of views this year:

1. Savage Chili

2. Hot Bacon Cheese Dip

3. Southern Baked Beans

**Tomorrow: Favorite Dessert Recipes of 2011**


Coundown to 2012: Best Main Dishes

Today I am featuring the best Main Dish recipes of 2011, according to the number of views by readers. These just happen to be some of my family's favorites as well.

1. Baby Back Ribs

2. Mexican Chicken

3. Buffalo Hot Wings

4. Oven Fried Pork Chops

5. Ranch Chicken

**Tomorrow Crockpot Favorites will be featured.**


Hot and Spicy Party Mix

Party mix is a staple at any holiday gathering. My recipe is basic, but it has undergone a few tweaks from time to time. This hot and spicy version is one my family enjoys. If you want to liven things up, this is the recipe to try. It will be a hit anytime, so don't forget it for New Year's Eve and Super Bowl, too.

I like to line my pan with foil when I make the party mix just so there will be less clean up afterward. The fewer dishes you have to wash, the more time there is to spend with your guests.

Hot and Spicy Party Mix

10 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
2 tablespoons chipotle tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups corn Chex cereal
3 cups rice Chex cereal
3 cups wheat Chex cereal
3 cups Goldfish crackers
3 cups Goldfish pretzel crackers
2 cups deluxe nuts

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a large pan with heavy aluminum foil. Melt butter in the pan in the oven, then stir in Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha sauce, tabasco sauce, seasoned salt, garlic salt, and onion powder. Stir in corn Chex, rice Chex, and wheat Chex, stirring until evenly coated. Add Goldfish crackers, Goldfish pretzels, and nuts, stirring all until coated with seasonings. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool, store in airtight container.


Countdown to 2012: Best Breakfast Recipes of 2011

Today the featured recipes are the best breakfasts of 2011. Here are some of the favorites from my blog posts in the past year:

1. Easy Granola Bars

Tomorrow: Favorite Breads of 2011


Cookies for Santa

There's not a cookie that looks more like Christmas than these Candy Cane Blossoms. They're perfect to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve. I adapted the original recipe slightly by adding a touch of peppermint extract. I think they're quite yummy, and I'm sure Santa will agree.

Candy Cane Blossoms

48 Hershey's Kisses Candy Cane Mint Candies
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
Red and green sugar crystals

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Unwrap Hershey's Kisses; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until well blended. Beat in egg, vanilla, and peppermint extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture alternately with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Chill dough for 1 hour, then shape into 1-inch balls. Roll ball in red or green sugar crystals. Place on prepared pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned and cookie is set. Remove from oven; cool 2 to 3 minutes. Press a candy kiss into the center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to a wire rack. Cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Cool the cookies on the pan for 2 to 3 minutes after removing from the oven.

Press a candy kiss into the center of each cookie, then remove from pan to a wire rack to completely cool.

I rolled half my cookies in red sugar and half of them in green sugar.

The tree is lit, the stockings are hung, and Santa's cookies are ready.
Merry Christmas!


Cookies for the Grandchildren

I have been so inspired by all the Christmas goodies I have seen on Pinterest and on the blogs, there's just not time to make them all. One of the bakers who inspires me is Marsha at The Better Baker. She made these little candy cane snowball cookies, and when I saw them I immediately thought of my grandson Charlie. I'm always looking for good treat recipes to make for him that are nut free. He's allergic to all types of nuts, so I have to be careful with my baked goodies when he visits. Her recipe looked like one he would enjoy, so I tried my version of these cookies today.

Peppermint Snowball Cookies
10 candy canes
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Crush candy canes in a food processor, or with a hammer in a ziplock bag. Place crushed candy canes in mesh strainer and tap to remove candy cane powder. Reserve both powder and crushed candy.
With an electric mixer, cream the butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and vanilla. Sift together flour, 1 teaspoon candy cane powder, and salt, then add gradually to creamed mixture. Blend 1/4 cup crushed candy canes into mixture.
Roll into balls using 1 tablespoon of dough for each. Place 1 inch apart on prepared pan. Bake until just barely browned, about 13 - 14 minutes.
Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar with remaining candy cane powder. Let cookies cool for a few minutes before rolling in powdered sugar.

My grandson Landon has been staying with me this week while his parents are working, and tomorrow I'm expecting my other two grandchildren, Ginger and Charlie, to be here from out of town to visit. Landon loves to help around the house; he counted out 10 candy canes for me, then I gave him a meat hammer and let him take care of the crushing for me. He's just as good as a food processor.

I had 28 cookies in my batch.

Cool for a few minutes before rolling in powdered sugar. I think my cookies spread out more than Marsha's did. Hers seemed a little more round, but these were delicious anyway.

These Peppermint Snowball Cookies are so delicate and light and seriously melt in your mouth.


Cranberry Orange Sourdough Muffins

These are tasty little muffins that require a Sourdough Starter for the recipe. I know that several of my blogging friends keep a Sourdough Starter, but if you don't have one and would like to try making your own, check out the recipe here. It is so easy to maintain, and the bread is delicious.

Cranberry Orange Sourdough Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 cup sourdough starter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a muffin pan by greasing or use paper liners. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar; then add cranberries and orange zest. In another bowl combine egg, oil, orange juice, and sourdough starter. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until muffins test done.

I had already baked bread with my starter twice in the past week, so I decided to use it to make muffins today. Sourdough starter is so versatile, it can be fed and baked with often, or if you don't want to bake, you can give away or discard the excess starter.

This recipe will make 12 regular size muffins.

Bake for about 20 minutes.


These are good breakfast muffins made with whole wheat flour and not too sweet, but flavored with orange zest and cranberries.


Best Ever Play Dough Recipe

Christmas vacation has officially started for my grandson Landon. His school was dismissed early on Friday, so he came to my house for the afternoon. The weather was too drizzly and damp for playing outside, so I pulled out one of the indoor projects I had been saving for him. We mixed up a batch of the Best Ever Play Dough. My friend Tammy gave me this recipe. She is a preschool teacher, and she makes this to use in her classroom.

Best Ever Play Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon oil
Food coloring (I used Wilton paste coloring)

In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, cream of tartar, water, vanilla, oil, and food coloring together until smooth. Pour mixture into a warm Teflon pan, stirring constantly. When the dough lumps toward the center of the pan and completely breaks away from the sides of the pan, it is ready. Cool; then knead 10 to 12 times. Store in tightly covered container.

Landon started by stirring the dry ingredients.

After the wet ingredients were added, the mixture had to be stirred until the lumps were smooth.

After pouring the mixture in the warm Teflon pan it was transformed into play dough in just a matter of minutes.

Landon borrowed my pastry roller to make "cookies".

We also made a batch of yellow play dough.

This play dough recipe was really easy and quick to make. The clean up was also fast with no mess. I suspect we'll be making some additional colors next week.