Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kitchen Gadgets and Merry Cranberry Cookies

Recipe for Merry Cranberry Cookies from Very Best Baking.
Those of you who know me are probably already aware of the fact that I absolutely LOVE to bake. I don't know what it is about conjuring up a delicious batch of yummy, mouthwatering cookies - or a batch of moist, delicious muffins - that completely brings me happiness and peace, but baking has always been an incredible stress reliever for me. Maybe it's the smile of satisfaction that the fruits of my labor bring to the partaker's face that allows me to enjoy the process so wholeheartedly. :)

Well, since today is Thankful Thursday, I want to express my gratitude for the little kitchen gadgets that make my love for baking all the more enjoyable. I know I mentioned recently that I have been baking a plethora of Christmas goodies - and today, I've finally finished the last set of cookies. Whew! I tell ya, I was a little baking machine today. Among the goodies that I made today are one of my family's holiday favorites: Merry Cranberry Cookies. Anyway, I usually just use a large spoon to scoop out dough in estimated amounts to roll into balls when I make these cookies, but I recently discovered a fun, new gadget that has changed my life completely.

Okay, so don't laugh at me, but the gadget I am referring to is a cookie dough scooper. I know that they have been around for forever, but I just bucked down a few days ago and made the decision to spend the whole $10 (at Walmart) to buy one - and can I just say that it was the best $10 I've EVER spent! I know that using a regular tablespoon for the dough-scooping process is not rocket science, but man, did the scooper make it SO much easier! And, all of the balls came out darn near identical. It was so much fun to scoop the little dough balls out too.

I {heart} my new cookie dough scooper! :)

Anyway, I know that talking about these yummy treats has made you all hungry. Hehe. So, here is the recipe that I procured a few years ago for these mouth-watering, little cookies:

Merry Cranberry Cookies

  1. 1 1/4 cups (about 1/3 tub) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Refrigerated Sugar Cookie Tub Dough, slightly softened (I actually made the sugar cookie dough myself).
  2. 1/3 to 1/2 cup NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Premier White Morsels (I used Ghiradelli and they were delish)
  3. 1/3 to 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
PREHEAT oven to 325º F. 

STIR morsels and cranberries into cookie dough. Refrigerate for 15 minutes for easier handling. Roll dough into 18, 1 1/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. 

BAKE for 14 to 16 minutes or until edges are set but centers are still soft. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. 

• Drizzle Merry Cranberry Cookies with melted NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Premier White Morsels. 
• Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a larger batch. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cake Balls!

I started my Christmas baking about a week ago and had a batch of chocolate pecan fudge and a batch of vanilla nut fudge finished and chillin' like villains in the freezer. They didn't make it through the week though. Haha. I swear, keeping yummy treats in my house is like keeping an open flame and expecting a moth not to be drawn to it. ((shrugs)) Oh well. I guess that is just a reflection of how good they were. ;)

So, a few days ago, I made chocolate pecan fudge batch #2 and threatened my husband and children with their lives. Hehe. Then yesterday, during F.H.E., my 12-year-old and I started cake balls. Now, I don't know if you know what these delectable, little bites of heaven are, but OH MY GOODNESS! They are like my favorite things in the whole world right now ((winks at The Purple Lady. I've made them for her a few times and she too has become a fiend. Hehe. I can't help but think of her every time I make them now)). A family friend introduced me to them a few years ago, and I am officially hooked. Basically, they are made from cake that you bake and mix with frosting to roll into small bite-sized balls, then you roll said balls around in dipping chocolate. They taste like little truffles, and are absolutely amazing!

Peppermint red velvet cake balls with white dipping chocolate. YUM!

Trust me - they are absolutely sinful! :P

I also made some german chocolate cake balls, but forgot to take a picture of them before packing them away in Ziploc bags in the freezer...oops. It's all good, though. The red velvet ones are prettier. ;)

Anyway, these succulent, little balls of yummy goodness are just too delicious to keep to myself, so being the giving person that I am, I thought I'd share the love - in recipe form, of course. ;)

Cake Balls 

Prepare and cook 1 cake mix as directed on box

Let FULLY cool for several hours

Mix cake and about ½ of a 12oz. container of frosting (about ¾ cup - 1 cup) with your hands in a large bowl until it holds form when squished together (don’t put in too much frosting or the balls will be too wet and won’t set up properly). Form into bite sized balls and freeze to set (about 15 to 30 minutes – this step is optional, but makes the balls easier to dip). Dip in desired chocolate (recipes below) and freeze to set again (about 10 minutes). Serve immediately or freeze in gallon sized Ziploc bags.

Dipping Chocolate
Equal parts Chocolate Almond Bark and semi-sweet chocolate chips melted in the microwave for a minute or so until melted.

White Dipping Chocolate
Equal parts Vanilla Almond Bark and white chocolate chips melted in the microwave for a minute or so until melted.

Variation Ideas
1) German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting in dipping chocolate 
2) Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting in white dipping chocolate 
3) Chocolate Cake with 

-1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping 

-1/3 cup condensed milk 

-1 bag of Heath bits o’ brickle 

-Dip in dipping chocolate 

4) Chocolate Cake with 2/3 cup Nutella dipped in dipping chocolate (can be made with a vanilla cake as well) 
5) Chocolate Cake with chocolate frosting in mint dipping chocolate (substitute Andes mints for semi-sweet choc chips) 
6) Orange Cream Cake with Vanilla Frosting in white dipping chocolate 
7) Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese

Shannon’s favorite variation: carrot cake with cream cheese frosting dipped in white dipping chocolate. 

Note: For the red velvet ones I just did, I made a peppermint white chocolate cream cheese frosting to mix in with the baked cake. I also crushed up some candy canes (nearly to powder) and sprinkled them over the balls after dipping them in the white chocolate. You have to do this immediately after rolling them; though, as the chocolate dries really quickly. Combined with the peppermint in the frosting, this adds a perfectly subtle peppermint flavor. Delish!

Anyway, hope you enjoy. :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I {heart} Christmas!

Can I just say that I LOVE Christmas time! Everything about the season makes me absolutely giddy; from decorating the Christmas tree to shopping for Christmas presents, listening to Christmas music, sending and receiving Christmas cards, driving around and scoping out all of the Christmas lights, decorating gingerbread houses, watching the classic Christmas movies (some of my favorites include Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, One Magic Christmas, Elf - there are really too many to name), drinking egg nog, singing Christmas songs, etc. I mean, it's barely the first week of December and I almost have all of my Christmas shopping done - and tonight, I actually got most of my Christmas presents wrapped AND started my Christmas baking. :)

Now, I don't know if you guys know this or not, but since my husband and I got married, he has gotten both {M} and me into collecting Christmas ornaments. He usually only collects the really nice ones (swarovski, waterford, etc.), but we've procured some fun, cheaper-end ones too. He has one with Goofy playing the tuba, one of Jack Skellington (The Nightmare before Christmas), and many many more. This year, {L} even has his own little collection going. He has his beautiful "Baby's First Christmas" ornament from two years ago - courtesy of The Purple Lady, and here is the newest addition:

Not bad for a two-year-old, eh? Hehe. Anyone who knows him knows how appropriate this really is. He has been obsessed - and I mean OBSESSED - with Spiderman pretty much since his second birthday. ;)

Anyway, hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season. <3