Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles

Soft, chewy and full of cinnamon goodness, these cookies are perfect for Christmas!


Gingerbread is one of those quintessential Christmas sweet treats. This one is flavorful and a cinch to bake up.

No-Fail Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

This recipe makes great cut-out sugar cookies, and the royal icing is perfect for decorating.

Eggnog Cookies

Soft and cakey cookies with the perfect amount of nutmeg and all the flavor of eggnog.

Nutella Hot Chocolate

This recipe is sinfully simple, full of the flavor of Nutella and can be prepared in the microwave (or on the stovetop) in minutes.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Two Years Ago..

Two years ago today I officially became a homeowner. I can't say the journey to purchasing my first home was always easy because sometimes it was far from it. The process was by no means foreign to me as Mr. Picky Eater aka my Big Bad Dad and I have bought more than our share of homes and from the time I was a little girl he always fully included me in the process. It's always been the two of us, and I'm Daddy's Little Girl. Where he went I went, what decisions he made I was a part of. It has always been that way, and always will be.

I'm getting a little offtrack though. That does happen when I mention our relationship. It's such a huge part of who I am. Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, becoming a homeowner, right. At nearly 30 years old I was still living at home, don't judge. We lived in a beautiful house that had become our home more than any place we lived prior. It was the home where we felt we had finally really put down roots, but it was way more house than two people needed and truth be told, we felt we were at a place where we should downsize. After living with dear old dad for 30 years I decided it was time for me to call the shots. Just kidding, because really I've always called the shots. Okay, not really. I would say it's always been 50/50.

Truthfully, I wanted something to call my own. As much as every home we've had has been mine, his, ours, having my name on a mortgage, I just knew it would feel different. I knew wherever the move took us it would still be ours, but at the same time the next house would truly feel like mine, the place I put down roots of my very own.

The search for a new home seemed to take forever, and there was more than one occasion where my hopes were dashed and my heart a little broken. I started out with one real estate agent, and one finance company, both of which seemed like a good fit at first. You know how they say first impressions are everything? Well, sometimes they're totally wrong. I am not demanding and I don't have unrealistic expectations, but I give any relationship and every situation I'm invested in my all and I expect the same. When I don't get that in return I move on, which in short is why I ended up with a different agent.

Looking back, my vision for my first home changed quite a few times. I started out wanting a country home on several acres, then I wanted a home in the historic area of a local small town. What did I end up with? Something I didn't envision, but turned out to be exactly what I needed.

My house is a little 1950's brick ranch on an acre lot in a quiet little neighborhood in the city. Yup, no small town living for me as it turns out. The house is literally across the street from my Nana and Pop's old neighborhood, which was my second home as a little girl. I traveled the streets of this neighborhood everyday as a little girl, and my dad ran these streets as a boy. During my search I found several houses that I thought were great and could see us in, but none fit quite like this one. It was a freezing cold January day with snow on the streets and ice covering the backyard when I realized my dream. The house had been on the market just a few days. As soon as I walked in I saw my childhood and felt my Nana and Pop surrounding me. I knew I was home. The house was immaculate, and totally original. I wanted a project, no, I needed a project and knew I had found it.

After leaving, we were sitting in a restaurant minutes later preparing to make an offer. Little did I know that when I signed my name that day I was truly starting a new chapter in my life. The purchase process was not without a few bumps, mostly centering around getting repairs done before the closing date. But, two years ago today I signed my name, got a set of keys and started an amazing journey. The next day was the beginning of months of hard, dirty work that filled me with joy. I won't lie I cried a few times from the stress and dear old dad and I had our share of heated disagreements, okay, I'll be honest, they were fights. But, that's who we are, both passionate, strong-willed, stubborn people. What can I say? I'm the female Mini-Me of my old man, and I couldn't be more proud to admit that.

As I look at our home today, there isn't much that resembles the house I purchased two years ago. Sure the hardwood floors still look exactly the same, maybe a little worse for the wear of my babies running around on them all the time. Except for a new deck and some other changes to the landscape it looks the same on the outside. Inside? Not so much, and I love it. My Dad is an amazing carpenter and the muscle behind all the renovations. Seriously, except for a few plumbing and electrical things he did it ALL. He is the creativity behind the woodworking projects and even some of the paint colors. But, the kitchen and bath designs, those are my babies.

I intend to share all the changes with you. I'll give you tips and tutorials on many of the projects and thanks to my amazing Dad I'll do my best to provide easy to understand instructions for even the novice. Stay tuned! And along the way if you have questions on any of the projects or even things I haven't tackled but maybe you hope to do in your home let me know. I am no expert, but I live with one of the most skilled I've ever met!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fit Fare: Baked Squash & Zucchini Coins

Like many cooks and fellow bloggers, I do a lot of blog browsing, and with all the wonderful blogs out there I'm constantly stumbling onto great new ideas and tempting recipes. With all those food blogs comes the discovery of many new recipes and the reminder of quite a few others that I already know and love, but maybe let fall to the back of my mind from time to time. One of those temporarily forgotten recipes is for a super healthy side dish called Baked Squash & Zucchini Coins. My original source for the recipe is Janet Is Hungry. I can't recall how I found her blog, but the recipe immediately caught my eye.

I love, capital L-O-V-E zucchini, and being the southern squash loving girl that I am, I thought this recipe would work perfectly with crookneck squash, another one of my favorites. For as long as I can remember fried squash has been one of my very favorite foods, but being that it's FRIED I try to look for healthier ways to enjoy one of my favorite veggies. So, when I found this recipe it seemed like the perfect concept. I simplified the recipe a little, using store-bought breadcrumbs and added a dash of Montreal seasoning. I've made the recipe twice and the first time around I loved it, but Mr. Picky Eater had a minor complaint and a few suggestions. He didn't care for the seasoning, saying the inclusion of sage in the spice blend made it taste like "Thanksgiving". "What's wrong with that???" I ask! Mr. PE's suggestion? "Next time I think it would be better if you just breaded them in plain cornmeal." So that's what I did, but take my word for it, you should not, not, not use just cornmeal. Unless of course you want your zucchini and squash to taste like uncooked cornmeal. Yeah, not a good flavor, but at the last minute we stuck them under the broiler so they weren't a total loss. From here on out, it's breadcrumbs all the way in this recipe for me.

Baked Squash & Zucchini Coins

1/2 plain breadcrumbs
Montreal seasoning to taste, or salt and pepper if preferred
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 egg
olive oil

1. Mix breadcrumbs and seasoning on a plate.

2. Beat egg in a small bowl.

3. Slice zucchini and squash into 1/4" thick coins.

4. Dip zucchini and squash into egg and then into breadcrumb mixture.

5. Coat a parchment lined cookie sheet with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange zucchini and squash coins on cookie sheet and back at 425 for about 10 minutes per side, until golden brown.

I think it would probably work well to put the dry mixture in a ziplock bag and once the veggies are coated in the egg toss them into the bag and give it a good shake to coat, but I haven't tried this yet so I can't say for sure. If you give it a try before I do let me know how it works.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Snowy Days & Snow Cream

If you're a southerner you know snow days are few and far between. When one comes along it's a pretty big deal. If the white stuff falls on a weekday schools are almost guaranteed to shutdown along with many businesses and the grocery stores will be packed. Here in Charlotte some areas got a very minor sprinkling several weeks ago, but here at our house we saw next to nothing. Today has been a different story. I didn't know until last night snow was even in the forecast and being that yesterday was very warm for February I brushed it off as highly unlikely. I awoke this morning to a light sprinkle that lasted off and on through most of the afternoon, but never accumulated. So, I went about my business, headed out late this afternoon to run an errand and grab dinner, and was told while we were out that the snow would hit in twenty minutes. My thought? Yeah, right!

Sure enough, headed to dinner about ten minutes later and we spotted a few flakes mixed with a sprinkling of rain that turned to a total white out less than 5 minutes later. I prefer to have visibility while in a moving automobile, so we stopped at a drive-through for take out and before we could get home, not even ten minutes later, the ground was covered.

My babies are some very happy dogs tonight, especially my Millie girl, she's an active wild woman anyway, but she hit the yard running when she discovered the snow. My black girl came in white from rooting around and kicking up so much snow. I don't expect we'll have enough snow to build any snowmen or have any snowball fights, not that I would, but I think we have just enough to pretty up the trees for a little while. Hopefully, this pretty white stuff won't melt and re-freeze leaving us with tons of ice. The melting and refreezing to ice is the whole reason I dread snow. Not to mention I hate being cold, but I'll stop right there before I start to complain.

One thing I remember fondly from snow days as a little girl is Snow Cream. It was a rare thing, but such a fun treat, and it's so easy to make. I haven't made any this snowfall, but thought I'd share the "recipe" with you in case it's something you've never heard of or just aren't sure how to make. It is ridiculously easy to make and so good. There aren't really exact measurements, atleast there never were around our house. Just remember to add your liquid gradually and it should be the consistency of ice cream, not slush.

Snow Cream

a large bowl of clean white snow (no yellow snow, yuck!)
vanilla extract
granulated sugar

Add a small amount of milk to the bowl of snow, starting with a few tablespoons. Gently stir, add more milk gradually until you reach almost ice cream consistency.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, more or less to suit your taste and depending on the amount of snow you are using.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, more or less to taste (I would go with more since I have a major sweet tooth.) Gently stir to combine.
Serve immediately, or if yours has gotten a little runny put it in the freezer for a bit to get to the ice cream consistency.

If you don't snow you can also used shaved ice to make Snow Cream, so if you have one of those fun snow cone makers, break it out and shave some ice! And, I have seen chocolate and strawberry flavored Snow Cream, although I have tried neither, but if plain of vanilla isn't your thing visit my trusty friend google and give either flavor a search. Let me know which flavor you try and what you think of it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sharing Some Sugar Cookie Love

Waaaay Early V-day cookies

Happy Valentine's Day y'all!

Love is in the air..

And, it has nothin' to do with a man. It's all about the cookies. Yes, you heard me right, colorful, sugary, heart-shaped ones to be exact. They say food is the way to a man's heart, well I'm pretty sure it's the way to mine too. Diamonds are great, and I love a great pair of shoes, although, for me it's sneakers or flip-flops, I'll pass on the stilettos. And, I love a little glitz and glitter from time to time, but a wonderful meal or a decadent dessert is the way to win me over. Heck, even a batch of adorably decorated cookies or cupcakes and I'm your girl.

I think this is probably one of the cutest batches of decorated cookies I've done, and of course Valentine's Day just wouldn't be Valentine's Day with out some sort of cute dessert all decked out in pink and red, right? This is my go-to sugar cookie and icing recipe: No-Fail Sugar Cookies with royal icing, and I've shared the recipe for both here before. They were part of my 12 Days of Christmas Baking.

Go here for my tips on working with the dough, which by the way, my method makes it super easy to work with and my way chills the dough much faster than normal. You'll also find my tips on preparing and working with the royal icing. They aren't the be all end all tips, but definitely what works best for me. If you have great tips please feel free to share, I'm always looking for new methods or ways to make things easier. If you share tips and I love them I'll definitely be sure to mention them and shout you out in the future.

No-Fail Sugar Cookies
6 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract or desired flavoring
1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Mix dry ingredients and add a little at a time to butter mixture. Mix until flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together.

Chill for 1 to 2 hours (or use my wax paper hint mentioned above)

Roll to desired thickness and cut into desired shapes. Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges.

This recipe can make up to 5-dozen 3” cookies.
Recipe from kitchengifts.com

Royal Icing
3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
4 cups confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons warm water (it must be warm water)

Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).

* For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
**When using large countertop mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
Thinned Royal Icing: To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lovely Inspiration - Valentine's Day Creations

I adore Valentine's Day. How about y'all?

My love of the holiday has nothing to do with the romance aspect of it. For me it's about the cute desserts, homemade Valentine's Day cards and the adorable crafts. The cute pink and red goodies with all the hearts and little cupids all over them sometimes makes me wish I was a kid again so I could be back in school giving out sweet little cards and getting tons in return. Okay, scratch that, first of all, I'm not totally in love with the chubby arrow shooting little naked guy, and I don't wish I was back in school. But I do wish I had gobs of people to whip up handmade cards for with catchy little sayings. Heck, I'm even kinda wishing I could throw a little Valentine's Day party and deck out the house in homemade decorations.

Things have been a little..hmm not necessarily crazy around here, but a little out of whack lately, so I haven't whipped up any goodies worth mentioning, but I found plenty of adorable and inspiring recipes and projects on Pinterest. I thought I'd share some of my favorites with y'all.

I had plans to head over to my new favorite photo editing site, PicMonkey and whip up a cute little photo collage of the inspiring ideas I want to share with y'all, but I discovered a newly launched site called The Inspiration Board. This is my first time trying it, but I think I'm in love! It is super easy to use with several templates, lots of frames, backgrounds and other goodies to pretty up your inspiration board. There is even a section in the goodies tab with different washi tape designs, and that stuff is all the rage right now it seems. So, if you love inspiration boards head over and create one, or a hundred yourself. I bet you'll see me sharing more in the future. They're just too cute and fun to make!

Following are the links for the projects I'm loving (in order according to placement on the inspiration board, left to right, top to bottom)

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Cupcakes by Lick The Bowl Good - These remind me of two of my favorites rolled into one, red velvet cake and black bottom cupcakes.

I Dig You, a diy Valentine's goodie by The Fry Family Blog - How cute are these? Inexpensive and adorable! If you're not an M&M's fan this would also be cute with Skittles or Conversation Hearts.

Easy Sugar Cookie Glaze - Whether you whip up from scratch sugar cookies, or take the shortcut and use a mix, this glaze is a great way to dress up sugar cookies for an easy treat. (This is actually my photo and I have used this recipe many times. Be on the lookout, I'll share the recipe and more info here soon.)

You Rock My Socks DIY Valentine (with free printable) by Thirty Handmade Days - Simple to put together and absolutely adorable!

Paper Doily Envelope by Say Yes to Hoboken - All you need for this adorable little project is heart-shaped paper doilies, a sticker to seal the envelope and a cute mini card or note to go inside.

Printable Love Banner at One She Two She - This banner is simple to assemble and would make an adorable accompaniment to your other Valentine's Day decorations.

Valentine's Day Parfaits by Bee In Our Bonnet - Quick to assemble and they look rather tasty. These would make a perfect after school treat for the kiddos or an easy dessert to go with that Valentine's Day dinner. Change up the filling colors and the decorations on the cup and these would be great for many different occasions.

With the exception of the Easy Sugar Cookie Glaze, none of the images or ideas are my own. For more of the Valentine's Day ideas I love check out my Valentine's Day Pinterest board.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Personal PSA - Computer Crisis

So, yesterday was a bit of a technological doozy to say the least, and I thought I'd use my experience to send out a little public service announcement. My computer apparently contracted a nasty virus at some point. I don't know if it was something that was picked up Saturday unknowingly or prior to that and the virus lay dormant for a time. There was an issue Saturday night with internet explorer freezing up briefly, but things like that happen from time to time even when a virus of some sort is not involved, so I can't say that's when the infection happened. All I know is that when I booted up my computer yesterday a "program" popped up at start up called "Disk Antivirus Protection" and automatically ran a scan showing all sorts of horrible trojans, malware and other nastiness. I was immediately alarmed and tried to exit the program because I knew it was nothing I opted to install. The only way to exit the program is to give your credit card number to "purchase" the program and have the files "removed". (I'm using quotations for all these terms because I seriously doubt it would have remedied the problem.

I'm not aware of the name of the virus, but it appears to be fairly new and is some form of ransomware, which means that it hijacks your system and won't allow you to do anything until you provide your credit card number and "install" the program. I reached for my Kindle Fire and did a google search of "Disk Antivirus Protection" and found a good many articles and message board postings within the last month. Not being a computer expert I was a little cautious of trying to follow the instructions I found online to remove the virus myself so I called the tech department of a big box electronics store and was told there was no option for me to remove something like this myself and it would be $200+ and I would be without my computer for two or more days. Now, I don't know about y'all, but this girl loves her computer and is on a budget so two days without and $200+ would have had to be a last resort. Of course, why did I expect them to tell me I could fix the problem myself, silly me! Luckily I have a wonderful and computer savvy younger cousin who was more than willing to help me out.

I called up T for a little advice and although he wasn't familiar with the virus, nor did he know how to fix it he offered to help immediately. So, I hoped in the car and hauled my distressed behind over to my personal tech support. Based his research this virus can delete and/or replace registry keys so that you may think you have removed the virus completely, but unless you know for sure which registry keys are missing you won't have fixed the problem completely. (And, forgive me if you're knowledgeable about this stuff and some of what I'm saying makes no sense. I don't totally understand everything about this issue.) Eventually, we decided the safest thing would be to do a system restore. Thankfully I was able to save my photos, music and other documents to a flash drive and they don't appear to be corrupted, so I didn't actually lose anything. And, my adorable little tech wizard claimed the experience was fun.

My point and PSA to all this is, be careful, make sure your antivirus is up to date, install atleast one additional program to check for malware/spyware and run scans regularly. I can't tell you how or when my poor computer contracted this virus. We don't visit questionable website, atleast I didn't think so. And, I'm the only one that downloads anything, and I never download anything that seems suspicious. I haven't tried it yet, but have heard numerous good things about the antivirus program Avast. It's free and supposed to be an excellent program, I plan to give it a try. For malware/spyware programs Malwarebytes Anti-malware is supposed to be very good, and T recommended Spybot to me, which I have used some years ago and also recommend. Yesterday's experience was not one I wish to repeat, but I know it could have been much worse. I could have had no help with the issue and been forced to pay a good chunk of money to fix the problem and I could have lost all my photos and documents. Thus, I just want to give everyone a heads up and a few recommendations so that y'all can protect yourselves from having the same experience, or worse. Good luck y'all!

I have to give a HUGE thank you to T, the best boy I know. You're growing up so fast, and I love you to pieces. Such a smart and wonderful kid. I tell ya, that boy is going to be some kind of computer genius when he grows up. He'll be the next Steve Jobs or somebody equally awesome. I just hope he remembers me when he's rich and famous for developing some awesome video game or computer system. I'll be telling y'all, "Hey, I know him!"

I have no affiliation with any of the above mentioned programs, they simply recommendations based on word of mouth or my personal experience. I do not guarantee them, nor am I being compensated for the mention of them."


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