Cooking with JoJo

This is my boy, my little Joshua.  But we call him JoJo

The other day I roped him into helping me with some baking since his sisters were at school.  He was really exited when I sat him in front of some chocolates.  Then I told him he really had to help me, like actually help me...

...not this kind of helping me!

Our task was making Peanut Butter Chocolate Thumb-print cookies.  And I needed all the Hershey kisses unwrapped; so that's what JoJo got to do.

Don't worry, he still managed to help me in his old school style & pop a few kisses in his mouth.

He was very particular about how he put them in the bowl.  I unwrapped some myself & tossed them in the bowl.  I was quickly scolded "No Mom, not like that!  Like this"  All the kisses had to be upright.

Now Son, doesn't it feel good to do a little hard work.  Rewarding isn't it.

Okay, here's the real reward, eating the fruits of your labor.  Can anyone say "Diet in 2011".

The Perfect Gift

My twins are old enough now where they can Christmas shop for other people.  I generally take them to the dollar store & let them go crazy.  I try not to filter what they choose for gifts for their family & friends.  That way their gifts are straight from the heart & authentic five year old picks.  My daughter Gracie bought this for her Daddy, she thought he just had to have them.  I agree!  (P.S. the glasses also came with a red clown nose- not pictured)

Then my husband scored from our other five year daughter Maddie with this cute & cuddly guy.

And last year he got these fake hillbilly teeth from Gracie for Christmas.  My son really likes to wear them.

Other gifts from this year:
A mini gingerbread house for their Uncle Gabe
A strawberry shaped car air freshener for Grandpa Buck
A beaded glasses neck holder thing for Grandma K
A star shaped touch light for their Uncle Jack
A child's cartoon watch for their Grandpa Marvin

I love how kid minds work!

Yule Log

At Christmas dinner, besides eating the best pork I've ever tasted (good job Mom), we had this terrific Yule Log.  This one was from the Black Cat bakery, which is quickly becoming my favorite local bake shop.  It was so cute & clever.  Plus it tasted awesome.  So next time you're out & about in Missoula stop by the Black Cat Bake Shop & treat yourself to whatever, because it's all good!  Oh, & they make good coffee too.

P.S. I'm so glad that the Yule Log tradition has turned towards cake instead of an actual log.  It taste better, smells better, and I don't have to vacuum up after it.  Check out a tinge of the Yule Log history here.

Christmas Cookies

Clockwise from top: Chocolate Shots, Chocolate Mint cookies, Shortbread, 
Velvet cookies, Pecan Dreams (center), Peanut Butter Chocolate Thumb-prints.

I have been a baking fool this week!  I've been so busy getting Christmas stuff ready since we are leaving town on Sunday, but I had to get my baking in.  I think I've baked about 250 cookies thus far (only one more variety to go).  Every year I give cookie boxes to a few of our close friends.  It's a lot of work to get so many cookies done, good thing I love to bake.  I'm not an amazing cook, but I can bake.  I like the process, I'm aesthetically driven (so I don't mind the whole decorating part), and I like to eat baked goods!

For Christmas cookies I always make my cookies small & bite size.  I'm not sure why, but I think it has something to do with getting a lot more from a batch.  Also, that's how my sis-in-law Amanda (an amazing cookie maker) taught me to make a few of the recipes so I just stuck with the theme.

Over the next few days I will share a few good cookie recipes, and I mean tasty ones.  I think it is just aweful when you get Christmas cookies that look pretty but taste horrible.  That will not be the case here.  These cookies will taste just as good, if not better, than they look.  If you have a good Christmas cookie recipe email it to me at & I'll post it on The Mixing Bowl page.

Today I want to share my newest invention: Chocolate Mint Cookies.  I was in our little grocery store & found these mint chips.  I would have bought them for the bag alone, I love the look (told you I was aesthetic) and the feel of it (good marketing Guittard).  Not to mention they are mint, which I love.  What really sold me though was that they were on sale.  Woo hoo, I'll take em'!  Not really knowing what I was going to do with them I put them in my basket.  Once home I knew I had to pair them with chocolate.  There are few things as delicious as mint chocolate.  So I went to my favorite cookbook, the 1975 edition Betty Crocker's Cookbook.  I know it's old, but I grew up with this cookbook & have learned so much from it.  It has a great cookie section too.  I found the recipe for Chocolate Drop cookies.  Since I'm a glutton for punishment & have already made seven varieties of cookies, I decided that putting the chips right into the dough was too easy.  Plus, they need to look extra pretty.  So instead I made a little chocolate mint sandwich.  Here's the  recipe:

Chocolate Mint Cookies

1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate (cooled)~
1/3 cup butter milk*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz melted mint chips~

Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, egg, chocolate, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Stir in flour, soda, and salt.  Cover and chill 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheet.  Bake about 6 minutes ( don't bake too long.  You want them firm, but still chewy).  Immediately rmove from baking sheet and cool.  Meanwhile melt mint chips.

Once cookies are cooled spread a thin layer of the mint on bottom side of one cookie & make a sandwich by placing another cookie on top.  Set aside & let cool until chocolate is firm (but do yourself a favor & eat one of these while they're warm... heaven).

*Don't have buttermilk?  Mix 1tablespoon of vinegar to 1cup of milk & it will work the same.

~Melt chocolate by using a double boiler over hot, but not boiling/simmering water.  Don't have a double boiler, just use a small & medium saucepan (as pictured).  Melt chocolate slowly & stir often.  If you try to melt chocolate too quickly it will burn & be unusable. If chocolate start's to clump it is burning, quickly pull the pan out of the water & stir to cool it down.

Guest Bed

Thanks for the comments on the last post.  I love reading about people's holiday traditions, so much fun!  Keep 'em coming.

Being Christmas and all, most of us are bound to have company at some point.  With this comes a lot of bed making.  I'm a semi bed making freak.  I like them to look nice, wrinkle free, and basically perfect.  It's a weird trait, I admit, but it comes in handy since I run a vacation home.  I love going into hotels, cabins, vacation homes, spas (oh wait, wrong life) and seeing a beautifully made bed.  One key element to a perfect bed is the sheets.  They should be crisp, clean, smell divine, and wrinkle free.  The optimal way to get sheet wrinkle free is to iron them (oh wait, wrong life).  I hear ya, who has time for that.  So the next best way is to fold them the right way.  Now most people don't have a problem folding the flat sheet, but it's that darn fitted sheet that we give up on & eventually ball up & call it good.  The down side of that is when you go to make the bed you have a severely wrinkled sheet.  I was blessed with a mother that knew the best way to fold a fitted sheet, and thankfully she passed that knowledge on to me... and now I'm passing it on to you.

Step 1: find a corner, turn it inside out & put your arm in it with your finger tips going right into the corner of the sheet.  (It was impossible to take a picture w/ my arm in the sheet, so you'll just have to picture it)

Step 2: with your hand still in place, fold in half & put the opposite corner on top of the first corner over your arm but this time leave the corner right side in.  Basically the sheet should be folded in half now.

Step 3. continue to hold your hand in place inside the corners & fold in half again the opposite way & put that corner inside out in place over your hand holding the existing corners.

Step 4: Put the last corner right side in, in place over the other corners on your hand.  Now lay it on the ground or a table & it should look like this.  Smooth out all the wrinkles.

Step 5: You are going to fold this length wise into thirds.  Start at the edge that the corners are at and fold over the first third of the sheet.  Make sure to smooth out wrinkles as you go.

Step 6: Fold again & you should have something that looks like this.

Step 7: Now you're going to fold into thirds again the opposite way.  Make sure your constantly smoothing out the wrinkles.  Fold the first third over.

Step 8: Fold the last bit over & your done.  It should look like this.  And when you go to make the guest bed your sheets will be wrinkle free.

My last tip to having wrinkle free, lovely sheets... BUY GOOD SHEETS!  Oh, and don't leave them in the laundry basket for a week like I do (any volunteers to fold my 6 baskets of laundry I'm looking at?)  Go to Ross or TJ Maxx, you can get high thread count sheets in almost any color and size for super cheap.

Happy hosting :)

Christmas Traditions

We have several traditions in our family.  Most of them are handed down by my side because I husband claims that he doesn't believe in tradition & that his family is not like that.  Which is wrong because we always do the same things at their house at Christmas (bake thousands of cookies, decorate the tree, etc).  And for someone who claims to not care about tradition he's always the first one to scream out it's time to open presents and that we "always open presents on Christmas Eve".  Which is untrue of both our families, but he continually tries to convince every one that it is a tradition.

Where did these little girls go?!  

Anyway, one of my favorite traditions is one I started with my kiddos.  

Oh, look at that little peanut in front... she turned a year today!  I think time changed to warp speed in 2010.

Every Christmas Eve after the church service & feasting on Pizza at 8:30pm (I grew up as a pastor's child & I married a pastor, Christmas Eve church service is the focus of the evening.  There is no room for fancy dinners, but there is always room for Pizza Hut!) my little monkeys get to open one present.  It's a little anti-climatic because it is always the same thing- pajamas. 

Even at a young age Gracie refused to take a straight forward, & Maddie is, of course, picture perfect. 

I love this tradition because we all get that tinge of anticipation for ripping open the wrapping paper out of our system (for a few minutes anyway).  My kids get new pjs, which they always somehow need. I don't get it because they just wear them to bed- but whatever.  I like practical gifts.  And lastly they're gift can go right into use & motivates them to put on their pjs.  Even if it's just for that one night!

Oh wait, how did that get in there?!  Not as cute, but still in the pajama theme of things. Look at my bro-in-law in the background.  He looks confused, humored & disgusted.

What's one of your favorite traditions?  I'd love to hear it.  It's fun to see what things have stuck in families through the generations and what sticks in everyone's heart.  Put you favorite tradition in the "Comments" section below.  Merry Christmas!

Movie Quote Winner!

Congrats to Sarah S. on wining her own person copy of "A Christmas Story"!  Email me at to claim your prize.  Nice work, enjoy :)

Shoe Mama

Congrats to Deidrie, she gets to adopt the super cute red flats!

If you are interested in these great shoes in the comment section below tell me where your at with Christmas shopping.  Did you get all your gifts purchased in August or are you just now saying "dang it, I need to go Christmas shopping".

Deidrie said... Gosh I want those shoes! I am 1/3 of the way done. I didn't start till Black Friday. I may have picked up a few stocking stuffers prior to black friday, but I am way off my game this year. I am trying online shopping this year. Normally I am an oldschool shopper, by principle, but necessity ruled the day this year.

I hear ya girl!  When you live in the boonies going to the store is easier said than done.  I have done almost all my Christmas shopping on line this year, & I love it.  No stores, no cranky kids, no lines- it's great!  But I'm not much of a shopper in the first place.

Keep an eye out, I'm sure I'll have more shoes that I unsuccessfully try to squeeze my feet into in the near future.  Enjoy your shoes Deidrie!

Turkey, Sage & Mushroom Soup

Today it is foggy, icy, and cold... perfect for soup.  The other day I made homemade chicken noodle, always perfect.  But the soup I'm going to share with you is my favorite (right beside my mother-in-laws Chicken Tortilla soup).  This is such an easy soup to make, but it taste like it took all day.  It's rich, creamy, flavorful, & filling.  Another bonus is that everyone likes it, kids & adults alike.  So do yourself a favor & try this soup!

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium sized onion diced
12 baby portabella mushrooms with stems, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
16 cups beef stock
2 cup chopped cooked turkey breast
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup brown rice
salt & pepper to taste
Melt butter in stock pot over medium heat & cook onions, mushrooms, & sage until onions & mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.  Pour in stock and bring to a simmer.  Add turkey, rice & cream.  Give a good stir & then cover & let simmer 45 minutes to one hour or until rice is tender.  Salt & pepper to taste.  Serve with a good crusty bread & enjoy!

*Makes a good size batch.  This soup also freezes very well.  You can substitute a few things (it's all about what you have in your cupboards at that time, am I right!).  I've done this soup before with chicken & white mushrooms instead- still yummy.  I have also done it with dried sage, it's not as flavorful, but still very good!  One thing you cannot skimp on is the heavy cream, it makes the soup!

Christmas Craftiness... and maybe some hidden treasures too!

One benefit of having an art degree and living in the country is being able to make up projects for your kids on the spot with what resources you currently have.  The other day my two older girls & I made these Christmas candle holders.  They are easy & fun to make.  And you will have everything you need to make them right in your home.  Bonus- they don't look half bad!  Here's how you getter done:

You'll need wax paper, tape, red/green/white crayons, toilet or paper towel rolls, iron, and flameless tea lite candles.  I got my flameless candles at the Dollar Store, well worth the purchase.  You can put them in anything.  My friend Jami once put them under some old power line insulators.  The possibilities are endless!

The first thing you need to do is cut the toilet paper rolls to the desired height.  Next cut out the middle, but leave a half inch strip at the top & bottom & down the spine of the back of the candle.

Next make shavings of your crayons using a knife.  And your kids... "they looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears" (Name that movie & you may get your own personal copy!).  If they're girls they say "Oh no, not my crayons.  I loved that crayon!"  If they're boys it will be more like this "Cool!"  Make yourself a nice pile of crayon shavings.  Moms- enjoy every minute of getting rid of one of your millions and millions of crayons!

Now, heat up your iron around the "cotton" setting.  Make sure you turn off the steam.  Take a piece of wax paper sprinkle some crayon shavings on it & cover it with another piece of wax paper.  Now take your iron & start ironing the top of the wax paper crayon sandwich, this will become the "glass" of your candle holders.  I suggest doing this step on top of some newspaper because sometimes wax will ooze out the sides.  Iron it until there are no bumps and all the crayon pieces are melted, it doesn't take long.

Cut the "glass" to the same widths as your toilet paper rolls.  Then tape one side to the spine of the toilet paper roll.

Roll the "glass around the roll until it meets again at the spine, trim if necessary.  Now tape the entire edge of the "glass" making sure to have the tape go over the edge of the toilet paper roll so that it adheres to the inside of the roll- this ensures that the wax paper stays put.  (Whose weird thumb is that?)

Now turn on your flameless tea lite candle & put the candle holder over the top.  It looks pretty cool & your kiddos will be so proud.

This is a great project for a variety of ages.  For the younger kids you'll have to do most of the work but they will really enjoy the process, especially the crayon melting.  Older kids can do much of the work themselves & they also really enjoy the crayon melting.  Heck, I enjoyed the crayon melting.  Have Fun!

To enter to win the movie just put your guess of what movie the quote is from in the "Comments" section below.  Winner will be announced on Friday.  One guess per person (so everyone in your family can guess, but just one guess per person).  You're going to want to guess on this one- you want this movie!

Welcome to my new corral!

I have blogged for a about three years now.  When I started blogging I did it to keep far away family and friends up to date with us.  Recently we sold our house in town.  We haven't found another home that we really like/can afford yet.  So in the mean time we are hunkerin' down at my family's horse ranch thirty miles out of town.  Being a mama of four kids under the age of six I already crave "big people time", but now that I only come to town twice a week (& most of that time is running errands) I am severely deprived of adult conversation.  I do however have more time to blog.

And that is why you're here!  I decided to create a blog where us girls can reconnect with each other without paying a babysitter or traveling.  (Boys you can visit to, but you must know you are not my target audience.  If we talk about childbirth or shoes you'll just have to grit your teeth and bare it!)  I want this to be a place where we all give input & ideas.  I, of course, will do the promptings, but this place will be so much more fun if you put in your two cents as well!  Now I know there are a lot of other big time blogs out there that do this very thing.  What will be different about this one is that the community will be smaller and more intimate

If you are a follower of my family site you can still catch up with us there.  But make sure to stop by here every once in a while for a new recipe, a decorating tip, an occasional giveaway, or some funny stories.  I promise to update often. Welcome to my corral!

More Red Shoes

Lets start things off with a little gift giving.  As many of you know I do not wear my old shoe size (if you don't know this you can catch up with the story here).  The other day we took our family photo for our Christmas cards.  I got gussied up and put one of my favorite pairs of red shoes and of course THEY DON'T FIT!  I was so bummed because I love these shoes- they are red, they are flat, they have bows, and they are perfect for the holiday season.  I wore them for the family photo that only took five minutes & still my toes were going numb.  So I have to face the music & pass these babies on to someone else.  Here's the low-down:
American Eagle size 7 1/2

Flat & comfy

The cutest dang little bows on the top & felt tips.  They are practical & yet have character.

So if you are interested in these great shoes in the comment section below tell me where your at with Christmas shopping.  Did you get all your gifts purchased in August or are you just now saying "dang it, I need to go Christmas shopping".  Put your comment below & you'll be entered in a random drawing.  Unless you're the only one, then you will just get them ;)