M&M’s Pudding Cookies

M&M Pudding Cookies3

Here’s another cookie recipe that I made for my treat boxes to give out this Christmas. Who can resist M&M’s and white chocolate chips? I’m not sure if the pudding mix is for added flavor or to make the cookies soft and chewy. Either way, these cookies are a sweet treat. Next Christmas, be sure to put some out for Santa! You can most certainly switch out the M&M’s candy colors to suit other occasions to enjoy these cookies all year long.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 box (4 ounce size) vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup green and red M&M’s
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  2. In medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until fluffy; scrape side of bowl.
  4. Beat in dry pudding mix. Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until smooth. Beat in vanilla.
  5. On low speed, gradually beat flour mixture into butter mixture until well blended.
  6.  Stir in chocolate candies and white chips until blended.
  7. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto lined cookie sheets. M&M Pudding Cookies1
  8. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until light brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container at room temperature.
M&M Pudding Cookies2
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Italian Christmas Cookies

Italian Christmas Cookies3

Every year I give out Christmas cookies and candies to my family and friends. And every year I try swap around the cookies and candies I make. I came across these Italian Christmas cookies. I noticed they traditionally use anise extract, but I’m not an anise (or black licorice taste) fan. So I substituted almond extract. You can choose to use either.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise or almond extract

GLAZE INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Nonpareil sprinkles

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time. Then add the vanilla and anise flavoring.
  5. Slowly mix in the flour mixture. Do not overbeat.
  6. Refrigerate dough for one hour.
  7. When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Dip the bottom of a small glass into some powdered sugar and press each ball down slightly.Italian Christmas Cookies1
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  10. Remove and cool completely.

GLAZE DIRECTIONS:

  1. Sift two cups of powdered sugar in a bowl. Whisk in milk and vanilla.
  2. Dip top of each cookie in the glaze. Garnish with some nonpareil sprinkles.
  3. Allow glaze to dry before freezing. Italian Christmas Cookies2

 

Snowman Cupcakes

Snowman Cupcake

Here’s a fun baking activity for your kids or for you kids at heart to make during the holidays. All you need are a few items you may already have in your pantry.  I did make my own cupcakes from scratch, only because I was already making my Christmas cookies and had most the ingredients out anyway.  But I did use store bought frosting. Either way is fine.  The snowmen won’t complain.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 box chocolate or Devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 container vanilla frosting (buttercream or whipped style)
  • white sparkling decorating sugar sprinkles (I used Wilton brand)
  • butterscotch baking chips (or use orange M&Ms)
  • mini chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Prepare cupcakes as per cake mix directions and let cool completely.
  2. Spread a generous amount of frosting on top of the cupcake.
  3. Fill a small bowl with white, sparkling decorating sugar.
  4. Holding the bottom of the cupcake, gently press it down into the coarse sugar and rock it back and forth in all directions until the icing is completely covered.
  5. Take a regular sized butterscotch chip and gently press it into the center of the cupcake.
  6. Then use mini chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth.
  7. Aren’t they so cute?! How easy was that?

Snowman Cupcakes

 

Jerk Chicken Pasta

Jerk Chicken Pasta Plated

The hardest part of this recipe for me was finding somewhere that sold Jerk seasoning. I looked up and down the spice aisle. Then I tried the international aisle of my local grocery store. Still couldn’t find it. I tried the store across the way from my favorite grocery store. Still couldn’t find it. I found every other type of seasoning spices. Finally I did an internet search. I found it on Amazon of all places.  Finally! This recipes is actually very tasty and not as spicy as I like since my son can’t handle spicy foods. So feel free to adjust the amount of seasoning you use according to your tastes.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound Gemelli pasta (or Penne pasta will work too)
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 tablespoons Jamaican Jerk seasoning (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/3  cup sliced green onions, plus more for garnish
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions to al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. . Season chicken breasts all over using 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning per chicken breast.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook chicken until golden and no longer pink, 8 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside to rest.
  4. Add remaining oil and cook peppers until mostly tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add green onions and garlic until fragrant, 1 minute. Season with remaining  tablespoon jerk seasoning.
  6. Add chicken stock and heavy cream and let simmer until thickened, 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, slice prepared chicken.
  8. Add Parmesan and stir until melted and creamy, then add pasta and chicken and toss until completely combined.
  9. Garnish with green onions and more Parmesan and serve.

Jerk Chicken Pasta Skillet

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Creamy Wild Rice Soup 2

It’s finally getting chilly around here. Soup is my favorite “go to” meal when the weather gets colder. This soup is really decadent since it’s creamy and full of vegetables.  Don’t be deceived by my picture, there is wild rice in this soup. For my strictly vegetarian friends, substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock. And for my friends who want an even heartier soup, feel free to add diced, cooked chicken.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cooked, diced chicken (OPTIONAL)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice, oil and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, cook the carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes in butter until vegetables are almost tender. Stir in flour until blended; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Slowly stir in broth and undrained rice.
  3. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Reduce heat; stir in the cream, rosemary and poultry seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste. If adding in chicken, do so the last 5 minutes to warm through.

Creamy Wild Rice Soup 1

Mac-O-Lantern

Mac O Lantern not baked

It’s almost Halloween. I thought I’d share an easy and fun recipe to make with the kids or to make for the kids at heart. The unbaked peppers look so cute, but the baked ones look perfectly scary for Halloween with their shrinking skins and their (unintentional) burnt tops. Feel free to stuff your peppers with rice, quinoa and other vegetables if you want to go vegetarian. I just thought the macaroni and cheese resembled the pumpkin innards which made this more fun.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 pounds of lean ground beef (or turkey or chicken)
  • 1/2 of a red onion. diced
  • 1/2 a cup of spaghetti or tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 box (7.25 ounces) Kraft macaroni and cheese (or any other brand)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 6 orange bell peppers

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  2. Foil line a small baking sheet.
  3. In a large skillet, brown the ground meat over medium high heat. Drain excess fat.
  4. Add onions and cook until almost translucent.
  5. Add spaghetti/tomato sauce, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Stir until well mixed and turn off heat.
  6. Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package using the butter and milk.
  7. Meanwhile, cut the bell peppers into jack-o-lanterns. Discard the seeds and white membranes. Be sure to leave enough of the top to use as a lid. I like to make sure there is enough opening in the mouths I carve so you can see the noodle mixture coming out like pumpkin guts.
  8. Once your macaroni and cheese is ready, combine in your large skillet with your meat mixture. Mix well.
  9. Stuff your peppers with the noodle and meat mixture. Put them on your prepared foil lined baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes until bell peppers are tender.

Mac O Lantern

Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

I came across my bundt cake pan the other day. I thought to myself,  I really need to use it more often. So I went through my cupboard and found all the ingredients for a semi homemade pineapple upside down cake.  Then I found out my brother and his family were coming to town. I now had willing taste testers to help eat up the cake. My son and I would never have finished it by ourselves. It was fate.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 can (20 ounces)  pineapple slices, reserve the juice
  • 1 small jar maraschino cherries (you will need about 15-20 depending on your bundt pan size)
  • 1 box yellow cake mix (thus the semi homemade description)
  • 1 package (3.4 ounce) vanilla pudding mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Spray a bundt pan generously with nonstick spray.
  2. Evenly pour the melted butter into the bottom of the bundt pan and top with the brown sugar. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 2
  3. Cut the pineapple rings in half and, alternating with the cherries, place into the butter-brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the pan. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 3
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cake and pudding mixes together. Add the reserved pineapple juice and milk. Add the eggs and vegetable oil, and mix until fully blended. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 5
  5. Pour the batter evenly over the pineapple and cherries. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 6
  6. Follow the cake mix instructions for how long to bake in a bundt pan. Approximately 35-40 minutes. Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 7
  7. Cool the cake for about 30 minutes before running a knife around the edges and inner ring of the pan. Invert onto a serving plate and slice between pineapple rings to serve. Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake 8