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Fall Cookie Decorating

Every fall the boys and I decorate cookies in the shape of leaves.  This year we had a very special friend come and help us.  I used to work with Miss Marie and she is like a second mom to me.  I love her dearly, and my kids love her dearly.  I’ve taken senior pics of both of her kids, I’ve taken wedding pics at her daughter’s wedding, and most recently family pics with her daughter.  I love her more than she will ever know and I’m so glad she was here today to make special memories.  Here are some of the fun shots from the day.

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Baked Brie and Chutney Tarts

Tonight we had some friends over for dinner.  We decided to do an appetizer buffet instead of an actual sit-down dinner.  We had baked brie tarts, rosemary shortbread cookiees, spicy corn dip and nachos, mushrooms sauce on crustini’s, coconut flan, and pita sandwiches with walnut feta stuffing.  Everything was wonderful, but these little bite-size tarts were especially awesome.  I thought I’d share the pics and recipe!  Enjoy!


Bake Brie with Apricot Cherry Chutney

2 packages of mini fillo cups (I had Athens brand that I found right in the grocery store freezer)

1 wheel brie cheese, cut into 30 pieces

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced

1/2 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

salt/pepper to taste

1/2 cup brown sugar

zest from about half a lemon

dash of cayenne pepper

Chutney should be prepared at least 4 hours prior.  It can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and just stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Mix the cherries, apricots, onions, vinegar, water, salt, pepper, brown sugar, lemon zest and cayenne pepper in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Simmer over heat for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool, then place in refrigerator until ready to use.  When ready to make tarts, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place mini cups on a cookie sheet.  place cheese bites into each cup.  Place a dollop of chutney on each tart.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until brie is melted.  Remove and serve warm!  Enjoy!






Thanksgiving 2012

Just thought I’d share a few pics from our family thanksgiving yesterday.  I tried a bunch of new recipes, but only a few really stood out as keepers.  I made the Pioneer Woman’s soul sweet ‘tators.  I also made a recipe for cranberry shortbread out of Bon Appetit magazine.  My favorite new recipe of the day was the buttered apple cider from Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade magazine!  I’ll include these three recipes in this post.  I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving day.  Other than the fact that my husband was sick all day, we had a wonderful day as a family and I felt blessed all day long.


Buttered Apple Cider:

Mix 1 stick of softened butter, 1/4 cup light brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves until combined.  Put the butter on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a 1-inch thick log.  Wrap and chill 1 hour.  Pour 3 cups of apple cider into a slow cooker, cover and heat on high for 1 hour.  Divide 1 cup bourbon among 6 glasses.  Top each with hot cider and a slice of the spiced butter…YUMMY!
Cranberry Shortbread

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar, divided

1/4 t. salt

1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into slices

1 – 10 oz bag fresh cranberries

1/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice

1 t. grated grapefruit zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8×8 pan.  Whisk flour, 1/4 cup sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  Using your fingertips, rub butter into dry ingredients until mix resembles coarse meal.  Transfer to prepared pan, press evenly onto bottom of pan.  Prick dough with fork.  Bake shortbread until cooked through and golden pale, about 25 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Bring remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups cranberries and grapefruit juice to a simmer in a small saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally until cranberries burst and mix is syrupy, about 8 minutes.  Stir in remaining cranberries and cook until skins begin to split, about 3 minutes.  Let cool.  Spread cooled cranberry topping over shortbread.  Scatter zest over.  Cut and serve.  MMMMM…


Soul Sweet ‘Taters

4 medium sweet potatoes

1 cup white sugar

1 cup milk

2 large eggs

1 t vanilla extract

1 t salt

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup flour

6 T unsalted butter at room temp

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put the sweet potatoes on the oven rack and bake until fork tender, about 1 hour.  When potatoes are finished cooking, let cool slightly.  Slice them open lengthwise and scrape out the flesh with a fork into a large bowl.  Increase oven temp to 400 degrees.  Add the white sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla and salt to the bowl with the potatoes.  Mash the mix with a potato masher until combined and slightly lumpy.  In a separate bowl, mash the dark brown sugar, pecans, flour and butter until crumbly.  Spread the potato mixture into a large baking dish, sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  AWESOME!

My Five Favorite Men

A quick shot of my five favorite men taken tonight after a great father’s day dinner.  I love these five guys more than words can say.  My dad, my husband and my  three boys.

Henry {9 Month Session}

My nephew Henry is already 9 months old!  I can’t believe how fast the time has gone.  It feels like it was just yesterday that our immediate family was at the family rental cottage that my parents rent every year and my sister was waking me up at 1:30am, crying and saying she thought she was in labor!  She was 4 weeks early and didn’t want to interrupt vacation week with something like delivering a baby 🙂  But Aunt Cookie came to the rescue and drove her back into Grand Rapids in time for Henry Paul to come into the world.  What a sweet little man!

Henry {6 Month Session}

Wow, I can’t believe my nephew is 6 months old already!  How the time goes by!  Everyone in my family and my extended family has had this cold/flu bug for what seems like the past two months.  Poor little Henry has been sick for the past couple weeks with a nasty cold.  We tried to get his 6 month pics done last Sunday, but he was definitely not in the mood and we had to give up.  But this Sunday went much better.  He was such a happy little camper, smiles all the way and very happy for his Aunt Cookie!  Love you little Henry Paul.  You are such a blessing from God to our family!

Annual New Years Day Shoot of my Kids

Every year I do a New Years Day photo shoot of my boys in front of a black background, shirts off.  Very simple, yet very fun.  I love to get different expressions and see how they’ve grown through the year.  I normally do them each individually.  I don’t usually try to get a group shot, because it is just so hard to get a nice shot of them all together.  But this year they actually sat nice together and let me take a couple shots of them together.  I am repainting my kitchen/dining/living room this week and cannot wait to have one of these shots blown up into a huge canvas for the wall.  What do you think?  Do you have a favorite?  Which one should I use this year?  Leave your comments!

Elf on a Shelf – Our Version

I’ve seen this Elf on a Shelf idea many years now, but have never felt the need to do it.  This year I found a knock-off version of the elf at the local store for $2.50.  My twins are 4 years old and sadly need all the help they can get when it comes to making sure Santa doesn’t put them on the naughty list.  I know the official Elf comes with a book and a whole story, but our version goes like this:  Elffi shows up every morning in a new place, doing something funny and the boys have to find him.  Elffi then calls Santa every night to tell him if they are being naughty or nice.  I don’t think it has made much of a difference, but they boys are having fun none the less looking for him every morning and laughing at how funny he is.  And my oldest son, who doesn’t believe in Santa anymore, still has fun helping me come up with Elffi ideas and setting him up.  Here are a few days worth of what Elffi has been up to:

Goodie Plate Fun

I had a great time yesterday putting together my Christmas goodie plates.  This is my second year doing this, and I’m learning something new every year.  I had a great friend help me this year, we kind of both brought our ingredients together and worked from my house.  This years plates included:  buckeyes, spiced rum balls, cookies and cream chocolate truffles, pretzel kisses, cinnamon sugar palmiers and caramel and chocolate covered pretzel rods.  We used 10 lbs of chocolate, 300 hershey kisses, 6 lbs of pretzels, 3 lbs of caramel and maybe a few shots of Captain Morgan.  The spiced rum balls were by far my favorite.  Next year, we are going to start with those (if for no other reason than to start the afternoon of cooking off with a few shots).  What I thought would be the easiest and best, the pretzel rods, turned out to be the bane of my existence.  Took the longest, was the most work and the ones I did looked terrible.  They tasted fine, but were definitely not pretty to look at.  My good friend Kristin’s looked great, she had much more patience than I did 🙂  I’m already looking forward to next year!  Let me know in the comments section, do you do goodie plates and if so, what do you put on them?

Balloons and Snow

I had so much fun taking my twin boys out today for an impromptu photo shoot in the woods.  I threw on the boys new Christmas outfits, went to the dollar store and bought matching balloons and we headed to a friends house that still had snow on the ground.  The boys were so well behaved and they had lots of fun.  Winter fun on a sunny day!