Cookies for Santa

{Picture Originally from Make It Do}

I have made exactly 48 of these jars for teachers, family members, and friends in the past two weeks.  And let me tell ya…I’m officially a pro.  Originally I found these from Make It Do, who interpreted the recipe from Bakerella’s Cowgirl Cookies to create a festive holiday gift.  Don’t you love how the internet works?  One great idea snowballs into a hundred more great ideas.  Now don’t let me fool you.  Nothing I did here was a result of my own creativity.

Ingredients:

Wide-Mouth Quart-sized canning jars (found at Ace Hardware)
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup traditional oats
3/4 cup Christmas Milk Chocolate M&M’s
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar

What to do:

1.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir.

2.  To maximize the layered effect and minimize flour covering the entire inside of the jar, pour the flour mixture into a Ziploc baggie.  Cut the bottom edge at a diagonal and funnel the flour mixture into the jar.

3.  Layer in oats using the Ziploc baggie method.  Make sure to really pack down the flour and oats so the remaining ingredients can fit.

4.  Continue to layer in this order:  M&M’s, chocolate chips, packed brown sugar, and sugar.

5.  Screw the lid on tightly.  Cover the lid with an 8×8″ square of holiday fabric and tie down with a festive ribbon.

6.  Attach a tag containing the directions for baking:

Preheat Oven 
to 350Stir dry ingredients into 
a large bowl and add:
1/2 cup butter, (almost melted), 1 slightly beaten egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Combine thoroughly and roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Bake for 10 minutes.

Tips:

-  Really pack each layer down!  Seriously.
–  I found it quicker and cleaner to do each step for all 12 jars before moving on to the next step (i.e. fill all twelve jars with the flour mixture, then all of them with the oats, etc, etc)
–  I used these directions taped to the back of these printed holiday tags.
-  Make yourself a batch of these cookies, they are AH-MAZING!


All-In-One Breakfast Casserole

During our Christmas in Chicago weekend with the family, I only had to prepare breakfast both days since we ate out for lunch and dinner.  Did I mention it was for 10 people?  In addition to cinnamon rolls, toast, cereal, and muffins, I also wanted to serve an egg casserole.  The recipe had to have minimal preparation, ingredients, and appeal to everyone.  I found this All-In-One Breakfast Casserole recipe in the church cookbook I stole from my brother two years ago.  I know, it doesn’t sound right to steal a church cookbook, but is a college student honestly ever going to pull out the pots and pans for anything besides spaghetti?  I think not.  I’m actually doing him a favor putting the cookbook to good use.  Anyways, the casserole lived up to expectations, preparation – less than 15 minutes, ingredients – only 7 which were all totally normal and appealed to everyone.  I will definitely be making this casserole the next time I need to feed a large number of people quickly.  Maybe Christmas morning with the family?! What is your go-to breakfast casserole?

Ingredients:

1 pkg hash browns
1 pound lean sausage
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
10 eggs
1 1/2 cans Milnot (evaporated milk)

Directions:

1.  In a 9×12″ baking dish, place a layer of hash browns.

2.  In a skillet, fry the lean sausage and drain the grease.

3.  Crumble the sausage over the layer of hash browns.

4.  Saute the chopped green pepper and onion (optional) and pour over the sausage.

5.  Layer 2 cups of mozzarella cheese on top.

6.  In a large bowl, whip the 10 eggs with the 1 1/2 cans Milnot.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour over the cheese layer.

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  You can also prepare and refrigerate overnight.

Advent Calendar

With all the hustle and bustle of shopping, baking, traveling, and attending parties during the Christmas season, the little special moments sometimes get lost in the whirlwind.  To prevent missing our favorite things about the holidays, I created this advent calendar to remind us to slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy all the special, traditional things we wanted to participate in this December.  My favorite part is that each person can make this to fit their ideas and the activities on the calendar are easily changeable from year to year as new traditions enter into your family holidays.  Have kids?  What a great way to show them different and fun Christmas adventures each day instead of just opening presents on December 25th.

My Inspiration:

What I Did:

1.  Gather your supplies (card-stock, thick 2″ ribbon, thin 1/2″ ribbon, scissors, markers, stencils, tape/glue).  Cut each 12×12 piece of card-stock into three equal 4″ wide pieces until you have 25 total (one for each day).

2.  Using a red marker, stencil the date onto each card.

3.  Size and cut rectangular green card-stock pieces for the top.  Punch a hole into the top of each card, making sure the hole in each card is the same distance from the top.

4.  Stencil a different Christmas and/or winter activity onto each card.  Decorate with drawings or decorative paper.

5.  Cut the thin 1/2″ ribbon into 25 equal pieces and attach to each individual card.

6.  Place the thick 2″ ribbon through each of the 25 cards and hang on the wall to remind you of all the holiday activities you want to accomplish!

{Hanging Above Our Windows}

{Close Up View of Days 18-25}

Advent Activities I Used:

  1. Watch “Christmas Carol”
  2. Decorate the Christmas Tree
  3. Host a Holiday Party
  4. Download and Listen to Christmas Music
  5. Send Christmas Cards
  6. Make a new Christmas decoration
  7. Play a game and drink apple cider
  8. Visit the Christkindlmarket
  9. Watch “Four Christmases”
  10. Relax with a good book
  11. Wrap Presents
  12. Decorate Gingerbread Houses
  13. Ice Skate
  14. Take pictures with Santa
  15. Angel Tree Presents
  16. See the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights
  17. Watch “A Christmas Story”
  18. Bake cookies
  19. Drive around and look at Christmas lights
  20. Kiss under the mistletoe
  21. Watch “Elf”
  22. Play Outside (Sled, Build a Snowman, etc)
  23. Give a Surprise Gift
  24. Leave Santa cookies
  25. Merry Christmas

Additional Options:

-  Instead of punching holes and using ribbon, attach the cards with clothespins.
–  Instead of using ribbon to hold the cards, use a metal ring.  Then you could display only the appropriate date and place it behind the rest when you complete it.
–  Cut your card-stock smaller to avoid having to draw and decorate or take up as much space

I’m definitely looking forward to adding in new activities as we have kids in the future (no, I’m not pregnant)!  What are some things you and your family love to do during this holiday season?

A Chicago Christmas

Experiencing Christmas in downtown Chicago is simply magical.  From the iconic plays such as “Christmas Carol” and “A Christmas Story” to the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza to the Macy’s window displays to ice-skating and taking silly pictures with “The Bean” at Millennium Park to the gorgeous Christmas lights adorning every tree of Michigan Avenue to the bright lights at Lincoln Park Zoo, there is a Christmas attraction to fulfill any desire.  This weekend we had the special privilege of sharing all these spectacular attractions with our families.  It was such a joy to re-experience these sites from a new perspective and regain the appreciation and awe that we felt when we first encountered them four years ago.

{Ready to see “A Christmas Story” at The Chicago Theatre}

{At the Christkindlmarket with Santa Claus}

{Pictures at The Bean in Millennium Park}

{Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo}

{Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo}

{Our Gingerbread Village with Harry Potter Lego}

{Decorating Christmas Sugar Cookies}

Peanut Butter Rudolph Cookies

As soon as I laid eyes on those adorable little antlers, that bright red nose, and those sweet chocolate-brown eyes, I knew I wanted needed to make these peanut butter Rudolph cookies immediately.  They were seriously almost too cute to eat!  Almost.  No matter how cute, I’m not going to pass up anything that combines two of my favorite things:  peanut butter and chocolate.  Not to mention my friend Erin won a Christmas cookie contest with these bad boys?!  Cutest. Cookies. EVER.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
chocolate covered mini pretzels
chocolate chips
red M&M’s

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, shortening, milk, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until well blended.

2.  Add egg and beat until just blended.

3.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

4.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture until just blended.

5.  Create 1-inch dough balls spaced about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.  Gently flatten the dough ball with your palm and pinch the bottom into a point.  Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until just beginning to brown.

6.  Immediately remove the cookies from the oven, and press two chocolate-covered pretzels (reindeer’s antlers), two chocolate chips (reindeer’s eyes), and one red M&M (nose) into each Rudolph cookie.

7.  Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe Source:  Bakergirl