christmas, holiday, holidays, recipe, recipes, traditons

Christmas Cookie Bars!

I love baking all year round but there is something special about baking around Christmastime. The music, the fact it’s cold outside but warm inside, the hot coco, it’s just magical. I love making cookies, cakes, brownies and today I am going to share one of my favorite recipes. It’s for those times you feel like something delicious and sweet but can’t decide between a cookie or brownie. This happens to me at Panera all the time, I can’t be the only one, right?

Well, sometimes you shouldn’t have to make Sophie’s Choice over dessert, just have both in one! Two desserts with the calories of one means one less trip to the gym to work off the holiday weight.

North Shore Poor’s Christmas Cookie Bars!

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (Namaste Perfect Blend is my usual go to but I ran out this week)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (any kind is fine but I use Himalayan)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (unsalted or salted)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup of Fisher Nut Pecans
1 cup of White Peppermint M&M’s
1 cup Chocolate Chips
15×10 pyrex baking dish

Directions
1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degree F
2. Put some holiday music on, I like 93.9FM on my kitchen radio
3. Put the 2 sticks of butter out so they start softening
3. Gather the above ingredients. Feel free to substitute the M&Ms for any flavor they have or even just white chocolate chips. Just use the same amount. It’s a personal preference. 
I like my desserts like my man, white chocolate. Ba-dum-bum chsh! 
4. Put the 2 softened sticks of butter, the vanilla, and both the sugars in the mixing bowl. 
If you’re using a mixer/kitchen-aid, I put it on the low speed to start then one higher for a few minutes
5. While that is slowly mixing, grab another bowl
6. I like using a sifter so I put that in the mixing bowl and add the flow, salt, and baking soda. Sift.
7. Are you having hot chocolate or a glass of wine? If not, grab a drink and sing along to the music.
8. Go to the bowl with the sugar and add one egg and mix.
9. Add the second egg and mix
10. Grab the flour mixture and slowly add in
11. Taste a little to make sure it’s delicious
12. So you can use the M&M’s whole but I like to crush mine up a little. So I just poured them into a bowl and used the back of the measuring cup to crush them. Not fancy but it works well and makes no mess. 
13. Add in the nuts, chocolate chips, and M&M’s
14. Beat on low for a minute or two
15. Get your baking dish out, I use a pyrex but any will do
16. Here’s the biggest secret of my baking success…Crisco! I don’t use it in my baking but I sure as hell use it to grease up my dishes and muffin pans. Take the Crisco and put all over the dish, including the sides
17. Put the dough into the pan, spread even with a spatula
18. Bake for about 20-22 minutes. The sides will be brown like a cookie and the top should be golden brown as well.
19. Cool for about 10 minutes and if you want, add an M&M to each piece you plan on cutting. 
20. Wait another 20 minutes or so and then cut!

Enjoy!


 You can really modify this recipe which makes it really fun and a great staple for your  cooking repertoire. You can add coconut, peanut butter, different nuts, or simply add mint  chocolate chips instead. Having a nice glass of Pinot Grigio always helps as well. Plus, to keep from these all myself I plan on letting JoeyWaffles bring them to his work and share. We can keep a few at home but no need for temptation!

What are your favorite holidays treats? Do you love holiday baking or hate it?
Let me know 🙂
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Wednesday is the new Monday

Christmas 2014

So my holiday 4 day weekend was busy and fun and went by too fast! Don’t they all though? I spent it shopping, Christmas tree decorating, removing bathroom floor tile, playing Tetris Attack with JoeyWaffles, and just enjoying time at home, I missed posting my Monday Must Haves but since it’s my blog, this week it’s going to be on Wednesday. Bear with me the next few weeks because life is crazy around the holidays. I have to finish shopping, find shoes for my company holiday party, clean the house, make Christmas cookies, get end of the year stuff done at work and so on and so on. Blogging is such a great outlet to relax, be inspired, and reflect. I love my cozy office so maybe I’ll end up writing more.

Now on to the Must Have’s!

When I was younger, we had a lot of Christmas traditions that I sadly no longer do but really loved. We always drove out to the boonies to a tree farm to pick and cut our own tree. We would get dessert at the same local spot and then get to play video games at this crazy arcade. I always spent my $5 on the crane/claw machines and had to wait patiently for my brother to go through his which took forever. We would read from the bible, ever year a different gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and light the advent wreathe. We also took the ubiquitous holiday family photo in front of the tree, although the year we had the chicken Betsy and the dogs was rather memorable.
So while I no longer have those traditions, there are still a bunch that are going strong and are what Christmas means to me. I have added a few others the older I get so read and enjoy!

Christmas Crime Scene Tape: When we were little and always wanted to peek at the tree, my Dad came up with the idea that the Elves would block off the tree and if we crossed it, we wouldn’t get the gifts. That wasn’t really the point, it was really how funny the signs were and still are to this day. There is usually a theme and now with FB my Dad has all year to collect photos and embarrass us. The youngest person gets to cut the tape, or ribbon if we can’t find any. Then we race to the stockings and Christmas can begin!
The Santa Claus: This is my favorite Christmas movie, I actually love all three in the series. They are funny and silly and sweet and I love Tim Allen. When JoeyWaffles and I were first hanging out and it was Christmas and I mentioned how much I loved them, he downloaded all three and watched the first one with me one night all cuddled up. The fact that I had mentioned it in passing and he remembered and surprised me was one of the million reasons I fell in love with him. There is nothing better then watching this while cuddling with him and all the animals, the soft lights of the Christmas tree, and a soft blanket on us. This is probably our first Christmas tradition so I really cherish it.
MiMi’s Peanut Butter Balls and Grandma Fern’s Brownies: When my great Grandmothers were alive, they each made a signature amazing desert and my Aunt has kept the tradition alive. Mimi’s PB balls are the best frozen and there is s special gold tin they have to come in. They are the perfect size and go so fast. You have to make sure to hide some so they don’t run out! Grandma Fern’s brownies are probably my favorite desert ever and I look forward to these all year. Paleo be damned, these are worth a few days at the gym.
Traveling: Christmas has always been huge in my family, much like many people. I have so much family that it had to be precisely scheduled when I was younger. My older brother and I celebrated Christmas Eve morning with my two Dads, then headed over to my Mom to open gifts with her and my stepdad and then we headed over to my Italian grandparents to celebrate with cousins, aunts, uncles, and more. We would go home around 11 or 12, sleep for a few hours and then drive to the airport, get on an early morning flight to Kansas City, MO for my paternal grandparents, aunt, and other family. We did this until one day in my mid 20’s I had enough of the missing or delayed flights and being stuck in airports and now we go to Missouri the weekend before Christmas.  Plus without going to Kansas City, I would miss out on the one meal a year my Grandma cooks, a delicious roast with mushrooms and bacon, patrician potatoes, Rhodes rolls, green beans and corn casserole.  
Pop Christmas Albums/All Christmas music: Mariah. N’Sync. BSB, 98 degrees, Hanson. I love em all and need my fix of their holiday albums. Taylor Swift and Josh Groban too. Plus 93.9FM in Chicago plays all holiday music from November ’til Christmas and I don’t change my radio. You can’t leave out Bing, Frank, and all the originals. Favorite Christmas song? “Baby it’s cold outside”
Italian Christmas Eve: My Mom’s family is Catholic so we don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve and instead have pasta, homemade cheese pizza, and seafood. Food is a big part of our culture, the making, eating, the family recipes, the warmth it is to be in a kitchen. Some years we’ve had eel, calamari salad, mussels, and more. The stuffed artichokes my Aunt Laurie makes are out of this world and what’s being Italian without some wine?We eat my Aunt Diane’s special chocolate chip cookies. Our Christmas’s are loud, full of laughter, smiles, the most wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen, and of love. It’s cheesy but I’ve always been so proud to be Italian and of my heritage and of the strong people who came before me.
What are your favorite holiday traditions? What is your favorite holiday movie or song?
Check out Kristen’s post on balance and the traditions she and her husband keep!
Bella and Dante in their holiday wear
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North Shore Thankful

(Thanksgiving 2013, hosted by JoeyWaffles and I)
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it’s all about the love and happy and warmth and most importantly, about family. Maybe your families blended or all over the country (like mine is), maybe you live with them or they’re right down the street, maybe it’s a friendsgiving, but it’s the time of year time to be thankful for the people and things in our lives. Of course, we should be thankful everyday but it doesn’t hurt to have a day to officially celebrate. Plus, the history of Thanksgiving is a bit awful so turning into a day of being grateful, well as Martha Stewart used to say, “now that’s a good thing”. So without further adieu, here is what I am thankful for this year, in no particular order. Obviously it should go without saying that my family, friends, and health are the duh, of course ones.

My job-Getting to love what I do and where I work and who I work with is a blessing. I always quote Charlotte from Sex and The City when she is asked about being happy in her marriage and she says “Not all day, every day but yes, every day”. That is how I feel about work. I love driving there and have never dreaded a Monday. I actually look forward to my job, my boss, my co-workers, and just loving the work. I get to grow and learn and laugh and it can’t get better than that. Work is where you spend most of your time so you might as well make the best of it, enjoy it, and find something that combines a passion with paying the bills. Plus with the PR girls, Alex, Paul, JBeast, Sara, and more, I work with the best, funniest, goofy, most amazing group of people who like to laugh about everything and snort, especially about T-Ruddy Rex ya see.(work joke duh)

My Mom-She is the strongest, funniest, most hardworking, goofy, and kind person I know. She is the definition of selfless and she also can share celebrity gossip with me. The older I get the more I look/act like her and I am proud of it. She is a huge source of health tips, working out, eating well, and just being my biggest cheerleader. My Mom is absolutely without a doubt the person who loves me the most and who would do anything for me. She can make anything better no matter what and she can drive me crazy at times. The older I get the more and more I really get to appreciate her. Plus she loves movies like Booty Call and Wayne’s World and Tommy Boy. She’s a classic.

Heated Car  Seats-I mean seriously, my butt feels so warm and toasty when I drive, especially when it’s so cold out. Every time I get in the car and turn them on, I’m happy. Joey has them in the Mini and the Wrangler so our butts are always warm like our Starbucks. I am lucky to have a car, let alone a wonderful car like Taylor. I pretty much don’t want to own anything but another Land Rover and it’s the North Shore in me but no matter the car, heated seats have become a must.

JoeyWaffles- I don’t always publicly gush about him, I mean I post our photos or some of the sweet things he does or even just how cute he is, because he really really is. The thing is though, he makes me a better person. I love him more than I love being right which is HUGE because I love being right. I am Italian after all. He makes me sharper, smarter, kinder, funnier, think more, he challenges my mind and shows me a whole new way of thinking. He encourages me to be myself and learns from who I am. I love that we both have stayed ourselves as much as we have become a team. When I take a two week vacation every year without, all he wants is for me to have fun while he gets to stay home and hang out with his friends, take care of all the pets and watch comedy central in his boxers. Whatever floats his boat really. Every night I get to fall asleep feeling safe and loved and at peace. Knowing that we bring out the best in each other and not just encourage each others bad habits is something I cherish. You might be thinking “duh Tiffany, that’s what’s supposed to happen” but a lot of people can be in love and not have that. So I am thankful that I do. I am thankful he chooses me and I choose him and that we play Tetris Attack at 2am and watch New Girl together.

Dry Shampoo-Seriously, this is life saver. I use Not Your Mother’s or Bed Head Rockaholic and they are AMAZING. For someone who has thick hair and a lot of it, shampooing my hair everyday is not an option or even every other day. I don’t have the 45min to an hour prep time. This is a great solution and I recommend everyone keep some at work or in their car for an emergency.

My Dad-Hands down, he’s the best guy and I am so lucky Joey has so many of his traits. He is thoughtful, funny, kind, smart, tells corny jokes, and always lets me ramble on. He deserves the best and I am so excited to meet his new bf because I think he finally found a man who deserves him. So I am really thankful for Andre as well because he makes my Dad so happy. I am thankful that they are happy in California and I get to see them in less than a month!!

Duh-Apparently I am trying to bring this back or it never really left my vocabulary but I am thankful this word is still fairly relevant and fun to use. It’s nice then a swear word and really gets the snark of course without offending everyone. Try it out. Feels like a guilty pleasure right? Just go with it, trust me and now I sound like a sleazy guy at a bar. Hmm.

My animals-Bella, Dante, Winston, and Pteri are the silliest, goofiest, sweetest, goofiest little pack of furbabies. Winston is at the vet and has been, battling a urinary blockage and infection and $1500 we know he;s worth every penny we’ve spent and will continue to spend. He’s the sweetest little grey jerk ever and while it’s nice not to be woken up at 6am by a hungry cat, I can’t wait til he comes home. Pteri is the cutest most unladylike cat ever and got me to like cats after years of indifference. Bella is my babygirl, babychubs, fat little loyal sausage who loves Joey better but knows I will always protect her from anything and then there’s Dante. My sweet sweet baby boy who has the biggest heart, the best personality; he would protect me from anything and curls up next to me with his big brown eyes and sweet face and I melt. He makes the funniest noises and has the worst breathe sometimes but he’s my little guy.

What are you thankful for? What makes Thanksgiving for you? Are you shopping on Black Friday? Whatever you’re doing, have a safe, happy, and wonderful Thanksgiving.