Cinnamon Roll Wreath

Cinnamon Roll Wreath- Baker BettieI have a confession. I am a closeted obnoxious holiday person. I love that Christmas music starts playing on the radio the day after Halloween. I will fully belt Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” if nobody is around. I can watch the same Christmas movies over and over again every year and never get sick of them. And I switch from my regular Americano to drink Eggnog lattes the second they are available.

Cinnamon Roll Wreath- Baker Bettie

Cinnamon Roll Wreath- Baker Bettie

I think it is pretty hard not to get into the spirit if you have good memories of the holidays from your childhood. And I definitely do. My mom really has a knack for decorating, though I’m not sure she fully knows that about herself. Our house growing up was one of the prettiest in our neighborhoods during the holidays. The outside and inside were decorated so beautifully and we always had fun Christmas music playing. I remember when we’d finally break out all of our family favorite Christmas CD’s and they would play non-stop. The staples of our collection were: Mariah Carey (of course), Harry Connick Jr., Celine Dion, Mannheim Steamroller, and Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, which was our absolute favorite. My sister found this music video of one of the songs from Dolly and Kenny’s Christmas CD and it is pretty amazing. You NEED to watch it. I have so many good memories singing those songs and getting ready for our family holiday party every year.

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Sunshine Pudding: Sausage Egg & Cheese Casserole

Sunshine Pudding: Sausage Egg & Cheese CasseroleEvery major holiday since I can remember has always, and I mean always, included Sunshine Pudding for breakfast. At least that’s what we always called it. It’s basically an egg, sausage, and cheese casserole. So simple, yet so amazingly delicious. It is the perfect holiday breakfast because you put it together the night before and it is ready to just pop in the oven in the morning. Perfect for lounging around in your pj’s while breakfast is in the oven.

Sunshine Pudding: Sausage Egg & Cheese Casserole

I believe it was my aunt Jo who started the tradition. And it just spread throughout the entire family. You start with a layer of bread in the bottom of the dish. Eggs are then poured on top of the bread and everything is topped with spicy sausage and cheese. I always add in some veggies too, but that is optional. Let everything soak overnight and pop it in the oven in the morning. Serve with salsa and sour cream or any other condiments you desire. Maybe it is just nostalgia, but Sunshine Pudding screams the holidays are here to me!

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Chewy Brown Sugar and Rosemary Snickerdoodles

Chewy Brown Sugar and Rosemary Snickerdoodles- Baker BettieI’ve been struggling with expectations lately. High expectations about a situation that is very important to me. And I am getting very let down. Extremely let down. And I’m struggling to find a way to let go of the expectation and look for a way to take something good from it. It is very difficult.

Chewy Brown Sugar and Rosemary Snickerdoodles- Baker BettieI know there is a lesson to be learned here. To step back from the expectation and just be in the moment. To find something, anything, good from the situation. Even if I am just learning something about life. Or about how I interact with people. Or about how I deal with being let down. I have become frustrated and cranky and probably not the nicest to other people around me that have nothing to do with it. I’m working on that.

Chewy Brown Sugar and Rosemary Snickerdoodles- Baker BettieI do a lot of meditating about real life stuff when baking. It’s amazing how much about life can be learned when creating in the kitchen. I got a request from my husband’s co-workers for something with cinnamon or nutmeg or something holiday flavored. I decided on snickerdoodles. They are chocked full of cinnamon, perfectly chewy, and absolutely addictive. But I always want to challenge people’s expectations about food. Because changing expectations isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it makes things even better. I wanted to enhance the snickerdoodle flavor profile. Make them more glamourous. More gourmet. So I added another holiday flavor that always pairs well with cinnamon, rosemary.

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This is THE Pumpkin Pie

Perfectly Creamy Pumpkin Pie- Baker BettieI want you to listen to me closely. If you are making pumpkin pie this week you should make this one. I’m serious. I’m seriously serious. This is THE pumpkin pie. It is creamy and spicy and sweet and full of Fall in every bite. Again I say: This is THE pumpkin pie. Am I making myself clear?

Perfectly Creamy Pumpkin Pie- Baker Bettie

Yeah sure. I know what you are thinking. It looks like an ordinary pumpkin pie right? Well stop thinking that! Just stop right now. Because this pumpkin pie is on a whole new level.

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Chocolate French Silk Pie

Chocolate French Silk Pie- Baker Bettie

I fully admit that I have avoidance issues when it comes to pie. I rarely make them. And it has nothing to do with disliking pie. Pie is probably one of my favorite desserts. But I don’t particularly like making them. And I have realized that the only reason I don’t like making them is because I’m not confident in my crust technique. Why is it so hard to make the edges look pretty?!

Chocolate French Silk Pie- Baker Bettie

Making desserts that look pretty is definitely not my strong point. I fully admit that. I am much better at making desserts that taste awesome. But with the holidays coming up I am determined to end my avoidance of pie and start getting confident with it. Avoiding things is never the answer. And maybe after I tackle pies I’ll start in on cakes. The thought of that just gave me a whole lot of anxiety… It’s okay. We’re still on pie. One intimidating decorative dessert at a time here.

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White Chocolate Covered Strawberry and Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake

White Chocolate Covered Strawberry and Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake

Do you remember the first time you ever got kissed? I sure do. It was in 6th grade. I had a cool boyfriend that went to a different school. We met at the skating rink. He asked me to come skate with him during the couples skate. He had a broken arm at the time and I remember thinking how cool he looked with a cast on. So we skated around holding hands and then he asked me to be his girlfriend.

One night my best friend invited me to come to her school’s carnival night which also happened to be the same school my boyfriend went to. That was the night I got kissed. My best friend dared him to kiss me. So he did. How romantic.

White Chocolate Covered Strawberry and Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake

It’s funny how vivid I remember all of that. As unimportant as it seems now, it was such a huge deal then. But I just as vividly remember the day my husband first kissed me too. It was our first unofficial date. We had become really good friends during the months prior and finding ourselves both suddenly single there was some unspoken understanding that hanging out didn’t mean the same thing anymore. He told me he wanted to take me to the lake nearby because I had once told him that I had never been. I was already impressed that he remembered that from just a passing conversation.

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Strawberry Lemon Curd and Old Fashioned Shortbread Cookies

Strawberry Lemon Curd Shortbread Cookies

This weekend I found myself working my old part time job from college. A textbook clerk at the university bookstore. It’s where my husband and I first met and he is still working there, though he has a fancier job title than back when we were courting. He has me come in and help at the busy times of year and any reason to spend more time with him is okay with me.

The store opened and all the college kids started coming in to work or to purchase their textbooks. I found myself feeling very out of place. I was surrounded by stories of last night’s endeavors. You know the typical college kid “got drunk, can’t remember what we did, or how I got home, or who I kissed…” It has only been 3 years since I graduated but I found myself feeling so old. How did I get from that place to where I am now? You know the place where I spent my Saturday night making strawberry lemon curd and shortbread cookies. That place. I hope those “kids” get to this place safely. Their stories make me anxious.

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merry christmas, darling

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dear husband,

Today we are spending our 4th Christmas together. I remember the first year I brought you home. We had really only been together for a few months, but at the time that didn’t seem weird to either of us. I think we both already knew that this would be the first of many many Christmases we would spend together.  I never doubted bringing you home so soon.

So here we are, already at our 4th… our 2nd as husband and wife.  I am so excited to get to spoil you this year, since you have never really let me do it before. By the time you are reading this you have already opened a few gifts from me.

#1: The newest Muse CD. When you opened it, you didn’t know that it was forshadowing of the gifts to come. I’m sure you loved the gift, but you would love it even more when you found out why I got you this CD.

#2: A note with a promise that you and I are going to take a trip in the Spring like we have been talking about. You have been trying to buy tickets and I keep telling you to wait. Well this is why. In March we are going to your favorite city, Chicago.

#3: Tickets to see Muse while we are in Chicago. We both agreed during the first few years we spent Christmas together that we wouldn’t exchange gifts. Stuff isn’t important to us. But making memories definitely is. I wanted to get experiences as your gift this year. I know that this gift will last forever in our memories.

#4: A box with a little note instructing you to come to my website. I wanted to give you the last part of the gift here because it will take a little bit of explaining. I found out after I had planned our trip to Chicago that you were really wanting to go see the Northwest. You kept sending me flight deals to Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. Had I known this when I originally planned the trip I would have started there.

After contemplating this for some time and doing some research, this is what I have come up with. The day after we see Muse perform in Chicago we are going to go to Union Station and get on a train. The train is called “The Empire Builder.”  The train will start traveling north through Milwaukee and passing through southern Wisconsin and the upper Mississippi River. The train will continue through North Dakota and Montana and will stop at several locations in Glacier National Park.  It will continue through Idaho and Washington and finally stop at Portland, OR.

This will take a little over 2 days. And during this 2 days we will have a relaxing trip filled with amazing views of the Northwest from the observation car, great food and wine tastings from the dining car, and our own little roomette where we can even get some private rest. We will have time to just enjoy each other’s company, watch some shows or movies on our tablet, meet new friends, and relax. When we arrive in Portland we will part with the train and explore the city for the next few days.

So there it is. Merry Christmas, darling. I love you so very much. I can’t wait to make these memories with you. And selfishly, this is a gift for me too. Traveling and making memories with my best friend, my love, my husband, is the best gift I could ever ask for. I hope you think so too.

love,

your wife

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photo by shelley stephens

Homemade Apple Cider

Crockpot Apple Cider

Have you ever heard of mouth hallucinations…? Wait. Who am I kidding? Of course you haven’t. I just coined this term yesterday. Let’s start over. Mouth hallucinations are basically exactly what they sound like. A hallucination… In your mouth.  Like when you get a really strong craving for something. And the craving is so intense that you can literally taste it. “Mouth hallucinations.” They’re real.

Crockpot Apple Cider

Before I left for work yesterday I threw a bunch of apples, a couple of oranges, and some warm spices in my crockpot. I covered it all with water, cranked it up, threw the lid on, and went on about my day. I really had no idea if this would work. But I hoped, I prayed, that when I got home from work there would be delicious homemade apple cider waiting for me.

Throughout the day I dreamed of the cider. I could smell it. Taste it. Feel its warmth. (this is when I coined the term “mouth hallucinations.”) And I couldn’t wait to get home to sip on some. But by the end of the work day my mind was filled with a billion other things that I needed to accomplish before the end of the week and hot apple cider was the last thing I was thinking about.

Homemade Crockpot Apple Cider

Fast forward to the moment I stepped foot inside my apartment building. Now granted we live in a fairly small building, but the second I started down the hall to our place the smell of apples and spices smacked me in the face. It smelled incredible. I couldn’t get inside fast enough. First I sampled some all by itself. Amazing. Then I added some bourbon. Amazing. Then I put some in the fridge to chill to have for breakfast this morning. Amazing. Then I re-heated some to take to work. Ah-maz-ing. Mouth hallucination meet reality. I will never buy pre-made cider again.  I now have 2 1/2 liters of the stuff (scratch that, I’ve gulped down at least a liter already) in my fridge. The next few evenings will be filled with cidery goodness.  This sparkling wassail will probably most definitely be made with it as well!

Homemade Crockpot Apple Cider

Homemade Crockpot Apple Cider

Homemade Crockpot Apple Cider

Ingredients

  • 6 quart slow cooker (reduce the amounts for a smaller cooker)
  • 12 medium size sweet apples (fuji, honeyscrisp, gala… best to use a variety)
  • 2 oranges
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 TBSP whole cloves
  • 1 TBSP whole allspice
  • 2 inch knob of fresh ginger (optional)
  • up to 1 cup of brown sugar (optional. I didn’t put any sugar in mine and it is delicious! but if you are used to a more sweet cider, add sugar as desired.)

Instructions

  1. Chop apples and oranges into large chunks
  2. Put apples, oranges, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and sugar (if using) in the slow cooker.
  3. Fill the slow cooker with enough water to cover all of the apples. It should fill it pretty much to the brim of the pot.
  4. Turn it on high and put the lid on.
  5. Allow to brew for 8-12 hours. (12 hours is best and even longer would be fine too!)
  6. You can serve directly out of the slow cooker skimming the cider off the top and leaving the fruit in the pot. You can also strain the cider and discard the fruit and put the cider back in the crockpot. There will be some pulp left in the cider. If you prefer a very clear cider strain into a cheese cloth.
  7. Store left over cider in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  8. Makes a little over a half galllon.
http://bakerbettie.com/homemade-apple-cider/

Pomegranate and Lime Parfait

Pomegranate and Lime Parfait

My husband and I have been having a back and forth lately. Basically the same conversation in a slightly modified version, over and over again.

Chris: So are you going to tell me what you got me for Christmas?
Me: No.
Chris: Is it something to do with sports?
Me: I’m not giving you any clues.
Chris: What size of a box does it come in?

later in the day…

Chris: Is it some kind of electronic?
Me: I’m not answering that.
Chris: Just give me a little hint so I can guess!
Me: You won’t guess. You have never asked me for this, there is no way you will ever guess.
Chris: Ahhhh, what is it?!

Pomegranate and Lime Parfait

It’s a lesson in patience for both of us. For the first few years we spent Christmas together, we really didn’t get gifts for each other. We always adopt a family instead and just spend Christmas enjoying family time and good food. Gifts have never been important to us. But last year, he surprised me with my amazing DSLR camera for my blog. I had no idea he had even gotten me anything and he was so excited to see me open it. So this year, I wanted to do the same for him. I want a chance to surprise him with something awesome. And let me just tell you, he is going to be soooo excited. I was so excited about it I couldn’t even keep it a secret that I got him something at all. And as much as I want to tell him what it is, the excitement that day and watching him start to figure out what it is will be so worth it.

Pomegranate and Lime Parfait

In this instance, patience is such a simple issue. It is just a Christmas gift. But I do believe that it is such an important thing to learn. I’ve never been great at it. We live in the world of instant gratification and I fully admit that I am a slave to it. And I think patience is one of the many things that cooking and baking has helped me learn. Preparing something from scratch takes time. Takes energy. Takes creativity. Takes patience. And it is so worth it.

Like this pomegranate. Such a beautiful fruit filled with the most delicious seeds that are tucked away and held in place inside. The first time tackling this fruit can be intimidating. But I can assure you it is simple to open. It does take time, and patience.  Here is how to open a pomegranate:

How to Cut a Pomegranate

#1: Cut the top and the bottom off of the pomegranate
#2: Take your knife and score around the outside of the fruit about 6-8 times, depending on how large it is.
#3: Place in a large bowl of water.

How to Cut a Pomegranate

#4: Gently break the fruit apart into large chunks.
#5: Keeping the fruit in the bowl to avoid getting juice everywhere, gently break the seed casings away from the membrane. The seeds will sink, the inedible casings will float.
#6: Skim the membrane/pulp out of the water and discard.
#7: Strain the seeds and enjoy!

OR if you have absolutely no patience and don’t care the learn any with a pomegranate… 

#1: Just cut the fruit in half down the middle
#2: Score each half 4-6 times.
#3: Use a wooden spoon to whack the crap out of each half over the bowl and the seeds will release from the membrane.

I prefer the longer way. But on a really stressful day, smacking a pomegranate silly with a wooden spoon might feel pretty good.

Pomegranate and Lime Parfait

Pomegranate and Lime Parfait

Pomegranate and Lime Parfait

Ingredients

  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 lime
  • 16 oz yogurt (I used SO Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk Yogurt, and this was amazingly delicious with the flavor combinations)

Instructions

  1. Cut the top and the bottom off of the pomegranate
  2. Take your knife and score around the outside of the fruit about 6-8 times, depending on how large it is.
  3. Place in a large bowl of water.
  4. Gently break the fruit apart into large chunks.
  5. Keeping the fruit in the bowl to avoid getting juice everywhere, gently break the seed casings away from the membrane. The seeds will sink, the inedible casings will float.
  6. Skim the membrane/pulp out of the water and discard.
  7. Strain the seeds and set aside.
  8. Zest and juice the lime, set aside.
  9. Combine the yogurt with the lime juice.
  10. Divide yogurt equally between 4-6 cups.
  11. Top with pomegranate seeds and lime zest.
  12. Serve cold.
http://bakerbettie.com/pomegranate-and-lime-parfait/

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