Saturday, November 30, 2013

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day #3 - Cadbury Christmas Bars

Happy Saturday!  I know that I usually post a weekly dessert recipe on Friday, but I was busy celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, and I know that you were too!  John had to work on Thanksgiving morning, so yesterday we woke up, ate our family's favorite whole wheat chocolate chip pancakes, and watched the parade that I had on the DVR!  It was a great morning.

Did you have a wonderful holiday?  I hope so!  Mine was filled with good family and good food!  Of course, it doesn't really matter what I do as long as I have these two little turkeys...
They are what I am most thankful for on Thanksgiving and every single day!  Even when we have hard days (and some days are like that with a one and two year old) I am still grateful that God blessed me with two amazing miracles! 

We used our wedding china for the very first time on Thanksgiving!  How long have we been married?  November 15th (Blakely's first birthday) marked 4 1/2 years of wedded bliss!  I don't know why we have never used our china before this because I thoroughly enjoyed eating off of these beautiful plates - especially the pink one! 

So back to the dessert.  A few weeks ago I posted my love of the Cadbury Egg with you!  No, not the one that is gigantic and gooey in the middle - I'm taking about the tiny chocolate cadbury eggs with the candy shell!  I did not know until a recent trip to Wegmans that these little nuggets of deliciousness come in CHRISTMAS COLORS!  I thought they only came out at Easter, and I was happy to be wrong for once! I was also thrilled that they are a safe peanut-free candy for Lacie to enjoy! Oh this find made my day! I promptly bought one four bags and knew I had to use them to make a Christmas Cookie!

What You Need to Make the Cadbury Christmas Bars:
  • 1 box vanilla cake mix (yellow or white would work just fine too)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 bags of Cadbury Eggs (of the Christmas Color variety) 
Now Let's Make the Cadbury Christmas Bars
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and liberally grease a 9x13 pan with butter or cooking spray
  2. Open your Cadbury eggs (try not to eat any) and pour the entire first bag and half of the second bag into a large ziploc bag (save the remaining half of the eggs - don't start eating them - you will use them too)
  3. Seal the bag and use a rolling pin to lightly crush the Cadbury Eggs (you don't want them to be ground into find powder - you still want there to be big chunks in your batter).  Set bag aside
  4. In a large mixing bowl stir together the cake mix, melted butter, and both eggs
  5. Fold in the crushed Cadbury Eggs
  6. Spread into greased 9x13 pan
  7. Take remaining whole Cadbury Eggs and sprinkle on top
  8. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes
  9. Remove from oven and lightly push down with the back of a spatula - making the surface of your bars flat
  10. Return to oven for five minutes
  11. Remove from oven and push down with spatula again if needed to make the cookie bars flat
  12. Cool in pan completely
  13. Cut into squares and try not to eat them all yourself! 

These cookies are A*M*A*Z*I*N*G!!! And yes, we ate them on Thanksgiving!  I arranged them on a Christmas plate with the turkey cookies that Lacie made! 

It was Thanksgiving meets Christmas at the Hilosky house!  Nothing wrong with that! 
Sur La Table Holiday Gifts & Entertaining

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving!  Even though it is not my top favorite holiday (like CHRISTMAS), I still love Thanksgiving.  I love eating a special meal with family, and I love taking time to be thankful for all of our amazing blessings!

Let's look back at some Thanksgivings of years past!

Thanksgiving 2004 - Me and Laura!  My goodness we were young! 

Thanksgiving 2006 - our very first Thanksgiving together!  We had only been dating for 5 months!

 Thanksgiving 2010 - we celebrated Thanksgiving and our Godson Cuincy's birthday on the same day!  This was also the exact day I said to John, "Hey maybe we should start trying for a baby."  And well two days after Christmas, we found out that we were expecting Lacie Jane! 

Thanksgiving 2011- Lacie's First Thanksgiving - She was 3 months old!  Here she is sound asleep in her swing which, at the time, was the only place she would sleep. 

Lacie doing tummy time (something she hated) while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade! 

Our Little Pumpkin! 

Our First Thanksgiving as a family of three...little did we know that there would be one more by the following Thanksgiving! 

Lacie may look so different now but she still makes that face.  

Thanksgiving 2012 - Blakely was exactly ONE WEEK OLD!  She was brand new for her first Thanksgiving and slept through most of it! 

Mommy was exhausted but so incredibly thankful to have two healthy baby girls!

The only picture of Lacie Jane from Thanksgiving 2012.  We were just so busy juggling two babies!  Oh yeah, AND Lacie decided to walk for the first time on Thanksgiving Day 2012!!! Just in case we didn't already have our hands full! 

 Good night Thanksgiving 2012!  In addition to being thankful for two healthy babies, we are thankful for a baby who liked to sleep and understood the difference between day and night (because the first baby did not)! 

Sweet Dreams! 

I can't wait to celebrate Thanksgiving 2013 tomorrow! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mommy Mondays - Starting Christmas Traditions

Last week's Mommy Mondays post shared a peak into how we had already begun the process of decorating for Christmas (by far the most wonderful holiday)!!!  If you missed that post, you definitely want to check it out by clicking here.  You can see how our Elf on the Shelf - Cocoa - made her debut and brought with her a letter from Santa!  You can also see some adorable pictures of the girls in their Christmas Gingerbread pajamas.  In my opinion, there is nothing cuter than kids decked out in Christmas gear - outfits, dress clothes, pajamas, santa hats, etc - I love it all!  So of course we have lots more holiday pjs to wear all winter long!

 Lacie looked adorable in her snowman pjs from Aunt Laura.  She actually wanted to sit in the chair and take a picture in them...of course I told her that I couldn't really see the snowman so then I got the second pose!   

Sweet B was being shy, but you get the idea of how adorable she looked too! 

Now let's talk about our Elf on the Shelf Cocoa!  We are having so much fun with this brand new Christmas tradition.  I love that we are starting something that will be a part of the Christmas season for us for many years to come!  Lacie loves to wake up in the morning and look for Cocoa.  She gets so excited when she finds her!  And even though Blakely is only one, she knows who Cocoa is and loves to point and wave at her!  So far Cocoa's morning spots have been pretty simple, but we are starting to run out of these easy spots in our tiny Cocoa is going to have to start being a bit more creative! 

Cocoa's original spot on the day she arrived from the North Pole! 

Cocoa decided she wanted to hang out on the corner of the TV!  She really got to watch everything Lacie and Blakely did that day! 

Here's Cocoa on the banister that is right outside the girls' bedroom door!  They were so excited to see her first thing in the morning when it was time to go downstairs for breakfast! 

Cocoa landed in Daddy's stocking because it happens to be the one stocking that is out of their reach! 

Last night, Cocoa snuck into Lacie and Blakely's room while they were sleeping and positioned herself on the princess tissue box so that she could watch over their cribs.  The girls went nuts when they woke up this morning! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day #2 - Lacie's Cookie Butter Kisses

Lacie's Cookie Butter Kisses

Every year, I get so excited to make Christmas Cookies, but last year I didn't get to make my typical amount (12 bathes) because I had a 15 month old and a brand new baby keeping me pretty busy!  Of course, this year I am back to my baking.  The challenge I am faced with - that was never an issue in the past - is Lacie's peanut allergy.  This is the first year that I will be baking Christmas Cookies that must all be peanut free for my sweet princess! 

Before Lacie's allergy diagnosis, Peanut Blossoms (you know those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey's Kiss on them) were a staple on my Christmas Cookie List.  Everyone (myself included) loves those peanut blossoms....but keeping my daughter safe is far more important than a cookie so I will not be making them this year.  Instead, I wanted to make something similar...something better! 

Enter this amazing spread which happens to be safe for Lacie to enjoy:

Biscoff European Cookie Spread!  This stuff is amazing!  It is heaven in a jar!  You must buy some and try it!  Yes, even if you have no food allergies please pick this up on your next trip to the grocery store.  At Wegmans, it can be found in the peanut butter aisle by the alternative butters (like soy butter) and it can also be found in the cookie aisle next to the Biscoff Cookies! When you get home, open it immediately and eat some with a spoon!  You will thank me!  And then you need to make these cookies! 

Here's What You Need to Make Lacie's Cookie Butter Kisses:
  • 1/2 cup of butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup Biscoff creamy cookie butter spread (they make a crunchy too - it is also delicious just not what you want for these cookies)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 36 milk chocolate Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped
  • extra sugar for rolling the cookies
Now Let's Make Lacie's Cookie Butter Kisses:
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper (you don't have to you can just use ungreased sheets but I really love to use parchment paper)
  2. In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and the cookie butter spread until thoroughly combined
  3. Add in both white and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy
  4. Add in the egg, vanilla, and milk and mix until well incorporated
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt
  6. Pour half of the flour into the wet mixture and beat on low speed until incorporated
  7. Add in the rest of your flour mixture, beating on low speed until completely incorporated - your dough will be nice and soft and kind of fluffy
  8. Form dough into one inch balls (I use a cookie scoop to get even sizes) and then roll in the extra granulated sugar 
  9. Place prepared cookie balls onto your baking sheet
  10. Bake for 10 minutes until cookies are lightly cracked on top
  11. Remove from oven and immediately press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie
  12. Wait one minute before transferring cookies to cooling racks 
  13. Once cookies cool completely and chocolate kisses are set (they become soft after you put them on) store in an airtight container.  This recipe makes 36 cookies!

Lacie was so so excited that she got a cookie for snack today (because that is a rare snack time treat)

 She had to kiss the Hershey's Kiss (it was adorable)! 

She loved it!  It even inspired her to drink a whole three ounces of milk (something that she never does)!!!!

Lacie's Cookie Butter Kisses came out so good that we ate about half of the batch last night!  I am sure the rest will be gone by the end of today!  Both John and I agreed that these are so much better than the original peanut blossoms!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Penne Sausage Bake

I have shared my love of casseroles with you before!  Well the other night, I really wanted to make a casserole...something warm and comforting - and something that would be dinner for two nights!  I do a lot with Mexican flavors - black beans, corn, salsa, cumin, etc.  But I really wanted this casserole to be different...perhaps more Italian inspired!  So I threw together this great pasta bake instead!  And let me tell you...

John ate the casserole and said at least 10 times how amazing it was, how we haven't had something like that in a long time, and how I better put it on the blog!  So now I am sharing it with you! 

Here's What You Need to Make the Penne Sausage Bake
  • 1 pound sausage (whatever kind you like...I used pork sausage)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 - 28oz can of San Marzano Tomatoes 
  • 12 oz (or what I consider 3/4 of a box) whole wheat penne
  • 1/4 cup cooking water (from the pasta)
  • 1/4 cup half and half (or milk or cream...whatever you have)
  • 3 cups shredded Italian Cheese Blend (plain provolone or plain mozzarella would work too)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes 
  • salt and pepper to taste
Now Let's Make the Penne Sausage Bake
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9x13 casserole dish
  2. In a large skillet, cook sausage, breaking it up as you cook until it is browned and crumbled
  3. Add in diced onion and cook about 5 minutes (until the onions are soft and translucent)
  4. Add in garlic and cook for another minute or two
  5. Add in your can of San Marzano Tomatoes and use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes (alternatively, you can use your hands to squish the tomatoes as your pour them into the pan...but I just used a spoon...I left the sauce somewhat chunky)
  6. Stir in a pinch of red pepper flakes (you can use more or less depending on how spicy you want your sauce...I just wanted a little kick but not too much because of the girls)
  7. Simmer your sauce for 10 minutes or longer if you have the time
  8. While your sauce is simmering, cook your penne pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until it is a few minutes shy of al dente 
  9. At this point, taste your sauce and add salt and pepper to taste
  10. Add 1/4 cup of your pasta cooking water and 1/4 cup of half and half to your sauce and stir
  11. Combine pasta with sauce and stir in 1 cup of shredded cheese
  12. Pour mixture into prepared casserole and sprinkle top with remaining two cups of cheese
  13. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the edges of your casserole begin to get brown (I like the edges to be slightly crisp)
  14. Allow to sit for at least five minutes before serving

All four members of the Hilosky Family ate this meal...and all four loved it!  Hooray for a successful, new dinner! 

Come back tomorrow for my 12 Days of Christmas Cookies Recipe #2!!! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gingerbread Pancakes

In case you missed yesterday's post, Christmas has officially arrived at the Hilosky House!  The tree is up, the stockings are hung, Christmas music and movies are playing, and the Elf on the Shelf is watching!  On Sunday morning, we welcomed the Christmas Season and our Elf on Shelf, Cocoa, with a special holiday breakfast.  Gingerbread pancakes and banana and strawberries cut up and arranged to look like candy canes!

Christmas has so many flavors, and I'm not going to lie I love them all.  Gingerbread, peppermint, hot chocolate, etc.  I will be sharing so many recipes this season that use all of these delightful flavors.  Today, I am starting with those delicious Gingerbread Pancakes that I made for Sunday's breakfast! 

My recipe is EASY!!!  And it uses cake mix which makes it even easier!  Now, I'm sure that you could search the internet and find some really amazing recipes for homemade gingerbread pancakes, but I am telling you these were delicious - they had the perfect amount of gingerbread flavor!  Did I mention that they were quick and easy?!?  And that is what I need when I have a one and two year old patiently waiting for breakfast.   

Here's What You Need to Make the Gingerbread Pancakes:
  • 2 cups Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix (I used Betty Crocker brand)
  • 2 tablespoons veggie oil (or canola oil or melted butter)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • pancake toppings - we use butter and real maple syrup
Now Let's Make the Pancakes:
  1. Preheat and grease your pancake griddle (I use butter but you could use a nonstick spray)
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine all ingredients
  3. Spoon batter into small to medium size circles onto prepared griddle
  4. After about 2-4 minutes <you will see lots of tiny bubbles on the top> flip your pancakes over and cook about 2 additional minutes (be careful, these will burn)
  5. Remove pancakes and serve with your favorite toppings
I highly recommend that you make these pancakes for your family during the Christmas season!  I also recommend that you make gingerbread coffee for the adults to enjoy with their pancakes!  

Disclaimer - Lacie ate 5 of these pancakes...yes 5!  And mommy had to cut her off because she would have kept going.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mommy Mondays - It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like CHRISTMAS!

Yes, Christmas!  No, it is not too early.  It honestly makes me sad when people have to put a specific date on when decorating for Christmas and singing Christmas Carols is appropriate, because the true meaning of Christmas should be celebrated all year!  If a Christmas song happens to come on my iPod in July, I will just let it play and sing along...I love Christmas Music!  I also happen to love having my house decorated for this very special holiday!

And that is just what we did on Saturday Night!  John and I put up our Christmas tree and hung the stockings while listening to this:
My current second favorite Christmas album...right after *NSync's Christmas album! 

We worked super hard to get this all ready after the girls were asleep, because we wanted them to be surprised when they woke up on Sunday morning (plus I don't think decorating would have been super successful with a one and two year old running around).  Here was the end result! 
Our beautiful tree! 
Our tree skirt!  
The Stockings! 

The elf on the shelf also arrived!  In fact, we told the girls that she set up the tree!  Her name is Cocoa!  John and I picked out her name because the girls are too little to do that.  And let me tell you, trying to name the Elf was like trying to name a child. 

Since the day Lacie was born, The Elf on the Shelf is something that I have looked forward to doing with her!  What could possibly be better than starting a fun holiday tradition while providing a little extra incentive for good behavior!  I figured that being just over two, this year will be the first season that Lacie will somewhat understand the Elf!  Blakely is too little to understand but she is going to have fun looking for the elf each morning!  Cocoa arrived with a nice letter from Santa!

The girls were in awe of the Christmas tree!  

What a coincidence that they happened to wear their matching Gingerbread Girl pajamas the same day as the elf's arrival!  

After the excitement of the decorations died down, we had a very special Holiday breakfast complete with banana and strawberry "candy canes" and gingerbread pancakes!  

And of course Mommy got to have her Gingerbread coffee! 

Come back tomorrow for my Gingerbread pancake recipe! 
Merry Christmas! 


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