Sunday, December 21, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Desserts - Day #5 - Red Velvet Cupcakes

To me, there is nothing more festive than a delicious Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing!  I've made several different versions of red velvet cupcakes, and this recipe is hands down the best one!  These cupcakes are RED, which is important since some red velvet cupcakes tend to be more brown in color (and you don't want that for your Christmas Table)!  I make a lot of recipes using cake mix as a short cut - but this is one recipe that is 100 percent worth making from scratch!

Your Shopping List for the Red Velvet Cupcakes:
  • ½ cup (one stick) butter, softened (I use regular salted butter...I never use the unsalted stuff even when I am baking...I think that the extra salt gives it better flavor)
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces red food coloring (I use two McCormick bottles of Red food coloring...yes 2 whole can find them by the Vanilla and other flavor extracts in the baking aisle)
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ounces water
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

What You Need for the Icing:
  • 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (two sticks) butter, softened (again I like salted butter, I think the flavor is better)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Now Let's Make the Cupcakes
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line two cupcake pans with cupcake liners (this recipe will make 24 regular size cupcakes)
  3. Cream butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until soft and fluffy 
  4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition
  5. In a separate bowl stir together the cocoa powder and food coloring - add the colored mixture to the butter mixture
  6. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the flour and salt 
  7. Slowly add the flour mixture into the wet mixture, beating on low until combined
  8. Add the vanilla, buttermilk, and water to your batter and mix until combined
  9. In another bowl combine the white vinegar and baking soda (it will fizz up).  Then, fold this into your batter 
  10. Divide batter evenly among cupcake cups
  11. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean
  12. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, transfer cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely

Now Let's Make the Icing
  1. Blend together softened cream cheese and softened butter
  2. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract
  3. Blend until smooth - you can add a little more or less powdered sugar to achieve the thickness of the frosting you would like
  4. Frost your cupcakes and enjoy!  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Desserts - Day #3 - Caramel Gingerbread Bars

What flavor says Christmas more than Gingerbread?

These cookie bars are the perfect dessert for a Cookie Exchange, a holiday party, or just to have around the house for unexpected guests!  Plus they are so so so easy to make because - you guessed it - they are a cake mix recipe!

They are also my 12 Days of Christmas Desserts, Day #3!

Your Shopping List for the Caramel Gingerbread Bars:
  • 1 box Gingerbread Cake Mix (if you cannot find this, substitute Spice Cake Mix with 1-2 tsp of ginger added)
  • 1 stick butter, softened or even slightly melted
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 bag caramel bits (you can find these right next to the chocolate chips in the baking aisle)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Now Let's Make the Caramel Gingerbread Bars:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking dish generously with non-stick spray (the caramel will make these stick more than other bars)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Gingerbread Cake Mix, butter, and eggs
  3. Fold in the caramel bits and white chocolate chips
  4. Press dough into greased pan
  5. Bake for 20 minutes
  6. Remove from oven and using the back of a greased spatula, press the bars down into the pan
  7. Bake additional five minutes
  8. Remove from oven and press down again if necessary to ensure a flat surface
  9. Cool completely in pan before cutting and storing the bars in an airtight container

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Desserts - Day #2 - Cherry Pie Cookies

Are you looking for a festive and easy cookie to bring to a cookie exchange or a holiday party?  Well I have the perfect cookie for you!

Cherry Pie Cookies

These cookies are super simple, shortbread thumbprint cookies with cherry pie filling.  Add a little almond extract and a powdered sugar glaze and they are DELICIOUS!  The best part is they are a really pretty cookie and will look wonderful on their own or on a tray of mixed holiday cookies!  

These Cherry Pie Cookies are not a cake mix cookie, but they are so so so easy!  In fact the actual cookies only have 5 ingredients!  And the glaze has three! 

Your Shopping List for the Cherry Pie Cookies:
  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup), softened
  • 1 tsp almond extract 
  • 3/4 cup of powdered sugar 
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour 
  • 1 can of cherry pie filling (you won't use the whole can)
Your Shopping List for the Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar 
  • 1-2 tsp milk 
  • 1 drop almond extract 

Now Let's Make the Cherry Pie Cookies:
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees 
  2. In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and almond extract
  3. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth
  4. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, and beat until a dough forms 
  5. Roll dough into 24 balls, approximately 1 inch in size, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets 
  6. Use your thumb or the handle of a wooden spoon to make indentations in the center of each ball
  7. Fill each indentation with one or two cherries and some of the red gel
  8. Bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes
  9. Allow to cool for a few minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool 

Now Let's Make the Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, almond extract and 1-2 tsp of milk - you want it to be thin enough to pipe on cookies but thick enough that it will not run
  2. Once desired consistency is reached, spoon icing into a ziploc bag
  3. Snip off on corner of the bag and pipe icing over tops of cookies 
  4. Allow glaze to harden before storing cookies in an airtight container

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mommy Mondays: The Final Countdown

Here I was yesterday, at 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant!  I made it to what doctors consider to be a full term pregnancy!  Even with a totally uneventful and normal pregnancy, there is a sense of relief that comes with making it to this milestone!  However, with my blood pressure issues, I am very happy that I reached 37 weeks without (1) going into labor and (2) being put on complete bedrest!  And now Paisley Jean is free to come on her own if she wants, but I am still hoping she will hold off until my new scheduled c-section date so that I can have a stress free drive to the hospital with my hair done! 

December 11, 2014    

That sounds like a great day for a birthday!  And we can carry on the tradition of all having birthdays on odd numbered days (I like odd numbers, I think they're lucky).  In addition to all of our birthdays being odd - John and I met, went on our first date, got engaged, and got married on all odd numbered days!  So hopefully Paisley cooperates and makes it to the 11th!  In fact, when my doctor mentioned that they thought it would be best to move up my c-section date due to my high blood pressure, the first thing I said was, "Okay but can it be on an odd day."  Bless her heart for not looking at me like I was a crazy pregnant mama! 

And here I was last week - 36 weeks!  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Favorites

It's Friday!!!!!!!  The month of December is all about favorites in my opinion.  Something about the holidays just gets you thinking about favorite traditions, favorite memories, favorite presents, etc.  I have lots of favorites to share with you this week!

1. Parent Observation Night in Lacie's Dance Class
On Wednesday night, John and I had the joy of watching what actually goes on in Lacie's dance class!  I had no idea what to expect.  Would Lacie be shy because we (and a lot of other parents) were there?  Well I couldn't have been happier watching my tiny dancer's face light up!  It is clear that she just loves her class and her teachers.  The things that she has learned since September are AMAZING!  I wish I could watch every week! 

2. Puzzles
All of the sudden, Lacie loves to do puzzles.  And Blakely follows right along!  The girls both received a bunch of puzzles for Blakely's birthday (it's funny how that works and both kids end up with presents).  By far the most popular are the Melissa and Doug puzzles that are both cute and educational.  This very pregnant Mama is very grateful for puzzles!  Not only are my girls learning but they are sitting quietly while they do it!  Currently the Melissa and Doug Uppercase/Lowercase Alphabet puzzle is the favorite.  

3. 37 Weeks
I've officially made it to 37 weeks in my pregnancy!  Praise the Lord!  Even in an uneventful pregnancy (which was the case with both Lacie and Blakely) there is a certain sense of relief that comes with making it to 37 weeks, when baby is considered by doctors to be Full Term!  For this pregnancy, I am extra grateful to have reached this milestone!  And now Miss Paisley can feel free to make her arrival into the world at anytime she wants!

4. Pictures with Santa
We had a very successful visit with Santa Claus this year!  Both girls sat on his lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas!  Neither child cried!  
I know that both may still look a little unsure of Santa - but it was so much better than last year...especially Blakely...

5. Christmas Books
On Monday, I shared that for the second year in a row we are counting down the days until Christmas by unwrapping one holiday book each night!  In our house, the Elf on the Shelf brings a pile of wrapped books on December 1st!  The girls take turns picking one package each night and we read the book after bath time (plus all of the books from the previous nights).  It is such a fun tradition that really gives our girls a love of books!  By far my favorite Christmas book for each girl is the personalized Very Merry Christmas Book!  They just love that their names can be found throughout the entire story, and it is such a nice keepsake for years to come.  These don't get wrapped with the other books - they stay in their room on top of their dressers for the entire Christmas season and we read them often! 
I am linking up HERE


Thursday, December 4, 2014

#hiloskyeveryday2014 Weeks 47 and 48 and 49

Day 318 - my sweet Blakely Hope's very last day as a one year old! 

Day 319 - Happy 2nd Birthday Blakely Hope!  Guess who picked out her own birthday outfit!?!

Day 320 - It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  And no it's never too early! 

Day 321 - Sister Love!

Day 322 - Just hanging out in our Christmas Jammies! 

Day 323 - The very best hubby in the world came home with ice cream for this pregnant mama! 

Day 324 - morning snuggles! 

Day 325 - when one child realizes you are taking a picture and the other one doesn't!

Day 326 - future cheerleader!

Day 327 - my 35 weeks and 2 days baby bump!  Not much room left for Paisley! 

Day 328 - Blakely's face when her sister shares her favorite Blabla stuffed animals (and yes Blakely does indeed have lots of "special" stuffed animals of her own). 

Day 329 - Pecan Pie thanks to my Father-In-Law!  And I couldn't wait until Thanksgiving! 

Day 330 - They are obsessed with the tree! 

Day 331 - Happy Thanksgiving!

Day 332 - No one cried, both girls sat on Santa's lap, and everyone expressed their Christmas wishes!  It was a successful Santa Visit! 

Day 333 - Helping make our Saturday Morning Chocolate Chip Pancakes!

Day 334 - 36 weeks - almost there! 

Day 335 - December 1st means the Elf on the Shelf delivered 24 wrapped books to count down the days until Christmas!  You can read about our tradition in this post! 

Day 336 - More Pasta More Pasta! #herplateisbiggerthanherhead

Day 337 - Parent Observation night at dance class.  I couldn't be more proud of my tiny dancer!  

Day 338 - This little three year old amazes me everyday!  So smart!  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Desserts - Day #1 - Red Velvet Neiman Marcus Bars

Last year, I gave you 12 Days of Christmas Cookies!  This year I'm bringing you 12 Days of Christmas Desserts!  Some will be cakes, some will be cookies, some will be old recipes while others will be new - but all will be delicious and festive!

I'm starting with my Red Velvet Neiman Marcus Bars!  This recipe was originally shared last year for Valentine's Day, but it is the PERFECT Christmas Dessert because it is red and just oh-so-pretty for the holidays!  It is also one of my most pinned desserts!

Did I mention it's a cake mix recipe?  Well it is!  And that makes it super easy!

Here's What You Need to Make the Red Velvet Neiman Marcus Bars:
  • 1 box red velvet cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 block cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar (which equals 1 pound...which is one box...or a half of a 2 pound bag) 

Now Let's Make the Red Velvet Neiman Marcus Bars:
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9x13 pan with butter or nonstick spray
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, one egg, and melted butter until a soft dough forms
  3. Press dough into bottom of prepared pan
  4. In the stand of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat together the cream cheese, remaining two eggs, and powdered sugar until combined and smooth
  5. Spread mixture on top of red velvet cookie dough - it will look like this
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes until the edges are crisp and the top of the cream cheese mixture has a slight crust but doesn't seem completely set (the center will still wobble a bit) - The picture below is what you are looking for 
  7. Allow pan to cool on a wire rack for thirty minutes
  8. Transfer pan to fridge to cool completely (an additional two hours)
  9. Cut into bars and serve or store in the fridge until you are ready to eat - I like them really cold but you can take them out about 30-45 minutes before serving to take the chill off!

If you want to find more Christmas recipes, check out my Christmas Page Here

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Welcome Elf on the Shelf

She's Back!!!

Cocoa, our Elf on the Shelf, is back for her second year at the Hilosky House!  She returned about two weeks ago when we put up our Christmas Tree!  Even though it was a bit early, I felt it was time for her to make her return.  I'm trying to fit in lots of Christmas stuff before Paisley Jean makes her arrival in less than two weeks!

She arrived with this sweet little letter for Lacie and Blakely from Santa Claus!

It was taped to the girls' bedroom door and Cocoa was hanging right in the doorway so they saw her as soon as they woke up! 

Our Elf has been quite a few places since she arrived.  Unfortunately we are pretty limited as to where we can put Cocoa with a two year old running around the house.  Blakely doesn't truly understand that she cannot touch Cocoa, so anywhere we put her needs to be out of B's reach.  

On Cocoa's second day, we found her in the Christmas tree! 

Cocoa knows about the true meaning of Christmas!

Cocoa hanging out by the phone just in case she has to place a call to the North Pole!

Cocoa working on a lacing bead necklace!

Cocoa watching from the top of the lamp!

Cocoa enjoying a fruit pouch!

Cocoa working on her alphabet!

On December 1st Cocoa showed up with 24 wrapped holiday books!  The girls will get to unwrap and read one book per night until Christmas.  This was by far the best thing we did with Cocoa last year, and I am so excited to be doing it again.  

What are your creative Elf on the Shelf ideas?

Still need an Elf on the Shelf? Get one here!
Looking for some fun Elf on the Shelf extras? Check these out!


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