Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Merry Cherry Fudge

One of the best parts of the season for me is the Christmas baking!  I absolutely love going to the store and stocking up on chocolate chips of every sort, white and chocolate bark, cocoa powder, brown sugar, sprinkles, butter, vanilla extract, ginger, cloves and allspice, oranges...  These are all the classic  flavors of the Christmas season!  
Every year I try out a new recipe I've never made before.  I'll scan through my Gooseberry Patch and Southern Living Christmas cookbooks and find one or maybe two new desserts to try!  Several years ago it was the raspberry linzer cookies, a couple years ago was the toffee cracker candy, last year were Martha Washington and the chewy molasses cookies. Yuuum!  Mind you, all of these have seriously become new favorites!  Of course there are still my classic favorites I adore making and eating that stir up familiar memories of childhood.  (Peppermint bark, decorated sugar cookies, and gingerbread boys!)

This year I found a delectable sounding recipe in my favorite Gooseberry Patch Christmas cookbook that I've never really noticed before.  The recipe was of a fudge, which I've never made, but with chopped pecans and the cutest ruby red cherries planted in the top of each square!  

Chocolate cherry fudge, what a delicious idea!

As you can see, I whipped up a 2 lb. batch and it was every bit as easy as it looked! (It's not often I can say that.) The cherries in the fudge make them look like they came out of a cute fairy tale chocolate shop, but the flavor, oh the taste... Is heavenly!!!  I'm not a candy maker expert, and I've never made fudge in my life, but this recipe is so easy that it turned out just right.  They are not dry at all, but not gooey either so they're what I would consider to be some of the best fudge I've eaten!  They would be perfect for a festive party or you can place in a pretty tin as a delicious gift.  You can keep them a couple of weeks to munch on with the family over milk or a cup of dark coffee while movie watching and game playing over the weekend.

Chocolate and cherry, my favorite combination of flavors, now in a cute homemade Christmas candy must be why I've fallen in love with them so!  If there is one new recipe I'm truly thrilled to share this holiday season it's this fudge!  

Tis the season for our favorite things!

Merry Cherry Fudge
Gooseberry Patch Christmas Cookbook

36 maraschino cherries with stems, juice reserved

12 oz. pkg. Semi sweet chocolate chips

6 (1 oz.) squares bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped (I used bittersweet chips)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 c. chopped pecans

Tear two strips of foil and line a 8x8 baking pan crossways (does that make sense?) and then spray with baking spray.  This make the fudge so easy to remove from pan.  Blot cherries and set aside.

Combine chocolates in a double boiler of a large bowl over simmering water.  Heat slowly until melted and very smooth, whisking occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in sweetened milk, and about one teaspoon of reserved cherry juice.  Stir in pecans.  (I toasted these first in a dry skillet and let cool.)  

Pour out fudge mixture into a pan and smooth out.  *Immediately dot with cherries in neat rows.  Press them down enough for only the tops and their stems will show.  

Cover and chill for 2 hours.  Gently lift the overhang of foil out of the pan and into a cutting board. 

 Using a sharp knife cut the fudge into 36 squares.  

Store in an airtight container in fridge. Makes 2 pounds.

*Note:  I didn't use all the cherries because I know my husband doesn't like to eat them, but that's up to you.  The fudge itself has a nice subtle cherry flavor!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmastime is Here!

Happy December!!!!

Christmastime is here, and I'm not done decorating but our house really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  *wink wink. An old fashioned kind of Christmas--filled with red and green, plaid bows and wooden ornaments, gingerbread men and snowmen, berries and garland--just the way I like it.  (I'll do a little Christmas tour blog post when all the decor is up!)

I'm up early before the rest of my family, only to enjoy the first cup of vanilla coffee as I stare into our newly decorated tree.  While the pretty lights are dazzling and I get caught up into their magical glow, I'm reminded how this Christmas I want to be centered on Jesus' birth.  How he came to earth as a baby and born to a (virgin) girl who was young but willing and ready.  Jesus is King of Kings like the crown ornament on our tree reminds us, and I want Him to remain Lord of Lords in our hearts and intentions this Christmas season!   It's easy to get caught up in the bustle of doing and going as a wife and mom of two busy ones, but I pray I can implant the truth of the season deep in my little one's own hearts more than anything else.  It's really all about Jesus!

Tomorrow is my Love's birthday, but today I'm making a special delicious breakfast since he is off work.  

Cinnamon rolls are rising in pans on the stove and ready to bake.  I can't wait!  I'm adding a buttery maple glaze with toasted pecans to the top of these delicious splurge-worthy rolls!  I used the easy semi-homemade method using Rhodes frozen bread dough, and when I made these last Christmas they turned out amazing!!!  I hope to be posting some more Christmas recipes soon for you see what I've been cooking.

(Here is an updated picture of our little birthday breakfast table decorated in snowmen. Our dining table is being used to set out Christmas decor.)

Christmas is in the air and I hope you and yours have an extra special season filled with your own traditions and lots of love!

Luke 1:26- 2:1-21
I'm rereading this passage in the mornings this month.  What a beautiful story and a humble way for the Savior to come to earth!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Giant Chocolate Candy Bar Cookies

This is one of those super-duper easy cookie recipes you have got to keep in your pocket at Christmastime!  

Speaking of my favorite time of year... It's not even here yet, but I am slowly beginning to decorate for Christmas (early for me), and I was in the mood for a delicious and festive batch of cookies for our family.  Before introducing you to the cookies, let me say how much we loved having snow this week!!!  It snowed and it stayed on the ground for two days, which is practically unheard of in a Kentucky November!  It was just so perfect with my husband on vacation at home and the beautiful snow, not to get out our Christmas decorations!  I never have out anything up before Thanksgiving, but it never has snowed this early either.  We'll wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the big Christmas tree, but we have so much to decorate that it'll take days even without the tree! So I'm around the house decking the halls and loving it!

I found this fun chocolate cookie recipe in the Gooseberry Patch cookbook, The Harvest Table, and when I saw it included only 3 ingredients plus candy bars I was excited!  We have (way too many) mini candy bars left over from fall parties even after I threw a lot away.  These cookies are perfect for your leftover candy bars.  The secret ingredients is a box of devils food cake mix so they're really fast to make.  They aren't a cakey texture but instead very chewy and moist like cookies should be.  I thought adding some cute sprinkles would be even more festive for our kids!  These big chocolatey candy bar cookies are irresistible, and I hope maybe they will make their way into your festivities this season, too!  

They might even be perfect for "Santa" to munch on Christmas Eve! ;)

Giant Chocolate Candy Bar Cookies

•1 box Devils food cake mix
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
•1/2 c. Canola oil
•10 mini chocolate bars, chopped ( I used a combination including Reeses cups, Take 5, Kit Kat and Whoppers)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Using a mixer, mix together the cake mix, eggs and oil until well blended.  Add the chopped candy bars.  The batter will be thick.  Pop in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes.  

On a parchment lined baking sheet, drop rounded golf ball sized dough balls about 3 1/2 inches apart.  Top with sprinkles and lightly press them in dough.  Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool a few minutes before eating. A glass of milk is recommended for these cookies:)  Makes about 18 cookies.

* Note: The candy bars surprisingly dissolved/melted into the cookie when baked, so keep the chunks large if you want to really taste the candy bars inside.  These cookies keep well when aired in a tightly seals container.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Classic Banana Nut Muffins with Vanilla Bean- Cinnamon Glaze

Chilly mornings outside call for a cozy fireplace and a hot breakfast to warm the body and soul!  Banana-nut muffins are one of those classic recipes that smell divine, taste delicious, and call you back to your Grandma's kitchen table.  My muffins are topped with an easy vanilla bean-cinnamon glaze that makes them a real treat!  I use vanilla bean paste which is one of my favorite things ever!  You can find it in specialty food stores or order it online.  It's certainly worth the hassle to find, but if you don't any real vanilla extract is delicious too.  

A batch of these muffins are perfect on a November day to serve to your family after raking leaves or accompany your afternoon coffee while you're starting your Christmas list!  There really isn't a time when fresh baked muffins wouldn't be delicious!  

I hope you'll find time to revel in this festive season of Thanksgiving hush before the holiday bustle really begins!

Banana Nut Muffins 
From: Keeping Good Company Cookbook

3 c. All purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. Butter, melted
1 c. Milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. Very Ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c. Walnuts, chopped (pecans are delicious too)

Vanilla Bean- Cinnamon Glaze:
(I "eye balled" this recipe, so I don't have exact proportions here.. Sorry but that's how I tend cook sometimes, but here is a good idea of what I did. Delicious!)

1-2 Tbsp. Butter, softened
1/2. Tsp. vanilla bean paste (or extract)
Dash cinnamon
1 c. Powdered sugar, sifted 
1-2 Tbsp. Milk

Stir butter, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Add the sugar and gradually milk until the right smooth consistency you want.  It is a glaze, so you still want it a little runny.  Heat in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds and stir until smooth.  
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine all the dry ingredients.  Combine all the wet ingredients, except bananas.  Fold the wet ingredients gently into the dry until carefully mixed.  Next fold in the bananas and nuts until just blended.  

Scoop into greased muffin tins (if using paper liners, still spray with baking spray) and fill about 2/3 full with batter.  Makes about 18 muffins.  Bake for 16-18 minutes.  

Let cool for about 10 minutes before carefully spreading on the glaze.  It will drop down the sides, but that's okay!

Enjoy while warm and freeze leftovers, if you have any, for a fast breakfast treat.

Who else is loving the leaf piles these days?!!

Have a sweet day!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Chewy Caramelitas

Say hello to my new favorite decadent dessert, carmelitas!!!

At first glance you can see how delicious they look!  These bars have an outer layer similar to a soft and chewy oatmeal cookie and they're filled with caramel and chocolate!  What a scrumptious combination and perfect for the fall season.

I've been spying this recipe for a while on Pinterest, and when Mr. Cozy finished his last Chairman's conference at work, I thought these yummy bars could help us celebrate.  Needless to say, my sweet tooth of a husband loved them, but we all did!  They're fast to whip up and most of the ingredients I keep on hand.  I didn't have quite enough caramels this time, but I melted some butterscotch chips along with the caramel.  They were still delicious, but the next time I'll make sure I have plenty of caramels so they'll live up to their name.  Also a dash of cinnamon in the crumble would be so perfect....(I can't not tweak a recipe!)

I would only tell you the honest truth, and caramelitas are amazing!  

So maybe the next time you want to surprise your family with a homemade treat you can try them out.  Pour a glass of frosty milk or fresh coffee with a caramelita for a perfect way to unwind on a chilly day!

From: My Crazy Deliciousness

3/4 c. Melted butter
3/4 c. Brown sugar
1 c. All purpose flour
1 c. Old Fashioned oats
1 tsp. Baking Soda
Dash of salt
32 Caramels, unwrapped
1/2 c. Heavy cream
6 oz. Chocolate chips (I used 1 cup.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a medium bowl mix melted butter and the next 5 ingredients.  Spread out half the mixture in a 8x8 inch baking dish.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, carefully heat the caramels and cream over the stove in a saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave.  Whisk together until smooth and creamy.

Once the crust is baked evenly spread out chocolate chips and drizzle the caramel over top.  Crumble the remaining oat mixture over it all and carefully spread out.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.  Enjoy alone or with vanilla ice cream!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thank You for 5 Years!!!

This week celebrates 5 years of recipes from The Cozy Little Kitchen!

It's hard to believe 5 years have passed since I first started my humble adventure here with so much excitement but little knowledge of how to blog!  We lived in a charming carriage house style apartment owned by our dear friends.  It was very cozy with a small kitchen so I knew my blog title had to incorporate those very things. 

Now, we own a 1940s cape cod cottage!  I still have a cozy little kitchen, but much bigger than before!  

I love my cheery yellow kitchen with antique plates on the wall, aprons hung, and jars filled with coffee and candy scattered around.  It's a galley style with a sunny window, original baseboards and a new school house style light!  I find it's the prettiest in the glow of candles because it takes me back to a simpler time... I hope this blog does for you!

Friends, thank you so much for reading my recipes, my life stories, and my heart because that's exactly what I share here. Although life has become less organized as a mom of two busy kids, I plan on writing and sharing with you as long as I can!  Please join me into my 6th year here at The Cozy Little Kitchen and at my newer family blog, Bringing Home Baby C.

May you always leave here with a bit of refreshment from God and inspiration to not only cook more but enjoy it, too!

Happy November!  I am so thankful to God for you all!!!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Legacy of Love!

Here I am, thoroughly enjoying a rare moment.  On this unusually cold and brisk Autumn morning, I am sitting with dark roast French press coffee at a local French cafe.  I'm alone at a table for two by the window soaking in beautiful crisp blue sky outside and the ambience of the uptempo classic French music and cozy atmosphere inside.

Sigh... I'm right at home.

My hearty breakfast just arrived and it looks "damazing", as our daughter would say!  Homemade croissant sandwich of ham, Swiss and egg large enough for  two meals.  I discovered soup could be a side at breakfast, so of course I went with that option!  I chose the potato leek, and what a good choice!  Creamy and smooth with a rich depth of flavor makes it delicious.  Next time, I may just get a large bowl for my whole meal!

While this mental image may portray my life as easy-going and glamorous, trust me it is not.  (I know that God has given me a blessed life even on the mundane or crazy busy days that usually fill my week.  Hear me, I'm not complaining!)  A morning savored at a cafe is a treasure that I enjoy from time to time in between my role as a mom and homemaker.  Roles in which I feel so honored to have!  Just two years ago I would always be alone during the day and praying for some noise of children in the house!  (To think of praying for noise...)

It's just that my introverted, introspective soul needs solice and beauty once in a while to refuel.  A good cup of coffee and a sparkling conversation with my husband is my favorite, but while he works and my littles are at preschool, this morning I've decided to make an hour to sit, relax, reflect and write.  

Last week the love of my life and I celebrated 10 years (TEN!) of marriage!  

I'm so proud to say that, especially given the times we live with pre-nups and live-ins, our marriage is becoming a rarity!   I can say that I'm still happily married after a decade, but it is not by our own strength at all.  I can only attribute our successful marriage to the first strand in our three strand cord, and His name is Jesus.

By His love and grace we have persevered in and through some of the lowest lows of our life.  As many of you know, every family is climbing mountains of different kinds behind the closed doors of our homes, but I knew the moment I committed myself to Heath at 17 years old, that we would be together for eternity!  Not every story begins like this, but we believe God placed us together from the start.  Heath knows my very ugliest behaviors and every single fault, yet he chooses me and I him.  

Choosing each other every single day.  That's one of the foundations of a lasting marriage.

The way God created marriage is amazing, because it mirrors Christ Jesus and His relationship with the (us) the church.  How beautiful of a design this is!

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself it's Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wifes should submit in everything to their husbands.  

Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he may sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy without blemish.  

In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife lives himself.  For no one ever hated their own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church."...
Ephesians 5:22-30

We've sort of been celebrating this anniversary for months now!  In July Heath surprised me by taking me to a jewelry store to choose a new ring for my solitare diamond.  I was stunned!  I have never been one to want or "need" a large ring.  In fact before our engagement, I remember telling him that a fruit loop would do if it meant we were married for always!  I actually meant that it, too.  (Fortunately he didn't listen!)

This is now what my ring looks like, and I am humbled and grateful to wear it.  It's very unique, and I'm excited to one day pass it down as a family heirloom.  I want our marriage and family to leave a legacy of loving Jesus and each other that will be continued for generations to come!  A legacy of love.

Trust me when I say my wedding ring represents more than just "being married".  No, after 10 years the love in our marriage has already deepened to a new level of strength and commitment. Being married forever and learning to live civilized together isn't always easy, but since I married someone I loved genuinely it's worth every effort.  

Heath is so worth it!!  

It may be cliche, but I married my best friend.  We actually enjoy being together and we still have fun!  Music has drawn us together from the beginning, so that  inspired my gift to him.   I surprised him with a trip to the music store to buy a new mahogany Taylor guitar he's wanted for a long time!  He's been a musician for most of his life but hasn't bought a new guitar since high school so this was such a fun gift to give him.  He was definitely surprised!!  He's now playing every night, and we all love singing together around this beautiful gift we all enjoy.  

We also had some alone time as mom volunteered to keep the kiddos over the weekend so we could celebrate!  (Our parents understand how making quality time for your spouse is so important.) A romantic dinner at a classy restaurant, a trip to the movies, savoring long mornings, and a fall walk we're included in our time together.  It felt almost magical!

I can't imagine sharing my whole heart and life with anyone else in the world!!!

Life is back to normal around here since Monday, and this week is busy.   I've been in over my head sorting clothes I want to sell or give, and I'm switching all our wardrobes from warm weather to cool.  This is a huge project anyways, but especially with kids!  Of course all of those things need to be laundered in addition to our everyday laundry. (Yikes!) Storage bins and clothes piles galore fill the house for days now, as the process is long!  The house is a wreck.  Folding, sorting, selling at consignment, packing up and down stairs, hanging and placing in drawers.  I know it will be worth the effort when it's all organized and I've purged the old stuff before we move next summer, so that's what's pushing me through.  It also makes me realize how much I need to do this more regularly so the unwanted clothes don't get out of hand again.  Thankful for a problem of too much clothes. 

We're preparing for a short visit "back home" over the weekend, and this will be the first visit in almost 4 months for Heath and I!  The Fourth of July was our last time to come home.  There is just something comforting about stepping into your loving parent's home for the night.  We all can't wait to see everyone again!   The 3 1/2 hour drive should be gorgeous as the trees are nearly at their peak of jeweled colors flaming with reds and oranges.  I am thankful we live in such a gorgeous state for fall weather!  

As I sit here reflecting, I'm reminded again just how special even the mundane days of life are.  For it is those days that add up to give me the anniversary of 10 years with my husband, and the home filled with bustling children I adore!  

Sometimes those days give me this...

And this!

And my hilarious wild hair of a baby girl!!!

My mug is empty and left with French press coffee oils (if you drink it you know), and so I should go.  It's been wonderful sharing with you some more, as my cup has been refilled with memories of the life I lead and a legacy in the making.  Only by His goodness and grace! 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Easy & Cheesy Salsa Verde Chicken

This may be the easiest Mexican dinner you'll ever make, or at least the best tasting easy one!

Cheesy salsa verde chicken only requires three delicious ingredients: chicken breasts, salsa verde and cheese!  (All in the name, right? :)  I also seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper and cumin for extra flavor to penetrate the meat.  This cooks together in a cast iron skillet or (any other baking pan) to a zesty, cheesy chicken dish!

It tastes delicious over a bed of brown or Mexican rice.  I found this awesome organic brown rice at Trader Joes that is not only inexpensive, but only take about 12 minutes to cook verses 40 minute regular rice.  I love it!  Add more flavor to your rice by cooking it in chicken broth instead of water and adding seasoning right into the rice/liquid mixture before cooking.  No more bland rice!

I also made our favorite "Cuban style" black beans flavored with diced onion, fresh garlic, cumin and paprika.  Serve the delicious cheesy salsa verde chicken with sour cream and extra salsa if you like! Cilantro would be beautiful but we don't like the flavor. (I know, weird.) Be sure and give a squeeze of fresh lime juice over your plate before serving to add a bright flavor that balances all the spice.  

I think you're going to go back to this delicious Mexican dinner time and time again for a quick weeknight supper.  I know we will!!

Cheesy Salsa Verde Chicken
Recipe from: Posed Perfection

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2-3 Chicken Breasts, cut in half (I actually cut these length and width-wise to make cutlets.)

1 jar Salsa Verde (green tomatillo salsa)

1 c. of your favorite shredded Cheese (I freshly grated pepper jack and sharp cheddar)

Salt & pepper

Ground Cumin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Drizzle extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of a large cast iron skillet or 9x13 inch pan.  Lay out the chicken pieces evenly.  Season chicken with spices.  Pour salsa over the chicken and bake for 15-20 minutes.  

Turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees, take the pan out, and spread the cheese evenly over the chicken.  Return to cook another 10-15 more minutes, depending on thickness of chicken. The salsa will bubble, and the cheese will get nice and gooey.  Salt a bit more just after coming out of the oven.

Serve the chicken (and extra salsa in the pan) over the rice or cut up and in tortillas as a yummy taco.  Enjoy!
Serves 3-4