Free Hugs

It’s wond’rous what a hug can do.
A hug can cheer you when you’re blue.
A hug can say, “I love you so”
or, “Gee I hate to see you go.”

A hug can soothe a small child’s pain
and bring a rainbow after rain.
The hug! There’s just no doubt about it,
we can scarcely survive without it.

A hug delights and warms and charms,
it might be why God gave us arms.

Hugs are great for Fathers and Mothers,
sweet for Sisters, swell for Brothers.
Chances are some favorite Aunts
love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them. Puppies love them.
Heads of State are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier
and make the dullest day seem merrier.

No need to fret about the store of ’em.
The more you give the more there are of ’em.
So stretch those arms without delay, and
Give Someone a Hug Today!
From – The Serious Teddy Bear

Happy National Hug Day!

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All Things Grinch

Last December during a longer lunch break, I walked by a uniform store. Glancing in the window of the store, a couple items caught my eye.  Displayed high on one of the walls, I saw long sleeved red scrub jackets.  On another display below the jackets were bright green scrub pants.  When I saw them, it made me think – Grinch.  When I went into the store, I discovered that the displays were not directly adjacent, it was just an illusion created by looking through the window.  That visual image, however, gave me a creative idea for work, so I purchased a red scrub jacket and a pair of green pants. I have worn both of these items at work, but not together.img_4295 Now that the Christmas season is here, it was time to put them together.

To create the costume, I designed an digital embroidery pattern (using Art and Stitch) based upon a Grinch face in a child’s coloring book.  The face was embroidered onto green fleece and sewn, like a visor, inside the front edge of a pre-made Santa hat.  To complete the costume, I even found matching green gloves and red Poinsettia shoe on Amazon.

Wearing the costume at work has proven to be a good behavior management strategy.  For the past week, I have had great patient and parent cooperation, even with patients who have not been good in the past!

img_4307A few days after I made my visor, I was shopping at Target.  When walking past the boy’s clothing section, I noticed some green gloves that were the exact shade of the fleece I had used.  Since I had excess fleece, I purchased two pair of gloves and made a couple Grinch hats.  To complete the winter wear sets, I embroidered a triple heart (because, according to the story, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes), and made neck warmers.  I will be donating these two sets of “Grinch Gear” to the Hats and Mittens collection next year.

For holiday fun, I decided to make some Grinch treats to share at work and with my sons.  Here are a couple recipes:

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Grinch Shortbread Cookies (makes 36)
1 cup  butter, room temperature
1 cup granular sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup Gluten-free flour
1 cup  Almond Flour
green food coloring
Red Jolly Rancher candies

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.  Add vanilla, egg and food coloring and mix until creamy.  Whisk together flours and salt.  Gradually mix dry ingredients into batter. Chill for at least one hour.  Roll out dough to 1/4″ on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out a larger heart with a small heart in the middle.  Place a Jolly Rancher in the middle heart hole.  Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before removing from parchment paper.

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Grinch Fur – aka Haystacks (makes 36)
12 ounces dark green Candy Melts
12 ounces vibrant green Candy Melts
1 1/2 cups peanuts
12 ounces Chow Mien Noodles
Candy Hearts

Directions:
Place Candy melts in an 10 cup microwave safe  glass bowl.  Microwave approximately 2 minutes.  Stir well until all pieces of candy are melted and blended together.  Stir in peanuts and Chow Mien Noodles.  Place by spoonfuls onto waxed paper and top each with a candy heart. Refrigerate until set.  Store in an airtight container.

Grinch Poppers (see my original post 12-22-18)

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Hats/Scarf Sets and Reindeer Brookies

Again this year, my dental office participated in the collection for the Hats & Mittens Organization. The boxes of donated items were picked up on Thursday.  About 150 items were donated at our three offices.

Like last year, I knit several items to donate.  New this year, several of the scarves that I included in the sets were woven. The hats and scarves were combined with purchased gloves to make winter sets.  Hopefully these sets will keep the children and teens who receive them nice and warm this winter.

Linen Stitch Scarf and Swirl Knit HatIMG_3272

Ombre Teal to Brown Knit Scarf and HatIMG_3269

Dotty Stitch Hat and CowlIMG_3265

Woven Scarf with Cable KnitIMG_3264

Woven Scarf with Swirl Knit HatIMG_3261

Woven Scarf / Ribbed Knit HatIMG_3236

Woven Scarf / Ribbed Knit HatIMG_3233

Woven Scarf / Ribbed Knit HatIMG_3230

Rib Knit Hat and Cashmere ScarfIMG_3228

Dotty Stitch Hat and Striped ScarfIMG_2971

Boa Yarn Knit Scarf and HatIMG_2944

As a special treat, I am including the recipe for the Reindeer Brookies I made today.  Kinda fun and very tasty!

Reindeer Brookies (makes 36, plus scraps from cutting triangles)
img_4285Cookie Base 
1/2 cup  butter, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granular sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
1 cup  chocolate chips (I used Andes Candies chips)

Brownie Layer 
1/2 cup  butter, melted
1 cup granular sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup Triple Cocoa Blend
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour

Chocolate Frosting and Decorations
1/4 cup  butter, softened
1/4 cup Triple Cocoa Blend
2  Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
Pretzels, broken
Mini M & Ms, red and brown
Sugar eyes

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.  Add vanilla and egg and mix until creamy.  Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.  Gradually mix dry ingredients into batter. Stir in chips. Spread dough into bottom of the pan.

Beat together butter and sugar until creamy.  Add vanilla and egg and mix until creamy.  Whisk together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.  Gradually mix dry ingredients into batter. Spread batter evenly over the cookie dough.  Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely. Once cooled, cut into 3″ x 1 1/2″ triangles.

Beat together butter, cocoa, milk and vanilla until creamy.  Add powdered sugar slowly, beating slowly at first until incorporated, then beat at medium high speed until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Spread over cooled brookies. Place pretzel pieces to look like antlers.  Add sugar eyes and noses to complete the decorating of the reindeer.

Christmas Treats – a village, some trees, and a whole lot of Grinches.

With Christmas just a few days away, I decided to show some holiday treats I have recently shared with my staff.

Christmas Village

For our December Saturday clinic, the staff enjoyed an eatable village that included:

Pound cake houses (each staff member could have their own house):

  • Pound Cake (recipe found here)
  • Cookie glazing frosting (recipe found here)
  • Mini M&Ms, chocolate chips, colored sugar, almond slivers, Andes candies, lemon wafers, green frosting, and sugar flakes.

Spritz cookie Trees (recipe found here, peppermint extract used instead of fiori di sicilia)

Marshmallow cereal trees (recipe found here, shaped into trees rather than wreaths)

Cream wafer cookies (recipe found here) – these are really good!!

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Meat and Cheese Tree

On another day, a demonstration of a new piece of equipment we are considering, was held over our lunch break. So, I brought in some meat and cheese for the staff to eat.  Keeping with the holiday spirit, these were put together in a decorative fashion.

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Grinch Poppers

After seeing the idea in an ADA Morning Huddle email, I also made a tray of fun fruit treats.  These Grinch Poppers (original idea posted here) were enjoyed by everyone.

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Merry Christmas to everyone who reads my blog!!

Holiday Baking 2018

Taking a few days off of work gave me some time to start my holiday baking.  With a son who is on a low sugar and low gluten diet (not for any medical reasons, it’s just healthier), I worked out a few new recipes.

Having read somewhere that Stevia can be substituted for half of the sugar when baking, I decided to try to make cookies with a lower sugar content.  Using the traditional Tollhouse Cookie recipe as the base, I made some mint flavored cookies. You really couldn’t tell that there was less sugar in them than the normal recipe.

Mint Chip CookiesIMG_2834
Makes 4 dozen
2  1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup granular sugar
3/4 cup Stevia
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Green food coloring
1/2 cup  Mint Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Chips
1/2 teaspoon shortening

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Beat butter, sugars, vanilla and coloring until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until bottoms are light brown.  Cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Heat dark chocolate in microwave until starting to melt.  Fold in shortening and mix until creamy. Drizzle chocolate over cookies.

Yummy!!

IMG_2835Next, I decided to try making a new recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, but modified to use Gluten-free Flour (King Arthur Measure for Measure).  The first batch I made tasted great but was extremely crumbly.  For the second batch, I added an egg to the mix.  This gave the dough enough binder to hold the cookies together.

Cherry-Walnut Balls (modified)IMG_2832
Makes 4 dozen
1/4 cup coarsely chopped maraschino cherries
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cup  Gluten Free Flour (KAF)
3/4 cup Chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Drain the maraschino cherries on paper towels.  Beat butter on high for 30 seconds.  Add sugars, egg and flavorings and beat until creamy. Gradually beat in flour.  Stir in nuts and cherries. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 18-20 minutes until bottoms are light brown.  Cool slightly, then roll in powdered sugar to coat and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Lastly, I planned to make my personal favorite – Red Velvet Thumbprint Cookies. However, when I looked into my pantry, I realized that I had some lemon wafers that needed to be used up. So, I decided to try to alter the recipe and make a lemon-lime flavored version.

Lemon-Lime Thumbprint CookiesIMG_2833
Makes 5 dozen
1 cup butter
1 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon Green Food Coloring
1/2  teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lime juice powder (KAF)
2 1/2 cups flour
Lemon melting wafers (KAF)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Stir in egg, coloring and vanilla. Mix together dry ingredients and stir into butter-sugar mix. Shape into 1 inch balls, roll in sugar and place on baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately top with melting wafer. Cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Holiday Baking – Thumbprint Cookies

Day Two of holiday baking included several different of Thumbprint Cookies

Salted img_1981Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
Cookie:
1 cup butter
3/4 cup granular sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs (yolks only)
2  1/4 cup flour
Filling:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 Tbs heavy cream

Combine 1 cup butter, sugars, egg yolks and vanilla and beat until creamy.  Add flour and beat at low speed until well mixed.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Shape dough into 1″ balls.  Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets, 2″ apart.  Make an indent in the center of each cookie with the end of a wooden spoon handle.  Bake for 7-10 minutes until edges begin to brown.

Combing brown sugar with 1/3 cup butter in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to boil.  Continue cooking and stirring for one more minute.  Stir in whipping cream.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.  Spoon 1/2 teaspoon caramel mixture into the center of each cooled cookie. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint Cookiess img_1972

Trial #1:  Follow the recipe above.  When the cookies are removed from the oven, top with a chocolate star candy and cover with caramel.

 

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Trial #2:  Follow the recipe above.  When the cookies are removed from the oven, top with a chocolate star candy and drizzle with caramel.

Trial #2 looked nicer and tasted better!

 

Red Velvet Thumbprint Cookiesimg_1982
I made these last year and really liked them. So, they were included in my baking this year as well.  For the recipe, see the December 15, 2015 posting. 

Holiday Baking – Pretzel Butterscotch Cookies

With Christmas fast approaching, I have started my holiday baking.  Each year I try to find a new recipe or two to try.  This year, I actually come up with a couple ideas myself.

My first idea was  inspired by a recipe that I saw in a magazine – Pretzel Butterscotch Fudge.  When I saw the recipe, I thought that the combination would work for making cookies.  Using the classic Tollhouse Chocolate Chip recipe, I set out to try out my idea.

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For my first attempt, I simply replaced the chocolate chips with butterscotch chips and replaced the nuts with pretzel pieces.   The result tasted good.  But, in my opinion, there was too much butterscotch flavor and not enough pretzel crunch.

 

So, I decided to try again.  This time I reduced the amount of chips by half and doubled the amount of pretzels. The changes were successful – these tasted great!

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Butterscotch Pretzel Cookies
2  1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup granular sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butterscotch chips
2 cup pretzels, broken in to pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Beat butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in chips and pretzels. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.