Welcome I hope you’re staying nice and warm wherever you may be this week. We’re coming off of an “extended” Thanksgiving break here, since our region was dumped with five to seven inches of snow on Sunday. This gave our daughter an extra two days off. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced back-to-back snow days in November before! At any rate, our daughter was happy to make it back to school yesterday, to see her friends and teachers and to just get back into a regular routine.
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Food For Thought We are all about routine here, especially when it comes to the school year. Some people might consider it boring and predictable, I call it SANITY. Part of the “routine” is our after school drive home. I pick up my daughter from middle school and she immediately starts to tell me things about her day. This is usually followed by me saying, “Can you wait until I pull out of the car rider line. I have to watch for other drivers and students right now.” She apologizes, I get on the main road and she launches into her day’s adventures.
I love this. It means she trusts me and she is comfortable with telling me the things she is experiencing in school, whether it be tricky social interactions, fun activities in her classes, or concerns about an upcoming test. Do you know why she feels so secure in sharing these conversations with me? Because it has been part of our routine since she was in preschool. She knows I’m going to listen attentively, without a phone attached to my ear or hand. She knows I’m going to be a genuine participant in her conversation. I’ve worked very hard to communicate with her that she is one of the absolute most important pieces of my life and what she says matters.
Our ten to fifteen minute drive home after school may not be long, or exciting, but I value this time with her so much. These are the moments I get an unguarded look into her middle school, pre-teen life. The routine may be boring and unexciting to many, but I wouldn’t trade these special after-school conversations for anything in the world.
Today’s Recipes Speaking of after school time, do you and your kids love after school snacks? We do, usually in the form of fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt, or pudding. But when I was growing up, and even sometimes now, an after school snack meant fresh, homemade cookies! Who wouldn’t love coming home to the warm, cozy smell of a fresh-from-the-oven cookie treat.
Well, since it is Holiday Sweets and Treats Week on the blog, I have decided to share a trio of holiday cookie recipes. They’re festive enough for this holiday season’s cookie exchange or dessert table, but easy enough for the average after school snack. Enjoy!
Peppermint Brownies with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting, I know, this is technically not a cookie. But you cut them into bars or squares, which makes them work for most any cookie tray or table. Plus, I really want to share this recipe because it’s just so good! A rich, chocolatey brownie with a subtle hint of mint topped with a thick and creamy peppermint flavored frosting…what’s not to love? This recipe makes two dozen thick and gooey brownies.
- 1 10-oz pkg dark chocolate chip morsels
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup AP flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
- 1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tsp peppermint extract
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- crushed peppermints or candy canes, if desired (I crushed 4 candy canes to top my brownies)
Turn oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil; spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In medium saucepan, melt butter and chocolate morsels, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl, beat together eggs and sugars with electric mixer until combined. Add extracts and cooled chocolate mixture and continue to beat on medium speed for another two to three minutes. Add flour mixture slowly as you continue to beat on low speed, just until fully incorporated. Note: I actually hand mix the last bit of flour into the batter to prevent overmixing.
Spread brownie batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove baked brownies to cooling rack, allowing to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add peppermint extract and powdered sugar, one cup at a time, scraping between each addition, as you continue to beat until desired frosting consistency is achieved. Frost the cooled brownies with the peppermint cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle the frosted brownies with crushed mints. If desired, lift the foil lined brownies from the pan and cut into 24 squares and place on a decorative plate or tray.
White Chocolate-Dipped Red Velvet Cookies are just the right holiday cookie bite, combining the classic flavor of red velvet cake with a festive dip in melted white chocolate and holiday sprinkles. This recipe makes two dozen cookies.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 1/2 cups AP flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 TBS cocoa powder
- 1 TBS vanilla
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- red food coloring (I used almost an entire tube of red gel food coloring to get my desired color.)
- 4 to 6 ounces white chocolate almond bark
- holiday sprinkles, if desired
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. In large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, vinegar, and food coloring, continuing to beat on low speed until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture, beating on low and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. When ingredients are thoroughly combined, place dough in refrigerator to chill for 30 to 40 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Using a medium cookie scoop, place dough on ungreased cookie sheets, about two inches apart. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove cookie sheets to cooling racks. Allow cookies to rest five minutes before removing the cookies to rack to finish cooling completely.
Melt white chocolate according to package directions. Place sprinkles in shallow bowl for dipping. Dip each cookie into the white chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to drip off, followed immediately by dipping into the sprinkles. Place finished cookies on wax paper to allow chocolate and sprinkles to set before transferring to cookie tin or tray.
Christmas Cake Mix Cookies were inspired by Jenn at The Rebel Chick. I LOVE cake mix cookies. This is probably because I love soft and chewy cookies, but they are also super easy, since most of what you need is already in the cake mix. Chocolate chips and holiday sprinkles make these a cheerful addition to the holiday cookie list. Keep some white cake mix on hand this holiday season because these cookies come together so fast, they can become you’re low-stress contribution to any party or cookie exchange. I made 1 1/2 dozen medium-size cookies with this recipe.
- 1 pkg white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
- 2 TBS AP flour
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup holiday sprinkles
Heat oven to 350 degrees. With electric mixer, combine cake mix, flour, egg whites, and oil. Stir in chocolate chips and sprinkles by hand.
Using a medium cookie scoop, place cookie dough on ungreased cookie sheets, about two inches apart. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Remove cookie sheets to cooling rack and allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes. Lift cookies gently to cooling rack to finish cooling completely before transferring to cookie tins or trays.
Suggested Products for Low Stress Holiday Cookie Baking available from Amazon: