Archive for the 'Holiday' Category

Restaurant Style Salsa

Fresh salsa made from scratch has been on my “to-make” list for a while now, and since today is Cinco de Mayo, it seemed like the perfect week to make it.  I used The Pioneer Woman’s recipe and it was fabulous!  This salsa is so easy to make– just throw all the ingredients in a food processor, pulse a few times, and it’s ready.  The flavors of garlic, onion, tomatoes, lime, chilies, and cilantro are delicious.  It tastes like it came from an authentic Mexican restaurant.   I prefer my salsa to be mild so I left the jalapeno seeds out, but if you like more spice, leave them in!  One thing I love about this salsa is that it has such a smooth texture.  Since you are making it yourself, you can puree it to your liking so that it’s as smooth or chunky as you want.  This salsa tastes even better after it has chilled in the fridge and all the flavors have marinated and melded together.  It’s the perfect appetizer to make for your next party.  Enjoy!

Restaurant Style Salsa

(print recipe)


  • 1 can (28 Ounce) whole tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced tomatoes and green chilies)
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin (seeds optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup cilantro (you can add more if you want)
  • lime juice from ½ of a lime


  1. Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor.  Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—about 10 to 15 pulses.
  2. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.
  3. Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: This makes a very large batch.  Recommend using an 11-12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large bowl.

Serves: 12

Source: The Pioneer Woman

And here are some other delicious Mexican-inspired recipes to try:

Grilled Chicken Fajitas — The marinade for these fajitas is fantastic.  Served on tortillas with grilled bell peppers and onions, these fajitas are the perfect main course.

Rice with Black Beans and Corn is a wonderful side dish to make alongside grilled chicken fajitas.  It’s colorful, flavorful, and so delicious.  You can also serve this rice burrito-style along with some melted cheese and/or grilled chicken.


Valentine’s Day Sugar Cookies Part 2 – Hearts

Yesterday I posted photos of my conversation heart cookies.  Here are some photos of the other Valentine sugar cookies I made.  For these cookies, I used various heart-shaped cookie cutters that I have collected over the years, as well as two different sizes of the crinkle cut square cookie cutters from this set.  There are endless ways to decorate heart shaped cookies.  Here’s what I came up with:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The inspiration for these cookies is from one of my favorite cookie decorating blogs – Whimsy Cookie Co.

Valentine’s Day Sugar Cookies Part 1 – Conversation Hearts

Valentine’s Day is a little over a week away, so of course I had to make some sugar cookies!  This past week, I made a double batch of Valentine’s Day sugar cookies.  I decorated the first half of the cookies to look like conversation heart candies.  I have always loved conversation hearts – they are so cute and I like all of the little phrases on them.  Before decorating my cookies, I did a quick internet search and made a list of some of my favorite conversation heart phrases.  (Alternatively, you could purchase a bag or box of conversation hearts and make a list of the phrases while you are snacking on them- yum!)

Tomorrow I will post photos of the rest of the sugar cookies.  They are a much more traditional Valentine bunch – lots of pink, red, and purple hearts!

If you want to see photos of other sugar cookies I have made, check out my Sugar Cookie Gallery.  The sugar cookie and royal icing recipes that I use can also be found there.

5th Birthday Sugar Cookies

I made these sugar cookies for my nephew’s 5th birthday party.  I love the bright color palette and the simplicity of the polka dots.

I also made a few peppermint candy-shaped cookies.

For the sugar cookie and royal icing recipes, click here.  If you want to see photos of other sugar cookies I have made, head on over to my “Sugar Cookie Gallery”!

Gingerbread Cookies

I made these gingerbread cookies for my family’s Christmas dinner last weekend.  These cookies tasted fantastic- definitely the best gingerbread cookie recipe I’ve ever tried!  They are soft and chewy and have the perfect balance of spices in them (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, & cloves).  I decorated these cookies with the same batch of royal icing that I used to decorate my Christmas sugar cookies.  This was a very efficient way to decorate all 8 dozen cookies!  (In case you’re wondering, it took me about 3 hours to decorate all of the cookies).  This is a wonderful recipe that I plan to make every year from now on.  Happy Holidays!

Gingerbread Cookies


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices to combine; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the molasses and egg until combined.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Cover the bowl and chill the dough for at least one hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to about ¼-inch thickness.  Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.  Place the cookie shapes onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.  Decorate as desired.

Source: Annie’s Eats; Originally from Good Things Catered and All Recipes

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Here are a few photos of the sugar cookies I made for Christmas this year.  I used cookie cutters in the shape of presents, peppermints, Christmas trees, candy canes, and holly leaves.  I also used my crinkle-edge-square cookie cutter to make cookie place cards/favors for a family Christmas dinner.  These cookies were so much fun to decorate!  The recipes for the sugar cookies and royal icing are posted below.  Enjoy!

Presents. This is a new cookie cutter that I got from Target this year. It would be perfect for birthday present sugar cookies too.

Lots of Christmas trees!


Holly leaves


Peppermints. The cookie cutter is from And the design was inspired by the book “Cookie Craft Christmas” by Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer.

Candy canes


Cookie favors and place cards

Sugar Cookies


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 ½ tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour


  1. Cream the butter and powdered sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Blend in the egg, almond extract, vanilla extract, salt and flour.
  3. Chill the dough until firm.
  4. Roll the dough out to ¼” thickness on a well-floured surface.
  5. Cut with cookie cutters.  Place on greased (or parchment lined) cookie sheets, and bake at 375° for 8-10 min. The cookies should not brown.
  6. Frost and decorate the cookies when cool.

Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on size

Source: Annie’s-Eats

Royal Icing


  • 4 tablespoons meringue powder
  • scant ½ cup water
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • few drops almond extract (optional)


  1. Combine the meringue powder and water in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat until combined and foamy.
  2. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Do NOT skip the sifting!)
  3. Add in the corn syrup and extract if desired. (The corn syrup helps keep the icing shiny.) Increase the speed to med-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form.  (You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling.) Do not overbeat.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap touching the icing or divide and color using gel paste food colorings.

This “stiff” icing is perfect for outlining cookies or piping details onto cookies. To fill in the cookies, add water to the icing a teaspoon at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula, until it is the consistency of syrup. (This technique of filling a cookie with thinned icing is called “flooding.”)

Yield: This will cover 2-3 dozen 3.5 inch cookies in 2 colors.  (I usually double this recipe.)

Source:  Bake at 350

And here is a photo of the Christmas cookies I made last year (in 2009).  This was the first time I had ever used royal icing to decorate cookies.  As you can see from this photo, practice really does make perfect!  This year, my royal icing colors were so much richer (ie- they are actually red and dark green instead of pink and pale green!)  To get the icing colors to look like this, I now use only Americolor gel food coloring.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

I kicked off my Holiday baking this year by making these chocolate peppermint bark cookies.  These cookies are so yummy!  Originally I was just going to make chocolate peppermint bark, but when I saw this cookie version, I couldn’t pass it up.  Basically, it’s a shortbread-type cookie topped with a layer of dark chocolate with white chocolate swirled on top.  Crushed candy canes are then sprinkled on the chocolate for a festive touch.   These are the perfect cookies to serve at a Holiday party.  Or, just make them for yourself, like I did!  :)  I highly recommend adding these to your Christmas baking list this year!  (FYI – There are currently 12 different kinds of cookies on my list… I better get baking! :)  )

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies


  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies or candy canes (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with a long strip of 9-inch-wide parchment paper, leaving overhang on both short sides of the pan.
  2. Whisk the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar.  Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla, then the egg yolk.  Gradually add the flour mixture, beating on low speed just to blend.
  3. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls into the prepared baking pan, spacing evenly.  Using moistened fingertips, press dough to form an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Pierce dough all over with a fork.
  4. Bake the cookie base until light golden brown and slightly puffed and the edges begin to come away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.  Place pan on a rack; immediately sprinkle the chopped bittersweet chocolate over.  Let stand until the chocolate softens, about 3 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the chopped white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave.  (This doesn’t take long – be careful not to burn it!  In my microwave, it took about a minute.  I started by microwaving the chocolate for 30 seconds, then I stopped the microwave, stirred the chocolate and continued microwaving it in 10 second intervals, stirring each time until it was fully melted.)
  6. Using a small offset spatula, spread the bittersweet chocolate over the top of the cookie in a thin even layer.  Immediately drizzle the melted white chocolate over the dark chocolate layer.  Using the tip of the offset spatula (or a butter knife) held vertically, carefully swirl the white and dark chocolate together to create a “swirly” pattern.  Then sprinkle the chopped candy canes on top.
  7. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  8. Using the paper overhang as an aid, lift the cookie from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, cut the cookie into irregular pieces.  Enjoy!

Note: These can be made 1 week ahead.  Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper.

Yield: About 36 cookies

Source: slightly adapted from Bon Appetit

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 74 other followers