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enter and exit

It makes me a bit sad to be entering my last post about Tram’s baby shower. Albeit, five consecutive posts about one party is a lot, but I’ve really loved sharing it with all of you and reliving it for myself.

front of house

I’ll start with the beginning, what the guests saw as they entered…


… the front doors and the burlap wreaths that I made especially for the shower. I had purchased a couple springtime wreaths at Home Goods last year, but they were all nasty and faded before the end of summer, so into the trash they went. Once I took down the Christmas wreaths this year, I had nothing to replace them with.


I had pinned THIS tutorial on how to make burlap wreathes on Pinterest and decided, “no time like the present” to get it done! Oh my goodness, it could not have been easier! I whipped them both out in about 20 minutes. Seriously, ten minutes each! Follow the tutorial and you can make some of your own. By the way, I used an 18-inch wreath form. I will be adding some sort of spring/summer embellishments in the near future.


I found the yarn and number twos at Hobby Lobby and the baby shoes at, Micheal’s, of all places! I used clear adhesive dots to adhere the shoes to the burlap and the twos to the doors. Of course, the shoes went home with Tram.


To the right of the door was a chalkboard sign (of course!) telling guests what to do and where to go. Some people are so darn bossy!


About an hour and a half into the shower, Peggy set the Party Favors out in the same front courtyard so the guests could easily snag them on their way out.

party favors

You have to know by now that there was another chalkboard sign, with instructions. This is a school theme, after all!

take one sign

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January 17, 2014   2 Comments

homemade Speculoos

Trader Joes bag

I consider myself a Trader Joe’s expert, a TJ Connoisseur, if you will.  So imagine my embarrassment and dismay when I learned that there was a product at Trader Joe’s, an exceedingly popular and rare product, that I had not a clue about!

fearless flyer

Honestly, I’m going to have to be more diligent and thorough in the reading of all future Fearless Flyers!

This hot newish product is called Speculoos.

Speculoos Cookie Butter

Speculoos Cookie Butter, to be exact, and it has proven to be a major phenomenon for Trader Joe’s. It took the top spot in Trader Joe’s annual “most popular products” list in 2012.

Then, in 2013, Trader Joe’s expanded the line and released a crunchy version. And like many Trader Joe’s items, the cookie butter is a knock-off of a brand-name product: Biscoff Spread, manufactured in Belgium by a company called Lotus. Made from thin, crispy cookies called speculoos (or spekulaas) that are eaten during the holidays. Biscoff’s cookie butter premiered in Europe in 2007. I just discovered that it is sold at Cost Plus World Market.

You’re reading this right – cookie butter is made of not ground-up peanuts and oil but rather ground-up cookies and oil. Cookie butter is like the rich, sweeter, and more handsome cousin of peanut butter!  You can smear it on toast or crackers or use it as a dip for pretzels, apples or celery.

cookie butter toast

So yeah, it’s literally – spreadable cookies!

The Trader Joe’s flavor is gingersnap. Well actually, the label says – “A deliciously unusual spread reminiscent of gingerbread and made with crushed biscuits” – so  basically gingersnaps.

And it is To Die For!

I did learn that one of the reasons I may be able to forgive myself for not knowing about Speculoos sooner, is because it has been in short supply since it made its TJ début in late 2011. So popular, in fact, that the spread has its own Facebook Page.

Now …  just in case TJ’s has a problem keeping this treasure in-stock in the future, I’ve decided to try making my own.

so many cookies

The question was, “What flavor cookie should I use?” Peanut butter seemed too obvious and gingersnaps are already being done … to perfection. The cookies need to be crispy crunchy  – not soft and chewy. No fillings, so that leaves out Oreos and such. Certainly no Fig Newtons (ugg)!

I scanned the cookie aisle and came up with five candidates. I made the five flavors of cookie butter and then sent a text out to six of my friends and neighbors on Saturday morning and asked them if they might be able to come by between 2:00 and 5:00 and do a taste test for me. Shockingly, all replied within seconds and said they could help!

taste tester plate

Here is what greeted them when they arrived.

Each was asked to taste the five concoctions in front of them, to not ask questions about what they were eating, and then to rank them in order; #1 being their favorite … through #5 – being their least favorite. I then crunched all the numbers and found the average ranking of each of the cookie butters.

5 cookie types

This is the average of how the ladies ranked them:

  1. Snickerdoodle
  2. Pepperidge Farm Chessmen
  3. Chocolate Chip
  4. Pepperidge Farm Coconut
  5. Pecan Sandies

Only one person ranked the Pecan Sandies Cookie Butter higher than 4th or 5th place. In fact, four of my taste testers put it in last place, and two of those wrote “yuck” in their comments.

Of course, one of the reasons I chose to use Pecan Sandies is because I love those cookies, but they were right, they do not make a good cookie butter. Snickerdoodles won by a landslide. Chessmen, Chocolate Chip and Coconut were pretty tight in the scoring.

I pawned all the remaining Cookie Butter off on my neighbors on Sunday morning, leaving it on their doorsteps. I can’t have that stuff in the house. Well, I do still have the jar from Trader Joe’s but that doesn’t have to be eaten within 10 days, so I’ll keep it “out of sight and out of mind”… hopefully!

Many thanks to my fan-tab-ulous taste-test panel – Peggy, Lisa, Ronnie, Anne, Amy and Melissa! xoxo

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September 17, 2013   7 Comments

better than your average chocolate chip cookies


Last summer, I introduced my Illinois bestie, Jen, to Pinterest. One of the first things she spotted was these cookies. We went directly to the store and bought the ingredients.

Best. Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ever!

Since they are so fabulous, I have not made a batch since!

Don’t act surprised, you know why… I’d eat them before they had a chance to cool and then loath myself for days on end. Yesterday I decided to tempt fate. I whipped up a batch, set them out to cool, and left the house.

Upon my return, I immediately packed them up and placed the cookies in the freezer. I did not eat a one.

Little miracles happen every single day!

Later this week, the frozen cookies will board a plane with me to Canada and be served at a 4th of July picnic.

Classic American Holiday + The Canadian Wilderness + Extra-Special Chocolate Chip Cookies = Perfection.


I used the reddish Alaea and the white Kona sea salts I brought home from Hawaii for two of the baking sheets of cookies and the pink Murray River salt for the third one. Use whatever sea salt you have on hand.

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June 30, 2013   2 Comments


THIS is what I said in a post back in March, “I am amazed and in awe of people and their talent.”  Do you recall that?


Well, you may not recall that very post, but someone did.

And now, I am in awe of them!

Elizabeth's Thank You note

I am in awe of my student, Elizabeth and her mother, Shelley, who is a loyal follower and regular commenter on this site!

In awe of their kindness and thoughtfulness. No, not just kind and thoughtful… their extreme and awesome thoughtfulness!

Elizabeth hand-crafted the beautiful card you see above. She wrote the sweetest message to me inside.

Basket of talent

The card was tucked into this lovely basket.

Fabulous Cookies

A basket full of these gorgeous chalkboard-effect cookies.

The cookies that I blogged about loving … way back in March!!!

rolling pin cookie

Aren’t they fabulous!?!

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June 22, 2013   4 Comments

Cinco de Mayo dessert

I wanted to let you know that there is a new heading in the Complete Recipe Index under the “Holidays” tab – Cinco de Mayo. It was called to my attention yesterday that it was missing. It is there now, with more than 35 dishes listed, the following recipe included.

pinterest chips

I found this creative dessert on Pinterest. Over the years, I’ve made fruit pizza for many parties and cooking classes. You know – the recipe where you make a sugar cookie crust, top that with a frosting and then arrange cut fruit and berries on top.

This is a fun take on that. Instead of sugar cookie crust, we have sugar cookie “tortilla” chips. The frosting is colored to look like guacamole. And the fruit is chopped to imitate salsa.

Perfect for Cinco de Mayo!

extract, oil, and emulsion

You’ll notice that the recipe calls for pure lemon oil or lemon bakery emulsion instead of lemon extract. (I didn’t have lemon bakery emulsion, but wanted you to see a bottle of it, hence the almond in its place.)

What is the difference between the three?

An extract is flavoring dissolved in alcohol, while an emulsion is flavoring suspended in water with an emulsifier. Pure essential oils are more pure and clear-tasting and stronger in flavor when placed in a batter than an extract.

Bakery emulsions keep the incorporated flavors more stable while your mixture goes through temperature changes, and they combine more easily with other emulsions (such as butter, sugar, and egg) than extracts do. When extracts hit the heat and the alcohol evaporates, so does a bit of the flavor.

Not that extracts are bad. Extracts are perfect for everyday baking where the flavor is playing a supporting role rather than a starring one. Such as vanilla in a batch of chocolate chip cookies. The oils and emulsions are what you want to use when you want that specific flavor to really shine through and to give intense flavors to things like candies, frosting, and fillings.

That’s it for the flavorings lesson today… on the the recipe…

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May 3, 2013   1 Comment

art and talent


Kim, Amy, Peggy, and Peggy’s daughter, Samme, came over yesterday afternoon to make Silk Tie Colored Easter Eggs. We had a lovely time decorating eggs and relaxing together. Those are my dozen above.

I’ll show you the rest at the end of the post, but before I do, I have to share with you something I am totally in LOVE and OBSESSED with!

This morning, as I perused through Pinterest, I spotted the most wonderful thing.

CB cookies

I am amazed and in awe of people and their talent.


If someone created these cookies for me, I know that I would never eat a one!

No, I would put them on a pedestal. I would shellac them and place them in little individual shadow boxes to admire every day! Call me crazy, but honestly, I would!!

drool worthy

The chalkboard effect is beyond fabulous.


Seriously! Shut the front door!

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March 30, 2013   1 Comment

Autumn is guaranteed, isn’t it?

Every year, around this time, when most of the country is feeling the sweet coolness of the coming season, I ask myself that very question, “Autumn is guaranteed, isn’t it?” Here in the Arizona desert, we won’t feel the cool relief of fall for more than a month. But… with the guarantee that it WILL come, I made these spice cookies to have a little pre-fall flavor in the house.

The other incentive was the Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kisses I found at Target after learning about them on Pinterest. Just in case you can’t find them in your area, I’ve also given you a yummy frosting recipe to top the cookies with. If you do as I did and frost a dozen of the cookies and push a Kiss into the other dozen, cut the frosting recipe in half.

Or go crazy and use both – frost the cookies once they’ve cooled and then stick a Kiss on top.

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September 17, 2012   2 Comments

sweet sandwiches

My technical issues have been resolved. My lovely webmasters have “increased my quota” – whatever that is. What it means to me is that I can get back to blogging and posting photos to go along with my recipes. Thank you webmasters, you are the best!

I am going to be completely honest and straight forward with you about this recipe… it is NOT “easy-breezy”.  In fact, it’s a big pain in the backside.  Kinda makes you want to tackle it, doesn’t it?

No?!? Come on, a challenge is a good thing!  The cookie dough is the problem. Well not a problem exactly, it is just a tad soft and not exactly easy to work with. But, I think it’s worth it. These are tasty little treats and besides, all the pictures I am providing you with demonstrating the caramel making process will make it all worth it! Now Keep Reading!

The cookie sandwiches were the dessert for the wedding shower cooking class I taught last weekend, and the same ingredients served as the makings for a Valentine’s tart for my sweetheart.

To transform the cookie recipe into a tart; spray a tart pan with Pam, line it with the rolled out cookie dough, refrigerate for 15 minutes and then bake the crust for 10 minutes at 325 degrees. Let it cool, fill it with the caramel. Make some ganache, top the tart with the warm ganache and refrigerate until firm. Finally, sprinkle the top with a little sea salt, just before serving.  The tart is a whole lot easier than rolling and cutting out all those cookies! But cookies are what I first made, so a cookie recipe is what I have for you today.

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February 16, 2012   3 Comments

cookies for breakfast… you bet!

Cookies for breakfast?  Sure, why not?  These particular cookies are packed with healthy stuff – dried fruit, almonds, cereal… and…. bacon. OK, not healthy bacon, but yummy breakfast-time bacon. Plus they aren’t too sweet, just right.  Great to eat if you have no time in the morning. Pop them in the freezer and just grab one or two on your way out the door and you have breakfast!

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September 22, 2011   5 Comments

child’s play

One of my favorite treats of all time, in the history of treats, in the entire world… Rice Krispies Treats! During pregnancy (always a good excuse!) I would eat and clean up the evidence of an entire 8×8-inch pan full before anyone even knew they had been made. This occurred while I was carrying Connor and while Marissa was at preschool. Pitiful, I know, but what the hormones want, the hormones deserve to get!

This upscale version hits a high note with the vanilla bean and the browning of the butter – pure genius! And no, I did not eat the whole pan this time… hey, if I did, I wouldn’t be able to post the recipe here – now would I?

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September 18, 2011   2 Comments