Baby’s First Christmas

The month of ‘Christmas’ has come and gone all too quickly. I ate too much and spent too much money but had a holly jolly Christmas with my loved ones. This year was my nephew’s first Christmas and we all loved having a little one around again. The spirit of Christmas was ever so full and it was certainly one for the books.

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Scrumptious Scalloped Potatoes

I’ve never been a big scalloped potatoes kind of girl and I now realize it’s because I never had them homemade. The scalloped potatoes I’ve had in the past consisted of boxed potatoes mixed with dry cheese and thrown in the oven, ick. Not appetizing or tummy pleasing. The only problem with this situation is that Matt thinks these things are delish, so in order to please the both of us I decided to try and make these homemade. Genius. These little gems turned out perfectly golden, cheesy, and most importantly a great replacement for cardboard box potatoes. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups onion, diced
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cloves garlic
2 1/4 cups shredded cheese (I used a blend of cheddar and mozzarella), divided
1/3 cup chives, snipped
4 large yukon gold potatoes (any kind will do), skins on, thinly sliced
1/2 chopped cooked bacon (optional)
salt and pepper to tastepotatoes

Preheating the oven to 375 degrees (F). For the sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat adding the diced onions and bacon until soft. Stir the flour thoroughly into the onion/bacon mixture and add the milk and garlic. Stir over medium/high heat until it begins to bubble and thicken. Remove it from the heat and stir in the 2 cups of the grated cheese and salt/pepper to preferred taste.

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Spray a ceramic cooking dish (9×9) with cooking spray. Thinly slice potatoes and layer them in the bottom of the dish, followed by a sprinkling of snipped chives. I used basil this time around to try something new, but either will work. Continue layers the potatoes and chives until all of the potatoes are used.

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Pour the sauce over the potatoes and shake the dish a little to get the sauce to ooze down through the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese on the top. Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake for 60 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve.

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Chocolate Sprinkle Thumbprints

This recipe is to die for. Shortbread cookies are my all time favorite treat especially around the holidays. This cookie turned out exactly how I imagined and I will be making them again. I brought these to work last week and my co-workers enjoyed them as well. These cookies are supposedly famous in Pittsburgh, so if I ever make it back there I be on the hunt for them so I can experience the cookie that inspired such a great recipe. I have been slowing making way through my Pinterest board and now I can check these off my list and add them to my recipe box. I will forewarn you if you are looking to make a quick cookie, this may not be the best choice.

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This recipe yields roughly 2 dozen cookies

For the cookies
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 small container of Chocolate sprinkles

For the frosting
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!)
3 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I use my silpat when baking to line the baking sheet; however, if you don’t own a sitpat then you can use parchment paper. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt; set aside. Pour the chocolate sprinkles into a small bowl; set aside.

On medium speed, cream together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Once it is mostly incorporated, slowly increase the speed back to medium-high and beat for another minute or so until a dough forms.

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Scoop out a tablespoon of dough, roll it into a ball. As I was going along I found the sprinkles stick better if you make a slight indentation with your thumb or melon baller on the top of the cookie first, and then roll the sides of the cookies in the chocolate sprinkles placing it on the cookie sheet. Note: Picture below doesn’t show the indentation with the thumb before applying sprinkles.

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Space cookies about 1½ inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes, halfway through the 18 minutes make the indentation deeper. The cookies should not brown much at all around the edges. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:
Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time. Once the cookies are cool, pipe some frosting into the middle of each cookie (or you can spoon it in).

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