Chocolate Mint Cookies

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Growing up, my mom always made chocolate mint cookies for Christmas. I remember helping to put the little Andes mints on the top when the cookies came out of the oven, and I’d often attempt to sneak a few into my mouth for good measure. Of course, when there weren’t enough mints for the last tray of cookies it was glaringly obvious who was guilty of stealing them, but a bit of mischief was part of the fun of baking with Mom.

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Our Open “Haus” Menu

I recently shared a few creative and simple entertaining ideas inspired by my brother and sister-in-law at their open house for FreshGround Roasting. As that event was being planned I thought, “Why not make this a weekend event and host an open house at our place the next day?”

OK, I’ll admit it was quite busy cooking, cleaning and setting up for two consecutive open houses. But it was totally worth it! We had a great time on Saturday with FreshGround. Then on Sunday, my husband and I invited friends, family and neighbors to our open “Haus” (our play on words since our last name is Hauser).

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Creative & Simple Entertaining Ideas

Last Saturday, Tiffany and I hung out with my brother and sister-in-law at their open house for FreshGround Roasting. We had a blast preparing appetizers, decorating and learning about coffee. One of the things that I loved was how my sister-in-law, Krista, set out the food. We had hearty appetizers, local cheeses, amazing cupcakes from The Sugar Path and fresh fruits and veggies. Krista used vintage and household items to make the spread look as good as it tasted.

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Mini Pumpkin Pies

Pumpkin pie has never been something I particularly loved.  I’ve always been more of an apple pie sort of gal, but when my sister was visiting we decided to do pumpkin pie for fall’s sake.

I’ve had these Le Creuset mini cocottes (baby Dutch ovens) for a while now and I’m absolutely in love with them.  Aren’t they adorable?  Basically, if something can be made “mini”, I’ll do it just so I have an excuse to use these cute little things.

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Chocolate Chip Apple Muffins

Two consecutive muffin posts!  We clearly can’t get enough muffins around here.  Today’s recipe was sort of thrown together for the purpose of using up leftover applesauce.  The results were above and beyond my expectations!  When we got back from the orchards a few weeks ago, I went a little applesauce crazy and ended up with 2 large containers stashed in the fridge.  I figured I’d have some for breakfast or a snack every day, but honestly I’m not enough of a straight applesauce lover to tolerate it constantly.  It was wonderful for the first few days though!

Anyway, if you’re going to have too much of something, you’re lucky if it’s applesauce.  There’s so much you can do with the stuff!  I was brainstorming and browsing for ideas when I happened upon an apple strudel muffin recipe that looked delicious.  It called for chopped apples instead of applesauce, but I decided to improvise.  The strudel part was nixed when I added chocolate chips as the primary sweetener.  I couldn’t get the image of a big juicy milk chocolate covered apple out of my head, courtesy of the e-mails I’ve been getting from Amy’s Gourmet Apples.

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Buttery Vanilla Breakfast Scones

My sister and her husband came to visit for the weekend! They’re on fall break from school right now and their campus is only about 4 hours away, so they decided to spend the break with us. They got married in July of this past summer and this is the first time we’ve seen them since the wedding, so we’ve had some serious catching up to do. I was the first of 3 girls to get married, so being able to finally share this common stage of life with one of my sisters is so exciting!

Becca has a lot of the same interests as me. We love to craft, we love to create, we love to bake, we love fashion and makeup – basically we haven’t come close to running out of things to do during this little visit. I’m loving how she’s adjusting to being a wife. Even though she’s swamped with classes and work, she still finds so much joy in the little things – like baking banana bread and brownies for her husband and friends in their tiny campus apartment kitchen.

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DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice

Am I the only one who stands in the middle of the grocery aisle Googling for DIY and/or substitution recipes once I find out whatever I need is out of stock? Hopefully not, because it’s proven to be super helpful 99% of the time – like today. I ran to the store for pumpkin pie spice and it was the only empty slot in the entire spices section. Lovely. So I Googled “DIY pumpkin pie spice” and one of the first results was a great little recipe from Annie’s Eats. The best part… I already had all the ingredients at home!

If you find yourself in need of pumpkin pie spice this season, check your pantry for these common spices before shelling out a few bucks for something you can mix yourself!

DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice
From Annie’s Eats

2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. ground allspice
1½ tsp. ground cloves
¾ tsp. ground nutmeg

Mix them all together and store in an airtight container!

Do you have a favorite money-saving DIY pantry tip?

Cookie Decorating for Kids

My sister makes the best sugar cookies. Seriously…the BEST. Maybe I’m biased because she’s my sister, but they’re amazing. Honestly, I don’t even really like sugar cookies – except hers. They’re perfectly sweet, never dried out (thanks to a little trick I’ll share in an upcoming post!) and decorated BEAUTIFULLY! These cookies are a work of culinary and visual art.

OK, those cookies pictured above were decorated by a five-year-old…not by my sister (decorating tutorials coming soon!).

Today, I really want to show you how my sister is cultivating cookie decorating skills in her daughter, Chloe – without the frosting mess that a kindergartener is sure to make.

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Hungarian Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Bread making has always intimidated me.  I’ve sheepishly tip-toed around the subject, baking everything BUT bread ever since I was tall enough to reach Mom’s measuring cups in the cabinet above the stove.  I’ve drooled and gazed longingly at recipe pictures of fresh baked baguettes and dinner rolls, and I’ve purchased all kinds of books with titles along the lines of “Bread Making: TRY IT ALREADY!”, yet I had never actually made real bread – until last night.  I was browsing AllRecipes.com when I came across a recipe for a cinnamon swirl bread.  I skimmed the ingredients list and I had everything I needed, so I put on the apron, rolled up the sleeves and decided to finally take the bread leap.

I’ve had an adorable pale yellow KitchenAid stand mixer for a few years now.  It’s my prized possession.  It has whipped up buttercreams, meringues, macarons and lots of other yummy things that I’ve had the pleasure of serving, gifting and of course, eating.  The mixer made this bread recipe an absolute breeze.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I hate throwing food away.  Whenever we buy produce, I have a vague idea of what I want to use it for – then we get busy, a few days pass and our lovely haul starts to take on a funky smell and an unidentifiable texture.  There are a few ways to salvage those precious fruits and veggies even after they’ve gone bad, but my absolute favorite (hands down) is chocolate chip banana bread.

I’ve always loved banana breads, banana cakes, banana muffins, banana cookies – basically if it has banana in it, I’ll eat it.  Every year my mom would bake a banana cake with cream cheese frosting for my birthday.  That’s probably where my addiction originated.

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