Tobins' Tastes: November 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mint M&M Chocolate Christmas Cookies

Pin It

It has barely been 48 hours since Thanksgiving and I am already in full Christmas baking mode. To be honest, Christmas baking actually started the day before Thanksgiving and my family just had to deal with the fact that I brought non-pumpkin desserts to dinner. While holiday baking makes me think of things like gingerbread and sugar cookies and fudge, my main holiday focus is peppermint.

I eat all things peppermint year round. I have been known to stockpile candy canes to eat well into spring. And the best thing about peppermint is how well it pairs with chocolate. So over the next week or so, I am going to be making you some of my favorite peppermint holiday treats starting with these cookies.

These cookies are laughably easy. I originally made them a few years ago and I was way too ambitious on the mint front. It was way too intense for most people. So this year I remade them and toned them down a bit.

It starts with your basic cake mix cookie using a box of chocolate cake mix and then you just add in some Holiday Mint M&M's and some White Chocolate Peppermint M&M's for some crunch and flavor.

They bake in 10 minutes and cool quickly making them a great last minute "oh crap I forgot I said I would bring dessert" cookie.

Mint M&M Chocolate Christmas Cookies
  • 1 box of Chocolate Cake Mix (just the mix)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup of White Chocolate Peppermint M&M's
  • 3/4 cup of Mint M&M's
 1.) Mix all of the ingrediants except for the M&M's together in a stand mixer until well combined. Make sure to scape the bottom and make sure all of the oil is incorporated into the batter.

2.) Add in both kinds of M&M's and let them mix for a minute to give them a rough crush. Basically you want the candies to be broken up a bit with some whole pieces still remaining.

3.) Using a medium cookie scoop,  scoop out the batter into rounded balls on lined cookie sheets.

4.) Bake at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until tops start to look done but still crackly.


Want even more peppermint and candy cane desserts? Check out my Peppermint Pinterest Board!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Back This Holiday Season With Sam's Club

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser #SimplyHealthy . All opinions are mine alone.

Pin It

The holiday season can be filled with stress, overloaded with activities and often times centered around activities that bring immediate happiness to ourselves and our close family and friends. With all the craziness going on it can be difficult to stay grounded but I find that it is so important to take some time to give back to others during this time of year. With my time and resources more limited than I would like them to be, I often head to Sam's Club to get ideas and items to help give back to my community.

As a teacher married to a firefighter, I am always thinking of those two groups of people during the holiday season, many times firefighters have to spend holidays on shift away from their families and so I try to send the station a little something extra on those days so that they know that even though they aren't home people are thinking of the and are so thankful for all that they do for our community.

While not as dramatic, teachers also face a lot of stress around the holidays. November and December mean midterms, research papers, crazy schedules as we try to make to plays, band concerts, and other school holiday events. Most teachers are pretty frazzled right now and while we love our students trying to get them to pay attention and focus two days before a week long Thanksgiving holiday can be pretty tough.

I always have big plans to bake all kinds of treats to drop off at my husband's station and my teachers' lounge but my schedule somehow seems to get in the way. Without fail, I will come home from work all geared up to bake and then I get caught up in appointments, grading, laundry and general life stuff and the cookies get completely forgotten.

This year I have decided to save myself the time, stress and even a little money by going to Sam's Club to grab everything I will need to show my local firefighters and teachers a little love. Since the holidays are filled with excessive amounts of sweet treats, I went with some healthier items to give them a little break from all the indulgence.

 As a teacher, I know that if I am hungry/stressed and the teachers' lounge is full of cookies, I am grabbing one because it's easy. And the same usually goes for firefighters since they often can't leave the station during the day. This goodie basket gives everyone the option to take a little better care of themselves during the most hectic time of year. I filled my gift basket with Skinny Pop popcorn, nuts, trail mix, granola bars, Halo oranges, and Brookside chocolate covered almonds and dried fruits.

Giving back to others is a major way I try to live healthier during the holiday season. For me, it really puts my stresses and worries into perspective when I take the time to think of others. If you are trying to live healthier this holiday season, be sure to check out the Sam's Club Healthy Living Made Simple App  and check out some of it's great tips and articles. Right now there is a great article on the importance of giving back and volunteering that will be sure to inspire you. And whether it's picking up items to donate to the food bank, buying toys for the Giving Tree at Church, or putting together a gift basket for members of the community, be sure to check out Sam's Club for everything you need to give back this holiday season.

Friday, November 21, 2014

3 Easy Holiday Buttercream Frosting Recipes

Pin It

Buttercream frosting can be a tricky thing. I can still remember the first few times I tried to make it- absolute disaster. Powered sugar was everywhere; it was too greasy, then it was too dry. Then it was too "grainy" (according to my husband then boyfriend). It was close to midnight the night before my roommate and I's big Memorial Day BBQ and was trying to make frosting to ice a "Magic Cooler Cake" (don't ask, my post-college friends and I had some weird inside jokes).

I was determined not to use canned icing. I had tried everything I could think of, and then I finally tried I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and lo and behold, my icing no longer looked or tasted like kindergarten paste.

This may sound like I am pushing something for the sake of a post, but I am being 100% honest. When ICBINB goes on sale BOGO at Publix, I stock up like it's my job. Our freezer usually has a small shelf full of it just waiting for the holiday baking season to start. I don't know if it's the amazing taste, the soft no need to bring to room temperature consistency or some other super secret that ICBINB isn't telling us, but I don't make buttercream frosting without it.

This buttercream recipe is amazing for a few reasons.
  1. It's ridiculously easy.
  2. It tastes so good I have to hid it from my husband so he doesn't eat it all with a spoon.
  3. You only need to dirty one bowl of your mixer and two other smaller bowls.
  4. It stores in the fridge for over a week.

The holidays in our house mean major amounts of frosting. And icing. And things like cookies and cakes that beg to be frosted. I feel like I am basically covered in powdered sugar for the last two weeks of December due to all the baking I do for parties and gift giving. So to make life easier, I try to make things in bulk. 

I love that this base recipe makes three different flavors of buttercream. Different varieties of buttercream usually require me to switch out the mixing bowl on my stand mixer multiple times but this basic vanilla recipe can then be turned into two different flavors easily meaning you only have to use one stand mixer bowl. I made a batch of mini buttermilk cupcakes and then iced them with the various buttercreams giving my guests a choice of flavors without me having to do a lot of extra work. 

Easy Holiday Buttercream Frostings- Vanilla - Pumpkin Spice - Peppermint
  • 2 sticks of ICBINB
  • 1 pound of powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract 
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1.) In a stand mixer or with an electric handheld mixer, cream the ICBINB until light and creamy.

2.) Slowly beat in powdered sugar. Add in vanilla and beat until combined. 

3.) Scoop out a heaping cup of the buttercream and set aside in a small bowl/container. That is your basic vanilla flavor.

4.) Scoop out another heaping cup into a small bowl and fold in the pumpkin pie spice. You now have an amazing Pumpkin Pie Spice Buttercream.

5.) Add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract to the stand mixer bowl and beat into the remaining buttercream. This makes a cool and creamy Peppermint Buttercream.

6.) Use to frost or decorate your favorite holiday cupcakes, cookies and more. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator. 

The new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® is made from real, simple ingredients – 100% taste, 0% artificial preservatives. I love that it is made from real, simple ingredients you can recognize like a delicious blend of plant-based oils, purified water and a pinch of salt. The new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® is the first spread from Unilever in the U.S. to be made from non-GMO sourced ingredients. Visit ICBINB's website to learn more. And once you try the new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter be sure to stop by and leave a review!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cheesy Chipotle Dip {The Perfect Holiday Party Recipe}

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser #SeasonedGreetings . All opinions are mine alone.

Pin It

When it comes to holiday party recipes, I often find myself sticking to the tried and true favorites that we serve every year. This year I decided to "spice"things up a bit and try a few recipes outside of our usual cheese plate, veggie tray and salsa routine. In planing ahead for our annual Christmas party, I decided to use our Friendsgiving get together as the test run for some new appetizers.

There was a large, football watching, beer drinking, male heavy crowd at Friendsgiving and so this Chipotle dip made with Tabasco sauce was the perfect thing to serve. I grabbed an assortment of Tabasco sauces while at Target last week and chose the Chipotle version to use in my dip. While Justin always keeps Tabasco sauce in the fridge as a condiment, I had never really cooked with it so I decided to adapt one of our favorite cheese dips yet again.

This Swiss Cheese Bread Dip is a family favorite that originally comes from the kitchen of my pseudo-aunt Nancy Jane. My family would riot if it wasn't served at our Christmas party each year but I get tired of serving the same appetizers over and over again. This year I will be serving its spicier, older cousin- Chipotle Cheese Dip.

I tweaked the original recipe by adding some chives, some Tabasco Chipotle sauce, and swapping out the Swiss cheese for Pepper Jack. Top the finished dip with an extra drizzle of Tabasco and some chives and you have a very festive looking Christmas dip. My Friendsgiving guinea pigs destroyed this dip. In fact, we served one half of the dip when the football game started and I had to refill it with the second part of the recipe before the first quarter had even ended.

The smokey flavor of the Tabasco was complimented perfectly by the creaminess of the cheese and mayo and the chives added the perfect amount of flavor.  What's great about this dish is that you can adjust the amount (and flavor variety) of the Tabasco sauce depending on how adventurous your party goers are. The girls in our group felt that the 1/2 tablespoon in the dip and the extra 1/2 tablespoon I used on top of it was just perfect but many of the men felt it could have been kicked up a notch.

This dip was such a hit at Friendsgiving that it is definitely going to be on the appetizer menu at our upcoming annual Christmas party. And I have a feeling I may be making a double batch just in case.

Cheesy Chipotle Dip
  • 8 oz.cream cheese (softened) 
  • 3/4 cup of mayonnaise 
  • 2 cups of shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of finely sliced chives 
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
  • Chips, crackers and/or veggies to serve it with
1.) Mix together the cream cheese, mayo, shredded cheese, chives and 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of the Chipotle Tabasco (this can vary depending on how much heat you and your guests prefer)

2.) Place mixture in an oven safe dish (I usually split mine up into two different servings). I drizzled another half tablespoon of Tabasco over mine before I baked it and it looked (and tasted) amazing. 

3.) Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the dip is bubbling and browned around the edges.

4.) Top with a few extra chives for decoration and serve warm with chips, crackers, and veggies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Friendsgiving 2014

Pin It

This past weekend we celebrated Friendsgiving 2014. My good friend Aaron was the amazing hostess and she went crazy with burlap and metallics in the best possible way. Everything was perfection and what follows is a little photo and word dump recap of the celebration.

Theme: burlap, metallics and white serving ware.

Tablescape: #24long, baby's breath, taper candles, white linen napkins, gold chargers and mason jars.

Drinks: Sangria, Hot Cider, beer, wine & spirits galore.

Hanging lights, twine, chalkboards and falling leaves.

The ladies.

The hostess and official Friendsgiving mascot, Quincy.


 A little family "Christmas card" photo shoot.

A little Pie Party for dessert.

Cheers to amazing night of food & friends. So much to be thankful for. We are luckier than most.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thanksgiving Pie Party

Looking for more Holiday Party Ideas? Check out all of my party plans and season recipes HERE!

Pin It

I bake a lot of things from scratch for the holidays. Pies aren't one of them. Every year Justin goes on and on about how he wishes I would make pies so this year I decided to make sure that he would have plenty of pie at all of his holiday celebrations.

Since I have probably only made one pie in my entire life, I decided to grab a variety of Mrs. Smith's pies from Walmart to bring to our recent Friendsgiving celebration. Justin loves all pie flavors equally so I grabbed a Pumpkin, Cherry, Very Berry, Dutch Apple and Traditional Apple Pie as well as Cool Whip for topping. I also got an extra Dutch Apple and Very Berry to make mini mason jar pies too.

The night before the party I baked up all the pies so that I would have minimal prep in the morning. We were helping the hostess decorate so I wanted to not be stressed out. I made an Apple Pie Spice Cool Whip to go in the mini pies and for topping the regular pie slices and I had made that the night before too. It was so nice to be able to get everything done ahead of time and Mrs. Smith's makes it so simple to bake the pies right out of the freezer.

The morning of, I assembled the mason jar pies and stored them in the fridge for later. I originally made the mason jar pies for convenience since dessert is often eaten while standing around mingling and pie in a jar is way easier to eat than an actual slice is.

But as it turns out, the pie jars were a huge hit. Every single one was eaten. My personal favorite was the Dutch Apple with Apple Spice Cool Whip, toffee and a salted caramel drizzle but people got pretty excited about the Very Berry with chocolate sauce too. This also further proved my theory that everything tastes even better in a jar.

My friend Aaron was the hostess this year and she had an adorable decor theme of burlap, whites and metallics so I decided to go with plates and napkins to match. I also added a little sparkly burlap ribbon to my mason jars. It only took a few minutes to do and it made me so happy. I think the guests appreciated it too. Stay tuned tomorrow for a Friendsgiving post with photos of all of Aaron's amazing decor and tablescape.

I wanted to have a little hot beverage station to go with the desserts so I pre-made some hot spiced cider and brought it over to the party in an insulated airpot and even though it was made at 3:30 in the afternoon it was still "nuclear hot" according to the guys at 10pm.

I couldn't find hot beverage cups to match my plates and napkins so I bought basic white cups with coffee sleeves and added a little gold and silver washi tape to them so they would go with the decor. Little things like that make me irrationally happy when it comes to entertaining. I also put out some metallic markers so people could label their drinks (or pie plates if they were possessive like that).

When setting up the pie table I used cake plates and three tiered dessert stands to give some height and depth to the table. I used a mason jar with burlap ribbon around it to hold my spoons and I went with disposable pie cutters and plates because I didn't want to be digging through all the trash for my servingware and it made clean up very easy. I made sure to save the box the mason jars came in because it makes for a great way to store and transport mini desserts. 

To make the dessert station interactive I set up a chalkboard voting station where guests vote for their favorite type of pie. The voting (and the majority of the dessert eating) didn't take place until well after dark so I didn't get a shot of the final tally but I am pretty sure that Dutch Apple won. Although I am positive that if the mason jar pies had a number, they would have won by a landslide.

Want to save on Mrs. Smith's pies and Cool Whip for your next party? Be sure to print out this coupon to save $1.00 on Mrs. Smith’s Pie with the purchase of Cool Whip. I was able to get two prints of it and saved $2 on my purchase last week.

If you need more inspiration for the holidays, check out the Cooking Up Good website. They have recipes, sweepstakes, loyalty programs, coupons and more!  If you're looking for a new dinner idea or a chance to win some awesome prizes, be sure to check it out!

Mason Jar Pies

Dutch Apple Version:

  • 1 cooked and cooled Mrs. Smith's Dutch Apple Pie
  • Apple Pie Spice Cool Whip (see recipe below)
  • Salted Caramel Sauce
  • Toffee bits
  • Chocolate sprinkles (optional)
1.) Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out two scoops of Dutch Apple pie into the bottom of the mason jar. 

2.) Top with Apple Pie Spice Cool Whip, drizzle with caramel sauce and top with toffee bits and sprinkles. Store in the refrigerator. 

Very Berry Version:

  • 1 cooked and coole Mrs. Smith's Very Berry Pie
  • Cool Whip
  • Chocolate Sauce

1.) Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out two scoops of Very Berry pie into the bottom of the mason jar. 

2.) Top with Cool Whip and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Store in the refrigerator. 

Apple Pie Spice Cool Whip:

Mix 1/2 tablespoon of apple pie spice into a tub of Cool Whip. Store in the fridge. 


Looking for more Thankgiving dessert ideas? Check out these 15 non-pie recipes!

This post was sponsored by Mrs. Smith's Pies & Cool Whip. All ideas and views are my own. 

Other posts you may like:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...