Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! While there are some years we would like to hold on to, 2020 is one year where we can all agree we are happy to see come to a close. Granted, it’s not like midnight will hit and all the problems that we have faced this year will fade away, but, turning the page and starting anew with a new year gives people greater hope as opposed to a new month rolling in.

What I think most of us have found this year is inner strength, renewed appreciation for family and friends, who the real heroes are and who we really should admire and look up to, and just how fragile life is. That last one is one that I learned quite some time ago and because of it I do my best to appreciate every day and to find humor in things even in the worst of times. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

And speaking of humor, there are some light-hearted things we have learned this year that are just as important… That your pets make great coworkers (I’m looking at you “Bob the Bird”), that you finally learned where mute is on Zoom, how to position a camera properly so you look amazing on video calls (and no one sees your pajama bottoms), and that you have hidden talents like making sourdough or is it sourdough starter. Sorry, I didn’t jump on that trend. The only trend I tried was Dalgona Coffee and I actually made a chocolate version instead.

I wonder what the trends of 2021 will be. Will we still be making Hot Cocoa Bombs? I hope so. I was late to that one, so I have yet to try it. I’m also hoping to learn Macrame. But we’ll see, that seems to be an expensive hobby.

I leave you with the lyrics to the song “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls. It was originally released in 2005 and once again this year on their Christmas Album. I think the message is perfect for this holiday season and as we go into 2021… Hopefully we all will find better days.

And you asked me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
‘Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

I need some place simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And that’s faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child who saved this world
And there’s ten million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

Gingerbread Cake

While peppermint gets all the glory as the flavor of the holiday season there is another flavor that is just as popular… Gingerbread. And while you may only think of houses and cookies when it comes to gingerbread, it’s also a great flavor for a holiday themed cake.

So, what exactly is gingerbread flavor? Well, it’s a combination of spices – ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon – and usually sweetened with molasses. I honestly think it’s the molasses that gives gingerbread it’s distinct flavor more so than the spices.

To make things a little easy I used a spice cake mix as the base for my cake and then added in some additional spices, molasses and other ingredients to doctor it up. I got the recipe from fellow blogger Baking with Blondie. She made cupcakes with her recipe whereas I opted to use the recipe to make 2 6-inch cake layers. Once they were cooled, I wrapped them in plastic wrap and refrigerated them overnight before frosting. Frosting cold cakes is a lot easier than frosting cooled, but still room temperature ones.

I left the cakes in the refrigerator overnight and before removing them I made a Spiced Almond Cream Cheese Frosting. This frosting is so good I could eat spoonful’s as dessert!

Once the frosting was ready I torte the cakes and filled and frosted them with the frosting.

And finally, I decorated the cake with gingerbread men (you could bake them or, do as I did and use store-bought ones), fresh rosemary and sugared cranberries.

Gingerbread Cake with Spiced Almond Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup sour cream

2/3 cup buttermilk*

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup molasses

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 box spiced cake mix

For the Frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 8oz. block cream cheese, at room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Gingerbread Men, Fresh Rosemary Sprigs, Sugared Cranberries for decoration

*I made my own by combining 2/3 cup whole milk with 3 teaspoons of white vinegar. Stir together and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. It will begin to curdle when ready.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray two 6-inch pans with baking spray and set aside.

To make the cake: In a large bowl combine all the ingredients for the cake, except the spiced cake mix, and stir together until well combined. Sift the cake mix into the mixture and stir all the ingredients together until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing them and transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: Using a hand mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese on high speed until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, nutmeg and heavy cream. Continue mixing and gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until thoroughly combined.

Torte the cooled cakes and then frost about a cup of the frosting on one of the cakes. Stack the other cake on top and crumb coat the cake. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes and then use the remaining frosting to finish frosting the cake. Decorate with gingerbread men, sugared cranberries and fresh rosemary.

Recipe from Baking with Blondie

Sugared Cranberries

Ingredients:

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar

12oz. bag fresh cranberries

Directions:

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cranberries until well coated. You will want to work fast as the cranberries may begin to burst.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cranberries to a parchment lined wire rack to dry for at least an hour.

Pour the remaining sugar into a bowl. Once the cranberries are dry work in batches to coat the cranberries in the sugar. Transfer to a clean piece of parchment paper and let the cranberries dry for at least an hour.

Christmas Tree Brownies

Are you still looking for an easy and quick Christmas themed dessert to make? These Christmas Tree Brownies may just be the thing. You can make these completely homemade, semi-homemade, or just by using store bought items only. I went with semi-homemade. Using a boxed brownie mix and homemade frosting. And since they only make 8 brownies, they may be the perfect amount for your smaller get togethers this year.

 

I prepped the brownie batter per the instructions on the box and then poured it into an 8-inch round cake pan that I lined with parchment paper and sprayed with baking spray. Using a round cake pan is the key behind cutting even triangles without any waste. And while I don’t normally line my pan with parchment paper when making brownies, I did so this time to ensure the brownies wouldn’t stick to the pan.

After baking, I let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cooled I easily removed them from the pan…

And sliced them into 8 even triangles.

I had leftover frosting from decorating a cake a few days prior, so I let it sit out at room temperature, since it had been refrigerated, for a few hours before tinting it green. If you don’t want to make your own frosting you can use store bought. At this time of the year you may even be able to find green frosting.

Next I made small slits with a paring knife into the base of the brownie triangles…

I did this so it would be easier to insert paper straws into the brownies to resemble a tree trunk.

While I used paper straws that I picked up at my local party store cut in half, you could also use peppermint candy canes. You’ll just need to trim off the curved part and depending on the length of your candy canes cut them in half. Regardless of whether you are using straws or candy canes, you will want to insert them first into the brownies before decorating them. If you don’t, you may end up smudging the decorated brownie.

Once the straws were inserted it was time to decorate. I filled a piping bag fitted with a small star tip (I used a Wilton 16) with the green frosting and piped it onto the brownies to resemble a Christmas tree.

Finally, I sprinkled Christmas themed nonpareils onto the frosting and topped each with a gold star sprinkle.

And just as easy as that I had made Christmas Tree Brownies!

 

Supply List:

8 Triangle Shaped Brownies (Use a box mix or your favorite recipe baked in an 8-inch round cake pan)

Green Frosting (Use your favorite vanilla frosting recipe tinted green or buy vanilla frosting and tint it green or even easier, if you can find it, buy green frosting) – About 1/2 cup

Paper straws or candy canes

Christmas Themed Nonpareils

Gold Star Sprinkles

Cookie Palooza: Chocolate Dipped Butter Cookies

I normally end Cookie Palooza with a no-bake option for those individuals who just don’t have the time to bake or for those who baking is just not their thing. Unfortunately, not this year though. Although, I am bringing you a cookie that’s pretty fool-proof and will have people asking you if you made them yourself. A Chocolate Dipped Butter Cookie.

 

I began by making the dough. In a large bowl I creamed together butter and confectioners’ sugar and then added in vanilla extract and finally flour. I covered the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerated the dough for an hour.

After an hour I removed the dough from the refrigerator and used a cookie scoop to scoop the dough and then formed it into small logs that I placed about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Yes, they are closer than that in this picture, but it was only for the picture.

Next, I pressed about three-fourths of the cookie with a fork to flatten it. To prevent the fork from sticking to the dough, since it was starting to get a bit sticky from being handled, I dipped the fork in flour every few cookies. I’ll admit that they did look a little wonky before going into the oven and I was having doubts that they would look good after baking…

But, after baking them in a 350 F preheated for about 15 minutes, they didn’t look all that bad. Especially after dipping the unflatten part of the cookie in melted chocolate and sprinkling it with holiday sprinkles. And while I used holiday sprinkles, you could totally do chopped nuts instead or your favorite color of sprinkles.

Final verdict… These were a hit! Sometimes butter cookies can be on the dry side and/or lacking flavor, but these were neither. I was actually asked if I had made them myself, they were so good! This is definitely a nice cookie you can gift to anyone on your list this year. But, if you are still doubting you could whip these up, check out the no-bake option I ended last year’s Cookie Palooza with… A Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookie. Which is eerily similar to how I ended this year.

I hope you have enjoyed this year’s Cookie Palooza. As the year winds down and we look forward to 2021, that will hopefully be better than this year, stay safe and be healthy!

 

Chocolate Dipped Butter Cookies

  • Servings: 30 Cookies
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Ingredients:

For Cookies:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

 

For Dipping:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon shortening

Holiday sprinkles

 

Directions:

In a large bowl cream together the butter and confectioners’ sugar using a handheld mixer on medium speed. Add in the vanilla extract and mix well. Gradually add in the flour until combined. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350F. Shape tablespoonfuls of the dough into 2 1/2-in x 1/2-in logs and place 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. With a fork, flatten three-fourths of each log lengthwise. Bake in the preheated oven for 14 – 16 minutes, or until the cookies are set. Cool on the baking sheets.

Combine the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave safe bowl and melt in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval. Dip the round end of the cookie into the chocolate and then place on a piece of wax paper. Before the chocolate sets sprinkle with the sprinkles. Let chocolate firm. To speed up the process you can place the cookie in the refrigerator for a few minutes.

Recipe from Taste of Home

Cookie Palooza: Brown Butter Crinkles

Crinkles are great holiday cookies. You can make them in numerous flavors or stick with a simple recipe and tint the batter red and/or green for Christmas or blue for Hanukkah. In fact, I have been sharing a crinkle cookie recipe for the past couple of years during my Cookie Palooza. Believe it or not there is a science behind crinkle cookies. The cookies get their look and name because the surface of the cookie dries out before the cookie is done spreading and rising while baking. This causes the cookie to harden, crack and pull apart, hence the name crinkles. This is all thanks to rolling the dough in granulated sugar and then confectioners’ sugar prior to baking. I’ve shared quite a few crinkle recipes here on my blog and today I am sharing my favorite thus far, a Brown Butter Crinkle.

To start, you need to make brown butter. To do so I melted a stick of unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once it started to boil, I reduced the heat to medium and let the melted butter simmer until foamy. I stirred it occasionally and scraped the bottom of the pan until the foam subsided and the butter turned a golden brown and had a nutty aroma. I then transferred the melted butter and the brown specks that formed to a large heatproof bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

While the butter cooled I combined the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Once the butter cooled, I mixed in granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and finally the flour mixture until the dough formed. I then transferred it to a piece of plastic wrap and shaped it into a disk and refrigerated it for an hour. The dough needs to be refrigerated because it is extremely soft. Thanks to the brown butter, the dough (and ultimately the cookie itself) had a nice mocha color.

After an hour I removed the dough from the refrigerator and while the dough did firm up some, it was still soft enough to scoop with a cookie scoop. I scooped the dough and rolled it into a ball…

And then coated each with granulated sugar and then confectioners’ sugar.

And baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for about 15 minutes. After letting them cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes I then transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely.

So, why are these my favorite crinkle cookies now? Well, it’s because of the brown butter. Brown butter added a nice nutty flavor to the cookie.

Looking for more crinkle flavors, check out these recipes:

Key Lime Crinkles

PeanutButterCrinkles

Chocolate Walnut Crinkles

Chocolate Crinkles

Red Velvet Blossom

 

Brown Butter Crinkles

  • Servings: 30 Cookies
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Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter

2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

 

Directions:

Melt the stick of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to boil reduce the heat to medium and simmer until foamy. Continue cooking the butter, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan, until foam subsides, and the butter has turned a golden brown with a nutty aroma and milk solids separate into brown specks that sink to the bottom of the pan, 2 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large heatproof bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt – and set aside.

Once the butter has cooled, stir in 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar and the dark brown sugar into the brown butter until combined. Add in the eggs and vanilla and finally the flour mixture until the dough forms. Transfer the dough to piece of plastic wrap, shape into a disk and then wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in another small bowl. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the dough and roll into a bowl. Roll the dough in the granulated sugar and then in the confectioners’ sugar. Place on the prepared on the baking sheet, spacing the cookies about 1 inch apart.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes. The cookies will be done when they spread slightly, crackle and are set at the edges. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cookie Perfection

Cookie Palooza: Spicy Chocolate Cookies

Winter is the perfect time to enjoy a warm mug of hot chocolate. I am partial to peppermint hot chocolate myself. Today’s Cookie Palooza cookie, Spicy Chocolate Cookies, has all the decadence of hot chocolate in one bite, but, with the addition of cinnamon and cayenne pepper they are reminiscent of a Mexican Hot Chocolate. Don’t fear though, the cayenne doesn’t make these super spicy or anything. It’s actually a nice complement to the chocolate. And the chocolate chunks added to the cookies melt perfectly while baking to create a nice smooth texture within them. To top them off, they are rolled in turbinado sugar before baking… Yum!

Spicy Chocolate Cookies

  • Servings: 30 Cookies
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Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, cayenne pepper and baking soda.

In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and dark brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture until just combined.

Place the turbinado sugar in a small bowl. Use a cookie scoop to scoop the dough and then roll into a ball and gently roll in the turbinado sugar and then place on the prepared cookie sheets 2 inches apart.

Bake in the preheated oven for 11 to 14 minutes, or until the cookies begin to crack slightly. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes until transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cookie Perfection

Cookie Palooza: Apricot Walnut Triangles

Welcome to day two of Cookie Palooza 2020. Today I am bringing you a cookie bar that I would say is like shortbread cookie topped with the filling of a rugelach cookie. If you like either one of those cookies or even better both, you will love these cookie bars. Best of all, they are super easy to make and lot quicker than rugelach.

To begin I made the dough for the crust. After making it I pressed it into an 8×8 baking dish I greased with butter.

Next, I spread a few tablespoons of apricot preserves over the dough.

And finally, I combined melted butter, sugar, water and chopped walnuts in a small bowl and then spread it over the apricot preserves.

I baked it in a 350 F preheated oven until the edges began to brown and the center was set, about 35 minutes. After letting it cool in the dish for about a half hour on a wire rack, I cut the cookies into 4 equal parts and then removed it from the dish and cut each square into 4 2-inch squares and then cut those squares into triangles. I then placed them back on the wire rack to cool completely.

And to finish the cookie bars, once they were completely cooled, I melted a cup of dark chocolate chips in the microwave and dipped the corner of each cookie in the chocolate.

I placed them in the fridge for a few minutes so the chocolate could set and then it was time to enjoy. As I mentioned, the crust is reminiscent of a shortbread cookie and the topping that of the filling for rugelach. With a combination like that you can’t go wrong! What’s also nice about these cookie bars is that the flavors can be switched around just by using a different jams/preserves and/or nut. To make these extra festive for the holidays you could swap out the apricot preserves with raspberry jam and use white chocolate in lieu of the dark chocolate.

Apricot Walnut Triangles

  • Servings: 32 Triangles
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Ingredients:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar, divided

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons apricot preserves

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 tablespoons water

3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray an 8-inch square pan with baking spray, or, grease with butter. Set aside.

In a bowl, using a handheld mixer, cream together the room temperature butter and 1/2 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. In another bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder and gradually beat it into the butter mixture. Once the dough has formed, press it into the prepared 8-inch square pan.

Spread the preserves over the dough. In a small bowl mix the melted butter with the water and remaining sugar. Stir in the walnuts and then spread the mixture over the preserves.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the center is set.

Cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack and then cut into sixteen 2-inch square and then cut each square in half to create triangles. Remove from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Place a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals, stirring between each. Once melted dip the corner of each triangle into the chocolate and then place on the prepared baking to set. If you find that the chocolate is not setting place in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

Store in an airtight container.

Recipe from Taste of Home

Cookie Palooza: Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies

While many aspects of the holidays will be different this year due to COVID, one thing can remain the same… the baking. While cookie swaps may have to take a back seat this year that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday goodies yourself and with those in your quarantine circle. With that being said welcome to Cookie Palooza 2020. Each day this week I will bring you a new cookie recipe that will hopefully make it on your holiday baking list. Up first a loaded oatmeal cookie. While the recipe called these a White Chocolate Chunk Cookie, I decided to refer to them as a Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookie for the title of this blog post thanks to the walnuts, coconut, golden raisins, white chocolate chips and of course oatmeal added to the dough. That’s quite a mouthful. And while the recipe for these cookies makes 4 dozen, you could easily halve the recipe to suit your needs.

Here’s a look of all of the add-ins together before I added them to the dough…

And what the dough looked like after stirring them all in.

And while these cookies do have a lot going on, not one thing overpowers the other. And don’t worry, if you are not a fan of coconut, you won’t even notice the coconut in the cookies. Or, you could just leave them out to be on the safe side.

White Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 cups old-fashioned oats

12oz. bag white chocolate chips

1 cup sweetened coconut flakes

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl cream the butter and both sugars together with a hand mixer on medium speed until creamy. Mix in the eggs one at a time until combined and then stir in the vanilla extract.

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, coconut, raisins and walnuts.

Using a cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Flatten the dough slightly. Bake in the preheated oven for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the cookies are golden. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cookies

Living Room Remodel

A few years ago I posted about the new sofa I purchased for my living room. In that post I talked about how I wanted to completely remodel the living room and change-up the paneling in the room. I don’t know if it was because I was spending so much time at home that I just got tired of the paneling or because I saw how nice paneling looked painted after watching a home improvement show on HGTV, but, I finally decided it was time to do something about it.

I did some research to find out what the best primer and roller was to use and then primed and painted a small section of the paneling behind the curtains. It came out nice and I quickly decided that I wanted to paint the entire living room.

First though I had to paint the ceiling. So, I taped up around the mirror, covered some furniture with old sheets, removed some items off a shelving unit and pictures off the wall and got to painting.

The following week I started in on the walls. Before priming and painting I washed the paneling with a mild soap (Dawn dish soap) to remove any dirt and dust build-up. Once the paneling was clean and dry, I applied the first coat of primer. I used a multi-surface primer and a thick roller (3/4-inch nap) meant for rough surfaces so I would be able to get into the grooves of the paneling. Applying the first coat of primer took me a lot longer than I anticipated… like 5 hours! But, taking my time was worth it as I was able to get the primer into all the grooves, although, the brown of the paneling was still peeking through considerably so I began to have some concerns that it wasn’t going to look nice, but, there was no turning back. It’s one thing when you paint a small sample section but another thing when you paint all the walls.

The following day I applied a second coat of primer and I felt better about what the final outcome would look like. I could hardly see the brown peeking through.

And a few days later I painted the walls with the first coat of color I had chosen… Whisper White.

The following day I applied another coat of the color and since the paint was a paint and primer in one I basically applied 4 coats of primer and two coats of paint to the wall so I am happy to say that the brown paneling was a distant memory by the time I was done painting.

Once the walls were done it was time to refinish some of the furniture. Initially I was only planning on painting the base of the coffee and side table but then decided to spruce up the shelving unit as well. The three pieces were made by my Dad, who passed away about five years ago, so it was important to me to keep them.

I started with the shelves. I didn’t want to strip the wood completely so I bought a wood stain that was slightly darker than the original color and could be applied to wood that is already stained. All I needed to do was lightly sand the wood. After lightly sanding the shelves I used an oil-based black paint to repaint the metal portion of the unit and then re-stained the shelves.

Before…

After…

Then it was on to the side table and coffee table. Initially I was going to spray paint both of them black. I even bought the spray paint, but I had reservations about it. I was concerned that the color would be uneven or worse that it would be streaky. Since I had so much of the black paint left from painting the metal on the shelving unit, I decided to paint them instead. To prep them I lightly sanded them to get off any loose paint and rust.

Before…

 

 

After…

Once I was done with the walls and the furniture there was one thing left that was bugging me. The rug. I knew eventually I wanted to rip out the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors. But, seeing how good the walls looked and the newly painted furniture I knew I had to get rid of the rug ASAP.

I was able to get a reasonable quote for the floors, so I went for it. To save money I ripped out the carpet myself with the help of a friend’s husband. Ripping the carpet out was the easy part, the tedious part was removing all of the nails and staples. Ripping the carpet out led to another expense… the need for new baseboards. The original baseboards weren’t flush to the floor but instead were about an inch from the floor and the carpet filled that inch.

The floors before (they were in pretty bad shape) …

Right after the sanding…

In the process of being stained…

The finished floors…

Once all these big things were done it was time for the finishing touches.

The curtains… I purchased paisley patterned pinch pleat curtains that I was initially planning on hanging on traverse rods. Finding curtains for traverse rods is not an easy feat and I fell in love with these but, they were only available in 108” and I needed 96″, so I ended up hemming all of the curtains with heat bond.

I installed the traverse rods I purchased and after hemming all of the curtains I hung them and then when I went to pull the cord to open and close the curtains it didn’t work. They worked fine without the curtains on them but not with. So, after trying to fix them I determined that the rods must be defective.

So, I painstakingly removed the curtains from the rods and all of the hooks that I had inserted to hang them. After going back and forth as to what to do I decided to forgo the traverse rod idea and purchased a curtain rod that hangs from the ceiling as opposed to attaching to the wall. Thankfully the curtains I purchased had loops behind them that enabled me to use a “regular” curtain rod to hang them. I must say I am much happier with this rod and I am able to open and close the curtains a lot easier than I am sure I would have ever been able to with the traverse rods.

Since I had so much blue in the living room – sofa, curtains and my new tv stand – I decided to add a pop of color with this blue and orange rug.

I even found an ottoman in the same shade of orange.

And here are some pics of the final look of my living room. I still have to hang pictures on the wall, but, so far so good. I am very happy with the outcome.

What to tackle next??? I am thinking of painting an old bedroom set to breathe new life into it.

Orange Cardamom Madeleines

With the holiday’s just around the corner I have been going through some cookbooks and a few old magazines looking for cookie recipes to share with you during my Cookiepalooza week right after Thanksgiving. I was really hoping to create a few cookie recipes myself, but time is getting away from me and I am much better at creating cake recipes than cookie ones. In my search for recipes I flipped through an old Martha Stewart cookie cookbook and I came across a recipe for some interesting Madeleines… Orange Cardamom Madeleines. And I’ll admit cardamom is not the spice that everyone has in their pantry. It can be a bit pricey, but, it’s worth the money if you like the taste and a little goes a long way. The first time I bought it was to make Kheer, Indian Rice Pudding, and I have had it in my pantry ever since. Not the same bottle of course.

Initially when I made these I wasn’t planning on adding the orange glaze to them. I am not a big fan of glazes. Ultimately, I decided to glaze half of them and I learned that orange and cardamom go together very well. The unglazed cookies had a stronger cardamom flavor, which was fine with me, but the hint of orange from the glaze took them up a notch. My only complaint though was that the glaze was absorbed by the Madeleines as opposed to coating them. So, when you look at them you couldn’t really tell that they had a glaze, whereas the picture accompanying the recipe showed the Madeleines which a thick glaze similar to an iced cookie. Oh well… the important thing is that they were delicious!

Orange Cardamom Madeleines

Ingredients:

For the Madeleines:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pans

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoons ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

 

For the Glaze:

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

 

Directions:

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey and vanilla extract. Let cool for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. In a large bowl stir together the eggs and sugar. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until combined. Add the butter mixture and continue folding until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Brush molds of Madeleine pan with the additional butter.

Transfer the batter to a piping bag and fill each crevice of the pan about halfway. Bake in the preheated oven for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and the edges are golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Unmold the cookies onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar, orange zest, and orange juice in a medium bowl and stir together until the glaze is smooth and thick. Using a small pastry brush, coat the ridged sides of the Madeleines with the glaze. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days.

Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cookies cookbook