Thursday, December 22, 2022

Christmas Cocktails + Gingerbread Cake

Merry Christmas Eve eve! I can't believe Christmas is practically here!

Christmas Morning Cocktail

Today I wanted to share an easy Christmas morning cocktail. All you need is orange juice, cranberries, rosemary, oranges, and champagne. It is the perfect festive twist on a classic mimosa. Start by getting any ice cube tray you would like and fill them with cranberries, rosemary, and small orange slices. Then add orange juice to fill. Freeze until hardened. Place in cocktail glass and pour champagne over. This is the perfect way to keep your drink cold but not watery. Finish with sugared rosemary, cranberries, and orange slices/peels. 

See below for more details about the garnishes!

Gingerbread Cake

I posted this last year, but the gingerbread mix from Trader Joe's is the BEST and it is so versatile. The mix has little pieces of ginger in it, which gives it the best flavor. You can use it to make gingerbread cookies, gingerbread pancakes, or gingerbread cupcakes/cake. I've tried them all, and they are all delicious! This year I decided to make a mini naked gingerbread cake with cream cheese buttercream. I love how it turned out! It is so mini and cute. I tried a couple different decorations on top including some of the garnishes (see below) I made for the cocktails as well as the mini gingerbread houses I made from scratch. See more about those here.


The garnishes might be my favorite part of both of these and they are so easy to do yourself. 

For the orange peel, just cut a round of your orange and slice off the skin. Leave some of the white on there to help it keep it's shape, but cut most of it off carefully. Once you have your long peel, wrap it around a straw and hold it tight for 15-20 seconds. When you take it off, it will hold the shape! SO easy and makes your drink look extra fancy. 

For the dried oranges. Slice an orange into very thin even rounds. Place them on a pan and put them in the oven at 200 degrees for 6-7 hours. It is better to bake them at a lower temperature for longer, than risking burning them. Also it will make your house smell good!

For the sugared cranberries and rosemary, just make a simple syrup by combining 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar in a pan on the stove. Stir over heat until the sugar is dissolved. Coat the cranberries and rosemary in the syrup. Shake off any excess and let them sit on a drying rack for about an hour. They will still be sticky after an hour and that is when you will roll or shake them in sugar. I found for the cranberries you kind of have to press them into the sugar for the best look. You do not need to be careful with the cranberries they will hold up just fine. I love how festive and fun they look on the top of the cake or in a drink! Also, once you are done with them you can throw all these ingredients in a simmer pot and add some fresh evergreen stems and cinnamon sticks and your house will smell AMAZING. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!


Monday, December 19, 2022

Christmas Breakfast Spread (Part 3)

One of my favorite recent Christmas traditions is hosting Christmas brunch! This is my third year hosting and I have loved it every single year. Here is last year's spread and here is the original spread from two years ago. 

This year's menu included some tried and true favorites like cookies, coffee, mimosas, bacon, and waffles. Check out this year's cookies here. We also had some additions this year which included reindeer donut holes, mini quiches, monkey bread, and chicken minis (recipe below). I found this recipe on Pinterest and it is a new favorite of ours!

Chicken Minis

1 package crescent rolls 

Frozen Chicken Nuggets (I used Tyson Anytizers)

Melted butter + honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the crescent roll dough into thin triangles (I usually do 3 pieces from each roll). Wrap the chicken with the dough. Put them in the oven for 20 minutes. Take out and brush with melted butter + honey combo. Leave in another 15-20 minutes. If the tops are getting too done, you can cover with tin foil. Enjoy!

For actual Christmas morning I am going to try a few new recipes like a homemade quiche, a gingerbread cake, and mimosas with sugared cranberries and rosemary. Stay tuned!


Monday, December 12, 2022

Christmas Cookie Box

I have been busy busy busy this year baking up a storm! I have loved making some of my favorite tried and true recipes and trying out new ones this year. I was inspired by Tieghan of Half Baked Harvest to make a Christmas cookie box (well mine is more of a tray) this year. It is such a fun idea and I plan to do a variation every year. I even used one of Tieghan's new-to-me recipes and they are AMAZING (Christmas Monster Cookies), highly recommend giving them a try. I have/plan to bring a tray of these varieties to all my holiday gatherings this year. So far, the spreads have been a hit! I have included recipes below. The only recipe I didn't include are my classic sugar cookies, but I have several other posts about them if you are interested. By far, the hardest to make were the mini gingerbread mug huggers. They were fun, but a LOT of work. I do love how they turned out though! You can buy them on Uncommon Goods, but they are currently sold out. More below.

Russian tea cakes

1 cup butter softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients. You might need to mix it with your hands at the end to help it come together. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not over-bake. Roll in powdered sugar when warm. 

For the snowmen I pushed two of the tea cakes together before baking. Once cooled I dipped them in royal icing. Make sure the royal icing is on the thinner side (more of a flood consistency if you are familiar with cookie decorating). I added a gummy for the nose. I melted some dark chocolate and piped the details on. 

Peppermint Pretzels

I used the extra dark chocolate leftover from the snowmen and drizzled it some pretzels and added some crushed peppermint!

Pretzel Kisses

Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Lay out pretzels on baking sheet and place one Hershey's kiss or Rolo on top of each. Put in oven for 5-6 minutes. Place m&m on top right when they come out of the oven. Let cool. I used Rolos this time because I love the caramel addition, but you could also use dark chocolate kisses, peppermint kisses, or any kind you like!

Buckeyes/Peanut Butter Balls

2 cups peanut butter (I usually only use creamy but this year I made half of the batch with creamy and half with crunchy - my husband's favorite)

1/2 cup butter softened

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) dark chocolate (melting chocolate or chips)

Mix all ingredients and roll into balls. Freeze 15-20 minutes. Dip and let harden. Use a toothpick to dip them more easily, then you can smooth over the hole after it hardens.  I like to store them in the refrigerator, but it is not required. 

Shortbread Sandwiches

3 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 - 1 cup of your favorite jam/jelly 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour and salt. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar and add vanilla. Add flour slowly. Sometimes it is easiest to mix with your hands at the end to help it come together. Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate (optional, but makes it easier to roll out). Roll out the dough and cut any size scalloped circles. In half of the circles, cut out a mini tree. Bake for 12 minutes. Once cooled, add jelly or jam and create sandwiches. Dust with powdered sugar.  I made larger versions of these in the summer with stars (can be found here) and this time I did tree cutouts, but you could do any shape you want! 

Christmas Monster Cookies: Half Baked Harvest

1 cup butter softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

1 tbsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups oats

1 1/4 cups m&ms (set aside the 1/4 for topping)

1 cup crushed mini pretzel sticks

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter, brown sugar, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add oats and fold in chocolate chips, pretzels, and m&ms. Use scooper to make large )1/4 cup) balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Rotate them in oven then bake 2 more minutes. Take out and press remaining m&ms on top. Bake 2-3 more minutes. Best served warm! 

*I love these cookies super fresh so I freeze them after they cool and then take one out and let it thaw whenever I want one. I find oatmeal cookies can sometimes get stale quickly and this helps! Also be careful not to over-bake them!

Mini Gingerbread Houses

3 cups flours

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

6 tbsp. butter softened

3/4 cups brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup molasses

2 tsp. vanilla

1-3 tsp, milk as needed (only add a small amount at a time - see below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, spices. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add egg, beat slowly. Add molasses. Slowly mix in flour. If it is too dry, add milk slowly until it comes together. You don't want the dough to be too sticky. Roll out on lightly floured surface. Cut into shapes. I made some regular cut outs, but also use this cookie cutter to create all the pieces to assemble a mini gingerbread house mug hugger. Bake for 8 minutes.

I used royal icing to decorate and assemble the houses. I highly recommend decorating each piece and letting them dry before assembling the house. Use a thicker royal icing for the "glue" when assembling. I use this tiny tip to decorate or just snip off a tiny bit at the end of a plastic bag.

Happy Holidays!


Saturday, December 10, 2022

Holly Jolly Hilbers House - 2022 Christmas Decor

I can't believe Christmas is almost here! Yes, my Christmas decorations have been up since November 1st, but I just can't get enough. There is something about decorating our house for Christmas that just makes me so HAPPY.  It's a very plaid, cozy vibe at the Hilbers house this year - a very Ralph Lauren Christmas. I love collecting special Christmas pieces year after year. I love browsing through Christmas decor pictures for inspiration, so I hope these can give you some inspo.  I linked everything I could below.