Reindeer Bubbles, Hot Cocoa Bar, and Cookie Swap!

Our first year of Sips & Sweets is coming to a close, and we decided to end the year with a Christmas Cookie Swap party with our best gals.

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The ladies! Sarah, Caroline, Colleen, Ellen, Patti, Erin, Marci

We planned our menu with a secret board on Pinterest–we’ve decided that’s the best way to plan a party so your guests are surprised when they arrive.  We also used Evite to create an invitation for our friends and asked each girl to bring a plate of their favorite cookies to share. Everyone received a gingerbread box to take home the swapped cookies.

Read on for all the fun details about our party and recipes from each of our guests to jumpstart your holiday baking ideas!

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MENU

Cocktails:

  • Reindeer Bubbles: sparkling wine with green rimmed glasses and pomegranate seeds. Recipe here.
    • We omitted the simple syrup and pomegranate juice because the sparkling wine was sweet enough
    • Wet the rim of each wine glass and dipped it in green sugar sprinkles
    • Place a teaspoonful of pomegranate seeds in the bottom of the glass
    • Pour sparkling wine in the glass and cheers!
  • Cheers!

    Cheers!

  • Hot Cocoa Bar: homemade hot cocoa in the crockpot. Recipe here. Our fixins included:
    • Baileys and Peppermint Schnapps
    • Marshmallows
    • M&Ms
    • Crushed Candy Canes
    • Whipped Cream
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Hot Cocoa Bar

Appetizers:

  • Trader Joe’s Spinach and Artichoke Dip:  This is some of the best spinach artichoke dip we’ve ever had, and it was so easy to make!  It’s in the freezer section of TJs.  We served it with baguette rounds.
  • Christmas Tree Cheese Tray, which included asiago with rosemary and olive oil, smoked gouda, and white stilton with cranberries.
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Cheese Christmas Tree!

  • Christmas Tree Veggie Wreath and dip.
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Veggie Wreath

Desserts:

  • Decorate Your Own Gingerbread Man: We used the help of our BFF Betty Crocker to make the gingerbread dough, and provided icing and sprinkles for each guest to decorate.
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Gingerbread decorating station

  • Cookies!

 

Caroline brought Peanut Butter Blossoms with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Recipe here.
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Colleen made her specialty: Pretzel M&M cookies.  Recipe here.

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Erin brought Lemon cookies and chocolate dipped butter cookies.  Her recipes are below the picture!

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Mrs. P’s Lemon Cookies

Combine the following by hand, mixing wet ingredients into the dry ones, ultimately kneading with a fork or by hand.

4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
4 eggs slightly beaten
1 stick of butter melted
4 tsp lemon extract

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350.
Once cool, glaze the cookies. Best to put wax paper underneath the cooling rack to catch drips.
Glaze:
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp milk
Mix to a good consistency.

Chocolate-dipped Butter Cookies

1 cup butter softened
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour

Mix all ingredients. Chill briefly but not necessary if no time. Shape dough into small logs and lightly press fork into each. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350. Cookies will be very fragile so be careful transferring from pan to cooling rack.

Once cool, melt 1/2 bag of semi sweet chocolate chops with 1 tbsp shortening over a double boiler. Dip cookies and place on wax paper to harden.

 

Marci brought  Italian Cookies and Cherry Italian Cookies.

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Sarah made salted caramel kiss pies.  Recipe here.

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Patti brought Peanut Butter Reindeer in adorable packages! Recipe here.

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Ellen brought some delicious Apricot Snickerdoodles from Bread & Water Company. We can’t wait to see her new kitchen renovations soon!


We toasted to a fun, sips & sweets filled year of sharing our baking and sipping tips with our friends and you.  Thanks for reading and sipping along with us!  Cheers to 2015!

xoxo,

Colleen and Sarah

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Give Thanks! Apple Cider Mimosa and Mini Pumpkin Pies

Oh Pinterest, you’ve done it again: delicious, festive, and easy recipes to celebrate Thanksgiving! If you need a last-minute signature cocktail or an easy dessert recipe to bring to your Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, we recommend these seasonal treats.

Apple Cider Mimosa, is a different take on the favorite, traditional, and boozy brunch drink! We adapted this recipe from The Cookie Rookie.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Apple Cider-we used Trader Joes apple cider
  • Brut-we used Michelle Brut, but your favorite sparkling wine or champagne should be just as tasty.

DIRECTIONS:

We eyeballed a shot of apple cider and filled the rest of the flute with the sparkling wine. Voila!

 

Apple Cider Mimosa

Apple Cider Mimosa

 

Mini Pumpkin Pies adapted from Make and Takes Mini Pumpkin Pies:

  • pumpkin pie filling for one 9-inch pie (we used the recipe right on the can)
  • two 9-inch pie crust doughs – pre-made from a box
  • round cookie cutter 4 inches in diameter- we used the pumpkin pie filling can to cut out the dough.
  • mini muffin tin
  • whipped cream

1. Prep your dough. Using  a small round cookie cutter or base of a can, cut out circles from your two 9-inch pie crust doughs.

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Use the pumpkin can to cut out perfect circles!

 

2. Place each circle into a pre-greased muffin tin. Press them in, letting the sides come up for a fun look. Score the bottom of your dough with a fork to keep the crust from bubbling up as it cooks.

3. Pour your filling into each muffin tin cup. Fill them to the very top.  We had leftovers of the filling!

4. Bake your muffin tin pumpkin pies at 425 for  about 15 -20 minutes. Keep an eye on them!

5. Let these cool on a wire rack for at least an hour to let the pumpkin filling set.

6. Add a dollop of whipped cream to each individual mini pie.

The cutest bite of pumpkin pie!

The cutest bite of pumpkin pie!

 

This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for our life long friendship.  And the delicious sips and sweets we’ve shared with you so far this year. Happy Thanksgiving!

And, Happy Fall Sipping and Baking!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah

 

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now that Halloween is over, we thought our readers might have some extra candy hanging around the house.  Or, if it is all gone, like ours was, you can take advantage of post-Halloween sales!  We liked the idea of creating a cookie by using up that leftover Halloween candy, so decided to use one of our favorites, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  We adapted Desiree Campbell’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.  Try them out–the vanilla pudding mix makes them softer than regular chocolate chip cookies and nothing with Reese’s peanut butter cups in it can ever be bad.  We hope you enjoy making and eating them as much as we did.
REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUP CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Author: Desiree Campbell
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes–it may have been the old oven or size of the cookies we made, but it took around 12 minutes for our cookies to be done!
Total time: 18 minutes
Almost done...

Almost done…

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 Cup { 2 sticks } butter, softened.
  • ¾ Cup Granulated Sugar
  • ¾ Cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tb. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2¼ Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 Box { 3.4 oz } Vanilla Instant Pudding- this gives the cookies a fluffy texture!
  • 1 Cup Milk Chocolate Chips
  • 20 to 25 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
DIRECTIONS
  • Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  • Peel and cut the Reese’s into fourths. Don’t chopped them… You don’t want them to fall apart.

Tip: As soon as you are done cutting put your Peanut Butter Cups in the freezer and leave them there while you make the rest of the cookies.This will make them firm and they won’t melt away when you add them into your dough.

  • Beat soft butter, brown and white sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.
  • Add the eggs, beat well until creamy.
  • Add the rest of your dry ingredients including the instant pudding.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Take out those delicious chunks of peanut butter cups and add them to the batter. Stir it gently with a wooden spoon. Don’t over do it you want to see and bite into those small chunks later.
  • Drop the batter by teaspoons onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. The first batch always takes an extra minute. DO NOT OVERCOOK! Cookies will get harder as they cool down.
  • When they are baked remove them from the cookie sheet to a wire rack. Enjoy!

Final Product bff WINE

While we baked, we sipped on some Masciarelli Montelpucciano, a nice red wine, which paired perfectly with the spaghetti and turkey meatballs we had for dinner.

 Happy Fall Sipping and Baking!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah

Fall Sweet Potato Fluffins (Fluffy Muffins!) and Spiced Apple Cider with Brandy

Spiced Cider and Brandy

Our Fall Sips Setup!

We’re back! Fall is here, and to celebrate we paired Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Muffins with Spiced Apple Cider with Brandy.

Sarah spotted the Averie Cooks: Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Bread recipe on Pinterest. She got a lot of re-pins so we knew we had to make this delicious and fluffy treat! Instead of bread, we opted to make muffins and top them with walnuts for an extra crunch. The muffins took less time to bake and it was easy to share the individual portions.

Sips & Sweets tip: One of the most important things to keep in mind when baking with a friend: dividing the deliciousness!

Colleen’s favorite fall drink is spiced apple cider with a kick of brandy… not a #PSL (pumpkin spice latte). She still enjoys a PSL but pairing a special fall drink with your favorite liquor can’t really be beat in our opinion. You can also try hot apple cider with bourbon or whiskey. The sweetness of the brandy is quite tasty though.

To make the spiked spiced cider, mix one mugfull of your favorite cider (we used Alpine packets mixed with boiling water) with one shot of brandy, and enjoy!

Sweet Potato Fluffins (adapted from Averie Cooks)

INGREDIENTS:

about 1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (2 medium or 1 very large)
3 tablespoons water
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk (we used plain greek yogurt!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (we subbed Truvia baking blend #sohealthy)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (we used Pumpkin Pie Spice)
pinch salt, optional and to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into 1-inch sized chunks. Place chunks in a large, shallow microwave-safe bowl. Add 3 tablespoons water, cover, and cook on high power for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Pour off any water. Mash sweet potatoes.  Put them in the fridge for a few minutes to cool so you don’t scramble the eggs.

To the sweet potatoes, add the eggs, oil, greek yogurt, vanilla and whisk until combined; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients – flour, sugars, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, pumpkin pie spice, pinch of salt, and whisk to combine. Pour the wet sweet potato mixture over the dry ingredients, and stir to incorporate. Colleen dug her hands right in there to gently mix the fluffy ingredients together.

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Colleen the mixing master

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Drop a few walnuts on top. Bake for 16-17 minutes or until centers come out clean.

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Sarah getting the muffins ready to bake!

Taste test while they’re still warm, then enjoy another muffin just to be sure.  Store in ziploc bag or airtight container for up to 1 week (if they last that long!)

 Happy Fall Sipping and Baking!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah

 

 

Sips and Sweets: Wine Smoothies

Wine + Berries + Greek Yogurt = Wine Smoothie.  Need we say more?

We decided to enjoy a light lunch and a “wine snack” with the gorgeous weather this weekend, and wanted to share this super easy, quick, and delicious recipe.  It really classifies as both a sip and a sweet, and with the berries and greek yogurt, these Sips & Sweets girls definitely classify it as “healthy.”

Wine Smoothie Ingredients

Wine Smoothie Ingredients!

Sips & Sweets Wine Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle Wine (we used Barefoot Pink Moscato, but any wine: red, white, or even sparkling would probably work well!) Note: neither Colleen nor Sarah particularly like Moscato, but we thought using it for this smoothie would be a good way to enjoy it!
  • 3-4 cups frozen berries
  • a few heaping scoops of plain greek yogurt
  • 2 handfuls of ice cubes

Directions:

  • Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  We did this in two batches to ensure they were fresh and not too runny
  • Pour into stemless wine glasses, pop in a straw, and enjoy!

 

To go with our wine smoothie, we made a simple salad with kale, chicken, strawberries, feta, and almonds with light balsamic dressing.

 

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We hope you try this easy wine recipe as the weather gets warmer!

Mini Key Lime Pie and Tiramisu from Pastries by Randolph

We had sweets too! Mini Key Lime Pie and Tiramisu from Pastries by Randolph

 

Happy Sipping!!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah

 

Sips and Sweets: Pairing Couteaux Du Layon with Lemon Tart

Gorgeous cherry blossoms in DC!

Gorgeous Cherry Blossoms in DC!

The Cherry Blossoms have bloomed in DC and springtime is in the air! We decided to celebrate the first taste of spring by pairing a bottle of Couteaux Du Layon with a  delightful and refreshing lemon tart. Colleen made a trip to the local wine store, Arrowine for to find the perfect dessert wine for our pairing. A wine specialist helped choose the 2010 Domaine du Pas Saint Martin Coteaux Du Layon bottle. She said this semi- dry sweet wine would pair well with the lemon flavors in our dessert. The light lemon flavors in the wine would create a balance with the tart without being too acidic.  She had paired it with cheesecake in the past and said it is a nice wine to simply sip on. SOLD!

Sarah hosted the evening at her house providing a lovely pasta dinner and the baking ingredients.

We used a recipe we found on All Recipes called “The Best Lemon Bars.”  Can’t go wrong with a  name like that!:

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 lemons, juiced
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a medium bowl, blend together softened butter, 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 inch pan.
3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the baked crust.
4. Bake for an additional 20 minutes in the preheated oven. The bars will firm up as they cool. For a festive tray, make another pan using limes instead of lemons and adding a drop of green food coloring to give a very pale green. After both pans have cooled, cut into uniform 2 inch squares and arrange in a checker board fashion.

 

A couple Sips & Sweets tips with this recipe:

Squeezing lemons: Sarah saw this trick at a Mexican restaurant once and has used it in her own kitchen ever since.  Cut the lemon in half, then use a fork to pierce the lemon while squeezing into a bowl or measuring cup.  You get more lemon juice out of the lemon than if you only squeeze.

Colleen demonstrates the lemon squeezing trick!

Colleen demonstrates the lemon squeezing trick!

When life gives you lemons make lemon tarts!

When life gives you lemons make lemon tarts!

 When pressing the crust into the pan, make sure you really press hard!  We didn’t in some places, and the bottom of the bars were crumbly and fell apart.  User error, but something to keep in mind!  They were delicious regardless, and beautiful, as demonstrated below.

Yum!

Yum!

Neither of us had ever tried Couteaux Du Layon, but we feel quite fancy adding it to our list of wines we now like!  We had to Wikipedia learned some interesting things about the wine.  Couteaux Du Layon is a region in France near the Loire Valley and Loire River, where the wine is produced.  It’s made with a Chenin Blanc grape which has a high acidity and is used to make white wine varieties from sparkling to dessert.  Couteaux Du Layon wines are never very dry, and vary in sweetness.  We added the following notes into our Bottlenotes app (sidenote: We are becoming less impressed with the Bottlenotes app as we continue using it.  It’s tough to download on some phones, and it’s difficult to retrieve notes once you’ve entered them.  The website is very helpful, though.  We may go in search of a new app soon):

  The color was bright, rich yellow, and reminded us of lemons!  We tasted honey, lemon, and vanilla.  It was light and sweet, but not too sweet, which we really liked.  It’s a sippable wine and we will definitely have it again!

The Perfect Pairing!

The Perfect Pairing!

 

We had a great time sipping, baking, and brainstorming ideas for our first Sips & Sweets Event! Here is a sneak peek of our invite 🙂

Sneak Peek of Our First Event!

Sneak Peek of Our First Event!

 

Happy Sipping and Sweet Making!!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah

Sweets: Better than Sex Brownies

With Valentine’s Day coming up, we decided a rich, delicious, chocolate-y brownie had to be the first sweet item on our list for Sips&Sweets.  Credit goes to The Brown Eyed Baker for this recipe, but we renamed it ourselves because we knew with five eggs, this recipe might just deserve the new name.

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The Summary: Colleen bought the ingredients for the brownies, and Sarah brought the wine (a California Cabernet) to Colleen’s place for our usual girls baking and wine night.  We baked, sipped the wine, and watched the Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony while enjoying the delicious brownies.  Perfect Friday night!

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The Tips (For those of you who want to host your own girls’ baking nights):

  • Decide on the recipe before you get together so you have time to buy the ingredients and pair a wine
  • Pre-heat the oven before your girlfriend comes over: less waiting time!
  • Switch off on hosting–divide up the messy kitchen responsibility each time you get together
  • Wear yoga pants: there is a time and place for dressing up, and at home baking and sipping wine is not one of those!

The Sip: Dreaming Tree Cabernet.  Dreaming Tree wines are co-produced by Dave Matthews (you might know him from his day job as a fantastic musician), and Steve Reeder, a Sonoma, CA native.  We chose cabernet to pair with the brownies because Cooking Light Magazine (and other places) shared that, “A concentrated red wine with velvety texture, oaky spice, and dark-berry fruit meshes with chocolate’s mocha flavors.  Rich, lush cabernet sauvignon from warmer climates such as California and Australia goes well with chocolate (especially dark).”  We also learned that Port goes well with chocolate, but we both love Cabernet, so chose that this time.  Dreaming Tree’s description caught Sarah’s eye, (in addition to the Dave Matthews connection): “The rhythm of our North Coast Dreaming Tree Cabernet Sauvignon highlights classic aromas of blackberry, cherry and herbal notes wrapped by toasted vanilla. It’s an easy-drinking wine with a lot of character.”—Steve Reeder.  Our verdict: this might become one of our Cabernet staples; it was smooth, fruity, and delicious.

The Sweet: 

yield: 24 brownies prep time: 30 minutes cook time: 30 minutes total time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS:

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

5 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.

3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.

7. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.

(Recipe adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)

The Bottom Line: Homemade brownies (versus the box) are worth the extra effort, and Cabernet pairs perfectly with the rich chocolatey brownie flavor. Leftover, brownies also taste amazing with coffee! 😉

Time to invite your girlfriend over for a “Better Than Sex Brownie” and Cabernet night!

Sweet snapshot of Sarah from our girls night!

Sweet snapshot of Sarah from our girls night!

Happy Sipping!

xoxo, Colleen and Sarah