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Beef Enchiladas

August 25, 2011

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m a big fan of The Pioneer Woman, and I love trying new recipes from her blog and cookbook.

Last night I decided to try my hand at making her enchiladas.  I was a little surprised when I realized that I had never made enchiladas before.  Of course, my mom made them a few times when I was growing up, and I’ve had them at restaurants before, but I had never made them myself.  This recipe looks complicated, but it’s really pretty easy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil (plus more for frying)
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (28oz) of enchilada or Mexican red sauce
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, plus more for serving
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cans (4 oz) diced green chilies
  • corn tortillas
  • 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 can of re-fried beans (optional)

Start with a tablespoon of canola oil in a sauce pan, along with 2 tablespoons of flour over medium-high heat.  Don’t make the mistake I did and use a sauce pan that is too small.  You’re going to need one that is big enough to hold a 28 oz can of enchilada sauce, plus 2 cups of chicken broth, so plan accordingly.

Whisk oil and flour together and let bubble for one minute.

This was the enchilada sauce I used….because it was the only enchilada sauce I could find in my grocery store.  If you have another brand you like, go for it!

Pour sauce into flour and oil mixture and stir.  After I poured this in and looked over at the 2 cups of chicken stock waiting for me, I realized I needed a bigger pot.

So I transferred the sauce in to a much more appropriate pot, and proceeded to add the chicken stock (or broth if that’s what you have).

Season with salt and pepper and give it a stir.  Bring the sauce up to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer while you prepare the rest of the food.

Chop up some onion and add it, along with the ground beef, to a large skillet, and cook until browned.

When your meat is browned, drain the fat, then add the green chilies.  The recipe calls for 2 cans, but I only used one since I didn’t know how we would like it.  Give the chilies and meat a stir until it’s well combined.  Then, turn off the heat and set aside.

Here’s what the can looked like in case you’ve never bought green chilies before.  I hadn’t.

Here comes the fun part, frying the tortillas!  Coat the bottom of your pan with canola oil.  I fill it so that it’s about a centimeter high.  Enough so that your tortilla can be thoroughly submerged.

You’ll know your oil is hot enough for frying when you stick the end of a wooden spoon in the oil and little bubbles form around it.

Fry your tortillas just long enough so that they are soft and bendable.  You don’t want them to be crispy like you’re making tacos.

When you’re done frying a tortilla, lay it on a paper towel-lined plate, and put another paper towel in between each tortilla.

Pour some sauce in your baking dish, enough to cover the bottom.

Dunk each tortilla in the sauce, then lay on a cookie sheet.

Fill tortillas with meat and cheese.  You can also add re-fried beans (like I did), olives, or green onions.  Whatever floats your boat.  Just don’t fill them too much or you won’t be able to close them.

Fold the tortilla closed, leaving the ends open.

Place seam side down into your baking dish.  It’s ok if they fall apart a little.  It’s going to be covered in sauce and cheese so no one will know!  It’ll be our little secret.

Add some chopped cilantro to the sauce, and stir.

Pour the sauce over the enchiladas so that they are completely covered.

Sprinkle a generous helping of cheese on top of the enchiladas.  Look at that yummy goodness!

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes, or until nice and bubbly.

Sprinkle some cilantro over the top, and you’re ready to serve!

Don’t these look delicious!?  Add a little hot sauce and cheese to some re-fried beans and use as a side dish.

Go ahead, take a bite.  You know you want to!

 

Twin Blankets for Twin Girls

August 25, 2011

One of my best friends gave birth to twin baby girls last week, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  Evelyn Marie and Brooke Renee were born on August 15th at 5:52 and 5:54pm, and both were 5 lbs, 10 oz.

As some of you know, Renee was supposed to be in my wedding this past July, and even after she told me she was pregnant, everything was still a go for her to come out here to Nashville.  However, a few weeks after she ordered her bridesmaid dress, she gave me a call with the wonderful and unexpected news.  She was having TWINS!!   Unfortunately, she would not be able to fly after her 2nd trimester (and my wedding would be in her 7th month of pregnancy), so she wasn’t able to attend the wedding.  But she was with us in spirit!  And what a marvelous reason for not being able to come!

Of course, I had to make 2 baby blankets for her.  One pink and one purple for two beautiful baby girls.

I gave Renee several patterns to choose from, and she chose this pattern for both blankets, and I think it was an excellent choice.

Renee and I have literally been friends since birth (we even have pictures of us as babies together in the nursery at school where both our mom’s taught).  I can’t believe one of my friends actually has a set of twins!

And twin GIRLS to top it off!  I have a feeling that there are going to be a lot of ruffles and bows in these two little girls’ future.  Renee always does such a great job dressing up her older daughter, Bella, and I know these girls will be no different.

I’m so happy for you, Renee and Ahmet, and I can’t wait to meet the new little ones.  I hope they know that whenever they cuddle up with their blankets, that’s me giving them a hug.

 

Our Honeymoon: Bermuda

August 21, 2011

On our 9-day honeymoon cruise we stopped in 3 ports — Bermuda, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk.  We were also supposed to stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but due to a cyclone in the forecast, we had to skip that port.  I was pretty bummed since we were supposed to go zip lining there, but obviously I didn’t want to be stuck on a boat in the middle of a cyclone.

Our first stop was in Bermuda, where we had to meet on the dock at 7:45am to  go snorkeling.  Now, for the two of us who are used to waking up around 9:30 or 10:00am every morning, that was pretty darn early, but we were excited, so we managed to arrive on time…..early actually!

The boat just looks massive when you’re sitting on the dock right next to it.  You don’t realize just how far off the water you’re actually sitting.  Our room was on that top balcony, but when you look outside from your balcony, you feel like you’re only about 20 feet up from the water.

Our group took a 30 minute boat ride to another part of the island to go snorkeling.  It was less than thrilling since we only saw about 3 fish and a ton of sea grass.  But it was fun nonetheless.

They first drove us (can you use the word “drove” when referring to a boat?) past an old shipwreck.  It was actually sunk on purpose by some people (I can’t remember who….British, Spaniards…..someone) who wanted other ships, who were trying to take over the island, to crash into it and then sink themselves.  However, this plan failed when the boat stopped sinking a few feet above the surface of the water.  So of course, other boats avoided that spot like the plague.  I’m not sure what exactly happened, but I think Bermuda is owned by the British, so ultimately, I think they won.

They anchored the boat near this deserted resort.  Apparently each of these bungalows on the water rented for about $500 or more per night, but with the recession, the resort went out of business.  There are some more bungalows nearby that the resort allowed the staff to live in after they went under until they could get back on their feet.

Here’s Steve and I in our bathing suits ready to snorkel!  (My bathing suit is from Victoria’s Secret, in case you were wondering.  Steve’s is from Pac Sun, and his undies are by Hanes….as if that wasn’t obvious enough.)

We found this pretty little cove after exploring a little bit.

Of course Steve never passes up an opportunity to take a picture of his e-cig in cool places.  And of course, it has our website name on there, Puresmoker, so I’m doing a little free advertising.  If you haven’t checked it out, and you smoke, or know someone who does, head on over there and pick yourself up an electronic cigarette!  You’ll be glad you did!

Here’s Steve’s cool tattoo.  It’s Jesus, but instead of being on the cross, he’s being held by the hands of God.

The view from the boat looking at the beach.  That dark stuff in the water is sea grass.  It was everywhere!

Such pretty water!  And we even saw a few turtles on our way back.

The Dawn Princess joined us at the dock.  It was at the tail end of a World Cruise.  Those can be up to 3 months long!  I can’t imagine being on a cruise for that long.  Maybe one day when I’m retired and my kids (which I have yet to have) are out of the house.

It was some sort of holiday on Bermuda, so a parade of cars drove up and down the dock, escorted by police, with flags and tons of people packed in each car.  It was fun to watch, and I thought the water looked so cool in this picture.

It was a really fun day, a little disappointing in the fish department, but we had a great time overall.  Yay Bermuda!

Fun Fact:  Did you know that Bermuda is actually off the coast of the Carolinas?  I didn’t know that.  I always thought it was down in the Caribbean.  Learn something new every day!

 

Our Honeymoon: The Caribbean Princess

August 17, 2011

As many of you know, Steve and I went on a Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon a couple weeks ago.  It was wonderful, and I really enjoyed seeing a part of the world I had never seen before.  In this post, I’m basically going to show and tell you everything about the ship we were on, the Caribbean Princess.

This was my first cruise ever, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I knew it was going to be a huge ship, but nothing can really prepare you for the massive size of a cruise ship.

This was our first view of the ship while driving through the parking lot.  I couldn’t even fit the whole thing in my view finder!

Here’s a full view of the ship from our excursion boat in Bermuda.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Excursions are coming in a later post.

We splurged and decided to go for a balcony room.  It was our honeymoon after all!  And I’m so glad we did!

Uh huh….I could get used to this!

Here’s our teeny weeny bathroom.  Steve said that it was actually pretty spacious for a cruise ship bathroom.  I don’t think it could have been much smaller.

And there’s me in the tiny shower taking a picture of the other side of the bathroom.  We went to two comedy shows on the cruise, and both comedians made jokes about the tiny showers.  Like, how if you dropped the soap, you wouldn’t have enough room to bend over and pick it up.  You would think it was funnier if you actually had to take a shower in one of those!

While we were docked in Brooklyn, the Statue of Liberty was about 1/2 a mile away from our balcony.  So of course I took several pictures.

Doesn’t this picture look like it was taken 100 years ago?  🙂  I just had to process it this way since that old ship was in the foreground.  It wouldn’t look right any other way.

Our stateroom was toward the back of the ship, so when we looked out our balcony, this is what we saw.

We ordered a room service breakfast almost every morning, and I always ordered the ham, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, while Steve ordered plain ole cereal….and a banana.  We ate breakfast every morning on our balcony.

Isn’t this the tiniest glass you’ve ever seen?  It was pretty much the size of a double shot glass.  Two sips, and it was gone!

We had 2 formal nights on the cruise, so I took advantage of it, and did a little photo shoot with Steve on our balcony.  Hey, it’s not very often that I get him dressed up, so I have to seize the opportunity when it presents itself!

Isn’t he handsome?

Mr. GQ

Ok, I’ll stop now. 🙂

If you’ve never seen a hallway on a cruise ship, you have never seen a hallway!  This thing was so long that you couldn’t see the end!  Now I know why Rose had so much trouble finding Jack when he was handcuffed on the Titanic!

Here we are at the bow of the ship (that’s the front for those of you who are not sailors).

This was the pool area at the back of the ship that was supposed to be “adults only”, but I saw kids in there a lot, and it was really annoying when you were trying to lay out peacefully and then get splashed by a kid doing a cannon ball into the tiny pool.

Before we set sail, all the passengers had to do a safety drill where we learn how to put on our life jackets and where to meet.  We’re prepared for anything with these lovely orange ensembles!

Can’t get enough of our balcony!

Here we are on formal night #1.  Shortly after we sat down for dinner I had to go up to the room and take some Dramamine.  Yep, I was feeling sea sick!  I couldn’t believe it!  Luckily it was just a little nausea with no other visible side effects….if you know what I mean.

Formal night #2.  On each formal night they had photographers set up all around the ship with different back drops.  We ended up buying 5 photos.  I know!  It’s a little excessive, but I liked all 5 of them, and I couldn’t choose!

I can’t forget our couples massage!!!  We had a 50 minute full body massage, and liked it so much that we scheduled another one for the next day.  Except the second massage was 75 minutes and also included hot stones!  Mmmm….I could use a massage right now!

Steve pretty much spend each sea day in the casino.  In his defense, there really was nothing else to do on the boat, unless of course you wanted to attend an anti-wrinkle seminar, a teeth whitening seminar, or a “glee” choir rehearsal.  I’ll admit, I did do one activity on the boat: a photography walk around, where the head photographer on the ship took a group of people around the ship and gave pointers about photography.  The only problem was that 80% of the group (of about 50 people) had point and shoot cameras.  This activity is not for you, people!!!  It’s for those of us with nice, professional cameras….cameras where you have to actually look through the view finder instead of the large screen on the back of your little $200 camera.  So that was a little frustrating.  The instructor spent most of the time trying to show the P&S camera people where each setting was on their camera instead of actually teaching.  But, oh well.  You can’t win ’em all!

This had to be Steve’s craziest hand!  I mean look!  Five 4s!  How often does that happen?!

Here’s the main plaza.  I was actually expecting something a lot bigger.  It was only three stories tall, and from what I’ve seen, normally cruise ships have plazas that run the entire height of the ship.

This is from the top deck looking down at the pool.  I can honestly say that I did not set one foot in any of the pools on the ship.  They were just too crowded.  You’d have to wake up at like 6am to reserve a chair, and then people would lay their towels on the chairs (like you see toward the bottom of this picture) and just leave for the rest of the day, so you didn’t know if someone was sitting there, or if they just felt like leaving their towel behind.  It was very frustrating.

Steve and I own our own business, and our honeymoon was our first vacation in 4 years.  Naturally he was worried about the business while we were away, so he and I both did customer service emails on our honeymoon.  I know, romantic, right?  But sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Every night at dinner, we sat with the same six people….all New Yorkers, and all complainers.  Whenever we’d try to say something positive about the service or something of that nature, they’d find a way to say something negative.  They were nice to us, but just never happy with anything.

On a side note, have you ever seen anyone as tan as that woman below me?  I mean, my goodness!!!  Someone has taken one too many trips to the tanning salon!  Enough is enough!

One thing is for sure, being on a ship in the middle of the ocean, you sure do see some gorgeous sunsets!  Isn’t God such a wonderful painter?

And of course, the typical honeymoon shot.  Happy couple in love, with a beautiful sunset in the background.

Next three posts will be about each port of call.  Hope you’ll come back!

 

Our Honeymoon: The New York Chapter

August 16, 2011

We’re home from our honeymoon!!!  Well, we’ve actually been home for a week and a half now, but we’ve been so busy catching up on things at our business and at home (laundry anyone?) that I have unfortunately been neglecting my blog and my dear readers!  Plus, I had to edit all our honeymoon photos! Do you know how long that takes!?  Fear not!  I am back, and ready to get blogging again!

I’m happy to report that our kitty, Lacey, is back to her old self!  Phillip and Jenni did a wonderful job taking care of her while we were gone, and Steve and I are so grateful!

As most of you know, Steve and I got married last month….actually a month ago, today!  July 16, 2011.  It was the wedding I’ve always dreamed of, and I promise I will share pictures as soon as my sister in law (and photographer) Stacey gives them to me.  In the mean time, you can run over to her blog (just click on her name in the previous sentence) to see a sneak peek of our wedding photos.  It’s a big sneak peak….over 100 photos worth!  She is too good to me!

For our honeymoon, we went on a Caribbean cruise through Princess Cruise Lines.  It was wonderful!  I did get a little queezy the second night on the ship, but after that (and some Dramamine), I was completely fine.  Our cruise left out of Brooklyn, NY, and Steve and I made the LONG drive from Tennessee a couple days before so we could explore a little bit of New York City.

We had our first New York lunch at Smith & Wollensky’s Grill, and shared a $38.50 Filet Mignon (not including sides).  We went with a hashbrown type of potato side ($11.00) and bottled water (who knows how much that was) because when he asked if we wanted tap water I wasn’t sure of the quality of NYC tap water, so I went with the safest option.

Here’s our yummy lunch.  Those potatoes were to die for!

I told them it was our honeymoon, and they gave us each a free glass of wine.  How nice! (That was our only freebie on the entire trip from throwing the “honeymoon” word out there)

This is where we stayed in NYC (thanks Mom and Dad!), although getting here was an ordeal!  Our navigation took us to 3rd Ave. in Brooklyn instead of 3rd Ave. in New York City even though we CLEARLY told it that we wanted the 3rd Ave. in New York City!  That was an hour detour with New York traffic, and getting lost about 3 times.

Our cab ride to Times Square.  Pretty sure we could have walked faster, but we’re not used to all the walking.  Whenever we asked someone how far something was, they always gave us time in walking minutes.  Oh, Central Park is about a 20 minute walk, Times Square is a 15 minute walk.  Distance people!  I want to know distance!

After our $12 cab ride, we ended up here, in Times Square.  Which is a lot narrower than I imagined from seeing it on TV.  I was thinking it was a big square (hence the name Times Square), but it’s really a skinny rectangle, that feels a lot skinnier when there are tall buildings closing in on you from every side.

What did we do in Times Square, you ask?  Well, take a double decker bus tour, of course!  It’s the touristy thing to do, and we were tourists.

Holy cow there are a lot of pedestrians in NY!  And everyone is so fit!  I wonder why?  Could it be the fact that they all walk several miles a day?  Hmmm….I may be onto something here.

Oh look, there’s the Empire State Building.  Sleepless In Seattle, An Affair To Remember, where Kendra and Hank got engaged……ok forget that last one. 🙂

Here’s a lovely black and white for you, from the bottom looking up.

I’ve always loved this building whenever I see it in movies.  The main one that comes to mind is You’ve Got Mail.

Here’s the new Freedom Tower being built where the World Trade Center used to stand.  It’s going to be 1,776 feet high, standing for the year in which America won it’s freedom, 1776.

Whenever I see the Waldorf Astoria, I always think of the movie Serendipity.  So I just had to take a photo.  It was fairly close to the hotel where we stayed.

Rockefeller Center, home of 30 Rock.  I wanted desperately to go to the top, but it was like $28 a person, plus it was an hour wait.  We decided not to do it, but if we ever come back to NYC, that’s definitely going to be on my list of things to do!

Isn’t he cute standing in front of Rockefeller Center?

Here’s our hotel room at the Courtyard Marriott in NYC.  A lot smaller (and more expensive) than the one in Hagerstown, MD where we stayed the day before we arrived in NY.  But I guess you pay for the location rather than the room size in NYC.

This was our hotel room in Hagerstown at the Springfield Suites Marriott.  Don’t let this picture fool you…..

This whole living room area….

and whirlpool tub were also in the room.  As compared to the NY room, which was only what you saw in the picture, plus a small bathroom. 🙂  You know what they say….location, location, location!

Here was our view from our hotel room on the 19th floor of the Courtyard Marriott.

Did I mention the driving in New York?  CRAZY!!!!  We were almost side swiped by a bus 2 minutes after we came through the Holland Tunnel!  Seriously!  We were sitting at a stop light in our own lane, when a bus pulls beside us.  When the light turns green the bus pulled right into our lane while we were sitting there!!  Steve was wondering if he was going to need to use his horn while driving in NY, and let me tell you……he used it!  Any closer and the bus would have hit us.  It was literally right on top of us!  I honestly don’t know how we got out of there without several dents and scratches on our Jeep.  Lets just say you have to be a very defensive driver in NY.

Saw this sign on the way to the boat dock and thought it was funny.  The other side of the building had a sign, as well, that said: “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”  What does that have to do with storage?

New York was a very beautiful city, but I think the only reason I would ever come back would be to go shopping.  Otherwise, it’s just too stressful!  And I definitely wouldn’t come back with my own car!  Walking or taxis for me!  I don’t want to chance my car getting scratch, dented, bumped, or smashed.  I think I had white knuckles the entire time Steve was trying to squeeze his way through all the traffic and chaos.

The next post will be all about our cruise ship, the Caribbean Princess.  So yay!  You have that to look forward to!

 

Butterflies, Flowers, and Lacey

July 26, 2011

Steve and I are leaving for our honeymoon today!  We’re driving up to New York (yes, driving) and spending a couple days walking around Manhattan and seeing the sights.  Then on Thursday, our 9-day Caribbean Cruise leaves from Brooklyn!!  We’ve never been gone for this long, so it’s been quite the ordeal trying to pack everything we need and get the house and animals ready for our friends Phillip and Jenni to house sit for us.  Part of getting the house ready was mowing the lawn yesterday afternoon.  I’m always the designated poop cleaner upper (yay me!), and I always clean up the dog poop in the backyard right before Steve mows so that he won’t be driving over, chopping up, and spreading dog poop everywhere.  I know.  It’s gross.  But I’m just keeping it real!

Anyway, yesterday when I was doing this lovely chore, I noticed what I thought was a piece of paper in the grass.  So I went over to pick it up, and saw that it was actually a beautiful butterfly!

It was sitting so still that I thought it was dead.  But I gave it a little nudge, and it moved a little bit.  So, hoping that it would continue to stay still for at least a few minutes more, I ran inside to grab my camera and was able to get this beautiful shot.  Then I realized that Steve would be mowing here in a few minutes, so I tried picking it up to set it on a flower, but it started hopping around and I could barely hold onto it.  Finally, once I got it into my hands, it flew away over our neighbor’s roof.  I’m glad I was able to snap a picture when I did.  I’ve never seen a butterfly like this before.  It’s belly was pure white and fluffy like a cotton ball.  Steve said he thinks it was a moth, but to me, moths are ugly and butterflies are pretty, so I’m going to stick with thinking it was a butterfly.

Since I was already outside with my camera, I thought it would probably be a good idea to take a picture of one of my rose bushes to prove that I actually do have somewhat of a green thumb!  Here is a plant that I haven’t killed, everyone!!  There’s hope for me yet!

Now onto the main reason for this blog post.  My baby girl, Lacey, is at the vet right now.  She had been throwing up all night and this morning, and really hadn’t moved from the same spot she was laying last night.  Whenever I feed the kitties she is always the first one to the food, and if we’re not careful to separate the kitties when they eat, she would eat all three helpings.  But this morning, when I went to feed them, she just laid there and wasn’t even interested.  I put some food right in front of her face and she just sniffed it and put her head down.  This has never happened before!  None of our kitties have ever turned down a meal (well except Fancy when she’s being picky), and none of our cats have ever been sick either.  I’m not sure if she ate something she shouldn’t have, or if she got sick some other way, but I just can’t be excited for our honeymoon until I know she’s going to be ok.  It’s horrible timing, but I’m glad we noticed this before we left today, and were able to get her to the vet before Phillip and Jenni started house sitting.  She’s only been sick since last night, so hopefully the vet will be able to figure out what’s wrong with her and fix her up good as new.

When I called the vet at 7:15 this morning, they said they didn’t have an opening until 10am, and we were supposed to leave for New York at noon, so they let me bring her in at 7:45am, and they said they’d try to squeeze her in between patients to try to get her out of there earlier.  Normally I would definitely stay with her while she was being examined, but we still have a little bit of packing to do, and I need to do a few more things around the house, so reluctantly I left her with the vet, and they said they would call me when they have an update.

So please pray for our little kitty Lacey.  She’s normally our most energetic cat, and it makes me so sad to see her in pain and not herself.  I hope we can find out what is causing this very soon.  I’ll post an update when I know more.  Thanks for your prayers!

Update:  Lacey is home from the vet.  He thinks it’s probably something she ate because she had a lot of blood and fat in her stool.  She’s still not eating or drinking but the vet gave some intravenous fluids to help with dehydration.  We were sent home with 2 different medications for her to control diarrhea.  Doctor said she will probably be feeling better by tomorrow.  Keep praying!

Update #2:  Praise the Lord!  Lacey is back to her old spunky self!  Jenni and Phillip did an amazing job taking care of her while we were gone on our honeymoon, and by the time we came back, it was as if she had never been sick.  They did have to take her in to the vet while we were gone because she wasn’t getting better after 2 days on the medicine, so they did an x-ray on her to make sure she hadn’t swallowed a foreign body that was lodged in her intestines.  Luckily the x-ray came back clean, and within another couple days, her energy level picked up.  Thank you to those of you who prayed for her!  I don’t know what I would have done if we came home and she was no longer with us.  And a special thank you to Phillip and Jenni for taking such good care of our baby (and other babies) while we were gone! 🙂

Table Assignment Cookies

July 24, 2011

As some of you know, I took on the huge task of making the table assignments for my wedding reception.  They weren’t just table assignments, they were chocolate chip cookies decorated in the shape of wedding cakes with everyone’s name and table number piped onto them.  And I had to make 75 of them.  It was no small task, and the only excuse I can give as to why I procrastinated so long was that I didn’t know how long they would stay fresh after I made them, and I didn’t want people to have to eat stale cookies.

Another issue I ended up running into was how to make chocolate chip cookies that wouldn’t spread out excessively during baking.  If you’ve ever made chocolate chip cookies, you know that you can just put a glob of dough onto a cookie sheet, and when it’s done baking it will be completely spread out and flat.  Well, I didn’t want that to happen with my cookies, because I really wanted them to maintain their wedding cake shape.  I went through about 3 recipes before I found one that wouldn’t spread while baking but still tasted good.  When Steve was taste testing the cookies, he immediately spit out the first batch, it was that nasty.  Ha! Luckily the 3rd time was the charm.

I ended up staying awake until 3:30am the night before my wedding so that I could finish the cookies and not have to work on them the DAY of my wedding!  Luckily I had my friend (and bridesmaid) Tiffany staying at my house, and she was such a big help.

I started out by adding a cup of butter, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar to my mixing bowl.

I blended the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined and creamy, then added one egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Then, I mixed all that together until it was thoroughly combined.

Here is where the dough really starts to take it’s shape.  I sifted about 2 cups of flour into the bowl (one cup at a time) and mixed until it had the consistency I wanted.  I could tell it was pretty much ready when the dough started getting dry enough to where it was scraping the sides completely clean as it was being mixed.  See how there is barely any dough residue on the walls of the bowl?

I poured a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips into the dough and mixed on the lowest setting on my mixer.  I didn’t want to break up the chocolate chips too much.

Here is the trick to making chocolate chip cookies that won’t spread out.  Freeze the dough for about 5-10 minutes before rolling it out.  Then when you cut out your cookies with a cookie cutter, they won’t fall apart on you when you’re trying to lift them onto the cookie sheet.  You might notice the dough starting to get too soft after a few minutes of rolling it out and messing with it, and if that happens you can just stick it back in the freezer for a couple minutes to firm up again.

I rolled the chilled dough out between two sheets of parchment paper so that I wouldn’t have to mess with flour everywhere.  It actually worked really well.

Once you have your dough rolled out to the correct thickness (I think I rolled mine to about 1/4 an inch or so), take your cookie cutter and start cutting away!  I normally cut all my shapes and then peel away the outer edges, instead of trying to remove the cut out cookie from the rest of the dough.

Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper (this also helps them not to spread too much) and chill the raw cut out cookies in the freezer for about 10 minutes before placing them in the oven.  You want them very cold and firm before you bake them.  This is the main thing that helps them keep their shape.

Bake the chilled cookies at 350° for 10-12 min.  I baked mine for 10 min because I didn’t want them to get too brown and crunchy.

Once your cookies have cooled, it’s time to decorate!  You can find instructions on making Royal Icing here.

I outlined each of the 75 cookies and let them dry overnight.  You really only need to let them dry for about an hour or so, but it was about 3:20am on Wednesday night and I decided that I was done with cookies for the night.  You can see how I had to “glue” one of the cookies back together on the left side of the above picture.  If a cookie ever breaks on you, it’s very easy to glue it back together with some Royal Icing, and then when you finish decorating the cookie, you can’t even tell that it was ever broken.

Once the outlines are dry, you can thin the rest of your icing to a syrup consistency and flood your cookies.  I pour the thinned icing into a plastic squeeze bottle to make it easier to spread onto the cookie.  You will probably need to use a toothpick to make sure the icing gets into all the corners.

Steve even helped with one or two cookies!

Here’s what the cookies will look like once they are completely flooded.  I love this method, because you can get such a nice smooth surface to decorate.

After we had flooded all 75 cookies, I needed to make some more Royal Icing so we could go back over top with lavender and write the names and table numbers, and add some decorative dots around the edges.

Tiffany was a little too generous putting the icing in the piping bag, and she had to squeeze about half of it out.

Writing the names was definitely the most tedious part!  My hand was starting to hurt after only a few names.

Tiffany did a great job putting lavender dots all around each cookie.  That might have been even more tedious than the names!

It was 3:30am when we finally finished.  Oh, and I didn’t even mention that I had to paint that Thank You sign at the bottom of the picture.  On the other side of the sign it says “Just Married”.  My sister in law and photographer, Stacey Pentland, had us hold up the signs in our wedding attire so that our thank you cards could have that picture on them, and so we could have another picture of us holding the Just Married sign.

All in all, I’m glad I did the cookies.  Everyone seemed to love them, and it was a nice personalized touch to our wedding.