To make cookie pops like the photo above, set the unbaked cookie on top of a craft stick before baking the cookies.  Be sure to cover at least 1 to 1 1/2 inches of the craft stick; press down gently on the dough.  

This recipe makes about two dozen, 3" round cookies.

Soft Sugar Cookies
1 stick butter (1/2 c.), softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. buttermilk, kefir, OR sour milk (add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to fresh milk to make 1/3 c.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cream the butter with sugar; beat in the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Combine baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour; stir in to the other ingredients.  Grease or spray a cookie sheet.  

Put half the dough on a flour-sprinkled counter top.  Sprinkle a little flour on top to prevent your rolling pin from sticking, then roll about 3/8" thick.  Cut out with cookie cutters or canning jar rings.  (I used a ring from a regular-sized canning jar.)

 Bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on size and thickness, until  light golden brown on edges and underside.  Cool completely; frost with your favorite frosting if you like. 

This recipe also makes a great base for a Cookie Pizza.

To make the rose leaves, sprinkle some sugar on a flat surface, roll a gumdrop flat, a little bit at a time, flipping the gumdrop often so it stays coated with sugar as it flattens.  Trim with a knife or scissors.
 
 
I've been thinking about some things lately.
More.

It's part of our nature to want more. 
We can focus on getting more stuff, more attention, more money... 
but those are for earth-life only. They stay behind when our mortal frame returns to dust. 

The Lord offers more than that. More than the whole world holds and offers: "all that my Father hath" (D&C 84:38).  More friendship.  More family love.  More light.  More learning.

More than we can fathom. How much more?

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Cor. 2:9)

Brigham Young explained, "To finite capacity there is much which appears mysterious in the plan of salvation, and there is an eternity of mystery to be unfolded to us; and when we have lived millions of years in the presence of God and angels, and have associated with heavenly beings, shall we then cease learning? No, or eternity ceases. There is no end. We go from grace to grace, from light to light, from truth to truth.”

What else?

"We have more friends behind the veil than on this side, and they will hail us more joyfully than you were ever welcomed by your parents and friends in this world; and you will rejoice more when you meet them than you ever rejoiced to see a friend in this life; and then we shall go on from step to step, from rejoicing to rejoicing, and from one intelligence and power to another, our happiness becoming more and more exquisite and sensible as we proceed in the words and powers of life."
–(emphasis mine), Journal of Discourses, volume 6, pgs. 342-349

May we always work for the kind of "more" that  makes us 'more' useful in God's hands and gives us more happiness.  Real happiness.

 
 
Do you feel completely inept when it comes to making pie crust? Here's a recipe you'll love! You can even make it in the microwave instead of the oven.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie
(This pie makes its own crust)

2 c. pumpkin puree
3/4 c. sugar
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk 
½ c. Bisquick (or ½ c. flour plus ½ tsp. baking powder)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, softened 
2 eggs 
2 tsp. vanilla 
2 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp. cinnamon, and ½ tsp. each ground cloves,
ginger, and nutmeg)


Beat all ingredients 1 minute in a blend on high or 2 minutes with hand beater. Pour into greased pie plate. Bake at 375 about 45-50 minutes or till knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a flat, heatproof surface (not on a wire rack).

Microwave instructions: place on an inverted (microwavable) dinner plate on medium high (70% power), rotating pie plate 1/4 turn every 5 minutes (unless you have an automatic turntable- then use that). Cook until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 22 to 32 minutes.

 
 
Pumpkin Roll
Makes 18, 1" slices.  

4 eggs                                                                          
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 c. pumpkin                                                             
1 c. flour                                                                    
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. cinnamon                                                            
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
3/4 tsp. nutmeg                                                              
½ tsp. salt
1 c. chopped nuts, optional

Beat eggs until well mixed.  Gradually add sugar; this should take about two minutes.  Beat on high for another two minutes, until sugar is mostly dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale lemon-colored..  Stir in pumpkin.  Fold in flour, baking powder, spices, and nuts.  Grease and flour a 12x18" cookie sheet with 1" high sides, OR line it with parchment and grease the pan sides..  Spread batter in pan and sprinkle with nuts.  Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes, or til the cake springs back when pressed gently in the center.  Remove from oven.  While cake is hot, flip cake over onto a kitchen towel sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar.  Holding one of the wide sides of the cake, very carefully roll it up with the towel, cinnamon roll style. When cool, 2 to 4 hours later, unroll slowly and spread with cream cheese frosting.  Roll the cake again, without the towel!  Slice and serve. 

You can make this ahead of time and freeze it for later use.
If you don't have a 12x18" pan, but have a 10x15 pan, cut the recipe in half.  The batter will not be as deep in the pan, so bake a few minutes less.  (Mine took 12 minutes.)  Roll as above, but hold a narrow side as you roll it up.  This will give you one 10" wide roll.

Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting
(the 1-1-1-1-1 recipe)

1 stick butter (1/2 c.), softened
1 c. powdered sugar                                                     
1 Tbsp. lemon juice OR water or milk (lemon accents the zing of the cream cheese)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, chilled and cut into 8 cubes                                          

Combine butter with powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Add cream cheese, one cube at a time, beating until smooth after each.  Once they're all incorporated, beat another minute or until frosting is fluffy.
 
 
Here's a simple way to make a frosty cape for an Elsa costume.  My daughter and I are delighted with how it turned out:  so dainty and elegant!  You'll need one full-size sheet of paper, a can of white spray paint, and fabric.  For my 6-year-old's costume, I bought 1 1/3 yards of 60" wide nylon tulle, pale turquoise color.  Sheer nylon tricot or sheer chiffon would also work, and be less prone to ripping.  (No, ours has not ripped yet.)

Lay out the fabric and fold in half lengthwise, so it's 60" long and half the width you bought.  Cut 4-6" wide scallops along one narrow end.  

Fold the paper and cut out a simple six-pointed star.  Mine was about 4" across.  I reinforced the paper (now my stencil) and helped it lie flat by running 2" wide packing tape in a square around the snowflake.

  Spread the fabric on top of something clean that you don't care if paint gets on.  Darker colors under will make it easier to see the white paint.  In my case, I spread this on the lawn; we have a frosty decoration on it until next mowing!

Spray into your stencil, focusing on the center first, then spraying the points.  Continue until you have all you want, occasionally stopping to wipe excess paint off the stencil (the grass was good for this, too). 

Once the snowflakes are sprayed, 'frost' the edges and scallops of the cape by spraying along the edges.  

With some silver glitter glue or silver sparkle paint, draw on the snowflakes. Add some smaller ones made with only the silver.    Let dry completely.
 
 
We have one peach tree, a fairly early variety.  The little thing produced itself proud this year; we kept thinning, and thinning those peaches throughout the season, fearing the weight of the ripened ones would damage its fairly young form.   We still got somewhere around 1 1/2 to 2 bushels of ripe ones.  Most of them were preserved as rolls of fruit leather, with many more eaten fresh, made into creamy smoothies, or baked into this favorite coffeecake, which we serve as breakfast food.  I got the recipe when I was nineteen and in college, from a friend my age who also loved to bake.  She ended up living in the same apartment complex and I, and we shared several food-related experiences.  She and I drowned our boy-centered troubles one night by staying up late, crying with each other's stories, and consuming an entire cheesecake.

But back to the peaches...
There's nothing like biting into a warm, juicy peach fresh off the tree... or a tree-ripened peach from wherever you can buy them.  If you're not so fortunate, you can use either fresh, frozen, or canned (and drained) peaches for this, but the best flavor- as you'd expect!- will be from using the freshest, sweetest, juiciest peaches you can get.  

Peachy Pecan-Streusel Coffeecake
Cake:
1/2 c. butter, softened 
3/4 c. sugar (1 cup if you like things very sweet)
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sour cream or yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. sliced peaches

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter or spray a 9x13 pan; set aside.  Cream together the butter and sugar; beat in the eggs.  combine all dry ingredients, add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream and vanilla.  Beat just until smooth.  Spread batter in prepared pan.  Arrange peach slices over batter.  Combine the streusel ingredients and sprinkle over peaches.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean (no batter clinging, only crumbs if anything).  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Streusel:
1 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. cinnamon


 
 
Santa Rosa plums are dark on the outside, often with a bluish hue that rubs off, ruby-colored inside, and explode with sweet juice when you bite into a fully ripe one.  They are apparently highly prized, which is nice for me, because my 3-in-1 plum tree is about half Santa Rosa.  They tend to ripen pretty much at once, which means we have only about a two-week window for eating them fresh, and need to be quick about canning, drying, making jam, or otherwise using them.  

Gelato usually uses milk instead of cream, and sometimes fewer egg yolks, as well.  If you use whipping cream in place of the milk, you'll have plum ice cream instead.  You can triple this batch if you really, really want to pull out your ice cream maker, but this smaller batch can be made using a high-speed blender. It's lightly sweet, with just enough brightness from the fruit, and full of flavor.  And yes, you may use other types of plums.  The color may or may not be the same, though, depending on the variety you use.  If you can't have eggs, you could thicken the milk with 1 Tbsp. cornstarch instead, but it won't be as creamy.

One pound of plums can mean anything from 4-10 plums, depending on their size.  If yours are small, ping-pong-ball sized, you'll need about ten.  If they're big ones, 2 1/2" across or so, you'll likely need only 4-5.  Either way, the goal is to end up with about 1 3/4 c. puree.

Santa Rosa Plum Gelato
Makes about one quart

1 lb. Santa Rosa plums
1/8 tsp. almond extract, optional but delicious!
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. whole milk, divided (dairy-free options include almond milk, rice milk, or coconut milk)
2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1/2 c. sugar

Wash plums and remove stems.  Remove pits; you'll to cut them out.  Drop the pitted plums into a high-speed blender, add almond and vanilla extracts, and blend until smooth.   Pour into two empty ice cube trays.  Pour 1/3 c. of the milk into the blender and swish it around to get more of the puree; pour this into the ice cube trays as well.  Put them in the freezer.

Combine the two egg yolks, salt, and the sugar in the unwashed blender.  Heat the remaining 2/3 cup milk in the microwave for 1 minute, until steaming.  Meanwhile, turn the blender on to beat the yolks and sugar.  With the motor running, pour the hot milk in a thin stream into the yolks.  Once it's all in, increase speed to high, and run about two minutes, until the custard thickens slightly.  It will begin to coat the blender sides with a slightly thicker, opaque coating, and the mixture will steam quite a lot.  

Pour the custard into a container with a lid; refrigerate. Wash the blender; there's not much more unpleasant to wash off than dried egg yolk!

3-4 hours later, pull both the now-frozen puree and the now-chilled custard out.  Pour the custard into the (washed!) blender, add the puree cubes, and blend, using the plunger handle to get them to mix.

The gelato will be a soft-serve consistency.  If you want to be able to form round scoops, pour in a container and return to the freezer for another 1-3 hours.

 
 
The fastest, simplest S'mores ever!  My 6-year-old had a blast making these nearly by herself.  If you have a toaster oven, you can make just a few and hardly heat the kitchen up at all.  Even a big batch doesn't make your whole kitchen hot, or make you smell like campfire, or have the neighbors wondering what's on fire.  
If you use GF/CF chocolate chips and GF grahams, these are also a gluten-free, dairy-free treat.

For a big batch, you will need:

1 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semisweet, you choose)
one 10-oz bag regular marshmallows
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used precrushed ones) OR 4-5 crackers, crushed
Also:
A cookie sheet, an oven with a broil setting, and a sheet of parchment if you want the easiest cleanup.

Put the oven rack in the highest position.  Dump the chocolate chips into a microwaveable bowl; I used a Corelle cereal bowl.  Microwave for one minute; stir.  If it's not quite melted, microwave 30 seconds more; stir. Repeat if needed, but once you get past 2 minutes it overheats and clumps.  (You can rescue it by stirring in 1-2 tsp. oil.)

Dip the bottom half of a marshmallow into the chocolate, then dip into graham cracker crumbs.  Place on cookie sheet, at least 1/2" apart.

Turn the broiler on and put the marshmallows in.  If you have HI and LO options, here's what happened in my oven with them:

HI:  browned at 35-40 seconds.  Centers were still firm.
LO:  browned at 1 1/2- 2 minutes.  Nearly the whole marshmallow was now melted and gooey.  

Either way, watch these things closely!   Don't walk away for even a few seconds or they may be black when you get back.  Flaming marshmallows over a campfire in the dark may be entertaining, but they're not nearly as amusing in the house!

The marshmallows ready to be broiled.
 
 
The monthly envelope full of local ads and coupons arrived a couple days ago.  As I flipped through it, one summery dessert caught my eye:  a dessert pizza.  It was an advertisement for a local pizza buffet, "only" $5.99 for the buffet.  
Well, we have 7 people at home, so $6 x 7 is not something we're willing to spend very often.  :)  Instead, I could make this for under $4 with what I had on hand.  Frozen blueberries and strawberries are always in the freezer here; I get them at DollarTree in the frozen section.  Cream cheese stores way beyond its sell-by date, so I stock up when it's $1 for 8 ounces.  A local store recently had whipping cream at $.33, and it stores quite a bit past the sell-by date, plus it can be frozen.  And I stock up on butter when it's on sale, then keep it in the freezer.

What are some of your must-have-on-hand ingredients?

Cookie base
1 stick butter (1/2 c.), softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. buttermilk, kefir, OR sour milk (add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to fresh milk to make 1/3 c.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cream the butter with sugar; beat in the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Combine baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour; stir in to the other ingredients.  Grease or spray a 10x17 rimmed cookie sheet or 14" or 15" round pizza pan.  Drop cookie dough on top and pat into an even layer; wet your fingers so the dough doesn't stick so much to you.  Bake for 14-20 minutes, until light golden brown on edges and underside.  Cool completely.  

Topping/Frosting 
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

2-4 cups berries or other fruit (I used 1 cup frozen blueberries, about 1 1/2 c. frozen strawberries)

Spread the topping over cooled cookie, cut into squares, and then sprinkle or decorate with fruit.  Serve; cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
 
 
Sometimes you pick a perfect watermelon:  firm, juicy, sweetness dripping from every piece.  Sometimes the melon could use a little bit of help.  Or sometimes you just want a little variety in the flavor department.

Several years ago I found a recipe for a lemon-and-mint-infused syrup to pour over watermelon, or over a mixture of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.  It took a few hours to make the syrup, though.  Now that I have essential oils on hand, the flavor base takes almost no time at all!

Citrus-Mint Watermelon Salad
(enough syrup for 4-8 lbs melon while weighed with the rinds still on)

1/4 c. sugar (OR 3 Tbsp. honey)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1-3 drops mint essential oil (1 for subtle flavor, 3 for very noticeable)
6 drops any combination of citrus oils (lime, orange, lemon, grapefruit... I used 3 drops lime oil, 3 drops grapefruit oil)

Stir together the sugar and lemon juice; bring to a boil, stirring just until sugar is dissolved.  If using honey, there is no need to heat it; just stir the honey and lemon together.
Let the syrup cool slightly (if the sugar version), then add mint and citrus oils.

Pour over cut-up melon- plain watermelon or a combination of melons- and stir well to coat.

This would make a fun Fourth of July salad if you added some fresh blueberries to the watermelon.  

BONUS:  the juice left in the bottom is delicious plain (you might prefer it diluted with some water) or added to smoothies.