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4 Simple Ways to Jazz Up a Sugar Cookie

sugar cookies

How to Spice Up a Basic Sugar Cookie

I admit it – sweets are my weakness. But, while I love to bake – I have much more enthusiasm than skill, lol. So I rely on lots of clever shortcuts, and am more of a Semi-Homemade type of girl. Buying store-bought desserts is no fun – but jazzing up some cookies from a mix is something that I CAN handle – and it makes me feel like less of a failure in the kitchen. If you’re not cooking show material either – or maybe are just looking for some simple ideas to use when you don’t have time for baking from scratch, keep readin’ sister.

Baking with McCormick

McCormick Look Book Baking Inspiration

For those of you who are better homemakers than I am, and regularly bake desserts for your family from scratch – you will find some AMAZINGLY delicious ideas in the new McCormick Look Book. It’s filled with perfect picks for spring entertaining – and you can search by Cakes & Cookies, Brunch Gathering, Spring Cakes, and more. I pinned a TON of good stuff onto my cakes, cookies, pops – oh my! board, and you can find more yummies on the Spring Baking Pin-spiration board from McCormick too. {Because you needed another reason to hop onto Pinterest today, right?} Since there were so many great ideas there, I used them to inspire some shortcuts to great treats, using some of my favorite supplies from McCormick! I tested out a ton, and let the family pick their favorites. Here are the winners:

  1. Cinnamon & Sugar: I loved the idea of this cookie; it reminds me of a snickerdoodle. McCormick has a great recipe in the Look Book that you can try. For a simplified version – use refrigerated sugar cookie dough, and simply roll it in a mixture of sugar and McCormick Cinnamon, then bake as directed. Yum!
  2. Colored Cookies: This is a similar idea – use the great recipe in the Look Book for Colorful Sugar Cookies; or for an easy alternative, substitute refrigerated cookie dough, but follow the steps to make the colored sugar using McCormick’s easy to use food coloring. This would be fun to match a kiddo’s birthday party colors!
  3. Lemon-Coconut Cookies: This one isn’t from the Look Book – but I wanted to create something fun for spring using McCormick’s Lemon Extract. I used a boxed sugar cookie mix, then added 1 tsp of the extract, and a 1/2 cup of toasted coconut. Soooo good! {Also, you can experiment with using ANY of McCormick’s extracts into a sugar cookie mix – they’ll fool people into thinking you made them from scratch.}
  4. Colorful Cookie Glaze: Want to add a glaze to your cookies? You can use this great recipe from the Look Book for Cookie Glaze – or if you need a lazy girl option, you can simply add a few drops of their food coloring to regular store-bought frosting, then melt it a bit in the microwave. It’ll pour on just like a glaze!

So, whether you’re a totally skilled baking ninja, a busy mom just looking for some short-cuts to save time, or a bit of a kitchen klutz like me – you’ll find some great spring baking inspiration and ideas in the new McCormick Look Book!

What’s YOUR favorite Baking Tip?

Do you have a great short-cut idea to share? I’d LOVE to hear them! Did you find a new recipe to try in the Look Book? {I’m going to try the Orange-Kissed Brownies next!} And do you use McCormick for your baking too – what’s your fave to use? {Obviously I’m a big fan of the extracts! They totally help me make store-bought supplies a lot sassier!} I love hearing from you guys.

{Disclaimer: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for McCormick. I received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for participating. Photo Credit.}


My Bacon Interview with Burger King Chef Koch!

Burger King, Bacon, Chef, John Koch, InterviewWho Loves Bacon?

In my house, we are total bacon junkies. We believe every single dish can be improved by the addition of bacon. I recently got the opportunity to submit my questions about all things bacon to the Bacon Master himself – John Koch, the Executive Chef and Director, Product Innovation for Culinary Research and Development for Burger King restaurants {imagine trying to fit that title on your business cards, lol} – and was glad to see that he agrees with our family – There’s really nothing you CAN’T improve with a bit of bacon!

Check out my exclusive interview with Chef Kock…

“Porkchops and bacon, my two favorite animals.” – Homer Simpson

John Koch’s career is filled with experience in nearly every restaurant segment in the industry. From family dining to fine dining, with bar & grill, micro brewery, casual dining and chef/owner roles along the way, John has a clear and real understanding of who eats what, where they eat it, and why.

My own Favorite Bacon Recipe

In the video interview, Chef Kock mentions Bacon Jam – and he’s right, that stuff is so dang good. Here’s my favorite bacon recipe, including the uh-MAY-zing bacon jam…

Mmmmm…. Breakfast with Skillet Bacon Jam!!

What’s your favorite bacon recipe?

I’d love to hear how your family uses bacon – Is it simply a perfect breakfast food on it’s own? Do you have any unique recipes or ways that you add it to your meals? If you’ve got a great recipe, link it up in the comments! You guys always have the best ideas.


Want Great Family Photos? Read this!

“Photography is the beauty of life, captured.” – Tara Chisholm

I told you guys about my passion for family photos in this post – Don’t let your digital memories become distant memories – earlier in the week. Capturing those special family moments is always important – but especially so during the holidays! So, to help you get some new favorite photos of your family this season, I’m excited to share some tips from one of my favorite photographers – the totally amazing Amber Miller, of Amber Miller Photography!

“A photograph is the pause button of life.” – Ty Holland

Don’t rush children! Most kids are uneasy around strangers, especially strangers who are holding a large camera with a bright flash in their face, screaming “say cheese”. In my experience, the session goes much more smoothly if the child is comfortable and able to be themselves! I always ask children that I’m photographing what their favorite food is, who their favorite character is, their favorite song or tv show. For example, at a session last week I was having a hard time making a 2 year old laugh, I danced, made funny faces, used squeeky toys and nothing was working. I found out from mommy that he LOVES breadsticks from the Olive Garden. All I had to do was say “breadsticks” and he cracked up! I got some wonderful shots after that!

Be Patient! Children don’t want to be rushed or scolded into smiling. I understand that sometimes we as parents, just want to get those memories and it’s frustrating when children don’t want to cooperate. A great thing for parents to do before a session is to offer a treat for good behavior and cooperation during their session. For example: “Bobby, if you listen to the nice lady and smile really big for your pictures, I will take you to get an ice cream when we’re finished” That works beautifully!

Most important – GET PHOTOS TAKEN! “Everyone has excuses about why they want to wait to get them done, whether it’s losing weight, or waiting for their hair to grow longer, etc…photos are such precious memories! Even if you aren’t 100% happy with the way you look, you should get them done just so your children have something to remember just how you looked at that stage in their life. Photos are precious memories, even when our loved ones are gone. Stop hesitating! Do it, you’ll be happy you did!”

Amber Miller Photography Logo

“A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.” – Eudora Welty

If you’re a local reader – you definitely need to check out Amber Miller Photography! She is just the sweetest thing, with loads of patience – and her photos are totally gorgeous. When we showed up for our holiday photo shoot, poor Abby had a terrible cold – a sticky, runny nose, and red, watery eyes – but Amber did such a great job of capturing her character! Check out some of her work on Facebook –

Amber Miller on Facebook – “Like” for fun photos, updates, promotions, and more!

Are you already a fan of hers? Share some comments – what was your favorite part of the shoot? – Mine was that she is so great with kids. Abby did NOT want to cooperate at all, but Amber was a total sweetie, and helped Abby have fun so we could get a few good pics!

Love these tips?

Feel free to stop by Amber Miller Photography and leave her a comment with a big THANK YOU for sharing some fun tips here – she’d love to hear from you!

Share your favorite Holiday photo!

Stop by my Facebook page too, and share your favorite family photo! I can’t wait to see some of your great pic’s – Happy Holidays!


Build a Better Smile – Oral Health Care for Toddlers

Taking care of toddler teeth

Taking Care of Toddler Teeth

Abby got her first teeth really late. She was born at the end of July, and started teething in November. I could feel little teeth wanting to poke through, and thought that it meant she’d have her first little pearly white pop through any time. I was so wrong – she didn’t get her first tooth until she was almost a year old!

First Dentist Visit

Since she just started to get her teeth at 12 months, I hadn’t even thought about going to a dentist yet. But I recently learned that it’s recommended that kids see the dentist for the first time when they get their first tooth, or by a year old – so at 15 months, we’re behind schedule. Many parents have the misconception that baby teeth don’t require too much care or concern, since they’re just going to fall out anyway. But this is why it’s important – 40% of children will suffer from cavities by the time they reach kindergarten. Getting an early start on good oral hygiene ensures that children will have healthy gums when their “Big Kid” teeth come in, and that they’ve developed good habits to take great care of them.

Some Challenges and Solutions:

  • It’s tough trying to use a toothbrush on a baby: While those infant-style toothbrushes might be cute, they can be a big challenge. An easier option is to use baby teeth wipes to remove plaque from baby’s gums and budding teeth. Super simple, and very effective.
  • I’m worried the visit to the Dentist will be scary: Kids can be scared of what they don’t know – so teach them about the dentist early on! Read toddler books about teeth brushing, or fun videos, to get them used to the idea. Abby watches her Baby Signing Time videos daily – and one of them talks about brushing your teeth. Soon after, she became super interested in watching us brush, and wanted to brush too! Watching the videos and reading the books has made it fun for her – so I’m sure our first dentist visit coming soon will go smoothly.
  • What else you can do: Avoid putting baby to bed with a bottle after 12 months. Limit the amount of juice or other sugary drinks that children drink out of a sippy cup during the day. And of course, have kids brush after eating sticky candies or snacks – that sticky food can do a lot of damage to those little teeth.

 Oral Care is Important for the Whole Family!

Those baby and toddler teeth aren’t the only one’s that are important – the rest of the family needs to build some great habits too! Cavities are no fun for anyone – they can be really painful, and the bills for dental work add up really quickly. That’s why I’m excited to announce a new campaign from Listerine and Reach – the Oral Care Challenge!

The Oral Care Challenge

To get started, gather your whole family together, and build some excitement for the challenge. Maybe offer rewards, or break into teams. Talk about why oral health care is so important, and then let them know what their challenge will be…

The challenge is for everyone in the house to Brush, Floss, and Rinse every day, twice-a-day, for two full weeks.

Why is this so important? Because, while your family might be great at brushing every morning and night, brushing by itself misses 75% of the germs in your mouth! By flossing between teeth, and following with a great rinse, you’re doing a much more effective job, and fully protecting all those pretty teeth in your family’s smiles.

Protect Your Family’s Smile: From Toddler Teeth to Grown-Up Grins!

The smiles on your families face are the best part of the day – so make sure you’re helping them protect them! On your next shopping trip, make sure to stock up on some new products, to help make the challenge fun – Learn more about the full line of products from Listerine, and how they can help. Sign up for the ListerineKids newsletter for some money-saving coupons. And read some fun facts and tips on smart oral health care for kids too.

Savings Alert: $1.25 off when you buy any ONE LISTERINE® SMART RINSE® Anticavity Flouride Rinse

Join Me in the Oral Care Challenge!

Stay tuned in two weeks to learn how our challenge went – how successful we were, what challenges we faced, and our plans to improve. Are you planning to join the challenge too? Share your story in the comments!

{Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Listerine and received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.}