The Hate-To-Do List

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There are many household chores on my I-Don’t-Like-To-Do  List. At the very top is the job I tackled last week ….

Cleaning out the refrigerator.

I had a day off.

It needed to be done.

The fridge inventory was relatively low, so there wasn’t as much stuff to sit out on the counter and get warm.

So I dived in, and It took up most of the afternoon.


It is truly a disgusting job.

How does that gunk get embedded around the edges of the shelves? Who spilled something on the bottom shelf, way in the back?

And I’m not sure what that was stuck in the very bottom, under the crisper drawers. FFullSizeRender (49)rankly, I don’t want to know.

A few sweaty hours later, and I had a bright, shiny fridge from top to bottom. And since I know how fast it can revert to its former state — it really had been cleaned not that long ago —  I employed a couple tactics I found online.

First of all, I used press-and-seal plastic wrap to line the door shelves and the crispers. That way, in case of a spill or produce residue, I can just rip out the plastic wrap, fold up the gunk and replace it. At least that’s the concept; we will see if it actually plays out that way.

Secondly, I took an empty beer six-pack box (we just happen to have a few of those tucked away in our home-brewing household), cut the top handle off and used it to organize the in-the-door condiments section. If one of those bottles should leak, the cardboard should minimize the damage.

Among those condiments was half a jar of salsa, recently purchased but not totally consumed. It brought to mind one of the brunch/breakfast recipes that I have yet to share in this ongoing series.

In my files, the recipe is titled “Stacked Up Over Dallas”  and credited to Winora Hallstrom.

I have made it numerous times, most notably for several bridal or baby showers as an alternative to the traditional ham and cheese egg bake. It calls for 1 cup salsa, about the amount left over in that jar in my fridge. Guess what’s on the menu for this weekend’s brumch?

The salsa adds Tex-Mex flair to the breakfast dish, so I can see where the Dallas figures into the name. And there are layers — or stacks — so I guess the air travel-inspired name is fitting if a bit baffling. I made my own version, calling it “Stacked Up Over Austin”  — since when we visit Texas we usually fly into Austin — by substituting finely chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce ifor the green chiles in the sausage mixture.

Either way, it’s delicious.

Stacked Up Over Dallas

10 slices day-old bread

12 ounces pork sausage

1 medium onion

One 4-ounce can diced green chiles

2 cups shredded American cheese

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack (or Winora suggests a mixture of cheddar and Monterey Jack

5 eggs

2 cups milk

1 cup salsa

Cut bread into 1-inch cubes. Cook and crumble sausage in a fry pan, adding onions and drained green chiles. Drain off fat.

In a buttered 9- by 13-inch pabn, layer half the bread crumbs, half the sausage and half the cheeses. Repeat layers.

Lightly beat eggs and combine with the milk and salsa. Pour over the layers in casserole.

Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Remove from refrigerator 2 hours before baking and let set at room temperature. Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes.


Brunching with the cousins


One would think that I would know the pages of the “Mixing & Musing Cookbook” by heart. Compiled by my late mother, Dorthy Rickers, who wrote a column by the same name for many years, it is my cooking bible, the resource to which I turn first whenever I need to find a recipe. It is full of the tried-and-true dishes and family favorites.

But every once in a while, someone will mention a recipe from it with which I am not familiar.

Such was the case when I launched this brunch/breakfast series. By coincidence, my cousin-in-law, Melissa Bauman Rickers, married to my cousin John and living in Bemidji, sent me a text at exactly the time I was pondering the morning meal focus.

“I made brunch with the kids Sunday, and your mom’s Brunch Eggs recipe,” wrote Melissa. “It is an absolute favorite of my family’s. Has been for years. Think of her every time I make them.”

“Brunch Eggs?” I pondered. “I don’t remember a Brunch Eggs recipe. I’ve never made anything called Brunch Eggs.”

Melissa was kind enough to include a photo of the dish in progress — the one here — and that was further evidence that I was unfamiliar with the recipe. But from the photo I had a good idea it was a riff on Scotch Eggs, a traditional dish of the United Kingdom. According to Wikipedia, a London Department store claims to have invented Scotch eggs in 1738; the earliest printed version appeared in the 1809 version of “A New System of Domestic Cookery.”

So what is a Scotch Egg? It is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs and then either baked or deep fried.

The version that Melissa brought to my attention incorporates cornflakes for crunch. It is now on my to-make list for future brunching.

Brunch Eggs

4 hard-boiled eggs

¾ pound sausage

¼ cup crushed cornflakes

1 egg

More cornflake crumbs

Mix sausage, the ¼ cup cornflake crumbs and 1 beaten egg. Wrap this mixture around the peeled, hard-boiled eggs. Roll eggs in more cornflake crumbs.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Cut eggs in half for serving, if desired.

These can be prepared the night before the brunch and baked in the morning.


Woulda, shoulda, coulda


Right about now, I would have been eating my very favorite brunch dish — Eggs Benedict — at our favorite Twin Cities breakfast spot. But then a winter weather advisory happened and our weekend plans got changed. Instead of catching up with good friends, Hubby Bryan and I spent the weekend at home, where we should have caught up on things around the house that needed to be done. But we weren’t that ambitious.

Oh well.

I should have posted a blog here a number of days ago, but life got in the way. I got sidetracked by unexpected events and getting ready for the weekend getaway that didn’t happen.

Oh well.

Bryan and I could have been eating one of our favorite make-at-home morning meals — avocado and over-easy eggs on toast (or better yet, on biscuits!) — if we’d thought to buy an avocado when we were at the grocery store yesterday.

Oh well.

So what do we have on hand to make Sunday brunch? Oh yes, there’s part of a loaf of French bread, perfect for making what I consider to be the very best French toast recipe ever. Once again, it’s from the pages of DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” What makes this French toast unique is mixing orange juice with the eggs instead of the more traditional milk.

Oven French Toast

½ cup butter

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

3 eggs

¾ cup orange juice

8 or 9 slices French bread, cut into 1½-inch-thick slices


Melt the butter in a 15- by 20-inch sheet pan in a 425-degree oven. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the butter.

Slightly beat the eggs and combine with the orange juice. Dip bread in the mixture until it is well soaked but does not fall apart. Arrange the slices close together in the pan and bake for 20 minutes or until set. It’s not necessary to turn the bread, but we often do to get them evenly browned.

Serve with maple or — even better in my opinion — butter pecan syrup.

My kind of valentine


I got an early valentine after posting my last blog on social media. As it was the beginning of what I intend to be a breakfast/brunch series, I posed the question “What’s your favorite brunch recipe?” when I shared it on the “Growing Up in Worthington — What Do You Remember” Facebook page.

“Growing Up” frequenter David Erickson (a Worthington native who now lives in Montana) quickly commented, “It has to be my mom’s recipe for coffee cake. Eat while warm so butter you put on melts.”

Well, that got my mouth watering immediately for coffee cake. And soon other “Growing Up” frequenters were chiming in with their remembrances of Mrs. Erickson’s cooking.

After that, it didn’t take long for David’s sister, Barbara Erickson Van Langen (who now lives in Florida), to be persuaded to share that celebrated coffee cake as well as a couple other of her mother’s specialties.

Shared recipes are my favorite kind of valentine.

So if you’re looking for a sweet treat to make for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, here’s that coffee cake, followed by the appropriately-named-for-the-holiday Honey Bun Cake, and finally candied popcorn, which could be colored red or pink for a Valentine’s treat.

Mom’s Coffee Cake

1 cup shortening

1½ cups white sugar

3 eggs

1 cup milk

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup melted butter

For streusel:

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup chopped nuts
Thoroughly mix the shortening, sugar, eggs, milk, flour, baking powder and vanilla.

Spread half the batter in a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Combine the struesel ingredients and top the batter with half of the streusel mixture. Add remaining batter and the rest of the streusel. Drizzle the melted butter over the top.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Honey Bun Cake

1 box yellow cake

⅔ cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

8 ounces sour cream

1 cup packed brown sugar

⅓ cup chopped pecans

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13-inch pan.

Beat the cake mix, oil, eggs and cream on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for 2 minutes. Spread half the batter in the pan.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon; sprinkle over the batter. Carefully spread the remaining batter over the top.

Bake for 44-48 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another bowl stir together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla — mixture should be think enough to spread.

While cake is still warm, prick it with a fork or skewer several times. Spread the frosting over the top.

Candy Popcorn

2 large bags microwave popcorn

1 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup white corn syrup

½ cup hot water

½ teaspoon vanilla

Food coloring

Pop the popcorn and put in a large mixing bowl (Barbara specifies a Minnesota yellow one — LOL). In a saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, vanilla, corn syrup and hot water. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until it spins a thread (223-235 degrees according to online sources).

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and food coloring. Pour over popped corn.

Brunch is the bomb

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I know, I know. I should always start my day off with a good breakfast.

Problem is, I’ve never been good at eating first thing when I get up in the morning. I’m more of a morning minimalist, settling for a yogurt and a piece of toast before I head out the door.

I don’t even do coffee.

But weekend brunch? That’s a whole other matter.

Brunch is perhaps my favorite meal. It’s a hybrid that encompasses a wide range of foods, refusing to dictate exactly what you can eat and when you can eat it.

Pancakes at noon? Sure — it’s brunch!

Prime rib and eggs at 10 a.m.? Why not?

Hubby Bryan and I have spent many weekends experimenting with the options that encompass brunch, and we’ve come up with some favorites. I’ve also gotten some suggestions from others about their favorite brunch items, and I’m hoping some of you might chime in, too.

So for the next few weeks or so — until our repertoire is exhausted — I’m going to focus on favorite brunch/breakfast recipes.

The food item that inspired this series?

The humble pancake.

Which is weird, because I’ve never really been a pancake person, much preferring French toast or a waffle.

But Hubby Bryan is a pancake enthusiast who comes from a family of pancake enthusiasts. His mom still orders pancakes just about every time we take her out to eat.

If we did occasionally cook pancakes at home, they were usually out of a boxed mix. But recently we happened upon a FROM SCRATCH recipe that didn’t seem that much more complicated than the mix. And when we gave it a try, the resulting pancakes were so much better than the mix — I don’t think we will ever buy a box of pancake mix again. In fact, they were so delicious, that I became a pancake devotee.

We also recently tried a lemon-ricotta version that was better in theory than in reality. The ricotta didn’t really add anything to the texture, so I would suggest just adding 1 tablespoon lemon zest to the batter for a lemony version. Delicious topped with fresh berries!

Way Better Than the Box Pancakes

1¾ cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

1½ cups buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, you can mix 1½ tablespoons lemon juice with enough milk to total 1 ½ cups; let stand 5 minutes before using)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk and oil.

Add the liquid ingredients all at once to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. The batter will still be a bit lumpy, but overmixing will make the pancakes tough.

Heat a lightly greased griddle or nonstick skillet. You will know it is the correct temperature when a few drops of water dances across the surface.

Using a ladle or scoop, pour ¼ cup of the batter onto the griddle. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side; when the top is all bubbly and the edges look set, the pancake is ready to flip. Serve with warm syrup or fresh berries.

Supper’s in the freezer

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It’s probably one of the most frequent questions uttered in our household.

“What should we have for supper tonight?”

Hubby Bryan is much more of a planner than I am, and he often has several days worth of meals sketched out — whether he puts the final product together or I do. (I know I am a very lucky woman!)

But there are still those nights when we don’t have anything in mind for the menu or we need a really quick meal for one reason or another. So I try to stock the freezer with things we can pull out in a pinch or for those nights when we don’t have the energy to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

As I was looking for a completely different recipe in DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook” recently, the page fell open to a recipe that I hadn’t considered for quite a few years. I used to make Pizza-wiches when Bryan and I played in a weekly dart league and needed a quick supper before we headed out the door for that week’s match. That was eons ago, but I remembered how easy it was to pop a few of them under the broiler and make up a quick salad as a side dish.

And once my memory was jogged, I decided it would be nice to have a batch of Pizza-wiches in the freezer for those “I don’t feel like cooking” nights. So on my way home from work earlier this week, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up the two key ingredients that weren’t in our pantry, and within a short time I had a bunch of Pizza-wiches ready for the freezer.

They are what’s for supper at our house tomorrow night.

One note about this recipe: The ripe olives are one of those key ingredients. Even if you don’t particularly like ripe olives, don’t leave them out. I used a small can of pre-chopped black olives, and they pretty much melt into the sauce, but add depth of flavor. Kids probably wouldn’t even know they were there if you use the pre-chopped ones, as they are very finely chopped. You don’t need to add the whole can if you are reluctant, but I’d try at least half the can.


1 pound ground beef

¾ cup chopped onion

1 can condensed tomato soup

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon dried basil

1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese

1 small can chopped ripe olives

15-20 English muffin halves

Brown the ground beef and onions. Add tomato soup, oil, garlic salt, oregano and basil. Let mixture cool slightly. Stir in the cheese (I set aside a small amount to sprinkle on top of each “wich”) and olives.

Place the muffin halves on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Spoon meat mixture onto each of the muffin halves. Top with a sprinkle of the reserved cheese, pressing it into the meat mixture. (The picture here shows them at this point, ready to go into the freezer.)

Put the baking sheet into the freezer for several hours, until the Pizza-wiches are frozen. Place into freezer bags.

To prepare, remove the desired number of Pizza-wiches from the freezer and defrost. (I usually do this the night before, putting them in the refrigerator.) Broil until heated through, bubbly and lightly browned.


Baking cookies with Alice

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My Grandma Alice was an amazing woman. She was a businessWOMAN long before that term existed. She worked side by side with Grandpa Harry and later my dad and his brother in the family photography business.

Not only was Alice a working woman, she was also a good cook, and most memorably for her grandchildren, a great baker. No matter how busy she was, there were always fresh cookies in her cookie tin. Whenever we visited our grandparents either at their apartment or their summer home at West Lake Okoboji, we grandchildren headed straight for that cookie tin, hoping to find gingersnaps or one of her other sweet specialties.

Grandma Alice is long gone, and those cookies play a prominent role in my memories of her. I have tried over the years to emulate her gingersnap baking skill, but they just don’t taste the same. But I have managed to master a couple of cookie recipes of my own, and I think I make a peanut butter cookie that rivals those Alice turned out all those years ago. I think she would be proud. I feel like she is in the kitchen with me every time I bake up a batch.

I found this recipe in one of those wonderful vintage church cookbooks and have tweaked it a bit to make it a bit more peanut buttery and a bit more chewy. The recipe is also a nod to my DotMom, who always made chocolate chip cookies with oatmeal in them — her way of sneaking something “healthy” into those sweet treats. The oatmeal contributes largely to keeping these peanut butter cookies chewy rather than crisp.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

¾ cup butter, softened

¾ cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup milk

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2¼ cups quick oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla and milk. Blend in the flour, soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the oatmeal and blend just until incorporated. Chill dough for half an hour or more.

Drop the dough onto ungreased cookie sheets with a cookie scoop. Use a fork to flatten and mark the top of the cookies, dipping the fork in water to prevent sticking. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar over the top (optional).

Bake for about 12 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through the baking time. Let cool on the cookie sheets for several minutes before transferring to a wire rack or paper towel.

Makes about 50 cookies.

Oh fudge!

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The month of January is generally devoted to feeling better about ourselves by eating healthier, losing weight, exercising — that whole resolution thing. So I know that I should be sharing some health-conscious recipes.

But the first couple weeks of the month are almost over, and I figure some of you might be ready to indulge yourselves … just a little bit? Besides, I had promised a few people that I would share this recipe after gifting some jars of it during the Christmas season.

So the topic today is fudge. Hot fudge. Decadent hot fudge. The kind you pour lavishly over ice cream.

It is definitely not diet food. It contains butter. It contains sugar. It contains chocolate.

But it is delicious and worth the splurge. (Especially if you serve it with homemade ice cream, but that’s a topic for another blog.) And it is amazingly simple to make in the blender.

In my mom’s cookbook, the recipe is credited to late longtime family friend and my godmother, Beverly Lueth. For gifting, I change up the recipe by adding a few drops flavored extract. My favorites are peppermint and raspberry, although I also like almond, orange, hazelnut. If you have a favorite flavoring, try it.

The recipe calls for a 5 ½-ounce can of evaporated milk, and that small size does work perfectly. However, if you only have the large can, the amount is equal to a scant ¾ cup of evaporated milk. Oh, and the amount of unsweetened chocolate is half of the standard package size, so you can get two batches out of one large can and one package of chocolate.

Blender Hot Fudge Sauce

One 5 ½-ounce can evaporated milk

¼ cup butter

⅔ cup sugar

Dash of salt

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla

Several drops flavored (peppermint, raspberry, almond, etc.) extract, optional

In a small saucepan, combine the evaporated milk butter, heat until just simmering.

Meanwhile, in a pint-size blender jar (a pint canning  jar will work with most blenders), put the sugar, salt, chocolate, vanilla and optional flavoring. Pour the hot milk-butter mixture over the sugar and chocolate and blend immediately.

Serve over ice cream. Store in refrigerator.


A wild (rice) start to 2018

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We are already a few days into 2018, but I can’t quite wrap my brain around it being 2018.

Maybe it’s because I’ve got yet another cold virus (that’s what happens when you work with first-graders!), and my head is clogged up with snot.

Or perhaps it’s because just days ago Hubby Bryan and I were celebrating Christmas on a beach in Florida. My mind is still on vacation — or else it’s still numb from the shock of coming back to the bitterly cold temperatures of Minnesota.

But more than likely, it’s because it always takes me a few weeks to adjust to a new year. It will be February before I can routinely write the right date on checks and other documents.

Truthfully, I’d rather still be sitting on that beach, soaking up the rays and contemplating the brilliance of the blue sky overhead rather than dealing with the realities of January weather in Minnesota.

Bryan and I went to Florida to spend the holiday with my sister Margaret and her husband, Don. They winter in the Fort Myers area, helping out at a Lutheran church there that has a large influx of snowbirds each year. Don is a retired pastor, and Margaret is a director of Christian education and musician extraordinaire, so we were able to enjoy their respective talents at several Christmas worship services.

Plus we ate, we drank, we sang carols, we ate some more, we sat on the beach, we sat by the pool — you get the picture.

It was a lovely idyl, and we are grateful to our relatives for hosting us for Christmas week.

In our luggage, we toted along some wild rice, as it is the key ingredient in one of our Christmas food traditions. Each Christmas Eve, Bryan and I make up a pot of wild rice soup. So while Margaret and Don were busy at church, we whipped up a batch in their Florida condo kitchen, and it was consumed between all those Christmas Eve services.

But this soup isn’t just for special occasions. It’s one of my favorite soup recipes and is regular on our Monday “Soup Night” rotation. Here’s the recipe:

Minnesota-to-Florida Wild Rice Soup

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup diced onion

½ cup diced celery

½ cup flour

4 cups chicken broth

3 cups cooked wild rice

2 carrots, grated

1½ cups diced cooked chicken

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup half and half

2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)

¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

In a large saucepan, melt butter and cook the onion and celery until tender. Blend in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the chicken broth, and continue to cook while stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir in the cooked rice, grated carrot and cooked chicken. Add salt and check seasoning. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the half and half, sherry and almonds. Simmer for several more minutes before serving.


O Christmas Tree



Are you ready for Christmas?

I can’t say I feel completely prepared, but I am ready to get the celebrating started. Bring it on, ready or not!

There were many things I intended to do this holiday season  — make more cookies, decorate more thoroughly, try out some of the Christmas entertaining ideas I see on Pinterest and Facebook — but I have to admit I got around to none of it.

Oh well, there’s always next year, right?

My sister Margaret, who is currently wintering in Florida, where she and  retired pastor husband, RevDon, help out at a Lutheran church during the winter months, did try out one of those social media entertaining ideas, preparing the lovely appetizer pictured here for a holiday gathering.

She was gracious enough to share both the photo and the recipe/method. If you’re looking for an impressive offering for a family gathering or your own appetizer table, this may just be the ticket.

I would suggest that you don’t have to stick to the spinach dip for the filling. Do you have a favorite cream cheese-based dip recipe? Use that instead. If I was making it, I would likely use a combination of cream cheese, Fiesta ranch dressing mix, green onion and diced red bell pepper.

From her own experience, Margaret shared a couple of tips about assembling the tree.

“Use the parchment paper to bake on and then just cut the paper around the tree to serve,” advises Margaret. “Cut horizontal ‘branches’ all the way in, leaving only about an inch between sides.”

Christmas Tree Spinach Dip Appetizer

12 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry in a towel

6 ounces neufchatel (reduced fat cream cheese), softened

1 garlic clove, finely minced

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

½ teaspoon seasoned salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

1 tube refrigerated thin crust pizza crust

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In bowl, combine spinach and neufchatel Add the garlic, onion, and seasonings. Add Parmesan cheese and half of the cheddar, combine thoroughly.

Unroll the pizza crust on a large piece of parchment paper. Using a pizza cutter, cut the crust into a large into a large V shape. The inside of the V will be the base for the tree shape. Stretch out the middle of the bottom to make a trunk shape. Put the other two side triangle pieces on a separate piece of parchment paper, pressing the long sides together to make a second large triangle.

Spread the spinach mixture over the tree base crust. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, then place the second triangle over the top, stretching the dough to completely cover the base.

Leaving a one-inch strip intact down the middle of the tree, use the pizza cutter to cut slices from the middle to each edge, about every inch down the tree. Grab each slice and twist to form a spiral branch. Since the top branches are shorter, just give them a half twist; as you go down the tree and get to longer slices, you can twist each one multiple times.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until both the top and bottom of the crust are lightly browned. Brush with melted butter before serving.


Merry Christmas to all! I hope your holiday season is full of love, laughter and lots of delicious surprises. Thank you for reading this blog and inspiring me to try new things.