Custom Pancake Bar & Reading List

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Sometimes I forget that my kids don’t always know where things come from (“Is the corn in cans different from corn-on-the-cob?”) or where things go (“What happens to the water after we flush it?”).

So I like to show them the extra steps for things when I can.  Of course, I don’t have wheat growing in my backyard so we won’t be grinding that into flour to make pancakes completely from scratch any time soon.  But what I CAN do is grab some colorful books to demonstrate the process.

I wanted to make a “Custom Pancake Bar” with my girls to show them how versatile pancakes could be.  But even without the grinding of flour, I still wanted to do more than just stir up a box mix.  Pancakes are easy anyway.

We’ve drawn with pancake batter and celebration pancakes are always fun, but I realized that I had yet to post an actual pancake recipe on this blog.  I’m calling this recipe the “Overnight or Now Pancakes” because I like to make the batter the night before, but it could also be used right away.

I am not, by any means, a morning person.  So I like to get things ready the night before:  breakfast, school lunches, my coffee maker … whatever CAN be done WILL be done.

Like this batter.  All made up and left to sit in the fridge until needed.  I also set up the griddle and toppings and even our plates the night before.

Because having kids means I’m often required to do things before I’m caffeinated.

Which can be … interesting.

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We had a lot of fun with this, though, because we personalized all of the pancakes.  Some had just mini chocolate chips or raisins, others sprinkles, and some a combination of everything.  A few had walnuts and cinnamon sugar, which is quite possibly my new favorite.

My daughter even made a face for one with walnut eyes, a chocolate chip mouth, and sprinkle hair.

There are other toppings you could incorporate, like blueberries or pieces of apples or bananas.  Coconut is also good (kinda like I used on my Tropical French Toast).  Just remember to use extra butter when flipping to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Before I share the recipe, I want to talk a little about the books we read.  I picked them all up at the library, but I’ve included (affiliate) links to Amazon in case you’d rather have your own copies.

Pancake Picture Books

Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle

This one is great because it shows the ENTIRE process for making pancakes from scratch – including harvesting wheat and churning butter.  The colorful illustrations demonstrate that there is an awful lot that goes into making our meals, but the story is told in a way that is playful.

There is also a board book version of Pancakes, Pancakes that is abridged.

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola 

This wordless picture book is a delightful story about a woman who wakes up and decides to make pancakes.  But she’s out of eggs and milk and needs to get some more from her chickens and cow.  She even gets maple syrup from a nearby farmer.  But when she gets back with the syrup, her pets have turned her kitchen upside down and she can no longer make her pancakes … but luckily her neighbors had the same idea!

The pictures are pretty straightforward but drawn in a charming way.  And because the wordless pictures are easy for kids to “read,” it works well for either story time or reading-to-self for even the youngest of readers.

Mama Panya’s Pancakes

This story is a little different.  It also includes some steps in making pancakes, like buying flour and spices, but it focuses more on the people doing the cooking.  It tells us about a boy named Adika who is headed to the market with his mother, who also happens to invite everyone he sees back to their place to eat their pancakes with them.  It’s a wonderful tale of joy and generosity with a positive message about sharing.

There is a recipe, but my kids were more interested in the background information.  They were eager to hear all about village life in Kenya, and as soon as I started to read off the glossary of Kiswahili words, my 7-year-old jumped up to grab a paper and pencil so she could take notes.  I loved the way this book helped me to show my kids that things as basic as shopping with mom or sharing exciting news with friends (or making pancakes) are universal concepts practiced all over the world.

The Runaway Pancake 

This is a fun story which is based off of a fable from Norway and Germany about a pancake who really doesn’t want to be eaten.  He rolls through the forest trying to escape everyone who is trying to eat him, but makes the wrong decision to trust a seemingly kind but very hungry pig.  It briefly mentions how pancakes are made, but the real draw here is the silly story and cute illustrations.  It’s also one a beginning reader can read on their own.

And now … back to the recipe!

I’ve made these to have a noticeable taste of vanilla, and strongly suggest that you invest in some Madagascar pure vanilla extract because it has simply done AMAZING things with everything I use it in, from cookies to cheesecake to, well … pancakes!

But the vanilla in the recipe could easily be halved if (for some strange reason) you’re not a big vanilla fan.  And you could stir in your add-ons ahead of time (like chocolate chips or walnuts or sprinkles) instead of doing it the pancake-by-pancake way.

The individual way was an awful lot of fun for my kids, but just make sure to keep safety in mind!  Remember that flipping pancakes can cause splatter — and nobody wants to be pelted with splashes of hot butter!

When it comes to making the batter, we did it the night before and stuck it in the fridge.  It’s easy for kids to put together, which makes it nice for them because they are so involved in the whole process.

One of the things I wanted to mention, was that we decided to add some extra milk to the batter the next morning.

I don’t know why I did that.  I blame it on the caffeine deficiency.

Anyway, my point is that the pancakes still tasted great, but were much thinner than I had intended them to be.  It’s not necessary to add the extra milk like I did.  If you follow the recipe and don’t add any extra milk, your pancakes will be thicker than the ones photographed here.  Just stir the batter when you pull it out of the fridge in the morning and start frying!

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I used an ice cream scoop to measure out the batter.  My oldest daughter measured out one or two, but I mostly did that part.

And (again) make sure there are plenty of reminders of how hot the griddle gets and how much we realllly don’t want to touch it.

Cooking is fun, but safety is important too.

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Some of the add-ons made things a little sticky, so make sure to add more butter, or non-stick spray, when flipping the pancakes.

You can see where we made some with only one topping, like mini chocolate chips, and others which were combinations of toppings, like the one with chocolate chips, walnuts, and cinnamon sugar.

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Don’t those look delicious??

You can see where the cake sprinkles seeped color into the rest of the pancake, but the flower sprinkles held their shape and color nicely.  Both tasted nice, and the thicker sprinkles gave a little sugary crunch to the pancake.

I put them on the platter with the topping side up and spread them out so you could see which was which.

Leftovers refrigerate and freeze nicely.

Let’s get cooking…

Overnight or Now Vanilla Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 tablespoons (half stick) butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Optional:  Toppings like mini chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, chopped fruit, etc.

Combine the milk and vinegar and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes to “sour” into buttermilk.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk eggs, melted butter, and vanilla into the milk.  Then whisk the milk mixture into the flour until the large lumps are gone.  Make sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated, but don’t over mix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or use right away.

Before cooking, stir in any extras you’d like.  For example, you can mix in about 1/2 cup of miniature chocolate chips, blueberries, strawberry pieces, or something similar.  Or you can do the Custom Pancake Bar (see below).  For the Custom Pancake Bar, do not mix anything extra into the batter.

To make pancakes, preheat a large skillet or griddle to medium heat.  Coat surface with butter or nonstick cooking spray, and spoon about 1/4 cup of batter onto cooking surface for each pancake.  Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, then flip and cook 2 minutes or until browned on the other side.

Serve with syrup.  Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen.  Makes 15 to 20 pancakes.

For Custom Pancake Bar:  Do not mix extras into batter.  Leave batter plain.  After scooping batter onto griddle, sprinkle your toppings over the pancake.  When it bubbles, flip the pancake and cook for about 2 minutes or until lightly browned on the other side.

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Click here for the free printable PDF copy of the recipe:

Overnight Or Now Pancake Recipe

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Happy Cooking!

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Strawberry Butter

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I made some Strawberry Butter with my kids for a fun sweet treat, so I wanted to share it with you.

It was super simple to make (just 3 ingredients), and it made for a fun snack or breakfast dish.

It’s the type of dish you could make when you wake up in the morning for a fresh homemade breakfast with very little effort.

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The first time we made it, my oldest daughter said it was actually too sweet, so we adjusted it for less sugar the next time, which is what you’ll find in the printable recipe below.

It was also a nice way to use up some extra strawberries, since my girls prefer to eat strawberries only when they’re fresh and crisp.  Once they start to get soft, I have to incorporate them into a recipe.  They won’t eat “mushy” berries.

But mushy or crisp strawberries both work for this.

You could use the butter to top any kind of bagel or English muffin or pancakes, but we like it in the King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, which is what you see in my photos.

Make sure your butter is completely room temperature when you start, to make it a quick and simple process.  If you’re going to make it in the morning, leave the butter out overnight.

You can refrigerate this Strawberry Butter if you don’t use it all right away, but allow it to come to room temperature before serving.  Or at least don’t use it right out of the fridge, because it will be too stiff.

Strawberry Butter

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup diced strawberries, fresh or frozen

In a small bowl, beat the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Stir in the strawberries and mix well by hand.

Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before serving for best results.  Best if used within three days.

Note:  You can use salted or unsalted butter for this.  The salted butter will balance out the sweetness.  And you can use fresh or frozen strawberries, but keep in mind the frozen strawberries may add more juice to the butter, and be sure to thaw them fully first.

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And click below for the printable PDF version:

Strawberry Butter

Happy Eating!

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Nutella Chocolate Birds Nests

Nutella Chocolate Birds Nests Recipe

We’ve made Chocolate Birds Nests in the past, but this year we changed it up…. by adding Nutella!

These Nutella Chocolate Birds Nests were a lot of fun to make with my girls.  It gets them in the kitchen with a combination of cooking and crafting.

And we also picked up a little Edible Grass this time around.  It’s easy to snip into bite-sized pieces with kitchen shears and adds a nice visual touch, but it isn’t necessary if you’re having a tough time finding it.  (And I picked mine up for half off after Easter – since these can be a fun treat all season long.)

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All our ingredients gathered and ready to go….

Since there is no actually baking involved, it’s mostly mixing and shaping and decorating, once the chocolate chips are melted.

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Melt the chocolate at half power, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth.

Then stir in the Nutella.

(And, yes, my kids are wearing superhero costumes while we cook.  That’s how we roll at our place.)

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I slowly poured in the noodles while they stirred.

Make sure all the noodles get covered in the chocolate mixture, because that is the glue that holds everything together.

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Spray some nonstick baking spray in the muffin tins and scoop in some of the chocolate noodles.

You want to be able to shape them into nests with your fingers, so with a small indention in the center, or at least flat as opposed to hill-shaped.  If it’s too bumpy and you’re having trouble flattening it, just take some out.

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Put three eggs in the center of the nest and sprinkle a little edible grass over top, if you like.

You can see that my kids also added a few of the confetti-like bunnies that came with the edible grass.

This recipe makes 24 nests, but if that’s just too much for you, you could half the recipe.  Or share with all the neighbors.

When you first make them, the nests will be gooey and will fall apart if you try to pick them up.  They are still okay to eat, especially for anxious kids who want to try their creations, but they’re much easier to eat if you let the chocolate set first.

Put the pans in the fridge for an hour or so to help the chocolate set (because if you live in a humid place like me, that would take forever at room temperature), and then scoop them out with a spoon.  Preferably a plastic spoon so you don’t scratch the metal.

Store them in covered containers, using waxed paper to separate stacked layers.

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Chocolate Nutella Birds Nests

Ingredients:

1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup Nutella
12 oz. chow mein noodles
72 candy-coated malted milk chocolate eggs (I used Whoppers Robin Eggs)
Edible Grass, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)

Melt the chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl at half power, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth.  Stir in the Nutella.

Pour the noodles into the chocolate mixture and stir gently until they are all fully coated.

Spray 24 muffin tins with nonstick baking spray and scoop a spoonful of the noodle mix into each tin.  Move the noodles with a spoon or your fingers so that they are shaped like a nest.

Place 3 chocolate eggs in the center of your nest while the chocolate is still slightly melted.  Sprinkle a little edible grass over the top, if desired.

Put the nests in the refrigerator for at least an hour to allow the chocolate to set.  Remove from the muffin tins with the help of a spoon.

Store in a closed container in the fridge, using waxed or parchment paper to separate stacked layers.

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And here’s the free printable PDF of the recipe:

Nutella Chocolate Birds Nests

Happy Eating!

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Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Annnnnd….. now that it’s almost Easter, I’ve noticed that I’ve completely forgotten to post our St. Paddy’s Day dessert.  So here it is!  ;)

We made these Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Cookie Bars based off of the Lemon Cheesecake Bars that I love so much.  But we made these green (and mint) to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

They were a hit with both my kids and my coworkers, so I may try other variations in the future, since the recipe is flexible.

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The ingredients are pretty easy to pull together, especially if you already happen to have cream cheese on hand.

The base for it is a box of cake mix, which makes it a speedy dish to throw together.

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The crust will seem a little dry at first, but massaging the ingredients together will help.

If your kids like to get messy, this is a great job for them to help with.

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You’ll reserve some of the mix for the crumbles that go over the top, but the rest gets pressed into the bottom of the pan.  This is also a good task for little hands.

The crust will seem very thin but don’t worry, it will rise a little as it bakes.  Just be sure you spread it out to cover the entire bottom surface of the pan.

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I add the food coloring to the cheesecake ingredients before blending, so the mixer brings it all together evenly.

The more you use the deeper the color will be.  I was going for bright and bold because it was a themed dessert for St. Patrick’s Day, but if you’re going for a subtler minty look, start with only a little color.

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You can see tiny chunks of cream cheese in my cheesecake mixture because it wasn’t fully at room temperature when I mixed it.

This is okay, though.  It will still bake up just fine.

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Sprinkle the crumbles over the top for a fun look.  They also add a nice texture to the finished dessert.

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You can technically cut them into any shape you’d like, but I favor the rectangles.  I cut it twice lengthwise, and then cut those three rows into pieces about an inch thick.

This gives me 30 pieces, which makes it a great recipe for sharing!

Don’t eat these when they first come out of the oven and are still warm – chill them for the best results.  They can be enjoyed at room temperature too, but because of the cream cheese, you’ll want to be sure to store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients:

1 box chocolate cake mix (15 to 18 oz.)
2 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Green food coloring, gel or liquid

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

In one bowl, combine the cake mix, one egg, and the vegetable oil.  You may need to use your fingers to help it all come together.

Spray a 13” x 9” baking pan with nonstick spray.  Reserve about 3/4 cup of the chocolate crumb mixture for later use, and press the remaining batter into the pan.  It will be thin but should cover the entire bottom of the pan.

In another bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth.  Then mix in the other egg, the sugar, extract, and a little food coloring.  Beat until smooth, adding more food coloring if needed until you reach your desired color.

Spread the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate crust in the pan.  Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture evenly over the cream cheese.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with dry crumbs.  Cool on a baking rack until it reaches room temperature, then slice.  Make two cuts lengthwise and then cut into ten pieces across to make 30 pieces that measure approximately one by three inches.  Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving for best results.

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For the free printable PDF version of this recipe, click the link below:

Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Happy Baking!

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Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake

Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake Recipe by Roaming Rosie

This past year for Thanksgiving, I created this Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake.

It’s smooth and creamy and full of autumn flavors.  A perfect ending to the day.

I played around with some other recipes that are out there, and was happy with the way this one came out.  I utilized advice about how to make a cheesecake without cracking, and this one turned out nice and smooth.

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I love these Anna’s Ginger Swedish Thins.  I also used them in my Ginger Cookie Truffles.

I also used pure Madagascar vanilla extract and a stronger cinnamon.  I picked up the  Korintje Cinnamon and the vanilla at Whole Foods.

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By finely crushing up the two 5.25 ounce boxes of cookies, I got just over the 2 cups of crumbs that I used for the crust.

You could use a different cookie here, if you have another favorite, or if you can’t find these in your local store.  (I picked up the cookies at Walmart.)

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After mixing the cookie crumbs and butter together well, you’ll want to smoosh them into the bottom of your springform pan.  Grease the pan first, with either butter or a non-stick cooking spray.

A cup with a flat bottom can be used to press the crumbs down firmly.

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For the cheesecake batter, once you’ve mixed together the cream cheese and sugar, and then blended in the eggs, you will mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and the mixture of flour and cinnamon.

The brown powder you see there is not just cinnamon, it’s the cinnamon mixed into the flour.

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Then pour the whoooooole thing into the pan.

Wrap the bottom of the pan in tin foil, just to make sure no water from the water bath gets into the pan.

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You don’t need a water bath, strictly speaking, but it’s a really really good idea.

Just put the cheesecake pan in a larger pan and fill that pan with an inch or so of water.

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After baking for an hour, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in it with the door closed for an hour.

Then pop open the oven door a little and let it sit in there for another hour.  Once that hour is up, take the cheesecake out of the water bath, trace a knife around it to loosen the edges (above pic), and move it to the counter to let it cool fully.  Then refrigerate it overnight before serving.

Now, this all sounds like a great time investment.  It kind of is, except that all these steps are really easy.  You could, theoretically, skip some of them … but the cheesecake might crack or not set right.  So I suggest taking the time to do it.  It’s totally worth it!

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Oh and there is one of my Turkey Gingerbread Cookies.  Those were super delicious too.  ;)

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Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake

Ingredients:

2 cups crumbs from ginger cookies or ginger snap cookies, finely crushed
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) butter, melted
4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and set the rack in the lower middle of the oven.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter.  Press into the bottom of the pan.  Use a flat-bottomed glass to help press it down.  In a small bowl, combine the flour and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, use a mixer to blend the cream cheese and sugar until creamy.  Mix in the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time.  Then mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and flour mixture.  Pour into prepared crust.  Wrap the bottom of the pan with foil (to help keep out the water from the water bath), and place the cheesecake pan in a larger baking pan.  Fill the larger pan with an inch or two of water.

Bake in preheated oven for one hour.  Turn off the oven but let the cheesecake stay in the oven with the door closed for another hour.  Crack the door open and let it sit in the oven for one more hour.  Then, remove the cheesecake from the water bath and run a knife along the inside of the pan to loosen the edges.  Let it sit on a cooling rack on the counter until completely cool.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Refrigerate overnight before serving for best results.

[Note:  I used Anna’s Ginger Swedish Thins for the crust, but any type of crispy ginger cookie should work.  I ground up two 5.25 oz. packages which made a little over the 2 cups of crumbs I needed.  Also, using the water bath and allowing the cheesecake to sit in the oven with the door open helps to make sure it will not crack.  These steps are not completely necessary, but I highly recommend them.]

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Click here to print out the free PDF of the recipe:

Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake

Happy Baking!

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Turkey Gingerbread Cookies

Turkey Gingerbread Cookies

I hope everyone had a yummy Thanksgiving last week!

These Gingerbread Turkeys were one of the treats I made this year.

Just like my Autumn Leaves Mini Gingerbread Cookies, these use the recipe from my Mini Soft Iced Gingerbread Cookies.  Because I love these cookies.  So, there’s pretty much no way to make too many of these.

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Last year I made turkeys from sugar cookies (Iced Turkey Cutout Sugar Cookies), but I was in the mood for gingerbread.

Again.

I may have made a lot of gingerbread this year.  ;)

This time, though, unlike last year, I had a regular turkey-shaped cookie cutter.  It made the job a whole lot easier.

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The cookies spread just a tad, but the turkey shape is still recognizable.

Then I made four colors of royal icing:  brown, red, yellow, and orange.

I used brown food coloring instead of cocoa powder to make the brown for two reasons:  I didn’t want the chocolate flavor and it was much easier to make one batch of icing and add four colors than to make two batches, one chocolate and one regular.

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As you can see from the above photos, I outlines the turkey body first, then colored in the tail and face.

It takes a few minutes to draw the patterns on, but it looks SO cute when it’s done.

And here they are all packaged up to share:

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Here is my post with the gingerbread recipe:

Mini Soft Iced Gingerbread Cookies

And when you go to make the icing, make a double batch, separate it out into four bowls and dye them brown, orange, red, and yellow.  You’ll need more brown than any other color.

Then fill a plastic baggy with each color, snip off a small corner, and squeeze the colors onto each cookie like I did in the photos.  I did brown (body), then orange (tail feathers), red (tail feathers and wattle), and finally yellow (feathers and beak).

Happy Baking!

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Mini Gingerbread Cookies: Autumn Leaves

Mini Soft Iced Gingerbread Cookies Recipe by Roaming Rosie

It’s Fall!  So I made my Mini Soft Iced Gingerbread Cookies, but instead of tiny Christmas shapes, I made autumn leaves.

Mostly because I love these flavors alllllll season long.  Not just in December.

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Look at all the yumminess!

Cinnamon, ginger, molasses…. this is a good lookin’ list.

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It’s starting to come together now.

I love showing all the flavors that combine to make these cookies so special.

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I used the smallest of the nesting cookie cutters from the Wilton Leaves and Acorns 9-Piece Cookie Cutter Set.

Which, incidentally, I also used to make my Fall French Toast.

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So many cookies!

My kids helped me make these.  They loved cutting them all out.

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My girls also helped me to decorate them.  We dipped them into the icing, which is quicker than spreading it on.

(Make sure to click on the recipe link to see the full directions.)

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Yum!

I used regular chocolate sprinkles for some, but to get the yellow and orange combination, I had to pick the ghosts out of the Wilton Halloween Ghost Mix Sprinkles.

It’s amazingly difficult to find sprinkles in Thanksgiving/Autumn colors in the stores.  But the Ghost Mix is pretty easy to find around October.

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So once again, here is the recipe:

Mini Soft Iced Gingerbread Cookies

Happy Baking!

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