The Season of Giving

It was required by the church my husband and I were married in to attend pre-martial counseling sessions. At first the idea of marriage counseling seemed weird. Wasn’t that for already failing marriages? We hadn’t even started ours and we were already required to go. As it turns out it was more beneficial than either of us imagined it would be.

The sessions were designed to bring up different scenarios that might cause stress within a marriage and to make sure we were on the same page before we sealed the deal legally. I have been told many times that money can be a huge stress factor within a marriage, and our pastor must have heard the same.
Our pastor shared with us an 80, 10, 10 approach to our finances. 80 percent of our income was to be used for our day-to-day expenses. Food, bills, gas and other daily needs come out of the 80 percent. 10 percent was to be saved. And the other 10 percent should be given away to charities. Some might say it’s a ploy for the church to get your money. However, our pastor was genuinely interested in sharing the joy of giving.
We decided we wanted to try to live our lives by that financial philosophy. Justin and I still haven’t joined our checking accounts, but we both committed to saving some money each month to give to people less fortunate than us. Unfortunately purchasing a home, paying for undergrad and graduate school, and other first year of marriage expenses didn’t allow us to save a full 10 percent. None-the-less we had fun giving what we could. I don’t share this information to gloat or because I expect a pat on the back. I just wanted to share the charities we decided to focus on this year and to hopefully inspire others to give as well.
Justin had the most fun with spontaneous giving. He made sure he had cash available whenever he walked by a Salvation Army bell ringer. He also donated coffee beans from Caribou Coffee to local food shelves and had cash on hand to donate to local schools bagging groceries at our local grocery store as well.
He also got excited when we were out Christmas shopping and the Saint Paul Police K-9 Foundation was having a fundraiser. It was a unique charity for him to support especially since two of my uncles were K-9 cops.
I didn’t take on the same spontaneous giving approach. Instead I decided to take most of my money and put it towards a few charities that I believe in. It didn’t take me long to determine where I wanted the money to go.

I spent the summer of 2010 volunteering at the Neighborhood House. I co-taught a beginners english class to English language learners. It was amazing to see what the Neighborhood House was doing for surrounding communities. I knew I wanted to donate what I could since I haven’t been able to donate any of my time recently.

The Minnesota Humane Society

I wanted to donate to the MN Humane Society in honor of our puppy Selby. People who work for the humane society and every person who has rescued an animal before deserves the support.

Minnesota United for all Families

Minnesota United for ALL Families is an organization with one mission. That mission is to defeat the proposed amendment that could ban same-sex marriages in Minnesota. If my donation can educate more people on why they should vote NO…well then it was money well spent.
Overall, Justin and I both enjoyed giving this holiday season. We hope to do it annually and make it a tradition that our future children will be excited to participate in as well.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
Sir Winston Churchill

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

At work I typically try to avoid the lunch room. It isn’t a cozy room since it seems more like an ice box than a break room, and it is usually full of co-workers. Nothing against my co-workers, but sometimes it is nice to head out for a mid-day break that consists of some fresh air and no one else.

Due to a recent staffing shortage I am no longer guaranteed a 30 minute lunch. I find myself heating up something frozen more often than not lately and eating it as fast as I can so I can return to my desk. I didn’t get to leave the office once last week, but luckily came across a conversation regarding something in the Pioneer Press. A yummy cookie recipe just in time for Christmas!!!

I seemed to have mastered Chocolate Chip Cookies. I could probably make them in my sleep, and I often experiment with different types of chips just to mix it up a bit. However, this recipe was different. I would be baking with two things I have never baked with before: Peppermint Extract and Cocoa! And if there is one thing I learned today, I learned that those two things together in a kitchen smell like absolute HEAVEN!

Behold, my attempt at making Chocolate Peppermint Cookies.
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
(Makes 32 YUMMY Cookies)
Peppermint Cookie
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Chocolate Cookie

2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Fudge Frosting

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Crushed peppermint candies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.

To Make The Peppermint Cookie:
Mix ingredients together in large bowl using a mixer with paddle. Divide dough in half. Divide each half into fourths. Divide each fourth into fourths again. You should have 32 balls. Set them aside.
Wash large bowl.
To Make The Chocolate Cookie:
In a medium size bowl mix together the flour, baking soda and cocoa. (The cocoa smells so good!) Add butter, sugar (I use all natural cane sugar instead of granulated), and brown sugar to large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Add in egg, vanilla and peppermint extract, and milk. Gradually mix in the flour mixture. Add slowly to avoid and don’t over mix. Divide the dough as you did with the peppermint cookie dough. You should have 32 balls. (I had to do this twice. Math was never a strength of mine.)
To Shape The Cookies:
Flatten one chocolate cookie.

Put a peppermint cookie ball on top.

Form the chocolate cookie around the peppermint cookie ball.
Make cookie into ball.
You can choose to flatten the cookies out by using the bottom of a glass or leave them as is. I baked my first 16 without flattening them. I forgot to finish reading the instructions. The second set I flattened. Both turned out just fine. The cookies should be baked for 10-15 minutes.

To Make The Frosting:
Melt butter in small sauce pan over low heat. Stir in vanilla and peppermint extract, as well as the cocoa. Add one cup of powdered sugar or enough to make the desired consistency. If it gets too thick add milk to make it more spreadable.
(I had a lot of issue with this. I ended up only added about 1/4 of a cup t0 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar because it was SUPER thick. There was no way I could spread it like normal frosting.)

After frosting the cookies sprinkle crushed peppermint candies on top. I could not find peppermint candies already crushed, so I put some candy canes in a Ziploc and smashed them myself. It was quite enjoyable.

Voila, Chocolate Peppermint Cookies!

PS. They are so good I ate three tonight. Eek. Good thing I did Punch, Kick, Jam afterwards!