I feel like I have been planning for the holidays for months! It is my busiest time of year for work (lots of deadlines and special events to work), I have several trips planned, some for fun (holiday related) while others are for work; and of course there is every ounce of holiday fun I plan on soaking up! It seems like every day there is something to do and places to be!
And as the days quickly pass by and the holidays draw near, I want to press pause so that I don’t miss a rare opportunity to make life long memories, to stop and reflect, and to really focus on the message of the season, being thankful.
There are so many things that I have been blessed with and that I am truly grateful and thankful for! For being taught to work hard and being blessed to have a job that I absolutely love. I am thankful that I live in such an awesome city that has so many fun and educational things to do. That the weather, as I sit and type this on my porch, is a picture perfect sunny, breezy, 72 degrees. That I have loyal blog readers that come back here every day and read all my ramblings, that make the recipes I carefully create and leave such kind and encouraging comments. I am thankful for complete strangers that bravely serve to protect and help those in need, in the past and present.
I am especially grateful and thankful for my friends and family! Eric, for always making me laugh and for his unconditional love and support. For my Mom, because of her love of family and traditions. For my siblings, brother and sister-in-law, who always encourage me. For my in-laws who have loved me like a daughter since we first met! 🙂 And this year, I am thankful to have the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with my Dad, for the first time in years. I am also extra thankful for several close friends, who have become like family.
Even though this is a busy time of year, I certainly don’t want it to pass without being able to show those people who I am most grateful for, how much I appreciate them. One thing that I really want to work on, not just during the weeks ahead, but as a personal long term goal; is making more time to hang out and visit with my family and close friends. Often life can get in the way of spending time with people who uplift you and bring you much happiness, but I don’t want it to anymore!
This holiday season I am going to make time to let my dear friends know how much I appreciate them!
I decided to I would create some mini gift baskets to give each of my friends to let them know how “extra” special they are to me. If you are a long time reader of this blog, you know I love using candy to create special notes of appreciation. Extra Gum is one of my favorites to use because you can find it at any store in a variety of flavors. Inspired by one of their newest flavors, Cinnamon Roll, I came up with these cute mini breakfast themed gift baskets filled with homemade Cinnamon Roll Biscotti, Extra Gum Cinnamon Roll flavor, a mini bag of coffee, and several cute and cheesy notes of appreciation all tucked into a jumbo coffee mug! Not only are these super cute, they are the perfect excuse to meet up with my friends and spend some much needed quality time with them!
While several of my friends live close by, others are scattered across the country. Luckily, Extra Gum is easy and convenient to ship. Since I don’t want to leave these friends out, I plan on packing up little care packages with several varieties of the gum with various notes attached to them.
Other fun sayings you could use are:
I’m “Extra” thankful for you! (Any flavor Extra Gum)
You’re “berry” special! (Extra Mixed Berry)
You’re “Extra” special! (Any flavor Extra Gum)
Thank you for going the “Extra” mile! (Any flavor Extra Gum)
You’re such a “sweet” heart! (Extra Sweet Watermelon)
We were “mint” to be friends! (Extra Peppermint or Spearmint)
You’re such a sweetie “pie”! (Extra Pumpkin Pie)
Homemade biscotti may seem a bit daunting but it really is easy to make! This version, Cinnamon Roll Biscotti came out perfectly! It is crispy, and perfect for dunking in a hot cup of coffee, just like biscotti should be; yet the flavor is spot on like the warm, gooey cinnamon rolls my Mom used to make!
Cinnamon Roll Biscotti
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Prep Time: 20-25 minutes Bake Time: 50 minutes Wait Time: 30 minutes Yields: about 15-18 large biscotti
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons half and half or milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
For biscotti, stir together flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and mix well. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, a little at a time. Continue mixing until all the flour has been added and a slightly stiff dough is formed.
Divide the dough into two equal portions.
Using floured hands and fingers (so the dough does not stick), turn half of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and shape into a rectangle about 10-12 inches long by 2-3 inches wide (it will expand as it bakes).
Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the counter and repeat rectangle making process with remaining dough, making sure both logs of dough are similar in shape and size.
For the cinnamon sugar filling, in a small bowl stir together cinnamon and sugar. Brush the top of both logs of dough with a generous amount of melted butter. Sprinkle a generous 3-4 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over melted butter, making sure all the dough is covered.
Carefully lift the log of dough off the counter and place it cinnamon sugar side down, on top of the dough on baking sheet; lining up the dough as best as possible. Remove the parchment paper and tuck the top layer of dough under the bottom layer of dough to seal the edges; making sure the sides and top are smooth and uniform.
Brush the outer dough with remaining butter and sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar mixture.
Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheet, for even baking, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until biscotti is golden brown and firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven, and reduce oven to 300 degrees F. Let biscotti cool for 10-15 minutes, or until able to handle. Using a serrated knife, cut the biscotti log, using a straight up and down motion, into about 15-18 pieces, 1/2-inch wide.
Place biscotti cut side down on baking sheet. Return sliced biscotti to 300 degrees F oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven. Using a spatula, carefully flip biscotti over. Return to oven and bake an additional 5-10 minutes until light golden brown.
For glaze, in a small bowl whisk together powdered sugar, half and half or milk, and vanilla, adding additional milk or powdered sugar to get desired consistency. Allow biscotti to cool completely, then drizzle with glaze.
Allow glaze to harden, about 20-30 minutes then wrap biscotti in plastic bags for gift giving or store in an airtight container for up to one week.