Month by Month Recap of 2020

 Like most people around the world, I'm ready to move on from 2020 and see what the next 365 days will have in store for us. While our family has come out of 2020 mostly unscathed in the way many Americans and people around the globe have been affected, we've had many trying moments throughout this year nonetheless. Our year had some really amazing highs, and as much as everyone wants to forget this year happened, there are many moments I hope to remember, even if they didn't turn out the way we hopped, planned, or expected. 


January 2020: In January of this year Derek and I took the kids on a trip to southern Utah. It was so fun to be outdoors in the warm air in the middle of winter. We enjoyed hiking, playing, eating at some of our favorite spots, motorcycle rides with friends, and so much more. It was an awesome way to kick off the year.

February 2020: After many hard months of Kyle struggling at school, we made the hard decision to pull him out of public school, and into a local Catholic school. The difference it made was night and day, but a few weeks in the kids both got pink eye, and then the flu, which left them out of school for a couple weeks. 


I flew to Columbus, Ohio to help with the launch and development of the #OnOurSleeves campaign with Nationwide Children's Hospital to help advocate for Children's Mental Health. While I was there people were buzzing about the incoming coronavirus. I placed a Walmart grocery order for a month's worth of food storage to be delivered to our home while Derek was with the kids. We never knew how much that would come in handy this year. 


March 2020: The world shut down. Derek started working from home. I started homeschooling our children, and we never would have imagined at that time that things would never be quite the same. Derek started living out of our walk in closet while I had kids setup in different corners of the house for school work and zoom meetings. We found peace being outside at local abandoned parks, driving in the mountains, or simply riding bikes in the parking lot of our townhome. 



April 2020: The two week break was much longer than we thought it would be. We got into a rhythm of school work, I managed to sign onto a new ad network for my site that dramatically increased my blog earnings each month, and Kinsley tipped over her massive tricycle and got her first concussion. The finest joys of being home all the time. We celebrated Easter at home with a small Sunday church service that had become routine by the time Easter came around. 


May 2020: Derek and I started evaluating what we wanted for our family long term as we knew we needed to find a new place to live come July. Our three story townhome was not conducive to a child who could not walk, and with an increase in rent for a new lease, it was no longer financially worth it to stay. We looked for so many single level rental homes that allowed a dog, but all of the available options were way out of our budget, and wouldn't allow for us to continue sending Kyle to his new private school.



We looked into building a home near where we were living and got locked out of the model home and took it as a sign to not continue down that path. Then we decided that Kyle needed to just go back to the same public school he went to for Kinder and first grade (not the same public school we pulled him out of in second). There were two single-level homes in our budget for sale in that boundary, but one that we thought was going to be removed from the boundary with the building of a new elementary school in our area. 


The other home that was in our budget was back in the same neighborhood we'd both rented and owned in previously. We felt sheepish about going back for a third round, and had inquired with some friends who owned lots to build in another neighborhood. They weren't going to have anything ready to move into until at least the fall, which didn't match up with our timeline, so we put in an offer on the house in our previous neighborhood and the rest was history. We had a 60 day close so that we could finish our lease and not pay double rent and mortgage and everything went smoothly. 


June 2020: We got a break from our normal day-to-day quarantine by going up to Idaho for a family reunion with Derek's brothers and sisters, and their families. The days were filled with games, a family 5k race, food, and welcomed company after long months of not seeing very many faces. 




July 2020: Derek and I closed on our new home, moved in, and almost immediately ditched the kids with Derek's siblings who graciously watched them while we headed down to Zion's National Park to celebrate our nine year wedding anniversary. It was our first kid free trip ever, and was so welcomed and necessary. It was another great way to break up the long days of being home and doing the same thing over and over again. 



August 2020: We celebrated most of the birthdays in our home. We had a family beach day to celebrate Kyle turning 8, Kinsley turned 6 and was spent quietly at home as I moved into a short lived role as a PE teacher at the same Catholic school mentioned above. I turned 29, and we spent the day taking Kinsley to her very first horse show which was probably one of the most magical moments in her little life. 


We also got into the world of remodeling our home which equated to us finishing Derek's new office (he's pretty happy to not be working in a closet anymore), our master bathroom, and Kyle's bedroom








September 2020: After teaching PE for several weeks, not being given the proper cleaning supplies to stay healthy during a pandemic, getting sick (not with covid), and a million other things that would make your head spin, I stepped away from my teaching position to help keep my family healthy, and to support my own personal sanity. Will I find myself in a classroom again? Time will tell. Question marks all over my entire future at this point. The kids also went back to school four days a week which was very welcomed after a long period of homeschooling and remote learning!



October 2020: Derek turned 32. I can't exactly remember how we celebrated but I think there was a chocolate cake involved, and Derek's sister babysat at some point for us to go out on a date night. We needed a miter saw to finish the remodel in our other bathroom, which Derek graciously accepted as a birthday gift. He also got to use said power saw for the good of the blog... seems like it might have actually been a gift for me and not for him, but he's a good sport about things. 



This was the month where Kinsley also had her final test to see if she qualified for a life changing surgery that could help her walk independently. It was a pretty low blow to find out that she didn't qualify, which left us with lots of questions about her future and the longevity of her ability to walk with her walker. Although the outcome wasn't what we expected and there was a fair amount of grieving that information, we also felt at peace with the situation because we understood that going through with the surgery would give her a poorer quality of life than she has now, and we ultimately want to keep moving forward and not backwards with her health.



This was a pretty defining moment for me that taught me to find peace in the unknown and that sometimes in life you aren't going to have all the answers you need immediately, but that sometimes your hopes and dreams change and shift with your available resources. This was the first time in Kinsley's life where I really accepted that she likely won't walk independently. She might be a walker/wheelchair user her entire life, and that's totally fine, but it's been a mind shift for sure since it feels like we've chased this goal for six years straight to ultimately realize it's not in the picture for the set of cards she's been dealt. 


November 2020: We spent Thanksgiving at home this year. Luckily that was mostly the plan pre-covid anyways since we did Thanksgiving in Idaho last year. I ran my first half marathon in two years, and we started a new tradition with a Thanksgiving piƱata. I still don't know if beating a fake turkey with a baseball bat was the healthiest activity for young children to partake in, but they had fun, got candy, and everyone was happy about it. 



December 2020: We finished out the year with lots of Christmas crafts, our annual Christmas service project, and a quiet and fun Christmas at home with the kids. We enjoyed board games and setting up our new basketball hoop and playing together as a family. We started a new tradition of making a birthday cake for baby Jesus, and really felt like we did a good job at marrying the balance between the fun of Christmas and the spirit of Christmas together. We had elaborate white board discussions about the true meaning of Christmas and what happened that one night two millennia ago with the children that always seems to put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. It's been my tagline of the year, but despite all the things in life I don't know, I do know we have a Savior who knows us and loves us, and that's been enough to get me through some dark times in 2020. 



2020 has been a year of highs and lows for so many, my heart aches for those who have experienced loss of any kind at the hands of this pandemic or otherwise. I'm hoping that 2021 can bring all of us everything that 2020 did not, and that you can find love, peace, and happiness in your lives. I'm hoping the same for me too. 


If you liked this post, Month by Month Recap of 2020, you might also like:

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @thehappyflammily to stay up-to-date on all the latest posts and projects. 

Best Wet Dog Food For Small Breeds

 If you're looking for the best wet dog food for small breeds, JustFoodForDogs has been a favorite for our little furry friend. If you're looking for high quality wet dog food, start here!


Chester has always been a very picky eater, and I feel like we've tried a wide variety of dry dog food, only for him to like it for a week or two, and then stop eating it again before we switch to something else and repeat the pattern. For a dog who only weighs 10lbs there really isn't a lot of room for him to get too picky, and we knew we needed to find something that would work for him long term. 


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Best Wet Dog Food for Small Breeds:

A few months ago I told Derek I was interested in incorporating wet dog food into Chester's diet. We started looking at the grocery store, but I didn't feel comfortable with anything that they were selling in the cans, that looked like they were full of precarious and illusive ingredients. We finally found JustFoodForDogs and it was the right combination of ingredients and affordability.

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I love JustFoodForDogs because it's made from whole foods and you can see all the individual parts in the food mixture. We've been using the Turkey and Whole Wheat Macaroni with Chester and I love that you can see the individual shape of the noodle, the meat, vegetables, etc... 

I also love how affordable JustFoodForDogs is! You can try their fresh dog food for as little as $5.95 for an 18oz package. This amount of food would last Chester 2.5 days, or longer if being served along side his dry food. The 72oz size is a slightly better deal financially, and would last Chester about 10 days if eating just the fresh food, but would last up to a month if mixed in with his dry dog food. 

You can also use promo code YUM20 for 20% off your first order!


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JustFoodForDogs is the best wet dog food for small breeds in my opinion, but it's also the #1 vet recommended fresh dog food as well. 

Transitioning Your Dog to Fresh Food:

When transitioning your dog to wet dog food, you don't want to make the switch 100% over night. To ease their tiny systems into it, start by giving them 25% wet to 75% dry for a few days, then up it to half and half, then up it to 75% wet and 25% dry for a few days, and then eventually you can go all the way to 100% fresh food. This will be easier on their stomachs and help them make the transition without complications. After 11 days your pup should be ready to make the full transition!  JustFoodForDogs has everything you need to know about making this transition here. 

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The benefits to JustFoodForDogs is that your dog will have more energy, a brightness in their eyes, well-formed stool, a strengthened immune system, and little to no doggie odor. I had no clue that my dog's food could be contributing to their odor! That benefit seems worth it to me alone! 

I also love that the JustFoodForDogs website has a calculator tool you can use where you put in all of your dog's information and it gives you the exact amount of food your dog needs, the best recipes that fit you dog's age/weight profile, and makes the purchasing process seamless and easy!

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How is JustFoodForDogs Made?

JustFoodForDogs is made in several open kitchens throughout the country. This means the general public can not only walk-in and purchase dog food, but they can see exactly how it's made as well. Their food and recipes are created by a staff of nutritionist and veterinarians so you can feel confident knowing that the food your dog is eating is designed specifically to help them thrive with their unique needs. 

Do you feed your dogs fresh or dry food, or a combination of the two? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Be sure to use code YUM20 at checkout for 20% off your first order!

If you liked this post, Best Wet Dog Food for Small Breeds, you might also like:

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @thehappyflammily to stay up-to-date on all the latest posts and projects!

30 Christmas Neighbor Gifts

Christmas neighbor gifts are such a fun way to celebrate the holiday with those in your close community. Here are 30 easy recipes to share with your neighborhood!

Christmas neighbor gifts are not something that I grew up doing but it seems to be a huge cultural thing to do here in Utah, and in Idaho where Derek is from. Maybe people did it in NY where I grew up, but it wasn't a huge focus or part of holiday celebrations for our family. Over the years I've come to really love this tradition. If you're in the market for some Christmas neighbor gifts ideas this holiday season, here are 30 recipes that I think would go over really well!

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30 Christmas Neighbor Gifts:

Super Easy Gingerbread Cookies:

We make these cookies every year and they're so tasty and easy to make! There is no chilling of the dough, so they take less time than other cookies, and taste great both frosted or not! 

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Recipe for Christmas Crack:

This is my favorite treat to make during the holiday season! It starts with saltine crackers, pour homemade caramel on top, spread melted chocolate over that, a dash of holiday sprinkles and you're good to go! This is what I did for gifts last year and got rave reviews!

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The Best Sugar Cookies:

These sugar cookies have been my go-to recipe for the last several years. They turn out great every time, and are perfect to stack on a plate for neighbors when frosted with royal icing. 

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Canned Vanilla Spice Pear Butter:

I made this for neighbor gifts when we lived in Georgia and it got rave reviews! It's simply a canned pear sauce essentially, or maybe more like a jam, but if you eat it by the spoonful I'll never tell. 


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Amish Friendship Bread Without a Starter:

I got in a bad habit of making this bread and eating it single handedly this year, but it's so good literally everyone loves it. It's a banana bread consistency, and has cinnamon sugar through the middle and on top. It's perfect to share with friends for Christmas!

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The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies:

These cookies turn out perfect every time and have been my chocolate chip recipe of choice for about seven years now! There is something perfectly classic about chocolate chip cookies, and anyone would love to have a batch during the holidays!


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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies:

These chocolate chip cookies are slightly chewier, more like what you would get from the bakery section at the grocery store, but they're also half dipped in chocolate and sprinkled in sea salt, and that my friends is a delicious combination. 


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Perfectly Moist Banana Bread:

This banana bread is hands down the best recipe ever. It's perfectly moist, made with sour cream in the batter, and turns out great every time. I've never had a flop. If you have some ripe bananas on your counter, whip up this bread and share it with a friend!

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Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies:

I haven't made these in ages, but brought them to a friend when they were hurt several years back. It might have been the brain injury talking but they seemed to really love these cookies. Although I'm partial to any chocolate peanut butter combo. 

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Swig Copycat Cookies:

Cookie culture is a real thing here in Utah. These Swig cookies are amazing and my personal favorite sugar cookie out of all the local cookie shops! This copycat recipe is super easy to follow and will make perfect treats for your neighbors if you happen to not live near one of these shops.. although I feel like they're creeping up nationally now too. 

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Halloween Whoopie Pies:

While yes these are originally a Halloween recipe, you could easily roll the edges in Christmas sprinkles to make it more seasonally appropriate! These come together with a can of frosting and boxed cake mix, so they're super easy to make!

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars:

These are another easy and delicious recipe! They take almost no time to make at all and are the perfect peanut butter and chocolate combo... make them for a neighbor or yourself... 

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Caramel Popcorn:

Derek is a huge caramel popcorn lover. We've been making this recipe since we first got married and it turns out perfect every time! This would be perfect to make in a big batch and then divide among cellophane bags to give to neighbors. 

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Oreo Truffles:

I used to make these all the time, but haven't done so in years! You simply crush up a bag of oreos, mix in a block of cream cheese, roll into balls, and dip in chocolate! So incredibly easy to make and taste incredible!

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Chocolate Coconut Pecan Cookies:

I found this recipe in a church magazine at my mother-in-laws house a several years ago and took a picture of the recipe to try them when we got back to North Carolina. They were super delicious and are all the fun flavors of the holiday season in one delicious cookie. 

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Snickerdoodle Cookies:

I don't know when else you would eat snickerdoodles outside of Chrsitmas time... This is another great recipe to make in bulk and then wrap up in small bags for neighbors since they stack really well together!

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Reese's Fudge Recipe:

I'm a huge fan of basically all the three ingredient fudge recipes on the internet. This one is a perfect variation with Reese's pressed into the top, and mixed into the middle as well. You could easily make this, cut it up, and place into Christmas tins, and you've got a super easy and amazing treat!


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The Ultimate Chex Snack Mix:

This Chex mis is perfect for the holiday season with tons of yummy goodies all drizzled in white chocolate. This is another big batch recipe that you can divide up easily for multiple families at once!


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S'mores Chocolate Chip Cookies:

These maybe might be more of a summer cookie, but they're so good you need them in your life right now, promise. The combination of mini marshmallows and chocolate chips are out of this world! 


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The Best Brownie Recipe:

I first made these brownies back in 2013, and they have been my go-to since. They're perfectly soft and fudgey, with that brownie crackle on the top. They also cut up perfectly into squares when cooled, so you could easily gift them on a festive paper plate for Christmas. 

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No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies:

These are such an easy and classic cookie to make. You could easily double or triple the recipe into one massive batch and divide them up into multiple plates for several families. These cookies come together in about 20 minutes with little effort. 

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Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies:

Another holiday classic recipe. These cookies could also be made with mini Reese's Cups instead of Hershey's Kisses and they would be just as good!


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Chocolate Pumpkin Bark:

This chocolate bark is another great recipe! Simply spread melted chocolate on a wax paper lined baking sheet, press in some dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and slivered almonds for a great and easy treat!

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Reese's Pieces Chocolate Chip Cookies:

These cookies are a chocolate and peanut butter rush! You could make them a bit more Christmassy if you can find some red and green Reese's Pieces (just googled, they don't exist), but these are still a great cookie option. 

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Super Easy Rocky Road Fudge:

This is another three ingredient fudge recipe with easy mix-ins. This one calls for mini marshmallows and peanuts and is fabulous for Christmas time!

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Simple Six Ingredient Granola:

If you're feeling a little sugar overload and want to gift something a little healthier that could be used for an actual meal, make a batch of this super easy granola! It only uses six ingredients, and could easily be packaged in a cute mason jar from the dollar store. 

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Sweet and Salty White Chocolate Popcorn:

This is another amazing big batch recipe that you could easily make in just a few minutes. I love the combination of the salty popcorn and the sweetness from the white chocolate... it's to die for. 

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Vanilla Pudding Funfetti Cookies:

These cookies are incredibly soft, chewy, sweet, and just all around perfect. Kick them up a notch with Christmas flair by adding in some Holiday colored sprinkles and you'll be good to go!

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White Chocolate Chip Dried Cranberry Cookies:

These cookies scream Christmas in my opinion. I love the combination of the white chocolate and cranberry and they are made with the same base as my chocolate chip cookie recipe. Easy, delicious, and full of holiday flavor. 

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What are some of your favorite Christmas Neighbor Gifts? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

If you liked this post, 30 Christmas Neighbor Gifts, You might also like:

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @thehappyflammily to stay up-to-date on all the latest posts and projects!

Kids Stocking Stuffers

 With a couple weeks left until Christmas, these kids stocking stuffers will be a great way to finish off your shopping this holiday season. 


Over the weekend I finished purchasing the kid's stocking stuffers for this year. We're trying to keep it really simple, filled with just a few practical things I know they're going to get use from. I think in years passed I've just gone over board with the stockings and not matter how good my intentions start, it always ends up being things that don't get used and thrown out. This year I feel really strongly that I've purchased things that will get used and be loved. 


Kids Stocking Stuffers:

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Boy's Bowties:

Kyle has been wearing the same bowties for several years now, so I thought I'd add some variety into his options by adding a new pack of bowties to his life. These were only $8 on Amazon, and come with five bowties, so they're an awesome value!

Kid's Face Mask:

My friend Karem has been sewing face masks around the clock the last several months. I've had my eye on a few for a while and snagged a Star Wars one for Kyle, a flower printed on for Kinsley, and a poppy printed one for myself. They're made with beautiful fabrics and I can't wait for them to arrive. 

Fabric Hair Bows:

These were another awesome Amazon find! This 24 pack came in a set for only $7! There are two of each bow making them perfect for pigtails, and it will help to boost Kinsley's stash because I can't keep track of bows for the life of me and am always losing them! 

Pluffle:

I've heard rave reviews about Pluffle for a couple of years now and have not tried it with my kids. It's supposed to be a foam like version of kinetic sand, it never dries out, and provides lots of sensory fun! We got a 2pk for under $12, and I'll pop 1 in each of the kid's stockings. 

Etsy Vinyl Stickers:

My friend Wendy is homeschooling her kids this year, and her 9 and 11-year-old are taking an entrepreneur class. Her kids designed these vinyl stickers on their own, and Wendy opened an Etsy shop for them to sell! I knew I totally had to support their endeavor via stocking stuffers this year. I'm sure these will end up on water bottles and iPads the second they get them, and it's going to make me so happy seeing these stickers from our friends around our home! We've had a sample on our iPad for several weeks now and it's held up great and looks brand new still!

What are you doing for Kids Stocking Stuffers this year? I'd love to know in the comments below!

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Super Easy Gingerbread Cookies

If you're looking for a super easy gingerbread cookie recipe, look no further! These cookies are perfect and don't require time in the fridge before cutting and baking!

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Derek is clearly the more fun parent in our home. He's made a tradition each year of making these super easy gingerbread cookies with the kids one weekend before Christmas. We've been using this recipe since we lived in Georgia five years ago, and it's been our go-to ever since. 

Super Easy Gingerbread Cookies:

What makes these gingerbread cookies soft and super easy is the fact that they never have time in the refrigerator. I love that I can make this dough and immediately start rolling and cutting with the kids and not have to pause, take a break, and get the kids all setup again when it's time to cook. We can plow straight through, clean the kitchen once, and be done! 

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How to Make Super Easy Gingerbread Cookies:

To make these gingerbread cookies, you're going to start by whisking together all of your dry ingredients. Then you'll cream together your butter and sugar. Then one-by-one you'll mix in your egg, molasses, and vanilla, mixing together in between each addition. Finally, you'll slowly mix in your flour mixture until just combined.

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From here you'll roll out your gingerbread dough on a lightly floured surface until it's about 1/4 inch thick. place them on your baking sheet, and bake for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes they won't look done, but trust me, they are! Let them cool on the sheet for a couple minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool!

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The Best Icing for Gingerbread Cookies:

Traditionally every year when we make these cookies I purchase 2-3 bottles of Wilton's Cookie Icing. It's super easy for the kids to squeeze out and work with, doesn't make a huge mess, and it's a lot less work for me. Alternatively if we don't have those bottles on hand, I'll make my own using meringue powder, and this recipe. 


Author: Paige Flamm
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Super Easy Gingerbread Cookies

Super Easy Gingerbread Cookies

If you're looking for a super easy gingerbread cookie recipe, look no further! These cookies are perfect and don't require time in the fridge before cutting and baking!
Prep time: 30 MinCook time: 8 MinTotal time: 38 Min

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 6 tbsp unsalted, room temperature butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a bowl, whisk together the four, salt, cinnamon, and cloves, then set aside. In a bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until just combined. Then beat in the egg. Then add in your vanilla and molasses and beat until it's all incorporated. Slowly mix in the flour mixture until it all comes together in a dough.
  2. On a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and then roll it out until it's 1/4 in thick. Cut out desired shapes with your cookie cutters, and then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes, and then cool on a wire rack. After 8 minutes of baking, they're not going to look done, but trust me, they're done!

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