From the perfectly frosted Christmas tree-shaped sugar cookies to the melt-in-your-mouth mini peppermint meringues, it's easy to see that Leanne Ferris certainly knows how to get into the spirit of the holiday season -- and make Santa's good list, too!
Ferris, 27, vice president of Technical Wire Line Service Inc., is one impressive baker who always has sweets to offer family and friends when they visit.
"The holidays are a perfect opportunity to share the things I love with the people I love," Ferris said.
My first experience in the kitchen: I was always curious about the goings-on in the kitchen, but didn't start my own experimenting until high school. Even then, I mostly stuck to simple cakes and cookies, but after I got married, cooking and baking became more of a priority. I want to be able to provide home-cooked meals for my husband and family, so I'm always looking to improve and learn new skills in the kitchen.
What I like to have on hand when family and friends come to visit: I will either have a cake (usually chocolate with chocolate frosting), chocolate chip cookies or sugar cookies with poured fondant icing or some homemade caramels (because I'm obsessed).
Everything goes better with: Chocolate!
I always mess up: Bread. I love making bread, but I have yet to master the right consistency.
I rock at making: Cookies and cake. I can whip those up in a pinch!
One of my cooking secrets: Be confident and don't fuss too much.
How I find inspiration to create a new recipe: I browse blogs, Pinterest or one of my many cookbooks.
If I could spend a day with a famous chef, it would be: Ree Drummond of "The Pioneer Woman," because I like her style of cooking and she seems very personable. She doesn't tend to use a lot of off-the-wall ingredients, and therefore makes it easy to experiment with her recipes. She seems like she would be a great teacher.
Advice I would ask her: I would love to know where she gets her inspiration and her favorite thing to make. Also, I would be interested to know what she's not good at making and why.
Baking is important to me, especially around the holidays because: The holidays are a perfect opportunity to share the things I love with the people I love. I mostly bake for friends and family for parties or as gifts. Around the holidays I like to make chocolate covered toffee, peppermint bark and caramels and then anything new that sounds like fun (holiday cookies, cinnamon rolls, pie, etc.).
Tools of the trade
Favorite piece of cooking equipment: My KitchenAid stand mixer because it's so much quicker and easier to mix things up, especially a double or triple batch of something.
Must-have kitchen tools: A good selection of whisks, spatulas, wooden spoons, knives, measuring cups and spoons.
Spice cabinet essentials: Garlic salt, sea salt, whole black pepper to grind, basil, parsley, thyme, cinnamon and vanilla.
Go-to cookbooks: I probably go to Pinterest more than my cookbooks.
Ingredients that I dislike: I don't like mushrooms or most seafood, and I'm not a huge fan of steak.
I buy this in bulk: Flour, sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, eggs and butter. Thank you, Sam's Club!
Cooking show I watch: "The Pioneer Woman," "Good Eats" and "Cake Boss."
Dream kitchen appliance: I would love to have a gourmet kitchen!
Favorite neighborhood restaurant and my order: That would have to be Benji's French Basque Restaurant. I always order the set-up.
Favorite specialty food shop: I recently discovered a wonderful chocolate candy shop in Spokane, Wash., called Spokandy. I can't wait to go back and sample more of their delicious candies.
Favorite bakery: I don't have just one, but I can say that I really enjoy bakery hopping in Solvang.
A few of my favorite things
Favorite meal to make: Homemade pizza is one of my favorite things to make. I love making the dough from scratch (preferably thin crust) and coming up with different topping combinations. I'm pretty sure my husband is sick of pizza now.
Always in the fridge: Eggs, milk and butter.
Best pick-me-up snack:A spoonful of peanut butter or a banana.
I'm addicted to: Plain, chocolate covered or salted caramels.
Favorite Christmas dessert:My mother-in-law's chocolate pie.
My go-to holiday cocktail: I'm more of a wine girl.
Comfort food: My mom's recipe for pot roast.
Splurge at the grocery store: High quality chocolate to bake with.
Favorite food discovery of 2012: Salted caramels!