April 24, 2016

Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies from Sugar & Charm are one of my new favorite cookies, quite possibly my favorite that doesn't require chilling. (Although, you certainly can chill the dough and bake at your convenience.) It's a peanut butter cookie base loaded with heath, chocolate, more chocolate and more peanut butter. Amazing straight from the oven, although gooey, and still delicious the next day. (I can't vouch beyond that because they were gone by then.)

Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 cup soft, creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 1/2 cup Heath Bar chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. In an electric mixer, beat the butter, peanut butter and both sugars on high until smooth. Add the egg, vanilla, salt and baking soda. Continue to beat on medium.

Add in the flour, and beat just until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chunks, peanut butter chips and Heath Bar chips.

Scoop ice cream size cookie balls onto prepared baking sheets lined with silipats or parchment paper. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes until the tops are just golden brown.

Cool for 5 to 10 minutes until they've set enough to be transferred to a wire rack to cool completely. Or put them on a plate and eat their delicious gooey warmness.

April 20, 2016

Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowl

My favorite recipes currently are ones where I cook once and can feed my family for a week's worth of meals. It makes life easy, which I appreciate. And this recipe from From No. 2 Pencil makes life easy, delicious and relatively healthy.

I tweaked her recipe slightly, and ended up with something our whole family ate and enjoyed. (OK, I had to pick out the beans and any visible tomato pieces for my 4-year-old, but he's 4. That's normal.)

Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowl
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 tsp. onion powder
3 tsp. garlic powder
4 tsp. chili powder
3 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2 14 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 3/4 cups instant whole grain brown rice

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker, and add remaining ingredients except beans and rice. Cook on low for about 4 hours, until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Remove chicken breasts from slow cooker, and turn slow cooker to high. Stir in instant rice and black beans. Cook 30-45 minutes on high, or until rice is tender. Meanwhile, shred chicken. Stir chicken back into the mixture, and let sit 5 minutes.

Serve with your favorite toppings. Cheese, lettuce, cilantro, sour cream, green onions, avocado, guacamole, salsa and black olives all made an appearance at our table. I stuck the mixture in a crunchy taco shell with cheese and black olives for my one son, but the rest of us ate the mixture as burrito bowls. Serves 8.

Hibiscus Syrup

Last week when my toddler wasn't sleeping from 2-5 a.m., I found myself browsing my favorite blogs when I came across this hibiscus syrup from Sprinklebakes. I've never had hibiscus anything, but it seemed like a really good idea at 3:30 a.m. I dropped the stuff into my Amazon cart. Two days later I was making this simple, flavorful syrup.

I'd love to play around with it in the form of a cake, brushing the layers with the syrup and adding the syrup to the frosting. For now, though, it's being used in ice tea for my husband. Although, hibiscus margarita anyone?

Hibiscus Syrup
4 cups filtered water
2 cups sugar
1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 vanilla bean

Combine the water, sugar and hibiscus flowers in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon juice. Split and scrape the vanilla seeds from the vanilla bean, and add the seeds and bean pot to the pot. Remove from heat.

Let the mixture steep for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, and strain again through a cheesecloth or tea towel if you want to remove any finer hibiscus debris. (A single straining removed pretty much everything for me.)

Transfer the mixture to an 8 cup measure with a pour spout. Fill sterilized jars or bottles, and close with tightly fitting lids. Let stand at room temperature until cool, about 1 hour. Transfer bottles to the refrigerator.

Syrup will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator. Makes about 30 oz. of syrup.


Flaky Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuits and gravy is probably my dad's favorite breakfast, but it's not one we had often growing up. Lucky for him, my brother's better half is considerate enough to make biscuits and gravy every time we're together for a weekend. That's how my husband learned he loves biscuits and gravy as well.

Because I'm me, I don't do canned biscuits. I don't even do bisquick biscuits, which the me 10 years ago would have considered homemade. There's nothing wrong with either of those, but I think the results are better for the slightly more work, especially with this recipe from Girl vs. Dough. It's not an exaggeration to say these are the best biscuits to come out of my kitchen.

One of my tricks for getting breakfast on the table faster in the morning is to mix together everything possible ahead of time. All the dry ingredients can be combined in a bowl, just waiting for morning. The butter can be grated and stuck in the freezer. It might not save a ton of time, but it works for me.

Flaky Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, frozen or refrigerated
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup cold buttermilk

Heat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a box grater to grate cold butter into a small bowl. Place bowl in freezer.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda until well combined. Add grated butter, and, use a pastry blender to cut in butter until it's the size of small peas. Pour in cold buttermilk, and stir mixture with a wooden spoon just until a dough forms.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and gently pat into a rough ball. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut dough in half. Place one half on top of other half, and very gently press halves together, shaping into a rough ball again. Repeat 3 times.

Gently shape dough into a rough rectangle about 1-inch thick. Cut dough into 12 equal squares, and transfer to prepared baking sheet, spacing biscuits at least 1 inch apart. Place baking sheet in freezer 10 minutes to re-chill dough.

Transfer baking sheet directly from freezer to oven, and bake biscuits 10 to 12 minutes until golden and fluffy. Serve immediately. Makes 12 biscuits.

February 5, 2016

Groundhog Cupcakes

These cupcakes from Bakerella are probably the single most adorable cupcakes I've ever made, and they're quite tasty as well. (They're topped with candy, so of course they are tasty.) She's spot on with her recommendations for the candies to use to make these cute cupcakes.

I think these will have to be a tradition for us. The one thing I might consider changing would be to put a peanut butter filling inside the cupcake or a mini peanut butter cup inside just to make the cupcake itself a bit more interesting. The cupcake recipe, though, for a one-bowl simple recipe makes a mighty tasty cupcake.

I was a bit misleading when I shared these on Facebook because I said, "I could really gopher a cupcake right now!" So if you need a gopher cupcake, these will work, too. (And if you find a reason you need a gopher cupcake, let me know. That will give me another reason to make these.)

Groundhog Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 Tbsp. milk
18 peanut butter cups
36 candy eyes
72 Hershey's Drops
36 brown M & Ms or Reese's Pieces
18 black candy balls
1 marshmallow
Edible food black marker
Handful of chocolate chips
10 chocolate cookies, pureed into crumbs
Preheat oven to 350°F. Fill cupcake tray with 18 cupcake liners.
In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together with a wire whisk. Add eggs, oil, vanilla and milk, and mix until combined. Add hot water, and mix. It will be very liquid. Pour batter into a large spouted measuring cup for ease, and fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes or until done.
While cupcakes are baking, make the groundhogs. Melt a few chocolate chips in the microwave to use to "glue" everything together. Unwrap the peanut butter cups, and place on a baking sheet. Use a toothpick to apply the chocolate "glue" to the black noses into place. Then "glue" the 2 Hershey's Drops, and place as cheeks. Add the candy eyes in the same manner, and let the chocolate harden. Cut marshmallow into 18 small pieces, and glue on for teeth. (The original recipe called for marshmallow bits, but I improvised because I couldn't find them at the store.) Use the food marker to draw between the teeth. Repeat for all groundhogs.

For chocolate frosting, beat butter until creamy. Add vanilla, and mix. Slowly add powdered sugar and cocoa, and mix until combined. Add 1-2 Tablespoons milk, and mix until creamy and smooth.

Use a knife or offset spatula to frost cupcakes. Dip into cookie crumbs to add the dirt to your cupcake. Then carefully place a groundhog onto each cupcake. Smash the frosting up behind it to hold it in place if needed. Add 2 more Hershey's Drops for paws by placing them in the frosting. Glue on M & Ms or Reese's Pieces for ears. Makes 18 of the most adorable cupcakes ever!