December 17, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup Reindeer Cookies

When I saw these cookies at Bake at 350, I knew I wanted to make them. And when I made them with a friend prior to Thanksgiving, I knew I wanted to recreate them because they were so delicious. (Any time you get to eat a whole peanut butter cup and a cookie in one treat, it's a good thing. Add in some peanut butter frosting, and you're on your way to bliss.)

We repurposed these for Christmas. We made a much smaller batch of frosting and made a few Christmas owls with scarves, hats, ears and beaks. Since my sacrilegious friend does not like frosting, we came up with this variation to make reindeer. They turned out adorable, despite the fact many have goofy eyes.


Peanut Butter Cup Reindeer Cookies
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup smooth peanut butter
Toppings
30 full-size peanut butter cups
60 white chocolate chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted 
30 to 60 pretzels
30 red M & M candies

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.  Set aside.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the shortening, butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined.  Add in the peanut butter, and mix until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture.

Scoop the dough using a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop onto the prepared sheets.  Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 13 minutes, or until the cookies are golden and baked through.  Let them rest on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  The cookies will look poofy out of the oven and deflate as they cool.

To assemble cookies, press a peanut butter cup onto the cookie after they have cooled slightly. (You want the peanut butter cup to melt enough to adhere to the cookie but not become a giant melted blob of deliciousness.) Or, you can use the melted chocolate chips to adhere the peanut butter cup. Press 2 white chocolate chips into each peanut butter cup for eyes. Use melted chocolate or an edible food marker to make the pupils. Use either whole pretzels or break pretzels apart for antlers, whichever look you prefer. Use the melted chocolate to stick an M & M nose on each reindeer. Makes 30 delicious reindeer!

Buckeye Cookies

We like peanut butter in this household. In fact, my baking plans for tomorrow call for 4 cups of peanut butter. That's what I call a good day. (And my toddler will likely agree since he enjoys spoonfuls of peanut butter as a snack.)

When I came across these cookies from Brown-Eyed Baker, I knew I wanted to make them since they remind me of one of our favorite Christmas treats, peanut butter balls.

I showed great restraint in the sampling of these cookies by only eating one. The rest are for my husband to take to deer camp this weekend. I must love him a lot to show such restraint. My toddler didn't show the same restraint with the peanut butter filling, though, as he ate a large portion of it. I used my leftover chocolate dough to wrap a few leftover Oreos to bake up a few surprise cookies.

These are amazing and addictive. They are worth the bit of effort for shaping/rolling.

Buckeye Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Filling
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with silipats or parchment paper, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter, sugars and peanut butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and mix until combined.

In a separate medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter and powdered sugar for the filling until smooth. In a small bowl, put some extra granulated sugar for rolling the cookies.

Use a medium cookie scoop (or heaping tablespoon) of cookie dough, and flatten it with your hands. Take about 1 teaspoon of the peanut butter filling (or a small cookie scoop) and place it in the center of the chocolate dough. Wrap the chocolate dough around the peanut butter center, pressing to seal. Roll the cookie into a ball, and roll in the sugar. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Flatten each cookie slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 2 dozen fairly large cookies.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Rarely am I concerned about gluten-free recipes, but we have a family friend who visits every year for hunting season who happens to follow a gluten-free diet. When I came across this recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod, I knew it would be made for hunting season this year.

These are a definite repeat for cookies. They're not necessarily that healthy with the sugar and hefty dose of peanut butter, but at least they don't contain copious (or any) amounts of butter. They are chewy and delicious!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies 
2/3 cups whole oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In small bowl, mix together the oats and baking soda.

In a large bowl, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth, about 3 minutes. Mix in dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, and then gently fold in chocolate chips.

Roll cookies into 2-inch dough balls, place onto cookie sheet 2 inches apart andthen barely flatten the top of the cookie (with a slightly moistened hand to prevent sticking).

Bake cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, and remove when edges barely begin to turn a golden brown. The cookies may look a little underdone, but they will continue to cook once you remove them from the oven. Cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough. Makes about 16 to 20 cookies.

November 21, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse

As far as desserts go, this is a fairly healthy option. I found this recipe on Two Peas & Their Pod and had everything on hand to whip it up. I modified their version slightly and ended up with this quite tasty dessert for tonight.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup whipped cream
1 cup crushed gingersnap cookies

Beat cream cheese until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in maple syrup until combined. Add in pumpkin pie spice, yogurt and pumpkin puree. Beat until combined. Fold in whipped cream by hand.

Just prior to serving, top with crushed cookies. Makes 6 to 8 servings. 

November 18, 2013

Gobble Gobble Turkeys

I found a turkey cookie tutorial at Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle. I showed it to my husband, who said they looked pretty complicated. My response, "Challenge accepted."

I love how these turned out and think they are absolutely adorable. I know sugar cookies like these are putzy to make, but I think they are completely worth it when you have this cute of a turkey to devour.



Head to Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle for the instructions.

I also found the recipe for the cookies there, and I was quite pleased with how well the cookies turned out. They held their shapes wonderfully. Here's the recipe for the the cookies themselves.


Brown Sugar Cookies
3 cups flour 
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. nutmeg 
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar 
2 sticks butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and spices. Set aside.

Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts, and mix until well blended.

Gradually add the flour mixture, and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl. (The dough will be thick, so you may need to knead in the last of the flour from the bottom of the bowl by hand.)
 


Roll on a floured surface, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, and chill in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 2 to 4 dozen cookies, depending on the size of cookie cutters used.



Toasted Almond & Chocolate Granola

My toddler enjoys "helping" me bake. We pull a chair over to the counter, and he helps add ingredients. He also likes to taste test along the way. Well the ingredients for this granola from Love and Olive Oil confused him quite a bit.

First, it calls for coconut oil, which we use as lotion for his younger brother (separate containers for cooking and greasing up the kiddo, of course). So my toddler kept saying it was lotion for his brother. Then he decided to sample the coconut, which he thought was shredded cheese. Big disappointment there. The biggest disappointment for him, though, was when he sampled the cocoa nibs. Quite the face he made.

Despite his rough time with the individual ingredients, this is really quite a tasty granola. I'm so glad I didn't skip the coconut, which I contemplated since I'm not a huge fan. The entire combination works wonderfully and will be a definite repeat for us.

I made a few tweaks to the recipe based on ingredients I had on hand. I don't like the picture, but I like the granola.



Toasted Almond & Chocolate Granola

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa nibs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  • Read more at http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2013/09/toasted-almond-chocolate-granola.html
     2 1/2 cups rolled oats
    1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
    1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
    3 Tbsp. cocoa nibs
    1/8 tsp. salt
    1/2 cup honey
    1/4 cup coconut oil
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    1/4 tsp. almond extract
    1/4 cup cocoa powder
    1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with a silipat, and set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, coconut, almonds, cocoa nibs and salt. In a separate bowl, microwave honey and coconut oil until melted. Add in extracts, and stir in cocoa powder until smooth. Pour over the dry ingredients, and toss to coat.

    Spread granola onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until granola is no longer sticky, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.

    Remove from oven, and use a bench scraper or spoon to smush the granola together to encourage nice clusters. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, and lightly press into granola.

    Let cool completely before breaking apart to put into airtight containers. Will keep for 4 weeks. Makes about 6 cups granola.

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa nibs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  • Read more at http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2013/09/toasted-almond-chocolate-granola.html

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa nibs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  • Read more at http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2013/09/toasted-almond-chocolate-granola.html

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa nibs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

  • Read more at http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2013/09/toasted-almond-chocolate-granola.html

    November 14, 2013

    Sylvia's Perfect Pie Crust

    Someone named Sylvia sent Ree (The Pioneer Woman) her recipe for pie crust. I tweaked this version, using lard, and was quite pleased with the results. Pleased enough to post it here, so I can use it for future pies.

    Sylvia's Perfect Pie Crust
    1 1/2 cups lard (keep in refrigerator prior to use)
    3 cups flour
    1 egg
    5 Tbsp. cold water
    1 Tbsp. white vinegar
    1 tsp. salt

    In a large bowl, combine lard and flour using a pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat the egg. Pour beaten egg into flour mixture. Add water, vinegar and salt. Stir together using a fork until all ingredients are combined.

    Separate dough into thirds. Place each ball of dough into a ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each ball of dough to about 1/2-inch thick to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags, and place them in the freezer until you need to use them (or at least 15 to 20 minutes to chill).

    When you are ready to use the dough, remove it from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it is completely frozen). On a floured surface, roll out the dough starting at the center and working your way out. Rotate the dough frequently as you roll it to make sure it isn't sticking to the work surface. Roll dough until it is about 1/2-inch larger than the diameter of your pie plate.

    Carefully roll the dough onto your rolling pin to transfer to your pie plate. Press gently into the plate, and fold under the edges. Crimp either with a fork or your fingers. Bake as directed for the pie recipe.

    Note: This makes 3 crusts, which is wonderful to have a spare crust or two in the freezer (or to bake two pies at once).

    Asparagus with Sesame Seeds

    I found this recipe in an old Reader's Digest cookbook. It's one of those cookbooks with some of the now hilarious food styling photos, where things like a rice mold were intended to be cool. Regardless, this recipe for asparagus is a winner and passes the test of time with flying colors.

    Asparagus with Sesame Seeds
    1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
    1 1/2 tsp. butter
    1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
    1 tsp. soy sauce
    1 tsp. sesame oil
    1/8 tsp. pepper

    In a large skillet, bring an inch of water to a boil. Add the asparagus, and cook, covered, 3 minutes or until just tender. Drain, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again, and set aside.

    In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds, and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly toasted. Add back the asparagus, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until the asparagus is reheated. Serves 4.

    November 13, 2013

    Cookies and Cream Cake

    My wish list for baking projects continuously grows faster than I can bake ... or eat considering how many sweet treats are on that list. Therefore, it requires only the smallest of occasions for me to try out a new recipe that others might consider fancy (like this layer cake from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen). A weekend up north with my husband's family will suffice.

    Now you might think a family get-together weekend warrants a fancier layer cake like this. Until you realize that up north means no electricity, no running water and therefore no indoor toilets. Fancy indeed, eh?

    Still, we eat like kings up north, so this cake will fit right in. And my toddler didn't complain that we made it since it meant he snuck a cookie for breakfast during the assembly.


    Cookies and Cream Cake
    Cake
    2 cups sugar
    1 3/4 cups flour
    1 cup cocoa powder
    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. salt
    2 eggs
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    2 tsp. vanilla
    1 cup boiling water
    Filling
    2 cups heavy cream
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    15 chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed
    Frosting
    2 sticks butter, slightly softened
    1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
    3 cups powdered sugar
    1 tsp. vanilla
    4 Tbsp. hot water
    Garnish
    10 chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two  round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper and set aside.

    Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. Pour batter into prepared pans.

    Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tops of cake spring back when lightly touched in the center. Let cool in pans for about 5 minutes, and then remove to cool completely on wire racks. Once cakes are room temperature, cut each cake in half, and wrap and freeze the four cakes overnight.

    To make the filling, beat together heavy cream and powdered sugar on high until stiff peaks form. Fold in crushed cookies.

    Fill each cake layer generously with cookies and cream filling using a third for each layer. If possible, chill the cake again before frosting to harden the filling a bit.

    To make the frosting, beat butter and vanilla on medium speed until smooth. With the mixer on low, add powdered sugar and cocoa powder slowly until just barely mixed in. Add water, and beat on high speed for about 2 minutes. Frost cake, and press cookie crumbs onto the cake for garnish. I lightly garnished the top, and pressed crumbs onto the bottom half of the cake around the sides.

    November 6, 2013

    Apple Cider Caramels

    My last attempt at candy (homemade taffy) was a fail. My candy thermometer isn't necessarily as exact as a candy thermometer should be. Still, I saw recipes for apple cider caramels in one too many places to ignore, so I gave this version from Brown-Eyed Baker a shot.

    Luckily, these turned out despite my candy thermometer. These are my first caramels, and I am impressed by how relatively easy they are to make. And they are indeed delicious.

    I made a half batch in an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 bread pan, which gave me a quart jar of caramels. 


    Apple Cider Caramels
    4 cups apple cider
    2 tsp. sea salt
    1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    1/3 cup heavy cream

    Boil the apple cider in a4-quart saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3-cup and 1/2-cup in volume. This will take at least 30 minutes, and remember cider boils over fairly easily.

    Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving excess hanging over the sides. In a small bowl, stir together the salt and cinnamon.

    Once the cider is reduced, remove it from the heat, and stir in the butter, sugars and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium-high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side of the pan, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees F, only about 5 minutes or so.

    Immediately remove the caramel from heat, add the cinnamon-salt mixture and stir several times with a wooden spoon. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let sit until cool and firm, about 2 hours.You can speed up the process by placing it in the refrigerator.

    Once the caramel is firm, use the parchment overhangs to lift it out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife coated with non-stick cooking spray, cut the caramel into 1-inch squares. (You may need to re-spray the knife multiple times while cutting.)

    Wrap each caramel in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting the sides to close. The caramels can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 quarts of caramels.


    Chocolate Peanut Butter

    Chocolate peanut butter has intrigued me for a long time, given my affection for the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. Until fairly recent years, you couldn't find it in stores. Now you can find a wide variety of flavors both in stores and online, but you pay through the nose for them.

    This version from Averie Cooks is one of two recipes I've determined to try for homemade chocolate peanut butter. This is delicious and would be perfect melted and poured onto vanilla ice cream. This version is a bit thicker and uses whole chocolate chips.


    Chocolate Peanut Butter
    16 oz. dry roasted peanuts, salted
    2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1 Tbsp. vanilla

    Using a food processor, process the peanuts until creamy and smooth, about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides as needed. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla, and blend until smooth and creamy.

    Store in an airtight container. Refrigerate if you don't plan to eat within a week or two. Makes about 2 1/2 cups of deliciousness.

    Peanut Butter Dip

    This recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod is incredibly simple and addictive. It goes perfectly with banana for dipping, but I'm tempted to just lick the spoon and repeat that many times.

    Peanut Butter Dip
    6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
    3 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
    3 tsp. honey

    In a small bowl, combine yogurt, peanut butter and honey until smooth and combined. Serve with bananas or other fruit for dipping. Makes about 1 cup of dip.

    November 3, 2013

    Butterfinger Bars

    I really need to stop discovering new baking blogs, like Averie Cooks. I should really be finding healthy eating blogs, but these baking ones are so darn addictive. Kind of like these bars.

    I intended to use my toddler's Halloween candy to make these, but he only scored one butterfinger. Guess mama's going to be eating the leftover butterfingers from these bars.

    So easy. So delicious.

    They were a hit with my husband's family up north. I was even told I "sucked" because I only brought one batch instead of a double batch. Lesson learned for deer hunting, I guess, although I plan to substitute peanut butter cups for the topping I believe.


    Butterfinger Bars
    1 heaping cup creamy peanut butter
    1/2 cup light corn syrup
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
    1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
    3 Tbsp. cocoa
    3 cups crispy rice cereal
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
    1 cup crushed or diced Butterfinger pieces 

    Line an 8-inch square pan with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine peanut butter, corn syrup and sugars. Microwave one minute, and then stir. Microwave another minute, and stir again until smooth. Stir in vanilla, and then stir in cocoa until blended. Stir in cereal until evenly coated.

    Using a spatula, press evenly into the pan.

    In another microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and remaining peanut butter. Melt in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted. Spread most of the mixture over the bars, leaving a scant amount reserved. Top bars with crushed Butterfingers, and gently press into the chocolate. Drizzle remaining chocolate mixture over bars.

    Cook in the refrigerator until set, and then remove from pan to cut into bars. Makes an 8x8 pan of bars.

    Apple Cake with Browned Butter Frosting

    When I found this recipe on Cookies and Cups, I was intrigued partially because I have my annual large stash of apples. The other, more influential reason, was because it said Browned Butter Frosting.

    This frosting is so good you could eat it straight from the bowl. Just be careful you don't eat the entire bowl and end up with 1) a naked cake and 2) a stomach ache. (Aww, that rhymes.)

    And the cake is quite tasty, too.

    Enjoy fall!



    Apple Cake with Browned Butter Frosting
    Cake
    1 cup butter, room temperature
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 cup sugar
    3 eggs
    2 tsp. vanilla
    2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. salt
    2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    2 1/2 cups flour
    3 cups chopped apples, about 3 medium
    Frosting
    1/2 cup butter, room temperature
    3 cups powdered sugar
    1 tsp. vanilla
    2-3 Tbsp. milk

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease and flour a fluted bundt pan. In a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix until smooth.Add in baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and beat until incorporated. Turn mixer to low, and add in flour. Mix until just combined.Stir in chopped apples. 

    Fill prepared pan with cake batter, and bake for 55-65 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then remove cake from pan onto a wire rack to continue cooling.

    To make frosting, melt butter in a small pan, and cook over medium heat until butter is a golden color, stirring consistently. As soon as butter is golden, remove from heat, and beat in powdered sugar, vanilla and 1 Tbsp. milk using a hand mixer. Add more milk until the consistency you desire is reached.

    Frost cooled cake. Makes 12 servings.

    November 1, 2013

    One-Bowl Brownies

    I love that Smitten Kitchen refers to these brownies as nap brownies because they can be created (start to finish) in the amount of time her son naps. I know the feeling with our first child.

    I whipped these up to top cupcakes and never photographed the brownies on their own. These are excellent brownies, though, and they are perfect to toss leftovers in the freezer to help with portion control. I'm tempted to make a batch just to keep them in the freezer.

    I made just a few tweaks to her version.

    One-Bowl Brownies
    3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
    1 stick butter, plus extra for pan
    1 1/3 cups sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1/8 tsp. salt
    2/3 cup flour

    Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment. Butter the parchment or foil.

    Melt chocolate and butter together in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each burst. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour, and scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free.

    Let cool, and cut into desired size. Makes an 8 x 8 pan.

    October 27, 2013

    Snickers Scones

    My husband loves Snickers. I used to be more of a Milky Way girl, but my taste buds have expanded greatly as I've aged. (Kit Kats are still disgusting, though.) When I saw this scone recipe on Bake at 350, it was bookmarked since I knew it would earn me brownie points with my husband.

    These are impressive scones in my humble opinion. They are sweet, but the dough itself isn't overly sweet. My favorite part of these scones was how nicely the scones themselves rose into fluffy mounds of deliciousness. This would be an excellent base recipe for other scone additions.


    Snickers Scones
    3 cups flour
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 stick butter, frozen
    1 egg
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 tsp. vanilla
    1 cup chopped Snickers, frozen
    Topping
    4 oz. milk chocolate chips
    3 fun-size Snickers, finely chopped

    Preheat oven to 450°F, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silipat. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  

    Grate the frozen butter on the large holes of a box grater.  Stir into the flour until well coated.  

    Whisk together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla.  Pour into the flour/butter mixture, and stir until just combined.  Fold in the chopped Snickers.

    Scoop the dough out onto a floured surface, and pat into an 8-inch circle.  Use a floured bench scraper to cut into 8 wedges.

    Place the wedges at least 1/2-inch apart on a baking sheet.  If any Snickers are poking out of the dough, push them back in to avoid the caramel oozing and burning while baking.

    Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden.  Remove from the baking sheet, and place on a wire rack to cool. While the scones are cooling, make the topping.  Melt the chopped chocolate on medium power in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so.  Use a spoon to drizzle over the scones.  Sprinkle on the chopped Snickers. Makes 8 scones.

    Let cool 10 minutes on a wire cooling rack prior to eating to avoid scorching your mouth.

    October 25, 2013

    Chocolate Tasty Balls

    I made the original version of these and fell in love. I'm not the least bit offended my husband currently won't touch them because of the cinnamon (although he loved them originally). When I saw a chocolate version from How Sweet It Is, I knew I had to make them. I finally scrounged up chocolate-covered sunflower seeds to make these bad boys. I left out the cinnamon from the original recipe because I'm a nice wife.

    These are fantastic. I might have eaten at least 1/4 of a batch already since I made them last night. Good thing I made a double batch.


    Chocolate Tasty Balls
    1 cup  rolled oats
    1/4 cup ground flaxseed
    1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped
    2 Tbsp. chia seeds
    1 1/2 Tbsp. dark cocoa powder
    A pinch of salt
    1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter, melted and slightly cooled
    1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. honey
    1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
    2 Tbsp. mini chocolate chips
    2 Tbsp. chocolate covered sunflower seeds
    Ground peanuts or almonds mixed with a few pinches of cocoa powder, to roll the balls in

    Combine oats, almonds, flaxseed, cocoa, chia seeds, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir.

    Melt peanut butter, and allow it to cool slightly, and then stir in honey and vanilla extract until it's combined. Once peanut butter has cooled a bit, pour it over the oat mixture, and mix well with a spoon. Then bring together with your hands. Once mixture is sticking together, fold in chocolate chips and sunflower seeds.

    Roll dough into golf-ball sized (or slightly smaller) balls, and then roll in ground peanuts or ground almonds tossed with cocoa powder. These are best stored in the fridge. Makes about 12 to 15 granola bites.

    Everything Crackers

    Last month I made this Everything Hummus, and this month I made its counterpart from How Sweet It Is. These are flavorful crackers, but they do look a bit odd decked out with all the toppings. I followed the recipe fairly closely, but my crackers ended up being quite thick and taking much longer to bake. If you want thinner crackers that bake faster, split the dough into two before rolling to bake on two separate cookie sheets.

    They're decent but probably not a repeat for me. 


    Everything Crackers
    1 cup wheat flour
    1 cup flour
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. sugar
    1 1/2 Tbsp. cold butter
    1/2 cup milk
    1 egg, beaten
    2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
    2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
    2 Tbsp. minced onion
    1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
    1 tsp. sea salt
    1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

    Preheat oven to 350°F. In a food processor, pulse flours, salt and sugar until combined. Add in cold butter, and pulse until mixture is combined into course crumbs. Stream in milk while pulsing the processor until the dough forms.

    Form dough into a ball with your hands, and chill in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic for about 30 minutes.

    Flour surface and a rolling pin, and roll out chilled dough until it is very thin. Gently lift dough and place it on a baking sheet (or roll directly onto a Silipat for easy transfer).

    Beat egg in a small bowl, and brush onto dough. Sprinkle with seasonings, and then lightly press to make sure they adhere.

    Bake for 5 minutes, rotate pan, and bake for 5 minute more. Check crackers, and bake in 3-minute intervals until crisp and golden brown. Makes

    Cake Batter Cashew Butter

    I'd never eaten cashew butter, but that didn't deter me from making this Edible Perspective recipe. I'm glad I bought two bags of cashews for the project since I will definitely be making another batch. This tastes like cake batter, not completely, but enough to make it feel indulgent when you're licking the spoon. If you've never tried cashew butter, this is a great place to start.


    Cake Batter Cashew Butter
    2 cups raw cashews
    1/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt
    1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
    1/2 tsp. almond extract
    1Tbsp. raw sugar
    2 Tbsp. nonpareils (the sprinkles that are shaped like tiny balls)

    Preheat your oven to 250°F. Roast cashews on a pan for about 30 minutes, turning once or twice, until lightly golden brown. Let cool about 5 minutes, and pour into your food processor.

    Process until the butter is smooth, scraping down the bowl a few times. It should be smooth within 8 to 12 minutes. Once it is smooth, add salt, vanilla, almond extract and sugar. Process again until smooth, about 2 to 4 minutes.

    Let nut butter chill until it is room temperature before stirring in nonpareils. Store in refrigerator for longer storage, although it spreads best at room temperature. Makes slightly more than a half pint.

    Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies

    If you want to be inspired to decorate amazing cookies, Bake at 350 is a must read. She has a fantastic sugar cookie recipe (see below) that holds its shape wonderfully and makes me swear a bit less than other sugar cookie recipes I've tried. I had no interest in being inspired to decorate amazing cookies, but I stumbled across this blog and learned the basics of decorating with royal icing in my second cake decorating class.

    As if I really needed another hobby with a toddler and a newborn ...

    And then I stumbled across The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle and her insanely cute little pumpkin pies.

    I really didn't need another hobby. But I think I found one.

    I only wish I actually loved eating or making sugar cookies or decorating them with an infant strapped to my chest. I'm not sure quite why I did this, but I think it has something to do with how friggen' adorable they are.


    Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies
    3 cups flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1 cup sugar
    2 sticks butter, cold and cut into chunks
    1 egg
    3/4 tsp. vanilla
    1/2 tsp. almond extract

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the flour and baking powder, and set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts, and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture, and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

    The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.

    Roll on a floured surface to about 1/4" to 3/8" thick, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Freeze for about 5 minutes or chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, and then bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the edges are golden. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack.

    Makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending upon the size cutter used.

    October 22, 2013

    Blackout Brownie Batter Cupcakes

    I had bookmarked a couple brownie batter cupcakes, but this one from Cookies and Cups won due to its plethora of chocolate (and the fact it didn't use a boxed mix). These cupcakes are pure chocolate decadence. They rate as a top 10 cupcake for me, although I still couldn't tell you that complete list.

    My only complaint on these cupcakes is the cupcake itself was slightly crushed under the weight of the brownie batter, frosting, brownies and chocolate drizzle. What a complaint!


    Blackout Brownie Batter Cupcakes
    Ganache Frosting
    12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
    1 cup heavy cream
    Cupcakes
    1 cup flour
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 cup cocoa powder
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1/2 cup water
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1 egg
    1 tsp. vanilla
    Brownie Batter Filling
    1/2 cup butter, room temperature
    1 cup dry brownie mix
    1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    2 Tbsp. heavy cream
    Garnish
    Brownie pieces
    Chocolate chips
    3/4 cup milk chocolate, melted

    Prepare the ganache first, by heating the cream until it almost boils. Pour over chocolate into a heat-safe bowl. Let it sit 3 to 4 minutes, and then stir until it's completely melted and smooth. Chill for at least 2 hours until the ganache is solid.

    Preheat oven to 325°F. Put all cupcake ingredients into stand mixer, and beat for 3 minutes. Fill cupcake liners half full, and bake for 20 minutes until the centers spring back. Allow to cool completely.

    To prepare the brownie batter filling, beat butter and brownie mix together until combined and smooth. Slowly add in powdered sugar, and beat until combined. Finally beat in cream until incorporated.

    Hollow out the cupcakes, and fill them with the brownie batter filling.

    Place chilled chocolate ganache into bowl of stand mixer, and beat until fluffy and smooth. Frost the cupcakes. Garnish cupcakes with brownie pieces, chocolate chips and drizzle with melted chocolate.

    Makes 15 incredible cupcakes.

    October 15, 2013

    "Perfect Pizza Dough"

    I didn't name this recipe from The Bread Baker's Bible. I probably wouldn't go so far as to call it perfect, but this makes a delicious crust. It's more effort than many versions, but it freezes well if you make a larger batch.

    Perfect Pizza Dough
    4 oz. flour
    1/2 tsp. instant yeast
    1/2 tsp. sugar
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2.75 oz. water, room temperature
    4 tsp. olive oil

    Whisk together flour, yeast and sugar. Then whisk in salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the water. Gradually stir until a dough begins to form.

    Pour the olive oil in a 2-cup measuring cup. With oiled fingers, place the dough in the cup, and turn to coat with oil. Cover tightly. If you plan to bake it soon, let it sit at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour. If you plan to use later, refrigerate after 30 minutes to let flavors develop. Remove from refrigerator one hour before baking.

    Preheat the oven to 475°F one hour before baking. With oiled fingers, use oil from measuring cup to oil the pizza pan. Gently shape the dough into a round. Let it rest 15 minutes, covered. Gently stretch into a 10-inch circle, leaving the outer edge thicker. If dough doesn't stretch, cover and let it rest a few more minutes.

    Bake on a hot pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven for 5 minutes. Add toppings, and bake an additional 5 minutes. (Check after 2 minutes. If bottom of crust is golden, move to a higher rack.)

    Makes 2 servings.

    Melted Ice Cream Cupcakes

    When I saw these at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, they immediately topped my baking wish list. And when I went back to my old office, they were quite the hit.


    I don't really have a recipe for these since I used a compilation of past recipes:
    • Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes for the base
    • Peanut Butter High Hat frosting
    • Random cupcake crumbles from the freezer mixed with peanut butter and frosting for the cake ball ice cream scoops
    • Chocolate and peanut butter melted together for the coating and melted ice cream
    Lesson learned, though, with these adorable cupcakes: The sugar cones do not hold up well ... meaning they lose their crunch within 24 hours.


    Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte

    My indulgence at Starbucks is a chai latte. And that happens maybe a handful of times a year. I thoroughly enjoy chai lattes, but I'm just not a Starbucks person. I just consider myself lucky to get through a mug of tea at home without reheating it multiple times. (That's a rare occurrence with my two little men.) So when I found this recipe for a pumpkin version on Foodie with Family, I added the ingredients to my grocery list. (We were out of milk and didn't have pumpkin ... it's not a complicated recipe.)

    This is excellent and makes an everyday morning with two sick little men much better. And for something to make my morning better after being up 4 or 5 times with my littlest one, that's a smile in a cup.


    Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte
    Pumpkin Spice Base
    1 cup real pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
    3/4 cup light brown sugar
    1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
    1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp. ground ginger
    1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
    1 pinch of salt
    Latte
    2 Tbsp. Pumpkin Spice Base
    1 cup milk
    1 chai tea bag
    Optional 
    whipped cream
    fresh nutmeg 

    Make the pumpkin spice base by combing all the ingredients together until it is evenly coloured and darkened. Scrape it into a clean container with a tight fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
    When the latte desire strikes, pour about 4 oz. boiling water over the chai tea bag. Let it steep while you prepare the pumpkin milk. 
    Stir the Pumpkin Spice Base and the milk together in a microwave-safe 2-cup container or a saucepan until smooth. If microwaving, heat on high until steamy and frothy. If heating in a saucepan, heat over medium high heat until steaming hot. 

    Pour the hot milk into the tea. Serve as is or top with a thick cap of whipped cream and a few scrapings of nutmeg. Just make sure you stir it occasionally unless you desire a thicker slurp of pumpkin as your last sip.

    Canadian Bacon

    Yes, you read that correctly. I have ventured into the world of curing my own meat. I could blame my husband for getting the smoker attachment to our new grill this summer, but there's no need for blame.

    Curing meats requires pink salt, which I ordered online from Amazon. Aside from that, it requires a bit of time and a smoker.

    This Canadian bacon from Bake the Bread & Buy the Butter turned out wonderfully. It's slightly smokier than traditional store bought, and it packs so much more flavor. Next up, bacon, just as soon as I find me some pork belly.

    Canadian Bacon
    1 gallon water
    1 1/2 cups kosher salt
    1 cup light brown sugar
    1/2 cup pink salt
    1 Tbsp. vanilla
    4-lb. pork loin

    Combine the first four ingredients together in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla, and chill overnight in the refrigerator.

    The next day, place the pork in the cold brine. Weight it down, so it remains submerged. Let it chill out in the refrigerator two days. (See the time aspect?)

    Remove the pork from the brine, rinse well and pat dry. Place on a rack in the refrigerator to air-dry for 24 hours

    An hour before you plan to smoke the pork, take it out of the refrigerator to bring to room temperature. Following smoking instructions, smoke until the pork registers 150°F. You can fry the bacon immediately or keep in the refrigerator for one week. For longer preservation, wrap tightly and freeze. Makes about 3 3/4 lbs. of Canadian bacon.

    Brown Sugar Banana Bread

    This recipe is proof that sometimes you see what you want to see. I had a few ripe bananas and remembered flagging a banana bread recipe somewhere, so I decided to try the new recipe instead of my favorite. I found the flagged recipe on Cookies & Cups and thought it was a brown butter glaze the bread. Therefore, I browned my butter before making the bread to enhance the brown butter flavor. When I made the glaze, the recipe didn't call to brown the butter, so I was a bit confused.

    Lo and behold, when I went to put the recipe up here and actually read the whole title: Brown Sugar Banana Bread with Brown Sugar Glaze.  Hmm. That'll teach me to reach. Still a good banana bread with a delicious glaze.

    Brown Sugar Banana Bread
    2 cups all purpose flour
    3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp kosher salt
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 3 medium bananas)
    1/4 cup sour cream
    2 eggs
    6 Tbsp. butter, melted (or browned if you prefer)
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    Glaze
    1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    2 Tbsp. heavy cream
    1 Tbsp. honey
    2 1/2 Tbsp. butter

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 5 loaf pan with with cooking spray liberally, and set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together mashed banana, sour cream, eggs, melted (or browned) butter and vanilla. Fold dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

    Allow bread to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run knife around the edges of pan to release any parts that might be sticking, and then remove from pan, transferring to a wire rack to cool.

    In small pan, combine all glaze ingredients over medium until mixture reaches a full boil. Boil for 2 minutes, and then remove from heat. Let mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and then pour over banana bread. Glaze will set up, and then you can slice the bread. Makes 1 loaf.

    September 30, 2013

    Rosemary Focaccia Sheet

    The only thing we've grown this year is a small planter of rosemary that my son (aka husband) gave me for Mothers' day. That's due to our cramped and *hopefully* temporary living accommodations while we figure out life. While flipping through The Bread Bible, I was reminded how delicious these breads are. I decided to try a few more recipes and started with this one.

    This is a light, airy bread. My first rising was done much quicker than the recipe stated, but my second rising took the full time. We enjoyed it as is the first two days and then converted this into one of the most delicious pizza crusts.

    Alas, we ate it all before I could snap a picture.

    Rosemary Focaccia Sheet
    2 3/4 cups flour
    3/8 tsp. instant yeast
    2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. water, room temperature
    3/4 tsp. sugar
    3/4 tsp. salt
    2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
    2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
    1/4 tsp. sea salt

    Mix the dough by combining flour and yeast. With the mixer running, add water gradually until the dough comes together. It will be soupy. Increase the speed to medium, and beat until the dough is transformed into a smooth, shiny ball, about 20 minutes. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until they are well incorporated (about 3 minutes).

    Scrape the dough into a well-oiled bowl. It will look like melted mozzarella. Lightly spray or oil the top of the dough, and cover with plastic wrap or a lid. Let rise until doubled, about 4 hours.

    Coat a 12 x 17-inch sheet pan with a heaping Tbsp. olive oil. Pour the dough onto it, and spread the dough using oiled hands as thin as possible without tearing it. Let it relax 10 minutes, and spread to fill almost the entire sheet, trying to keep all the bubbles in the dough. Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap, and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

    Preheat the oven to 475°F an hour before baking. Have the oven shelf at the lowest level, and place a baking stone on the rack to preheat.

    Uncover the dough, and drizzle the remaining oil over it. Dimple the dough using your fingers. Sprinkle evenly with rosemary and sea salt. Bake 12 to 13 minutes or until the top is golden. Serve immediately ideally or store in a paper bag for a couple days.

    Homemade Sprinkles

    I had an egg white in the fridge to use up, so logically I made sprinkles. Right? I did a riff on what appears to be the most popular sprinkle recipe in the the food blogging world, Brave Tart. I'm guessing her version followed exactly is better than my version, so I'm not going to post my recipe. They are good and pass my 2-year-old taste tester's inspection, but if I were to go through the effort of piping them all over again, I'd want an outstanding version.

    Maple Cinnamon Roasted Almond Butter

    So I recently discovered the Edible Perspective blog and have bookmarked a half dozen of her nut butter recipes to try. This version was my first of her recipes and won't be my last. It ishard to not eat the entire jar by the spoonful.


    Maple Cinnamon Roasted Almond Butter
    1 cup raw almonds
    2 1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 Tbsp. almond oil (optional)

    Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a pan with parchment or Silipat. Pour the almonds on the pan,  and mix with the maple syrup. Roast for 15min, stirring 3 times.  Let them cool for 5 minutes. Put in the food processor, and turn the processor on. Let it go until it’s buttery, about 15 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl as needed. If you're having a hard time getting it to smooth out, you can stream in 1/2 Tbsp. oil after 12 to 15 minutes of processing to help move things along.

    Add in the salt and cinnamon, and process again until smooth and buttery.

    Shakshuka

    My most recent Cooking Light magazine contained this recipe. It's not my typical breakfast, but it intrigued me. It was good enough that I made it twice in the course of a week. A filling, satisfying savory breakfast.

    Shakshuka
    1 Tbsp. olive oil
    1 cup (1/4-inch wide) strips red bell pepper
    1 cup (1/4-inch wide) strips green bell pepper
    2 cups (1/4-inch thick) vertically sliced red onion
    1/4 tsp. kosher salt
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 cups marinara sauce
    1 tsp. smoked paprika
    4 large eggs
    2 cups cooked brown rice
    2 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese

    Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add bell peppers, onion and salt. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Stir in marinara sauce and paprika. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes.

    Form 4 (2-inch) indentations in sauce, using the back of a spoon. Crack eggs, 1 at a time, into a small custard cup, and gently slip into each indentation. Cover, and cook 6 minutes or until eggs are done.

    Divide rice evenly among 4 shallow bowls. Spoon egg mixture evenly over rice, and sprinkle with cheese.

    September 23, 2013

    Everything Hummus

    My picture of this hummus is slightly blurry and focuses more on my son than the hummus. I was just excited he was eating something from the vegetable family. For pretty pictures of this delicious hummus, check out How Sweet It Is. I modified her recipe only slightly, so check out my version below.


    Everything Hummus
    3 cups cooked cannellini/great northern beans (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
    6 Tbsp. olive oil
    2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil + more for drizzling
    1 whole head of roasted garlic
    1/4 tsp.salt
    1/2 tsp. onion powder
    1/4 tsp. white pepper
    2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
    1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
    1 tsp. sea salt
    1/4 tsp. black pepper

    Add beans and roasted garlic to a food processor, and pulse and blend until combined the beans begin to puree, about 2 to 3 minutes. With the processor still going, stream in olive oil and sesame oil, blending continuously for a few minutes (and scraping down the sides if needed) until as smooth as desired. Add salt and blend.

    Add hummus to a bowl, and drizzle with extra sesame oil. Combine remaining ingredients together, and pour everything seasoning over the hummus. Serve immediately with crackers or veggies. Makes about 3 cups.

    M & M Cupcakes

    My little dude turned a week ago ... and he still is my little dude. He managed to hold onto the 25th percentile for weight at his 2-year checkup. Meanwhile, his baby brother at his 2-month checkup, is off the charts for both weight and height. Seriously, his dots are above the graph lines on the charts. Guess that's what happens when you weigh 16 lb. 2.5 oz. at 2 months, which is more than his older brother weighed at 6 months.

    Anyways, enough about my boys, aside from the fact that my little dude loves M & Ms and Mickey. When I found these cupcakes on Cookies and Cups, I knew they'd be perfect for his birthday celebration. The kids loved the little Mickey faces I made with M & Ms. My husband loved the frosting. My sister-in-law, who doesn't like chocolate cake, loved the cupcake. This is an all-around crowd pleaser. My only complaint was my cupcakes didn't dome nicely, but that was covered by a mound of frosting.


    M & M Cupcakes
    1/4 cup butter, softened
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    1 egg
    1 tsp. vanilla
    3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
    1 cup flour
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 cup sour cream
    1/2 cup hot water
    Frosting
    1 cup butter, softened
    3 cups powdered sugar
    1 cup M & M candies, blended to a coarse dust

    Preheat oven to 350° F. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

    Cream butter and sugar together in stand mixer, beating until light, 1 to 2 minutes. Add in egg and vanilla, and mix until smooth.

    In microwave or over a double boiler, melt the milk chocolate. Stir the chocolate into the butter mixture.

    Add the flour mixture and sour cream in alternating increments, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir until combined. Slowly add in hot water and stir until smooth.

    Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full, and bake 15 to 17 minutes until tops are set and spring back to the touch. Cool completely on a wire rack.

    To make the frosting, blend M & M candies until they are a coarse dust. In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter until smooth. Slowly add in powdered sugar, and then beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Mix in crushed M & Ms, and beat until evenly incorporated. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes. Makes 15 cupcakes.

    September 17, 2013

    Homemade Ricotta

    My cheesemaking adventures continued this morning with homemade ricotta following the recipe from Bake the Bread and Buy the Butter. (Sidenote on the title: I still want to make my own butter at least once.)

    Ricotta is incredibly easy to make and uses ingredients you already have in your kitchen. It takes about an hour total, and perhaps 5 minutes of that is hands on time. We're having lasagna tonight with homemade ricotta. Makes me sound a lot fancier and more together than I really am.

    Homemade Ricotta
    1 gallon milk
    3/4 cup white vinegar

    Combine milk and vinegar in a large pot. Slowly heat, bringing to almost a boil. The mixture should have clearly defined curd (solidish) and whey (liquid). Turn off the heat, and let the mixture stand 20 minutes.

    Line a colander with cheesecloth or flour sack towel. Place colander over a large bowl. Gently ladle curd into the colander. Let stand 20 minutes or until whey is drained.

    Place ricotta in a tightly sealed container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. The leftover whey (and there's a lot) can be used for baking breads in place of water or milk. I bet it could be used in cakes as well in place of buttermilk.

    Makes about 2 1/2 cups of ricotta.

    Salted Caramel Popcorn

    I am hopelessly addicted to caramel popcorn. Hopelessly. If I were still pregnant or in the first couple weeks afterward, I am pretty sure I would eat the entire batch in a day. As it is, I'm trying to show some restraint.

    I found this at Cookies and Cups right after I made a delicious salted caramel sauce from Brown Eyed Baker. That made me figure it was destiny to make this. As all, caramel popcorn, it's delicious. I would recommend the higher amount of salt for a little extra pizazz.


    Ignore the craptastic picture. Just consider yourself lucky I didn't devour it all before snapping a quick shot. 

    Salted Caramel Popcorn
    1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels (about 16 cups popped corn)
    1 cup salted butter
    1 cup light brown sugar
    1/3 cup light corn syrup
    1 1/2 - 2 tsp. kosher or sea salt, divided

    Preheat oven to 300° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.

    Pop popcorn kernels using air popper into a large bowl.

    In a small saucepan melt butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and 1 tsp. salt together over medium heat. Bring to boil. Boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Pour caramel mixture over popcorn, and stir to coat evenly.

    Pour popcorn into lined pan, sprinkle remaining salt on top (1/2 tsp. - 1 tsp. depending on your personal preference) and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Allow popcorn to cool on a parchment lined counter.



    September 16, 2013

    Raspberry Scones

    Unlike many of the scone recipes on my blog and elsewhere, this is actually a fairly healthy scone. And still a tasty one. It's not nearly as sweet as some scones, which makes it the perfect accompaniment to a mug of tea (which is compleley necessary when your littlest one is up for a 2 a.m. feeding and then up again from before 4 until 4:30ish and your other little one is up for good at 5 a.m.). Enough rambling.

    These are a worth repeating. And the recipe from A Farm Girl's Dabbles was forgiving enough to handle me not properly following the mixing instructions despite knowing better. (See above lack of sleep.) Here's my slight variation on the original recipe.


    Raspberry Scones
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 Tbsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 cup sugar
    4 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    3/4 cup fresh raspberries
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    2 Tbsp. vanilla sugar

    Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, salt and sugar.

    With a rigid pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal with larger pea size pieces. Add raspberries, and fold gently to coat. Make a well in the center, and then add buttermilk and egg. Stir just until combined, taking care to not over mix. The dough will be very soft.

    Put a bit of flour in a bowl, and coat your hands. Knead the dough 2 or 3 times, right in the bowl, coating your hands with additional flour as needed. The dough will be very loose. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop scones to prepared pan, dividing into 8 equal portions. It works best to slightly compress the dough into the scoop using the side of the bowl, so the dough is compact.

    Sprinkle the tops of the scones with vanilla sugar. Bake until scones are golden brown, about 13 minutes. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Makes 8 scones.




    September 13, 2013

    5-Seed Applesauce Bread

    This recipe from Bake at 350 caught my eye because we have a plethora of applesauce, and it's a relatively healthy quick bread recipe. The juxtaposition of seeds with sweet applesauce creates an interesting texture and flavor.

    Don't be intimidated by the long ingredient list. It's an easy recipe to pull together.

    I pre-sliced the bread and flash froze the loaves, so we just grab a slice or two when we need it for a lunch or snack.

    5-Seed Applesauce Bread
    1/4 cup sunflower seeds
    1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
    1 Tbsp. flax seeds
    1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
    1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
    1/3 cup pecans, roughly chopped
    3 cups whole wheat flour
    1 Tbsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    2 tsp. cinnamon
    1/4 tsp. cloves
    3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
    3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
    4 eggs
    1 cup honey
    1 tsp. vanilla
    3/4 cup buttermilk

    Preheat oven to 325°F.  Grease two 8" loaf pans, and set aside. Roughly chop the sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds. (You can also use a coffee grinder to pulse the flax to crack the seeds.)  Place in a large bowl.

    Add the chopped pecans, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves.  Stir together, and set aside.

    In another large bowl, whisk the oil and applesauce together until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, whisking each well.  Whisk in the honey and vanilla.  Finally, whisk in the buttermilk.

    Stir the dry mixture into the wet, stirring just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Divide evenly between the two prepared loaf pans.

    Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and place on a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Makes 2 loaves.

    September 12, 2013

    Strawberry Vinaigrette

    I found this recipe on Canning Granny and was intrigued. So, I waited until strawberries went on sale to try this. The end result is a sweet vinaigrette with a beautiful color. This is something I'd definitely make again but would probably cut down the sugar by half or so. With all the vinegar, it should still be shelf stable (but no guarantees from me on that).

    Strawberry Vinaigrette
    5 quarts (25 cups) fresh whole strawberries, washed and stemmed
    2 cups distilled white vinegar
    2 cups white wine vinegar
    Sugar (see recipe for details)

    Slice strawberries, and place them in a bowl with the vinegar. Let them sit at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for about 24 hours.

    Prepare your jars, lids and rings to sterilize them.

    Strain the strawberry vinegar through a fine wire strainer. Let it drip, but it's also fine to push the berries to force out the liquid. You may end up with a few small particles, which is perfectly fine. Discard leftover strawberry pulp.

    Place the strawberry vinegar in a saucepan, and add an equal amount of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, and ladle the hot vinaigrette into half-pint jars, leaving half-inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Makes approximately 8 half-pint jars of vinaigrette.

    Baked Peach Oatmeal

    I've seen quite a few recipes for baked oatmeal. Since I had a few peaches/nectarines about to spoil, it was perfect timing when I came across this version from Two Peas & Their Pod.

    Now I'm thinking I should revisit some of those other baked oatmeals I've seen. This is an easy, delicious and healthy breakfast. After mixing it together, my hands smelled wonderful. I wish my hands always smelled like that. And this recipe is forgiving if you want to make substitutions.


    Baked Peach Oatmeal
    2 cups rolled oats
    1/4 cup light brown sugar
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    2 cups almond milk
    1 large egg
    3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1/4 tsp. almond extract
    2 cups chopped peaches and/or nectarines

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 x 8 square baking dish, and set aside.

    In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

    In another medium bowl, whisk together the almond milk, egg, coconut oil, vanilla and almond extract.

    Arrange the chopped peaches on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pour the oat mixture evenly over the peaches. Pour the almond milk mixture over the oats. Gently shake the baking dish to make sure the milk covers the oats evenly.

    Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden and oatmeal is set. Let cool for 5 minutes, and serve warm. Leftovers can be easily reheated in the microwave. Makes 6 servings.