Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I MOVED!

I moved my blog over to wordpress. I would LOVE it if you visited me there:

http://bakingblonde.wordpress.com/

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Apple of my Eye

Anyone who has read my blog probably realizes really quickly my love for all things chocolate and peanut butter as reflected by the numerous recipes including those ingredients. However, I also have a deep deep love for fruit. I rarely bake with fruit but thought today was a great day to change things up a bit. *In the picture above those are chunks of apples, not white chocolate!

This is a recipe that I copied from a roommate in college. I think it is a Betty Crocker recipe but could not find it. If anyone does, please let me know and I will provide the link.

These cookies are very very good. I had just bought a bag of Kraft Caramel Bits and decided to throw some of those in as well even though the original recipe did not call for them. They are very good warm while the caramel is all gooey but I am afraid it may harden after they cool. Only time will tell. Either way, it is a GREAT addition and these are wonderful with a scoop of cinnamon icecream!
Next time:
I may try Heath bits instead of the Caramel bits to add a toffee/carmel flavor. Nuts like chopped pecans or walnuts would be good as well.

I will also chop the apples into smaller chunks (about 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch). Some of my chunks were pretty big and caused for uneaven spreading while baking and made it difficult for the cookies to hold their shape (do to the low ratio of dough to apples) and are not as sturdy as most cookies.
I may make a cinnamon/creamcheese filling/frosting and turn some into "Carmel Apple Whoopie Pie Cookies" even though they are not the sturdiest, I bet it would be messy but good.
I will be making these again for sure, especially with Spring here it is a nice change of pace.

Apple Jacks
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup apple chopped (I would small dice 1 small-medium apple)
1/2 to 3/4 cup Kraft Carmel bits or Heath Baking bits (optional)


Preheat oven to 350.

Line baking sheet with Parchment or lightly spray with PAM.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.

Beat the butter with a mixer and add the sugar, vanilla and egg and beat until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine.
Fold in the apple pieces (and any other add-ins).

Drop the dough onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart (these spread a bit).
Bake for 9-12 minutes or until light brown and edges are set. Allow to cool slightly on baking sheet and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
NOTE: *DO NOT store completely covered or they will be very very soft and not hold up well due to the moisture in the apples. I find storing loosely covered in the fridge helps them keep their texture, however then the Caramel Bits get hard. I am thinking Toffee Chips might be a better addition next time. These really are best the day you bake, especially after they have cooled a bit but are still warm!

*These are really good with cinnamon icecream and hot caramel sauce.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blogging with a Purpose!

Wow! What a wonderful way to celebrate Spring than to receive an award? Bethany at this little piggy went to market bestowed upon me the "Blogging with a Purpose" award. What an honor to receive an award by a fellow blogger! I am just excited fellow bloggers actually read my blog and know it exists. It is my little hobby and there are no bells and whistles but none of my recipes are too "fancy" anyway. I tend to stick to recipes that anyone can whip up in a pinch to satisfy their sweet tooth or the sweet teeth of others!
Time to spread the love and nominate a few of my faves:
1.First up is Beth at Our Sweet Life. I love her blog and can not wait to make her Creme Brulee! It looks wondeful and I have never tried to make one before. Her picture is enough to inspire anyone to give it a go!
2.Anna from Cookie Madness has caused me to go mad over all of her baked goods! My gosh she updates often and almost all updates include a mouth watering photo of the recipe as well as Anna's hints or tips for making the recipe. How great is that??
3.Katie from The HyperHome Maker has really caused me to get my life organized. I am inspired by her amount of energy and enthusiasm when it comes to everything domestic. She is truly a Godess!! You have to check out her blog!!
4.BiscuitPusher from the Biscuit Pusher is one of my favorite blogs. She is constantly updating with great recipes and photos that are drool-worthy! I am totally eyeing her Peanutbutter Banana Bars!
5.Last but not least is Elizabeth of Elizabeth's Cooking Experiments, there are so many comforting recipes on her blog that take me right back to my childhood! Fried Chicken anyone?? Love it!
Award-winners, here's what you should do:

1. nominate 5 blogs which haven't had this award before
2. each of the blogs must have a purpose
3. the nominated blogs must make a link back to this page
4. the logo from the award must be put on their blog and it must link back to this blog!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Incognito

Yup, I am at it again with the Peanut Butter. Be honest though, can you ever have too many desserts with Peanut Butter and Chocolate?? I think not.

This recipe comes from my Grandma's recipe box. Deceivingly these were titled Peanut Butter Bars, but as you can see these look more like a brownie than a Peanut Butter bar! In reality these moist little bars are more like a brownie with a slight Peanut Butter undertone than what I think a Peanut Butter bar to be so I am changing their name to Incognito Bars (because the PB flavor is undercover in these chocolatey-looking bars).

These bars are thick, moist and all in all very good. I will be making these again and I really liked the simplicity of the recipe and how quick they came together.

*Next time I might increase the amount of Peanut Butter by 2 TBS and increase the amount of cocoa powder to 3TBS total(decreasing the amount of flour by 1 TBS so the texture and consistency of the bars remains unchanged). I might also add mini chocoalte chips or those mini Reese's PB baking cups or chips to the batter before baking.

As you can see, I have several ideas in mind for these little babies in the near future because these bars were very good and worth a try.

I tasted one of these babies while they were warm and found the flavor of both the chocolate and Peanut Butter to be too subtle for my liking. I felt they needed to be "Jazzed" up a bit. So, I whipped up a simple Chocolate/Peanut Butter 'frosting' and topped with crumbled a Butterfinger bar.

The Result? MMMMM, finger licking good!

I did notice, however, after cooling the flavor of the bars themselves seemed to deepen a bit and you can taste the chocolate and peanut butter a little more than right out of the oven. Because their flavor seems to deepen after they set a few hours/overnight you may want to try these bars after they have cooled and set without the frosting/candy bar topping to see if you feel they need that extra sweetness.
I found them to be great with the additions by my tooth has been known to be pretty sweet!

Incognito Bars
1/3 cup Peanut Butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2 TBS cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting (if desired)
Chopped/Crushed Candy bars (if desired, Butterfinger's pictured)

Preheat oven to 325.
Line an 8x8 pan with foil and spray with PAM.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.
In a medium mixing bowl cream the peanut butter, butter and sugar until combined. Add eggs and beat well. Slowly add the flour mixture.
Spread batter in pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool.
Frost if desired and sprinkle with crushed Butterfinger bar (as pictured) or Chopped Reese's PB cups.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting (Optional)
1/2 cup Peanut Butter (creamy)
1 cup Chocolate Chips
1 TBS shortening

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, stir toghter Peanut Butter, chips and shortening until smooth. You can add more Peanut Butter or Chocolate chips depending how much frosting you want and to taste.
Gently Spread Evenly over bars. Sprinkle with crushed/chopped candy if desired.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

S'more Goodies!

These bars are very good, messy, but good!
I got the recipe out of an old church cookbook and couldn't wait to try them because they combine the goodness of a S'more: graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows in an ooey gooey bar. Another reason these bars caught my eye is that they do not require any bake time! Perfect for summer days when you don't want to use your oven but still want a tastey sweet!

These were a breeze to make and so good that I was eating them out of the pan with a spoon before they were cool. After cooling some they were easier to cut and serve, however, they did crumble a bit but the taste makes up for the mess factor in my opinion!

I am not sure how long these would stay fresh and chewy because I took them to work and they were gone in minutes.

S'mores Bars
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup butter (no substitutions)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
15 crushed graham crackers (I used 9 rectangular crackers)
1 1/2 cups small marshmallows
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
Line an 8x8 pan with foil and spray with PAM.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, 3/4 cup marshmallows and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, combine the egg, butter, sugar and vanilla. Cook, stirring constantly until it comes to a full boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Pour mixture in bowl with the graham crackers, marshmallows and chcolate chips. Stir to combine. (Marshmallows and chips will melt a bit).
Fold in remaining marshmallows and chips.
Press mixture into prepared pan.
Cool until set. Remove foil and bars from pan, cut and serve. Store in airtight container either room temp or in fridge (if during warm months).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ooey Gooey Peanut Buttery!

I have been craving a Peanut Butter sweet lately and had a jar to use up. I went searching for a recipe and found this winner on the Jif website! I did top the bars with some chopped Reese's cups before covering in marshmallows because I had some to use up and really Reese's PB cups make any dessert a little better! These taste fabulous!

I really really liked the taste and texture of these bars. The base has a nice Peanut Butter flavor and is light in texture. It is topped with a layer of melted Peanut Butter and then covered Marshmallows (and chopped PB cups in my version) and then baked again until the Marshmallows puff and bec0me light brown. Do not overbake or the Marshmallows will be hard and crisp.

My one complaint about these bars is that they are VERY difficult to cut and eat. The marshmallows stick to the knife (even after greasing the knife) when cutting making them not look too pretty. Also, the PB/marshmallow topping does not stay on the base while cutting and eating. The topping stuck to the knife and got pulled off of the crust slightly. This happened again while eating. I do admit, that I did not allow these to cool completely before cutting and serving so that may have been the problem. The seperation of the cookie base and toppings did not affect the taste, these were soooooo good!! For flavor I give them a 9! The chopped Reese's PB cups really added that extra Peanut Butter flavor I was craving and will continue to add them when making this recipe. I will definately be making them again very soon. Next time I will cool completely to see if that makes a difference in cutting and serving.

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Bars
adapted from Jif
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 salt
1/2 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows
7-8 individual Reese's PB cups chopped (more or less to taste)

Heat oven to 350.
Grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with PAM spray.
In a large bowl combine brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, peanut butter, sugar and egg.
Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add gradually to creamed mixture at low speed. Beat until well blended.
Cover. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
Press into prepared dish. Bake 20 minutes or until light brown.
Do not over-bake. Cool 2 to 3 minutes.
Place peanut butter in microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave for 1 minute. Pour over cookie base. Spread to cover.
Cover Peanut Butter layer with chopped Reese's PB cups and marshmallows. Return to oven. Bake 5 minutes or until marshmallows are light brown. Do not over-bake.
Loosen from sides of dish with knife. Remove dish to cooling rack.
Cool completely.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

An Oldie but a Goodie!

Once again I made a batch of Blondies. It is a recipe I have made a million times but just haven't taken pictures. I had my camera out tonight so I thought I would snap a couple pictures to share.

I am in love with this recipe and love its versitility. I have tried more combinations of add-ins than I can count and each time they turn out Delish! I added toasted pecans, toffee pieces and white chocolate chunks to this batch. Here are some other variations I have really enjoyed but feel free to mix and match add-ins to meet your tastes!

PB chips/Milk Chocolate Chips/Reese's Pieces
Dried Cranberries/White Chocolate Chunks/ Toasted Walnuts
Toffee pieces/Toasted Pecans/Butterscotch chips
Diced apples/cinnamon/Cinnamon chips
Reese's PB cups, chopped/ Grated Hershey's bar
Toasted Coconut/Macadamian nuts

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blonde Magic

Magic Cookie Bars that is!
I LOVE the famous Magic Cookie bars, also known as 7 layer bars. The first time I had one of these chocolate/butterscotch/coconut goodies was at a church bakesale when I was a little girl. Ah the memories.

As a child I loved the taste, as an adult I also love that these bars are so quick to prepare and the possibilities are endless for the goodies to layer on. I had a bunch of slivered almonds to use up so I created a chocolate-free Magic Cookie bar, as I have named the Blonde Magic Cookie Bar. Ok, it's not chocolate-free as it does use white chocolate, but it is still Blonde! ha ha

I based my recipe off of the one from the Eagle brand website but altered it greatly. These bars turned out great! The toasting of the nuts and coconut before baking really intensify the flavors and the white chocolate melts to creamy goodness with its mild taste pairing beautifully with the almonds, coconut and almond flavored Sweet and Condesed Milk. All of this goodness lies atop a tender and buttery graham cracker crust. This recipe is a definate keeper in this house!


Blonde Magic Cookie Bars
adapted from Eagle Brand
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used 4 whole graham crackers and 1 half)
7 ounces (1/2 can) Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1/4 tsp Almond Extract
1 cup coarsley chopped white baking chocolate (NOT white chocolate chips, they melt differently)
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut (toasted)
1 cup slivered almonds (toasted)

Preheat oven to 350.
Line an 8x8 inch pan with foil. Lightly spray with PAM.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Evenly spread coconut on half of baking sheet and the slivered almonds on the other half.
Toast in preheated oven for 10 minutes stirring every 3 minutes for even browning and to prevent burning.

In 8x8 baking pan, melt butter in oven (can be done while coconut and almonds are toasting). Once melted remove from oven. Sprinkle crumbs over melted butter and gently pat to cover bottom of pan.
Combine the 7oz. of Sweetened Condensed Milk and Almond extract, stir to combine.

Once the coconut and nuts are finished toasting remove from oven. Evenly sprinkle almonds over prepared crust, next sprinkled the chopped white chocolate over the almonds.
Evenly sprinkle the toasted coconut over the nuts and chocolate. Gently pour the Sweetened Condensed milk/almond extract mixture evenly over coconut layer.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Want one?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

These will Vanish Quickly

Oh how I do love this recipe. I recently blogged about my love for the Quaker Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie Recipe. It truly is one of the best oatmeal cookie recipes out there in my opinion. The last time I made the recipe I used raisins that had soaked in some vanilla and warm water (to plump up) and they were great (this coming from someone who doesn't really care for raisins!).

Today I decided to whip up another batch of cookies using the Quaker recipe. This time I omitted the cinnamon, subbed Almond Extract for the vanillla extract and added some coconut. The results are Fabulous! The coconut makes these cookies a little sturdier and heartier. They have a lightly crisp exterior and edged but the interior is moist and bursting with flavor. The almond/coconut flavors play off of each brilliantly. Next time I might throw in some Milk Chocolate chips or chopped pecans/almonds not that these cookies need anything more, I just like to experiment. I suggest you make these sooner rather than later!


Vanishing Oatmeal Coconut Cookies
adapted from Quaker
2 sticks margarine or butter, softened (I used butter)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) (I used)
2 1/2 cups Quaker® Oats (I used Quick Cooking)

1/2 -1 cup Coconut (more or less to taste and texture: You don't want the dough too dry to stick together to form balls)


Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy.
Add eggs and almond extract; beat well.
Add combined flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Add oats and 1/2 cup coconut; mix well. Add more coconut up to 1 full cup until desired consistency (and taste is achieved).

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TCHO chocolate

I just got mine through Blake. I can't wait to blog about it later this week!! Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Vanishing Act

I baked something I seldom do, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. As much as I bake oatmeal cookies, I usually add pretty much anything BUT raisins (walnuts, chocolate chips, cranberries, white chocolate, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, M&M's............. not all at once!).

Well, today I was feeling rebelious and thought I would throw caution to the wind and add Raisins to my Oatmeal Cookies! I used a Tried and True recipe from the lid of the Quaker Oatmeal Box!

This recipe produces everything an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie should be, in my opinion, soft, chewy, wholesome (yet not "healthy" tasting) with a hint of cinnamon. The raisins were a welcomed addition to this much loved and altered Oatmeal Cookie Recipe!

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
2 sticks margarine or butter, softened (I used butter)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) (I used)
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked) (I used Quick Cooking)
1 cup raisins (I soaked in warm water and vanilla for 10 minutes and drained before using)
Heat oven to 350°F.
In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Cinnamon Cheesecake Swirled Blondies

I haven't baked forever (stupid work, keeping me busy) and couldn't wait to whip up some goodies this morning. I had half a block of cream cheese that needed to be used up and decided to experiment a bit and add a Cheesecake Swirl to a slight variation of my Basic Blondie recipe.

The results were great, even though the colors of the cheesecake swirl and the blondies blend together so it is hard to distinguish between the two visually. The cinnamon in the Cheesecake swirl was not overpowering and complimented the cinnamon chips and the hint of cinnamon I added to the blondie recipe nicely.

These were really good warm with a scoop of cinnamon icecream and warm carmel sauce drizzled over the top. MMM.

Cinnamon Cheesecake Swirled Blondies
6 TBS butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup Hershey's Brand Cinnamon Chips (optional, white chocolate chips or walnuts would be good as well)

Cinnamon Cheesecake Swirl
5 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon (more or less to taste)
2 TBS flour
1 tsp pure Vanilla
1 egg yolk

In bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon, flour and vanilla beat until smooth. Add egg yolk and beat just until combined. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.
Line an 8x8 pan with foil and lightly spray with PAM.
In a large microwave safe mixing bowl melt the butter. Allow to cool for 5 mintues.

Mix the brown sugar with the melted butter and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla. Add salt, stir in flour baking powder and cinnamon.
Mix in Cinnamon Chips and/or nuts or other chips (if using)

Pour into prepared pan and use a greased spatula to evenly spread mixture in pan and level the top. Dollup cinnamon cream cheese mixture over blondie batter in pan.
Run a knife through the blondie and cheesecake layers to create a pattern or swirls.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until set in the middle. (I baked for 27 minutes)Cool on rack before cutting.



Thursday, March 6, 2008

You made my Day!

I would like to extend a huge "Thank You" to Chelley at Sugar and Spice for making my day! to I love Chelley's blog and visit it often for tride and true savory and sweet recipes. I admire her for the way she is constantly challenging herself with new recipes and techniques while participating in many "recipe challenges" such as the Daring Bakers and Tuesdays with Dorie.

Thanks again Chelley for making my Day!

Now, I am to pass along the good will to 10 other people that make my day… Deborah, Katie, Janey, Ally, Ashley, Erin, Jaime, Nikki, Julia, and Emily.

Please pass this along to 10 people that make your day!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cinnamon Coins

These bite sized cookies are perfect for snacking and fit perfectly in a lunch box for a quick afternoon snack. The great thing about these cookies is that you can make the dough days before baking and store in the fridge until ready to bake. Unlike many of my cookies that are soft, these are cookies that you slice from a preformed chilled dough log that has been rolled in Turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw). The sweet, coarse texture of the Turbinado sugar is a nice contrast to the slightly spicy cinnamon flavoring and chips in the cookie. While the original recipe did not call for pecans, I find they add a welcomed flavor addition.

I crushed the left over cookies and used as ice cream topping and added to crushed graham crackers to make a pie crust for a cheesecake. So yummy!

Cinnamon Coins
from Cuisine at Home Holiday Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup coarsley chopped Cinnamon Chips (I used Hershey's brand)**
1/4 cup finely crushed pecans (my addition)
Turbinado Sugar (to roll dough logs)

**Make sure the Cinnamon chips are chopped or you will not be able to slice the chilled dough log into uniform slices. You can leave the cinnamon chips out if desired, just up the amount of cinnamon in the recipe a bit (to taste)

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the egg, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Beat until combined. Gently fold in the flour, cinnamon chips and pecan pieces until combined. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Generously sprinkle a smooth countertop with Turbinado sugar.

Roll each dough half in the sugar into a 20 inch long dough rope. Add more sugar as needed to coat and prevent the dough log from sticking. Wrap dough ropes in Seran wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or until firm. The longer chilled the easier to slice.


When ready to bake: Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchement paper. Slice dough ropes into 1/4 inch thick slices and place on baking sheet leaving 1 inch between each slice of dough.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes and transfer to rack to cool completely. Store in air-tight container.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Excellent


Wow! What an honor to have your blog be declared "Excellent" by a fellow blogger. A big thanks to Annie for the giving me this award. I love her blog as it has many tried and true favorites that have always been a success whenever I have made them. My blog is mostly sweets and baked goods. I love to cook but baking has captured my heart and I love to blog about my trials and errors. Being recognized for my fun hobby is a true honor that I am happy to pass along to the following bloggers whom I admire and feel are "Excellent"

1. Culinary Infatuation - Ally's blog serves as my "go-to" blog when I want a sure fire hit that I know my friends and family will love. Her creativity with common ingredients is always welcome and have yet to fail me.

2. Good Eats and Sweet Treats- Just as the title of her blog claims, it is full of wonderful recipes. I love love love Jaime's blog. Often times when I have a recipe in mind, she has just blogged about something very simlar. I guess great minds think alike! Her blog is full of wonderful sweets and great savory recipes that will please even the pickiest eaters.

3. Mary Ellen- I can't say enough about this blog. her recipes are winners and she offers new ways to cook and serve everything from chicken to rice. I love that she is always experimenting with recipes and offers suggestions as to how to improve upon one of her recipes ourselves. Her soups are to die for and are great when you are looking for something a little more 'special' than the same old recipe.

4. Sweet Savory Southern - Last but not least is Renea's blog. her blog is a no-nonsense approach to cooking that focuses on flavor and good old home-cooking. I love checking out her blog when I am in the mood for a good old piece of cake or chicken (she has over 25 recipes for chicken alone). This is one blog that offers recipes that make you feel at home!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Throw Down Show Down! It's Cookie Time

As many of you out there know Bobby Flay has a show on the Food Network called "Throw Down with Bobby Flay". Each week he challenges cooks and bakers who are the "master's" at a recipe or food to cook/bake-off against Bobby's recipe to see who is the ultimate "Master" as deemed by guest judges. Last week he did a Throw Down for Chocolate Chip Cookies against New York City's Levain Bakery. The Levain Bakery's famous Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies come in at a whopping 6oz a piece! That is SOME cookie and made Bobby's flat little cookie look like a pancake! Needless to say they won hands down.

Many home bakers watched the Throw Down and excitedly logged on the the Foodnetwork website in eager anticipation to copy the Levain cookie recipe and to recreate those monstrous winners at home. Sadly, the recipe was never released leaving the recreation of the recipe up to the home baker. Thankfully there is a wonderful blogger, sugoodsweets who created a blog post where a whole group of bakers out there who banned together to try and recreate this cookie. I took the recipe posted by Lisa, which seemed to have the most success at producing a close replica of the winning Levain Cookies on Throw Down. I did make some minor changes as reflected in my posted recipe.

I have never been to the Levain bakery nor tasted any of their cookies so I can not claim that these are a match. The outside texture of these cookies is slightly crisp and the inside produces a dense yet delicate crumb. It is not quite cakey, I would describe them as thick with a chew (thanks to the baking powder in the recipe). I am unsure if they will maintain their chewiness after a few days of storage.

The recipe I based these off of did not include vanilla. I added 1 teaspoon and would probably add a tad more next time as I felt the flavor was a little flat. I also did not have any nuts and find it hard to believe that a whole cup of nuts would fit into the batter along with the 2 cups of chocolate chips called for. I would go with your gut and not a measuring cup when adding in the chips and nuts. It was indicated on Throw Down that the Levain cookies are kind of "doughy" inside. If wanting the same texture I would suggest baking a test cookie and checking at the minimum baking time until the doneness you are looking for is achieved.

Will this cookie replace all other chocolate chip cookies in my kitchen. No. But, I doubt any cookie will ever be good enough to replace all others. That is what keeps me baking and creating! I would suggest others try this recipe and be the judge to their own Throw Down.

Copycat Levain Bakery Throw Down Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (next time I would add more)
3 1/4 cups flour (use a tad more if dough seems too sticky)
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips (I used half semisweet and half milk chocolate) (can use up to 2 cups, you be the judge)
1 cup walnuts (I omited)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, salt, and baking powder and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. The dough will be stiff and thick. Finish mixing by hand if needed until just combined. Gently fold in chips and nuts if using.

Use a 1/4 measuring cup to scoop out dough balls. Place dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. You can make smaller dough balls but be sure to adjust baking times as needed to prevent browning.
Bake 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your cookies and your oven) or until cookies are pale brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy. I baked my cookies for 17 minutes exactly.
Cool cookies on cookie sheets for 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack until cooled completly. Serve or store in airtight container.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Ultimate Bar Cookie

If you want a treat that will satisfy that sweet tooth of yours this is your recipe! I originally got this recipe from a lady I volunteered with at Habitat for Humanity project. She brought these as our afternoon treat; these did not last long at and after one bite I knew I needed more. I kindly asked and she wrote down the recipe for me. After a quick internet search for the source I found a similar one here at CDkitchen.

This is a recipe (if you can call it that) that I have been using and adapting (based on what ingredients I have on hand) for years. I love the fact that it is so adaptable based on what you have in the kitchen pantry and freezer. My favorite topping combination is White chocolate chunks, semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips and walnut pieces. But have tried many topping combinations and have yet to find a "bad" one.

I love the brown sugar shortbread-like crust and the toffee mixture that sinfully holds all of the toppings to the crust. These cookie bars are very sweet so you can get away with cutting them small.

You can cut these bars into squares or do what I did for a cute presentation.
I used various sizes of round cookie cutters to cut the bars after they had cooled and chilled slightly for easy cutting.
The remaining bar pieces I store in a tupperware container in the freezer and use as a topping for my icecream. MMMMMMMMM. I love treats that keep on giving.


The Ultimate Bar Cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
**
1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (any of the following, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans)
1/2 cup white chocolate -- coarsely chopped
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
**
3/4 cup butter (NO substitutions)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350.
Line a 9x13 pan with foil.
Beat flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup butter until fine crumbs form. Pat mixture firmly into bottom of foil lined baking pan. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven.

Sprinkle nuts and chocolate (or other toppings) over the hot crust.

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together 3/4 cup butter 1/2 cup brown sugar, stirring constantly until bubbly. Once it starts bubbling cook and stir for 1 minute.

Pour mixture evenly over nuts and chocoalte in pan. Make sure not to get too close to the edges of the pan or it will burn to the sides.

Bake 15 minutes more or until just bubbly around edges.
Cool in pan on rack. Cut into bars.

** You can use any toppings that you and your family enjoy. Try mixing and matching your fave nuts or chocolate. I have also created a variety of combinations using dark chocolate bars chopped, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, toasted coconut, Reese's pieces, Reese's pb cups chopped, crushed Fritos etc.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Savory Snack

While I love sweet treats, as demonstrated by the majority of the recipes in my blog, every now and then I crave something savory or salty to munch on. These crackers are perfect for those times when you need a little something to satisfy your hunger.

I love to serve these crackers as a snack when I have company but these are also the perfect addition to a bowl of chili, chicken noodle soup, creamy tomato soup or as a side with a sandwich or panini instead of potato chips. I am not sure they are healthier than potato chips but they are a nice change of pace.

Hidden Valley Ranch Crackers
16 oz. Oyster Crackers (I used about 5 cups)
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 1oz. package Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning Mix
1/4 tsp dried Dill (my addition)
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder (my addition)

Preheat oven to 250.
In a very large bowl stir together oil, seasoning mix, dill weed and garlic powder. Add crackers and gently toss to evenly coat.
Spread crackers evenly on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring gently after 10 minutes to ensure even browning.

Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet. Store in air tight container.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fit for a Crowd

This is a recipe my grandma used to make when I was little. It is great for family get-to-gethers, church functions, bake sales and pot lucks because these bars make a ton and are always a hit with both adults and kids.

These bars have a sweet smooth layer of chocolate-fudgey goodness is nestled between a crust and topping made with wholesome oatmeal. I find that these bars provide just the right amount of sweetness without being tooth-achey-sweet which makes these a favorites for adults and children.

My grandma always made these using a 10x15 jelly roll pan when making these bars. Using this size pan ensure even baking of crust and filling and increases the amount of bars you get out of the recipe. I did not have a jelly roll pan so I baked mine using a 9x13 pan. If you do this the crust for the bars and the fudge layer are thick and don't cook quite as evenly as I had to bake mine for about 35 minutes for the fudge layer to set which made my crust a little dry and over done. Either way they tasted super yummy but I think I will put off making these again until I buy a jelly roll pan for even tastier results.
NOTE: This recipe is from a hand written cookbook my grandma gave me. I am not sure where she originally got the recipe, if you know its origin let me know and I will cite it.
Grandma's Oatmeal Fudge Bars
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teasponn baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups Quaker quick cooking oatmeal.

2 cups Semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk (15 oz.)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (optional, walnuts or pecans) *I did not use

Preheat oven to 325.
Grease and flour a 10x15 jelly roll pan. *I used a 9x13 pan
In a large bowl sift together flour, soda and salt. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl. , beat together softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time and beat until combined. Add vanilla and mix well.
Slowly add the sifted flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in oatmeal.
Gently spread 2/3 crust into bottom of prepared pan. Reserve the rest for topping.
Make the filling:
Over Medium-Low heat, melt together chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons butter, and salt. Stir until smooth. Remove mixture from heat and stir in vanilla and nuts if using.
Evenly pour filling mixture of crust but keeping filling about a 1/4 inch away from side of pan so it does not stick to side while baking. Evenly dollup top of filling with remaining oat mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until topping is light brown and fudge layer set but not solid. Don't overbake these bars or they can become dry.
Cool in pay on rack until set. Can chill to set faster. Keep stored in airtight container either room temp or in fridge.
*I used a 9x13 pan and baked for 38 minutes for the fudgey layer to set but this caused the crust to be a little too done compared to my grandma's bars baked in a jelly roll pan. The bars were also a little hard to cut because of the thickness of the crust and filling. They were very good though! Everyone at work raved about them and there no complaints.




Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I have been tagged!

by Ashley. Here are the rules.

I’ve been tagged by a fellow blogger! Here are the rules:

Rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

My 5 Facts about Me:
1. I sing very loudly in the car but only when I am alone
2. I have a tatoo (tasteful) on my lower back (aka "the tramp stamp", ha ha)
3. I love to listen to NPR
4. I am saving up for a trip to Greece
5. I am in love with Sean from the tv show Psych!

Now I have to tag 5 other food blogs…
Here are the 5 foodies I tagged:
Erin
Renea
Tara
Laney
Gillian

Happy Blogging!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Carmelicious!

Look at those bars! Who does not love the combination of caramel and chocolate?

Wow, I had forgotten how great these bars are. I love the texture of the slighlty crisp crust with the gooey caramel layer filled with nuts and chocolate.

I have been making these since high school (one could say it was my "signature" dessert back then). The recipe comes from our dear friends at Pilsbury and is so easy I used to have it memorized.

The thing I love about these bars is that they are great warm, room temperature or even straight out of the fridge (which is where I keep them during the summer months or the caramel gets a little too gooey for eating with your hands). The oatmeal/brown sugar crust provides a nice and hearty base for these bars and keeps them from being overly-sweet.

Here is the recipe directly copied from the website. My changes are in red.
Oatmeal Carmelitas

2 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose or Unbleached Flour (I used Gold Medal)
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups margarine or butter, softened (I used butter)



1 (12.5-oz.) jar (1 cup) caramel ice cream topping
3 tablespoons Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose or Unbleached Flour (I used Gold Medal)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup Milk chocolate and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I usually use Walnuts but omitted nuts this time)

Heat oven to 350°F.
Grease 13x9-inch pan.
Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In large bowl, combine all crust ingredients; mix at low speed until crumbly. Reserve half of crumb mixture (about 3 cups) for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture in bottom of greased pan.
Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown.


Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine caramel topping and 3 tablespoons flour; blend well.

Remove partially baked crust from oven; sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts.
Drizzle evenly with caramel mixture; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.

Return to oven; bake an additional 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until filling is set.
Cut into bars.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Yellow with Envy

While I am a HUGE chocolate cake lover, my heart belongs to the Yellow Cake. I tried my hand at making one from scratch and was very pleased with the results. After searching through several cookbooks for a recipe that was worthy of sacraficing my Homemade Yellow Cake Virginity I decided I was more comfortable using a recipe already blogged about for my "first time". I turned to Nic at bakingbites and found what I was looking for! I followed her recipe to a "T" with the exception of adding a drop of Yellow food coloring to bump up the Yellow in my Yellow Cake.
Take note, as she uses a unique mixing method (blends the butter with dry ingredients before adding the wet) which produces a cake that has the most tender crumb you have eaten. The cake baked up light, fluffy and oh so delicious. and nothing takes a Yellow Cake over-the-top better than Chocolate Frosting.

I was so pleased with the cake that could not wait to taste it. Instead of making homemade chocolate frosting, I busted out my favorite canister of Chocolate Frosting and proceeded to enjoy the fruits of my labor with a good slathering of Chocolate on top (just the way I like it).
Let me say, while boxed Yellow cake mixes totally rock my world, this recipe has sent my world into a tail-spin!

Yellow Sheet Cake
from bakingbites
2 ½ cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup milk (I used whole)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 drop Yellow Food Coloring
Chocolate Frosting

Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a 9×13 inch sheet pan with parchment paper, or lightly grease it with shortening or oil (butter will produce a harder “crust”).

Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add sugar and, using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed to blend. Cut butter into 4 or 5 chunks and drop into the bowl with the flour. Blend on low speed until mixture looks sandy and no large chunks of butter remain, 1-2 minutes.

In a large measuring cup, combine eggs, milk, vanilla and food coloring. Beat lightly with a fork until combined. With the mixer on low, pour 1 cup of the egg mixture into the bowl. Turn speed up to medium and beat for 1 ½ minutes. Reduce speed back to low and pour in the rest of the egg mixture. Continue to beat at low speed for an additional 30 seconds, until liquid is fully incorporated.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for a few more seconds, if necessary.Pour into prepared 9×13 pan and spread batter evenly with a spatula. Tap gently a few times to eliminate any bubbles.
Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.Let cool for 30 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a rack to cool completely. Frost with Chocolate Frosting and Enjoy!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Don't lick the Screen


Lick the beaters, the spoon, your fingers, the knife and your plate. These are THAT good in my opinion. I have been tweaking a basic brownie recipe for the past six months that I found in my mom's recipe box. The recipe was tattered and and speckled with dried batter (a sign of a winner in my book!). My mom rarey makes brownies from scratch anymore as she is a woman of convenience and the $.88 boxed brownie mix. She did remember that she used to bake these from scratch all of the time when she was my age and first married to my dad but doesn't remember where she got the recipe.

The first time I baked the brownies according to the recipe but they were not very chocolatey and way too cakey for my liking. I did some tweaking (more/less eggs, sugar, butter, chocolate, cocoa powder, etc) every time I have made them and lets just say that these brownies came out to be the Brownies I had dreamed of. I only hope to have continued success with the recipe as written, if not, I am not afraid to tweak some more until pure brownie perfection is achieved. **Fingers crossed for future success!!

After my latest tweaks I stood there looking at the batter in my mixing bowl. Not wanting to be disappointed by another plain-jane-so-so brownie I decided to jazz them up a bit. In my book chocolate, cheesecake and peanut butter is a combination created by the Gods. And let's just say the God's have shined down upon this recipe. These brownies are fudgey, gooey and oh so chocolately (thanks to THREE different kinds of chocolate) with a creamy peanut-buttery cheesecake swirled throughout not once but twice. If that wasn't enough peanut butter overload these babies are topped with chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups the last five minutes of baking. Just long enough for them to melt into the brownies a bit but still retain their shape making these brownies fall into the FOOD PORN category.
Go ahead and indulge!

Double Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirled Brownies
3/4 cup butter, very soft (not melted but softer than room temp)
1 cup sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cups creamy PB
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

5-6 Reese's peanut butter cups (regular size) cut into 6-8 pieces each
IMPORTANT: Do NOT omit the Reese's Peanut Butter cups. They take these brownies over the top and add the "Double" Peanut Butter taste the title tepts tastebuds with

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8" square pan with foil and lightly coat with PAM cooking spray.

In a microwave safe bowl melt the two baking chocolate squares in 30 second intervals stirring after each interval until smooth and melted after stirring. Do not scortch! Remove from microwave and allow to come to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, Beat together butter and sugar until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until blended. Add vanilla and melted chocolate. Mix to combine. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl and wisk together. Gradually stir dry ingredients into butter mixture. Do not overmix.

In separate mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, peanut butter sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add egg and beat until just combined.

Spread about 2/3 of chocolate brownie batter into prepared pan. Evenly drop 1/2 of cheesecake batter in dollups over brownie batter. Run a knife through both mixtures to slightly swirl.

Dollop remaining brownie batter and cheesecake batter over swirled mixture. Run knife through the browine and cheesecake dollups (not all the way through the already swirled layer) to create a swirled pattern.

Bake for 40-45 minutes**, or until center is set and a toothpick inserted in the center has a few crumbs stuck to it. Do not overbake or they will harden, if underbaked they will be too gooey. Every oven is different so watch and check these after about 35-40 minutes of baking to ensure propper doneness.

**After about 35-40 minutes of baking (with about 5-7 minutes of baking time left, you just need to eyeball it) gently place cut up Reese's cups over top of almost fully baked brownies. Finish baking until a toothpick inserted in the center has a few crumbs stuck to it. The Reese's PB cups will melt but hold their shape slightly. Cool completely on wire rack before cutting and serving.

NOTE: I have not baked the brownie recipe without the Double Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl and Reese's on top so I am not sure how the brownies themselves rate. Let's just say I may not find out as I am in love with the Double Peanut Butter Cheesecake recipe.

NOTE 2/13/08: I changed and added 5-7 minutes the baking time as a few people who have made the recipe indicated a longer bake time was needed than oringinally posted. The recipe listed above reflects those changes.
All ovens are different so be sure to keep an eye on your brownies to prevent overbaking. Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs stuck to it.



Thy Cup Runneth Over

This recipe comes from the Hershey's website. Just as the title implies this is the "Perfectly Chocolate Cake". I chose to make mine into cupcakes (portion control, ha ha, yeah right!) and as you can seen I filled cupcake liners with a tad too much batter as the cupcakes almost baked over their liners!

These baked up light and fluffy (as you can see) and oh so chocolatey! I chose not to frost these cupcakes as I much prefer a dollup of SugarFree Coolwhip on the top of my cupcake. Frosted or not, you will not be disappointed with this cake recipe as it is a tried and true and has received RAVE reviews, both on the Hershey's website as well as on "What's for Dinner" message board on thenest.com as seen in Chelley's, Erin's, Carrie's and Tara's blogs.
If you are looking for the Perfect Chocolate Cake (or cupcakes) give this recipe a try and be prepared to have your socks knocked off.

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cupcakes
from: Hersheys
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

VARIATIONS:ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.
THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.
BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.



Somewhere Over the Rainbow

My FAVORITE non-baked dessert definately tastes like a pot of gold to me! My mom has been making this recipe for me for years. Each bite takes me back to childhood summers and to a world filled with munchkins (me and my friends), my childhood dog, and a yellowbrick road (our neighborhood street) that led us on many adventures.

I LOVE sherbert, especially Rainbow sherbert. You know the one with Lemon, Lime and Orange sherbert all swirled together. It is a light and refreshing welcomed change from Icecream when you are looking for a cool treat. Although the weather is in the single didgets I was craving this dessert. It is a true favorite of mine. This desert takes minimal time to prep and assemble but does require some chill time to firm up. But it is SOOOOO worth the wait.

You know I love recipes that you can tweak easily to make it your own and this recipe is no exception. A great thing about this recipe is that you can substitute any of your favorite ice cream, frozen yogurt or sherbert flavor for the Rainbow sherbert. We have used vanilla and pecan ice creams served with warm carmel drizzled over the top of each slice for an impressive dessert for company.

However, I have to admit, with the toasted nutty sweet crust I find icecream too rich and much prefer my Rainbow Sherbert in this recipe. Feel free to play around with different flavors of icecream to suit your own tastes, you really can't go wrong as the crust/topping will make it winner.
The crust and topping of this dessert take it over the top in my opinion. The perfect blend of brown sugar, butter, cereal, coconut and nuts perfectly toasted provide a droolworthy base and crubly topping for this dessert. I have been known to make extra crust/topping and eat with a spoon! It is THAT good. You could even make the crust/topping and store in an airtight container in your fridge and use as a topping for scoops of icecream or sherbert for a quick and tastey weeknight dessert.
Frozen Dream Crunch Bars
10 TBS butter, melted (1 stick plus 2 TBS)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 3/4 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup slivered almonds (or other favorite nut, like pecans)
3/4-1 gallon Rainbow Sherbert, softened (or other fave icecream flavor)

Preheat oven to 325.
Lightly spray a baking sheet with PAM spray. Place frozen Sherbert on counter or in fridge to soften.
Toast the almonds by spreading slivered almonds evenly over baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, stirring after 4 mintues. Remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to 375.

While nuts are toasting, melt butter in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together butter, cereal, brown sugar, coconut and toasted nuts.

Spread mixture on a baking sheet.
Bake in oven 10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes for even browning. Watch carefully and do not let burn. Let cool completely.

Press 2/3 of cooled mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Gently spread softened sherbert over crust. Sprinkle remaining mixture evenly over Sherbert layer, cover tightly and freeze until set.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cheater Cookies

Why are these called "Cheater Cookies"? It is because they start with a cake mix so all you need to add is eggs, butter/oil and any add-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, candies etc) that you want. So easy to whip up when you are in a pinch with minimal ingredients on hand. If you are looking for a delicious, quick, easy and sure to please cookie, give these a try!

These cookies (if not overbaked) are so soft and chewy, not cakey. You really need to watch thses while baking, they can go from perfect to overbaked pretty quickly. These cookies are very versatile and can be made with any cake mix that you have on hand. I sprinkle a little sugar over the cookies before baking which produces a slightly-sweet crisp exterior that is the perfect balance to the tender interior of these yummy little morsels.

I used a Yellow Cake mix this time but other family favorites are: chocolate cake mix and Andes mint chips; white cake mix and dried cranberries and walnuts; chocolate cake mix and chocolate and peanut butter chips. The possibilities are endless if you use your imagination!

Cheater Cookies

1 (18.25 ounce) package Yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 TBS Vegetable Oil
2 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Milk chocolate chips (or nuts, candies, dried fruits, etc)
Sugar (for sprinkling on top)

Preheat oven to 350.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, beat together the butter, oil and egg. Add cake mix and vanilla and blend well. Fold in chocolate chips or other add-ins.
Chill for 10 minutes.
Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely as they will break easily if moved too soon.

Improvising


I really wanted cinnamon rolls Monday morning for breakfast but did not have time to make any from scratch. So, I decided to improvise and use what I had on hand.
These scrumptious little pinwheels take less than 30 minutes from start to finish and are perfect for weekday mornings! While no replacement for my homemade Cinnamon Rolls, these did fine in a pinch and were perfect with a mug of hot chocolate. The crescent roll dough keeps these rolls light and flaky and the cream cheese mixture provides just the right amount of cinnamony sweetness that satisfies my morning sweet tooth without causing a sugar overload! I used the same technique in making these pinwheels as I did for the Bacon Appetizer Crescents

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Pinwheels
5 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat Neufatel cheese)
3 TBS packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Spray cookie sheet with PAM.
Mix cream cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Take two triangular pieces of dough and press the perforations together to seal and create a rectangle.
If you are using the 8 oz. cans of dough, divide the cream cheese mixture into 4 equal parts and spread 1/4th of the mixture evenly on the dough. If you are using the larger cans of dough, divide the cream cheese mixture into 6 equal parts and evenly spread 1/6th of the mixture on the dough.
Cut the dough lengthwise into 4 equal pieces, approximately 1/2 to 3/4-inches wide.
Roll the dough up into a pinwheel and place flat on baking sheet.
Bake as package directs or until golden in color.

*You could make a quick glaze using sifted powdered sugar and cream/milk to drizzle over top of the warm pinwheels.

Bringing home the Bacon

Cream cheese Bacon pinwheels that is!


When I saw these over on MrsPresley's blog. I knew I had to try them. The recipe comes from Kraft which means these are simple, tasty and use ingredients you probably already have on hand. These pinwheels bake up fluffy with an Ooey-Gooey-Creamy -Cheesy-Bacony swirl in between flaky layers of crescent rolls. We loved that these took only minutes to prep and bake. Perfect for snacking on while watching the big game.


Bacon Appetizer Crescents (or Bacon Pinwheels)
from KraftFoods.com
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened (I used 5oz. of 1/3 less fat Neufatel cheese)
8 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese)
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (not in original recipe)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (I used 3 tsp dried parsley flakes)
1 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cans (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (I used one 10.1 oz can)


Preheat oven to 375°F.
Spray a baking sheet with PAM cooking spray.

Mix cream cheese, bacon, Parmesan cheese, Cheddar cheese, onions, parsley, crushed red pepper flakes and milk until well blended; set aside.
Take two triangular pieces of dough and press the perforations together to seal and create a rectangle. If you are using the 8 oz. cans of dough, divide the cream cheese mixture into 4 equal parts and spread 1/4th of the mixture evenly on the dough. If you are using the larger cans of dough, divide the cream cheese mixture into 6 equal parts and evenly spread 1/6th of the mixture on the dough.

Cut the dough lengthwise into 4 equal pieces, approximately 1/2 to 3/4-inches wide (I cut mine into 1/2 inch pieces). Roll the dough up into a pinwheel and place flat on prepared baking sheet.
Bake according to package directions or until golden in color.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Is Raggedty a word?

because that is the adjective used in the title of these delicious little bars.
Raggedty Top Bars.

This recipe comes from a hand written cookbook given to me by my wonderful grandma. She is the baker of all bakers. I have many childhood memories centered around her delicious baked goods (breads, chocolate chip cookies, scones and biscuits to name a few)
I loved going to her house as she always had some yummy goodies baked up for me to enjoy. I don't remember these bars but my mom sure does. These are one of my mom's favorite bar recipes that my grandma used to make for her. My grandma does not remember where this recipe originated so I am giving credit to her, (If someome knows who created the original, let me know and I will cite them).

Upon first looking at this recipe I thought it looked deliciously similar to my Basic Blondie recipe. It is very similar, however the base of these bars are not as ooey and toffee-like as the base of the blondies. Don't get me wrong though, these bars are very very good and are made all the better by the sinful chocolate/coconut/nut topping that blankets the top of them. The topping is thick and gooey and oh so good. It does firm up as it cools but it still may it difficult to store as stacking the bars on top of eachother may cause the bars to stick together.

If you like the Basic Blondies and have run out of combinations of add-ins, try adding a topping to them. This recipe is a great and will definately be made again. Next time I may use butterscotch chip instead of chocolate for the topping and try toasting different nuts to stir into the topping. If desired you could also stir nuts, chips or dried fruit into the batter for the bars before baking (however, I do like that the topping is the main focus of these basic bars).

In any case, I love a recipe that has unlimited possibilites and that allows you to truly make the recipe your own!

Raggedty Top Bars
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter (very soft)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
*Raggedty Topping (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 325. Grease a foil lined 9x13 pan.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Slowly mix in the flour, baking powder and salt just until combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 27-35 minutes or until golden on top. Remove bars from oven.

Place dollups of Raggedty Topping evenly over bars using a greased spoon (do not spread).
Return bars to oven for 2 minutes or until topping is spreadable. Remove and with a buttered knife gently spread topping over bars. If desired sprinkle more coconut and nuts over top of bars. Return to oven and bake for 6-7 minutes more.

**Prepare topping with 5 minutes of baking time left on bars

Raggedty Topping
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 cup chocolate chips (can use butterscotch chips instead) *I used 1/2 milk and 1/2 semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 TBS butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup shredded coconut

In a pan over low heat, stir together the syrup, chips, butter and vanilla until chips are melted. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and nuts.

**NOTE: Next time I would double the topping recipe, it was so good and the bars could have handled more.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Best Brownies?

You be the judge.

The quest for the perfect basic brownie recipe is as ongoing as the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Each person has their own opinion as too what makes the "Perfect" one. I prefer a brownie that is NOT cakey, yet chewy and a little fudgey. I despise frosting on a brownie as I feel it is really just a cover for a so-so brownie recipe under neath. That being said, if you want fudgey brownies, you will want to try this recipe.

This recipe comes from the wonderful experts at Hershey (who have brought us the BEST chocolate cake recipe I have tried, sorry no pictures or blog entry on that yet). I typically use the recipe from the back of the Ghiridelli Sweetened Chocolate can but decided to try a new recipe in honor of a new year!
These brownies were very dense and fudge-like, almost a little too fudgey (that may be a good thing for some people). Many people over bake their brownies leaving them dry and crumbly, a toothpick inserted in the center should have a few crumbs on it when testing for the doneness of brownies. If it comes out clean you have overbaked them.

Now on to the recipe:
*My changes in red

Best Brownies
(Source: Hershey's)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa (I used Ghiridelli becacue that is what I had on hand)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional; I used walnuts)
Heat oven to 350.
Grease 9-inch square baking pan. (I used an 8x8 square pan)
Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon.
Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended.
Stir in nuts, if desired.
Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of the pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.