Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fun Fall Treats

No matter how old my children get, they never get tired of holiday treats. I still make them hand made Valentines, Shamrock cookies, and Easter baskets, and Halloween is another favorite holiday for festive treats. Here are a couple of fun ideas that travel well, so they are perfect for sending to kids who are off at college, or a friend who you know would love a little holiday spirit. Both of these are coated in candy melts which help to seal them and keep them fresh during their travels.
These mice cakes are also a chance to use the egg cake mold that I only use at Easter. They are easy and cute and my kids have loved these since they were little, Make your favorite cupcakes and bake them in the egg mold pan. I like to chill the fully baked cakes in the refrigerator for an hour or so to help firm them up before dipping in grey candy melts. I use 80 % white to 20 % black candy melts to make gray. Once they are dipped, use sliced almonds for the ears, mini chocolate chip for the nose, and licorice whips for the tail, with red non perils for the eyes. when dry use a food writer to draw on the whiskers, and you have yourself the only mouse you ever want to see in your kitchen.


We all love anything involving peanut butter, so when I saw these a few years ago I knew they would make the perfect addition to a Halloween care package to send to Mini Me. The pumpkins are Ritz crackers with peanut butter sandwiched in between and dipped in orange candy melts. Once they dry, draw on the face details with a food writer or  black candy melts.
In addition to these, I usually tuck in some caramel corn, granola and spiced nuts for a great package of homemade treats that gets everyone ready for fall!
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Rocky Road Brownies


Good, old fashioned brownies are hard to beat, but if there was dessert to challenge them, these Rocky Road brownies would be it. They start with a rich brownie base, and take it up a notch by adding chocolate, nuts, and marshmallows. A little cream cheese is added to keep these soft and almost creamy, and to balance the sweetness from all the chocolate and marshmallows. These have made many summer BBQ appearances, and just might grace our dessert table over this long weekend.

This recipe comes from the  Only In California (1989), a cookbook published to raise funds for the Children's Home Society of California. I have several small cookbooks from various clubs and societies around the world, and I have found some of my favorite recipes in them. Many of these include recipes submitted from home cooks, and there is something fun about recreating a dish that you know another family loved enough to share in a book. I hope you enjoy these brownies as much as we do!

Rocky Road Brownies
Via Only in California

Bar:
1/2 cup butter
1 square unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
1cup flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

 Filling:
6 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped nuts ( I use peanuts, but any nut is fine)
6 ounces chocolate chips

 Frosting:
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup room temperature butter
1 square unsweetened chocolate
2 ounces.cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 pound sifted powdered sugar
Spray with baking spray, or grease and flour a 9x13 pan. Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Make the bar: melt butter and chocolate over low heat or in the microwave. Add remaining bar ingredients and mix well. Spread in prepared baking pan.

2. Filling: Beat cream cheese, butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, and vanilla mixing well. Add flour, beat until fluffy. Stir in the nuts. Spread over the bar mixture and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees F. For 25 minutes

3. Frosting : Melt butter, chocolate, cream cheese and milk. Stir until smooth. Beat in sifted powdered sugar continue beating until smooth and satiny. Set aside until brownies come out of the oven.

 4. When brownies are done, remove pan from oven, sprinkle the marshmallows on top and return the pan to the oven and bake 2 minutes longer, until marshmallows are puffed. Remove from oven and immediately pour frosting over marshmallows and swirl together with a knife. Cool before cutting.

Printable recipe


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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sugar Cookies


We have had a lot of celebrations this spring and summer, and we use every one as an excuse to make decorated sugar cookies. All we need is a theme or some color ideas, and we get baking!

 Our extended family welcomed two new baby girls this year. My sister is very lucky to have two new granddaughters! Baby H was born in May, and then Baby E followed in early June. They are both beautiful little girls already, and I see a future full of dress up and tea parties. 


For both showers, we did a tray of onsies and bibs, in pink for girls, and some cookies with the initial of each baby name in colors that coordinated with the baby rooms. Both moms gave us ribbon samples or pictures of bedding and we used those colors as our guide. 
 Mimi Jr. recently said adios to a co-worker, who happens to love all things western. We took this as an opportunity to try some new cookies. We have never made boots or bandannas, but they were fun to do, and now we are ready for any Western themed parties that comes our way. 
for a tutorials on the bandanas   and marigolds
visit The Sweet Advemtures of Sugar Belle 


  We took on the task of cookie baking for a few spring parties hosted by friends, and nothing says springtime like some pretty blooms. It was fun to try new techniques for decorating, and we liked that these are an easy way to add some festivity to the table. 

Zinnias (top)I used a petal tip, with fairly firm icing holding the tip  perpendicular to the cookies surface  Marigolds (bottom)
I followed the tutorial at  sweetsugarbelle 

After four years that simultaneously dragged on and flew by, Mini Me graduated from UCI.

with her BSN.

She worked so hard and I know she will make an amazing nurse. The Mimi's are all very proud of her, and we will continue to supply her with cookies wherever she ends up.
 In just the first half of this year, we have had so much fun making and decorating cookies for friends and family.  I know there are many more occasions in the coming months that will be calling for cookies, and we will gladly get out our rolling pins and piping bags and bake away!

Sugar Cookie Recipe



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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies



  While everyone in our family would give you a different answer if asked to name their favorite dessert, no one can pass up a good cookie. We have been on a cookie baking streak lately, and in addition to some old favorites I recently tried these oatmeal raisin ones from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery cookbook. Previously, oatmeal raisin cookies were in the second choice, "does not contain chocolate" category, but this recipe has most definitely changed our minds.

 They are big and buttery, crispy on the edges and chewy in the center. The spices are subtle and warm, while the raisins are soft and sweet. It's true that there is no chocolate, but we love these cookies just as they are. I have already made them several times at the request of my chocolate loving family, and that's a sure sign that these are delicious and deserve their turn in the cookie spotlight. 


Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
 Thomas  Keller

144 grams   (1 cup 1 teaspoon ) all purpose flour
7.7 grams  (1 tablespoon)  ground cinnamon 
7.4 grams  (1 1/2 teaspoons ) baking soda
3.6 grams (1 1/4 teaspoons) kosher salt
140 grams (1/2 cup + 3 1/2 tablespoons) light brown sugar
69 grams (1/4 cup +1 1/2 tablespoon) granulated sugar
155 grams (5.5 ounces) unseated butter room temperature
62 grams eggs (1 large)
7.7 grams vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla
155 grams (2cups) old fashion oats
156 grams (1cup) mixed raisins* we used craisins

1. Place flour,salt,baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl and whisk to combine.
2. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment . Beat the butter on medium low until it is the consistency of mayonnaise . Add the sugars and mix for 3-4 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape the side and bottom of the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix on low for 15-30 seconds.do not over whip.
3. Add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing on low speed for 15-30 seconds after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure the flour is completely incorporated. Add the oats and mix for a minute or two. Quickly fold in the raisins. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
Baking: heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment or use silpats . Using a large scoop place the cookies about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet . Bake for 15 minutes turning pans 1/2 through baking. Cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes than transfer to a rack to cool completely.
printable recipe






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Monday, May 12, 2014

Nilla Wafers

We all have favorite treats from our childhood, and as much fun as it is to buy a nostalgic treat at the store from time to time, it is even more fun to make them. Mr. Mimi has a great love for the classics, and Nilla Wafers are high on his list, so when I saw a recipe to make them at home I jumped at the chance to recreate one of his favorite after school snacks from his elementary school days.

While these cookies look a little different than the ones from the yellow box, the rich vanilla flavor combined with the crisp, but not too hard cookie, definitely hits all the same notes. I had plans to make cookie sandwiches and dunk some in chocolate, but before I could even make a batch of ganache, these cookies were gone. According to some of my family, the classics are best left alone. Lucky for me, these cookies are pretty easy to make, and I can have a double batch ready to go in no time- half for the purists, and half for the adventurers




Vanilla Wafers

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2010
makes about 6 dozen

Ingredients


7 ounces all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar

1 large egg

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon whole milk


Directions

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.


Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.




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Monday, April 7, 2014

Peanut Butter Cranberry Energy Bars


When Mini Me started college, she found her schedule packed with long days on the go with little time for a substantial breakfast or lunch. I wanted to make her a portable snack that would give her energy and brain power throughout the day, but without crazy ingredients or the protein powder after taste. Mini Me loves peanut butter which is a good source of protein and healthy fats, so that was a good starting point in searching for a recipe to try. During my search for a portable snack bar I came across this Sunset Magazine article on homemade energy bars and decided to give them a shot.
I have been making these bars for the last 4 years while she has been in school, and I know I will make them long after she graduates. They are moist and soft, and packed with good for you ingredients. These bars are quick to make and travel well. With approximately 210 calories, 24 grams of carbohydrates and 7 grams of protein in each bar, these make a perfect grab and go item on your way out the door at the beginning of a busy day. I wrap the bars individually in plastic wrap, put them in a gallon sized ziplock bag and send them to Mini Me every few weeks. She keeps them in the freezer and tosses one in her backpack as she heads to class and I'm happy knowing she has a tasty, healthy snack in her bag just in case she doesn't have time to stop and eat during the day. 


Peanut Butter Cranberry Energy Bars
adapted from Sunset Magazine

1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup oat or wheat bran
3 Tbs ground flax seeds
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp each baking powder and salt
1/2 cup each chopped peanuts, dried cranberries, and finely chopped dates
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup low fat milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup honey
Zest from one orange
1 Tbs fresh orange juice.

Line a 9x13 pan with plastic wrap. In a large bowl, stir together oats, bran, flax, flour, baking powder, salt, peanuts, cranberries and dates.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together peanut butter, milk, egg, honey, orange zest and orange juice until well blended.

Add flour mixture and beat until completely blended. Scrape dough into prepared pan and with wet fingers or a rubber spatula, pat to fill pan completely and evenly. Chill dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 300 F. Invert pan onto a work surface, lift off pan, and peel away plastic wrap. Using a bench scraper or knife cut straight in half length wise. Then cut each length into 8 bar about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place bars about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with a slip at or parchment paper. Bake bars until lightly browned and somewhat firm to touch, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
printable recipe

 
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Irish Cream Chocolate Cupcakes


March is definitely the month of all things Irish, and that includes many delicious food items, from a warm bowl of Irish oatmeal in the morning to a relaxing cup of coffee with a generous splash of Bailey's after dinner. If you really want to up the Irish-ness, you could enjoy one of these Bailey's cupcakes along with your Irish coffee. When I stopped by recently to enjoy the goodies on Sprinkle Bakes, I immediately knew these would make an appearance on our table well before St. Patrick's Day.
This chocolatey cupcake has a Bailey's ganache in the center and is topped with a Bailey's buttercream. Although the original recipe includes a hot fudge sauce on top that sounds wonderful, I omitted it for the sake of portable and easy eating. However, if I were serving these on a plate with a fork, I would most definitely drizzle that on top.

I highly recommend that you stop over at Sprinkle Bakes to see her beautiful desserts and a video  on her Irish cream hot fudge cupcakes, but be prepared to immediately want to get in the kitchen to make these. 


Bailey's Cupcake 
Sprinkle Bakes

Cakes
1/2 cup Irish Cream liqueur, or two mini bottles (50 ml each)
3 tablespoons well-beaten egg 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with 6 large or 9 standard  muffin papers 

Place Irish Cream liqueur, egg, and vanilla in cup; beat together vigorously with a fork, set aside.

Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and liquid mixture; beat with an electric mixer on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened.  Add coffee and beat again until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula and beat well again.

Divide batter between muffin cups.  Bake for 25-27 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when pressed in the center. Cool completely on a wire rack.


Chocolate Ganache Filling

1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 cup milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Irish Cream liqueur (about half a mini bottle)
Combine heavy cream and chocolate chips in a medium saucepan or a microwaveable bowl.  Heat on medium low until chips are melted and can be stirred smooth.  If using the microwave, heat at 30 second intervals until completely melted and mixture can be stirred smooth.  Add butter in pieces and stir until melted.  Add Irish cream.  Stir well.  Refrigerate until ganache is thickened but still fairly soft.
Cut a large divot out of each cupcake and fill with ganache. 


Irish Cream Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons Irish cream (about 1 1/2 mini bottles)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine butter and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl and mix on low speed with a hand mixer until just combined.  Gradually add in Irish cream.  Scrape down sides of bowl  and mix in vanilla.  Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.  Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip.  Pipe frosting over the surface of the cupcakes.


 
Irish Cream Hot Fudge Sauce

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coffee
1/2 cup Irish cream (2 mini bottles)

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk to incorporate.  Bring to a boil and let bubble one minute.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly before pouring into the empty Irish cream bottles.
Pour a scant 1/4 cup of hot fudge sauce in each empty Irish cream bottle. Turn them upright and press the bottle neck into the frosting and down to the chocolate ganache filling.  Sprinkle with cocoa powder and serve.
****2x recipe made 18 standard cupcakes, 1.5x ganache filled 18 cupcakes and frosting recipe was enough to frost all 18
 
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