Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays ~ Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies

Merry Christmas Eve!  Celebrate with some of my signature Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies filled with peppermint.  I used all milk chocolate chips, added peppermint extract, and pressed crushed candy canes into the dough.  The candy canes melt into the dough but keep their great crunchy texture.


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup), melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 cups + 2 T all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 cups Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips (1 package)
candy canes, crushed into small pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool to room temperature.

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

Add cooled butter to large stand mixer. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and cream until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and peppermint extract and beat until combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Reduce the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture, and mix just until combined. Turn the mixer off and stir in the chocolate chips.

Use a 2 oz. cookie scoop and place rounded dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. You can also use your hands and roll 2 T cookie dough into balls. The dough is smooth and not sticky at all.  Press some of the crushed candy cane pieces into the top and sides of dough.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until edges are lightly brown and centers are still soft and puffy. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely or serve warm. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peppermint Brownie Truffles

Let me introduce you to my new favorite truffles...these little fudge peppermint brownie bites are dipped in milk or white chocolate and garnished with crushed peppermint candy canes.  It's not too late to add these sweet treats to your Christmas and New Year's dessert trays.  Or pack them up in a cute little tin box and surprise your neighbors and friends.

Peppermint Brownie Truffles


1 box brownie mix plus ingredients to make, per package instructions
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 cup chocolate fudge frosting
Wilton white or milk chocolate melts or Almond Bark
Crushed peppermint candy canes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick cooking spray. 

Mix brownie batter per package instructions.  Pour into prepared pan and bake per package instructions.  Let cool completely.  Use a fork to break up the baked brownies.

In a large bowl, use a large spoon to mix together the brownies, peppermint extract, and frosting.  You can refrigerate the mixture to make forming the brownie balls easier.  Form brownie truffles (2 tsp) and place on wax paper lined sheet tray.  Place in freezer for at least 1 hour to set up.

Melt chocolate melts or almond bark in microwave safe bowl.  Dip each brownie truffle in melted chocolate, use a spoon to remove, place back on sheet tray, and garnish with crushed candy canes right away (chocolate firms up quickly on the frozen brownies).

Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie~Double Stuf Oreo~Brownie Bars

These sweet treats are very decadent and perfect for the holidays.  The bottom layer is homemade cookie dough, then a layer of Double Stuf Oreos with caramel drizzled on top, which is topped with boxed brownie batter.  I found this recipe over at Betcha Can't Eat Just One, which is the perfect title for Katie's blog.

I made these as a "Thank You!" for my husband's  friend's wife who stood in line at 5:00am on black Friday to purchase a new electric smoker for our patio. Thanks again Dee!

Cookie Dough Layer:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 T pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray, line with parchment paper leaving an overhang, and spray parchment paper with cooking spray. (You can never be too careful).

In a large stand mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix just until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread the cookie dough in an even layer by pressing into the bottom of prepared pan.

Oreo Cookie Layer:

1 package Double Stuf Oreo cookies
1/2 cup caramel sauce (I used Hershey's), or dulce du leche

Place the Oreos in a single layer over cookie dough.  Drizzle with caramel sauce or dulce du leche sauce.

Brownie Layer:

1 Box family size Brownie mix, plus ingredients to make (oil, eggs, water)

Follow directions on box to prepare brownie batter.  Spread on top of Oreo cookie layer in an even layer using spatula.

Bake for 45-50 minutes.  The brownies should look slightly gooey in the middle and will set up when cooling.  Cool on wire rack for 20 minutes.  Remove from pan by lifting the parchment paper out and cut into bars.  Enjoy! 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Orange Julius Copycat Shake

When I found this recipe for Orange Julius on Tried and Tasty, I knew I had to make it.  I grew up drinking these shakes as a special treat at the mall.  It tastes just like the original and brought back some great memories.


1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup ice cubes

Add all ingredients to blender and blend well.  Serves 2.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate Chip Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Skillet Cookie

I found another way to use my favorite 10 inch cast iron skillet.  This big cookie gets crispy around the edges and stays nice and gooey in the middle.  Serve it up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce and your sweet tooth will be satisfied.  Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
10 mini Reese's peanut butter cups, cut into quarters
5 mini Reese's peanut butter cups, cut in half (for top)
caramel sauce, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil a 10 inch skillet.

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

In a large stand mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients that you set aside and mix just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.  Add the 10 quartered peanut butter cups and carefully fold into dough.

Press dough into the bottom of prepared skillet.  Press the remaining halved 5 peanut butter cups into top of dough.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until edges are brown and top is golden.  Be careful not to over bake as it will continue to bake in the skillet.  Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Cut into wedges and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lemon Angel Hair Pasta with Grilled Shrimp

This is a simple and healthy whole grain pasta dish with lots of flavor.  We always have flash frozen shrimp in the freezer for an easy weeknight meal.


1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
2 T blackening spice rub (or your favorite spice rub)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 lb whole grain angel hair pasta, cooked al delte
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (plus more if needed)
1 1/2 lemons, zest and juice
kosher salt
black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
green onions, for garnish

Toss shrimp with blackening spice rub.  Grill on indoor grill pan on both sides until cooked through.  Remove to plate, squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon, and cover with foil.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

In a large deep skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil.  Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic and saute until onion is translucent.  Add the chicken broth, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced slightly.  Add the cooked pasta and toss well to coat.  Add more chicken broth if needed and cook pasta in sauce for a few more minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Plate up the pasta and top with grilled shrimp.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and green onions.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Italian Meatball Soup

My family loves meatballs, so this soup was a big hit.  My kids are picky when it comes to soup, but they even ate the veggies in this.  This recipe was adapted from Emeril Lagasse.


1 lb lean ground beef (93/7)
2 eggs
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes

In a large bowl, add all ingredients and mix together using your hands.  Form small meatballs using about a tablespoon of meat.  Set meatballs on a plate. 

In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add 2 T olive oil.  Add 1/2 of the meatballs and brown on all sides.  Remove to plate.  Brown the remaining meatballs and return to plate.

Soup Ingredients:

1 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart beef broth (4 cups)
3 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 small can tomato paste
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup ditalini pasta
2 cups baby spinach

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add the olive oil.  Add the onions, mushrooms, carrots, and garlic and saute until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add the beef broth, water, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings.  Gently add the meatballs to the soup and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often.  Add the ditalini pasta and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until pasta is tender.  Turn off the heat and stir in the baby spinach.

Ladle up in soup bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Apricot Brown Sugar Honey Ham

This is the ham from our Thanksgiving dinner.  It was simple and fast, which is a bonus on a busy day like Thanksgiving.  The marinade can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use.  I can't wait to make another one on a busy weeknight.  This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten.


10 lb fully cooked spiral cut smoked ham on the bone
4 garlic cloves
1 cup apricot jam
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 orange zested
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the ham in the bottom of a heavy roasting pan (don't use the rack).

In a food processor, add all marinade ingredients and process until smooth.  Pour 1/2 of marinade over the ham and bake for 45 minutes.  Pour the remaining glaze over the ham, cover with foil, and cook another 15 minutes.  Serve hot or at room temperature.  Refrigerate leftovers.  Enjoy!

Tip:  You can use the ham bone and leftover ham in homemade pinto beans.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our Favorite Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce

In celebration of my 300th post, I am sharing my family's favorite cheesecake.  I made this for my Mom's birthday last week.  This is not a New York Style cheesecake that towers above the cheesecake pan.  It only uses 2 blocks of cream cheese, and I usually use Philadelphia 1/3 less fat cream cheese.  It also uses a pint of sour cream, and I usually use Dannon Lite sour cream.

We like to cover it in a simple fresh blueberry sauce that can be made anytime of the year using frozen blueberries also.  This cheesecake recipe is from Tyler's Ultimate.  The blueberry sauce is my own.

Crust Ingredients:

2 cups finely ground cinnamon graham crackers (about 30 squares)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Stir together crust ingredients in a small bowl.  Lightly spray 8-inch spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour the crumbs into the pan and press into the bottom and one inch up the sides using a metal measuring cup.  Wrap the bottom of the pan with foil (this will keep the water out since you will bake using a water bath).

Filling Ingredients:

2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese (1 pound), softened
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 pint sour cream
1 lemon, zested (save lemon for blueberry sauce)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a large stand mixer, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute until free of lumps.  Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides as needed.  Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes until smooth.  Add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla.  Mix just until combined.  Do not over beat air into the batter.

Pour the filling into prepared crust.  Place into the bottom of a roaster pan and fill with hot water halfway up the sides of the spring form pan to create a water bath.  This will prevent the cheesecake from cracking on top during the baking process.

Bake for 45-55 minutes.  The cheesecake should still be slightly jiggly in the middle (It will set up in the refrigerator).  Remove from the oven, carefully lift pan out of roaster, and remove foil.  Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight.  When ready to serve, run a knife or thin spatula around the edges before releasing the spring form pan from the sides.

Blueberry Sauce:

2 pints blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup water
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a medium sauce pan, add all ingredients.  Simmer on medium low heat for 5 minutes.  Make a corn starch slurry to thicken by stirring together 2 T corn starch and a little cold water in a cup.  Add to the blueberry sauce and stir until thickened.  Let cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Party M&M Rice Krispie Pops

This is a fun way to make Rice Krispie treats special for a party.  They can be wrapped up in colorful plastic wrap and tied with a bow for guests to take home as a party gift, or you can just line them up on a plate to enjoy during the party.  My big Taylor helped make these for Dandad's birthday party.  It was a great way to use up some of the M&Ms leftover from Halloween.  I found this idea at Loralee Lewis


3 T unsalted butter
1 bag miniature marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup M&Ms (any flavor)
1/2 cup (or more) M&Ms for muffin pans
12 popsicle or craft sticks

Spray a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Place some M&Ms in each.

In a large pan over low heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the marshmallows just until melted.  Remove from heat and stir in the Rice Krispies.  Quickly stir in 1/2 cup M&Ms, then press mixture firmly into muffin cups.  Place a popsicle stick into the middle of each.  Let them cool and firm up before removing from muffin pan.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Healthier Banana Blueberry Muffins

This is a healthier muffin recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart.  I also replaced half of the butter with unsweetened applesauce to make it even healthier.  My kids didn't even notice these were not our normal muffins and said they were really moist and delicious.  One of my girls ate 3 muffins for breakfast.  My little Jordyn helped make these while her big sisters slept late, and she was so proud.  I just love making memories in the kitchen with my girls!


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
4 T unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup lowfat 2% milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup frozen blueberries (do not thaw or rinse)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with 15 liners.

In a bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large stand mixer, cream together the butter, apple sauce, sugar, and brown sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix.  Add the milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas and mix.  Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix just until combined.  Fold in the frozen blueberries.  Use a ice cream scoop to evenly distribute batter to muffin liners, which will fill them 3/4 full.

Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dog Treats

We have two sweet labs in our family.  Our black lab, Dakota, turned 8 this weekend so I made her some special dog treats.  They smelled just like peanut butter cookies baking, but I did not taste them since they have chicken broth in the dough.  Our puppy dogs ate them up so quickly that I don't even think they chewed them.  I can probably speak for them and say they were tasty.  I found this recipe on Jun-Blog.

You can use any cookie cutters you have at home, or buy special dog friendly shapes such as a dog bone, dog house, or fire hydrant.  I simply drew a very large dog bone template onto a piece of thin cardboard and cut it out.  After I rolled out the dough, I traced around the template with a small sharp paring knife.  It worked great since I was in a bind, but I did add dog bone cookie cutters to my Amazon wish list for their Christmas treats.

I hope you make some of these special treats for your four legged family members.  They will definitely be your best friends forever!


1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup all natural peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1 T olive oil
1 cup Old fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, peanut butter, honey, and olive oil.  In a separate bowl, stir together the oats, whole wheat flour, and all purpose flour.  Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir.  If the dough is sticky, add more flour so it can easily be rolled out.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll the dough out to about 3/8" thickness.  Cut out treats using cookie cutters.  Roll out leftover scraps and continue cutting out treats until all dough is used.  Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.  Store leftovers in an airtight container or ziplock bag. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Loaded Potato Soup ~ Crock Pot Recipe

My Mom used to make the best potato soup for me when I was sick, and that's the only time I would ask for it.  It just made me feel better.  When I got older, I would order the loaded baked potato soup at Bennigan's almost everytime.  This recipe is a cross between the two.  I also added a can of cream style corn thinking my kids might actually eat this soup, and it worked.  They absolutely loved it and ate every bite!


2 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can cream style corn
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 quart chicken broth
1 lb cooked bacon, crumbled (divided)
1 1/2 cups half n half
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (divided)
green onions, chopped
avocado, chopped

Add the potatoes, onions, garlic, corn, butter, salt, pepper, chicken broth, and 1/2 of the cooked bacon to the crock pot.  Stir well, cover, and turn on Low.  Cook for 8-9 hours, or until potatoes are fork tender. 

Turn crock pot off and mash potatoes until slightly chunky.  Stir in the half n half and 1 cup of the shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  Serve up in bowls and top with additional cheese, green onions, bacon, and avocado.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chocolate Icebox Pie

This classic pie is updated by using a homemade graham cracker.  The chocolate custard is cooked on the stove top, assembled, and chilled before topping with sweetened whipped cream.  The chocolate filling is much thicker than it looks in my photo.  It's the perfect combo of half chocolate, half whipped cream.  You might want to make two since it will go quick!  Recipe adapted from Southern Living 2005 on myrecipes.

Graham Cracker Crust:

1 1/2 cups finely crushed honey graham crackers
7 T unsalted butter, melted
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9-inch pie dish with non-stick cooking spray.  In a small bowl, stir together all crust ingredients.  Pour into pie dish and use a metal measuring cup or flat bottomed glass to firmly press into the bottom and up the sides.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Cool competely before filling.

Chocolate Pie Filling: 

2/3 cup milk
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup cold water
2 T corn starch
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 T unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, heat milk just until it bubbles around the edges (do not boil).  Remove from heat and stir in the semisweet chocolate chips.  Cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the cold water and corn starch.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until combined.  Add to the chocolate mixture and whisk over medium heat.  Bring to a low boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and whisk in butter. 

Pour mixture into graham cracker crust and let cool slightly.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, whip the heavy cream until foamy.  Add the powdered sugar and whip until soft peaks form.  Spread or pipe onto chocolate filling.  Decorate with sprinkles, chopped chocolate bar, or chocolate shavings.  Enjoy!

Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

These potatoes taste just like twice baked potatoes without all the work.  My kids never eat the skin anyways, so this was the perfect choice for our family.  It's as easy as making mashed potatoes and stirring in all the toppings that go on a baked potato.  This was our side dish to go with restaurant style filet mignon.  Recipe is from Simple Daily Recipes.


8 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup evaporated milk (approximately)
1/2 cup sour cream
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 green onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Boil potatoes until fork tender.  Mash up with potato masher.  Add the sour cream and enough evaporated milk for mashed potato consistency.  Use a wire whisk to beat until fluffy.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, 1/2 of the cooked bacon, and 1/2 of the green onions.

Transfer the potatoes to casserole dish and sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese is melted.  Remove from oven and top with remaining bacon and green onions.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! 2011

We are having our family over to eat some soup, either

 and some Chocolate Cupcakes decorated for Halloween

Then we will trick-or-treat, come home and sort through all the candy.  

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is just around the corner so I thought I better start testing some dessert recipes on my family.  I am not a pumpkin pie person, but most of my family loves it.  They said this pie was wonderful, and my little bite was good, but pass me the pecan pie.  This is a traditional pumpkin pie with a little layer of gingersnaps and cinnamon graham cracker crumbs between the pie crust and filling.  This recipe was slightly adapted from Joy of Baking.


1 - 9 inch pie crust
1/4 cup crushed gingersnaps
1/4 cup crushed cinnamon honey graham crackers
3 large eggs
1 - 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup + 3 T light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp apple pie spice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place pie crust into 9-inch pie dish.  Put the gingersnaps and graham crackers in a large ziplock bag and seal.  Crush with a rolling pin until fine crumbs.  Sprinkle the crumbs over the pie crust, slightly up the sides, and press down lightly.  This keeps the pie crust from getting soggy and adds another layer of flavor.  Put pie crust in refrigerator while preparing pumpkin filling.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs.  Whisk in the pumpkin puree and brown sugar.  Add the heavy cream and spices and whisk just until combined.  Pour into the cold pie crust.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until knife inserted one inch from the edge comes out almost clean.

Place on a wire rack to cool.  Serve at room temperature ttopped with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with additional crushed gingersnaps/cinnamon honey grahams.  Store leftovers in refrigerator.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Perfect Pie Crust

This is the easiest pie crust ever!  I've had many fights with pie crust over the years, but I finally found this recipe over at Martha Stewart.  Now we are besties and I will never use store bought again.  This recipe makes two 9 inch pie crusts, so you can wrap up the extra in plastic wrap, put it inside a freezer ziplock bag, and it's there for you when you need it.


2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 T margarine or chilled vegetable shortening
1/4 cup (or less) ice water

In a food processor, add the flour and salt and pulse.  Cut the very cold butter and shortening into small squares.  Add to the flour and process until it resembles coarse meal.  Add the water a tablespoon at a time until dough just comes together.  You probably will not need the entire 1/4 cup of water.  Be careful not to over process.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide in half.  Form into disks and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for one hour before using.  If the dough has been in the refrigerator for longer, let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out or it will crack around the edges (I speak from experience!).

When ready to use, flour your work surface and rolling pin.  Roll out in one direction, turning the dough to keep the circle even until it's about 10 inches in diameter.  To transfer to the pie dish, you can either fold it on half or roll it around your floured rolling pin.  Gently place it in the pie dish leaving a 1/2 inch overhang. 

If you are making a single crust pie, you can now either fold the overhang under to create a thick border crust, or cut with a sharp knife for a thin border crust.  Then crimp with fingers or fork.

If you are making a double pie crust recipe, place the top crust over your filling before crimping or cutting the edges.  Make sure to seal the two crusts together using water or egg wash, then crimp or cut edges.

Here is a link from Betty Crocker about storing pies.  I keep extra pie dough discs in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap and inside a freezer ziplock bag with the date written on the outside.  Betty Crocker says uncooked pie crust can be frozen for 2 months, and baked pie crusts for 4 months.

Use for your favorite pies, sweet and savory.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How to Make Brown Sugar

Do you ever get a craving for brownies or cookies, then start gathering all the ingredients only to realize you are out of brown sugar?  Well, I do, quite often, and it's very frustrating!  Then I remembered hearing on one of my Food Network shows how easy brown sugar is to make at home using only two ingredients.  I did a quick search and found the measurements on eHow Food.  It's so simple and packs more fresh flavor than the store bought.


1 cup granulated sugar
1 T molasses

In a medium mixing bowl, add the sugar and molasses and use a hand mixer to combine.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides as needed and continue to beat until all the molasses is combined.  It will take up to 5 minutes, so be patient and you will have light and fluffy brown sugar.

Note:  If you want to make dark brown sugar, use 2 T molasses per cup of sugar.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Nutella Buttercream Filling

These cookies are amazing! They are a version of the Girl Scout's Do Si Do cookies, but in place of the peanut butter filling is a Nutella buttercream filling. You can even make them small like the Girl Scout cookies, but you know I like my cookies bakery style (grande). I found the cookie recipe over at Rara Bakes, where she also has the peanut butter filling. The Nutella buttercream is my own creation.

Cookie Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup Old Fashioned Oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

In a large stand mixer, cream together the butter and peanut butter.  Add the white sugar, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder and mix just until incorporated.  Add the Oats and mix.

Roll into balls and place on prepared baking sheets (dough will be slightly sticky).  Flatten with a fork like you would for peanut butter cookies.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are light golden brown. (Baking time depends on cookie size)  Leave on hot baking sheets for 1 minute, then remove to wire cooling rack.  You can make the filling while cookies are cooling.

Original recipe with teaspoon size cookie dough makes 15 sandwich cookies.
Large cookies as shown makes 11 sandwich cookies.

Nutella Buttercream Filling:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup Nutella
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
milk, as needed

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter, Nutella, and vanilla.  Add the powdered sugar, then slowly add milk as needed for thick filling consistency.  Beat until thick frosting forms, about 4 minutes.

When the cookies have cooled, pipe or spread filling on the inside of 1/2 of the cookies.  Place another cookie on top of filling to create sandwich.  Repeat with all cookies.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Penne Pasta Bake


This is a simple baked pasta dish that comes together fast.  It can easily be doubled to create an extra casserole dish to freeze for another busy weeknight meal.


1 T olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 - 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1 - 15 oz can Hunt's diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
pinch sugar
pinch red pepper flakes
3 T grated parmesan cheese
1/2 lb penne pasta, cooked al dente
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and cook the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, sugar, and red pepper flakes and stir well.  Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese.  

Cook the penne pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, about 9 minutes.  Drain, then add to marinara sauce.   

Layer half of the pasta on the bottom of the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Repeat with remaining pasta and mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy! 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread


This is a twist on my traditional banana bread recipe.  There are layers of cinnamon and sugar between layers of moist banana bread batter. It is finished with another layer of cinnamon and sugar that creates a crunchy topping when baked.  The smell of it baking will drive you crazy.  I hope that I can wait long enough for it to cool before eating a big slice.  My next project needs to be some homemade banana cinnamon rolls.  Can you imagine?


1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas

Cinnamon/Sugar Swirl Mixture:

1/3 cup sugar
2 T light brown sugar
1 T cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix well. Add the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon and mix just until combined. Add the mashed bananas and mix until incorporated.

Pour 1/3 banana bread batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of cinnamon/sugar swirl mixture over top.  Repeat two more times, ending with the cinnamon/sugar mixture on top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick tester comes out clean. Run a sharp knife around edges to loosen bread from sides of pan.  Let cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan, slice, and serve warm with butter.  Enjoy! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mushroom, White Bean, Spinach, and Orzo Soup

I'm still trying to will the cooler weather to Texas, but it's not working very well.  It's still quite warm on most days...high 90's!  Today it is overcast and only 82 degrees, so I took advantage of the weather and made some healthy soup for lunch.  I wanted to use up the mushrooms and baby spinach from the fridge before my grocery shopping tomorrow, so they were the inspiration for this soup.  It would be simple to make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.  I know my Mom would love this soup!


1 T olive oil
1 quart fresh button mushrooms, sliced
3 green onions, sliced (reserve some of the green tops for garnish)
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
black pepper
1 - 32 oz. carton low sodium chicken broth
1 - 15 oz. can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh baby spinach

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, mushrooms, green onions, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper and stir well.  Cook until mushrooms are tender, about 7 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and beans, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil.  Add the orzo pasta and boil for 8 minutes, or until tender.  Add the baby spinach, turn off heat, and stir spinach until it wilts.  Taste and reseason.  Serve up in big soup bowls and top with sliced green onion tops.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cinnamon Chips with Honey

I miss the days where I could eat out at a Mexican restaurant, actually stop before I was full beyond belief, and order a sopapilla covered in cinnamon, sugar, and honey.  I also miss the days where I could eat whatever whenever and my metabolism kept up, but I still love my sweets.  I was watching Kelsey's Essentials on the Cooking Channel last week and she made these chips and served them with stone fruit salsa.  I'm sure the fruit would be a lovely addition, but for me, just pass the honey bear!

These cinnamon chips only take about 20 minutes from start to finish, so while they are baking, you can sit down and eat dinner with your family.  Pile them up on a serving platter while toasty warm and drizzle generously with honey.


6 (8-inch) flour tortillas
3 T unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
lots and lots of honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon.  Spread the tortillas out on a work surface and brush the top side with melted butter.  Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Turn tortillas over and repeat.  Stack seasoned tortillas up and cut into wedges.  I cut 6 wedges, so there were 36 chips.

Place on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 15 minutes, or until crispy.  Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with lots of honey.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sweet 'n Sticky Chicken

This past weekend, I went on the search for some new recipes in my favorite kitchen cookbooks.  I found this kid friendly recipe for Sweet and Sticky Chicken Drumsticks in Giada's Kitchen New Italian Favorites cookbook.  Giada wrote this particular cookbook after her cutie pie little Jade was born.  She has an entire section devoted to "(NOT) Just For Kids"....which are recipes the whole family will love, especially your kids. 

My family is split down the middle when it comes to dark and white meat chicken, so I bought a whole cut up chicken so it really would be family friendly. We were all happy and this chicken was finger lickin' good!


1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
5 fresh rosemary sprigs
5 garlic cloves, halved
whole cut up chicken (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wings), skin left on

2 T toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley or cilantro (we prefer cilantro)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, rosemary, and garlic.  Remove 1/2 cup of the marinade to a small sauce pan for sauce reduction later. 

Wash and place the chicken into a resealable zip lock bag placed inside a bowl (just in case there is a leak).  Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken , squeeze out excess air from ziplock bag, and zip up tightly.  Gently toss around to coat all the chicken.  Place in the refrigerator to marinade for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on the baking sheet, leaving space between so they will brown evenly.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked through.  Cooking time will depend on size of chicken.

When the chicken is almost done, bring the reserved 1/2 cup marinade to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until reduced and thick, about 10 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove from the oven and use a pastry brush to brush on the reduced marinade.  Arrange chicken on a serving platter, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, and chopped parsley or cilantro (if using).  Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Caramel Apple Dip

This is a sweet, creamy dip that goes great with fruit, baby carrots, and cookies like Nilla wafers or Teddy Grahams.  I made this for our weekly Dallas Cowboys football watching party, and it was a huge hit, as you can tell from the picture below!  This recipe is from my daughter's school cookbook. 


1 (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Caramel ice cream topping
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whip until combined using a hand mixer.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Janice & Joni's BFF Caramel Bars

Let's end the week with these chocolaty caramel bars from Keeping Up Cookbook.  

They are simple to make and the kids can help.  My girls stirred together the oat crust/topping mixture and unwrapped all the caramels.  They love getting in the kitchen and helping out Mommy.  I have little chefs in the making.  Make up a batch of these caramel bars to share with your neighbors and friends, or make some new friends!  They are sure to check in with you weekly to see what you're baking next.

I hope you have enjoyed the recipes featuring Keeping Up Cookbook this week!  Check out this post to read more about this awesome cookbook.  I made the Lemon-garlic spaghettini with grilled lemon shrimp, Blueberry cream cheese muffins, Sjoblom's slow cooker french dips, Bonnie's Cheerio snacks, and these delicious caramel bars.  

Oat Crust/Topping:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper leaving a 1/4 inch overhang.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients.  Press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of prepared pan.  Save the remaining mixture for the topping.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Caramel/Chocolate Filling:

1 (14 oz) package Kraft caramels, unwrapped
3 T heavy cream or half n half
3 T butter
2 cups milk chocolate chips

While crust is baking, melt the caramels, cream, and butter over low heat or in a double boiler.  Pour melted mixture over baked crust.  Sprinkle with milk chocolate chips and crumble remaining oat mixture over top.  Bake for another 15 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.  Lift out of pan using parchment paper and cut into bars.  Enjoy!
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