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.
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