Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oatmeal Dulche de Leche Cookies

I saw this recipe on Pleasant Home. It was created by Robin at All Things Heart & Home and shared for the recent Christmas Cookie Exchange on Pleasant Home. I bookmarked it right away and new that this recipe would haunt me until I made it. The cookies are very rich, so you can't eat too many (unless you want to go into sugar shock). And I just realized I forgot to count how many cookie-sandwiches this was at least 3 dozen maybe 4.

You will need one jar of marshmallow creme and a can of dulche de leche:
The dulche de leche can be found in the Hispanic section of your grocery store. To make the marshmallow creme easier to spread, put it in the microwave for 10 seconds and stir.

The cookies spread out a lot. I used my smallest cookie scoop, but you can use a rounded teaspoonful if you don't have one. Slightly flatten the dough so it spreads evenly while baking:

When the cookies are cool, you will spread a little caramel on one cookie and a little marshmallow creme on another and then press them together:
Don't use too much marshmallow creme or it will ooze out and make a big mess.

For the chocolate drizzle, you melt chocolate chips in the microwave. I found the least messy way to do the drizzle is to put the Ziploc bag inside a cup, folding the excess over the sides and then pour the chocolate in:

Then you can twist it, snip off the corner, and squeeze with very little mess:

I suggest leaving the cookies on the wire rack, but put a piece of wax paper or some paper towels underneath to catch any drips. If you need the chocolate to harden quickly, just pop 'em in the fridge for 15 - 20 minutes.

from All Things Heart & Home

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3 cups old fashioned oats

1 jar marshmallow creme
1 can dulche de leche
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cream together butter and both sugars. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Blend in flour and baking soda. Add oats. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart, slightly flatten with fingers, and bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on cookie sheet 2-3 minutes before removing to wire rack.

When cookies are cool, make sandwiches by spreading a teaspoon of caramel on one cookie and a teaspoon of marshmallow creme on another. Press cookies together.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips for 20 seconds. Stir. Heat for 10 seconds more, then stir again until completely smooth. Pour chocolate into a freezer-weight Ziploc bag, snip corner, and drizzle chocolate over cookies. Allow chocolate to firm up. Can be put in fridge to firm. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

English Toffee

When I lived in Georgia I had a friend who would bring me homemade toffee every Christmas. It was so darn good and I would hide it so I could have it all to myself. Well, this is the third Christmas since we moved away and no one has stepped up and given me toffee, the nerve. So I figured I should finally make my own.

I tried making toffee once. Actually several times. And it never turned out. I think I can blame a few different things for my failures: low quality butter, humidity, etc. Tonight I finally had success and I owe it to The Idea Room's recipe. And good quality butter. And a perfectly calibrated candy thermometer.

Here are some tips for making toffee:
  1. Use good, name brand butter. NO Wal-mart butter here. It has a higher water content and will not turn out right. This recipe calls for salted butter, but if all you have is unsalted, add a pinch of salt at the end.
  2. Calibrate your thermometer. Our Best Bites has a tutorial here.
  3. Use a wooden spoon. The first batch I made I used a plastic spoon and it started to melt. Not cool.
  4. Be careful. Be very careful. This stuff is hot and will melt your skin off! Two words: oven mitts.
  5. Use a heavy duty saucepan. This reduces the chances of hot spots forming and burning your candy.
  6. Line your cookie sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. It makes it easier to break the toffee in pieces. And there's less clean up.
adapted from The Idea Room

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 - 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (depending on how much chocolate you like)
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds or pecans

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. In a heavy saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in sugar, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a boil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thermometer reads 290 degrees F. (Watch it carefully once it reaches 280 degrees because the temp will increase quickly and you don't want this to burn). Pour onto cookie sheet and quickly spread to desired thickness. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over warm toffee. Let sit 1-2 minutes or until softened and gently spread melted chocolate into an even layer. Sprinkle with almonds and lightly press so the almonds stick. Chill in refrigerator until hard. Crack into pieces and store in an airtight container. Makes 1 1/2 pounds.


Extra nutty: Quickly stir in an additional 1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds into toffee before pouring onto cookie sheet.

Salty/sweet: Sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt instead of almonds.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Strawberry-Cranberry Jam

I made this jam last year as gifts for extended family. It was my first time making jam and I did okay, but I like the way it turned out better this year. I've adapted the recipe and the flavor seems better.

If this is your first time making jam, Allrecipes has great information here. And read the comments section for even more helpful tips. It's really not that hard, just a little time consuming. But this jam makes it worth it!

Fresh cranberries are not available until fall/winter at which point the price of strawberries is ridiculous. I just bought a 4 lb. bag of whole frozen strawberries at Walmart for $6. I used a little over 3/4 of the bag, I think. Or you can freeze your cranberries now and make the jam in the spring when strawberries are fresh and cheap.

I got four 1-pint jars and five 1/2-pint jars with this recipe, but I had a little left over and I really think you could get 6-7 1-pint jars.

adapted from Sparkling Holiday Jam on

2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) strawberries, coarsely chopped
1 (12 oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
2 (1.75 oz) packages powdered fruit pectin
1 tsp. margarine (to prevent the jam from foaming too much)
4 lbs. white sugar

Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Let simmer while making jam.

In a large saucepan combine strawberries, cranberries, pectin, and margarine. Bring to a boil. Stir in sugar and return to a boil. Cook for 1 minute; remove from heat.

Quickly fill jars to within 1/2 inch from top. Wipe rims clean and put on lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Let cool on the counter for 24 hours.

Lids should be compressed - if you can "pop" the lid, put jam in fridge and consume within two weeks.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hot Cocoa on a Stick

I was a little hesitant to share this because it's my Christmas gift to extended family this year and posting it will ruin the surprise. But I thought about it, and figured some of you might want to make these yourselves to hand out to teachers, crossing guards, hair stylists, etc. You can make individual ones like this:

I bought small treat bags at Michael's, put the chocolate end inside and added a few marshmallows. Then I secured the bag with a red twist tie and tied the tag (with instructions on back) with a ribbon. For the family, I put several into a large treat bag, added some marshmallows and tied the bag closed with ribbon and a tag. I then put them into the cute felt buckets you see below with a little paper filler to keep them snug.

I got the buckets at Target's Dollar Spot. Aren't they cute?

The recipe comes from Giver's Log. I do suggest checking out her post because she gives a lot of great advice about what chocolate to use and other molding ideas (like ice cube trays or small paper cups). I knew I was making a lot of these, so I bought Wilton's Brownie Bite silicone mold at Michael's (I had a lot of 40% off coupons, can you tell?), which has 24 squares. I estimate each square equals about 3/4 of an ounce. One batch made 11-12 squares.

I started out using popsicle sticks only to discover they aren't super great when it comes to stirring. So I switched to plastic spoons. You can leave them to set at room temperature or you can speed up the process by sticking them in the fridge. Once they are hard, you can just bend the mold and they pop right out.

The chocolates I used (because it's more economical than Ghiradelli's) are Baker's Semi-Sweet:

And the large Hershey's Symphony bar (the plain milk chocolate one - this photo says it's 5 oz. but I'm 99% sure they aren't 5 oz. anymore, more like 4.75 or something like that):

The Baker's bar is usually found in the baking aisle and the Symphony bar is in the candy aisle. The best prices I've found on both are at Wal-mart. I wasn't sure which would make better hot chocolate so I made one batch with just Bakers and one batch with just Symphony. Bakers was a little too...semi-sweet and didn't melt very well. The Symphony melted great but lacked flavor. So I compromised and combined them. And then I decided I wanted to dress it up a bit with peppermint. I've included instructions at the bottom.

from Giver's Log

8 oz. chocolate, chopped (4 oz. [4 squares] Bakers + one large Symphony bar)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Sift together the cocoa and sugar in a small bowl (this is an important step - make sure you sift it - use a wire mesh strainer and a spoon if you have to).

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave on high, stirring after the first 30 seconds. Microwave 30 seconds more; stir. Microwave about 15 seconds more and stir (there will still be lumps of chocolate at this point but that is okay, just keep stirring it until it's all smooth).

Stir in half the cocoa mixture until combined. Stir in remaining half (this will take some elbow grease - the chocolate will be the consistency of a thick cookie dough).

Divide chocolate into molds (I just used a spoon). Insert spoons or sticks. Allow to firm up at room temp or refrigerate. Remove from molds.

PEPPERMINT VARIATION (this is enough for 8 hot cocoa batches):

12 oz. bag white candy melts
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 box peppermint candy canes, crushed

Melt candy in microwave-safe bowl according to package instructions. Stir in extract (if candy freezes - or turns lumpy - add a teaspoon of shortening or vegetable oil). Dip hot cocoa "sticks" first in melted candy, then crushed candy canes. Lay on waxed or parchment paper until firm.


Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon to sifted cocoa and powdered sugar before stirring into chocolate. Later dip "sticks" in melted chocolate then dip in crushed red hot candies.


The amount of milk will vary depending on the amount of chocolate in your mold (2 Tbsp. = 1 oz.). Essentially it's 1 cup of milk to 1 oz. of chocolate. So, since my molds were essentially 3/4 of an ounce, these are my instructions:

Heat 3/4 cup (6 oz). milk in mug until steaming. Stir in chocolate until melted. Add marshmallows and enjoy!

These may be stored in an airtight container up to one year. Chocolate may "bloom" or lighten in color - this will not affect quality or taste.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Bars

Image via FoodNetwork
Caralie and I made these today. She couldn't wait for them to cool off enough to eat. And I have to say they are moist and delicious. However, this is really more of a dense cake than "bars" in my opinion. Sprinkle some chopped nuts on top, if you like, to make it pretty and you've got a great dessert for a get-together. I made a couple of changes:

1) I used 1 tsp. cinnamon + 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, and

2) I added an extra 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to the frosting because it was a little too cream-cheesy for me.

Next time I'll try substituting applesauce for the oil - I would have done that today but I am out of applesauce.


4 eggs
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread over cooled bars.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Apple Crisp

The perfect autumn dessert! If you have one of these:
now is the time to use it! Just peel your apples first and then stick 'em in your wedger. It's a quick way to get uniform slices that will bake up evenly.


10 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (Granny Smiths are good)
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup (a stick and a half) butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix apples with 1 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon until evenly coated; pour into 9x13 baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, oats, and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly; sprinkle evenly over apples.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm with scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cranberry Cake with Warm Vanilla Butter Sauce

This recipe was recently featured in the Make a Cake Series on Make It and Love It. It is not a very sweet cake and really seems more fitting as an adult dessert. It's served sliced and drizzled with a sweet sauce. A squeeze bottle makes it easy.

I deviated from the recipe, which suggests making candied cranberries for garnish, and instead simmered the cranberries into a cranberry glaze to spoon over individual slices as desired. A pretty, grown-up dessert for holiday parties!

Cranberry Cake with Warm Vanilla Butter Sauce on Make It and Love It

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 bag fresh cranberries, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally grease a bundt pan with shortening. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat in butter, eggs, and milk; do not over mix. Fold in 2 cups cranberries. Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes then invert pan onto wire rack. Let cake cool completely.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until butter melts and sugar is dissolved. Let cool slightly, then pour into a squeeze bottle for drizzling, if you have one.


1 cup water
1 cup sugar
remaining cranberries from bag

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes, slightly crushing cranberries as they simmer. Let cool and serve over cake slices.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cranberry Glazed Pork Loin Roast

This is a great roast for the holidays. It looks pretty and festive and has great flavor.

You can usually find prepared horseradish by the mustard in your grocery store. I put 1-2 tsp. in the recipe because I made it with 1 teaspoon but personally would like the added kick of an additional teaspoon.

from Quick Savory Cranberry Glazed Pork Roast on

1 (4 lb.) boneless pork loin roast
1 (14.5 oz) can whole cranberry sauce
1 cup apple jelly
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
4 cubes chicken bouillon, crushed
1-2 tsp. prepared horseradish
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a saucepan, combine cranberry sauce, jelly, mustard, bouillon, horseradish, garlic powder, and thyme; bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Line a large baking pan with foil. Place roast fat side up and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon enough sauce onto roast to cover; reserve remaining sauce for basting.

Cook for 1 hour, basting (spooning sauce over) roast every 15 minutes. Let roast stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with sauce/gravy from pan.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chicken Pesto Alfredo

This is a variation of a recipe I found at The Cottage Home. Once I saw it I had to try it. I loooove pesto and I loooove alfredo and combining the two just blew my universe apart. I added chicken to make it a little heartier (and so the menfolk wouldn't complain). As Backpack would say, "Yum yum yum yum yum delicioso!"

adapted from Creamy Pesto Pasta Alfredo

3 chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to an even thickness
2 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. box penne pasta
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup prepared pesto (store-bought or fresh)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
salt and pepper to taste

Start water for pasta - cook according to package directions. Strain, reserving 1/3 cup cooking liquid.

Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add to pan. Brown both sides and cook through.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add pesto and cook for 2-3 minutes more to mellow the flavor. Stir in cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add Parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Stir in 1/3 cup reserved cooking liquid from pasta and add salt and pepper as desired.

Chop cooked chicken into bite size pieces. Combine pasta and chicken in a large serving bowl and pour sauce all over. Stir to coat and serve with grated Parmesan on top.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nutter Butter Ghosts/Snowmen

It's a little late to make these guys unless you want to make them into snowmen. But they are so darn yummy! Caralie and I made a batch about a week before Halloween and I forgot all about posting them until now.


1 (1 lb.) package Nutter Butter cookies
1 (1 lb.) package white almond bark or vanilla candy coating
mini chocolate chips (for face, buttons)
Fruit Roll-Ups (for scarves)

Melt almond bark or candy coating according to package directions. Dip cookies to coat and place on wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Add mini chocolate chips for face (ghost/snowman) and buttons (snowman). Put cookies in fridge to harden. Cut fruit roll-ups into "scarves" and wrap around the neck of snowmen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Italian Soup

Here is another soup for you to enjoy! Once again, it contains Italian sausage (am I sensing a theme here?), but no pasta this time. I made it last night and it was a surprisingly satisfying meal coupled with Golden Dinner Rolls (made with butter instead of shortening). The photo above is not the greatest representation, but I do the best I can with my camera and light conditions. I urge you to try this recipe. You won't be disappointed.

And if you're wondering what julienne means, here's a photo:

Kinda like thin sticks? (Or you can dice 'em).

And I'm putting 2-3 cans of beans, because I made this with 2 cans but I think it could use one more can if you are like me and like a lot of beans. If not, the 2 cans are plenty.

adapted from Italian Sausage Soup on

1 lb. mild Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano (Italian style)
4 cups (32 oz) beef broth
3 carrots, shredded
2-3 (14.5 oz) cans great northern beans, undrained
2 zucchini, julienned
1 (9 oz) package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, brown sausage with garlic, drain any fat. Stir in tomatoes, beef broth, and carrots, and season with salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in beans (with liquid) and zucchini. Cover and simmer another 15 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

Remove from heat and stir in spinach. Cover and allow heat from soup to cook spinach. Soup is ready to serve after 5 minutes. Great garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Butterscotch Blondies

These are sooo good. And sooo bad for you. These are the kind of treats that you only make when you have to bring treats to a party or potluck or whatever. Otherwise, you'll eat them all yourself. And that would be bad. Very, very bad.

But it would feel sooo right.

(And if you are going to eat one, try to get an edge piece because the edges get uber-chewy and delicious.)

adapted from Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies on

1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Combine butterscotch chips and butter in microwave-safe bowl. Melt in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add in flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in mini chocolate chips and marshmallows. Pour batter into baking dish and spread evenly.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool and cut into squares. Store in airtight container.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Slow Cooker Swiss Steak

My mom used to make this in a skillet on the stove. About a year ago I decided to try it in the slow cooker and it worked out great. I thought I was so clever until I saw the idea on this past week. I wasn't as original as I thought. We always served this over white rice, but it would be just as good with mashed potatoes.


2 lbs. round steak, trimmed and cut into individual serving sizes
1 tsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 small onion cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup beef broth
1 Tbsp. cornstarch + 1 1/2 Tbsp. water (to thicken sauce)

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper. Brown steak on both sides and place in bottom of slow cooker. Reduce heat of skillet to low and add beef broth. Simmer for 2 minutes then pour over steak. Layer onions, celery, and tomatoes over steak, cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 6 hours.

Remove steak pieces to plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Pour sauce and vegetables into a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes. Serve over steak.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Grilled Cajun Chicken

This has intense flavor and packs a punch. You've been warned, ha ha. I think these would be fantastic cold and cut in strips to top a salad.

I recommend using California-style lemon pepper if you have it.

adapted from Cajun Chicken on

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat grill to med-high heat. Grill breasts for 6-8 minutes on each side or until done.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes With Caramel Frosting

Oh my goodness are these yummy! Perfect for fall bake sales or potlucks. Don't be intimidated by the frosting. It's really very easy to make. The pecans on top are optional, but sure look pretty. My cupcakes were done right at 22 minutes, so keep an eye on yours so they don't overbake.

from Never Fail Applesauce Spice Cake on

2 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk + 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice)
1 1/2 cups applesauce
2 eggs
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups or grease and flour a 9x13 baking pan.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and spices in a large mixing bowl. Mix in butter, buttermilk, and applesauce. Beat with an electric mixer for two minutes. Beat in eggs. Fold in nuts, if using. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full or pour into 9x13.

Cupcakes bake for 20-25 minutes. 9x13 bake for 50 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Meanwhile, make frosting:

from Caramel Frosting IV on

1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. milk
3 cups powdered sugar
chopped pecans for garnish (optional)

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in milk. Return to heat and bring to a boil once more. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm (about 20-25 minutes). Beat in powdered sugar until smooth.

(For thinner frosting add more milk. For stiffer frosting add more powdered sugar.)

Frost cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with pecans if desired.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Snowy Glazed Apple Pie Squares

image via Noodlehead

I made these tonight and let me tell you, they were popular. I follow a craft blog called Noodlehead and she shared this recipe a week or so ago. Her photo is far superior to anything I could produce, so I've included it here.

I made two mistakes in making these: 1) I forgot it called for corn flakes, but luckily had just enough Frosted Flakes on hand to substitute (and I therefore reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup) and, 2) I accidentally added 1 1/2 tablespoons of cinnamon instead of teaspoons. And these still turned out fantastic! And I'm not a big fan of apple pie (I know for some that makes me a communist or something).

from Noodlehead

8 medium-size tart apples; cored, peeled, and sliced (ex: Granny Smiths)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or a fork until crumbly. In a glass measuring cup, beat two egg yolks. Add enough milk to equal 2/3 cup. Add to mixture; toss lightly. Divide pastry in half. On lightly floured surface roll out first half to cover bottom of 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with crushed corn flakes.

Spread apples over corn flakes. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples. Roll out last pastry half and cover; seal edges. Brush with beaten egg whites.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool slightly. Make glaze by whisking together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. Drizzle over crust. Can serve warm or cooled.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Here's another great way to cook up cauliflower. I found this on Allrecipes, of course, and I love it. I only wish I had baked it in a bigger casserole so that more of the cauliflower would get sprinkled with the Parmesan, so I wrote that into the recipe.

adapted from

1 large head cauliflower, cut into uniform florets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 1/2 tsp. parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine cauliflower, olive oil, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper in a large Ziploc bag or in a bowl until well blended. Pour into a shallow casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to oven for 5 more minutes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Soft Garlic Breadsticks

Again, this recipe is from Our Best Bites, one of my favorite recipe sites. I made these with the Tortellini Sausage Soup the other day and fell in love. And they really are easy. If you are nervous about using yeast, give these a try. I still consider myself a novice when it comes to bread making and I think this recipe is very forgiving for the beginner.

I'm also including their recipe for Garlic Bread Seasoning, because that is what makes these breadsticks so great. The recipe makes a lot, so store the extra in an airtight container in the fridge to use as needed.

If you are not sure about rolling out the dough and twisting it, just cut it into strips and leave it at that. Nobody will care what they look like once they take a bite. In fact, I may just skip the whole twisting part myself next time. It's simpler and faster that way.

Use a thermometer (a candy one works fine) to measure the temp of your water.

from Our Best Bites

1 1/2 cups warm (105 - 115 degrees F) water
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 - 4 1/2 cups flour (I only needed 3, but I live in the desert)
2 Tbsp. melted butter
Garlic Bread Seasoning

In a large bowl (the bowl of your mixer, if you have one), combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes or until yeast is bubbly.

Add salt and stir. Add 1 1/2 c. flour and mix well. Gradually add more flour (usually between 3-4 cups, depending on your elevation and your humidity) until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger.

Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl.
Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Remove from bowl and place on a lightly-floured surface. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Roll into a rectangle and cut into 12 strips with a pizza cutter.

image via Our Best Bites

Roll out each piece of dough into a snake and then drape over your forefinger and twist the dough. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining 11 pieces of dough.

Cover pan and allow dough to rise for another 30 minutes. When there's about 15 minutes to go, preheat your oven to 425. When done rising, bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with Garlic Bread Seasoning


1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind in a can)
2 tsp. course Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. oregano*
2 tsp. basil
2 tsp. marjoram
2 tsp. parsley

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Use as needed.

*Since making this last, I've decided to reduce the oregano to 1 tsp. But that's mostly because I'm not a big fan of oregano - it's just personal taste.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tortellini Sausage Soup

photo from Our Best Bites

This is a great fall soup that satisfies and is just a little different from your ordinary fare. I highly recommend making it with Our Best Bite's breadsticks. To. Die. For. As good as (or in my opinion, better than) Olive Garden's soft garlic breadsticks. I'll post that recipe next, maybe tomorrow.

I found a 19 oz. package of frozen tortellini on sale for $2.99 at Fry's/Kroger:

Wal-mart used to carry the dried variety which might be the cheapest, but I don't know if they still carry it. The fresh kind in the refrigerated section will cost the most.

As for Italian sausage, there are usually 3 varieties: sweet, mild, and hot. I prefer sweet, if you can find it. It will either come in casings (links) or just in a block like ground beef:

If you can only find it in casings, just squish it out or slice the casings lengthwise and remove the sausage that way (this is before you cook it). Discard the casing.

Note: If you're making breadsticks, start the dough first, then prepare the first "phase" of the soup while the dough is rising. While the soup is simmering, twist the breadsticks, let them rise, and they'll be done baking about the same time the soup is done.

from Our Best Bites

3 links Italian sausage
4 cloves pressed garlic
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup water
2 cans chicken broth
1/2 cup apple cider
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes (I only had a 14.5 oz can and it turned out fine)
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup sliced carrots
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 medium zucchini, grated
8-10 oz pkg. cheese tortellini
2 Tbsp. dried parsley

Remove casings from links and crumble into large pot. Begin cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently. Drain sausage halfway through cooking time. Add garlic and onions and continue to cook until sausage is browned and onions are tender.

Add water, broth, cider, tomatoes, tomato sauce, carrots, basil, and oregano. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add zucchini and parsley and simmer another 15 minutes. Add tortellini and cook until tender (about 5 minutes). Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

King Ranch Casserole

There are many variations of this casserole and I have no idea which one is the original. I really enjoyed my own version tonight, so I'm sharing it with you.


13 0z. bag tortilla chips, slightly crushed
3 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place chips in bottom of 9x13 baking dish.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until tender. Stir in tomatoes, soups, and milk until combined. Add chicken, black beans, cumin, and chili powder and heat through. Pour over chips in dish.

Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fried Apples

These are very similar to the fried apples you can get at Cracker Barrel. I found the recipe here and made some adjustments. I think the ones at Cracker Barrel simply have cinnamon in them (and maybe even butter?), but I'm not completely sure.

These are great as a side, over pancakes or waffles, or as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A fantastic fall comfort food for sure.

Do be patient as you heat them. It says to simmer gently, which helps prevent the apples from falling apart. I got impatient and turned my heat up too high and they started to boil and break apart. Once the cider heats up, the apples will cook fairly quickly. I have lots of broken apples in mine and at first I was devastated but then I remembered the ones at Cracker Barrel are often broken, too. So it's okay!

adapted from Cracker Barrel Fried Apples Recipe at CDkitchen

2 1/2 cups apple cider, divided
5-6 large Golden Delicious apples, cored and sliced into 1/2" wedges (with skin)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. apple pie spice*
4 Tbsp. sugar

Combine apple slices and 2 cups cider in a large skillet over medium heat. Simmer gently, constantly turning apples until fork tender but not mushy. Remove apples with a slotted spoon and put in oven-safe dish.

In a blender, combine 1/2 cup cider, cornstarch, spice*, and sugar. Blend until smooth. Whisk into hot cider in skillet and increase heat to med-high. Whisk and cook until thickened and bubbly; pour over apples and serve warm.

*If you are like me and don't have Apple Pie Spice in your pantry, here is a substitute:

1 tsp. of Apple Pie Spice =

1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
dash of cloves
dash of ginger

Go light on the ginger and cloves since they are pretty strong.

Or you can always just use a teaspoon of cinnamon. Still yummy!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Faster Cinnamon Rolls

Of all the cinnamon roll recipes I've tried so far I like this one the best. It's fast and the rolls are nice and moist. I just don't have the patience to wait for dough to rise twice.

I have not tried freezing these rolls, but I imagine if you freeze them before they rise then thaw them in the refrigerator, they could work out.

The easiest way to cut cinnamon rolls is with dental floss, but a serrated knife works well too. If you want to try the dental floss method, cut a piece of dental floss about 18 inches long, slide the center of it under the rolled dough, cross the two ends over the dough and pull through. It makes a perfectly even and smooth cut.

I found this made about 18 one+ inch thick (when cut) cinnamon rolls. You could try either cutting them thicker to make an even dozen or put 12 in a 9x13 and 6 in an 8x8. I have a large casserole dish that I squeezed 17 into and the last one ended up in the sink. Next time I may just try cutting them thicker...

Your "warm" liquids should be between 120 - 130 degrees.

I halved the icing recipe for the rolls you see in the photo above. I wish I hadn't.

adapted from Cinnamon Rolls III on

4 cups bread flour
1 (.25 oz) packet rapid-rise yeast, room temperature
half of a (3.4 oz) package dry vanilla instant pudding
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
4 tsp. cinnamon

2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
3 Tbsp. melted butter
3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Combine flour, yeast, dry pudding, 1 Tbsp. sugar, and salt in mixing bowl. Beat in milk, water, and melted butter. Add egg. Once dough comes together, knead in mixer on 2nd setting for 8 minutes (or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface). Spray a bowl with cooking spray; roll dough into a ball and place in bowl, then flip dough over. Cover with a towel and let rest 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Lightly flour work surface and roll dough into approximately a 10x17 inch rectangle. Spread with softened butter; sprinkle evently with cinnamon mixture. Beginning with long end, roll dough into a 17-inch tube. Slice into 1-inch rolls. Place rolls in lightly greased baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Set rolls in a warm place and let rise until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes.

For icing, beat powdered sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Spread over warm rolls and serve.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole

This is a Christmas morning tradition in our household. I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, Cindy. It calls for hashbrowns and honestly I prefer the shredded variety, but the diced kind (Southern style) work as well. You can use left over ham, bacon, or sausage. I don't use onions and green peppers because I have digestive issues with those two things, but I will add a Tbsp. or two of minced dried onion instead.

You can make this up the night before, refrigerate it, then bake it in the morning. If you do so, let it stand at room temp at least 15 minutes before baking.


12 large eggs
16 0z. frozen hashbrowns, thawed
1/2 - 1 lb. diced ham or bacon, or breakfast sausage
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Saute onion and pepper with chosen meat until tender (and meat is cooked through).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Stir in meat and veggie mixture, hashbrowns, and cheese. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until center is firm and edges are lightly browned.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Teriyaki Chicken

My mom grew up in Hawaii with lots of Asian influences. Hence, we grew up on this chicken. It is traditionally made with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but since those haven't been on sale lately around here I made it with breasts. Breasts are okay, but the thighs tend to be more juicy and flavorful and I prefer them.

There is certainly enough of the marinade to reserve some for heating and serving on the side if desired. I like pouring some on steamed white rice. Yum!


2+ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and marinate in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Spray grill with cooking spray. Preheat grill to med-high heat. Grill chicken for 8-10 minutes or until done, turning once half-way through cooking time. Serve with steamed rice and veggies.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hope This Helps

I've finally added the search gadget to this blog. So if you don't want to scroll through 10 recipes of cookies, you can just search for the specific one you want! Let me know if it works or if it doesn't.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

S'Mores Bars

I'll admit it. I'm an addict. While these will never touch the flavor and consistency of a true S'More, they are still darn yummy. I've made these twice now. The first time I made some mistakes. I crushed the grahams too much, I used large marshmallows (because I didn't have small ones on hand), and I trusted the recipe (the chocolate didn't melt at all). So, now that I've made these the second time, I have some tips to help you achieve success.

For one thing, break the grahams by hand into quarter-sized pieces:

This doesn't take that long and you will have a lot less graham cracker crumbs/dust than if you mash them up in a Ziploc bag like I did the first time. And remember that one graham cracker is considered to be the large rectangle, not one of the four smaller rectangles. Does that make sense?

I tried reducing the sugar (corn syrup) in this recipe and it just doesn't work. But you weren't really expecting these to be healthy, were you?

adapted from Karo Syrup's recipe

18 whole graham crackers, broken into small pieces
2 cups crispy rice cereal
1 cup light corn syrup
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 (12 oz) bag milk chocolate chips
1 (10.5 oz) bag mini marshmallows
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, for garnish

Line a 13x9 baking dish with a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil so that the foil extends over the sides. Spray bottom and sides with cooking spray.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker pieces with rice cereal. Cook corn syrup and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat just until edges begin to bubble and boil; remove from heat. Stir in butter, baking soda, and vanilla. Mixture will foam. Pour over grahams and cereal in bowl and stir to coat. Pour into foil-lined baking dish and press firmly to spread and create crust. Tip: I slip my hand into a sandwich-size Ziploc bag sprayed with a little cooking spray when pressing the crust.

Microwave milk chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl on HIGH for one minute, stirring after every 30 seconds. Spread melted chocolate evenly over crust. Sprinkle with marshmallows.

Bake in oven for 5-8 minutes or until marshmallows are puffed and starting to brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Let cool 10 minutes, then refrigerate for 1 hour to firm.

To serve, release bars from pan by lifting the foil. Carefully peel away foil and place bars on a large cutting board. Cut into bars or squares. Tip: spray knife lightly with cooking spray if needed. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Korean BBQ Beef

Here's another fun one for the grill. Can you tell I'm liking kabobs lately? You could always grill the steak whole and then slice it. Just be sure to let it rest a few minutes before slicing.

I made these tonight using, once again, a London Broil. I sliced it thinly, against the grain (easier to do if your beef is slightly frozen and your knife is really sharp):

I forgot to do it, but you could add some unflavored meat tenderizer to the marinade. If you marinate for more than 3 hours, however, the tenderizer is unnecessary because the vinegar will do the job. I recommend marinating 8 hours if you can - you will get the best flavor that way.

And, again, for kabobs: if you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for an hour before grilling. I got 15 kabobs out of a 2 lb. steak.


2+ lbs. flank steak or London Broil
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, chopped

Slice beef into thin strips, against the grain. Combine all ingredients in a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Marinate in fridge at least 3 hours, preferably 8, flipping every hour or two.

Thread strips onto skewers, using 2 strips per skewer. Preheat grill to med-high heat. Lay skewers perpendicular to grill grate and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side or until desired done-ness.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blueberry Custard Crunch Pie

Can you say, "YUM?" I made this pie on the Fourth of July (hey, that rhymes) and it was well-loved. The crunchy topping just makes it, you know? I recommend using a full-fat sour cream to prevent any unfortunate results. And if you don't have one of these:

ie: a pastry cutter

you should get one. It's much easier to make streusel topping. But if you don't have one and can't run out right this second to get one, you can use two knives or two forks and cut them in a criss-cross fashion.

adapted from True Blue Custard Crunch Pie on

1 cup (or 8 oz) sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp. flour
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

Streusel topping:
4 1/2 Tbsp. cold butter
3 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. flour
6 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pie crust on small cookie sheet. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together sour cream, sugar, egg, flour, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Fold in blueberries. Pour into pie crust. Bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine butter, sugar, flour, and brown sugar with a pastry cutter until crumbly. After the first 25 minutes, sprinkle topping over pie and return to oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Can be served warm or chilled.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

This recipe comes from Vanessa over at V and Co (which is a fantastic site for crafty peeps - go check it out). I'm going to print the recipe the same as hers, but I actually made a few changes.

I ended up using 3 avocados instead of one because there just wasn't enough otherwise (my avocados were small). I also used green onions instead of white or red because they are easier on my stomach.

So, you can make it as written, or make changes like I did. Either way, it's a great recipe.

from Vanessa Christenson

1 can of corn, drained
2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 onion (white or red), chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3-4 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

In a large bowl, combine corn, beans, tomatoes, avocado, jalapeno, onion, and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper; pour over bean mixture and stir to coat.

Serve with chips or as a side dish.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie

I really wish I had taken the time to get a good photo of this pie. By the time we cut into it, it was dark outside and I was a little too busy thinking about eating it to be patient enough to compose a good picture.

This pie takes a little work, but it's sooo worth it. The satisfaction comes when everyone takes a bite and realizes what a culinary genius you are. The disappointment comes when you realize there are no leftovers.

Just make it already!

from Cooking Light (I think...)

1 (9-inch) frozen pie crust, thawed
3 Tbsp. cornstarch, divided
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
dash of salt
1 1/3 cups milk, divided
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
(or 2 Tbsp. semisweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 ounces block-style cream cheese, softened
2 cups sliced ripe bananas (about 2 med. bananas)
1 1/2 cups frozen whipped topping (Coolwhip), thawed

Bake pie crust according to package directions. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Combine 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, 2 Tbsp. sugar, cocoa, and dash of salt in a small, heavy saucepan; gradually add 1/3 cup milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook 2 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in chocolate; bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Spread chocolate mixture into bottom of prepared crust.

Combine 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, eggs, 1 cup milk, and butter in heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. (If you get a few lumps, it's not the end of the world). Reduce heat to low, and cook 30 seconds or until thick. Remove from heat. Add vanilla.

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy (about 30 seconds). Add 1/4 cup hot custard to cream cheese and beat just until blended. Beat in remaining custard. (This is where you can try and beat out any lumps).

Arrange banana slices on top of chocolate layer;

spoon custard over bananas. Press plastic wrap onto surface of custard (to prevent a thick skin from forming); chill for at least 4 hours. Remove plastic wrap. Spread whipped topping evenly over custard. Garnish with chocolate curls or a sprinkle of cocoa if desired. Chill until ready to serve.