Monday, December 27, 2010

Cheese Crescent Triangles

These were a last minute addition to our Christmas Day Munchies- I saw Feta Cheese in Jason and Monica's fridge, and knew I had seen a recipe I wanted to try that called for Feta. I decided I would improvise and use what we had at the house to make these little bites, and they turned out really well. Even the kids loved them! This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Cheese Crescent Triangles adapted from

1 package Crescent Rolls
4 oz Feta Cheese
1 Tablespoon italian seasoning blend
2 green onions, chopped
1 egg,well beaten
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. In small bowl, combine Feta cheese, seasoning, onions and 3 tbsp of egg. Toss with fork until well combined.

Unroll crescents, and separate into 4 rectangles. Press seams to seal, and press each rectangle into a 7 1/2 in x 5 inch rectangle. Cut each rectangle into 6 squares. Place a tablespoon of cheese mixture on each square, and fold over into a triangle. Press edges to seal. Brush the top of each triangle with beaten egg, and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Bake 9-11 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eggnog Cheesecake

First of all, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope everyone had a great holiday filled with good food and great people. I was scheduled to work Christmas night, so I volunteered to make dessert so I could make it ahead of time and leave it with my family if I did indeed have to go into work. As it turns out, I got super lucky and got cancelled last night so I was able to enjoy the holiday dinner with my Mom, my brother and his (as of yesterday) FiancĂ©e, her two boys, her mom, and my little Cooker Boy. We had a great day- no stress, good food, and lots of fun!

This was my first attempt at a true cheesecake, and I am super pleased with how it turned out. I changed the crust from graham cracker crumbs to gingersnap crumbs, as I received a tin of gingersnap cookies as a gift and thought they would compliment the eggnog flavor well. I also doubled the crust recipe, as I wanted to continue the crust up the sides of the cheesecake a bit. 

Eggnog Cheesecake adapted from Taste of Home
makes 1 9-inch cheesecake, about 12 servings

2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup eggnog
1/2 teaspoon rum or vanilla extract
dash ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan, and wrap two pieces of heavy duty foil around bottom and up sides of pan. Combine crushed cookies, sugar and melted butter in a small bowl and toss until combined. Press crumbs into bottom and up sides of springform pan. Place pan on baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees. Let cool on wire rack.

Combine cream cheese, sugar and flour in large bowl and beat until smooth.  Add eggs, and beat on low speed until just combined. Slowly stir in eggnog, extract and nutmeg. Pour filling into crust and tap on counter lightly to get rid of any air bubbles in the filling.

Place springform pan inside a larger baking dish, and add 1 inch of hot water to bottom of baking dish to create a water bath.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until the center is just set and the top of the cheesecake appears dull.

Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently run knife around the edges of cheesecake to loosen from pan.Cool 1 hour longer, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, remove outside ring of springform pan, and top cheesecake with freshly whipped cream and another dash of nutmeg.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Cookies: Angeletti

I love baking Christmas Cookies, and this year is no exception. I have been trying some new recipes this year, and am excited to share them with you! This recipe is a new one, at least new to me- and I love it. I've made 4 batches in the last 2 weeks. This recipe came to me in an email from Real Simple highlighting 50 recipes for Christmas Cookies. I flipped through, and decided that these sounded simple as well as yummy. I was definitely right on both counts! This is a kid friendly recipe- no mixer required. My little guy enjoyed helping me make these, from the stirring all the way to adding the sprinkles as a finishing touch!

Angeletti  adapted from

Makes 36 cookies

1 stick unsalted butter,melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups flour, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine melted butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs in a medium sized bowl and whisk until combined. Add flour, baking powder and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until dough comes together. Flour your hands, roll even tablespoons of dough into balls, and place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes or until cookies are puffy and bottoms are lightly browned. Cool completely before adding glaze.

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and heavy cream in a small bowl. If you're watching your waist (it's splurge!) you can replace the cream with water or milk. Stir until combined, then dip the top of each cookie in glaze to coat. Apply festive sprinkes and enjoy!

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cookie-Sour Cream Cake

I promised here's the cake recipe! As I  mentioned in my previous post, the bottom tier of this cake is my favorite Chocolate Cake recipe, which I've used in many posts- most recently in the Snickers Cake. It's a great recipe- and it has turned out a wonderfully moist cake every time I've used it. This time i paired it with the same Vanilla Buttercream I used with the Cookie-Sour Cream Cake in the top layer.

I made cupcakes for the Cooker Boy's birthday celebration at Daycare, and tried a new recipe that turned out really well, the Cookie-Sour Cream Cake. I decided to use that same recipe for the top layer of the birthday cake because it is  really delicious and something a little unexpected. It's great paired with Vanilla Buttercream, and I topped this layer with homemade Marshmallow Fondant.

All in all, I was pleased with how this cake turned out. Being my first time making a multi-tiered cake as well as my first time making and working with Marshmallow Fondant, I can't complain. The guests at our party were all impressed, and the Birthday Boy was super excited to get the cake he'd picked out a few weeks earlier.

Cookie-Sour Cream Cake from The New Betty Crocker Cookbook
As is, this recipe makes one 8-inch layer, or 12 cupcakes. Double for a layered cake if desired.

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup stick butter, softened
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
8 cream filled sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pan with nonstick spray, or fill muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine all ingredients except cookies in large bowl, and mix on low speed with electric mixer for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl frequently. Increase speed to high, and continue beating for 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Stir in cookies and pour into pan or fill muffin liners 2/3 full.

Bake cake 30-35 minutes- cupcakes 25-30 minutes- or until cake springs back when touched. Cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan to wire rack.

Vanilla Buttercream from The New Betty Crocker Cookbook

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup stick butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk

Cream butter in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed. Add powdered sugar slowly, beating until combined. Add vanilla and milk, increase speed to high and beat until smooth. If needed, add more milk 1 tablespoon at a time to thin to a spreadable consistency.

Marshmallow Fondant 

Instead of trying to rephrase the site I got this recipe from, I'm gonna tell you to just check out Peggy Weaver on What's Cooking America. She has the recipe as well as instructions for working with fondant. I couldn't do this process justice, as I've only made it once. The fondant has a great marshmallowy taste to it, instead of the strange aftertaste I noticed when I used a pre-made version. I'll definitely be trying  this again!

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Cooker Boy's 4th Birthday

It's my Birthday!!

This past Sunday was the Cooker Boy's 4th birthday. I can't believe how fast he's growing up! This is the first year that he has been really excited about his birthday, and he had been planning a Spiderman-themed party for months. A group of our family and close friends gathered at our house to celebrate, Spidey Style- complete with "web"...that story will follow!

A few weeks ago, the Cooker Boy and I were both under the weather. We spent an afternoon lounging and looking at pictures of different Spiderman cakes on Flickr. The Cooker Boy was very vocal about what he liked and didn't like, and after about an hour of looking at cakes, he'd picked his favorite. I wasn't so sure I could pull it off, but I would certainly try. Check out the inspiration here.

This cake is definitely far from perfect, but being only the 2nd time I've worked with fondant, and the first time I've ever made a tiered cake, I was pleased! The bottom tier of the cake is my favorite Chocolate Cake recipe, the same recipe I used for my Snickers Cake. The top tier is a Sour Cream Cookie Cake that I found in my Betty Crocker Cookbook. It is a delicious cake! I'll be sure to get the recipe up this week. Both tiers are filled and covered with Vanilla Buttercream, and Spiderman's face is covered in homemade Marshmallow Fondant.

I made a cake the previous weekend using Wilton's premade fondant, and it worked well, but I wasn't super thrilled with the taste of the fondant. I found an easy recipe for Marshmallow Fondant and decided to give it a try. It was very easy to make and the taste is far better, but I had a little trouble with the rolling part. It seemed the Fondant was either too sticky or too dry at first- I just couldn't find the happy medium. After rolling and rerolling the same bunch of Fondant a few times, I pitched it and decided the bottom tier of the cake would just be covered in Buttercream. I saved the rest of the Fondant for Spiderman's face, and gave it a go the next day. I had much better luck the second time around!

As for the rest of the menu, we had:

Buffalo Chicken Dip with Pita and Tortilla Chips
Pigs in a Blanket
Spinach Artichoke Braid
3 Varieties of Chex Mix*

I have to say I underestimated the amount of food I'd need by far- either that or my guests were super hungry! I also forgot to take pictures of the food during the party! I'm still getting the hang of the food blogging thing, especially when it involves a party.  I'm not the kind of person to serve Pizza or premade food at a party, so I spent the morning/afternoon of the party cooking. I hadn't eaten anything all day myself, so I was shocked when I looked up to see most of the food had disappeared in minutes! I also forgot to mention that the Pigs in a Blanket were for the kiddos..(The Cooker Boy requested his Birthday Party Menu include Hot Dogs and Cheese I compromised!) and they were inhaled by the adults! I guess we're all kids at heart.
We had a great time- the Birthday boy was super excited about having his friends over for a party, and especially about his Spiderman Cake. Here are some pictures:

Whack-a-mole! Mommy's favorite arcade game turned into a home version!
Evan helping Ben out on his new wheels

The following is what happens when your good friends (who happen to be childless at this point in time) give your child a Spiderman Glove that shoots real "web" (silly string). Revenge is sweet my friends, just wait until you have kids and Auntie Beth comes to visit!

I had "web" on my ceiling..ceiling fan..floor..walls..

Arni was the tallest guy around, and could still barely get the "web" off my ceiling!

Thanks to everyone who came to the party- we had a great time. Your friendship and love mean so much to Ben and I- loud games and silly string included!

Check out my friend Kaytie's blog, Confessions of a Viking Wife. I love her account of the web incident! Kaytie and her hubby Arni are newlyweds, and they are leaving the Sunshine state to move to Colorado in January. We're gonna miss you, but I'm glad I can follow your adventures on your blog!

Recipes will follow soon!

*The Chex Mix was generously provided by General Mills as part of a MyGetTogether party package I recieved through my participation in the

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fun with Fondant

Just have to share that I finally tried covering a cake with fondant- and it doesn't look horrible!

This is a test run, I wanted to get used to the feel of rolling fondant and covering a cake with it before I attempted the birthday cake the Cooker Boy has requested. We spent hours looking at pictures of Spiderman Cakes on Flickr a few weeks ago when we were both home sick, and this is what the Cooker Boy has decided his 4th birthday cake must look like:

from FredBarnie on Flickr
I certainly wasn't going to try to make something like this without playing with fondant first! Now that I've got the feel for it, I can't wait to see how this cake turns out next weekend!

Wish me luck...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pomegranate Scented Stuffed Mushrooms

These mushrooms were served as the appetizer during my Pomegranate Party a few weeks ago, and I thought I'd get the recipe out there before Thanksgiving. These were a big hit at my party, and I wish I would have doubled the recipe- everyone inhaled them, and it seemed like 2 per person wasn't enough!

This would be a great alternative to traditional stuffing for Turkey day- I'm a big stuffing fan, but don't like it soggy from inside the bird. I like stuffing that's been cooked separately and has a bit of crunch to it.  I used a little bit of the glaze from the main course, the Pomegranate Citrus Glazed Chicken, to marinate the mushrooms in instead of Marsala wine like the original recipe called for. The glaze was enough to make the mushrooms stand out, but not overly fruity.

I'm going to be a bit lazy today because I've got a lot to the recipe isn't going to be posted here, but you can get the Printable Recipe here.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! Enjoy your family and friends, and be sure to keep those far away in your thoughts and prayers.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

Let's just say that I pretty much swear by any recipe posted by The Pioneer Woman. Let's also say that Pie-making and I haven't had much of a relationship in the past. My last attempt at pie was a massive failure. In my defense, it was my first shot at making Coconut Cream Pie from scratch- crust,filling,whipped cream- completely from scratch. The crust worked. The Whipped Cream worked. The Coconut Cream part...didn't work so well. It was more like soup. Tasted great..but no one wants to eat Coconut Cream Soup with a side of pie crust and whipped cream!

This week is Pie Week- at least on Twitter and in the food blog universe it is! I read a post called Love the Pie on that involved a contest with fun kitchen prizes, and of course I wanted to enter the this post serves as my official entry. I can't ever let a baked goods contest/celebration pass by without some sort of participation! We all know I like a good challenge, and this one is right up there since Pie and I weren't on speaking terms at the start of this week.

When I came across this recipe on The Pioneer Woman's site, I knew it was the pie for me. I knew not only could I handle making it....but that it would taste A-maz-ing. It's a pie..but not really a "pie". No scary pastry crust or cream filling means that it totally works for me! I love all things cranberry, and I love trying new recipes, so this was a no-brainer. I have to say that when it was all said and done (even after the cats knocked my first pan of cranberries and pecans onto the floor....bad kitties!) that I think I have a new favorite pie!

Do yourself a favor. Check out The Pioneer Woman's post about this pie- there are beautiful step by step pictures that make my pictures look like my almost-4 year old took them..Then, get yourself into the kitchen pronto and make this "pie" now...and eat it while warm. It's to die for. Then make it again to share with your family (or coworkers for those of us working the holiday) for Thanksgiving. It's that good- it deserves a spot right next to the classic Pumpkin and Pecan pies on the holiday dessert table!

The pie that's not really a pie

Nantucket Cranberry Pie from The Pioneer Woman

Printable Recipe

Butter, to grease pan
2 heaping cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a cake pan or pie plate with unsalted butter. Dump cranberries into pan, then top with chopped pecans. Evenly sprinkle 2/3 cup sugar on top of pecans.

Combine 1 cup each flour and sugar, melted butter, eggs, salt and almond extract. Mix gently by hand until ingredients are combined.

Slowly pour batter over cranberries and pecans, making sure to cover the entire surface. Spread gently to fill in any holes.

Bake for 45 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle remaining Tablespoon sugar on top. Place back in oven for 5 additional minutes.

Serve while warm, and top with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream for a real treat.

Fresh out of the oven...look at that crunchy layer of sugar on top!

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pomegranate Citrus Glazed Chicken

When I was selected to host a Pom Party, I knew I wanted to somehow combine Chicken, Pomegranates and Goat Cheese. Why?  I love chicken- and one of my favorite restaurant dishes is the Chicken Bryan at Carrabbas. It's the first dish I ever tried that contained Goat Cheese- and I was hooked! It seemed to me that the tartness of the pomegranates and the tang of the Goat Cheese would work well together. When I started searching for recipes, I found that others found the combination pleasing- which meant I had to try it!

I found a recipe for Pomegranate Glazed Chicken on Martha Stewart's website that looked promising. It combined pomegranate juice, orange juice, and a few savory herbs to make a glaze that sounded delicious to me. I used a bit of the glaze in one of the other recipes, which is why I'm posting this recipe first. It made a great substitute for Marsala Wine in my Pomegranate Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms.

I found the process of making this glaze very enjoyable- it was fun to see how the flavors combined to make such a tasty glaze- without being overly sweet or overly savory. It is the perfect combination!

Reducing the juices and spices into a nice thick glaze
Printable Recipe

Pomegranate Citrus Glazed Chicken adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 8

3 cups pomegranate juice
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
5 garlic cloves, smashed
coarsely ground salt and pepper
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
8 chicken breasts
4 oz goat cheese
1 bag baby spinach
1 cup pomegranate arils

Preheat oven to 425. In a large skillet, combine juices, rosemary, garlic and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Boil over high heat, until reduced to 1 cup, stirring and scraping sides of skillet often. Pour glaze through a fine mesh sieve to remove any bits of garlic. Stir vinegar into glaze. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate if not using immediately. Reserve 1 cup of glaze for later use.

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place in baking dish, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, brush chicken with glaze and return to oven to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Brush chicken with glaze every 5 minutes. Remove from oven when chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Place a chicken breast on a layer of baby spinach, top with a dollop of goat cheese and sprinkle fresh pomegranate arils on top. Drizzle with reserved glaze before serving.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Perfectly Pomegranate Dinner Party

Several weeks ago I entered a contest on to be one of 100 people chosen to host a Pomegranate Dinner Party...and I was chosen! The gracious people at PomWonderful sent me an amazing host package, complete with two cases of Pomegranates, coupons for free bottles of PomWonderful Pomegranate Juice, an apron and cutting board, as well as goodies to share with my dinner party attendees.

The final entries are being judged on three components:

  • Best incorporation of Pomegranates into the food and drink
  • Most inspired Pomegranate decor
  • Most successful "How to open a Pomegranate" presentation

I have a confession. Until this package arrived, I'd never tasted a Pomegranate or anything even Pomegranate flavored (besides my Burt's Bees Pomegranate Lip Gloss). I entered this contest as a challenge to myself, to learn about and hopefully try something new- as well as being able to plan an entire party around one fruit.
I was thrilled to be selected, and when my goodies from PomWonderful arrived I couldn't wait to try a pomegranate.

Luckily for me, the host kit included instructions on how to open a Pomegranate. I followed these instructions, and found that it's pretty simple to open and remove the seeds. I was so excited to try my first Pomegranate- and I loved it! It was sweet, juicy, and tart- a perfect combination in my book! Part of the requirements for the dinner party were that each host would do a presentation to instruct guests on how to open a Pomegranate- so I spent plenty of time perfecting my much so that the apron I was sent in my host kit was stained with Pomegranate juice (a sign of super juicy fruit) and in the washer the night of my party!

I began planning my party immediately, sending the word out to my friends and family that I would be having a dinner party. I was even asked by one friend to teach her how to open a Pomegranate. Perfect! I began searching for recipes that either called for Pomegranate in their original state, or recipes I could tweak a little by substituting Pomegranate Juice for something else. Here's the final menu:

I have to say that dinner was delicious..and I'm not just saying that because I cooked it- the friends and family I cooked for said it for me. I was excited to find the the Pomegranate is versatile- it works well with sweet dishes as well as savory, and paired easily with everything I had in mind. I had some minor last minute changes to my menu- I attempted to make homemade goat cheese, but failed miserably, so I used store bought. In the heat of the moment, I forgot to have someone take a picture of the Roasted Cauliflower- so just picture some golden brown cauliflower florets tossed with garlic cloves, fresh parsley and fresh lemon juice. It was a hit! Here are the pictures from dinner- and I'll share recipes soon!

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms marinated in the Pomegranate Citrus Glaze used  for the Chicken

Pomegranate Citrus Glazed Chicken served on a bed of Baby Spinach topped
with Goat Cheese and Pomegranate Seeds and a Pomegranate Red Wine Vinaigrette on the side
Profiteroles with Pomegranate Syrup and Pomegranate Cream

Pomegranate Lemonade Spritzers with optional Vodka
I truly had a great time with this party from the moment my Pomegranates arrived. Looks like my friends did too:

The kiddo's had their own dinner party with Homemade Mac and Cheese

Something must have been funny!

I forgot Dan is a vegetarian, and he was a great sport! Took the stuffing out of the mushrooms, and
enjoyed my Mac and Cheese with a side of Spinach and goat cheese!

Another requirement of this dinner party was to use Pomegranates in your decorations as well as your food. I knew immediately what I wanted to do, I just had to figure out the logistics! I wanted to have a hurricane glass filled with Pomegranate Arils surrounding a candle, so the candle would illuminate the arils and cast a lovely red glow on the dinner table. I was able to pull it off- along with some fall leaves and fresh pomegranates, and I'm super proud of my centerpiece!

The last requirement was to give a presentation on how to open a Pomegranate. Not a problem..I love to talk with a knife in my hand! I seem to make goofy faces when I talk, and a video would have been mortifying..But I do have some pictures to share!

Here's a quick step by step on how to easily open a pomegranate:

  • Make sure you've got a cutting board, sharp knife and an apron. These things are juicy!
  • Fill a large bowl with water and set aside.
  • Slice the top off of the pomegranate, just beneath the crown.
  • Use your knife to score the pomegranate into sections using the membrane as a guide
  • Pull sections apart, like you would an orange, using both hands.
  • Hold over the water, and use your fingers to separate the membrane from the seeds- let the seeds fall into the water.
  • When finished, you'll notice that the seeds are at the bottom of the bowl and pieces of membrane are floating at the top.
  • Use a spoon or small strainer to scoop out bits of membrane
  • Pour seeds into a strainer
  • Enjoy- pop a few into your mouth, use as a garnish, or refrigerate in an airtight container to use later
Thank you to everyone at PomWonderful

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

One of the things I miss most about living in Ohio is the change of seasons. Don't get me wrong...One of the reasons I love living in Florida is that it doesn't snow. I don't miss the snow or freezing rain one bit- but what I do miss are the cool crisp autumn nights where I could burrow under my covers, but still sleep with the window open!

It seems like most people associate Pumpkin flavors with fall...I like pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread as much as anyone..but one of my favorite fall treats is a nice juicy caramel apple! I wanted to make a Caramel Apple Cupcake to celebrate the arrival of cooler weather to Northeast Florida (Finally...thank you cold front!!).

A little chilly, but still a gorgeous fall morning in Florida!
I found this recipe on Paula Deen's website, and decided to give it a try, with a few adjustments. These cupcakes turned out better than I expected they would- and everyone that tried one said they loved it!
I didn't want to make caramel again, as I had a batch of homemade caramel sauce in the refrigerator- so instead of the candies on top of the cupcakes, I made a caramel buttercream (big surprise, I know!)

Caramel Apple Cupcakes adapted from Paula Deen

Printable Recipe

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup yogurt (I used mixed berry, it worked well)
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
1 medium granny smith apple, chopped finely

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin or mini muffin tin with cupcake liners. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and sugar until well combined.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream and yogurt, stirring until combined. Batter will be dry- add apple juice or cider a little at a time until the batter reaches a pourable consistency. Stir in chopped apple.

Spoon into muffin tins, filling 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes for mini or 25-30 minutes for regular sized cupcakes. Cool pans on cooling rack. Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3-1/2 cup Salted Caramel, depending on taste
3 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk

Cream butter in a large bowl with electric mixer. Stir in caramel until combined. Add sugar in small batches, mixing on medium speed with electric mixer, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. If thinner consistency is desired, add milk a tablespoon at a time.

I made some apple chips by using my Pampered Chef Ultimate Slice and Grate to slice an apple into thin slices. I topped with the Pampered Chef Sweet Caramel Sprinkle topping, and put in the oven at 275 degrees until the apple slices dried out and curled a bit. Be sure you slice the apple evenly..otherwise some chips are good, some are burnt. Live and learn!

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mini Halloween Cheesecakes

Have you noticed that I really like Halloween? I love all things Halloween...and I especially love creating Halloween-themed goodies to share with my family and friends. These yummy little creations, though, didn't last long enough to be shared. Yes, they're that good. Yes, I admit to being selfish! I've polished off 4 of these goodies in the last 24 hours, Ben has had one and the other three are safely hidden for my consumption later this week! mom has talked me into bringing her one tonight when I drop some other things off at her house.

Back to the goodies! I saw these Mini Halloween Cheesecakes from Lindsey of Gingerbread Bagels as part of the Top 9 on Food Buzz a few weeks ago...they caught my attention for a few reasons. First, they're Halloween-themed- Lindsey seems to love Halloween as much as I do. Second, they're cheesecake- and I don't have a whole lot of any experience making cheesecake. Third, they're super easy..the Halloween Oreos are perfect for the crust, and that eliminates the whole crust-phobia thing I have going on.

Mini Halloween Cheesecakes from Gingerbread Bagels, adapted from Martha Stewart

Printable Recipe

I halved the recipe, which gave me 8 mini cheesecakes. Original will make 16.

22 Halloween Oreos
(2) 8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Orange gel food coloring

Preheat oven to 275. Line 16 muffin tins with paper liners, and place an Oreo in the bottom of each liner. Crush remaining Oreos using a food processor if you have one, or place them in a ziploc bag and crush them the old fashioned way! In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. Add sugar, and continue to mix until combined. Mix in vanilla extract then add eggs and sour cream, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a spatula, making sure everything is combined. Stir in a small amount of orange gel food coloring, adding a little at a time until the desired color is reached. Add the crushed oreos, and stir to combine.

Spoon batter into liners, filling almost to the top. Bake for 22 minutes, turning pan 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. Remove from oven, and cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.

Enjoy,and let me know what you think. I can see myself making these often, Halloween or not!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ghosts in the Graveyard

This project was an entry in the Nestle's Toll House Spooktacular Baking Activity Contest. The contest requirements were to create a baking activity that could be done as a family using Nestle's Toll House Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. I decided to do a graveyard, as I really wanted to try my hand at fondant- and ghosts seemed like an easy option!

I'm sad to say that my entry didn't move on to the top ten to be voted on by the public, but I'd still like to share it with you. I had a great time with this project, and was really pleased with the end result. I wasn't able to convince The Cooker Boy to help me with this project, but there are several elements he could have handled.

You will need:

1 Big Batch Roll of Nestle's Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
1 can chocolate icing (or make some Chocolate Buttercream, using this recipe)
20 Oreos, finely crushed
1 package white fondant
Candy Pumpkins

Royal icing
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp meringue powder
2 tbsp water
Black Gel Food Coloring

Preheat the oven according to cookie dough package directions. Line a 13x9 baking sheet with foil.Set aside enough dough to make 3-4 cookies. Press remaining dough into a rectangle covering 3/4 of the baking sheet, and place cookies on bottom 1/4 of baking sheet. Bake 14-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool completely.
While cookies are cooling, make fondant ghosts. Knead fondant with hands until nice and pliable.Take a small piece of fondant and roll between hands to form an oval. Press on table to flatten the bottom. Repeat for desired number of ghosts, and set aside. Roll remaining fondant out to 1/16 in thickness. Cut out circles using cookie cutters or drinking glass, depending on size of ghost desired. The radius of the circle should be wider than the oval is tall. Take a circle and drape over each oval, draping to get a nice ghostly shape. Set aside to dry. When dry, use a toothpick dipped in black gel food coloring to apply faces. When not using fondant, keep wrapped in plastic wrap as it will dry out quickly.

When ready to assemble, prepare "tombstones" by using a knife to cut cookies into a tombstone shape. Prepare royal icing by mixing all ingredients except food coloring in a small bowl. Continue mixing until icing has lost its shine, and is at the desired consistency. Add more powdered sugar for thicker icing, more water to thin if needed. Add a small amount of food coloring, and stir until desired gray color is achieved.

Cover tops and sides of "tombstones"  with gray icing, and let dry. Spread a thick layer chocolate icing on big cookie, and top with crushed oreos. Reserve some of the crushed oreos to mound in front of tombstones. 

When tombstones are dry, use a toothpick dipped in black food coloring to write RIP or desired messages. Place tombstones in desired location on big cookie, and prop up with toothpicks if necessary. Mound crushed oreos in front of tombstones.

Place ghosts and pumpkins where desired. I even tried to make fondant bones. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your ghostly creativeness.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Halloween Cutout Cookies!

It's almost Halloween! I love fall, but I especially love Halloween- even more so since I've become a mom. I've made Halloween treats for The Cooker Boy's Daycare since his first Halloween. Most of the mom's bring goodie bags with more candy..I take personalized cutout cookies for each of the kids. I love cutout cookies as much as I love Halloween, but I have to say that until this recipe, I've never found one that has been both user-friendly as well as tasty. I lucked out BIG TIME when I found this recipe. I found a blog post at The Way The Cookie Crumbles that took 4 different sugar cookie recipes, made them all at the same time and did a side by side comparison. That, my friends, is commitment! I read the comparisons, and decided to go with the recipe that was declared the blogger's favorite- which happened to be her own standby sugar cookie recipe. I have to say that this recipe is now also my standby sugar cookie recipe. It mixed well, rolled well, cut out well, baked evenly, and tasted great! I made one slight change in that I added an extra egg- when I was mixing the dough it didn't seem to want to bind together. It could be that my measurements were off, so I'll list the original recipe. 

This was also my first time using the outline-flood-detail method of decorating the cookies.  I've been a sloppy decorator in the past, but have always wanted to have neatly decorated cookies to share. I found a step-by-step tutorial on Brown Eyed Baker that made this process so easy! This was time consuming, but equally as enjoyable and rewarding. I took these cookies to work, and my coworkers loved them. Needless to say, I can't wait to make these cookies again for my son's Halloween Party at his Daycare..and maybe for work again if my coworkers are nice!

This is why I love Halloween...See that smile? 

Roll Out Sugar Cookies adapted from The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Printable Recipe

2 1/2 cups (12 oz) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Combine flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and salt with electric mixer on medium speed, mixing until smooth. Add sugar and lemon zest while mixer is running. Continue beating on medium speed until mixture is fluffy. Keep mixer running and add in egg and extracts mixing until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Decrease mixer speed to low, and add in flour slowly and mix until combined. 

Using the rubber spatula or your hands, form a ball with the dough. Place on a length of plastic wrap, and press dough into a 1 inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

When ready to roll out dough, preheat oven to 375, and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick spray. Remove dough from refrigerator,divide in half, and let one half sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before rolling out (place the other half back in the refrigerator until 20 minutes before you need it). Lightly flour your work surface, and place half of the dough on the counter. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with a floured cookie cutter, place similarly sized cookies on baking sheets, and bake for 5-9 minutes depending on size of cookies. Don't let the cookies brown on top- pull them out of the oven when the edges begin to brown, and the tops no longer look wet. Reroll the scraps of dough and repeat.

Let cookies rest on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring them to cooling racks. Cool completely before decorating.

Royal Icing from Brown Eyed Baker

4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water

Simple, simple, simple. Dump ingredients into bowl, and mix with electric mixer until the icing loses its shine. About 7 minutes. It will be thick, but if you're doing the outline-flood-detail method, you need it thick to pipe the outlines.

I'm not about to try to recap the excellent tutorial at Brown Eyed Baker on decorating sugar cookies with royal icing. Do yourselves a favor and check it out. There are excellent directions as well as pictures. I'll just post the pictures of some of my finished cookies!

Oh, and The Cooker Boy decided that he needed to be the one to roll and cut the cookies out. I wasn't too keen on that idea. So, I did it while he was napping...and saved him some scraps. I let him roll out the scraps, cut out, and decorate his cookies. Problem solved! 

The Cooker Boy's Cookies
Enjoy, and let me know what you think!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Loaded Potato Pierogi

I have a confession. I am a carboholic. If they had a 12-step program for people addicted to carbohydrates, I  would definitely benefit (not that I would participate- I'd run in the opposite direction and hide. Denial is my friend.) I love bread..and pasta..and potatoes..and any combination thereof! Naturally, when I discovered Pierogi, I was in a carboholic's heaven! These little polish dumplings have become one of my comfort foods- when I'm sick (like right now) and nothing sounds appetizing, pierogi somehow seem palatable. For those of you who aren't familiar with pierogi, they are little dumplings made of pasta and filled with a creamy potato filling along with any combination of savory fillings. Cheese. Onions. Cheese and Onions. Sauerkraut. Broccoli and Cheese. You catch my drift..just about anything you can combine with cheese and potatoes can go inside a pierogi.

Until recently, I've relied on Mrs. T's frozen Pierogies when I had the urge to overdose on carbs. I never considered making them myself- I've always been a little afraid of any kind of dough. Well, when I first started  reading food blogs on a regular basis, I discovered a post on Brown Eyed Baker about making your own pierogi. This recipe immediately went on  my "to-make" list. The opportunity came my way a few weeks ago to make an attempt of my own, and they turned out way better than I expected! I cheated a little, and used a mashed potato mix instead of whole potatoes (like I've said before..I improvise, and try to cook with what I have on hand). I don't think you could tell at all that the potatoes weren't boiled and mashed here in my kitchen! I was super surprised at how easy these were to put together...part of my fear of dough has been the misconception that dough = complicated. I've tried several recipes lately that are finally clearing my mind of that dirty little thought!

Try'll be amazed at how easy, and yummy, and satisfying they are!

Printable Recipe

Pierogi adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Makes 24-30 large Pierogi

2 cups flour, plus more for rolling dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces

Filling of your choice- Loaded Potato Filling recipe below
Butter for sauteing
Onions and peppers for sauteing, if desired

Make the Dough.
Mix together flour and salt in medium bowl. Beat the egg in a small bowl, and add flour mixture. Add butter and sour cream and mix well until the dough is no longer sticky. I mixed this by hand with no problem- you can use an electric mixer with a dough hook if you'd like, but be careful not to over mix.  Form a ball with the dough, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes- overnight is fine too. The dough can be refrigerated for a maximum of 2 days.

Make the Filling.

Loaded Potato Filling chez Moi

1 4 oz package Idahoan Buttery Homestyle Mashed Potatoes
2 cups cold water
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare potatoes using 2 cups cold water as directed.  Remove from microwave, and stir until creamy. Stir in bacon and cheese, and season with salt and pepper as desired. Set aside half of the potatoes to use as a side dish later in the week!

Assemble Pierogi.
Lightly flour your work surface, and roll out dough until 1/16" thick. Cut circles of dough using a circle cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, or drinking glass. I used a drinking glass, and it gave me good sized pierogi. Place a tablespoon of filling (or less, depending on the size of your dough circles) on each circle, and fold dough over to create a semi-circle. Press edges of dough together using a fork, and a bit of water if the edges won't stick.

Pierogi waiting to be boiled

Prepare Pierogi.
Boil a large pot of water. When at a full boil, drop in a handful of pierogi at a time. Boil for 7-8 minutes, remove from water and pat dry. Repeat with desired amount of pierogi. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and peppers if desired. Add pierogi in a single layer, and turn when nicely browned and crispy.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!