Wednesday, December 30, 2009

French Breakfast Puffs

Tonight I made a super simple breakfast treat from my Betty Crocker cookbook... French Breakfast Puffs. I made them to bring up to Vermont, where we're spending New Year's with some friends. I also made the Grasshopper Brownies for the same bring to VT. We'll be eating some tasty baked goods as we ring in the new year!
The French Breakfast Puffs are essentially a ball of dough covered in melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar. How can you go wrong with that combo?!? They're best eaten while warm, so if you don't eat them right after you make them, zap them in the microwave for 15 seconds or so, grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and you're good to go! :)
Another nice thing about this recipe is that it uses typical ingredients you often have on hand in the house...flour, sugar, eggs, milk, etc. Even better that you can make them at anytime!
As you can see from these pictures, I made two different sized puffs this time around...some I made in a regular sized muffin pan and some I made in a mini muffin pan. The smaller ones are almost like little cinnamon sugar donut holes!
The next couple pictures are from the steps you take after the puffs are baked... Immediately after taking them out of the oven, roll each one in melted butter and then in a cinnamon sugar mixture. Be careful though; they are hot!
And finally, a picture of the cinnamon and sugar before I mixed the two together these two ingredients!! :)
Now go make yourself a delicious breakfast treat of cinnamon sugary goodness!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This fall I have become obsessed with sweet potatoes... Now, don't get me wrong, this is not a new obsession; I've always loved them, but I got into the habit this fall (and now this winter) of roasting them at least a couple times a week! They're such an easy, delicious, and healthy veggie to add to a meal.
Since I am so used to blogging about the desserts I bake, it didn't really occur to me right away that I could really blog about anything I bake, dessert or not! I only took a couple pictures tonight as I roasted some sweet potatoes...a routine that has become rather regular for me. Sweet potatoes can be a pain to cut up, but I've gotten pretty used to it and it doesn't bother me too much.
Here is a picture of the potatoes I made tonight, just before I put them in the oven.
I like to experiment with how I season the potatoes and in which form I bake them as well... For instance, sometimes I bake the sweet potatoes whole (with some holes poked in them, of course!). Other times I may cut them up into smaller cubes (maybe 1/2 to 1 inch in size), and I've also made sweet potato fries too. Some of my favorite seasonings include garlic, chili powder, and rosemary. The possibilities are endless really! ;-) Tonight I baked them in what I think is the simplest way...cut into the smaller cubes, drizzled with some EVOO (extra virgin olive oil, of course!), and sprinkled with chili powder and garlic powder. Every now and then I just make sweet potatoes as my meal! I've also taken a liking to adding roasted SP's :) as another yummy veggie on my salads.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I generally bake them anywhere between 400 and 450 degrees...and for the whole potatoes, depending on the size, they may take 45 - 60 minutes. The smaller pieces usually take 20 - 25 minutes until they're just the right texture. Deeeelish and healthful! Enjoy! :)

Grasshopper Brownies

One word sums up these brownies... YUMMMM. They are actually almost the same recipe as the Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies I posted about just a little while ago! The only two differences are the color of the frosting (green versus pink) and the candy topping on the brownies (Andes creme de menthe baking chips versus Andes peppermint crunch baking chips). The rest is the same! So, rather than re-write the whole recipe, I'll just post a few pictures. Next time the only thing I'd do differently is put a second drop of green food coloring in the frosting. This frosting is a nice minty shade of green and it seemed okay when I made it with just one drop of food coloring, but then as I was frosting the brownies I thought it could stand to be a bit bolder in its green color. Oh well. Next time! And I can guarantee there will be a next time that I make these brownies... ;-) You should try them too to see for yourself how delish they are!!
I like this picture on the right that I took after removing the first brownie from the corner.
And here are a couple to compare the brownies of the Peppermint Candy Cane persuasion versus the Grasshopper persuasion! :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tomato Soup Spice Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Tomato soup in a cake, you ask? Yes, it's true! I made this tomato soup spice cake for our family's Christmas dessert this year. I had never made it though, so it was a gamble! My family loved it, thankfully. :) Or, they pretended that they loved it I suppose! The tomato soup not only gave the cake a nice, slight reddish color, but it also provided a bit of a tang to offset the sweetness of the spice cake and buttercream frosting.
This recipe is from the Cake Mix Doctor, a book I used for an earlier post this month. It was generally pretty easy too; the hardest, or the most time consuming part rather, was just frosting the cake. I chose to make a bundt cake rather than a round cake with two layers, which is what the recipe actually calls for. I also did NOT add the raisins and pecans that are in the original me, it seemed best as a plain ol' spice cake without any additions!
Overall, it was a recipe that I'd definitely make again. The only change I might make is to add a bit more of one of the liquids to make it a bit more either a little more tomato soup or vegetable oil. I personally would have liked a moister cake, although this certainly was not dry. Others felt that it was just fine as is!
Here's the recipe for the cake:
-1 package (18.25 oz.) plain spice cake mix
-1 can (10.75 oz.) condensed tomato soup, undiluted
-3 large eggs
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-1/4 cup water
-1/2 cup raisins (I did not add these)
-1/2 cup chopped pecans (nor did I add these!)
And here is the frosting recipe for plain Buttercream Frosting:
-8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
-3 and 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
-3 to 4 tablespoons milk
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Here is how to make it Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting. This is what I used on this cake, and I have to admit that I loved it. So very tasty!
-Decrease the amount of vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon instead of 2, and add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
Preheat oven to 350. Liberally grease two 9-inch round cake pans, or 1 bundt pan, with cooking spray or solid vegetable shortening. Then dust with flour and shake out any excess flour. Set the pans aside.
Place the cake mix, undiluted tomato soup, eggs, oil, and water in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 to 3 minutes more, scraping down the sides again as needed. The batter should look well combined and thickened. Fold in the raisins and pecans (if desired). Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula.
Bake the cakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger and just start to pull away from the sides of the pan, 28 to 31 minutes (a bundt cake will take longer, 40-45 minutes). Remove from oven and place in wire racks to cool for 10-15 minutes; then remove cake from pans to cool completely. Cooling completely is important to make the process of frosting much easier.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and add the confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix on low speed until well incorporated, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in more milk if the frosting seems stiff. I like this picture of the frosting because you can actually see the little specks of cinnamon in it!
If using two cake layers, place one cake layer, right side up, on a serving platter and spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer, right side up, on top of the first layer and frost the top and sides of the cake with clean, smooth strokes. If making a bundt cake, just frost as is! Store this cake in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.
As you can see, I decided to decorate the cake a bit too. I discovered some cupcake stencils I've had for a while but never used! I thought they'd be fun to use for the cake. In the first picture at the beginning of this post, you can see the whole cake with three snowflake stencils and three holly stencils... Below is a picture of what a stencil looks like. They're a fun idea for a unique decorating twist! My first couple snowflakes didn't turn out all that great. I probably should have practiced first, but I didn't have any extra cake or cupcake to do that! Oh well...the fam didn't mind my mistakes. :)
And to end the post, a nice pic of sista and me wearing
our Christmas colors!
Merry Christmas, friends!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Nutty Cracker Delights

This recipe immediately reminds me of my mom. :) She used to make these nutty cracker delights quite often when we were younger...but often to give them away as a gift and not always for us! :-( I know why though; they are super easy, only require a few ingredients, and most everyone loves them! If you're looking for a treat that is both sweet and salty, look no further! (By the way, sorry to those of you who are allergic to nuts...) I decided to make them for the same reason my mom often give them away this holiday season! :)
Here are the ingredients and instructions:
-approximately 42 Club crackers
-1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 cup almonds (sliced or slivered - I prefer the look of slivered almonds, but this time I used sliced)
Line a 13 x 9 pan (or larger) with aluminum foil and place the crackers in a single layer on the foil. It helps to have a pan that has sides, so I would not recommend using a cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and sugar together over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, and let boil for 2 minutes and then remove from heat. Add vanilla and stir thoroughly. Immediately pour the mixture (be careful - it's hot!) very quickly and evenly over the Club crackers, and then right away sprinkle with the almonds.
Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes or so, until light golden brown. Soon after removing the pan from the oven, remove the crackers from the pan, cutting or breaking the crackers apart as needed (they tend to stick together!). Cool the crackers and store in an airtight container.
As you can see, for fun I also added festive red and green sprinkles to this batch.
I like the fact that these don't look perfect in any way! Each cracker ends up looking very different...but they all taste just the same...yummy! ;-)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies

After finishing up my holiday shopping today, addressing most of my Christmas cards, and wrapping several presents, I was finally truly feeling the Christmas spirit! It has taken a while this year, for some reason. Oh, and we're supposed to get a LOT of snow tonight too, so I think that helps! Anyway, I wanted to bake something rather festive, so I chose Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies. They turned out quite well! I'd highly recommend them for the holiday season...or, for any time of the year really!! I was actually thinking it'd be fun to make these almost the same but change them slightly to be Grasshopper Brownies. To do that, perhaps I would use Andes Mint Candies and green food coloring to make a mint green colored frosting. Mmmm, I can see and taste it already!
Anyway, on to the recipe... I started out by following this recipe: Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies, although I used a different recipe for the actual brownie. I did not alter the frosting or chocolate glaze from the original recipe. For the brownie base layer, I used one of my favorite "from scratch" brownie recipes from Nestle: Easy Double Chocolate Chip Brownies. One point of note though about using this particular brownie recipe for the candy cane brownies...I did NOT use nuts, and instead, I substituted a 1/2 - 3/4 cup of Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips. Otherwise, the Nestle brownie recipe remains the same. It is SO easy and yummy. I've made this recipe several times with many variations. It can be made in just one pan on the stove and it calls for typical ingredients you have on hand's always good to have a trusty brownie recipe that you can make in a flash! :)
Here is a picture of the brownie recipe as I am mixing in the final ingredient of the peppermint baking chips and then a picture of the brownies once completely baked.
After baking the brownies, let them cool completely before moving on to the frosting. I have to say that this mint frosting is DEEEElicious. I couldn't help but try it as I made it. So minty and sweet! I followed the recipe almost know me, I always have to switch something up! This time I added one additional liquid to those already included in the recipe. I added a teaspoon or two of a peppermint mocha flavored coffee creamer. I am not sure if this truly added to the minty flavor of the frosting or not, but it was a fun addition nonetheless. :)
Once I made the frosting (such a pretty pink color!), I spread it evenly over the cooled brownies and then popped the brownies in the fridge so that the frosting would cool. This made the next step of adding the chocolate glaze to the top of the brownies much easier.
The glaze itself couldn't have been easier. It's two simple ingredients of chocolate chips and butter zapped in the microwave. Piece of cake!
It is important to work quickly when you do the glaze since it is warm and it will harden a bit when it meets the cooled frosting. The last step is just decorating the top with crushed candy canes. I actually used more of the Andes peppermint baking chips though since I didn't have candy canes on hand (shocker that I don't since it is the Christmas season!!). I also added some peppermint sugar crystals, pictured here.
All in all, this was a simple recipe despite the fact that there were a few stages involved. I'd most definitely recommend trying it! I mean, take a look at this picture...who wouldn't want to eat this brownie?!?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Darn Good Chocolate Cupcakes

Mmmmm, darn good chocolate cupcakes. They're so darn good! This recipe is from one of my new favorite cookbooks - The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn (see picture). I made the darn good chocolate cake a couple months ago for a coworker's birthday, and it was such a hit that I thought I'd make it again for another coworker's birthday! I made fun cupcakes this time though. :)
The recipe and some pictures follow... I modified the recipe just slightly this time and I've noted the changes I made below. What I love about the
is cake is how moist it is! It's not dry in the least. It goes great with any frosting too. The first time I baked it I made homemade penuche frosting for it, but I must admit that I cheated this time! I used good ol' Pillsbury vanilla frosting. I was short on time, what can I say? ;-) Every good baker needs her shortcuts! Oh, and beware, this is not a Cooking Light recipe...
Recipe from The Cake Mix Doctor for Darn Good Chocolate Cake:
-Cooking spray for the pan
-Flour for dusting the pan
-1 package (18.25 oz.) plain devil's food or dark chocolate fudge cake mix
-1 package (3.9 oz.) chocolate instant pudding mix
-4 large eggs
-1 cup sour cream
-1/2 cup warm water
-1/2 cup vegetable oil
-1 and 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
I'll quickly mention my variations in ingredients this time around... I did not have chocolate pudding mix on hand so I used vanilla (no difference in taste that I could tell from when I made it last time with the chocolate pudding). I also substituted Dannon Light n' Fit vanilla yogurt for the sour cream. Oh, and this time I added butterscotch and milk chocolate chips instead of all semisweet!
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan (or line muffin pan with 24 cupcake liners) with cooking spray and dust with flour. Shake out excess flour from the pan.
Place the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, warm water, and oil in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape the
sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 to 3 minutes more, scraping the sides of the bowl again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined (like the picture to the right here). Fold in the chocolate chips, making sure they are well distributed throughout the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan evenly (or in cupcake liners), and place in oven. Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your fingers and it just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan; this should be about 45-50 minutes of baking time for the cake and 20-22 minutes for the cupcakes.
Remove cake from the oven and place on wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Then invert it onto the rack to cool completely. Store this cake, covered, for up to 1 week at room temperature.
I had some fun decorating the cupcakes with different candies, as you can see!
This picture is my favorite. Mmmmm, looks like a darn good chocolate cupcake to me! :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cake Mix Cookies

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes! It's so easy and versatile. :) I started out a few years ago by following a recipe for snickerdoodle cake mix cookies (which is what I made for this post too); but I quickly realized that you can make just about any kind of cake mix cookie (CMC for short ;-))! It's a great treat to make when you're running short on time. Because you're not baking from scratch entirely, I bet it takes about half of the preparation time as normal cookies. Below is the recipe that I share with people who ask for the recipe after they've tasted a CMC...and believe me, many people ask for the recipe!
-package of cake mix (chocolate, yellow, or any kind you'd like to experiment with!)
-2 eggs
-1/4 to 1/3 cup vegetable/canola oil (enough to make the mixture moist)
Mix the above ingredients (with a spoon is fine) until moist. Add whatever else you'd like, such as m & m's, chocolate chips, toffee bits, chopped oreos, peanut butter chips, etc.!
Preheat the oven to 375 and grease cookie sheets.
Specifically for snickerdoodles, use yellow cake mix and roll each ball of dough (approximately 1-inch in diameter) in a cinnamon sugar mixture (3 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon). Then very slightly flatten each cookie with the bottom of a glass. I also like to sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on at that point.
Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets and bake for 9-10 minutes. Let cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheet before removing to cooling rack. The recipe makes about 18 - 24 cookies. ENJOY!
This is a picture of the batter. You can see that there are small pieces of dry cake mix not quite mixed in. It is fine this way! No need to mix them all in.
Here are the balls of dough, rolled in cinnamon sugar but not yet pressed slightly with the bottom of a glass.
This time I also added some festive red and green sprinkles. 'Tis the season after all! This picture is just before the cookies head into the oven.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Candies

For the past few years now, I've been joining my coworker Marge, candy maker extraordinaire, in her annual "Willy Wonka" day, as I like to call it. Before I joined Marge in making the candy, I used to be a recipient of a box of beautiful homemade candies each year from her. Now, I help her make them and I give them out to my family and friends as a "from the heart" gift for the holidays. :)
Today we made all sorts of candies...chocolate covered oreos (plain and mint flavored!), chocolate covered toffee with almonds, chocolate covered caramels, chocolate covered creme-filled nutter butter squares (woah!), etc... Phew, that was a lot of chocolate covered items! There's also peppermint bark, plain milk, white, and dark chocolates in various shaped molds - and a few others. I can't remember them all! Marge makes several of the candy items ahead of time too. If she didn't, this would surely be a two day affair as opposed to just one 8 or 9 hour day! One item that I made from start to finish today was the toffee covered in chocolate and crushed almonds, pictured below.
Toffee is actually pretty easy to make even though it actually feels rather intimidating (at least I thought it did at first). I didn't take any pictures of the process today, but you can find out exactly out to make toffee here. You make the actual sticky toffee part only with sugar and butter - 1 cup of each. Easy! It's important to monitor it the whole time while on the stove though. If you let it cook just a tad too long, it's no good! I did that last year - oops. I learned my lesson last year, and it came out well this time around. :) Before the toffee hardens completely, it's important to score it so that it's easier to break into squares later on. Once I had the individual squares, I dipped each one in melted milk chocolate and then immediately sprinkled (liberally) crushed almonds on each one. Voila! Nothing to it.
I am sworn to secrecy and can't give out all the essential secrets to making delicious
homemade candies, unfortunately. But, I can show you a picture of what a finished box looks like... So pretty! If you're lucky enough, you may even get a box of your own someday. ;-)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Few Recent Recipes (before the blog came into existence :))

I thought I'd share some recent recipes that I've made...but, sadly, I don't have pictures of these since these were BB (Before Blogging)! Nonetheless, here you go... :)
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
My friend Elizabeth and I had a baking day this past fall, and this was one of the recipes we made. Neither of us could get enough of them!!!! Yummmm. They're actually not incredibly pumpkin-y tasting (good news for those of you who aren't big pumpkin fans). But, they are SO moist and delicious still....and incredibly easy to make too! Here's the recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
Warm Gingerbread with Lemon Glaze
I made this as a Thanksgiving dessert this year as an alternative to the traditional turkey day pie desserts. It is a recipe from my "Best of Cooking Light" cookbook. Along with the cake, I made homemade whipped cream. Serve a slice of this cake warm with a dollop of the whipped cream. It's a nice, classic dessert for the winter time, I think. P.S. The picture here is not of the cake I made...but it looked similar! :)
Monkey Bread
This is AMAZINGly good!!! I've made it a couple times when it has been my turn to bring in breakfast for our lab meetings at work on Friday mornings. It's gone in no time at all! All of my coworkers love it. It's also a Cooking Light recipe, so you don't have to feel too guilty about eating it... ;-)
This is the easy, quick recipe: Monkey Bread
And here's a picture (again, not mine though!).