Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dessert Biscuit Puffs

This past week I stayed home for half a day for the delivery and installation of our new dishwasher. Yes, I realize that you're probably wondering what the heck this has to do with Dessert Biscuit Puffs! And you may also be wondering about the above picture at the beginning of this post. It doesn't exactly look like a "puff" of any kind! Well, let me explain so that you're not wondering much longer. :) When the guys were installing the dishwasher the other day, I actually got to sit and relax for a little bit, and I happened to be watching Good Morning America. I lucked out with my timing because a cooking segment came on that featured Taste of Home's editor sharing some yummy recipes from one of their new cookbooks, the Comfort Food Diet Cookbook. Several good recipes were shared, and they can all be found here under the title "Skinny Snacks Pack Loads of Flavor." Anywho, if you're looking for some light, yet delicious comfort food recipes, you should check out that site! A couple nights later I was making a homemade chicken noodle soup (blog post about the soup will be coming soon!), and I wanted to make an easy dessert to go with it. I recalled the segment I saw on GMA earlier in the week, and voila, there was my dessert!
This really is one of the simplest recipes, and the basic recipe where I got the idea can be found here. Taste of Home calls them Chocolate Biscuit Puffs, but I thought Dessert Biscuit Puffs was a more appropriate name since I changed the recipe I typically do!
For the simplest version of this recipe, you really only need four ingredients, which are refrigerated buttermilk biscuits, chocolate, cinnamon, and sugar. As you can read in the recipe online, all you have to do is flatten each piece of the buttermilk biscuit dough, place a piece of chocolate in the center of the dough, and then bring up the edges of the dough and pinch them together to enclose the chocolate, as you can see in this picture below. That is all!!
The store-bought refrigerated biscuits that I bought contained 10 biscuits, so with a few of the biscuits I put a Hershey kiss inside each one. For some of the others, I used a combination of chocolate and butterscotch baking chips, and then for others I put in three or four thin slices of banana and about 1/2 tsp. of peanut butter.
According to the recipe, you sprinkle a cinnamon sugar mixture on each one and then bake in a 450 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. I, however, did not do the cinnamon sugar step until after baking, and for the baking, I actually only had the oven at 400 degrees. They probably took about 7 or 8 minutes until they were lightly golden brown on top, at which point I removed them from the oven. While they were still warm, I used a pastry brush to brush on a tad of melted margarine and on top of that, I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar. So darn easy! From start to finish, these did not take more than 15 or 20 minutes. Below is a picture of the puffs right after I took them out of the oven and then another picture after I brushed them with margarine and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on them. The cinnamon sugar touch is really key, I found. Yummmm!!
As I was making these, I was thinking that they would be a super easy treat for kids to help create. I bet they would love choosing different fun fillings to put inside! They might also like flattening the biscuits. Since the biscuits are so small (compared to something like a pie crust!), it would definitely be something that a young child could do. I obviously don't have kids of my own, but someday I look forward to having little ones baking in the kitchen with me! I have to say that the peanut butter and banana combination was by far my favorite with these. Since I didn't eat all of them right out of the oven when they were warm (although, believe me, I could have), when I had one later on, I would zap it in the microwave for just 10 seconds or so. Deeelish!
Here are a couple more ideas for tasty fillings inside the dessert "puffs"..... :)
-your favorite candy bar
-peanut butter and jelly or jam
-nutella (with anything really!)
-small pieces of fruit and jam (e.g., fresh blueberries and raspberry jam)
-small pieces of fruit and chocolate (e.g., strawberries!)
-apple pieces coated in cinnamon/sugar (with the dough around this filling, it would be like a mini bite of apple pie!)
-raisins and peanut butter
-banana slices and honey
-banana slices and chocolate chips (oooh, what about these two things and peanut butter)
Do you have any fun ideas to share? If so, feel free to comment below!
Also, as aforementioned, this recipe is from a Comfort Foods Diet cookbook too, which means less guilt...and ya gotta love that! The recipe says that each one of these treats is 78 calories. Of course, if you're loading the insides with a very rich and caloric chocolate or candy, that number of calories will vary... But, I still think these are an a-okay dessert to have when all you need is just that little something sweet at the end of a meal! Try them out the next time you're craving sweets, don't have much time on your hands, and want to avoid the guilt that often accompanies a tasty treat!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Green Monster Smoothie!

Green Monster Smoothie?! I bet you're wondering what this is... Well, let me share! Remember my last post about the various sources of inspiration for my recipes? Well, a wonderful friend of mine, Jenn, was the inspiration for this one. :) Jenn is studying to be a wellness coach, and she is such a good fit for this career! She is incredibly positive, friendly, motivated, and encouraging...and just an all around great person. Jenn recently began a blog, "Livewellfit" that goes along with her new career goal of helping people in the realms of wellness, nutrition, and fitness. Check it out!
Anyway, onto this Green Monster thing because I know you're curious... One of Jenn's recent posts on her blog was about this smoothie recipe that she loves, so I just had to give it a shot!
Before telling you more, I'm going to list the ingredients for you, as they are posted on Livewellfit's Blog.
-1 cup almond milk (or any type of milk)
-4 to 6 cups spinach
-1 banana
-2 Tbsp. peanut butter (the key ingredient, according to Jenn!)
-ice cubes
Essentially, all you have to do is blend all of these ingredients together in your blender...then voila! You have an incredibly delicious and nutritious smoothie. It's true!
I tried it tonight and it is so darn good! Don't you love its great green color? I actually only made half the recipe, and I also used skim milk since I didn't have almond milk. I wanted to gulp down the whole thing right away! Seriously. But, I did have enough self restraint to save half of it to bring to work with me tomorrow morning for a breakfast treat. I guarantee you that I'll be thinking about drinking that smoothie from now until then too...I can't wait to get back to its deliciousness. Did I mention that the Green Monster is incredibly tasty?! Haha. It is! I would say that you can only barely taste the spinach too, barely. I would venture a guess that people who don't typically care for spinach would even like it! Here's a picture of me taking my first sip. Mmmmm, mmmm yummy and healthy!
Anyway, on a more serious note, you should definitely check out Jenn's blog. Her words are truly inspiring! And then you should make yourself a Green Monster. You (and your body) will be SO glad you did! :)

What inspires me? How do I decide what I'll bake next?

Hi friends, fans, and followers! For a change, I thought I'd write a blog post that actually doesn't contain a recipe... I hope that's not disappointing! ;-) As I've gotten more into blogging about what's baking in the Barbershop over the last few weeks, several people have asked me questions like "How do you choose what to make next?" and "What inspires you to bake?" Well, I thought I'd share my thoughts about these questions in this post.
To be honest, there are really many answers to these questions! I have many sources of my members, friends, and favorite cookbooks. I also subscribe to several e-mail newsletters from different company "kitchens" such as Pillsbury, Kraftfoods, Nestle, Cooking Light, and Hungry Girl. I love reading new recipes, and these e-newsletters really do contain some great ideas!!
More recently, sources of inspiration for me have been other bloggers! On the home page of "What's Baking in the Barbershop" you can see some of my favorite blogs. I love the opportunity to read about the experiences of other people who also love baking and cooking...the personal touches that can be added to a blog are truly inspirational! I really enjoy reading about the helpful hints or improvisations that people can share through a venue like blog...those are not necessarily always listed in cookbooks! A few of my favorite cookbooks are pictured below.
Other sources of inspiration for me are a bit more "random." :) Sometimes if I want to bake but don't want to go out to the store to get certain ingredients, I decide on a recipe based upon the ingredients I already have on hand...there is always something that can be baked without needing more ingredients than you already have! Quite recently, I began a blog to-do list, so this is another source of ideas. The list is growing oh so quickly too! On this to-do list are several recipes that I would like to try and post on the blog. If only I didn't have graduate school, work, friends, etc...then maybe I could actually cross all of the recipes off of the to-do list! Anyway, recipes on the list come about in different ways. For example, one recipe that I'd like to try is for homemade dinner rolls, which is a recipe I copied from my grandmother's recipes a couple weeks ago when we visited her for her birthday. She is an amazing cook/baker, and I'd love to make delicious dinner rolls like she does! Our family loves them, and she makes them for almost every holiday or special occasion. In general, making yeast breads is something I'd like to get more into with time. Another recipe on my to-do list is for Red Velvet Cupcakes, and it's actually a lighter recipe too! My boyfriend's mother sent me this recipe after she saw a segment with the "Hungry Girl" ( on Good Morning America about making lighter treats. Another item on the to-do list is a recipe for Maple Oatmeal Scones from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) that my sister sent me. of these days I'll get to making them!
I am also inspired to make recipes that may be requests of family or friends, or that might be someone's favorite treat. For co-workers' birthdays, for example, I love to make something that they really love (e.g., one co-worker's favorite dessert is Boston Creme Pie, so I made that for him a couple years ago on his birthday). The same goes for family members too, of course! I know many of their favorite flavors, so it is always fun to find a new recipe they will like (or a classic one that I've made many times!). And speaking of family, here they are...Mom, Dad, sista, and bro!
Oh, and one more thing I just thought of... I am inspired by pictures of delicious-looking food as well! Quality photography can make such a difference in how appealing a recipe seems. I find that sometimes I only make recipes from cookbooks that have pictures! It's nice not only to know what an item should look like, but also that it looks deeelicious. An irresistible-looking recipe definitely inspires, wouldn't you agree? ;-) I am working on my own photography skills too, by the way... Bear with me though, as I really have no training in food photography like those magazine people do! Perhaps with time I'll improve...
Anyway, I hope you've found my sources of inspiration for baking somewhat interesting. Of course, one of my greatest inspirations is the smiles on the faces of people who try and enjoy my goodies...oh, and knowing that their tummies are full and satisfied is inspiring as well!
If you have something you'd like to see me make, please feel free to send it my way! I'd love to hear from you... Thanks for reading, as always! "See" you at my next post. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Double Chocolate Fantasy Bars

Ummmm, double chocolate fantasy bars? YES!! I did not name these bars, although I definitely agree with the person who created the name! They are very delicious and chocolately...and as most of my recipes are, these are very easy to make too!
This is another recipe from one of my cake mix books...the Cake Mix Magic one that I have, not the Cake Mix Doctor. Both are awesome books though! I've made this particular recipe many many times, and they are always a hit. Try these for for an easy bake sale recipe, to make for a treat for your coworkers, or even for a birthday celebration. They are quite versatile, I think!
Here's the original recipe, although there are several modifications you can make!
-1 (18.25 oz.) package of chocolate cake mix
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1 egg
-1 cup chopped nuts
-1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
-6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-dash salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, oil, and egg; mix (by hand or with electric mixer) until crumbly. Stir in nuts. Reserve 1 and 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture and set aside. Press the remaining crumb mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining ingredients. Cook and stir until the chips melt.
Pour the cooked chocolate mixture evenly over the prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture evenly over top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool. Cut into bars. Store loosely covered at room temperature. Makes 36 bars.
A few possible modifications... In place of nuts, add some kind of baking chips! Try butterscotch, peanut butter, or white chocolate maybe. Yummm! This particular time I used a mixture of chocolate and butterscotch chips in place of the nuts. I've actually replaced the nuts with crushed teddy grahams before too, as well as chopped up candy bars (e.g., kit kats, milky ways, etc.). And for the semi-sweet chocolate chips that you melt with the sweetened condensed milk, feel free to change those too...milk, dark, or white chocolate...or peanut butter or whatever! The possibilities are endless. :) These bars can be different every time you make them! Check out this picture below and how yummy that middle layer looks...that sweetened condensed mixture is really what makes these bars so darn good, I think.
Oh, and thanks to Mike for taking a few of these pictures while I was making the was nice to have my own personal photographer...for free too!

Homemade Pita Chips and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Have you ever wanted to try making your own hummus but were perhaps a bit too intimidated to try it? Well, it's time to overcome your fears and try your hand at making your own homemade hummus. And while you're at it, heck, make your own pita chips too! They are sooo simple. I was having a few people over to play some board games and wanted to offer a few easy I decided that hummus, pita chips, and veggies would be one yummy and healthy option. Here are the recipes for both the pita chips and can figure out the veggies on your own. ;-)
Homemade Pita Chips
For the pita chips, you'll need some wraps or tortillas. This time I happened to use some whole wheat wraps, pictured below. First, I simply cut each wrap into eight wedges using a pizza cutter.
Next, I spread the slices evenly on an ungreased cookie sheet and brushed each one with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Mike was with me when I was making these, so I "let" him choose the seasonings. ;-) On half of the wedges he put a mixture of cayenne pepper and ground ginger...and on the other ones, he put some rosemary and garlic powder. Mmmmmm. We then just popped the cookie sheet in the oven (preheated to 425 degrees) and baked the chips for approximately 8 minutes or so. You may want to check the chips after about 6 minutes or so, depending on how thick or thin the wraps were that you used...they really don't take long to get a little bit browned and slightly crispy! So make sure to keep a close eye on them. Hmmmm, what to serve these pita chips with? I know! I know! Homemade hummus!! Read on.... :)
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
So this recipe I adapted from Cooking the magazine, it's actually called Roasted Red Pepper and Cannellini Bean Dip. It's super yummy, easy, and quite healthy too! Here are the ingredients:
-1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
-1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
-1 (16 oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
-1 (7 oz.) can bottle roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
-1 large garlic clove
-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Place the first five ingredients in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. With the processor on, slowly add the oil through the chute. Stir in the salt and pepper.
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1/4 cup)
Nutrition Information: 62 calories, 3.5 g fat, 1.5 g protein, 5.9 g carb, 1.5 g fiber, 0 mg chol, .6 mg iron, 272 mg. sodium, 16 mg calcium
This time around, I didn't actually follow the recipe...I just "wung" it. ;-) I've made this many times so I just made it as best I could from memory. And it turned out great! I did not use fresh garlic, but instead I used a few teaspoons of minced garlic. I also added some chili powder, which isn't called for in the recipe, as well as dried basil (I didn't have fresh). Other than that, I think I followed it pretty much as it's written above! Give it a shot sometime'll be glad you did! :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oyster Snack Crackers

First of all, I must share this disclaimer: this recipe does not involve baking! There, I said it. :)
Last week I was grocery shopping, and I'm not sure why but I randomly was drawn to oyster crackers! It's like my shopping cart just abruptly stopped when I came to them in the aisle...really. Then I had a very vivid memory of these flavored oyster crackers that my mom used to make. So I picked up a couple bags of oyster crackers with the anticipation of trying to re-create the recipe she used to make! I didn't actually attempt to do so, however, without calling my mom first, of course. :)
Essentially, the recipe just involves shaking up some oyster crackers in a large ziploc bag with some oil and seasoning/spices. That is all! I mean, the clean up couldn't really be any easier...there's not even one dish involved! Well, I suppose if you actually take the time to measure your spices, you might create a dirty dish...but I didn't do that today. I "eyeballed" everything!
The following describes the recipe as I made it today:
I put a 12 oz. bag of oyster crackers in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Next, I added one package of dry Italian seasoning (the kind you use to make salad dressing). I drizzled some extra virgin olive oil in the bag, roughly about two or three tablespoons at first. You could probably also use any vegetable or canola oil as well. I closed the bag tightly and did the ol' shake, shake, shake!
After a close inspection, I decided that the crackers needed both more oil and seasoning... So I added probably a couple more tablespoons of oil and some other random spices, including garlic powder, a bit of chili powder, and another Italian-flavored dry spice mix that I had (probably had rosemary, garlic, etc. in it). I did this a few more times...shook the bag and then added a bit more oil and spices. So, I couldn't actually tell you true measurements for this recipe...sorry!
My mom told me that she used to add a packet of dry dressing mix (Italian or Ranch) as well as a couple tablespoons of dill weed. I didn't have any dill weed, so I did not add that...but I remember that it was very yummy back in the day when my mom used it!
Anyway, although this is not a baking recipe, I hope it's still acceptable to include with my blog. :) It's an incredibly tasty and oh so easy recipe! And who doesn't love a snack like that?!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

PB & J Bars

I'm not sure that you can ever go wrong with the combination of peanut butter and I figured these bars would be a delicious new recipe to try, simply because they contain PB and J! Luckily, my hunch was correct. :) These are a delicious treat filled with two classic, comforting flavors! Now, I have to say that if you're looking for a "cooking light" recipe, this recipe is not one for you. It contains two sticks of butter, two eggs, and two full cups of peanut butter... I often try to make lighter recipes, but I did not stick to that notion with these bars. Everything in moderation, right? So long as you don't eat 3 or 4 of these bars in one setting, I think you'll be a-okay. ;-)
All in all, this was an easy recipe. The preparation time was a little long for bars, maybe 30 minutes or so, but the techniques were not difficult in any way. Another nice thing about this recipe is that it calls for ingredients that you'll likely already have on hand. I found this recipe on one of the several baking blogs that I follow, Cookie Baker Lynn. Although I've read many of her entries, this was the first one I actually made. Since this one was pretty successful, I may try more of hers!
You can find this yummy recipe here. I made two slight alterations... For the three cups of all-purpose flour in this recipe, I actually used two cups of all-purpose and one cup of whole wheat flour. Also, salted peanuts are called for, but I used dry roasted. Oh, and I bet you're wondering what kind of jam or jelly I used! I used two different kinds, both of which originated in upstate New York! Woohoo. :) Half of what I used is jam from our family's neighbor at home, Mrs. Steves. That one was a rhubarb cranberry peach. Mmmmm. The other one came from Guma's restaurant in West Chazy, NY. That one was a classic raspberry jam. Soooo good!
The picture above on the right is of the batter before the flour mixture was added. I wanted to include that picture because I wanted to point how delicious the batter tasted at that point...yes, I tried it. You caught me!! Below are pictures as I was putting the bars together before popping them in the oven. First you spread about 2/3 of the batter in a greased and floured pan, and then you spread your jam or jelly over that layer. Next, you put the rest of the batter on that layer...but in "clumps." That's what the recipe says! The batter actually does even out and spread as it bakes, so no worries. The third picture below is the final product before it was baked!
I also tried one bar tonight after they were done (quality control, you know...), and I ate it while it was still warm. Oh my goodness, melt in your mouth deliciousness!!
Try this recipe the next time you're looking for a yummy comfort food that will please a crowd, kids and adults alike... :) Happy baking, friends!!
I just had to post a couple more pictures... I love how each bar is a little different from the next!