Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gooey Butter Cookies

One of my biggest things lately is limiting preservatives and trying to make as much as possible from scratch.  Which usually always works out well unless I have a migraine and develop a sudden need for chocolate.  In that case, making it into the kitchen just doesn't happen.  Or when I'm really busy and I promised my husband that I'd make him muffins and.... yeah, sometimes it doesn't always work.  And then there are times like these.  Where using a simple, basic cake mix will make my life a million times easier and produce a cookie that is almost too good to be true.  And this cookie is.

My pumpkin gooey butter cake is a staple at my Thanksgiving table.  I've been told that if I show up without it, I will be turned away at the door.  But I don't like too many pumpkin things.  I know that it can be made without the pumpkin but the cake itself is so rich and decadent that Ryan and I couldn't possibly make just one for us.  Then I came across this recipe for a COOKIE version of this cake.  It was like the angels sang and the heavens opened... or that could've just been the clouds moving out of the way.  We're going to pretend that it was a mystical experience and that the entire universe wanted me to make these cookies.  So I did.  And they are some of the quickest and easiest cookies in the world to make - certainly pretty enough to be served to guests or when you sneak in a midnight glass of milk and a cookie.

Note:  This recipe calls for UNSALTED butter.  I have made this recipe twice, once with salted and once with unsalted butter.  And it does make a difference. When you make this with the salted butter, all you taste is salt.  When I made it with the unsalted butter, all you tasted was sweet perfection.

Gooey Butter Cookies
modified from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

1 box Vanilla Cake Mix
1 - 8 oz. block Cream Cheese, room temp
1/2 c. Butter, UNSALTED, softened
1 Egg
Powdered Sugar

In a stand mixer, combine your butter and cream cheese.
Add in your egg and mix together.
Slowly add in you cake mix and mix thoroughly.  (Your batter will be THICK.)
Place in the fridge for around 30 minutes, just to firm up the batter.
Preheat oven to 350.
Put some powdered sugar in a bowl.
Using a tablespoon, scoop out some batter and roll it into a circle and then roll it in your powdered sugar.
Place on a cookie sheet, around an inch apart.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cookies are set (they're going to seem underdone and that's okay).
Cool on a wire rack.
Eat and enjoy!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Skillet Tamale Pie

So two weeks ago, this happened:

I burnt my hand.  Badly.  I had second degree burns over pretty much half of my hand.  The other half had minor, first degree burns.  How did this happen?  One this particular night, I was making pork chops and roasted apples.  Roasting involves.... the oven.  So in a stainless steel skillet, I had my apples.  I threw on an oven mitt and pulled the skillet out of the oven and put it on the stove.  While finishing my pork chops, I needed to move the skillet.  And I grabbed the skillet. The same skillet that just come out of a 400 degree oven just a few minutes before.  Needless to say, I let go rather quickly.  So I ended up in the emergency room because I was in so much pain (I had second degree burns!!).  The nurse who took my vitals saw me clutching a washcloth-covered bag of ice and said, "You have a burn.  You don't need to be using ice on your hand."  I told her, "Look, this ice is the only thing keeping me from crying in pain.  I'm keeping the ice."  We have still yet to figure out how my ring finger and thumb escaped being burnt.  I had to keep my hand wrapped like this for over a week due to the blisters on my hand.  Typing and writing was... difficult to say the least.  And cooking was really out of the question because, of course, I burnt my right hand which is my dominant hand.  Ryan and I like to joke that my pork chops and roasted apples is the most expensive meal we've ever eaten at home! :)

So I was out of commission for quite some time.  Once I was able to start cooking again, I had this craving for a tamale pie that I'd made once before.  I only had to find the recipe.  If you know me well enough, you know I have a great many cookbooks.  As in - A LOT.  I knew I had this recipe, I just wasn't sure where it was.  After quite a bit of time looking, I finally found it!  One of the things I love about this recipe is how versatile it is.  If you want to add more veggies, you can. Or if you have picky eaters who don't want a lot of veggies, you can add and subtract as you see fit.  It's super easy and very easy on the wallet!

Skillet Tamale Pie
adapted slightly from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

2 tsp. Canola Oil
1 Onion, minced
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 lb. 93/7 Ground Beef
1 15-oz. can Black Beans, rinsed
1 14.5-oz. can Petite Diced Tomatoes, drained
3/4 c. Frozen Corn
1 c. Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1 Box Jiffy Mix
1 Egg
1/3 c. Milk

Preheat oven to 450.
Heat the oil in an 12 inch ovenproof skillet to medium heat and add onion, bell pepper, and chili powder and cook until the onion is softened and the bell pepper is cooked through.
Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Mix in the ground beef, beans, tomatoes, and corn and cook until the beef is no longer pink.
Drain and add back into the pan.
Add in the cheddar cheese and cover while you make the topping.
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the topping (so hard, right?).
Using a rubber spatula, spread the corn muffin topping over as much of the beef mixture as you can (it's not going to be perfect - just says it's "rustic"!).
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the center of the topping is golden brown and cooked through.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap - Part 2

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013

This year's food blogger cookie swap was amazing!  We partnered up with four different companies - OXO, Dixie Crystals Sugar, Grandma's Molasses, and Gold Medal Flour, all of whom matched our contributions - to donate money to Cookies for Kids Cancer and we raised over $13K!!  Can you believe that?  And this was from each blogger submitting only $4 each.  All because of cookies!  Cookies and a good cause?  You can't get much better than that!

My matches to receive cookies were:
The Cake Merchant
Kelly and Austin
Babcakes Bakery

I really hope everyone enjoyed the Apple Snickerdoodles I sent them!

And the folks who sent me some seriously good cookies were:
Chocolate Snickerdoodles from Sweet Lavender Bake Shop
how friggin CUTE are these packages??  
These were my favorite.  I mean - chocolate.  How can you go wrong?

Speculoo Buttons from She Runs, She Eats
These were so yummy!  Like a super-sweet gingersnaps.  I'm not the biggest fan of ginger flavors but I gobbled these up!

White Chocolate Dipped Gingersnaps from Julie's Eats and Treats
These were my husband's favorite.  He is a huge fan of gingersnaps so he was excited when we opened this box!

A big THANK YOU to Julie from The Little Kitchen and Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil for hosting the cookie swap again this year and we'll see you next year!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap - Apple Snickerdoodles

It's that time of year again!  Time fooooooooooooooor...........
The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013

Yes!  Woohoo!  (Pardon me while I do my happy dance with my cookies.)  I send out three sets of delicious cookies and I receive three different sets of cookies!  I knew very early on this year that THESE cookies were the ones I was going to send off.  They were so different and yet so... homey.  Everyone loves snickerdoodles.  Most people love apples.  How no one managed to combine these together until now is beyond me.  I even neglected posting this recipe countless times because if I did, that meant I couldn't send off these cookies.  And we couldn't have that, now could we?  I really hope that everyone I sent these cookies to enjoyed them as much as I did!  (And my husband, who requested me to make a second batch for himself because the batch I made to send off made exactly 36 cookies.)

Note:  This recipe requires you to use boiled cider (available here).  It is absolutely one of my favorite ingredients ever!  It allows you to give a hint of apple flavor to your baked goods without actually having apples in them.

Apple Snickerdoodles
adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour’s Baking Sheet

¾ c. Vegetable Shortening
¼ c. (½ stick) Unsalted Butter, softened
1 ½ c. Sugar
1 Egg (large)
¼ c. Boiled Cider
2 tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. Salt
2 ¾ c. All Purpose Flour

Spiced Sugar Coating:
2 tsp. Baking Spice
½ c. Sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix both ingredients of your sugar coating and set aside.
Using a stand mixer, beat the shortening, butter, and sugar together until smooth.
Add in your egg, beating until smooth.
Mix in the boiled cider, baking powder, and salt.
Finally, add in your flour, mixing until combined.  (This batter is THICK!)
Using a tablespoon of dough, round the dough with your hands and then coat in your spiced sugar mixture.
Place them on a non-stick cookie sheet (or one that’s covered in parchment), leaving around 1 ½” between them.
Dip the bottom of a glass in the spiced sugar mixture and press each cookie down gently until they are around ½” thick.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly golden.
Allow them to cool on a rack.
Eat and Enjoy!!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!  Mine was wonderful. Such good food with such good friends and family.  I had a great dinner with my husband and best friend - it may have only been the three of us but we had a HUGE spread!  Turkey, ham, stuffing, homemade mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.  But let's be honest - you want to know what desserts we had.  Well, we had pumpkin gooey butter cake, my best friend's unreal pumpkin spice cake with homemade cream cheese frosting, and homemade apple pie (crust and all!).  The food was delicious!  And what's even better?  Leftover Thanksgiving food is always better the next day.

So now that you've been inundated with pumpkin recipes from every. single. blog around...

Chocolate.  Peanut Butter.  One of life's most wonderful combinations.  Was there even a chocolate-peanut butter combination before Reese's came into our lives?  I don't know.  But to whatever person invented this combination, I will forever be in your debt.  Having a bad day?  Give me chocolate and peanut butter (or pizza - that works too).  Husband driving you insane?  Don't reach for that frying pan to beat some sense into him with.  Reach for one of these cookies. Not only will your stomach thank you but so will your husband.  (And tell him if he's nice enough, you may even share them!)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
courtesy of The Deen Bros. Cookbook

2 1/2 c. All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 1/4 c. Peanut Butter (I prefer creamy but you can use crunchy)
1 c. Butter, softened
1 1/2 c. Light Brown Sugar, packed
2/3 c. Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tbsp. Light Corn Syrup
2 tsp. Vanilla
10 oz bag Chocolate Chips (I use milk but semi-sweet'll work too)

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream your peanut butter, butter, and sugars until its nice and fluffy.
Mix in your eggs, one at a time.
Beat in the corn syrup and vanilla.
Slowly mix in your flour, baking soda, and salt until everything is well combined.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
Using a spoon, drop the cookie dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
Eat and enjoy!

Cookie jar from my favorite cookie company in Savannah, GA.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

My mom's birthday was last week (happy b-day mom!).  She told me all she wanted from me was to bake her something delicious.  I really don't know WHERE they get this idea from that I like to bake.  And if I don't know, you certainly don't.  But anyhoo, I remembered that she was crazy for my lemon ricotta muffins from awhile back (remember them?).  However, I had already made muffins for me and the husband for the week (those muffins will arrive shortly).  So I wondered if there was a way to make these muffins into cookies.  And thanks to my friend, Mr. Google, I did indeed find a recipe that turned these beautiful muffins into yummy cookies.

The recipe is actually from a restaurant that is in Raleigh, North Carolina, near where Mr. Gaited Baked and I live, called Mia Francesca.  It's a lovely little Italian place that we discovered during the annual Restaurant Week event and decided to give it a try.  It was one of the best decisions we've ever made.  We adore this place.  Everything we get from there is good.  It's very romantic but you won't have to spend an arm and a leg on date night.  And our favorite movie theater is nearby so a full date night is always close by.  If you're ever in the Raleigh area, I definitely recommend you check out Mia Francesca!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies
courtesy of Mia Francesca restaurant

3 c. All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 stick Butter, salted (if using unsalted, please add 1 tsp. salt)
2 c. Sugar
2 Eggs
1 - 15 oz. container of Ricotta Cheese (I used part skim)
3 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice*
Zest of one Lemon*

* - juice your lemon before you zest!  It'll make life much easier.

Preheat your oven to 350.
In a medium size bowl, sift together your flour, baking powder, and salt (if using.)
In another bowl, combine your butter and sugar until its incorporated and light and fluffy (around three minutes, give or take).
Now add your eggs in, one at a time and mix well.
Mix in your ricotta cheese, lemon, and lemon zest until all your ingredients are happily combined.
Add in your flour, mixing until everything is combined.
Drop your cookies by a rounded tablespoon onto a prepared cookie sheet (meaning if it ain't nonstick, use cooking spray or parchment).
Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.
Cool completely.
Eat and enjoy :)

(these cookies are so soft they stick together so keep that in mind when you reach in the cookie jar for one cookie and come back with two or three.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Decadent Brownies

I think I've said once or twice on here that I love chocolate.  I really, REALLY love chocolate.  If you've had a bad day, nothing cures it more than anything with chocolate.  Truffles.  Reese'e cups.  Hershey's kisses.  Cookies.  But brownies. Brownies are special.  Brownies, to me, are the ultimate chocolate treat.  And the batter?  I've been known to make brownies just to eat the batter.

These brownies are special.  The brownies are what dreams are made of.  They have chocolate chips mixed into the batter.  And they have a frosting.  Chocolate frosting.  Can't you just taste it already?  All that delicious chocolate-ness?  (The picture below doesn't have the chocolate frosting.  I couldn't wait - the brownies were still warm.  Some things in life, you just can't resist.  Warm brownies is one of them.)

And my husband will tell you that you cannot make these brownies without having ice cream to go with it.  Specifically Blue Bell ice cream.  That's just his opinion though, you can use whatever vanilla ice cream you want though :)

Decadent Brownies
from Best Loved Hershey's

3/4 c. Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
2/3 c. Butter, melted and divided (if using unsalted butter, please add 1/4 tsp. salt)
1/2 c. Water, boiling
2 c. Sugar
2 Eggs
1 1/3 c. All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 c. Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
Stir cocoa and baking soda together in a large bowl, adding 1/3 c. of butter.
Pour in your boiling water and mix until thickened.
Mix in your sugar, eggs, and the final 1/3 c. melted butter until smooth.
Add in the flour, vanilla, and salt (if using) and mix it all together.
Finally, mix in the chocolate chips.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
Allow brownies to cool completely before topping them with the frosting below.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
6 Tbsp. Butter, softened.
2 2/3 c. Powdered Sugar
1/2 c. Cocoa Powder
1/3 c. Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla

Beat the butter in a medium bowl.
Add in the powdered sugar and cocoa, alternating it with milk, beating until spreadably smooth (you may need to add more milk to get the right consistency).
Stir in the vanilla.
Spread over cooled brownies.