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.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - BBQ Spaghetti and Cornbread

Okay folks.  I told you I was going to blow your mind and now I shall.  Ladies and gents, I give you:  BBQ Spaghetti.  Yes.  BBQ and spaghetti.  Together.  I know, I know.  It makes absolutely NO sense but somehow this works.  Like its unreal.  I LOVE this stuff.  I get requests to make this regularly and not just from my husband.  I have given samples of this stuff to family and friends and I always get the same reaction.  Questionable looks followed by shock followed by "mmmm"s of deliciousness.

Now, you do have to make your own bbq sauce for this.  The ingredients list looks very long but its full of basic ingredients, which I can pretty much guarantee you have in your pantry.  How much more budget friendly can you get?  You do need to be made aware of the fact that this bbq sauce does need to cook for two hours before you can use it.  I like to make this on weekends for use during the week. The sauce is the longest part of this whole thing.

The following recipe is actually DOUBLE the normal recipe found in the cookbook. I always recommend that you make this amount because I have no idea how much sauce you enjoy on your pasta and plus, having some extra in your fridge is great for making grilled pork chops or grilled chicken whenever you get home and don't want to cook something crazy and in depth.

BBQ Spaghetti

4 c. Ketchup (I prefer Simply Heinz)
2 c. Water
1/2 c. Light Brown Sugar
1/2 c. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Black Pepper
1 Tbsp. Onion Powder
1 Tbsp. Dry Mustard Powder
4 Tbsp. Lemon Juice (if you don't want to use actual lemons, I really like Pure Lemon)
4 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 c. Apple Cider Vinegar
4 Tbsp. Light Corn Syrup
2 Tbsp. BBQ Seasoning

Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently to keep it from sticking.
Reduce the temperature to low and simmer, uncovered, for AT LEAST two hours, stirring occasionally.
Use as needed.
Store leftovers in a sealed jar (like those good ol' fashioned quart size Mason jars) for up to 2 months.

1 lb. Hamburger
2 c. BBQ Sauce (from recipe above) or more, if you're so inclined
1 lb. Spaghetti

In a large pot, cook spaghetti according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, cook hamburger until done.
Toss the pasta, hamburger, and bbq sauce together, heating over low heat for a few minutes (to heat up the sauce if its been in the fridge).
Eat and enjoy!

Note:  If you want to add diced onions and peppers to this meal, you may do so by cooking them together with the beef.

Buttermilk Cornbread

1 c. Yellow Cornmeal
1/3 c. All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Egg, Beaten
1 c. Buttermilk*

Preheat oven to 400.
Spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.
Combine all the dry ingredients together.
Mix the egg and buttermilk into your cornmeal mixture.
Pour the batter into your pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

* no buttermilk?  No problem.  Take one cup of 2% milk and add 1 tsp. white vinegar and let sit for five minutes.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tips-n-Tricks Tuesday: BBQ Seasoning

Everyone in the South loves barbecue.  And I mean, everyone.  The big problem is everyone likes DIFFERENT barbecue.  In Eastern North Carolina (where I'm from), we love our whole hog pork bbq.  My dad and grandfather are excellent pig cookers.  My grandfather even MADE his pig cooker out of an old oil drum he found.  That's how into cooking whole hogs he is.  Now in Texas (where Mr. Gaited Baker is from) it is all about brisket.  And let's not even get started on the sauces.  Because everyone knows vinegar-based and ketchup-based sauces are THE best ;)  We're going to pretend that that atrocious white sauce that's from Alabama doesn't exist, okay y'all?

It will probably come as a shock that one of my favorite barbecue seasonings is actually from Tennessee.  I LOVE this seasoning.  It's great to use as a rub on pork chops or to even mix in some chili.  But the REAL reason that I love this seasoning blend will be shown to you in the next "Budget Friendly Dinner" post (coming soon to a blog near you!) and I will go ahead and tell you now - it is going to BLOW YOUR MIND!!

This seasoning blend actually makes just under a pint of seasoning so I use a pint jar with a screw on lid to keep it in my pantry.  The blend keeps its flavor for around six months but once you try it, it will not last six months in your pantry.

Neely's Barbecue Seasoning
recipe courtesy of Down Home with the Neelys

3/4 c. Paprika
6 Tbsp. Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. Onion Powder

Pour all ingredients in a pint jar.
Shake to mix it all together.
Use over your favorite pork products or where you just need a little extra kick of flavor!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

You know, I've always been a little leery of trying new things.  I love eating ricotta cheese (my best friend puts it in her amazing lasagna and it's like, the best thing EVER) but I've never had the nerve to actually trying eating something with ricotta in it.  I was the same way with sour cream until a few years ago.  I mean, you've had sour cream before, haven't you?  It's tangy!  I never understood exactly HOW a sweet dessert recipe could have sour cream and actually turn out okay.  But it works... somehow.  My feelings towards things made with ricotta cheese ran along those same lines.  Until now.  These muffins have converted me.

I'm not the biggest fan of very lemon-y things.  Despite the fact that my mom tells me I used to eat them when I was little - rind and all.  Maybe that's why I'm not crazy about really lemon-y things now.  I had too much of them when I was little.  But these muffins are not overly lemon-y at all!  They have just the right amount of tang that cuts through the sweetness of the muffins.  And the ricotta... oh Lord.  The ricotta cheese just makes these muffins melt in your mouth!  So drop whatever it is you're doing and go make these muffins.  They make a wonderful quick breakfast if you're on the go, like my husband and I are!

As a side note, this recipe calls for grated lemon rind and fresh lemon juice.  You can probably get those off of one large lemon but get two just in case.  If you've never had to use the rind off of a citrus fruit before, you are missing out.  There are such wonderful flavors to be had in those bright and shiny exteriors (keep away from the white part beneath)!  You'll quickly realize that using a Microplane Zester will become your best friend in the kitchen when you need those grated rinds.  If you try to use a fine cheese grater, you'll be there all day.  A zester is really what you need.

One more thing - zest BEFORE you juice!  If you just zest after juicing, it just gets awkward.

Lemon Ricotta Muffins
recipe courtesy of Cooking Light

1 3/4 c. All Purpose Flour
3/4 c. Sugar
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
3/4 c. Ricotta Cheese, part-skin
1/2 c. Water
1/4 c. Olive Oil (I use extra virgin)
1 Tbsp. Grated Lemon Rind
2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Egg

Preheat your oven to 375.
Spray 12 muffin liners with cooking spray and put in your muffin pan, setting aside.
In a large bowl, mix together your flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
Using a different bowl, mix EVERYTHING ELSE together and stir until its all combined.
Now make a little well in the middle of your flour mixture.
Pour the ricotta cheese mixture into that little well.
Stir until moist - try not to overstir!
Now add your batter evenly to the muffin cups.
Bake for 16 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes before removing to finish cooling.

These look really pale... cause they are.  Doesn't mean they aren't delicious!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Strawberry Muffins

You may have noticed on here that I love strawberries.  (From this post perhaps?) They are one of my favorite things about summer.  Whenever I get strawberries from the farmer's market, I have to fight from eating them on the way home.  I mean, who can resist that yummy, sweet strawberry-y goodness?  You want to talk about cruel and unusual punishment?  Tie me up and put a strawberry just out of my reach.  I'll crack in a second just to get at it.

Now, these muffins are topped with a special item - Spiced Vanilla Bean Sugar. I'm very lucky to have a phenomenal spice story really close to me called Savory Spice Shop.  They make their own spice blends to sell and always carry fresh spices. You can get as little as half an ounce if you don't need a lot which is wonderful if you just need a spice for one recipe.  Did I mention they'll let you taste their spices in the store?  I tried this spice blend in their store and just KNEW it would be amazing on these muffins!  It is a combination of sugar, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, cinnamon, allspice, mace, and cardamom.  Doesn't that just SOUND delicious??  Even if you don't have a Savory Spice Shop near you, you can order it online!  Isn't the internet great?  (Online ordering)  For this recipe, I've made the topping Sugar in the Raw since that's available at any grocery store.

Let me tell you a story.  Many of you know that I have a dog.  She's a beautiful eleven year old black Lab mix named Liz.  I tell everyone that my husband fell in love with her long before he fell in love with me.  And she owned my heart when she was only two weeks old.  So, one morning after I had made these muffins, Ryan had gotten two to have as his breakfast.  He got the muffins, set them on our coffee table, and stepped out of the room for a few minutes.  When he returned, the muffins were gone.  There wasn't even a crumb left on the table.  Liz was laying quietly on the couch, acting like nothing was amiss.  Ryan looked around for the muffins, thinking he'd left them in the kitchen or put them in another room.  No.  Liz ate them.  Both of them.  Muffin wrapper and all.  I wasn't sure who to be mad at - him for leaving them within her reach or her for eating them in the first place!  I will say that my years of training her to "clean up her mess" paid off.  She certainly left no trace of them!

Strawberry Muffins
modified from Best Recipes from American Country Inns and Bed and Breakfasts

2 c. All Purpose Flour
1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Egg
1 c. Milk
1/3 c. Canola Oil
1 c. Fresh Strawberries, chopped
3 Packets of Sugar in the Raw

Preheat oven to 375.
Line a muffin tin with liners; spray with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl, beat together the egg, milk, and oil.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until moistened, making sure not to overmix!
Fold in your strawberries.
Pour the batter in your muffin tin, dividing the batter equally amongst the muffin cups.
Sprinkle the muffins with the Sugar in the Raw.
Bake for 28 minutes or until the tops become slightly golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool for a few minutes on a rack before removing them from the pan to finish cooling.  (You can also tilt the muffins to let them finish cooling.  See this post.)

NOTE:  Muffins made with fresh fruit like this only last for two or three days.  Please don't feed the leftover to the dog, either.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chocolate Pound Cake

I love chocolate.  I only know a handful of people who don't love chocolate and I honestly think they have something wrong with their brains.  How does someone NOT love chocolate?  Studies have proven that chocolate releases the exact same endorphins that are released when someone is in love.  So when I say I'm in love with chocolate, it's actually true!  This is the reasoning I have when I say people who don't love chocolate have something wrong with their brains.  I mean, how exactly do those endorphins go off and someone not immediately fall in love chocolate?  It seems biologically impossible.

I also love pound cake.  When I was little, my grandmother (God rest her soul) made the BEST vanilla pound cake.  It had this crunchy top and really soft inside.  And the proper way to eat it was from the bottom to the top because you wanted to save that crunchy top for last.  My dad and I used to argue over which one of us would eat the last piece.  So pound cake has always had a special place in my heart.  So it was only logical that I would make something that includes two things that I love - chocolate and pound cake.

Chocolate Pound Cake
courtesy of King Arthur Flour

8 Tbsp. Butter, softened (salted - if using unsalted, add 3/4 tsp. salt)
1 1/2 c. Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2/3 c. Cocoa Powder
3 Eggs
1 1/4 c. All Purpose Flour
3/4 c. Milk (skim)

Preheat the oven to 350.
Spray a 9 x 5 loaf pan with a cooking spray mixed with flour (like Pillsbury).
Mix the butter, sugar, salt (if using), vanilla, baking powder, and cocoa in a medium sized bowl, using a mixer.  (It's okay if the mixture looks clumpy!)
Now add your eggs one at a time, making sure its well incorporated before adding the next one.
Add half of the flour to your cocoa mixture with your mixer on low speed.
Next, add in all of your milk.
Add in the rest of the flour, mixing on low speed until your mixture is smooth.
Taste your batter and make sure tastes good.  (Okay, that may just be what I do!)
Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  (The top of the cake may look damp - that's okay, it's done.)
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then let it finish cooling on the rack.
Slice and enjoy!
(Make sure to wrap the cake nice and tight when its finished cooling.)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chocolate Chip - Oatmeal Cookies

When Ryan and I got married almost three years ago, we stayed at the DoubleTree Hotel the night before and the night of our wedding.  (Gaaaaa!  It's been almost three years!)  At the DoubleTree, when you arrive, they give you these really yummy chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies.  They're big and chewy and delicious and big.  Did I mention they're big?  I'd take a dozen home if I could but my waistline miiiiight not appreciate that too much.  I've been trying and trying to find a cookie that is almost as good as they ones I got at the hotel.  I know it won't be EXACTLY like it.  I'm pretty certain that it has a pound of butter in each cookie, it's so moist.  I have finally found a cookie that comes pretty darn close and I wanted to share it with all of you.  You should feel so special! :-)  Every time I ate one of these cookies, it took me back to my special day with my husband, who traveled 1200 miles to be with me all those years ago.  Yeah, I'm pretty darn lucky :-)

Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies
courtesy of Nestle All Time Favorite Cookie and Baking Recipes

1 3/4 c. All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/4 c. Light Brown Sugar, packed
1 c. (2 sticks) Butter, salted, softened
1/2 c. Sugar
2 Eggs, large
2 Tbsp. Milk (I used skim but use whatever you have on hand)
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 1/2 c. Quick Cooking Oats (feel free to use old fashioned if you've got it)
2 c. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (12 oz. bag)

Preheat the oven to 375.
In one bowl, combine the flour and baking soda and set aside.
Using a mixer, beat both of the sugars and butter together until creamy.
Next, add in the eggs, milk, and vanilla to the sugar-butter mixture and mix well.
Gradually add in the flour mixture until everything is well combined.
Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.  (This is going to make a thick batter so it might be tough to incorporate everything but keep trying because it will come together.)
Drop by the tablespoonfuls (or using that wonderous cookie scoop I tell everyone to get) onto your baking sheet.
Bake for 9 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies or 12 to 13 minutes for crispy cookies.  (Chewy is the way to go for me.)
Let cool for one minutes before moving to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Key Lime Bread

I think I may have mentioned here a couple of times that my husband likes key lime stuff.  Like a lot.  And I could've possibly mentioned that I love King Arthur Flour things... maybe.  My best friend knows that I love KAF stuff so she's given me a subscription to the KAF Baking Sheet (a bi-monthly newsletter full of yummy recipes) for the last few years as a Christmas gift.  (Aren't best friends... the best??)  So when my Spring 2013 Baking Sheet arrived and I saw the recipe for Key Lime Bread, I jumped at the chance to make it.  This was very different from some of the other quick breads that I've made because it packed such a lime punch but it wasn't overpowering.  Most quick breads are very sweet but this is not.  It's a very refreshing change and a perfect bread to eat on a spring day, sipping some sweet tea :)

Typically, I like to always use recipes that don't call for special ingredients because I want these recipes available to everyone, hoping (hopefully) at-hand items.  This recipe, however, does require one special ingredient that is well worth the effort of purchasing - Key Lime Powder.  It is a great way to add lime flavor without having to worry about adding additional liquids.  You can use it in scones (KAF has a great recipe for Mojito scones), cookies, glazes for cakes/quick breads.  It's worth the price - and if you sign up for the KAF emails, you can receive special offers, some of which are for free/really cheap shipping!  (With all the KAF spotlighting I do, I really should be on ten percent... hehe)

Key Lime Bread
courtesy of The Baking Sheet, Spring 2013

6 Tbsp. Butter, salted (if using unsalted, add 1 tsp. salt), melted
2 Tbsp. Canola Oil
3/4 c. Sugar
1/4 c. Lime Juice Powder
2 Eggs, large
Zest of 1 Lime
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 c. All Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
3/4 c. Milk (I used skim, but whatever you have on hand will be fine)
2 Tbsp. Lime Juice
1/2 c. Walnuts, chopped fine

Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan using a cooking spray with flour (like Pillsbury).
Preheat oven to 350.
Cream the butter, oil, sugar, and lime juice powder together.
Mix in the eggs.
Add in your zest and vanilla extract.
Make sure everything is all mixed together happily.
In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt (if using).
To your butter-sugar mixture, alternate adding the flour mixture and milk (beginning and ending with the flour).
Stir in the lime juice and walnuts.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a tester can be inserted and come out clean.
Let cool slightly and remove from pan to finish cooling on a rack.
Glaze if desired (recipe follows).

2 Tbsp. Lime Juice
1 Tbsp. Lime Juice Powder
1/2 c. Powdered Sugar
2 Tbsp. Heavy Cream
Zest of 1 Lime

Combine together and brush over the warm bread.

Eat and enjoy!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

So my husband's birthday is on Valentine's Day.  As in, yesterday.  Lucky for him, I've never been the biggest fan of Valentine's Day.  I know that seems strange for a female to not really be interested in it.  I've never understood why you pick one day to suddenly show how much you love someone.  Isn't that something we should be doing every day?  So every year, I always tell Ryan that his Valentine's Day gift to me to keeping me out of the chaos that surrounds restaurants every February 14th.  I'd much rather stay home and cook Ryan a big birthday meal than go out and wait for two hours just to get a seat at a table.  No thank you.  Ryan's big meal this year consisted of his favorite meal - homemade spaghetti and meatballs with the homemade focaccia bread.  You might remember that bread from this post, perhaps?  I always want to make him a really good dessert to go along with his birthday dinner and that usually either means this key lime pie or something chocolaty.  But this year, I decided to change things up a bit and make something I'd never tried before.  The recipe seemed way too easy to be real but we pushed on anyway. 

Ryan and I love to eat at On the Border Mexican Restaurant.  One of our favorite things?  Their sopapillas.  You absolutely cannot go wrong with baked, sweet yeast dough that's covered with cinnamon sugar and then dipped into honey.  I mean, that's like heaven on a plate!  When I came across this recipe on The Tale of Two Kitchens blog (you might recall I got her delicious cookies in the cookie swap last December), I knew this was a recipe that I couldn't just put in my binder of "found recipes" and then forget about it.  It combined two of my favorite things - cheesecake and sopapillas!  Cheesecake!  Honey!  Sugar!  CINNAMON!! 

Here's the trick - it needs to be COLD when you eat it.  The taste is not right when its a room temperature or especially not when it's hot.  Just be patient and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.  You'll thank me for it!

This recipe will easily reduce by half to fit into an 8x8 pan instead of a full 9x13.  Keep the cook times the same but remember to only use half of the can of crescent roll dough on the bottom and the other half on the top.  Feel free to use reduced fat crescent roll dough and reduced fat cream cheese (I think I used one full fat and one fat free - they were on sale) to make yourself feel better about eating the whole thing one piece.

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars
courtesy of The Tale of Two Kitchens

2 cans of Crescent Roll Dough
2 8 oz. Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 c. Sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
2 tsp. Cinnamon
2 Tbsp. Butter, melted
Honey (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350.
Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
Unroll your first can of crescent roll dough into the bottom of the pan, pinching the seams together.
In a mixer, combine 1 cup of sugar, vanilla, and both packages of cream cheese and mix until smooth.
Spread over your crescent roll dough.
Unroll the second can of crescent roll dough over the top of the cheesecake mixture; again pinching the seams together.
Brush the top of the crescent roll dough with your melted butter (use all the butter!).
In a separate bowl, mix your cinnamon and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar.
Now go crazy and sprinkle all of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the entire surface of the buttered crescent roll dough.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the bottom crust is slightly browned.
Cool completely.
Let it chill in your fridge for a few hours.
Cut into bars, drizzle with honey (if you like), and enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Butterscotch Blondies

So when I think of Blondies, I think of one of two things (neither of which is the band)...

This is my mom's dog Blondie.  She was found on the side of the road where my parents live.  Someone had left her on the side of the road, abandoned.  That was not a new sight around my parents' house because living out in the country usually bring lots of strays around the house.  But my parents had recently lost their Lab, Jake, and even though they weren't looking to add a new dog, they got one!  This is behavior everyone expects out of ME, not my mother.  She's happily living with my parents, even now :)

The other things I think of when someone says, "Blondies" is the food!  Of course, this is a food blog so you knew food was going to come up at some point.  I like blondies - they're brownies but without the cocoa!  What's not to like??  Of course, I'm all for chocolate in most any form.  That Super Bowl commercial where the wife wished for a lifetime supply of chocolate and was hooked up to a chocolate IV bag?  That's me.  However, not everyone is a chocolate fanatic like me (never did understand people like that but I digress) so here is a recipe that should satisfy everyone, chocolate lovers included (because you can always add chocolate to it!)

Note:  The recipes REQUIRES the use of a small stainless steel skillet.  Why?  Because you're going to be browning the butter folks!  Browning the butter means you need to be able to see the color changes in the butter.  If you're using a cast iron or nonstick skillet, you won't be able to see the butter change color and you'll end up with burnt butter and that's just tragic.

Butterscotch Blondies
modified slightly from

2 c. All Purpose Flour
2 1/2 c. Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
10 Tbsp. Butter, salted (if using unsalted, add 1/2 tsp. salt)
3 Eggs

Preheat your oven to 350.

Melt your butter in a small stainless steel skillet over medium heat.
Cook the butter for 6 minutes or until lightly browned.  (Mine took just under 6 minutes.)
Pour into a medium sized bowl and let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, combine your flour, sugar, and baking powder (and salt, if you're using) and mix it all together!
After your 10 minutes of cooling butter is complete, mix in the 3 eggs.
Add your butter-egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir - a lot.  This batter is pretty thick and will require some elbow grease.  Ladies, if you'd like your man to feel manly, let him stir or if you're like me and don't like to be defeated, keep going until you have conquered the combined forces of butter and flour.
Spoon into a 9x13 pan that you've sprayed with cooking spray and smooth out the top.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
Slice into bars and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bread Basket: Homemade Focaccia Bread

If you've read this blog before, you know that I love bread.  I really love bread.  (My hips?  Not so much.)  I've made some pretty basic breads in the past - sandwich breads, hamburger buns.  But I've been itching to try something different so the other night, I made one of Ryan's favorite meals - homemade spaghetti and meatballs.  He really loves it when I cook that.  It brings back some fond memories for us.  See, when he and I first met in person (we had "met" online many, many months before), this was the first thing I made for him.  Well, I made spaghetti.  I didn't add the meatballs until a while later.  I really wanted to impress this guy that I really, really liked with my cooking and I knew that was the best thing I made.  Ladies, there is a reason why "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" is a cliche.  It's true.  I made him that meal and, now, we're married!  No, I won't give up my spaghetti recipe - it's a secret.

When I was making him spaghetti and meatballs last night, I wanted to make some sort of Italian bread.  Because you cannot have spaghetti without having some sort of bread product.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a bread recipe that took less than two hours to finish (with rising times and all that jazz) until I looked on the back of my King Arthur Flour Italian-Style Flour bag.  (Ryan says I'm obsessed with flour.  I have no idea why he would say that.  I only have fourteen* different kinds of flour in our pantry.)

This bread can be made in just over one hour.  Which is almost a miracle when it comes to yeasted breads.  If you're just getting started with breads, this is an excellent bread to start out with since its so simple.  And it's really, really good.

Focaccia Bread
courtesy of KAF's Italian Style Flour bag

3 3/4 c. All Purpose Flour (I used my Italian-Style but AP works fine)
1 1/2 tsp. Salt (Kosher works best in breads)
1 Packet of Instant/Active Dry Yeast (if measuring, use 2 tsp.)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 c. Water + 2 to 4 Tbsp., divided

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Italian Seasoning

In a mixer or using your hands, combine all your ingredients and knead for 5 to 6 minutes, using 1 c. water plus 2 Tbsp.  If you dough is dry, add the additional 2 Tbsp. of water.  You want the dough to be sticky.
Cover the dough for 15 minutes.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place onto a large piece of parchment paper and knead gently a few times just to redistribute the growing yeast.
Transfer the dough and the parchment to a baking sheet and pat into a 10"x15" rectangle.
Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
Preheat your oven to 425.
Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap and place over the dough and allow to sit in a warm place for 30 minutes.  (I let mine sit next to my oven.)
Just before baking, using your fingers, gently press down to the top of the dough to make little dimples.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. 

(I neglected to add enough olive oil to the top.  Don't make my mistake.)

* - My fourteen (technically fifteen) different kinds of flour:
  1. All Purpose
  2. Self-Rising
  3. Whole Wheat
  4. White Whole Wheat
  5. Bread
  6. Cake
  7. European Style
  8. Italian Style
  9. Barley
10. Pastry
11. Graham
12. Irish-style Wholemeal
13. Kamut (of which I have two)
14. Potato 
(yes, each and every last one of them is from King Arthur Flour.)

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap - pt. 2

Here is a picture of my cookies ready to be packed away!

That was one really cute container!

And now, off to the post office!  They grow up so fast, don't they?  One minute, they're in your kitchen and the next, they're traveling around the country.


My matches for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap were.....
K. T. Vorwald
Love and Zest
Angie's Southern Kitchen

The people who were matched with me and sent some seriously good cookies were...

Williams Kitchen who sent some yummy Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal cookies

Second was Adri at Food-n-Thought who sent Nutella Cherry Oatmeal Florentine Cookies.  Yes, that title is a mouthful which is exactly what the cookies ended up as!!

My final batch of cookies came from The Tale of Two Kitchens - a blog I actually found before the cookie swap that I just fell in love with!  Her Minty Mascarpone Oreo Snowflake Cookies were my husband's favorite.  (I think I got one.)

To see all the entries, you can visit Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen to see pictures of the over 500 entries!