Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Almond Shortbread Cookies

I always seem to forget that I really enjoy shortbread until it's presented to me, and then I suddenly remember "oh how I love you so", and can't seem to get enough!  The shortbread must be buttery and soft, not too crumbly and maybe just maybe, half dipped in chocolate? Oh sure, why not!

For some reason, the other day I remembered I love shortbread cookies.  Probably because it's the Christmas season now and Christmas cookies are going to pop out of nowhere everywhere you go.  And so I thought to make some shortbread cookies of my own.

I found this recipe on that immediately jumped out at me because it happened to contain Almond extract! For some reason I LOVE almond in anything and that goes for Amaretto as well bc of it's almondy flavor.  I always have Almond Extract on hand but I've never seemed to really use much of I was happy to be able to bake up a combo of almond and shortbread!! 
However, I'm not a fan of mixing fruit with my desserts.  I have a whole long spiel on that that I won't bore you with, but this recipe calls for maraschino cherries in the centers...I left them out.  

What You'll Need:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Pure Almond Extract
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 5 maraschino cherries, each cut into 8 pieces (I would say this is optional ;-) 

1) Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the flour and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside.  
2) Beat the butter, shortening, sugar, and extracts together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
3) Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until well mixed. 
4) I added 1/3 cup of water to the dough because it was dry.  This was just enough as you don't want sticky dough.  
5) Roll into teaspoon size balls and place on an non-greased cookie sheet.  Flatten balls with the palm of your hand.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.  Let cool on a wire rack. 

I dusted the cookies with powdered sugar before consuming 5 on my own ;-) 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Roll

I wanted to create something this Fall season using pumpkin and I didn't want it to be a pumpkin pie.  I had extra cream cheese filling from a cupcake project and found this Pumpkin Roll recipe on "My Baking Addiction" that would be a perfect combination of both!

It looked great for breakfast, it looked great for a dessert, it looked great for an afternoon snack! It also looked a bit difficult :-/

I braved the kitchen this Sunday rainy afternoon after we took our walk to Starbucks and Safeway (Mike picked me up the biggest can of pumpkin he could find!) and went to town on my pumpkin roll.

The recipe said to use a jelly-roll pan to bake in...I had no idea what that was, but once I searched, it looked pretty much like a cookie sheet.  And I had one of those!

Once baked, I placed the cake upside down on a powdered sugared tea towel (clean of course!)

I rolled the cake in the towel and let cool on a wire rack.  

At this point you can make the cream cheese filling.  As you can cream cheese filling is a leafy green color.  It wasn't exactly what I was going for.  

I wanted it to be golden....but foliage color will have to do! excited about how well it rolled up.  

 Wrap in plastic wrap or foil and let cool in the fridge for an hour...I hate the anticipation :-///

Okay, so the foliage colored cream cheese may not be the most appetizing to look at.  Mike had a few choice words to describe it.  Buuut, he was a trooper and tried a piece.  

And the verdict....he put away hamburger that was thawing for dinner because he knew he'd be going back for "11 more pieces" of the pumpkin roll. So regardless of the was a big winner!!!

My tip: don't experiment with food coloring on this one :-/

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Deviled Eggs

I want to call this the "best ever" deviled egg recipe, but there's really nothing special and I truly believe that you can't really mess up a deviled egg.  I could eat trays and trays of deviled eggs!  I'm pretty sure when I made these for my best friend's bridal shower, I devoured the majority of them.  So, if I'm in attendance at your event and there's deviled best get to the event before me ;-)

I randomly had a hankerin' (this might be an Indiana term....Mike reminds me that I throw them out from time to time) for some deviled eggs. And I thought, deviled eggs are a great appetizer or side dish for any event, all year round.  So, maybe you have a potluck style Thanksgiving coming up with family or friends or are preparing a Thanksgiving dinner yourself.  This may be just the thing!

Let me tell you, it doesn't take much time at all, the ingredients you probably have lying around, and it's just super easy.

Now, I'd like to tell you where I got the recipe.  I don't like to take any credit for recipes, because they are usually quite simply not mine, but I really have no idea where I got this one. But I will say, I tweaked it as I'm a pro at doing....sooo... I a is mine!!

What You'll Need:
6 Hard boiled eggs
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp of mustard (not the spice, the actual yellow bottled mustard...I had no idea and got the spice the first time.  Have yet to open that darn bottle :-/)
1/2 tsp salt
Paprika to sprinkle
Sweet Relish (optional and my tweak point)

I used to find a great tutorial on the best way to hard boil an egg.  They have instructions for getting the best color yolk as well as the easiest way to peel off the shell. I highly recommend going here first and enlightening yourself!

1. Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks into a small bowl.  Set the whites aside.
2. Mash yolks with a fork.
3. Add mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, mustard, and salt.  Mix well!
4. Stuff or pipe into egg whites.  Sprinkle paprika on top.

Here's my tweak: I add a bit of sweet relish to the yolk mix.  It's nothing without it, but it's all up to your preferences.  And feel free to add as little or as much as you'd like.  I added about 1 Tbsp.

As you can see, I did not pipe the mix into the whites during my day of random deviled egg hunger....I was the only one devouring them and wanted to eat the mix right out of the bowl.  And I tend to go a bit heavy on the paprika :-/

However, for my best friend's bridal shower they were piped! Just use a frosting bag as you would normally :-) 
You may find your furry friends would like some as well!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In the mood for chocolate

When am I ever NOT in the mood for chocolate? It's not very often, that's for sure! And today I wanted a specific chocolate.  I'm all about texture and I wanted some ooohy gooey chewy brownies! 

I'm a pro at making Ghiradelli chocolate brownies from the box.  In fact, I could probably perfect just about any brownie from the box.  However, I've never made brownies from scratch! And unfortunately we didn't have any box-brownies in the house.  So I went in search of a homemade brownie recipe.  I came across these so-called "Lethally Delicious Bittersweet Brownies".  Now, I'm not a huge fan of dark chocolate or bittersweet chocolate at that, so I decided to tweak the recipe and go for a milk chocolate brownie instead.  

Also, I didn't have any chocolate chips around, but I have a massive stash of halloween candy left so I used all of the Hershey Milk Chocolate Nuggets that we had! Thank goodness they are no longer staring at me...but I'm pretty sure it'll be harder keeping my paws off the brownies.  

The full recipe is here on Lethally Delicious.  Again, I used milk chocolate in place of bittersweet chocolate/dark chocolate.  Mine could be called "Lethally Delicious Milk Chocolatey Brownies".

 I like my brownies a little undercooked so they are warm and gooey when consumed.  I don't enjoy a cakey brownie.  It's all about oven times and how much you stir the batter.  More stirring = more air = cakier.  Less stirring = more dense. And I always take my brownies out earlier than the recipe says!

 I was able to make these all while the pup had her noon nap ;-) 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to make your own...

Bath Salts!

I had a really cute bottle lying around and I didn't want to throw it out, but didn't quite know what to do with it...

Well, I was browsing through the aisles at Michael's (which can take years!) and found an aisle of items to create your own bath salts.  I'd come across a tutorial before on Salt Works so I knew exactly what I needed...bath salts and essential oil.  

I found some Mineral & Dead Sea Salt in a 2 lb. bottle.  

I picked up two fragrance oils: lavender and vanilla.  I thought they'd make a good combination.  There was also special coloring for fragrance projects as well but I decided against it.  

First, I tested the salts with three drops of lavender and thought it was a bit strong for how much salt I used so I added more salt, and then added three drops of vanilla.  The vanilla really helped to balance the harsh lavender smell and it was a perfect blend.  I just really went for a trial and error method and tested small bits at a time.   

Then I stirred up the salts and added it to the bottle.  I shaved down an actual wine cork to fit the top of my bottle.  Added a homemade tag and bow to top it off!

This would be a perfect idea for a homemade gift.  You could even use mason jars instead of apothecary bottles for a cheaper version!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls

As you can see, all the goodness is in the name!  I found this recipe on Make Happy and it was such a quick and easy recipe I had to go for it.  

My family at Christmas used to make these chocolate peanut butter balls called Buck Eyes.  Our neighbor made them for us a long time ago when we were little kids in Indiana, and this recipe reminded me of those with an added salty texture which I think is FANtastic!  

What you are gonna need:

1 1/2 Cups of Pretzels
1/2 Cup of creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy)
1 Tbsp of butter (softened)
2 Tbsp of brown sugar
1/8 tsp of salt
3 Tbsp of powdered sugar
1 Cup of chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

First, you want to crush up the pretzels into small bits.  I placed pretzels into a Ziploc bag and and used a wine bottle as a rolling pin (I think I should start another blog "The Thrifty Kitchen"...I don't think I have any baking appliances and I have very minimal utensils, but I always seem to  "make it work" with what's around! ;-) 

In a small bowl combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, and salt and stir until well blended and smooth.  Add in the crushed pretzels and mix well.  Then add in the powdered sugar.
Next, grab a plate or cookie sheet and place wax paper over.  You want to roll the mixture into about 1 Tbsp size balls and place on wax paper (the recipe says 1 teaspoon...but bigger is better when it comes to baking!).  Chill the balls for about 30 minutes in the fridge. 
While chilling, melt the chocolate in the microwave (30 seconds to a minute), you want a smooth mixture with no clumps.  Drop each ball and coat the entire surface.  Replace all coated balls onto the waxed paper and place back in the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.  
They go perfectly with a big cup of milk! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Honey Nut Scones

I'm a fan of scones....I really enjoy the pumpkin or maple scones at Starbucks!  I know, they aren't like I had a go at it with this recipe from The Whimsical Cupcake.  

The minute I read honey my mouth started watering and I wanted them right that minute.  

And I happened to have all ingredients on hand. 

  I used everything the recipe called for except for parchment paper on the baking sheet.  Didn't have any of that and NO you cannot put wax paper in the oven.  Yes, I tried because the intranet told me so....big fail.  I was seconds away from the smoke alarm going off....
sooooo, I just Pam-ed a baking sheet and called it a day! 

They are best served right out of the oven with more honey drizzled on the top.  I keep the honey bear nearby because I like to douse every bite ;-) 
They are the perfect fall breakfast with a cup of hot cider or your morning coffee! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Black Velvet "Starry Night" Cupcakes

Mike's brother Scott's birthday is the day before Halloween and I knew I'd be making a cake or cupcakes for the family birthday get together.  I wanted to create a spooky/Halloween themed cupcake.  I know Scott likes my Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting, so I wanted to play off of that.

I got these great Halloween night cupcake wrappers with bats, skeletons, and moons on them.  I wanted to match my cupcake with the colors.  

I've got to preface and say traditional Red Velvet cake is chocolate in flavor.  Here's the trick before the treat... I used a box of Betty Crocker yellow cake with Buff Black food coloring gel (no chocolate in sight, sorry if the "Black Velvet" threw you off).  

I put several drops of food coloring gel in to start and added more drops till I got just the right color.

I know, it looks kinda like cement.  

The color turned out just how I wanted them to. Perfect black as night cupcakes!

This whole cupcake adventure was all about embarking on use of my Buff food coloring gel.  I used teal and sapphire for the homemade cream cheese frosting.  

For those of you interested in the cream cheese frosting recipe: Cream together two sticks of unsalted (softened) butter with 1 pound of cream cheese (2 bricks) until well blended. Add 4 cups of confectioners sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract.  Stir till clumps have dissolved.  

I put both colors in two different frosting bags.  I used them together with only one frosting top to get a swirled outcome.  

See the two-toned frosting here?

Then, I sprinkled on some yellow confetti stars and black sugar crystals!

They were pretty much a hit for Scotty's Birthday and a Halloween treat :-)