Monday, March 17, 2014

. . . Rainbow Chocolate Chip Cookies . . .

When I was thinking about what I wanted to make for my son's classmates and teachers for St. Patrick's Day I had the brainstorm to make my Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies into Rainbow Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I had all the ingredients on hand and I love making cookies so this was perfect.  I created a cute little gift tag and he is all set for St. Patty's Day treats.

 In our house we are all about a good old chocolate chip cookie.  I swear that I have lived most my adult life trying to find the perfect recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  This recipe was one that was given to my mom when we were kids and then passed along for me when I was on my quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  I did change it up just a bit this time around and love how they turned out.  I added a secret ingredient that always makes a different with chocolate chip cookies...Cornstarch.  It will fluff up your cookies right away and mix that with the pudding and you have a no fail chocolate chip cookie recipe.  These are so fun for any occasion since all you have to do is add food coloring to match your event or your holiday.  Food coloring gel is the way to go when you want a bold color like these.  The only thing with food coloring in cookies is that when they bake they are going to brown which will darken the color a bit.  Don't be surprised when you pull them out of the oven and they aren't quite as bold in color.  They still will make people smile since the color is unexpected!

Rainbow Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 Cup Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Cornstarch 
1 Cup Margarine (Use Blue Bonnet for best results) or Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup Sugar
3/4 Brown Sugar
1 Small Package Vanilla Instant Pudding (the key to this recipe)
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Eggs
1 Bag of Mini Chocolate Chips and/or Mini M&Ms
Food coloring gel of your choice
 
Preheat over to 350 degrees

Mix flour, cornstarch and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine softened margarine, sugars, pudding mix and vanilla.  Mix well with electric mixer.  Add eggs one at a time.  Slowly mix in the flour mixture.  Divide your dough up into bowls and add your food coloring and mix well to blend it all in.  Add chocolate chips and combine.

Drop by spoonfuls on a Silpat mat or Parchment Paper lined baking sheet.  Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.


 I made 3 batches of cookies so I divided each batch so I would get 6 colors.  I would make sure to use the food coloring gel if you want bold colors.

 I chilled my dough a couple hours before baking and I think that also helps keep these cookies fluffy and not flat.  If you don't have time to chill them they are still awesome but I would try to chill them if at all possible.  Bake for 7 to 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

 Cool on a baking rack and then seal in an airtight container or package them up to give as gifts.

 These cookies just make me smile!

 I bagged up the cookies for my son's classmates so that each child got 4 of them and then added a cute tag.  All set!
 Each teacher, principal and secretary got a dozen colorful cookies for their special treat.

 Perfect for any occasion!  

Happy St. Patrick's Day!



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

. . . Easy Peasy 2 ingredient pumpkin muffins . . .

I love muffins of any kind but my hips would not love me if I ate them all the time!  Thanks to this easy peasy recipe you can enjoy muffins without all the calories or fat grams!

I have been making these 2 Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins for years!  I really don't recall where I came across the recipe originally but after making them once I was hooked.  Sometimes I make them with chopped up apples or raisins but my favorite way is just the basic recipe with some crumbled cereal on top. 

I personally like using a Spice Cake mix but this time around I didn't have one in my pantry so I used Yellow cake mix and it was just as good.  I think I would use the yellow cake mix again but would add some cinnamon and maybe a dash of pumpkin pie spice too.  Those spices would just bump up the flavor a bit. 

 These muffins are so incredibly moist!  I love making them in the mini muffin tins because they are the perfect bite size snack.  They aren't too sweet but will satisfy your sweet tooth without piling up the calories! 
 
 You will need just 2 ingredients:
1 can of Pure Pumpkin
1 Spice Cake Mix or Yellow Cake Mix
Optional: 
Chopped apples
Raisins
Crushed cereal for topping--I usually use Raisin Bran Crunch minus the raisins

 Mix the cake mix and pumpkin together until well blended.  If you are adding any mix ins this is where you'd do it.  If you use apples or raisins as I mentioned I'd make sure they are chopped pretty finely, especially if you are using a mini muffin tin.  You don't want the chunks of fruit to be bigger than your whole muffin.

 Drop by spoonfuls into a greased muffin tin.  You can use liners for your tin if you prefer but I usually skip this step--call me lazy but I don't want to unwrap my muffins.  If you are using crumbled cereal on top this is where you'd sprinkle it on.  To keep it in place I usually lightly press it into the batter before baking.

 Bake at 350 for about 18 to 20 minutes or until muffins are set.

 Let the muffins cool for a bit then remove from muffin tin.  Seal in an air tight container or a ziploc bag.  I typically keep mine in the fridge if I'm not serving them immediately.

 YUMMY in the TUMMY!

 Could this be any easier?  Nope, I don't think so!

Don't you just love simple recipes that pack a big punch?  I know I do!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

. . . Candy Bar Pie with Pretzel Crust . . .

Anything with Peanut Butter AND Snickers AND Pretzels has to be amazing, right?  Yep, in my mind that is going to be one awesome recipe and this one sure fits the bill.  So yummy!

I saw this recipe online at Southern Living several years ago and made it a couple times and then forgot about it until last weekend when I was planning a dinner and needed a dessert that was good but not too time consuming or too hard to make.  I started flipping through my massive binder of recipes and this one was what caught my eye and I suddenly remembered how great it was.  It has a pretzel crust which makes it unique and then it has almost a caramel flavor due to the Snickers and the filling ends up being like a cheesecake and then the crunchy nuts on top just push it over the top.

Have I made you want to run to your kitchen to start preparing this Candy Bar Pie?  I hope so because it's that good.

. . . you will need. . .

CRUST:
  2 cups finely crushed pretzel sticks 2 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar 3/4 cup melted butter 
PIE:
3 (2.07-oz.) Snicker Bars or about 20 mini Snickers (the tiny ones)
1 baked Pretzel Crust
1 1/2 packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sour cream 
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter 
2 large eggs 
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts 
for the crust   Stir together all ingredients; firmly press crumb mixture on bottom, up sides of a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack, and cool crust 1 hour or until completely cool before filling.
 for the pie  Preheat oven to 325°. Cut candy bars into 1/4-inch pieces; arrange over bottom of crust. Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add sour cream and peanut butter, beating at low speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Spoon cream cheese mixture over candy on crust.
Bake at 325° for 35 to 40 minutes or until set. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool 1 hour or until completely cool. Cover and chill 2 hours.
Right before serving the pie microwave chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 30 seconds or until melted and smooth, stirring at 15-second intervals. Drizzle over top of cooled pie, and sprinkle evenly with peanuts.
 
gather your ingredients
Prepare crust by using 2 cups of crushed pretzels.  I put mine in a ziploc bag and crushed them with a rubber mallet. 
Combine melted butter, pretzels and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and mix up
Press pretzel mixture onto a lightly greased pie plate and press it up the sides until about even.  You may have to remove some of the excess so the crust isn't too thick.  Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes and then cool completely before assembling the pie.
Chop up your Snickers bars.  I used the tiny mini ones and used about 20 of them chopped up into little pieces.  
 Place them all around the cooled pretzel crust covering the entire bottom of the crust.
Beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.
Add your sour cream and peanut butter and mix well.  Then add eggs one at a time just until they are mixed in.
Pour your cream cheese mixture over the candy bars and smooth it all the way to the edges of the pie plate.  Baked at 325 for about 35 to 40 minutes or until pie is set up.
Perfection!  Let pie cool and then chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Just before serving you are going to top the pie with drizzled chocolate and peanuts.
Chop your peanuts in a food processor of mini chopper
Mix your whipping cream and chocolate chips together and microwave to melt.  Make sure you stir this up every 15 seconds so the microwave won't burn your chocolate.
Drizzle the pie with melted chocolate and then sprinkle the peanuts all over the top.  
Cut and serve to your hungry guests or family
rich and creamy!
this pie disappears before your eyes!
perfection in my opinion!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

. . . Cheesy & Spicy Sausage Pasta . . .

Holy Yummy, Batman!  You are going to want to run to the grocery store to grab these ingredients to make this pasta dish.  It's so easy but packs a big punch with the slightly spicy and cheesy flavor!  The first time I made this my husband liked it so much he said "You should definitely make this for Christmas Eve Dinner!".  Now that is a compliment I would say.

  I first saw this a long time ago on Pinterest with a little different list of ingredients and then more recently Kevin and Amanda posted it on her blog.  Of course her beautiful photos made me want to make it immediately.  While my photos aren't as pretty as hers I hope you will be just as tempted as I was because it is totally worth it.  I say that it's a little spicy but if you get the mild Rotel it isn't too overpowering at all.  I also liked using Rotini pasta because the sauce clings more to it but you could use any small pasta you have on hand.  I also changed up the cheese a little because I'm not a big fan of Monterey Jack by itself so I used the Colby and Monterey Jack combo cheese instead.  The great thing about this dish is that it's a One Pot Meal!

We did serve this for Christmas Eve Dinner and everyone was crazy about it which made me a happy camper!  After we were all done inhaling the pasta we discussed some variations and the one thing everyone agreed on was how good it would be with chicken or shrimp.  Don't be afraid to change it up a little.  Go on with your bad self and get crazy with it! 
You will need: 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 package smoked sausage
1 1/2 cups diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chiles, Mild is what I used
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces Rotini Pasta
Salt and Pepper to your liking
1 Cup Colby and Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions

Add olive oil to an oven-safe skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add sausage and onions and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes or so. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, Rotel, heavy cream, pasta, salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a boil, cover skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pasta is tender--about 15 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with scallions. Broil in the oven until cheese is brown and bubbly.

 Gather your ingredients
 Slice the package of sausage thinly into discs
 If you didn't buy a packaged of chopped onions then of course chop your onion up and then add the sausage and onions to a heated skillet with olive oil and saute until everything has a nice browness to it.  Add the garlic and saute for a few seconds.
 Add the Rotel, Pasta, Salt and Pepper and Chicken Broth.  Stir it all in.
 Add your heavy cream and combine well.  Cover your pasta mixture and simmer over medium low heat for about 15 minutes or so.
 It's like magic when you uncover it because you've created the perfect creamy pasta sauce.  Sprinkle with 1/2 of the cheese and mix it in then top with the remaining cheese.
 Top with your chopped up scallions and place under the broiler in your oven for a few minutes--check this often to avoid burning it.  You want the cheese to be melted and turn brown and bubbly but not charred.
Perfection!
 The perfect dinner!
Enjoy this yummy meal!

Monday, February 17, 2014

. . . Homemade Peppermints . . .

I realize that technically Valentine's Day is over but due to our snowstorm last week my son's school rescheduled Valentine's Day to today.  I didn't want to make these too early so they would be fresh so I waited until after Valentine's Day to make them so you'll have to excuse me for being so late.  I decided to share because they are so good and it is easy to adapt them for any holiday or occasion.  I'm thinking pastel colors for Easter cut out in mini eggs and 4th of July in red, white and blue cut into little stars and baby or bridal showers in the color of your choice...the list could go on since they are so versatile!

This recipe came from Mom on Timeout and she really has a winner with this one!  They are creamy and minty and are the perfect amount of sweet.  You could use any flavoring you'd like.  I chose mint but was thinking I'd like cinnamon or lemon for them.  Whatever flavor you choose will be awesome I'm sure.

I have actually made these a couple times and learned a lot on my first round.  I had no idea that the mixture never really forms a ball until you knead it and I also learned that the food coloring doesn't absorb real well until you knead it to blend it all in.  My favorite thing is to mix up the colors to create a tie dyed effect.  These would be so cute for a tie dye party with all bright colors mixed together.  
 . . . you will need . . .

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup light corn syrup
4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 - 2 tsp your choice of extract or candy flavoring
**if you are using mint extract add it by 1/4 teaspoonfuls at a time,
tasting between due to the strength of mint extract.  
food coloring - preferably gel to achieve bold colors
White sugar to roll the rolled balls in
Fork

Combine butter and corn syrup together in a small bowl with electric mixer.  Add 2 cups powdered sugar and your choice of extract and beat until well combined. Add extract 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon at a time until the mixture reaches your desired flavor.  Remember if you are using mint to be very careful how much you add.  It is very potent.  Mix in an additional cup of powdered sugar.
Turn bowl onto a cutting board or counter sprinkled with last cup of powdered sugar.
Knead the mixture until sugar is absorbed and is completely smooth. Divide dough into as many portions as you want so you can color them with food coloring. Tint with color of your choice but if you want bold colors be sure to use food coloring gel which can be found at stores like Michael's and Hobby Lobby.  Shape into 3/4 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Flatten balls gently with a fork.
Use a small heart shaped (or any shape you want) cookie cutter to cut. Let candies stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 day. Store in an airtight container or package up for gift giving.  

 Mix your butter and powdered sugar together with electric mixer.  Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and flavoring extract and mix well.  Add one more cup of powdered sugar until you have what looks like fine powder.  It is not going to form a dough until the next step.

 Dump 1 cup of powdered sugar on a cutting board or your counter (I used a marble pastry board) and add the flavored mixture to this.  Knead the mixture into the powdered sugar until you get a smooth ball of "dough" as seen below.

 Divide your dough into separate bowls for coloring or if you are just using one color place in one bowl.  Add food coloring gel for bold colors.  I used Wilton Gel Purple and Rose Pink to get my colors.

 Food coloring may not get mixed in completely with your mixer so you will have to knead it again until it's well blended.  

 Roll the dough into 3/4 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.

 Flatten ball gently with a fork so your finished mints have little ridges in them.  It works best to do the ridges before you cut them or you end up flattening your shape.

 Use a small heart shaped cookie cutter to create your finished mint.  You could use any shape cookie cutter as long as they are small.
 
 Save all your scraps and roll them together to create a tie dyed look.  These are my favorites.

 . . . pretty enough to eat . . .

. . . perfection . . .

 . . . yummy in the tummy . . .
 I packaged mine in plastic Valentine's cups and wrapped them in cellophane and tied a cute "Mint" to be tag to them with tulle ribbon.  Perfect gift for teachers and principals for Valentine's Day!

. . . mint to be my valentine . . .

 This is just a bonus picture to show you what I sent in for my son's classmates.  Grabbed a package of Valentine's Day gummy bears and tied this cute tag to each bag with some baker's twine.  

. . . easy peasy . . .

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