December 29, 2012

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

Butternut squash happens to be one of my favorite vegetables, and yet I hardly ever cook it.  For some reason it only occurs to me to make it around the holidays, and then I forget about it for the rest of the year.  So, I recently decided I need to incorporate it into our lives more often.  That's when this soup came to mind....well, that and the fact that it was 5 below zero the other morning and cold weather always makes me crave soup.  Soup always hits the spot on a cold winter day. 

I love the combination of squash with the apples in this soup.  I also like that it's thick and filling.  One bowl for lunch and I'm stuffed, which in my book that makes it perfect!  It's also a wonderful soup for a first course when having company.  Since I've fallen off the wagon when it comes to eating healthy lately, I think this soup will make an appearance on my table more often in the coming months.    

 Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 apples, peeled & cored and cut into chunks
2 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled with seeds removed and cut into chunks
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water +
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup half & half
1 tsp salt
1/4 pepper
1/2 tsp coriander 
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat, then add the diced onions.  Cook until onions are tender, stirring occasionally. 

Add the cut squash, apples, coriander, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cider, water and chicken stock and 1/2 & 1/2 to the pot.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook on medium-low for about 45 minutes or until squash and apples are soft.  Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to puree it until almost smooth (you can use a food processor if you don't have an immersion blender).  After it's blended you may want to add more water or stock to get the consistency you prefer - I added another 3/4 cup of water.  The soup should be thick, but you can thin it out if that's how you like it. 

December 26, 2012

Rolo Stuffed Cookies

Sugar cookies are the one type of cookie I never make.  I like them, but for some reason I never think to make them.  So when we were asked if we'd like to buy cookie dough  for a fundraiser I decided on a box of sugar cookie dough.  They actually came in handy the last couple of weeks!  Then one day I saw a bag of Rolos stuffed in the cabinet and I knew right away I needed to try using them with the sugar cookies (I saw them somewhere....Pinterest probably).

When my son saw me putting them together, he said he didn't think it was a good idea.  He said he prefers the sugar cookies just plain.  My husband on the other hand....he was excited when he came home and I told him what was inside the cookie.  After trying them he said he preferred it to just the plain cookies, and I have to say I agree!  My son stuck to his guns though and opted to eat the plain sugar cookies.  That's OK, more for us!

Rolo Stuffed Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookie dough (use your favorite homemade recipe, or go ahead and use store bought)

Preheat oven to 350, and spray your cookie sheets with cooking spray.  Take about a 1/4 cup of cookie dough and form it around one Rolo, then place on the cookie sheet.  Repeat until you've made as many as you want.  Place in oven and cook for about 12-14 minutes.  Remove from oven and let the tray set for a couple of minutes.  Then remove cookies and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  Doesn't get any easier than that!  You really could use any kind of cookie dough you want - snicker doodle dough, regular chocolate chip cookie dough, etc. 

December 24, 2012

Pecan Sticky French Toast Casserole

Ok, so who doesn't love sticky buns?  I love them, but if I'm going to make rolls/buns I usually opt for regular cinnamon rolls.  That's why this recipe is so perfect.  I get the pecan sticky bun deliciousness, but in an overnight casserole dish!  So quick and easy to put together, which makes it perfect for when you are having company for breakfast.  Just pull it out of the fridge in the morning, toss it in the oven and 25 minutes later you have an AMAZING breakfast!  Perfect for Christmas morning fact it may become my go-to Christmas morning breakfast from here on in.  Look at that french toast dripping in caramel pecan yumminess - it doesn't get any better than that!  Merry Christmas everyone ♥

Pecan Sticky French Toast Casserole (adapted from Betty Crocker)

1  cup packed brown sugar
6  tbsp butter
1/3  cup heavy cream
1 tbsp light corn syrup
¾ cup chopped pecans

French Toast:
3 eggs
1/2 cup half & half
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
8, ¾” thick slices French or Italian bread (or however many pieces fit in your dish)

Spray 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a small saucepan, add all the topping ingredients and mix together. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth - DO NOT BOIL. Spread topping in baking dish.

In shallow bowl, whisk eggs together. Beat in half & half, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Dip bread slices into egg mixture, making sure all egg mixture is absorbed; arrange over topping in dish. Cover, and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400°F. Uncover baking dish and cook for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and bread is golden. Remove from oven and let stand 3 minutes.  Place a large platter upside down over the baking dish, then carefully turn platter and baking dish over. Lift and remove baking dish, being sure to scrape any extra caramel topping onto toast. Serve immediately.

December 21, 2012

Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic often falls into the category of "So good, but never think to make it".  Every time I've ever had it I always love it. This is the time of year where entertaining is at it's highest point, so it's fun to pull something like this out of it's forgotten corner and to give guests a little treat.  

I personally love garlic anyway, but the sweetness that roasting it produces gives it a flavor that is just like no other.  There's a million things you can do with it, but most people really enjoy it on bread, either mixed with butter and toasted of just smeared on a fresh slice of bread.  It's amazing when used in salsa, mixed in with mashed potatoes, tossed with vegetables, etc.  The list is never ending.  Try it, saveur it, share just might want to refrain from kissing afterwards ;)

Roasted Garlic

Whole Garlic Bulbs (as many as you want)
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat your oven to 400.  Take your garlic bulbs and cut the entire tops of them off.  Place in a baking dish, and drizzle a decent amount of olive oil over each garlic bulb.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover baking dish with aluminum foil.  Place in preheated oven, and cook for 1 hour. 

December 19, 2012

Honey Nut Granola

This past weekend we had a family breakfast get together.  A few days prior to that my husband and I were discussing what to serve, and that's when we realized we hadn't had a breakfast get together before!  We've had company for breakfast, but not a big breakfast get together with all of our kids and grand-kids!  That's a total of 13...#14 is on the way, and I'm sure the number will continue to grow in the next few years.  I really am in need of a bigger house!  Well, more like a bigger living room and dining room, the rest of the house is fine the way it is I guess.

Anyway, when we have company I like to serve a variety of dishes so everyone can find something they like.  We figured with 4 kids in the mix we needed to keep it pretty simple.  We decided on pancakes, sausage, homemade cinnamon roles, scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, yogurt and granola.  I decided to experiment with the homemade granola this year (I get bored with the same old recipes sometimes).  As a general rule, I don't like to try new recipes when I'm about to have company in case it turns into a disaster.  However, I've made a lot of granola over the years, so I wasn't too worried that it would be a total flop.  Lucky for me it actually worked out perfectly.  I might even like this version more than my favorite granola recipe given to me by my friend Becca (sorry Becca, yours is still awesome, this one just has a different flavor)!  I don't know how anyone else felt about the granola, but I do know that I can't keep out of it!  I will definitely be making this one again!

Honey Nut Granola

1 cup Honey Bunches of Oates cereal
1 cup Honey Nut Cheerios
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 tbsp ground flax seed
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Mix the cereal, flax seed, and oats together, and pour onto the cookie sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile in a small saucepan, melt the butter, maple syrup and honey together on medium-low heat.  Add the vanilla and stir until everything is well combined and the butter is melted, then remove from heat. 

Pour the oat mixture into a large bowl.  Add the butter mixture, cashews and cranberries to the oat mixture and stir until everything is evenly coated.  Pour it back onto the baking sheet and spread it out evenly, while pressing down firmly.  Place in oven and cook 20-30 minutes or until golden brown (do not overcook), stirring occasionally.  Remove from oven and let it cool completely before breaking it up.  I like mine as clumpy as possible, but you can crumble it all up if that's your preference.  Store in an air tight container.

December 17, 2012

Rolo Turtle Treats

A lot of times I find that after a big holiday meal people are too stuffed to eat much dessert.  So, depending on the holiday and/or meal, instead of making a big dessert I will put out a variety of smaller things - like a different types of cookies, chocolates, or things that are more of the bite size variety.  When we have a lot of people over for dinner I like to have options for desserts in hopes that everyone will find something they like to munch on. 

There are also times when I am in a pinch for something to bring to a holiday party, either I am short on time or I just want to bring something other than sugar cookies! This is the perfect little treat that fits the bill for all the above scenarios. Super quick and easy to put together, and super tasty little treats to boot!  My son loves these things and always asks me to make more every time I make them.  Try something won't be sorry!

  Rolo Turtles

Waffle shaped pretzels
Whole pecans

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with pretzels (how many depends on how many you want/need to make).  Top each pretzel with a rolo, then place cookie sheet in oven for 3-4 minutes - you just want the rolos to be softened, not melted!  Remove from oven and gently place a whole pecan on top of each one and press down just slightly.  When you've added all the pecans, place tray in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set.  Store in air tight container, in fridge or at room temp (I prefer room temp because they are best eaten at room temp).

December 15, 2012

Bacon Jam

It sounds weird right?  Have you ever tried it?  OH.MY.GOODNESS.  I think I have found a new obsession!!!  Where has this stuff been all my life?  Sweet, salty, deliciousness.  What more can you ask for?!?!  The last couple of years I've gotten sick of making the same old holiday baking giveaways, so I decided this year I wanted to give something different.  I tried this jam at some country store this fall as a sample, and I knew right then that I had found something special.  I found a recipe and after I fooled with it a little I decided this is the homemade item I am giving away at Christmas.  More people need to have this goodie in their life.

The possibilities for what this incredible jam could be used on are endless.  Lots of people serve it on bread or crackers as an appetizer, but I've tried it on grilled cheese & meatloaf and both were amazing.  Next I want to try it on pizza and on a mouth is watering at the thought!  

Bacon Jam (adapted from Martha Stewart)

3 lbs applewood smoked bacon
4 onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed with the side of your knife
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
1 tsp Tabasco 

Cut bacon into 1 inch pieces and cook in a large skillet until it's lightly browned and fat is rendered off.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.  Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon fat from the pan, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes or until onions are translucent.  Add the maple syrup, vinegar, sugar, coffee, dry mustard and Tabasco and bring to a boil while stirring for about 2 minutes.  Add the bacon back to the pan and stir to combine.

Transfer mixture to the bowl of your slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, for about 4-5 hours or until liquid becomes syrupy.  Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse two times or until it's just slightly chopped up.  Cool completely, then refrigerate in an air tight container.  Stays good for about 4 weeks.  I like to warm mine a little in the microwave before using it, that way you can really taste all the yummy flavors going on!   Makes about 5-6 cups, depending on how long you let it cook down.

December 13, 2012

Honey Chili Butter

December is THE month for entertaining.  I've checked two grocery stores and neither of them had chicken wings or the brand of beer my husband likes!  Odd, but then I's almost Christmas, and people are having parties and get togethers.  We are doing a breakfast get together & a Christmas dinner one, and I have a birthday party to go to this weekend....busy, busy!  But it's fun isn't it?  Before you know it the holidays will be over and there won't be anything going on again.  Back to dreary winter days and nights until spring and summer come along when we can enjoy outside entertaining again!  CAN'T WAIT!

Anyway, here is an amazing condiment to try.  It is sweet with a little kick, and it goes well with almost anything!  I've used it on toast & rolls, in the pan when cooking eggs, on could even use it on a roasted chicken (although I haven't tried that yet).  Make this and serve it at the dinner table during your holiday meal, and I am sure your guests will be impressed!

  Honey Chili Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp + 1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl by hand or with a mixer until smooth and well combined.  Keep in fridge in airtight container.  I like to bring mine to room temp before serving with rolls.

December 11, 2012

Pumpkin Waffles

I had some pumpkin puree left over and I'd been trying to figure out what to do with it.  So the other morning I decided I'd try making pumpkin waffles for breakfast.  I didn't have a recipe so I just made it up as I went along, therefore I wasn't exactly sure how or if they'd turn out to be any good.  I figured if they were a flop I'd just feed them to our chickens!

I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of these waffles.  Just a subtle pumpkin flavor and with the syrup they were just delicious.  My husband really liked them, even though before I started he said he didn't think it sounded like a good idea!  Just goes to show that everything is worth a try!  I only happen to own a Belgian waffle maker, even though I prefer regular size waffles (not sure how that happened).  I am hoping to get a regular waffle maker someday, but until then I can only verify that these are yummy in the Belgian waffle form.  However, I'm pretty confident the recipe would work with a regular size waffle maker also. 

Pumpkin Waffles (6 Belgian size waffles)

2 cups milk
5 tbsp white vinegar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

Preheat waffle maker.  Pour the milk into a medium sized bowl and add the vinegar.  Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes then add the eggs, pumpkin, vanilla and melted butter and whisk to combine.  In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until fully combined.  Cook the waffles according to your waffle maker's instructions.

December 10, 2012

Pretzel Bark

Oh man...pretzel bark is the best thing ever.  Salt and chocolate...the ultimate combination.  You've seen all the different variations I am sure.  I love the salty & sweet's the ultimate treat for me.  Give me sweet and savory, and I am in heaven. 

Here is my take on it.  Pretzels provide the salt, the caramel layer provides the sweet, and the combination of the chocolate and the butterscotch chips provide the ultimate combination of the two, sending this dessert over the top.  Whether you are looking for something different to serve when you have company this holiday season or you are looking for something different to include in those holiday gift baskets, this is the treat that will steal the show.  Make it, eat it, love it!

Pretzel Bark

Waffle shaped Pretzels (you can use any pretzel shape you have, even pretzel sticks, you just want to make sure they are lined up nice and snug)
2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
Sea Salt

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray then line it with the pretzel waffles evenly.  In a medium saucepan medium high heat, stir the butter and the brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let it boil gently just until it starts to form a smooth caramel, then let it bubble a little and get really thick.  Remove from heat and pour over the pretzels, spreading it out as evenly as you can. Put it in the oven at 350 degrees for five minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for about 15 minutes then place in the freezer for about an hour to set.

Meanwhile, over a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips, stirring to combine until smooth.  After the bark has been in the freezer for an hour, remove it then spread the melted chocolate mixture evenly over top, and sprinkle with sea salt.  Place back in the freezer for two more hours to set.   Take it out of the freezer, and break it up into uneven chunks with your hands and serve.  If you are planning to use at a later date, just place in a freezer bag until ready to use. 

December 7, 2012

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

If you are like me and are always on the internet in search of recipe ideas, then you've probably seen this one floating around.  Remember that mile high stack of "Recipes to Try" pile I have?  Well, this one's been in there forever.  Needless to say I don't go thru that pile often, however, I came across a picture of these potatoes on Pinterest the other day and it reminded me that I've been wanting to make them.  I didn't dig out the pile and look for the recipe because I actually remembered the gist of it from when I printed it out a while back, so I figured I'd wing it.  

Can I just say that I LOVED these potatoes???  They really are perfect - soft in the middle with an amazingly crunchy exterior, and that folks makes them perfect!  I'm not even that much of a "potato person", so the fact that I thought these were amazing says a lot.  I can easily pass up the potatoes at dinner, no problem.  But if these are on the menu, I'm eating them!  They are so easy to make, and once you do it one time you won't need to refer to a recipe again.  They kinda look cute too ☺  This recipe is a must try....just do it!

 Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Small Red Potatoes, rinsed clean - the amount to cook depends on how many you are serving & how small the potatoes are, so you will have to decide that yourself
Garlic Salt & Pepper Seasoning
Dried Dill, or use any herb you prefer (fresh or dried)
Olive Oil

Fill a large saucepan about halfway with water and place your potatoes in the pot.  Turn heat on high and bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are fork tender - about 10 minutes, but you will need to keep testing them because they may need longer depending on their size.  Drizzle olive oil generously onto a cookie sheet, then place the boiled potatoes on.  Preheat oven to 425.  

With a fork or potato masher, gently press down on each potato until they break open - you don't want to completely smash them down, just apply enough pressure to break them open.  Brush olive oil with a pastry brush onto each potato (or you can just drizzle it on) , then sprinkle with the garlic salt & pepper seasoning to taste.  Lastly, sprinkle the dried dill on each potato.  Place cookie sheet in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until they are crispy and have a nice golden brown color to them. 

December 6, 2012

Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce

A few summers ago we went to one of my stepson's house for dinner.  We had a cookout (which we do most nights during the summer), and of course it was fabulous as usual (my stepson happens to be a great cook).  However, one thing that stood out to me this particular night was the amazing bbq sauce he used on the chicken.  It was really good, and I was shocked to learn it was our local supermarkets generic brand of honey chipotle bbq sauce.  It was delicious and I bought it whenever I needed bbq sauce after that.  Then one day, to my dismay, they didn't have it.  I thought it was a fluke and that they were just out of it.  The next time, and MANY more times after that, I looked for it and it wasn't there.  Apparently  they stopped making it, and it was then that I vowed to myself to try and make my own.

This is as close as I've come so far to that fabulous sauce.  It's thick, sweet, spicy and downright delicious!  I'm not necessarily saying that I've reached the end of my quest - there's always room for least until you reach perfection.  We've used it on chicken, venison and pork, but obviously it would be good on anything that you use bbq sauce for.  We use our grill all year (unless there's a foot of snow), but I still can't wait for summer......

Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Olive Oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup ketsup
1 tbsp molasses 
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeds removed & diced (can leave the seeds in if you like it REALLY spicy)
1 tsp dry mustard
1tsp chipotle chili pepper powder
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a small sauce pan with olive oil and heat on medium-low.  Add the onion and garlic and saute for 10 minutes, or until onions are translucent.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Use an immersion blender to puree mixture until smooth, or don't bother if you don't mind it a little chunky.  

December 4, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Happy December everyone!  Do you have all your Christmas shopping done?  I'm about half done, and the only reason it's not all done is because I don't know what to get the remaining people.  So I'm stressing out a little.  Anyway, since I have to drive a ways to get to a mall, and/or any type of shopping, I often find myself eating a meal out while I'm on the go.  There just so happens to be a certain grocery store that sells chicken tortilla soup at their salad bar occasionally, and I absolutely love it.  Sometimes I'll even buy extra and freeze it so I can have it for lunch another time.

So, for a couple of years now I've been trying to find or come up with a similar recipe.  It's been a while since I've had it last, so I'm not really sure how close I've come to their particular soup, however this recipe turned out to be really good also.  One of the things I love most about this soup is that it's filling, which is always what I'm looking for when I have soup for lunch.  We all enjoyed it for dinner with a grilled cheese sandwich the other night.  The boys both really liked the soup as well - it's tasty and it hits the spot.  So now all I need to do is get my hands on the one from the store and do a comparison to see how close I came.  Either way, I'm keeping this soup recipe and I'll definitely be making it again in the future!

Chicken Tortilla Soup (adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

2 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic salt & pepper seasoning
1 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
1/4 red pepper, diced
2 tsp garlic, minced
1, 14oz can tomatoes & green chilies
32 oz chicken stock
2 cups hot water
3 tbsp tomato paste
1, 15oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
3 tbsp cornmeal mixed with a little water
Olive oil 
Salt & Pepper

Combine the chili powder, cumin, and garlic salt seasoning in a small bowl.  Sprinkle a little on the chicken, then cook your chicken until no longer pink in the middle - I just put a little olive oil in a pan and cooked it on the stove top, or you can cook it on a baking sheet in the oven at 375 for about 25 minutes.  Once the chicken is cooked, shred it with two forks and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium-low heat.  Add your onion, green peppers and red peppers and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.  Add the tomatoes & green chilies, chicken, chicken stock, tomato paste, water and black beans.  Stir to combine, then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Add the cornmeal mixed with water, stir and simmer for another 30 minutes.  Taste and add more seasoning to adjust to your preferences if needed .  Cover and turn off heat and let it set for 15 minutes.  Would be yummy to serve with the following garnishes:  Tortilla strips, diced red onion, sour cream, grated Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro or avocado.

December 1, 2012

Soft White Bread

I have been on the hunt for the perfect sandwich bread recipe for years now.  Both my husband and son prefer white bread, but I pretty much never buy it for them and force them to eat wheat bread because it's better for them.  However, once in a while I like to treat them to white bread, sometimes buying it and sometimes making it.  My mother-in-law always made her own bread, and my husband LOVED her bread growing up.  So I have been trying to find something that replicates her bread - soft white bread, but not dense.  Over the years I have tried lots of recipes and none of them have even come close to what I am looking for.  Most of them were pretty decent recipes, just not what I'm looking for.  

That is, until now.  I really loved this bread and so did my husband.  He said it's the closest to his mom's bread that I've gotten to so far.  Now, I let this particular loaf rise about 15 minutes too long by accident, so I am hoping that when I try it again it will be exactly what I am looking for!  If not I have one more recipe to try that I was hoping may be the one, but this recipe will be hard to beat.  I don't know where I got this recipe from because it's been in my mile high stack of recipes to try for years now.  However, a big thank you goes out to whomever this recipe belongs to!  Definitely wonderful bread, and I will be keeping this recipe for sure.

Soft White Bread

6 tbsp warm water
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup more of warm water
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the yeast and 6 tbsp of warm water and let it set and dissolve for 5 minutes.  Add the sugar, salt, butter and additional 1 1/3 cups warm water and mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes to combine.  Add 2 cups of the flour and mix on low speed for one minute, then add the remaining 2 1/2 cups flour and turn the mixer to medium-low and let the dough hook knead the dough for about 10 minutes.  Dough should be nice and smooth and not be sticking to the sides of the bowl.  Spray a large bowl liberally with cooking spray and place the dough in the bowl turning it to cover the dough with the oil from the cooking spray.  Cover and let rise in a warm spot for an hour.

Punch down the dough and place onto a floured work surface.  With a rolling pin roll it into a 12x12 rectangle.  Tightly roll it up and seal the edges.  Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.  Tuck the ends of the dough tightly underneath and place the dough into the loaf pan.  Set pan in a warm spot and let it rise for another hour.  

Preheat oven to 425.  Place loaf pan on bottom rack and back for 15 minutes.  Cover the loaf with foil and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven brush the top with butter.  Cool on wire rack.

November 29, 2012

Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies

It's finally here.....the Christmas season is finally upon us!  Shopping, cooking, travel planning, and holiday cookie baking time!  Aren't you all excited???  I personally gave up doing the whole holiday cookie platter give-aways a while ago, however that doesn't mean I don't have a recipe or two that fits into that holiday cookie group!  Cookies are my favorite dessert after-all!

This one is my all-time favorite Christmas holiday cookie.  I came across it about 13 years ago, and fell in love right away.  I don't even particularly like gingerbread, especially if it's got a strong molasses flavor.  That's why I was surprised I even liked these babies!  Who would have thought gingerbread and butterscotch would even go well together???  However, I assure you that they are a match made in joke.  It's an unusual cookie that you don't see very often, and it's down right delicious.  You gotta try these.....even if you don't like gingerbread cookies!  

Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies (adapted from Nestle)

3 cups all purpose flour 
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
1 cup softened unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup mild molasses
1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl cream together butter, sugar, egg and molasses.  Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in a separate bowl then gradually add it to the creamed mixture until well blended.  Fold in the butterscotch chips.  Drop the rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets (I always spray my cookie sheets with Pam).  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.  Allow the cookies to cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes before removing to cool on wire rack completely.

November 27, 2012

Chocolate Delight

This past weekend we had my step-son and his wife and their 3 kids, and my step-daughter and her fiance over for dinner.  This can sometimes be challenging because I always want to make something that everyone will like, and since we have a few picky eaters in the group, this is just not always easy to accomplish!  

This time my focus was on dessert.  Cookies are always a safe bet, but I really wanted to present something different , so I went with this chocolate delight dessert.  I'm sure you've come across it somewhere at some point in your life.  It goes by many names (Sex In a Pan, Mississippi Mud Pie, Better Thank Sex Cake, etc) and there are several variations of it as well.  This is my version of it.  I figured most people like pudding and chocolate, so I was pretty sure everyone would like it.  It was a hit, especially with the kids!  I thought it was good and you don't need to be an avid baker to put this together.  It is perfect for kids or when you want to make sure to please everyone's tastes if you are having company.  Definitely perfect for a potluck!  It's easy, it's just can't go wrong!  I see this being made many more times in the years to come.    

Chocolate Delight

1, 3.4oz package Chocolate Pudding, make according to package instructions & refrigerate
1, 3.4oz package Vanilla Pudding, make according to package instructions & refrigerate 
2 cups homemade whipped cream for top layer (can substitute Cool Whip)
2 cups + Toffee bits

1 cup pecans, chopped into small pieces
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Cream Cheese Layer:
8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup homemade whipped cream (can substitute with Cool Whip)

The first thing you want to do is make the pudding and set it aside in the refrigerator until you're ready for it.  Next, preheat your oven to 350 and generously spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  For the crust, process all of the crust ingredients in a food processor to combine.  Pour into baking dish and press it evenly on the bottom of the dish.  Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool completely before putting the dessert together.

Once crust is cooled, you can prepare the cream cheese layer.  Add the cream cheese & sugar to bowl of electric mixer and mix until fully combined.  Add the 1 cup of whipped cream and mix until light and fluffy.  Spread evenly over the crust, then sprinkle about 1 cup of toffee bits evenly over cream cheese layer (I am guessing on the amount, I just added enough to cover it lightly).  Next spread the chocolate pudding evenly, then the vanilla pudding on top of that.  Top with the last 2 cups of whipped cream, and sprinkle 1+ cups of toffee bits on top of the whipped cream.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.