Archive | October, 2011

Banana Blueberry Muffins

31 Oct

I’m always looking healthier versions of the foods we love. Muffins are definitely one of our favorite breakfast treats but they aren’t exactly the best way to start your morning. When I noticed our browning bananas and excess of blueberries I went on the hunt for some kind of bread or muffin to use them up. I found several recipes and decided on this one because I loved the addition of wheat germ.

Joel gave them a try and I asked him what he thought and he told me they tasted healthy. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? The whole-wheat flour made them heavier and chewier than a typical muffin while the wheat germ added an interesting texture. They weren’t our favorite muffin ever but they were pretty tasty and much healthier than our usual muffin indulgences (did you say crumb topping?).  

Healthy Banana Blueberry Muffins
recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas (about 1 pound)
1/3 cup reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries*

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together flours, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, mash bananas with a fork (you should have 3/4 cup); stir in milk and vanilla.

3. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and banana mixture to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Fold in frozen blueberries.

4. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes (mine only took 17 minutes but my oven seems to cook hot). Let cool in pan 10 minutes; transfer muffins to a rack to cool 10 minutes more.

*To mix it up, replace the blueberries with mini chocolate chips or toasted walnuts.

Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats

30 Oct

When I saw this recipe over at one of my favorite blogs, Gimme Some Oven, I knew they were something I needed to try. I’ve been seeing all kinds of ways to fancy up the humble rice crispy treat in the food blog world lately and the perfect opportunity arose for me to join in. Some friends were having a gathering at their house and I asked what I could bring and dessert was requested. Life has been really crazy around our house lately so I was wanting to do something quick and simple. And these were just perfect. They seem more dressed up but are just as easy as the plain ole’ variety.

Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats
recipe from Gimme Some Oven

3 Tbsp. butter
1 (10 oz.) bag of mini-marshmallows
1/3 cup yellow cake mix
6 cups crispy rice cereal
1 (1.75 oz.) container of sprinkles

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat and add marshmallows. Stir until they begin to melt, adding in cake mix one spoonful at a time so its combined. Stir in cereal so it is completely coated with marshmallow mixture. Sprinkle in half of the sprinkles and mix. Press into a baking dish (any size will do) and top with remaining sprinkles. Let sit for about 30 minutes before cutting. I find spraying a knife with nonstick spray helps to cut them.Recipe linked to Sweet Indulgences Sunday, Friday Potluck, Friday Food, Sweets for a Saturday, Mangia Monday,  Mouthwatering Monday, Totally Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Crazy Sweet Tuesday, Cast Party WednesdayWhat I Whipped Up Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, Full Plate Thursday, Sweet Treats Thursday, Sharing Sunday and Holiday Sweet Swap.

Shredded French Dips

28 Oct

There was a chorus of “mmmm’s” as we ate this for dinner.  Once again, it’s another simple and quick go to recipe that is great for weeknight dinners. The small number of ingredients is also a huge plus to this recipe.

I don’t normally like anything soggy (cereal especially) but this sandwich is one of those things that has to be soaked in sauce. I mean, to the point of it running down your arm when you take a bite. It has such a strong, beefy flavor from the broth and consomme that you may just want to drink it.

This sandwich brings back childhood memories as much of the food I make does. French dips have always been a family favorite in our home and we used to eat them often growing up. When my brother was little, he used to call the au jus “rah jus.” I don’t know if it was a speech thing or if he really thought that’s what they were called but I always think of that when I make these. He is still a huge fan of them to this day and when he was visiting, I made these for him and they were a huge hit.

Shredded French Dips
recipe from food.com

3 lbs chuck roast
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can French onion soup
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can beef consomme
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed beef broth
1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
8 -10 bakery rolls
Provolone cheese, optional

1. Sear roast on all sides until golden then place in the crockpot.
2. Combine canned soups with bouillon granules (do not dilute soups).
3. Pour over meat and cook on low 8 hours.
4. Remove meat from crockpot and shred with forks. Skim fat from au jus in crockpot then return meat to crockpot to rewarm.
5. Pile meat on rolls, melt provolone on top and serve juice as dipping sauce on the side.

Linked to Mangia Monday, Totally Tasty Tuesday, Tasty TuesdayWhat I Whipped Up Wednesday, Mouthwatering Monday, Cast Party Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, and Full Plate Thursday.

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies {12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies}

26 Oct

It’s week 4 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas and today I am bringing you my all time favorite flavor combination: peanut butter and chocolate. Is there anything better? These are definitely not the typical crisscrossed peanut butter cookies but still have a very distinct peanut butter taste. They are soft, fluffy and pretty much perfect.

Noah doesn’t get sweets too often but when we went into the kitchen to get a drink and he spied the cookies on the cooling rack he went crazy. I just couldn’t say no so he enjoyed feeding himself one and making a crumbly mess. Later, he walked into the kitchen but I waited around the corner to see if he was going to come back. He was awfully quiet which usually means he is up to no good so I headed to the kitchen to investigate. And what do I see? He has a cookie in his hand with two bites out of it. Apparently, he is now tall enough to reach things off the countertop. Now I am in real trouble.

Can you believe there’s only 2 months until Christmas. I feel the need to start shopping…NOW. I’m a little obsessive. I’m a planner. I’m a list and to-do maker. I like to get things done early so they can be checked off my list. I like to get my shopping done by December 1st if at all possible. I already feel behind and it’s not even Halloween. Crazy much? But instead of stressing, I think I will eat one of these cookies and watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (ssshhhh….I didn’t just admit that).

Non-Traditional Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter flavored Crisco
1 1/4 brown sugar
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. half and half or milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 – 1 cup mini Christmas M&M’s

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream peanut butter, shortening and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg; mix well. Stir in milk and vanilla.
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in M&M’s.
3. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Let sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes then remove to a cooling rack. Note: Don’t put it too close to the edge of the counter or a little cookie monster may help himself.

Recipe linked to:
Sweet Treats Thursday
Holiday Sweet Swap
Full Plate Thursday
Mangia Monday
Tasty Tuesday
Totally Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Crazy Sweet Tuesday
What I Whipped Up Wednesday
These Chicks Cooked
Sweet Indulgences Sunday
Friday Food
Sweets for a Saturday

Halloween Peppermint Patties

24 Oct

This is one of those recipes that I knew I had to try as soon as I saw it. But that didn’t make sense. I am not a huge fan of peppermint patties. We usually have them at Christmastime. I  eat way too many get my fill and don’t think about them again until the next Christmas. But they just looked too fun to pass up. They tasted just like the real thing!

My original idea was to roll the “dough” out then cut it with mini pumpkin cookie cutters then fully dip them in chocolate. I was sadly defeated by the sticky, uncooperative mixture. It just wasn’t stiff enough to cut with a cookie cutter. But I think I will try them again and just keep kneading in powdered sugar until it is stiff enough. I didn’t want to go there this time as I wanted to be able to report to you what the real recipe tasted like. I’m thinking green Christmas trees will be my experiment. Speaking of Christmas, you could make these in red and green and sprinkle them over cookie trays for friends and neighbors. Or make them in pastel colors for the kiddos Easter baskets. I always love giving and receiving handmade treats, they radiate love.

You don’t expect peppermint when you bite into something orange so that makes them even more fun for Halloween. They would be great for any Halloween themed party. Give them a try, you won’t regret it!

3  1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus extra, as needed
1/4 cup pasteurized liquid egg white product
1 teaspoon water, plus extra, as needed
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Orange food coloring, as needed, optional
2 (4-ounce) bars 53 percent cocoa dark chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (recommended: Nestle Chocolatier)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1.Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the powdered sugar, egg white product, 1 teaspoon water, peppermint extract and 1 to 2 drops of food coloring, if using. Mix on low speed until smooth. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture forms a stiff dough (if the mixture becomes too stiff, add extra water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time and beat until smooth). Put the mixture on a work surface dusted with powdered sugar and roll it into a log about 12-inches long and 1 1/4-inches in diameter. Slice the log into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces, form them into balls and flatten into discs. Arrange in single layers on the prepared baking sheets. Let the candies dry, uncovered, at room temperature for 3 hours.

3. Put the chocolate and vegetable oil in a small bowl and set it over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Dip 1 half of each candy into the melted chocolate and return them to the parchment paper until the chocolate has set, about 3 hours.

Monster Claws {Baked Chicken Tenders}

21 Oct

Noah is our little monster (at 6 months). He loves to growl when we ask him what a monster says. He’s so funny!

And these are his sweet, adorable little claws.

Not the monster and claws you were originally expecting to see huh? Well, I’ll get to those. There are just thousands, yes thousands, of pictures of our little man so I can always seem to find an appropriate one (or two or three) for almost any post or story I want to write. And I just can’t resist sharing them with you all.

A lot of the time when I see something really cute and creative, it just doesn’t end up looking as great when I make them. Happily, this was not the case when I made these Monster Claws for dinner recently. They really do look like severed monster fingers. Not only did they look good but they tasted great too. The cornflakes provided a nice crunch so that they almost seemed fried and were still pretty healthy. I’m sure any kiddo would love helping make and eat these creepy little fingers.

Monster Claws
recipe from Halloween Food, Fun & Crafts

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning, divided (I used a garlic seasoning)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch strips
1 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
2 Tbsp. green onion, chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into triangles

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheet. Place flour and 2 tsp. seasoning in large resealable bag. Add chicken and seal; shake to coat chicken.

2. Combine cornflakes, green onion and remaining 1 Tbsp. seasoning in shallow dish; mix well. Place eggs in separate shallow dish.

3. Dip chicken strips in eggs. Roll in crumb mixture until well coated. Place on prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake 12-15 minutes or until no longer pink in center.

5. When chicken in cool enough to handle, make 1/2 inch slits in one end. Place bell pepper triangle into slit to form claw nail. Serve with dipping sauce or alongside pasta.

Linked to:
Mangia Monday
Friday Food
Tasty Tuesday
Totally Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
What I Whipped Up Wednesday
These Chicks Cooked
Full Plate Thursday

Caramel Apple Cake Pops {The Improv Cooking Challenge}

20 Oct

I am so honored to have been asked (along with over 100 other food bloggers) to participate in The Improv Cooking Challenge hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain. Each month we are given two ingredients and asked to make a recipe from them. For the first month of this awesome challenge, we were presented with apples and caramel. I immediately knew I would make these yummy Caramel Apple Cake Pops.

Aren’t they the cutest darn things you have ever seen? Well, maybe not the cutest. This guy totally wins in my book. Sorry, I love sneaking in photos of my little man whenever I can! This is Noah at 3 months as a giraffe. He is going to be a monkey this year.

I love that these look just like tiny caramel apples but when you bite inside it’s a moist, spicy cake that is accented by the sweet, gooey caramel and salty, crunchy peanuts. Yum! The cuteness of these treats does come at a cost. They are kind of time-consuming to make since they all have to be dipped and rolled. But they are totally worth it. And it is so fun to see your guests reaction to them which is so important to me. I bake and cook because I love to feed others and make them happy! These do the trick!

These were great as written but I think next time I want to punch up the apple taste. I was thinking of two different routes for this. Either dicing an apple or two into small chunks and stirring them in or possibly grating an apple and mixing that in (possibly replacing some of the applesauce). I wasn’t sure about the grated apple…thinking it might add too much moisture. Caramel Apple Cake Pops
recipe from Fun Stuff Cupcakes

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup applesauce
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts, chopped
30 wooden sticks
2 pkgs. (14 oz. each) caramels
5 Tbsp. milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 30 mini muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Stir applesauce, sugar, oil and egg in large bowl until well blended. Add flour mixture; stir until blended. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling three-fourths full.
2. Bake about 16 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
3. Line baking sheet with waxed paper; spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place peanuts on plate or in shallow dish. Insert craft sticks into tops.
4. Place unwrapped caramels and milk in large microwavable bowl; microwave on high 2 to 3 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring after each minutes. Working with 1 cupcake at a time, hold cupcake over bowl and spoon caramel over cupcake, rotating stick until completely coated. Immediately roll in peanuts to coat cupcake, pressing nuts lightly with fingertips to adhere to caramel. Stand cupcake (stick side up) on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cupcakes (caramel may need to be reheated briefly if it becomes too thick). Let stand 20 minutes or until caramel is set.

The Improve Cooking Challenge

Lady Behind the Curtain-Bringing the simplicity of entertaining into your life.

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Linked to the following wonderful blogs:
Full Plate Thursday
Sweet Treats Thursday
Mangia Monday
Totally Tasty Tuesday
Tasty Tuesday
Cast Party Wednesday
What I Whipped Up Wednesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Holiday Sweet Swap

Butterscotch or Peanut Butter Cornflake Cookies {12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies}

19 Oct

Around Christmastime a huge controversy rages in our house. It’s intense and we just can’t agree. We plead our cases but we just can’t relate. What is all this drama about? It’s all over butterscotch. Joel is a huge fan of it but me, not so much. When I really thought about it I realized a lot of his favorite desserts and family classics revolve around butterscotch. Monkey bread, butterscotch pudding and these cookies have graced special occasions as he grew up so they seem to have a special place in his heart. So I always fold. But this year, I’m making my favorite cornfake cookie too. I personally love anything with peanut butter so the peanut butter version were always a favorite of mine growing up.

What’s so great about these cookies is that both versions can be made from start to finish in about 5 minutes. I always seem to be attracted to the more intricate cookies at Christmas so these are great when you need to add a quick, easy cookie to your list to even out the work load. And I’m pretty sure I might have to deal with a  temper tantrum (from the 26 year old, not the 1 year old) if I didn’t make these.

Which do you prefer, butterscotch or peanut butter?

Butterscotch Cornflake Cookies

12 oz. butterscotch chips
4 Tbsp. peanut butter
4 cups cornflakes

Melt butterscotch and peanut butter together. Stir in cornflakes. Drop on waxed paper.

Peanut Butter Cornflake Cookies

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups cornflakes

Cook sugar and corn syrup in a large pan until sugar has melted. Remove from heat and add peanut butter. Stir in cornflakes and drop onto waxed paper.

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

17 Oct

Baking is a total stress reliever for me. Gathering all the ingredients immediately relaxes my shoulders and lets me breathe a little deeper. Cracking the eggs and pulverizing them in the disposal helps too. Sometimes if you came to my house and saw my island stacked with baked goods you might become worried. But I’m ok. I bake and I feel better.

These candy corn cookies were totally my therapy. The mixing, rolling, cutting, scraping and dipping soothed me. Not that I have that much to stress over. I’m pretty blessed and I know my worries are miniscule compared to many. But I stress anyway. Luckily, something beautiful and delicious is the result. And these were even sweeter because they turned out so cute and were for a good cause. I made them for a bake/handmade craft sale at my husband’s workplace. They raised over $1000 for the North Dakota chapter of The Make-a-Wish-Foundation. Isn’t that amazing? It’s feels pretty great to help out an outstanding cause while doing something I love!

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
4 tsp. milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Orange Food Coloring
¼ cup white chocolate chips
¼-½  cup yellow candy melts

1. Thoroughly cream shortening, butter, sugar and vanilla.

2. Add egg and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in milk.

3.  Sift together dry ingredients together then blend into creamed mixture. Mix in orange food coloring until desired shade has been reached.

4.  Divide dough in half and chill for 1 hour (or overnight – I usually make the dough the night before I am baking).

5.  On a lightly floured surface, roll to 1/4″ thickness (keep remaining dough refrigerated). Cut with candy corn shaped cookie cutter. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

6. Once cooled, melt yellow candy melts. Dip the bottom of the cookie in the melts and place on wax paper.

7. Once the yellow candy melts have hardened, melt the white chocolate and dip the tips of the cookies. Place back on the wax paper and allow to harden before serving. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 2 dozen cookies.

Spider Eggs {Deviled Eggs with Olives}

16 Oct

Today I wanted to bring you all another Halloween recipe with Spider Eggs. Sounds gross at first, right? But look at them…who knew spiders could be so precious? These would be such a fun treat to make with your kids then serve at your Halloween party. They would take such pride in helping assemble them and would be more likely to give them a try (if you have picky eaters on your hands). And they will be a hit with the adults too! They are a great appetizer to start out your Halloween themed meal.

Spider Eggs

12 eggs, hardboiled*
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. mustard
salt and pepper to taste
36 black olives

1. Remove shells from eggs and slice in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and place them in a food processor. Process until crumbly then add in mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Taste and add more of any ingredient to fit your tastes (this is how I do it, I don’t measure).
2. Spoon or pipe mixture into egg halves.
3. Slice 12 olives in half. Lay one half in the middle of each egg. Slice remaining olives in half, then slice each half into 4 strips. Lay 4 strips on each side of the halved olives that have been placed on the eggs.

*Keys to perfect hardboiled eggs: Place the eggs in a pot then cover with cold water; cover pot with a lid. Bring to a boil then immediately turn off the burner. Leave them for 15 minutes. Then run them under cold water or place in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. This method will result in perfectly hardboiled eggs every time!

Linked to the following wonderful blogs:
Everyday Sisters
Strut Your Stuff Saturday
Seasonal Inspiration
Manic Monday
Totally Tasty Tuesday
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Cast Party Wednesday
What I Whipped Up Wednesday

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