Wednesday, June 29, 2011

S'mores Brownies


I'm going to go ahead and assume you are all very familiar with the concept of a s'more. (Assuming otherwise would just make me sad.) First you take a graham cracker, top with a portion of Hershey's chocolate, roast a marshmallow to perfection, slap the marshmallow on top of the chocolate so it gets all melty, top with a second graham. Enjoy. Then have s'more.(=some more.)

This pan of awesomeness includes two batches of brownies with the s'more ingredients stuffed in between. GLORY. 


S'mores Brownies
Serves 24

2 packages of your favorite brownie mix (I'm a huge fan of Aldi's!)
Oil, Water, and Eggs as called for on packaging (be sure to double everything!)
6-8 whole sheets of graham crackers
6-8 Hershey's chocolate bars
24 large marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Grease a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray. Set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl combine both brownie mixes and the appropriate amount of oil, water, and eggs. (another option: Make two separate batches of brownies so as not to confuse yourself. :D)

Pour half of the brownie mix in the bottom of the 9x13 inch dish. Layer on graham crackers, followed by Hershey bars followed by marshmallows. Pour the second half of the brownie mix carefully over the top of the marshmallows, covering as much area as possible. 

Place on a baking sheet and bake 35-45 minutes or until set. (It can be really difficult to decide if these extra thick brownies are cooked through. I err on the side of undercooked, because the brownies will set up a bit and everyone around here loves thick and gooey brownies. :))

Monday, June 27, 2011

Italian Vegetable Salad


Tonight we had the healthiest dinner ever. No joke. Take a ton of fresh colorful veggies. Add garlic. Add garbanzo beans for a little protein. Pour on your favorite vinegar and BAM! Dinner is served.

This would also be great as a summer side dish, but why limit yourself?? ;)


Italian Vegetable Salad 
recipe by
Serves 4 (as a meal) or 8 (as a side)

1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
1 cup green pepper, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 cup sugar snap peas
1/2 jalapeno pepper, veins and seeds removed--finely chopped
1 whole tomato, chopped
1 whole carrot, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can garbanzo beans/chick peas, drained
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
drizzle of olive oil or canola oil, if desired

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss well to combine. Serve chilled. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies


If you love toffee, you'll definitely love these cookies. The crunchiness of the toffee adds a texture to these already delicious cookies.  

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies
Makes 3-4 dozen 

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening 
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla 
2-1/2 flour 
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt 
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together margarine, shortening, brown sugar and sugar. Mix in vanilla and egg and egg yolk until combine. Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and toffee bits. 

Drop by tablespoonful onto a large cookie sheet (preferably lined with a silicone baking mat.) Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges and tops of cookies are just golden. Let rest on the cookie sheet 2 or 3 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Angel Food Cake with Fresh Strawberries


As a lower fat and just as delicious alternative to strawberry shortcake, angel food cake is the perfect choice. The method is very specific but quite simple, and I'm so glad I gave this recipe a try. There's something about making your own angel food cake that makes you never want to go back to the store-bought variety. 


Angel Food Cake
recipe by Betty Crocker Cookbook
Serves 12

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cake flour*
12 large egg whites
1-1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla 
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt

for the strawberries
2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1/2 cup sugar

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. 

*To make cake flour--sift together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour with 2 Tbsp cornstarch. 

In a medium bowl, mix sifted powdered sugar with cake flour. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on medium/high speed until foamy. Beat in granulated sugar 2 tablespoons at a time on high speed. Add in vanilla, almond extra, and salt with the last addition of sugar. Continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. (You should be able to hold the beater in your hand, upside down, and have the peaks of the batter stand up stiffly.) 

Sprinkle powdered sugar/flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, over egg white mixture, folding in with rubber spatula just until sugar/flour mixture disappears. Push batter into ungreased 10x4 inch tube pan. Cut gently through batter with metal spatula or knife to break air pockets.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cracks feel dry and top springs back when touched lightly. Immediately turn pan upside down onto heat proof funnel or bottle. (I recommend the funnel. Also, do not break the top "crust" or the cake will run out and be ruined.) Let hang about 2 hours or until cake is completely cool. Loosen side of cake with knife or long metal spatula. Turn out onto a cake stand or plate. 

for the strawberries:
While the cake is baking or cooling, place strawberries into a medium bowl and chop to small equal sizes (A food processor may be used.) Stir in sugar. Cover and let set at room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Use a serrated knife to slice up the cake and top each serving with strawberries. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Italian Pasta Salad


If you asked me, pasta salad has absolutely nothing to do with mayonnaise. It has everything to do with Italian dressing and fresh, colorful vegetables. This version of pasta salad is inspired by my Italian family reunions. Feel free to through in chunks of your favorite cheese, extra vegetables, or pepperoni. Yum!

We had this for a quick and easy dinner on a hot, humid evening. The perfect alternative to a big plate of spaghetti. 

Italian Pasta Salad
serves 4-6

2 cups dry rotini pasta, cooked
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup chopped roma tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh zucchini
1/4-1/2 cup fresh chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
4 slices deli salami, cut into squares
1/4-1/2 cup low fat Italian dressing

Cool cooked pasta completely OR rinse with cold water to cool. 
In a large bowl combine cooked pasta with fresh vegetables and garlic. Toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour in Italian dressing and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate or Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blackberry Streusal Pie


With the abudance of fresh blackberries, I couldn't let the pie-making opportunity pass me by. I am so glad I made this pie. I sifted through 10 or 15 different blackberry pie recipes before coming to the conclusion I was going to need to create my own version. The part I was most concerned with was creating a thick enough berry filling--no one wants their pie running all over their plate. 

This is fast and easy to throw together--especially if you have a homemade pie crust frozen and ready to use. ;)  

Blackberry Streusal Pie
recipe by
Serves 8-12

4-5 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed and dried
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp corn starch

for the streusal
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, gently toss together blackberries sugar and salt. Add in flour and corn starch and fold together. 

In a separate bowl, cut together the butter, brown sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon until crumbly. 

Pour blackberry mixture into the bottom of a prepared (uncooked) pie crust. Sprinkle the streusal on top.  

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Cover loosely with tin foil and bake another 25-35 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown. 

Let cool completely before serving.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vegetable Soup (Slow Cooker)


With 10 minutes to go before church, I realized I needed to have a plan for lunch. The Crockpot was called my name, but I was at a loss for ideas. I started pulled out piles of fresh vegetables from the refrigerator, and before I knew it I had compiled a delicious and TOTALLY healthy soup. 

Simple. Overflowing with fresh vegetables. Nothing is lacking. (Assuming you love your veggies!)

Vegetable Soup (Slow Cooker)
Serves 4

2 small zucchini, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 whole small onion, chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped (OR 1 can diced tomatoes)
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2-3 cups water

Place all ingredients into a 4 quart slow cooker, stir. Cook on High 4-5 hours or on Low 6-8 hours. Serve with a side of Honey Yeast Rolls or French Bread

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sandwich Buns (a la Bread Maker)


I am a loyal fan of the Light Brioche Buns recipe from Annie, but on the day I decided to make these delicious Homemade Sloppy Joes for our small group to share, I didn't have the time. I opted for a bread-maker alternative, and I'm SO glad I did. Having this little number in my recipe arsenal is a good thing. 

I adapted my bread machine manual's recipe for Dinner Rolls into this sandwich bun recipe and they turned out delicious--a beautiful crust, soft and slightly sweet interior, and the sturdiness necessary to hold up to the Sloppy Joe (or any sandwich of choice.) I real winner!

Sandwich Buns (a la Bread Maker)
recipe adapted from Sunbeam Bread Maker Manual
Makes 12-15 buns

1 cup water
2 Tbsp oil or softened butter
1 egg
3-1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp dry active yeast

Place all ingredients in bread pan according to manufacturer's instructions. Select the "dough" cycle. 

Once the dough is completed, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. 

Grease a cookie sheet. Divide dough into 12-15 equal pieces. Shape into a slightly flattened sphere, smaller than desired final size. Dough will expand. Place buns 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Spray with non-stick cooking spray or brush with butter or egg wash, if desired. Cover with a lightweight towel and let rise 30 minutes, until nearly double.  

Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How To {Freeze Cookie Dough}


I only wish I would have thought of this method sooner! It's perfect for keeping the cookie jar filled with freshly-baked cookies, without forcing you to eat a dozen every day. :) (Not that I have experience with this!)

How to Freeze Cookie Dough

completed batter for your favorite cookie (chocolate chip, lemon sugar, snickerdoodles, etc)
cookie sheets
air tight freezer containers

Once your cookie dough is completed, scoop dough onto a cookie sheet as you usually would if you were going to bake them. Roll each scoop in the palms of your hands to create a perfectly round ball. If the cookie is to be rolled in sugar or cinnamon-sugar, complete that step at this point. Place the round dough balls on a cookie sheet 1/2 to 1 inch apart. Place the cookie sheet(s) in the freezer, under covered for 1 to 2 hours, or until balls are thoroughly frozen. Transfer dough balls to an airtight, freezer proof container and store up to 3 months. 

When it's time to bake preheat the oven to the temperature the recipe indicates. Arrange desired number of frozen dough balls on a cookie sheet 1-2 inches apart. Bake for the prescribed time, adding 1-3 minutes to the end of the baking time, if necessary. Cool as usual. 


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chocolate Sheet Cake

If the Pioneer Woman says something is the "best ever," then gosh darn it, it's going to be the BEST EVER. This cake is fast and easy to throw together from scratch, and I guarantee it will be gobbled up by a hungry crowd of any age!  (I didn't have a chance to snag a photo of a cut piece of cake because it disappeared!)


Pioneer Woman's Best Sheet Cake Ever
Serves 24-36

for the cake:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 Tbsp (heaping) cocoa
2 sticks butter
1 cup boiling water
½ cups buttermilk
2 whole eggs, beaten 
1 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp vanilla
for the frosting 
1-3/4 sticks butter
4 Tbsp (heaping) cocoa
6 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
3-1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Coat the bottom and sides of a large baking sheet (sheet cake pan--18x13 inch) with non-stick cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cocoa. Stir together.

Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake for 15-20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Pour over warm cake.

Let cool at least 1 hour before serving. (Though you might not be able to wait that long. In this case, just prepare yourself for the mess of deliciousness.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hawaiian Barbecue Pulled Chicken Sandwiches


This recipe is as fast as lighting to put together and so delicious--everyone will be asking for more! It takes no more than 5 minutes to put together. It cooks to perfection in the crockpot, tantalizing your tastebuds all afternoon. Then simply shred the meat, pile it on top of your favorite hamburger bun and enjoy!

Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
recipe adapted from
Serves 8-10

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 whole onion, sliced into chunks
1 -20 oz can pineapple (niblets or crushed), drained
1 -18-20 oz bottle favorite BBQ sauce

Coat the inside of a 4 quart slow cooker with cooking spraying. Combine chicken, onion, pineapple, and barbecue sauce in the slow cooker. Cook on high 4-5 hours. Using two forks shred the chicken and allow it to soak up the juices for a few minutes before serving atop your favorite sandwich bun

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Blueberry Buckle Cake


With blueberries on sale nearly every day at our grocery store, I've been stocking up and searching for the perfect excuse to use them in a recipe. This cake was EXACTLY what I was hoping for. All of the girls and guys in our small group absolutely raved over it. 

Not only does this cake look beautiful and impressive, but it tastes amazing. It's dense and moist like a giant blueberry muffin, except it's topped with a cinnamon streusel that's to die for. You will NOT be sorry you made this. 


Blueberry Buckle Cake
Serves 8-12

For the topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

For the batter:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cake pan and set aside.

To make the topping: In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Rub in the butter using your finger tips (or a pastry cutter) until the mixture is crumbly. Set the topping aside.

To make the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the egg and vanilla, mix until smooth. Alternately add the buttermilk and the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, ending with flour. Stir only enough to blend. (Batter will be very thick.) Gently fold in the blueberries.

Pour the batter evenly into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the topping over the batter and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the buckle cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a knife. Holding the cake pan in your left hand, gently tip the cake out onto your right hand, remove the pan, and gently place the cake onto a serving dish.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reese's Peanut Butter Cookies


Experimenting with new cookie recipes is probably my favorite past time. I mean, seriously. What could be better than butter, sugar, and various forms of chocolate?! This recipe stems from my dream of a world where everything is Reese's peanut butter and chocolate. Perfect in every way! (assuming you like peanut butter, that is. Please don't talk to me if you don't. JK. but really.)


Reese's Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 3 dozen cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla 
2-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (or Eggs!), chopped
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar and sugar. Mix in vanilla and eggs until combined. Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and Reese's. 

Drop by tablespoonful onto a large cookie sheet (preferably lined with a silicone baking mat.) Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges and tops of cookies are just golden. Let rest on the cookie sheet 2 or 3 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.