Monday, December 17, 2012

Sugared Sugar Cookie Recipe

I have finally found the secret to easy Christmas Cut-Out Cookies --eliminating the frosting. *gasp* I know, I know, it's not the same, but friends if you despise the frosting process as much as I do then this method is your ticket to Christmas cookie happiness. All the deliciousness of the sugar cookie with the fuss of frosting. (Plus, frosted cookies are a pain to transfer or store without destroying your hard work.) 

Here's the deal

Step 1) Make the dough for these Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies. Please, please, please don't make any other sugar cookie than these ever again. Bridgette from Bake @ 350 is on to something with this perfect recipe. Butter, vanilla & almond extracts & sugar. What a beautifully pure sugar cookie. 

Step 2) Roll out the dough and cut into pretty Christmas shapes. (Other shapes are acceptable. Let's not lock ourselves into some Christmas mold here.) 

Step 3) Arrange cut-outs on a baking sheet. Oh, yeah, and make sure the oven is preheated to 350. I'm assuming you did that in Step 1 because you were following the recipe, right? 

Step 4) Pour 2 Tbsp of milk into a small dish. Use a pastry brush to thinly coat the top of each cookie with milk. You want them damp, not puddled. 

Step 5) Sprinkle with colored sugars until your heart is content. 

Step 6) Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are set. Let cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Step 7) Store in an airtight container and/or EAT!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Monkey Bread Recipe (Bread Machine)

For extra-special weekend mornings or just because you're craving something warm, gooey and oh-so-sweet, you must indulge in this Monkey Bread. I had previously experienced the traditional version of Monkey Bread which included pre-made biscuit dough. That form of this sweet treat was certainly delicious, but I wanted to try my hand at the from-scratch method. I kept it slightly more simple by using a bread machine dough cycle rather than making the dough by hand. win-win, I say. :)

The lovely loaf was devoured quickly. I recommend pulling apart each piece with your fingers. None of this "fork" stuff for Monkey Bread. ;)


Monkey Bread Recipe (Bread Machine)

for the dough
1 cup water
2 Tbsp margarine or butter, softened
1 egg
3-1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt

for coating
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 egg plus 1-2 Tbsp water, beaten

for glaze
1/2 butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine first 7 ingredients in your bread machine pan and select the "dough" setting. (This should take approximately 1-1/2 hours.)

When the dough cycle is complete, roll the dough onto a lightly floured surface creating an 8x8 inch square. Use a large knife or a bench scraper to cut the dough into 64 equal pieces.

Prepare a bundt pan by coating it lightly in shortening. 

Stir together sugar & cinnamon in a cereal bowl and in a separate bowl beat together egg with water. Lightly brush the dough squares with the egg, then take one piece at a time, dip it in the egg (letting excess drain off) and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture to generous coat. Arrange in the bundt pan in even layers. 

At this point you may choose to cover and refrigerate the bread before its second rise. If you choose to refrigerate, allow 2 full hours to rise before baking (rather than just 1)

Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
In a small sauce pan, combine butter, brown sugar and water and bring to a light boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla extract. Pour over the dough. 

Bake for about 25 minutes.

Turn out onto a large platter to serve. Serve while warm. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Swedish Pepparkakor Cookie Recipe


Marrying into a Swedish family means learning their traditions and customs and tasting lots of new dishes and desserts. One of my favorite treats native to Scandinavia is this lovely crunchy ginger cookie known as pepparkakor. You may have seen boxes of Anna's brand pepparkakor in the grocery store or at a Christmas party. They're delightful! 

I decided to try my very-not-Swedish hand at baking up a batch of my very own pepparkakor. I am SO glad I did. The recipe is simple. The most challenging part is rolling out the tacky dough to 1/8 inch thick. It needs to be thin in order to create that perfect crunch. Give it a try. Everyone will be glad you did! I shared these with my friends at a women's gathering and some of the ladies commented that they couldn't stop eating them. :) 

Swedish Pepparkakor Cookie Recipe
(crunchy ginger cookies)
recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Makes 4-6 dozen cookies, depending on size 


3/4 cups butter, softened
3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp water
1/2 cups molasses
1 whole large egg
3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt


Cream together the butter and sugar. Dissolve baking soda in the water and stir into the creamed mixture. Add the molasses and egg.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt and then stir into the creamed ingredients until well blended. 

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. This will develop the flavors. 

Preheat oven to 350F.

Roll the dough to 1/8″ thickness on a lightly floured surface. Use your favorite cookie cutters or the traditional round/wavy edged cutter. Arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet. They can be placed pretty close together as they do not spread. 

Bake for 8–10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks. 



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mint Chip Chocolate Almond Biscotti Recipe


If there's one guy I trust to give me an awesome biscotti recipe it's David Lebovitz. The guy is a genius. Sure enough, this butter-less biscotti turned out beautifully even with my inclusion of mint chips rather than just chocolate.

In case you're looking at me like, "What in the world is biscotti?" then allow me to explain. Biscotti is a traditional Italian cookie, slightly sweet, dry, crunchy, and the perfect acommpaniment  to your favorite hot beverages. Dunking these little babies into a cup of hot chocolate would just be heavenly. (Excuse me while I make myself a giant mug.)

These store well for up to 2 weeks and the beauty if biscotti is that they're meant to be crunchy and dry, so they don't go stale quickly. :) Bring these to your family get-togethers this Christmas--or maybe give them as gifts along with a package of homemade hot cocoa mix--and people will love you forever.

Check out my Almond Biscotti and Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti recipes from past years.

Mint Chip Chocolate Biscotti Recipe
recipe adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies

2 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond (or peppermint!) extract
1 cup almonds, toasted and very coarsely-chopped
3/4 cups mint and/or chocolate chips

For the glaze
1 large egg
2 Tbsp coarse or crystal sugar (see Notes)

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

In a small bowl, sift together the dry ingredients -  flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat together 3 eggs, sugar, and vanilla & almond extracts. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, then mix in the nuts and the chocolate chips until the dough holds together. Dough will be tacky and dense.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into two logs (approximately 14 inches long and 3-4 inches wide, curving it on the long edges Dough should be about 1/2-1 inch thick). Transfer the logs onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced apart.

Beat the remaining egg and brush the tops of the logs liberally with the egg. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse or crystal sugar and bake for 25 minutes, until the dough feels firm to the touch.

Remove the cookie dough from the oven and cool 15 minutes. On a cutting board, use a serrated bread knife to diagonally cut the cookies into 1/2-inches slices. Lay the cookies cut side down on baking sheets and return to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet midway during baking, until the cookies feel mostly firm.

Once baked, cool the cookies completely then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Serve alongside hot beverages--cocoa, tea, or coffee.

For an extra special treat, dip one end of the each cookie into melted chocolate, then cooled until the chocolate hardens.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Amish White Bread Recipe

Tall, fluffy, slightly sweet, and perfect for sandwiches--this bread is a winner. Its dough is soft and tender as you knead it, tempting you with the perfection that will be enjoyed after rising and rising and baking to beauty. Seriously, people, I'm not exaggerating. If you're scared to make bread by hand, start with this recipe (just don't scorch the yeast with too-hot water, like I did the second time making it. It just doesn't rise much. Oh, and I burnt it that time, too. But the first time, man, it was like a dream come true!)

Amish White Bread Recipe
Thanks to Britta for sharing this recipe with me

Makes TWO (2) loaves

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
2/3 cup white sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp dry yeast
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
6 cups flour 

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar with water and then add the yeast. Allow yeast mixture to get foamy. 

Mix salt and oil into yeast mixture and then mix in the flour 1 cup at a time. Knead on a lightly floured surface (or with dough hook for your stand mixer) for 10 minutes or until soft and springy. Place in a well-oiled bowl and coat dough. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow to rise 1 hour (dough should be doubled in size).*

Punch dough down and knead for 5 minutes. Divide in half and shape into loaves. Place in two well-greased 9x5 pans. 

Cover with a tea towel and rise another 30 minutes or until dough has risen at least 1 inch above the pans. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 

*helpful tip. I place 2 cups of water in the microwave, heat for 2 or 3 minutes, until boiling. Then add the bowl of dough to the steamy environment of the microwave and let rise in there (DO NOT MICROWAVE the dough.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wheat Bagels with Poppy & Sesame Seeds


Who would've thought that making your own bagels would be a) pretty gosh darn easy and b) so way more delicious than any bagel ever. It's probably because you've invested time and love into these round breakfast-y breads, but I tell you, these bagels are amazing, out of this world, and so worth making yourself.

Thank you, Deb (Smitten Kitchen) and Sir Peter Reinhart himself (apparently I just knighted him because his bread-making skills are so honorable.)

Now, friends, don't be scared. Your family (and your tastebuds) will thank you. 


Peter Reinhart's Wheat Bagels
recipe from Peter Reinhart via Smitten Kitchen
Makes 8-10 bagels

Note: you will need to start the bagel sponge the day before you plan on baking the bagels. Plan accordingly please.

for the sponge
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (see note below)
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

for the dough
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (see note below)

for finishing
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions or chopped onions that have been tossed in oil (optional)

1. Day one: To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 71 degrees F. If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Immediately divide the dough into 4 1/2 ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.

5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with one of the following shaping methods:

Method 1: Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter (half of this for a mini-bagel). The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible.
Method 2: Roll out the dough into an 8-inch long rope. (This may require rolling part of the way and resting if the pieces are too elastic and snap back, in which case, allow them to rest for 3 minutes and then extend them again to bring to full length. Wrap the dough around the palm and back of your hand, between the thumb and forefinger, overlapping the ends by several inches. Press the overlapping ends on the counter with the palm of your hand, rocking back and forth to seal.

7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

8. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minutes flip them over rand boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side (Deb note: I used the 2 minute option). While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) If you want to top (see note below) the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination.

11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.

12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.


Cinnamon Raisin Bagels: For cinnamon raisin bagels, increase the yeast in the final dough to 1 teaspoon, and add 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the final dough. Rinse 2 cups of loosely packed raisins with warm water to wash off surface sugar, acid, and natural wild yeast. Add the raisins during the final 2 minutes of mixing. Proceed as directed, but do not top the bagels with any garnishes. When they come out of the oven and are still hot, you can brush the tops with melted butter and dip them in cinnamon sugar to create a cinnamon-sugar crust, if desired.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Low Cal Chewy Granola Bars


I know, I know, another granola bar recipe. But, friends, I was so excited to find not one but TWO recipes I really enjoyed. This version is completely different that the first recipe I shared, but even HIGHLY on the health scale. I made a few alterations to Sarah Fit's recipe, but I left her original recommendations in tact, because I would have liked to try those ingredients had I had them on hand. These are a chewier granola bar, and perfect for traveling nutrition. 

Low Cal Chewy Granola Bars
recipe adapted from
Makes 12 granola bars 

1/2 cup milk (Sarah recommends unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
2 Tbsp honey
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1-1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup flour (Sarah recommends Almond meal)
3 Tbsp coconut
2 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp flaxseed, ground (Sarah recommends 2 servings Vanilla Protein Powder)
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped 
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine milk, honey, and mashed banana in a large mixing bowl. Add in oats, flour, coconut, cinnamon, and flaxseed and stir together. Stir in almonds and raisins to evenly distribute. 

Coat a 9x13 pan with cookie spray. Press batter evenly into the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until center is firm. Cut immediately upon removing pan from the oven and let cool completely in the pan. 

Wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container to preserve freshness.

130 calories if cut into 12 bars. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Homemade "Fit" Granola Bars Recipe


I have been hunting for a homemade granola bar recipe that wasn't chock full of sugar, sugar, sugar. This recipe using some sweet alternatives like light pancake syrup and Stevia, but besides those ingredients and of course a bit of peanut butter, these bars fit my bill. I love the mixture of healthy cereals and the options of healthy add-ins. These bars could be as nutrient-rich as you want! I like using Aldi's verion of Kashi Go Lean Cereal along with the Aldi version of Fiber One. High fiber, high protein, and low sugar cereals. 

Homemade "Fit" Granola Bars Recipe
recipe slightly adapted from
Makes 12 granola bars

1 cup rice cereal
1 cup bran/flake ("Go Lean") cereal
1 cup all bran ("Fiber One") cereal
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup baking stevia OR 6 packets Splenda or other sweetener
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt 
3/4 cup light pancake syrup (or 1/2 cup honey)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp chocolate chips
Optional Variations: white chocolate chips, dried fruit, sliced almonds, cocoa powder, raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

Melt peanut butter in the microwave. 

In a zippered bag, combine rice cereal, bran/flake cereal, and all bran cereal and use a rolling pin to lightly crush the cereal. Transfer to a large mixing and add in oats, coconut, sweetener, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in syrup and peanut butter until evenly distributed. Stir in chocolate chips. 

Coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and press the mixture evenly in to the pan. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut into 12 even granola bars. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes for chewy bars, or turn off the oven and return pan to the oven for 15-45 minutes for crunchy bars. 

Once cooled completed, wrap bars individually in plastic wrap for easy lunches or snacks. Keep in an airtight container.

130 calories if cut into 12 bars. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Frosted Ginger Cookies Recipe

us in pink
Britt & Mel circa 2006
Today is a guest post recipe from my in-real-life friend, Brittney. You will LOVE this recipe. I have eaten more than my share of these cookies. :)

Hi Mel's readers! My name is Brittney and I was blessed to be her roommate and her Canadian best friend through 4 years of college! We were each others maid of honours! This cookie recipe is something she and I enjoyed many times throughout the 4 years! They're a great treat at Christmas, but are just as good all year round too!

Frosted Ginger Cookies Recipe
recipe from Dave & Melaney Austin, Brittney's parents 
Makes 6 dozen cookies

Ginger Cookies (2)Ingredients
for the cookies:
1-1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
4-1/2 cup flour (or a little less)
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda

for the frosting:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups confectioner sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in molasses and vanilla. Mix well. 

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Gradually stir them into the creamed mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and baked 12-15 minutes--or until cookies spring back when touched (do not overbake!) Remove to wire rack to cool. 

for the frosting:
In a medium saucepan, bring sugars and butter to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk, bring to a boil. Remove from heat (mixture will appear curdled). Cool for 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla and salt. 
Spread onto warm cookies. 

Ginger Cookies (3) (1)

mel and brittney
this was my 20th birthday party--7 years ago.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Pie Recipe


oh my goodness gracious, friends. This is the fastest, easiest, most delicious pie (assuming you love pb/chocolate) you will ever get your hands on mouth around. Making and baking a pie crust from scratch took the longest time and the pie was still completed and ready to eat in less than an hour. Perfect for last minute parties. The filling itself takes around 3 and a half minutes to finish, so if you're really pressed for time or if making a pie crust from scratch causes you to break out in hives then feel free to a) buy a pre-made pie crust, b) buy or make a graham cracker crust (I think that would make this delicious.) 

Peanut Butter Cup Pie Recipe
Recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Serves 8-16 (it's rich, so a skinny slice goes a long way, even with a sweet tooth like mine.)


1 whole Frozen Pie Crust or Homemade Never-Fail Crust (1/4 of the recipe)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup water
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or combination of your favorite chocolate chips)
2-3 Tbsp roasted peanuts

Bake the pie crust according to directions (approximately 15 minutes at 350 degrees for the homemade version.) 

In a large bowl, beat together powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, and water until smooth and creamy. After the pie crust has cooled completely, spread the peanut butter mixture evenly into the crust. 

In a glass measuring cup or other microwave safe bowl, pour the chocolate chips and microwave in 15 second intervals to melt the chocolate. Once melted, pour the chocolate over the peanut butter filling. Spread  to cover the filling as desired. 

Chocolate a few tablespoons of roasted peanuts and sprinkle around the edge of the melted chocolate. Refrigerate until the filling is set. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chewy Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


This cookie is in a chocolate chip cookie category all it's own. With 100% butter and 100% brown sugar you get an extra chewy, uniquely sweetened, melt-in-your-mouth delight. I love most every chocolate chip cookie, but this one gives the traditional variety a special something that will leave you coming back for more and more. You may want to hide these from yourself.

Chewy Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
recipe by
Makes 4 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

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

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. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffin Recipe


I have been hearing Sara talk about the goodness of these muffins for years now, and for whatever unknown reason had never gotten around to baking them myself. I'm glad I finally kicked my rear into gear because these little babies are OUT OF THIS WORLD. I probably ate half the batch myself. 

These can be made in loaf form, muffin tins, or as mini muffins. I have become particularly keen on the mini muffins--they're just so darn cute and people love them. If you have a cookie scoop it makes the rationing of the batter even easier. 

This is my word to the wise--don't wait to make these muffins. It's offically FALL, people. These muffins are calling your name. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffin Recipe
recipe adapted from Sara Luke
makes 3 dozen mini muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
1-3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
3/4 - 1 cup chocolate chips (mini would be even better)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Grease a mini muffin tin or line with muffin liners. 

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until creamed. Add in eggs and vanilla and mix until evenly distributed. Stir in pumpkin puree. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Add into the creamed ingredients and stir just until combined. Mix in chocolate chips. 

Use a cookie scoop to equally distribute the batter into the mini muffin tin (about 2/3 full). Bake for 11 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. (Re-spray the muffin tin before subsequent batches of baking.) 


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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homemade Peanut Butter Recipe


If you are a fan of natural peanut butter, then this recipe takes your the best varieties and perfects it by limiting the essential ingredients to one--peanuts. The oil, salt (or even honey) are all optional additions to increase flavor in your homemade peanut butter. I love finding a jar of peanut butter with one ingredient on the label but the price is almost always too high for me. I'm not certain of the going rate for one pound of Smuckers Natural Peanut butter (I'm guessing around $4), but this version of homemade peanut butter costs about $2.40 per pound (depending on the price of your peanuts of course.) 

A win-win-win in my book. 

Homemade Peanut Butter Recipe

makes 3/4 pound of peanut butter (about 1 cup)

2 cups dry roasted peanuts 
1-1/2 Tbsp canola oil, optional
pinch of sea salt, optional

Combine ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attached. Turn on the food processor and let the nuts come together to form a paste. As the mixture ceases to churn, stop the machine, stir and resume processing. Repeat as needed. Keep processing until a smooth paste is achieved (though peanut butter will not be perfectly smooth like the store bought, highly processed versions like Jif.) Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When serving, it may help to microwave for 20 or 30 seconds to increase spreadability. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rustic Peach Pie Recipe

We had a large bowl full of fresh, beautiful peaches given to us from local fruit farmer friends who go to our church. Yum! We were eating as fast as we could, but we couldn't keep it. It was time for reinforcements--pie to the rescue! This lovely, rustic pie is simple to make and delicious to eat, especially if it includes a side of homemade (or not) vanilla ice cream

Rustic Peach Pie Recipe
recipe adapted from Betty Crocker Cookbook
Serves 6

for the crust:
2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup shortening
1/2 beaten egg
2-4 Tbsp water

for the filling:
7-8 medium peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles tiny crumbles. Stir in egg and a couple tablespoons of water until the mixture comes together and forms a nice ball. Separate into two pieces, reserving half for another pie. Roll out into a rustic round shape on a lightly floured surface and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, sugar and cinnamon. In a large bowl toss peaches and lemon juice, and add in the dry ingredients. Arrange filling in the center of the pie crust. Fold up the edges over 1-1/2 to 2 inches of the filling, all the way around, pinching dough together to reinforce. 

Bake for 40 minutes until crust browned and fruit is cooked. Cool completely before serving.    

Monday, September 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

I first made a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie about a year ago, on a whim. I shared them with a friend and her family and I never stopped hearing about how delicious they were. Honestly, though, I didn't think they were that great. But TWICE (yes two times!) in the last week, I have made this recipe and man o man they are DELICIOUS. Chewy, moist, peanut buttery, chocolately. I can't. stop. eating. them. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
Makes 3-1/2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
2-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
(OR 1-1/2 cups chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large bowl, cream together butter, shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar and sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla and eggs, one at a time. 

Stir in flour, baking soda and salt until just combined and then stir into chocolate chips. 

Scoop by the tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet, separating 2 inches on each side. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until browned on the edges. Let set on the baking sheet for 2 or 3 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Chip Shortbread Bars Recipe


Here's another you-can't-believe-how-simple-this-recipe-is recipe. I had less than an hour to throw together a dessert for some last minutes guests, and when I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen that had 1 pan and 6 ingredients involved, I knew it was a winner. But the beautiful thing is, the cookie bars were not only easy but they were close to the most delicious dessert bar I have ever had.

Buttery, chewy, sweet, and simple. Try these. Please. 

Chewy Chocolate Chip Shortbread Bars 
Recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Makes 24-36 cookies bars

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Blend in flour, then add chocolate chips and nuts.

Spread mixture into the pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not overbake. Cool to room temperature and then cut into bars.

Delicious served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spicy Tuna Salad on Whole Wheat


There's something classically delicious about tuna salad. If you like tuna, you probably love a good tuna sandwich now and again. The problem with traditional tuna salad is the "salad" part--made up of excessive amounts of mayo or Miracle Whip. My husband is not a fan of those condiments, so I try to make a tuna salad which just enough mayo to hold the spread together. :) Today, I decided to add some zing (because we're zingy sort of people) with the hot peppers. Mmm, mmm, good.

Spicy Tuna Salad on Whole Wheat Bread
recipe by
Serves 1 to 2

2 or 3 slices of my favorite whole wheat bread
1 can tuna in water, drained
3 Tbsp Miracle whip or Mayo
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2-1 whole rib of celery, thinly chopped
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients (expect bread, of course) together in a small bowl, adding additional mayo if necessary. Spread onto the homemade bread (toasted, if desired), topping with the second slice. Cut in two and eat!

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (Bread Machine) Recipe

This is my favorite whole wheat bread recipe so far! It uses basic ingredients, but results in a high rising loaf that slices wonderfully for sandwiches. You will impress your fans with this homemade bread. :)

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (Bread Machine) Recipe
recipe adapted from The Big Book of Bread Machine Recipes by Donna Rathmell German

3/4 cup water
3 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 egg
2 Tbs sugar
1  tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp yeast

Add ingredients to the bread machine bowl in the order listed (or as directed by the machine manual.) Select the whole wheat, sweet, or basic cycle OR choose the "dough" cycle (my favorite.)*

*If selecting the dough cycle, once the cycle is complete, lightly flour a clean surface. Turn the dough onto the counter and roll or press into a large rectangle (approximately 15 inches by 9 inches). Begin rolling the dough up along the length of the rectangle, pinching the dough together after each roll. Make the final pinch of the loaf and transfer to a loaf pan to rise for 30-60 minutes, until two inches above the edge of the pan. 

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until golden and hollow sounding when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe


In my zucchini abundance, I was able to find the perfect recipe to soothe my "it's rainy out and I really feel like baking" urge. This recipe from Tasty Kitchen is out of this world amazing! I'm not a great cake baker--they tend to turn out too dry or too boring or too flat. But this recipe is spot on! and uber simple! 

The original recipe included a delicious-looking frosting, but I opted to sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar. I'm convinced no one minded! Each piece was amazingly moist and wonderfully chocolately! I brought the lovely tube cake to a get-together with 2 of my friends and their gaggle of children, and everyone devoured their pieces. I barely got to take a slice home for my husband (who always proclaimed it's praises!)  One of the 8 year old boys even said, "This cake is AMAZING!"


See? I told you it was a winner!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe
recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk*
2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips 


*to sour the milk, add 1 Tbsp lemon juice to milk. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt or tube pan. 

In a large bowl, cream together butter, oil, and sugar. Add in eggs, vanilla, and milk and beat until evenly combined. Sprinkle in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and stir on low until all of the dry ingredients have been incorporated. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.

Pour batter into a lightly greased bundt pan (or two 8″ cake pans or a 9×13″ pan) and bake for 55-60 minutes (reduce time for other pans), or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan for a few minutes before running knife around the edge to loosen. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monster Cookies Recipe


By definition, Monster Cookies are, well monstrous. They're supposed to be huge, and also filled with every delicious ingredient you can dream up. I am thinking you could easily substitute half of the M&Ms and/or chocolate chips for another type of bite sized or chopped candy bar, raisins, coconut, chopped nuts, peanut butter or white or dark or butterscotch chips, etc. That's the beauty of the Monster Cookie. 

Now, by nature, I am a more defined, cautious type of person so Monster Cookies go against my neat-and-tidy personality (also, because the regular sized recipe calls for a pound of butter. This recipe is quartered if you can believe it!) But I managed to merge my two loves--love of chocolate and peanut butter with love of organization. I didn't have any other special chocolates or candy on hand, so I substituted more chocolate chips for the M&Ms and instead of "monstrous" sized cookies, I used my typical cookie scoop and was happy with that.

But you do what you want. You can't go wrong with these. They're amazingly chewy and gooey, sweet and thick. Just how a monster would want his cookies to be.

*oh! and these are flour-free--a big bonus for all of my GLUTEN FREE friends out there!

Monster Cookies Recipe 
recipe adapted from Sheryl 
Makes 4 dozen not-quite-monster-sized cookies

3 eggs
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
12 oz (1-1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp) peanut butter
4-1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together eggs, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, salt, baking soda, and butter. Once evenly combined, stir in peanut butter. Then add in oatmeal. Stirring thoroughly. Mix in M&Ms and chocolate chips.

Drop dough onto a cookie sheet in large tablespoonfuls or use a cookie scoop. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are lightly browned and center is mostly set. Cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fresh Blueberry Scones Recipe


Blueberry season is just about past, but there may still be some beautiful berries left on the bushes near you. If not, hopefully you saved a few in the freezer--those would work just fine in this recipe (keep the berries frozen when stirring them into the batter.)

If you want a special addition to your breakfast or brunch, try these simple scones. Just a few ingredients and you've got a buttery, slightly sweet side dish. 

Fresh Blueberry Scones Recipe
recipe adapted from Betty Crocker Cookbook
Makes 8 scones

1-3/4 cups flour
3 Tbsp sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup firm butter
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
4-6 Tbsp 2% milk or heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter using pastry blender (or you can use 2 knives and pull them in opposite directions). The mixture should be coarse and crumbly. Stir in egg and vanilla and add in milk 1 Tbsp at a time until the dough cleanly leaves the edges of the bowl. Gently fold in blueberries, being careful not to break open any berries. 

Lightly flour a clean surface and turn dough onto it. Sprinkle your hands with flour and knead gently 10 times. Roll out the dough into a 10 inch circle. Flour a sharp knife or pastry cutter and cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to a baking sheet and brush each with additional milk. Sprinkle with sugar. 

Bake 13-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Grilled Zucchini Sandwich Recipe


So, you have a lot of zucchini laying around? And you've made enough zucchini bread to last you a lifetime? Well, then, friend, this sandwich is calling your name. I have been on a grilled (literally on the grill) sandwich kick lately, and it is unbelievable delicious. Those grill marks, the crisp edges, the melted insides. You can't make this stuff up, people. Please grill some sandwiches for me.

But back to the zucchini.

I never would have thought of forming a sandwich around something like sliced zucchini, but I am so glad a friend of mine posted on Facebook about it. I hope you'll enjoy this use of zucchini too!

Grilled Zucchini Sandwich 
recipe by
Serves 1

2 slices rye bread*
Miracle Whip
6 slices zucchini
1 slice onion
2-3 slices tomato
shredded mozzarella
grated Parmesan 
garlic powder

*I think Rye bread makes this sandwich come alive, but you may use whatever bread you love. 

Spread 1 side of each slice of bread with a thin layer of butter. On the opposite side of one slice of bread, spread desired amount of Miracle Whip. On the opposite side of the second slice of bread, sprinkle generous amounts of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. 

Layer zucchini, onion, and tomato on the cheese-topped slice of bread. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Top with Miracle-Whipped slice of bread. 

Preheat your outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Place sandwich directly on the grilling grate and cook 5 minutes before turning to the second side. Cook until cheese is melted and both sides are golden and crisp. Slice in half and serve. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt Recipe


If there's two things in this world I love it's ICE CREAM and COOKIES. These two powerful forces combine into the simplest frozen treat you ever did make. No ice cream machine or churning necessary! 

You like cookie dough, right? Tell me you like the spoon after whipping up some cookies. You do, right? I know I'm not alone. Well, assuming you love cookie dough, you will LOVE this frozen yogurt. Make an eggless cookie dough, stir in some yogurt, freeze overnight, and VOILA--Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt. Try it! You won't be mad. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt
recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Serves 6

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract 
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips (mini are even better) 
1 cup vanilla or plain yogurt 

In a large bowl, cream together butter, both sugars, and vanilla. Add in flour, salt, and baking soda and stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Blend in yogurt until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a freezer safe, airtight bowl and freeze overnight. Scoop and enjoy! 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mango Tomato Salsa Recipe


I had discovered the beauty of mango and spice in the Strawberry Mango Salsa from the first of the month, so I thought I'd try a different combination. This salsa, is more similar to your traditional tomato pico de gallo with the added sweetness and smooth texture of mango. It's delicious AND (seriously) nutritious! Can't beat that on a hot summer day.

Mango Tomato Salsa Recipe
Makes 1 bowl of salsa

1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tsp chopped cilantro
Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp lime juice

In a 2-3 cup bowl, combine mango, tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, and cilantro. Sprinkle with cumin, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Add in lime juice. Stir to combine. Keep covered and refrigerate until serving. Serve with tortilla chips  or tacos. 

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Chunky Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (aka "Just Eat Them Cookies")


While these cookies are quite similar to these Cowboy Cookies or these Crunchy Cowboy Oatmeal Cookies, they are uniquely buttery and delightfully chewy. I made half a batch of these cookies for our small gathering of teens at our weekly book club, and the entire plate was devoured by the end the of the hour. I'd call that a raging success!

Chunky Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
(aka "Just Eat Them Cookies")
recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cup quick oats
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, shortening, brown sugar, and sugar. (Make sure no large pieces of butter remain.) Add in egg yolks, egg, and vanilla and beat until combined.

Add in flour, salt, and baking soda and mix together. Stir in oats, coconut and chocolate chips, until evenly distributed.

Use a small cookie scoop to equally measure the dough and arrange on a cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Let set on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Taco Pasta Casserole Recipe


Like I mentioned last week, Kevin and I have been on a Mexican food kick. Every. Single. Day. For another change up to the regular stand by of jacked-up-nachos or tacos, this casserole is the perfect option. It takes a little longer to prepare than a simple taco, but it's filling and delicious--and it could easily feed a large family if the recipe is doubled. 

Taco Pasta Casserole Recipe
Serves 4

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 box whole wheat penne pasta
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn
1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped finely
1 small tomato, chopped
1/4 cup taco seasoning
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips (use up the bottom of the bag remnants!)

Boil water in a medium saucepan and cook pasta just before completely cooked. Strain and set to the side. 

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, crumbling it as you go. Drain the grease off the meat and return to the hot pan. Add in peppers, onions, garlic, and corn and saute until softened and fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes. Sprinkle the meat/veggie mixture with taco seasonings and stir in water. Let simmer 2-3 minutes. Stir in sour cream and cheese. Mix until melted and evenly distributed. 

Add the pasta into the meat mixture. Stir well. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x9 inch 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in the pasta/meat mixture and sprinkle evenly with crushed tortilla chips. Bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and browned. 

Serve with additional chips, hot sauce, and fresh cilantro if desired.