Sunday, April 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Sarah!

My First Cake! (that wasn't for cake class). Oh yeah - those are Barbie glitter candles. We go all out for birthdays. No holding back!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Million Dollar Cookie Review

Lets start with this -
What recipe is REALLY worthy of million dollars? According to Jim, I make the best lasagna he has ever eaten, but I doubt anyone would hand me over a cool million for the recipe.
I have read a lot a negative comments about this recipe winning, and personally I think its a lot of whining. People are mad that a plain old peanut butter cookie won, they are angry that the winner used pre-made cookie dough, etc. etc.
Lets be frank - bakeoffs and cooking contests are creative marketing tools for companies. Its not as if Pillsbury just enjoys handing out money. They have a stake in it as well. There is a reason that there is a list of items handed out, and you must pick at least two of those items to use in the recipes. It is about promoting products, and its about promoting products that bring a nice profit over those that don't. Pillsbury sells a lot of convenience items (pre made pie crusts, refrigerated biscuits and crescents, cookie dough, etc.), and although I am no marketing expert, I would be pretty safe in saying that those convenience items (can you say pre made cookie dough) bring in a much better profit than the flour that would be used in a homemade peanut butter cookie dough. I don't know the winner of the contest, but I would bet she is more than capable of making a great peanut butter cookie from scratch. I would also bet that if she had submitted this recipe making the dough from scratch, she would not have made the cut as a finalist. It goes a little something like this: She uses the dough, we see the recipe, we follow the recipe, and pillsbury pre-made peanut butter cookie dough starts flying off the shelf. Carolyn probably didn't use pre-made cookie dough becuase she couldn't bake, she used to help increase the chances of making the contest as a finalist.
I happened to LOVE this cookie, so did Jim, and our friend Sarah. We are the only three that tried them - so three for three liked them. The cinnamon was something I would have NEVER thought of, and it was a nice touch. I don't normally buy premade cookie dough, but did for this recipe, and will make these again.
One final note - A lot a the reviewers (ecspecially on the Pillsbury site) talked about how they have a much better recipe, and they could have easily won the prize over this recipe. Well my friend, I say go for it. The contest is open to the public, and you can enter as many recipes as you like.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yummy and Easy

A little teaser....

Its been a week. Way to long, and I am sorry. To make up for it, there are four posts today.

Today was not the best day. It was stressful and sad and I knew baking would make me feel a little better. I order two cookbooks and they finally came in on Tuesday, so I had lots of option for my "therapy". After looking through my cookbook 101 Easy Peasy Cookie Recipes, I went with the one Jim so kindly picked out yesterday - Chocolate Marshmallow Melts.
I had dinner going in the crockpot (more on that to follow), which meant as soon as I was done working I could start the baking straight away. One of the benefits of working from home is that at 5:00, I am done and my only commute is the walk from the office to the kitchen! So I stopped working, and 45 minutes later....Tadaaa!

I really like this picture. And I really LOVE this cookie. I normally eat only one or two of my cookies, but today, I had three....yes three! The marshmallow stays nice and gooey and when you take a bite (or cut it like I did for the picture) some of the marshmallow oozes down. So so good! The recipes says it yields 36 - I got 32 cookies out of it. Which is plenty, but I say that because you should wait to cut your marshmallows until you know how many you will need.

The cookbook is called 101 Easy Peasy Cookie Recipe. It is broke down by bar cookie, drop cookie, no bake cookie, rolled cookie, and shape cookie. I like that most of the recipes use items you would have around, or could get easily. No strange ingredients. There are no pictures, which doesn't bother me, but I did miss the technical portion. There are recipes and that is it. I enjoy actually reading cookbooks - like a regular book and learing new strategies, techniques and tips. I guess Easy Peasy doesn't involve a lot of reading. I would still recommend the book, and have attached a link to it on Amazon. Plus I bought Alton Browns I'm Just Here for More Food. That will be a lot of cookbook reading and learning.

Chocolate Marshmallow Melts

  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/3 C unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 18 Large marshmallows ( I only needed 16 - you will need one marshmallow for every two cookies)
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In large bowl, cream together sugar and butter
  3. Beat in egg, mik, and vanilla extract to butter/sugar mixture
  4. In seperate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt
  5. Gradually add to flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating after each addition
  6. Once combined, drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or use a cookie scoop) onto ungreased baking sheets. I don't grease my cookie sheets, but I do use parchment. The cookies slide right off, and if you take a paper towel and wipe it off while it is still on the cookie sheet and put it away in a cupboard you can reuse a few times Bake for eight minutes.
  7. While cookies are baking, use kitchen scissors and cut marshmallows in half.
  8. Remove cookies from oven, place marshmallow half, cut side down on cookie and place back in oven for another 3 minutes
  9. Transfer to wire racks to cool


We are having friends for dinner Saturday and I am making molten chocolate cakes - I'll post on Sunday.


Whoa - I just took dork to a whole new level with that one.
Here are some blogs and sites I love. You will also find them under my favorites below the blog archive.

Cookie Madness - Anna was the 2006 Pillsbury Bake off winner and makes a cookie a day. I'm very jealous. Seriously!

Crockpot 365 - Stephs new years resolution is to use the crockpot everyday in 2008. She is funny and I have made two of her recipes so far. I just love the crockpot

Cupcake Project - Stefs offer to make cupcakes for a friends wedding turned in to a really neat site with yummy (sometimes, how do i say it - odd) ideas and lots of helpful tips. Its amazing the ideas she comes up with.

AllRecipes - Great site. Recipe users rate the recipes and comment. Read through some of the reviews before making a recipe - lots of tips and some changes to help make the recipe just right.

FoodNetwork - Do I really need to elaborate?


So, like I said in my cookie post - I made dinner in the crock pot today. I LOVE the crock pot! Did you know that can throw frozen meat in it? For real - just remember it will create more liquid as it cooks and you may need to adjust your other liquids. You can do so much more than pot roast and soup in a crock pot, and tonight's dinner was yummy, healthy proof. I made Balsamic Chicken with Spring Vegetables that I found on the year of crock potting blog. When I told Jim about it, I got "sounds weird" for a response. He ended up liking it more than me. Jim never complains about my meals, he eats it and after dinner, whenever I make something new this is how the conversation goes:

Me "How was it?"
Jim "Great" "Really good" "One of your bests", etc.
Me (provided the response is one of the above) - "Thanks - I totally rock, don't I". OK, I don't say that, but you get the point.
Sometimes Jim says "good" - When he says good, I follow up with this question
"Was it - I ate it because you made it and I shouldn't complain since you took the time to make good, or was it make it again good?"
You see, Jim knows better than to complain about a meal because, quite frankly - its just rude. Someone cooked for you, etc., etc. On the other hand, I don't want him to force down a meal every other week just to be polite. So the line of questioning above weeds out the icky meals.
For the record - I rate the new meals also - we each have a 50% stake in the verdict. I won't cook something one of us really doesn't like. Its part of the power of being adult - you can choose. When we have kids, I can throw out the, I don't care if you don't like it just eat it card (which btw...I am not sure that I agree with).
Wow - I really really rambled there. Sorry.
Sorry for the crock pot picture, but its the only one I took. I liked how colorful it all was.

Here it is - super easy:
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
  • 2 zucchini squash (on the smaller side)
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 1/2 large red onion, or 1 whole small red onion
  • 2 bell peppers (I used one red and one yellow)
  • 1 whole head of garlic, peeled with bulbs in tact (peel your garlic, separate the bulbs and leave whole)
  • 1/4 C balsamic vinegar
  • 2t Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
  1. Place chicken in crock pot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  2. Wash and cut all your vegetables and put into a mixing bowl.
  3. Peel the head of garlic, but keep the cloves intact.
  4. Toss the vegetables with balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Pour the vegetables on top of the meat.
  6. Cook on high heat for 3 hours, then switch to low for 4 hours***

***If you are planning to put this together and leave for the day, I would suggest cooking on low for 8-9 hours. I did mine on high for 3 hours, switched to low for 4, and then placed on the warm setting for about 2 hours. The chicken was cooked through when I switched to warm (7 total hours).

I served this with whole wheat couscous.


A cookie worth one million dollars

The winner of the Pillsbury Bake-off was announced Tuesday. Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies won Carolyn one million dollars. I'll be baking these this weekend and let you know what I think. Let me know your thoughts.

I am sure my Aunt Kim is rushing to the kitchen now to whip some up.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Chocolate Malted Cookies

I was at the grocery store searching for dry milk powder when I stumbled upon malted milk powder. Not that its some amazing new product, just nothing I had purchased before. My mind quickly moved to baking. And suddenly I thought Whoppers! Nope, not the flame broiled, have it your way kind. The yummy chocolate covered malted milk kind. I am sure there are recipes out there for these cookies, but I chose to adapt one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes for this one. The results were delish! And, as you can see from the picture - huge!
I used Alton Browns chewy choc chip cookie recipe from the "Three Chips for Sister Martha" episode. This episode airs again on Food Network on April 22 at 11PM. Here is the link to the recipes from it.,1976,FOOD_9956_17114,00.html
One of the things I love most about this episode is that it gives you three variations on the recipe to make what you think is the ideal cookie. Some like puffy cake-like cookies (not me), some like a thin crispy cookie (ok with me but Jim loves), and others chewy (my favorite). With these recipes, you can choose.
You can check out all three recipes, but for the cookies above, I use the chewy recipe with the following variations:
2 Cups bread flour (instead of 2 1/4 cups)
1 1/4 Cup malted milk powder (addition to recipe)
1/4 Cup plus 1 T cocoa powder (addition to recipe)
1 Cup milk chocolate chips (instead of 2 Cups semisweet)

We really like these cookies, and Jim suggested that next time I add some chopped up Whoppers to the mix. Great, yummy idea!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cinnamon Rolls

So, the past two recipes have been cupcakes. There is no real reason, I bake and cook a lot and its all about my mood really. I am kind of obsessed with bread and rolls lately. This weekend I am baking oatmeal refrigerator rolls - a recipe from Aunt Karen (I inherited her when I married Jim). I'll let you know how it goes.
Until then, here is the cinnamon roll recipe I promised. Please note - these need to rise and require some time.

Also, while reading one of my favorite blogs - The Cupcake Project (, Stef talked about using vanilla paste. Sounded interesting, and when I saw her frosting recipe using it that tastes like vanilla ice cream - I was sold. Now I just need to find a yummy dessert to use the frosting with. Results will follow.
Check out the blog though, it is interesting and full of great ideas.

OMG - Its like a Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll

· 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
· 2 eggs, room temperature
· 1/3 cup margarine, melted
· 4 1/2 cups bread flour
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1/2 cup white sugar
· 1 eight gram package active dry yeast

· 1 cup brown sugar, packed
· 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
· 1/3 cup butter, softened

· 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
· 1/4 cup butter, softened
· 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
· 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk.
  2. Combine eggs, margarine, bread flour, salt, and sugar. Add in milk and yeast mixture.
  3. Knead the dough by hand or using the dough hook on stand mixer. Once mixed, place a small amount of oil on top of the dough and turn dough in oven safe bowl to lightly coat. Place a damp paper towel over bowl.
  4. To help dough rise, allow oven to heat to 200 degrees, TURN OFF, and place dough in oven for about an hour or until almost doubled in size.
  5. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Line a 9X13 inch pan with foil and lightly grease. Place rolls in baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  7. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Flip pan over onto a baking sheet, remove foil. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

The last time I made these, I did them the night before and I followed the recipe through placing the rolls in the baking pan in step six, I covered the pan with rolls with plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator. I pulled them out of the frig the next morning and let the pan sit for about 15 minutes before baking. They were great!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fall is in the Florida Air (kind of) - Pumpkin Cupcakes

It may seem odd to make pumpkin pie, roll, or in this case, cupcakes in April. After all, the taste and spices and smells that are part of these recipes all are associated with fall. The thing is, Florida doesn't have fall. Or winter, or spring...just summer. It is nearly a year since we made the move from Ohio to Florida and even though I thought the holidays would be rough, what I miss most so far was the changing of the leaves and that first day when it just cool enough that you need a sweater but no jacket. I am starting to get off track, but the point was I get a pass, because if I wait for fall in Florida these cupcakes will never happen. Unless of course I wait for the day when it hits 55 degrees again, since that seems to be fall and nearly winter like for Floridians. Its 55 - is a winter coat really necessary?

I liked these cupcakes a lot. I liked them more than the jelly roll cupcake. Pair one with a nice cup of coffee and it makes perfect mid morning snack.

To make this treat, I used a pumpkin cupcake recipe I found on Martha Stewart online and took a basic cream cheese frosting and changed it up a little. Some cream cheese frosting recipes will call for butter, and some won't. I like to use butter for the flavor and consistency it gives. I find it makes the frosting creamier.

Pumpkin Cupcakes - Makes 18
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree***
***Pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin is what you need for this recipe. It can be found in the bakery aisle. You do not want pumpkin pie filling. Be sure to check the can.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
  3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
Once cool, frosting with cinnamon frosting (recipe below)

My cupcake pans are dark metal. I heat my oven to only 325 and bake for 25 - 27 minutes. This is a tip from boxed cake mixes and I follow it for anything I bake in a dark metal pan. Basically, you should decrease the oven temp and add about 5 minutes to bake time. In this case, I bake for the full 25 minutes suggested as a max bake time.

Cinnamon Frosting

  • 1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 C butter, room temperature
  • 4 C powdered sugar (feel free to adjust to get the flavor and consistency you want)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 T cinnamon
  1. Mix the cream cheese and butter until well combined
  2. Add vanilla, almond extract, and cinnamon
  3. Slowly add powdered sugar until combined.
Frost away!
I like to pipe frosting on cupcakes for two reasons.
1. It is easy. Wilton actually makes a cupcake decorating set. It comes with some disposable
bags, 4 tips (one is the #230 tip for a filling center in your cupcake) and a pamphlet with a few simple techniques. I really do think its easier to pipe frosting on the cupcake than to
spread it on.
2. It looks pretty.

As a note to Nick - I apologize for the lack of an actual pumpkin on the cupcake. I just didn't like the way my frosting looked when I colored a little bit of it orange, and a blob of uncolored frosting trying to look like a pumpkin just ends up looking like a blob. Not to worry though, I am sticking to the clown ban.

The truth abut allspice

I love Alton Brown. I didn't always, and I will explain that another time. Today though, I thank him for this Good Eats Fact.
Allspice is not, as is mistakenly believed by those who come across it in ground form, a mixture of spices! Huh - imagine that.
Since its flavor suggests a blend of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg many believe it is a combination of spices. And lets face it - the name allspice makes the idea that it is multiple spices very believable. It however, is actually a single spice that comes from
the dried, unripened fruit of a small evergreen tree, the Pimenta Dioica.
That crazy, mysterious AllSpice!
Thank you Alton and the McCormick EnSPICElopedia.