Sunday, May 29, 2011

Good Old Fashioned Fun

Are you ever in the mood for some good old fashioned fun?  Or in my case, some good old fashioned sweets?

When I woke up this morning, I had a serious need to bake something.  Since we had friends coming up to visit, it had to be something that was pretty quick to put together.  Cookies...oh yeah!

The hubby's favorite cookies are Oatmeal Raisin, but in all honesty, I hate raisins!  Never have like that weird?  I know almost everyone loves, or at least likes them......but way!  So instead of Oatmeal Raisin, I usually end up making Oatmeal good!

This time out, I decided to try out Joanne Chang's recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from her cookbook Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe.  Like usual, I substituted the raisins for dried cranberries.....and with the freshly grated nutmeg that the recipe called for these cookies are definitely oatmeal cookies that are kicked up a notch!  The recipe calls for the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours for best results, so in the meantime, we took the boys to the creek to throw rocks and catch tadpoles.  See what I mean about good old fashioned fun??

For the recipe, check out David Lebovitz's blog....but careful, you'll get sucked into all the yumminess that is in there.  Also, check out Joanne Chang's book Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Morning Muffins......2 ways

I can't believe that the school year is almost done!!  Where did the year go???  My oldest is graduating preschool and moving on to Kindergarten!  He's been telling anyone who will listen that now that he's 5 he is ready for Kindergarten.....sigh......

Today was the last day the mommies at school got together to put on an activity for the kiddos.  So we had ourselves a little luau today, complete with the hula, limbo, digging for shells, and pineapple and punch!

One of my jobs today was to provide snacks for the mommies, so I decided to try out two muffin recipes that caught my fancy.  The first one is a streusel-topped blueberry muffin from Our Best Bites.  The hubby has declared that these are one of his favorite muffins ever!  I'm a sucker for anything with a streusel-y topping.....I just love it.....but in addition these have a zing and tang from lemon zest and buttermilk.

I also needed to have some chocolate.....I always need chocolate!  The day before I needed to decide what I was making, a recipe for triple chocolate muffins showed up in my inbox from Bake at 350.  Uh, seriously?  Triple chocolate.....I am sooo in!

The triple chocolate comes from dark cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate chips, and semisweet chocolate chips.....some serious chocolate power!

I've got to say that I really loved these....but they are really really chocolate-y.  If you aren't a chocolate lover, like the hubby.....these probably won't be your absolute favorite....but you won't be able to deny that they're pretty darn tasty.  For a chocolate love like me, these are a perfect way to start the day!!

Honestly, you could probably just dust a little powdered sugar on the top of these , or add a little whipped cream, and call them a cupcake and serve for dessert.  Does anyone know the technical different between a muffin and cupcake?  Is it just the time of day that it's served?

Well, thanks to all of the mommies that helped make this year's PVC (Parent Volunteer Club) a lot of fun!!  And if you want to check out these recipes, got to Our Best Bites and Bake at 350....and Enjoy!

This post is linked to:
Sweets for a Saturday

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Birthday Stuff

Yesterday was our 5 year old's birthday party (I still can't believe he's 5!!), but today was his actual today he had his big special day at preschool.  He got to bring a special board that will hang in class all a birthday crown and a special badge......gets to be the line leader all week.....and we brought in cookies and treats for the kids!  What a day!
Our oldest son's favorite cookie is an Oreo.  Well.....I wasn't going to be bringing in a plate of Oreos to after some questioning......he and I agreed on a sugar cookie with sprinkles as long as they were L's!

I used the Cookie Craft recipe again.....not very exciting am I??  After chilling the dough, and then cutting out the L's....I covered them in his favorite sprinkles.  He loved them!  They were exactly what he wanted....and that makes Mommy happy!!
I also wanted to bring in something that the kiddos in his class could take I decided to make the Ice Cream Cone Rice Krispy Treats that I made a couple of months back.  I filled them cones with Hershey's kisses and covered the rice krispy treat in white melting chocolate with sprinkles.  These were great to take to class because they were easy to individually bag for the kids to take home, and they seemed to stand up well to the abuse of getting home in one piece.

So glad our little guy had a great birthday.....but phew!!  I'm so glad it's done!!

Check out Confessions of a Cookbook Queen for the recipe.......and Enjoy!!

Happy 5th Birthday!!

We are slowly recovering from the crazy birthday party yesterday that we had for our oldest son's 5th birthday.......I still can't believe he's already 5!!!!

We went with a Star Wars/Clone Wars theme....and of course I immediately thought of the cute Star Wars stuff that Williams-Sonoma has these days!  I already had the Star Wars cookie cutters and the Star Wars cupcake I was already halfway there right?  Wrong!!

Since I am new to the cookie decorating thing.....I really didn't have any idea how long it was going to take for me to do the cookies......which I thought would be really cute as a party favor.  Well, took me forever!!  I made the cookie a couple of weeks ago, using the sugar cookie recipe in the Cookie Craft book.  I've got to say that I love this recipe!  Even on intricate shapes, these cookies do not spread when you bake them.  Plus they taste yummy!  My sister-in-law said that they tasted just like the ones she used to have growing me that's a good thing!  After baking these guys, I froze the baked cookies until this past week, when it was time to start decorating them.

The beginning of Storm Troopers. 
This was the most intricate bunch of cookies that I have tried doing so far, so I gave myself several nights to get through them.
Yodas, Darth Vaders, and Storm Troopers waiting to be finished.
The finished product!

The first night I did my outline piping and flooding.  Then after letting dry overnight, I came back the next day to try to finish these puppies up.

All of the little finishing work is really what took forever.  It didn't help that I was trying to do about 5 dozen of these guys so that we'd have enough for all of the kids at the party and their parents.

I also busted out about 60 cupcakes....all of which needed to be done the night before the party.  So.....I hate to admit it, but I did end up using boxed cake mix!  I was just making simple white cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream frosting....and in all honesty, I don't think there's too many 5 year olds who would turn their nose up at any cupcake (as long as there's lots of frosting on it!!).

A little squirt of frosting using a large open star pastry tip, a little dusting of sprinkles....and then topped with a Star Wars character from the cupcake kit.....and done!

I don't know that I'll be doing these again any time soon....I'm a little Star Wars-ed out!  Am I happy with how they came out?  Yeah, I guess so.....I think my biggest complaint is my outline piping on the cookies.  I need to get it smoother so that when it all dries you don't see the starts and stops.  I pretty much just need to keep practicing and practicing.  But for now.....I just want a nap!!

Happy Birthday to the sweetest little 5 year old around!!!  I love you!!

This post is linked to:
Sweets for a Saturday
These Chicks Cook Recipe Spotlight

Friday, May 20, 2011

Congo Bars

After slaving over a batch of Star Wars cookies for the last few days (post is still coming), I needed to make something that was simple and satisfying.  Enter the Congo Bars, or Blondies, or another version of the Brookie......whatever you want to call these, they fit the bill for what I needed and couldn't be simpler to whip up!

There are a million recipes out there for things like this, but I had one bookmarked a while back from Bakerella (who I'm sure everyone has checked out by now!)....and thanks to my friend Lisa's boards on Pinterest (she had pinned a picture of them), I decided these absolutely had to be made today!

These are another of those recipes that you want to make sure that you don't want them to keep their brownie-like texture (which I guess means they should be called Blondies).  I used some Guittard milk chocolate chips in these......that's why the pieces of chocolate look so big.....their chips are huge!

Do yourself a favor and make a batch of these today! Check out Bakerella for the recipe......Enjoy!!

P.S. - A word of caution if you've never checked out Bakerella (aka the Queen of Cakepops) will get sucked into her world of yummy treats and find tons of things that you will have to make yourself!  Then you will find yourself browsing the plethora (yes, I said plethora) of photos of adorable cakepops, and wonder why yours don't ever come out as cute as hers do (or at least I do).  Consider yourself warned!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Brookie

The Brookie, or Brookster
So the boys from Baked are at it again.....this time they're introduced a new baking mix at Williams-Sonoma, the Brookster.  What is it, you ask?  It's a chocolate chip cookie and a brownie in one!  Two of my favorite things in the whole world.....I had to try it!

Of course you could probably just use your favorite brownie and chocolate chip cookie recipes and do the same type of thing.....but the Baked boys haven't done me wrong yet....and they kept that streak going with the Brookster (or as I call it, the Brookie).

Take a little brownie mixture and place it in the bottoms of a cupcake pan.  After it chills for a little while add a disk of chocolate chip cookie dough on top of the brownie mix and bake until done.  Sooooo yummy!!

The Baked mix at Williams-Sonoma is only available in stores so far, and it has enough for two batches that make 9 brookies each.  I've still got that second batch waiting for me......lucky me!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cupcakes, 2 Ways

Yesterday our family got together to celebrate Mother's Day, as well as to celebrate our niece's First Communion. With a party that was going to have 23 kids, I had to make cupcakes!

First up is a cupcake I made by request of my sister-in-law, who LOVES cookie dough. It's a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake from Tidy Mom, and these puppies were a hit!! A chocolate chip cookie cupcake, filled with a cookie dough center (egg-free so it's safe to it), and a frosting that tastes like cookie dough sprinkled with chocolate chips.

Too much you ask? I was a little worried about it, truth be told. But apparently no one else thought so, judging by the fact that these things were inhaled! I'm going to have to make these again soon, so that the people that weren't able to try them get a chance to.

I could probably go on and on about this recipe......but I won't. Seriously.....if these sound even a little bit good to you, you've got to try it!! You will not be disappointed!

I also really wanted to remake the flower cupcakes that I made in my cupcake class (I need to practice my piping skills).....I was looking for just a really nice vanilla cupcake recipe....sweet and simple. Martha Stewart has a recipe for Billy's Bakeshop Vanilla Cupcakes, and based on the reviews of the recipe, I decided to give that one a try (and seriously, can you ever go wrong with something from Martha?).

Two things with this recipe:
1 - Don't fill the cupcake liners any more than 2/3 full. Seriously. This recipe works way better if you only fill the cups about 1/2 full.
2 - Do not overbake these! You want to keep that beautiful white color on the cake. They will be done before the top starts to brown, so make sure you are checking for doneness with a cake tester/toothpick.

I had intended to fill these cupcakes with either Bavarian cream or chocolate dobash, but the simple vanilla flavor of these cupcakes just screamed to be left alone! The hubby actually told me that I'd better not touch them...they were perfect as is!

To top off the cupcake I used a simple buttercream frosting, and used a rose tip (#104) to do a series of petals along the outside of the cupcake, and then continued filling in the center. I toped it off with a royal icing bumblebee that I purchased at Clarice's (our local baking supply store), since I didn't have time to make my own.

Check out Tidy Mom for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake recipe and Martha Stewart for the Billy's Bakeshop Vanilla Cupcake Recipe.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thin Mint Truffles

Two boxes of Thin Mints......that was all that was left in the pantry from this year's Girl Scout Cookies sale. It's always such a sad feeling when you know that there aren't going to be any more Girl Scout Cookies until next year.....and then the happiness you feel when "it's Girl Scout Cookies time!!!"

These days I've got so many Girl Scouts that I need to buy cookies from......I had to find another way to use up some of the cookies. And I'm not the only one....I've seen tons of recipes out there using Thin Mints, Samoas, and Do-Si-Do's. Well, in our house, Thin Mints reign supreme, so I had to try out the Thin Mint Truffles that I saw on Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. This is actually the second time I've made these......the first time was a total I knew I'd be making them again.....with the last couple of boxes!
These are very similar to the Oreo Truffle recipes that you'll see out there......bash the heck out of the cookies till they resemble cookie dust, mix with cream cheese, form into little balls, chill for a couple of hours, melt your choice of chocolate, dip the balls in chocolate and chill till it hardens. Done.....voila!

I packed up these puppies in pairs with some cute ribbon and gave them to the teachers at our son's preschool. Just a little something to say "Thanks!"

Check out Confessions of a Cookbook Queen for the recipe.....and enjoy!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cookies......with a side of ham

This past weekend was a crazy weekend for us......we had our little one's 2nd birthday, as well as our nephew's first communion and our sister-in-law's store's grand opening. Needless to say, I actually didn't have time to be baking up a storm......and to the shock of many, I actually ordered Henry's birthday cakes from the grocery store! He was as happy as could be getting a Thomas cake (although the dang blue frosting dyed EVERYTHING name it!

But I couldn't let the weekend go by without making anything, so I decided to whip up some of the Crispy Chewy Oatmeal Toffee Chip Cookies from the blog, Week of Menus. These cookies have a little of everything in them....chocolate chips, toffee bits, oatmeal, and rice I said....everything!

Unfortunately for my diet I ended up eating several of these puppies before packing them up......then I managed to eat several more at my sister-in-law's for our birthday party/first communion celebration. Sigh......I try to be good.....I really do. Most of the time I bake, it's when I can take it to someone else's house so it's not sitting in front of me, tempting me. But I have a serious weekness for cookies.....homemade, yummy, glad I don't have any more of these in my house right now or I'd be running to the kitchen to grab one right now!

So you're probably wondering about the side of ham? Well, it's not actually ham........just a bunch of hams!! When we get together with my husband's family (which is pretty often, but not as often as my kids would like).....there are 9 grandkids running around having a blast. That's right....9! They have an absolute blast playing's such a wonderful thing to see. And now that our little 2 year old is trying to play with some of his older cousins, it's wonderful seeing the way they shower him with attention....he just eats it up! But with 9 kids, you can imagine how difficult it can be to get a picture of them all together. Usually there are one or two kids missing from the picture.....and after one or two takes that are smiles, it usually ends up looking something like this picture. These kids are just a bunch of goofballs....I love them!!

This weekend we've got Mother's Day (my Mommy is coming to town...yeah!!) and my niece's first communion on the same day (which means that all the kiddos are together again!). Oh and I can't forget our oldest one's first T-ball game! Gonna be another busy week for us! In the meantime, check out Week of Menus for the cookie recipe.....enjoy!!