Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sugar Cookies

Is it really December??? I can't believe the year is almost over! It has gone by relatively quickly and I am hoping that December passes just as quickly!

This month I thought it would be fun for you to get to know me, so every day I will be posting something interesting (or not so interesting!) about myself. I would love to get to know all of you, too, so feel free to tell me something about yourself in your comments! :)

Today I'll start off pretty boring... you know, the basics! I was born on September 15, 1982 in Tucson, Arizona. We didn't stay in Tucson long, at least I don't think we did. We moved to Phoenix and stayed there (or in the surrounding area) until I got married. I absolutely LOVE Arizona. I know it sounds crazy, but I really don't mind the crazy heat. Of course we have AC, so staying inside was always an option. But, I love tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops, so the sun is good for me! I really miss living in Arizona and Nathan and I plan on moving back there once he retires from the Army.

Now, on to cookies! It's December and I'm sure my blog won't be the only one out there with a ton of cookie recipes. What are the holiday's without yummy treats???

I am not one to toot my own horn or claim the best of anything, but these sugar cookies really are FANTASTIC! I wish I had a better picture of them (this one was from last year) so you could really see how great they are. They are soft and big and flavorful. The almond extract makes them fantastic! You could eat them plain or decorate them. I have used buttercream, marshmallow fondant, and royal icing on these. All are great! I really hope you'll give these cookies a try. I promise that you won't be disappointed!

If you are looking for awesome cookie cutters, I get mine from Copper Gifts. They have such an amazing selection and you can even have them do custom cutters!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
2 1/4 cups flour

Cream butter, cream cheese, and sugar until smooth. Add extracts and egg yolk. Gradually stir in flour and salt until combined. Shape dough into disc and wrap in plastic wrap; chill 8 hours or overnight.

Roll out dough and cut into shapes. (You can freeze the cut outs at this point to help prevent spreading.)

Bake at 375 for 7-10 minutes, just until the edges are lightly toasted.

Cool before decorating.

Apple Butter

I woke up to two beautiful things this morning (well, besides my beautiful children!). A gorgeous, quiet German Sunday morning and delicious homemade apple butter!

I love the early morning here. It is so quiet and peaceful. This morning I opened my windows and just listened to the birds singing their sweet songs. It is mornings like this that will make me miss this wonderful place that I have called home for the last 6 years. Yes, I know that birds still sing in the states, but there is something about this place that has imprinted on my being and I am trying to soak up every last bit of Germany I can before we leave next year.

I had the perfect pairing for this beautiful morning with homemade apple butter. I know that there are many ways to make apple butter, but this is so easy and easy is good! I cut up the apples after dinner, throw them in the crock-pot, and wake up in the morning to the wonderful smell of apple butter. Mmmmm....

You go to bed with this...

And wake up to this!

Hope you are all having a wonderful Sunday morning, too!

Apple Butter

5 1/2 lbs apples (I use Gala), peeled and finely chopped

2-4 cups sugar (depends on how sweet you want it; I use about 3)

2-3 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp salt

Combine sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Mix apples in and toss well. Place in greased crockpot.

Cook on high for 1 hour, then reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 9-11 hours or until thickened and dark brown. Uncover and cook 1 hour more.

(Note: When I wake up in the morning, I whisk the apple butter for a few minutes to break up the big chunks and help it along a bit!)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Just because he's cute!

Okay, so this is semi food related. Eric just started eating solids last week and tonight he was thrilled with his mashed up banana. He has the cutest smile in the world and I just had to share. Don't mind the wet face... it is mostly bananas, but he is also teething and sick, so that is A LOT of moisture! :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

November Daring Baker Challenge: Caramel Cake and Vanilla Bean Caramels

I'm sick. My kids are sick - AGAIN! I am so sick of being sick. I am exhausted and my brain doesn't seem to be functioning. What does this have to do with the November Daring Baker challenge? Well, it is my excuse for a short, horribly put together, all around not so great post.

This month's challenge was a yummy caramel cake, which I happily made into cupcakes (decorating time is much shorter!). They were so delicious and my friends enjoyed them, too!

There was an additional optional challenge - Vanilla Bean Caramels. I did grind my own vanilla beans for these and probably should've made sure it was done better. There were some bigger pieces (nothing gross) in the caramel. But, they still tasted great and I will make this recipe again when I can find golden syrup. (I had to order it on EBay... too much to spend to make these regularly!)

Oh, and here is the information for the super cool new computer program that is going to check that I completed this challenge:

Caramel Cake Recipe Courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon
Recipe published from Bay Area Bites

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

Hosts/Co-Hosts for this month's challenge:
Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go
Now for the recipes:


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F
Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
Sift flour and baking powder. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients.
Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.
Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Cook butter until brown.
Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.
Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light
(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels
1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened
A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F.
Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot. When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm. Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Zucchini Muffins with Craisins and Chocolate Chips

Lets do something a little light for the morning after Thanksgiving! These muffins were absolutely fantastic! And, hey, they have zucchini in them so that must mean that they are healthy, right? Just ignore the chocolate... HA HA HA! Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Zucchini Muffins with Craisins and Chocolate Chips
Recipe from No Fear Entertaining

1 1/2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/4 butter, melted
1 egg
handful of dried cranberries
handful of bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder and nutmeg. In another bowl add the sugar, zucchini, butter, and egg. Mix well.

Add the flour mixture and stir til just combined. Stir in cranberries and chocolate chips.

Fill paper lined muffin cups very, very full. Should make about 7 large sized muffins.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, testing for doneness before removing from oven.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes then remove from pan to rack to cool the rest of the way.

Something else to be thankful for...

Priscilla of Priscilla's Baking Adventures awarded me TWO blog awards! I love Priscilla's blog and am so thrilled that she loves mine, too! She recently did a countdown of her top 10 holiday desserts. You should check it out! I know I bookmarked a few! YUM!!!

Thanks, Priscilla! I really appreciate it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

No recipe today as I'm sure that everyone is pigging out and has no need for anything new today! :)

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. We all have so much to be thankful for and I hope that we can all take a moment today to reflect on the many blessings in our lives.

I am incredibly grateful to my husband for all he does for our family and our country. I am thankful to have two beautiful children who challenge me every day to be a better person. I am blessed to have a wonderful second family here in Germany who I know I can count on no matter what. I also have great friends and family in the states who write and call me often and remind me that I am loved.

A friend of mine recently posted a blog about what she was thankful for and it was a list of things most of us wouldn't think of. She was saying things like being thankful for dirty dishes because it means you have food to eat or thankful for laundry because it means you have clothes on your back. These are things that I don't normally think of and I was reminded to be thankful for the little things in life, too.

Finally, I am incredibly thankful that you all stop by here and read my posts and leave comments. I am so glad to be a part of this wonderful blogging community!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy all the great food!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cheese of the Month - Mascarpone

Another month, another cheese! Cheese of the Month is hosted by Brittney of Adventures in Gluttony and this month's selection was mascarpone! I was excited about this choice because, believe it or not, I have never had mascarpone. To me it was the cheese that was used in Tiramisu, and I DO NOT like tiramisu! So, mascarpone was never something I considered.

Boy am I glad I joined Cheese of the Month because mascarpone is delicious. It is so rich and creamy! I love it! I made two different recipes using mascarpone, dinner and dessert!

I'll start with dessert, because it was my favorite! I got the idea from Leslie over at The Hungry Housewife after October's Daring Baker challenge. She made a brown sugar mascarpone pizza topped with blueberries and homemade dulce de leche. As soon as I saw her post I KNEW that I would have to make that on my next pizza night.

Sometimes messy = good!!!

Now, there isn't really a recipe for it, but I hope you'll make it one day! I just mixed in a little brown sugar with some mascarpone and spread it on the pizza dough. Then I topped it with blueberries and a streusel topping. After the pizza came out of the oven, I drizzled it with homemade dulce de leche (click here for the recipe). It tasted FANTASTIC! The entire pizza was gone in about 10 minutes. And, no, I didn't eat it all. I shared with 3 friends! Thanks, Leslie, for an awesome recipe idea!

The second dish was made mostly for my friend, Monica. She loves mushrooms and as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it for her. Me, well, I don't care for mushrooms all that much. I mean, I'll eat them, but they aren't my favorite. To be honest, I picked out the mushrooms from my bowl and gave them to Monica's daughter! HA HA HA!

Even though I picked out my mushrooms, this dish was amazingly good! It was incredibly easy to throw together and was on the table in the amount of time that it took the pasta to cook. Tasty and quick... it doesn't get any better than that!

Don't forget to check out Adventures in Gluttony at the end of the month for the round up! And I'll leave you with this link on how to make your own mascarpone. I didn't get around to doing it this month, but would love to try it one day!

Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Recipe from Giada DeLaurentis

1 pound rigatoni pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound assorted mushrooms, (such as cremini, shiitake and button), cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the heat to high. Add the wine and cook for 3 minutes until all the liquid evaporates. Add the stock and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the mascarpone cheese. Stir until creamy. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water, and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the mushroom mixture and the Parmesan.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss well to coat pasta, adding the reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Garnish with the chopped chives. Serve immediately.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pumpkin Roll (No TWD)

For the first time in 4 months I am skipping TWD. I have nothing against the recipe chosen for this week (Twofer Pie - pumpkin on the bottom, pecan on the top). I was actually looking forward to trying it. But, Thanksgiving isn't happening in November for me, so I would be eating the pie by myself! (For the recipe, check out Vibi's blog - La Casserole Carree.)

I will try this pie in December, though. Nathan LOVES Thanksgiving. I mean, LOVES LOVES LOVES it. We do Thanksgiving twice a year because of his love for the holiday. (Well... his love for the food!) Our second Thanksgiving is a tradition we started a few years back - Father's Day Thanksgiving. I wanted to give Nathan a traditional Thanksgiving, so we will be doing it in December when he comes home.

Today I will be posting my final pumpkin recipe. Okay, okay... you can stop cheering now! :) I am not done making pumpkin dishes (Megan of My Baking Adventures just posted a pumpkin creme brulee that I cannot resist!), but this will be it as far as posting goes. It's time to move on to Christmas-y dishes. Mmmmm... I see lots of cookies in my future!

I love this pumpkin roll. It is so good. One year I had a friend ask for it for Christmas. Not weird, right? Well, he didn't want me to bring it for dessert; he actually wanted it for his gift! So, I wrapped it up and brought it over. He was one happy guy! And this is the recipe to make if you want to make my brother in law, Sam, happy. Whenever I am in Arizona and I make this, I have to make two because one is strictly for Sam!

I hope you'll give this a try. It makes a great addition to the Thanksgiving dessert table!

Pumpkin Roll

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup chopped pecans


8 oz cream cheese
4 TBSP butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar on high speed for 5 minutes. Gradually mix in pumpkin and lemon juice. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger; stir into pumpkin mixture.

Spread batter into 10x15 greased jelly roll pan. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until center springs back when touched.

Turn cake out onto dish towel that has been sprinkled with powdered sugar. Roll up and cool for 20 minutes.

Beat filling ingredients until smooth. Unroll cake and spread filling on it. Roll up and place on wax paper that has been sprinkled with powdered sugar. Twist ends of wax paper and refrigerate overnight.

Nutella Cookie Bars

Let's take a break from pumpkin for a moment to enjoy a little Nutella. :) Oh, and you thought you'd be getting something that wasn't sweet!!! Do you not know me at all? I should change the name of my blog to something sweet since I am ALWAYS posting desserts and baked goods. What can I say? I'm a baker at heart.

These cookie bars were FANTASTIC! They were best after sitting for a while, though. So, if you are like me and you burn your tongue on food right out of the oven, try to control the urge and wait to eat these. They will not disappoint. Heavenly is what they are!!!

Nutella Cookie Bars
Recipe from Life, Lightly Salted

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella
2 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

Cream sugars and the butter in large bowl until smooth and light in color. Add the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract and Nutella.

Add the flour mixture on low speed 1/3 at a time until just mixed. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread batter into an ungreased 9x9 baking pan.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Yay for awards!

I have been given another award! I know I say it all the time, but I am so honored that people not only read my blog, but that they enjoy it enough to think it is worthy of a blog award!

This award comes from HoneyB over at The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch. If you haven't checked out her blog, come out from under the rock and get over there! She is awesome and I look forward to reading her blog daily. It is honestly the first blog I check and I wait (sometimes not so patiently!) for new posts. So... click on over there and check her out!

Thank you so much for this award, Honey! I really appreciate it! I am passing this award on to the following blogs (which you should also check out!!!):

Megan of My Baking Adventures - Megan's blog is fantastic! She has so many great recipes (hello... she just posted Pumpkin Pie Biscotti - YUM!!!!) and she has started a group with a couple other bloggers called Tyler Florence Fridays. Check it out! I just got a Tyler Florence cookbook... I see another group in my future!!!

Beth of Someone's in the Kitchen with Brina - Beth is so sweet and I love reading her blog. She is a great writer and has great recipes and photos!

Bridget of Bake at 350 - Seriously, GO NOW and check out her cookies! Man, is this woman talented!!!

Betty of Eat My Cupcake - I LOVE Betty! She is so awesome! I love reading her blog and looking at all of her yummy cupcakes. If we lived on the same continent, we would be hanging out with a ton of baked goods surrounding us! :)

Mari of Once Upon A Plate - Great recipes, great pictures, great writing. This blog is just GREAT!

And if you want to pass the award on, here are the rules... :)
1. Post the award on your blog
2. Link those who gave it to you
3. Link the original posts
4. Pass it on to five deserving people
5. Post these rules for your recipients

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pumpkin Cookies

I LOVE my mom's pumpkin cookies. Or are they Grandma's cookies, Mom? Either way, they are delicious and I love making them during this time of year. The recipe makes a ton, but it is easily halved or quartered if you don't want so many.

These cookies are very fluffy and cake like. The recipe calls for raisins and walnuts, but you could omit either (or both) if you wanted. I usually just make them with raisins, but in light of my current obsession with craisins, I added craisins and white chocolate to half. Man were those GOOD!!!

Pumpkin Cookies

4 cups brown sugar

6 eggs

2 cups oil

4 cups pumpkin

1 TBSP + 1 tsp vanilla

6 cups flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 TBSP + 1 tsp baking soda

2 cups raisins

1 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix brown sugar, eggs, oil, pumpkin, and vanilla. In a seperate bowl, mix flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Combine wet and dry ingredients; fold in raisins and walnuts. Batter will be thin.

Spoon onto greased cookie sheet at bake for 15 minutes.

Pork Medallions with Cider Sauce

What can I say about this meal? Quick, easy, and beyond delicious!!! (Can you tell I am sleep deprived and can't think of anything to write? HEE HEE!)


Pork Medallions with Cider Sauce
Recipe from Noble Pig

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1-1/2 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut into 2" - thick medallions
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Cut the pork tenderloin into 2" - thick medallions and season with salt.

Heat vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sear the pork for 5 minutes on each side or until brown. The trick to well-seared meat is resisting the urge to move the meat too soon. The meat will "unstick" when a perfect crust is formed.

Add apple cider, wine and apple cider vinegar. This will deglaze the pan and release the brown bits stuck at the bottom. Bring to a boil, cover and cook 5 minutes. Remove lid, reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes more. Turn pork occasionally.

Transfer the pork to a plate and season with pepper. Tent with foil to keep warm.

This part is very important. Simmer the liquids until reduced to 1/2 cup. The sauce should be thick and syrupy and should coat the back of a spoon. This could take 10 to 20 minutes depending on your stove and the size of the pan you are using. Do not over-reduce, it will scorch.

Spoon the cider sauce over the medallions and serve.

Friday, November 21, 2008

We have a date!!!!!!!

Throughout the course of this blog you have seen pictures of me and pictures of my kids. I have talked about my husband, but let me formally introduce you to my best friend and the love of my life - Nathan.

Nathan is in the ARMY and is currently on a 15 month deployment in Iraq. He has been gone for 7 1/2 months and I miss him like crazy!!! We have known for a while that he would be getting R&R at the end of the year, but we finally have a date!!! Nathan will be leaving Iraq on Christmas and should be here in Germany a few days later. WOO HOO!!!! We will be waiting until Nathan gets home to do Christmas and I can't think of a better gift than for him to be home with us!

I cannot wait to see my husband and for him to see his little girl (who, shocker, has this big man wrapped around her little finger!!!) and for him to finally meet his son!!!

Just had to share the wonderful news!!!! 36 days (give or take a few) to go.......

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Bars

Before I get to the recipe I want to say thank you for all the kind comments on my last post. Eric is doing much better. His cough has not returned and he seems to be back to normal. He woke up a lot last night but he has been napping great today. Hopefully there won't be any more hospital trips any time soon!
Now back to our regularly scheduled pumpkin-palooza! Okay, so I'm not quite sure it can be classified as a palooza, but it sounds cool! These pumpkin spice bars were so delicious! I really enjoyed them and so did the people I pawned them off on. Thank goodness I have people ready and willing to take my baked goods or else I would be the world's largest woman!!!

One note about these bars... they were MUCH better after sitting in the fridge overnight. The weren't bad room temperature, but I think they improved after a good chill.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Bars
Recipe from The Recipe Girl

1 ¾ cups pure pumpkin puree
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole- wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
¾ cup mini- chocolate chips


8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 Tbs butter, softened
2 tsp milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ cup mini- chocolate chips (for topping)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 10x15-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and sugars until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger and cloves. Toss in mini chocolate chips and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to the wet and stir until moistened.

Pour batter into prepared pan coated with nonstick spray. Bake until the center springs back when lightly pressed in the center- about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and place on wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix until smooth. Frost bars and sprinkle with additional mini chocolate chips.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No recipe today...

Last night I had to rush my baby boy (5 1/2 months) to the hospital. I put him to bed at 7pm and he woke up at 830 pm coughing and crying. I didn't realize it was him coughing at first; it sounded like my neighbors' dogs. I ran into his room and realized that he couldn't get a deep breath. I called an ambulance and my friend, Monica (BLESS YOUR HEART! I LOVE YOU!) ran over and got my daughter. The ambulance took us to the nearest German hospital and they gave him steroids to open his airways. No worries; he never actually stopped breathing, but it was so scary!!! After they gave him the steroids, we were taken to the children's hospital about 20 minutes away. They told me he had croup (inflammation of the upper airway). Two friends came to the hospital that night and one (Yaelmie, I can NEVER repay you!) stayed with me all night.

I was able to bring him home this afternoon but I am watching him carefully to make sure the cough doesn't come back. The doctor gave me steroids just in case, but I am hoping it doesn't come to that. And I would be crazy not to say a BIG thank you to Britteny for picking up a humidifier for Eric. I don't know what I would do without my friends. They have become my family over here and I am so grateful for all they do for me!

Eric was and is such a trooper. He was laughing and smiling at the hospital and even played for a little bit today when we got home. I am so proud of how amazing he is!

Please keep Eric in your thoughts and prayers. I hope my little boy gets better soon.

Recipes to come once we get rolling again here.....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pumpkin Soup and Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Pumpkin, pumpkin, and more pumpkin! Like I said on Monday, I will be posting a few pumpkin recipes over the next week or so. I told myself that I had until Thanksgiving to get all my pumpkin cravings out of the way. So, I made a list and started using up my pumpkin! I have gone through 2 pumpkins worth of fresh puree and have now moved on to canned pumpkin. What can I say? I love pumpkin!

I had this pumpkin soup at my friend Monica's a few weeks back and I fell in love! It is such a delicious and hearty soup. Perfect for a cold fall/winter day! The recipe has you puree the bacon with the soup, but you could also just crumble it on top or mix it in. Also, when I had it at Monica's I topped it with the cheddar and parmesan as the recipe suggests. When I made it, I had mozzarella grated already, so I just used that and it was just as good.

I found the recipe for these dinner rolls and thought they would be a perfect partner for the soup. At first I worried that it might be too much pumpkin for one meal, but as soon as I tasted the rolls, I knew it was a good choice. The pumpkin flavor was definately present, but it was very subtle. These rolls were DELICIOUS! I used them for sandwich rolls the next day for lunch, too!

If you aren't sick of pumpkin yet, give these recipes a try. They really are fantastic!

Pumpkin Soup

8 slices bacon, cut into pieces
3 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
7 cups water
2 TBSP chicken bouillon granules
4 cups (32 oz) pumpkin
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp thyme
1 cup milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp curry powder
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Grated cheddar and parmesan, for topping

In a large soup pot, saute bacon, onion, carrots, and celery in oil for 15 minutes. Stir in water, bouillon, pumpkin, sugar, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.

Blend with hand blender or transfer in batches to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Mix in milk, nutmeg, and curry powder. Heat through and season with salt and pepper.

Pour into bowls and top with cheese.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Recipe from EChronicles
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 package active dry yeast
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup warm skim milk
5 cups bread or all-purpose white flour, divided
1/4 cup stick butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 large egg
Combine the pumpkin and vanilla extract; set aside.

Dissolve yeast and sugar in milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes until bubbly. Add 2 cups flour, pumpkin mixture, butter, salt, vinegar, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and egg to yeast mixture; beat at medium speed of a mixer until smooth. Stir in 2 cups flour to form a sticky dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); adding in enough of the remaining flour to prevent dough from sticking to hands.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover dough, and let rise in a warm place (85°), 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Coat 24 muffin cups with cooking spray. Punch dough down, and divide in half. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), divide each portion into 12 equal pieces; shape each piece into a ball. Place 1 ball in each muffin cup. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 350°

Uncover dough. Brush melted butter over rolls. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes to serve immediately. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.
To freeze rolls, bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, cool on wire racks, and place in a large zip-top freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. To bake, remove desired number of rolls from bag; let thaw at room temperature while oven preheats to 350°. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Chocolate Covered Cheesecake Bites

I mentioned my Chocolate Covered Cheesecake Bites earlier in the week and a few people expressed interest in the recipe. Unfortunately I do not have a picture because, well, I never took pictures of my food prior to starting this blog! :) I wanted to post this recipe now so those who wanted to make them for the holidays could. Just picture in your mind tiny squares of cheesecake dipped in chocolate - almost like little cheesecake petit fours. YUM!!!

I do want to warn you, though. If you have no self control (like myself!), make sure you have someone to share these with. Trust me. If you don't, you will find yourself sneaking back to the fridge for more and next thing you know the whole batch will be gone. It will be worth it, but you may need to spend a little more time at the gym!

Chocolate Covered Cheesecake Bites

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, melted

16 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

24 oz semisweet chocolate
3 TBSP shortening

Line 8" square pan with foil; spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine all crust ingredients; mix well. Press into bottom of prepared pan.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour filling over crust.

Bake at 300 for 40-45 minutes or until edges are set. Center will be soft. Refrigerate 1 1/2 hours; then freeze for 2 hours. Cut into 48 pieces.

Melt chocolate and shortening. Cool for 2-3 minutes. Dip cheesecake bites; set on wax paper. Let stand for 20 minutes.

Store in refrigerator.

*Note: I find it easier to pull only a couple bites out of the freezer at a time while dipping. It makes dipping easier if they are still frozen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

TWD: Rice Pudding

The selection for this week was Arborio Rice Pudding. Before making it, I was pretty sure that I didn't like rice pudding. But, I cut the recipe in half and decided to give it a go anyway. Hey, that's what TWD is about, right? Making me come out of my shell and make things that I normally wouldn't.

Well.... as I expected, I do not like rice pudding. But, at least it was a recipe that didn't waste much. I only had to use 1/4 cup of rice and a little over a cup of milk. No harm, no foul.

You can get the recipe at Les Gourmandises d'Isa (thanks for hosting this week!). If you like rice pudding, check out the blogroll. I'm sure that the many talented TWDers came up with some great pudding!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Oh yes, another pumpkin muffin! And if you are sick of them, then you might not like to hear that I have another muffin in my draft folder. It's true... I love muffins! And, well, pumpkin muffins are divine!

These muffins were delicious and I loved the hint of spice coming from the cardamom. The cream cheese got a little lost in the struesel topping, so next time I will put it in the middle of the muffin instead of swirling it on top.

Overall, these muffins were fantastic and are worth trying!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Recipe from Mommy? I'm Hungry!


3 cups flour

4tsp pumpkin pie spice

Pinch of cardamom

1 tsp salt

1 tsp soda

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin

1 ¼ cups vegetable oil

Cream Cheese Filling:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crumb Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. To make the cream cheese filling, beat cream cheese, sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

Make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted butter, then pinch the mixture until it forms pea-size clumps. Set aside.

Mix muffin ingredients together except cream cheese filling. Fill muffin tins (greased or paper cups) 3/4 full. Put 1-2 tsp cream cheese filling in each muffin and lightly swirl. Top with 1 generous tablespoon of topping.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the muffin. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely. Makes 24 muffins.

Pumpkin Oatmeal with Craisins and Pecans

This oatmeal is to die for!!! It was like having a piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast! It was so delicious!

Also, I wanted to give fair warning... there will be a lot of pumpkin recipes over the next couple of weeks. So, if you love pumpkin and all things pumpkin, tune in. If not, well, I hope you'll still visit! :)

Pumpkin Oatmeal with Craisins and Pecans
Recipe from Dinners for a Year and Beyond

1 cup milk
Dash of salt
½ cup old-fashioned oats
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon Craisins
1 tablespoon chopped pecans
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon butter

Bring milk and salt to a boil. Stir in the oats. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon and pumpkin and cook and additional 2 – 3 minutes. To serve, top oatmeal with dried cranberries, pecans, brown sugar, and butter.

*I added the brown sugar in with the pumpkin instead of on top. I also omitted the butter.*

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chocolate and Cinnamon Chippers & Some Questions!

Have you tried cinnamon chips yet? They are delicious but also a pain in the butt to get ahold of - especially for me! I have my mom send me some when she finds them, but it isn't a piece of cake to get them in Phoenix, either! Luckily, the Ramstein commissary had some a few months back and I grabbed 4 bags. Yes, in hindsight I realize I should've grabbed 40! :)

I found this cookie recipe at Picky Palate and thought it would be a great way to use some of my cinnamon chips. I'm glad I did because these cookies were delicious! If you have cinnamon chips, make these. I promise it is a good use for those hard to find chips!

Chocolate and Cinnamon Chippers

2 sticks butter
1 Cup brown sugar
½ Cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 Cup cinnamon chips
1 ½ Cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a stand or electric mixer cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla slowly until well combined. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add to wet mixture along with the chips until just combined. Scoop onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes or until cooked through to your liking. Cool on cooling rack and serve.

Now, for a fun little questionnaire. It is 15 questions about the last 10 people who commented on my blog. Honey from The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch did it and I was one of the last 10 on her blog, so now it is my turn. 5 of my 10 aren't food bloggers, but they are good friends and I love all comments, so I wanted to include them in this. As for the 5 food blogs that are on this list - check them out! They are AWESOME!

1. Bunny of Bunny's Warm Oven
2. Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod
3. Honey of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch
4. Megan of My Baking Adventures
5. Erica
6. Janelle
7. Cari
8. Monica
9. Lisa of Jersey Girl Cooks
10. Hayley

1: What is your favorite post from number 3’s blog?
Okay, well this may seem silly picking the most recent post, but it cracked me up! She was talking about how she was making her hubby think that she was making something for dinner that he didn't want when she was actually making meat and potatoes for him. She is a MUCH better writer than I am. You can read her telling the story here.

2. Has number 10 taken any pictures that have moved you?
The pics of her kids are really cute! I like how she keeps up with it all.

3. Does number 6 reply to comments on their blog?
She sure does... well, I know she responds to me! :)

4. Which part of blogland is number 2 from?

5. If you could give one piece of advice to number 7 what would it be?
Cari is a friend of mine from an online forum. She has a little baby girl and I would just say enjoy every second because, as cliche as it sounds, they grow way too fast.

6. Have you ever tried something from number 9’s blog?
Not yet, but I'm eyeing this Peanut Caramel Spiced Apple Cake. YUM!

7. Has number 1 blogged something that inspired you?
Bunny's entire blog is an inspiration! Her posts are wonderful and her recipes are, too!

8. How often do you comment on number 4’s blog?
Probably not as much as I should, but I have started posting more. :)

9. Do you wait for number 8 to post excitedly?
YES! I love seeing new pics of her kids even though I see them in person just about every day!

10. How did number 5’s blog change your life?
Um... now I have someone to take pics of my kids! Just kidding! Erica is an amazing photographer, writer, and friend. Her blog makes me want to be better at keeping track of the things my kids do!

11. Do you know any of the 10 bloggers in person?
Yes. Janelle, Monica, and Erica!

12. Do any of your 10 bloggers know each other in person?
Everyone from question 11!

13. Out of the 10, which updates more frequently?
Every one of the food bloggers on my list update almost every day, but at least a few times a week. This makes me one happy lady because that means more recipes to try!

14. Which of the 10 keep you laughing?
Honey cracks me up on a regular basis. So do Monica and Erica, but mostly because the kids are hilarious! (No offense, guys... You're funny, too!)

15. Which of the 10 has made you cry (good or bad tears)?
I can't think of one that has, but if there is one, it would have to be Monica's. I'm sure that at some point she has made me cry! :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cookie Carnival: Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

It's Cookie Carnival time! I'm trying to get all of my "must make" recipes out of the way early this month. I am ahead on TWD and I completed my Daring Baker challenge. I thought I would get these made, too, and then I won't have much left to do. I realize that made it sound like it is a chore for me to do these things. It really isn't! It's just at the beginning of each month I make a list of things I need to make and this month this list had 10 recipes (not including day to day cooking), one of which is going to take the better part of a few days to complete. So, I wanted to get things completed as early as possible, especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner!

The cookie selection for November was The Ultimate Chewy and Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Regan Daley's book "In The Sweet Kitchen". One of my favorite things about chocolate chip cookies is that there are so many recipes out there to try and you know that, for the most part, the cookies will be delicious. I mean, c'mon, who doesn't love a chocolate chip cookie?!?!

That being said, it is also hard to find that "ultimate" cookie because everyone is looking for something different in a chocolate chip cookie. I love soft and chewy cookies, so I was looking forward to trying this recipe.

Were these cookies good? Absolutely! Were they the best chocolate chip cookie I've ever had? Probably not. I was able to resist the urge to eat the whole batch, and while I shouldn't eat the whole batch, I've had chocolate chip cookies before that I had to remove the temptation from my sight to prevent myself from eating the whole batch!

Don't feel sad for me, though! Even those these weren't the ultimate in my book, they were still delicious and I did enjoy a couple. I sent the rest down to Iraq and am hoping that someone there is enjoying them! Plus, I now have another cookbook on my list to order... and that is ALWAYS a good thing!

The Ultimate Chewy and Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsps. pure vanilla extract
3 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
16 oz. flavorful bitter or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or lightly butter them, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or a large bowl if mixing by hand, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

2. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks.

3. Using your hands, shape knobs of dough about the size of a large walnut and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Stagger the rows of cookies to ensure even baking. Bake 12-15 for smaller cookies, 14-17 for larger ones or until the tops are a light golden brown. If the cookies are neither firm nor dark when they are removed from the oven, they will cool chewy and soft.

4. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. If somehow they don't get inhaled immediately, they may be stored airtight at room temperature for up to one week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Past Daring Baker Challenge: Cheesecake Pops

Looks like it's time for another past challenge. I am trying to finish all of them and this month I think I will be able to complete 3 of the past challenges, so that is great!

Chocolate covered cheesecake is not something I am unfamiliar with. I make chocolate covered cheesecake bites a couple times a year. My friend, Monica, brought them up the other day and I realized that it has been a while since I have made them. Then it hit me that Cheesecake Pops were a past challenge and I asked her if she minded if I tried a new recipe just so I could cross it off my list.

The recipe comes from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. It just so happens that my friend, Kristl, sent me that book for my birthday. (On a side note... great book... buy it!) I really enjoyed this recipe. The cheesecake was so delicious. Definately one of the better cheesecakes I have tasted. But, I did miss my cheesecake bites. I use a graham cracker crust on them, so each bite is like a little piece of cheesecake. I also have orange zest in my cheesecake and I found myself missing that flavor.

Nonetheless, this was an awesome recipe and they looked so adorable! I only wish I had cuter sticks for them!
Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

Chocolate (any kind) for dipping

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball.
Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.)

Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Basil Chicken over Angel Hair Pasta

I can't remember where or when I found this recipe, but I know that I have been making it (and loving it!) for years. It is such a simple dinner, but it is so good! Kids love it, too. I remember my daughter inhaling this as one of her first meals when she started eating table foods. Come to think of it, she still inhales it now!

Basil Chicken over Angel Hair Pasta

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
3 TBSP dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp Tabasco
1/2 box angel hair pasta, cooked
Parmesan, to taste

Saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in tomatoes, chicken, basil, salt, and Tabasco. Simmer 5 minutes. Spoon over pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring our Soldiers

This isn't food related but I couldn't let today pass without saying something. Today is Veteran's Day and it is a day for us to all take the time to remember our soldiers, past and present, and to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

I am so thankful to all of the brave service men and women who serve our country. I am grateful to those who are willing to sacrifice so much so that we can live our lives and so that we can enjoy all the freedoms that come with being an American.

I am extremely proud to be an ARMY wife. I am so proud of my husband and there are no words to express how grateful I am for all he does for our country and our family. I miss him more than I can say, but I know that he is doing a job that he loves and that our country needs him.

I also wanted to say thank you to those who have given their lives in defense of our great nation. I pray for the families who are grieving and for those who are missing a friend or loved one.

So, please take a moment to think of those who have served and who are still serving.

God Bless our troops and God Bless America!

TWD: Kugelhopf

Two weeks in a row we have had weird names for the TWD picks. Last weeks Rugelach was delicious and will definately be made again. This weeks Kugelhopf was tasty, but more than likely I will not be making it again.

Kugelhopf is half cake/half bread stuffed with raisins that is brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar right out of the oven. There are special Kugelhopf tins available or you could just use a Bundt pan to bake it.

I didn't want to buy a special tin to make this since I already have a Bundt pan. But, I found a cute silicone mini Kugelhopf pan on EBay and couldn't resist. I cut the recipe in half and made six minis. I think I filled the molds too much, though, since my end result suffered from a very large muffin top! I added cinnamon chips to the dough along with the raisins to add some extra flavor.

I did enjoy the Kugelhopf and I thought the cinnamon chips were fantastic in it. I probably won't make it again not because it wasn't good, but more so because there are too many other recipes that I want to try!

Thanks to Yolanda of The All-Purpose Girl for this weeks selection. Head over to her blog for the recipe and, as always, check out the TWD blogroll!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones

In honor of my love for all things lemon poppy seed and my love for scones, here is a recipe for DELICOUS Lemon Poppy Seed Scones!

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones
Recipe from Eat Real

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 TBSP lemon zest
2 TBSP poppy seeds
1 1/4 cups heavy cream or whipping cream
1 tsp lemon extract

For top:
Egg wash
2 TBSP sugar
1 tsp lemon zest

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds in a mixing bowl. Mix cream and lemon extract; pour over dry ingredients. Mix just until dough clings together.

Flour hands and fold - don't knead - dough over a few turns until combined.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat or roll into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter). Cut into 8 or 10 wedges or use a circular biscuit cutter to cut into rounds.
Place scones on baking sheet, spacing them about an inch apart.

Brush scones with egg wash. Mix sugar and lemon zest; sprinkle on top of scones. Bake for about 15 minutes, until tops and bottoms are golden.

TWD Rewind: Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

I may not be a great food photographer but you can't tell me that you don't want a bite of those brownies! Let me tell you - these are the BEST brownies I have ever had... EVER!!!!

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies was the second recipe chosen by Tuesday's with Dorie. Of course, the name alone pulled me in and I knew I would have to make these. Who can resist five different types of chocolate? I don't know about you, but I sure can't!

The brownies include cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. The recipe also calls for coffee and nuts, both of which I omitted. I know coffee is supposed to enhance the flavor of chocolate, but these brownies were phenomenal without it. By all means, though, if you have a pot of coffee sitting around, add it in! As for the nuts, well, nothing has changed. I just don't like nuts in my brownies! :)

These brownies are about as fudgy as a brownie can get and are so rich and delicious. As much as you'll want to eat the whole pan, you probably won't be able to. Well... at least not in one sitting! Cut them small and enjoy them! And, if you want to be greedy, these freeze well!

Head over to Sugar & Spice for the recipe. You KNOW you want to make these!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Apple Dumplings

A couple things before we get to the apple dumplings....

First, I want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my mom! I know she reads this (or at least she says she does - just kidding, Mom!) so Mom, I hope you have a wonderful day! I love and miss you so much! Can't wait to see you in February! HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Also, I want to apologize for the lack of variety lately. Anya has had a fever (between 101-103) since Tuesday and she has had no appetite. Since it is just me eating I have been making quick meals for myself and she has been living off of fruit and rice cakes. I have been digging into my draft folder for posts this week and I always have an excess of desserts and baked goods, so that is what you have been seeing. Once Anya starts feeling better (HOPEFULLY SOON!!!) you will begin seeing more variety in the posts. But, until then, I hope you are enjoying the sugar high!

I made these apple dumplings a few weeks back and there is actually a funny story attached to them. I made two desserts on the same day - these and the pumpkin whoopie pies for October's cookie carnival. I was heading over to a friends house to scrapbook that day and was going to bring the whoopie pies. I was also having company over for dinner that night and was going to serve the apple dumplings for dessert. Well, I put them in identical containers and accidentally brought the dumplings to the scrapbooking thing. OOPS! No worries, though. We baked them up and enjoyed them immensely!

These are so quick and easy to make. I assembled them the night before and left them in the fridge until it was time to bake them. They tasted amazing!!!!

Apple Dumplings
Recipe from Food Channel

1 pound prepared pie dough
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins, brandy-soaked
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 apples, firm but ripe

1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons water

Roll out pastry to a thickness of no more than 1/8 inch. Using a sharp paring knife, cut into 8 squares. Then cut each square into a triangle. Cut as many leaf shapes as possible from the pastry scraps, and use the back of a knife to make the vein markings. Keep the pastry chilled on parchment-lined or water-sprayed baking sheets until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Mix the sugar, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts in a small bowl. Set aside.

Peel the apple. Core each piece of fruit and fill each fruit with some of the sugar-cinnamon mixture and dot with butter.

Invert each apple onto the center of a triangle of pastry. Bring the edges of the pastry together, moisten them with water and pinch or press to seal. Garnish with dumplings as desired by pasting the leaves on with water. Place the fruits on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill until ready to bake.

Lightly brush each dumpling with glaze and bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and nicely browned.


Who doesn't love Girl Scout cookies? Everyone has a favorite... I know I do. My favorite are Samoas, or Caramel De-lites. I prefer to call them Samoas because that is what they were called when I was growing up. I always look forward to cookie season so I can load up on boxes of Samoas. Last year I used a box to make a DELICIOUS Samoa ice cream. YUM YUM!

Anyway, my problem with Girl Scout cookies is that you can only get them once a year. I understand the reason for this, but still... It makes me long for Samoas more than I should.

I recently saw this recipe at Baking Bites and knew I had to try it. The whole time I was making these I kept thinking that they better be good because they are a PAIN IN THE BUTT! Definately not your mix and drop cookie. They take some time to make, but.... THEY ARE TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!! These taste so ridiculously similar to the original and I will definately be making these whenever I get a craving.

No worries, Girl Scouts... I will still be loading up on yours come cookie season. But, at least now I can enjoy them year round!



1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
up to 2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky (it’s possible you might not need to add milk at all). The dough should come together into a soft, not-too-sticky ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky.

Roll the dough (working in two or three batches) out between pieces of wax paper to about 1/4-inch thickness (or slightly less) and use a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a knife, or the end of a wide straw, to cut a smaller center hole. Repeat with remaining dough. Alternatively, use scant tablespoons of dough and press into an even layer in a mini donut pan to form the rounds.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. If using a mini donut pan, bake for only about 10 minutes, until edges are light gold.Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 tsp per cookie. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it gets too firm to work with.

While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate.

Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

*MY NOTE: I've kept these in the freezer now for about 2 weeks and pull one out whenever I want one. They freeze great, so no need to cut the recipe in half!*

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A fun lunch for the kids

This is going to be a short post because I am exhausted and don't feel like writing much but I haven't missed a post in 3 months, so here I am typing....

My daughter (who is now sick with a 102.5 fever!) had her best friend over for a playdate on Tuesday. They had so much fun playing and we made a fun lunch together. They really enjoyed helping make the lunch and they loved eating it, too! It's nice to make food entertaining for the little ones!

Alexis and Anya excited about their lunch

The kabobs are pretty self-explanatory. Cut up a PB&J sandwich and thread on a skewer with grapes and bananas (or any fruit you like).

Peanut Butter & Jelly Kabobs and Apple Rings

For the apples mix together peanut butter, honey, raisins, and mini chocolate chips. Core the apple and fill with mixture. Refrigerate for at least an hour and then cut into slices.

Hope the kiddos enjoy this one! :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pumpkin Scones

Another wonderful use for pumpkin! Make these pumpkin scones and I promise you won't be disappointed!

I did forget to put on the glaze before I took the picture, but I added it after and it was good! Although, you could eat it both ways and the scones would still be delicious!

Pumpkin Scones
Recipe from Del Sisters Kitchen

Scone Dough:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup raisins or white chocolate chips
1/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans (optional)
1/3 - 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup fresh or canned pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk or cream

Turbinado sugar for sprinkling the tops of the scones (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in middle of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins and pecans, if using.

In a separate bowl mix together the buttermilk, pumpkin puree and vanilla and then add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches (18 cm) round and about 11/2 inches (3.75 cm) thick. Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into 3 pie-shaped wedges (triangles).

Place the scones on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash and sprinkle a little Turbinado sugar on top, if desired.

Place the baking sheet inside another baking sheet to prevent the bottoms of the scones from over browning. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Spice Glaze
1c. powdered sugar
1/2t. cinnamon
1/4t. ginger
1/8t. cloves

Add as much milk till desired consistency. Drizzle or spread over scones.

Monday, November 3, 2008

TWD: Rugelach

If there is an award for ugliest rugelach, let me know because I think I have a shot at winning! Don't get me wrong, these tasted so good, but looks are another story. Maybe I just didn't take the time to roll them properly. Hey... I have two little ones and kitchen time is sometimes rushed. Maybe I should start making my baked goods during nap or after they go to bed, but for the most part I don't. My three year old loves helping in the kitchen and I hate to deprive her of that opportunity. So here is the result of being rushed... not so great looking rugelach!

I did really enjoy these, though. And seriously, I ENJOYED them! I didn't even share with friends. That's right. I was totally greedy with these! But no worries to my friends who are reading... I will make these again and maybe they will even be pretty!

I made 3 different fillings; craisin & white chocolate, poppy seed & sugar, and the filling Dorie suggested (jam, nuts, chocolate). The craisin ones were my favorite and they were the first to go. I really enjoyed the poppy seed ones as well. The jam ones... well... not my favorite. Maybe it was the combination of jam and chocolate. It kinda threw me off a bit.

Thanks to Piggy of Piggy's Cooking Journal for picking a wonderful recipe! Head over to her blog for the recipe and, as always, check out the blogroll! I'm sure there are wonderful filling ideas out there!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Zucchini, Cranberry, Walnut, and White Chocolate Cookies

I made these cookies about 3 weeks ago and have just not had the opportunity to post them. They were so delicious! And by delicious I mean AMAZING! And by amazing I mean OUT OF THIS WORLD! If you couldn't tell, I really loved these cookies! Plus, they have zucchini in them, so they must be healthy, right?

On a seperate note... HAPPY 28th BIRTHDAY to my sister, Stefanie! I hope you have a wonderful day! Treat yourself to some goodies and I'll make you some when I see you in February! I love you!

Zucchini, Cranberry, Walnut, and White Chocolate Cookies
Recipe from Cookie Madness

4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup grated zucchini
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt plus an extra pinch**
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup white chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream butter and sugar until light; Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in zucchini.

Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a separate bowl. Add to zucchini mixture and stir until almost mixed in. Stir in nuts, cranberries, and coconut.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 18 minutes, and transfer to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

**If you use salted butter or margarine, use only 1/2 teaspoon of salt. If you use unsalted butter, use ½ teaspoon salt plus a generous pinch (1/8 teaspoon).

Related Posts with Thumbnails