Products I Love: My Rubber Spatula

17 Jul

Every great cook/chef (and us amateur bloggers know it too!) knows that in order to be successful in the kitchen, there are certain tools that we need to have to make those cookies come out uniformly (like our trusty cookie scoops!), or to make that cake batter nice and fluffy (I rely on my trusty Oster Hand Mixer for that!), and when it comes to mixing/combining/incorporating ingredients, I use my super versatile Rubbermaid Rubber Spatula!

Spatula

From mixing up that giant bowl of chex mix, to scraping every bit of sugar into the mix for the perfect frosting – this spatula does it all! Why do I love this particular one so much? Well, it’s withstood the test of time first of all – I’ve had it for 10 years, and the main reason I love it is its thickness and its shape – the flat side is great for scraping, and the thickness means it won’t fold under pressure. Find a similar model to use and love in your kitchen here

I would love to hear what you think – do you have a favorite spatula or kitchen tool? What gadgets/products can’t you live without in the kitchen?

Products I Love: CRISCO

19 Jun

Crisco

Ok – so maybe it seems strange to devote a whole post to something like Crisco – but how can I not praise this versatile fat? It pretty much does it all – you can fry chicken with it, grease the heck out of a pan, and do some other pretty weird but helpful stuff with it too!

But I have to say, my personal favorite way to use Crisco is in FROSTING – this recipe is my Mother In Law’s, and when I first heard what was in it I was like WHAT EW! There’s CRISCO in this?! But it seriously is amazing – and delicious to boot!

 

Crisco Frosting

Ingredients
-1 Cup Crisco
-1 lb box Confectioners Sugar
-1 tablespoon clear butter flavoring
-1 tablespoon clear vanilla
-1-2 tablespoons milk

Directions
-Blend Crisco until smooth and creamy with a hand mixer
-Add sugar in batches – 1 cup at a time, and mix until smooth in between each addition
-Add vanilla and butter flavoring, and mix well
-Add a little milk as needed and mix well until it’s at the desired consistency

So the point of using the clear extracts is that it makes the frosting nice and bright white – it’s so pretty when piped onto cupcakes, and it tastes even better licked right out of the bowl!

Cupcake

My Brother and Sister in law enjoying some of my cupcakes made with their mom’s frosting (she is excited – despite her expression!)

 

….of course Crisco isn’t exactly the best choice if you’re trying to be healthy, in which case you will want to check out my healthy chocolate chip cookies, or my healthy substitutions. I usually try and be healthy when preparing meals and snacks, but sometimes there is just nothing like a pile of Crisco frosting on a cupcake. Yum! What about you – have you used a lot of Crisco in the kitchen? What’s your favorite use for it?

Baklava: Easier To Make Than I thought! Oh, And It’s Delicious Too

14 Jun

I wanted to make my husband something for his first “Father’s Day” (we have a dog and a baby due in October so I know some people wouldn’t really consider that a “Father’s Day”, but we do!), and I knew I wanted it to be something sweet. Now, he is NOT picky – he will eat almost anything I make, but I wanted to make him something he loves, something that I have never made before – and instantly it came to me – BAKLAVA! This sweet, flaky, nutty Greek dessert is something he always orders at restaurants, but I have never attempted at home

Why haven’t I attempted it at home, you might ask? Well – the honest truth is that phyllo dough scares the crap out of me. Seriously – its one of those ingredients I just stay away from at any and all costs – paper thin dough that tears easily and is a bear to work with? Pass. Serious, hard pass on that. But – once I did some research and realized that the dough would really be the ONLY hard part of making the baklava, I decided to give it a go (anything for my man!)

So Friday night, I attempted to make it. I neglected to follow the defrosting directions on the dough, and just went and opened it after letting it thaw for a mere 20 minutes on the counter – I thought “how important could that overnight fridge thaw and then 30 minute counter thaw be?” Um. As it turns out – it was VERY important. I ruined a whole package of dough (it just crumbled and flaked EVERYWHERE) – and I might have cried a little. But I persevered – left the dough in the fridge overnight and when I came back to it Saturday morning I had a MUCH easier time with it – so easy in fact that it has restored my faith in humanity. Or at least in flaky pastry anyway

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Here’s me barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen (literally – I’m 24 weeks along!) layering the dough and nuts

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Once the layers were all set, it was time to cut it into squares – and eat some of the leftover dough apparently? He said it tasted like “pie dough flavored paper”. Yuck. Luckily it will taste much different once its baked!

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Various prep stages – making the sauce while the baklava baked, and then the baked baklava gets a healthy coating of sweet honey sauce

Baklava

Ingredients

1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.
-Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.
-Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
-Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
-Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

So I realized as I was getting ready to make this that there are a few tiny flaws with the recipe – the first being it doesn’t tell you to melt the butter – but you will want it to melted so you can easily brush it onto the pastry with a pastry brush. Also, it doesn’t say how many layers to do of the 2 sheets of dough/butter/nuts – so I just did as many as I had chopped walnuts for (like 6 I want to say?) then topped it all with the suggested 8 layers of dough (and more butter of course!). Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly and didn’t have any problems

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The gorgeous finished product looked almost too pretty to eat (but my husband definitely didn’t agree-  he wanted to dig in!)

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He was more than ready to take a bite of this delicious looking and smelling dessert (so much so that he ate it for breakfast!)

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The results? He loved it! I tried some too (in the name of research of course!) and I loved the mix of the crisp pastry layers and the nuts and sweet honey – it turned out great, and I know for sure I will have trouble getting him to share more with me…but hey, its his father’s day gift – he can do what he wants with it!

Happy Father’s Day to all the current and soon-to-be dads out there!

Turning A Cookie Into A Pie? Don’t Mind If I Do…

27 Apr

Ok – truth time. I am basically in love with cookie cake – and we aren’t talking some fancy made from scratch cookie cake – I mean the industrial, grocery store kind – with the super sweet frosting roses and balloons – there is nothing better – and I could eat a whole one on my own, I swear. I just love cookies – what can I say? And when I saw this recipe – a giant cookie in PIE form – I just knew I had to whip one up to try

Loaded Soft and Chewy M&M Cookie Pie (Recipe courtesy of Averie Cooks

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 large egg
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
about 1/2 cup M&Ms, divided
about 6 mini peanut butter cups
about 6 Rolo (or other mini/bite-size candy bar)

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch pie dish very well with cooking spray; set aside.
2. In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
3. Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don’t scramble it. Add the egg, sugars, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
4. Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Add about 1/4 cup M&Ms and stir to combine; reserve remainder.
7. Turn batter out into prepared pie dish, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
8. Evenly add the remaining M&Ms to the top of the batter, pushing them down slightly to anchor.
9. Evenly insert the peanut butter cups and Rolos into the batter, pushing them down so the top is almost flush with the surface of the dough.

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Ok, so only 6 rolos? But I bought a whole bag! Better add a few more…

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Caption: Cookie Pie – all ready to get baked!

10. Bake for about 24 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. If your pie has risen in the center, it will deflate as it cools. Allow pie to cool in dish for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Pie is meant to be on the soft and underbaked side in the center while edges are crisper, which is how I prefer my cookies. In general, if you prefer more well-done cookies, bake a few minutes longer. Pie will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months (color may leech from the M&Ms if you freeze it).

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This tasted great – had the basic sugar cookie type base, and all those yummy candies were just the perfect addition! It had that slightly underbaked quality which I LOVE – and while it’s no grocery store cookie cake, I must say it is awesome!

Is it a cookie? Is it a pie? I don’t really care honestly – all I care about is that it’s delicious and a winner all around!

Bisquick Cookies – Easy, Fluffy – Yummy!

12 Apr

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I don’t know about you but I have always associated Bisquick baking mix with PANCAKES – probably because that’s what we always used it for when I was a kid – every week my dad would make Mickey shaped pancakes with apples, and they were my favorite! Now that I am an adult living on my own, I have come to realize what an amazing shortcut/helping hand Bisquick can be for so many things in the kitchen! I recently wrote about how Bisquick makes a quick and delicious cinnamon roll, but today I am in the mood for some COOKIES (as I often am), so I figured it was time to incorporate some more Bisquick into my baking

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Don’t these look amazing? Pair them with some ice cold milk and you’ve got yourself a meal – wait, I mean a snack. I don’t eat cookies for dinner, I’m an adult! Ok, well, these are so good you may want to eat them for dinner. No judgment here.

Bisquick Chocolate Chip Cookies (Recipe courtesy of Plain Chicken)

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
2 3/4 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 oz)
1/2 cup nuts, chopped, if desired (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, mix butter, sugar, vanilla and egg. Stir in Bisquick mix, chocolate chips and nuts. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, d about 2 inches apart; flatten slightly. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

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One bowl cookie dough – now that’s right up my alley!

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I got to use my new cookie scoop on these – aren’t they cute?

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I can’t imagine an easier recipe – seriously quick, smells great, and tastes even better – these were great warm from the oven, nice and fluffy and an almost cake-like texture, but still a cookie consistency (as if that made any sense ha). The best part is that I had literally all the ingredients on hand – I skipped the nuts but that’s more a personal preference, and everything else I had waiting and ready for me to whip these up!

Are they going to win any bake-offs? No. Are they delicious, easy, and moist? Yes. So, it’s a WIN in my book!

Quick Cinnamon Rolls Skip The Rising Thanks To Bisquick

16 Mar

Ah, Bisquick – is there anything it can’t do? I mean seriously – pancakes, pot pies, waffles, biscuits, dumplings, and now – cinnamon rolls? I have done cinnamon rolls from scratch before, and they are amazing, but time consuming. Well, with these bisquick cinnamon rolls, you get to skip the dough rising step (which means a faster oven to mouth time – which is definitely important!)

Bisquick Cinnamon Rolls (Recipe Courtesy of Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Ingredients

4 cups Bisquick mix
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons sugar

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
2 Tablespoons butter melted

3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions
1. In a large bowl, Combine Bisquick, buttermilk and sugar in a bowl using a fork. Mix just until all combined to create a dough.
2. In a medium bowl, Combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and nuts in separate bowl. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter and stir to moisten. Set aside.

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Dough and The Filling – Ready For Action

3. Generously flour rolling surface.I know it seems like a lot but trust me, this is a sticky dough. Turn dough out onto surface and start patting into a rectangular shape with your hand. Flour your hand well also.
4. Use a rolling pin to thin dough to about 1/2 inch thickness. Do not over-roll, the dough will stick

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Dough-tastic

5. Once rolled out, pour 3/4 cup melted butter over entire surface then spread with pastry brush to even out and get to the edges.
6. Sprinkle sugar/nut mixture over butter.
7. Start rolling dough from long end.
8. Slice into 16 pieces

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SO MUCH Buttery goodness!

9. Transfer slices to a well greased (sprayed) 9 x 13 pan. I used a spatula to make it easier

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Ready To Bake

10. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, util just golden brown on tops.
11. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
12. Combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until desired consistency and drizzle over topped of rolls.

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Frosting- check. Time to Eat

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YUM

These really were seriously easy – and fast! I think cinnamon rolls from scratch can be intimidating for a lot of people – they require rolling, and rising, and waiting, and precision – and I know for me sometimes those things don’t come so easily. But these were really the perfect recipe for anyone to make, not to mention that I pretty much had everything on hand already (minus the buttermilk)

They were nice and soft, and I personally love me a soft doughy cinnamon roll! The pecans got nice and roasted which give an awesome crunchy texture to an otherwise pillowy sweet roll. The rolls were perfect warm, but were delicious cold too!

I will definitely be making these again – possibly tomorrow. Seriously – they are that good!

“Eat Your Oatmeal – It’s Good For You!”

1 Mar

When I was a kid, I used to hear adults say “Oatmeal will stick to your ribs” – and it always creeped me out, as I had this mental image of the oatmeal literally coating my insides and why would I want that? Gross! Honestly, I am not even sure why this saying exists – it is confusing to impressionable young minds! But seriously – it was for that reason that I stayed away from oatmeal all through my youth and teen years. It is only recently that I have come to acknowledge the many virtues of the oat – it’s healthy, cheap, versatile, and who doesn’t love a hot breakfast? I know I do. I eat it every day at work, and even sometimes on the weekends. Like this weekend for example…

photo 1 (2)I was browsing through my new favorite recipe book – “Budget Bytes – Over 100 easy, delicious recipes to slash your grocery bill in half”, and I have to admit – I could not WAIT for this cookbook to come out – I have been a HUGE fan of the Budget Bytes Website for a long time – and when I saw they were gonna have a cookbook I pre-ordered it through Amazon, and spent hours poring over it. This recipe for Autumn Delight Baked Oatmeal caught my attention right away – combining oats, pumpkin, and apple plus craisins and walnuts in a delicious warm oat bake? Sign me up!

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It was SUPER easy to make, only one bowl and one whisk needed (the fewer dishes the better in my book!). The wet mix definitely resembled and smelled like pumpkin pie – yum! Once I had the wet stuff combined, it was time to add the oats, walnuts, craisins, and apple

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Then it was time to get in into the pan and then the oven! It smelled great baking – reminded me of my favorite season – FALL!

Oats

I loved the way this came out – we enjoyed it hot right from the oven, and the texture was great – oats and the craisins/apples and the nuts – you never knew what you were going to get in each bite! And it tasted sort of like pumpkin pie – only a more breakfast-y version!

You can check out this and other great wallet-friendly recipes in the cookbook, available through Amazon – I highly recommend you order your copy ASAP!

This recipe and the others in the book are NOT currently available on their website, but they have TONS of others to choose from online – here are some other amazing recipes that I have gotten from Budget Bytes:
Chunky Vegetable Lentil Soup
Garden Tomato Soup
Slow Cooker White Bean Soup
Vegetable Polenta Casserole
Chicken and Pumpkin Soup
Cranberry Apple Baked Oatmeal (which I blogged about too – check out the post here)

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