My Little Helper (AKA The World’s Most Adorable Sous Chef)

24 May

My love of baking is something I really hope I can pass on to my son – I know he likes eating my baked goods already, but I want him to appreciate the time and effort that goes into them, too! I have been letting him “help” me in the kitchen for a while now, with extremely adorable results:

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He actually did pretty well standing on a regular dining room chair, but when I saw a picture of a “toddler helper” stool on pinterest, I knew it would make a great project for my dad (who is always looking for something to do to keep himself out of trouble!). It turned out great, and was super easy/cheap for him to put together. Check out how you can make your own here

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My mother in law made us matching Mickey and Minnie aprons – aren’t they amazing? Perfect for me and my little sous chef!

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He REALLY enjoyed helping me make sugar cookies, and enjoyed the frosting we made for them even more!

I really hope that giving him the chance to help in the kitchen (and yes, make messes, too!) will keep him coming back for more, and keep him interested in helping and learning, too!

Chewy Oatmeal M&M Cookies For The Win

19 May

I came across these beauties on Pinterest – and I knew immediately that I NEEDED them in my life – as I love oats, and I much prefer a chewy/gooey cookie to the crispy variety. Oh, and M&M’s rule – so there’s that too. So it was for sure a win on paper, and I wasted no time in figuring out if it was going to be a win in my mouth, too:

Chewy Oatmeal M&M Cookies (Recipe Courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction)

Ingredients:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup flour
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup mini M & M’s (regular size may be substituted)

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Ingredients? Check! Oh, and I am making a double batch, because, well – why not?

Directions:

Cream Together the softened bugger and both sugars until smooth using a hand or stand mixer. Add egg and vanilla and mix on high until combined, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides/bottom of bowl as needed

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In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add this to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Fold in the M&M’s (the dough will be very thick at this point). Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator

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Ok – the dough is pretty and all – but let’s get down to business

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper

Roll out balls of dough (about 1 Tablespoon per cookie) and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 10-11 minutes until very lightly browned on the sides (the centers will still look soft). Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack

Cover and store the cookies at room temperature for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months

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Aren’t they pretty? And they taste great too – the texture of the oats and mini M&M’s is perfect – and my family loved them too, which means I will definitely be making them again! They were great warm out of the oven, and they defrosted well from the freezer too, which makes it a great recipe to double (or triple!) and freeze some away for a rainy day…or a cookie emergency (you’d be surprised how often those occur, at least in my house anyway!)

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Cookie Decorating 101

27 Jan

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Here’s my little guy’s first attempt at cookie decorating… Obviously he has a real future in pastry arts, wouldn’t you agree?

(my personal favorite is the bottom right one – where my husband attempted to take away his frosting. It did NOT go well…)

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies – A Seriously Easy And Delicious Addition To Any Cookie Exchange

4 Dec

Holiday Time = FOOD TIME. Seriously – there’s always so much to eat at the holidays, and it’s all so amazingly delicious! Personally, I enjoy the baked goods the most (big surprise, right?) – and while I love to spend time in the kitchen baking away, sometimes I like to whip out a fast and easy recipe that will get me in and out in no time.

These cookies are perfect for last minute party invitations, or in case you forgot about that cookie exchange you agreed to go to…just two ingredients, 8 minutes in the oven plus some cooling time, and you’ve got a delicious, “cookie exchange worthy” dessert!

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

You Will Need:
-Premade Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Logs
-Reese’s mini peanut butter cups (unwrapped)
-Mini muffin tin(s)
-nonstick spray/shortening

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 375
2. Grease mini muffin tins using nonstick spray or shortening
3. Cut peanut butter cookie dough log into 1 ¼ inch pieces, and then cut each of the pieces into quarters
4. Place one piece into each greased muffin tin
5. Bake at 375 for about 8 minutes
6. Once removed from the oven, IMMEDIATELY press an unwrapped Reese’s cup into each cookie
7. Let them cool before removing from the muffin tins

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The biggest pain about this? The fact that you have to unwrap a bunch of peanut butter cups and NOT eat them all immediately – willpower is a tricky thing…

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Here they are before and after baking – they are ready for their chocolaty additions!

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Quick work done by me – I pressed all those suckers in quick!

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The holidays are a BUSY time – and these cookies are the perfect way for me to make something for a party without too much time in the kitchen. Frees up my time for this guy – ain’t he cute? He liked the cookies too!

Holiday Gift Ideas For Bakers

3 Dec

The holiday season is upon us! Carols, snow, lights, trees, baking and SHOPPING are all on my “to-do” list this year – and baking is the one I am most looking forward to – measuring and mixing, feeling the kitchen fill up with the scent of cookies and cakes while Christmas carols play softly in the background – that’s my favorite Christmas tradition.

Me, my turkey, my boy and my Minnie Mouse Apron on Thanksgiving!

Me, my turkey, my boy and my Minnie Mouse Apron on  Thanksgiving!

If you know someone like me who LOVES baking, but you aren’t sure what to get them this year, then check out my list of Holiday Gift Ideas For The Baker In Your Life:

A Really Good Spatula: A thick bladed, wooden handled spatula is a must have for every baker out there – as scraping the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated is an essential part of most any recipe. I love my spatula so much I even wrote about it last year, and a set like this would be a great addition to any Baker’s utensil collection!

Cookie Cutters: Ok, so most bakers probably have at least some cookie cutters already, but if you could find a unique one for them that fits their personality, it’s a great (and usually pretty cheap!) gift option. For example, I love Disney, and dogs, and reading – so any type of cookie cutter that is related to those themes would be something I would LOVE to receive. Or you can give a set of mini cookie cutters – like these adorable animals, or some seasonally appropriate Mini Christmas cookie cutters

An Apron: Ok, so this one may seem kind of lame – but aprons have come a long way – they are no longer just some frilly thing that housewives wear – they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. If you’re crafty, you can sew your baker a custom one like my mother in law did for me – it is Minnie Mouse themed on one side, and apple patterned on the other – two of my very favorite things! If you aren’t great with a sewing machine, then check out the TONS of amazing options on Etsy – all you have to do is search for “apron” and up come a whole bunch of results, and the great thing about Etsy is that most shops will work with you to customize your gift to your specifications – so initials, words, material – it’s all able to be chosen by you to create a super amazing gift for your baker

Tools For Their Littlest Bakers: Most bakers enjoy sharing their love of baking with others – I know I do – and I can’t WAIT until my son is old enough to help me roll out dough and cut the shapes out with cookie cutters. If the baker on your shopping list has kids or nieces or nephews, you might want to consider getting them something they can use with them – like a Kid-friendly cupcake decorating set, or a copy of this Better Homes & Gardens Junior Cookbook

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Something Pretty and Shiny: My husband got me this necklace a few years ago for Christmas – and I just love it. You can find necklaces, bracelets, earring and more on etsy – I’ve seen ones with little whisk and spoon charms too – perfect for a baker!

Baking-Themed Gift Basket: You can put a ton of different things in here – a roll of parchment paper, kitchen towels, cute measuring spoons, an apron, a cookbook, nice wooden spoons or spatulas – and you can package it all up nicely in a big mixing bowl or measuring cup. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just some things you think your baker might like, put together with love and care. Wal-Mart currently has a new line of Pioneer Woman cookware & dinnerware – it’s decorative, with plenty of different pieces to pick from, and best of all – it won’t break the bank, and would make a perfect addition to your gift basket!

A Kitchen Aid Mixer: This is the ultimate kitchen tool that every baker lusts after – I have a vintage one from the 50’s that still works great, so not only is it cool and old school, but I didn’t have to pay for it (as it was my grandmother’s) – so that makes me extra happy – as they are NOT cheap – the smallest models start at around $200, and go up from there. One that is big enough to handle a double or triple batch of cookies will run around $500 or more. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it – and it’s a gift your baker will absolutely LOVE. Bonus – they come in all kinds of colors now, so you can even get one that will match their kitchen!

A Recipe Book Stand/Tablet Stand: Give one of these so your baker can keep their recipes nearby and easy to read. You could go for an easy to clean, budget friendly plastic version, or you could go with a slightly more decorative version. If your baker likes to get most of their recipes electronically, then check out this awesome kitchen mount/stand for Ipad/tablets – perfect for viewing recipes or watching how to videos on different cooking and baking techniques

Hopefully these ideas will help you check at least one person off your shopping list – and if you’re a baker like me, then you may want to consider asking Santa for some of these items – they will make your Christmas even more Merry and Bright!

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal – A Winner For All – Big And Small!

9 Nov

The leaves are turning, the weather is crisp and cool, the Christmas ads have started – all of this means fall is in full swing! Which I couldn’t be more thrilled about, as fall is my favorite season, partly because it brings with it the start of holiday time, and BAKING time! Pumpkin pie, apple crisp, cookies, cakes – I LOVE this time of year most of all

This year though – things are a little bit busy and I haven’t yet had much time to devote to finding and trying new recipes…and here’s the main reason why…

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My son is now 1, and he is walking and running like crazy! He is fast, and into EVERYTHING – it’s can be tiring trying to keep up with him, but it’s also super fun to watch him learn and figure things out

My main kitchen adventures as of late have all involved trying to sneak pureed vegetables into things he will eat – and I have actually had some big successes on that front! But now that he’s 1, he’s eating a lot more non-baby foods, which I am hoping means I can try out some new recipes on him – ones that we can all enjoy

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This most recent endeavor was inspired by these SUPER ripe bananas. I was just going to make banana bread (which is always delicious!), but I wanted to try something new and different – and was scrolling through some recipes when I came upon this one for Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal. Not only would it allow me to use up my bananas, but my son LOVES oatmeal (as do I!) so it seemed that it would be a win all around!

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Ok, so I have assembled my ingredients – ALL of which I had on hand (score!) – so that means it’s BAKING time

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal
(Recipe courtesy of
Love Grows Wild)

Ingredients
• 2 cups old-fashioned oats
• ⅓ cup brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon nutmeg
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 cups milk
• 1 cup banana, mashed
• 1 large egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• ½ cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and spray an 8″ square baking dish or pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Add the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, banana, egg, and vanilla. Slowly pour in the melted butter, whisking constantly.
3. Add the oat mixture into the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Transfer to the greased baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, put the chopped walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top of the oatmeal and cool slightly before serving.

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The oats – before and after baking

The only change I made was that I omitted the nuts – I didn’t have any at home, plus I wasn’t sure how my son would be able to handle them (after all, he only has 4 teeth!). I do LOVE toasted nuts, and I can see how they would really be a great addition to this – but it certainly didn’t NEED them – it was delicious on its own

Also, I found it actually took closer to 40 minutes to cook – the recipe said 25 but mine was still pretty jiggly after just the 25 minutes. After 40 it was nice and set and perfectly browned on top

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Beautiful, aren’t they? The blog I got the recipe from says it “tastes like a slice of warm banana bread” – which is pretty true, it was nice and moist and almost bread pudding like in consistency, but with the oats adding a nice crunchy texture to it

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It got the seal of approval from my husband (and the dog!)

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And my littlest mouth loved it too

Needless to say, there wasn’t much left after we attacked it, and I will for sure be making this again

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars (No Bake = No Oven On A Hot Summer Day!)

27 Jul

I will be the first to admit that I am a total weirdo. Why, you might ask? Well, there are many reasons, but one of the big ones is that I don’t really care for summer. It just doesn’t do it for me (I’m much more of a fall girl!), and while I may not love this season, I know that most people do, and I have recently started to discover my own reasons to love these hot summer months – one of them being that I get to watch my 9 month old son experience the great outdoors, and another being that I get to try some awesome no bake desserts (because who wants to crank up the oven on a hot summer’s day?) – most of which usually involve peanut butter and chocolate (one of the world’s best combinations!)

These No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars are a triple win – not only are they easy and don’t require an oven, but they are super tasty, and best of all – you probably have most (if not all) of the ingredients already on hand! So let’s get baking! Whoops – I mean microwaving!

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
(Recipe Courtesy of The Girl Who Ate Everything)

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter, divided
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1½ cups rice crispy cereal

Instructions
Line an 9×13 pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray

In a large mixing bowl (or by hand with a spoon), beat together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, 1 cup peanut butter, and salt. Spread into the pan. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes to firm up

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In a microwave safe bowl melt together the chocolate chips and remaining 1 cup peanut butter in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the cereal. Spread on top of the chilled peanut butter layer

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Refrigerate until chocolate is firm before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge

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I love the textures in this – the chocolate peanut butter layer has those crunchy pieces of cereal in it, and the peanut butter/graham cracker layer is nice and gritty (which sounds weird but it is actually perfect ha!)

They are pretty rich, as desserts go, so I recommend cutting into at least 24 or 32 pieces – as one is probably enough for anyone!

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I will definitely make these again, and hopefully on your next hot day you’ll whip these up and enjoy them as much as we did!

Another fun variation on this recipe are these Chocolate peanut butter pretzel ritz bars – where there’s a nice crunch and saltiness thanks to the pretzels and crackers, or if you’re in the mood for that chocolate peanut butter combo but not crazy about bars, then maybe you should try this No Bake peanut butter pie/ No matter which you choose, you’re getting to beat the heat and enjoy a delicious treat too – and if that’s not a win then I don’t know what is!

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