Pretzel Treats – The Salty/Sweet Combo That Everyone Will Love

14 Feb

I have been wanting to make these FOR FOREVER – seriously. I have been looking for an excuse to make Pretzel treats for a while, and finally – the perfect occasion came – superbowl! What better snack to grab than something small & bite size, that is the perfect combo of sweet and salty?

Pretzel Candies
(Recipe courtesy of From Valerie’s Kitchen)

Ingredients
Pretzels square or round
Rolo Candies, or Hershey’s Kisses (any variety)
Plain M&M’s

Instructions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Line baking sheet with pretzels. Center one Kiss on each pretzel.
Bake for 1 to 2 minutes. Kisses will soften but still hold their shape.
Remove from oven and carefully place one M&M, printed side down, on top of each Kiss, pressing lightly.
Refrigerate until set.

I of course enlisted the assistance of my helpful husband and my little sous chef to help unwrap the candies – because that part can get tedious!

A few minutes in the oven and these were shiny and ready for their M&M’s!

One by one – pressing the M&M’s into the treats to complete them

These were super easy to make, and cute to boot – since I was able to grab the Valentine-themed M&M’s for them.

The ones with the Rolos on them didn’t turn out as cute – the M&M’s tended to almost “disappear” in them if you pressed too hard – BUT – they tasted WAY better than the ones with the Hershey Kisses – so I am glad I did both kinds for sure

You can do this with a variety of Hershey Kisses and M&M’s for every season – so they can be the perfect treat for any Holiday! They would also make a perfect gift for someone too, for Christmas or for anytime!

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4 Ingredient Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies – The Perfect Last Minute Valentine’s Day Treat!

13 Feb

Valentine’s Day is SO CLOSE – and even if you think it’s a super lame “hallmark” holiday – you probably still are planning on getting something for your significant other – just to show them how much you love them, right?

Well here’s a tip – this year, skip the expensive flowers and chocolates, and strap on an apron and get in the kitchen! Because what’s better than baking your loved ones something special? Nothing that’s what!

These cookies are easy, fast, inexpensive and the perfect gift to give to your valentine!

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

(Recipe Courtesy Of Eating on a dime)

Ingredients

• 1 box Red Velvet Cake Mix cookies

• 2 eggs

• 1/3 cup vegetable oil

• Powdered sugar for the topping

Instructions

1 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

2 Mix everything except the powdered sugar into a bowl (Batter will be thick)

3 Spoon into balls and roll in the powdered sugar

4 Place on cookie sheets leaving about 2 inches between cookies

5 Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until cookies brown SLIGHTLY on the edges

These turned out super delicious – and aren’t they just so pretty, too??

Little sous chef gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up! And Walter was angling for some too (no dice though – sorry dog!

You can do this with almost any kind of cookie mix – I especially love doing it with Funfetti mix

It was the perfect little Valentine’s Day treat! Even if you don’t love the holiday – you WILL for sure love these cookies

White Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake Bars – The Perfect Alternative To Birthday Cake

7 Feb

Every year I make my dad a birthday cake – usually This amazing chocolate version that always turns out perfectly. But this year, I wanted to switch it up and try something different. At first I was going to make a whole cheesecake. But – the two issues with that are – cheesecakes are HUGE – like REALLY BIG – the ones I was looking at called for 4 or 5 bricks of cream cheese. Like – wow. Nope. There’s only 5 of us – and one of that 5 is my son, who can only eat so much. Then issue #2 – I couldn’t find my springform pan. So – regular cheesecake was out. But I kept searching – and finally it paid off, when I found the PERFECT thing – these White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Not only was it a much smaller size, but it didn’t require a springform pan, AND it included the birthday boy’s favorite thing ever – RASPBERRY!

White Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
(Recipe courtesy of Kraft)

Ingredients
12 OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 1 cup)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
3 oz. BAKER’S White Chocolate, divided
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 cup red raspberry preserves

Directions
-Heat oven to 350ºF.
-Line 8- or 9-inch square pan with Reynolds Wrap® Aluminum Foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Mix cookie crumbs and butter; press onto bottom of pan. Melt 2 oz. chocolate as directed on package.
-Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add melted chocolate; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.
-Bake 25 to 28 min. or until center is almost set. Cool 5 min.; spread with preserves. Melt remaining chocolate; drizzle over cheesecake. Cool cheesecake completely. Refrigerate 4 hours.

Little sous chef enjoyed using our meat mallet to crush the Oreos for the crust

Cheesecake-y goodness

Adding the best part – the topping!

The finished product

Enjoying cheesecake with the birthday boy and little sous chef

These turned out so good – even I liked it a lot – and I really am not a fan of cheesecake, OR raspberry (luckily I was able to grab some seedless Raspberry jam – so that helped me enjoy it more as it’s really the seeds I hate). It was the perfect amount for us – and I think my dad really enjoyed it (he had 2 pieces, so I am thinking that means he liked it, ha!)

So if you’re looking for an alternative to regular cheesecake because you don’t need that much (or just because you don’t have a springform pan handy!) then try these – you won’t be disappointed!

Mixin’ It Up – Snack Mix Trials (And A Miss)

17 Jan

After doing my annual Christmas Cookie Baking this year, I started to think – what if next year I tried something DIFFERENT? And while I of course LOVE baking, I don’t love spending a whole day or multiple days doing it, switching cookie racks every 5 minutes for hours and scooping out a million cookies onto cookie sheets….I want to bake because I LOVE it – not because it is what I always do or have to do at Christmas – so I decided that this year – I want to mix it up. Luckily, I have all year to try out new recipes, and after making this amazing Crock Pot Christmas “Crack” this year, I knew that would be on my “must make” list this upcoming year, as would a few batches of the always amazing Saltine Toffee.

But I also wanted to do something a bit more on the “savory” side, as there are SO MANY sweets at Christmas time that even I get tired of it all sometimes (ME – a sugar FANATIC!). So I decided to make my family the guinea pigs (as they usually are) for this Cheesy Ranch Snack Mix:

Cheesy Ranch Snack Mix
(Recipe courtesy of Plain Chicken)

INGREDIENTS:
8 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp Worceshire sauce
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
4 cups Rice Chex
4 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Cheez Its
2 cups small pretzels
1 (12.5 oz) can redskin peanuts

INSTRUCTIONS:
-Preheat oven to 250ºF.
-In a large bowl (the biggest you have), mix together all ingredients. Place mix on 2 large baking sheets.
-Bake 1 hour – stirring every 15 minutes. Allow to cool and transfer to an airtight container.

Ok – so – this recipe made a LOT of snack mix. And it smelled SO GOOD while it was baking – just – made my mouth water! The finished product, however – was just nothing to write home about. My family and I found it to be too salty, and too “Worceshire-y”

BUT – I felt that something good could possibly come of this. So – I made it again, but with a few changes:
-Used UNSALTED butter
-Instead of Worceshire – I used Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, about 1 tsp
-I used Wal-Mart brand ranch dip mix this time (instead of the Aldi one I used the first time – not sure if this made any difference at all, but wanted to note it anyway!)

The second batch turned out a LOT better – less salty, and the seasonings were more in balance. I think this one will join the others as a winner for Christmas baking/gifting – as who doesn’t love a nice snack mix alongside their cookies? I know I do!

Happy 32 Years To My Man – Here’s To “S’more” Fun!

17 Jan

Now that my son is 4, he is starting to understand things like birthdays, and birthday parties – and he even knows that every good party has a theme! So this year, when it came time to think about how to celebrate my husband’s birthday, I asked the little man’s advice. His answer? “A Marshmallow Party!” – whatever that is?

Best I can tell, it is essentially – roasting/eating marshmallows over a fire, making/eating s’mores, and having hot cocoa (with – you guessed it, more marshmallows! I mean – sounds fun to me I guess? So, in keeping with the theme, I decided a marshmallow-based dessert was in order too (because – well – s’mores isn’t enough sugar ha)

For this occasion, I think some skillet s’mores would make the perfect birthday dessert…

Skillet S’mores
(Recipe Courtesy of Yourhomebasedmom.com)
Ingredients
3/4 C butter softened
1 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1 C old fashioned oats
3/4 C all purpose flour
3/4 C graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 C mini marshmallows
1 C semisweet chocolate chips
ice cream
chocolate syrup

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease your cast iron skillet
In a large bowl mix together butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. About 3-4 minutes.
Stir in oats, flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt.
Beat until combined
Press 2/3 of mixture into bottom of a 10″ cast iron skillet.
Top with marshmallows and chocolate chips.
Crumble remaining mixture on top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool 10 minutes and enjoy!
Top with ice cream and chocolate syrup.

Of course my little sous chef was on hand to help ensure proper quality control

…and when I say quality control, I mean sampling all the ingredients of course (I drew the line at licking the butter, though…)

Crumble-y and ready for the oven!

The Birthday Boy making a wish with his giant skillet s’more

All smiles for this awesome dessert!

It turned out really well – easy to throw together, and tasted amazing, too! Nice and gooey, and the oats in the crumble/crust gave it a really nice texture. Overall – a winner!

The birthday boy really enjoyed his skillet, and he also loved these HUGE marshmallow pops I made too – a last minute addition that went over really well! I just melted some chocolate and dipped the marshmallows in it, and then gently rolled them in graham cracker crumbs. You could do a lot with these – different chocolates, sprinkles or other crushed candies, etc. Really versatile and fun to eat – because who doesn’t love giant marshmallows?

Last Minute Crock Pot Christmas “Crack”

27 Dec

Honestly – I don’t know who comes up with these names. “Christmas Crack?” I mean, I know it’s just supposed to be funny like “Oh it’s as addicting as crack!” but it’s not the most descriptive name is it? Like – what’s IN IT? Well, I guess it doesn’t matter what’s in it or what it’s called, as long as it’s delicious, right? Well – this one certainly delivers on being tasty!

Crock Pot Christmas Crack
(Recipe Courtesy of Just A Pinch)

Ingredients
1 jar(s) unsalted peanuts, 16 oz
1 jar(s) salted peanuts, 16 oz.
1 bag(s) semi-sweet chocolate chips, 12 oz
1 bag(s) milk chocolate chips, 12 oz
2 bag(s) peanut butter chips, 10 oz each
2 pkg white almond bark or vanilla candy coating, 1 lb each
Directions
1. Layer all ingredients in a large Crock Pot (starting with peanuts).
2. Break apart the bark into chunks and place into the Crock Pot as the last layer.
3. Turn the pot on low, cover with lid, and leave sitting for 1 hour.
4. Then, remove the lid and stir to combine.
5. Replace lid and leave sitting for another 30 minutes keeping an eye to make sure it doesn’t burn.
6. Stir again. Then spoon mixture onto wax paper or non-stick aluminum foil.
7. Allow candy to harden for at least 1 hour. Enjoy!

Christmas may be over, but the need for quick and easy to make homemade gifts NEVER ends – and this “crack” makes the perfect gift for any occasion!

My Top Picks For Quick, Budget Friendly Homemade Gifting This Holiday Season

6 Dec

I don’t know about you – but my Christmas list is LONG this year. And I’m not talking about my “wish list” either – I am talking about my “To-Do” list – baking, wrapping, cleaning, crafting, movie watching, and of course – SHOPPING – that part of the list is longer than ever! Neighbors, friends, kids, family, teachers, mailmen – there are just so so many people I want to give to – and with the constraints of time and money – I have to be strategic in executing my gift giving – ESPECIALLY this year – as it’s my first Holiday season as a stay at home mom – so we are feeling that budget constraint a bit more this year than in years prior.

So far – I have loved staying at home with my son – it’s awesome to get to spend so much time with him, and I love being the one to pick him up and take him to school every day. Oh – plus – I am home for package deliveries – a big perk this time of year!

Like I said, I want to give gifts to basically everyone I know – and now that we are a “single income family” – that means I have to be more creative in my giving. And what better thing to give than something homemade? Crafts have not always been my forte – BUT – BAKING is my JAM. So I made a list of my top 3 Homemade Gift Ideas – they are easy to make, not too expensive or time consuming, AND they are delicious

IMG_0543

My little elf helping me make some saltine toffee last week

1. Saltine Toffee This little gem is one of those things you can hardly believe tastes so good – because it was SO easy and fast to make. Brown sugar, butter, saltines, and chocolate chips are all it takes to make this, and you can add some festive sprinkles on top too – making it perfect for Holiday gift giving!

IMG_0555

Muddy buddy action shot – the shaking part!

2. Muddy Buddies – I love this because it’s one the kids can help with – they love shaking the sugar onto the treat (which is also known as “puppy chow” or “white trash”) – and you can easily add in some seasonal red and green M&M’s to make this an awesome Christmas treat to share

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Tiny pantsless sous-chef loves helping me make cookie bars

3. Large Batch Cookie Bars These bars are so easy to make – and they are quick too because you don’t have to portion out individual cookies. And one batch makes a TON – a whole cookie sheet’s worth of bars, which can cover several people on your gift list

All gifts are great, but I personally love giving something homemade when I can – I feel like it really shows that you care, and I’m convinced the receiver of the gift can taste the love that was baked right in! Plus – I love teaching my son that gift giving doesn’t have to be big and expensive to still be worthwhile (and delicious!)