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Peanut Butter Balls – An Easy No-Bake Addition To Any Get Together

28 Dec

Growing up, my aunts always made peanut butter balls at Christmas time – there were never a ton, but those first to the cookie trays would be rewarded with the sweet heaven that is peanut butter & sugar mixed together and dipped in chocolate. They have become more scarce over the years, and this year I decided I needed to take matters into my own hands – if I wanted peanut butter balls at Christmas time, I would just have to make them myself!

When I was looking for a recipe, I was intrigued by the ones that included crispy rice cereal in the peanut butter mixture – I really loved the idea of that bite/crunch to cut through the sweetness – so I decided on This Recipe

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
(Recipe Courtesy of Idaho Mom)
Ingredients:
2 c peanut butter
2 c powdered sugar
3 c rice krispies
2 bags chocolate chips, melted or 1 bag light cocoa wilton candy melts

Directions:
mix the first 3 ingredients together and then roll into balls.
dip the balls in chocolate to coat.
let the chocolate peanut butter balls set to harden.

Pretty simple, right? 

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As I assembled my ingredients, only the furry helper emerged (he sensed the presence of peanut butter). But once I turned on the mixer, the toddler helper came scurrying into the kitchen wanting in on the action

 

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He helped me mix up the peanut butter and sugar – and I added a little vanilla for flavor, too

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I had the help of both my boys when it came to making the balls! I actually froze them for a while – just to ensure they weren’t going to fall apart on me when it was chocolate time!

 

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I used part wilton melts and part chocolate chips – worked fine for melting/coating the balls. And I also did some fully coated, and some half-coated in chocolate – just for variety’s sake

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My helper really enjoyed the finished product (and the furry helper was dying to get in on it too – but sadly couldn’t partake – see him trying to sneak in on the balls?)

These were easy to make, and the ingredients were all things I already had on hand. They didn’t turn out exactly like I remember the peanut butter balls of my childhood- but they are still delicious!

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Easy, No Bake “Reindeer Bait” Is The Perfect Christmas Treat

21 Dec

These days, my Facebook feed is mostly composed of food videos – you know the ones – that have cutesy music in the background and take you through a recipe in under a minute and make it look not only delicious – but easy and super enticing? I try not to be so easily taken in by a flashy video – but I have to admit – I love a good recipe – and enjoy watching these types of videos. I don’t often end up making them in real life, but this one was too good to pass up. I had already done a ton of Christmas Cookie Baking – so the fact that this one didn’t involve the oven sealed the deal for me – to the store I went to pick up the few ingredients I didn’t already have on hand for this delicious Reindeer Bait!

Reindeer Bait
(Recipe Courtesy of Delish)

Ingredients
3 c. corn chex
2 c. wheat chex
2 c. mini pretzels
2 c. mini marshmallows
1 c. red and green M&Ms
20 oz. white chocolate
Red and green sprinkles, for garnish

Directions
-In a large bowl, mix together Corn Chex, Wheat Chex, pretzels, mini marshmallows, and M&Ms.
-Melt white chocolate and pour over mixture. Stir until fully coated.
-Transfer mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet or dish and top with sprinkles, then refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.
-Break up into bite-size pieces and serve
**There should be a final step of this recipe – “Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting”**

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I picked this recipe in part because I knew it was one my son could easily help with – he really enjoyed measuring the ingredients and stirring them up

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While he stirred the dry stuff, I melted the white chocolate and then mixed it all together into a gorgeous blob

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Adding the sprinkles was his favorite part – he kept asking “now?” with the sprinkles poised over the pan. He did a great job making it extra festive

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The finished product was enjoyed by all!

This recipe was easy to put together and the end result was delicious – the only thing I changed was I added some Craisins I happened to have on hand, but you could really add just about anything to it – nuts, raisins, Reese’s Pieces instead of M&M’s, or you could change up the candy and sprinkle colors depending on the season/holiday you’re making it for

Well – it’s Thursday – and I seriously doubt this “Reindeer Bait” will make it to the weekend – much less Monday (Christmas) – so I hope the reindeer don’t mind if we leave them carrots and extra cookies instead!

The Day Of Cookies

14 Dec

As someone who loves to bake, I have always enjoyed baking for others, and when the holidays roll around, I like to make a BUNCH of cookies to share with my loved ones – what better way to let family and friends know how much you care than with goodies baked with love?

This year I decided that instead of trying to bake in the evenings and on weekends inbetween activities and such, I would just take a day off from work for baking – a day where my husband was at work and my son was at daycare, so that I could focus on the task at hand – COOKIES!

If you’re planning on doing some Christmas baking – here’s a few tips:
-Pick cookies that all cook at the same temperature
-Stick with the “tried and true” – this is NOT a time to try out new recipes – stick to what you know!
-Prep ahead of time if you can – get the supplies the week before, make the dough(s) the night before, get out all your bakeware before you start, etc

In following my own advice, I chose these 3 recipes (that all baked at 375 – which made my life much easier!)
White Chocolate Craisin Cookies – everyone loves these!
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies – I replaced half of the chocolate chips with Christmas M&M’s for a festive touch
Peanut Butter Cup Cookies – an easy (but delicious!) one I could throw together between batches of the other 2

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I prepped the doughs the night before – two double batches of each (that’s a LOT OF DOUGH!) and I also unwrapped the peanut butter cups the night before, too

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Just a fraction of the delicious results

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All frozen and ready to pull out as needed for gifts, parties, and snacking of course!

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When you realize it’s only Tuesday…but then you remember Mom made you cookies! (as his shirt says, he’s just here for the cookies anyway!)

So – to recap:
-Set aside some time JUST for baking – take a day off like I did, send the kids (and husband!) to the grandparents, do what you need to do to get an empty house so you can focus on baking and get it all done at once with no interruptions!
-Pick recipes that can all bake at the same temperature
-Do as much prep ahead of time as you can – supply shopping, dough making etc
-Don’t use this as an experiment – stick with recipes you know and trust!

When it comes time to actually bake – crank up the Christmas music, slap on an apron – and HAVE FUN! Baking should feel like something you WANT to do – not a chore you HAVE to get done – for me, following the tips I outlined help ensure I have a good time – and that I am baking with LOVE!

Happy Baking!

Candy Cane Danish = Christmas Brunch Win!

13 Dec

Ah, Brunch. It’s really the most perfect meal ever created. Not only can you sleep in and still get to enjoy it, but it includes basically all the best foods ever – breakfast meats, eggs, carbs galore, sweets, fruit, and of course – booze and coffee generally play a part as well. I love brunch – eating it, hosting it, going out to it – it’s all the best. And team up a winner of a meal like brunch and the holidays, and you have something truly amazing – an excuse to eat copious amounts of amazing food and get tipsy while wearing ugly Christmas sweaters.

I took my brunch game to the next level last weekend with this Candy Cane Breakfast Pastry – cream cheese and cherries nestled inside crescent roll dough – it was delicious – plus the shape was perfect for getting into the festive holiday spirit!

Candy Cane Crescent Roll Breakfast Pastry
(Recipe Courtesy of 3 Yummy Tummies)

Ingredients
2 packages of refrigerated crescent rolls
1 8 oz. Cream Cheese; softened
1 egg
1/3 C. Sugar
1 Can Cherry Pie Filling
Glaze:
1/2 C. Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. Milk

Instructions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-On a cookie sheet, arrange crescent roll triangles pointing inward into the shape of a candy cane with edges overlapping. Lightly press triangles together to seal. I used exactly 1 1/2 packages of crescent rolls to make the candy cane shape.
-In a mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar, add egg; beat until smooth.
-Using a teaspoon, spoon cream cheese filling onto the larger part of each triangle; leaving around 1/2 on inch from the edges. You will have extra cheese left.
-Add teaspoons of cherry filling over the top of the cream cheese.
-Fold tops of triangles towards the base end of each triangle and press lightly to seal. Using the extra croissant roll dough, cut the triangle ends off of 2 rolls to fill in extra spaces at the top of the candy cane as necessary.
-Bake for around 15 minutes or until top of pastry is golden brown.
Allow to cool slightly before adding glaze.
Prepare Glaze:
-Beat together powdered sugar and milk until smooth. May add an additional 1/2 Tbsp. of milk if too thick.
-Using a teaspoon, drizzle glaze over crescent tops of candy cane.

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At this point I was unsure if it would fold together to actually resemble a candy cane…(the suspense was killing me!)

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Luckily – it did fold together nicely and actually look sort of like a candy cane!! Yay!

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Literally just realized right now that I forgot to even make much less use the glaze. Oh well. Still turned out pretty!

This was pretty easy to put together – I am glad I had some extra crescent rolls so that I could use them to keep the filling from leaking out as I folded it all into the candy cane shape – otherwise things would have gotten messy

Like I said, I forgot the glaze – and it was still delicious. It might have looked a bit cuter to have the glaze but taste wise I was really happy with how this turned out – festive, easy, and yummy – a win all around!

“The Best” Soft And Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies?

14 Nov

My son and I were over at a friend’s house and she offered us all some cookies. Of course, I said yes – as did my son (like mother, like son – obv). Honestly – I thought I had died and gone to heaven – that’s how good these cookies were. Just – huge, soft, STUFFED with chocolate chips – I was swooning with the first bite! I HAD to ask for the recipe – and then immediately replicate it at home. IMMEDIATELY – NO TIME TO WASTE:

The Best Soft And Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Recipe Courtesy of Averie Cooks)

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
one 3.5-ounce packet instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free and not ‘cook & serve’)
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
one-12 ounce bag (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Trader Joe’s)

DIRECTIONS:
1. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large mixing bowl and electric mixer) combine the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 4 minutes
2. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, optional salt, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute
3. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the chocolate chips, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds

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4. Using a large cookie scoop, 1/4-cup measure, or your hands, form approximately 14 equal-sized mounds of dough, roll into balls, and flatten slightly. Tip – Strategically place a few chocolate chips right on top of each mound of dough by taking chips from the underside and adding them on top.

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5. Place mounds on a large plate or tray, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 5 days. Do not bake with unchilled dough because cookies will bake thinner, flatter, and be more prone to spreading.
6. Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or spray with cooking spray. Place dough mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (I bake 8 cookies per sheet) and bake for about 11 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just set, even if slightly undercooked, pale, and glossy in the center; don’t overbake. Cookies firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving. I let them cool on the baking sheet and don’t use a rack.

Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

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As usual – my adorable baking assistant was on hand to ensure everything ran smoothly in the kitchen. His main jobs include: flour-stirrer, and chocolate chip eater (He’s REALLY good at the chocolate chip eating part of baking)

I didn’t actually bake them until the next day – as I noted the importance in the recipe of refrigerating the dough – I did NOT want flat, spread out cookies. I wanted huge, thick, chewy masterpieces – which is EXACTLY what I got.

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Could they be any more gorgeous? Huge, soft, chewy, amazing. That plate of cookies and a glass of milk would be the perfect snack (or meal – hey, I don’t judge – you do you).

I am always weary of recipes that claim to be “The Best” or “The Most Delicious” – but this time the name is definitely TRUE – they ARE the best chewy chocolate chip cookies I have ever had. Is the secret the pudding? Or the pre-baking chilling of the dough? I don’t know – but what I DO know is all of it combines into an AMAZING COOKIE. Pretty darn glad I made a double batch of these. They will not last long around here, that’s for sure!

Celebrating Fall With Pumpkin-Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

22 Sep

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF FALL! I don’t know about you, but I personally wait for this season all year long – the crispness in the air, the breeze, the leaves, the apples and pumpkins, the excess of pumpkin flavored products and ability to wear scarves…I love it ALL (what can I say, I’m a bit of a “basic white girl” – and while I don’t love the term, I have to admit it’s shockingly accurate sometimes…)

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…Not gonna lie, this would TOTALLY work on me.

But ok – seriously – now that it’s FALL and all things apple/pumpkin/autumn can OFFICIALLY commence, I thought the best thing to do would be to kick things off with a twist on a favorite cookie – Oatmeal Chocolate Chip – with PUMPKIN!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies are so great – it’s like the Chocolate Chip Cookie’s crunchier cousin (and slightly healthier cuz it has oats in it? maybe?) – and they are my husband’s favorite of all time – and so when I came across this fall-infused variation, I knew they would be the perfect way to kick off Autumn

Pumpkin-Oat Chocolate Chip Cookie
(Recipe Courtesy of Cooking Classy)

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter , softened
1 1/3 cups packed light-brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Instructions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger for 30 seconds, set aside
-In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy (occasionally stop and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl throughout entire mixing process). Blend in egg then blend in vanilla extract and pumpkin puree
-With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and pecans (if you want some chocolate to show through set some aside to press into tops before baking)

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The Beauty that is raw cookie dough – just slightly more orange tinted thanks to the canned pumpkin

-Let batter rest 5 – 10 minutes (this just gives the oats some time to absorb the liquids so batter isn’t so sticky and cookies don’t spread so much)
-Scoop dough out 2 Tbsp at a time (I used a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop, which I recommend using for evenly shaped cookies and fill it heaping), and drop onto Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart
-Bake in preheated oven 12 – 14 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container

 

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Cookies – pre and post oven

Couple of things that are great about these cookies – they stay super moist thanks to the pumpkin, and the combo of pumpkin and chocolate is pretty great. Also, even if you’re not a huge pumpkin fan, you’ll still like these – the pumpkin isn’t overpowering, and the cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger just lends a nice spice to them

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Best of all – they are easy to make. Cookies generally are, and these are no exception (ease of creation is probably one of the reasons why I love baking cookies so much!)

FallYall

(No – I don’t say Y’all – I am not Southern, not even a little – but I just love the saying “Happy Fall Y’all – so – whatever. It’s happening)

Large Batch Cookie Bars – The Perfect Picnic Dessert

6 Sep

Last weekend I attended a family Labor Day picnic – which in itself was weird – like – how is summer OVER? Where did it GO? Well – I don’t know about you, but I spent my summer swimming, taking family walks, visiting the zoo, hanging out with friends, and playing on the playground with my son. It was a summer well spent for sure – and Labor Day is always the perfect long weekend to relax and soak up the last little bit of sun and fun! Since the weather here in Upstate NY sucked (aka I wouldn’t get to go swimming boo) I decided to concentrate my efforts elsewhere – in the KITCHEN of course, baking up a batch of these treats to take along to the last family picnic of the summer:

Large Batch Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
(Recipe Courtesy of Jamie Cooks It Up)

Ingredients
1 1/2 C butter
2 C brown sugar
1 C white sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
4 tsp vanilla
4 1/4 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 C milk chocolate chips
2 C M&Ms

Instructions
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
2. Place 1 1/2 C butter into a large glass bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave.
3. Add 2 C brown sugar and 1 C white sugar and stir to combine. Then add 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks and 4 tsp vanilla. Whisk it together until well combined.
4. In a separate bowl combine 4 1/4 C flour, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp baking soda.
5. Stir the dry mixture into the sugar mixture. Don’t mix it in all the way. The trick to making these bars nice and soft on the inside is not to over mix and not to over bake. So, at this stage…leave a bit of the flour showing. It will incorporate nicely for you as you stir in the chocolate.

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I was lucky enough to have a tiny adorable helper who was willing to assist me with getting these together!

6. Add 2 C milk chocolate chips and 2 C of M and M’s (almost all of a medium sized bag). You can use any kind of chocolate chips.
7. Stir the chocolate in to combine.

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Someone insisted we make a couple Mickey shaped ones – luckily there was still plenty afterwards to fill the pan with dough!

8. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray (mine is 12 x 17). Press the dough evenly into the pan.

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Golden brown perfection

9. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the outside is slightly golden. You want to be sure not to over bake. They are much better if the inside is nice and soft.
10. Allow them to cool for about 10 minutes then slice into bars and enjoy!

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And enjoy them we did!

These were super easy to make – didn’t even need to get out the hand mixer – since the butter is melted, it’s pretty easy to mix together by hand

This makes a TON of cookie bars – which makes sense because it is called “large batch chocolate chip cookie bars” ha – but seriously it made way more than enough for my picnic, and it would be the perfect thing to make for like a kid’s birthday party or something – as the cookies are not too messy and can be cut up pretty small for little hands to easily handle.

And you can mix up what you put in them too – different colored M&M’s for different holidays, or different flavor chocolate chips – I personally used a combo of peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, and mini M & M’s – which turned out great! I love the chewiness factor to them too – and the fact that they use a hefty amount of brown sugar gives them a nice caramel-y color and quality too

They were a hit at the picnic – with those of all ages from 2 to 85! Will make again for sure – just as soon as those Halloween colored M&M’s are released!