Archive | Seasonal RSS feed for this section

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!

Advertisements

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!

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

IMG_2911

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!)

 

Spooky Bat Brownies – A Fun Halloween Treat For All

30 Oct

My son loves all things “Spooooooky” – from haunted houses to scary movies and everything in between! So when I saw the title of these Spooky Bat Brownies I knew he would love making them with me (almost as much I would love eating them – as they combine two of my lifelong loves – chocolate, and FROSTING)

SPOOKY BAT OREO BROWNIES
(Recipe Courtesy of Something Swanky)

INGREDIENTS:
-brownies, baked and cooled*
*Before baking: spread half of the batter in the baking dish. Layer 15 Oreos (5 rows of 3 cookies) over the batter, and then spread the remaining batter on top of the Oreos.
-vanilla buttercream (check out my preferred recipe Here)
-8-12 ounces store-bought hot fudge sauce, room temp
-30 Oreos (15 for inside brownies, 15 for bat decorations)
-30 candy eyeballs

DIRECTIONS:
-Spread buttercream on top of the cooled brownies.
-Drop small dollops of hot fudge sauce (NOT heated) over the buttercream. Use the offset spatula or a knife to swirl the hot fudge sauce into the buttercream.
-Split the remaining 15 Oreos. Layer the halves with the cream, cream side up, on top of the swirled frosting.
-Pipe two small dots of fudge sauce on the Oreo cream and place two candy eyeballs on the fudge sauce.
-Take the “plain” remaining halves of the cookies and cut them in half to make the bat wings. Press them into the frosting under the bat “heads” (as pictured).

Here’s the making of the brownie base layer – a simple store bought 9×13 mix, with oreos added in

Here are the finished brownies – cooled off and ready for frosting!

Some of the work in progress stages – all I can say is good thing I had extra cookies, as I had a lot of trouble getting the ‘wings’ to evenly halve without breaking

Frosting, meet fudge

Bat Creation! I didn’t have any candy eyes (plus I didn’t want my son eating them since they are usually pretty hard to chew anyway), so I just saved some of my buttercream, tinted it black, and used it for eyes/faces. As you can see – the results garnered mixed emotions (from the bats, that is)

My little sous chef helped make the frosting, and was also a big help at eating the “broken” and unusable bat wing pieces

I was actually lucky enough to have not only my sous chef, but his two apprentices – Walter and Buzz Lightyear – on hand for some on the job training. Buzz enjoyed tasting some frosting, and Walter enjoyed all the broken cookie pieces that little sous chef accidentally dropped

This guy is unsure of what is happening….

Overall, this was a great recipe for me – it was easy, fun for my son, and used ingredients I had on hand (including the boxed brownie mix – I love a good shortcut!). The ONLY drawback was how hard they were to cut – but that is probably my own fault, as I kept them in the fridge. Once I left them out for a bit the cutting became substantially easier

They are delicious tasting too, but pretty rich – I cut each “bat” in half as any bigger would have been too much (probably why this bat looks so scared – he knows what’s coming!). This would be a great treat to make and bring to a Halloween Party, as it has the super cute bat presentation going on. I think next time I do it, I might go nuts and make the buttercream orange and purple to give it even more of a Halloween-y vibe!

Skip The Fire With This Easy (And Tasty!) S’mores Poke Cake

5 Jul

Smores1

Happy (slightly belated) 4th of July! I hope you enjoyed your day off with family, friends, and GOOD FOOD – I know I did! We went to a friend’s house for a BBQ – and it was a great time (despite the heat and humidity ugh)

I took this opportunity to try out a new dessert (obviously – any gathering is a good excuse to try something new!), and what better to try than a recipe that turns everyone’s favorite campfire treat into a delicious cake?

Enter – the S’mores Poke Cake – Graham flavored cake with chocolate, topped with marshmallow buttercream and all the makings of the classic s’more – what could be better?

S’mores Poke Cake
(Recipe Courtesy of Delish)

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE CAKE
Cooking spray, for pan
1 box vanilla cake mix, plus ingredients called for on box
1 1/2 c. crushed graham crackers (about 10 crackers)
FOR THE FILLING
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips, melted
FOR THE MARSHMALLOW FROSTING
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 (7.5-oz.) jar marshmallow crème
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. heavy cream
FOR TOPPING
2 Hershey’s chocolate bars, broken into squares
1 1/2 c. mini marshmallows
2 graham crackers, crushed
Melted chocolate, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS
-Preheat oven to 350º and spray a 9-x-13” pan with cooking spray. Prepare cake batter according to package instructions. Fold in crushed graham crackers.
-Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
-Let cool slightly, then poke holes all over bottom of cake with a wooden spoon. -In a small bowl, mix together sweetened condensed milk and melted chocolate. Pour mixture into poke holes.
-Make frosting: In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy, then add marshmallow crème, powdered sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Gradually add heavy cream if mixture is too stiff.
-Frost cake and top with marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers.

 

Smores2

Liquid chocolate – ready to go into the “poke” holes

smores4

Tried my best to direct the chocolate into the holes – didn’t work so well, but at least I was left with an awesome chocolate layer on top of the cake!

smores5

So – marshmallow buttercream -it’s sort of like vanilla frosting, only WAY SWEETER (I was on board with this for SURE)

smores6

I love the way the top turned out – makes it pretty clear what’s in it anyway ha!

I mean – truthfully, this one had me at “marshmallow buttercream” – because – what’s not to love about EXTRA sweet frosting? Overall the dessert was really sweet – but definitely accomplished embodying the S’more itself – the graham, chocolate, and marshmallow flavors all came through really well

This was really easy to put together, and was a great alternative to actual S’mores. Everyone at the BBQ seemed to like it, and I think I will definitely make it again next time I head to a summer get together!

Oh and if you’re looking for some more s’more treats – check out these s’more bars, and these s’more cookie bars (both delicious and gooey like the real thing!)

Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars – An Easy, Delicious Addition To Any Brunch!

28 Feb

Ah, Brunch. It’s the best meal ever, don’t you think? It’s a meal where basically anything goes – breakfast items, lunch items, sweet and savory on the same plate. Plus it’s often served late enough that you can sleep in, and alcohol is usually on the menu too – what could be better? I am always looking for new additions to my brunch recipe rotation, and when I stumbled across this one for Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars, I knew I had to give them a shot for my next brunch date:

Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars
INGREDIENTS:
Crust and Crumble Topping
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned whole-rolled oats (don’t use quick cook or instant, they’re finer and behave like flour and will make mixture too dry)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch salt, optional and to taste

Blueberry Layer
12 ounces (2 cups) blueberries (fresh or frozen; I used frozen and didn’t thaw)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:
-Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside. Lining the pan helps with cleanup and is recommended.
-Make Crust and Crumble Topping – In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power. Add the flour, oats, sugars, optional salt, and stir to combine. Mixture will be dry and sandy with some larger, well-formed crumble pieces. Set 1 heaping cup mixture aside to be sprinkled on later as crumble topping.
Transfer remaining mixture to prepared pan, and using a spatula or your fingers, hard-pack the mixture to create an even, smooth, flat crust; set aside.
-Make Blueberry Layer – In a large mixing bowl (same one used for crust and crumble is okay), add all ingredients and toss to combine. If sugar hasn’t dissolved fully that’s okay because it liquifies while baking. Evenly distribute blueberry mixture over the crust.
-Evenly sprinkle with the reserved heaping 1 cup crumble topping mixture. Before sprinkling, I squeeze the mixture in my palm to encourage bigger crumble pieces to form.
-Bake for about 55 minutes, or until edges are set and center has just set. Crumble topping should appear set and very pale golden. I used frozen berries without thawing and the pan was very cold going into the oven. If using fresh berries, baking time will be reduced, but I’m not sure by how much, I’d guess at least 10-15 minutes, possibly less. Bars may take longer than 55 minutes if blueberries are very juicy. Watch your bars, not the clock, when evaluating doneness. Place pan on a wire rack and allow bars to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. If you try to slice bars before they’ve cooled completely, they’ll be extremely messy and could fall apart. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, in the fridge for up to 10 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Blueberry2

Various stages of bar preparation

Blueberry1

Adorable tiny sous chef preps the crust

Blueberry3

Layering it up and getting it ready for the oven

Blueberry4

The finished product – golden and delicious

It was easy to put this together (especially since I had a helper!) and get it in the oven – it took a bit longer to bake than 55 minutes for me though – I would say an additional 15 on top of that before it even started to brown on top

Additionally, I should have waited longer than half an hour after it came out to try and cut it – it was a MESS. Next time I think I will leave them to cool/set up overnight before attempting to cut them

All that being said – they were pretty tasty – the buttery crumble of the crust against the slightly tart berries was lovely – an easy, delicious addition to brunch – one that could easily be changed up with different fruits/berries depending on the season!