Monday, December 31, 2007

Savannah Cheesecake Squares

Yup, another Paula Deen recipe. I know, I should be cut off, but she makes such yummy, easy desserts! It's hard to say no!

This is what I made for Christmas at my Grandma's House. It's always an issue to figure out what to make to take there. Obviously, I want to take pictures and blog about the dessert. And that's fairly easy to do when you're only making 4-5 people wait on you (like in my immediate family gatherings) to take 31 pictures of your dessert, but when you've got 25+ people gearing up to hit the dessert line, it's a little harder to snap so many photos. So, I got smart this time. I decided to make a bar cookie. That way, I could cut them out, take pictures of them at home and then transport them to grandma's. Perfect!

These are good. Not WOW good. But, good. I opted to eat other things on the dessert table... pecan pie, white chocolate covered peanut butter cracker sandwiches (mmmmm.. I gotta make those), brownies. But, I did eat one of these while I was cutting them and plating them and they are good, rich cheesecake bars. I think they need a little more pizazz. Like some chocolate chips or nuts or fruit or something. But good for times when you just need something basic and creamy.

I did get a few compliments on them though... and they were even competing against a whole other cheesecake on the buffet line!

Savannah Cheesecake Squares

(What makes these "savannah" cheesecake squares instead of just regular cheesecake squares, I have no idea. I guess Savannah just sounds better).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Jennifer at Bake or Break has never let me down. I've made quite a few of the recipes that I've seen on her site and they always turn out delicious!

When I saw this recipe on her site a few weeks ago for Pecan Pie Cheesecake, I knew I had to try it for my family's Christmas Dinner. My favorite pie (maybe even dessert) is a pecan pie. And so this cheesecake immediately spoke to me.

Every Christmas, my family has a cheesecake. It used to be a turtle cheesecake that my mom bought. But for the past couple of years, I've been making the cheesecake. This year, I wanted to try something a little different... A little more special than your typical cheesecake and this fit the bill.

This cheesecake is absolutely amazing. I think I overcooked the pecan pie filling on the stove, because it turned out REALLY hard to eat. It had an amazing flavor, but it was just soooo hard and chewy. Next time (and yes, there will definitely be a next time) I will cook that filling less. But the texture and flavor of the cheesecake was delicious. I am also going to try this cheesecake as just a plain cheesecake sometime, without the pecan pie part. The filling is just so rich and decadent, I think it's the brown sugar. I had never made a cheesecake with a vanilla wafer crust, either and found it to be awesome, also!

This cheesecake was so good, that even those non-sweet eaters in my family were raving over it. Oh my god. Go out and make this cheesecake immediately. You will not be sorry.

I can't even write a coherent post because just thinking about this cheesecake makes my head spin.

Thank you, Jennifer.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Especially Dark Chocolate Cake

My parents have taken a couple of european extravaganza trips the past couple of years and one of the places that they visited was Versailles. Now, they took about 13 thousand pictures on that trip, but the pictures of Versailles and the stories they had to go along with it was incredible. It is now at the top of my list. Definitely.
So, that started a little interest in Versailles and the French Revolution... now, I'm also a really big Sofia Coppola fan and after a recommendation from my friend April, I checked out the movie Marie Antoinette. And now, I want to read this book. I mean, I'm pretty sure I know just about everything about Marie Antoinette, cause I'm sure the movie is completely historically accurate, right? Of course!

Okay, so I know... who cares that I'm into this french history stuff, right? Well, when I think of cake, I always think of Marie Antoinette.... Let them eat cake! (Which according to the movie, she actually never said... which contradicts my 7th grade history book which emphatically said that she did say that). Regardless... I love the quotation, because I love cake. And I'm loving it more and more the more I make it.

Seriously. Cake has to be the easiest baked item to make. Easier than the box, even! As I've mentioned before, I dont get the opportunity to make cakes very often, as you kind of need a big crowd to bake a cake for(although, stay tuned, I'm working on changing this). And I had just such an occasion this week! Hooray!

I hosted an Ugly Christmas Sweater Dinner Party for my family! And I decided to bake a glorious chocolate cake!

First of all, let me just say, that I'm probably going to get killed for posting this picture, but I can't resist, we just all looked so damn snazzy in our Christmas Sweaters...
So, for the cake, I decided to just make the recipe on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa Special Dark box.

It is delicious! So moist! So chocolatey! So rich! Yum. And, it's pretty forgiving, too. I left out a full cup of sugar and didn't realize it until I had already poured it into my two baking pans. I happened to taste the batter before I put it in the oven and I thought... hmmm.. that isnt very sweet at all. So, I referred back to the recipe and realized... I only measured one cup! Yikes! So, I put a half cup in each pan and stirred it around in the pan. I was a little nervous that it wouldn't dissolve very well, since it hadn't been mixed with the mixer. But, you couldn't tell!

Now, that's my kind of recipe.

The only change I made was I used buttermilk in the cake instead of regular milk.

Hershey's Especially Dark Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water (I think some people use hot coffee)
Especially Dark Chocolate Frosting (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 inch baking pans.
Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes.
Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared Pans.
Bake 30-35 minutes (I think I only baked mine for about 25 minutes, so start watching it at 25) or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely and frost. Serves 10-12

Especially Dark Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup Special Dark Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (might need more)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to a spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups of frosting.

Thanks Jason for the photos!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Homemade Oreos

So, I totally love baking, right? (obviously, or I wouldn't dedicate a whole freaking blog to it!). But that whole... baking a whole bunch of the same things (booooring) and then that wrecking a bunch of recipes (frightening) will dishearten a girl a bit.

I mean, I loved making the cookies and the brownies, but when you have recipe after recipe not turn out the way you wanted... you get a little depressed and then you realize you don't have time to be depressed, because you've got to make another kind of cookie for the party and ASAP.

Enter Homemade Oreos.

Screw the fruit cookie, let's make something kitchy instead. Right?

Luckily, my friend Steph came over the night that I finally gave up on the Rugelach Pinwheels and I think she probably just had the intention of letting me borrow some of her cookie sheets, sitting down at my bar and cracking up at me covered in flour, lamenting about the woes of baking. Little did she know... she was going to help me make Homemade Oreos. And by "help" I mean, measure all the ingredients, mix them and put them on the baking sheet while I supervised.
Fellow bakers shouldn't be so slim and cute and have cute victoria beckham haircuts, right? Right.

So, she really helped me out that night. I was at my wits end and I just finished putting a whole batch of those pinwheel cookies down the disposal when she got there. It was nice, because she helped me just kind of have a "who cares?" attitude and not worry about wasting all that money and time on those damn cookies that I screwed up.

We had fun. She's one of my oldest and dearest friends and it's nice to get to spend a tuesday night baking with your best friend.

So, back to the cookies. These are exactly like oreos, y'all!!!!! They are crunchy and the icing in the middle is dry-ish and they are perfect! Although, I must admit, I kind of liked them a little softer (I put some white bread in the ziploc back with them to soften them up a bit). YUM YUM YUM.

And thanks to Steph and Homemade Oreos.... Christmas was officially saved (or at least my parents christmas party).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Party 2007

So, for the past... 4-5 years my parents have thrown a big christmas party at their house. It's become an annual thing and every year my parents bust their asses to throw this really fabulous party. One of these years, they are going to realize that it's not really worth all the hardwork. But the rest of us are glad they do it, because it's a lot of fun.

I volunteered to make the baked sweets and made, Homemade Oreos (post on those to come later), Rich and Dark Brownies, Hidden Kiss Cookies, and I also put out the leftover Razmatazz Bars (which, incidentally, were a big hit) and a few of the Raspberry Lemon Thumbprint Cookies.

The rest of the menu included:
Pulled Pork BBQ
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Stuffed Mushrooms
Cheese Tray
Veggie Tray
Shrimp Cocktail
Mini Quiche
Cheese Ring

There were probably other foods but I can't really remember.

All-in-all, it was a big hit. Even with the rain and the threat of snow, they still had about 70 people there.

My dad looks a little frazzled here, but it was a long day... Pictures of the table...
More food...
The Sweets Table...
And yes, even more food...
And last but not least... the fully stocked bar.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hidden Kiss Cookies

There's comfort in those recipes that are tried and true. They're kind of like that one pair of broken in jeans that you always want to wear, even if they're a little bit dirty. (Oh come on, you know you wear them sometimes when they are dirty... don't give me that look). This is one of those recipes, I've made it a bunch of different times and it always turns out perfect. Okay... well, not always... I did accidently mess a batch up a couple weeks ago. I was making multiple recipes some of which I was halving and so I accidently halved the flour amount in the cookies and they turned out.... well.. super greasy and unedible. But that was my fault, not the cookies fault. Don't you hate it when you do something stupid like that and waste all those ingredients and the time! Ohhhhh the time wasted!

This is a recipe that I saw Paula Deen make awhile back on her show. It's basically a buttery meltaway cookie with a hershey's kiss snuck inside. The first time I made them was to test them out for my friend April's Shower and they turned out really well and were really easy to make. My mom loves these cookies (I think it's her favorite cookie recipe), and so when I asked her what she wanted me to make for her Christmas Party, she requested these specifically.

I have made them with all different kinds of hershey kisses... the regular ones, ones with peanut butter inside and caramel and I've found that using the regular hershey kisses doesn't make the best cookie. The kiss stays VERY hard inside the cookie, whereas if you use a kiss that is filled with something else, the kiss gets softer and melts a little into the cookie, making it easier to eat.

The only adjustment to the recipe I make is that instead of chilling the dough before you actually make the cookie balls, I go ahead and form the dough around the kisses while the dough is still pliable and then refrigerate the balls of dough for an hour before baking. It's too hard to form the cookies when the dough is hard and cold.

So, if you like mexican wedding cookies, italian wedding cookies, danish wedding cookies, butter meltaways, russian tea cakes, etc... and you love hershey kisses, you will definitely like this recipe.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rugelach Pinwheels

So, I've had my fair share of baking disasters. But, usually, it's because I did something wrong. Like, halved part of the recipe and not the other part of the recipe or made alterations to the recipe.

But, this recipe... this recipe is just one of those recipes that I just couldn't get right.

It all started with my parents christmas party (which is this weekend), I offered to make all the sweets for the party. Along with brownies and hidden kisses cookies, I felt like we needed a fruity, festive cookie. This decision has haunted me for weeks.

I tried Lemon Thumbprints, I tried Razmatazz Bars, and finally I decided that this rugelach pinwheels recipe with cherry preserves and dried cherries would be perfect.

And they would have been.... had they turned out.

I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. Don't they look so pretty on her site? Perfectly rounded, perfectly filled, perfectly photographed....

Wanna see how mine turned out?

This was the best looking batch. Seriously. I tried about 5 batches of these cookies. I tried them thin, I tried them thick and they always came out spread way all over the pan and looking like a mess. I still have one log and one batch of the dough still chilling in my fridge. I dont know what to do with it. I attempted to make two batches of these, because of all the chilling time, etc, I didn't want to run out of time to make them. Oh, and I had one batch completely stick to my greased non-stick pan and had to dispose of them down the garbage disposal... so, there's that, too.

Now, they taste REALLY good. But seriously... if you saw these sitting out on a platter at a party... you'd run far, far, far away.

So, I bagged them up all in a ziploc and I thought they'd make a good ice cream topping.

So, this christmas party will be without a fruity, festive cookie and after all these bad cookies I've made... i'm done with fruity and festive. Well, at least till next Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The specific goals of a tailgate party are to:

Socialize. Three people does in fact constitute a tailgate party, in case you were wondering. (two, definitely not, but three is acceptable).

Discuss the possible outcomes of the game. i.e. compare and contrast team players from each position. (Actually, we didn’t do this… we tried to come up with new catch phrases and ways to use them).

Drink. (Even if you are lame and only drink one beer, it counts dude, it totally counts).

People Watch. This includes making fun of the following types of people: those who listen to REM at a tailgate (buzz kill) and fans of the visiting team.

Eat yourself into a coma.

Sunday, April and Greg and I went to the Titans v. Chargers game. All our games are noon starts, so the tailgating must start early. Very early considering you didn’t get to bed until 3:30 (I’m too old for that crap, dude).

We had some good grub… including cheese dip, breakfast casserole and about 6 different bags of chips.

And I also decided to make some new chocolate chip cookies. These are a recipe from Cooks Illustrated that I snagged from Recipezaar. They were pretty good. Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Drinking my one beer... Officially a tailgate.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

German Chocolate Pie

This is April at her wedding reception... notice the look of quiet calm in Greg's eyes as he thinks... oh wow, I just married this girl and she's yelling out "wooo cheap trick."

April is my oldest friend. We met way back in 3rd grade in Mrs. Pomeroy’s class. She and I were pretty good friends off and on throughout elementary school and then I don’t think we really had any classes together from middle school until about Junior year of high school. Our Junior year, we had a few classes together and that's when the friendship really took off...

Let me just tell you the kind of relationship we have… in high school English, we would sit beside each other and everyday, I’d look at her at some point and I’d say… “April, I feel like I might have a fever… do I feel hot to you?” and she’d put her hand on my forehead and reply with whatever EVERYONE wants to hear in response to that question (and which incidentally, our moms never replied back to us)… “Wow, you do feel hot, I think you do have a fever!” And she’d say to me… “I’m not feeling too well either… how do I feel to you?” And I’d put my hand on her forehead and immediately say… “Oh yeah, you’ve definitely got a fever.” And then we’d crack up. It’s silly, but it kind of tells you something about our friendship. We trust each other and we always know what to say to make the other feel good.

I have so many great April stories, I couldn’t even begin to go through all of them… from going to see the midnight showing of the Exorcist (re-released) with winter scarves on (it was like 60 degrees outside), to making up ridiculous drinking games to sporting events… “ok, everytime they show Lou Holtz: Amy drinks and everytime they show Philip Fulmer: April drinks!” to riding around West End with finger puppets. Oh and the drinking…. Ohhhhhh the drinking we’ve done together.

And now, as adults we are closer than we were even in high school. She is my running partner (check out our running blog! 26point2ers), one of my very best friends and just a really good person. She’s someone that everyone likes. I mean, seriously, I’ve never met someone that knew her that didn’t like her.

Her birthday was November 17, but I didnt get to celebrate it with her until this past weekend. Finding a dessert to make her was a pretty easy decision. She, like me, basically likes anything and everything sweet and chocolatey. But, I knew that German Chocolate Cake was one of her absolute favorites. Now, it’s not easy to travel 200 miles with a big ole cake and with her husband not liking coconut, it wasn’t really practical to leave her with a whole cake to herself, but my mom had this recipe clipped from a magazine from forever ago for a German Chocolate Pie, so I decided to make it!

Honestly, I was less than thrilled. I envisioned a more fudge-y like pie and it turned into a more pudding-y type of pie. Which sucks, because with a great friend like April, you want it to be perfect… but I’m pretty sure she forgives me…. She’s cool like that.

April, lover of german chocolate, coconut, and pink ponies.

Happy Birthday, Ape!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Mint Chocolate Chip Pie

Remember when I first moved into my condo and there was a week there that I didn’t have a refrigerator? Yeah, I know, I’ve been trying to block it out, too. Well, one of those nights my best friends Steph and Justyn came over and brought me dinner from PF Changs (is there anything better than their steamed shrimp dumplings, mmmmmm).

Well, I wanted to repay them for their kindness (remember they also bought me Betty the kitchenaid mixer and mixing bowls, too!!) so I decided to invite them over for dinner last Thursday night. The menu was basic (I mean, no need to get crazy on a Thursday night, right?), but I wanted to make a dessert, too.

So, I found this pie recipe.

It’s very simple to make and apparently pretty forgiving, since the grocery store was out of regular vanilla pudding and I had to use French vanilla. One note though, it makes enough filling for 2 pies. I mean, seriously. You can easily cut this recipe in half to make one pie. I had a ton of filling left over.

I ended up putting the leftovers in the freezer and am anxious to try it frozen. I think it will be more like an ice cream pie. But, it’s very good. The only changes I made was that I used an oreo cookie pre-made crust, the French vanilla pudding, and I also added andes mints on top.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Whopper Cookies

Whoppers are that candy bar that I only eat at halloween. I would never buy a package of whoppers, but at halloween I always loved eating the little funsize packages. The truth is, I love malt. Like, I really love it. Malted milk, malted milkshakes, etc... It's all great for me. The thing about the whopper that keeps me from buying a whole package is... it's a little too hard for me and sometimes you get that super stale one that makes you feel like you are eating an acorn. Yeah, there's that.

So, since I love malt... i've had this recipe printed out for awhile now. It's originally from Dorie Greenspan and I've seen it made on a couple of my favorite blogs (cookie madness and foodbeam) And I've had whoppers since halloween... but I hadn't been able to find the malted milk powder at my grocery store. I knew that Harris Teeter would have it, but the last time I went to harris teeter, I had a flustering encounter and totally forgot to pick up the malt powder. So, I made a special trip the other week, because I was craving chocolate-y, malt-y goodness.

Turns out... these cookies aren't that great. They could be more chocolate-y and more malt-y.

I was really disappointed with this recipe.. especially after all the build up. But, oh well... there are plenty more recipes to be made!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Raspberry Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

The half recipe that ruined a whole recipe

So, the raspberry bars didn’t turn out as great as I expected… so, I was still searching for that festive fruit cookie. I did some searching and found a recipe from Emeril for lemon and raspberry thumbprint cookies. Fruity and festive. Jackpot.

Well, the thing is… they aren’t that great. I mean, they’re good. But they’re not like… wow, whats the recipe? (That’s my gauge on whether something is good or not.. if I know people will be asking for the recipe, then its good). Luckily, I only made a half batch. Now, immediately after making this half batch. I intended to make a full batch of Hidden Kisses cookies, little powdered sugar cookies with Hershey kisses inside. But, I ended up halving some of the ingredients (like the flour) and using the whole amount of other ingredients (like the butter). And I didn’t realize that this was the problem until the 3rd sheet was in the oven. Yuck they were so greasy and spread out.. such a waste. Such a disappointment… Maybe bad baking experiences come in 3s and I got them all out of my system in 2 days?

Raspberry Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

Monday, November 26, 2007

RazMaTazz Bars

Sometimes… things just don’t go the way you hoped they would.

This weekend, I tried to get a head start on baking for my parents big Christmas party.

80+ people = lots of preparation.

Preliminarily, my mom and I decided to make Wanda's Rich & Dark Brownies , Hidden Kisses (a paula deen cookie recipe that I’ve made before), and we wanted a fruit cookie, so we first decided to try Raspberry Bars (also called RazMaTazz Bars).

So, Friday afternoon, after helping my mom to put up the main Christmas tree in the house, I decided to give the RazMaTazz Bars a try.

They came together fairly easily… raspberry jam and white chocolate, how can you go wrong, right??

Well… you can overcook them.

And it’s not that I wasn’t watching them, because I was! I was checking them like every 5 minutes, but I didn’t really know how they were supposed to look on top. And so, they were way overcooked. Not burned. But dry and overcooked. Also, I felt like they weren’t sufficiently raspberry enough. I doubled the recipe and made them in a 13x 9 pan.

They were okay, but I’m not sure that they would wow me, even if they weren’t overcooked. But, I think I’ve decided to give them another try. Because, they would look really festive and a bar cookie is so much easier to make for a party.

More cooking failures from this weekend to come…

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Chocolate Eclair

Holidays in my family revolve around traveling to my grandma's house about an hour and a half East of Nashville. It's a pot luck affair. My Aunt Loretta always brings the turkey, my Aunt Evelyn always brings the broccoli and cheese casserole (one of my favorites), we always have my grandma's delicious green beans and my mom always brings this dessert. It's a tradition. A tradition that has gone on for so long, that the dessert has become apart of the family and as such, it is affectionately called "Clair."

Clair is brought to both Thanksgiving and Christmas. And a few times in the past, we would load up the car and sometimes we would forget Clair, leaving her a lonely holiday sitting in the fridge (although, this was always a good thing for my immediate family... just means we got Clair all to ourselves when we got home from grandma's hungry and empty-handed). Which means, now, when people start filtering to the dessert, you'll always hear at least one person say... "is Clair here?" And out of the various brownies, cakes, and pies, Clair is the one dessert that is always completely empty at the end of dinner.

Now, I actually didn't eat Clair for a long time. You see, on my 4th birthday I got sick and threw up and for about 10 years after that, I wouldnt touch anything with frosting on it (for some reason, I equated the vomiting with the frosting), so all my birthday cakes from then on had to be plain, etc... so, since Clair has canned frosting poured all over her top, I wouldn't go near her.

Eventually, I realized what sugary goodness I was missing for so long and fell in love with frosting and as a result, fell in love with Clair.

I don't know where the name comes from, but it's actually more like a poor man's tiramisu. It's essentially a pudding dessert with graham cracker layers that soften and a chocolate frosting top. I made it for the first time this year, and while it wasn't quite as good as mom's, it was pretty good.

Easy and delicious and for my family, tradition.

Clair (Chocolate Eclair)

box of graham crackers
2 large boxes of vanilla instant pudding
5 cups of milk
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 large tub of cool whip
1 tub chocolate frosting

Layer the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan with graham crackers. Set aside.

For filling: In a large bowl, beat with an electric mixer the pudding packages and milk until thick (when my mom first received this recipe she was told to beat for 15 minutes, which I did, but she said she usually only beats till it starts to get thick, about 5 minutes, either way is fine).

Then add softened cream cheese and cool whip one at a time, blend well.

Pour half of pudding mixture into pan and spread over crackers. Then add another layer of graham crackers and then put the rest of the pudding on top of that layer.

Heat the can of frosting up slightly, to make it pourable and pour it over the top and spread it out. Refrigerate overnight.

Note about the frosting: If you get it too hot, it will separate on top of the pudding and look gross. Also, we only use about 2/3 of the tub of frosting, but you can use as much or as little as you like, it's rich and sweet, which is why we don't use all of it.

I also baked a cherry pie and there was a slice to bring home! Yay!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Paula Deen's Brown Sugar Chewies

If I was stranded on a deserted island but I could have a shipment of candy bars magically float onto the island every week, with the catch that it would have to be the same candy bar for eternity.. I would have no problems choosing my candy bar.


I often flirt with other candy bars… almond joys, reese cups, m&ms, skor…. But I always end up with my trust snickers bar. It’s the nougat, I think. Oh and the caramel, and don’t forget the peanuts!

When I was a kid, I had a particular way of eating every candy bar. I deconstructed them. Always. So, with a snickers bar, I’d eat all the chocolate off, then the nougat and lastly I’d eat the chewy peanuts with caramel. It wasn’t until I was about 19 when, for whatever reason, I ate the snickers regular and I thought to myself….. hmmm.. who knew the layers tasted better all together than they do separately (I guess everyone probably knew this)??? It was like I’d discovered a whole new candy bar.

So, my love for snickers means I bought about 13 pounds of snickers when I was buying up all the Halloween candy and then realized… umm.. there really isn’t much you can do with snickers besides eat them (which, I’ve done plenty of in past weeks).

After the success of the congo bars… I was still craving something rich and gooey and bar-like. So, I tried this recipe from Paula Deen.

And these hit the spot pretty well, although I think I prefer the congo bar recipe. (maybe I should have added 3 times the butter to this recipe, too). I chopped up a ton of snickers bars and added them to the batter before I poured it in the dish and I think that the caramel from the snickers got a little burned, because there was a strange dark molasses-y type of flavor to these. But they were good, but they weren’t congo bars. Which reminds me.. I need to try congo bars with the right measurements, don’t I? Hmmm..

Monday, November 19, 2007

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Some things just taste better with something else. For instance, peanut butter tastes better with chocolate and caramel tastes better with chocolate, where pecans taste better with caramel, and potatoes taste better with butter, bagels taste better with cream cheese...

Okay, you know where I'm going with this... some things work better in a package deal rather than solo. And it's not that you dont like those things singularly, it's just that you like them better with their complimentary other half.

This is what I think about when I see peanut butter cookies. What can I add to make them even better? In this case, I added chopped up hershey milk chocolate bars and reese pieces (finally done with those!).

These cookies are good. Very rich, but good. They are super peanutty (obviously), and so next time, if I don't reese's pieces to use up, I'll likely add a bunch of chocolate chips to cut the rich, saltiness of the peanut butter.

Great cookies though and so simple. Who knew that you could make peanut butter cookies with flour or butter (well, without butter, I can understand.. but without flour, too!) Amazing!

I found the recipe here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Congo Bars

I failed algebra 2 my junior year of high school. To be fair, out of the 32 people in that class… 17 of us failed. (Sad that I still remember that stat, huh? Obviously, It’s an important detail to remember… it wasn’t just me!). It wasn’t that I skipped class or didn’t do my homework, it’s that I just couldn’t grasp the material in the way that Ms. Merritt taught it (me and 17 other folks, remember?). It was a big deal. It’s the only class I’ve ever failed and it messed my schedule up for the next year… I would have to take algebra 2 again and not take Latin 4. This was not an option. So I opted to take algebra 2 in night school across town. And I aced it that time around. Me and the dropouts, druggies, and new mothers. That’s a whole OTHER story.

It’s not that I’m not good at math. It’s that I’m not good at math tests. At least, this is what I’ve always told myself (and my teachers). But, I ended up graduating high school and then college and have made it as an accountant for a few years now, so I guess my math isn’t all that bad. But last night, I found myself struggling, feeling as math retarded as I did back in high school.

I found this recipe for congo bars and they sounded delicious. I was in the mood for something really sweet and a bar cookie was the answer. Since I’m only cooking for me these days, I always halve my recipes. Well, I start to get the ingredients out and imagine my horror when I read the first three ingredients and their measurements:

2/3 cup of Butter
1 lb of Brown Sugar
3 eggs

I looked at the wrapper of my butter stick, expecting to see how many tablespoons make up 2/3 cup. But the only measurement on it was.. ½ cup= 8 tbsps. Ok, ok, I can do this… I started to think about the fractions involved… 1 cup of butter is 16 tbsps. So, 2/3 cup of butter would be… 12? No. 14? No. Wait… 2/3 cup is how many tbsps? It’s like my brain registered that I was doing math and then immediately clocked out for lunch and said… you’re on your own this time. So, I pulled out a pen and started doing the division. 16 divided by 3 is about 5.3…. so, I needed about 10.6 tbsps of butter for the whole recipe, so I need 5.3 tbsps for a half recipe. Sounds easy, right? Well, it took me about 15 minutes to figure this out. (seriously).

Okay, okay, confession time… Honestly… I didn’t pull the pen out and try to figure this out on paper. I actually tried to do this in my head (big mistake) and ended up somehow thinking that 12 tbsps was what I needed and threw that into my pot. Only now, as I type this, am I realizing that I added 7 tbsps too many. (No wonder it took it like 20 extra minutes to cook and it’s still very gooey!).

The brown sugar, luckily wasn’t as hard… I knew that 1 lb is 16 oz and half of that is 8 oz which is a cup. Woo hoo. (I was very proud of myself for figuring that out). And for the eggs.. I just went ahead and used 2.

So, aside from the fact that I had to cook these like 20 minutes longer than it said (duh), these cookies are awesome. They are really sweet and gooey (maybe adding 7 extra tbsps of butter is a good thing) and really easy for people that can do simple math.

I skipped the chocolate chips and the walnuts and opted to use my Halloween M&Ms and Reese Pieces.

Lesson learned… keep a calculator in your kitchen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rolo Cookies

So, are you sick of Halloween candy yet???

Jeez… I sure am. Uggh. Why did I buy 11 pounds worth of Halloween candy?? What was I possibly thinking I’d do with all of it??

Well… here’s a recipe that I found that used up my rolos. They’re pretty good. Although, to be fair, when I made them, I wasn’t exactly in the mood for another chocolate cookie, so that probably affected my opinion of them.. If you’ve got leftover rolos, I recommend these cookies, but honestly.. I wouldn’t rush right out to buy a package of them for these cookies.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I don't generally think to myself... mmmmm... I'd love to have an oatmeal raisin cookie right now. Usually, I'm thinking to myself... mmmm.... I'd love to have a cadbury egg right now (in the middle of november, of course), a slice of pecan pie, or a brownie. But, I do like oatmeal raisin cookies, even though I wouldn't be caught dead eating raisins by themselves. Yuck.

To me, in order to be the perfect oatmeal raisin cookie, the cookie must be soft and chewy. No crunchiness whatsoever. So... imagine my surprise when surfing through recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies, that most of the recipes call for all butter. Wouldn't a butter and shortening mix of fat make a softer, chewier cookie? I'll find out, trust me.

But, in the meantime, I found this recipe awhile back and had been meaning to try it out, but I didn't have any raisins on hand (see above note about hating raisins). So, yesterday at the grocery store I bought some raisins and tried it out.

The first batch out of the oven were too crunchy (or, is it was too crunchy?), so I decided that I must have cooked them too long. I also added cinnamon to the dough after that first batch and enjoyed the cookies with the cinnamon a lot more. The last couple of batches were softer and tasty, but I'm pretty indifferent about them. They aren't pretty at all. The flavor is good and the texture is okay (once I didn't overcook them), but they are so pale and sickly looking.

So, I'll definitely try some more oatmeal raisin cookie recipes... and will substitute some of the butter for shortening in the future.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Reese Pieces & M&M Chocolate Cookies

I never really thought that I liked chocolate cookies that much. I've never really considered myself much of a chocolate fiend. But, ever since I started baking regularly... I find myself craving chocolate more and more. And I'm beginning to think that this isn't a good thing.

So, yesterday I knew that I wanted to make another recipe where I could use up my halloween candy that I bought on clearance and I found this recipe on Cookie Madness for Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies. It sounded like a perfect way to use up some of my Reese Pieces! I substituted Reese Pieces and M&Ms for the peanut butter chips and these cookies are excellent! They have a really interesting texture. It's like a grainy, thick, moist texture that is perfect for the chocolate flavor. Yum. I couldn't keep from eating them.

Now, I've just got to find some recipes to use up Almond Joys, Snickers, and Kit Kats... hmmmm.....

Oh, and I made these cookies while wearing my new apron that my mom made for me. Cute, huh? It only took her like 4 months, too. Amazing. She should apply for Project Runway.

These cookies are good. Make them.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Brownies

Halloween. What a great holiday. You get to dress up and people give you candy. I mean, what genius thought that up??? Brilliant! But, when you become an adult and no one you know throws a costume party, the best part of halloween is... getting candy for 50% & 75% off. I stocked up this year, with the intention of using the candy in some recipes!
The first recipe I came up with is for something I printed awhile back. It's for Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Brownies. They are basically peanut butter cookies made in bar form with bits of reese peanut butter cups and chocolate chips (I used cut up hershey bars).
Let me take a moment to talk about peanut butter. I like peanut butter, but I'm not crazy over it, unless it has chocolate with it. The mixture of chocolate and peanut butter is awesome, but I'm not one to just eat peanut butter cookies. I mean I'll eat them, but I won't choose them over chocolate cookies. So, these brownies were an interesting pick for me. They are super rich and pretty gooey, but yummy! I think if I make them again, I might add more chocolate to the recipe, but overall. A delicious take on brownies and a great way to use up Reese Peanut Butter Cups and hersey bars!
Ugghh.... sometimes I hate blogger, like when it won't accept new paragraphs. Uggh..

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mrs. Field's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ahhh… the luxury of a refrigerator… Finally… it’s a week later than I thought, but I’m still happy. So, now I can continue living like a regular human being. Here it is… nothing fancy… just your basic Kenmore.
Whats that? You want to see inside? You think this is like a blogisode of Cribs or something??? I’m no backstreet boy, you don’t need to see the inside of my fridge… ok, ok fine…

So, I spent 100 bucks at the grocery store yesterday, and that’s all that is in my fridge. Sad, huh?

Anyway, so, last night I decided to do my first baking in the condo. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to make, but I finally settled on yet another Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. Cause, let’s be honest here folks, can you ever make chocolate chip cookies too much??? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

I found this recipe on Recipezaar and supposedly it’s the copycat recipe for Mrs. Fields Cookies.

Now, here in Nashville we have a company called Christie Cookies and they make the absolute BEST cookies. Hands down. They are super buttery, super chewy and just perfection. Especially their white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. (I’m not a huge fan of the taste of the chocolate chunks they use in their chocolate chunk cookies, but the cookie itself is just heavenly). Well, since it’s a small, local company, I couldn’t’ find any copycat recipes for it, so Mrs. Fields will have to do.

Now, of all the things I bought at the grocery store… I forgot salt!!! Luckily, I realized this and found this salt packet lying around the kitchen at my office…
It wasn’t quite enough salt, but I used salted butter, too.

So, these cookies are delicious! I ate about ½ cup of raw dough and about 6 cookies as they came out of the oven last night and they were pretty crispy… well, this morning I had half of one and wow, they were soft and chewy and perfect! Very good cookies. I will definitely use this recipe again when I need a good chocolate chip recipe.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Italian Cream Cake

My mom’s birthday was Friday.

Happy Birthday Mom!

And so a couple of weeks ago, I asked her what she wanted for dessert for her birthday. She really didn’t hesitate at all, but said… Italian Cream Cake. I had no idea what the hell an Italian Cream Cake was, but I was very excited because it had the word “cake” in the title.

Ever since I’ve started this blog I’ve wanted an excuse to bake a cake. But, you can’t really ship cakes and the idea of making a cake for just me… well, its kind of sad (but that alone wouldn’t have stopped me, trust me) and its also just too calorically tempting to have a whole cake sitting around begging to be consumed.

So, finally… a cake!!! I started off by googling Italian Cream Cake and then I realized that it’s basically a cake for those of us who love pecans, cream cheese, coconut, and moist cakes. Jackpot.

I did further research and found that Jennifer at Bake or Break had used the southern living recipe and hers looked awesome! So, I printed the recipe and read through it and don’t forget the icing recipe

It sounded really easy.

Now, let me preface this by saying, I’ve only made two cakes from scratch before. One was a coconut cake for Christmas (which was VERY difficult and required lots of strange ingredients, but very tasty) and the other was Martha Stewarts Red Velvet Cake (which, again, I remember being kind of hard to make, but yummy!!!!) for Thanksgiving one year. So, I kind of expected Cakes in general to be difficult to make.

This one was a breeze! Really… from the batter to the icing, it was really easy. And even though I couldn’t make this in my kitchen (still no fridge), I did get to use my housewarming gift from Steph & Justyn!!!!!! My new mixer!!!! See how pretty she is?? I named her Betty.
Betty is my 9 speed kitchen aid mixer (she also has matching bowls!!!!). And Betty kicks some major ass in the mixing department. I used her for both the batter and the icing. Awesome.

Okay, so back to the recipe. It is delicious. It’s not a super moist cake, it’s more of a dense, thick cake. Very mild flavor, but incredible. Normally, I hate cold cake, but I actually like this cake straight out of the fridge instead of after it’s been sitting around for awhile. This is definitely going to be made again. Yum.

By the way… I have a guest photographer for this entry, my brother Jason took the pics of the cake. He better watch out, or I’m going to be calling him over twice a week to take photos for me!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

No Fridge Cookies

This is my refrigerator:
ok, well… this is where my refrigerator will be once I actually get it delivered. I ordered it last Saturday along with a tv and while I have the tv, I don’t have the refrigerator, yet.

You don’t realize how hard it is to live without a fridge. I mean, it’s really hard. I feel like I’m not really living there. I feel like I’m just the cleaning lady there or something. But come on, I bet even cleaning ladies snag diet cokes from the fridge when no one is home, right??

So the other afternoon, I went to Kroger and milled around the baking aisle trying to think of something that I can make that doesn’t require a refrigerator and that contains items that don’t have to be refrigerated. Not easy. Not easy at all.

I ended up purchasing the following items:

Graham Cracker Crumbs
Lean Cuisine Mushroom Pizza
Butterscotch Morsels
Peanut Butter Morsels
Sweetened Condensed Milk

And what I ended up with is a fudge! And it’s good! Really good! Here is how I did it:

No Fridge Fudge

1 cup butterscotch morsels
1 cup peanut butter morsels
1 ½ cup graham cracker crumbs (I eyeballed it)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup coconut

Melt morsels in a microwave safe bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk. Then stir in the graham cracker crumbs and coconut and press into a 8x8 inch pan.

Let it set for 3-4 hours.

You could also make this a chocolate fudge, by using chocolate morsels and chocolate wafer crumbs.