October 30, 2012

Red Velvet Cake Batter Dip

It's movie night at my house!! A few of my friends and I are getting ready for the last part to the Twilight sequel....Breaking Dawn Part 2 comes out November 17. So we are having   a Twilight movie night. We are watching "Twilight" and "New Moon" tonight and then the other two movies another night. Movie night has to have themed snacks!! I made a huge pot of spaghetti (since the Cullen's decide to cook Italian for Bella when she comes to visit their house for the first time). I also made Red Velvet Cake Batter Dip to represent the vampires and Puppy Chow for the werewolves.

The Red Velvet Dip has a sweet-creamy-chocolate flavor. I could eat it by the spoon-full and not even use a cookie to dip it in. I also thought the texture and consistency would work perfect on cupcakes. SO I will be keeping this recipe in mind when Valentine's Day comes around.

Red Velvet Cake Batter Dip

1 pkg. cream cheese ( I used the lactose free kind)
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups red velvet cake mix (dry not prepared)
2-3 cups powdered sugar
2-3 TBS milk ( lactose free used here too)

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add 1 cup of red velvet cake mix at a time to the butter mixture. You may need to add 1-2 TBS of milk to keep the mixture smooth. Do the same with the powered sugar until you have reached a consistency that you like, again you may need to add 1-2 TBS of milk to keep the mixture smooth. ( I used the whole 3 cups)

Chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Serve with vanilla wafers or graham cracker sticks.

October 22, 2012

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

After a long week of a teething and cranky baby, between the three of our children these two teeth have been by far the worst teething moment ever. I am glad that these are finally out and he is not feeling so miserable anymore. Fingers crossed that the rest of his teeth aren't this torturous for him. With him back on his normal napping routine I am finally finding a few moments to share our FAVORITE cookie recipe!

My original recipe had peanut butter which I left out to make sure that I could serve them to friends of ours who have a nut allergy. I knew the recipe worked with the peanut butter but decided to give it a whirl to see how they turn out without it. I have to honestly say that I LOVE these SO SO much more then with the peanut butter! They are a great combination of rich & chewy but at the same time a perfect crispness to them that goes well with either  a cold glass of milk or even a hot cup of coffee. They keep so well and don't loose their texture or taste even after a few days of being in our cookie jar...not that they usually last very long anyway in our house!

I think I am going to have a hard time finding another cookie recipe to top this....but no worries I won't give up that quick!

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup each rolled oats and chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375F and prepare your cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper.

Cream butter with both sugars, until they are creamy. While the butter and sugars are mixing, combine your flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. Add egg and vanilla extract. After stirring in your egg and vanilla slowly start incorporating your dry ingredients. Mixture will start getting thick after adding in all your flour. Then add both the oats and chocolate chips at the same time. Stir just until incorporated.

Scoop dough using a TBS onto your cookie sheet leaving 2 inches in between each cookie because they do spread a bit.

Bake 8-11 minutes or until just lightly golden brown. Be careful not to over-bake these!!!
Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

Makes about 4-5 dozen (depending on size of spoon or scoop you use)

These also freeze well, you can either freeze them before you bake them or after they are completely cooled.
If you are freezing them before baking, scoop them onto your baking sheet and then put them into the freezer for about 30 minutes. Transfer them to a freezer safe ziploc and freeze until you are ready to bake them. When you are ready to bake them just pop them onto your cookie sheet while you are waiting on your oven to reach temperature. Baking time may increase by 2-3 minutes. It will depend on how long you leave them on your cookie sheet before baking.

October 13, 2012

Pumpkin Spiced Biscotti

Most of my friends know that I love drinking coffee and that I love to bake so I am always trying out new recipes that might go good with a hot cup of coffee. Biscotti is one of many great combinations. Did you know that Biscotti actually means "baked twice"?

I have made chocolate biscotti and vanilla biscotti but this was my first time making a pumpkin one. So first I did a little online searching to see how much pumpkin was needed or what was too much. Should I use pumpkin spice or other spices? I decided to take a few recipes and try my own way instead. I will be making these again, but this time I will add chopped pecans to it (didn't have any to try it out this time around).

Pumpkin Biscotti

3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (not used in these pictures)

2 squares white chocolate
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350F and line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. This batter does not spread much but you will need a second cookie sheet after cutting the biscotti.

Sift your dry ingredients together in a bowl; set aside. Mix the pumpkin puree, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla until well incorporated. Slowly add your dry ingredient mixture in little by little; mix on low until all the flour is mixed in. Stir in the chopped pecans.

After baking for the first 25 minutes
 Your batter will be very sticky and thick after you have added all the flour. Divide the batter into 2 logs onto your cookie sheets.  Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and cool for 10 minutes. Then you will need to cut your biscotti. Turn your temperature down to 300 F before returning your biscotti back to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, pull out of oven and flip each piece. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes. Your biscotti may still feel a little soft after the last 10 minutes but don't worry it will dry out more while they are cooling.

While your biscotti is cooling you can melt your white chocolate and stir in the pumpkin pie spice to get ready for drizzling. Your biscotti should be cool enough that your drizzle won't melt.
Drizzled with white chocolate
 Once the chocolate is set store them in an air tight container. Eat them with hot coffee or tea! Enjoy!

October 11, 2012

Grilled Chicken Pasta

Am I the only one that loves Pampered Chef products? I sure do hope not. Not only do I love their products but I really love their cookbooks and recipes. Most of the recipes are under 30 minutes, short ingredient lists without too many non-pantry essentials AND most importantly they taste GREAT! No I am not trying to sell you anything through my blog but I am going to share more recipes that are from Pampered Chef because I have tried them and love them.

I have to tell you that these pictures really need "smell-o-vision" if you cold smell the aroma of this pasta while it is cooking.....unbelievable.

The recipe requires very little time to prepare and almost no clean up because it is cooked in the microwave. The only thing you must do in advance is grill up some chicken or use up some leftover chicken but you could also substitute it with canned chicken. I am using the "Deep Covered Baker" to make this dish. The Deep Covered Baker can be used in the oven or microwave and you can even use it to make desserts.

This Grilled Chicken Pasta recipe only takes 30 minutes in the microwave!!

Tomatoes are ready to be mashed
Grilled Chicken Pasta

4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups cherry tomato (I didn't have any so I used 4 regular vine tomato instead, I cut them in half)
3 cups UNCOOKED mini penne pasta
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay or Pinot Grigo (optional can use chicken broth instead)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups grilled chicken (or you could use canned chicken, make sure you drain it well before adding to the pasta)


Lightly spray the inside of the Deep Covered Baker, add sliced garlic and tomatoes. Cover and microwave 5 minutes. Remove and mash tomatoes. **If you are using vine tomato like I did, then I would recommend pulling the skin off of the tomatoes before mashing them.**
Yes the noodles have not been cooked yet!

Add pasta, broth, wine (if using....I did and do), salt and pepper. Cover and return Baker to the microwave. Cook 10 minutes, remove lid carefully and stir the pasta. Cover and return to microwave for another 6-8 minutes.

Carefully remove baker from microwave and remove the lid, lifting away from you. Stir in basil, parmesan cheese and chicken. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving, this will allow the chicken to warm up.

My Pampered Chef consultant's email address is chefkathy@cox.net , email her and tell her I sent you I promise she will take good care of any your Pampered Chef needs.

October 7, 2012

Apple Pie to-go

Can you believe we are already a week into October?! Where has the time gone!?

Crazy Cooking Challenge time again! This month we are covering "Apple Pie". I have been trying out many of new recipes that have apples or applesauce in them to figure out what I like best.My recipe that I am adding to the Crazy Cooking Challenge is going to be a mini version of Apple Pies. I love baking apple pie but hate having to cut into a perfect pie! So why not have mini pies that don't need to be cut, you can just pick them up and eat them as is? Hopefully you like these as much as my family and I do.

My Apple Pies to-go are very simple and have a homemade from scratch version or a semi-homemade  version, which ever you chose or have time for these are easy to make and taste scrumptious. When I make these I prepare the apple filling and pie crust a few days in advance, this makes baking day go a lot faster.

Apple Pie Filling:
4 apples, any kind will work for this (I used Gala), peel and dice into 1/4 inch cubes
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 sugar
3 TBS cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
Going in the fridge for later
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup apple juice or apple cider
1 cup water

Toss apples with lemon juice, set aside.
In a sauce pan pour in the apple juice and water, then add your remaining ingredients; stir and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes while constantly stirring. Once all the sugar is dissolved and you have a rolling boil carefully stir in the apples. Bring back to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool for 30 minutes before using it or storing it in the refrigerator. You could also freeze this for later.

While my apples are simmering I prep my pie crust. When you are ready to bake your pies roll your dough out and cut it using a 2"cookie or biscuit cutter. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and put them in the freezer until you are ready to top and bake.

While my pie crust is chilling in the freezer I make the crumble topping mixture.


3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 cup apple pie filling

Mix all your dry ingredients together into a bowl. Cut in butter until it looks crumbly. Scope out 1/4 cup of the mixture for later. In the remaining mixture stir in your apple pie filling. Set aside or store in refrigerator.


Preheat your oven to 375F

Top your pre-cut pie crusts with 1 1/2 TBS of your filling; flatten slightly to cover the whole surface of the crust. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of your reserved topping. Bake 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar.
Ready for the oven
If you are making the from scratch the way I do it may seem like there are a lot of steps to completing these, this is why I prepare my filling and crust in advance. The individual steps on their own don't take that much time so if you prep your filling one day and then your crust on another it won't seem like so much all at once. HERE IS A LITTLE SECRET.....if you don't have the time to do it all from scratch you can try the semi-homemade way and all you will be making from scratch is your topping mixture.

Semi-Homemade substitutions:
1 can of Apple pie filling, take a pair of scissors and cut the apples up into bite size pieces (you can do this while the apples are still in the can)
1 pkg store bought pie crust


Pie Crust

When it comes to the pie crust I am a fan of using butter instead of shortening....just don't like shortening, I will use lard in savory crusts (like for Pot Pies) but butter is my go to for dessert crusts.

COLD, COLD, COLD butter is VERY important!!! If your butter isn't cold enough you will not get the right consistency of crumbs when you are making your crust. I suggest cutting your butter into cubes before you even start anything else, then after you cube the butter put it right back into the fridge until the very last moment. Do not over work the dough. Your dough should not be in a big ball before you start rolling it out, crumbles are better. After you get your crumble consistency you just want to gently pat it together and stick it back into the freezer. Now you can either freeze your crust in advance or you can leave it in there for about 30 minutes before you proceed to kneading and rolling it out. Remember the colder the butter can stay the likelier you will have a soft flakey crust.

Here is my recipe for Pie Crust:

2 1/2 cups of all purpose floor, you will also need more for dusting your work surface
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, unsalted and cubed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
6-8 TBS ice cold water

**you may need more or less depending on the humidity level when making.....I put ice cubes into my water before using it, just fill a glass with water and ice and scoop out what you need while you are making your crust**


If you are doing your pie crust by hand: Combine your flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl before taking your butter out of the refrigerator. When you are ready to add your butter take it out of the refrigerator and begin to cut it into the flour (I use a pastry blender to this because I typically always have warm hands). If you do not have a pastry blender you can use you two butter knives to cut it into the butter. DO NOT ADD ANY WATER until your mixture looks like in the picture below.

When your mixture looks like in the picture slowly start adding your water little by little, this is where you can use your hands to incorporate the water into the flour. Once you feel like the dough is has starting to bind then you have added enough water. Do not add more water then needed otherwise your crust will become tough.

At this point you will need to pull out enough plastic wrap to cover a 13x9 surface. Scope your mixture onto the plastic wrap. DO NOT knead the dough, gently press it together just enough to make it stick together in a big clump. Then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and stick it into the freezer. If you plan on using it on the same day leave it in the freezer at least 30 minutes before continuing to work with it. Otherwise you can leave this in the freezer for up to a week. Take it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the night before you plan on using it otherwise it will be too hard to even attempt to knead and roll.

My dough before putting it in the freezer
 When you are ready to bake your pie get your work area ready first. You will need to have a surface generously floured, this extra flour will not harm the dough while you are kneading it and rolling it out to size. Over kneading will stiffen your crust so try to get it into shape with as little kneading and rolling as possible (this takes practice!)

I keep a pastry brush in my drawer of tools to brush off the excess flour after I have rolled my pie crust out.

Roll your pie crust out to the needed size of your pie pan and then gently lift it into your pan.
Then add your filling and bake!

You can also pre-bake your pie crust and then freeze it for later. After you put your crust into the pie pan take a fork a poke a few holes into the bottom to prevent it from bubbling up while baking or fill it with uncooked white rice, this will also prevent it from bubbling. You could use dried beans or peas too but I prefer rice because it fills the surface better. Then put it in the oven at 375F for 10-15 minutes. Cool completely before freezing.

You can also egg wash the crust  before baking to add a shiny, golden brown finish to your crust.
Heavy cream, half and half or milk; any of these can be used for sweet pies. You can also lightly sprinkle the crust with sugar after brushing on your wash for an extra touch.

Egg Yolk can be used for a savory crust.

October 5, 2012

Pumpkin Brownies

Today was one of those days!! Thankfully I was able to get some baking & cooking done AND most importantly I was able to get to the store to restock my coffee filters.....this better not ever happen again, I can't get up in the morning to no coffee filters!!

Pumpkin Brownies

1 box Brownie mix, Family size
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie mix

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a square baking pan.

Hand mix your pumpkin puree and brownie mix until well incorporated. It will be thick and fudgy looking. Put batter into your prepped baking pan and smooth out the top. 

Bake 45 minutes, check your brownies with a cake tester or toothpick before removing.

Let cool 10 minutes in baking pan before inverting onto a cooling rack (I would not recommend leaving these in the pan to cool because they are very moist and could get soggy).

Verdict: Easy, healthy and SO fudge!! You can't really taste the pumpkin in these (maybe just a hint) but I didn't use any eggs or oil to make them so they are a winner in my book! Did I mention how YUMMY they smelled while they were baking???