Summertime treats..made with l♥ve by The Cookie Mama

Hello again!  So I go for a few months without any posts, and now I post twice in one week??? Go figure.  Anyway, this post is dedicated to the summertime treats that I made for the family and their friends. 🙂

The first recipe was for cinnamon bites. IMG_4033Both of the kids were having friends over, and I wanted to make a sweet treat for them to enjoy.  I chose this recipe because it was simple, I had all the ingredients, and it only took a few minutes to put together.  The kids were swimming so I needed to be on the deck to supervise, and this dessert was perfect.  I threw it together, popped it in the oven, and then just hung out on the deck watching the kids have fun until it was done.  All the kids loved this dessert, and when Dan got home from work, he enjoyed it too.  The best part was probably the heavenly aroma that filled my house.  When the parents came to pick up their children, they  commented on how great my house smelled.  I will definitely make this dessert again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://bevandcuisine.com/2014/05/23/cinnamon-roll-bites-1-roll-refrigerator-biscuits-3t-butter-melted-1t-cinnamon-14c-brown-sugar-mix-brown-sugar-and-cinnamon-in-bowl-cut-each-biscuit-into-4-peices-drop-into-bowl-toss-to-coat-well/

DSCN0878The next recipe was for apple pie dip. I love love love me an apple pie, and this reminds me of a deconstructed apple pie.  It was really YUMMY, and my family loved it.  Okay so Ryan didn’t love the dip, but he liked the cinnamon sugar pita chips. It has the same flavor profile as an apple pie minus the crust. It is by no means a substitute for apple pie though, because I happen to LOVE pie crust.   That said, it was super quick to make, and I would definitely make it again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.thepeachkitchen.com/2011/09/apple-pie-party-dip-cinnamon-sugar-tortilla-chips/   The only substitution I made was that I used store bought cinnamon sugar pita chips.

The next recipe was for chocolate chip strawberry shortcake.photo 1 (2) I make strawberry shortcake every single summer, but this year I decided to switch it up a bit.  I found this recipe on Pinterest, so I decided to test it out when I made my annual  summer strawberry shortcake.  The result?  O.M.G.  Heavenly.  I will never make strawberry shortcake any other way.  The actual cakes were really yummy even without the berries and whipped cream.  My family really enjoyed this recipe and I will totally make it again next summer.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/30361/chocolate-chip-strawberry-shortcake/

IMG_4024The last recipe (I definitely saved the best for last this time) was for Nutella ice cream!  What the what???  Yes…you read that correctly NUTELLA ICE CREAM!  SWOON.  I have to say that this may be one of the best desserts that I have ever made.  It is for certain the best ice cream I have ever made.  Since the first time I made this heavenly delight, I have made it three more times.  Everyone LOVES this ice cream.  Even Dan who doesn’t care for Nutella, enjoys this ice cream. I know, I know, Dan doesn’t like Nutella…he’s crazy right??? This ice cream is creamy and decadent, and I am totally obsessed with it. I have made several Nutella themed desserts before like brownies, a few different cookies, and muffins, but this one takes the cake…hahaha dessert pun totally intended 😉  I will definitely make this ice cream again.  In fact, I have some in the freezer right now.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.scoopadventures.com/nutella-ice-cream/

I have many more recipes to share with you, and I plan to post again soon.  In the meantime, do yourself a favor, and run to your grocery store immediately to buy the ingredients for the Nutella ice cream.  You do need an ice cream maker, but I promise it will totally pay for itself.  After you taste the Nutella ice cream, you will make it again and again and again! I got my ice cream maker at Kohl’s, and it wasn’t expensive at all.  I don’t use it all that often, but it really is fun to make ice cream at home.  If you cannot bring yourself to buy an ice cream maker, just let me know, and we can have an ice cream social at my place. I’ll make the Nutella ice cream, and you can bring the toppings.  FYI, I don’t top my Nutella ice cream with anything, because it is so darn good all on its own.  I hope you enjoy the recipes, we sure did.  Take care! ♥

 

Epic hair flips

Epic hair flips

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Summer play dates rock!!

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All Things Zucchini…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Hello!  Wow, it has been a LONG time since I posted.  We had a crazy busy summer, chock full of fun and food.  My garden went crazy, and at times I had more veggies than I knew what to do with…especially zucchini.  Since I had soooo much zucchini, I decided to dedicate a whole post to the new zucchini dishes I made over the summer.  Here we go…

The first recipe I made was zucchini patties.  They are like zucchini pancakes…YUM.  IMG_4169I got this recipe from my friend Michelle Oke years ago, and I’ve been using it ever since.  My family minus Ryan of course, loves these patties, and we had them multiple over the summer.  I also froze some shredded zucchini, so in the middle of the winter, we can still have a taste of summer, by enjoying these patties.  Here is a link to a recipe that is similar to t he one Michelle gave me: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/zucchini-patties/  We like to eat them with couscous or a big salad.

The next zucchini recipe I made was pizza margherita photo 2 (2)with a zucchini crust.  So I’ve had this recipe in my back pocket for a long time, and finally had the chance to experiment with it.  It was relatively simple to make, and really yummy.  The only issue is that the recipe only yields two single serving size crusts.  Next time, I would definitely double or triple the recipe as we love left overs in our house, and this recipe didn’t make enough.  I’ve heard that there is a similar recipe in which you use cauliflower to make the crust, but my family doesn’t care for cauliflower, so I will stick to zucchini.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2012/08/zucchini-crust-pizza-margherita.html

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Next, I tried two recipes for the same dinner…zucchini pizzas and parmesan garlic quinoa, or as my Victoria named the meal “…fake pizza, and fake mac and cheese.” 😉  I happen to love both of these recipes, and have made them in the past.  They are super simple, and really healthy.  The flavors were great together, and it was the perfect dinner for a hot summer night.  Here are the links to both of the  recipes: http://beautyandbeard.blogspot.com/2013/04/parmesan-garlic-quinoa-youll-never-eat.html   and   http://www.whatmegansmaking.com/2013/08/zucchini-pizza-bites.html

The next two recipes were for sweet treats that I made with my abundance of IMG_3936zucchini…chocolate chip zucchini bread, and frosted zucchini brownies.  Let me preface by saying that Ryan, the pickiest of eaters, enjoyed both of these treats.  That said, he had no idea that there was zucchini in either recipe.  Sometimes tweaking the truth is a good thing 😉  Anyway, we gobbled these treats right up.

Both were decadent and IMG_4442yummy, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the brownies. They were delicious and no one could tell that they were actually good for you.  I would definitely make both of these recipes again.  Here are the the links to the recipes that I  used: http://www.somewhatsimple.com/chocolate-chocolate-chip-zucchini-bread/    and   http://mommyimhungry.blogspot.com/2010/11/frosted-zucchini-brownies.html

The next recipe I experimented with was for zucchini cheddar bread. IMG_4441 I love love love homemade bread, but honestly don’t make it very often.  This bread was good but my family gave it a B+.  We grade all the recipes that I try, and rarely do we give anything lower than an A-.  I think the issue was the texture.  This bread has a cornbread like texture.  I do like cornbread, but was wanting a less crumbly consistency when I made this recipe.  The flavors were good,  but next time I’d add more green onions and more cheese. We used the bread mostly for breakfast.  I ate it in the morning with an egg on top, and it was pretty good.  My Dad tried it, and he really enjoyed it too.  I really think the B+ stemmed from the fact that we expecting something entirely different.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://weelicious.com/2012/07/05/zucchini-cheddar-bread/

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The next recipe was for zucchini bites.  This is another recipe that I’ve had for a long time, but never got around to making. With the abundance of zucchini I had, I decided to try all the zucchini recipes I had in my culinary arsenal.  These were yummy, and I would definitely make them again.  Next time though, I’d bake them a bit longer as I’d prefer a crispier texture. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:http://www.stockpilingmoms.com/2012/06/pinterest-daily-pin-zucchini-bites/

The next recipe featuring photo 4my garden veggies was vegetable tian.  I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and it looked so pretty,  I knew I had to give it a try.  I was super happy to have grown the zucchini, tomatoes, and yellow squash used in this dish.  It reminded me of ratatouille minus the eggplant.  It was really good, and it allowed me to use a lot of veggies at once. I served it with couscous.  I’d definitely make this again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://theblondcook.com/2013/07/vegetable-tian/

The last recipe featuring my beloved zucchini was frosted butterscotch zucchini bars.  These were awesome.  I have been really digging butterscotch IMG_4101lately so these were right up my alley.  When I was a kid butterscotch pudding was my favorite.  There was a restaurant called Marco’s where my family went a lot.  We had parties and wedding showers there, as well as the occasional dinner out.  I also remember going with my Grandma on a few occasions to clean Marco’s as a side job, and there was always butterscotch pudding in the display case.  When she was done before we’d leave, I’d always get to sit at the bar and eat a “scutterbatch” pudding.  Apparently I couldn’t pronounce it. 🙂  Also, my Grandfather always had those butterscotch hard candies in the yellow wrappers, and I used to love them.  Anyway, I have rekindled my love affair with butterscotch lately, and these bar cookies feature the flavor quite nicely.  I’d definitely make these again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://insidebrucrewlife.com/2014/08/frosted-butterscotch-zucchini-bars/#_a5y_p=2151037

I definitely plan to grow more zucchini next summer as it is one of my favorite vegetables. It is extremely versatile and pretty easy to grow.  Next summer though, I want to try fried zucchini blossoms.  I’ve seen them on a few cooking shows, and really want to try them. My only concern is that if I use the blossoms in recipes, they obviously won’t grow into actual zucchini 😦  Maybe next summer, I’ll  have to dedicate one plant to just the blossoms…we will see.

I hope you enjoyed my “zucchini-palooza.” I have a ton more recipes from the summer that I want to share with you.  Until then, try a few of these recipes…you won’t be sorry.  Enjoy!  ♥

Even though my Ryan wouldn't knowingly eat zucchini, he sure liked to help me pick it. :)

Even though my Ryan wouldn’t knowingly eat zucchini, he sure liked to help me pick it. 🙂

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Cookies Galore…baked with l♥ve by The Cookie Mama

Hello again! As I mentioned in my previous post, there has been a cookie baking extravaganza going on over here.  In the past few weeks, I have baked six different batches of cookies. As I have mentioned before, I bake every week for the elementary school office staff and Ryan’s teacher.  Well that is the reason most of these cookies were baked. That said, I also baked “year end” cookies for Victoria’s teachers, and another batch just for fun.  I really hope you like cookies because this post is filled with them!  Chocolate chip cookies are my absolute favorite dessert, and my first love when it comes to baking.  A few years ago a did a “Cookie of the Week”  blog in which I made a new cookie recipe every week.  If you are interested, you can read all about it here: http://chris-cookieoftheweek.blogspot.com/2010/11/week-1-wookiee-cookies.html  Anyway, I still love to bake cookies and do bake them quite frequently.  In fact, I am actually thinking about resurrecting my “cookie of the week” project as I still love to bake cookies, and especially love to gift them. Actually, that’s why I acquired the moniker “cookie mama.”  It’s a nickname that my daughter came up with whilst I was doing the cookie of the week blog, and it kind of stuck.  To this day, I still love the nickname. I mean it you’re going to be known for something, I can’t think of anything sweeter than being known for baking really yummy cookies.  Okay…let’s get to it…

DSCN8834The first cookie recipe I tried was for chocolate chip toffee cookies. I love love love chocolate chip cookies, and I also love toffee. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew immediately that I’d have to try it.  The cookies came out great, and the recipe made a ton of cookies.  I only baked off half of the batch, and then froze the other half for another day.  I would definitely make these cookies again, as they were pretty yummy.  My cookies didn’t turn out like the cookies in the picture though.  My cookies were not as flat as those cookies pictured…mine puffed up a bit more.  Oh well, they were still cute and really delicious.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://thecafesucrefarine.com/2014/01/5-star-chocolate-chip-toffee-cookies/

The next recipe I tried was for Texas sheet cake cookies.  Okay, so I absolutely LOVE TexasDSCN9825 sheet cake, but I’ve never actually made one.  I’ve made Texas sheet cake cupcakes, and now cookies, but never the actual cake…weird.  Anyway, as soon as I saw the recipe for these cookies, I knew it was a done deal. I’d never eaten Texas sheet cake until I went to a party at my good friend Amy’s house back in 2004.  She had made one  for the party, and I fell in love with it immediately.  It’s like a cross between a chocolate cake and a brownie…YUM.  So I guess I owe Amy for my love of all things Texas sheet cake…thanks Amy!!!   Well I am happy to report that these cookies came out great! I will totally make them again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://cookiesandcups.com/texas-sheet-cake-cookies/

DSCN9829The next recipe I tried was Momofuku’s cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookies. Phew what a mouthful.  Apparently “Momofuku Milk Bar” is a bakery in NYC, and they make these cookies.  I’d never heard of that bakery before, but I saw this copycat recipe on Pinterest, and the cookies looked really interesting.  I mean come on…marshmallow, cornflakes, and chocolate chips in a cookie??  Yes please!  As a vegetarian I use vegan marshmallows…yes there really is such a thing.  I am happy to report that these cookies turned out great!  They are crispy and chewy, which is my favorite cookie texture, and they are really tasty.  I would definitely make these again.  If I ever see a Momofuku Milk Bar, I will definitely check it out.  Until then I will happily make these cookies at home.  As a side note, I think it would be cool to try these cookies with frosted flakes instead of cornflakes sometime. Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.cookingactress.com/2012/07/momofukus-cornflake-chocolate-chip.html

The next cookie I made was a “year end” gift for Victoria’s teachers…chocolate pinwheel NutellaDSCN9827 sandwich cookies. I made the chocolate pinwheels a few months back and had an extra log of dough in the freezer.  I decided to bake them off, and then use them to make cookie sandwiches. I love me a cookie sandwich, and I am totally smitten with Nutella.  It’s great on graham crackers, pretzels, and strawberries. If I am being honest, I have to admit that my favorite way to eat Nutella is with a spoon…OMG heaven!  Anyway, I made the pinwheel cookies, and made Nutella sandwiches with them.  In a word…perfection. Victoria’s teachers loved the cookies, and I would definitely make them again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://sugarywinzy.com/chocolate-pinwheel-cookies/ 

securedownload (5)The next recipe was for peanut butter blossoms.  I have made these cookies in the past, but it’s been quite a bit since I made them last. The kids and I were at home, waiting for the pool guy to show up with our pool water, so I baked these cookies to pass the time.  I mean, what better to way to pass time right? 🙂  Since I didn’t have any Hershey’s kisses, I broke up a few Hershey bars and used them instead.  I guess necessity really is the mother of invention 😉  Here is the link to the recipe: http://randomcraftygagirl.com/peanut-butter-blossoms-2/

The last cookie I made was my favorite. I am sure you know by now that chocolate chip cookies DSCN9359are my favorite dessert in the whole world.  I have loved them since I was a kid. I used to dream about them actually…okay I guess that speaks volumes huh?? 😉 Well this recipe is different because it is the original chocolate chip cookie recipe created by Ruth Wakefield in the 1930’s. Ruth Wakefield was a dietician and food lecturer, and she literally made the cookies by accident. The story goes that she was attempting to make butter cookies for the guests at her family’s Inn named…wait for it…The Toll House Inn.  She decided to make chocolate butter cookies, but discovered that she was all out of baking chocolate.  So she improvised and added two Nestle semi-sweet chocolate bars that she broke into pieces.  Expecting the chocolate to melt into the dough, she was surprised to see that when she took the cookies out of the oven, the pieces were still intact.  At the time, she called her creations “Toll House Crunch Cookies.” the name evolved to chocolate chip cookies. The cookies became extremely popular locally, and her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper. Ruth’s “Toll House Crunch Cookie’s” popularity increased, as did the sales of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bars. Andrew Nestle and Ruth Wakefield came up with an agreement. Nestle would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its package, and Ruth Wakefield would be given a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate in return. Additionally, Nestle then began to produce semi-sweet chocolate morsels that we know today as chocolate chips. All I have to say thank goodness Ruth Wakefield messed up. I mean talk about your happy accidents!! Speaking of happy accidents, I happened across her recipe and knew immediately that I had to try it. Here’s the link to the recipe from the 1948 edition of Wakefield’s “Toll House Tried and True Recipes.” http://lostrecipesfound.com/recipe/40s-toll-house-chocolate-crunch-cookies/  I am happy to report that the cookies were great and I will happily make them again.  THANK YOU RUTH WAKEFIELD…I THINK I LOVE YOU!!! 

As I write this, the kids and I are gearing up to go to the lavender festival.  We used to go every year, but now we only go every couple years or so.  The one thing I am really looking forward to is eating the lovely lavender lemon scones provided by “Victoria’s Delights.”  They have a tent at every festival, and the scones are AMAZING! To go with the scones, we always get lavender lemonade to drink…delish!  I am super excited to go to the festival, and check out the vendors and the treats.  If you are interested in the festival, check out the website:http://michiganlavenderfestival.net/  If you are in the area, check it out…it’s pretty cool.

I hope you enjoy the cookies, we sure did!  Enjoy! ♥♥ 

 

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French Toast Bread Pudding, Hashed Brown Potatoes, Pineapple Upside Down Cakes, Glazed Doughnut Muffins, Chik’n and Waffle Sliders, Meatball Subs on a Stick and Brownie Brittle…made with l♥ve by The Cookie Mama

Happy July! So it’s been a bit since I last posted anything.  It has been super busy over here. In the last few weeks we’ve celebrated the end of the school year, attended a soccer tournament, celebrated Victoria’s birthday, and welcomed a new family member…my niece Willow.  I have a TON of  recipes to share.  In fact, there are so many that I am actually going to save all the cookie recipes for another post.  I have six separate cookie recipes to share, so in homage to my first blog “Cookie of the Week,” I will post them all at a later date. If you are interested, here is the link to my previous cookie blog: http://chris-cookieoftheweek.blogspot.com/2010/11/week-1-wookiee-cookies.html.   Let’s get to the other recipes shall we?

DSCN8620The first recipe was for french toast bread pudding. It was inspired by the french toast casserole that I made for my Easter brunch.  I love this recipe as it is made in the slow cooker. I love love love my slow cooker/crock pot, but unfortunately I don’t use it a ton.  For that reason, I am always super excited to find slow cooker recipes.  I came across this recipe on Pinterest, and couldn’t wait to try it.   I am happy to report that it came out great.  We really enjoyed it, and I’d definitely make it again.  As I am sure it goes without saying, Ryan didn’t care for it.  Here is the link to the recipe:http://www.cookingwithlibby.com/2013/01/french-toast-bread-pudding-slow-cooker.html

The next recipe was for hashed brown potatoes.  DSCN8621We (and I don’t mean Ryan ☺) love love love potato dishes in our house.  I had a bunch of potatoes to use up, so I decided to try a new recipe. I came across this recipe on Pinterest, and decided to give it a try.  I usually cheat, and buy frozen potatoes when I make hash browns, but this time decided to make them from scratch.  It was totally worth it, and I’d definitely make these again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.gratefulprayerthankfulheart.com/2011/06/hashed-browns-potatoes.html

DSCN9286The next recipe was for pineapple upside down cake.  As I have mentioned many times before, I bake every week for the staff of the elementary school office, and for Ryan’s teacher.  This is what I chose for one of the last weeks in May.  I love love love me some pineapple upside down cake, but don’t make it a ton.  I LOVED that this recipe used muffin tins, so everybody got their own individual cake…so much easier than slicing and then transporting it.  It got rave reviews, and I will definitely use this recipe again.  Ryan actually enjoyed this recipe…BONUS!!  Here is the link to the recipe I used: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/pineapple-upside-down-cupcakes/c30fa990-ecf3-4664-a8e1-0a50c8c5c0a8?nicam4=SocialMedia&nichn4=Pinterest&niseg4=BettyCrocker&nicreatID4=Post&_szp=124369

Next, I made glazed doughnut muffins.  In keeping with the easily transportable dessert theme, I DSCN9367chose this for the school staff during the first week of June.  It was “super kids day” our school’s version of a field day, and I knew these muffins would be a cute and yummy treat.  This recipe made a lot of muffins so I was able to pass out extras to some school friends, and readers of the blog who follow me on Facebook.  I walked into school  with a ton of mufins and left with zero! Whoo hoo!!  I found this recipe on Pinterest,l and was intrigued by the name.  I love love love muffins, and think they are adorable, so I knew immediately that I’d make these eventually. I am not a huge fan of doughnuts, that said, I do love me a crueller every now and again. On the other hand, my family LOVES doughnuts (especially those little doughnut holes) so I was pretty sure they’d enjoy them. Well enjoy them they did.  Even Ryan gobbled up a few of these yummy muffins.  These got rave reviews as well, and I would definitely make them again.  Here is the link for the recipe I used: http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2011/05/glazed-doughnut-muffins/

DSCN9372The next recipe was for chik’n and waffle sliders.  Okay, so I have heard about this chicken and waffle craze.  As a vegetarian, however, I haven’t ever eaten chicken and waffles.  When I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I knew it was a way for us to give it a shot.  The recipe uses chicken tenders, and there are multiple veggie friendly alternatives to both chicken tenders and nuggets. I used Quorn Snack Bites, which are an Italian style veggie chicken alternative. They are breaded and we (meaning Victoria and I) love them. Since Dan doesn’t prefer Quorn, I used Morning Star Farms chik’n nuggets for him.  Ryan of course just had waffles for dinner, as he doesn’t like any of the veggie chicken products. These sliders were yummy, and the three of us really enjoyed dinner.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://foodfolksandfun.net/2014/01/game-day-eats-chicken-waffle-sliders/ 

Next for dinner I made meatball subs on a stick. Of course I used a veggie alternative to the beef DSCN9722for the meatballs, so I guess this should be called veggie meatballs on a stick. 😉  I saw this recipe on…wait for it…yep you guessed it…Pinterest!  I swear Pinterest is responsible for 97% of my new recipes lately.  I am totally addicted to the website…as if you couldn’t guess.  Anyway, I saw this recipe and wanted to try it.  It’s like a deconstructed meatball sub, and it looked cute.  I like foods on a stick…think veggie friendly corndogs, and veggie kebobs, but don’t make them all that frequently.  This recipe looked cute, and bonus I got to use wooden skewers. Other than substituting veggie crumbles for the meat, I followed the recipe closely. I never have canned breadsticks though, so I had to pick some up especially.  I am happy to report that these came out great. That said, my subs on a stick weren’t too pretty.  I had a hard time getting the dough to cooperate so my picture definitely doesn’t match the website’s picture.  Dan of course was like “who cares, it tastes great!” I, on the other hand, know that we eat with our eyes first, so I wanted it to be pretty like the picture.  Oh well.  I would definitely make these again as they were yummy.  Maybe next time my breadsticks will cooperate.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://cookiesandcups.com/meatball-sub-on-a-stick/?crlt.pid=camp.TY6Ntd5Fes2w#_a5y_p=1319042

DSCN9283The last recipe is for brownie brittle. I picked up a bag of it at the oddest of places…Family, Farm, and Home. They don’t generally carry food, but as I was checking out with some gardening supplies, I saw a display of brownie brittle.  Ummm…yes please.  So I picked up a couple of bags, and my family literally devoured it. We liked it so much I was inspired to make some at home.  I searched Pinterest (of course), and came across a recipe right away.  It was for M&M brownie bark, but it looked close to the brownie brittle that we had inhaled. The result?  OMG…totally delicious, and totally addicting!  I didn’t have any M&M’s in the house, but the brittle was good even without it.  It tastes like really crispy brownies…almost like brownie chips. My family, including Ryan, LOVED it, and I will totally make it again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.ihearteating.com/2013/12/06/mm-brownie-bark-recipe/

Like I mentioned above, we have been super busy.  That said, we have also been fortunate enough to carve out some family time and just be.  The kids have been swimming a lot, and my work load is pretty light these days.  Of course, I would like to be earning more, but I will totally take the extra time at home with the fam as opposed to the money.  In the last few weeks, we’ve had bonfires, practiced target shooting with Dan’s air rifle, played soccer, and had many laughs just the four of us at home.  Victoria and I have been watching Pretty Little Liars in marathon form.  We’ve rented the first four seasons from the video store, and watch them whenever we can.  Currently we have about 6 episodes until we are caught up with season airing now.  I didn’t really expect to enjoy this show so much as it is totally aimed at a much younger demographic. That said, Victoria and I are really spending some quality time together trying to figure out who “A” is.  Dan and Ryan have been spending just as much time glued to coverage of the World Cup. Unfortunately, Ryan’s favorite player, Oscar from team Brazil, was eliminated just yesterday 😦  We have a few things planned for the rest of the summer, but I am really enjoying not having a strict schedule to follow.  Hopefully in the next few weeks, I’ll be able to experiment with some new recipes, and then share them with you.  Until then, I hope you enjoy the nice weather and a few new recipes.  Take Care ♥♥ DSCN0327

 

Posted in Bread / Muffins, Brownies, Cakes, Chocolate, Italian, Savory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Easter brunch…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

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Fireside ~2004

Happy May!  I hope you are doing well.  I mentioned in my previous post that this Easter, I hosted my first official brunch for the family.  Well, I am happy to report it was a success. Since it was brunch, I made a made a mixture of sweet and savory dishes, and a mixture of breakfast and lunch dishes. Here we go… The first new recipe was for a french toast casserole.  I am not a huge fan of breakfast food in general.  I eat eggs, and I love love love veggie bacon, but I usually don’t eat those things in the morning. As I am sure you remember from previous posts, my favorite breakfast is a left over dinner.  Also, I cannot and do not ever have sweet things for breakfast…it makes me feel so queasy.  I’ve had this issue since I was a kid, and therefore don’t usually eat traditional breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles, french toast, cereal, etc…  That said, ever now and again, I crave french toast.  Unfortunately, I am french toast snob, meaning I am super picky about french toast.  I haven’t found a recipe to date that I love, or one that satisfies the craving.  I am always hunting for french toast like the kind they serve at “Fireside Inn” on Grand Lake in Presque Isle Michigan.  Side story, our good friends Tia and Derrick Carriere introduced us to Fireside Inn back in 1997.  We went for a weekend trip and loved it.  For the next ten years we went to Fireside every October, with the same group of friends (Tia, Derrick, Jeannie, Rob, Dean, Brianna, Chuck, & Nicole I mean you guys☺) and we always had a blast. The “Fireside weekend” tradition unfortunately dwindled away, but I am happy to report that we are all still good friends.  Better yet, all our kids are good friends.  Anyway, as part of the weekend package, we’d get breakfast at the lodge, and there was always french toast on the menu.  I still don’t know why, but that french toast is always the french toast I compare all other recipes too.  For example, if we go out to breakfast and Dan orders french toast, I always try a bite, and I usually end up saying “…yeah, it’s okay, but it isn’t as good as Fireside.”  All these years later I still miss Fireside’s french toast, and consider it the yummiest french toast I have ever eaten.  I think perhaps it has something to do how much I loved our Fireside trips, and how much I love the faces that were around that BIG breakfast table. If you are interested, here is a link to Fireside’s website: http://www.firesideinngrandlake.com/home.html

 

DSCN8473 Anyway, as far as breakfast food goes, I don’t usually enjoy sweet, but since I was also serving savory fare at the brunch, I knew I’d be okay. I found this recipe on Pinterest, and decided to make it for Easter brunch.  WOW!  It was really really good, and received rave reviews from the family, BUT is it as good as Fireside’s french toast?   Well…it’s a casserole so I couldn’t really compare it to Fireside’s french toast.  That said, I would definitely make it again, and Dan gave it an A++.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:http://tomatoesonthevine-velva.blogspot.com/2011/01/french-toast-souffle.html  FYI: I used King’s Hawaiian bread in my casserole…YUM.

The next recipe I used was for cheesy hash brown potatoes.  I have made this recipe DSCN8475before, and we liked it so I decided to make it for the brunch. I love love love cheesy potatoes, and this recipe really satisfies.  It’s pretty simple to make, and I usually have all the ingredients.   The only substitution I make is the type of soup used.  As a vegetarian, I obviously don’t use cream of chicken soup.  I always substitute cream of potato instead. Here is a link to the recipe that I used:http://nancycreative.com/2011/02/24/cheesy-hash-brown-potatoes/

The next recipe was for a breakfast casserole. I usually DSCN8484make this type of casserole at Christmas.  I put it together beforehand, and then whilst we are opening gifts at the crack of dawn, I can pop the casserole in the oven to bake.  This recipe is very similar to a few different casseroles that I have made in the past, as it contains eggs, cheese, and sausage…or in our case veggie sausage.  As a side note, since I am unable to find veggie sausage crumble at the grocery store,  I have to make my own.  I use Morning Star Farms veggie crumble, and then season it with fennel, salt, pepper, and garlic.  This casserole has a crescent roll crust, and is spiced with salt, pepper, and rosemary or oregano…YUM. This recipe also got rave reviews and it was my Dad’s favorite dish of the day.  He actually told me that if all vegetarian food was this good, I could “turn him.”;) Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.branappetit.com/2011/11/16/breakfast-casserole-blog-for-a-cause/

Next I made blueberry banana muffins.  I love love love me a muffin, DSCN8476so I decided to make muffins for the brunch.  These muffins do not contain a ton of sugar, and are actually quite healthy.  That said, I only gave them a B. They were okay…just okay.  I’ve definitely had better, and I’ve actually made better.  I am not sure if I’d make these again.  Next time I make muffins, I’ll probably use a different recipe.               Everyone seemed to like them though as I didn’t have a ton left over.  Here is the link to the recipe I used:http://sukarah.com/2013/04/healthy-blueberry-muffins.html?_szp=420538

In addition to the muffins, I also made apple cinnamon scones.  These were so good.  I actually think that these may be the best scones I’ve ever made. Ryan helped me make them, and we had a ton of fun in the kitchen together.  I love baking with the kids, and I DSCN8477also love that I got another chance to use my awesome scone pan.  I got it a few years ago, and I still love it as much as the day I bought it.  It is made by Nordic Ware, and BONUS it’s made here in the States. I especially love that all the scones get a nice crispy edge, and they are always perfectly triangularly shaped. This recipe was simple to follow, and I had all the ingredients on hand except for the cinnamon chips.  When I was shopping for the groceries for the brunch, I wasn’t able to find cinnamon chips, so I used butterscotch chips instead.  The result?  Perfection.  I LOVED these scones, and will definitely make them again.  For the record, I will always use butterscotch chips as they made the scones taste really caramely. Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2012/10/05/1005-fresh-apple-cinnamon-scones-tis-the-season/

The last recipe I used for my Easter brunch was pumpkin kibbeh.  This is a recipe I DSCN8483featured in my last post.  The only difference between this recipe and the previously featured recipe is the cooking method.  Instead of shaping the pumpkin kibbeh into balls and then frying them, I spread the pumpkin mixture into a baking dish and baked it.  I doubled the recipe so I could have a top and bottom layer of the pumpkin kibbeh.  I used the same stuffing recipe, and it was my middle layer.  I am happy to report that it came out great, and everyone liked it. Personally, I prefer the fried kibbeh balls, and when I use this recipe again, I will prepare the kibbeh that way.

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The lollipop garden

 

My first Easter brunch was a success.  All the food was really yummy, and we had a great day.  The kids went for a walk down our road, and whilst they were gone a magical “lollipop garden” sprouted up. They were convinced that I had done it, but of course I vehemently denied it.  I mean really?? Like I’d “plant” lollipops…yeah right. 😉 Once the kids picked all the yummy lollipops, we exchanged Easter baskets, and then had an old fashioned egg hunt outside.  My “brother from another mother” Jim and his lovely wife Kim, hid all the eggs outside and then sent the kids on a hunt to find them.  They had a blast.  Lastly, we had our annual egg war, and this year my Dad had the winning egg.  It was a really great day filled with family, laughs, and of course some really yummy recipes.  I hope you try the recipes.  Enjoy! ♥♥

The egg war

The egg war

Posted in Bread / Muffins, Lebanese, Savory, Scones, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shortbread Spool Cookies, Chocolate Coconut Bars, Creamy Garlic Shells, Red Velvet Oreo Fudge Bars, Sweet Potato, Corn and Black Bean Hash, Crunchy Black Bean Tacos, Leprechaun Rainbow Cupcakes, and Pumpkin Kibbeh Balls…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama

Hola!  I hope that eveyone is having a great spring.  Spring has FINALLY sprung in our little corner of the world, and I’ve got to say that I am loving it! I have been cooking and baking up a storm, so I have a ton of recipes to share.  Let’s get right to it. DSCN8302The first recipe was for shortbread spool cookies.  I have loved these cookies since I was a kid.  My Aunt Pat has made them for years, and I absolutely adore them.  They are melt in your mouth yummy! I’ve had the recipe since I did my “Cookie of the Week” blog, but had never made these little gems until now.  YUM!  The recipe is super simple, and I will happily add these cookies to my regular rotation.  Here is a link to a recipe that is similar to my Aunt Pat’s: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Heavenly-Shortbread/Detail.aspx?evt19=1

The next recipe was for chocolate coconut bars.  This is Martha Stweart’s recipe, and I DSCN8307found it on Pinterest.  I love love love chocolate, and I also adore coconut, so when I saw this recipe, I knew it was a done deal. Part of the reason that I love this recipe is that it’s pretty versatile. For example, the recipe calls for pecans, but I was out so I used walnuts.  Also, the crust calls for graham cracker crumbs.  I did have some, but not enough  for the recipe, so I also used vanilla wafers to make up the difference. The resulting bars are delicious! Even Dan who isn’t crazy about coconut liked these.  That said, Ryan wouldn’t eat them.  😦  Here is the link to the recipe I used: http://www.marthastewart.com/313038/chocolate-coconut-bars#slide_17

The next recipe was for creamy garlic shells.  My Victoria absolutely LOVES macaroni and DSCN8313cheese.  Every time I ask for dinner requests or meal ideas, she responds with “mac and cheese!!”  Ryan doesn’t care for macaroni and cheese, so I knew from the beginning that he was out. This recipe is super easy, and I always have all the necessary ingredients on hand.  I am happy to report that the dish came out great, and my mac and cheese expert was thrilled!  Here is a link to the recipe that I used: http://iowagirleats.com/2013/03/06/creamy-garlic-shells/

Next, I made red velvet Oreo fudge bars.  O.M.G.  These were amaze-balls (that’s my new fave expression…why???  I don’t know ☺) I bought Oreo’s especially to make these bars, and man did I have a heck of a time fighting off the family until I had time to use them.DSCN8317  My family LOVES Oreo’s, but I don’t regularly buy them.  I have a really hard time purchasing store bought treats when I bake every week.  Yes I still bake EVERY SINGLE WEEK, yet my crazy family begs for Oreo’s and Poptarts!  Man… can’t a girl get some credit?!?!? I would never choose a store bought treat over a home made one, but I guess you always want what you don’t have. I mean it’s just like the old expression the grass is always greener.  For instance, I bake all the time, but my family craves store bought treats.  My good friend never bakes, but always has store bought treats at home, and her family fights over my homemade goodies.  Notice how I didn’t divulge her name???☺  Side story; my Dad used to own an Italian restaurant, and literally had the finest recipes and ingredients at his fingertips. Think all different sorts of pasta dishes, pizza, cheese…YUM right?  Yes yum, but despite all the yumminess that literally surrounded him in that kitchen, he craved Cap’n Crunch! What?!?!?!?   Anyway, I made these bars and they were delicious! I would definitely make them again, even if it means hiding the Oreo’s from my family.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://insidebrucrewlife.com/2014/01/red-velvet-oreo-fudge-bars/#comment-161069

The next two recipes I made the same night for dinner…sweet potato, corn, and black bean DSCN8337hash, and crunchy black bean tacos. We were having a mex-fest, and I really wanted to try a couple new recipes.  I found both of these on Pinterest, and I would totally make them again.  The hash was a meal all by itself.  I love love love sweet potatoes used in savory dishes, but only have a handful of recipes. After making and eating this recipe, I will happily add it to the rotation.   It was warm and spicy, and delicious.  You could just prepare the hash and be full and satisfied, but I wanted to try the taco recipe too.  I am so glad that I did, because the tacos were amaze-balls! I LOVED them, and actually made them again later in the week.  They were a cinch to prepare, and I always have all the ingredients.  Needless to say, Ryan wouldn’t even try the mex-fest…sigh.  Oh well…more for me 🙂  Here are the links to the recipes I used: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/sweet_potato_corn_black_bean_hash.html   and    http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2012/04/04/cornerstone-cooking-crunchy-black-bean-tacos/#more-33746

The next recipe I made was to celebrate St. Patty’s Day.  Leprechaun rainbow cupcakes equal so much fun.  I had to buy Rolos especially as I never have any in the house, and the DSCN8321family didn’t seem to mind eating the left overs. 😉  Other than the Rolos, I always have the ingredients on hand, including the edible rainbows aka Airhead Xtremes.  Oh man, my mouth tingles just typing that.  I love love love those sour strips…they are so good.  I tried one after Victoria purchased a pack at her school store a few years ago.  I’d never eaten one before that, but now I am hooked.  If you haven’t ever had the pleasure, pick up a pack. I seriously doubt that you’ll be sorry.  If you are however, I will gladly take the left overs off your hands. 🙂 Anyway I wanted to make a fun treat for St. Patty’s day, and I decided on these cupcakes. The recipe is super easy, and everyone had fun eating the cupcakes.  Here is the link to the recipe:http://www.housewifeeclectic.com/2014/02/leprechaun-rainbow-cupcakes.html

The last recipe I tried was pumpkin kibbeh. Okay, so I’d never had pumpkin kibbeh until last year, and it was by accident.  Here’s the story.  My Sito Georgia and my Sito Vicky (my Grandmother and Great Grandmother…also Victoria’s namesake) used to make meat free kibbeh balls every year during lent.  The recipe was called kibbeh trawheb…I have no idea if that is how the recipe is actually spelled.  Growing up, I just called them lent balls.  They were little kibbeh balls that were stuffed with a mixture of spinach, chick peas, onions, and spices.  I remember being so excited for lent, because I knew that meant I’d get to eat my Sitos’ lent kibbeh balls.  I LOVED them.  Sadly, my Sito Georgia passed away in 2007. Fortunately a few years prior, I had her dictate the recipe to me.  Unfortunately, I never tried to actually make the lent balls until last year.  Tragically it was an epic fail…I mean a complete culinary flop. The stuffing was amaze-balls, but the kibbeh balls were bad.  They came out tough, bland, and way too “floury.”  Since I had no Sito to consult, I consulted my two Lebanese cook books.  Nothing even remotely close was in either one of them.  Next, I searched the internet for the recipe, and again found nothing.  Since I could not properly spell the recipe’s name, I was handicapped from the beginning.  I did find all sorts of meatless kibbeh ball recipes, but none that matched the recipe my Sito had given me. Next I took to the phones, and called a few Middle Eastern restaurants and supply stores. No one had heard of kibbeh trawheb. Whist at my Dad’s one day, I decided to make one last call.  I picked up the phone and dialed Emily’s Delicatessen.  It is a Lebanese restaurant/bakery/deli/store, and it rocks.  I asked if they carried lent kibbeh, and THEY DID!!

WHOO HOO!! I got right in my car, and drove over there immediately.  I was euphoric during the 10 minute drive to Emily’s from my Dad’s.  I hadn’t eaten a lent kibbeh ball in years.  I was so excited I could almost taste it.  Upon arrival I discovered that their lent kibbeh was made from pumpkin.  Sigh…I was deflated.  I talked to the owner, and asked him about kibbeh trawheb, and he looked at me like I was nuts.  It was then that I felt my Sito’s loss all over again.  When she departed this earth, that amazing recipe went with her. Even though I had written it down years before, it was useless without her knowledge and DSCN8387guidance. Reluctantly, I purchased a dozen kibbeh balls and went back to my Dad’s.  To the good, we did like the kibbeh balls, but they were not the same as Sito’s. After I licked my wounds for a bit, I decided to search the internet for pumpkin kibbeh, and found a ton of recipes.  I selected one that was the most similar to my Sito’s recipe and saved it to my computer.  This year during lent, I decided to try again.  This go round, I fused my Sito’s recipe with the pumpkin kibbeh recipe I found on-line last year, and EUREKA! We have lent balls!!  Admittedly, they are not exactly the same.  That said, they are pretty close.  I absolutely LOVE this recipe, and I know my Sito would be proud. Here is the link to the recipe I found on-line:http://www.npr.org/2011/11/16/142306863/pumpkin-kibbeh I could have included another 7 or 8 recipes in this post.  For the first time ever, I hosted an Easter brunch, and made all new recipes.  I think in the next few weeks, I will  post specifically about those yummy brunch recipes.  They got rave reviews from everyone, and I am excited to share them with you …stay tuned!  Until then I hope you try the recipes in this post…they were amaze-balls!  Enjoy! ♥♥

Sito G and Chris

My sweet Sito Georgia and me

Posted in Brownies, Cakes, Candies, Chocolate, Cookies, Lebanese, Savory, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Home-made Tzatziki Sauce, Garlicky and Cheesy Crispy Potato Skins, Chocolate Chip Brownies, Copy Cat “Olive Garden” Alfredo Sauce, French Toast Fingers, Lemon Pound Cake, and Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies…made with l♥ve by The Cookie Mama.

Happy March! It has been CRAZY in our house…crazy busy that is! We have been booked every weekend since my last post, and there is no relief in sight for the forseeable future.  I am happy to report that despite the craziness, I have been able to carve out some kitchen time. So let’s get right to it…

The first recipe I made was tzatziki sauce.  I have made this sauce before, but it’s been a DSCN2366bit so I decided to include the recipe.  We were having veggie gyros for dinner, and I decided to make the tzatziki sauce to go with the gyros.  Now I have never had an authentic gyro before, as I became a vegetarian before I ever ate one.  That said, the veggie gyros were awesome.  I got the protein from my crack house, aka “Whole Foods,” so the gyros were pretty simple to prepare.  I diced some tomatoes and green onions, made the tzatziki sauce, and we were good to go.  If you haven’t ever had tzatziki sauce before, it is a Greek dressing made primarily with yogurt and cucumber.  I actually used sour cream as I didn’t have any plain yogurt, and it came out great.   We used the sauce on our gyros, and we also topped some potatoes with the tzatziki…YUM.  This sauce is also great for dipping fresh veggies, topping a salad, or using as a sandwich condiment.  Here is the recipe that I used: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/tzatziki-sauce/

The next recipe was for garlicky and cheesy crispy potato skins.  Whew… that’s a mouthful. Suffice to say these are crispy potato skins, and they are delicous.  I guess these potatoes could also be called  jacket potatoes?  I prefer the term “jacket potato” as it is a British DSCN2367term…okay quick side story.  In 2002, we were fortunate enough to go to England.  Dan had to go on business, and Victoria and I tagged along.  We spent a few glorious days in London, and then drove to Solihull a little town, not far from where Dan was working in Shirley. Whilst Dan was at work, Victoria and I spent the day at “Touchwood,” Solihull’s version of a mall, that was located across the street from our lovely hotel. Whilst Victoria and I were at the mall, they had a whole restaurant devoted to jacket potatoes.  I was pretty excited to eat one, so we went in and to my surprise,  a jacket potato is just a baked potato!  Dumb American 😉  Well I ordered one anyway because “when in Rome” or in this case “when in Solihull,” and it was yummy.  If you watch “The Middle” the restaurant was just like the restaurant at the mall where “Sue” works.  A whole restaurant devoted to baked potatoes and various toppings?  Yep.  Well, this recipe totally conjured up images from that lovely that trip, and it made me smile.  Anyway, these potato skins are just like the name implies…garlicky, cheesy, and crispy…or in a word…YUM   As I mentioned above, we used the tzatziki sauce on these potatoes and it was awesome! Here is the recipe that I used: http://diethood.com/2014/01/15/garlicky-cheesy-crispy-potato-skins/

The next recipe I tried was for chocolate chip brownies.  I love love love me a brownie, but DSCN2368I wasn’t thrilled with the last batch of homemade brownies that I had prepared. In that spirit, I decided to give it another shot. I am so glad that I did, because these brownies are really good. They were pretty easy to make, and I had all the ingredients on hand, so it was a total success. I will definitely make these again.  Here is a link to the recipe that I used: http://insidebrucrewlife.com/2013/09/homemade-chocolate-chip-brownies/

The next recipe I made as part of our annual Valentine’s Day feast.  We always have heart shaped pasta of some sort, with my homemade sauce.  This year, I made heart shaped ravioli for Dan, Victoria, and I, and spaghetti for Ryan.  I also made two differentDSCN2396 sauces…my red sauce, and this copy cat alfredo sauce.  Whenever we go to the Olive Garden, Victoria orders fettucine alfredo, and Dan orders some alfredo dipping sauce for the breadsticks.  They both LOVE the sauce.  When I came across this recipe on Pinterest, I knew I’d have to give it a shot.  In a word this alfredo sauce is AMAZING!!!  I have made alfredo sauce many times before, but none of those other recipes are as yummy as this one.  My family LOVED this recipe.  We ate it on the ravioli, and we dipped our heart shaped garlic bread in it.  Ryan did try it, but he did not like it at all.  Ryan ate plain pasta whilst the rest of us enjoyed this yummy sauce.  So let’s be honest, this is NOT a heart or waist friendly recipe, BUT it is delicious.  We eat out about once per month, so if I make this sauce a few times a year, I figure it’s the same thing.  I will treat this recipe like an indulgence, throw caution to the wind, and just enjoy it. It really is very very good.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://momscrazycooking.blogspot.com/2012/09/olive-garden-alfredo-sauce-this-weeks.html

The next recipe I tried was for french toast fingers.  Now I don’t really dig traditional breakfast DSCN8294foods.  Actually, my favorite breakfast is a left over dinner, but every now and then I get in the mood for breakfast food.  Well I was in one of those moods when I decided to give this recipe a try.  I had seen the recipe on an episode of “Giada at Home,” so I decided to make breakfast for dinner, aka “binner,” and include this dish.  I used challah bread to make the french toast fingers, and they came out great.  I did not make the syrup that Giada used, I just used regular ‘ol maple syrup.  We also had veggie breakfast patties, and eggs with these french toast fingers, and it was a yummy binner for sure.  Ryan didn’t care for these, but he’s not a huge fan of french toast anyway.  I would definitely make these again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/french-toast-fingers-with-ginger-bourbon-maple-syrup.html

The next two recipes I tried were dessert recipes.  The first dessert recipe was for lemon pound cake.  I love love love me some lemon pound cake, and have made it in the past. This recipe was different in that it called for whole eggs, and not just egg yolks.  The last time I made pound cake, I was trying to get rid of a bunch of egg yolks.  I had baked a few batches of amaretti cookies which only required the egg whites, so I had a lot of yolks left DSCN8296over.  This time, I was able to use the whole egg so I had no partial left overs.  I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and knew I wanted to try it.  It was easy to make, and it came out great! I will caution you though not to overfill your cake pan, as it will overflow.  I fortunately read the reviews of the recipe, so I knew to be careful with that.  Some of the reviewers, however, had a gooey mess to clean up in their ovens, so heed the warning. With the excess batter that didn’t fit into my bundt pan, I made mini cupcakes, and they were delicious!  I’d also recommend putting a sheet pan under the cake pan just in case.  I chose not to frost or glaze this cake, as I felt it was great all on its own.  If you love a glaze on pound cake though, by all means glaze away.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.plainchicken.com/2011/10/lemon-pound-cake.html

The last recipe I tried was for chocolate pinwheel cookies.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE cookies. DSCN8300They are my absolute favorite dessert.  I can only go so long before I feel compelled to make a fresh batch. For example, I experiment with all different sorts of dessert recipes, but after a few new dessert recipes, I always make cookies.  Why?  Just because.  I usually make chocolate chip cookies as they are my family’s favorite, but this time I wanted to try something new. I have made pinwheel cookies in the past, but I’d never made chocolate pinwheels before.  I found the recipe on Pinterest, and was super excited to give it a try. I am so glad that I tried the recipe because the cookies were delicious.  I will definitely make these again.  Ryan didn’t care for them, but the rest of us loved them.  My favorite thing about the recipe, other than the taste, is that the recipe makes two separate batches of cookies.  One for now, and one to keep in the freezer for later. Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://sugarywinzy.com/chocolate-pinwheel-cookies/

Since my last post, we here in Michigan have been blasted quite a few times by old man winter.  Well, I for one, am ready to see him go.  Generally, I am not someone who complains about the winter weather…I mean it’s Michigan…come on…we get snow…it gets cold…it’s winter folks…happens every year.  I do not wish to relocate to a place where it is warm all the time.  I enjoy all the seasons for different reasons.  I LOVE summer as it is warm, and the kids are out of school.  I love love love to garden, lay in the hammock, swim in our pool, and hang out on our deck.   I LOVE fall too.  Fall means football on tv, leaves changing colors, crisp days, bonfires, big comfy sweatshirts and sweaters, and two of my favorite holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Winter is always welcome as it makes me feel cozy in my house. I love a good snow storm when we are all “in” for the evening.  I love when the kids get an unexpected snow day, I love how pristine everything looks under a sparkly blanket of clean white snow, and I love Christmastime which in my mind is synonomous with snow.  That said, I don’t love winter in March. By mid March, I feel we DSCN2363need some space, maybe old man winter and I need to start seeing other people.  Yep, sorry winter…I am done with you.  By this stage of the game I am totally over our relationship, and I am craving spring like crazy. I want to hear the birds sing again, I want to put away my winter boots, hats, and gloves, I want to stop scraping the ice off the damn windshield, and I want to go outside and not be cold. I don’t want to see my breath in the air, I don’t want to “white knuckle” my drive to work, I don’t want to get stuck in a 6 foot snow drift on a dirt road, and I definitely don’t want to have to pay seventy five bucks to get towed 25 feet!  Yep, old man winter and I got into a BIG fight week before last, and we still aren’t speaking.  I hope he enjoys the seventy five bucks it cost me for the tow.  I mean even though it was totally his fault, I still had to pay the tab! UGH!  Needless to say, I want nothing to do with winter, and firmly believe that we shouldn’t see each other for a long time…like at least 9 months        or so. 😉

Hopefully winter is finally over, but let’s remember that this is Michigan, and a late March snowfall is NOT out of the question. My hope is that the next few weeks brings warmer weather, brighter days, and a ton of really great recipes.  ♥♥♥

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OMG I cannot wait for lilacs!!!!

Posted in Brownies, Cakes, Cookies, Italian, Savory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, Spumoni Cookies, Savory Ricotta Cakes, Vegetarian Meatballs, Vanilla Mug Cake, Veggie Fried Rice, Tomato Pie, Vegetarian Meatloaves, and Oven Roasted Potatoes…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy February!  With all the cold weather and snow, I have been baking and cooking up a storm…I mean what else is there to do? In the last few weeks, I’ve experimented with a ton of new recipes, so let’s get started. The first new recipe I tried was for cookies.   As I am sure you know, I LOVE LOVE LOVE cookies.  They are my absolute favorite dessert. I DSCN2295have a few chocolate chip cookie recipes that I use all the time, but this recipe looked different as it had oats in the recipe.  I’ve made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies before, but this recipe was different than the one I used, so I decided to give it a try.  I am happy to report that the cookies came out great. Ryan didn’t prefer them, but the rest of us liked them a lot.  I used dark chocolate chips, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the flavor.  I usually use semi sweet chocolate chips, so the dark chocolate chips were a nice change. I’d definitely make these again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2012/02/low-fat-chewy-chocolate-chip-oatmeal.html

The next recipe was for spumoni cookies.  I’m not really an ice cream person, but I do love me some spumoni.  If you are unfamiliar with spumoni, it is a molded Italian ice cream. It looks like Neapolitan ice cream in that it has three distinct layers: cherry, pistachio, and chocolate.  Heaven!!  I mean cherry, pistachio and chocolate all mixed together??  DONE! Anyway, usually some time around Christmas I get in the mood for spumoni, so I will pick some up from the grocery store.  FYI, if you like spumoni and really want toDSCN2297 indulge pick up “Alinosi’s Spumoni,” it’s the best I’ve ever eaten. When we lived on the east side, I used to get it from Nino Salvaggio’s. Alinosi’s ice cream is still individually wrapped in single serve squares…so cute.  Since I love spumoni, when I saw a recipe for spumoni cookies I knew I had to make them. I am happy to report that I love love love the mixture of flavors in these cookies, and I would definitely make them again. Ryan didn’t care for these cookies, but the rest of us LOVED them.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used :http://thatmorninggirl.blogspot.com/2013/12/italian-spumoni-cookies.html

The next recipe I tried was for savory ricotta cakes.  I had some ricotta left over, and wanted to try something new, so I selected this recipe. These tasted yummy, but I had an DSCN2298issue with the cooking time.  The original recipe indicates to bake these cakes for 30 minutes.  I increased the cooking time to about 50 minutes, and the cakes were still a bit soft.  Next time I will bake them even longer as I’d prefer a crispier ricotta cake. We dipped them in marinara sauce, and that was a really nice combination of flavors. It goes without saying that Ryan didn’t try the ricotta cakes. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:http://www.food.com/recipe/savoury-ricotta-snacks-323458

The next recipe was for vegetarian meatballs.  I totally love spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I make veggie meatballs all the time, but I am always on the hunt for a new recipe. To date, I’ve made veggie friendly meatballs using soy crumbles, cannelloni beans, and spinach.  This recipe calls for nut meal as the DSCN2301main source of protein. I specifically purchased cashew meal from Trader Joe’s so I could make these veggie meatballs, but you can also use walnut or pecan meal.   This was a really easy recipe to execute, and the result was delicious. As with the savory ricotta cakes, we dunked these in marinara sauce, and ate them with pasta.  Dan, Victoria, and I really liked them. What did Ryan think?  Yep, you guessed it…not even a baby bite. Oh well, maybe next time I make them he’ll give them a try.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.longwaitforisabella.com/2012/10/vegetarian-meatballs-recipe.html

The next recipe was for vanilla mug cake.  Since Ryan didn’t prefer the last two desserts I made, I decided to bake a mini dessert just for him.  He absolutely loves vanilla so I wanted to DSCN2306try and make a mug cake for him.  Last year, we tried the 5 minute single serve cookie made in the microwave, and it was just okay.  Personally, I’d rather make a regular ‘ol batch of cookies, than use that recipe again.  Cake on the other hand is different.  Sometimes you just want a single piece of cake, without having to put in the time and energy it takes to bake a whole cake. Well this recipe is perfect for that.  I have wanted to try this for years, and am so glad that I finally got around to it.  The recipe was simple, and I always have the ingredients on hand.  Also, there is no egg required in this cake recipe, so it works for those that need to avoid eggs.  The best part is that you only dirty one mug, and you end up with a little cake for one in under 10 minutes.  After seeing Ryan’s mug cake, Victoria wanted to try one too.  So, I ended up making a second one for her.  For Ryan’s cake I used a few white chocolate chips as a frosting of sorts.  Victoria prefers chocolate, so I used semi sweet chocolate chips for her. The kids loved the cakes, and I would definitely make these again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:  http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=431093

The next recipe is for vegetarian fried rice.  I LOVE fried rice, but what I don’t love is how much salt Chinese take out usually contains.  Also, the closest Chinese restaurant is about 25 minutes from our house so we never get Chinese take out.  If we eat fried rice in our DSCN2312house, it is because I bought a package at Trader Joe’s.  Or at least that’s how it used to be…until I found this recipe that is. It is so simple to make this fried rice, I can’t believe it took me this long to do it.  The best part was that I could control the salt, as well as all the other ingredients.  I used brown rice instead of white, Bragg liquid aminos instead of soy sauce, and I added green beans and broccoli in addition to the peas and carrots.  I also used a veggie chik’n substitute, and served this rice with veggie egg rolls.  YUM!  We all loved it, except for Ryan.  I think he ate pasta that night…or any night I let him 🙂  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://life-in-the-lofthouse.com/baked-sweet-and-sour-chicken-with-fried-rice/

The next recipe was for tomato pie.  I have made dozens of tomato pies, but it’s been a really long time since I last made one.  To be honest, we got sick of this dish.  You know how it is…you find a new recipe that you really love, so it becomes a “go to” meal.  Well that was tomato pie in our house, especially in the summer when I have tons of tomatoes in the garden.  Dan and Victoria actually requested that I stop making tomato pie, so I did.  It’s DSCN2322been a few years since we had it for a meal, so when I mentioned that I was making one, I got a few groans.  Well that night at dinner, the groans changed into “Mmmmm’s,” as Dan and Victoria were reminded why this pie had been a staple in our house.  It really is delicious.  If you like tomatoes (or even if you don’t…Victoria isn’t a huge fan) you will  love this pie.  It is ridiculously simple to make too. I made one pie for the three of us, (of course Ryan wouldn’t try it), and there was only one piece left over after dinner.  I am happy to report that the left over piece made a great breakfast for me the next morning.  Here is the  link to the recipe that I used: http://www.ziplist.com/recipes/1302520-Summer_Tomato_Pie

The last two recipes, I made the same night for dinner…vegetarian meatloaves withDSCN2324 roasted potatoes.  I have made roasted potatoes a bunch of times, but I always look for different flavor variations.  I’d never used this recipe before, so I decided to give it a shot. Additionally, I’ve made veggie meatloaf for years, but I always use soy crumbles.  I have mentioned in numerous past posts, that I am trying to limit how much soy we eat.  With that in mind, I decided to use this recipe as it calls for oatmeal and not soy.  The mini meatloaves DSCN2326have great flavor, and the potatoes were a nice complimentary side dish.  Dan, Victoria, and I really enjoyed this meal, and I will definitely use both recipes again.  They made for a hearty and healthy meal.  The vegetarian meatloaves recipe made quite a few mini loaves, so we were able to stretch the meal for two days. Here are the links to the recipes that I used: http://ohmyveggies.com/recipe-vegetarian-meatloaf-part-2-the-redemption/comment-page-1/#comment-113249  and   http://www.plainchicken.com/2010/04/easy-oven-roasted-potatoes.html

We have been really busy over the last few weeks.  Victoria started archery which is scheduled everyIMG_4446 Friday night!  I don’t know about you, but by Friday night I am toast.  All I want on Friday night is a quick easy dinner, and then a relaxing evening with my family in our jammies. Well that is out the window for the foreseeable future.  Happily, Victoria loves her archery sessions, and shows some natural talent with her bow.  Ryan is considering archery as well, so I guess that means we are busy every Friday night.

Also last weekend, Victoria had her orchestra ensemble festival.  She had a solo at 8 a.m., and a duet at 8:40.  Well, she had to be there an hour early, and the venue was an hour from our IMG_2033house.  I’ll patiently wait whilst you do the math. ☺ Yes, that meant, we had to be there by 7 a.m., so we had to leave the house by 6 a.m., so we had to get up at 5 A.M!!!  Holy cow!!! 5 a.m. on a Saturday?!?  Yep.  Thankfully she got 1’s on her solo and on the duet, so it was totally worth the ungodly early wake up, and predawn ICY hour long drive.

Later that afternoon, we had my nephew Ian’s birthday party to attend, so it was a FULL day.  By the time we got home we were all exhausted.  The next day was Superbowl Sunday, and we just hung out at home.  Over the next few weeks, we have even more events and activities scheduled.  Despite all the hustle and bustle, I am certain I will still manage to test out a few new recipes.  I look forward to being able to share them with you.

Enjoy! ♥♥♥

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Posted in Cakes, Chocolate, Cookies, Italian, Pies, Savory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chocolate Pudding, Arancini, Ravioli, “Butter Beer,” Broccoli Cheese Soup, Seven Layer Italian Rainbow Cookies, Dark Chocolate, Orange, and Almond Lace Cookies, Fettuccine with Roasted Tomatoes, Peas and Fresh Mozzarella, and Mini Doughnuts with Chocolate Frosting…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great holiday with your families. Our holiday was great…and unexpectedly long.  The kids got four extra days off school due to snow and ice.  YAHOO! Luckily, with all the extra time, I was able to experiment in the kitchen a lot… so here we go!  The first recipe I tried was for chocolate pudding.  I have made chocolate pudding multiple times in the past, but I’ve only made healthy versions.  I have two different recipes in which the base of the pudding is made from avocados and dates.  This time, however, I wanted to make a traditional chocolate pudding, so I needed a new recipe. DSCN2118Additionally, I had a TON of egg yolks left over from Christmas baking as a few of my recipes only required egg whites. I searched online, and happened upon Martha Stewart’s recipe for chocolate or vanilla pudding, so I decided to give it a shot.  WOW! I am sooo glad that I did because it is the best chocolate pudding I have ever eaten.  My family LOVED it too.  It was very simple to make, and it was amazing warm or cold.  The only drawback is that this pudding recipe isn’t as healthy as my other pudding recipes.  Oh well…every now and then, it would be a nice treat. I would definitely make this pudding again.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.marthastewart.com/314077/vanilla-or-chocolate-pudding

The next two recipes I tried were for homemade ravioli, and homemade arancini.   I love love love arancini, and I’ve always wanted to make ravioli from scratch, so I decided to  make them both the same evening and enjoy an Italian food fest! If you are unfamiliar with arancini, they are Italian rice balls, usually served as an appetizer.  I fell in love with arancini, back in the mid 90’s.  Dan and I were newly married, and living in our apartment in Sterling Heights.  There was a restaurant not too far from where we lived called “Tony Pepperoni’s,” and one night we went there for dinner.  I’d never eaten arancini before so we decided to try it out.  YUM!  We were hooked from the first bite! “Tony Pepperoni’s” eventually became “Benedetto’s,” and we’d occasionally go to IMG_1826 (2)Benedetto’s for dinner, just to get the arancini.  After we moved out to the sticks, we stopped going to Benedetto’s as it is about an hour away from our house.  The distance that separated us from those yummy rice balls, prompted me to research the recipe so I could make them at home.  I’ve made them over the years and we enjoy them, but it’s a very time consuming process.  Traditionally, arancini starts as risotto.  Now, I do love me some risotto, but I don’t always love how long it takes to make. Risotto is a simple dish, but it requires a minimum of 20 minutes to make it appropriately.  Most of that 20 minutes is spent stirring the risotto as you gradually add broth to the rice.  I don’t usually mind that task, but since I was also making ravioli from scratch, I wanted to quicken the pace a bit. I found a recipe on Pinterest in which you utilize regular left over rice in place of the risotto, so I decided to give it a try.  The result??

HEAVEN!!!

I am totally smitten with these rice balls, and plan to make them all the time.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.justataste.com/2012/02/arancini-rice-balls-with-marinara-sauce/  For the record, I didn’t try the sauce as I already had my own homemade sauce ready to go.  Also, I substituted asiago instead of fresh mozzarella…YUM!

Next, I made ravioli.  As I mentioned above, I’ve always wanted to try and make ravioli from scratch, but it is a time consuming process.  Since I had nothing but time, I decided to roll up my sleeves and go for it.  The result was a mixed bag.  Let me explain.  Although I did enjoy the process of making the dough, I don’t have a pasta maker.  Well, let me rephrase, I do have an DSCN2112electric pasta maker, but it doesn’t make sheets of pasta.  I can make all different sorts of noodles, but not sheets of pasta like for making lasagna or ravioli.  Since I don’t own that sort of pasta maker, I had to roll the dough by hand.  The problem was that I couldn’t get the dough thin enough to make good ravioli.  I have been assured by my good friend and avid ravioli maker, Dean Overholt, that if I get the right attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer, I will be able to make perfect ravioli.  Well I’ve added the attachment to my “kitchen wish list” so we will see.  Anyway, I got frustrated with the dough, so Dan stepped in and finished the ravioli.  In the end, the ravioli tasted really good, but the dough was way too thick in my opinion. Until I get that pasta maker attachment, I’ll have to stick with store bought ravioli.  Even though the result was somewhat disappointing, it was fun to spend time in the kitchen with my handsome husband. Here is the link to the recipe that we used:http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/homemade-ravioli

The next recipe I tried was for “butter beer.”  If you have read the books, or seen the DSCN2264“Harry Potter” movies, you will be familiar with this reference.  If you haven’t, suffice to say it’s a beverage that the characters like to drink. Victoria and Ryan are total “Potterheads,” so as a treat I decided to make this for them.  I personally thought the butter beer was WAY too sweet, but the kids really liked it.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/06/0a/01/060a01c67eb13e32e7ff2cc7f5f75387.jpg  Fun fact.  This drink is on the Starbuck’s “secret menu,” so next time you are there, pick one up.☺

DSCN2279The next recipe I tried was for broccoli cheese soup. I love love love broccoli soup, and I love to make soup when it’s cold outside.  I found the recipe on Pinterest, and decided to try it out.  I am super glad that I did, because it was really good.  Dan and I loved it!  Victoria doesn’t like broccoli, and Ryan doesn’t like any sort of soup so they didn’t try it.  Fortunately this recipe doesn’t yield a ton of soup, so it was just right for Dan and I for dinner.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.peasandcrayons.com/2012/12/sketch-free-broccoli-and-cheese-soup.html

The next recipe was for seven layer Italian rainbow cookies.  They are called seven layer cookies as there are three layers of cookie (green, white, and pink), two layers of chocolate (top and bottom), and two layers of apricot preserves (between the cookie layers)…heaven!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE these cookies, and have for as long as I can remember.  I buy a little package of them every time I am at Nino Salvaggio’s, or an Italian bakery.  Fun fact: if you have ever seen the movie “She-Devil” (a movie that I love, but that Dan hates) these cookies are in the box of bakery delights that “Ruth Patchett” aka “Vesta Rose” (played by Roseanne Barr) offers to her co-worker DSCN2270“Hooper” (played by Linda Hunt.) Anyway, I have wanted to make these cookies FOREVER, but they take two days to complete.  Since I had extra time whilst the kids were off school, I decided to give it a shot.  HOLY COW!  These cookies are totally amazing, AND totally worth the effort!!! They got rave reviews from everyone…everyone except Ryan.  Yep you guessed it, he didn’t care for them.  SIGH…oh well, more for me! I will absolutely make these cookies again. Here’s the link to the recipe that I used: http://teenagecakeland.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/seven-layer-italian-rainbow-cookies/ Next time I am going to experiment a bit though.  For instance I am going to add a bit more almond extract as I felt the cookies weren’t “almondy” enough.  Also, I want to try different flavors of fruit preserves…I am thinking raspberry or cherry…YUM.

My next recipe was for dark chocolate, almond, and orange lace cookies. Apparently, it’s a copycat recipe for cookies sold at Trader Joe’s. I’ve never actually seen them at the store, but when I’m at TJ’s, I’m not shopping for cookies. ☺ I have seen cookies that look similar to these cookies at a bakery, and there were called “florentines.”  Anyway, I found this recipe on Pinterest, and was immediately intrigued. These cookies look totally different than the cookies I usually make, so I decided to test the recipe. As a side note, I have been baking cookies like nobody’s business lately.  In the last three weeks, I have made four different varieties of cookies. I am not certain why I have baked so many cookies lately, but hey I DSCN2278am not getting any complaints.  I am seriously thinking of making more cookies this weekend…stay tuned! ☺ Anyway, I decided to give this recipe a shot, and I am glad that I did.  This cookie received great reviews, and I got requests for more. It’s not a cookie I’d make all the time, but I’d make it again for sure.  I actually have another “lace cookie” recipe that I want to try, so I’ll probably try that one before making this one again.  Here’s a shocker…are you ready???  Ryan didn’t like these cookies either.  He did try them though, and told me that they tasted like “Fruit Loops.”  I liked these cookies as they were both crispy and chewy.  I enjoyed the flavor, and I love the way they look. Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://myjerusalemkitchen.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/dark-chocolate-almond-orange-lace-cookies-florentines/

The next recipe was for whole wheat fettuccine with roasted tomatoes, peas and fresh mozzarella.  I saw this recipe on an episode of “Giada at Home,” and knew immediately that I’d have to try it. I didn’t use whole wheat fettucine as my family doesn’t like thick DSCN2283noodles that are whole wheat or multi grain. That said, in my opinion, this dish requires a heartier noodle.  I mean angel hair or spaghetti simply would not do, so I chose regular fettucine noodles.  I am so happy that I tried this recipe because it was totally delicious. It was hearty, healthy, and just perfect for a cold winter’s night.  I will absolutely, positively, make this fettucine again.  Ryan wouldn’t try it of course, but Dan, Victoria, and I loved it.  Here is the link to Giada’s recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/whole-wheat-fettuccine-with-roasted-tomatoes-peas-and-fresh-mozzarella-recipe/index.html

The last recipe was a request from Ryan.  He said he was “in the mood” for cinnamon sugar doughnuts, and politely requested that I make him some.  Well of course I couldn’t refuse his sweet face, so I decided to make some doughnuts for my boy.  I’d recently gotten a mini doughnut pan that I hadn’t used yet, so Ryan’s request came at a perfect time. I could try DSCN2285out my new mini doughnut pan, and a new recipe at the same time.  I found the recipe on Pinterest, and I found the pan at Meijer. I’ve made doughnuts multiple times in the past, and I always bake them as I don’t own a deep fryer.  I love my doughnut pans, and even though I don’t use them a lot, I am glad that they are in the cupboard waiting for a request like Ryan’s.  I am happy to report that the mini doughnuts came out great.  I did half the batch cinnamon sugar, and the other half plain with chocolate frosting.  Ryan liked them, but he didn’t love them. Unfortunately he still prefers “Tim Horton’s.”  Victoria and I liked both of the doughnuts, but Dan LOVED them. He jokingly cursed me, because he couldn’t stop eating them.  I will definitely make these doughnuts again, but next time I want to try chocolate doughnuts with chocolate frosting. YUM! Here is the link to the recipe that I used:http://bakerbettie.com/baked-cinnamon-sugar-mini-donuts/?crlt.pid=camp.BeiJP07q6UTQ   Also, if you haven’t ever made frosting at home before, try this recipe.  I promise after making and eating this frosting, you will never buy a tub of store bought frosting ever again!!! http://www.southernplate.com/2009/04/creamy-chocolate-frosting.html

I loved being able to try all the new recipes…most of them were keepers.  I hope you all have a great January full of wintry fun, lots of family time, and of course really great food! Thanks for reading.  Enjoy! ♥♥♥

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Victoria and Ryan making a snowman

Posted in Bread / Muffins, Chocolate, Cookies, Italian, Savory, Soup, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Marshmallow Brownie Cupcakes, Vegan Pad Thai With Sweet and Sour Veggie Chik’n, Copy Cat Olive Garden Minestrone Soup, Sprinkle Cookies, Fudgy Brownies, Chocolate Fudge, Spritz Cookies, and Candy Cane Biscotti…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy December! The last few weeks have been super busy.  I swear right after Halloween, someone hits the fast forward button, and the rest of the year flies right by.  I have been fortunate enough to test a few new recipes a midst the craziness, so here we go. The first new recipe was for marshmallow brownie cupcakes.  O.M.G.  These brownie cupcakes are amazing!!  Let me start by saying that marshmallows are NOT veggieDSCN1474 friendly as they contain gelatin.  If you aren’t sure how gelatin is made, please stop reading and “Google” it immediately…ICK!  I know what gelatin is, so right off the bat I knew I’d have to substitute. I realize that some things contain gelatin, and we cannot avoid them (think antibiotics that are in a capsule form, OTC pills, and some vitamins). I’ve made my peace with it when  absolutely necessary, but readily avoid it as much as humanly possible.  Happily there is a such a thing as vegan marshmallows.  That said, they don’t really melt up the same as regular marshmallows, so I used marshmallow fluff, which fortunately is veggie friendly. I made these brownie cupcakes on a whim, and they got rave reviews!!  They are fudgy in the middle, and the marshmallow fluff on top gets toasted and crispy…YUMMO!! I would definitely make these again!!  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://springraine.blogspot.com/2012/02/marshmallow-brownie-cupcakes.html

The next two recipes combined equaled a really yummy dinner.  I came across two separate recipes for Asian dishes on Pinterest, and knew immediately that I would DSCN1479combine them into one delicious dinner.  I am happy to report that I did and it was super good.   I will definitely add this to the regular dinner rotation as we loved it.  Of course, Ryan didn’t try it, but the rest of us enjoyed dinner immensely. I was totally craving Pad Thai, and these recipes satisfied that craving.  Here are the links to the recipes that I combined:  http://produceonparade.com/chicken-vegan-pad-thai/   and http://madeitateitlovedit.blogspot.com/2012/03/sweet-and-sour-chicken.html  I did make a few substitutions.  First I didn’t have the type of vegan chicken that the first recipe called for, so I substituted some Quorn naked cutlets.  Also, I don’t use soy sauce, so I substituted with Bragg liquid amino as an alternative. Next, I didn’t bread the chik’n like the second recipe recommended.  Last, after the first batch, I ran out of rice noodles so we substituted regular spaghetti.

The next recipe was for minestrone soup.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE soup, and I LOVE to make it in the cold months. Soup is so comforting and warm, and I feel cozy when making and eating it. I really wish Ryan liked soup, but alas this is another dish he won’t even try.

SIGH

Anyway, the rest of us liked it.  I LOVE minestrone soup, but wanted to try a differentDSCN1484 recipe, so I selected a copy cat recipe of Olive Garden’s minestrone soup that I saw on Pinterest.  I am happy to report that the soup  is delicious.  If I am being totally honest, it’s not as good as my other minestrone recipe (a copy cat recipe of Lelli’s minestone), but it is still pretty good. Here is the link to the recipe that I used:http://www.eat-yourself-skinny.com/2012/12/olive-garden-inspired-minestrone-soup.html?_szp=122926

WARNING: The rest of this post contains pictures and recipes for delicious and decadent desserts.  I have been informed that the pictures cause intense cravings for cookies and chocolate.

The rest of this post may also include…oh I don’t know…an edible cookie plate and candy dish.

WHAT?!?!?

Yep.   True story.

You’ve been warned. Continue reading at your own risk! ☺

The first yummy treat I made was sprinkle sugar cookies.  As a kid I LOVED sprinkles. I used to put them on ice cream, and all the goodies that I made with my Easy Bake Oven. Flash forward to current day, and my kids LOVE sprinkles like I used to when I was a kid. DSCN1531So in that spirit, I decided to pay homage to that little ice cream sundae condiment, and make a cookie that featured them.  I found this recipe on Pinterest, and decided to give it a whirl. The cookies came out great, but mine didn’t puff up like the ones in the picture. There were really yummy, and everyone ate them up in a hurry, but they were not as puffy as I’d hoped. I am glad that I tried this recipe, but I don’t know that I’d  add them to my regular rotation.  If someone requested a sugar cookie, I’d definitely consider this recipe, but this isn’t a cookie that I will crave and HAVE to make again. Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://buddingbaketress.blogspot.com/2013/08/puffy-sprinkle-sugar-cookies.html

The next yummy treat was homemade fudgy brownies.  I got this recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I hadn’t ever tried this brownie recipe before, so I was eager to give it a try.  The result?

Meh

I’ve had better brownies. I’ve made better  brownies before. I was really surprised thatDSCN1535 these didn’t turn out better, but I don’t think I did anything wrong.  I reread the recipe multiple times, and the only thing I can come up with is that they should have baked longer. My brownies kind of sank in the middle, so I am guessing they needed more time in the oven. If I try this recipe again, I would add 10 minutes to the total baking time.  Going forward, if I am going to make brownies, I’d probably use another recipe. That said, these brownies were gone in less than 24 hours. Poor Ryan was too full from dinner to have one for dessert, and by the time he wanted one (the next night after dinner) they were gone!   Poor baby.  Next time, I will make sure I set aside a brownie or 3 just for him. ☺ Here is the link to the recipe that I used:http://www.bhg.com/recipe/brownies/fudgy-brownies/   FYI…I didn’t frost the brownies when I made them.

Since Ryan didn’t get to enjoy a brownie, I decided to make fudge.  I was planning to make my annual goodie bags for the elementary office for Christmas anyway, and the goodie bags always include fudge.  Since Ryan didn’t get his chocolate fix the day before, I decided DSCN1621to make, and then deliver the goodie bags early.  I have used the same fudge recipe for as long as I can remember.  I copied it off the side of a jar of marshmallow fluff back when Dan and I were first married.  Dan LOVES this recipe, and you don’t fix something that isn’t broke, so I’ve never tried a different chocolate fudge recipe.  Actually, I take that back. Once, when we lived in our old house, I tried a different fudge recipe, and it was awful.  I remember that it was really gritty, and we didn’t care for it.  Since then when I make fudge,  I always use this recipe:http://allrecipes.com/recipe/the-original-fantasy-fudge/    Anyway, my Ryan has been requesting fudge for about a month, but I kept putting him off, knowing I was going to make fudge at Christmastime.  When he requested it on Sunday, I couldn’t resist his adorable face, so I decided to make my Christmas treats for the office a few days early.  This fudge is amazing and my family LOVES it.

The next recipe I tried was for spritz cookies.  Okay so I have eaten these cookies my DSCN1609whole life, but I’d never made them until now.  I actually own a manual cookie press that I bought back in the day at a Pampered Chef party.  Oddly, I’ve never used it for cookies.  I remember the Pampered Chef demonstrator using it to make deviled eggs and fancy mashed potatoes, and I was smitten.  Anyway, I still have that cookie press somewhere, but for these cookies, I actually used an electric press. I bought it the first summer in this house.  I remember the purchase, because I bought it from a hardware store that was going out of business.  The store is gone now…completely gone…torn down, but the cookie press is alive and well, and residing comfortably in my kitchen. I’ve had the press for eight years, and until Sunday, hadn’t even opened the box!  Well eight years is long enough, and that cookie press needed to earn her rightful spot in my kitchen cabinet.  Well earn it she did.  It took me a bit to get used to the press.  Okay so truth be told, it took Dan to use it and show me how.  I tend to have a short fuse when it comes to using new appliances, or any other sort of new “technology,” so Dan helped.  I had a hard time putting the press together, but once Dan “engineered” it for me I was good to go. Even after he put it together the right way though, it would only work when he stood at the counter and watched me. The minute he’d walk away, I’d begin having problems.  This little spectacle was extremely amusing to my daughter and her friend that was visiting for the day.  Honestly, the only reason I didn’t drop a few “F bombs” was because there was an underage visitor in the house.☺  Anyway, the cookies came out great.  I used two different discs to make the cookies.  I used the tree disc, and dyed a portion of the dough green to look like Christmas trees.  I also used the sparkler disc as it reminded me of a poinsettia.  I added a few tablespoons of cocoa powder to the remaining dough to make it chocolatey, and added a few chocolate chips in the center. I would definitely make these cookies again.  They really tasted good and my family loved them.  The tree cookies went first so I’d say that they preferred that dough to the dough that I added cocoa to. Here is a link to the recipe that I used: http://www.food.com/recipe/super-shooter-basic-spritz-cookies-107483

The next two treats I made serve two purposes.  First, they hold food as one is a plate and one is a bowl.  That said they are both edible!!!  Yep, I made an edible cookie plate, and an DSCN1605edible candy dish!!!  So you can serve food on or in them, and then if you are so inclined you can actually eat your plate!  I saw this on Pinterest a few months ago, but just recently got around to purchasing the candy required. They are super simple to make, and I absolutely LOVE them.  Next year, I may make enough to gift them, but this year, I only made a couple. Here is a link to how to make this festive and yummy plate: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/d7/06/dc/d706dcd880ee75284d56d86b424f0074.jpg  In DSCN1594addition to the plate, I made a bowl.  I followed the same procedure, but whilst the mints were still hot and pliable, I inverted the plate over a small bowl and molded it.  BE CAREFUL…I did burn my fingers the first time. My oven only took 7 minutes, so I’d watch the time closely if you attempt these.

The last treat that I made was candy cane biscotti.  I usually make peppermint bark to go with my fudge at Christmastime, but this year I decided to change it up.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE biscotti, but I’ve only ever used two recipes.  Well that changed on Sunday when I made this biscotti recipe. I am happy to report that it is delicious, and I totally LOVE it. Even Dan who doesn’t care for biscotti thought it was good.  The recipe is super simple, and I will definitely make it again. Here is a link to the recipe that I used: http://www.eatcakefordinner.net/2012/12/candy-cane-biscotti.html?m=1 I madeDSCN1620 one change to the recipe.  I divided the batch in half and dipped half in melted white chocolate.  The other half I dipped in melted dark chocolate.  YUM!

Sunday was a marathon baking day for me. I began on Sunday afternoon, and I finished about 10:30 p.m.  I made the edible plate and bowl,  the fudge, the spritz cookies, the biscotti as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner for my family. The Lions weren’t playing so what the heck…why not spend a day in the kitchen.  Ryan had a birthday to go to, and Victoria  had a friend over, so the kids were occupied.  Dan was also occupied installing, and then using his early birthday present…an Everlast heavy bag. He has wanted one since he was a kid, and we got it for him on Saturday.  We had breakfast with DSCN1611Santa at TRW(where Dan works), and then we had some errands and shopping to do.  Part of the shopping was a stop at Dick’s Sporting Goods.  We all needed running shoes…okay so I don’t use mine for running, but the rest of the family does.☺ Even Victoria has been recently bitten by the running bug.  Anyway, whilst we were there, we got Dan the heavy bag.  I still think the juxtaposition of our activities on Sunday is hysterical. Picture this…Dan is in the basement installing and then kicking the crap out of his new heavy bag…looking very “Rocky-esque.”  Meanwhile, I am in the kitchen making dozens of cookies and edible plates…looking very Mrs. Claus!  It totally cracks me up.

With the Christmas holiday next week, I have totally kicked into high gear.  In the last week, I have completed all the Christmas shopping, shopping for Dan’s birthday, the Christmas cards, most of the food shopping for Christmas eve (we host for the family), and baked and delivered all the office staff goodie bags.  We’ve had several Christmas movie nights, the kids went sledding, and then completed all their “snowman soup” for passing out to friends, and all the teacher gifts are delivered.  Now I will literally white knuckle it until December 26th that we make it through the holiday untouched by sickness.  I realize that’s a tall order, but that’s my Christmas wish.  Speaking of Christmas wishes, I saw this post on Facebook and it said, “I think as you grow older your Christmas list gets smaller, and things you really want for the holidays can’t be bought.”  I agree one hundred percent, because this year I don’t really want anything you can buy in a store or on line.  My Christmas list is very different this year.  My “wish list” includes: good health for myself and all “my people,” peace and solace for every troubled soul, rest and comfort for every hardworking individual, and freedom and equal treatment for everyone regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or age. I wish ALL people would speak kinder, hug longer, smile more, and really count their blessings.  Most of all, I wish heaven had a phone line so we could all speak to our loved ones that are celebrating Christmas in heaven.  I know this is unrealistic, but Christmas is a time of hope, and that is mine.  I wish you all a very merry holiday season, and a happy, healthy 2014.  Cheers! ♥♥

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Posted in Brownies, Cakes, Candies, Chocolate, Cookies, Italian, Savory, Soup, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments