Saturday, May 22, 2010

Candy Bar Cookie Bars and a Creative Idea from My Kitchen Helper

I can hardly believe it is nearing the end of May already!  I barely remember April.  Where does the time go?  I am loving the warmer weather but I don't want to take these days for granted.
Today, after a trip to the store, Ben said he was hungry so I fixed him a plate with some fresh strawberries and blueberries.  Thankfully, he has always been a good fruit and (for the most part) veggie eater.  I had my back turned when I heard him say "Mom, look at my fruit cup!"
I looked a little closer.  Funny little guy - he bit the end off of a strawberry and stuck a blueberry inside.  He is always cracking me up with his ideas :)
Candy Bar Cookie Bars
Sometimes it's nice to bake or create something totally or even partially from scratch.  I always feel like I have really accomplished something big with those kinds of recipes. 
Then there are days when you are running later than you had hoped but you still need to whip up a treat for the meeting you are helping host in just a few hours - and you haven't stocked your pantry with baking ingredients recently.
That was my story this morning.  I came across this recipe in my Cake Mix Doctor cookbook.  5 ingredients.  Bake time of 45 minutes.  It was just what I was looking for.  It turned out great and everyone enjoyed it.  Yay!
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2-1 c. candy bar pieces
(I used toffee and mini chocolate chips - I think Reeses would be an awesome addition)
Mix together first four ingredients with mixer for 2 minutes, scraping batter down sides as needed.  Fold in candy pieces and mix well.  Place batter in ungreased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes (Mine were done in 35)
*The batter was very sticky so I used the hint Ingrid of 3 B's has mentioned before - I dampened my hands first and patted the batter down very smoothly.  Worked like a charm - thanks Ingrid!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Vanilla Blackberry Trifle

Hi!  I hope all of you moms out there had a great Mother's Day!  Mine was very nice.  My little guy started and ended my day with the sweetest words and best snuggles.  And in between we were able to spend time with my family.  It was a beautiful day and we had fun watching the kids run and play all afternoon.
And of course the meal was great.  Dad grilled, we had lots of yummy snacks, salads and of course dessert.  I surprisingly enough, had not put much thought into making a dessert and at the last minute decided to go with a trifle.
Do any of you make trifles very often?  I got this bowl a year or so ago and I love it.  You can throw all sorts of things together in it and it somehow manages to look pretty no matter what's inside.
I made a French Vanilla cake (with egg whites - trying to stay on the healthier side)
After the cake cooled slightly I spread a black raspberry jam over it like frosting and then I grated white chocolate over the whole thing.  After it was completely cool i cut the cake up into very small squares.
I layered the cake with a vanilla pudding mixture...
And topped it off with more pudding, grated white chocolate and fresh blackberries.
Vanilla Blackberry Trifle
1 box French Vanilla Cake mix
(substituting 4 egg whites instead of 3 eggs)
Black Raspberry Jam
1 large box of  sugar free vanilla pudding
8 oz light cool whip
White Chocolate
Prepare cake as directed and pour into sheet cake pan.  Bake 20 minutes.  Let cake cool slightly.  Spread with jam.  Sprinkle white chocolate evenly over cake.  When completely cooled, cut into 2 inch squares.
In a medium bowl, mix pudding as directed and fold in Cool Whip. 
Layer cake square and pudding mixture - ending with the pudding on top.  Cover with white chocolate shavings.  Decorate with berries.
(*This tastes even better the next day!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Outrageous Brownies (And I'm Not Kidding!)

The title pretty well sums up these brownies.  Some of you may think as I used to - brownies are delicious, but outrageous? - is that possible?  I now believe that yes, it is possible.  
As you scroll down, you might start to understand how it all works.  One pound of butter, 6 eggs (yes - 6) and loads of chocolate.  Are your pants feeling tight yet?  Holy Moly. 

In one pot you create this wonderful chocolate mixture, later mixing it with the eggs (yes 6), coffee and sugar.  Stir in more chocolate and nuts - or toffee...
And hello.  You have this mondo pan of brownies that not only look and smell amazing, but they actually taste even better.  After they cooled off I had to quickly cut them up and ship them off to friends and family so I wouldn't eat them all!
For a team building night a few weeks ago, my fun-loving boss and friend, treated our team to a cooking class at a local shop/cafe.  It was so much fun and I learned a bunch of little cooking tips throughout the whole night.  The woman who taught our class used recipes from her own personal collection.  She told us a friend of hers had shared this brownie recipe with her a few years ago.  What a friend!!! 
Outrageous Brownies
(Recipe shared by Sandy Knapp)
1 lb unsalted butter
1 lb, plus 2 c. semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 T. instant coffee powder
2 T. real vanilla extract
2 c. plus 1/4 c. flour, divided
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. salt (Sandy recommended sea salt)
3 c. walnuts (I used toffee chips)
Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 13x18x1 1/2 inch sheet pan. 
Melt the butter, 1 lb chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler.  Cool slightly.  In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, coffee, sugar and vanilla.  Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and let cool slightly.
In a smaller bowl, combine 1 c. flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to cooled chocolate mixture.  Toss the walnuts and remaining chips with 1/4 c. flour.  Stir into batter.
Bake 30 minutes.  Halfway through baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between pan and dough.  Do not over bake.  Cool thoroughly.  Refrigerate well and cut into squares.

The brownies got a thumbs up from my Little Kitchen Helper and his cousin.  They waited so patiently to be served as I took pictures.  Sweet kiddos!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gooey Butter Cake

Have you ever heard of Gooey Butter Cake?  I hadn't until a month or so ago.  It was my turn to bring dessert for our small group and I wanted to try a new recipe.  I had seen this in my Cake Mix Doctor cookbook and thought it sounded good.  I mentioned it to a few people and they had all heard of it before and said it was delicious.  Was Paula Deen the one who made it popular?  I don't know.  The recipe I followed was not hers - but I got on-line to compare them and they are extremely similar.  
I'm thinking this may be my perfect dessert - especially when eaten warm.  It is custardy kind of like a pie, but with a thick crust.  I couldn't keep my fork out of the pan!  It does thicken in the fridge but it gets gooey again if you warm it up in the microwave.  (Definitely worth the wait)  There are different variations of this cake - I intend to try them all eventually.  Maybe I should do a taste test with my family or co-workers.  Hmmm.....I think I'm gonna try the mocha recipe first.
Gooey Butter Cake
1 pkg yellow cake mix
8 T. butter, melted
1 egg
Mix together in a large bowl with electric mixer for two minutes.  Pat batter evenly into lightly greased 9x13 pan.  Set aside while mixing the filling.

1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 T. butter, melted
3 3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
Place cream cheese in large bowl, blend on low 30 seconds.  Add eggs, vanilla, and melted butter.  Beat on medium speed 1 more minute.  Add the powdered sugar and beat on medium until sugar is well incorporated.  Pour onto crust.  Bake 45-48 minutes. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Little Touch of Spring

Just in case anyone was wondering, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth...yet.  I just haven't been feeling myself lately and haven't wanted to bake or create anything.  Thank you to all of you who check in to read this regularly or even just occasionally.  I appreciate it.  I will get back to baking and blogging again soon.  I hope you won't mind me sharing a few pictures I took tonight. 
 I walked into the kitchen after work tonight to put my things down on the table and happened to look up and out into our three-seasons room and I couldn't help but stop and stare.  There outside the window was this amazing bright pink cloud of flowers. 
 I ran up and grabbed my camera to try to capture this beautiful sight.   I know the pictures don't quite do it justice...but I tried.
I walked around underneath these trees taking pictures, smelling their strong scent and listening to sound of busy little bees buzzing around enjoying the flowers too.
One tree is full of blooms and one is full of buds just waiting to burst open.  I love nature and the way God pays such close attention to all  of the little details.  Painting each little leaf and petal with specks or stripes, coloring each tiny insect and bug with it's own unique pattern.  It reminded me that He's paying even closer attention to the details of our lives.  I am so thankful.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Garlic Parsley Spaghetti

I am addicted to food magazines.  Kids are tempted by all the candy, gum and toys in the check-out lanes at the store.  Me?  It's those magazines. The ones with the delicious looking desserts in particular.   My husband just rolls his eyes and asks "Didn't you just buy one of those?  Do you really need another?!"  I simply respond "Yes - I NEEDED it"
To make him realize I really do use the recipes I find, I made this pasta dish the other night.  It was very simple to make and it tasted very good.  
I am not much of a sauce lover so this was perfect. 
I added chicken because I thought it would be a nice touch.  Honestly, I think next time I'd leave it out and add a few tomatoes.  I think they would add nice texture and color!
Garlic Parsley Spaghetti
(Taste of Home, Evelyn Sparish)
1 pkg (16 oz) thin spaghetti
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. minced fresh parsley
Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in skillet, lightly brown garlic in oil over medium heat.  Drain spaghetti; add to skillet.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Toss to coat.
*I wanted to add these photos of my LKH.  He had some leftover mac and cheese with dinner and decided to make his own creation.  Yes, those are grapes and pineapple mixed in - with some fresh bread crumbled on top of his spaghetti and macaroni.  "Ben's Famous Cheesey Crust" is what he called it.  I don't mind that he mixes up his food every once in a while, but I do insist that he eats it.  He seemed to enjoy it! 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stuffed Sandwiches

Whew, it's been a busy week!  We have had a few beautiful days here and I am getting so excited for it to stay around for a while!  Ben has been finding all sorts of "signs of spring" around the yard and I heard the birds singing this morning.   I love this time of year.
So yesterday was Friday and I don't know about you but most Fridays I don't fix a big meal.  We usually throw in a pizza or make grilled cheese.  But last night I was wanting to make something I could blog about.  I used to sell Pampered Chef products a long time ago.  I started doing it after I moved out on my own to fill my kitchen with great gadgets.  I'm not really one to get up in front of people and talk, but I really enjoyed doing that - I think because I got to talk about food as I was making it.  I get excited about food :) and it's easy to talk about something that excites you.
So this recipe is from their Stoneware cookbook.  It is very simple to put together and you can substitute the meat/cheese/fillings to suit your own tastes.
I used ham in the whole sandwich, American cheese on 2/3 of it - along with sauteed peppers, onion and garlic for my husband and just plain provolone for my side.  I also chose to half this recipe for just the three of us.
I rolled it all up and put it in the oven to bake.
My picture may not do it justice, but it turned out such a nice toasty brown color. 
Here's Grant's side oozing with cheese.  The more, the better according to him.
And here is my side.  It tasted so good.  Ben got the middle piece - close enough to get a little of both cheeses and far enough away from the onions and peppers.
Stuffed Sandwich
(adapted from The Pampered Chef Stoneware Cookbook
Philly Beef-Stuffed Sandwich)
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup onion, chopped
1 T. vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, divided
2 pkgs (10 oz each) refridgerated pizza dough
8 oz thinly sliced deli meat (your choice)
8 oz thinly sliced cheese (your choice)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 T. water
Preheat oven to 400.  Put oil into sauce pan.  Add pepper, onion, garlic and 1/2 oregano.  Cook until tender.  Remove from heat.  Unroll pizza dough.  Roll out on lightly floured surface to form two - 12x9 inch rectangles.  Layer meat, cheese and veggies on top of dough.  Roll up jelly-roll fashion, sealing the ends.  Form dough into circle on cookie sheet or stone.  Brush dough with egg white/water mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining oregano.  Bake 20-25 minutes.  (I went with 20 and the very center of the dough was a little too doughy yet for my liking.  I will let it bake a little longer when I make it again)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A little treat for St. Paddy's Day

Happy St. Paddy's Day!  I'm not Irish, but just to be festive I wanted to whip up a little green treat for today.  I had a bag of mint M&M's left from Christmas and I gave my little kitchen helper the choice of cookies or brownies.  He wanted cookies.  So I hopped over to Picky Palate and made Jenny's recipe for Intimint Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Dark chocolate, white chocolate and mint...yummy. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Italian Loose Meat Sandwich

Well, I only have one picture of this meal.  I have to be honest and tell you I don't get as excited about taking pictures of my meals as I do my desserts.  But I promise to do better with the next meal I post. 
This is another crockpot recipe.  It is very tasty but a little messy to eat.  My sister shared this recipe with me after she made it for a family gathering.  She found the recipe on  It makes a bunch, so when I make it for just the three of us I usually half it.  My son still isn't very keen on eating it but my husband loves it.
I'm not sure what the actual name is for this recipe so I'm going to call it:
Loose Meat Italian Sandwich
2 lbs ground beef, cooked and drained
2 lbs Italian sausage, cooked and drained
1 of each red, yellow and orange pepper, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1-2 T. red pepper flakes
1 jar spaghetti or pizza sauce
shredded mozarella cheese
hoagie buns or rolls
In a large crockpot layer 1/3 ground beef, 1/3 sausage, 1/2 peppers and onion.  Layer once more ending with the sausage on the top.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  Cover and cook 5-6 hours on high.  When it is finished cooking, stir all together. 
This is how we like to put our sandwiches together - warm the spaghetti sauce, spread it on a bun, fill the bun with the loose meat and top with cheese. 
Like I said, messy - but worth it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pasta Fagioli and Fiddler On The Roof Cake

Have you heard of the book The Five Love Languages?  It explains how people show their love and receive love from others in different ways.  It gives 5 ways people show or receive love:  words of encouragement, physical touch, acts of kindness, gift giving and quality time. 
This week I realized that food is not on that list and that is exactly how I reach out to others and show my love.  When friends or family are sick I want to make them food to feel better, when they are happy I want to make them a treat to celebrate, if they are down I want to comfort them   Do you feel that way too?
My grandma had knee replacement surgery last week and my family has taken turns bringing dinner for she and my grandpa.  What a treat to make a homemade meal and share it with the grandparents who have shown such love and devotion to our family all these years.   I treasure the time we have together.  My son politely sat at the table and talked their ears off - grandma listened intently and grandpa just shook his head at how Ben can talk so much without taking a single breath.  That's my boy.
My meal of choice was a wonderful crockpot soup.  I found this soup a few years ago on-line.  It makes a ton so it's great to feed a crowd or freeze for a later meal.  I love meals that you make in the crockpot.  You throw the ingredients in, set the temperature and in just a matter of hours - voila - there is a delicious meal ready to eat! 
This soup is so fragrant.  I love to lift the lid and just breathe it in...
See how it fills the WHOLE crockpot!  Goodness!
Along with the soup I also brought a lettuce salad, some Garlic-Rosemary bread from Great Harvest Bread Co. and cake.  Fiddler on The Roof Cake to be exact.  It was a new recipe for me.  I had a hard time deciding which cake to make.  I'm not sure why I chose this cake but I'm glad I did.  It was great warm out of the oven with a scoop of ice cream.  Grandma and grandpa loved it.  But after it cooled it was not what I had hoped.  It seemed dry and not very flavorful.  I was a little bummed.  Thankfully, 24 hrs later my sweet tooth kicked in and I went to the kitchen in search of a little something to satisfy my craving.  I opened the pantry door and saw the leftover cake.  The frosting looked a little different.  A little more moist.  I thought "what the heck" and gave it another try.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Like a fine wine it seemed to get better with time.  The frosting soaked in a little more and it tasted great!
Pasta Fagioli Soup in a Crock Pot (
1lb ground beef
1 lb sausage
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 (28oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (16 oz) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (16oz) can white kidney beans, drained
3 (10oz) cans beef stock
3 tsp oregano
2 tsp pepper
5 tsp parsley
1 tsp Tabasco sauce (optional)
1 (20oz) jar spaghetti sauce
8 oz pasta (I use Penne)
Brown meat in skillet.  Drain and add to large crock pot with all other ingredients except pasta.  Cook on low 7-8 hours or high 4-5 hours.  During the last 30 minutes on high, add pasta.

Fiddler On The Roof Cake (Ann Byrn - The Cake Doctor)
1 pkg yellow cake mix
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
Chocolate marshmallow frosting
Grease and flour bundt cake pan.  Using electric mixer, blend cake mix, sour cream, oil, sugar, almond extract, salt and eggs.  Mix 1-3 minutes until smooth.  Pour half of batter into pan.  Smooth with spatula.  Add cocoa powder to remaining batter and blend on high 1 minute.  Pour into pan.  Using knife, swirl batters together.  Bake 60-65 minutes.  Cool.  Frost with warm frosting.

Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting
2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c cocoa powder
6 large marshmallows
4 T butter
1/3+1 T milk
1 tsp vanilla
Sift together cocoa powder and powdered sugar.  Set aside.  In medium saucepan melt milk, marshmallows, butter.  Stir until marshmallows are melted.  Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla and powdered sugar mixture.  Stir until smooth.  Pour warm frosting over cake.