Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nestle Pretzel Dipped Drumsticks and A Pizza Party

Last weekend, we invited family over to our house for a make-your-own-pizza party. Everyone got involved and had fun decorating their personal pizza crusts with an array of toppings. It was interesting to see that the men went straight for the meat (sausage, bacon, pepperoni) while the women added more veggies. Since I was putting pizzas in the oven and taking them out, I got to oversee everyone's pizza making skills. Some chose lots of sauce, some opted for a drizzle of olive oil instead. Some loaded up the cheese while others just wanted a sprinkle to hold everything together. 

This party was fun for me and easy. I started earlier in the day by chopping up the veggies and browning the meat and just set everything in small clear bowls. I covered them all up, placed them on a large cookie sheet and into the fridge it all went. We had mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, crumbled Italian sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, breakfast bacon, and pineapple along with shredded mozzarella and muenster cheese. If you're looking for a different yet affordable way to feed and entertain a crowd, pizza making could be the way to go. Who doesn't like pizza? And the best thing is that no one can complain about their dinner because they made it. 

For dessert my mom made a lemon cheesecake, I made a banana pudding dessert and we also had Nestle Drumsticks. As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I received a couple coupons for free Nestle Pretzel Dipped Drumsticks. Only we got so full after eating pizza, that we didn't enjoy the ice cream treats until the next day. I was really looking forward to this new flavor and I am and always have been a fan of Nestle Drumsticks. I like the original peanut covered variety with vanilla ice cream while Mr. H likes the chocolate version. No surprise there. This pretzel dipped version takes the typical waffled sugar cone, filled with vanilla ice cream then dipped in a dark chocolate shell, with pretzel pieces. 

I was really looking forward to the salty sweet combination of the Nestle Pretzel Dipped Drumsticks, however the end result was a little underwhelming. Don't get me wrong, they were good but the salty pretzel was virtually non-existent. The Drumsticks come in a package of 4 and I had to open up all of them to find one that had more than just a couple pretzels pieces on top. I think the idea is good in theory but the pretzel essence just didn't come through for me. However, I do have to say that the Nestle Pretzel Dipped Drumsticks served along side a handful of mini pretzels was quite delicious. I especially liked taking the pretzel and scooping up a bit of the vanilla ice cream- yum! I think Nestle could have added the crunchy pretzels pieces on top of the chocolate as they do with the peanut variety for more flavor or maybe they could have gone with a salted pretzel cone? 

All in all, I liked the Nestle Pretzel Dipped Drumsticks but I'm not sure it's a flavor that I'd buy on my own simply because it was just like eating a chocolate covered ice cream cone. You pay extra (Target had them for 20 cents more than the original Drumsticks) for the pretzel nuggets and they're just not there, at least not in my box. Thank you Nestle for sponsoring my pizza party and for allowing us to try the new flavor of Drumsticks. Please consider getting a box this Summer and giving them a try for yourself and remember they're a seasonal  product so don't wait- they'll be gone before you know it!

Disclosure: NestlĂ© has provided me with free product and other items in order to help with my review, but anything I receive from Nestle does not affect my thoughts on its company or their products. 

Enjoy a Drumstick and have a Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Milk's New Favorite Cookie!

I'm not usually one to follow food trends. I like to bake and eat what I want, when I want, and not just because "everyone else is doing it". Take these Oreo stuffed chocolate cookies for example. I remember seeing them A LOT last year but they didn't really appeal to me. But a few weeks ago, things changed when I was wanting to bake something using Oreos and Mr. H was wanting plain chocolate chip cookies. Insert this insane cookie and both our cravings were met.

Hayden at 6 months- He's changed so much already!
I googled and saw several different recipes for the Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookie and almost all of them linked back or credited Jenny of Picky Palate with this creation, so that's the recipe I went with. When I say these cookies are insane, I mean it. Let me prove it to you. Firstly, they are ginormous. Everyone kept saying they were "huge" and "really large" but what exactly does that mean? How "huge" can a cookie be?   Autumn let me borrow her tennis ball so I demonstrate the size of these cookies. Crazy, right? 

Jenny used Double Stuf Oreos, but I like the Reduced Fat Version because they have slightly less filling and aren't as greasy feeling on the tongue, but that's just personal preference. It's obviously not about calorie control when you're stuffing cookies into cookies. Mr. H likes the chocolate stuffed ones so I used those as well. You can use whatever type of Oreo you want here, even the store brand...I won't tell. 

Another reason these cookies are insane, is because each cookie is the equivalent of three cookies on one. You take a scoop of cookie dough, put it on top of the Oreo, you take another and put it on the bottom and you make an Oreo sandwich. Then you carefully squish it all together, wrapping the dough around the Oreo. You want to be careful not to break the Oreo when you do this. The Oreos with more filling tend to slide around a bit and are more prone to breaking. You can also refrigerate or freeze the Oreos to prevent breakage if you want, but it's not ultimately necessary. They will still taste the same. I think you could easily bake these in a muffin tin instead of a cookie sheet if you wanted and achieve a similar result if you're opposed to cookie making (ahem, Ingrid)

These cookies are ridiculously rich and pair well with a tall glass of icy milk. And one of them goes a long way. We cut ours in half and ate them that way, since they were easier for dunking and so we could choose which filling we wanted. These are fun and different and would make any Oreo cookie lover very happy. 

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies from Picky Palate

Printer Friendly Version 

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 10 oz bag chocolate chips
  • 1 package Oreo Cookies (not all will be used)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  
In a stand or electric mixer cream butter and sugars until well combined.  Add in eggs and vanilla until well combined.
In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda.  Slowly add to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips until just combined.  
Using a cookie scoop take one scoop of cookie dough and place on top of an Oreo Cookie.  Take another scoop of dough and place on bottom of Oreo Cookie.  
Seal edges together by pressing and cupping in hand until Oreo Cookie is enclosed with dough.  
Place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake cookies 9-13 minutes or until cookies are baked to your liking.  Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. 
Makes approximately 20-24 very large cookies

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sunny Citrus

Last month I had a giveaway for Baking Basics and Beyond cookbook, that Becca from Cookie Jar Treats won. We decided to pick a recipe and bake it "together". We both scanned the book and quickly settled on a recipe with bright refreshing flavors- Sunny Citrus Bars. Since both our mothers love citrus, we made these for them on Mother's Day. I made a full pan and presented half of them to my mother and the other half to my mother-in-law. It's the perfect tangy treat for sharing. 

Sunny citrus bars are essentially lemon bars with a shortbread crust, but the filling includes tart lemon juice and zest as well and sweet and aromatic orange juice and zest. So rather than a zingy filling, these are a little on the sweet side, especially since they're topped with a powdered sugar glaze after they've baked and cooled. They weren't as orangey as I thought they'd be, nor were they as lemony, but they were a nice balance in between. The filling was a little gooey, the crust a little crunchy. All in all, they were quite good and would satisfy any citrus craving. 

As far as lemon bars go, I think I prefer one with more pucker and these meyer lemon-lime bars are my still my favorite. I did, however, LOVE the shortbread crust and would definitely make that part of the recipe again. In fact I caught myself cutting off the edges of the crust "to make them prettier and more presentable" just so I could nibble on the buttery, crumbly, crunchy base. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

For The Crust: 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold butter

For The Filling: 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
For The Glaze: 
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 Tablespoons orange juice
Heat oven oven to 350 degrees F. with oven rack in the middle. Lightly spray bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. 

For The Crust: Mix the flour and powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Press crust evenly in bottom and slightly up sides of baking pan. (Mixture may appear a little dry and crumbly- this is okay.)

Bake 20-25 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F. 

For The Filling: Combine sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat in eggs using wire whisk. When smooth, stir in butter, both lemon and orange juice, then stir in both lemon and orange zests. Mix well and pour over the hot crust. 

Bake 25-30 minutes or until the filling is set in the center and a knife comes out clean, although it will still be be wet. Cool on a wire cooling rack to room temperature. 

For The Glaze: Combine powdered sugar and 2 Tablespoons orange juice in a small bowl and beat with a small whisk until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add more juice. Spread glaze over cooled bars. Allow glaze to set up then store bars in the refrigerator. 

Head on over to Becca's blog and check out her citrus bars. And while you're there, leave her a note of congratulations, she graduated from high school this past weekend! Congratulations Becca!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Tasty Snack and A Winner

Hope everyone has has a nice week. I feel like it was just Mother's Day and now it's the weekend again. We had a great Mother's Day and took Hayden to the park to play on the swings for the first time. He was a little hesitant but he had fun and kept trying to eat the chain links (ewww!). The rest of the week was filled with doctor visits and appointments and I was kept very busy. I did manage to squeeze in a much needed haircut since I hadn't trimmed my hair since before Hayden was born! Needless to say, I did not get to bake up anything new this week so I'm sharing a treat I made earlier in the year. 

Mr. H loves this snack. His mom has been making Goldfish Bowl Bites for as far back as I can remember. She serves it in a giant glass round bowl that looks like a Goldfish bowl and she covers it with yellow plastic wrap that she's had in the cupboard for the last 10 years, that she inherited from her mother-in-law. It's kind of funny, but that never ending roll of Plastic wrap is finally used up. haha! My mother-in-law hasn't made these in awhile so when Mr. H gets the craving we whip up a batch together. 

This snack is buttery, crunchy salty, and loaded with Ranch flavor. The original recipe calls for pretzel crackers but those aren't my favorite so we just use the plain and cheddar Goldfish. You can use any combination you'd like, though I would avoid those with extra flavoring like the pizza and extra cheesy ones. We also like to add a bit more Ranch powder and pecans but that's just personal preference. My changes are noted below. My favorite thing about this recipe is when you get a clump of crackers that get a bit more love from the butter and Ranch topping. As they bake those pieces get nice and crusty and pack a punch of flavor. I like to dig those fishies out and eat them first- so good! This recipes makes a lot and would be good for large crowds, parties, or school events but could easily be halved. Enjoy!

Goldfish Bowl Bites
Printer Friendly Version
  • 2 (6 ounce) bags plain Goldfish® crackers* (see note)
  • 1 (6 ounce) bag cheddar Goldfish® crackers
  • 1 (6 ounce) bag pretzel Goldfish® crackers
  • 1 cup pecan halves (I double this)
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 envelope (3 Tablespoons) Ranch salad dressing mix (I use 4 Tbsp.) 
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Combine crackers and pecans in large shallow roasting pan. Combine melted butter, Worcestershire and Ranch dressing mix. Pour over crackers; gently stir to coat. 

Bake 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Once evenly toasted, remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving.  

NOTE: Any combination of of Goldfish crackers will do. You just need 4 six-ounce bags. I like to use 2 plain, a bag of Cheddar and a bag of the baby Goldfish crackers. 

And the winner of the Chinet Bakeware is #42- Andrew's Mom of Mad Rantings of Andrew's Mom. Congratulations. Please email me with your address as soon as you can. Oh and send me your recipe for Mac and Cheese too :-)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chinet Bakeware® Review and Giveaway

I have a new and exciting product to share with you all today... Introducing Chinet Bakeware®! Yes, you read that right, the same people that make sturdy paper plates, and other disposable tableware have come up with an attractive line of non-stick and disposable bakeware that you don't have to worry about leaving behind. Ever taken a dish to a potluck, a school event, or to a neighbor and never gotten it back? Well with Chinet Bakeware®, you can bake up your favorite cheesy casserole, or gooey almond bars and take them anywhere. They even come with crystal clear lids so you can see inside while protecting the contents.

Chinet Bakeware® baking pans currently come in 4 different sizes- a 9x13, 8x8, and 2 oval casserole sizes. You can click the link HERE to see the measurements and capacity of Chinet Bakeware®. Each pack comes in a set of three, with the exception of the rectangular baker, it comes in a set of two. The bakeware is made in the USA of 90% recycled material. While the base is not recyclable, the lid is. One of the first things you'll notice about the bakeware is that it's just as sturdy as their paper plates. You can fill them and hold them without them collapsing or wobbling like foil bakers do. I tend to reach into the oven with one hand to take things out of the oven and I noticed that once heated, the bakeware was a little less rigid, so be sure to use both hands when removing the Chinet Bakeware® from the oven. 

The Chinet Bakeware® goes into the oven and onto the oven rack just like any other bakeware, or if you prefer you can place it on a sheet pan. The baking time and temperature does not need to be adjusted, but keep in mind that all ovens vary. It is paper but it's not going to burn or catch fire. It is oven safe up to 400 degrees F. though should NOT be used on the broil setting. Another good thing about these pans is that you can reheat food in them either in the microwave or oven, no need to transfer it to another pan. They're also freezer safe. Each pack of Chinet Bakeware® comes with instructions for use and tells you what you can and cannot do with the bakeware so if you have questions about the oven temperature or reheating, you can refer to the enclosed card.

This bakeware is also attractive and looks more like casserole dishes and bakeware that one would use in the home. It has a pale green exterior and black non-stick interior. I'd prefer if the non-stick liking came in a lighter color so it resembles stoneware, but the color surely does not affect the functionality of the product, it's just a personal preference. The non-stick lining is completely safe and non-toxic and it will not flake or scrape off with typical serving actions. Note: The bakeware is designed for one-time use and should not be washed and reused as it can weaken the pan.

My neighbor fell and broke her arm a couple weeks ago and had to have surgery on her shoulder. I baked up an Enchilada Casserole and some Almond Jam bars in these pans to take over to her. I did not spray the pans with non-stick spray and I have to admit I was a tad skeptical about them sticking. I waited for the bars to cool before cutting into them and they popped right out of the pan just as the brand promised. Sweet success! I did accidentally poke a tiny hole into the side of the pan with the tip of my knife, so be careful when cutting. My neighbor enjoyed the meal and I didn't have to worry about collecting my pans from her, nor did she have to worry about washing and returning them to me. Chinet sent me the bakeware for free but I was not compensated in any other way and the opinion that I express on here is my own. I would definitely purchase Chinet Bakeware® on my own. It is available in stores and online at I saw them this weekend at Wal-Mart and the average price was $4.99 per set. To find Chinet Bakeware® near you, click HERE.

I was going to give away one of my unused sets of Chinet Bakeware®, so one of you could try it out, but the generous folks at Chinet said they could do better than that. One lucky winner will receive a complete set (all 4 sizes) of Chinet Bakeware® courtesy of Chinet.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite potluck dish is. If you fail to answer that question your entry will not be counted. One comment per person please. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if you win- leave an email address if necessary. US residents only. I will announce a winner at the end of the week. Good luck!        

  • Enchilada Casserole ( I added another layer of tortillas to the top of the casserole and used more cheese. I also added salt and garlic to the meat mixture.)
  • Almond Jam Bars

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

December 2011
I always imagined what being a mother was like, but I never really got to experience it until Hayden was born. Parenting is hard work and it not always fun, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Sam and Jack made me a mom, but Hayden made me a parent. He makes me want to be a better person and has shown me what real beauty is. I fall in love with him and his crooked smile every day. I just love him so much and I'm thankful he chose me to be his momma. 

Happy Mother's Day to all you fabulous women out there. To those of you who will be celebrating with your mothers and children this Sunday and to those who are missing them. I share these flowers with you. 

Hayden- 6 months old;  Monica- about 5 years old
Love, Monica and Mini Me (aka Hayden)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Homemade Granola In Minutes

I have a quickie recipe for you today that would be perfect for Mother's Day or any day of the week. I'm talking about homemade granola. Most granola recipes have you bake the oat mixture in a low oven for about an hour or more, then you have to run to the oven every ten to fifteen minutes to stir it all up. And if you're anything like me you run to the oven when the annoying timer goes off, you open the oven door, pull the rack out being oh so careful to turn the mixture with the spatula only to knock the granola out of the pan and scatter all over your oven. And since it's so dang hot in there, you have to wait til the hour is up before you can clean it and you wind up with burnt little granola crispies on the bottom of your oven. Sounds like fun right? NOT. 

This recipe is easy peasy and made on the stove top in a large skillet in less that 20 minutes. It comes from my bloggy friend Danelle of Let's Dish. I've made several of her recipes and I've never been disappointed in any of them. I've made this recipe three times already and enjoyed it every single time. The first time I made it with dried cranberries, the second time I used dried cherries, blueberries and banana chips for crunch and the third batch I made for my mom. She didn't want coconut so we left that out and added cashews instead of almonds. Basically you can make it any way you want  by switching up the nuts and fruits and have it still turn out delicious. I especially love the unexpected addition of the sesame and sunflower seeds- don't leave those out. 

My favorite way to eat it is standing in the pantry, with the door still open, and scooping out little pinchfuls of the crunchy nuggets and chewy fruit. One nibble, two nibbles, four nibbles later, then I finally dish myself up a proper serving with yogurt and I turn it into a parfait with fresh fruit. The cool and creamy, the crunchy, the chewy, the burst of fresh fruit, the nuttiness. Oh, it's just so good! You can have it as a snack, for breakfast, or dessert anytime of year. One of the best parts is that it makes a healthy amount and stays fresh in the pantry in an airtight container for weeks (if it lasts that long). You can make it now and serve it up this weekend. If you ever have overnight guests it would be a nice addition to a continental breakfast like my friend Heather of Kitchen Concoctions set up. It would also make a thoughtful gift packaged up in a jar with a pretty label and a ribbon. It's certainly not a gift I'd refuse. 

Skillet Granola adapted from Let's Dish

Printer Friendly Version 
  • 4 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup sunflower kernels
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup dried fruit

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the honey, brown sugar, vanilla and almond extracts.  Add the oats, nuts, coconut, sunflower kernels and sesame seeds to the pan and stir until well coated with the butter/sugar mixture.  

Continue cooking, stirring frequently until granola is a dark golden brown, 10-20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in dried fruit.  Pour onto a cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.

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