Friday, October 31, 2008

Anatomy of A Monster... Happy Halloween!

These really should be called Clean Out The Pantry Cookies, because that's exactly what I did. These cookies have it ALL- peanut butter, Reese's Pieces, oats, raisins, chocolate chips, white chocolate chunks, candy coated Kisses, pecans, toffee and a small left over bad of trail mix. Waste not want not!
I thought I would make these after Halloween, using leftover candy, but I decided to use what I had on hand that wasn't going to trick-or-treaters and I'm glad I did. I buy candy or get a lot of it as gifts and I never eat it. My husband loves Hershey miniatures, but we never eat the Krackle. Those would be perfect in this. I bought homemade toffee a couple months ago and I forgot in the back of the pantry :-( so I threw that in here too. It was kind of soft and not crunchy as it should be, so it melted like buttah in the cookies. Oh so good.
There are no rules, whatever you have, however much of it you have- it all works! Follow the basic recipe and throw stuff in and you'll have a different cookie every time. Now that I think of it, I have chocolate mocha truffles and marshmallow in the pantry too. Ooh, that could be good.
Monster Cookies adapted from King Arthur Flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. corn syrup
  • 2 tsps. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 c creamy peanut butter
  • 4 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 c. add ins (chopped nuts, chocolate chips, toffee, raisins, coconut, butterscotch chips, m&m's, chocolate chunks etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, both sugars, vanilla, corn syrup, baking soda, and salt. Stir til combined. Next add melted butter, then peanut butter, oats, and flour. Mix thoroughly. Stir in 3 total cups of add-ins. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes to allow the oats to absorb the butter.

Drop the dough onto baking sheets by the rounded tablespoon full. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 4 1/2-5 dozen cookies.

NOTE: If you want "monster" size cookies, drop the dough by the 1/4-cup. Slightly flatten the dough before putting the cookies in the oven. This size will yield you about 2 dozen 4 1/2-inch cookies.

I used a small ice cream scoop to shape my dough (about 1 1/2 tbsp). They took 15 minutes to turn golden, so bake yours accordingly. Using this size, I made 4 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies.

If you want the unadapted version visit here or here. I made these with 1 c. creamy peanut butter and 1/2 c. chopped pecans instead of 1 1/2 c. chunky peanut butter. I also added 1/2 c. less oats, so I could add other goodies without the batter being so thick :-)

These cookies are very rich, but I think next time I might lower the amount of salt in these cookies by half. There's salt in the nuts and peanut butter and I think they were slightly too salty for my liking. Those of you who like sweet and salty will love these!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Dreams

My husband and I got in a car wreck about a month ago. Our doctor prescribed us an anti-inflammatory drug to keep the swelling down. It has helped, but I've noticed when I take it at night right before bed, I have the strangest dreams.

The other night, I dreamt of pumpkin all night long. Even when I woke up to go to the bathroom and went back to bed, the vivid dreams continued. They were filled with pumpkin pie, pumpkin tarts, pumpkin cake, pumpkin bread etc. Needless to say, I woke up craving pumpkin.

I found this recipe in Everyday Food several months ago. I was attracted to it because it had a thick purely white layer of buttery cream cheese frosting on top. I bookmarked it but never made it. Many months had passed but after the dreams I had, I no longer had an excuse, it had to be made.

Last fall I made pumpkin bread and a Cinderella pumpkin cake. Both very good, but in different ways. I also spoke about my favorite pumpkin bread- it's rich and spicy, and dense and very pumpkin-y. The cake recipe I made only has one cup of pumpkin in it, this 9x9 cake has an entire can, so the flavor is not masked, it really stands out. It was so darn good. This would also be awesome to make into a loaf without the frosting. I can't wait to make it again.

Pumpkin Spice Cake With Honey Frosting from Everyday Baking

For the Cake:

  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. pumpkin-pie spice, (or 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 3/4 tsp. ginger, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. each allspice and cloves)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 (15 ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin puree*

For the Honey Frosting:

  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, butter, and pumpkin puree until combined. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, and mix gently until smooth.

Turn batter into prepared pan, and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan, and cool completely, right side up, on a rack.

Make Honey Frosting: In a medium bowl, whisk 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cream cheese, and honey until smooth. Spread top of cooled cake with Honey Frosting. Cut cake into squares to serve.

NOTE: *Be sure to use canned pumpkin puree — not pumpkin pie filling or fresh pumpkin puree.

You can also use a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan: Increase baking time by 25 to 30 minutes (tent loaf with foil if it browns too quickly).

I didn't melt the butter for the cake because apparently I didn't read the entire recipe before I started, but it didn't seem to make any difference. It was still very good.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chex Mate

I have been making this for years, usually around Halloween. It's become a fall tradition, of sorts.

I never followed a recipe, I just went with the flow. I never measured anything out, I just put chocolate chips and a big hunk of smooth peanut butter in a bowl and microwaved til creamy. I never added butter or vanilla, but it's a great addition. Then I tossed in the cereal (I prefer the corn) and shook the heck out of it in a large ziploc bag til it was fully coated in powdered sugar. I never measured out the sugar either. I just kept adding til it was white and resembled little mummy squares.

I'm a fan of throwing all kinds of stuff in a bowl til it turns good-peanuts would be good in this. Can you imagine chocolatey-peanut buttery-sugary coated nuts? Mmm! I call it Mummy Mix, but Chex calls it Muddy Buddies.

Mummy Mix from Chex

  • 9 cups Corn, Rice or Wheat Chex®
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside. In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

NOTE: I added about an extra cup of powdered sugar, an extra half stick of butter and another handful of chips. No wonder these were so good :-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

80's Movie Night Treats

This is a no-brainer. It's good, it's simple, kids and husbands alike can make it.

We had 80's movie night last weekend with my 13 year old brother. Since he was born in the 90's he is oblivious to Tom Hanks' classics like Big and The Money Pit. So we rented those along with The Indiana Jone's trilogy. It was a fun long weekend and it was made better by snacking on these. Next weekend we're watching Funny Farm, Sixteen Candles, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High- I'm so excited!

The Original Chex Mix from Chex

  • 3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
  • 3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
  • 3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
  • 1 cup mixed nuts
  • 1 cup bite-size pretzels
  • 1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated. Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dressed Up (In Oil & Vinegar) and Ready To Go!

I went to a 1st-birthday party last weekend for my friends' son, Ethan. (Happy Birthday Ethan!) My friend, Kristi did a wonderful job at hosting. Everyone was so welcoming, and sweet, but what did I expect of native Texans? We ate well, had good conversation and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the birthday boy.

I offered to make something so she wouldn't have to spend so much time in the kitchen and she took me up on my offer. I didn't want to make a dessert because I wanted the homemade monkey cake (it was a Curious George theme) to be center of attention. So I turned to a recipe from The Kitchen Sink. And she came through for me- thanks Kristin!
Tomato, Mozzarella & Salami Pasta Salad
  • 1 pound whole wheat short pasta, such as fusili, bowtie or penne
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup pearl-sized fresh mozzarella, drained
  • 1/4 pound salami, sliced about as wide as the pasta you are using
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, julienned
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (use the lower amount if you prefer a more tart dressing)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Boil the pasta in salted water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente.

Meanwhile, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, oil, mustard, salt and pepper flakes in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, salami, onion and basil on top of the dressing.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the large bowl. Toss to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature or cool.

NOTE: I think raw onions in pasta salad can be a little overwhelming, so I left them out. But this pasta salad was so good without them. You could also use about 1/2 c. bottled Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing in this recipe in lieu of the homemade dressing if you're pressed for time, but it is really quick and easy as long as you have all the ingredients. Other good additions would be olives and artichoke hearts.

I doubled the recipe and took most of it to the party, but I saved a little for my honey and me. I will definitely make this again!

Serves 8-10

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Comfort In A Biscuit

The weather has turned cool and that makes me crave comfort food. Chicken n' Dumplins, Chili and lightly sweetened cornbread, chunky beef stew, the list goes on. But the other night I was craving (and slightly drooling over) chicken and biscuits.

I make a simple chicken pot pie and I used the same filling but served it over freshly-baked-hot-from-the-oven biscuits. They were flaky, and tender, mildly salty from the salted butter I put on top before they went in the oven, and YUM!

We had them for dinner with the chicken/veggie mixture, for breakfast with plum jam and salted butter, and I also made breakfast biscuits with scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon. These biscuits were simple, basic (as the recipe title implies) and good.

Basic Buttermilk Biscuits from Paula Deen via Food Network

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup solid shortening
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Dissolve yeast in warm water; set aside.

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening. Add yeast and buttermilk and mix well.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and roll out to desired thickness. Cut with small biscuit cutter and place on greased baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

NOTE: The recipe doesn't say it needs kneading, but I found the dough a little sticky when I turned it out onto the counter. I kneaded about 1/2 a cup extra flour into the dough, just until it was no longer sticky. Don't over-knead or your biscuits will be tough. If your dough isn't sticky after adding all the ingredients together, don't knead it. It may be because it was humid here???

I made jumbo biscuits (about 3 inches wide) so they took about 18 minutes to turn golden. I don't have a biscuit cutter, so I used a flower shaped cookie cutter. You could also use a a glass or a cleaned out tin can.

I made 18 jumbo biscuits instead of 36 smaller biscuits. I kept them in an airtight container and reheated them in the toaster oven for a few minutes til warm. They stayed fresh for a few days, but they can be frozen and kept longer.

The trick to get your biscuits to rise properly is to not twist the cutter in the dough. Press the cutter down into the dough, and lift straight up, don't be tempted to twist.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Warning: The Aroma Emitted From The Oven Is Intoxicating (But Make It Anyway!)

My aunt has a pear tree in her backyard. She also grows tomatoes and peppers. She just gave us a brown paper bag full of pears. We ate a few, but decided to put the rest into this yummy bread.
I'm not sure exactly what kind of pears they were, but they were more like apples. They were crisp and ripe but never softened and weren't very sweet. From what I've been told, these are typical Texas pears. And they begged me to bake them into this wonderfully aromatic bread. I doubled the recipe and made my neighbors very happy.

Cornelia Walker Bailey's Pear Bread from Southern Cakes

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 c. softened butter OR or 3/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 c. peeled and finely grated ripe but firm pears
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir with a whisk to mix everything well. Stir the nuts into the dry mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the butter or oil, eggs, sugar, grated pear, and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and firm on top and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or a wire rack to cool completely, top side up.

NOTE: I doubled this recipe and made 4 loaves- 2 in glass pans, and 2 in metal pans. They baked for 55-60 minutes. The loaves in the glass pans peaked a little higher and made a rustic chasm down the center, as opposed to the loaves in the metal pans that baked a little more evenly. Both beautiful and totally delicious.

I just wanted to say, I first found this recipe from Bake or Break and saw it again on Leite's Culinaria, which confirmed that I needed to make this bread. And you do too! Go on now...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

C is for Chewy Chunky Chocolate Cookies

I'm not quite sure where this recipe came from. I do know it was from a magazine many years ago, but I'm not sure when or from which one. When I saw the recipe I immediately thought of my husband (my then boyfriend) and wrote it down on a post-it note and stashed it away. Baking has been a passion of mine for several years, although I didn't do too much of it when Mr. H and I first started dating. I do it more now that I have the time and this recipe is one of his favorites. I really believe this is the recipe that got him hooked. I make it every holiday season for give-aways and whenever my husband needs a chocolate fix.

I made a batch for a friend who just had a beautiful daughter and a batch for my husband (of course). We ate half of them with milk and the others were made into sandwiches using coffee ice cream- another favorite. Heaven.
Double Chocolate Chewies
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. Hershey's cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1- 12 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. chopped nuts
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs til well combined, then add flour, cocoa and baking powder until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 1-2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

NOTE: You can make this by hand in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. I have doubled this recipe and it makes it extremely difficult to mix (by hand and in a stand mixer). If you want to make a double batch, just take the time to make it twice. Believe me, you'll thank me.

Makes about 2-3 dozen depending on size.

For Ice Cream Sandwiches: Lay out cookies on a plate or cookie sheet (one that'll fit in your freezer). Match up cookies by size and turn one cookie upside down and leave the other right side up. Using a small ice cream scoop or melon baller, scoop slightly softened ice cream of your choice and place on upside down cookie. Gently press it's cookie partner on top. Freeze immediately. When they're completely frozen, wrap in waxed paper and refreeze til you're ready to eat them. I'm off to get one now!

Are you drooling yet?

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