Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Baking Monday – Caramel Gooey Bars

It's all in the name … how could I NOT want to try these bars? Not much to report on the baking process … I followed the recipe exactly and followed all the tips especially lining the pan with parchment and allowing lots of time for these to cool.

Cut into small squares … these are super rich and delicious! They were even better the next day. Enjoy!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Baking Monday – Chocolate Almond Cookies

I've had this recipe saved for awhile – these were really good! A few adjustments: I used almond extract instead of peppermint, omitted the green food coloring, cut cocoa to 1 tbsp, and cut back on the butter to 1.5 sticks. These were made as slice and bake instead of balls of dough. After mixing the vanilla and chocolate dough, split each flavor in half. Take one of each half, put them together, and roll into a short tube (repeat with other two halves). Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake. After cutting the cookies into 1/4" slices, I dipped the top of each cookie in sugar, though I didn't think that made a big difference, could be optional. They spread a LOT when baking, I put twelve on a tray, spaced generously.

Not only were these yummy (I love almond!), but they were very pretty to look at, too! They would also be good with peppermint or vanilla extract, and the vanilla side would also look nice tinted pink or green. I picked this week's flowered paper background on purpose … hoping that spring will be here soon!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Baking Monday – Glazed Lemon Cookies

A few weeks ago, I made Engagement Chicken for dinner. Clearly, I'm not angling for a proposal, but the story behind this recipe is so interesting, I had to try it out. True confession: First time I've ever cooked a whole chicken. It was very easy and delicious, but the neck stump really bummed me out. However, whole chicken is way cheaper than chicken breast, so I may have to channel my inner Laura Ingalls and make it more often. Anyhow, I ended up with some leftover lemons and knew I'd be making something lemony for dessert this week.

True confession #2: I hate lemon zest. For as much as I LOVE crunchy bits in cookies, ice cream, and just about any kind of food, I cannot bear citrus zest. Yes, yes, I know that that's where the best lemony flavor comes from … and I went back and forth trying to decide if I should use it or not for this recipe, but in the end decided to skip it once again.

These cookies were delicious! Bake until just browned around the edges – I took the first batch out a tad too early – and ice with lemon glaze, with sanding sugar for the something crunchy. Drizzling icing would be much easier, but there's something so soothing in spreading icing by hand if I've got the time (and the mini spatula!) The biggest surprise this week was the accolades from Mr. Hotcakes, who typically hates all fruity desserts (with the exception of apple pie). I expressed how shocked I was that he liked these cookies so much, and he said, "It's because they didn't have any (spoken with distain) lemon zest." Two peas in a pod, we are.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

This was a baking for no reason treat. I was feeling kind of blue, and baking cheers me up. I went with my go-to flavor of choice, peanut butter, and searched Pinterest for an easy bar recipe. This was originally a vegan recipe, but I replaced the "flax egg" with a regular out-of-a-chicken egg. I used milk chocolate chips (mixing them into the batter instead of sprinkling on top) and the remaining chopped up pb cups from last week's cheesecake.

These were tasty enough – and give the impression of being healthy because of the oats – but not a keeper. Even though this one won't go in my regular rotation, it was good for a sweet fix.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

I never ate cheesecake growing up … I was such a picky eater that the idea of making cake out of cheese just seemed wrong. It's only been in the last few years that I've started trying out cheesecake recipes (that have mostly included peanut butter). Last week, I made this one for Oscar night (sorry for the icky photography)!

This was pretty good … VERY rich! I may have left it in the oven for a bit too long – I've no idea how to tell when a cheesecake is done cooking – and consequently tasted just a little bit burned around the edges. I think with this recipe I've finally conceded that I should leave cheesecake baking to the experts and stick to cookies!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Lunch Notes, The Clark Years

I've posted about lunch notes before … how I was really good about sending them with Dora every day in K/1, kind of lost steam a bit with Theo … then took a break for a few years until Clark started Kindergarten. Even last year, notes were sporadic. But this year has brought a need for routine, and lunch notes are a part of that. Last year, Clark was petrified of buying anything in the lunch line, so I used to send a bottle of water every day (taking up valuable real estate in the lunch box!) This year, we worked on encouraging him to buy milk with lunch. The routine took some work … I met him in the cafeteria every day for a few weeks until he was confident enough to do it on his own. I don't know why the habit caused so much stress for both Clark and myself. I happened to catch the therapist outside the lunch room one day and was expressing my … embarrassment? frustration? anxiety? … that we had to go through this every day, to which she replied,

"You're giving your child what he needs. What's wrong with that?"

That has become my mantra over the last few months, dealing with Clark and his quirks. Whenever I get flustered and think, "How come (this kid) can do (that), but it's so hard for my kid?" I think of her words.

Anyhow … back on topic. Once he finally got the hang of buying milk on his own, lunch notes started out as a daily reminder, and turned into something he really looked forward to every day. If I happened to forget, I would see the Charlie Brown walk heading towards me at pick-up time. I've started snapping a picture of morning lunch notes as a little archive of this year in first grade.

By the way … not only does Clark now buy milk every day (and chocolate on Friday!) he will actually buy his lunch once a month! One small step for most kids, one giant leap for Clark.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Baking Monday – Chocolate Cupcake Assortment

There's a little archive of leftover frosting in the back corner of my fridge. In an effort to reclaim some of my food containers, I decided to find a way to use it all up this week. I made half a batch of chocolate cupcakes and gave them an assortment of toppings.

Vanilla buttercream with sprinkles ...

Chocolate buttercream with crushed cookies ...

Chocolate mint with green sprinkles ...

… and peanut butter with peanuts.

Something for everyone!