Monday, December 16, 2013

Baking Monday – Gingerbread Cupcakes

By request: something Christmas-y with frosting. These gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon buttercream were super yummy.

I used my large scoop to fill the cupcake papers and they poofed up over the edge of the pan, boo. Filling the papers about halfway would probably be about right. I made cinnamon buttercream instead of cream cheese frosting, because that's my preference (1 stick softened butter, 4 cups sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon, add milk until piping consistency) and the cinnamon flavor was juuuuust right. Gingerbread isn't usually a favorite of mine, but the icing really sold these for me.

Plus, I had an excuse to buy cinnamon jellybeans (the BEST flavor, in my opinion!)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Clarkey's Barkey Bones

I've got a little story to tell today, my favorite thing that happened all last week. 

A few weeks ago, Clark checked a book out of the school library about making pet treats. He was SUPER excited about it, but we didn't have time to make them before the book was due back, so I scanned some of the recipes to use later.

The boys had a day off of school on Friday, so I put "Make Dog Treats" on our calendar for the afternoon. The recipe Clark wanted to try was for Peanut Butter Pooches, dog-shaped cookies. He was insistent that the cookies NOT be shaped like dogs, because "that wouldn't be good training … to think it was okay to bite another dog." So we agreed on bone-shaped treats instead.

He helped me mix the ingredients and cut out the treats. As we were working, he was trying to think of a new name for them, and decided on "Clarkey's Barkey Bones."

After giving one treat to Penny for a taste test, Clark had the idea to share them with all the neighborhood dogs.

He wrote out labels for all our furry friends.

And made a name tag, that I scanned, printed and tied to each bag.

We delivered the treats on Saturday. He was so excited to hand them out. Turns out, he didn't just want to drop treats and go … he wanted to personally give one to each dog we visited!

What a fun time we had with this. Clark sometimes struggles with his human relationships, but has such a soft spot in his heart for dogs. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Baking Monday – Coffee Chip Cookies

These cookies from Taste of Home were a total last-minute treat. As of 3:00 on baking day, I still hadn't picked out a recipe. These cookies sounded good, were quick to make, and I had everything on hand.

Sorry for the flecks in the pic - these turned out super soft and cake-like, more like whoopie pies than cookies. The coffee flavor is subtle. The recipe makes a ton - had I read the recipe a little more carefully before starting, it would have very easily cut in half. These were good, but not great. I think the texture threw me off. However, they would probably be good sandwiched with chocolate buttercream, mmm.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Belated Thanksgiving Treat

These are the cookies that traveled with us to Maryland this year, inspired by this turkey cookie platter from Sweet Sugarbelle. The feathers are made from a carrot cutter, the turkey from a #8, decorated with chocolate-covered sunflower seeds. The embellishments were a last minute addition. I was originally planning to pipe the details, and found the seeds when I was looking for the eyes … and I think they look even better than the piping would have! 


Gobble, gobble!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Baking Monday – Chocolate M&M Cookies

Today's Baking Monday comes by birthday boy's request!

Clark wanted chocolate cookies with M&Ms for his school treat. I went once again to Tracey's blog for inspiration, and both classroom teachers asked for the recipe! One change: I used mini chocolate chips in the batter and decorated the top of each cookie with M&Ms before baking. Super yummy and fun!

Oh, this kid. We  have our daily ups and downs. Let's focus on the ups: he loved his birthday goodies, presents, and celebrating at school. His birthday weekend included a fun day in NYC, a relaxing play day at home with Dad, and dinner out at Friendlys.

He also loves his new specs! Just a matter of time when you're a member of the Family Four-Eyes. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More Silhouette Fun

How cute is this little treat jar? Penny will do anything for food. We now laugh and laugh about how a woman at the shelter said that Penny was picky about treats. This is the dog who dug into a random leaf pile and pulled out a quesadilla last week. She will eat absolutely anything and everything that resembles food. Yes, the vet told us no people food, which I do follow, though she and I have an agreement that anything that falls on the ground is fair game. (This weekend, a pancake fell on the floor and Penny thought she hit the jackpot for half a second until I scooped it up and threw it in the trash. Sorry, girl!) The vet also said no treats, but these mini bones make a good low-cal incentive when needed.

Project #2 ... I've been wanting to do this for a long time! Keeping a stash of snacks on hand and food containers all in one place, right under the counter where lunch boxes are filled has made lunch prep go SO much smoother. It also makes it easy that each kid always takes the same thing for lunch. I used to stress about the lack of variety, but turns out that we all prefer the routine. (And happily, Wegmans doubles coupons for the drinkable yogurt that gets packed every single day!) 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Baking Monday – Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies

Chocolate pretzels are back! I found a great recipe to use up last week's leftovers that I knew would make my cc-loving husband very happy. 

This recipe was great ... don't forget the little sprinkle of sea salt before baking, it adds a nice salty crunch. There are still some pretzels left over, I'm thinking ice cream sundaes, with hot fudge and peanut butter, mmmm.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Baking Monday – Chocolate Pretzel Brownies

Jeff was out of town last week and my pb-loving friend was in charge of dessert delivery, so I went peanut butter crazy with this treat!

I used this recipe to start - had I been thinking ahead, I would have lined the baking pan (9x9") with parchment so I could frost and then lift the whole thing out to cut. But since I didn't think that far ahead,  plan B was to cut the cooled brownies then use a pastry bag to decorate. I think they turned out quite nice!

I used about half the butter suggested for the frosting recipe, and just kept adding confectioner's sugar and some milk until desired consistency. These were pretty good - brownies were dense and chocolatey and I love peanut butter frosting. I made lots of chocolate pretzels, so look for those to make a re-appearance next week!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blob Monsters!

One post-Halloween treat today! I made some eyeballs with leftover icing from the last batch of Halloween cookies. They didn't turn out great - stupid bleeding! But were perfectly creepy enough for some blob monsters. I was looking for a quick treat to bring to a pumpkin carving party and was inspired by these goodies

I went with my favorite mix - melting chocolate with a scoop of peanut butter, then added crushed pretzels and graham crackers. Instead of spreading into bark, I used a mini scoop to drop the blobs onto wax paper, then added eyeballs and sprinkles. Yummy!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Baking Monday – Banana Nutella Muffins

Always looking for recipes to use up brown bananas (every week, the kids promise they'll be eaten, and every week, I pitch a few more in the freezer!) and these certainly sounded worth a try. (It must be said again: every recipe I've tried from this blog - and there have been many - has been a hit!

Banana muffins alone don't thrill me, I need something else to sweeten the deal. These have peanut butter chips inside (my favorite) and a swirl of Nutella on top. Happily, a good friend brought me a giant jar of Nutella for my birthday (thanks, Jason!), perfect for baking (and spreading on graham crackers for a baking snack).

Yummy. Tracey's cocoa-banana muffins are still probably my favorite, but these will definitely have a place in our brown-banana-baking rotation.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Cookies!

We went to a Halloween party last week and I brought along these goodies. It's been a LONG time since I've made cookies just for fun, and these were such a nice treat. Plus chocolate cutouts are one of my favorites! I'm happy that I sampled one during the decorating process, because they were gone quickly once arriving at the party!

These designs were all inspired by other cookie artists - the pumpkins from Sweet Sugarbelle (I'll do them without the outline next time!) and the ghosts and skeletons are from Make Me Cake Me. I would never have attempted skeletons before seeing these - so easy and cute!! I already had the tulip cutter on hand from the first time I made ghosts. (Ugh, so spotty! And terrible eyes! On second thought, don't look at that link!) Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Homemade Potstickers!

I don't often post savory recipes, because I think that every recipe needs to have a photo, but I stink at photographing food, especially dinner food, because I don't have time to stage ... I'm hungry! So apologies for the lame photos, but I wanted to post this recipe because I was proud of myself for making something that seems complicated, but is really pretty easy. 

I did some searching to find a good recipe to adapt. I was really nervous about using raw meat, because the cooking time is so short, but no worries! These cooked up so quickly and well done. I found a recipe that was most similar to what I was looking for and made some adjustments:

Chicken Potstickers

1 pound ground chicken
1 cup shredded cabbage (already had on hand from another meal this week!)*
1/4 tsp pepper**
1 egg
2 cloves minced garlic
4 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp sesame oil
40 wonton wrappers

Mix all ingredients together. Scoop (mini scoop!) into center of wonton wrapper. Rub water around the edges of the wrapper and join the corners to meet in the center, sealing all edges. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment and refrigerate covered until ready to cook.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add small amount of canola oil to pan. Once oil is hot, add the dumplings and cook until they are golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water to the pan, cover and turn the heat down low. Cook until water is almost all gone, about 10 minutes.

*I thought these were a little short on veggies ... I'd also add a finely chopped red pepper next time.
**I had also originally added salt ... they don't need it, soy sauce makes them plenty salty.

The recipe makes about 40 dumplings ... I cooked half for dinner and froze the rest. (Freeze on cookie sheet until firm, then transfer to a freezer bag. Thaw before cooking.)

(And here's another pic so you can see the yummy browned bit on the bottom!) 

On the night I made these, Jeff was working until 8 pm. I thought I'd make the kids their own early dinner, and he and I would have these together later in the evening. But something amazing happened while assembling ... all three kids wanted to know what I was making, and two requested to have them with their dinner, as well! So I make a small batch to serve along with their hot dogs and mac & cheese - and they actually liked them! Next time, I'll serve them to everyone with rice (save some plain for the pickies) and a veggie on the side. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Brownie Bars

Pull up a chair and a glass of milk, peanut butter lovers! These are SO good. The original poster gave them the unfortunate name of "brookies" - half brownie, half cookie. (And seriously, I have to learn how to style / photograph food as nicely some day. Gorgeous!) I made a couple of changes to the recipe - butter instead of Crisco, milk chocolate chips instead of mini pb cups. And even though there are two parts to the dessert, these still come together quickly - they take no longer than cookies that would have to be scooped or shaped. Spreading the top layer could be tricky ... I used my mini scoop to cover the brownie batter with rows of the cookie dough and then used my fingers to gently smooth it together.

These were fantastic. I took them out of the oven when they were starting to get brown on top, but because they are so thick, they stayed slightly undercooked in the center ... gooey and amazing! They did not last long at our house. Definitely a keeper! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Artist Cookies

These were made for our little friend's seventh birthday party. The party was held at an art studio where all the guests got a mini art lesson and painted a picture to take home. This mom always finds the neatest places to have her kids' parties!

The birthday girl is quite an artist - I'm routinely blown away by the detail of her work! She and Clark are the same age, and this girl was drawing landscapes when Clark was barely putting a stick face together. 

I really enjoyed making these - I love colorful cookies, but the icing bleed stresses me out. (See blue in the palette above, ugh.) I made the palettes with Sweet Sugarbelle's tip, and the brushes are a carrot base with a rose blossom top.

The painting cookies were fun, and these frame cookies also would have been a great party favor (didn't think of this until it was too late - maybe for Dora's birthday!)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

I'm always collecting recipes, and sometimes I sit on them for a long time, while others need to be made right away! This is one that couldn't wait for long - it sounded and looked too good. It's a doctored-up cake mix, similar to the caramel brownies that we love, but this time with a peanut butter twist.

(Huh. Quick edit: this is Hotcakes history being made! I just searched back through the blog for the caramel brownie link, and guess what? These bars are a rerun! I had no idea!)

Okay! So, turns out, I've made these before. Apparently, they weren't memorable enough the first time around to have stuck in my brain. But still very sweet and very good. I guess if I'm starting to repeat myself, it's time to tackle the folder of recipes collected long ago. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Silhouette Fun!

So, as mentioned before, I got a Silhouette cutter this summer. And I've been enjoying finding new things to make with it. This is a card that I made for my cousin's wedding. I went a little crazy with the shapes, but it was fun to put together. I used this card as inspiration ... by the way, the Silhouette America Pinterest board is a great place to find ideas!

To make the mini hearts, I lined up strips of scrapbook paper left over from our anniversary party. (Oh yeah, we had an anniversary party this summer. It totally rocked.)

I purchased outlines for the banners, though the shape would have been easy enough to make.

The strings were faux-taped on the back of the card. Hard to see from the pic, but the "tape" strips have torn edges on the short sides.

I also used the strips to "tape" a name tag to the front of the envelope.

Final product with coordinating envelope insert!