Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Want to make cookies, but don’t have a lot of time? These easy chocolate chip cookie bars are the perfect cookie bar recipe to add to your snack agenda. They offer all of the taste of a chocolate chip cookie, but are made in a chocolate chip cookie bar instead of the more labor-intensive drop cookie.

When I was growing up, my mom made many varieties of bar treats for us. We ate a lot of lemon bars, brownies, and chocolate chip cookie bars as snacks. When I would go to my friend’s houses though, their moms made homemade cookies and I would come home and beg my mom to make cookies instead of bars. I never understood why she always made bars for us…until now! Yes, I consider this the world’s most genius cookie shortcut!

Bars are so much easier than cookies and you dirty up a heck of a lot less pans. There is no cooling on racks that has to be done or switching of cookie sheets. All you have to do to make these cookies is mix and dump. Within minutes you can be snacking on a plate full of cookie bars without the mess or work that regular cookies can be.

Looking to achieve a bar cookie with a crisp edge that holds it shape when cut? Try my trick and keep a plastic knife handy in your utensil drawer. You can cut them into perfect squares without the crumby mess, even when they aren’t fully cool.

I think the best part about these is the gooey center where all of the chocolate seems to reside. You get all of the crispness on the outside, with the soft gooey center on the inside. You will find the same delicious delight in my easy homemade granola bars, that happen to be another one of our favorite treats!

These have become my favorite cookies to make and to share with others. I know after you try this recipe, they will be a favorite of yours too!

4.5 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
 
The world's easiest way to make a big batch of chocolate chip cookies by making them in one big pan. These make the perfect after school treat or a fun weekend surprise for the kids.
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9×13″ pan.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, both sugars and vanilla in large mixer bowl.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
  5. Gradually beat flour mixture into butter mixture.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
  7. Spread into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

What is your favorite easy cookie or treat to bake for your kids?

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Getting To Know Your Bread Machine (Easy Recipes & Tips for Busy Families)

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

One of the most invaluable appliances in our home is our bread machine and today I wanted to share with you why I think a bread machine is a wise kitchen investment. This tutorial will offer advice on what to look for in a bread machine, how to use your bread machine, and the best bread machine recipes that our family enjoys on a weekly basis.

Perhaps you already have a bread machine that has been gathering dust in your kitchen or basement. Many people buy these appliances and then end up donating them to their local thrift store because they never use them. I think of the bread machine as a modern day convenience, but in a culture where we want everything NOW, waiting for a loaf of bread can seem like an eternity.

Why wait for a hot loaf of fresh bread when you can grab a loaf at your supermarket?

And what exactly is the purpose of that appliance that is taking up space on your shelves? Let’s get to know our bread machines and find a new way to use them.

What is A Bread Machine or Bread Maker?

A bread making machine or bread maker is a home appliance for baking bread.The bread machine is simple in its construction and consists of a bread pan (or “tin”), at the bottom of which are one or more built-in paddles, mounted in the center of a small special-purpose oven. This little oven is  controlled by a simple built-in computer, the settings for which are inputted on the control panel. Most bread machines have different cycles for different kinds of dough—including white bread, whole grain, European-style (sometimes labeled “French”), and dough-only (for pizza dough and shaped loaves baked in a conventional oven). Many also have a timer to allow the bread machine to activate without operator attendance, and some high-end models allow the user to program a custom cycle.

Some of the older machines have just a handful of simple settings while newer machines offer more advanced cycles including a cycle to make jam or to bake cakes. To be honest, I don’t use the fancy cycles on my bread machine and rely mostly on the Basic and the Dough cycle, which can be found on every machine. The basic cycle is just the basic setting for making a loaf of bread. The Dough cycle just completes the kneading and rising of the dough. Once the dough cycle is complete, you can take the dough out and shape it into your loaf pan or do fancy braids or rolls out of the dough.

The purpose of a bread machine is simple;  you are able to make fresh bread when you want it. The reasons vary from person to person on why they choose to make their own bread. Many people have concerns about the additives and preservatives that are found in store-bought breads. Another reason that many people choose to make their own bread is because they just enjoy the taste of homemade bread. My reasoning for making our own bread is because I like to save our family money. Making your own bread costs so much less than purchasing a loaf of bread, and the rising grocery costs have only fueled my desire more to make it at home.

How Do You Add Ingredients to a Bread Machine?

Inserting your ingredients into a bread machine is also very straightforward. If you are making the loaf right away, you can insert the ingredients in any way that you want. All of these ingredients will immediately be stirred together and so it will not matter what the order is. If you use a timer delay on your bread machine, delaying the start time of making your loaf, it is imperative that you put the ingredients in the right order or your loaf will not turn out right. The order of ingredients is liquid (liquids include water, oil, milk, eggs, or honey), flour, other dry ingredients (salt, sugar, baking powder, seasonings), and ending the ingredients with your yeast. The most important part of putting the yeast in is to make sure that you make a small indentation into the center of the flour so that the yeast does not react with the other ingredients.

Upon inserting your ingredients, your bread machine will take over the process from there. The machine will knead the ingredients together, give the bread its rising time, and then it will bake the bread. The bread machine will signal when the bread is ready and you can allow the bread to cool inside of the bread bucket.

Do I Need to Buy Bread Machine Mixes For My Bread Machine?

There is no need to spend the money on convenience bread machine mixes; in fact, you can make your own convenient mixes handy for the week. I take plastic storage bags and make an assembly line of the dry ingredients and do my bags once a month. On the outside, just write what liquids you will need to add and you will only have a dirty kitchen once instead of weekly.

What is the difference between Instant Yeast, Bread Machine Yeast and RapidRise Yeast?

Just their names because these are all the same yeast. Nothing like making it EXTRA confusing for a novice bread-maker.

Is There Savings in Making Bread at Home?

A quick glance at grocery store prices and you will wonder how there could be any possible savings with making your bread at home. The key to making this the least expensive on your family is to purchase all of your ingredients at your local wholesale club. With proper storage, you can buy the ingredients in bulk and save your family loads of money.

I don’t use my wholesale club membership very often except for our family’s eye care needs and for the occasional party. I won’t ever let my membership lapse though because with one trip to buy my baking supplies, my wholesale club membership has earned its space in my wallet. I make a trip twice a year to buy all of the necessary supplies for my baking and pizza-making needs.

Don’t believe me? Here is the current prices from my local Sam’s Club:

25 Pounds Bread Flour- $6.59 (needed depending upon the recipe)

25 Pounds All-Purpose Flour- $6.68 (needed depending upon the recipe)

2 Pounds of Yeast- $4.16

Cheese (5 pounds for $10.43) , pepperoni (5 pounds for $11.88), and crushed tomatoes (102 ounces for $2.68) can also be bought at a fraction of the price, but in the past I have lacked the capacity and ambition of storage for all of the ingredients.

As a side note, if you do own a membership to Sam’s Club, they have a wonderful Click ‘N Pull service that you can utilize for your shopping day and they can pull the ingredients right to the front and email you when your order is ready to pick up. This is a fantastic free service for moms with small children or who are short on time!

How Do I Store My Bread Machine Ingredients?

For storage, flour can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container. With bulk storage, a large plastic bin that has been clearly labeled is ideal to keep your flour fresh. Yeast is the easiest ingredient to store and has a very long shelf life. I store my yeast in a mason jar in our refrigerator door. With both of these ingredients, writing an expiration date on the label will also remind you of when the item is going to expire. I have also provided a handy Yeast Freshness Test that you can use to see if your yeast is still working. This will come in handy when buying yeast in bulk.

What Kind of Bread Machine Should I Buy?

If you do not have a bread machine and are looking for one, garage sales and thrift sales are a great place to hunt. I see these machines for $10 or less, and you will definitely get your money back from the savings of making your own bread. When you find one, ask if you can plug it in and make sure it is working. Just check that it actually powers up, that there is a bread bucket inside, and that there is a paddle in the bottom of the bread machine to stir the ingredients. Having a manual with it is handy, but usually can be found by searching online.

Over the past five years, I have been using my Sunbeam Bread Machine with great success. All of my past models have been found at the thrift shops and garage sales, but when our bread machine quit on us, I ran out to our local superstore so we wouldn’t have to miss our weekly pizza night. You know an appliance has become invaluable to you if you can’t imagine a day without it. Our bread machine is that invaluable to us.

What Are Some Foolproof Bread Machine Recipes I Can Try With My Family?

On any given day in our house, you will find our bread machine happily humming along and whipping up fresh dough and bread for us. Not only that, but our bread machine has a regular performance in our house on Friday night for our infamous weekly family pizza night.

Here are a few of our family favorites, but you can learn more in my first book, “The Good Life For Less,” that is available on bookstore shelves now: 

The Perfect Pizza Dough (so easy that your kids can roll this one out on their own!)

Bread Machine Pita Pockets

Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Whole Wheat Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Bread Machine Calzones

Bread Machine Portuguese White Bread

 

Bread Machine Monkey Bread/Bunny Bread

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls 

 


Yeast Freshness Test
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Not sure if your yeast is still fresh and active? This simple test will help determine if your yeast is still performing!
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup warm tap water (110°F-115°F)
  • 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast (make sure it is at room temperature)
Instructions
  1. Using a one-cup liquid measuring cup, dissolve 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar in ½ cup warm tap water at 110°F-115°F. Using a thermometer is the most accurate way to determine the correct liquid temperature. Any thermometer will work as long as it measures temperatures between 75°F and 130°F. If you don't have a thermometer, the tap water should be warm but NOT hot to the touch.
  2. Stir in one ¼ oz. packet (7g) or 2-1/4 tsp of dry yeast until there are no more dry yeast granules on top.
  3. In three to four minutes, the yeast will have absorbed enough liquid to activate and start to rise.
  4. After ten minutes, the foamy yeast mixture should have risen to the 1-cup mark and have a rounded top.
  5. If this is true, your yeast is very active and should be used in your recipe immediately.
  6. If the yeast did not rise to the 1-cup mark, your yeast has little or no activity. Discard this yeast.

Do you have a bread machine? What is your favorite thing to do with this appliance?

 

I love helping you cook in the kitchen! If you like this cooking tutorial,  be sure to visit my tutorial on How to Cook A Butternut Squash With the Skin On, How to Roast a Spaghetti Squash, and  How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker.

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Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Cinnamon rolls are one of those treats that I always found intimidating to make in the kitchen. Luckily, with my bread machine, these are a cinch to pull together and enjoy on a lazy Saturday morning. Today I want to share with you my bread machine cinnamon roll recipe to create this yummy treat at home in your kitchen.

Growing up, one of my favorite Saturday treats was a Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll. My mom would make these for us on Saturdays and we always fought over the ones that had the most frosting. Sadly, it was such a thrill when my dad worked in the mornings because that meant that there would be two extra rolls for us to fight over. Who could resist those rolls and the simple pleasure of having a sweet treat once a week?

I still love those cinnamon rolls, but at $1.69 a roll, they are an unnecessary addition to the grocery budget. What I do have though is flour and sugar, purchased in bulk, and a bread machine that can turn out cinnamon roll dough like nobody’s business.

The best part about making these cinnamon rolls is that you can vary the sizes and I can make mini-versions of the rolls for the little kids and tuck these in the center of the batch so that they don’t get overdone. The kids love these mini versions and I control the amount of sugar they are getting. Just give them a teeny drizzle of frosting and they will be set!

Of course, I have been know to reheat these in the microwave for a nice snack in the evening or for breakfast the next day. Place one on a microwave-safe plate and zap for about twenty seconds. It make a great snack paired with a hot cup of coffee.

Tomorrow I will be sharing more about our beloved bread machine and what you can do with it! For now, I hope you can enjoy this easy and delicious treat with your family!

 


5.0 from 1 reviews
Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
Homemade cinnamon rolls are a breeze when created in your bread machine. This bread machine cinnamon roll recipe is foolproof and a perfect Saturday morning treat.
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups skim milk
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil or canola oil
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • Cinnamon Roll Filling: ⅓ cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • Cinnamon Roll Glaze: ½ cup powdered sugar to 1-2 tablespoons milk
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer.
  2. Select DOUGH CYCLE and start machine.
  3. Preheat your oven to 100°F and then turn off.
  4. When dough cycle is complete remove from machine.
  5. Roll out to about 12 x 15″ and spread with butter or margarine. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over all and roll up tightly .Roll it tightly and slowly, being careful to keep all the filling inside. At this point you should have a long log that you can cut your rolls from. You can wrap the dough with plastic and store in the fridge overnight or you can slice your rolls and put them on your cookie sheet or pizza stone.
  6. If preparing now, cut into as many rolls as you want. (I usually make ten large rolls).
  7. For the next day or right away: Cover with cloth and put in the warm oven for 45-60 minutes to rise.
  8. When doubled remove from oven.
  9. Turn oven to 400°F and when you put the buns in the oven, reduce temperature immediately to 375° and bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.
  10. When the rolls are done, drizzle your frosting over the rolls and serve them warm or room temperature (although they are best served warm).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guest Post: Peppermint Candy Cane Ice Cream

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The holidays seem like so long ago already.  The Christmas lights are down, the ornaments packed away, and we’re charging ahead into the new year.  If you’re like us, the only remnants are a handful of candy canes leftover from the too many boxes we bought in a fit of holiday spirit.

In hindsight, the candy cane excess was the best decision ever made because it led to what may be the tastiest homemade treat I’ve made all winter:  Peppermint Candy Cane Ice Cream.

Super minty and winter fresh, this ice cream is the stuff Frosty the Snowman’s dreams are made of.  It is downright delicious.  You may even find yourself clearing out the boxes of candy canes left at the store just to make more batches of this ice cream.  Good move!  They’re probably on sale!  You win at life.

This recipe starts with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Base – a tried and true method that may seem slightly unconventional, but results in creamy dreaminess.  Jeni’s method for making her famous scoop shop ice cream at home uses a bit of cream cheese and cornstarch rather than egg yolks to achieve a wonderfully dense and creamy texture.  Best of all, it doesn’t require the fuss of making a custard base with all that tempering, and careful heating, and straining.  Less time fussing, more time ice cream eating.  Words to live by.

To our sweet cream blank canvas, all that’s left to do is add a few teaspoons of peppermint extract and crushed candy canes, and wait for that ice cream maker to do its thing.

Prepare to be quite pleased with yourself.  This Peppermint Ice Cream will become a perennial favorite.  Here’s what I’m dying to do…are you ready?  I can’t wait to try topping a mug of hot chocolate with a scoop of this stuff!

Full of sweet cream and minty winter freshness, this peppermint ice cream is the perfect way to polish off those candy canes.  It is so good, I guarantee it will become a perennial favorite, holiday season or not.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Peppermint Candy Cane Ice Cream
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 quart
 
Don't throw out those leftover candy canes after the holidays! Reinvent those candy canes into a fun frozen treat that the whole family will love!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1½ ounces cream cheese, softened/room temperature
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1¼ cup heavy cream
  • ⅔ cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 4 crushed candy canes (pulse in a food processor)
Instructions
  1. IMPORTANT NOTE: 24 hours (or more) BEFORE you want to make the ice cream, make sure to wash the canister, dry it well, and place it in the coldest part of the freezer. Do not remove it until you are ready to pour the chilled ice cream mixture into it.
  2. In a small bowl, mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch to make a smooth slurry.
  3. In a large bowl, add the salt and room-temperature cream cheese and whip until smooth.
  4. Make an ice bath (heavy on the ice) and set aside.
  5. Pour the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and remaining milk into a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, set a timer for precisely 4 minutes and boil for exactly 4 minutes—the timing is critical. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Return the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  6. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Do this a little bit at a time so that you can whip out any lumps of cream cheese. Mix in the peppermint extract.
  7. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag, seal, and submerge the bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until very cold, about 30 minutes.
  8. Set up your ice cream maker and pour the chilled base into the frozen canister. About 10 to 15 minutes into the churning process, sprinkle in half of the crushed candy canes. They will mostly dissolve, turning your ice cream a pretty pink color. The ice cream is finished when the machine isn’t freezing the ice cream anymore; the ice cream will begin to pull away cleanly from the sides (about 25 minutes).
  9. Eat right away, sprinkling the remaining candy cane bits on top of your scoop – there are few things better than freshly churned ice cream – or if you’re storing for later, press a piece of parchment paper directly against the surface and seal in an airtight, freezer-safe container. When you remove the ice cream from the freezer, let it sit and relax until it is scoopable. Once you’ve scooped it, be sure to return any remaining ice cream to the freezer. If the ice cream has melted too much at room temperature, refreezing it will result in an ice cream that is too icy.

Adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, by Jeni Britton Bauer

I would like to say thank you to my fabulous guest blogger, Stephanie Hua,  today for sharing this fantastic guest blog entry with our readers! You really must head right over to see Stephanie’s blog.  I am SO darn proud of my friend because she is out there pursuing her dream to start culinary school and kicking butt at it already. Read about her first day at culinary school and visit Lick My Spoon for fresh takes on delicious & healthy dishes. She even has t-shirts!! I wear mine proudly and my husband can attest that this is one of my favorite shirts to wear!

Now hurry over to her blog! 

Stephanie Hua is the creator of Lick My Spoon, a place for all things delicious. So far she has learned that she very much enjoys salted caramel anything, a good soup dumpling is worth a scalded tongue, and a barrel of cheese balls never ends well.  Follow her on Facebook and @lickmyspoon.

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Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream With DIY Conversation Heart Toppers

Monday, January 21st, 2013

If there is anything better than a beautiful homemade red velvet cake, than it is that same red velvet cake flavor turned red velvet cake ice cream. Red velvet cake batter ice cream is an easy treat to whip up and is a fun one to enjoy for Valentine’s Day.

If you haven’t tried my cake batter ice cream before, this is a recipe worthy of a repeat with all new flavorings. This ice cream recipe is, by far, my favorite recipe for ice cream. There is no cooking of ingredients required, I usually have all of the ingredients on hand in my refrigerator, and the cake mix can be your own favorite variety or a cake mix that you need to use up in your cupboard. It is so rich and creamy and tastes just like your favorite ice cream shop, without the hefty price tag!

To make this ice cream more festive, we topped it with the new Brach’s Create Your Own Conversation Hearts. If you haven’t seen these, they are absolutely adorable and a fun way for kids to practice their writing. Have you children write their favorite messages on their hearts with a food-safe pen or draw tiny Valentine’s Day pictures to decorate them. They would make a fun addition, not only to a fun ice cream treat, but would be a sweet personalized addition to your valentines for your child’s classmates. These little hearts are sold exclusively at Walmart!

Since I couldn’t partake in the red velvet cake batter ice cream goodness this year, I spent some time browsing the grocery aisles to see if I could find any dairy-free options for a birthday treat at the store. Lucky for me, Walmart does offer several varieties of Häagen Dazs sorbets (I tried the raspberry & melon) as well as So Delicious Dairy-Free Creamy Vanilla. They were all so delicious! With sweet treats like this, I didn’t even miss the ice cream this year for my birthday. I’m looking forward to making sorbets and dairy-free ice cream alternatives in my kitchen this year!

In the meantime, enjoy this easy and delicious Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream for a sweet treat with your favorite little valentines!

Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream With DIY Conversation Heart Toppers
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
 
A rich and decadent ice cream treat perfect to share with your favorite little valentines!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup skim milk, well chilled
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup red velvet cake mix
Instructions
  1. Place freezer bowl of ice cream maker into the freezer. Chill the freezer bowl for a minimum of 24 hours.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.
  4. Whisk in cake mix, making sure there are no lumps.
  5. Pour mixture into the freezer bowl and let mix until it has thickened (about 25-30 minutes). Remove ice cream from freezer bowl and place into a separate freezer-safe container.
  6. Place freezer bowl and the ice cream into the freezer to further harden (at least three hours).
  7. Serve with your favorite sundae toppings.

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

 

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Easy Microwave Peanut Brittle

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Continuing our theme with easy no-bake treats that cost under $5 or less, I wanted to share with you my easy microwave peanut brittle for holiday gift giving. Making peanut brittle in the microwave is so easy and is the perfect gift to give for the holiday season. If you haven’t tried making microwave peanut brittle, you are in for a real treat.

This brittle makes a perfect guy gift to give paired with an inexpensive hammer tied with festive ribbon. I found my hammers at our local hardware store for $2.99 and found cookie sheets for giving at our dollar store for a buck. With a few simple ingredients in your pantry, you have the makings for an easy gift to give and to share around the holiday season.

The only trick with making peanut brittle in the microwave is keeping a CLOSE eye on it so you don’t burn your nuts. I used my Pampered Chef large batter bowl to prepare the brittle in and found that six minutes seemed to be just the right amount to cook it in the first stage. Microwaves and bowl sizes vary so check it after five minutes and see how the brittle is looking. 

Easy Microwave Peanut Brittle
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
An easy peanut brittle that you can prepare right in the microwave. Package it with a hammer for a fun guy gift for the holiday season.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup lite corn syrup
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
Instructions
  1. Grease a baking sheet & set aside.
  2. In a glass bowl, combine peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, and salt.
  3. Cook in microwave for six minutes on high (keep one eye on it to make sure it isn’t bubbling over or burning the nuts). The mixture should be bubbly and the peanuts should be brown.
  4. Stir in butter & vanilla; cook for two to three more minutes.
  5. Quickly stir in baking soda, just until the mixture is foamy.
  6. Pour immediately onto greased cookie sheet.
  7. Let cool for fifteen minutes or until set. Break into pieces.
  8. If packaging for gifts, leave the brittle in tact and package with a hammer for gift-giving.

Looking for other easy & inexpensive gifts to give? Check out my tutorial for Sugar & Spice Nut Mix, Knitted Coffee Cozies, DIY Monogrammed Wine Glasses, Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows, Gingerbread Biscotti, Easy No Bake Cheesecakes in a Jar,  and DIY Mustache Mugs!

Not enough for you?? Here are 36 more holiday gift ideas!

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Sugar & Spice Nut Mix

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Not everyone is a baker and that is why I wanted to share with you an easy sugar & spice nut mix that you can pull together for your holiday giving that is as impressive as any holiday cookie. Making your own flavored nut mixes might not be something you have considered for the holidays, but once you try this delicious nut mix, you will have a hard time giving these sugared and spiced nut mixes away.

My variety of nuts include pecans, almonds, and walnuts. You can choose any combination of nuts that you might love or just keep things simple and roast only your absolute favorite. These nuts are then tossed with an egg white, water, sugar and some of my favorite holiday spices- cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice.

Once you pull them hot out of the oven, I sprinkle liberally with kosher salt to add that sweet and salty combination I love so much in everything from my salted caramel mochas to my dark chocolate & sea salt brownies. The salt really adds to the flavors and helps make these even more addictive.

Package these nut mixes up in a pretty box tied with ribbon. I found these little Wilton boxes at our local grocery store, but I am sure they have something similar at your favorite craft store. I lined the interior of them with a little tissue paper and finished them with satin ribbon.

Sugar & Spice Nut Mix
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
An easy nut mixture to create from spices in your pantry and perfect for your holiday snacking or giving.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling
  • 2 cups pecans, halves
  • 2 cups whole almonds
  • 2 cups walnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the beaten egg white, sugar, and all of your spices (except the salt).
  3. Add the nuts and stir until coated well.
  4. Spread evenly onto a greased cookie sheet or baking pan.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
  6. Spread out on parchment paper and sprinkle, while still hot, liberally with coarse salt.
  7. Package for your gift-giving needs.


 

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Gingerbread Biscotti

Monday, December 10th, 2012

One of my favorite gifts to give is homemade biscotti. This gingerbread biscotti is the perfect gift to give and this easy gingerbread biscotti recipe is a great recipe to try for your holiday giving and cookie trays this year.

Cut-out sugar cookies can be a time-consuming project so I often rely upon big batch items like biscotti (Snickerdoodle or Oreo biscotti, anyone?) or easy food items to prepare in large quantities like Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows or Hot Cocoa or Vanilla Chai mixes that can be made in one batch and assembled easily into smaller gifts.

If you can make cookies, you can make biscotti! Biscotti is basically a twice baked cookie that is perfect for coffee dunking. This Gingerbread Biscotti is filled with all of the flavors you love in gingerbread- molasses, brown sugar, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon and then drizzled with an easy glaze to dress them up a bit.

These can be packaged in festive treat bags with a little ribbon and would make a cute accompaniment to a favorite homemade drink mix, coffee, or the makings of a coffee gift basket with my homemade peppermint syrup or gingerbread syrup for easy homemade lattes.

The most important thing with this biscotti, I have found, it to keep any eye on it because it will go from done to burnt rather quickly! Start checking these after twenty minutes and don’t leave them neglected after that point or you may have some burnt biscotti on your hands! 

However you package it, solo or in a basket, I guarantee that this recipe will be a hit for your holiday giving and baking!

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Gingerbread Biscotti
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 dozen
 
A sweet and simple gingerbread biscotti recipe that is perfect for your holiday gift-giving!
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1½ tablespoons ground ginger
  • ¾ tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ tablespoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • For Glaze: ½ cup confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons milk or light cream
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, eggs, and molasses. In another bowl, combine flours, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; mix into egg mixture to form a stiff dough (depending on your humidity, the dough may be sticky).
  3. Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a roll the length of the cookie.
  4. Place rolls on lined cookie sheet, and pat down to flatten the dough to ½ inch thickness.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. KEEP A VERY CLOSE EYE ON IT as it will go from done to burnt quickly.
  6. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.
  7. When cool enough to touch, move over to a cutting board and cut into ½ inch thick diagonal slices.
  8. Place sliced biscotti on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until toasted and crispy. If the biscotti already looks a little "too" crispy, you can decrease your oven temperature to 275 degrees and bake for 7-10 minutes instead.
  9. Let cool.
  10. In a small bowl mix together the confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and milk until it is incorporated. Using a small spoon, drizzle back and forth your glaze over the biscotti. Allow the icing to harden before packaging.

What fun treats are you baking this holiday season? Any great big batch recipes you might like to share?

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No-Bake Peppermint Cheesecakes In A Jar

Monday, November 26th, 2012

I have a theory that any gift given in a little jar is a tad more special and certainly cuter if it is packaged sweetly in a jar. These no-bake peppermint cheesecakes in a jar are a perfect gift to give and full of that peppermint flavor we crave around the holidays. The best part about these isn’t the jar though, it is the, “no baking required,” feature that I happen to love the most.

This year I wanted to create holiday hostess gifts that would long be remembered, but quickly be used. What could be more memorable or useful than a tiny cheesecake in a jar?

The possibilities with this fun food craft are endless. Convert your favorite no-bake cheesecake into a sweet gift and decorate your jar with your favorite craft technique whether it is spray paint, decoupage, or a scrap of fun fabric.

These gifts can easily be personalized and will be a fun treat for whoever you might share them with. I guarantee if you made me one of these as a hostess gift, I would have you over and over again…just for that Oreo crust alone!

Make a batch of these and keep them on hand for those unexpected occasions where a gift is needed! It also could be a lovely reward for yourself after all of that hard holiday preparation you have been doing. You deserve it.

5.0 from 1 reviews
No-Bake Peppermint Cheesecakes In A Jar
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
A sweet & simple no-bake cheesecake in a jar that you can give to someone special for the holidays. This is the perfect little hostess gift, teacher gift, or neighbor gift to share!
Ingredients
  • 10 Half Pint Ball Jars
  • Cooking Spray
  • 2 cups of chocolate sandwich cookies (approximately 17 cookies)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 2 cups whipping cream, whipped
  • Red food coloring
  • 20 peppermint candies
  • 3 freezer bags
  • 1 rolling pin
  • For decorating jars (optional): Red Spray Paint, Green Grosgrain Ribbon, and Hot Glue
Instructions
  1. Place your chocolate sandwich cookies in a freezer bag and use a rolling pin to smash the bag of cookies until they become cookie crumbs. Add your melted butter and sugar to the bag and mash the bag in your hands until the three ingredients pull together to create your crust and are well incorporated.
  2. Take the lids off of your glass jars and place them on a cookie sheet to contain the mess. Spray each of the jars with cooking spray. Put two spoonfuls of cookie crumbs into each jar and use the back of the spoon or your hands to press the crust into each jar. Slide the cookie sheet of jars back into the freezer to chill while you prepare the filling.
  3. In a large bowl, beat your cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually pour in a can of sweetened condensed milk until it is smooth. Stir in your peppermint extract and red food coloring, approximately three drops, to achieve a pale pink color. Mix all of these ingredients well. Fold in your whipped cream.
  4. Remove your tray of jars from the freezer. Using a standard ice cream scoop, add one scoop of filling to each of your jars. Use the back of a small spoon to smooth the filling on top until it is level and smooth.
  5. Remove the wrappers from your peppermint candies. Place the peppermint candies into a double-bagged freezer bag and use your rolling pin to smash these into small pieces to garnish your cheesecakes. Sprinkle the broken peppermints on top of each one.
  6. Screw the lids back on your jars and put these back into the freezer. Freeze for two hours or until firm.

 

How To Decorate Yours Jars:

Remove the bands from the jars and set aside. Outside or in a well-ventilated area, spread your jar lids out on newspaper. Shake your spray paint well. Slowly and evenly, spray your spray paint back and forth until all of the lids are covered with the spray paint. Allow these to dry for at least thirty minutes.

Plug in your glue gun and allow it to heat up. Tie grosgrain ribbon (any width you desire) into a small bow.  Place your spray-painted lids on top of your jars and screw the bands into place. Squirt a tiny dot of hot glue on the back of your bow and place it on top in the center of your lid.  Hold it in place for a minute. Sit back and bask in your crafting glory.

 

Looking for more sweet Peppermint Gifts to share?  Take a peek at our recipe for Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows, Candy Cane Peppermint Bath Salts, and DIY Peppermint Mocha Coffees you can enjoy or share this holiday season!

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Dressing Up Store-Bought Pies: Cranberry Crunch Pie Topping

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Pumpkin pie rarely needs an adornment more than a little whipped cream on top…that is, until I decided a crunchy cranberry pie topper would be a fun way to ad a little sparkle to a piece of pie. This cranberry crunch topper is the perfect way to add a little sweetness of crushed cookies, adds that tart bite from the cranberries to the top of your pies, and rounds out the crunchy flavor with freshly toasted walnuts.

A quick whirl through your food processor is all these ingredients need to pull together for a quick homemade topper for those store-bought pies. Set out a few of these fun toppings with your favorite store-bought pie or homemade pumpkin pies this year.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends! I will be offline preparing to host my own family for the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your own families!

Cranberry Crunch Pie Topping
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A simple pie topping created with toasted almonds, tart cranberries, and your favorite cookie
Ingredients
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 4 ounces frozen cranberries
  • 1 (2.3-ounce) package amaretto cookies (about 12) or (if your store doesn't carry those, like mine) Vanilla Wafers (about 12)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put the pecans on a baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes to toast them.
  2. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.
  3. Thaw the cranberries in a strainer set over a bowl to catch the liquid.
  4. Put the cookies, pecans, and cranberries into a food processor and pulse them a few times until they are coarsely chopped.
  5. Sprinkle the topping evenly over your pie and serve immediately.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers.

Source: Food Network

 

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