Saturday, September 13, 2014

Easy Homemade Biscuits

The other night, when Dominic and I made some homemade biscuits to go with our dinner, the hubby said, "are these homemade or store bought?" I said, "why?" He then said, "because these are really good!" Biscuits from scratch are easy to make and since this recipe uses an entire tablespoon of baking powder, they rise up high.


I love to split one of these open while they are still warm, put a small dab or two of butter on each half and then spread some apple butter on!! Talk about scrumptious! Speaking of apple butter, I found a recipe recently for apple butter pie that sounded really yummy.  Hmm, the sugar cookies Dominic and I made earlier in the week are almost gone and I have all the ingredients in the house for the pie, I think a little pie baking may be in order for this afternoon!

Ingredients

2 cups white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl, put the flour, baking powder, salt and white sugar.  With two knives, "cut" in the shortening until it starts to resemble coarse crumbs. Pour in the milk and with a large spoon, mix well by hand until all ingredients are combined. On a lightly floured board, knead dough about 10 times and then press out to a rectangular shape about 1/2 inch thick. With a knife, cut into six equal-sized squares. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 14 minutes or until the biscuits start to turn a golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to continue cooling. Makes six biscuits.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Frozen Fruit Yogurt Bars

Dominic could probably eat his weight in strawberries. Blueberries and yogurt on the other hand, are two foods he flat out refuses to eat!  I decided to "sneak" in some blueberries and yogurt along with some strawberries into these bars to see if Dominic would notice. When he came home from school, since it's so warm here today, I thought it would be a perfect after school snack. I was curious if Dominic would want to eat them given they have blueberries and yogurt. Well, guess what? He didn't notice!  My little "experiment" was a success!!!!  The only comment Dominic made when he bit into one of these yummy bars was, "that's cold!"



Ingredients

Two 5.3 ounce containers Greek vanilla yogurt,
  any brand
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Put all ingredients into the blender and blend until thick and creamy. Pour evenly into eight ice pop molds and freeze for a minimum of six hours. FYI - The molds I used each held a little less than a 1/2 cup of the fruit and yogurt mixture.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Graham Cracker Cookies




Even though I clean out my pantry every few months, sometimes certain items get "lost." A few days ago, I "found" two packages of yellow Peeps from Easter and a package of cinnamon graham crackers, which are expiring this week! I'm not quite sure how Peeps cookies would taste (plus they don't expire until 2016), so I decided to try and make a cookie out of some of the graham crackers. Wow, these cookies are incredible, so yummy! I had the hubby try and guess the "mystery" ingredient. I told him it started with the letter "G."  He guessed granola and ginger and then said, "I give up!"  I also put a picture on my Facebook wall and had my family and friends try and guess. One of my friends guessed graham crackers! I told her she gets a gold star. She said she would rather have the cookies!!! LOL - too bad she lives 600 miles away! I also "found" some Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme in the pantry, so I put some in between two of the cookies, so it was like a s'more.


Wonder how a few Peeps would taste in between? They are marshmallows after all, aren't they?!?!?!

Ingredients

1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups cinnamon graham crackers,
  finely crushed
3/4 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.  In large bowl, put the margarine and light brown sugar and with large spoon combine until creamy. Add the vanilla and egg. Mix well by hand. Hint: to finely crush the graham crackers, put them in a quart-sized bag, seal it up, take a metal meat mallet and then pound the heck out of the crackers :) Once the graham crackers are finely crushed, add them along with the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well again and then "fold" in the chocolate chips and oats.  Drop by tablespoonfuls on the cookie sheets - nine to each sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies become golden. Remove from oven, let cool on cookie sheets for five minutes. Remove to wire rack to finish cooling. Makes 18 cookies.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Treats


Anytime Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are brought into this house, I know they won't last long, since both Lauren and Dominic have inherited the chocolate and peanut butter "gene" from their dad! I was curious if I could make kind of a homemade version of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups without using the oven or a candy thermometer. Well, I made some of these "treats" earlier in the week and guess how long they lasted? About 72 hours! Last night, I made another batch. Hmm, I wonder how long they'll last this time!?!?!?!?! If you like the fancy "look" of the ridges, try using a biscuit cutter, like I did - pretty cool, huh? You could also use a cookie cutter. A few years back, I bought a set of 100 cookie cutters from Wilton.  I think I got it on sale for about ten bucks. We have used them for biscuits, cookies, as stencils and when we play with Play-Doh. The set has the entire alphabet, holiday shapes, etc. and has more than paid for itself, for sure!

Ingredients

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups smooth peanut butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  (also known as confectioners sugar)
2 cups milk chocolate chips

Spray a jelly roll pan (11-inches x 17-inches) with non-stick spray and set aside. In large saucepan or small stockpot, put the margarine, light brown sugar, vanilla extract, peanut butter and powdered sugar. On low to medium heat and using a large spoon, stir constantly until all ingredients are melted and combined together. Remove from heat and spread evenly in the jelly roll pan. In microwave or in a small saucepan, melt the chocolate chips.  Pour over the mixture in the jelly roll pan and spread evenly.  Put into fridge for one hour. If you let the "treats" come almost to room temperature, they are easier to cut into bars, squares or whatever "shape" you want!  Store covered in the fridge.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Gingersnaps


A favorite in this house are my homemade sugar cookies. Gingersnaps, on the other hand, I have NEVER made. I guess that's because the only times I have ever eaten them in the past, they tasted like they had way too much ginger.  I decided to make my gingersnap cookies with just a "hint" of ginger. After a look through a bunch of my cookbooks and on-line, I found there was a wide variance of how much ginger was used in gingersnaps - anywhere from two teaspoons to THREE tablespoons!!!! Yikes. I got a kick out of the hubby this morning. Since I had never made gingersnaps before, I wasn't sure how long they would take to bake. When I told him I had set the timer for 12 minutes, and he heard it buzz, he said, "they're done!"  I told him, "just because the timer went off, it doesn't mean they're done."  He said, "it doesn't?!?!" I remarked to him, "you may be the "king" of the grill, but I'm the "queen" of baking!!! I found out Dominic was a big fan of these cookies when I went into the other room for a few minutes shortly after they cooled off enough to "sample."  The cookie I had taken a few bites of that was sitting on the kitchen table was gone (just a handful of crumbs remained), plus another four were missing from the wire cooling rack. After lunch, he was telling me he wanted more gingersnaps. I had to tell him, "I think you've had enough!!  

Ingredients

2 cups white flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar + 1/4 cup white sugar
7 tablespoons margarine, softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, put the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, put the 3/4 of a cup of white sugar, margarine, brown sugar, honey, vanilla extract and egg. Beat by hand with large spoon until well combined. Add the flour mixture and stir well. Roll dough into two dozen equal sized balls. On a small plate, put the remaining 1/4 cup white sugar. Roll each ball in the white sugar until totally covered and place a dozen balls at a time onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 14 minutes or until the cookies start turning a golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes. Transfer to wire rack.  Makes two dozen cookies.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mary Ann's Chocolate Cake

Growing up, we had the most fabulous neighbors, Mary Ann and Harold. They lived right next door to us and since they had no children of their own, they kind of "adopted" my brother, sister and I. My mom and Mary Ann were best friends - they even shared the same birthday, July 10! Mary Ann was an amazing person inside and out and I was truly blessed to have known her.


Both Harold and Mary Ann have passed away, but Mary Ann's chocolate cake/frosting recipe lives on.



What's interesting about this particular chocolate cake recipe is that on my "Auntie's" side of the family, there was also a favorite chocolate cake/frosting recipe from my grandmother (this is her recipe card below) that was made frequently by both my cousin's wife, Sharon, and my "Auntie."


After much discussion about this chocolate cake/frosting recipe (Sharon and I have been talking about it since 2009), the three of us came to the conclusion that the recipes were very similar.  Do you know why?  It's the same recipe!!! Evidently, Mary Ann at some point had passed the recipe along to my grandmother!!! LOL. Mary Ann's cake recipe uses five tablespoons of cocoa powder and my grandmother's recipe uses four tablespoons. When I made it, I split the difference and used 4 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder! Please feel free to go "full strength" and use the five tablespoons!  I have made this cake in a 9 x 13 inch pan, but never as cupcakes.  When I made this recipe a few weeks ago, Lauren wanted a cake and Dominic wanted cupcakes. To please both "kids," I ended up making an 8-inch square cake and a dozen cupcakes. Mary Ann's frosting recipe is outstanding and I whipped some up after I made the cake and cupcakes. Thank goodness, I had my grandmother's old recipe card, since I seemed to have misplaced the recipe card that came with Mary Ann's cake recipe!!!!!!!! Since it had been so long since I had made the frosting, I thought I did something wrong when I put it on six of the cupcakes and it slid right off. My family didn't care, they ate the cupcakes anyways! Sharon reassured me that the frosting does get hard eventually. Boy, was I glad to hear that! When I told her my family likes the cake better, she said her family likes the frosting better.  The frosting is yummy on it's own, it has the consistency of fudge. We topped our cake and the remaining six cupcakes with my homemade buttercream frosting.


This is definitely the best chocolate cake recipe ever! Try it for yourself and I'm sure you will agree :)

Ingredients

2 cups white sugar
2 cups white flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup cold water
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, put the sugar, flour, buttermilk (if you don't have any, you can add two teaspoons of distilled white vinegar to a 1/2 cup of white milk), vanilla extract, salt, baking soda, and the eggs. Mix well with large spoon and set aside. In medium saucepan, put the margarine, canola oil, cold water and cocoa powder. Bring to a boil slowly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add carefully to the ingredients in the large bowl. Mix well by hand or with electric mixer until smooth.  This recipe makes 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch cakes or a 9 x 13 inch cake. To make 24 cupcakes, pour evenly into paper liners and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. For one 8-inch pan, it will take about 25-30 minutes to bake, for a 9 x 13 inch pan it will take about 30-35 minutes to bake. Make sure to spray either the 8-inch or 9 x 13 inch pans with non-stick spray before you pour the batter in or else it will stick. When you remove the cake/cupcakes from the oven, transfer it to a wire rack to let it cool completely before frosting!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream


What if I told you that you could have homemade vanilla ice cream ready in five minutes without an ice cream machine? Would you believe me? Well, it's true!  We have made this ice cream twice in the past week. The first time we used regular white milk and made half of the recipe below. The four of us each had a "sampling" and when the hubby asked for "seconds" we had to tell him there wasn't any! Last night, we used half and half and made the full recipe. My husband said he preferred it with milk - Lauren, Dominic and I liked it better with the half and half. Sorry honey, majority rules in this house - especially when Lauren told me, "this is the best ice cream I have ever eaten in my life!"

Ingredients

8 cups ice cubes
1/2 cup table salt (I used iodized)
2 cups half and half or white milk (any brand)
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 quart size zipper top bag (like a Ziploc or Hefty brand bag)
1 gallon size zipper top bag (like a Ziploc or Hefty brand bag)

In the quart size bag put the half and half (or milk), sugar and vanilla extract.  Seal completely closed. In the gallon size bag, put the ice cubes and salt. Use large spoon to distribute salt evenly on the ice cubes.   Put the quart size bag inside the bag with the ice and salt mixture. Seal up the bag and shake for 5-8 minutes. The ingredients inside the quart size bag will harden up as you shake it and will "magically" turn into ice cream. Eat immediately or put into the freezer for a minimum of 20 minutes to let it firm up more. How about adding chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, butterscotch chips, caramel sauce, nuts, mini M&M's or sprinkles?  How about an Oreo or two that's been crushed up? It becomes cookies and cream ice cream!! Makes four servings.