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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rhubarb Buckle

My hubby likes to go to our local farmer's market, because one of the vendors there has bakery items that remind him of Cleveland.  I've been bugging him to find me some rhubarb because I wanted to try and bake with it. I'm pretty sure that I have only baked with rhubarb one time in my entire life. That was about 20 years ago and it was because an office mate gave me a bunch of it for free!!  I ended up making rhubarb bread and I have absolutely no idea what recipe I used.  A few days ago, the hubby said, "when are you going to do something with that rhubarb?!?!" I finally decided to make a "buckle."


A buckle is actually a dessert with a cake type batter with fruit mixed in and a streusel topping that "buckles" up when it's baking. I think it's more like a coffee cake, so I would think of eating it more for breakfast or brunch. It most definitely could be a dessert, especially served warm with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped topping!  When I pulled the rhubarb out of the fridge this afternoon, I was wondering - should I shred it? dice it? slice it? I finally decided to dice it up in small pieces.  The texture of rhubarb reminds me of celery. I had visions of the rhubarb staying hard and the buckle ending up extremely crunchy.  I am pleased to report that the rhubarb got soft while it baked. When I sent an e-mail to the hubby this afternoon telling him I FINALLY did something with the rhubarb, he wrote back, "I'll look forward to sampling the rhubarb buckle." Since Lauren and I have already "sampled" it, we know that it is super yummy! I'm sure my husband will agree :)

Ingredients

Batter:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 cups white flour
2 cups rhubarb, diced

Topping:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup white flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In large bowl, put the butter and sugar. Cream by hand or with mixer. Add the eggs, vanilla, baking powder, salt, sour cream, milk and flour. Mix well. "Fold" the rhubarb into the batter with a large spoon.  Pour into the pan and spread evenly.  In separate bowl, blend the butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon together with large spoon until it begins to resemble loose crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let pan cool on wire rack. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cocoa Drops

Yesterday afternoon, I sat on my dining room floor for about 30 minutes, looking through my vast cookbook collection for a good basic chocolate cookie recipe. I finally found a cookbook, aptly titled, "The Cookie Book" that was published in 1941 for the Culinary Arts Institute. It had 250 cookie recipes!  While looking through the cookbook, I found recipes such as "thrift" cookies (made with dry cookie or cake crumbs), "foundation" drop cookies (because it has three different variations), "crockets" (made with egg whites, mace, nuts and raisins) and "riches" (which have tons of butter). I had "Chef" Dominic anxiously waiting in the kitchen for me, so I knew I had better find one soon!!! Towards about the middle of the cookbook, I found six chocolate cookie recipes in a row. I finally settled on "cocoa drops" since I had all the ingredients on hand. I made a few adaptions here and there from the original recipe, one being I didn't add nuts. The first sheet of cookies looked like this.
 

I "taste tested" one and thought they were pretty good, but since they didn't spread too much, for the next sheet of cookies that went in, I used the bottom of a glass dipped in white sugar and pressed them down a little. When I showed the finished product to Dominic and asked him if he wanted one, he told me, "put some frosting on it!"  Once I did and also added some sprinkles, he ate two!!  If you want to get even more "gourmet," just gently push a lollipop stick about two-thirds of the way into a cookie right when they come out of the oven and then gently remove to a wire rack to continue cooling.  I actually had one of the cookies on a "stick" as I was writing up this blog post!

 
 Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups white flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (for baking)
1 tablespoon white sugar (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. In large bowl, put the butter and the light brown sugar and mix well with large spoon.  When well combined, add the egg, milk, vanilla, flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa and combine well.  Roll into balls with the palms of your hands a little smaller than a ping pong ball and put on the cookie sheet. If you like smaller cookies, bake as is. If you want them slightly bigger, then dip the bottom of a glass into the tablespoon of sugar first and then press down gently on the top of each cookie. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the cookies look done in the middle.  Remove to wire rack immediately to let them cool. When cooled, add frosting and sprinkles, if desired! Makes 2 1/2 dozen.