Monday, April 20, 2015

Triple Peanut Butter Cookies

This past weekend, "Cathy's Kitchen" was whipping up all kinds of "bakery." On Saturday, we made some cookies with peanut butter, finely chopped unsalted peanuts and peanut butter chips. Talk about super duper yummy!

 
Since Dominic (the "Sprinkleman"), was available to help me, we also made some of what he calls, "cookies with sprinkles," though maybe they should be called, "sprinkles with cookies." LOL.
 

On Sunday, since it was the last day of religious education classes for the group of first graders that I helped co-teach, we made some cupcakes!! The hubby asked me before I left, "do you think there will be any left over?"


Luckily for him there was! I'm so glad I was "introduced" to baking at a young age by growing up with an Easy Bake Oven. I took a quick trip down "memory lane" this afternoon by taking a look around the Hasbro website. Wow, can you believe they sell mixes such as chocolate truffles and red velvet cupcakes? Hmm, we bought Lauren an Easy Bake Oven when she was little and it is still down in our basement. It might be time to pull it out and do some baking! I don't know about you, but chocolate truffles and red velvet cupcakes sound pretty tasty to me!

Ingredients

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup peanut butter chips

Topping:

1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In large bowl, put the peanut butter, sugar and egg. Mix well with large spoon until combined. Gently "fold" in the chopped peanuts and peanut butter chips. Roll into 24 equal sized balls and put 12 at a time onto ungreased cookie sheets. On small plate, put the tablespoon of white sugar. Using a small fork, dip first into the white sugar and then criss-cross each cookie. Top with just a small amount of chopped peanuts. Bake for 16 minutes or until the cookies are starting to turn light golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer immediately to a wire rack to continue to cool. Makes 24 cookies.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pork Fajitas

When you go to the grocery store and see all those packets of seasonings, like for tacos, chili, etc. it can be a tad overwhelming to know which one to get isn't it? Well, how about if you could make your own seasoning "blend?" I challenged myself to see if I could mix a bunch of spices together and "reproduce" the same flavors that would be in a fajita seasoning packet!  I had planned on making chicken fajitas, but then remembered the hubby had recently bought a four pound boneless pork loin. I sliced it in half and put half in the freezer and took the remaining half and sliced it into thin pieces. I then set to work making my own "blend." Cornstarch is a great thickener, so that was the main ingredient. I didn't want the fajitas to be runny! I grabbed a handful of spices, put them in a container, slapped the top on and shook it. What was really cool about making my own "blend" is that I could put EXACTLY what I wanted into it. Just for kicks, I looked at what the first ingredient was on the package of a fajita seasoning mix I have in my pantry. It was "maltodextrin." Yikes. What in the world is that?


Fajita Seasoning Blend Ingredients:

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Remaining Ingredients:

2 pounds boneless pork, cut into thin pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
12 ounce package three pepper and onion blend,
  frozen
1/2 cup water
10 8-inch flour tortillas

In a small bowl, put the ingredients for the fajita seasoning blend. Mix well with small spoon and set aside. In large frying pan or skillet, put the two tablespoons of canola oil. Turn the heat on to low and put the pork in. Raise the temperature to medium to high and cook until the pieces of pork are no longer pink inside. Drain off any grease and then add the pepper and onion blend, the fajita seasoning blend and the 1/2 cup of water. Mix together and stir constantly until the peppers are just starting to get soft. If the sauce is not thick enough, add a touch more water. Conversely, if the sauce is too thin, add a touch more cornstarch. Warm up the tortillas and then put a tablespoon or so of the pork mixture into one, roll it up and enjoy! The hubby added shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream to his fajita. I just added a dab of sour cream to mine. Making the fajitas was a great way to use up just the little bit of sour cream I had left over from the apple and sour cream coffeecake I made a few days ago! Feel free to add shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes or whatever you would like.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Apple and Sour Cream Coffeecake


Where we live, there are always many different kinds of apples available at the grocery store.  My favorite used to be Red Delicious, but now it's definitely Honeycrisp! Yummy. Anyways, earlier this week I bought a bag of McIntosh apples. They are super cut up and eaten raw, but I wanted to try and "branch" out (get it, like an apple tree) and see if I could integrate a few into a coffeecake. After a quick search into the fridge, I found a container of sour cream I had bought a week or so ago (because it was on sale)! Yes, sometimes I buy items that are on sale and THEN figure out what I'm going to do with it. It's usually better the other way around, but I like to live dangerously. LOL. I love the way apples baking in the oven just makes your ENTIRE house smell so good. Dominic "sampled" a piece yesterday and proclaimed it to be "great." I have to agree :)
 


Ingredients

1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups white flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup apple, peeled, cored, and shredded
  (about two medium)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup fluted tube pan (Bundt pan) with non-stick spray and set aside. In large bowl, put the sugar, flour, butter, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix well with large spoon. In small bowl, core and then shred the apples until you have 2/3 of a cup. Put into the large bowl and combine thoroughly. Pour into the Bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the coffeecake is starting to turn brown and a toothpick inserted into the coffeecake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let it stay in the pan on a wire rack until cool. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and enjoy! You can leave as is or sprinkle with powdered sugar like I did. Makes 10-12 servings. Cover loosely with foil at store room temperature.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Birds Nest Cookies


While I am definitely not an "artsy-craftsy" type of mom, I like to think I am relatively creative in the kitchen! I had the idea kicking around in my head for at least a week of trying to see if I could make a "thumbprint" cookie. I didn't want to use jam in the middle, but rather, I wanted the cookie to ultimately look like a birds nest. Okay, once I made the cookies and baked them, I had to figure out what the "grass" should be made of. Well, I had some coconut leftover from the ambrosia dessert salad I made a few weeks ago. Hmm, white didn't seem quite the right "color" for the "grass." After taking a quick glance into where I keep my spices, I found some food coloring. Yeah!  I put five drops into a zip top sandwich bag, sealed it up and shook the bag about ten times until the coconut turned green. The last time I was at Kroger, I had picked up a bag of jelly beans, which just so happened to be the right size to be the "eggs" in the nests. Cool - I was able to make these cookies with ingredients I had on hand. I love when that happens! This afternoon, I took Dominic's amazing music therapist a few of these cookies. She always gets a big smile on her face when she sees my "bakery" coming. I think that means she likes it :) Well, we love how much she has taught him!!!!!

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/4 cups white flour

For The Inside of the Nest:

1/2 cup sweetened flake coconut
5 drops of green food coloring


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, put the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and egg yolks. Cream by hand with a large spoon or with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the baking powder and gradually add the flour, about a 1/2 cup at a time. Stir with large spoon until well combined. Roll into 30 equal sized balls, roughly a little smaller than a golf ball. Place 15 cookies at a time on an ungreased cookie sheet. With your thumb, press down in the middle of each cookie, so your thumb is almost touching the bottom of the cookie sheet. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the cookies are starting to turn brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for five minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely. To make the "grass" for the inside of the nest, put the coconut inside a zip top sandwich bag. Put five drops of green food coloring in, seal it up and shake. Distribute the "grass" between the 30 cookies. I used jelly beans for the "eggs." Have fun!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Rhubarb and Walnut Bread

 
Since I think baking should be fun, from time to time, I like to post pictures of my "bakery" on Facebook and see if any of my "peeps" can figure out what the mystery ingredient(s) might be. Well, today, nobody guessed that this bread had diced rhubarb!! I FINALLY stumped them all! I have to admit, it was a pretty tough one to guess.  The poor hubby. I had been promising him since last summer, when I put some diced rhubarb in the freezer, that I would make him rhubarb "buckle." Yesterday, I told him that it would be bread instead. Since I was making this recipe up as I was going along, I wasn't quite sure what the end result would be. When I offered a piece of the bread to the hubby this afternoon, he told me it was a 10 out of 10! He is always willing to be my taste tester and he (almost) always rates my baked goods a 10 - that's one of the reasons why I married him!



Ingredients

2 cups white flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sour cream
2/3 cup rhubarb, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.  In a large bowl, put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange juice, canola oil, egg, vanilla extract and sour cream.  Mix well with large spoon and then "fold" in the rhubarb and walnuts gently. Mix to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert pan and remove the bread to wire rack to continue to cool. If desired, you can make the cream cheese frosting above and sprinkle a handful of chopped walnuts on top! Store covered in the fridge.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ambrosia Dessert Salad


Okay, how many of you out there have ever heard of ambrosia? I looked through a handful of my cookbooks to try and determine whether it was a salad or a dessert. In one of my cookbooks, the recipe was in the salad section and in another, it was under fruit desserts. Good grief, which is it?!?!?! How about if we call it an ambrosia dessert salad???? I know, let's call it YUMMY!!! Hmm, with Easter right around the corner, wouldn't this look great (and colorful) on the table? Note: I used a 20-ounce can of pineapple chunks that were packed in juice and a 15-ounce can of mandarin oranges packed in light syrup. By the time I drained out all the juice from the pineapple chunks, I had about a 1/2 cup left (I think I'll use the chunks for a breakfast smoothie tomorrow morning). When I drained the juice from the mandarin oranges, it was exactly one cup! I normally have white marshmallows on hand, but since I didn't, I bought the colored ones the other day at the grocery store - aren't they cool?!?!

Ingredients

1 cup pineapple chunks, drained
1 cup mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup mini marshmallows (white or colored)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (chopped),
  if desired

In medium bowl, put the pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, coconut and marshmallows. Mix gently with large spoon. Add the sour cream and combine thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge a minimum of one hour. When ready to serve, sprinkle with the chopped walnuts or pecans (if you want) and toss lightly.  Serve immediately. Makes five cups.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Scones

If I were alone on a desert island, I could probably survive on just muffins, biscuits and scones!! The word "scone" instantly makes me think of a fancy tearoom.  Since I don't have a "tearoom" in my house, I have to settle for our kitchen table :) This morning, before Dominic and I left to see his private speech therapist, I had one of these scones for breakfast. Since St. Patrick's Day is in just a few days, I decided to sprinkle some green sugar on top. I guess if I wanted, I could have even had an Irish Coffee with the scone. I looked up the ingredients in an Irish Coffee. It consists of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar and cream. Hmm, that drink might be better suited to go with our "traditional" New England Boiled Dinner of corned beef, cabbage, onions, potatoes and carrots that I make every St. Patrick's Day!!


Ingredients

2 cups white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon white sugar (for topping)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl, put the flour, baking powder, 2 1/2 teaspoons white sugar and salt. Mix well with spoon. "Cut" in the butter with two knives. Make a "well" in the middle of the batter and add the milk. Combine well and then remove to a lightly floured surface. Knead about 20 times and then flatten out with a rolling pin or your hands to an 8-inch circle. Slice into eight equal triangles and then place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle the one teaspoon of white sugar evenly on the tops of the eight scones. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the bottoms of the scones are lightly browned. Remove immediately to a wire rack. Serve warm.