I Actually Voluntarily Used Hazelnut

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Blondies-
Slightly chewy, definitely chocolatey and with a hint of hazelnut flavor.

Wow. Three days in a row blogging. I may just get back to my old habits if I keep this up. Hopefully, I can do it without gaining back any of the weight I’ve lost. That’s been the main reason I stopped blogging as much. fear can be a great motivator against doing certain things lol.

I am pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I am not a big fan of hazelnuts or anything hazelnut flavored. Usually, that is. I DID try Nutella and ended up liking it though it’s not as regular a part of my snacking as I know it is for many foodies. I have the feeling that there are some bloggers who regularly bathe in Nutella hehe.

Reason being, during my first marriage, I was blessed enough to get to live in Mannheim Germany for 3 years. It’s still a place I remember fondly and miss. I even still have dreams about it… the Volksfests, the Christkindlmarkts during November and December; the smell of spiced wine always takes me right back there… the Konditoreien (you haven’t had good pastries until you get them at a German bakery) and never forgotten, the candy shops. Oh.My.God… German candy is amazingly good. I still reminiscence over a blackberry truffle that has remained unmatched in my memory. The fly in this ointment however is that a LOT of the candies produced in Europe use hazelnut as a flavoring. And when I say lots, I mean L…O…T…S. So I got pretty burnt out on hazelnut anything. I think unless you’re a major fanatic about it in the first place, it’s easy to get tired of it.

I have to admit however that these blondies turned out quite well. I used a Martha Stewart blondie recipe. All I changed was to make the recipe 50% bigger to be able to use a 9×9 inch pan rather than an 8 inch and I added some hazelnut liquor. Believe it or not, next time I think I will add MORE hazelnut liquor (or buy some of this hazelnut flavoring from King Arthur so as to not add too much liquid to the batter. I was actually, for some strange reason, looking forward to the flavor. Probably just so that I could whine over how badly the blondie taste was messed up by the hazelnut taste but you never heard me admit that.

The nutty flavor mixed with the dark chocolate and the walnuts (yes, walnuts; I wasn’t willing to go THAT far with the hazelnut idea nor was I in the mood to shell 9 bazillion of the bitty nuts. I’m lazy. Sue me. YOU however are more than welcome to use hazelnuts instead) was quite good. The blondies themselves were slightly chewy, not really cakey at all which I liked. All in all, I’m rather tickled with this mutant blondie and will be making it again. Now to figure out what to do with the rest of a large bottle of hazelnut liquor.

I’m giving the recipe for the 8 inch pan here. I you don’t have a decent 8 inch pan (mine are rusted old pieces of poop) but have a 9 inch one, just make the recipe 50% bigger. These would work well on your Christmas cookie tray. They’re a pretty looking bar.

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Blondies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons hazelnut liquor (or one teaspoon hazelnut flavoring)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts (or walnuts or pecans or cashews if that floats your boat)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 inch square pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang. Butter the paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and the sugar; mix well.
  3. Whisk in the egg, vanilla and hazelnut liquor (or flavoring)
  4. Add the flour and salt and mix JUST until blended. Gently fold in all but about 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips and about 2/3’s of the nuts.
  5. Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top then sprinkle on the rest of the chocolate chips and the nuts.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack until cool, then use the parchment paper to lift the blondies out and cut them into squares.
  7. Eat. Drool. Eat more. Try not to drool more; people will laugh.

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Leftovers? What Leftovers?

Sweet Potato Bread- mashed sweet potatoes, wonderful warm spices, lots of flavor

My household is, in very many ways, a fairly typical American household. In most respects, I’m fine with that; proud of it as a matter of fact. One way I’m not so thrilled however is in the amount of food we tend to waste. Fruits and veggies that go bad before we get to them, meat that gets freezer burned, leftovers that everyone gets sick of and end up getting tossed. It annoys the poop out of me. Which is why, after a day like Thanksgiving, when there are enough leftovers in most families to feed a small country, I like to try to do something with what I can. Something other than serving Russ and the boys turkey and the fixings for yet. One.More.Meal.

Being me however, what really happens is that they get turkey and all the fixings for just one. more. meal. And they cry and gnash their teeth and threaten to move into the neighbors house (and if you’ve seen me talk about my psychotic neighbor, you know the desperation THAT entails). So I placate them. I take the good stuff and recycle it into…well… other good stuff.

There’s a lot you can do with leftover cranberry sauce. A lot you can do with leftover sweet potato casserole. Yep, even with the kind that has 36 cups of brown sugar in it, as well as 8 sticks of butter and 5 bags of mini marshmallows. Trust me. Being the mom of six kids, with the typical “omg, our monthly bills cost HOW much?!” life, I’ve learned to create some yummy stuff out of other stuff that was also yummy once upon a time but that now just causes people to cry when they see it. Mind you, we are also a “normal” American family in that we still spend too much on groceries and still waste too much, but I like to delude myself into thinking that I have a handle on it and am getting better at it. Delusion is also an American way of life hehe.

This bread is a good way to get rid of those last few scoops of sweet potatoes. Don’t bother trying to scrape off the marshmallows (or nuts if you use them) or whatever else is in there. Just use it all. You’ll get a nice moist flavorful bread and a “woohoo!” feeling when you know that you don’t have to nuke the stuff for yet another meal.

Sweet Potato Bread

A nice golden loaf of bread flecked with bits of sweet potato. This will fill your home with the smells of the holiday season as it bakes. Moist and tender, this is great spread with butter or some pumpkin butter if you have it.

  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups (give or take a 1/2 cup or so. I usually go over and it’s fine) mashed sweet potatoes or leftover sweet potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour (I use Bakers Joy) a large 9 (or even a 10 if you have it) inch bread pan and about 3 muffin cups. Yes, 3… this makes too much batter for one loaf, not enough for 2 8 inch loaves so I usually get the 9 inch loaf and a few muffins from it. The muffins become mine because I’m the cook… I think of it as a mom tax 😀
  3. In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugars,  eggs, vanilla extract and sweet potatoes. Mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Dump them into the large bowl and using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, combine just until mixed. Do NOT over beat.
  5. Pour/spoon into the loaf pan and muffin cups.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with no crumbs on it. This will take about 20 minutes for the muffins and about 65 to 75 minutes for the loaf.
  7. Let cool in the pan for ten minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Try not to cut this until it is completely cool, cause it can be a bit gummy when warm due to the sweet potatoes. When cool however, it is just moist and tender.

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Tradition! Tradition! (Insert “Tevya” from “Fiddler On The Roof” voice Here)

Chocolate Orange Muffins


Back when my older kids were little, I started a tradition that still goes on today. It will probably continue when I am too old to see the stove and burn everything and there is a more than even chance that it will continue after my death. No, not because they will take over the duties but because they will dig me up, put a wooden spoon in my hand and set me in front of the stove. What is said tradition? Making so many darn Christmas cookies that we all start to gag at the thought of eating yet one more cookie. I make the same 7 or  15 8 kinds each year then add about 7 or 15 8 new ones. Add to this an assortment of home made candies, scones, muffins and such and we spend the holidays in a haze of sugar induced illness. But it’s so darn fun!! Or something. It gives me an excuse to get out my fat girl pants and loose shirts cause Lord knows nothing else will fit anyway.

So I have started looking for some new recipes for all of the above things. I have a few boards up on Pinterest with a vast assortment of things to make for the Christmas season. Were I to actually make all of the things I have pinned, every person in my family would weigh about 600 pounds. But, moving on… or back… or sideways, not sure which… one of the recipes I found was one for Chocolate Orange Muffins because something about the combo of chocolate and orange just strikes me as Christmasy. The one I found came from food.com  but I have changed it up quite a bit. As I’ve mentioned before, I am genetically incapable of making a recipe the way it’s written. This could be why I mess up boxed mac and cheese and hamburger helper. I always want to “fix” them. But this recipe got “fixed” quite nicely if I do say so myself. They may just be on the Christmas buffet. Well, not this batch… that would be rather disgusting. 😛

These are quite good. Moist with a nice orange flavor that is complemented by soft gooey bits of chocolate. The ganache makes these almost cupcake like but yet they aren’t too sweet for breakfast or to have with a cup of coffee.

Chocolate Orange Muffins With A Chocolate Orange Ganache Drizzle

  • Zest from one large orange (about 2 to 3 tablespoons)
  • 10 ounce bag dark chocolate chips, 1/3 cup reserved
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract (or about 4 drops of orange oil)
  • 1/2 cup good quality orange marmalade
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional but it goes well with both the orange and the chocolate)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream (for the ganache and the amount can vary, thus the range)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 16 muffin cups with paper or foil liners.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and the sugar
  4. Beat in the eggs, vanilla extract and orange extract/oil. Add the sour cream & orange juice. Mix well.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda
  6. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula,  gently mix the flour mixture into the wet ones. Do NOT overbeat. Then fold in the chocolate, holding back that third cup. You’ll use that for the ganache.
  7. Spoon the muffin batter into the lined cups, getting each one almost full. Make a little dent in the top of each and spoon a bit of the orange marmalade on each muffin.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and the top no longer looks “wet”.
  9. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  10. To make the ganache- in a small microwave safe bowl, mix together the reserved chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of the cream. Heat on 70% power for 45 seconds, then stir well. If it looks rather curdled and not shiny and smooth, ad more cream, a LITTLE bit at a time. It should get smooth and satiny looking. If it’s still too thick to drizzle though, continue adding cream a bit at a time until it’s thin enough to drizzle.
  11. Drizzle the ganache over the cooled muffins. Inhale one…or six. I won’t tell.


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Foodie Phases

Do you ever find yourself going through phases when it comes to eating and/or cooking? I know I do. And I don’t mean Twinkies or Cheetos or chocolate (oh my). Those aren’t phases. Those are needs of life that keep me functioning and breathing and keep many women from eating their young. I mean times when you find yourself cooking (or eating) the same types of food over and over again.

I tend to do this often.

My family cries.

Which means I get to eat all of things I make because they are too busy crying and saying “can’t we PLEASE have something other than dishes made with pickled herring!?’ (don’t ask)

Luckily for all of you, I am NOT going through a pickled herring phase… though talking about it right now has me craving some.

My phase right now is yeast breads. Not quick breads though I love me some Pumpkin Bread or maybe some
Pumpkin Cranberry Bread or some Spiced Brown Sugar Carrot Bread or…. ok, ok, I’ll stop now. Damn. Now I want some of those too. I need to quit talking about food.

Well, back to talking about food now. Yeast breads. Current phase…yada yada yada. Tis my current food “thing” right now however. I am enjoying honing my yeasty skills and playing around with some old recipes. I’ve mentioned before that I love artisan style breads though I still giggle when I realize that what we are all calling artisan most times simply means using grains and ideas that have been around for hundreds of years but fell out of favor to be replaced by mushy soft plastic bagged white bread. Wow… can we say run on sentence?

One style of bread I love is multi grain. I enjoy the flavor, I enjoy the texture from using something other than white flour and I love the chewiness and heartiness of a rustic artisan bread. Now if I could only hone my bread shaping skills cause I suck at that part of it lol. I always end up with these misshapen ovals instead of pretty ones. But that’s ok, they taste good anyway. And this one turned out quite well if I do say so myself. It’s a multi grain wheat bread and I added some dried cranberries to it as well. For a good place to go to get some grains and seeds to add to your breads, try the King Arthur Flour site . I absolutely love their products. My current favorite is the 12 grain artisan bread flavor . It’s a boat load of seeds and grains all mixed up into one tasty bundle and it helps make a good bread fantastic. So go get out some yeast and start baking. This one is chewy, hearty and oh so good with soup or stew.

Multi Grain Wheat & Fruit Bread

  • 1 cup 7 grain uncooked cereal (I use <a href=”http://www.bobsredmill.com/7-grain-hot-cereal.html”>Bobs Red Mill Brand</a>
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees is optimal)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup King Arthur 12 grain artisan bread flavor (can use 1/2 cup sunflower seeds instead)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  1. Combine the 7 grain cereal and boiling water in a large bowl. Let sit for ten minutes.
  2. Dissolve the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the 1/4 cup warm water in a measuring cup. Let it stand for about 5 minutes. It should get nice and foamy.
  3. Add the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, remaining sugar, oil and yeast mixture to the bowl with the cereal.
  4. Mix in the 3/4 cup of warm water, then mix in the egg yolk.
  5. Dump it all onto a LIGHTLY floured board. Add in the 1/2 cup grains (or sunflower seeds) and the cranberries and knead everything together. At first you will have a rough shaggy mess of dough with lots of loose bits and pieces but keep kneading and it will all come together. Knead for about 5 minutes, then put the dough into an oiled bowl, turning the dough to get the top side oiled too.
  6. Cover the bowl loosely with either plastic wrap or a clean dishtowel. Place in a warm spot (I set mine near my wood burning stove…nice and warm) and let rise until it has doubled in bulk.
  7. Punch down and pull dough into 2 parts. Shape each into an oval shaped loaf, place on oiled baking sheets and let rise again until they have doubled in size. While they are rising, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bake loaves for about 30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
  8. I should tell you that these will cut better when cooled but we all know that fresh bread never gets a chance to cool, so I won’t bother hehe

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Annoyance, Thy Name Is Redundancy

Chewy Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies

I think we all have our own little quirks as to what bugs us in how others write and/or speak, don’t we? One of mine (other than the misuse of different versions of ‘your” and “there”) is redundancy in writing. One of my biggest pet peeves there (you’ll notice that that says “there” and not “their” or they’re” 😛 ) is Chai Tea. Chai is another word for tea when used correctly (though yes, I know it usually refers to a specific spiced tea) so when people say they want Chai tea, they are saying they want tea tea hehe. Drives me batty. But then, I’m a picky pain the arse. What can I say?

I know one thing I do that drives others batty is my use of the ellipsis. I tend to overuse it, I admit. Strange writing affectation I have had for years.

Another thing that makes me cringe is when I hear people use computer slang out loud in “real” life. It seems to be more common among the younger crowd but I have heard it done by older people who should very definitely know better. Hearing someone say “LOL” to show they thought something was funny makes me want to tape their                               (or is that there? 😛 ) mouth shut. I’d only use a small piece of tape! Honest injun!

So what have I made for you today that brought on this rant? Why… Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies. The original recipe (from the McCormick site) just called them Chai Sugar Cookies but I changed it to Chai Spiced because the original title bugged me hehe. If there is not chai in it, then it shouldn’t be called chai and this uses only the spices normally found in chai, not the actual tea. I also hate when something is advertised as pumpkin flavored when in reality all it has is the typical pumpkin pie type spices in it. It’s misleading and it makes me cry when it ends up having no pumpkin flavor *sniffles in memory*

On topic, these are some pretty good sugar cookies. Pleasantly chewy if not baked too long with a nice spicy scent. The warm spices in these are perfect for this time of year and would make a great addition to a Christmas cookie tray. They also make a great addition to a cup of coffee or tea. I ate enough… I should know. The only thing I will do differently when I make these again would be to use more of each spice in them.

Chewy Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used more like 2)
  • 1/4 sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and a couple of dashes of cardamom in a small bowl)
  1. Mix first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside while you mix the wet ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture, using either low speed on your mixer (if you like cleaning up a fine flour coating from every surface in your kitchen) or a wooden spoon. Make sure it’s well mixed.
  4. Transfer to a smaller container ( a 4 cup measuring cup works well) and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  5. Preheat your oven to 400. Shape the dough into small balls. Roll in the small bowl of sugar/cinnamon mixture. Place the balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake at 400 for about 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on the cookie sheet for one minute then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Well, those that you don’t eat as you pull them off the cookie sheet anyway.

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Eggnog, Fruitcake And Happy Accidents


Eggnog and fruitcake; you either love them or hate them. I have never met anyone who says “Oh, fruitcake (or eggnog) is ok. I eat some every year but that’s about it”. From what I’ve seen it’s more like this

Person 1- “I am really loving this eggnog I’m drinking. I look forward to it every year!”

Person 2- “OMG!!! You sick bas****!!! Get away from me if you drink that crap! It’s nasty! It’s made from Llama brains! You are no longer a part of my life!!

Person 3- *tackles person one, steals the eggnog and sucks it all down in 5 seconds flat, then proceeds to hold up an eggnog delivery truck to appease their addiction*

Replace eggnog and drinking with fruitcake and eating and you have the picture of the typical reactions to both eggnog and fruitcake. I stand firmly in the camp of those holding up eggnog/fruitcake trucks. Not….erhmmmmm *whistles innocently* that I’ve ever done that.

I adore both eggnog and the much maligned fruitcake. I make my own fruitcake every year (you can get it how you like it that way, which in my case means a ton of fruit) and tend to buy one or two or eight of the preservative filled Hostess or whatever brand I see… “Joes Fruitcake anyone”? fruitcakes. And I happily slurp down a gallon or twelve of store bought eggnog each holiday season. Don’t get me wrong… home made is good too but somehow it just isn’t the same as the overly thick, overly sweet kind from a carton.

So when I saw a recipe a while back on Mandys Recipe Box  for eggnog coffee cake, I knew I had to try it. I mean… it uses store bought eggnog! But (no offense Mandy) I knew I wanted to change it up a bit. Originally though, it wasn’t going to be a big change, just a matter of more struesel and more spice as well as the chance to use my LorAnn Eggnog Flavoring. But, like I said, that was originally. It ended up being a larger change than I meant to make but it actually all worked out and saved some calories to boot. PLUS, made this egg free for those who like that. How? Simple. I forgot to add the eggs to the batter. Oops. When I saw how thick the batter was, I added about 2 tablespoons more eggnog to thin it out some. It seems to have done the trick in replacing the eggs because this was quite yummy without them. And it was still moist and tender. So, as far as I am concerned, the eggs are optional. Next time I make it, I’ll add the eggs out of curiosity but that’s about it lol.

Sooooo… if you like eggnog and warm from the oven baked goods, try this. It has a nice eggnog flavor and a moist tender crumb (even without the eggs hehe). Good cake for a weekend breakfast or a simple dessert. This comes together quickly. The original recipe called for an 8 hour rest time but I skipped that and it was fine. That would however be handy if you wanted to mix it up the night before and just pour and bake the next morning.

Eggnog Coffee Cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 cup eggnog (add an extra 2 to 3 tablespoons if omitting eggs)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon eggnog flavoring (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • STRUESEL- (I doubled this)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • GLAZE-
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons eggnog (enough to make a glaze of drizzling consistency)
  1. Grease bottom of a 13×9 inch pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together your struesel ingredients and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together your butter and sugar until creamy.
  3. Add in the eggnog, sour cream , extracts and eggs (if using).
  4. On low speed, beat in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. At this point you can refrigerate for 8 or more hours, but like I said, I didn’t.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack.
  8. Mix together your glaze ingredients and eat a spoonful of it and drizzle all over the coffeecake.

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