Simple Doesn’t Always Mean Simplistic

Fudgy Brownies With Peanut Butter Mousse

I may have ranted mentioned before my irritation with people who are constantly talking about how they would never do this or never do that or “omg, how can you USE this when you cook?!” when it comes to cooking and ingredients. You know the ones I am talking about? The who claim that a preservative has never ever passed their lips, that everything they cook with, feed their family and/or eat is organic, humanely raised, home made down to growing the ingredients themselves, even the wheat. And God forbid they were to ever eat something made with a prepackaged mix. Mind you, these are also the same people who, were a world crisis to happen, would be the first to uphold all of Darwins theories about survival of the fittest because they are too entrenched in one way of cooking and eating. Though, mind you, I am personally convinced that 98% of them frequently hide in their closets and eat Hershey bar or Little Debbie snack cakes, but I’ll admit that I may be projecting a bit there 😛 The other 2 percent just scare me.

But the people who supposedly live by this credo would be missing out when it comes to these brownies. Why? because they are made with *GASPS LOUDLY* a boxed mix. The recipe comes from one of those Pillsbury monthly books. I used to buy them all the time and I have had this one for over 20 years. I’m not even sure they make these cookbooks anymore actually which is a shame because they helped me a LOT in my early years of cooking for a family.

When I first decided to use this recipe, I considered improvising and using a homemade brownie recipe for the base of these. It was a case of wanting to look good and not wanting readers or other bloggers to roll their eyes at me. But then I remembered that when I MADE this blog, one of the things I promised myself and any readers I would get in the future was that I would NOT be someone full of pretense. I would blog the way I cooked. And while I rarely use boxed brownie mix, it has been known to be made in my household. It’s easy, they taste good, it’s a good way to get kids into cooking and it’s quick.

Many of you know that I’m not a peanut butter fan for the most part. But every once in a while I still use it because my family enjoys it. And I have to admit… I really really like these. The brownie is nice and chewy and the creamy topping is rich with a slight tang from the cream cheese. Add in the ganache topping and I would happily wager that they could convert many a boxed mix hater (and peanut butter hater like me). There is nothing about these that screams “boxed mix”. They are also pretty darn attractive and would make a good addition to any cookie tray, be it for the holidays or a Summer bbq… whatever. So go on… go buy a box of brownie mix. G’wan.

Fudgy Brownies With A Creamy Peanut Butter Mousse

  • One box brownie mix, batter prepared according to directions (or make homemade if the spirit moves you)
  • 1 package peanut butter chips, 1/2 cup reserved
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons milk or cream
  • GANACHE-
  • 6 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13×9 baking pan. Line it with parchment paper then butter the bottom only of the paper. Trust me… use the paper. it’s not expensive and it will be nearly impossibly to get the brownies out neatly otherwise.
  2. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions, stirring the peanut butter chips into the batter (not the reserved 1/2 cup)
  3. Bake according to box directions, using the lowest cookie times so the brownies are fudgy and not hard. (I’m not putting specific times here because different brands may call for different times)
  4. Cool in pan set on wire rack until completely cooled.
  5. When cool, make the mousse. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, the butter and the cream cheese. Mix until smooth and creamy. Slowly add in the powdered sugar. beat until you have a spreadable creamy mixture. Eat a few spoonfuls hehe.
  6. Spread the mousse mixture over the top of the brownies.
  7. Refrigerate while you make the ganache.
  8. To make the ganache,  put the semi sweet chocolate in a small bowl. Scald your cream then pour it over the chips. Let it sit for about 3 minutes or so then stir. the heat should have melted the chips quite nicely. Stir until smooth and shiny.
  9. Let the ganache come to room temp. Do NOT pour over the mousse when warm or you’ll melt the mousse.
  10. When it’s at room temp, slowly pour the ganache over the peanut butter mousse. Use it all. When it’s poured, refrigerate the pan to let the ganache set up.
  11. When chilled, cut into squares… or circles… or hexagons if that makes you happy.

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Reinventing The Wheel

And what a lovely reinvention it was. This is one that I know a lot of you have seen all over the ‘net but yep, it was MY turn darn it! I’m all for fair play and cool stuff like that. Except in Yahtzee. I’ve been known to turn the die to whatever number I needed when my opponent wasn’t looking. But that will be our little secret, right? That and that I may or may not have  added a few extra children pegs once when I played “Life”. Like I of all people needed to add more kids, considering I have six in real life, huh?

Like I said, this has been all over the ‘net. But as far as I can tell, the first place it showed up was on the blog Six Sisters Stuff . I love their blog. Good homey food, a close knit family and did I mention the good homey food? So I wanted to give the credit there since theirs was the oldest recipe I could find.

I did these almost exactly like theirs with the only change being that I added quite a bit more spice. If you know me, you already knew that was coming though. I about tripled the cinnamon and also added some ginger and cloves to the flour mixture and used butter instead of margarine. I also didn’t chill the dough. Not sure if that was the reason my cookies never flattened out. They stayed in balls. Mind you, they still tasted awesome but they were cakier. Could also be I didn’t measure my flour well enough. Again though, they were still good. I think next time however, I will do these the typical snickerdoodle way and use just baking soda and cream of tartar as the leavening and see if that makes them flatter and chewier. 😀 Most of the dough got frozen to make closer to Christmas so we’ll see if that makes a difference in the final product. But if you still aren’t ready to give up Pumpkin, this is a good one to try.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp (or margarine)
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (original was 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger (optional-my addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves ( optional-my addition)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, shortening, sugars, pumpkin and egg. Beat until light and fluffy.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients and then mix into the wet ones. Beat until well blended.
  4. Chill the dough for about 30 minutes, then shape into small balls.
  5. In a bowl, combine about 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ginger (more or less according to taste.. I of course used more hehe)
  6. Roll the balls in the sugar mix then place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 400 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes, or until light brown and set but not hard.
  7. Let cool in pan for a minute or so, then finish cooling on a rack.

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Oh SNAP! Gingersnap That Is

I’ve never understood that phrase. But then again, I’m old and don’t get a lot of the lingo from say, the past 20 years or so. I like to delude myself and say “self… it’s not that you’re out of touch and totally backwards like your kids (and everyone else who knows you) say. Honest, it isn’t. It’s just that you have been far too busy with motherhood, doing good works to save the world, writing the “Great American Novel” and raising awareness of causes like “Save The One Toed Green Eyed Purple Sloth” (that cause failed btw… all the one toed green eyed purple sloths are gone now) to worry about mundane things like hip phrases (does anyone use the word hip now or did I just verify my…well… unhipness?)”

The above could be why my older brother Steve, who was always far less cool and with it than I, had to explain to me what the letters LFMF meant (means “Learn From My Fail” for you other backward folk). He, in his doddering old age, knew more than I, in my youthful hipness… or is that hippiness in my case? Gotta cut down on the cookies. Oh well.

I mentioned before that every year I make cookies. More cookies than can be eaten by a small country. I make some of the same every year and some new ones every year, which might or might not go into the yearly traditions. Well, one that has been in there for about 20 years now are gingersnaps. WAIT A MINUTE! Get back here! This is NOT like those completely disgusting ones that you get in bags at the supermarket. I hate those myself. But I always liked the IDEA of them which is why I tried these years back. Verdict? They’re fantastic. These are chewy, full of the spices that just scream Christmas (no.. really… they do. Spices talk to you too don’t they?) and one that always disappears from my cookie tray at Christmas. That may or may not be due to my oldest son and I hogging them but I prefer to think that everyone gets their fair share. HA! Yeah right. Back away from the Gingersnaps.

Chewy Gingersnaps

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I tend to go far heavier on the spices)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, molasses and egg.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and all spices other than the last teaspoon of cinnamon (and the last 1/4 cup sugar)
  3. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour (can be frozen at this point for later use) to firm it up.
  5. When chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Shape dough into mediumish (about 1 inch) balls. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl then roll each cookie ball in it.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes ( I make my cookies a bit bigger. If you do, just remember to increase your cooking time). They will puff up at first, then flatten out. Generally speaking, about a minute after they flatten out in the oven is when they are done. They should be firm and set on the top but not crispy looking.
  8. Cool for about a minute on the pan then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Make sure to eat one, two… awww, what the heck, make it 12, while still warm. I won’t judge.

 

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas??? Somewhere.

Peppermint Bark Chocolate Chip Cookies

But that somewhere is so not here in Kentucky. We have, thus far, been having an annoyingly mild holiday season. Thanksgiving day it was close to 60 degrees. Today, as I baked Christmas cookies, it got up OVER 60. Tomorrow, which according to my calendar is supposed to be December 3rd, is supposed to be almost 70 degrees. W…T….H…??? At this rate, Santa is going to be coming here by surf board. Ok, I live in a landlocked state… maybe convertible would be better. Whatever. You get my point. It’s too darn warm for December! I want snow! I want a reason to light a fire! I want to have a reason to complain about being cold!

You all have my permission to remind me of this post when I’m whining about being cold, by the way.

Anyway, I’ve started my yearly Christmas cookie baking. Ever since my now grown and married kids were little, that has meant that I make approximately 352 dozen cookies. The kids aren’t allowed any until Christmas day (well, Christmas eve nowadays) whereupon we all eat cookies until we are ill and then I spend the next week or so foisting them off on unsuspecting strangers. “Hi… I don’t know you and I’m sorry to interrupt you while the paramedics are wheeling you into the ER gushing blood from several arteries but here… have 3 dozen gingersnaps. You’ll love them after you recover from surgery!”

I remember the year I was working about 70 hours a week as an assistant banquet manager for a hotel. Baking became an….interesting…proposition. I had one day off before Christmas. I used that day and made FIFTEEN different types of cookies so as to not disappoint my kids. Yes, yes I AM insane… why do you ask?

Ahhhh, good times… good times. Or something like that.

Today I made my version of Peppermint Bark in a cookie. I swear… I love that stuff. So putting the flavors in a cookie was a natural extension. I know I could have bought those pre crushed bags of the Ghirardelli’s peppermint bark but what would be the fun in THAT? Twas much more interesting to use all the separate components and do it that way. PLUS, the added bonus is that you get far more chocolate in it my way.

So go buy the ingredients. Unless of course you’re like me and always have somewhere in the vicinity of 1200 bags of different baking chips in the house at any given time. Then go hunt through them and get what you need. These are a little bit chewy, a little bit rock and roll. Sorry; I was channeling Donny Osmond. These are a bit chewy, a bit gooey from the chocolate and then you have those awesome crispy bites when you get some of the crushed candy canes. Bottom line? These are oh so yummy!

One thing? Line your cookie sheets with a silicone mat. Trust me. The candy leaks and prying melted candy cane off a cookie sheet is a pain in the arse. This makes a large batch of cookies. The dough freezes well so you could make your dough now and then freeze it, thaw it, pop it into the oven a bit closer to Christmas.

Peppermint Bark Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 small (3.4 ounces) boxes instant vanilla pudding mix (I actually used one French vanilla and one cheesecake flavored)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 bag dark chocolate chips
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 16 regular sized candy canes, crushed (the kind that come in boxes of 12) (also, crush in a bag. Using the food processor causes them to get just hot enough to get sticky and lump up)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line your cookie sheet(s) with a silicone mat.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Cream until light and fluffy(ish)
  4. Beat in the pudding mixes, then the eggs, vanilla and peppermint extract.
  5. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the flour mixture.
  6. Pour in the chocolate chips, white chips and crushed candy canes. Mix well. Cuss me out cause your arms are getting really tired about now.
  7. Drop the cookie dough by spoonfuls onto the prepared sheet(s).
  8. Bake for about 12 minutes or until they are a light golden brown. If you prefer your cookies crispier, give them about another minute or 2 in the oven.
  9. Let cool on a wire rack, then eat them until you feel ill. Thank me later.

 

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