Spiced Cranberry Apple Bread

Spiced Cranberry Apple Bread

Spiced Cranberry Apple Bread

I can hear it now- “here she goes with another damn apple recipe!”. Yep. Sue Me. Another apple recipe 😛 Actually, please don’t sue me. It would lead to a long drawn out court battle that the media would pick up on and things would come to light that would embarrass us both like my bad habit of eating ice cream in bed and then letting the partially eaten pint melt when I fall asleep and that habit of yours where…well, let’s just leave it as you really need to start closing your window shades at night. Just sayin.

I promise; I’ll move past apple recipes here soon (then I’ll annoy you with cranberry and/or citrus ones 😛 ). But when this one popped into my mind after trying to use up some cranberry sauce, I knew I had to share it. You’ll thank me for this the weekend after Thanksgiving when you have a huge bowl of cranberry sauce in the fridge and you’ve already eaten 12 “day after Thanksgiving” sandwiches covered in that same sauce.

I love the way this turned out. It is rather like fruitcake, in that there is just enough batter to hold the fruits together and man, is it ever full of fruit, but without the dried and candied fruit peel. Not that I personally have any issue with those. I’m a fruitcake fan from way back. I can eat my weight in fruitcake, be it homemade or store bought.

This is wonderfully moist, full of both cranberry sauce and dried cranberries as well as a ton of diced apples. Add in some orange zest and warm spices and this is such a quintessential Fall and Winter style quick bread. It’s easy to throw together, with the most “difficult” part being dicing the apples (I’ll add a tip for how I do that quickly in the recipe instructions). And it makes your house smell SO good while it’s baking. This is the typical quick bread, in that it is even better the second and third days than it was when freshly baked.

You know the drill! <3

Spiced Cranberry Apple Bread

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange oil or orange extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 14 ounce can cranberry sauce (or 1 3/4 cup homemade)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely diced, cored apple (about 2 mediumish apples; don’t worry about peeling) *note at bottom
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped, toasted pecans
  • Glaze-
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Spiced Cranberry Apple Bread

Spiced Cranberry Apple Bread

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 10 inch loaf pan. If you don’t have a ten inch, use a 9 inch and a mini loaf pan or a couple of spots in a muffin tin. Just don’t try to load all of the batter into a 9 inch pan or it will overflow.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, spices and orange zest in a small bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer on low speed, beat together the butter, sugar and extracts until light and creamy. Add in the eggs and beat until just mixed. Add in the cranberry sauce and beat just until mixed.
  4. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, add in the flour mixture all at once. Without stirring, dump the  apples and pecans on top, then mix the batter (use a wooden spoon or spatula, not the mixer) together just until mixed and there are no flourly streaks in it. I say again, as I have before, do NOT overmix quick breads of muffins of you end up with tough bread with tunnels in it.
  5. Bake at 350 until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, with no moist batter, just a few crumbs, about 45 to 55 minutes, depending on what pan(s) you used. If you put some in a muffin tin or mini loaf pan, make sure to check those sooner, at about the 30 minute mark.
  6. Let cool in the pan for five minutes or so, then use a butter knife to loosen from the sides and invert onto a rack to finish cooling. When cool, whisk together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle over the top of the loaf.

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Spiced Cranberry Apple Bread

Spiced Cranberry Apple Bread

*Note- I’ve found that the easiest way to get a nice dice on fruit is to simply not try so hard. I used to stand over them and painstakingly finely dice each piece of apple. Now, I core them, give them a rough chop, then lay a large knife horizontally over the fruit and rock it back and forth, using the knife to scoot the pieces back into the pile as needed. It gets them diced in a minute or so and no backache from bending over a counter trying to make each piece perfect.

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Caramel Apple Pie Streusel Bars

Caramel Apple Pie Streusel Bars

Caramel Apple Pie Streusel Bars



I am notorious for totally sucking at making apple pies. I add far too much cinnamon and don’t slice my apples thinly enough, leaving some pieces half raw and others too mushy. I also stunk at pie crusts.  Well, I used to be anyway. For holidays, I STILL tend to buy Marie Callendars Dutch Apple Pie. Why, if I no longer suck? Cause 1) I’m lazy and 2) I love them, so I keep using the whole “I stink at making apple pies!” excuse. Sooner or later, my husband will catch on that I continue to buy $8.00 pies when I could just as easily make one for half the cost, but for now, when Thanksgiving day gets here, I have a Marie Callendar pie waiting in the freezer. Darlin’, if you’re reading this, I’m lying right here…honest, I still stink at making pies *bats lashes and looks innocent*

But, to be honest, I may just leave that pie in there this year and make these bars. I had originally planned on a bar that could be more hand held and had a double crust. But, as happens with me often, and with a lot of bloggers, it morphed into something different. This is still caramel apple pie, but less hand held bar (even though it was done is a square pan) and more “cut a slab of this bad boy, put it on a plate and smother it in caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream” sort of pie. It CAN be hand held, if you’re on the run, since it’s not drippy unless you put far too much caramel lol. But it’s really more of a plate dessert.

This is more multi-step than I usually do, but none of those steps are difficult. Make the dough for the crust and while it’s chilling, prepare your streusel and the pie filling. Then roll out your dough, put it in the pan, top with the filling, then top with the streusel. Voila… ready to go. You DO need to let this cool until it’s completely cool however. Really, with any fruit pie, you should do that. How many times have you cut a warm pie and ended up with half of the filling oozing out into the pan? Let it cool and if you want it warm, you can nuke it for 30 seconds. Trust me. It will set up firmer and not be an oozing mess. Once ready to serve, cover it as desired in caramel sauce (in my case, about 8 or 9 cups worth) and maybe some ice cream. Eat, Enjoy. Thank me. Oh..this crust makes enough for two, so if you’re not wanting to double up the filling and streusel and make two pans, just freeze the other half of the dough until you need it. It never hurts to have some on hand.

Caramel Apple Pie Streusel Bars

  • Crust- (lightly adapted from Emeril Lagasse)
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, cold
  • 2/3 cup solid shortening, cold
  • 6 to 10 tablespoons ice water (the original recipe called for 4 to 5, but that was nowhere near enough)
  • Filling-
  • 5 1/2 cups cored, peeled and chopped (bite sized chunks) apples, about 5 apples. I used a mix of tart and sweet apples
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup Kraft caramel bits (found in the baking aisle)
  • Streusel-
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cups oats (NOT instant)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
  • caramel sauce for topping
  1. Make the crust- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9×9 square pan with foil, using two long pieces, each going in the opposite direction. (line one way, turn pan, line the opposite way, so that all four sides of the pan have a layer of foil) In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and shortening until it looks like small pebbles or peas.
  2. Add the ice water, no more than 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add water until the dough comes together when mixed and isn’t sticky, just firm and holding itself together when pressed. Wrap dough in foil or plastic and chill while you make the streusel and filling.
  3. Streusel-
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, salt, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingers until it is crumbly with, again, pea sized pieces. It’s ok if some chunks are a bit larger. Set aside.
  5. Filling-
  6. In a large bowl, toss the apple chunks with the lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine the flour, spices and sugar. Pour over the apples and mix well, making sure to stir from the bottom, as the flour will settle. Add in the caramel pieces and stir well.
  7. Put together-
  8. Get your chilled dough. Cut in half and store half for later use. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out into a square that measures about 2 inches larger than the pan, about 11×11. Easiest way to gauge- just hold the pan upside down over the dough and eye how large it is. If you need more dough, just use some from the saved half. That half can still be used for mini tarts or tassies. Gently (I use a dough scraper) lift the dough up and lay it in the pan. Press gently down into the pans, going up the sides about 2 inches. If it is uneven, carefully cut tiny bits off of the higher areas and use it to patch onto the shorter ones.
  9. Pour the filling over the prepared crust, smoothing top. Sprinkle the streusel over the filling. Bake at 375 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling around the edges, about 60 to 70 minutes.
  10. Let cool in the pan until completely cool. Cut and serve, drizzling (pouring copious amounts of…) caramel sauce on top of each piece, reheating for about 30 seconds in the microwave is desired.

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Silky Cheesecake Flan

Silky Cheesecake Flan

Do you ever have those moments when you see something become a trend and you can only think to yourself “mannnn, I’ve been doing that/making that/going there/whatever for years now. WAY before it became trendy. Then you’re torn between feeling ahead of the game and wanting to make sure everyone knows you did it first so you don’t seem like a follower. There are a ton of foods I feel like that with. It’s like “no fair! I was making that way before any of you did it!!”

Flan is one of those foods. I was making it way back in the early 80’s, long before it became trendy restaurant food. WHY was I making it? Like duhhhh man; it’s made with high fat heavy cream and this is me. Need I say more? 😛 As a variation of the “If you build it, they will come”, with me, it’s always been “add cream and I will eat it”. Hey, we all have our weak spots. Cream is one of mine.

For years, I used a flan recipe I found in one of those old Pillsbury paperback cookbooks they sold monthly. I still do periodically when I’m feeling like a purist.  But sometimes I like to change it up and make a cheesecake flan. It’s called that because you use cream cheese in it. The cream cheese contributes a silkiness you don’t get with regular flan (though the regular stuff is pretty damned amazing texture wise itself) and a subtle tang. That flavor mixed with the caramel sauce is outstanding.

Word of note- when I make flan, I do NOT do the whole invert and let the caramel run down it, yada yada yada. I want to get to eating and half the time, it droops when inverted and doesn’t look nearly as pretty as it does just spooning it out of the dish and drizzling (or in my case, pouring on by the quart) the caramel sauce on top of each serving. If you want to invert, go for it. But I promise you, no one will care if you don’t.  This is smooth, creamy, just melts in your mouth. The flan itself isn’t overly sweet and the burnt sugar taste of the caramel just sets it off so well, you will find yourself eating and eating…and eating…and cursing me…and eating..and cursing more.

You know the drill….

Silky Cheesecake Flan

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups boiling water
  1. Take a 3 quart baking dish and place it inside of another larger (a 13×9 pan or bigger works well) and set near the stove. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the sugar and water in a small sauce pot.
  3. Over medium high heat, let the sugar mixture cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the color is a dark reddish brown. When it gets to that, even if there are still some sugar lumps, remove from the heat. If you keep swirling for a few seconds, the lumps will melt and even if they don’t, it’s not a big deal.
  4. Immediately pour the caramel into the waiting pan.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on low until creamy. Add in the eggs and egg yolk and using a whisk, gently mix with the cream cheese. You’re trying to make as little foam as possible here because the air bubbles won’t dissipate and will leave unattractive pock marks all over the flan, though they obviously don’t effect the taste.
  6. Gently beat in the condensed milk, then the heavy cream and vanilla extract.
  7. Carefully pour the custard into the prepared pan. Put the pan into the oven and then carefully pour the boiling water around the baking dish with the custard in it, being careful not to splash any water into the pan. Lightly cover the pan with foil.
  8. Immediately turn the heat down to 325 degrees and bake the flan for 45 to 60 minutes, until just the center third of the flan is slightly jiggly (not liquidy, just rather like half set jello). Carefully remove the flan pan from the other pan. I’ve found that the best way to do this without burning your fingers with the water is to use a baster to drain out most of the water, then lift the pan out. Let the flan cool for about an hour at room temp, then refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours more.
  9. If you want to invert it, you run a butter knife all around the edges and then lay a large serving plate over the top. Quickly but carefully flip the dish and pan over and the flan should slide out. Spoon the caramel sauce remaining in the pan over the flan. But, as I said, I rarely bother with the inversion. It tastes just as good and is far less work, if not as dramatic looking.

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Orange Marmalade/ Brown Sugar Glazed Ham

 

Orange Marmalade-Brown Sugar Ham

Orange Marmalade-Brown Sugar Ham


I remember Easter when I was a kid. Our family wasn’t particularly religious when I was young. Easter consisted of an Easter basket from my mother, a bigger one from my father (they divorced when I was 5) and enough candy and chocolate to feed a small third world country. Then my mother made ham for dinner and that was that. Easter was over and all that was left was some hard boiled eggs that would rot in the fridge and be used later to bury in the back yard with threats of digging them up later and throwing them at people. We never did of course. I like to think that somewhere on the South Side of Chicago, there are pretty eggs buried that I could still go back and throw at my mean people… that being anyone who doesn’t like chocolate, hot tea, liverwurst and reruns of Roseanne or M*AS*H.

When I got a little older (ten I believe), we joined a Lutheran church after one of our many moves. The reason was that we could go to the school there free if we were members of the church. All in all, the three years I went to that school were the best school years I had.  I loved going to church on Sunday mornings. I loved the hymns (“He’s Alive”, “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today” are still my favorites.), I loved the feeling of family and I loved learning about God. I don’t talk about my faith much on my blog or here but it’s a large part of me.

I also love the food on Easter. I’m not a big ham person normally. But I love Cumberland Gap Hams . They aren’t as salty as most hams and don’t seem as fatty either. I usually make it the typical way, with a brown sugar and pineapple glaze. But years ago I found this recipe for a ham that was different enough to be intriguing and I held on to it wanting to make it someday. Well, someday happened. And this is one awesome ham. Does it dance for you, cook itself and clean your kitchen after you finish carving it? No. Unfortunately. But it’s just different enough with the glaze to make you keep going back to snitch another piece… and another…and another. And it doesn’t get any easier than this. There is no boiling up a glaze, basting every three minutes, blah blah blah. You stick it in a pan, stick cloves in it (I actually changed that up. I’ll explain down there), put it in the oven, brush with the glaze periodically and Bobs your uncle. Ok, maybe Bob won’t be your uncle. Maybe you have an Uncle Harold or an Uncle Bozo or that crazy uncle that no one mentions except in a whisper. But Bob will WANT to be your uncle if you make him this ham. So go… shoo… buy a ham. Make this on Easter. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Or Christmas. Or for Uncle Bobs birthday.

Orange Marmalade/Brown Sugar Ham

  • 1 12 to 17 pound smoked bone in ham
  • 1 18 ounce jar orange marmalade
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard (I actually used whole grain mustard. I like the texture)
  • 1 1/2 cups packs dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves (I subbed 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves right in the glaze. Nothin’ worse than accidentally biting into a whole clove.)
  1. Preheat oven to 300. Line a heavy roasting pan with a thick layer of heavy duty foil. Trust me on this. Only thing worse than biting into a whole clove is trying t wash a pan that has a glaze from ham cooked onto it.
  2. Trim any excess fat off of the ham. Or leave it you have people like my son who like it.
  3. Place ham, fat side up, in the prepared pan. Cut shallow marks across the ham in a diamond pattern and insert a clove into every diamond. Or omit that step and just do the ground cloves in the glaze.
  4. Pour 1/2 cup of water into the pan. Roast ham at 300 degrees for 2 hours if a smaller ham and 2 3/4 hours if on the upper part of that weight scale.
  5. Take ham out, brush with some of the glaze and return to oven. Increase oven temp to 350 degrees. Continue cooking for about another hour and a half to two hours or until ham reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees, brushing with the glaze about 3 to 4 more times.
  6. Transfer ham to a serving platter and let rest for about 30 minutes before slicing.

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Best.Brownies.Ever

Cocoa Brownies With Browned Butter And A Raspberry Swirl

Cocoa Brownies With Browned Butter And A Raspberry Swirl

Now you all know me. I am not prone to rhapsodizing foods as the “best ever” (suddenly hopes that there are no posts I’m forgetting that say something is the best ever). That of course doesn’t count Cheetos and Twinkies *has a moment of silence for Twinkies…as I do each day*

But these brownies really are the best ever. At least the best I’VE had. And c’mon folks, I’m 48 years old… that’s a lot of brownie eating years to cover. I’ve had boxed prepackaged brownies, Little Debbie brownies (to which I admit having a soft spot for even though I am fairly sure that there is not even ONE real food in them), mix brownies, so called gourmet brownies, burned to a crisp brownies (don’t ask… it wasn’t pretty.) brownies made with chopped chocolate, brownies made with cocoa, blondies, brownies red headed step child and so on and so forth. I’ve eaten a lot of brownies.

I was always convinced that I preferred ones made with unsweetened chocolate blocks or something like that as opposed to ones made with cocoa. I’m not sure why really; just that the one seemed richer than the other I guess and in my mind, that equated to better brownies. So when I first saw this recipe, I wasn’t sure about them since they use cocoa powder. But the idea of using browned butter intrigued me and man oh man, am I ever glad I did. These are hands down my favorite brownie now. And my husband agrees with me. I don’t count the kids because they’re kids… they would eat chocolate flavored cat littler if I served it. But yes, they liked these too. The ones here count as the third time I’ve made them since before Christmas. Point there being that this time, I was ready to experiment a bit beyond the regular recipe. Not much however. Just added about 1/3 of a cup of raspberry preserves to them (swirled on) before baking and I didn’t use the walnuts this time. But I would seriously suggest making these plain and as per the recipe the first time. One, just to get the hang of it, two, to enjoy these in all their pure chocolatey goodness. After that though, this recipes would lend itself to many variations… and I plan on trying them many ways hehe

Another wonderful thing about this recipe? You don’t need a bowl. This all gets mixed right in the saucepan. Can’t beat that… amazing taste AND easy.

Cocoa Brownies With Browned Butter And A Raspberry Swirl

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened powder (NOT drink mix)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee (optional; my addition. You can’t taste it, it just rounds out the chocolate flavor)
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 large eggs, cold from the fridge
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/3 cup raspberry preserves or jam (optional)
  1. Position oven rack in the bottom third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
  2. Lightly butter an 8×8 square baking pan and then line with parchment paper. Lightly butter the paper or spray with cooking spray.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter isn’t foaming anymore and there are browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir often and keep an eye on this. It can go from lovely browned butter to a smelly burned mess in no time flat. This will probably take about 5 minutes or so.
  4. Remove from the heat and immediately add in the cocoa, sugar, water, vanilla and salt. Stir well.
  5. Let cool five minutes. Add the cold eggs to the hot mixture, one at a time, beating well (by hand) after each addition. When the mixture is thick and glossy, add in the flour. Beat for 60 strokes.  I won’t tell anyone however if you do it 61 or even 59. It’s ok. We’re a flexible crowd.
  6. Stir in nuts if using. Spread batter into the prepared pan. This would be the time to swirl in jam if you wanted to do that.
  7. Bake at 325 for about 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out almost, but not quite, clean. Cool the pan on a rack then lift out by the edges of the paper. Cut into 16 squares. Or just leave it in the pan, ladle whipped cream on top, get a spoon and get gloriously ill. Your choice.

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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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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