Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix And A Winner!

First things first I am going to announce the winner of the giveaway! The lucky winner of When Life Gives You Kids from Lemon Poppy Cakes is Shirin Rose over at Diary of a Messy Kitchen. I will email you shortly to finalize all the details!

I love making things from scratch. It is one of the things I love most about this blog and baking. I love finding something that I usually would buy from the store and making it from things I have in my house. I feel that it is healthier, more fun, and usually tastes better. This cake mix is no different. This cake mix could be accredited for the beginning of my food blog escapades. My sister in law told me that there was this site that had a recipe for a homemade cake mix. I thought this was the most wonderful idea ever. She gave me the link to Mel's Kitchen Cafe and I fell in love. I fell in love with the recipe, with food blogs, and with all things foodie. I started following several food blogs and loved all the different recipe ideas. I love that I can go to the internet and find a recipe for just about anything I want to make. It really is amazing and this recipe is the one that could have started it all. Now back to the recipe. I really do love this recipe. Not only is it great as a cake, but what I really use it for most is for crisps or any dessert that calls for a yellow cake mix. The flavor is so much better (notice I didn't mention anything about healthier). I do love this cake mix and love that I can keep it in my freezer and use it whenever I need it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

*Makes enough for two 9-inch layer cakes (bake according to recipe), or one 9X13-inch cake (bake for 30 to 35 minutes), or one 12-cup bundt pan (bake for 40 to 45 minutes), or 24 cupcakes (bake for 18 to 20 minutes)

*Note: the recipe calls for cake flour, which I never have on hand so I substituted 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour and 3 tablespoons cornstarch for the three cups of flour called for in the recipe. It worked beautifully.

2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Process sugar, flours (or flour and cornstarch if making the substitution for the cake flour), milk powder, baking powder, and salt in a food processor for 15 seconds to combine. Add butter and vanilla and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you want this much finer than, say, a pie crust). Freeze the dry mixture in a zipper-lock bag for up to 2 months or use immediately.

To make the cake, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your pan of choice (see the note above the recipe). With an electric mixer, beat the prepared cake mix, 1 1/4 cups warm water and 2 large room-temperature eggs until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-27 minutes for two 9-inch layer cakes. See the note above the recipe for alternate cooking times with other baking pans. Cool the cake(s) in pan(s) for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

Recipe Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chocolate, Sea Foam, and Pate De Fruit

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

I chose to do a few of my favorite candy recipes. Sea foam or honeycomb is something I first tried in Canada years ago. I have since had it several times and it continues to be one of my favorites. I didn't quite know how this would turn out since I have never even dreamed of making sea foam. The first experience was less than perfect. The candy itself tasted ok, but I left it out on the table uncovered for a few hours and when I came back I found that my sea foam was melting and gooey. This would not do since I wanted to dip the sea foam in chocolate. I also wanted a slight honey flavor so this gave me the opportunity to try again. This second recipe I liked even better than the first as far as taste goes. I was also quite a bit smarter and as soon as it cooled I stored it in an airtight zip lock bag. I didn't get around to dipping it for about a week and it still turned out wonderful.

Sea Foam

75 grams honey (1/4 cup)
140 grams light corn syrup or glucose (1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon)
400 grams sugar (2 cups)
20 grams baking soda (3 1/2 teaspoons)

Prepare a sheet pan (preferably with sides) with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil and brush it with a thin coating of butter or oil. If you have a silpat, put that down and forgo the grease. Set aside.

Combine the honey, corn syrup and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan--one large enough to allow the mixture to quadruple in size (which it will do when you add the baking soda at the end). Moisten the mixture with enough water so that there are no dry patches of sugar; then wash down any stray sugar crystals that might be clinging to the side of the pan.

Set the pan on high heat and cook and cook and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 300 F or, if you don’t have a thermometer, until the mixture turns a light amber color. While the mixture is cooking, do NOT stir it at all. Stirring can cause the sugar to seize (one moment it’s fine, one moment it’s hard and crystallized). Don’t worry about it mixing properly, it will do that on its own when it starts to boil.

When the honeycomb is sufficiently cooked, take the pan off the heat. Dump in all of your baking soda and whisk vigorously until it is well combined; while you whisk, the honeycomb will foam up dramatically. After the soda is whisked in, gently pour the mixture out onto a prepared pan and allow to cool completely, about one hour.

Once cool, break into smaller pieces and dip in chocolate if desired. Store in an airtight container. Really, we mean airtight. A rubbermaid wrapped in plastic inside a ziplock freezer bag would be good. (Honeycomb is hygroscopic, meaning that it sucks in moisture from the air, leaving an unprotected initially crisp candy sticky and gooey in a matter of hours.)

Sea Foam : Recipe Source: Seattlest

I will be honest I had never heard of Pate De Fruit, but when looking at different candy options I knew that this one would be delicious! I have always loved gummy candies but never dreamed of making my own. This candy is so delicious and full of fruit flavor. I loved making it and eating eat!

Raspberry Pate de Fruits

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

2/3 cup water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup, seedless raspberry jam (or a cup of your favorite jam)

Vegetable oil for coating the pan

Additional granulated or superfine sugar for sugar coating

Oil an 8-inch square pan. Set it aside. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/3 cup water. Let the gelatin soften at room temperature until needed. Combine the remaining 1/3 cup water and the granulated sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Add the jam and stir until it melts into the syrup completely. Add the softened gelatin and stir until the gelatin dissolves completely.

Return the mixture to a boil and cook until thermometer reaches 225 degrees. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the syrup into the prepared 8-inch pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator until the candy is set, at least 4 hours.

Use a wet knife to cut the candy into small squares. Using a narrow spatula dipped in water, carefully remove one square at a time and coat each one completely with sugar. Store the candies in layers, separated by wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Pate De Fruit: Recipe Source: A Chow Life

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ginger Cookies and a Giveaway!

I am so so so excited about today's post! First of all this is my very first giveaway and I am so excited about it! Second I have a super yummy recipe to share with you straight out of the cutest little cookbook I have ever seen. And last of all it is Friday!

So to get you all excited for this giveaway I am sharing with you one of the recipes out of this adorable cookbook. Ali over at Lemon Poppy Cakes has done such a great job putting together her cookbooks and they are full of fun family friendly recipes. She has 4 of the cutest cookbooks with another one coming next month! Let me just tell you the names of the cookbooks and you will begin to see how cute they are. Her 4 books are: When Life Gives You Lemons, When Life Gives You Friends, When Life Gives You Chocolate Cravings, and When Life Gives You Kids. She sells her books for only $8.99 and free shipping (what a great deal!) but one of you lucky winners will get a free copy of When Life Gives You Kids! I will go over guidelines in a moment but first lets get to this yummy recipe!

Gingerbread cookies are often something you think of only around Christmas time. They are such a yummy treat and so fun to do with kids (or adults) that I think they deserve more recognition all year. These cookies can be made into gingerbread people or you can make them round and eat them as is. They are great either way. I am posting this recipe straight out of her cookbook so you can get a feel of its cuteness!

Now if that doesn't make you want to win or buy her cookbooks I don't know what will! 

Here is how it works: I am giving away one copy of When Life Gives You Kids! You can enter one of two ways:

1. Become a fan on my Facebook page. If you are already a fan than you are already entered.

2. Become a follower on my blog. Once again if you are already a follower than you are already entered.

3. Leave me a comment telling me you are a fan or a follower. Leave a one comment for each entry (you should have a total of 2 comments if you are a fan and a follower). Please also leave me an email address so I can contact the winner.

The contest ends Monday Aug. 29th and I will post the winner on Wednesday Aug. 31st so check back often! Good Luck!

This contest is for US residents only.

Last of all since you are out in cyberspace becoming a follower and fan of various pages you should also follow Ali over at Lemon Poppy Cakes and become a fan of her facebook page as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Zucchini Chocolate Cake

I love zucchini. I think it is a fabulous vegetable. What other vegetables can you eat steamed, breaded, fried, shredded, in casseroles, in bread, in cookies, and in cakes? We currently have zucchini coming out our ears so I have had the opportunity to make lots of different recipes that call for them. This is another one of my mom's wonderful recipes. I honestly don't remember eating it as we were growing up, but as I get older it has definitely made its way into my memory. This wonderful cake is moist and delicious. The topping is honestly my favorite part! I'm sure I will post more zucchini recipes before the summer is over but I figured that this was a great one to start with.

Zucchini Chocolate Cake

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder 
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sour milk
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
2 cups finely shredded zucchini
Line a 9X12 inch cake pan with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Blend butter, oil and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla & milk. Sift dry ingredients and beat into mixture. Stir in 2 cups zucchini. Pour into 9x12 inch cake pan and sprinkle 3/4 cup brown sugar and 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chip on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peanut Butter Bars

I know I know, I always post desserts on here, but I just can't help it! There are so many delicious things out there that I want to make (and eat) and my most favorite are usually desserts. We live in a very fluid area, really close to a university. We have lots of new people moving into our area all the time. What better way to get to know new neighbors than to bring them a delightful plate of goodies? It really works out to everyone's benefit. I get to make lots of treats and try new recipes, they get to eat my treats, and I don't eat all of my treats and gain a million pounds! I look at this as a win win win situation. I also have many willing victims at work that so graciously eat my yummy treats. These delicious bars have been put to the same good use. I was able to take some around to neighbors, make a few new friends, then I also shared a few at work. To be completely honest though, my favorite part about these bars is the part where I get to eat them! They are fantastic! They have such a rich peanut buttery flavor combined with a delicious chocolate frosting, all with some oats in the dough to almost make you feel like you are being healthy. They really are some of the best peanut butter bars I have ever had. Every time I eat one of these bad boys I always want another. Luckily for me (but not for my waistline) this makes a large pan so I can share some and enjoy some myself.

Peanut Butter Bars

3/4 c butter
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c peanut butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c oats
1/2 c peanut butter

Cream together the butter and sugars. Add peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix the oats until a firm dough is made. Grease a cookie sheet and spread mixture in the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let set for a few minutes. While bars are still warm spread on the extra 1/2 cup peanut butter. The warmth of the bars helps the peanut butter spread easier. The 1/2 cup peanut butter is an approximation use less or more according to you own personal peanut butter desires. Allow bars to cool completely. Once cooled top with chocolate frosting (recipe below).

Chocolate Butter Frosting
1/2 c butter
3 1/2 tsp cocoa
6 Tb milk
1 tsp vanilla

Boil together, remove from heat and add powdered sugar until desired consistency. For these bars I preferred the frosting to be slightly runny while still warm. This way I could pour the frosting over the bars and spread easily without disrupting the peanut butter I had spread on top too much. The frosting sets up more as it cools.

Recipe Source: Adapted slightly from The Sister's Cafe

Friday, August 19, 2011

Raspberry Cheesecake Ice cream

This ice cream is so delicious and yet soooo easy! My darling friend at work told me the best/simplest way to make cheesecake ice cream and I just had to try it out. Adding the graham crackers on top and mixing a few in really made this ice cream taste like it is from an expensive ice cream shop. This basic ice cream is so versatile you could add just about any flavor that would go well with cheesecake! I love any recipe that I can change just slightly to fit my mood for that day. This is the perfect summer treat especially with some fresh raspberries in it!

Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
2 cups whipping cream
3/4 cups sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla
1 small package cheesecake flavored pudding mix
1-2 cups fresh raspberries
Graham Cracker crumbs

In a blender or food processor puree raspberries. If you don't like seeds strain puree mixture through a fine mesh strainer. In a large mixing bowl whisk together milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, pudding mix, and raspberry puree. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. After frozen you can serve immediately or freeze for a few hours for a more solid ice cream. When serving crumble some graham crackers over mixture and mix in slightly. Enjoy!

Recipe Source: Adapted from Cuisinart Recipe book

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Garlic Knots

I love garlic. I think I get it from my dad. It is just such a wonderful thing on most types of savory dishes. The first time I experience garlic knots was at a pizza place in Park City Utah. The dough was soft and tender, and the garlic was in abundance on those bad boys. It takes a lot of garlic for me to say that it was too much garlic, but if anything has come close they did. Now don't get me wrong they were fantastic and I might have wanted to eat them more than my pizza, but I knew if I were to make them for myself I would put a little less garlic on them. It has been about a year or so since that experience and recently I ran into this recipe and decided that I had to try them.  I combined a little of what they did at the restaurant with this already amazing recipe and had fantastic results.

Garlic Knots

1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 tablespoon instant yeast (or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, give or take a few tablespoons

4-6 garlic cloves finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Parmesan cheese
Dried parsley flakes

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl by hand, combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour (if you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, let the yeast proof in the warm water and sugar for about 3-5 minutes until it is foamy and bubbly before adding the oil, salt and flour). Begin mixing and continue to add the rest of the flour gradually until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Judge the dough not by the amount of flour called for in the recipe but in how the dough feels. The dough should be soft and smooth but still slightly tacky to the touch.

Knead the dough in the stand mixer or by hand until it is very smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or 8-10 minutes by hand. Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled (this usually takes about an hour). While dough is rising melt butter and add garlic.

Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly greased counter top. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a four to six-inch rope. Brush rope with garlic butter making sure to get a few small pieces of garlic on each rope. Form into a knot, tucking the loose ends into the center of the knot. Place the rolls on a lightly greased or silpat-lined baking sheet about an inch or two apart. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap taking care not to pin the plastic wrap under the baking sheet or else the rolls will flatten while rising. Let the plastic wrap gently hang over the sides of the pan to fully cover the rolls but not press them down. Let the rolls rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through. Brush each roll with extra garlic butter (you might have to make more depending on how much you put on your rolls prior to baking) and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and parsley flakes (mostly just for color). Return to oven for another minute if you want your parmesan melted on top.

Recipe Source:Adapted slightly from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, August 15, 2011

S'more Bars

I mentioned a while back in my s'more cookie recipe that I would eventually post this recipe. I am so excited to post this recipe! The very first time that I tried these bars I instantly knew it was love. There is so much about these bad boys that I can't resist! They are sweet and chocolaty and gooey and rich! If you eat them when they are still warm it is like taking a gooey bite out of heaven that might instantly sent you into a sugar coma! I am not exaggerating at all when I say that I love these bars. They could be in the running for my favorite dessert (and I like a lot of desserts). This last time I made them with homemade marshmallow cream and really enjoyed the results. I am very grateful to my mom who gave me this recipe and oh so grateful to the wonderful person (whoever you may be) who gave her this recipe so I could have it as well!

S'more Bars

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs (about 1 individual package)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 giant Hershey candy bars (I prefer Symphony Bars myself)
2 cups marshmallow cream (2 small jars or make your own - recipe at bottom)


Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl combine flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture and blend until combined. Dough will look like thick cookie dough. Press 1/2 dough in a greased 9X13 pan. Place chocolate bars on dough. Spread with marshmallow cream. It doesn't have to spread clear to the edge because it spreads while baking. Press small pieces of left over dough between palms of hands to flatten. Lay piece by piece on top of marshmallow cream until the top is covered with remaining dough. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until light golden brown.

Homemade marshmallow cream


6 tablespoons water

1 1/4 cups light corn syrup

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

4 large egg whites

Pinch salt

Pinch cream of tartar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract


In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, bring the water, corn syrup and 3/4 cup sugar to 246 degrees.

In the meantime, in a completely clean, dry mixing bowl, with and electric mixer, whisk the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until creamy and foamy, about 2 minutes. Still whisking, sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue to whisk until the whites hold very soft peaks, about 2 minutes. While mixing on slow speed, carefully drizzle in the hot syrup. Turn the mixer to high and whisk until thick, fluffy and just warm, about 7 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and whisk in the vanilla.

Recipe Source: Food Network

Friday, August 12, 2011

French Bread

I am a carb-o-holic. I have admitted this before and if you see most of the things that I post this fact is very evident. The smell of fresh baked bread is one of my favorite smells. Really if I were a candle maker I would be working hard to try and make a candle that actually smelled like baking bread. The only thing I love more that the smell of fresh baked bread is eating it. Taking a nice big slice of warm bread and eating it with or without butter and homemade jam is seriously a small slice of heaven to me!

I have been wanting to make this french bread for a few days now. I ended up getting a headache and what should one do when they have a headache? Well naturally I went for a short run, took a hot shower, and made bread. My favorite part of this was obviously the bread! This bread is so basic yet the taste and texture of it are so amazing. The egg wash makes it slightly crispy on the outside and oh so soft and chewy on the inside. This is definitely a recipe I am going to be making again and again.

*Note: as with all yeast doughs, I never use the flour amount called for in the recipe as a hard fast rule (unless a weight measure is given and then I pull out my kitchen scale). Because humidity, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors can impact how much flour you need in your yeast doughs, I always judge when to quit adding flour by the texture and look and feel of the dough rather than how much flour I’ve added compared to the recipe. 

2 ¼ c. warm water
2 T. sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp oil
5 ½ -6 cups flour-stirred before measured
Dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm water. Let this proof—or sit for a few minutes until it bubbles. Then add salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and beat well. Add in 2 1/2 -3 more cups of flour. The dough should clean off the sides of the bowl and not be too stick – but be careful not to add too much flour. Knead for a few minutes.
Leave the dough in the mixer to rest for 10 minutes and then stir it down (turn on your mixer for 10 seconds) and then allow to rest another 10 minutes. Repeat for a total of 5 times. Then turn dough onto a floured surface and divide into two equal parts. Roll each part into a 9×13 rectangle. Roll dough up, starting from long edge of loaf to seal. Arrange seam side down on large baking sheet that’s been sprinkled with corn meal, allowing room for both loaves. Repeat with second part of dough. With a sharp knife, cut 3 gashes at an angle on the top of each. Cover lightly; allow to rise 30 minutes. Brush entire surface with egg wash (one egg beaten slightly with 1 Tbsp of water). If desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

Recipe Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chocolate Crepes with Raspberries and Almond Cream Sauce

I love breakfast. I love it. There aren't too many things you can eat for breakfast that I don't like. I will admit that I love sweet breakfasts. Who wouldn't want to start your morning off with something sweet and delicious. This is why these bad boys came about. I recently saw a recipe for some chocolate crepes. I had never heard or thought of chocolate crepes, but I love chocolate! I also love the flavor combo of chocolate raspberries and almond. Those flavors are what inspired this delicious breakfast treat. Yes, I did eat it for breakfast, but it could easily be used as a dessert.

Chocolate Crepes:
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3 ounces all-purpose flour
1 ounce unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup Milk, 1% or higher

Almond Cream Sauce:
3 oz almond paste
2/3 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs powdered sugar

Raspberries for middle and top of crepes

For the crepes: Combine cocoa, vanilla, and eggs in a medium sized bowl. whisk until combined. Add milk, butter, and flour. Whisk well. Over the stove heat medium skillet or crepe pan over medium heat. You want the pan to be hot so that a drop of water sizzles. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Pour 1 1/2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) of batter into the center of the hot pan an swirl the pan until the batter coats the pan evenly. Cook until the edges release from the pan and the underside of the crepe slides easily in the pan, about one minute. Flip the crepe, or turn with a rubber spatula, and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute on the second side. Place on a plate or I like to keep mine warm in my handy tortilla warmer while I make the rest of them.

For the Sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. With a hand mixer blend mixture until smooth and all incorporated.

To assemble crepes you can either fold them in half twice with some raspberries in the middle or roll up the crepe around the raspberries. I enjoyed having a small amount of sauce in the middle with the raspberries and then drizzling more over the top. Enjoy!

Recipe Source: Adapted from Evil Shenanigans

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cookie Dough Topped Brownies

Cookie dough is quite possibly one of my favorite things in life. My second favorite thing in life is brownies. When I saw this recipe for both I was sold! I did have to tweak the recipes a little to suite my taste. The original brownie recipe was quite cakey and I am all about the fudgy brownies so this is my spin on the recipe.

The Brownies

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Cookie Dough:

¾ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups mini chocolate chips

For the Brownies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a 9x13 inch pan with tin foil. Leave a small amount of tin foil hanging over the edge. Spray the tin foil lightly with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda. Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil and boiling water. Mix until well blended and thickened. Stir in the sugar, eggs, and remaining 1/3 cup oil. Finally, add the flour, vanilla and salt; mix just until all of the flour is absorbed. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the brownies comes out clean.

Prepare the Cookie Dough: In a small sauce pan place butter over medium low heat. Melt butter and continue to cook stirring often until it starts turning a light golden brown color. This takes about 10 minutes but make sure to watch it closely so it doesn't burn. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to combine the butter and both sugars. Let mixture rest for a few minutes to let the butter cool. Add the milk and vanilla and mix until combined. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the flour just until combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread the cookie dough over the cooled brownies. Refrigerate until the dough is firm, about an hour. Use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter (my favorite way to slice brownies!) to cut the brownies. Store the brownies in an airtight container at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Allrecipes and Brown Eyed Baker

Friday, August 5, 2011

Free Yogurt Coupon!

To all my couponing people (or wannabe couponing people like myself) I just found out about these online coupons and had to share them with you all. Dannon Activa has new yogurts out and they want everyone to try them so they are giving people free coupons. Check them out!

Or you Visit the Activia Selects Facebook page to get your FREE coupon now!

This sponsorship is brought to you by Activia Selects who we have partnered with for this promotion.
FREE coupon offer good 8/3 /11 - 8/15/11, up to 1 million coupons, on any Activia Selects Single Serve, up to $3.00. One coupon per household. Offer valid in the U.S only. VOID IN LA, NJ, CA. Coupon valid until 8/15/11.
Residents of LA, NJ, CA will be given a '$1 off 3 Activia Selects' coupon.

Homemade Tagalongs

I love girl scout cookies. My sister and I were both in girl scouts growing up. I think I only made it to a brownie but that's ok I was still a girl scout. Growing up my parents would always keep the thin mints in the freezer. I think part of it was that they liked them cold and I think the other part was that they were trying to hide them from us kids. I have 2 types favorite girl scout cookies. I love both thin mints and tagalongs. Depending on my mood that day I might like one over the other. A while back my husband bought a box of tagalongs. Honestly I hadn't eaten these kind in a few years. They combine my favorite flavor combo: chocolate and peanut butter. We had just finished the box and I decided that I could make something like this. I started searching the internet for good recipes. I found one that looked delicious and went for it. What came of this experience was a delicious cookie that is even better than the boxed variety. These cookies have no preservatives, no artificial anything, just yumminess covered in high quality chocolate!

Homemade Tagalongs

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (I used Adams all natural with great results)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups high quality chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate, but semi-sweet would be great too)

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Beat until smooth. Add in egg and beat until well incorporated, scraping down the bowl, if necessary. Add in vanilla. Beat until smooth. With mixer on low, add in salt and flour. Mix until completely incorporated and dough is uniform. Shape dough into a cylinder with a diameter of about 2-3 inches. Wrap in parchment paper and freeze for at least 25 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice dough into 1/8 inch disks and place on baking sheets, about a half inch apart. Once you have made 30 cookies, wrap up the cookie dough, freeze, and save for another time. Bake for 8 minutes. Place on a cooling rack and let cool completely.

3. Mix together peanut butter and powdered sugar. Form into small disks and press onto cookies. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 30 second intervals, and mix well after each interval. Coat cookies completely in chocolate and lift out with a fork. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and let set, or freeze to speed up the process.
Recipe Source: The Family Kitchen

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I know I know, it is summer, so why am I posting soups? I have a few very good reason for posting another soup. First, even though it is summer here, and has been very hot we have had a few days recently that have been rainy with awesome thunderstorms. I feel that a good thunderstorm deserves a good bowl of soup don't you? Second I think that soups shouldn't be restricted to any particular season. I don't limit limit my brownie or ice cream intake to any one given season so why should I limit my soup intake? Last and most important reason is that this soup is PHENOMENAL! It is so basic and fairly simple to make and yet there is a party of deliciousness in my mouth every time I eat it! I have made this soup a few times for my husband and every time he tells me that this could quite possibly be his favorite soup ever. We have eaten this soup by itself or in bread bowls, either way it is fantastic!

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Note: To make my life easier, while the soup is coming together, I put the chopped broccoli in a large glass bowl, cover with saran wrap and microwave for about 3-4 minutes. It cooks perfectly and just in time to add it to the soup.

*Serves 4

1 can chicken broth (about 1 3/4 cups of broth)
1 small onion, diced (or 1 tsp onion powder)
1/3 c. flour
1/4 c. butter
Pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, preferably sharp or extra sharp
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
2 1/2 to 3 cups chopped, lightly steamed or blanched broccoli

Simmer chicken broth and chopped onion for 15-20 minutes in a covered small saucepan, until onions are soft. Heat milk in microwave for 1-2 minutes. In a separate medium-sized stockpot, melt butter then add flour and pepper. Cook together for a couple of minutes, then whisk in warmed milk. Stir and heat together on medium-high heat until soup starts to thicken. Next add chicken broth and continue to stir until well blended. Add cheeses and steamed broccoli. Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: Adapted slightly from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hot Chocolate Cookies

I work in a profession that is primarily women. The area that I work in has about 100 employees and I would guess that 90 of them are women. This could potentially be a very catty hormonal place to work at time. The great thing about my work is that its not. Surprisingly we all get along 99% of the time. We seem to all have a good time together. Sometimes work can be quite stressful but working with people who are willing to help out and who can make you laugh really makes a big difference. Well this recipe was brought to my attention by one of the fabulous women I work with. Ever since I started this site everyone likes to tell me about their favorite recipes. I absolutely love it because then I get to try all these different recipes. This recipe came from one of those conversations. My friend was telling me about these amazing cookies that use hot chocolate mix in them. I have always loved hot chocolate. I will drink it in the middle of the summer. I also love to mix hot chocolate powder in with a bowl of vanilla ice cream. I decided that I would obviously love hot chocolate cookies and they were instantly on the top of my "to make" list. I came home that night and started searching for recipes. Let me tell you that these cookies did not disappoint. I mean really you can't go too wrong with anything that involves chocolate right?

Hot Chocolate Cookies

2 sticks (1 cup)  room temperature butter
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/4 cups flour
4 packages Hot Chocolate Mix (not sugar free)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows

Cream together both sugars and the butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix just until flour in incorporated. Add chocolate chips. Shape into 1 inch round balls and drop onto a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet. Lightly press a few marshmallows in the top of each ball of cookie dough. Bake them in a preheated 350 degree oven for 9 to 11 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan. I think cookies are always best the first day when they are fresh but they can be stored in an airtight container, or freeze for long term storage.

Recipe Source:Adapted from Baked Bree and my friend MeKell