Sunday, January 16, 2011

We Have a Winner!

We have a winner of the $35 gift certificate to!!

I input numbers 1-46 on my number generator and out of 1-46, it chose #6!!!

Congratulations to grandgiveaways who made the 6th comment on the giveaway posting. Thanks to grandgiveaways for their daily commenting and commitment! 

I sincerely appreciate everyone's commenting and support of this little blog. I know it's nothing compared to PioneerWoman or Annie's Eats, but I'm working on it! Your support means so much! 

I also want to encourage everyone to keep checking back for daily recipes and to keep your eye out for an announcement about a brand new website I'm in the process of creating! Although the design will look much like the current design of this blog, it's an actual .com website and I am really looking forward to revealing it to everyone once it's finished! 

Congratulations, again, to grandgiveaways! I'll be e-mailing you with your gift certificate code!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cherry Crisp

Remember! Today is the LAST day you have to leave a comment on the January 8th post titled "Another Giveaway From CSN Stores!" You have until 11:59 p.m. tonight to leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for the $35 gift certificate to use any way you want at the CSN Stores website! Good luck and thanks for your support!

I thoroughly love my Blueberry Coconut Crisp, but I wanted to change things up one night. I had an extra can of lite cherry pie filling in my pantry and, in the midst of my recent cleaning sprees, I pulled it out knowing I needed to get it used up and clear up the space on my shelf. I knew I also wanted to try to cut out some of the calories so I decreased the amount of butter in the original recipe. The result was, I have to say, as equally delicious as the blueberry crisp. In a rush, I forgot to decrease the amount of flour, oats, and brown sugar to match the decrease in butter. The crisp topping was not as crispy this time, so I have made those modifications in this recipe. I would definitely make this again and am looking forward to switching things up with other fruits!

Cherry Crisp
Source: Me
Yields: one 8x8 dish

1-20oz can of lite cherry pie filling
3/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat flour)
3/4 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, oats, and brown sugar. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles small peas. Press half of this mixture into the bottom of a greased 8x8 glass baking dish. Cover with all of the cherry pie filling. Cover with the rest of the brown sugar mixture. Bake in oven for 30 minutes until the cherry pie filling is bubbly. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Broccoli Mac n Cheese

Remember, you have just today and tomorrow to enter the drawing for the $35 gift certificate to CSN Stores! Enter the drawing by leaving a comment on the post titled "Another Giveaway from CSN Stores!" dated January 8th! Good luck and thank you for your support!

I knew I wanted a really simple and quick, yet satisfying side dish to accompany my Oven BBQ Chicken from yesterday. I came across this particular mac n cheese from Stephanie Cooks, and really liked that it was similar to other Mac n Cheese recipes I've used before and have enjoyed. I have always thought that adding broccoli to mac n cheese would be good, but I just never tried it. I decided to do so on Oven BBQ Chicken night! ComputerMan was less than thrilled that there were vegetables in his mac n cheese; I, however, thoroughly enjoyed it. He always tells me he doesn't like his broccoli cooked. Somehow I always "forget." Oops. One thing I will say about the broccoli, though: don't be a cheapskate like me and get the frozen bag of broccoli "cuts" which has the tops as well as the stem parts. Some of the pieces were just too tough. I'll splurge next time and spend the extra 50 cents to get just the broccoli tops! 

Broccoli Mac n Cheese
Serves: 4-6

2 T butter
2 T flour
2 cups milk
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese (I like medium sharpness)
salt and pepper to taste
10 oz frozen broccoli, defrosted and roughly chopped
8 oz pasta shapes (I used shells, but any short shape would work)
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stovetop. Cook pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is almost done, throw in the broccoli and allow the water to come back up to a boil. Boil the broccoli and pasta together until the pasta is done and the broccoli is just starting to become tender--you just want to take a bit of the bite off. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook together for a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a boil for 5 minutes until it starts to thicken up. Add in the shredded cheese and melt it, stirring in a figure-8 motion. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat. Add in the broccoli and pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to an 11x7 greased baking dish. Top with the grated parmesan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until it's bubbly and heated through! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oven BBQ Chicken

You only have a couple of more days to enter the $35 gift certificate drawing! Just scroll down (or click 'older posts' if necessary) to find the post titled "Another Giveaway from CSN Stores!" and follow the directions given. Good luck and thanks for your support!

I really, really love the taste of BBQ chicken done on the grill. The taste of the smoke mixed with the rich, bold flavors of the barbecue sauce means serious comfort food in my book. My dad is King of the Grill so when ComputerMan brings in food off the grill it brings back so many fond memories of countless grill meals my parents made together growing up. I still look forward to getting to my parents' house and having Dad's food fresh from the grill. I hate the heat of summer, but it's all worth it when you get to bite into a juicy burger or steak, a tender chicken breast, or even a perfectly cooked hot dog straight from the grill.

Since Southern California has been experiencing some weird amounts of rainfall and exceptionally low temperatures, the desire to get out to the grill definitely has not been at the top of ComputerMan's list lately. Plus, we're out of propane and don't feel like going to the store to get some more! I still love the taste of BBQ in the winter, so I knew I needed to find a good oven BBQ recipe to help hold me over till summer. This definitely was a winner for both of us; it's simple and delicious all at the same time. ComputerMan suggested that it be added to the menu rotation! Enjoy!

Oven BBQ Chicken
Source: adapted from
Serves: 2-4

2 large chicken breasts, cut in half or thirds
season salt
garlic salt
1 T Worcestershire
1/2 cup favorite BBQ sauce (we use KC Masterpiece or Sweet Baby Ray's)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 400. Coat the cut up chicken with the Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl or zip lock bag. Season with the season salt, garlic salt, and pepper. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Coat the chicken the flour. Transfer the chicken to the hot oil, shaking off excess flour. Fry until the chicken is golden brown (it won't be totally done in the middle--that's okay). Transfer the chicken to a 9x13 baking pan lined with aluminum foil (makes clean up a whole heck of a lot faster). Mix the honey and BBQ sauce in a bowl. Drizzle half of the sauce mix over the chicken, coating both sides. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and the remaining sauce over the chicken, coating both sides again. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Creamy Citrus Ginger Salad Dressing

Before I start, don't forget to enter Saturday's giveaway for (see posting titled "Another Giveaway from CSN Stores!" dated January 8th!)

Sometime long, long ago I received this nifty little salad dressing bottle with some quick and easy dressing recipes on the bottle and a lines for measuring ounces of liquids. This bottle has kind of been one of those things I've put in and taken out of the "donate" box when I get into a cleaning mode. It takes up space on a shelf that could use some more room, but I always think that "one day it'll come in handy." One day I just decided to mix up one of the dressings and go for it since I had some yummy croutons (see yesterday's post) to go atop my lunch salad. This dressing came together really quick and was definitely a great alternative to my typical red wine or balsamic vinaigrette that I usually use. If you don't have a nifty salad dressing bottle, just measure out the ingredients in a glass measuring cup and whisk everything together, or measure everything out and mix together in a mason jar. I'll let you know when I try the other recipes from my bottle!

Creamy Citrus Ginger Salad Dressing
Source: My Nifty Salad Dressing Bottle
Yields: 6 oz dressing

2 oz. non-fat plain yogurt
4 oz. orange juice
2 T lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp ground ginger (I used 1/2 tsp because I was worried it would overpower the dressing--it didn't; I'll use 1 tsp next time)
1 tsp ground pepper
dash or two of salt

Measure everything in a glass measuring cup and whisk together rapidly. Serve immediately. OR Measure everything in a glass measuring cup, transfer to a glass mason jar, screw on the lid and shake vigorously to mix. Serve immediately.

The salad I made was with green leafy lettuce, big slices of tomato, sliced turkey lunch meat, some shredded Mexican cheese, shredded carrot, and a big handful of yesterday's Herbed Croutons!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Herbed Croutons

Before I start, don't forget to enter Saturday's giveaway for (see posting titled "Another Giveaway from CSN Stores!" dated January 8th!)

After making the Baked Apple French Toast  for our special breakfast guest, I had the ends of the French bread, as well as a slice from the middle, leftover and definitely did not want it to go to waste. These days I'm using the very last of everything to make sure I'm not wasting any money at all. I was able to get a good little pile of bread cubes from the bread ends and knew I could quickly make some croutons while getting ready to head out to run a few errands. These are so simple, quick, and adapt easily to suit your tastes. I used these in a big salad I'll show you tomorrow!

Herbed Croutons
Source: Me
Yields: about 1 1/2 cups of croutons

2-4 slices day old French bread
garlic salt
dried thyme
olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the bread cubes in a single layer on a metal baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil making sure you have enough to coat the cubes well. Toss the bread cubes so that all the sides receive olive oil. Sprinkle pepper, garlic salt, and dried thyme on to suit your tastes. Toss cubes together again to evenly distribute seasonings. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the bread cubes are toasty golden and crunchy. Once they are done, transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to cool and store in a ziplock baggie for a couple of days!

Other good seasonings would be oregano, onion powder, Italian seasoning, parmesan cheese, or rosemary! Get creative!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Twice Baked Potatoes

Before I start, don't forget to enter Saturday's giveaway for (see posting titled "Another Giveaway from CSN Stores!" dated January 8th!)

So, yeah, this idea also came from Summer of The Wannabe Ranch Wife! I really do have my own ideas--I promise! She just has so many good ones that it's hard to ignore them and try to be creative on my own sometimes! And, yes, we do spend a TON of time together! But, that's the way we like it and we don't plan on changing things, so don't make us! Plus, Mario gets along so well with her boyfriend, Zak, that it just makes life easy. In fact, they are eerily similar in ways that always shock us! But I digress. Shocker, I know. These twice baked potatoes are the perfect snack or simple meal for those evenings when you don't feel like having a big dinner (a very rare occasion in my house). During our late night baking extravaganza, I started to get munchy and  asked Sum if she had anything I could snack on. Since the oven was already on, she threw a couple of these in for me and they totally hit the spot! I had a bag of potatoes I needed to get used up before they grew too many of those weird root things, and it was a total success! Thanks, Sum! Enjoy these!

Twice Baked Potatoes
Yields: this is for 6 large potatoes, or 12 halves
Source: Summer

6 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
some olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup to 1 cup milk
2 to 2 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend, but you can use just cheddar if you want)
1 tsp garlic salt (or more to suit your tastes)
salt and pepper to taste
diced green onions for garnish and ranch for dipping

Preheat oven to 375. Once potatoes are scrubbed clean, pour some olive oil in your hands and thinly coat the potatoes. Arrange the potatoes on a large metal baking sheet and bake for about an hour, or until a fork can easily be inserted and removed from the middle of the potato ("fork tender").

Allow potatoes to cool slightly and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides of the potato into a large mixing bowl. Be careful to not scoop right through the skins, those need to be left in tact. I leave a very thin (1/8 - 1/4") layer of potato in the skin.

Once you've scooped all the insides into the bowl, add in the butter, 1/2 cup milk, 1 cup of the shredded cheese, garlic salt, and salt and pepper. Mix together using a hand mixer until the potatoes are creamy (like mashed potatoes). Add in more milk if they aren't creamy enough, adjust your seasonings, and mix together well. (The picture below is PRE-mixing.)

If you're willing to part with a large zip lock bag, transfer half of the mashed potato mixture to the bag, press out the air, seal shut, and cut off the tip of the bag so you have about a 1-inch opening. Evenly pipe the potatoes into the skins. Fill your bag up when needed and repeat until all the skins are filled.

Use a spoon or knife to spread the mashed potato mixture into all the crevices of the skin and to create a flat surface for the cheese.

Top the filled skins with as much cheese as you want (clearly, I like A LOT of cheese).

At this point, you can do one of two things. You can put them back into your oven at 400 degrees and allow them to heat back up and melt the cheese. Serve immediately with diced green onions (some crumbled cooked bacon would be good too) and ranch. OR, you can put them in the freezer without baking and all them to freeze individually overnight. The next morning, transfer them to a large zip lock bag and keep them in the freezer until you're ready to eat them. When you are, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and pop the frozen potatoes into the oven and allow them to fully reheat and melt the cheese--about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve with diced green onions, crumbled bacon, and ranch, or whatever other toppings/dips sound good!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Quick Lunch/Snack Idea

Before I start, don't forget to enter yesterday's giveaway for (see posting titled "Another Giveaway from CSN Stores!" dated January 8th!)

I was in a sort of munchy mood one afternoon (not totally atypical for me) and I wanted to use up some tomatoes in the fridge. I had seen a commercial earlier in the day that inspired this quick lunch, and I'm really looking forward to doctoring it up again soon with some other toppings! This is a very versatile and easy sandwich to make that can be customized to suit anyone's tastes! Here's how I did it, plus some other ideas that I have running through my head! Enjoy!

Quick Open-Face Tomato Sandwich
Serves: 1
Source: me

2 slices white bread
3 slices turkey lunch meat
3 slices ripe tomato
2 slices provolone cheese
2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
1 T freshly grated parmesan cheese
a sprinkling of dried oregano

Toast the bread to your desired doneness. Place on a small baking sheet and drizzle with the 2 T of the olive oil. Top with the turkey and provolone cheese. Place directly under the broiler on high. Leave the oven door open so you can babysit the cheese--it will burn very quickly! Once it is bubbly and golden brown in a few spots, quickly remove it from the oven and top with the sliced tomato, drizzle with a bit more olive oil, sprinkle on the grated parmesan and the dried oregano. Enjoy immediately!

Other Ideas I Plan to soon:
-pumpernickel, rye, French or Sourdough bread
-havarti, swiss cheese, or blue cheese crumbles
-2 or 3 slices of crispy, cooked bacon (maybe leftovers from breakfast?)
-sliced avocado
-smear some Dijon mustard on the bread after drizzling with olive oil
-roasted red pepper or sundried tomatoes instead of fresh tomato

Let me know if you come up with some fun variations on this and share the wealth!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Another Giveaway from CSN Stores!!

This giveaway is now closed. Check back for another one some other time!

How I Spend my Saturday Afternoons:
Facebook, e-mail, blogging and searching blogs, and looking at dreaming of everything I want to buy!!
Man, I love this company! They are the coolest thing in the world--I've found so much great stuff from this website, and I spent some time today browsing their luggage stores to start finding some new luggage for the two of us. We have two GIGANTIC suitcases, but no small or medium sized ones to take on weekend trips up the coast (hint, hint, honey!).

A representative from contacted me before the holidays offering me the chance to run another giveaway here at justplayingwithfood! I jumped on the opportunity, realized it was the craziest season in the year, and had to back out. She gave me the chance again, so here you go! Here's YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A $35 GIFT CERTIFICATE TO CSNSTORES.COM. There are over 200 different stores that you can shop at, so the possibilities of spending that money are virtually endless!

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
-leave a comment at the end of this posting in the comments section; the comment can be totally random or related to this posting in some way
-along with your comment, leave your first name and your e-mail address so my representative from csnstores can contact you with the gift certificate code once you've won
-you can leave one comment every 24 hours starting today (Saturday, January 8th) and until next Saturday, January 15th, and 11:59 p.m.; I'll announce the winner on Sunday, January 16th

Have fun and good luck!! I'm going back to my dreams of the California Coast!

Cinnamon Bread

One of my bestestest friends, Summer of The Wannabe Ranch Wife, called me up one evening and asked if I'd be interested in doing some late night baking. Um, hello, yes!!! We have spent more time in the kitchen together than I have with any one else and she's one of the few people I actually trust to help me get things done (read: do things for me when I don't want to). We were raised very similarly and have basically identical outlooks on life, so when we're in the kitchen together it's like I'm cooking with myself. Back to the late night bake-apalooza! We made a whole bunch of yummy treats that didn't get photographed because a) I forgot my camera, and b) they were eaten too quickly! Bah! These last couple of slices managed to survive a quick photo shoot before being scarfed down for my breakfast one morning. Toasted with a big scrape of butter on the top, this bread is heavenly! Summer totally gets the credit for putting this whole thing together, but I guess I'm posting it here because I did do the yeast for the bead. Again, the lines are blurred when it comes to dividing up my work and hers because we just piggyback off each other's tasks at hand. Love that girl!

Cinnamon Bread
Source: adapted from PioneerWoman
Yields: 1 glorious loaf of bread

1 cup milk
6 T butter
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 eggs
1/3 cup suagar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 T cinnamon
egg and milk mixed together for brushing
softened butter for greasing the the loaf pan

Melt butter in a medium sized microwave safe glass bowl. Add milk to the melted butter and heat until very warm, but don't boil. It should be warm to the touch, but not hot. Once it's there, sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir gently; allow to sit for 10 minutes. There should be some foamy bubbles; if not, the yeast is dead and you gotta do it over.

Combine flour and salt.

In your mixer bowl, mix sugar and eggs until combined. Pour in milk/yeast mixture and combine. Add half the flour and beat on medium until combined. Add the other half and combine.

Switch to a dough hook and knead/beat for 10 minutes on medium. If dough is real sticky, add 1/4 cup flour and beat again for 5 minutes.

In a warm metal bowl (put it in a sink of hot water and dry right before you need it), drizzle in a little canola oil, then toss the dough in the oil to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 2 hours. Note: we used rapid rise bread machine yeast, so it only took 1 hour to rise for us.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Roll into a 18-24 inch long rectangle that is no wider than your loaf pan you plan to use. Smear with 2 T melted butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon together, and sprinkle it over the dough. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the cinnamon-sugar. Roll bread together starting at one end and rolling toward the other; keep it tight and contained. Pinch seam to seal.

Smear loaf pan with softened butter. Place seam side down in the pan and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2 hours (again, this didn't take but an hour because of the yeast we used).

Preheat oven to 350. Mix an egg with some milk and brush over the top of the bread. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve toasted with butter or as French toast!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

Along with the Baked Apple French Toast from yesterday, I also served these Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes at breakfast when we hosted Mario's cousin. This recipe makes the perfect amount of pancakes if you're serving several other items for breakfast. The batter is so light and fluffy and the blueberries act as a sort of garnish on these pancakes. I love buttermilk pancakes so this was the perfect addition to something I already love! Enjoy!

Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes
Yields: 12 pancakes
Source: Taste of Home

2 cups flour (I used all-purpose, but you could also use whole wheat to healthy-ify them)
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 T canola oil
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

In la large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Combine the buttermilk, beaten eggs, and oil in another medium sized bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir together with a fork until just moistened. Don't overmix the batter or it will create dense and flat pancakes. There will be a few lumps of dry ingredients--it's okay!

Pour batter by 1/4 cupfulls onto a greased hot griddle (I used a large frying pan). Sprinkle 1 T blueberries on each pancake. When bubbles form around the edges and tops of the pancakes, flip them and cook until the second side is golden brown. Serve with butter and syrup!

Fruit Salad

I also served this big fruit salad with breakfast that morning so we wouldn't feel so guilty eating bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, and the Apple French Toast! Obviously, you can adapt this to suit your tastes, but I just used what I had on hand: 4 large bananas, 1 bundle of seedless red grapes, and 4 medium oranges! I had a lot left over--this would easily serve 8 people!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Baked Apple French Toast

One Sunday morning we got to host breakfast for Mario's cousin from Kentucky whom he hadn't seen in six years! It was great to get to meet her for the first time and enjoy getting to know yet another member of his gigantic family! I quickly called my mom for this recipe knowing that it would be a sure-fire hit with everyone at the table--and, indeed, it was! The apples are sliced thinly so they cook beautifully and create a really nice cinnamon-sugary crust on top of really moist French bread. Selfishly, I made a large 9x13 dish of this so that there'd be leftovers for breakfast the next couple of days, knowing full well that I'd be the only one really craving it for more than one day! It reheats beautifully and is so yummy and filling with a cup of hot coffee on a cold morning! Enjoy!

Baked Apple French Toast
Serves: 6-8
Source: a newspaper clipping Mom has

1 large loaf of French bread
3 cups milk (I used 1%, but you can use whole or 2%; non-fat wouldn't be very good)
1 T vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
3 Granny Smith (green) apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2 T cold, unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish. Slice the French bread in 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 inch slices and arrange bread in a single layer on the bottom of the dish. You'll have to pack the bread in tightly and you might even have to tear up a slice or two to fill in gaps. I had one slice leftover that couldn't fit in the dish, plus I cut off the two ends since I didn't want two real crusty pieces. Combine eggs, milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Pour 1/2 of the liquid over the bread, distributing evenly. Cover the bread with all the sliced apples, arranging them in an even layer. Pour the rest of the liquid over the apples. Mix the rest of the sugar (1/2 cup) and the cinnamon together and sprinkle over apples. Cut the butter up into small cubes and arrange over the the cinnamon-sugar. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes. Cool just 5 minutes and serve with butter and syrup.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Simple Dinner

I really love meals that allow me to use up things I already have in the pantry or cooked food already in the fridge. To use up some extra potatoes and leftover ham, I decided to throw together Scalloped Potatoes and Ham one evening. It was such a comforting and hearty dish that really warmed us up on a chilly Southern California evening! Though the picture is very monochromatic, the dish is super flavorful and delicious when served with a simple green salad! Enjoy!

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

Preheat oven to 350.

Peel 4-6 Russet potatoes (4 large to 6 medium). Thinly slice and layer in a 9x13 glass baking dish. Add in some cooked, cubed ham (bacon would be good too) and you can even add in a little bit of chopped onion and garlic. Get as fancy or stay as simple as you want!

To make the sauce, add 3 tablespoons butter to a sauce pan and melt it over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons flour and a little pepper (no salt). Cook together for 1-2 minutes. Add in 2 1/2 to 3 cups of milk (use anything except non-fat milk here). Stir continuously over medium-low heat until mixture thickens. Season with salt to taste once you turn off the heat.

Pour the white sauce over the potatoes. Bake covered at 350 for at least an hour--it could take more though depending on how thin you slice your potatoes. You can uncover it and allow it to brown a bit on top for an additional 5 minutes after the potatoes are fully cooked. You could even sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top and melt that. Again, get as fancy or stay as simple as you want!

P.S. Don't blame me for these somewhat vague instructions...I just learned to be like this with this particular recipe from my mom!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Treats Re-cap, Part 4

And, finally, since we own a small computer repair business, some goodies for our faithful business clients. The most fun part about these goodies is that one of my best friends, Summer of The Wannabe Ranch Wife, came over to help me prepare everything! She really gets the credit for the majority of the sugar cookie decorating and all the credit for the brownies, but we had tons of fun baking together. In fact, I went over to her house a couple of weeks later and did some late night baking with her! We've decided to make it a regular tradition!

I arranged everything in tins, and provided some loose items too, and then tied everything up in snowman cellophane and Christmas ribbon. I inserted handmade Christmas cards and finished the whole thing off with personalized tags. 

This banana bread recipe is a definite favorite; anyone who tries it can't believe how moist and delicious it is. The secret is to use REALLY ripe bananas!

I've made sugar cookies before, so the recipe isn't anything new, but I had lots of fun decorating these with Summer this year!

These are my favorite brownies in the world! The original recipe, 5-Minute Fudgy Brownies, is a childhood favorite and all we did this year to jazz them up and "Christmas-ify" them was take them out of the oven 5 minutes shy of finishing, quickly sprinkle an entire bag of broken Andes Peppermint Bark mints on top and pop them back in the oven for the remaining 5 minutes. They were SO yummy!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Treats Re-cap, Part 3

Also for our Sunday School Christmas party:

-Peanut Blossoms
This is definite favorite recipe from childhood. My mom used to make these using the little chocolate stars, so I always called them Star Cookies. I think I enjoy these out of everything that the Christmas dessert table has to offer. Call me a nostalgic sap, but these are the best because of the memories attached to them! 

3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter at room temperature
2/3 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 bag Hershey's Kisses (unwrap about 30 to start with)

Preheat oven to 375. Cream together butter, peanut butter, and both sugars. Add eggs. Blend in dry ingredients. Mix well. Shape dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll each ball in a small bowl filled with some white sugar. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from oven and press a Kiss onto each cookie so they crack around the edges. Baked another 2-5 minutes longer until golden.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Treats Re-cap, Part 2

For our Sunday School Christmas party:

-Coconut Chocolate Chunk Blondies
I really enjoy reading other blogs and finding new recipes that I can make a staple in my repertoire of tried and true favorites. This recipe from BrownEyedBaker certainly has hit home with me--I made it twice in the month of December! Enjoy this one! I doubled the original recipe to make a 9x13 pan, but it easily halves to make an 8x8 pan. 

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
8 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla 
2 cups sweetened flake coconut
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 baking pan. Combine the flour and salt; set aside. Stir together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until well blended. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until blended, then stir in the coconut and chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the 9x13 pan and smooth even with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set in the center but still soft. Do not overbake. Let the bars cool completely before cutting into squares.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Treats Re-cap

I don’t normally do a lot of Christmas baking because we certainly don’t need all those sweets in our house. But, I did get a chance to make some goodies for different occasions this year. The next several days will provide you with a rundown of some of the sweets I made this year.

For our Choir and Orchestra Christmas party:

-Glazed Peanut Butter Bars
These reminded me of home for some reason. They were simple, yet satisfying, and very low-maintenance. That basically describes my upbringing: simple, but totally satisfying because we always had everything we needed, and very low-maintenance since our family is very anti-drama. Why do I enjoy teaching junior highers so much, then? Hmmm. Anyways, enjoy these tasty treats! I was able to get 48 bars out of the pan, and then they even got cut in half again since they were being served to a large group of people.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp water
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup cream peanut butter

1. In a large bowl, cream butter, peanut butter, both sugars, and water. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture.
2. Spread into a greased 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Bake at 325 for 18-22 minutes or until lightly browned.
3. For glaze, melt chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter in a microwave safe glass bowl--melt in 30 second increments, stirring after each 30 seconds until totally melted. Pour over warm bars and spread evenly. Cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares and removing from pan.


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