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Thursday
Jan022014

Candy Coated Popcorn

Candy coated popcorn

Happy New Year! I know it’s January and everybody has lofty plans to eat healthy, but I have one more Christmas recipe that I wanted to share with you before it got lost in the shuffle.

I In addition to cookies, I wanted to make a fun snack for Christmas. Inspired by a treat that I had at a friend’s baby shower a few weeks prior, I turned to popcorn. My original intention was to put bags together and hand them out to my friends at work, but once again, that never happened. I really have to become better at planning ahead…perhaps that can be a New Year’s Resolution! Anyway, Joel went to the movies with his parents one night and I opted to stay home, watch The Sound of Music, and make popcorn to share with my friends and family on Christmas. During commercials, I popped the popcorn on the stove, melted the candy in the microwave, stirred everything together in a giant bowl, and set it out on cookie sheets to harden. (Word to the wise: make sure you use a very large bowl. I thought mine was big enough and as I stirred everything together, popcorn poked up above the lip of the bowl, spilling to the floor!) To hand out the treats, I packaged the popcorn up in individual treat bags, stapled them closed with some festive scrapbook paper, and attached one bag per gift that we gave out to our family on Christmas. Everybody seemed to enjoy the popcorn as a welcomed alternative to mounds of cookies everywhere you look! 

16 cups Popcorn, air popped (~1/2 cup of kernels with about 1 tablespoon of oil)
16 ounces Vanilla Candy Coating (I used Make ’n Mold brand)
3 tablespoons Biscoff Spread or Cookie Butter
1-2 cups M&Ms
1/4 cup Sprinkles

Pop the popcorn according to package directions, then place it into a large bowl. Melt the candy coating in the microwave. Once the candy coating has melted, stir in the cookie butter until smooth. Drizzle the coating over the popcorn and gently stir until evenly coated. Mix in the M&Ms and sprinkles, then spread the popcorn out on wax paper to harden. 

SOURCE: Ever so slightly adapted from I Heart Nap Time

Tuesday
Dec312013

2013: A Year in Review

Well, it happened again. Another year has flown by. I feel like just yesterday I was posting my end of the year review for 2012. What can I say about 2013? For us, it was a pretty low-key year. We got pretty good at painting while we gave each room of our house a little facelift…though no room is 100% complete yet; we took another east-coast road trip and found ourselves in love with Newport, RI; we finally made it to Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca during our anniversary weekend trip; I started guitar lessons…if only I practiced I might actually be decent; and of course, we had many good times with family and friends. As I do each year, I like to take a moment to reflect on some of the recipes that we enjoyed most this past year. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014! 

January: Baked Burritos with Sour Cream Poblano Sauce. We don’t repeat too many recipes in our house, but this is one we have enjoyed many times!

Baked burrito sour cream poblano sauce

February: Tequila Lime Chicken Fajita Salad with Chili Lime Vinaigrette. While we enjoyed it in the dead of winter, it would be a great summer meal.

Chicken fajita salad

March: Cookies & Cream Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Oreo Buttercream. Inspired by a request for my brother’s birthday, I could have eaten the frosting by the spoonful!

Oreo cupcakes

April: Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles. Peanut butter and pretzels are such a great combination. Perfectly portable and pop-able snacks! 

Pb pretzel truffles

May: Mango Jalapeño Margaritas. A deliciously spicy cocktail for Cinco de Mayo, or anytime!

Mango jalapeno margerita

June: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. A delicious treat that is simple to whip up. I love to have a batch on hand for when the cravings strike.

Sugar free pb cups

July: Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread. A pretty, swirled bread that toasts up perfectly for a delicious, light breakfast.

Cinnamon raisin bread

August: Crispy Egg Noodles. Inspired by a local noodle bar, these noodles were a great alternative to a typical stir fry.

Crispy Egg Noodles

September: Chicken Yakitori Rice Bowl. Speaking of stir fry, this was delicious…perfect for a weeknight meal.

Chicken yakitori

October: Soft Pretzels. A delicious treat that freezes well. Bonus-I was finally able to cross these off my foodie bucket list! 

Pretzels

November: Salted Caramel Cashew Bark. Made on a whim, the sweet and salty combination was perfect.

Salted caramel cashew bark

December: Chocolate Fudge S’mores Thumbprints. One of the cookies that made it to my Christmas cookie platter. A delicious bite of summer on a cold and snowy day.

Smores thumbprints

Monday
Dec232013

Jamaretti Cookies

Jamaretti

I have to say that with the exception of one, the cookies I chose to make for Christmas have been absolutely delicious; this one included. However, when making this cookie, I had a serious case of not reading the recipe carefully. I made the dough, chilled it, then rolled it out, but instead of rolling it into a 2-inch wide log, I just rolled it flat, kind of wondering how I was going to make the trench in the center, but kind of just assuming that the dough would puff up as it baked. Well, after I baked it the first time, I pulled the dough out to make the trench and the dough was so flat that I could hardly make a dent in the center. After spreading the jam down the tiny canal I created, I hoped that as it baked again, it wouldn’t just melt and drip off the cookie. Luckily, the jam stayed where it was placed and it all worked out in the end. This is one forgiving cookie that ends up looking elegant and tasting delicious, whether you read the recipe carefully or not!

2 1/4 cup Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 cup Almond Paste (that is half of an 8oz jar)
3/4 cup Sugar
1 stick Butter, at room temperature
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Jam (I used seedless raspberry)
1 cup Powdered Sugar
4 teaspoons Milk

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a food processor, pulse the almond paste and sugar until smooth. In another bowl (I used my stand mixer), cream the butter and the almond sugar mixture. Add the egg and blend until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix until a dough forms. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 10-inch log. Transfer the logs onto parchment paper lined baking sheets and flatten them out to about 2-inches across. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until just dry. Remove the dough from the oven and make a trench down the center of each log using the handle of a wooden spoon. Spread about 2 tablespoons of jam into each trench. Return the cookies to the oven and bake an additional 8-10 minutes, or until they become golden brown. Let the cookies cool slightly, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the logs of dough. Let the glaze harden for about 20 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1-inch slices. Store the cookies in airtight containers for up to 1 week.

SOURCE: Martha Stewart

Saturday
Dec212013

Chocolate Fudge S'mores Thumbprints

Smores thumbprints

Since I never really want to make the same cookie twice, it takes me a whole year to come up with my Christmas cookie list. It usually begins at Christmas, when I try the different cookies that my friends and family make. As the year goes on, I find other recipes that I want to try, and they get added to a list. When it comes time to start making cookies for Christmas again, I have a list about a mile long that has to be pared down. It’s a vicious cycle. This year, the list consisted of 4 cookies, Christmas Crack, and cookie butter popcorn (recipe to come). Now that I type it, it makes me realize how pathetic it is that it took me an entire year to come up with 6 things to make for Christmas. Oh well, these cookies made that year-long search completely worth it. They are like a bite of summer during the cold winter months. I highly suggest putting these on your Christmas cookie list for next year. They are so good that maybe they will end up on mine again, too!

1/2 cup Butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup Brown Sugar, packed
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 Egg Yolk
3/4 cup Flour
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Mini Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Marshmallow Fluff
1/4 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and the sugars until fluffy, scraping the bowl when needed, for about 3-4 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, beating for another 2 minutes, until combined. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the flour mixture, gradually increasing the speed for the dough to come together. Fold in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon or spatula. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and set them on a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper) 2 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and gently press your thumb into the center of each cookie, creating a dent. Place the cookies back in the oven and bake for 5-6 additional minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Once cool, spread about 1 teaspoon of the marshmallow fluff in the dent of each cookie. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with graham cracker crumbs. Store in an air tight container. Makes about 18-20 cookies. 

SOURCE: Barely adapted from How Sweet It Is

Sunday
Dec152013

Christmas Crack

Christmas crack

Making Christmas cookies was always a family affair in my house growing up. We had a small kitchen, but every year, without fail, my parents would set up the round card table so that there was barely enough room to move, and that served as our work station. My brother and I would help make traditional cut-outs, chocolate chip, peanut butter blossoms, peanut butter chip, oatmeal, m&m cookies, and the list went on and on. There were a few other treats that we made that weren’t quite cookies, too, like 7 layer bars, peanut butter and jelly bars, and a Club cracker toffee. I vividly remember helping to make all of those treats and really enjoyed it. Perhaps that is where my love for baking began. Anyway, over the years, my mom has cut her baking list down considerably and the Club cracker toffee faded away. Until now, sort of. I ran across a recipe that was very similar, except replacing the buttery Club crackers with saltines. The saltiness from the crackers pairs so well with the sweetness from the toffee and chocolate. This super fast and easy treat is deliciously addictive, which is probably how it got its name! 

Approximately 50 Saltine Crackers (1.5 sleeves)
2 Sticks of Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar
2 cups Chocolate Chips
1 cup M&M's

Line a 9x13 jelly roll pan with foil, then spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with the crackers and set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and sugar over medium-low heat, stirring until the butter has melted. Once melted, bring the mixture to a boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Working quickly, pour the hot mixture over the crackers and spread with a spatula as best as you can. Place the pan into a 325 degree oven for about 8 minutes. The mixture will spread a bit as it bakes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. When the chocolate chips start to melt, spread them over the toffee with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with M&M’s and place the pan in the fridge for about 30 minutes to harden. Once the chocolate has hardened, peel the crackers off the foil and break into pieces. Store in a container for up to 2 weeks.

SOURCE: I Heart Nap Time

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