Tag Archives: baking

Easy Zesty Green Beans.

See my latest recipe–delicious green beans with three ingredients and two minutes of prep time–here!


Peppermint chocolate fudge.

I know this is the wrong time of year for this…but I don’t care. In my opinion, there is no wrong time of year to make fudge.

Peppermint chocolate fudge.

Peppermint chocolate fudge.

This is a twist on the classic fudge recipe my mom gave me years ago (and she makes the best fudge).  I’m pretty sure it’s the same recipe that’s on the Kraft marshmallow creme jar, but with microwave directions instead of stovetop.  Still, you know those fudge squares that you spend four bucks on because it’s just so good?  This is every bit as good (with or without the peppermint).  I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (or 12 oz. Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate)
  • 7 oz. jar Kraft marshmallow creme
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 capful peppermint oil
  • 10-12 Starlite peppermint candies

(Omit the last two ingredients for classic chocolate fudge.  Which is also delicious.)

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Use a large (4-qt is good) microwaveable bowl.  Start with just the butter.

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Microwave butter until melted (usually about a minute on high will do it).

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Add sugar and evaporated milk.

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Mix well.  Microwave three minutes.  Stir.  Microwave two minutes.  Stir well, scraping bowl.

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Microwave another three minutes.  Stir.  Microwave another two and half minutes.  Can you guess what you do then?  (…Stir!)

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Add the chocolate chips and stir until melted.

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Add the marshmallow creme, vanilla, and peppermint oil and stir well to mix.

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It takes a while.

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Eventually it will all come out the same color.

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Dump it into a greased 9″ x 9″ or 13″ x 9″ pan.  You can use a spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth it out.

This part is pretty fun.

This part is pretty fun.

You’ll need to crush the candies before using them to top the fudge.  Put the unwrapped candies in a ziploc bag.  Find a hard, undamageable surface (I used the marble in front of my fireplace; I’ve also used the driveway or sidewalk in the past).  Lay down a towel, put the bag of candies on one half of it, and fold the towel over so the bag is sandwiched between the towel layers.  Then go to town with a hammer!  I usually use an actual hammer for this, but I found this meat pulverizer in my drawer (I think my mother-in-law must’ve bought it last time she was here), which worked quite well (I used the flat, not pokey, side).

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Do feel around and aim for the whole candies and big chunks, and don’t hit harder or more often than you need to.  You don’t want all dust.  Also, the sharp pieces can poke holes in the bag, which is the main reason you need the towel.

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Use your fingers to drop the candy pieces over the fudge.

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Let it cool at room temperature (or refrigerate) before cutting it into squares.

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Then, EAT YOUR WEIGHT IN FUDGE.  This stuff never lasts long in my house!  It’s sooooo gooooooooooood…..

But, a word of warning…

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This is what those pretty candy pieces will look like about twenty-four hours later.  So, if you’re making this for a party or event, don’t do it the day before!  Or at least don’t add the topping until the day of.  I have no idea what causes the candies to…melt…or whatever, but it’s not very pretty.  It does not, however, affect the taste!  In fact, I actually prefer it softer, over the crunchiness of the fresh candies.

Here’s the recipe, for your cut-and-paste convenience:

(Peppermint) Chocolate Fudge

  • 1½ sticks butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • ⅔ cup evaporated milk (5 oz can)
  • 12 oz Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate (or 2 cups chips)
  • 1 jar (7 oz) Kraft marshmallow crème
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Optional: 1 capful peppermint oil
  • Optional: 12-16 Starlite peppermint candies, crushed
  1. Microwave butter in 4-quart bowl on high for one minute or until melted.
  2. Add sugar and evaporated milk. Mix well.
  3. Microwave 3 minutes.   Microwave 2 minutes.  Stir well, scraping bowl.
  4. Microwave 3 minutes.   Microwave 2½ minutes.
  5. Stir in chips until melted.
  6. Add remaining ingredients (except for crushed candies, for peppermint fudge) and mix well.
  7. Pour into greased 9×9 or 13×9 pan (for peppermint fudge: top with crushed candies).
  8. Let cool at room temperature (or refrigerate) before cutting into squares.

Enjoy!


The Chex Mix.

Anyone else counting down the days till Dragon*Con?  I got my “progress report” in the mail last week and drooled over it for half an hour.  Most excited for: Amy Acker!  She was scheduled for the Whedonverse and “Dollhouse” panels I attended last year, but had to cancel at the last minute due to illness.  Super excited to get to see her this year (*fingers crossed she remains in good health*)!  Biggest disappointment: NO WALKING DEAD.  I mean, NONE.  Last year, the stars of the show were scheduled for four panels over the weekend, one each day of the con, and even though I was a full season behind (damn you, Netflix), I decided to go despite the inevitable major spoilers.  Wil and I waited in line for nearly two hours for the first panel (on Friday); once everyone was in and seated, we got word that the cast was running late….and half an hour later, it was determined that they would not make it at all.  But it was early in the con….surely I could catch them later, right?  I had scheduling conflicts the following two days, so I tried again on Monday….to the same result.  Seriously, they made it to the two I couldn’t go to, and ditched the two panels I did–BOTH of them!  And this year, we’ve actually had cable, so I watched season four live, and I was so looking forward to being able to enjoy the panels without spoilers.  But NO ONE from WD is on the list in the progress report–and the show’s freaking filmed IN ATLANTA!!  GAH!  So. Disappointing.

Anyway….now that that’s out of the way, I’m cheating a little on this post.  I’m sharing an awesome recipe that isn’t mine, but it’s just too good not to urge you to try it….

You’ve probably seen it on Pinterest: “Better Than Sex” Chex Mix.

I think it really is...

I think it really is…

I did make a couple changes:

First, the recipe only calls for one cup of mini Reese’s cups.  Like that’s enough chocolate candy.  (Psh.)  I’ve made this three times, and added a cup of Rolos or mini Rolos every time, and let me tell you, it is sooo worth it.  I’ve considered adding M&Ms, too…or chunks of Heath bars…or Butterfingers….It’s a very customizeable recipe, so go ahead, add your own favorite candies!  (Also, I omit the sea salt.)

Second, I am utter crap at melting chocolate.  Even when I follow the directions to a T, I still end up burning it.  Doesn’t matter how often I stir it, it still burns.  So I use the double boiler method, without a real double boiler: I fill my smallest pot halfway with water, put it on medium heat, and balance my next-biggest pot on top of it with the chocolate dumped in.  It takes longer, I’m sure, but at least I don’t burn endless cups of chocolate chips that I’d rather eat than waste!

All in all, it’s kind of a royal pain to make, but it’s soooo goooooood that you’ll make it again anyway.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Is your mouth watering yet?

And, of course, I have to tell you about the first time I made this.  I’d stumbled upon the recipe on Pinterest and was looking for an excuse to make it shortly after we’d moved to Atlanta for my husband’s job.  He works for a missions organization, so, naturally, most of his coworkers are current or former missionaries and church planters.  And, naturally, my first opportunity to make this inappropriately-named dessert was for a work get-together….I kept my mouth shut as everyone dug in, but I’d made the mistake of mentioning to my husband what it was called, so after hearing a few exclamations of how good this stuff was, he turned to me and loudly asked, “What’s this called again?”  In a room full of missionaries.  Whom I barely knew.  I turned bright red and mumbled the name under my breath, but, alas, he did not let me off so easy, and made me repeat it for everyone to hear.  Fortunately, most Christians are actually not as uptight and prudish as you might think, and we all had a good laugh; the laughs continued as there were a couple concurrences on the truth of the name!

So, go make this Chex mix!  It’s amazing.  Some might say it’s even better than….never mind.


Star Wars cookies.

I usually get a little chunk of time with just Kaylie while Wil naps in the morning.  So the other day, I thought it would be fun to bake cookies!

Cookie time!

Cookie time!

Of course, we cheated and used the store-bought dough.  (Wil’s naps aren’t very long sometimes!  I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for cutting out and decorating them.  Plus, I’m lazy. 😉 )

These ARE the cookies cutters you're looking for.

These ARE the cookies cutters you’re looking for.

It was a great opportunity to break out the Star Wars cookie cutters my family got me for Christmas!  (Here’s where you can purchase the characters set and the ships set.)

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Kaylie helped cut out the shapes.  I let her pick which one to use each time.

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She used every single one.  When you ask her what her favorite anything is these days, she almost always answers “All of them!”  Same here.

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Playing with the flour was her favorite part, though.  That, and getting to stand on the chair (she’s a little short for a Stormtrooper).

Before baking.

Before baking.

Here they are before we baked them!

After baking.......I find your lack of shape disturbing.

After baking…….I find your lack of shape disturbing.

They didn’t retain their shape so well.  Oh well…..that wasn’t really the point, anyway. 🙂

Mommy let me hold the icing!

“Mommy let me hold the icing!”

Now for the fun part: DECORATING!!  I gave each a coat of vanilla icing before letting Kaylie help draw on it with the green icing.

Chocolate chips!

Chocolate chips!

Then came her favorite part: I gave her a bowl of dark chocolate, white chocolate, and caramel chips, and told her she could put six on each cookie.

I'm gonna eat this one, Mom.

“I’m gonna eat this one, Mom.”

After decorating the first cookie, she asked if she could eat one of the chips, and I said yes.  Then she assumed that was the rule for every cookie….place six, eat one.  She was just so cute that I let her (I think she Jedi mind-tricked me!).

"What's in your mouth, Kaylie?"

“What’s in your mouth, Kaylie?”

See the cuteness?  The Force is strong with this one.

Finished!

Finished!

A couple of them broke, so we only iced eight of them.  You can tell she got tired of helping with the green icing before the end, hence the faces on Yoda and Darth Vader and my attempt to re-draw the TIE bomber.  (I liked her chip placement on Yoda, though.  That was all her.  Not sure why he ended up with a third eye on his forehead, though….)

Done with her cookies!

“Kaylie, smile!”  The three-year-old version of smiling is hilarious.

I made her wait to eat one, though, until after lunch.

"Mommy, help me make a Dalek!"

“Mommy, help me make a Dalek!”

We had some time to kill before lunch, so Kaylie asked me to help her make a Dalek out of the stacking cups (no, I’m not kidding–that’s what she calls it).

Our kid-toy versions of a Dalek and TARDIS.

Our kid-toy versions of a Dalek and TARDIS.

Then I made a Duplo TARDIS.

Finally getting to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

Finally getting to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

I finally let her eat a whole cookie after lunch.  She picked Darth Vader.

Gouging out Vader's eyes.  She's too badass to need a lightsaber....she'll just take him out with her bare hands.

Gouging out Vader’s eyes. She’s too badass to need a lightsaber….she’ll just take him out with her bare hands.

She mutilated that thing before ever picking it up to take a bite!

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Darth Vader didn’t stand a chance.

"Would you like a bite, Mommy?"  (Mommy ate the TIE bomber.)

“Would you like a bite, Mommy?” (Mommy ate the TIE bomber.)

It was a very fun morning, even if our cookies did not end up looking quite like they were supposed to.  That’s one of the perks of doing things with a three-year-old; just about anything can be salvaged and it’s just as fun!  She had an absolute blast (and I got the opportunity to reinforce that Star Wars equals “fun”!).  I had such a good time with my little Padawan!


Cheesy Baked Pasta.

I love pasta.  I love cheese.  So, naturally, I love cheesy pasta.

But I don’t like it with weird stuff in it.  Like mustard, or nutmeg.  (I’m super picky.  It sucks.)

So, this is a very basic-but-delicious dish of gooey goodness.

Cheesy pasta bake.

Cheesy pasta bake.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

  • 16 oz rigatoni, ziti, or penne
  • 16 oz jarred alfredo sauce
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • parsley, to taste
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook pasta, in a big pot.

Cook pasta, in a big pot.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Use a big pot; you’re going to have to dump it all back in there once it’s cooked and stir it in sauce.  (I used a smaller pot once.  It did not end well.)

What, you've never done this?

What, you’ve never done this?

While the pasta cooks, pour the entire jar of alredo sauce into a large bowl.  Then pour the heavy cream into the jar.  Put the lid back on and shake well.

This is how you get ALL the alfredo out of the jar.  Well, as much as is physcally possible, anyway.

This is how you get ALL (or as much as possible) of the alfredo out of the jar.

Pour the contents of the jar into the bowl.

Alfredo, heavy cream, and sour cream.

Alfredo, heavy cream, and sour cream.

Add the sour cream.

Stir to mix.

Stir to mix.

Stir to mix well, and set aside.

Beat the eggs.

Beat the eggs.

Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl.  Beat with a fork.

Eggs, ricotta, parmesan, and parsley.

Eggs, ricotta, parmesan, and parsley.

Add the ricotta, parmesan, and parsley.

Stir.

Stir.

Stir to mix well.

Stirred and mixed.

Stirred and mixed.

Once it’s thoroughly mixed, set it aside.

Drain pasta.

Drain pasta.

By now, the pasta should be done.  If it is, drain it.

Back in the pot.

Back in the pot.

Dump drained pasta back into the pot.

Add alfredo mixture.

Add alfredo mixture.

Pour the alfredo mixture into the pot with the pasta.

Stir to coat.

This is why we needed a big pot.

Stir to coat the pasta evenly.

Spread half of pasta in baking dish.

Spread half of pasta in baking dish.

Spread half of the pasta in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Add ricotta mixture.

Add ricotta mixture.

Spoon ricotta mixture over the pasta.

Spread evenly.

Spread evenly.

Spread evenly with spoon or spatula.

Add the rest of the pasta.

Add the rest of the pasta.

Spread the remaining pasta over the ricotta mixture.

Top with mozzarella.

Top with mozzarella.

Top evenly with mozzarella.

Baking time!

Baking time!

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Done!

Done!

Remove when the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.

Delicious cheesy goodness.

Delicious cheesy goodness.

So good!  It’s also good reheated–with our family size, we could easily cut the recipe in half and have plenty for dinner, but I make the full amount every time because then I get leftovers! 🙂

And for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Cheesy Baked Pasta

  • 16 oz pasta (rigatoni, ziti, or penne)
  • 16 oz jarred alfredo sauce
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz ricotta
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • Parsley, to taste
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In large pot, cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Dump alfredo sauce into a large bowl.  Pour heavy cream into alfredo jar; replace lid and shake well, then pour contents into bowl.  Add sour cream and mix well; set aside.
  4. In medium bowl, beat eggs, then add ricotta, parmesan, and parsley.  Mix well; set aside.
  5. Drain cooked pasta; return to large pot.  Add alfredo sauce mixture and stir to coat.
  6. Spread half of pasta in greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
  7. Spoon ricotta mixture over pasta in baking dish; spread evenly.
  8. Spread remaining pasta over ricotta mixture.
  9. Top with mozzarella.
  10. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.

Soft Pretzels.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  In addition to still dealing with the aftermath of a burst pipe in our basement laundry room last month, I was so sick last week that my husband had to take time off work to help with the kids and cart me to the doctor, and then everyone came down with a nasty cold, aaaaaaand Wil is teething.

But the new washer and dryer are here (in our partially gutted with-a-hole-in-the-wall laundry room), I’m feeling better, and one of Wil’s teeth broke through, so, in celebration:

Homemade soft pretzel sticks.

Homemade soft pretzel sticks.

A few years ago, I decided to try my hand at homemade pasta.  Because I love pasta.  I’d just bought this really great pasta cookbook, and it had a section on how to make your own pasta.  I’d never done it before…..and I don’t think I’ll ever do it again.  The whole attempt was a miserable, lumpy, spongey failure.  So I ended up with about four and a half pounds of leftover bread flour, and no idea what to do with it, as all of my familiar recipes called for standard flour.

I don’t remember how the idea of soft pretzels occurred to me, but I managed to find three or four pretzel recipes that called for bread flour.  I no longer have the recipes I started with, but I took the basics and what I liked from each and put together this recipe, which I love.

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

You’ll need:

For the dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 3 cups regular flour

For the soda bath:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp baking soda

For topping:

  • 4 Tbsp butter & coarse salt, to taste, OR
  • 1 stick butter & cinnamon/sugar mixture, to taste

I didn’t have my stand mixer back when I first started making these.  I am utter crap at making dough by hand, but these pretzels were so good the first time that I made them again, and again, and again.  But now that I have my stand mixer, which I LOVE, it is so much easier!  I highly recommend getting a KitchenAid stand mixer if you don’t have one already…..

Water, yeast, brown sugar, & salt.

Water, yeast, brown sugar, & salt.

Add yeast to warm water in your mixing bowl, stirring to dissolve; then stir in the brown sugar and salt.

Add flours.

Add flours.

Add both types of flour.

My KitchenAid Artisan at work.

My KitchenAid Artisan at work.

Let your mixer do the work.  (Or knead dough by hand on floured surface until smooth and elastic.)

So. Much. Easier, than by hand.

So. Much. Easier, than by hand.

(I love my mixer.)

Dough.

Dough.

Doesn’t look like much yet.

Cover and let rise.

Cover and let rise.

Cover dough and let it rise 30-60 minutes.

It's a little bigger now.

It’s a little bigger now.

I typically let mine rise about 45 minutes by the time I’m done preparing the soda bath.

Soda bath.

Soda bath.

Add baking soda to warm water in a large bowl, stirring to dissolve.

Time to play with dough!

Time to play with dough!

Pinch off a chunk of dough.

.....Not a pretzel shape.

…..Not a pretzel shape.

I figured out that first time I tried this that I cannot make a pretzel shape.  Like, truly.  I just can’t.  My ropes weren’t long enough, or skinny enough, and they kept ripping, and my pretzels just looked like lumps.  I mean, they weren’t even knots.  Just weird ropey lumps.  So I gave up and now I just make pretzel sticks.

So, shape the dough into sticks.  (Or, you know, pretzels.  You probably won’t suck as bad as I did.)

Take a bath.

Take a bath.

Dunk shaped dough in the soda bath, shaking off excess water.

Apparently I also suck at making sticks of uniform size and length.

Apparently I also suck at making sticks of uniform size and length.

Arrange sticks/pretzels on a greased cookie sheet (or parchment paper, unless you live in an aparment with a crappy oven that burns anything and everything at every available opportunity and sets the smoke alarm off during naptime–have I mentioned how much I love the oven we bought when we moved?).

They're just unique, okay?  If they were all the same size, it'd be boring.

They’re just unique, okay? If they were all the same size, it’d be boring.

Let the shaped dough rise another 15-20 minutes, while your oven preheats to 450.

Baking time!

Baking time!

Bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes, or until golden.

Golden.

Golden.

Done baking!

Butter makes all things better, so don't be stingy.

Butter makes all things better, so don’t be stingy.

Brush liberally with melted butter.

Confession: I don't understand any kind of pretzel that isn't salted.

Confession: I don’t understand any kind of pretzel that isn’t salted.

Top with coarse salt.  (I’ve never had to buy pretzel salt–I used to keep frozen soft pretzels stocked, and every once in a while I’ll buy and make one of those Auntie Anne’s box mixes, and I’ve never used anywhere close to all of the salt provided in either case, so I have several remaining unopened bags of pretzel salt floating around my baking cabinet.)

Lookin' gooooood.

Lookin’ gooooood.

Salted pretzels!

One time, I did make half the batch cinnamon-sugar instead of salted.  For that, dip the baked pretzels into melted butter, then dip them into your cinnamon-sugar mixture.  But I just can’t get behind anything but the classic goodness of buttery salted pretzels….

Full batch.

Full batch.

Makes about 18 pretzel sticks.  Obviously depends on shape and size.

I'm drooling right now.

I’m drooling right now.

Best eaten while warm.

I can't tell if they look less weird or more weird on a plate.  I think I need to work on my stick-shaping skills, guys.

I can’t tell if they look less weird or more weird on a plate. I think I need to work on my stick-shaping skills, guys.

They’re not quite as good reheated.  All the same, I’m gonna wrap this up so I can go reheat a few pretzel sticks for dinner.

Sooooo. Goooooood.

Sooooo. Goooooood.

For your cut-and-paste convenience:

Soft Pretzels

Dough:

  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 3 cups regular flour

Soda bath:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp baking soda

Toppings:

  • 4 Tbsp butter (unsalted) & coarse salt, to taste
  • 1 stick butter (unsalted) & cinnamon/sugar mixture, to taste
  1. In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; stir.
  2. Add brown sugar and salt to water; stir to dissolve.
  3. Add flours to mixture; knead dough on floured surface until smooth and elastic.
  4. Cover dough and let rise 30-60 minutes.
  5. Prepare soda bath, combining water and baking soda in large bowl.  Stir often.
  6. After dough has risen, pinch off chunks of dough to roll into ropes and shape.  Dip shaped pretzel in soda bath and place on parchment paper or greased cookie sheet.  Let rise 15-20 minutes.
  7. Bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes or until golden.
  8. To top, either brush with butter and sprinkle with salt, or dip into butter and dip into cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Enjoy!