Tuesday, November 30, 2010

December Cupcake Spotlight (Black Forest Cupcakes)

December is here.  The holidays are among us.  I wanted this month's cake to have a festive feel and give a great presence.  I always think of Black Forest Cake as being something special, so why not do a cupcake???

I have had many requests for cupcakes using cake mixes.  I can understand people wanting the ease of a mix, especially near the holidays.  However, you can make this cupcake with your favorite scratch chocolate cake, just add the cherry flavoring to the recipe.

Now traditionally, Black Forest Cake has a cherry flavored liqueur.  I have substituted it with maraschino cherry juice instead.  I did that for one simple reason. I wanted to make a universal cupcake that would respect everyone's lifestyle choices.  That being said, if you rather use cherry liqueur, go ahead, I will never know.

This cupcake is so simple to make, and definitely has a great presentation. You can make it like I have with the red cherries, or be really creative and look for the green or blue maraschino cherries.  Be your own little cake designer and enjoy this month's special cake :o) 
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bisquick Scones

My boys love when I make "stones" for breakfast.  They really mean scones.  Although, stones may be an appropriate name for these little biscuity treats if they are not made right.  There are a lot of fabulous scratch recipes for them, but sometimes you just want the convenience of a baking mix. 

I have been flooded with requests for recipes that use cake mixes or baking mixes.  For a lot of people scratch baking can be unfamiliar territory.  I can go either way.  I have a lot of scratch recipes and a ton of baking mix recipes.  I personally don't have a major problem using mixes.  I use the Bisquick Heart smart baking mix, which has the American Heart Association check mark. 

I have adapted this recipe from the Bisquick cookbook for Raisin Scone Sticks.  I make them with any number of ingredients, including my boys favorite, chocolate chips.  I have also used cranberries with orange zest, white chocolate walnut, apricot walnut, the list is endless.  These would also be a great addition to your traditional cookie platter this holiday season.


2 1/2 c. Bisquick
1/2 c. skim milk
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. mix ins, chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, etc.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Mix all ingredients until a soft dough forms.  Dust your work surface with more Bisquick.  Scoop dough on to work surface and add a touch more Bisquick to the top. Pat into a 9 inch round and using a pizza cutter, cut into 8 wedges.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, brush with egg wash (egg substitute with a scant amount of water).  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Easy Cake Mix Cookies

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was wonderful.  Ours was on the quiet side, as we did not go anywhere, but it was also restful.  Now that the wonderful turkey holiday is over, it's time to concentrate on the winter holidays.  This time of year people love to give and receive food gifts.  One of the easiest food gifts to give is a platter of home made cookies and treats. 

To make a successful cookie platter, you will need different varieties of cookies, brownies, and little treats.  Here's a recipe that may not be the prettiest cookie but is sure to be a delicious one.  It yields over three dozen and has a good presence on the platter.  It comes from my mom and a clipped side of the Ducan Hines box from the 1970's.  My mom makes this cookie every year, in many different varieties.  Let your imagination run wild with this.  I will give the base dough recipe and you can change the cake mix flavor or mix-ins to suit your taste.

recipe (yield 3 1/2 dozen)

1 package white cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
1 cup mix-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Mix all ingredients until well incorporated.  Drop by teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet. (12 to a sheet, they will spread) Bake for 11 to 13 minutes. Top will be pale. Allow to cool one minute on cookie sheet and then finish cooling on baking rack.  Store in an airtight container for several weeks.

For the variation pictured, I used a chocolate cake mix and Andes Candies baking chips. My mom uses butterscotch chips with a yellow cake mix.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (Apple Pie)

What is more wholesome than apple pie?  Oh, probably a lot of things, but I love the comforting feeling of warm apple pie.  Last week, while my mom was visiting, she told me her recipe.  I have always loved my mom's apple pie, and every time I tried to make it, it flopped.  My crust was too soggy, or burnt on top, or the apples weren't quite right.  Well, I volunteered to make an apple pie for Adam's feast at school, and as long as mom was visiting, I recruited her help.  The hardest part of making this recipe was getting my mom's measurements, she just "eye balls" the ingredients.  So I had to stop her and measure so I could be accurate in relaying the information.

I think my problem all these years was I tried to be too fancy.  I would attempt to make my own crust, or add extra flavoring to the filling.  I learned the key, is keep it simple. We used a boxed pie crust, for convenience sake, some apples, cinnamon, sugar, flour, butter, and milk.  The outcome was delicious. Adam's teacher even remarked it reminded her of her grandmother's pie.  When I told my mom that, she laughed and said well the recipe is what her mom and grandmother made, and now it is my tradition too.

Now I know, Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and I don't expect you to rush out and make this pie. But perhaps for another holiday and just a special dinner, give it a try.


1 box refrigerated pie crust (two 9" crusts)
6 to 8 medium to large apples, pick a variety
1/2 c. sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
2 to 3 tablespoons of milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Allow the pie crust to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes.  Place one crust in the bottom of deep dish pie plate.   Then peel, core and slice apples.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and apples.  Toss gently until all the apples are coated with sugar.  Pour mixture into pie crust and dot with butter.  Top the pie with the other pie crust and crimp the edges.  Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the pie with milk. Make a few slits in the top crust to allow the steam to escape.  Bake for 1 hour or until apples are tender. (insert a knife into the slits to check the apples)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cupcake Party

Thursday was a day of celebration.  What better way to celebrate a 3 year old's birthday than with cupcakes. We had a complete birthday bash with cupcake tableware, decorations, and a giant cupcake birthday cake!

The cake was simple. I used the Wilton cupcake pan, just the bottom portion for the cake.  Then I piped the wrapper with a large round tip, and decorated the top with a large shell tip.  I used blue and yellow frosting together in a piping bag, to give an ombre look to the top.

For the table, I ordered a simple cupcake theme tablecloth, plates, and napkins.  As for the decorations, I found a coordinating cupcake birthday banner, cupcake hanging swirls, and cupcake die cuts for the windows.  Everything coordinated in blue, lime green and yellow. 

Overall I say we had a very happy birthday boy. He received a Melissa and Doug cupcake decorating set, remote control car, a pillow pet, and clothes.  He really loves the shirt his big brother got him, Cookie Monster :o)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (Berries and Cream Smoothie)

So simple, so sweet, and a delicious treat!!!!  Here's a recipe for a great tasting smoothie that can be used as a meal replacement or a delicious dessert.  It has the consistency of a milkshake, but filled with all the good stuff.


6 oz skim milk
1/4 c. low fat plain yogurt
1 c. frozen mixed berries
1 scoop low sugar vanilla protein powder

Blend until smooth and enjoy immediately!!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cupcake Cookies

Thursday marks a very special day in our house.  It's my baby's third birthday.  I can't believe how fast the time has gone, and how much I have enjoyed the last three years.  That being said, I am starting to prepare for his cupcake extravaganza. 

As mentioned before, Brandon in obsessed with cupcakes.  He is having a giant cupcake birthday cake, and I have all kinds of cupcake decorations.  But for his snack day at school, I wanted to do something a little different.  While he loves his cupcakes, sometimes those bite size morsels of cake and frosting can be quite messy for three year olds.   So for his snack at school, I have made cupcake cookies.  The icing is hardened and sure to be less of a mess for the teachers.  Also this recipe is peanut free, which we always keep in mind due to an allergy in his class.

I followed the same steps as previously posted in ghostly treats.  The only difference is I used  cupcake cutter.  I piped the royal icing border and let it dry for about an hour. Then I flooded the cookie with the white icing for the top and allowed it to dry for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, I tinted the icing for the wrapper portion of the cookie blue (Brandon's favorite color), and allowed the icing to rest to minimize air bubbles.  Finally, I flooded the bottom of the cookie and allow to dry overnight before wrapping in treat bags. 

Check back on Wednesday for a sweet smoothie and on Thursday to see Brandon's birthday bash!

Linking to these parties.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chocolate Covered Apricots & Cashews

Okay, I found myself standing at the pantry snacking on chocolate chips.  I know it's not a healthy habit, but sometimes you just need chocolate. I've had one of those days.  Being practical, I figured if I made a snack that had fruit and chocolate, it would be a little more healthful.

I put a small bowl over a pot of simmering water and poured 1 cup of chocolate chips in the bowl.  Over a medium low heat melt the chocolate.  Then I took dried apricots and dipped half  and lay them on wax paper to cool.  After dipping the apricots, I still had some chocolate left.  I poured a handful of cashews into the chocolate and stirred. Next, using a spoon, scoop the nut mixture into mini muffin cups.  Allow to cool until chocolate is hardened.

In the past, I have given these sweet treats as holiday gifts.  They would also be nice as a quick dessert after a meal.  Sometimes you just want a bit of sweetness, and not a whole dessert.  Personally, they will be an indulgence over the next week or so, when I want something chocolate. 

You can dip any dried fruit or nuts you choose.  Adam loves chocolate covered cranberries. Also chocolate covered Spanish peanuts are wonderful.  Let your imagination run wild with this one!

Linking to these parties.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (Chicken Cacciatore)

The first time I had chicken cacciatore, I was 15 and working in an Italian restaurant.  It was the special of the day and I had for dinner that evening. It was satisfying and delicious.  The guy who made all the specials would make huge batches of it the day before. Then we would heat it up to order.  Fast forward about 10 years and I came up with a short cut version.

The history of cacciatore comes from around 1400.  It was considered a hunters dish.  Authentic cacciatore takes a whole chicken cut up and braised in tomatoes and mushrooms over a low heat for a long time.  Most of the time when I want cacciatore, I don't have the time to braise it for hours in the oven.  Instead I simply, add a few ingredients to already cooked chicken, and simmer for a short time.  The end result is just as delicious, and I have saved some time.

I wanted to share it for Wholesome Wednesday because it becomes healthier than the original cacciatore due to the skinless chicken breast and not the whole chicken with the skin on. I also serve it over whole wheat pasta for extra fiber.

recipe (yields 2 dinner servings or 4 to 6 lunch servings)

2 split chicken breasts roasted, skin removed and taken off the bone
1 medium green pepper, sliced
10 small crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 of a small onion, sliced
2 cups of spaghetti sauce, click here for recipe

To prepare roasted chicken breasts, on a sheet pan drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. The temperature on a meat thermometer should read 170 degrees.  Allow the chicken to rest a few minutes, and then remove skin and take off of the bone.  I prepare five to six breasts this way at once, and use it for multiple meals throughout the week.

Dice the chicken in bite size pieces. Then in an oven safe baking dish combine chicken, sauce, and vegetables.  Cover with foil (or if your baking dish has a lid) and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. (If you happen to have a 2 qt slow cooker, just combine all the ingredients and cook for about 3 hours in the slow cooker.)

Serve over a pasta of your choice with a nice dinner salad and fresh bread.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spaghetti Sauce

Monday was a cold and snowy day here in Oneonta.  I took the opportunity to plug in the slow cooker and make spaghetti sauce.  The house smelled wonderful and I was able to re-stock my freezer with 6 pints of sauce.

I am not claiming to be an expert on spaghetti sauce. I don't have any secret Italian recipes for it. This is just a basic spaghetti sauce, that has simple flavors.  It is wonderful over pasta or on your homemade pizza. 

recipe  (yields 6 pints)

1 Large Can of Tomato Sauce (6lb 9oz)
1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp Onion Powder
1 Tbsp Oregano, dried
1 tsp basil, dried
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
Pinch of sugar

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Easy Gift Tags

I don't know about you, but I save gift bags and reuse them.  Sometimes I need a new tag for the bag.  So to re-purpose a gift bag, I've made these easy tags that you can attach.   It is so simple,  all you need is a little scrap booking card stock, peel and stick tags, and some ribbon.

After the holidays I always go to the stores and buy peel and stick tags on a sheet.  You can get 100 of them for under a $1.00.  Then at the craft store, I buy card stock pieces in a bag for about $3.00 (you get all different sizes and colors).  All you have to do is find a coordinating color card stock, put a sticker on it, and attach with a piece of ribbon. Viola!!! You recycled a gift bag and saved yourself some money.

Linking to these parties.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Scratch Cinnamon Rolls

Our family has a love for cinnamon rolls. Our recent trip to the Oakdale Mall in Binghamton was partially disappointing as the Cinnabon there closed!  I have made quickie cinnamon rolls before from crescent rolls and while they are delicious, they are not a scratch yeast roll. 

The last several weeks, I have searched and searched for a recipe that would be easy and delicious.  I found one that uses a cake mix for a base, one that uses vanilla pudding mix, but I really wanted something with only a few ingredients.  Sometimes the simpler the ingredient list the better the baked good is.

So last night I found a recipe that only a few ingredients and were things I already had in the pantry.  I made a few adjustments to the  recipe, the filling and the icing.  The result was a gooey, cinnamon treat.  The whole process took about two hours (including time to let it rise). I know it sounds like a lot of work, but trust me it is totally worth it. It's a recipe that you can easily make on a weekend and your family with love you for it.  I was also thinking, make a batch of these and bring them to the hostess who may be having you over for the holidays. It would make a lovely breakfast the next day for his/her family after working so hard on a holiday dinner.

recipe for the dough

1 package of yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 C. warm milk (110 to 115 degrees)
1/2 C. sugar
1/3 C. butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs lightly beaten
4 C. Bread Flour

In a large bowl dissolve yeast into warm milk and sugar.  Allow to proof for 5 minutes. Then add eggs, vanilla, butter, flour and salt.  Stir with a spatula until a soft dough forms.  Turn dough onto floured counter top and with floured hands knead for a couple of minutes into a ball.  Place in a greased bowl, cover with a towel , and allow to rise about one hour.

recipe for filling

1/3 cup softened butter
1 C. packed brown sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons of cinnamon

Combine all the ingredients into a paste and set aside.  After dough has risen, on a floured surface roll dough into a rectangle approximately 16"x20".  Using a spatula spread the filling mixture evenly on dough. Starting at the long end, roll the dough into a log.  Trim the ends off. Cut rolls into eight large rolls or twelve medium rolls.  Place cut side up into a greased baking dish and cover with a towel.  Let the rolls rest for about 15 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake rolls for approximately 18 to 21 minutes. The top of the rolls will be golden brown and the dough on the rolls will no longer feel soft.  Don't worry if it looks like the filling is leaking out of the rolls on the bottom. Once the rolls cool, the cinnamon mixture with tighten back up and form a gooey glaze.

recipe for icing

1/2 stick of butter, softened
2 oz of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup of powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all the ingredients until smooth.  When rolls come out of the oven allow to cool for about five minutes and then frost generously with icing.  Store in an airtight container for several days.

Linking to these parties.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Not So Wholesome Wednesday (chocolate truffles)

Okay, I know I promised Wednesday's to be wholesome recipes, but honestly I forgot.  So I am posting a not so wholesome recipe for chocolate truffles. 

I have been making these truffles for years.  They are so simple and rich.  They can be made in an afternoon and it's a great project to get the kids involved in.  All you need is some heavy cream, chocolate chips, and some toppings to roll them in.  Be creative and let the kids help pick the toppings. 

The truffles are also a great holiday gift. You can package 6 neatly into a 1/2 lb candy box and make a great impression.  Another suggestion, fill a decorative tin with a dozen or so, and gift it to a whole family.

recipe (yields about 2 dozen)

1 cup of chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
assorted toppings (nuts, sprinkles, cocoa, powder sugar, etc.)

In a double boiler (I used a metal bowl over a simmering pot of water), melt chocolate chips and heavy cream.

Whisk until smooth and shiny.

Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for several hours or freeze for one hour.  Then using a 1" cookie scoop, scoop onto wax paper and refrigerate for 15 more minutes.

Then lightly roll the balls between your palms to form a smooth ball.  Immediately roll in toppings, such as sprinkles, colored sugar, Andes candies pieces, powder sugar, cocoa, etc.  If you want a hard shell topping dip into melted chocolate.

Refrigerate for several weeks in an airtight container.

Linking to these parties.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cupcake of the Month for November

It's November 1st and the latest edition of Cupcake Spotlight!  I can not take credit for this recipe, as it was told to me years ago. I can take credit for the frosting and garnish combination with the cupcake.  So for a little history on the cake portion. I was at a craft show about four years ago, and while having a conversation with customer, we got on the subject of baking.  She had recently lost a lot of weight, but confessed her love of sweets.  She told me to make a simple cake, just take one package of spice cake mix and add one can of pumpkin puree, mix and bake according to package instructions for a bundt.  A couple of weeks later I did.  The recipe is delicious and super moist.  I liked that fact it had no egg or oil, making it heart healthy as well.

Over the years I have shared this recipe with a slew of people.  Friends have tried it and added powder sugar to the top or a cream cheese drizzle.  I even had one person add chocolate chips and said it fabulous.  I decided to make it into cupcakes topped with an orange cream cheese frosting, garnished with a candied orange peel.  This recipe is easy and a big crowd pleaser.  Go ahead and try it for Thanksgiving instead of the traditional pumpkin pie, it will be a hit!

Linking to these parties.