Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pot O' Gold Blondies (March Cookie Corner)

Is it a cookie, a brownie, a bar?  Well it's a blondie.  I decided to post a blondie for cookie corner because it's a bar cookie, kinda.  Oh well, it's delicious, so easy to make, and a bit festive with rainbow candies.

My original plan for this month's cookie was a chocolate chip cookie with mini M&M's.  Here's what happened:

In my gorgeous Raspberry Ice Kitchen Aid mixer, that is 2 sticks of butter, sugar, 1 egg, and 1 EGG SHELL!  Not to mention I dropped the shell in the mixer while it was running, so the other half of the shell is already crunched up :)

OK, that went into the trash.  However, some accidents are happy accidents because I changed my game plan, and came up with an even easier recipe.  When I say easy, I mean super duper easy!  One bowl to mix it in, bake it for 25 minutes, and slice your way to these chewy moist bars.

recipe (yields 16 bars)

1 stick of butter, melted
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
1 c. flour
1/2 c. mini M&M's
1/4 c. milk chocolate chips

In a large bowl, blend sugar and butter until smooth.  Add the egg, vanilla, salt, and flour.  Mix until smooth.  With a large spatula or wooden spoon, fold in chips and candies.  Pour into a greased 8 x 8 pan.

So festive with all those colors

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 23 to 25 minutes.  The top will be a light golden, but don't over bake these.   Who wants a crumbly blondie? 

Let cool completely, and cut into 16 squares.  These little bites are rich and decadent, and a huge hit with the kids :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

The first time I had broccoli cheddar soup was when I was working at an Italian restaurant. I love that Billy Joel song, don't you??? Sorry, I digressed. 

I fell in love with it immediately.  I have continued to order it repeatedly at restaurants over the last 20 years.  However, the one thing I don't love about it, is the fat grams and calories.  So I have made my version, a bit healthier.  I say only a bit, because I still use regular cheddar.  I don't like the taste or texture of reduced fat or fat free cheese.

I have substituted the cream for skim milk, and the whole milk for chicken stock. Yes you heard me right, the original recipe called for both cream and whole milk.  Honestly, once it is blended, it still has the velvety texture of a cream soup.  This recipe is also a great cream of broccoli soup, just don't add the cheese.

Serve the soup with nice crusty bread and a salad for a great dinner.  It's also a great soup to entertain with.  If you want to make it vegetarian just use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock :)

recipe  (about 4 servings)

2 c. chicken stock
1 c. skim milk
2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
4 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
1 1/2 c. cheddar cheese
salt & pepper to taste

In a 3 quart stock pot, melt butter and cook onion until soft.  Add the flour and a healthy pinch of salt, and a dash of pepper.  Cook for about a minute. 

Add chicken stock, milk, and broccoli.

Simmer on low for about 20 minutes, or until broccoli is tender.  Transfer to a blender, with the center of the lid removed (but cover the hole with a towel to avoid spatter), blend until desired consistency.  I blended mine until completely smooth.

Return the soup to the pot and add cheese, stir until melted. The soup should be hot enough to melt the cheese, but if it is not turn the heat on low for a few minutes.  Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.

Like I said before, if you don't add the cheese, you have a great cream of broccoli soup.  Also my soup is green, because I blended the "H-E- double hockey sticks" out of it.  You can also blend on the stove top with an immersion blender.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Another Use For Cake Pop Pan

I have a lot of specialty pans.  I don't mind having different pans for different purposes.  I keep them stored in a large tote in our basement.  Yes, I actually do use all of my pans.

However, I do like to find different uses for pans.  This morning, I decided to make doughnut holes for breakfast using my new cake pop pan.  I searched for a cake doughnut recipe that can be baked in the oven. 

I will be honest, the first batch, were ok but not great.  I adjusted the oven temperature, and baking time and the second batch was much better.  I also have a disclaimer, if you are looking for a taste similar to a fried doughnut, this is not for you.  It definetly bears more similarity to a muffin texture.  The kids and Jay liked them, and they were simple enough to make, so I thought I would share them :)
Linking to these parties.

recipe (yields 3 dozen)

2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. vegetable oil


2 c. powder sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 2 tbsp. milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your cake pop pan with baking spray that contains flour (this is a tip from the manufacturer).  Mix all your dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In another bowl or large measuring cup combine the wet ingredients.  Slowly add the wet to the dry and mix with a large spatula until combined.

Using a small cookie scoop, or about 2 teaspoons full of batter, fill each well in the pan.  Place the lid on it and secure the clips.

Bake for 15 to 16 minutes.  Allow to cool about a minute and remove the top of the pan.  Place on a cooling rack. 

In a large measuring cup, combine the ingredients for the glaze.  Add a tablespoon of milk at a time until you reached your desired consistency.  Don't worry if the glaze is too thin, just add a little more sugar.

Submerge the doughnut holes in the glaze.  With a fork pull the doughnut from the glaze and tap it lighlty on the top of the measuring cup. This will allow the excess glaze to run off.

Allow to dry on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet.  The glaze will drip onto the cookie sheet, making clean up easier.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cake Pops

So what's been happening the last week or so???  Well, we (meaning the boys and myself) went to visit my family in Buffalo.  We had a great time, and it always seems too short.

We are back in Oneonta. The car has been unpacked, pizza dough is made for dinner, Adam will be going to guitar lessons shortly, and then it's off to the YMCA tonight for open swim.

In between visiting family, friends, and a dentist appointment, I did manage time for creative play.  I finished a few craft show items for next fall.  I also played around with cake pops.

Now cake pops have been around for a while.  I never experimented with them before, but my mom bought a pan and wanted me to try them.  So I did.  I didn't have my camera so I don't have pictures for a tutorial, but I will do them again soon and post it.

The cake pops that I tried uses a special pan and then the pops are dipped in chocolate.  These are not the ones where you crumble the cake, add the frosting, and then form them.  If you want to see how to make them, click here.  The Gourmand Mom gives an excellent tutorial on them. 

The pan that I used is available at Bed Bath &Beyond.  The only downside is it does not come with super detailed instructions on decorating.  However, while visiting Buffalo, I went to my friend's house and low and behold she had a cake pop cook book.  While thumbing through it, I got a bunch of great ideas.  I will be making chickies for Easter....super adorable.

For now here are a few photos.  I will be posting a tutorial soon.  Oh, did I mention how affordable they are to make.  I got 40 pops out of a 99 cent cake mix.   Even after figuring in the sticks and bags to wrap them up, it only cost about $3.00 to make 40.  (While I was at Target, the Starbucks inside the store was selling them for $1.50 each.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Small Break

Hello there!!  I hope everyone is staying well.  I have been struggling for a couple of days with some sinus stuff.  I plan on resting the next week or so.

The boys and I are going to see my family :)  I am so excited.  So I will be on a small blogging break.  When I return, I should be refreshed and bringing more recipes and craft ideas to the bloggy world.  See you in a bit.

Can't wait to see my mom :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fun Shaped Pancakes

Happy Valentine's Day to all my blogging friends!!!!  This morning my boys awoke to a special breakfast.  I made them heart shaped pancakes with a festive table scape.

To make my life a bit easier this morning, I prepared the pancakes last night, then just reheated them this morning.  All you need to make fun shaped pancakes is your favorite recipe and a kitchen squeeze bottle.  Pour your batter into the squeeze bottle, and squirt your design onto a very hot griddle.  Viola!!!

Have fun be creative and surprise your loved ones :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fitness Update

It has been a month since Jay and I have been going to the YMCA.  I go five to six times a week, and Jay does about the same.  I go in the morning when I drop Brandon off at pre-school, and Jay goes after work, even sometimes on his lunch.

The point is, we are going!!!  I have noticed a few changes in my own body.  They aren't really noticeable to others, yet.  I  notice how my clothes are fitting.  While I have been in between sizes for a bit, I am finally down to the smaller size.  I have a big bag a clothes for the donation pile :)

I am getting closer to my goal day by day.  I also have to work harder to get my heart rate up, so I know I am doing well.  I have found myself having more patience throughout the rest of my day.  It is also helping in fighting the winter blues.

Both Jay and I are happier with ourselves and each other.  We keep encouraging each other too!  So go and encourage someone today.  Whether it be towards a fitness goal, education goal, or a personal goal, go and encourage someone!!!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Entertaining With Kids

I think entertaining is fun.  I do get a bit nervous, wanting everything to go smoothly, but overall I really like it.  When I was younger and had my apartment, I would have some friends over with a few appetizers and some beverages.  Then when I got my first house, I started to theme my parties and menus.  Now that I am a mom of two vivacious boys, I keep kids in mind.

When we have friends over with children, I like to have a kid friendly menu and activities.  First the menu.  My boys are the pickiest eaters.  When we have holidays at a relative's house, I come along with their own meals.  It's not uncommon for me to whip out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or two from my purse. So when we have other kids over, I really try and accommodate their needs.  I always check with the parents for allergies or restrictions.  With that information, I plan the menu.

That being said, we are having over two families tonight.  No allergies, but we will have vegetarians.  Tonight's menu is as follows:

turkey chili with cornbread
vegetable noodle soup
home made Italian bread
cheese platter with fruit
peanut butter sandwiches (kids)
cheese sandwiches (kids)
candy bar cake and ice cream

It is a balance that meets everyones preferences and simple enough to prepare ahead of time.  The children are welcome to have anything on the menu, but I did make the sandwiches knowing that's what my boys will eat.  To make the sandwiches festive, I cut them into different shapes.  Here's how they went together.

First start with really thin bread (this makes it easier to cut).  I used a 100% whole wheat bread.

Spread them with peanut butter, jelly, honey, etc.  I also made some into cheese sandwiches.  Then using cookie cutters, cut the crust off.

Arrange on a platter.  I cut each different kind of sandwich with a different shaped cutter.

After dinner, I planned some craft activities.  When a larger group of kids are at a gathering, it's a really good idea to have some organized activities.  Tonight, I have fun foam door hangers and bookmarks, and sand art.

I purchased the foam door hangers and I already have different shape pieces to adhere.  Then from simple fun foam sheets, using decorative scissors, I just cut out bookmarks.

The sand art kit came with everything the kids need to make their own bottles.  The only thing I did was put the sand in squeeze bottles.  You can find them in the candy aisle of the craft store.  They have a tip that fits right into the bottles and will keep the mess to a minimum.

Finally coloring sheets and my marbled crayons are always a fun activity :)

So the next time you entertain with kids, have a few activities and a friendly menu planned.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pay It Forward

I participated in a FB thread called Pay It Forward 2012.  Basically you agree to make a  handcrafted item for the first five people who respond to your post.  Then those five people agree to do the same.  You have the whole year to get it done.  Good idea, right??

I signed up for my dear friend, Amy's.  I know it will be good, she is super crafty :)  I then re-posted it, and have five takers very quickly.  Among the five people who signed up for mine, three of them do not live locally.  Now I had to think of something I could hand craft, and yet still be easy enough to mail.

After a bit a thinking, I came up with beaded book marks.  I was already making some for my upcoming craft shows, so I had the supplies.  Last weekend I took the time to sit down and make them.  My oldest helped in picking out the beads.  They really are quite simple to make, and each of them is unique. (If I get enough requests, I will do a tutorial on them.)

I have handed out and mailed all of them.  The three out-of-towners, should have theirs very soon.  It felt so good to participate in this. 

How can you "pay it forward" ???  Think about it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valentine Wreath (revisited)

Walking into my home this afternoon, I glanced at my rose wreath.  I have it hanging right above my mailbox and thought, "I really do like that wreath."  I may have just been tired, coming home from the gym, or I really do like that wreath :)

Anyhow, I decided to re-post the link for it.  I made it last year and it cost about $5.00.  I was thinking perhaps, I will do an Easter version, who knows.  Stay tuned!

Valentine Rose Wreath

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cookie Corner: Chocolate Chip Cloud Cookies

It's February 1st, which means an updated version of Cookie Corner.  I thought about doing a heart shaped cookie, or something that screamed Valentine's.  Then I started thinking about what cookies my kids "LOVE".  One particular cookie came to mind immediately.  The boys refer to them as cloud cookies or chocolate chip kiss cookies.  Simply they are a meringue cookie with mini chocolate chips.

When these cookies bake, they are so light and almost melt in your mouth as you eat them.  The only warning I am giving is, they are highly addicting.  I have to hide them from myself or I will eat the whole batch.


2 egg whites
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

In a large, very clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.  Then add cream of tartar and salt.  Beat until soft peaks start to form, and slowly add sugar.   Beat the eggs until you get stiff peaks.  You should be able to turn the beater upside and the peak will hold.

Then add in vanilla, and fold in chocolate chips.

Next Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  On a lightly greased cookie sheet, drop the cookies by scant teaspoons, about an inch apart.

Don't make the cookies too big, or they will never dry out in the oven, and become gooey.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Shut the oven off and allow them to cool in the oven for an hour.  Then pull the sheet out and finish cooling. 

The meringue will "dry out"  once completely cooled.  The cookies will sound hollow when tapped.

Store in an airtight container for a couple of days, if they last that long :)