Baked Mashed Potatoes

In our house, we have a predicament.  I love mashed potatoes.  Zack doesn’t.  For this reason, I try to make them in as many different ways as possible in the hopes that I will find some that he loves.  So far, no luck.

However, I loved these.  It takes forever to make them, but totally worth it in my opinion.  They were so creamy and amazing!

Give them a try if you are tired of the same ole mashed potatoes!

Baked Mashed Potatoes

– 6 large potatoes, peeled, thickly sliced (about 2 3/4 lb)

– 1 medium onion, chopped

– 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

– 1/2 c butter, softened

– 1/2 c sour cream

– 1 large egg, beaten

– 1 3/4 t salt

– 1/2 t black pepper

– 1 t paprika

Combine potatoes, onion and enough water to cover in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Simmer until potatoes are tender; about 20 minutes; drain well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 3-qt baking dish.

Combine potato mixture, cream cheese, butter, sour cream, egg, salt and black pepper in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer set at high speed until mixture is smooth.  Spoon potato mixture into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake until heated through, about 30-35 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Potatoes may be prepared up to 2-3 days ahead and refrigerated, covered, until ready to bake.

Valentine’s Day Heart-Shaped Brownies

I’ve never really cared about Valentine’s Day one way or the other. I like getting chocolate and flowers, so I won’t complain, but I’ve never been a girl to freak out about Valentine’s Day goodies.

More importantly, Valentine’s Day is mine and Zack’s anniversary! That’s so much more important that Valentine’s Day! I think everyone should celebrate our anniversary instead 😉

These brownies were actually quite fun to make. I made a TON of them. Oops. They all got eaten, though 🙂

Valentine’s Day Heart-Shaped Brownies

– 1 lb unsalted butter

– 1 lb semi-sweet chocolate

– 6 oz unsweetened chocolate

– 7 large eggs

– 2 T vanilla extract

– 2 1/4 c granulated white sugar

– 1 c AP flour, divided

– 1 T baking powder

1 t salt

– 1 bag melting candies (any color)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12x8x1″ pan. Line with foil that hangs over the edge for ease in getting them out.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat and add chocolate, mixing until smooth. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Stir the egg mixture into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture. Cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt then add to batter. Pour into prepared baking pan and smooth top with rubber spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake. Let cool completely, then cover tightly and chill. (to expedite this process, I stuck mine straight from oven to freezer). Chilled brownies are easier to cut.

Put the whole slab of brownies on a large cutting board and start cutting out hearts. To make more hearts, cut one row right side up and the next row upside down.

Melt desired coating in a bowl, in the microwave, and stir until smooth. Brush crumbs off the top of the brownies and hold onto the sides toward the bottom. Dunk the tops into the melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to dry.

Rosemary Focaccia

I love the smell of fresh baked bread.  Heck, I love the smell of the yeasty-ness from the time it is all mixed up until it comes out of the oven.

In fact, I love the smell almost as much as I love eating bread.

Zack and my favorite grocery store has shelf after shelf full of focaccia bread.  I really wanted to try some, but of course, I had to try making it myself.  It turned out beautifully.  I was so pleased.  It was really easy to make, too.  Plus, it has one of my all-time favorite ingredients in it – rosemary!

I wonder if it bothers people that I don’t take the time to take really artsy pictures of my food.  My mindset is, I just spent all the time making it, I don’t want to waste time setting up a photo session just for one picture…and allow the food to get cold.

I love to eat way too much for that!

Zack and I are leaving tomorrow for Pennsylvania Amish Country to celebrate our three year anniversary.  I am so excited for this trip!  I can’t believe we’ve been together three years.  Ah, I am so in love.

PS – remember that wreath I mentioned in my previous post, totally finished it and I love it!

Rosemary Focaccia

– 2 medium onions, chopped

– 1/4 c olive oil + 3 T, divided

– 1 1/2 t active dry yeast

– 1 1/2 c warm water, divided

– 1/2 t sugar

– 1/2 t salt

– 3-4 c AP flour

– 2 T fresh rosemary or 2 t dried, divided

– cornmeal

– coarse salt

In a large skillet, saute onions in 1/4 c oil until tender; cool.  In a large mixing bowl; dissolve in 1/4 cup warm water.  Add sugar and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add 2 T oil, salt and remaining water.  Add 2 c flour.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Add onions and half of the rosemary.  Knead 1 minute longer.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Punch dough down.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface, divide in half.  Pat each piece flat.  Let rest for 5 minutes.  Grease 2 baking sheets and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Stretch each portion of dough into a 10-in circle on prepared pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.  Brush with remaining oil.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and remaining rosemary.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 2 loaves.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip HEALTHIFIED Muffins

Tonight Zack went with some of his guy friends to a concert in Richmond.  He had to pick up his cousin to go, so after the concert they are driving back here and his cousin is just going to spend the night.

We had zero breakfast food in the house except for sparse bits of cereal.  I didn’t want them to starve in the morning, so I decided to make some muffins.

I wanted to attempt to make some that were still delicious, but had a hint of healthiness to them.  I definitely succeeded.

I get so excited when I make my own recipe and this is no exception.  I sent pictures of them to both my parents and to Zack and ate a whole muffin myself.  I usually just sample whatever baked goods that I make, but I was so proud of what I had concocted that I ate it all!

This was my first time baking with Splenda and I have to say, I am very pleased with the result.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about baking with Splenda, but my muffins turned out perfectly and were just as sweet as if I had used regular sugar.  Heck yeah!  It was also the first time I’ve tried substituting almond milk for regular milk and I couldn’t taste a difference with that either.  I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk, just in case you were curious.  Less than half the calories of skim milk! I do believe we should all start educating ourselves when it comes to health. You can start by checking out Guide to Healthcare Schools or by using almond milk!

The only thing that went wrong was I should have baked them for a minute or two less time, but they didn’t taste over-baked, they just had browned tops.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip HEALTHIFIED Muffins

– 1 c AP flour

– 1 c whole wheat flour

– 3 t baking powder

– 1/2 c chocolate chips

– 1/2 c peanut butter chips

– 3/4 c almond milk

– 1/2 c splenda

– 1/2 t salt

– 1 egg, beaten

– 1/3 c oil

Topping:

– 1/2 c splenda

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line or grease 6 jumbo muffin cups.  In medium bowl, combine flours, 1/2 c splenda, baking powder, salt, and chips.  Stir in egg, milk and oil just until dry ingredients are moistened (batter will be lumpy.).  Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling 2/3 full.  Sprinkle the remaining splenda evenly over muffins.  Bake 20-23 minutes.  Loosen and remove immediately from pan.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

I LOVE Hot Fudge Cakes!  It’s basically like a brownie with warm, gooey hot fudge oozing out of it.  It’s a delicious mess.

Zack shares my love for them, so I decided to give making one a try.  When it is still in the pan, it looks like regular brownies.  Then you cut into it and realize the whole underneath part is hot fudge.

I put a scoop of ice cream on top of Zack’s as you can see above, but I just ate mine place (thanks, lactose intolerance!).  Seriously, though, it was AMAZING plain.

It says nine servings, but good luck getting 9 servings out of it!  I think Zack and I ate the whole thing in about 2 days.  Oink.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

Prep: 20 minutes.  Bake 40 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes.  9 servings.

– 1 c AP flour

– 3/4  granulated sugar

– 2 T baking cocoa

– 2 t baking powder

– 1/4 t salt

– 1/2 c milk

– 2 T vegetable oil

– 1 t vanilla

– 1 c chopped nuts, if desired

– 1 c packed brown sugar

– 1/4 c baking cocoa

– 1 3/4 c very hot water

– ice cream, if desired

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, granulated sugar, 2 T cocoa, the baking powder, and salt in ungreased square pan 8x8x2 inches.  Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla with fork until smooth.  Stir in nuts.  Spread in pan.

Sprinkle brown sugar and 1/4 c cocoa over batter.  Pour water evenly over batter.  Bake at 40 minutes or until top is dry.  Cool 10 minutes.

Spoon warm cake into dessert dishes.  Top with ice cream.  Spoon sauce from pan onto each serving.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

I don’t know what could be more comforting than the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.  Those two delicious flavors go together so well.

These cookies are the easiest, quickest way to get this delectable mix of flavors (well, outside of getting a spoonful of peanut butter and just eating the kiss right out of the package).  Believe me, though, you WANT to try these cookies.  They are so yummy.

My mom used to make these for me a lot, because growing up they were my favorite cookies.  Now I’m all nostalgic…

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Prep: 20 minutes.  Bake: 10 minutes + cooling

– 1 c peanut butter

– 1 c sugar

– 1 egg

– 1 t vanilla extract

– ~20 milk chocolate kisses

In a large bowl, cream peanut butter and sugar.  Add the egg and vanilla, beat until blended.

Roll into 1-1/4″ balls.  Place two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until tops are slightly cracked.  Immediately press the chocolate kisses into the center of each cookie. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Note: this recipe does not contain flour.  Reduced fat or generic brands of peanut butter are not recommended for this recipe.

Beer Bread Mix

This Christmas I wanted to give out as many homemade gifts as possible.  I like the idea of giving mixes as gifts, because it’s still homemade, but the recipient can bake it at their leisure, because everyone is typically in a food coma throughout the holidays.

Homemade gifts tend to be less expensive than store bought gifts, but mean so much more (to me anyways).

I made this and gave it to one of Zack’s coworkers.  She is a really sweet person, so I wanted to give her a little something.

I was really pleased with the way the packaging turned out.  I think it was a cute little gift.

Beer Bread Mix

– 2 1/2 c self-rising flour

– 1/2 c all purpose flour

– 1/4 c brown sugar

– 1 t baking powder

– 1/2 t salt

– 1/2 t onion powder

– 3/4 t Italian seasoning

Layer all ingredients into a quart jar.

Attach this tag to the jar:  You will need: 1 12-fl oz can beer and 1/4 c butter or margarine, melted.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan.  In a bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Pour in beer and mix just until moistened.  Transfer to prepared baking pan.  Top with melted butter.  Bake 45-55 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

3 Ingredient Lemon Squares

Poor Zack.  He loves lemon-flavored desserts.  I mean LOVES them.  I loathe them.  I can’t even stand the way they smell.

For this reason, I have never even made a lemon dessert.  Every time I decide to make something sweet, he suggests something lemon with a hopeful expression.  Finally, I relented and agreed to make him some lemon bars.

I figured with only 3 ingredients they couldn’t be that bad and would be super easy.

I was right and he absolutely loved them.  I enjoy making him happy (even if it involves baking gross lemon-flavored things).

In his stocking at Christmas, I made him some coupons.  One is redeemable to me for “one lemon-flavored dessert of his choice.”  Aren’t I just the sweetest? 😉

Lemon Squares

– 1 lemon cake mix

– 2 eggs

– 1/3 c oil

– powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix together cake mix, eggs, and oil.  Mixture will be stiff.  Spread mixture, using a spatula sprayed with cooking spray, into a greased 9×13 inch pan.  Bake 13-15 minutes or until slightly golden on top.  Cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and cut into squares.

Pizza Bites

Growing up, I loved those frozen pizza bites.  You probably know the ones I’m talking about.  They’re rectangular and frozen and you just pop them in the microwave.  They are probably full of preservatives and horrible for you, but oh so good.

This recipe reminded me a lot of them when I saw it, so I decided to make some for Zack.

He said they were really good.  They were a great bite-size treat!

You could really put any toppings in there.  I just used pepperoni, because it’s Zack’s favorite.

Pizza Bites

– 1 pizza dough (homemade, canned, refrigerated… up to you)

– ~ 3/4 c mozzarella cheese

– 2-3 oz thin sliced pepperoni

– 1 tsp Italian seasoning

– 1/4 c olive oil

– 1 1/2 T grated Parmesan cheese

– pizza or marinara sauce

Prepare pizza dough and roughly chop pepperoni.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a pie pan.

If using refrigerated pizza dough, roll dough out into a large rectangle and cut into 24 pieces.  If using homemade dough, just pinch off walnut sized pieces as you go.

In each dough piece, place a couple of pieces of chopped pepperoni and some cheese.  Seal dough around meat and cheese and place seam side down in pie pan.

Repeat for each bite.

Once assembled, combine oil and spices and brush over the dough.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Now you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze or bake right away.

When ready to bake: bake at 400 degrees for 16-20 minutes.  Serve with warm pizza or marinara sauce.

Buffalo Potato Wedges For Two

This picture is not flattering.  I have no idea why I didn’t take a better one.  Don’t let the bad picture fool you, these are great.

Zack and I love spicy foods.  There’s just something amazing about the buffalo flavor.

Give these a try, they are totally worth it.  Yum!

Buffalo Potato Wedges for Two

– 1 large russet potato, sliced into wedges

– 1 T olive oil

– salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

– 1/4 c butter

– 1/2 c hot pepper sauce

Arrange potato wedges on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.  Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes until tender, tossing occasionally.  Remove pan from oven.  Combine butter and hot sauce in microwavable bowl.  Microwave on high setting until melted, one minute or so; mix well.  Drizzle mixture over potato wedges; return to oven for an additional 15 minutes.  If desired, serve with ranch or blue cheese dipping sauce.