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.

Baked Lobster Tails

Zack and I love seafood – especially lobster, crab, and shrimp.  The only problem is the price.  Lobster is incredibly expensive (to us anyway) so we rarely ever have it.

We wanted to have a special dinner for New Years though and went to our health food grocery store and lobster was on sale!  We knew we had to get it.

I had never made it before and was worried that I would mess it up and ruin our special dinner (and waste a ton of money).

Luckily, this recipe was super easy and they turned out perfect!  If you like lobster, I highly recommend trying this recipe.  It’s relatively healthy and absolutely delicious!

Our yummy New Years Dinner: lobster tails, green beans and baked hush puppies.  Yum!

Baked Lobster Tails

– 4 lobster tails (8-10 oz each)

– 1 c water

– 1 T minced fresh parsley

– 1/8 t salt

– dash pepper

– 1 T butter, melted

– 2 T lemon juice

– lemon wedges and additional melted butter, optional

Split lobster tails in half lengthwise.  With cut side up and using scissors, cut along the edge of shell to loosen the cartilage covering the tail meat from the shell; remove and discard cartilage.

Pour water into a 13×9 baking dish; place the lobster tails in dish.  Combine the parsley, salt and pepper; sprinkle over lobster.  Drizzle with butter and lemon juice

Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until meat is firm and opaque.  Serve with lemon wedges and melted butter, if desired.

Old Fashioned Mac & Cheese

There is nothing more delicious than mac & cheese.  It is the perfect side dish for any occasion – from a formal Thanksgiving dinner to a outdoor barbecue with friends.

Zack LOVES macaroni and cheese.  He said “yeah, you can go ahead and make this everyday if you want.”  He’s so funny!

I’m including two different variations that are both really good but a little different.

The second version is much more aesthetically appealing, but they are both delicious! Art Colleges could teach you more about aesthetic appeal.

Old Fashioned Mac & Cheese

– 2 T butter

– 2 T AP flour

– 2 1/2 c milk

– salt & pepper to taste

– 3 c shredded cheddar cheese, divided

– 2 c elbow macaroni, cooked

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Mix in flour.  Gradually add milk, stirring constantly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook over medium heat just until mix starts to boil and thicken.  Add 2 1/2 cups cheese; stir until melted and smooth.  Mix in macaroni, transfer to a greased 2 quart casserole dish.  Top w/ remaining cheese.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until bubbly.

Serves 4-6.

Another Variation of Mac & Cheese (Better)

– 2 1/2 c elbow macaroni

– 1/4 c butter

– 1/4 c AP flour

– 1/2 t salt

– 1/4 t pepper

– 1/4 t ground mustard

– 1/4 t Worcestershire sauce

– 2 c milk or half & half

– 2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook and drain macaroni as directed on package.

Meanwhile, in 3-qt saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Stir in flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly, remove from heat.

Stir in milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat.  Stir in cheese until melted.

Gently stir macaroni into cheese sauce.  Pour into ungreased 2-qt casserole dish.  Bake uncovered 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

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.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread (Breadmaker)

Zack’s parents got me a breadmaker for Christmas!  It’s the really nice kind that makes square loaves of bread.

I “loave” it!  Har har.

I have had a couple of recipes for bread in a bread machine laying around and I was pretty excited to actually be able to try one out now.

I chose this one because it’s healthy and gets its sweetness from a natural source, honey, instead of sugar.

I really can’t believe how easy it was to make bread with a breadmaker.  Just throw all the ingredients in there and three hours later you have a beautiful, delicious little loaf of bread!  I think my days of buying bread at the grocery store are over.

The texture of the bread and of the crust were perfect.  I absolutely love my bread machine!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread for Breadmaker

– 1 1/8 c warm water (110 degrees)

– 3 T honey

– 1/3 t salt

– 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour

– 1 1/2 c bread flour

– 2 T vegetable oil

– 1 1/2 t active dry yeast

Add ingredients according to the manufacturer’s directions to your bread machine.  Use the wheat bread cycle and light color setting.

Hershey’s Kisses Birthday Cake

Once upon a time there were two high school girls.  They had known each other for years, but had never been very close.  Both worked at a local nonprofit organization and got stuck organizing a social gathering for the organization.

The social gathering was a lot of work to plan and it was a blast to attend.  The two girls bonded throughout the process and they became completely inseparable.  They found out that they had very complementary personalities and almost identical senses of humor.  For the remainder of high school, they spent as much time as possible together.  They were the definition of best friends.

However, high school ended and they had decided on schools that were on opposite sides of the state.  It was really hard on both of them.  Although they no longer got to spent a lot of time together, they still maintained a relationship and hung out over breaks.

Three years into college, they still consider each other a best friend.

I thought that little story was important background info before I discuss this cake.  I made this cake for that girl’s birthday.  Her birthday was actually at the end of November, but we didn’t have a chance to get together until this week.  Hey, who would complain, she got multiple birthday celebrations! 😉

Mackenzie, the girl from the story, is a wonderful friend and I really enjoyed making this cake for her.  She seemed to like it and it was really great to spend some time with her.

Hershey’s Kisses Birthday Cake

– 2 c sugar

– 1 3/4 c AP flour

– 3/4 c cocoa

– 1 1/2 t baking powder

– 1 1/2 t baking soda

– 1 t salt

– 2 eggs

– 1 c milk

– 1/2 c vegetable oil

– 2 t vanilla extract

– 1 c boiling water

– vanilla buttercream frosting

– hershey’s kisses

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9″ round baking pans or one 13x9x2″ pan.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat w/ electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes for round pans, 35-40 minutes for rectangular pans or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes, turn onto wire racks.  Cool completely.  Prepare vanilla buttercream frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

– 1/3 c butter or margarine, softened

– 4 c powdered sugar, divided

– 3-4 T milk

– 1 1/2 t vanilla extract

Beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed in large bowl with creamy.  With mixer running, gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating until well blended.  Slowly beat in milk and vanilla.  Gradually add remaining powdered sugar, beating until smooth.  Add additional milk, if necessary, until frosting is desired consistency.

Frost cake.  Remove wrappers from chocolates, garnish top and sides of cake with chocolates.

Homemade Almond Butters

I have a new obsession.  These are AMAZING.

These homemade almond butters were the first things that I made with my food processor that I got for Christmas.

I bought a huge bag of almonds from Sam’s Club and immediately began making these when I got home.

I couldn’t believe how easy they were to make and how delicious they were!  I made a set for me and a set for my mom (that’s why some of them have ribbons on them).

These butters are great spread on crackers, celery, fruit, or sandwiches…anywhere you would use peanut butter.  But, let’s be real, I ate most of mine straight from the jar with a spoon.

They both had very different consistencies, but I loved them both.  In fact, I just polished off the last of the cinnamon raisin variety a little bit ago. The roasted almond butter was more thin and oily while the cinnamon raisin was more thick and grainy.  If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the roasted kind, but that’s only if I HAD to pick!

Roasted Almond Butter

– 2 c whole raw almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place 2 cups of raw almonds in single layer on baking sheet.  Roast in oven for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown and you can smell them.  After cooling, pour into food processor.  Pulse into small chunks. Turn on full speed for 7-10 minutes, checking after 7 for consistency.  Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula every couple of minutes.  For creamier, oilier butter, keep going to 10 minutes or even a couple more.

Store in jars or plastic container.  Will store out of the refrigerator for 1 week, 3 months in the refrigerator and 6 months in the freezer.

Cinnamon Raisin Almond Butter

2 c raw almonds

– 1/4 c raisins

– 1 t cinnamon

– 1 t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread almonds in a single layer and bake for 13-15 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes or so.

Place roasted almonds in a food processor and process for 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides.

Add remaining ingredients and begin to process again.

Process until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides, about 3-5 more minutes.