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.

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.

Christmas Goodie Bags

Zack likes to do something special for his employees each holiday.

He asked me to make some goodie bags for them and he cooked them a big breakfast.

I spent all day (up until 1:30 am) working on their goodie bags, because I wanted them to be perfect.

I was so happy with the way everything turned out and I REALLY hope they like them.

I also hope Zack’s breakfast part of it turned out good.  He was making them bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy.  I hope they all appreciate all the extra things that Zack goes out of his way to do for them.

Also, today is Christmas Eve!  I have been looking forward to the holidays for months.  This is my favorite time of the year.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas.

South of the Border Mix

– 6 T butter

– 1 pkg (1.25 oz) taco seasoning mix, dry

– 1 T Worcestershire sauce

– 1 t hot pepper sauce

– 8 c Toasted Rice or Corn Cereal, or combination

– 1 c peanuts

– 1 c pretzels

– 1 c bite-size cheese crackers

– 2 T American cheese food powder, optional

In preheated 250 degree oven, melt margarine in open roasting pan.  Stir in taco seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and pepper sauce.  Gradually add cereals, peanuts, pretzels and cheese crackers; stir to coat evenly.  Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Spread on absorbent paper to cool.  If desired, sprinkle American cheese food powder over warm mix.  Store in airtight container.  Makes 11 cups.

Sugar Cookies

Prep: 25 minutes.  Chill 2 hours.  Bake 7-8 minutes.

– 1 1/2 c powdered sugar

– 1 c butter

– 1 t vanilla

– 1/2 t almond extract

– 1 large egg

– 2 1/2 c AP flour

– 1 t baking soda

– 1 t cream of tartar

– granulated sugar

Beat powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract and egg in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed.  Stir in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease cookie sheet with shortening on spray with cooking spray.

Divide dough in half.  Roll each half 1/4″ thick on lightly floured surface.  Cut into desired shapes with 2 1/2″ cookie cutters.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.

Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges are light brown.  Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Candy Cane Cookies

– 1 c butter, softened

– 1 c confectioners’ sugar

– 1 egg

– 1 t almond flavoring

– 1 t vanilla

– 1/4 t peppermint flavoring

– 2 1/2 c AP flour

– 1 t baking powder

– 1 t salt

– 1/2 t red liquid food coloring

Beat first 6 ingredients in large bowl until light and creamy.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.  Add to butter mixture.  Stir until sift dough forms.  Divide dough into 2 equal portions.

Knead food coloring into 1 portion of dough until evenly tinted.  Roll about 1 t of each color dough into 5 1/2″ rope.  Lay side by side.  Pinch ends together.  Twist and form into candy cane shape.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Arrange, about 2 inches apart, on greased cookie sheets.  Bake in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes until just golden.  Let stand on cookie sheets for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool.  Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

Melted Snowman Nutter Butter Cookie Balls

Prep: 30 minutes, plus refrigerating.  48 balls

– 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

– 24 nutter butter cookies, finely crushed (~ 3 cups)

– 2 pkg (6 squares each) white chocolate, melted

Mix cream cheese and cookie crumbs until well blended.  Shape into 48 (1-inch) balls; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet.  Freeze 10 minutes.  Melt chocolate.

Dip balls in chocolate mixture, allowing excess chocolate to pool at bottoms of balls.  Return to baking sheet.  Before chocolate coating firms up, decorate balls with decorating icings for a face.  Let stand until chocolate is firm.  Keep refrigerated.

White Chocolate Cookies ‘n’ Cream Fudge

– 1 c sugar

– 3/4 c butter

– 5 oz can evaporated milk

– 2 12-oz pkgs white chocolate chips

– 7 oz jar marshmallow creme

– 25 chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely crushed and divided

– 1/8 t salt

Line a greased 9×9 baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2-3 inches to extend over sides; set aside.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; add white chocolate chips, marshmallow creme, 2 c crushed cookies and salt.  Stir until chips melt.

Pour fudge into prepared pan.  Sprinkle remaining one cup cookies over fudge, gently pressing cookies into fudge.  Cover and chill until firm (about 1-2 hours)

Lift uncut fudge in aluminum foil from pan; remove foil and cut fudge into squares.  Makes 4 pounds.

Candy Cane Marshmallows

– 2 c sugar

– 1 T light corn syrup

– 4 packages (1/4 oz each) unflavored gelatin

– 3/4 t peppermint extract

– 2 large egg whites

– 2 t red food coloring

Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray, and set pan aside.  Put sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 c water in a small saucepan.  Cover over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil.  Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture reaches 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 c water in a heatproof bowl, let stand 5 minutes to soften.  Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved.  Remove from heat, and stir in extract, set aside.

Beat egg white in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.  Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture; with mixer running, gradually add to egg whites.  Mix on high speed until very thick, 12-15 minutes.

Pour mixture into lined pan.  Working quickly, drop dots of red food coloring across surface of marshmallow.  Using a toothpick, swirl food coloring into marshmallow to create a marbleized effect.  Let marshmallow stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.  Cut into squares.

Peanut Butter Fudge Balls

– 1/4 c butter

– 1/2 c creamy peanut butter

– 1/4 c milk

– 3 2/3 c powdered sugar

– i t vanilla extract

– 1 1/2 c special dark chocolate chips or semi sweet

– 1 1/2 t shortening

– 3 c finely chopped peanuts

Line an 8 or 9-inch square pan with foil; butter foil.

Cook butter, peanut butter and milk in large saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is melted.  With wooden spoon, gradually beat in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Remove from heat; pour into prepared pan.  Cool completely.  Mixture will appear dry, but softens when rolled into balls.

Line 2 trays with wax paper.  Spread chopped peanuts on one tray; set aside.  Roll peanut butter mixture into 3/4″ balls and place on second tray.  If necessary, refrigerate peanut butter balls until firm enough to handle for coating.

Melt chocolate chips and shortening.  Cool slightly.

Dip peanut butter balls completely into chocolate mixture, one at a time, with fork.  Gently tap fork on side of bowl to remove excess chocolate.  Immediately roll in chopped peanuts; gently reshape if necessary.  Place candy balls into small paper candy cups or return to wax paper lined tray.  Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.  Store in cool, dry place.

Cinnamon-Sugared Nuts

Prep: 10 minutes.  Bake: 30 minutes.  Yield: 2 cups.

– 1 T slightly beaten large egg white

– 2 c pecan halves, unblanched whole almonds or walnut halves

– 1/4 c sugar

– 2 t ground cinnamon

– 1/4 t ground nutmeg

– 1/4 t ground cloves

Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix egg white and pecan halves in medium bowl until pecans are coated and sticky.

Mix remaining ingredients and spinkle over pecans.  Stir until pecans are completely coated.  Spread pecans in a single layer in ungreased jelly roll pan.

Bake uncovered about 30 minutes or until toasted.  Cool completely, or serv warm. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 weeks.

Peanut Butter and Banana Dog Biscuits

I am not a dog person.  I don’t know if I missed out on the dog-loving gene or what.  I don’t like little ones because they are yappy and annoying.  I don’t like big ones because they are scary and intimidating.  There’s no middle ground here for me! Haha!

Zack loves dogs.  His parents have a chocolate lab and my aunt and uncle have a cocker spaniel.  I’m the type of crazy person that gives pets Christmas gifts.

I found a recipe for some dog biscuits and thought that would be perfect for a little gift.

My aunt and uncle’s dog is named Gordy and Zack’s parents dog is named River, so I made some R and G shaped cookies!

Gordy got his cookies last weekend and I was told that he loves them!  River gets his on Christmas.  I hope he likes his too.

Pets need Christmas love, too!

Peanut Butter and Banana Dog Biscuits

– 1 egg

– 1/3 c peanut butter

– 1/2 c mashed banana

– 1 T honey

– 1 c whole wheat flour

– 1/4 c wheat germ

– 1/4 c old fashioned oats

– 1 egg white, lightly beaten, for brushing

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, stir together the egg, peanut butter, banana, and honey.  STir in the flour, wheat germ and oats.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and roll to 1/4″ thickness.  Using a cookie cutter, cut into desired shapes and place on prepared baking sheet.  Brush with egg white.

Bake until dried and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes, depending on size.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Christmas Candy

One of the best thing about the holidays is how much baking and cooking I get to do.  I made a bunch of goodies to take to various places and all of it got eaten except for a couple of marshmallows.

I had never made any of this stuff before and all of it turned out perfectly, except for the potato candy.  I don’t think I added enough sugar to make the candy stiff, because it was really runny.  It tasted good, but it looked awful.

Someone told me that homemade marshmallows are DELICIOUS and I was curious if this was true.  To me, a marshmallow is a marshmallow.  Well, my mind has been blown.  These things were just as delicious as I told they would be.  Plus, they were so easy to make!  They would be great in hot cocoa (or just plain like I ate them).

Making all of this stuff was so enjoyable. I’m going to make more goodies for Zack to take to work with him on Christmas eve.

People seem to really appreciate when I bring them goodies and it makes me feel so good.  I love making people happy!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

– 12 oz dark chocolate

– 1/3 c creamy peanut butter

– 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar

– 1/4 c crushed graham crackers

In a bowl, mix together the peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar and graham crackers.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate (using microwave, double boiler, or chocolate melter).

Using a pastry brush, clean paintbrush, or even the back of a spoon, brush the melted chocolate on the bottom and sides of 12 mini cupcake liners.  It’s helpful to stack some liners together to give more support.  When in doubt, add more chocolate, since this will be the base for your candy.  Place the cupcake liners on a plate or in a cupcake tin and place in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove the liners from the freezer and place about 1 teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture in each cup.  Press down a bit with a spoon to spread.  Spoon more melted chocolate on top of each cup.

Place the peanut butter cups back in the freezer for another 15 minutes to set.  Eat cold or let warm to room temperature before serving.

Potato Candy

– 1 medium potato

– 1 large bag confectioners sugar

– peanut butter

Boil the potato until soft.  Mash with a fork.  Stir in confectioners sugar gradually until mixture forms a dough.  Roll dough out on sugared surface in a rectangular form.  Spread peanut butter thinly over entire rectangle.  Roll the length.  Slice into pieces.  Store at room temperature.

Haystacks

– 24 oz butterscotch chips

– 1 large bag chow mein noodles

– 2 c peanuts (unsalted or lightly salted)

Melt chips and pour over noodles and peanuts.  Make haystacks on wax paper.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

– 3/4 c butter

– 3 c sugar

– 1 (5 oz) can evaporated milk

– 1 (12 oz) pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips

– 1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow cream

– 3/4 c creamy peanut butter

– 1 t vanilla

Microwave butter in 4-qt bowl on high 1 minute or until melted.  Add sugar and milk; mix well.  Microwave on high for 5 minutes until mixture begins to boil, stirring after 3 minutes.  Mix well.  Scrape bowl.  Microwave 5 1/2 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes.

Stir in chocolate pieces until smooth and melted.  Add remaining ingredients; mix well.

Pour into a buttered 9×13 pan.  Makes 3 lbs.

Peanut Butter Balls

– 1 lb powdered sugar

– 1 stick butter

– 8 oz peanut butter

– 1 t vanilla

– 12 oz chocolate chips

– 1/4 block paraffin wax

Mix sugar, melted butter, peanut butter, and vanilla.  Roll into balls and place in refrigerator.  Melt wax and chocolate chips.  Dip balls in chocolate and place on wax paper to cool.

Marshmallows

– 3 pkgs unflavored gelatin

– 1 c ice cold water, divided

– 12 oz granulated sugar (~ 1 1/2 c)

– 1 c light corn syrup

– 1/4 t salt

– 1 t vanilla extract

– 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar

– 1/4 c cornstarch

– nonstick spray

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 c of the water.  Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 c water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Place over medium-high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.  Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees (about 7-8 minutes).  Once a mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat.

Turn the mixture on low speed, and while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.  Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.  Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12-15 minutes.  Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping.  When the mixture is whipping, prepare the pans as follows.

Combine the confectioners sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Lightly spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan.  Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover.  Reserve the rest for later use.  Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture.  Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Christmas Dinner # 2 Desserts

As I mentioned in Mini Bread Loaves, my mom had her annual Christmas dinner on Sunday.  I was enlisted to make some desserts.

I’d been wanting to try out these recipes for a while, but hadn’t had an opportunity, especially for the banana one, because, gasp, Zack isn’t a big fan of bananas.

I’m glad that I got to sample both of them, but I think they were both one time things.  Neither really knocked my socks off.

The Wassail tea was really good, though.  I will definitely make that again.  In fact, I saved some of it to give to my dad.  He loves wassail.

I’m also taking the leftover desserts to work with me and hopefully they will get gobbled up!

Also, I cannot believe Christmas is in 5 days! Oh my gosh!  I am so excited!

Banana Split Pie

– 1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs

– 6 T butter, melted

– 3 medium bananas

– 4 oz cream cheese, softened

– 8 oz cool whip

– 1/2 stick butter, softened

– 1 c confectioners sugar

– small can pineapple

– various toppings of choice: ex) chocolate syrup, sprinkles, cherries, nuts, etc

Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs and press into an ungreased 8×8 baking dish.

Mix confectioners sugar, cream cheese and 1/2 stick butter together until fluffy.  Slice bananas into crust.  Add fluffy mixture on top, then add fluffy mixture.  Sprinkle pineapple on top and cover with cool whip.

Top with various toppings before serving.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Dessert

Prep: 20 minutes + chilling

– 20 chocolate cream filled sandwich cookies, divided

– 2 T butter, melted

– 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

– 1/2 c peanut butter

– 1 1/2 c confectioners’ sugar, divided

– 1 carton, 16 oz, frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided

– 15 miniature peanut butter cups, chopped

– 1 pkg (3.4 oz) instant chocolate fudge pudding mix

– 1 1/2 c milk

Crush 16 cookies, toss with the butter.  Press into an ungreased dish.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Fold in half of the whipped topping.  Spread over crust.  Sprinkle with peanut butter cups.

In another large bowl, beat the milk, pudding mix and remaining confectioners’ sugar on low speed for 2 minutes.  Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set.  Fold in remaining whipped topping.  Spread the pudding mixture over the peanut butter cups.  Crush the remaining cookies, sprinkle over the top.  Cover and chill dessert for at least 3 hours.

Wassail

– 1 c sugar

– 4 c water

– 4 cinnamon sticks

– 1 t allspice

– 1 t cloves

– 1 qt orange juice

– 2 c pineapple juice

– 2 qt apple cider or juice

Simmer for several (at least 2) hours.  Serve hot.

Mom’s Birthday – 2 Cakes!

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday.  Her fiance, his mom, Zack and I took her out to dinner to celebrate.  I, of course, decided to make her a cake.

I had been so excited about making this cake and just knew it was going to turn out great, because it combined two of her very favorite flavors – peanut butter and banana.

I baked the cake part in the morning and it turned out great.  Then, I caramelized some bananas and put them in the middle of the cake as a filling. I made the peanut butter frosting… and that is when disaster struck.  The first batch I made, I added way too much milk.  It started running off of the cake.  I panicked a little, but scraped that off as best as I could and then made a new, much thicker batch.  It did not go on great, but it looked okay, so I stuck it in the fridge to crust up a little, so that I could smooth out the icing.

Well, when I tried to smooth it out, the icing started rippling.  It was the ugliest cake I had ever made… I knew that there was no way that I was taking that cake to a public restaurant, especially for someone’s birthday as important as my mom.

I looked at the clock and realized we had to leave for the dinner in less than an hour.  I knew I didn’t have time to make another full two-layer cake.  Luckily, I had a recipe for a sweet potato crumb cake that I had been wanting to try that didn’t take that long.  I decided to make that for her (she loves sweet potatoes, too).  It came out of the oven just in time. I slipped it into a casserole carrier straight from the oven and off we went to the restaurant.

Mom, and everyone else at the dinner, really liked the cake.  I was really upset about the first cake, but at least I was still able to make mom a cake.

Happy Birthday to the best mom ever!

I am going to include the recipe for the peanut butter/banana cake because it was my own fault that it didn’t work out.  I added too much (and then too little) milk to the icing!

Here’s a shot of the caramelized bananas.

See?  It is SO embarrassing.  I’ve never made such a bad cake.  Compare this to Mermaid Birthday Cake or Beer Cake or even Fall cake.  I didn’t even want to put a picture of it on here, but I know everyone will be supportive.

Peanut Butter Banana Passion Cake

Yield: 12 servings

Cake:

– 4 T butter, softened

– 1/4 c creamy peanut butter

– 1 1/2 c packed brown sugar

– 2 eggs

– 1/2 c warm water

– 1 c buttermilk

– 1/4 t vanilla extract

– 2 c AP flour

– 1 t salt

– 1 t baking soda

Caramelized bananas:

– 3 or 4 medium bananas, cut into coin shapes

– 1/4 c granulated sugar

Frosting:

Yield: 2 1/2 c

– 1/3 c creamy peanut butter

– 2 c confectioners’ sugar

– 1 t vanilla extract

– 2 t honey

– 4-5 T milk

Make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, peanut butter, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine the water, buttermilk, and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Alternately add the buttermilk mixture and flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture, beginning and ending with the buttermilk.  Mix well 1 minute.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans, then remove, and cool completely on wire racks.

Make the caramelized bananas:

Heat a well greased skillet over medium heat.

Put the sugar into a bowl or onto a plate and thoroughly cover the banana coins with it.  Place into skillet and cook until caramelization occurs, about 5 minutes.  Then flip and cook until the other side is done, about 1 minute.  Place on the bottom tier of your leveled cake. Maybe even have a bowl-like cut into the cake.

Make the frosting:

Combine the peanut butter, sugar, extract, and honey in the bowl of an electric mixer on low speed.  When well combined, add just enough milk to make an acceptable spreading consistency.  For me, 5 T was too much and 3 T was too little!

Here’s the yummy cake that I was really pleased with.  Not the typical birthday cake, but it still made Mom happy.

Sweet Potato Crumb Cake

Cake:

– 1/2 c butter

– 1 c brown sugar

– 3/4 c sweet potato, boiled and mashed

– 2 eggs

– 1 t vanilla

– 2 t cinnamon

– 1/4 t ginger

– 1/4 t nutmeg

– 2 t baking powder

– 1/2 t salt

– 1 1/2 c flour

– 1/2 c oatmeal

– 1 c mini marshmallows

Topping:

– 1/2 c oatmeal

– 1/4 c brown sugar

– 1 t cinnamon

– 2 T melted butter

– 1 T flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all topping ingredients, mix well and set aside.

Over low heat, melt butter in a small skillet until browned, about 5-7 minutes.  Let cool for 2 minutes and pour into a medium bowl.  Add brown sugar, mashed sweet potato, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, stir well until incorporated.  Beat eggs in, separately, making sure to mix well after each addition.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt, adding the 1/2 c oatmeal after the dry ingredients are mixed.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing well.

In a greased 9×13 baking pan, evenly spread 1/2 the batter over the bottom.  Smear marshmallows over the batter and spread the other 1/2 of the batter over the marshmallows.  Sprinkle the oatmeal crumble topping and bake for about 25 minutes.  Let cool before serving.

Christmas Party Goodies!

Zack and I got to go to the first Christmas party of the season last weekend.  His boss had a dinner party for the management and office employees.  I really enjoyed going, because I got to meet the people that Zack works with.  It was really nice to get to put faces with names that I’ve heard Zack talk about.

Everyone was so nice, too!  Plus there was lots of good food.

Zack and I took a platter of desserts – peanut butter and chocolate fudge and cookie balls and a plate of jalapeno cheddar bite appetizers.  People seemed to like both plates of stuff.

There were some leftovers on both plates, so I took them to work with me Monday and every bit got snatched up 🙂

I forgot to take a picture of the platter of goodies which sucks, because the fudge and cookie balls looked so cute arranged on the platter!  Oh well, at least I got individual pictures.

Christmas Tree Cool Mint Oreo Cookie Balls

Prep: 30 minutes, plus refrigerating. Makes about 24 cookie balls.

– 6 oz package cream cheese, softened

– 1 pkg (15. 25 oz) Oreo cool mint cream cookies, finely crushed

– 2 pkg (6 squares each) white chocolate, melted

– 6 drops green food coloring

– red and green decorating icing

Mix cream cheese and cookie crumbs until well blended.

Shape into 1″ balls; place on waxed paper covered baking sheet.  Freeze 10 minutes.  Mix melted chocolate and food coloring until well blended.  Dip balls in chocolate; return to baking sheet.  Squiggle green and red icing onto balls to make Christmas trees.  Let stand until chocolate is firm.  Keep refrigerated.

Chocolate Fudge

Prep: 10 minutes.  Cook: 30 minutes.  Cool 2 hours.  Stand 1-2 hours.

– 4 c sugar

– 1 1/3 c milk

– 1/4 c corn syrup

– 1/4 t salt

– 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate

– 1/4 c butter

– 2 t vanilla

Grease bottom and sides of square pan, 8×8 with butter.

Butter sides of heavy 3-qt saucepan.  Place sugar, milk, corn syrup, salt, and chocolate in saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Cook, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, to 234 degrees on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into a cup of very cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from water; remove from heat.  Drop butter on top, but do not stir.

Cool mixture without stirring to 110 degrees, about 2 hours (bottom of saucepan will be lukewarm). Add vanilla.  Beat vigorously and continuously using wooden spoon until fudge begins to thicken.  Then, continue beating 5-10 minutes until mixture is thick and no longer glossy.

Quickly, spread or press into pan.  Let stand about 1-2 hours or until firm.  Cut into 1-inch squares.

Peanut Butter Fudge

– 8 T butter, plus more for greasing pan

– 1 c smooth peanut butter

– 1 t vanilla extract

– 1 lb powdered sugar

Combine the butter and peanut butter in a 4-qt microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Microwave for 2 minutes on high.  Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes.  It will be HOT.  Add the vanilla and powdered sugar to mixture and stir to combine with a wooden spoon.  Mixture will become hard to stir and lose its sheen.  Spread into a buttered 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper.  Fold the excess parchment paper so it covers the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.  Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Jalapeno Cheese Bites

– 1 can pizza dough

– 2 jalapeno peppers, halved, seeded, blanched, and sliced

– 1 – 1 1/2 t olive oil

– salt & pepper

– 1 t mixed dried herbs (oregano, parsley, basil)

– ~ 1 c Tex-Mex shredded cheese

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Press down the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Then pull and stretch the dough into a rectangular shape.

Spread the oil on the dough and gently press it into a 14×8 inch rectangle.  Sprinkle some salt, herbs, pepper, cheese, and jalapeno peppers onto the dough.

Roll up the dough as tightly as you can.  Pinch both ends, and slice the log into 3/4″ – 1″ rounds.  Place the rolls on the baking sheet, cut side up, and bake for about 16-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and light golden brown in color.

Makes about 14 bites.

More Thanksgiving Desserts

I work for my parents at a place called Jenfab Inc.  (Yes, it is named after me and yes, my parents are still business partners even though they’re divorced).  It’s a really fun job.  I work in the office part-time doing odds and ends and help out the other office workers.

Every year Jenfab has a Thanksgiving dinner for employees.  It’s always catered, but this year I decided to make a cake and take it to the dinner.  It was a huge success!  The entire thing was gobbled up really quickly.  Plus, I got to practice my cake decorating skills which always makes me happy.

I think it turned out rather cute.

Fudge Cake

– 1/2 c shortening

– 1 1/2 c sugar

– 2 eggs

– 1 t vanilla

– 1/2 c + 1 T water

– 2/3 c cocoa

– 1 3/4 c AP flour

– 1 t baking soda

– 1 t baking powder

– 1/2 t salt

– 1 c sour milk (1 c milk + 1 T vinegar)

Grease bottoms and sides of 2 9-inch layer pans.  Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; blend in vanilla.  Stir hot water into cocoa to form a smooth paste; gradually add to creamed mixture.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add alternately with sour milk to creamed mixture.  Pour batter into pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until take tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes.  Remove from pans; cool completely.  Frost with homemade frosting.

Homemade Chocolate Frosting

– 1/2 c butter, room temperature

– 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

– 1/2 c baking cocoa (here’s where I mucked with the recipe a little.  I didn’t have 1/2 c of baking cocoa left, so I filled the 1/2 cup measuring cup about 3/4 full and then filled it the rest of the way with hot cocoa mix.  It turned out perfect.)

– 1 t vanilla

– 4 c powdered sugar

Place butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl.  Beat until combined – about 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides and add cocoa and vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Add powdered sugar and mix until well combined.  Beat for an additional couple of minutes.  The texture becomes lighter if you beat for a few minutes.

~~~~

Every year my mom’s side of the family has Thanksgiving dinner together on Thanksgiving day.  The location varies, but this year it was at my Granny’s house. I volunteered to bring desserts…shocking. 

I decided on these desserts for a couple of reasons: 1) every Thanksgiving dinner needs a pecan dessert and an apple dessert.  2) no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a pie of some sort.  3) I recently discovered my uncle has a peanut butter obsession just like my mom and I. 

The entire peanut butter dessert was scarfed down.  It.Was.Amazing.  I ate so much of it that everyone thought I was going to be sick. 

My aunt said, “you should do this for a living…these are amazing!”  If only I could…

The highlight of everything occurred after the dinner, though.  My granny asked me for the recipe for my pecan squares.  I almost fell in the floor.  My granny is the stereotypical perfect-baking-everyone-asks-HER-for-recipes type granny.  Her asking me for a recipe was the ultimate compliment. 

I love the holidays!

Pecan Squares

– 2 c AP flour

– 2/3 c confectioners sugar

– 1 1/3 plus 1 T butter, divided

– 1/2 c packed brown sugar

– 1/2 c honey

– 3 T whipping cream

– 3 1/2 c pecans, coarsely chopped

Sift together flour and powdered sugar.  Cut into 3/4 cup softened butter using a pastry blender or fork, just until mix resembles coarse crumbs meal.  Pat mixture on bottom and 1 1/2″ up sides of lightly greased 13×9 baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly golden.  Cool.  In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring brown sugar, honey, 2/3 c butter and whipping cream to a boil.  Stir in pecans and pour into prepared crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Cool in pan on wire rack.  Cut into 2-inch squares.

Apple Crumb Pie

Pastry:

1 c AP flour

– 1/2 t salt

– 1/3 c plus 1 T shortening

– 2-3 T cold water

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl, cut in shortening, using pastry blender or crisscrossing 2 knives, until particles are size of small peas.  Sprinkle with cold water, 1 T at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1-2 t more water can be added if necessary).

Gather pastry into a bowl.  Shape into flattened round on lightly floured surface.  If desired, wrap flattened round of pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes to firm up shortening slightly, which makes the baked pastry more flaky and lets the water absorb evenly throughout the dough.  If refrigerated longer, let pastry soften slightly before rolling.

Roll pastry on lightly floured surface, using floured rolling pin, into circle 2 inches larger than upside down pie plate.  Fold pastry into fourths and place in pie plate.  Unfold pastry and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.

Pie:

3 lbs granny smith apples

– 2/3 c light brown sugar

– 2 T flour

– 1 t cinnamon

– 1/2 t ground nutmeg

– crumb topping:

  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 c softened butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine apples (pared, cored, and thinly sliced) with sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Place in prepared pastry shell, mounding in center.

Prepare crumb topping.  In a small bowl, combine crumb ingredients and blend with fingertips until crumbs are formed.  Sprinkle evenly over apples.

Place pie in lower third of the oven.  Bake 50-60 minutes.  Cool.  If desired, dust with confectioners sugar.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Trifle

Prep: 10 minutes.  Total: 2 hr 50 min.  Makes 12 servings.

– 1 pouch Betty Crocker peanut butter chip cookie mix

– 1/3 c vegetable oil

– 1 T water

– 1 egg

– 1/2 c butter

– 1/2 c packed brown sugar

– 1/2 c creamy peanut butter

– 1 1/2 c whipping (heavy) cream

– 4 T chocolate syrup

– 2 T chocolate covered peanuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Makes cookies as directed on pouch, using oil, water, and egg. Bake and cool as directed.  Cut each cookie into fourths.

Melt butter and brown sugar in 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth.  Stir in peanut butter until well blended.  Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Beat whipping cream in chilled medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until soft.  Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture.

Place half of the cookie pieces in bottom of 2-quart glass bowl.  Drizzle cookies with chocolate syrup.  Spoon half of peanut butter mixture over cookies.  Top with remaining cookies, chocolate syrup, and peanut butter mixture.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours but no longer than 12 hours.  Sprinkle with peanuts.

 

Birthday Cake

One of Zack and my friends is turning 21 this weekend.  Zack is going to celebrate with him, but I am staying home since I’m not yet 21 and can’t participate in the festivities.  Plus, this way they get to have a boys night out.  They will have a great time 🙂

Obviously, I used this as an excuse to bake a character cake.  (Not that I needed an excuse, but still…).

I really enjoyed making this cake and it really wasn’t very hard.  The only thing that I am not really 100% pleased with is the words on the cake, but it was my first time adding words to a cake, so I’m still pleased with how it turned out.

Of course it had to be a beer cake…he IS turning 21 after all.

I used a star tip and piped stars on all the sides.  It gave it an extra 3D effect and I really liked it.

Zack said that everyone really liked the cake!  Yay!

It’s a peanut butter cake with vanilla butter cream frosting.  Mm!

Peanut Butter Cake

Prep: 10 min.  Bake: 40 min.  Cool: 1 hr 10 min.  12 servings.

– 2 1/4 c AP flour

– 1 1/2 c sugar

– 1/2 c peanut butter

– 3 1/2 t baking powder

– 1 t salt

– 1 t vanilla

– 3 large eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottoms and sides of pan with shortening, lightly flour.

Beat all ingredients together with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly.  Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.  Pour into pan.

Bake rectangle pan 35-40 minutes, 9 inch rounds 25-30 minutes and 8-inch rounds 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes then remove to cool completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour.