Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vacation to DC and Florida

Back home from my vacation, still trying to catch up on things.  But the 11 days I was away were amazing.  I got to spend time with friends that I love dearly and don't get to see often.  And we stuffed as much fun as we could into each day.  Needless to say I'm a bit tired, almost done with catching up on things, and putting off that mountain of laundry that I have from my trip. 

First up - DC.  I hadn't seen Kate in a year and we were both anxiously awaiting my vacation.  We had tons of things planned.  I get off the plane and immediately put a light up bow on my shoulder.  I had asked what she wanted as a present from where I live and she replied "Put a bow on you".  So that's what I did.  She sees me and we both start laughing hysterically.  We get my luggage and off we go to Anapolis.  I was excited for this, I'm a bit of a sucker for a man in uniform and Anapolis is always crawling with sailors since the academy is right there.  Wouldn't you know it - we only saw 1 sailor.  I was bummed.  :(

I did all of the touristy things while I was there.  This was my second visit to DC so we were crossing off things on my list of what I wanted to see.  We ate some crabs

he kept looking at me
I was taught the proper way to crack and eat the crab, and Kate's husband even let me try his special crab dip that he makes when he eats crab.

it was really good
Last year when I went they were cleaning out the Reflecting pool so all I got to see was a giant pile of mud and dirt.  When we get there this year..............

not happy
........a pile of dirt and some bulldozers.  Clearly I'm not meant to see the Reflecting Pool with water in it.  We walked a lot and ate a lot.  DC is full of amazing chefs and celebrity chefs restaurants and we ate at a couple.  We had lunch at Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery.  It's right next door to his restaurant We The Pizza.  Amazingly delicious.  If you are a fan of Top Chef then Spike should sound familiar, so should Mike Isabella.  He had just opened his new restaurant Bandolero and we got to eat there.  When we walked in and sat down, we realized he was actually there!

Feet away from him!
We were amazed he was there.  And the food was amazing.  My personal favorite was the Queso Fundido....I will be dreaming about this dish until I get it again.  My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. 

My time came to an end at DC and next up was Florida to see Rae and Paul.  I was so excited.  I check in at the airport and get my bag checked in and off I go.  When I get to Florida, my bag was nowhere to be found.  It somehow got the man standing at the check in kiosk next to me flight tag and his luggage got mine.  So my bag ended up in Alabama.  And the kicker was we couldn't get it to Florida until 11:30 that night.  So I had to pick it up the next morning.  Not off to a good start.  The next morning rolls around and off we go to the airport - and there was my bag, waiting for me.  I had never been so happy to see my luggage.  I immediatley went into the airport bathroom and changed into clean clothes.  With my luggage now with me, off we went to have fun - even if Tropical Storm Debbie made her appearance for my whole time there :(  We made the best of it and still had an amazing time. I even got to teach Paul how to make the Pepperoni Pizza Bread - which he did a fantastic job at.  And I'm told he has already made it again and it went extremely well.   When it was time to leave I didn't want to go home. 

view from the airport in FL
My flight home was good, my luggage was even waiting for me when I got to baggage claim.  Home from a great trip and getting things in order for the next part of my life :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rolo Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies

I love when my friends post things I should make on my personal facebook page.  I get really excited about it.  And somehow, within the span of a week, I had 5 different suggestions from friends.  I really needed to get to making some of them.  I have a lot of fans that love peanut butter, so I knew these cookies would do well with them.  Plus, it had my favorite Rolo's in them - how bad could they really be?!  Nothing with a Rolo in it is ever disappointing in my book.  And bonus - Rolo's were on sale when I bought them - it's always good to have extra on hand, even though those "extra" ones usually end up getting eaten.  It's a weakness, I know.  I try not to keep "extras" on hand for this very reason alone. 

I vowed not to eat any Rolo's during the making of these cookies, and I have to say I only ate 1 - no lie.  The "extras" are currently in my freezer, slowly being snacked on by me.  I couldn't wait to hand these out to people.

hello goodness
Turns out - everyone loved them.  A soft Peanut Butter Cookie with a Rolo nestled in the middle - who wouldn't?!  Everyone couldn't stop talking about how great they are! A must make if you ask me. 

Rolo Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups flour (I actually found them to be really soft - may need to add 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup more)
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 bag Rolos', unwrapped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter, peanut butter,  brown sugar, milk and vanilla extract until blended, about 1 minute.  Add egg and beat until incorporated.
  3. Whisk baking sod, flour and salt together in a medium bowl and then add to wet ingredients; mix until blended.
  4. Scoop 2 tbsp sized balls of dough.  Place a Rolo in the center of each and roll so that the Rolo is in the center of the dough and doesn't show.  Place 2" apart on prepared baking sheets.  Use a fork to make crisscross patterns on each cookie (dip the fork in water so it wont stick to the dough)
  5. Bake 8-9 minutes until just set.  Bottoms will slightly brown and centers may still look a little under baked.  Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cake Batter Cookie Dough Chunk Ice Cream

When I first got Izzy, one of my first thoughts was I can finally make the flavor of ice cream I've always wanted and no one is making yet.  Every time I go to my favorite local ice cream place and get a milkshake, its always Cake Batter with Cookie Dough ice creams (yes, they let you customize your shakes by taking any flavor they offer and putting one or more into a shake - it's awesome).  I knew it would be tasty, I just needed to work on my ice cream making skills.  Happy to say I have finally mastered making a custard base for ice cream, I happily went searching for a Cake Batter Ice Cream recipe.  The results weren't that great.  I was surprised at how many people chose to do a Philadelphia style with it, which was not what I wanted.  I kept looking and finally found one I knew I could tinker around with.  And let me tell you - amazing.  I had visions of making this for weeks, and am so happy it turned out better than I could of imagined! So get out your ice cream machines!  This one is easy and oh so tasty. 

I'm not sure if it's sad that I made this yesterday
and the ice cream is already over half gone...I might need help
Cake Batter Cookie Dough Chunk Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart

Ice Cream:
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup - 1 cup yellow cake mix, sifted (depending on how strong of the cake flavor you want)

Whisk together milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, cream and cake mix in a medium saucepan until well blended.  Cook over medium-high heat until mixture reaches 160 degrees, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and transfer to a heat-safe bowl set over a bowl of ice.  Stir until cooled and cover with plastic wrap, leaving one edge uncovered for custard to breathe.  Let chill for at least 8 hours. 

Make Cookie Dough Chunks:
5 tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a medium sized mixing bowl, stir together the butter and sugar until smooth.  Stir in the flour, then the vanilla and chocolate chips. 
Form the dough into bite sized pieces and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Once all pieces are rolled out, cover sheet with plastic wrap and place in freezer. 

Once custard base is chilled, churn in ice cream machine according to directions (check on it early - it only took me 20 minutes since it was so thick to begin with).  Fold in cookie dough chunks as you place ice cream into containers to freeze.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jameson Cupcakes

I was out one night and we started talking about the Gin and Tonic Cake I had made and how everyone loved it.  My sisters friend turned to me and asked what I could do with Jameson - which is his favorite.  I had a couple of ideas pop into my head, but I told him I would work on it and I would have something for him to try out in 2 weeks.  I searched the internet for anything good - I came up with a lot of misses....nothing that I wanted to try at all.  So when all else fails, I made my own recipe.  And like the Gin and Tonic Cake, it has 3 layers of Jameson in it - in the cake, in the filling and in the frosting. 

hello old friend
I mean it is called Jameson Cupcakes after all, so you need a lot of Jameson.  I have enough left over to make these a couple more times - and I'm sure I will be asked to.  I've already gotten requests for another Gin and Tonic Cake.  

I will give you this warning, when you take the cupcakes out of the oven, the smell of Jameson baking off hits you when  you open the oven door.  And if it's really humid out, put your ganache in the fridge to set up, otherwise it wont set for a very long time. 

Jameson Cupcakes
makes 24-30 cupcakes

your favorite box mix or from scratch recipe - replace water with Jameson

Make cupcakes according to instructions and let cool.  Once cooled, cut a slit in the middle of each cupcake. 

 8 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
3 tsp Jameson

Place chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl.  In a small saucepan heat heavy cream until bubbling.  Pour it over chocolate and let sit for up to 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Add butter and Jameson and stir until smooth.  Let set on counter top or in fridge, stirring every 10 minutes, until you get a thick, pipe-able consistency.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and fill each cupcake with the ganache.  Save what you have left over, if any.

2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 lbs confectioners sugar
6-8 tbsp Jameson

While ganache is setting up, make frosting.  In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth and creamy, at least 3 minutes.  Slowly add confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until it's thick and smooth.  Add Jameson - start with 6 tbsp and add more until you get your desired consistency.  Fill pastry bag with frosting (I used a star tip for mine) and pipe frosting onto each cupcake.  If you have remaining ganache, switch out tips for the small tip used for writing and drizzle remaining ganache over the tops of each frosted cupcake.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Frozen Lemonade Pie

It has been hot and humid where I live, and when it gets like this, sometimes the last thing I want to do is bake.  I live in a second floor apartment and the heat just seems to stay inside my apartment, no matter how many fans we have on and windows we have open. I was invited to a girls night dinner and of course I was in charge of dessert - this was the first thing that came to mind.  And on the bonus side of things - no baking, takes under 5 minutes to make and is delicious.  This is one of the few times I will buy a pre-made crust, just for the sheer ease of this dessert. 

I promise you that everyone will like this.  I based the Frozen Chocolate Pie off of this recipe, so if you're not into Lemonade too much, go with the chocolate one.  Everyone will love these.  Great summer treats for all. 

Frozen Lemonade Pie
makes one 9" pie

1 Graham Cracker or Nilla Wafer Crust
(1) 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 packet of lemonade mix - ie. crystal light or country time. 
(1) 3 oz pkg instant vanilla pudding
(1) 8 oz container Cool Whip, thawed
1 1/4 cup cold milk
15 lemon sandwich cookies, crushed, plus more for topping

  1. In a medium size bowl, beat cream cheese and lemonade mix until smooth.  In a small bowl, beat the milk and pudding together for 2 minutes, it will be thick.  Add milk/pudding mixture into cream cheese mixture and mix until combined.  
  2. Fold in 1/3 of Cool Whip into mixture, then add the remaining Cool Whip.  Add crushed sandwich cookies and mix well. 
  3. Pour into cookie crust and spread evenly.  Top with more crushed cookies, or whole cookies, or leave plain.  Freeze, until firm, about 4 hours.  Let sit 10-15 minutes before serving.   

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cappuccino Bars

There is a strong love of anything Mocha for myself and Heays, Ween not so much.  I have made a lot of mocha things over the years and my list of Mocha items to make is slowly dwindling down.  I had actually forgotten about this one, it didn't sound too appealing actually, so I kept putting off making it.  Well I soon found out that was a mistake.  These bars are fantastic!  Easy to make, extremely tasty, and it was a lesson in not judging a recipe by a lack of a good description.  There have been a lot of things I haven't posted on here, because I didn't think they were that great or something was off about them that I didn't really like.  And if I rant and rave about something, then that means its really special. 

small pieces of heaven
So if you are a Mocha lover - these are a must make.  I'm sure my parents will see this post and ask where theirs is.  It's happening a lot lately - they see something on here and get sad/mad that I didn't give them any of it so I have to make it again for them.  It's kind of funny to me - they once asked me to stop making so much stuff because they couldn't eat it all, now they want something and when I do make it and give it to them sometimes they never finish it.  I'm still working on figuring out this situation. 

Cappuccino Bars
makes 32 bars

1 tsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder
2 tsp very hot water
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Espresso Filling:
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease bottom and sides of 13x9" pan with shortening or cooking spray; lightly flour.  Dissolve 1 tsp espresso powder in 2 tsp hot water.  In small bowl, beat espresso, 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.  Beat in flour on low speed.  Add chocolate chips.  Press evenly in pan.
  2. Bake 15-17 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.
  3. While base is baking, make filling.  In a medium bowl, beat 1/3 cup butter with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in confectioners sugar.  Dissolve 1 tsp espresso powder in 1 tbsp water.  Beat espresso mixture and vanilla into sugar mixture.  Pour filling over hot crust; spread evenly.  Bake 28-33 minutes or until set.  Immediately sprinkle with 1 cup chocolate chips and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until chips are slightly melted.  Take a spatula and spread melted chocolate evenly over the top of the bars.  Let fully cool.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Gingersnap Sticks

Being bored is never a good thing for me.  I tend to like to stay active doing things, I guess that's why I like to bake a lot.  I spend a lot of time online looking for recipes for things, going through all my cookbooks seeing what sounds good today, and lusting after new cookbooks that I really want (I have a large list of these going on my Amazon account - it's not pretty).  I had run out of a few essential things, so I was on a mission to make something that didn't require my missing items - something that actually took up quite a bit of time.  A lot of the things I wanted to make needed my missing items.  I was starting to feel defeated, then I saw it - Gingersnap Sticks.  Bingo.  I read the recipe over a couple of times to make sure that I had everything I needed and I was all set to go.  These are extremely easy to make and only take minutes in the oven - and you can do it all in one batch!  Who doesn't love that?! 

soft and delicious cookies
You will be making these all the time, they are addictive.  And if you want to keep these in the freezer, portion the dough into 4 equal portions and shape into the form of a log and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  They will keep nicely for  a month in the freezer.  Then let thaw and bake away! 

Gingersnap Sticks
makes about 4 1/2 dozen

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses or maple syrup (if you like the stronger flavor use the molasses)
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
4 tsp sugar (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.  In a large bowl, mix 1 cup sugar, oil, molasses and egg and mix until well blended.  Add remaining ingredients except 4 tsp sugar.  Mix until combined.
  2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions.  Slightly moisten hands and place each portion of dough on prepared sheet.  Shape each portion into a large strip and flatten each strip with hands or a spatula.  Sprinkle each strip with optional tsp of sugar.
  3. Bake 6-7 minutes or until edges are light golden brown and tops appeared cracked; cool 10 minutes.  Cut each strip crosswise into 1" slices; remove from cookie sheet to wire racks to cool completely.