Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chocolate Rum Balls - by Summer

I put off making these so long, that I actually went through one package of Oreos . . . they are dangerous to keep in the house!  At first I wasn't going to use my food processor to make these.  We are making progress with the kids being less scared of it, but it isn't very big, so I wasn't sure if it would all fit.  Plus, I thought it would be a great activity for my little guy to help me out when I was pounding the Oreos. 

After pounding out the cookies, I decided that they weren't crushed enough, so I put them into the food processor with the rest of the dry ingredients and pulsed them together.  It just barely fit, so I mixed the rum and honey by hand and let it rest in the fridge for a few hours. 

He liked to flatten them
While I was rolling them into balls, my son wanted to help make the "cookies" as he called them.  My mom helped him roll out a few.

These were easier to roll into balls than the truffles.  I just used black sprinkles, since I had a huge supply of them.  Like Lisa, I agree that they tasted a little strong with the rum.  But they were easy and make a great gift or hostess present.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Currant-Cranberry Spice Cake - by Summer

I have seen dried currants (at least the same ones that Lisa used) many times at my regular grocery store, but when I went to pick some up for this recipe - I couldn't find any.  I found regular currants, but the recipe specifically called for dried ones, so off I went to different stores in search of currents.  I finally found some. 

It didn't occur to me until I was making the cake that I wonder what type of canned cranberry I should be using - jellied or whole berry sauce?  I picked up some of the jellied and crossed my fingers that it was the right stuff to use.

This cake came together quickly and smelled pretty yummy.  I should mention that the recipe said to spray the pan with cooking spray and then flour it.  I had disastrous results with this - too much cooking spray, so I just washed the pan and then used butter and flour. I did add the walnuts to the batter since I had them on hand.  My cake baked for about 48 minutes and it was done.  It didn't rise a whole lot, so I was a little worried.

After it came out of the oven, I was inspired by my leftover jellied cranberry sauce.  I decided to make a cranberry glaze with it.  I warmed it over the oven and added powdered sugar and whisked away.  It was a nice pretty color pink.

I enjoyed the cake.  A friend of mine commented that it reminded him of carrot cake - I think it was the combination of currants and walnuts.  I agree.  It's a nice simple cake.  I can see substituting raisins instead of the currants in the future since they are way easier to find and I usually have them on hand.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pistachio-Cranberry Bars - by Summer

These bars are perfect for this time of year.  I love making cookies for the holidays and I am always looking for new recipes.  What could be more festive than green pistachios and red cranberries?  This recipe is easy, although there were a few tedious steps.  Shelling the pistachios wasn't so fun and then chopping them took up the most time.  Since I have a love/hate relationship with my food processor, I once again opted to make the crust using a pastry blender.

When purchasing ingredients for this recipe, I accidentally bought evaporated milk.  In my head sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk are the same thing.  Don't be fooled - they are very, very different!

One of my favorite things about this recipe was the fact that there were so few ingredients.  They tasted very different than I was expecting (my husband said the same thing too).  They were much sweeter - even with the tart cranberries.  I like them and found them quite addicting.  However, I was surprised that the nuts weren't very crunchy.  I am curious to see what would happen if you use a different type of nut, like pecans.  I will definitely making this cookie again!

Double Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding - by Summer

I was excited to try this recipe when my parents were in town.  My dad likes bread pudding and hadn't had any in years.  I found a French bakery that sells chocolate croissants, so we were in business.  This was quite easy to make - tear up croissants, whip some eggs and cream and melt some chocolate.
Pour the liquid over the croissants, let sit and bake.  I was excited because this was suppose to be rich with chocolate. 

The reviews were mixed on this.  I felt there was too much bread and it wasn't chocolately enough.  My mom thought it was too chocolately.  My dad didn't think there was enough "pudding" and it just wasn't my husbands cup of tea. 

In hindsight, I probably should have made half of a recipe.  Even sharing with my parents - it was way too much.  I actually wouldn't mind try making it again, but I would use less croissants.  And I think I would skip the chocolate ones (they are more expensive) and just add chocolate chips like the recipe suggested.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate Rum Balls - by Lisa

Let's get ready to rummmmmmballlllll! LOL! We received an invite several weeks ago to our neighbors' annual Christmas party so I knew instantly when I'd make these treats. :)

These were really really easy to make. The only extra items I needed to pick up were the cookies (I used Trader Joe's Joe Joes) and sprinkles. Since it is the holiday season, I decided to roll them in Christmas themed sprinkles to make them a little more festive. :)

Initially, I didn't think everything would fit in my food processor, but I need not have worried - it worked out beautifully!

The dry ingredients came together smoothly, and then I added the rum and honey. Since I had a busy weekend coming up, I made up the mixture 2 days ahead of time stuck it in the fridge until I was ready to roll out the balls. As it is, the recipe suggest allowing a day or so for the flavors to develop.

When it was time to roll, I let the mixture warm up for 20 min or so, and this wasn't nearly as messy as the truffles. However, I did need to go out and get more sprinkles for the last 10 or so rum balls. I wound up using about 2 1/2 bottles total.
Before heading out to the party, I sampled one so I would know how they tasted. Unfortunately, these didn't really grab me. The rum was pretty overpowering in my opinion. I guess I prefer my rum in mixed drink form! However, those who did try them really liked them, so I guess I just have a sensitive palette! :)

Current-Cranberry Spice Cake - by Lisa

Mmmm...spice cake. Can't really go wrong with spice cake and this recipe did not disappoint! :) I swear, the whole house smelled delicious while this was baking. I had most of the ingredients I needed for this except for the currants. To be honest, I didn't know exactly what currants are; just that they are some sort of dried fruit something. I knew my regular grocer had a decently stocked aisle for dried fruits, but I was surprised to find only one brand for these! After I got home, I looked up the actual definition of currants and learned that what I got ("zante" currants) are actually not real currants. Doh!

So my next trial was locating my bundt pan. Since I have about 1/3 of the cabinet space I used to, I have to store some of my baking pans I don't use as much. I've been meaning to inventory those items, so I don't have to do what I did that night. Off to the closets and basement I went digging thru bins until I finally unearthed it!

Everything came together pretty well, and I got it all poured in the pan and ready for the oven.

 The cake was done after a little over 50 minutes. I didn't get any decent photos of it out of the pan, but let me tell you it was very yummy! My whole family devoured it in a matter of days! :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Maple Walnut Pie - by Summer

I was pretty excited to make this pie.  I love pecan pie, but have never made it before and this seemed like a variation of that pie.  I figured if I could make this one, then I can make a pecan one!  I had trouble finding Grade B maple syrup and I have a sick toddler.  I didn't feel like dragging him to every store, so we settle for some Grade A.

This recipe calls for a frozen pie crust.  I, however, do not like the taste of frozen pie crusts (yes, I can tell the difference), so I opted to make my own.  This recipe was so easy - I managed to pull it all together right before dinner and then get that ready while the pie was baking in the oven.

I think that the frozen pie crusts must be a little smaller, because even though I used my small pie plate, I felt as though there wasn't enough filling and too many walnuts.  But I loved this pie and my husband liked it too!  In fact, I even had to have seconds.  I would definitely make this again, but maybe use slightly less walnuts.

Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles - by Lisa

My sister hosted Thanksgiving for our side of the family this year, and I jumped on the chance to bring along some dessert! I figured these would be a nice little treat, and they seemed to go over real well! Summer and I were on nearly the same wavelength while making these. I also re-made the gingersnaps from earlier in the month, and she clued me in on the need to chill the mixture for longer than the recipe suggests. Since I had my little one underfoot all afternoon, I got the mix put together and then shoved it in the fridge for a few hours.

As for the ingredients for this recipe, I was doing some shopping at Trader Joe's and decided to see if I could get everything I needed there. I am pleased to report that I could! :) Of course, you really can't go wrong with this much chocolate. :)

I think I chilled the mixture for a little too long, because it was sort of hard to scoop out, and I had to pause for a couple of hand-washings in between since my hands were becoming too much of a sticky mess to be able to make the balls. (I remembered much later that last time I made truffles, I used plastic gloves!) I wound up with 24 truffles.

I thought these were pretty yummy too. I loved the ginger bite that they had. I'm not sure I'd go to the trouble of making them again, but I did enjoy eating them!

Also thought I'd mention that I turned the Pumpkin Mousse into a pie with crumbled gingersnaps on top. It turned out great!! It just might have to become an annual tradition. :)

Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles - by Summer

I was excited to make these because it was an excuse to make the gingersnap cookies again!  Other than that ingredient, I had everything else on hand to make these.  The kids and I were invited to a friend's house for Thanksgiving (husband had to go out of town), so these seemed like the perfect thing to bring to Thanksgiving dinner.

Since my little guy is obsessed with all things in the kitchen lately, I thought maybe his fear of the food processor would be behind him.  Unfortunately that is a big no!  The minute I pulled it out, big tears ensued, so I had to wait until he was done eating and in another room to grind up the gingersnaps.  I used 20 cookies and had more than enough crumbs - way more than the recipe called for, actually.  I was a bit bummed because that meant less cookies for us to eat!

Making these was super easy.  I discovered that the chilling time (10 minutes) way not nearly enough time.  I ended up having the mixture in the fridge for about 25 minutes and then in the freezer for another 6 or so before I could finally roll them into balls.  I got 23 truffles out of the recipe.  I wasn't in love with these which is sort of funny since I love chocolate, pumpkin and gingersnaps.  I guess just not a combination of all three.  However, they were a big hit at Thanksgiving, so I could see making them again for a party or to give away.

I also want to note that the recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of pumpkin.  I didn't know what to do with the rest, so I put it in the fridge and a couple of days later, I found this recipe for pumpkin muffins which was super easy and very yummy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Mousse - by Lisa

While we were living in WA, I didn't get many opportunities to share my baked goods aside from sending in stuff with Hubby to his work. Now that we're back in IL, along with many more social opportunities, I have been thoroughly enjoying spreading the baked goods love. :) This past weekend, our neighborhood got together for an early Thanksgiving meal. I thought this was such a cool idea, and man was there some amazing food there! I also jumped on the opportunity to make something from our recipe list to share. I had already decided to bring the truffles to Thanksgiving at my sister's house, so I opted to make the mousse.

Since I knew there would be a lot of people at our pre-Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to double the recipe and then divide evenly among clear plastic cups. This was super easy to make although it did require a little bit of babysitting while it cooled. Since I can't tolerate nutmeg, I made my own pumpkin pie spice substituting a little more cinnamon in the absence of nutmeg.

Next time, I might try using allspice as a stand in for the nutmeg. I cooked it in a much larger pan (4qt) and cooked it for closer to 7-8 minutes since the volume was much larger. I did have a bit of a challenge folding in the whipped cream since there was just so much.

After it cooled, I spooned it into the aforementioned plastic cups and set them loosely covered in the refrigerator for about two hours. My finishing touch was sticking a fresh baked gingersnap cookie in each cup. (That recipe is seeing A LOT of action this month!)

Walking in, they generated some buzz among the crowd. :) After a fantastic dinner, I served up the cups. They were devoured! Everyone seemed to really enjoy them, and there wasn't much left over! I also found it to be super yummy, and I am generally not a fan of pumpkin! I am looking forward to doing something a little bit different with this recipe this weekend for our final Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gingersnaps - by Lisa

Oh man, this recipe started out looking so simple, but yet I wound up with a couple of missteps that made for a frustrating morning! Of course, I was too distracted and a bit hurried which is what lead to me to my mistakes, but luckily, neither issue seemed to affect the final product! Hooray!

I actually had everything I needed for this recipe, well after some hunting I did anyway. My house tends to eat things and spit them back out in unexpected locations. This time it was the ground clove! Luckily I was able to find it without making an emergency run to the store.

So my first error was completely overlooking the part of the recipe that says to mix 1 cup of sugar in with the butter. I dumped in the full 1.5 cups noted in the ingredients totally forgetting I was supposed to reserve the remaining half cup for rolling. By the time I figured that out, it was way too late. Error number two came when I went to dump the flour mixture into the bowl. I usually sift onto a sheet of waxed paper and use that to transfer the flour mixture over. Well, somehow one side of the waxed paper slipped out of my fingers, and I suddenly had a mess all over my counter top.

If it were just flour I would have remeasured the remainder and added what I needed. But this had a bunch of spices, salt and the leavener mixed in, so....I dug out my silicon scraper and put it to work! That sucker did an amazing job of gathering and scooping up the mess!

After getting the flour mix into the bowl, I took a note from Summer, and used the mixer to stir it all together. Next I rolled the dough into balls and debated over rolling them in more sugar since I'd already inadvertently amped up the sugar content. I quickly realized the dough would stick to the glass when flattening them, so I went ahead with the extra sugar.

These baked up super nice and were ready to come out after about 8 min (convection). I ended up with about 4 1/2 dozen cookies. I took some over to a chili party, and they were devoured pretty quickly! I also really like how they taste, and I was relieved to find that the extra sugar didn't cancel out any of the flavor of the ginger and clove. Whew! I will definitely add these into my regular cookie rotation!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin Mousse - by Summer

I really love all things pumpkin.  I was intrigued by this recipe and I actually made this last week, but haven't been able to get around to posting about it until now.  It's a pretty easy recipe - I just needed to buy the whipping cream, but I had everything else on had.  First you cook up the pumpkin mix and then whip cream, fold together and chill!

I did serve with anything but a little bit of extra whipping cream on top.  I personally needed a little crunch or something with it.  Beth suggests serving with gingersnaps, but sadly we ate all of ours before I made this one.  My husband thought it might be good as a pie with a graham cracker crust.  I think it would be good as a pie with a gingersnap crust!  It was really like a pumpkin pie that was whipped up.  Very tasty!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gingersnaps - by Summer

I picked this recipe because it seemed like a good fall recipe.  I am so glad I picked it.  It's one of those cookies that seemed like it would be hard to make.  But that couldn't be further than the truth.  The only special ingredient that I needed to pick up was the molasses.  I had some blackstrap molasses, but I didn't know if that would work, so I just picked up some regular molasses. 

This dough came together very quickly.  The recipe said to mix the flour with the butter/sugar/molasses mixture by hand.  In hindsight, I would have used the mixer on the stir setting.  The dough was pretty stiff. 

Next up is forming the dough into balls, rolling in sugar, and then flattening into discs.  A funny note - my little guy (who now must ALWAYS help me bake) said they looked like donuts (donut holes more precisely) when I rolled them into balls.

I popped them in the oven and they baked for 11 or 10 minutes depending on the pan I used.  I have 2 air-bake cookie sheets and the cookies baked for 11 minutes on those, but they turned out better.  Next time I will only use those pans.  And believe me, there will be a next time.  I loved this cookie.  We all did in my family.  I baked them on Saturday and by today (Monday), they are all gone!  I definitely will add this cookie to my regular cookie making list!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Maple Walnut Pie - by Lisa

Can I just say how much I love that Beth advocates the use of pre-made pie crusts? It takes so much stress off my shoulders! :) I had to pick up a few extra things for the recipe - the heavy cream, pie crust, and maple syrup. She recommended the grade B maple syrup for its sweeter flavor. I lucked out that my favorite grocer carries quite the variety of maple syrup, and I was actually able to find a bottle of the grade B variety. Before the recipe, I never knew such a thing existed! I had plenty of walnuts hanging out in the freezer from a prior recipe, so I didn't need to worry about picking up any more of those.

Putting this together was fairly straightforward. I had no problems toasting the walnuts, and the filling was easy to assemble.

I was even able to make use of Hubby's bourbon for this recipe. As suggested, I checked the pie every 10 min, and in the final 10 minutes, I added a pie crust ring to prevent the edges from burning. My pie seemed ready at about 38 minutes so I pulled it out to let it cool.

We were too hungry to let it completely cool, so after about 30 min we dug in. I found the texture to be good, but the flavor just didn't grab me. However, Hubby practically devoured his slice and went back for seconds. There isn't much left today! I probably wouldn't make this one again, but I'm glad I got to try it!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake - by Lisa

I've never been a huge fan of pineapple upside down cake, but my husband has a fondness for it, so I was looking forward to seeing how he liked it. It was pretty easy to make. I think the longest part was cutting the pineapple (which Hubby helped with) and laying it out over the caramel. I also noticed that the batter was really thick and was a little concerned it wouldn't spread easily over the pineapple and caramel. I needn't have worried tho! I had no problem spreading it.

Since I am still working on learning my oven, I set the timer 10 min shorter that the minimum recommended baking time. Well, about 27 min in, it started smelling really good. I did the toothpick test and it came out clean, so I gave it a couple more minutes and then pulled it out of the oven. I let it rest 5 min before inverting it on the plate. Once I did that I noticed the top of the cake was awfully gooey. So like a fool I dumped it back into the pan and popped it back into the oven for another 10 min!!!  When I pulled it out the second time, it seemed a little more cooked, but not by much, so I figured maybe that's just how it is supposed to be.

We got to share this cake with my niece Katie (who was babysitting for us that night) and then again with Hubby's mom and his sister the following day. Finally! Sharing these baking projects with lots of people! :) Anywho, everyone thoroughly enjoyed this treat, including me! I loved the little bit of kick the ginger added, and the caramel was just divine. I was very happy with how it turned out and how much I liked it! :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake - by Summer

Lately I haven't been very deliberate about making the desserts, especially this month.  But this was the one exception.  My Grandma is turning 90 on Monday and this weekend we are headed to Wisconsin to celebrate her birthday with lots of family.  Her favorite cake is pineapple upside down cake.  There is going to be cake at her party, but I thought I would make this before we left, and bring her a slice. 

My little guy - ready to help
It seems like this would be a hard cake to make, but really, it was super easy.  I bought pineapple that was already cored from the store to help save a step.  The caramel was easy - just brown sugar and butter.  I thought maybe I could have let it cook longer, because it still seemed pretty grainy.

The batter for the actual cake was simple - but was pretty stiff.  I was surprised at the amount of ginger the recipe has - 2 teaspoons.  I chose to omit the rum that was listed as an optional ingredient.  The batter spread nicely over the pineapple and into the oven it went.  The cake baked for 40 minutes and it was ready to come out.  I thought for sure while it was baking that I had completely messed this up.  I could smell caramel burning, but it was simply because it was bubbling up and over the pan.  Next time I would place foil underneath to catch any caramel.

I was pretty excited to dig in after waiting about 10 minutes (5 to remove cake from pan and another 5 that Beth says to wait before serving.)  It turned out way better than I expected.  I thought the ginger flavor was a bit strong, but I really like this cake.  I had some later at night, but decided that I like the taste of it best when it was warm - just out of the oven.  I sure hope my Grandma likes it too!
Baked - just out of the oven
Just out of the pan!