5.31.2011

Tried & True Tuesday: Kitchen Sink Cookies

. Whew, what a whirlwind [but faaaaantastic] weekend!  You know those weekends that you just don't want to end?  It was one of those...

Let me start from the beginning.  Bacon-loving friend and I decided quite a while ago that we wanted to make a trip up to Minne to shop our little hearts out visit my family and maybe see an attraction or two [MOA, MOA, MOA!].  So this last Friday after work, we packed up my car and made the seemingly endless car ride through Iowa and up to the Twin Cities.  We wandered on in to the darkness of Woodbury around 11 P.M. where my parents welcomed us with [of course] food, food, and more food!  Always a wonderful way to end a long day of work and driving ☺

The next morning, Saturday, we woke up at the crack of dawn to make it to our hair appointments (yes, I made hair appointments for us.  We were getting everything out of this trip that we could!).  I ended up not changing much [surprise, surprise] but Bacon-loving friend added some bangs and a wonderfully rich chocolate brown tint to her hair.  Fortunately, she loved the new do and I have to add that it's super cute!  Great choice, my dear.

Then, we traveled on over to the cities so I could show off the infamous Salty Tart.  Remember this place?  It's where I interned a few summers back and really found my love and passion for great baking.  I'd already had a huge interest but seeing Michelle work her magic, yet still remaining ridiculously modest, was awe-inspiring.  I really can't say enough about this woman, she's touched my life in a way that she'll probably never know.  But anywho, I took some pictures of our experience there so I'll be posting those later on.  Now back to our Minne adventures!

After a little treat for Bacon-loving friend [I had to make her try something so she could know first hand the delight that is the Salty Tart], we finally made our way to the Mall of America (a.k.a. MOA, as mentioned above).  And boy was that place a sight to see!  I realized I hadn't been back to Minne, as well as the mall, since last November!  Geesh, that's just weird.  So needless to say some of the stores had changed but it was still the same ol' mall I know and love.  We spent the rest of the day there, walking around every floor and hitting some of the stores on our list.  Eventually fatigue got the best of us so we headed home to hang out with the family for the rest of the night.

But don't worry, after a teensy bit of sleep, we were up again on Sunday and out at the mall by 10:30 A.M., prepared to shop 'till we drop!  We made our way to some of the stores that we skipped over the previous day and then geared ourselves up to travel across the street to Ikea.  If you've ever been to an Ikea store, you know how unbelievably large they are!  But that didn't phase us, we walked through the entire building looking at every piece of furniture and knick-knack they made.  Bacon-loving friend made a great coffee table purchase and I found a few baking supplies and house decorations.  All in all...success!

After a great dinner at a restaurant in Woodbury with my parents, pure exhaustion settled in and we didn't move from the couch the rest of the night.  I've always felt like I can hold up pretty well, but Bacon-loving friend definitely showed me up in this department.  While sometimes I felt like I couldn't go on, she was raring to go.  In the end though I'm glad, we were there for such a short time so there was no room for my baby-ness.  No mercy!

Then on Monday, we made the lame-o drive back to Omaha and back to reality.  It's always a bummer, that return trip, but I guess I'd rather have a great weekend and suffer through that drive back then not have those couple of days at all.  Agreed?

So now let's get to this recipe.  I chose Kitchen Sink Cookies, from A Passion for Baking, not only for their addictive nature.  No, not the entire reason.  But you know that feeling when you may be leaving for the weekend or perhaps returning from a trip, and you have all kinds of left over ingredients in your kitchen?  What to do, what to do?!  Well, this is a great recipe to use up that odd array of ingredients.  I mean really, there's everything in these but the kitchen sink!  And what you get from this recipe is MmMmm, goodness!  These cookies are soooft, yet chewy, with a crunchiness from the rice cereal, chocolatey yumminess, and caramelized marshmallows.  Umm, not one of those things sounds bad to me so there's next to no reason that these cookies aren't ridiculously delish.  Yes, delish.

Hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Weekend, by the way!  Enjoy these little guys! .

Kitchen Sink Cookies
from A Passion for Baking


Ingredients:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1-1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 c. rolled oats
2 c. crisp rice cereal
1-1/2 c. miniature marshmallows
1/2 c. butterscotch chips
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. chopped milk chocolate bar
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In mixer bowl, cream softened and melted butter with brown sugar, sugar and vanilla extract.  Add eggs, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and blend well.  Stir in oats, rice cereal, marshmallows, butterscotch chips, semisweet chocolate chips, milk chocolate pieces, and coconut, to make well blended cookie dough.
  3. For each cookie, scoop 2 to 3 tablespoons dough and place on baking sheets 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until set all over (crisp edges and some marshmallows leaking out).  
Yield: 36 cookies

*My Notes:
  • I used 2 heaping tablespoons of dough for each cookie and packed them together into a cylinder, like I've previously done with other cookies.  This made 3 dozen cookies for me, but you can get more or less depending on how much dough is used for each cookie.
  • While the cookies are baking, I kept the dough in the fridge so the batter wouldn't get too warm.  This prevents the dough from spreading too thin while in the oven and gives you a more plump cookie.

5.29.2011

Bumbleberry Pie

. Hold the phones!  Literally.  You'll want to for this one.


Actually, I really don't have much to say besides the fact that this is one of the BEST pies I have ever had.  It is absolutely packed to the brim with a sweet and juicy fruit filling, which is encased in a ridiculously lovely buttery, flakey homemade crust.  Man.  This is a good one.  And guess who I have to thank for this?  None other than good ol' Marcy Goldman from her book A Passion for Baking.  I'm sure you recognize the name, I feel like she gets brought up here quite a bit.  This pie is also so, so easy to put together.  A little rolling of some dough, tossing of some fruit, and BAM!  A few slices of heaven, for sure.


And just to clear things up, bumbleberries don't actually exist [even though you'll wish they did after a bite of this].  Don't worry, it's not some magical fruit that you've gone without your entire life.  No, no.  This pie is simply an assortment of some delectable, wonderful fruits.  Like what?  Oh, just raspberries, blueberries, apples, strawberries, cranberries, and a hint of tart rhubarb.  I mean,  no big deal though.  Sounds like it wouldn't be the most delicious thing to touch those taste buds, right?  False.


So enough chit chat already.  All you really need is this recipe and my promise that you will be obsessed with love this pie!  It was a delightfully pleasant surprise and I think you will agree.  And umm, how could you not agree that this beaut' would look perfect in your Memorial Day spread? Hello, light bulb!


P.S. Sorry I've been MIA, it was quite a busy week at work.  AND, Bacon-loving friend and I are actually in Minne right now visiting my parents.  We decided to make it a girls weekend and come to the Twin Cities for some much needed shopping and to just get away.  So far we've done a fair amount of damage [to our bank accounts] and we still have ALL of today to get through.  But I've been thinking about this pie for the last week and feeling awful that I hadn't shared it's fabulosity with everyone.  It's the guilt, it gets to me.  But now I feel much better, so please enjoy!  And now back to family time, have a great long weekend!! .

Bumbleberry Pie
from A Passion for Baking


Ingredients:
Crust:
2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 c. butter-flavored shortening, cut into chunks
2 tsp. lemon juice
4 to 8 tbsp. ice water

Filling:
1/2 c. ground fresh or frozen cranberries
2 apples, shredded, skins on
2 c. fresh or frozen raspberries
2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1 c. chopped strawberries
1 c. finely diced rhubarb
1 c. sugar
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tbsp. cornstarch

Finishing Touches:
Milk, for brushing
Sugar, for dusting

Directions:
1.  For crust, place flour in food processor.  Add sugar and salt and process 20 seconds to combine.  Add butter and shortening on top of flour mixture.  Process by pulsing to break up butter and shortening until it looks crumbly.


2.  Drizzle lemon juice and ice water on top and turn machine on for exactly 15 seconds until mixture holds together.


3.  Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface.  Knead very gently for a few seconds to smooth out dough.  Pat into two flattened disks and wrap in plastic.  Chill dough for 1 hour.  



4.  Heat oven to 425°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper and place 9-inch pie pan on it.  Roll out one disk of dough on lightly floured surface and place in pan. 


5.  For filling, in large bowl gently toss together cranberries, apples, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and rhubarb.  Add flour, sugar, and cornstarch.  


6.  Mound fruit into piecrust.


7.  Roll out remaining disk of dough and place on top of filling.  Crimp sides.


8.  Make air vents with paring knife.  Brush pie top and sides with milk and dust with sugar.


9.  Bake 20 minutes and then reduce oven temperature to 350°F.  Bake another 20 to 25 minutes or until fruit juices bubble out of vents in pie crust.  Let cool to warm on wire rack.


Yield: 6 servings


*My Notes:
  • For the crust, you can use all butter and skip the shortening.  However, although butter results in the best flavor, shortening gives the crust that beautiful flakiness.  So it's up to you what you use depending on what you're looking for.
  • I chose to use all fresh fruit for the filling, but of course frozen fruit will be just fine (and most likely cheaper...).  However, I did have to use dried sweetened cranberries because I couldn't find fresh or frozen ones at the grocery store.  Then, to ground them up, I put them in the processor and pulsed several times to get them broken down.  
  • For the dusting of sugar on top of the pie crust, I used sugar in the raw.  It's a little bigger and more visible then regular granulated sugar, but either results in a pretty little pie.

5.24.2011

Tried & True Tuesday: Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars...Yet another repeat!

. Ever have one of those days?  Or one of those weeks?  Or one of those seemingly endless periods of life that just don't seem to get much worse or much better?  Well I'm in one of those.  Whatever 'those' is.  And I say boo to that.


So needless to say, this is a lazy post.  One that didn't take much thinking or require much of me searching through my past recipes.  Sorry, I just don't feel like much else.

But I thought this would actually be a great opportunity to post the step-by-step pictures for the Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars that I promised a few Tried & True Tuesday's ago.  I know it's been awhile but better late than never!  And one bite of these will turn any day right around!


Hope you enjoy these pictures, however, I have to say that these probably don't do this dessert justice.  It's so ridiculously easy that it's hard to imagine how absolutely, wonderfully decadent these bars turn out.  But they do.  They really do .
Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from AllRecipes.com


Ingredients:
2 (8 oz. each) packages cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 (10 oz. each) cans Big & Flakey refrigerated crescent rolls
3/4 c. sugar
 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1/4 c. honey

Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 350°F.  Spray 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.

2.  Beat cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar and vanilla extract in medium-sized bowl until smooth.  Set aside.


3.  Unroll cans of dough and use a rolling pin to shape each piece into 13x9-inch rectangles.  Press one piece into bottom of pan.



4.  Evenly spread cream cheese mixture into pan.  Cover filling with remaining piece of dough.



5.  Stir together 3/4 cup sugar, cinnamon and butter.  Dot mixture on top of bars.



6.  Bake 30 minutes or until dough has puffed and turned golden brown.  Remove from oven and drizzle with honey.  Cool completely in pan.


Yield: 24 bars

5.20.2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb & Cream Bars

. Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.  It's consuming my baking mind and I love it ☺


I'll give it to you though, those long, red and green stalks that highly resemble celery, can be quite intimidating.  Like really, what do you do with them?!  Isn't it technically a vegetable?  Why yes, yes it is.

My mom told me that when she was younger, they (as in her friends and siblings I suppose...) would eat rhubarb right out of the ground!  Okay, gross.  My boyfriend and I decided to taste a piece of raw rhubarb the very first time I used it for baking and mmm, let's just say the chewy glob ended up in the sink.  I know some of you may beg to differ, but raw rhubarb is just plain nasty.  I honestly can not imagine picking a stalk and enjoy chomping on it.  But people were different back in those days (wink, wink, mom!)


So you can see that I don't recommend taste testing raw rhubarb [even though you should probably do it at least once, you know, for culinary purposes].  But, I do recommend cooking it down with brown sugar and strawberries and then pairing it with a crunchy pecan shortbread crust and luscious cream cheese filling.  Oh yeah, and a little topping of whipped cream.


But where would you get such a fabulous treat?! Ha, well wouldn't you know I just happen to have that recipe for you right here!  And it's easy enough that you can make it all on your own [or have someone else do the work for you, your choice].  And remember that very large bundle of rhubarb I snagged at the Omaha Farmer's Market last weekend (see above)?  Yep, here's where that bundle was put to use.  I told you I had big plans for it.

Enter: Strawberry-Rhubarb & Cream Bars...


...and my baking buddies: Tilly and Leo .


Strawberry-Rhubarb & Cream Bars
Adapted from Taste of Home


Ingredients:
Crust:
2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. sugar

Strawberry-Rhubarb Filling:
1 c. light brown sugar, packed
3 tbsp. cornstarch
3 tbsp. corn syrup
3-1/2 c. chopped fresh rhubarb
2 c. sliced strawberries

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
1-3/4 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped

Directions:
1.  Heat oven to 350°F.  In small bowl, combine flour, pecans, butter and sugar.


2.  Press into greased 13x9-inch pan.  Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.


3.  In large saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch and corn syrup.  Stir in rhubarb until combined.  Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring often.  Reduce heat; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from heat; cool.  Stir in strawberries.



Break!
This is where you do as I say, not as I do.  I accidentally tossed in the strawberries too early, so I had to pick them out as best I could.
And continue...


4.  In large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.


5.  Fold in 1 cup whipped cream.  Spread evenly over cooled crust.


6.  Top with rhubarb mixture.  Spread with remaining whipped cream.  Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before serving.  


Yield: 24 bars

*My Notes:
  • I've made these bars a couple times, with each try adjusting the amount of rhubarb and strawberries I use.  This last time, I used 3 cups of both strawberries and rhubarb but it turned out a little more runny than I would have liked.  So for this post, I put up the original amount [which I prefer] but feel free to adjust the amounts according to your preference for rhubarb or strawberries.
  • The original recipe did not call for any corn syrup, but I found that when I combined the rhubarb, brown sugar, and corn starch together, there wasn't any liquid to bring to a boil! What the...so I added in some corn syrup for the moisture.  I would also suggest adding some strawberries to the mixture if you're having a difficult time with this step, since the brown sugar will make the strawberries sweat and you'll get a good amount of juices.

5.17.2011

Tried & True Tuesday: Crumb-topped Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

. Whoop, whoop!  It's that time of the year again!  And no, I'm not talking about Christmas.

It's rhubarb season!  And I've been waiting for this since the end of the LAST rhubarb season!  For me, the season actually began the moment I laid my eyes on a HUGE bundle of rhubarb at the Omaha Farmer's Market this last weekend.  It was a sight for sore eyes, let me tell you.  I had a hunch that I would see my first rhubarb bundle soon but I went to the farmer's market trying to not get my hopes up.  But there it was: big, thick, and pinky-red.  There are some [big] plans for that bundle of rhubarb though, so we'll come back to it later this week.

But to kick of rhubarb season [and continue my current obsession with strawberry season], I'm posting a recipe near and dear to my heart.  Crumb-topped Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is actually my very first [and only, tear] recipe to be published on AllRecipes.com!  And if you've ever tried to submit a recipe there, you know how picky selective they are!  So I was more than elated when I got that e-mail saying my recipe was official.

This pie is just absolutely fabulous [and it was published on AllRecipes.com, so there].  It begins with a homemade [and super easy!] pie crust.  The crust is then filled with a heaping mound of strawberries, rhubarb and pecans, along with a wonderful mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Oo, that set of spices does it for me!  Then, to top this treat off (literally), a thick layer of a classic streusel is placed all over the filling.  After baking, the filling really cooks down into a gooey loveliness of sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb.  And boy, the cinnamon and nutmeg aroma wandering through your house?  Irresistible.

Hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did!  And don't forget to leave a comment if you ever try out any of these recipes, I love to hear about it! .

Crumb-topped Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Don't let the ugly picture fool you, this pie is an amazing spring/summer goodie!

Ingredients:
Crust:
1 c. all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 c. cold butter
3 to 4 tbsp. cold water

Filling:
1-1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 c. fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 c. strawberries, sliced
1/3 c. pecans, chopped (optional)

Topping:
1 c. all purpose flour
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. cold butter

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 400°F.  For crust, combine flour and salt in large bowl; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in enough water with fork just until flour is moistened.  Shape into ball; flatten slightly.  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle.  Fold into quarters.  Place dough into 9-inch pie pan; unfold crust and press firmly against pan. Trim crust to 1/2-inch from edge of pan; crimp edges.  
  2. For filling, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg, in large bowl.  Add rhubarb and strawberries; toss until well coated.  Spoon into prepared crust; sprinkle with chopped pecans.  
  3. For topping, combine flour and sugar in medium bowl; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle mixture over filling.  Cover edge of crust with 2-inch strip of aluminum foil or pie crust shield.  Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until topping is brown and filling is bubbling around the edges (remove foil for last 10 minutes).  
Yield: 8 servings

5.15.2011

French Toast Casserole


. Okay, I'll admit it.  I'm obsessed with bread.  I love it.  I just do and I can't explain it.  There are many some times when all I want is a good helping of carbs and I'd be happy for the rest of the day.  It might be weird but it's me!


So due to my love of bread, I LOVE making desserts filled with bready goodness and this recipe falls right into that category.  For Mother's Day last weekend (still can't believe I haven't posted this sooner actually) I had to have some breakfasty/brunch item for Sunday morning.  My mom is also an avid bread lover, so while perusing my recipe collections, I knew exactly what I was looking for.  I'd actually had this French Toast Casserole recipe bookmarked for quite some time.  It comes from The Girl Who Ate Everything and I think her and I are somehow on the same page when it comes to what we want in a great bread pudding/french toast casserole recipe.  She described this delightful treat as the perfect casserole, "not too dry, not too wet, not too sweet."  I've found (and so did she) through my undertakings of finding the best bread pudding or casserole recipe that many times it turns out too soggy or overloaded with sugar.  But she was right.  This is the BEST recipe I have come across to date.  Note that, May 15, 2011.


The bread turned out just slightly toasted, with a wonderful hint of cinnamon.  What really sets this apart is a scrumptious layer of melted butter and brown sugar on the bottom that gives the whole thing a slight sweetness.  Perfection.  Pure perfection.  And to bring in a little bit of the season, I sprinkled slices of extra strawberries from the Strawberry Shortcake Cookies over the casserole before serving.  The sweet and tart strawberries were a fantastic addition if I do say so myself.  I think my parents kind of enjoyed the dish as much as I did since they took the rest of the pan home with them to Minnesota!


Just giving you guys a hard time ☺                  

So make this Strawberry French Toast Casserole soon, very soon.  The best time will be during strawberry season, but I guess you can always leave them out.  OR you can switch the strawberries for any of your other favorites fruits, your choice!  And you can assemble this within ten minutes, refrigerate, and bake it the next morning.  Easy peasy .

French Toast Casserole
From The Girl Who Ate Everything


Ingredients:
4 tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 loaf brioche or challah, cut into 1-1/2-inch slices
8 eggs, slightly beaten
1 c. whole milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
1/8 tsp. salt
Maple syrup (optional)
Powdered sugar (optional)
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced (optional)

Directions:
1.  In a small bowl. combine brown sugar and butter and pour on bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish.


2.  Arrange slices of bread in baking dish, overlapping if necessary.


3.  Combine milk, eggs, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl and pour evenly over bread slices.


4.  Sprinkle chopped pecans over bread slices.


5.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator 4 to 12 hours.

6.  In the morning, take the casserole out of the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes while heating the oven to 350°F. 


7.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes (if top browns too quickly, place foil loosely over top of casserole for the last 10 minutes or so; make sure the bottom is cooked but not dried out completely).


8.  Remove casserole from oven and let cool slightly before serving.  Dust with powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup.  Serve with slices of fresh strawberries.


Yield: 12 servings


*My Notes:
  • I used a loaf of challah from the Great Harvest Bread Company and wowie, it was fantastic.  HOWEVER, if you feel like trying your hand at bread making, test out my recipe for the most wonderful Challah Bread I've ever placed in my mouth.  Yum.
  • At first I didn't think there was enough liquid, but it turns out it was the perfect amount.  Just make sure that while you're pouring the egg mixture, hit the top of the bread.  It's okay if the tops aren't completely covered but do your best to get some of the mixture up there.  Also, once I placed the plastic wrap over the casserole, I pressed the bread down slightly to try to get it to soak up more of the egg mixture.
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