Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pillsbury Bake-Off (and giveaway)

  
Hot pink cupcakes- made my 'red velvet way'- using a white mix, some pink and red gel coloring and a lot of frosting- perfect!

The other day at the park, one of my friends mentioned in passing by that she was up to do/help with/whatever since she isn't busy at all. I was kind of shocked (she does have a family, home and Church responsibilities, lots going on). It made me wonder if her perception of busy is different than mine, if she is just ultra-capable, or if I am just a crazy person and doing too much. I don't know about you but I feel busy. I try to simplify but every so often it just gets to me that I am busy and there isn't a lot to do about it (especially since I am certainly creating my own reality!) Sometimes there isn't a happy shortcut to simplify certain things but when there is... a way to mix quality and efficiency, fun and useful, it makes me happy. 
 
I love experimenting in my kitchen and spending time knocking out big, fun projects (homemade chocolate sweet rolls anyone?) but sometimes I need a showstopper and I need it fast.  When MyBlogSpark contacted me about the Pillsbury Bake-Off I thought it looked like a lot of fun. I love perusing recipes and seeing how creative people can be (and thinking about the $1 Million prize on the line for the best recipe?! Wow!) There are a ton of great recipes to check out- for breakfasts, appetizers, dinner, desserts.

I love recipes like these that feature simple, easy to follow instructions and ingredients and yield infinite different results. It's easy to customize and change things up based on your own preferences. I can't believe how many different things you can do with cresent rolls. Myself, I usually doctor up cake and brownie mixes. Cereal is another tricky one (way more  uses beyond breakfast!) What is your favorite short cut? Something I am missing out on? As for the recipes... I am going to try the Hazelnut French Silk Turtle pie first. Wow.


 
My favorite lemon cake recipe comes from a box. It's so tender and flavorful (and delicious, even if I am terrible cake decorator!)

Instead of oreos, I use Chocolate Cheerios to make press in crusts for cheesecakes and pies. It sounds kind of weird, but it's crazy delicious and simple too (just some melted butter and whirl in the food processor). Plus, I feel a lot better about eating Chocolate Cheerios than oreos, even if that's fuzzy math.


Peanut butter and cheesecake swirled brownies take less than ten minutes to prepare and taste divine.


These were a beast to name but seriously delicious-
A Golden Graham crust
Topped by a layer of Sugar Cookie Dough
Followed by some apple pie filling
And they layered with a cream cheese filling
And more cookie dough
Then topped with caramel and pecans.
Let's call them Caramel Apple Pecan Cheesecake Sugar Cookie Bars. Or little bars of deliciousness, I think they would answer to that too. They are also easy to customize (store bought cookie dough and pie filling, or homemade, or some of each, whatever you have. It will taste yummy!)

 
I really think anyone can bake delicious food for their families without too much stress. We are all so busy but everyone needs to eat, so why not show your love to your family by making them something special?

MyBlogSpark and Walmart have a prize pack to give away to one lucky reader- a $25 Walmart giftcard to stock your fridge and pantry with yummy food for your families so you can have your own little bake-off. Leave a comment (make sure your profile is linked to your blog or email or leave it for me) by Sunday night, midnight AZ time to be entered. One entry per person. 

And before you shop, check out this site for great General Mill's product coupons- even though I am beyond tired of picking them up off the floor, there's no such thing as too many Cheerio's around here!

Disclosure:  The gift card, information, and giveaway have been provided by Walmart and General Mills, through MyBlogSpark.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Homemade York Peppermint Patties

{printable recipe here}
I'm always fascinated when I make something at home that I previous thought you could only buy from the store. Some things will just never be worth the investment but it's really satisfying to make something with my own two hands, to see everything that goes into it and feel like I am blessing my family (even if my son whines that he has to eat fresh, homemade wheat bread- poor kid). These homemade peppermint patties were a revelation- yummy, easy, even fun to make. And you had better believe giving someone a homemade peppermint patty makes them feel like a million bucks (they will want more than one, though, I promise!)

Besides the satisfaction of making these yourself, you can customize the size, decorations and flavoring. Next time I make these I will make them itty bitty with my smallest cookie scoop. I finally bought a package of 'chocolate dipping tools' (only a couple dollars at Michael's but I think this nice set from Ateco should be in my kitchen soon) and I am confident that will make these even more fun to make. Give them a try for St. Patrick's Day and let me know what you think! You can see more process photos here.

PS Still need St. Patrick's Day ideas? Everyone's favorite chocolate mint brownies are simple and delicious (and you can freeze the extras for later!)


Homemade York Peppermint Patties
from Anne Strawberry
{printable recipe here}
recipe adapted from Sweet Savory Life



Makes 32 patties (note- I would make these half size next time, to yield about 60- use a tiny cookie scoop to get quick and uniform results)

Ingredients:

1 can of condensed milk
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (yes, I skipped that step)
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (milk or white chocolate would be great, too, but I liked the depth of the semisweet contrasting with the sweet filling inside)
3 tablespoons shortening
3-5 drops green food coloring (optional- but I added this for St. Patrick's Day)

Directions:

Add condensed milk, 2 cups of powdered sugar, and peppermint extract to a large mixing bowl. Mix everything on medium speed using the paddle attachment until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Add more powdered sugar, a half cup at a time, until the dough is pliable like firm modeling clay.

Note-  at this point, I kneaded the dough by hand for a couple minutes to get it extra nice and well mixed.

Roll 3/4″ balls of dough between the palms of the hands (I used a small cookie scoop for this step with less than a tablespoon of dough- the smaller patties look neater and are better portions I think). Press each ball down slowly and set the flattened disk on a flat cutting board or plate. Transfer peppermint disks to the freezer for no longer than 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, temper the chocolate coating.

Place chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl. Melt the chocolate in 30 second increments, making sure to stir after each time until chocolate is smooth. Stir in shortening to thin the chocolate. Remove patties from the freezer.

Place a patty on the tongs of the fork and dip in the chocolate until completely covered. Allow excess chocolate to drip off the patty before setting each one on top of wax or parchment paper. Allow the chocolate coated peppermint patties to completely set up. This can be done quicker by placing the patties in the refrigerator. The peppermint patties are ready when they are dry to the touch. Enjoy!

Note- I melted some candy melts and drizzled them over the top for the finishing touch. After they set, package them up in cellophane bags, tie with a ribbon, and enjoy your easy, delicious, homemade treat!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thin Mint Blondies

First friends, I would like to apologize for leaving a picture of chips up on my blog for so long. Yummy chips, but chips still. I have actually made a million treats lately between pinewood derby, baby showers, blue and gold banquet (not to mention treats for the meetings to plan all that stuff, don't you think treats make meetings better?) Spring is here and it doesn't usually last too long, so we've spent more time at the park (Little Man broke his foot there jumping seven feet off a piece of playground equipment, working on projects in the garage, and at the doctor's office- see before mention park incident and spring air sharing germs and allergies left and right.

So my apologies again for the slow posts around here. But I have a good one today- courtesy of my original food blog crush, Peabody. If you haven't 'met' her before I'd encourage you to stop by. Her photography is stunning, her recipes are incredible and she's totally hilarious. When I read her blog I don't feel so bad about my baking habits and I also identify with her a lot because she has more than one KitchenAid (for the record, I don't, but I think that would be awesome! Maybe in my fantasy double oven kitchen someday?) These blondies are all kind of deliciousness mixed together- chocolate chip cookie dough, girl scout cookie thin mints, ghirardelli chocolate, mint chips!

If you haven't made blondies before, they are super straightforward- you start with a chocolate chip cookie dough batter, omit the baking soda, and stir in your favorite mix ins. Press into a pan, bake, top with more deliciousness, and enjoy. Thin mints are of course a welcome addition to any dessert and although I had to fight off many kitchen snitchers trying to eat all of mine, it was worth it. Peabody used Andes Chips but I didn't have any of those at my mom's so I chopped up some bittersweet chocolate and some Guittard mint chips. If you haven't tried those before, they are incredible. I used to find them at Maceys in Utah and they have them around the holidays at Safeway here. You can even buy them on Amazon for an arm and a leg, but if you are lucky to have the world's best friend she may randomly drop off two bags for you yesterday (it's like she heard my mixer whirling in the last of my stash into these blondies!)

To see the recipe, please stop by Peabody's. She is incredible and you won't regret it!

Do you have a favorite St. Patrick's Day mint recipe? Are you going to have corned beef next week? Do you have a great source for mint chips? Spill!