Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daring Baker's Yule Log


The December Challenge of the Daring Bakers was supposed to be a French Yule Log.  I was really excited about attempting this challenge since I have never attempted anything like this before.  When I first read the challenge I was a little overwhelmed but then I got a little more comfortable with the idea and thought I could possibly accomplish this challenge.  

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

I got every thing ready to start making all the elements of this challenge and started out with my Almond Cake.  Everything in that element went well; the mixture of it and then the baking of it.  The almond cake is where it all ended; every other element of the log that I attempted didn't turn out as well as I wanted.  Since a lot of the other elements of the Yule Log didn't turn out I was unable to attempt to even put the yule log together. 

To see a completed Yule Log please visit the host of this challenge website at  Saffron & Blueberry.  Hopefully I will get back in the groove for next month's challenge.   

Peanut Butter Balls

Growing up, I'm sure everyone had that particular food that was always on hand.  It's a food that was just a staple in life as you were growing up.  I had several of those foods from main dishes to desserts.  This particular recipe is one of those.  This recipe is great to through together, especially when there is no time to involve baking.

This recipe for peanut butter balls is a recipe that is consistently good and turns out the same way every time.  These cookies have been made to take to several different events as well as to keep around the house to snack on.  It's one of those cookies that pretty much everyone likes; you get your sweet, salty and crunchy all in one.  Who doesn't like that?  I haven't met anyone that has turned down this cookie; so it's definitely a no fail recipe!

I made these to have some around the house but to also send to my solder, Mandi, as part of Operation Baking Gals.  There was a peanut butter theme going on during this round of Baking Gals, it defnitely wasn't planned it just happened to turn out that way.  I wanted to send her something that has been in my family for years and it's something that we ALWAYS have around at Christmas time as well.  I hope she enjoyed these as much as I do!

 Peanut Butter Balls


1 Cup sugar
1 Cup Karo syrup
1 1/2 Cups peanut butter
6 Cups Corn Flakes


Pour 6 cups of Corn Flakes into a large bowl.

Bring sugar and Karo to a boil and then add the peanut butter, stirring continuously.  Once mixture is creamy and well blended remove from heat. 

Pour peanut butter mixture over Corn Flakes and stir together.  Once well mixed shape mixture into small balls about the size of golf balls and place on wax/parchment paper.  Once all the mixture is shaped and set on paper, let set until stiffened then store in air tight container with wax paper separating the rows.

Recipe Source: My Dad and MaMaw

Monday, December 29, 2008

Munchin' on some Peanut Butter Munchies


 I have made quite a few things with combination of peanut butter and chocolate; it's just an awesome combination and probably one of my favorite combinations.  I love it in all different types of desserts; it's just two flavors that go so well together.  Whenever I come across a recipe that has this combination of flavors it's a must that I make it at some point in time.  When I came across this recipe in Better Homes and Gardens, it was no exception.

I baked quite a lot throughout Christmas for many different occassions and this was one of the things I decided to make.  I made these cookies to send to my solder for Operation Baking Gals.  Although this is not a traditional cookie recipe I cook during the Christmas holiday it looked so good that I had to try it. 

This recipe did not fail.  Spencer, like always, was my taste tester and he loved them.  I made enough to wear I could send some to my solder, Mandi, but still have some here so Spencer could have some to snack on.  I think those are probably some of his new favorites.  I guess it's not too far from one of his all time favorite candies, Reeses Peanut Cups.  He ate them until they were pretty much all gone!  I'll probably be making these over and over again. 




1/2  cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  cup butter, softened

1/2  cup granulated sugar

1/2  cup packed brown sugar

1/4  cup peanut butter

1  egg

1  tablespoon milk

1  teaspoon vanilla

3/4  cup sifted powdered sugar

1/2  cup peanut butter

2  tablespoons granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degree F. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda; set aside.

 In a large mixing bowl beat together butter, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the 1/4 cup peanut butter with an electric mixer until combined. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; beat well. Beat in as much of the dry ingredients as you can with mixer. Stir in remaining dry ingredients by hand with a wooden spoon. Form chocolate dough into 32 balls about 1-1/4 inches in diameter.

Peanut Butter Munchies

For peanut butter filling, in a medium mixing bowl combine powdered sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup peanut butter until smooth. 

On a work surface, slightly flatten a chocolate dough ball and top with a peanut butter.  Repeat with the remaining chocolate dough and peanut butter filling balls.

Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. 

                   Peanut Butter Munchies              Peanut Butter Munchies

Bake cookies in preheated oven for 8 minutes or until they're just set and surface is slightly cracked. Let cookies stand for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool.

 Peanut Butter Munchies


Adapted from:  Better Homes and Gardens, Peanut Butter Munchies


Friday, December 26, 2008

Operation Baking Gals-Round 5

So this is the fifth round for Operation Baking Galsand it is growing by leaps and bounds.  This is only my third round to participate but it's amazing to see how many teams have been added over the past few times.  I'm so glad that more people are getting involved with the Baking Gals.  At times I don't feel like baking cookies is enough but after reading some of the letters I've received from the soldiers I've sent cookies to I realize that it means so much to them.  Having a batch of home made cookies really gives them a piece of home when they are so far away.

It's so hard to be away from family no matter what time of year it is but during Christmas or any other holiday it's that much harder.  I can only imagine how hard it is to be so far away family during some of the most special times of the year.  When I bake cookies for the troops it really makes me stop and think how fortunate, blessed and privilaged we all are to live in a country with the freedom that we have.  It's because of all these men and women in the service that we are able to do all we do and that we have all we have.  During this special time of the year take a moment and remember our troops that are fighting so we can maintain our freedom; say a quick prayer that they are kept safe during their tour and thank God that we have people like them.  

For round 5 I was part of "Team Go-Lightly Gourmet".  Our team leader was Dana of   Go-Lightly Gourmet.  Dana has a special relationship with her soldier, she is her soon to be daughter-in-law!  Dana was a great team leader and a wonderful motivator.  She made herself readily available if we had any questions or if we needed any recommendations for cookie ideas.  

Here's a little about our soldier, Mandi.  This team's soldier is Mandi  Lee LaFrance who is on her second deployment to Iraq. She has been in the Air Force for 11 years. She is a very active Christian, being a part of many church groups, and has also been on a mission to the Philippines.  Mandi loves working with children and Children's Ministries. She is highly involved in the Girl Scouts so this girl knows her cookies! Mandi loves Christmas and wants to bring the Christmas Spirit to her buddies  stationed in Iraq with her.


For Madi and the rest of the troops I baked peanut butter chocolate cookies with peanut butter filling and I also made peanut butter balls.  Recipes to follow.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Not Your Ordinary Green Beans

For Thanksgiving I wanted to make a green bean casserole.  It's one of those dishes that is just a staple for a holiday meal.  I wanted to do something a little different with the casserole; just to give it a little twist.  When I was looking on the Food Network website I saw a green bean casserole on their main screen that looked absolutely incredible.  After seeing that casserole I knew that was the one I would be making to take to Thanksgiving; it was Alton Brown's "Best ever green bean casserole".  There was more to this casserole than the traditional green bean casserole but I think the extra work was worth it.  It involved making homemade cream of mushroom soup; which that was good by itself.  The soup had a wonderful flavor.  Instead of the French's fried onions it called for homemade onion rings that were covered with Panko bread crumbs; those bread crumbs gave it so much crunch and such a great texture.  Once all of the elements were combined it made one of the best tasting green bean casseroles I think I've ever had.  It was such a big hit at Spencer's Thanksgiving that I made it for my family's Thanksgiving too.  

Green Bean Casserole
Since I had never made this recipe before I wasn't sure how it would turn out if I made the soup and onion rings in advance so I made everything the morning of Thanksgiving.  Now that I've made it I have figured out that it's a recipe that can be made in advance and combine and mix everything together except the onion rings.  I wanted the onion rings to have the same crunch they did when they came out of the oven so when I made it for my family's Thanksgiving I did everything the night before and mixed it together but I put the onion rings in a plastic bag and just put them in the day of before I baked it.  I would recommend this recipe to anyone who is a fan of green beans and green bean casserole; you'll definitely be hooked.  

Best Ever Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole


2 Medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
1 Tsp Kosher salt
Non-stick cooking spray

For the beans and sauce-

2 Tbsp + 1 Tsp Kosher salt, divided
1 Pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
12 Ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1/4 Tsp ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Cup chicken broth
1 Cup half and half


Preheat oven to 400. 

Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine.  Coate a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread onions on the pan.  Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.  Toss the onions 2 to 3 times during baking.  Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use.

For the beans and sauce-

While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans.  Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice water, place by stove.  Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan.  Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes.  Drain in a colander and submerge in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Drain and set aside. 

Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Recipe Source: Alton Brown, Food Network

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Twist on a Thanksgiving Classic

Everyone associates different foods, traditions and memories with every holiday that comes around.  Thanksgiving is no exception, for most people when they hear Thanksgiving they automatically think pumpkin.  A lot of people start breaking out the pumpkins to make pie and all sorts of stuff during the fall and sometimes through Christmas.  This year I decided to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon and make quite a few things pumpkin.

I have made cookies, bars and a few other things; I got the recipes from a variety of different places.  I was looking through an issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine and the picture on the front caught my attention right off the bat.  There was a picture of two different types of pies on the cover; Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake and then a Pumpkin Gingerbread Pie.  Right when I saw the Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake I knew I had to make it.  It has a lot of the different flavors I love in desserts; chocolate, cheesecake and pumpkin.  Combine all of those flavors and it sounds like a winner.

I had been looking at the recipe for a while trying to figure out the right time to make it.  I love making sweets but I don't like making something that makes a ton just for Spencer and myself.  I knew I wouldn't make it for my families Thanksgiving becaues my dad takes care of the desserts for ours; so I knew that it would be a great thing to make for Spencer's Thanksgiving. 

This was a pretty easy recipe to make.  There were a few little steps but nothing that was too overwhelming and nothing that took up too much time.  To save some time I bought a deep dish pie crust that was premade that way all I had to worry about doing was the filling.  The recipe for the batter for the pumpkin and cheesecake makes quite a bit.  Even though I bought a deep dish crust (which is what the recipe calls for) I still had quite a bit of extra batter; probably enough for a second whole pie.  I just poured the rest of the batter into a couple of smaller dishes and baked a crustless pie:).  It worked out perfectly though, I was able to sample it before I took it.  Since I had never made that recipe before that helped a lot; I would have been a nervous wreck otherwise. 

All of the flavors blended together perfectly.  One didn't overpower the others; it was just the perfect blend of all of the flavors.  I didn't get a picture of a cut slice but the slices looked very pretty too; have the different layers stacked on one another.

On to the good stuff...

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake


 1  Deep Dish Pie Pastry

12  oz. cream cheese, softened (1-1/2 8-oz. pkgs.)

1/4  cup granulated sugar

1  egg, lightly beaten

3/4  cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate or miniature chocolate pieces

1  15-oz. can pumpkin

2/3  cup packed brown sugar

2  tsp. pumpkin pie spice

4  eggs, lightly beaten

3/4  cup half-and-half or light cream

  Chopped chocolate (optional)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare and roll out Deep Dish Pie Pastry. Transfer pastry to a 9-1/2- to 10-inch deep-dish pie plate. Trim crust edge 1/2-inch beyond pie plate. Flute edge high. Line pastry with double thickness of foil. Bake 8 minutes. Remove foil; bake 6 minutes more or until golden. Cool on wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

 In medium mixing bowl combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 egg; beat on low speed until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture in cooled pastry shell. Sprinkle with chopped chocolate.

In bowl combine pumpkin, brown sugar, and spice. Stir in 4 eggs. Gradually stir in half-and-half. Slowly pour pumpkin mixture on chocolate layer. To prevent overbrowning, cover pie edge with foil.

Bake 60 to 65 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Remove foil. Cool on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate within 2 hour. Top with chopped chocolate.


Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake


Recipe Source: Better Homes and Gardens

Sausage Balls

I guess I had a theme of pork going on for my appetizers for Thanksgiving, it wasn't planned at all.  Actually I hadn't even thought about the ingredients in everything until just now.  To go along with the Hearty Sausage Dipand the Piggie SticksI made sausage balls.  Everything went together very nicely and everyone loved it all.

I love sausage balls, they are one of my absolute favorite appetizers.  They are heavier and more filling that a lot of other appetizers out there and they are so versatile; they can be served hot, cold or room temperature.  They are a great thing to make ahead; they can easily be mixed and rolled into balls the night before and then cooked the day they are needed.  When you are cooking a lot of stuff for an event recipes like this are a life saver. 

I know there are a ton of different recipes out there for sausage balls.  They can be the simple, basice recipe or there can be different items added to them to spice them up a little.  I decided to stay simple and do the classic recipe and they were awesome.  I also did a dip inspired by Paula Deen; it paired with the sausage balls very well.


Sausage Balls

Sausage Balls


1 (1-pound) package ground sausage

 3 cups baking mix (I used Bisquick)

4 cups grated sharp Cheddar

1/8 tablespoon pepper



Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray.


 Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl. Mix well with your fingers. The mixture will be very crumbly. Form into 1 inch balls, squeezing the mixture so it holds together, then rolling it between the palms of your hands to form balls.

 Place the balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. To prevent sticking, move the balls with a spatula halfway through cooking.

For the dip:

Combine 1 cup of mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon of spicey mustard.  Stir together well and serve with sausage balls.

Sausage Balls


Recipe Source: Paula Deen

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Piggie Sticks

Alone both pretzels and bacon are very good but combine the two and you have a wonderful snack or appetizer.  This is one of the easiest things to make and it makes such a wonderful snack.  This is another of the appetizers I made for Spencer's family Thanksgiving.

Since I had quite a few things to make for Thanksgiving, I was looking for some easier appetizers that could either be made in advance or had very few ingredients.  This one was a great one since you really only had to have 2 ingredients, although I used 4 since I added some seasoning.  I got rave reviews on these bacon wrapped pretzels.

Piggie Sticks



1 package pretzel rods

1 package bacon, uncooked

1/2-1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2-1 tablespoon brown sugar



Wrap a strip of bacon around a pretzel rod.  Continue process unitl all the pretzels and bacon are used.  Once all pretzels are wrapped in bacon sprinkle with both chili powder and brown sugar. 

Bacon Wrapped Pretzels

Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and place pretzels on rack.  Place pretzels in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minuts. 

Bacon Wrapped Pretzels 

Recipe Source: A Lynsey original

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sausage Dip

I know it's December, my blog has been lonely and there aren't any recipes from Thanksgiving on here yet.  I've been busy so I really haven't had time to share everything I cooked for Thanksgiving...but that's all about to change, better late than never, right?

So for Thanksgiving with Spencer's family I was asked to do some appetizers, a dessert and a side item.  For the appetizers I wanted to do some simple things that were good served either warm or room temperature.  I decided to make sausage balls, bacon wrapped pretzels, and a hearty sausage dip.  All the appetizers turned out awesome and everyone ate them up.

The sausage dip was first introduced to me by one of my best friends, Heather.  She made this dip at Spencer's birthday party this past fall and it was eaten up by everyone in a matter of minutes.  The same effect took place when I made this dip.  From the time the lid was taken off the container people dove into it and it was a hit!  This is definitely a must try for your next party. 

Since she's introduced this dip to me it's been a go to recipe for me.  There isn't much to this dip at all and it consist of 3 ingredients, that's it!  It's so easy and it's one of those where the sausage can be browned the day before and then everything thrown together the day of.   

Hearty Sausage Dip


1 pound sausage, browned and drained
2 (8oz) blocks cream cheese, softened 
1 can Rotel, drained  


Mix all ingredients together and serve warmed or at room temperature with favorite chips. 

Sausage Dip
Recipe Source: my friend, Heather

Outrageous Oreo Crunch Brownies

Oreo Brownies


Brownies are a dessert that have been around for many years and I know there are several different ways to make them.  I know everyone has their very own favorite family recipe that cannot be beat, I know there's a recipe in my family that I consider "The Best" recipe!  Brownies have always been a common dessert in my family, it wasn't out of the ordinary for us to have a pan of brownies sitting around at any given time.  They are so easy to throw together and you have a delicious dessert in no time!  It's also a great thing to have around just to nibble on, you can cut a little piece and walk around and eat it.  Brownies can easily be one of those desserts that doesn't have to be eaten with a fork. 

Brownies are also one of those desserts where there are endless ingredients that can be incorporated into the recipe to give it a kick.  While looking on the baking isle it is easily seen that there are endless options that can be added to make a desired taste .  It's amazing to me to look at the box brownie mixes and far they've come over the years; there's not only plain brownies but brownies with marshmallows, double chocolate and tons of other things.  I've seen many things added to brownies to spice them up but until this recipe I had never seen a recipe where Oreos or any other type of cookies were added. 

This recipe for Outrageous Oreo Crunch Brownies created by Ina Garten is absolutely awesome.  This is definitely a recipe for any brownie, chocolate or Oreo lover.  Whatever your sweet craving is, this is a recipe that will quench and fill it!  


Outrageious Oreo Crunch Brownies

Oreo Brownies


4 sticks butter

1 pound semisweet chocolate chips

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

6 eggs

3 tablespoons instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons vanilla

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup plus 1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups chopped Oreo cookies (50 cookies = 1 package regular filled Oreos) 



Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 f.  Butter and flour an 11 1/2 in x 14 1/4 in x 1 in baking pan. (I used a regular 9x13).

Set a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Place butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate in bown and melt until smooth.  Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar.  Blend chocolate mixture into egg mixture; cool to room temperature. 

In a medium bowl, sift together one cup flour, baking powder and salt.  Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture.  in a small bowl, stir Oreos and remaing 1/4 cup flour.  Add Oreo mixture to chocolate mixture.  Pour batter into baking pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula. (I reserved a few Oreos to sprinkle on top) 

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothepick inserted comes out clean. 

Oreo Brownies

***Since I used a 9x13 mine were thicker and needed to cook longer than 35 minutes.  Mine were a little gooey but I loved them like that!


Recipe By:  Ina Garten and found on the website for Oprah Magazine
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