Monday, November 22, 2010

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Make cookies and have the kitchen cleaned up in less than 15 minutes!  So easy and so delicious :)  The best flavor combination ever....chocolate and peanut butter!  Who doesn't like that combination? If there isn't any caramel around, I gravitate towards peanut butter chocolate indulgences. Yum!

I'm not sure where this recipe came from, but I've had it in my recipe box forever.  Maybe from one of my mom's friends who gave them as a Christmas gift one year?   Anyway, these are great to make when I'm craving something sweet and delicious, but don't want to spend a ton of time cooking.   All of the ingredients are pantry staples, so I always have them on hand.

Mix butter, cocoa, sugar, and milk. Simmer for a couple minutes.

Turn heat off and add the peanut butter, oats, salt, and vanilla.

Drop cookies onto a cookie sheet or plate lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Out of necessity I had to find out how to make some homemade chocolate syrup since I was out of Hershey's Syrup.  After discovering how easy this recipe is and how good it tastes, I have to say so long to Hershey's Syrup.  This homemade stuff from An Oregon Cottage is fantastic! I made some chocolate milk with it and both the little guy and I agree.... mmm-mmm-mmm!  I don't think our house is going to miss the Hershey's stuff one bit.

A lot of the recipes I found only used a lousy 3 tablespoons of cocoa, but this recipe loads it up with a whopping 3/4 cup of chocolatey goodness!  Now, this is what I call chocolate syrup!  I've already tested it with milk, so next I'll have to see how it works out in a cup of hot milk to make hot cocoa, and then also drizzling it on ice cream.  Oh and licking it right off the spoon is perfectly acceptable too :)

I probably over cooked the syrup this first try since I noticed that the syrup left over in the pot was quite thick upon cooling. No biggie, I just added a little bit of water to the syrup and it turned out just fine.  When I make it next time, I'll use a candy thermometer and time it so I can update this post with exact measurements.  The inner scientist in me needs these specifics!

Update: I should have mentioned that I used natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed cocoa powder).  You could use either depending on the chocolate taste you're looking for.  I just used the cocoa powder I had on hand.  Natural cocoa imparts an intense chocolate flavor and is more bitter. The alkalizing process increases the pH, which makes for a less bitter and more mild chocolate flavor.   Always check your recipe for the correct cocoa powder to use since natural and Dutch-processed have different functionality. :)

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Etsy Store: Moonberry Rain

So, a little side gig that I've been working on is setting up shop on Etsy.  For now, I'm designing and sewing aprons for the little chefs in the house.  I've always been a self proclaimed crafty person and last month I jumped on the opportunity to make an apron for my friends 18 month old daughter.  I had so much fun doing it, that I made a couple more and put them up for sale in my new shop Moonberry Rain on Etsy.

For those of you not familiar with, it is the most wonderful place to find handmade items.  They have about everything imaginable that one can make. Check it out! It's a great place to find unique gifts for the holidays too.  While you're there, visit my store Moonberry Rain. :)

The original apron made for my friends 18 month old.
So bright, colorful and fun!

I am loving ruffles!

I had to make something for the boys too, so I came up with this little bug apron (no ruffles of course).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sweet Potato Crisp

 It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it's time to start thinking about what to make.   Every year I make the absolute best sweet potato crisp that was introduced to me by my sister Patty.  Here I go again, tooting my own horn! In my defense, I've had people who don't care for sweet potato casserole love it.  It's similar to a sweet potato casserole, but it has a yummy crumble crisp topping that makes it simply delicious.  It's always my standard Thanksgiving potluck dish and every time I get people demanding for the recipe, so here it is.

Spread the sweet potato mixture in the dish.

Cut the butter into the flour, sugar and oats until it holds together in clumps.

Top sweet potatoes with apples and cranberries. Here I used dried, but I usually use diced fresh cranberries.

Top apples and cranberries with the crisp topping.

Baked to perfection!

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- Although this recipe tastes incredible with the full 8 oz of cream cheese, I only use half the amount and it still tastes great.  
- Also, if you already have fresh cranberries around for Thanksgiving just use those on top.  
- Nuts are optional. :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Soft Sugar Cookies for Decorating

Decorating cookies is so much more fun when the family gets involved.  The hubby and I had some fun on Halloween making and decorating my favorite sugar cookies.  The baked cookie part isn't very sweet at all, so that's what makes the decorating part so sweet....pardon the pun. :)

These cookies have a very tender, almost cake-like texture, similar to those yummy Lofthouse cookies found at the store.  My husband and I agree these are better because a) They're made with love at home and b) They aren't so sickening sweet....unless you care to heavily apply the frosting and/or Candy Melt coating.  Indulge!

I smeared vanilla cake frosting and orange Wilton Candy Melts on the cookies and topped with festive sprinkes.

The hubby got after the artistic decorating.

Ready for transport (the cupcake carrier worked great)!
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A couple notes:
1)  In the recipe withhold 1/4 cup of flour and add it at the end of mixing if needed.  You don't want the dough to be too wet, yet you don't want it to be too dry either.  Cooling the dough helps it to solidify, so don't stress out too much.
2)  Since the sugar content is relatively low compared to some other cookies, these won't brown unless you really over cook them...and by then they'll be very dry.  When they're done they should have some spring to them when gently touched in the oven.

Update: I am addicted to these cookies!  They are the absolute best and would rival any gourmet bake-shop cookie.  Try making them with the whole family for the next holiday event or just because.  I guarantee you won't be disappointed!

P.S. The cookies topped with vanilla icing are my favorite :)

Update: Recently I made these cookies for a friend's baby shower. I glazed these cookies with this glaze recipe and added a drop or two of almond and vanilla extract.  For the piping I used a typical royal icing.  Everyone at the baby shower loved these cookies. I also packaged them up in little baggies for party favors.  What was really nice is that unlike using buttercream icing or the stuff from a tub, the glaze and piping harden so they aren't so messy during storage and transport.  Click on this link for my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting, it's so much better than the store stuff.  I've done it with and without the lemon juice. Both are great. For the cookies, I left out the lemon juice.  It also works great on cupcakes :)