Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Cheese Ball

Love the look of the different colors of peppers.
Our family has a tradition of gathering on New Year's Eve to play board games and socialize. We usually have a main dish, but then everyone brings their favorite finger foods. One of my favorites growing up was having a holiday cheese ball. It was not the holidays without this scrumptious snack.

Not all cheese balls are created equal and this one is sure to delight your taste buds. Once you have homemade, it's hard to go back to store-bought ones. It doesn't take much time to make your own and I love knowing exactly what's in it. It definitely tastes better, too. This is my go-to recipe and it's a family favorite.

This cheese ball is my favorite because it's easy to make, looks festive for the holidays, it tastes awesome and the ingredients are simple. It's savory with a hint of sweetness. And I typically always have the ingredients on-hand, so it comes together quickly if I need something when company comes over or I need to take something to a gathering. You can serve this with your favorite crackers or pretzels. I love using Wheat Thins. You can also choose what kind of nuts to use to encapsulate the cheese ball. I use whatever I have on-hand, but my favorite is chopped pecans. This makes 2 cheese balls and they keep well in the refrigerator for a week or more, so you can do this ahead of time.

Here's what you need:

-( 2)  8 oz pkgs. of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
-1 C crushed pineapple, drained well
-¼  C chopped green pepper (I love using a mixture of green, red and orange)
-1 TBS chopped onion (optional)
-1/2 tsp seasoned salt (can use up to a tsp if you prefer things more salty)
-1 C chopped  pecans (or you can use your favorite chopped nut)

1. Mix all ingredients together except for nuts.

2. Take a piece of plastic wrap and spread out 1/4 C of the chopped pecans. Place half of cream cheese mixture on top of pecans and sprinkle with another 1/4 C. of chopped pecans. Form into a ball and roll until the outside of the cheese ball is covered in pecans. Repeat this process for the other cheese ball.

3. Cover the cheese balls with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Holiday Cheese Ball
Serve with Wheat Thins, Ritz, Townhouse or Club crackers. Enjoy and Happy Baking!

Here is the printable recipe.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Clove-Studded Holiday Ham with a Spiced Orange Glaze

Holiday Ham
I have never attempted to bake a ham because I've never really been a fan of ham and it always felt a little bit intimidating. Why? I have no idea because all you basically have to do is heat it up and glaze it. That's it.

I have helped others cook a ham and I've always glazed it with the packet that comes with the ham. The ham would taste fine, but never lick-my-fingers good. Well, I'm here to tell you that if you aren't a ham fan, this recipe might convert you. The glaze is amazing and the ham turned out so moist and juicy. It even looks festive for the holidays.

Baking a ham is so easy, but it takes a little bit of time. The ham is already cooked and you are basically reheating it, but if you are working with a large ham or a frozen one, it'll take more time. I'd recommend thawing your ham the day or night before you want to cook it. You want to plan about 15 minutes per pound to heat it. Optimal serving temperature for ham is about 140 degrees, so you can use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. My ham cooked a little bit faster than the 15 min/lb and using the thermometer ensures that you won't overcook it and dry it out.

Now let's talk about the glaze. Some people glaze the last 5-10 minutes after the ham is 140 degrees, but I liked basting it with the glaze throughout the cooking process. I basted it about every 20-30 minutes and the flavor went throughout the ham. It was awesome! I did a big ham and we had plenty of leftovers for soup and sandwiches.

This ham is rockin'! It's moist, juicy and full of holiday flavor. I love the spices with the hint of orange. It's perfect for the holidays. The whole cloves used to stud the ham don't provide a lot of flavor, but they look festive. I added ground cloves to the glaze to enhance the flavor. You want to cover the ham to prevent it from drying out and the glaze created a delicious crust. I'm sure you will love this.

Here's what you need:
-10-12 lb spiral-cut ham (you can use a smaller ham and you can half the glaze recipe)
-2-3 TBS of whole cloves
-3/4 C honey
-3/4 C brown sugar
-1/2 TBS dark molasses
-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp. ground cloves
-juice of one orange (about 1/4- 1/2 C)
-zest of one orange

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place your ham in a large roasting pan. You may want to line it with foil because the glaze makes a bit of a mess. Take whole cloves and poke them into the large portion of the ham that is not sliced. This is called "studding." I placed them in between the diamond pattern. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and place in oven.

Clove Studs

 2. In a medium sauce pan, combine honey, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ground cloves, orange juice and orange zest. Stir mixture and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low just to keep mixture warm.

3. Open oven and uncover ham and baste with mixture every 20-30 minutes.

4. Once your ham has reached 140 degrees, remove ham from oven and uncover. Turn heat up to 425 degrees. While oven is heating, spoon glaze over ham and baste with a basting brush. Pull back the sliced pieces and ensure glaze goes in between ham pieces.

5. Once oven is at 425 degrees, return ham to oven uncovered and bake for another 5 minutes. Turn off oven and broil top of ham for 3-5 minutes to create a candied crust on ham.

Glazed Ham

6. Remove from oven and allow ham to rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

This would make a wonderful holiday meal with plenty of leftovers.

Enjoy and Happy Baking.

Here's the printable recipe.

Peppermint Bark Cereal Treats

Peppermint Bark Cereal Treats
I love this time of year because I can find so many yummy mint-with-chocolate treats. Seriously, mint and chocolate is such a yummy combination. And it always reminds me of the holidays. I am Dove Peppermint Bark chocolates. Peppermint Bark anything is so delicious.

This time of year is so busy and it seems like the holidays just creep up on me. We spent some time in Florida last week visiting some close friends and I was on the beach and realized that we hadn't done any neighbor or friend gifts! I wanted to do something quick, easy and festive. Here's a fun twist on traditional cereal treats. The very marshmallowy, minty, chocolately, and super festive. One batch does a cookie sheet sized pan, so you only need to do a batch or two and you'll have a bunch to go around.

Here's what you need:
-1 lb. of mini marshmallows (I love using the peppermint kind if you can find them)
-5 TBS of real butter (plus a little extra for buttering your pan)
-1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract
-1/8 teaspoon of peppermint oil (The oil is more potent, but I love the flavor.)
-9 C of rice cereal (Rice Krispies or any off-brand)
-a few drops of red food coloring (if not using peppermint marshmallows)

Peppermint Bark Drizzle

-1/2 C semi-sweet baking chips
-1/2 C white baking chips
-1/4 tsp. peppermint oil, divided
-3-4 crushed peppermint candy canes
-1-2 TBS of oil (can use vegetable, canola or coconut. I prefer coconut)

1. Butter a standard-sized cookie sheet and set it aside.

2. Place butter into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until completely melted.

3. Remove bowl from microwave and add vanilla, peppermint oil and food coloring. Stir to incorporate into butter. Stir in your marshmallows and coat with butter. Make sure you measure the peppermint oil. This is different than peppermint extract. The oil is STRONG and a little bit goes a long way. I like using the oil because it doesn't have any fillers and it has a true peppermint flavor. Unless you get a good brand of extract, sometimes it tastes more like mint toothpaste than true peppermint.

4. Microwave on high for about 1.5-2 minutes, stirring in 30 second intervals. Once marshmallows have melted, stir in rice cereal. Stir completely until cereal in completely covered in the marshmallow mixture.

5. Butter your hands and press cereal treats into an even layer on your buttered cookie sheet.

6. Use a chocolate melter if you have one (it's like a mini crock-pot that melts chocolate and keeps it at a constant temperature). I have 2 of them and they are my favorite to use. I love that it keeps the chocolate at a constant temperature and I don't have to worry about using a double boiler or running the risk of my chocolate seizing in the microwave. If you can invest in one, I highly recommend it. It also works great for dipping chocolates. If you don't have one, then you can melt the chocolate in the microwave in 15-30 second intervals. It takes about 3-4 minutes and you want to make sure that you stir often. Use 2 separate bowls and melt the white and dark chocolate. Once your chocolate is melted, add in 1/8 tsp. peppermint oil into each bowl and stir. Add in a tsp at a time of oil into each bowl until it reaches your desired consistency. I like the chocolate a little runny so that it drizzles easier.

7. Drizzle dark chocolate and then white chocolate over cereal treats. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes and then drizzle with remaining white and dark chocolate.

Chocolate Drizzles

8. Let the chocolate set and then cut into squares.
Plated with Pretzel Turtles

You can also arrange them in a bag and tie with ribbon for a quick gift.

Gift Idea

Enjoy and Happy Baking.

Here's the printable recipe.

Pretzel Turtles

Pretzel Turtles
Being domestic doesn't mean you have to spend all day in the kitchen! Here is a perfect idea for last minute gifts for neighbors, friends or co-workers. These whip together in a flash, they taste amazing and they look so cute too! I was introduced to these a couple years ago and I love making these when I need something quick and easy.

Here's what you need:
-1 bag of Rolo chocolate candies
-1 small bag of small pretzels
-1 C of pecan halves (one for each pretzel. Amount depends on how many you make)

-3 TBS white baking chips
-1/2 tsp of oil (can use vegetable, canola or coconut. I prefer coconut.)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Lay out pretzels on parchment paper. Unwrap your Rolo chocolates and place on top of each pretzel. (I had 53 Rolos in my bag, so this made 53 chocolates.)

3. Place cookie sheet in your oven and bake for about 2-3 minutes. Watch these because you want to take them out before the melt and fall over. Mine baked just over 2 minutes.

4. Remove tray from oven, place a pecan half on top of each Rolo and then push it down.

I love melty caramel and chocolate.

 5. Melt chocolate in microwave in 15-30 second intervals. Once chocolate is melted, add oil and stir. This will help your chocolate be a little more runny so that it's easy to drizzle on top of each chocolate. You can also use a chocolate warmer if you have one.

6. While chocolates are still on parchment paper, take a spoon and lightly drizzle white chocolate over each turtle. Just do it randomly--just move the spoon back and forth quickly and the chocolate will fly all over the turtles.

White chocolate drizzle

7. Allow the turtles to sit on parchment paper until chocolate is completely set.


Remove and put on a decorative plate or in a decorative bag. Tie with some cute ribbon and you've got a super easy and cute gift.

Neighbor gifts.

Here's the printable recipe.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Biscoff Bars

I've mentioned before that I'm a total Biscoff Junkie! I am totally addicted to this stuff. I thought life was good when I discovered the cookies. Then I didn't know life could get any better when I found out there was a spread! Biscoff spread tastes just like the cookies, but it has a smooth, creamy texture like peanut butter. I seriously love this stuff--I love it so much that you will always find 3 jars in my pantry at all times. If you haven't tasted the cookies they are cinnamony, spicy, gingerbread-like pieces of heaven. The spread is all that rolled into a creamy spread. Biscoff spread tastes great on toast, graham crackers, made into frosting or just eaten by the spoon. You can find the spread at most local grocery stores located by the peanut butter.

Biscoff Bars
I was talking with my cousin and we got to talking how Biscoff would make great cookie bars--like peanut butter bars, but substituting peanut butter with Biscoff. My mom has a rockin' Peanut Butter Bar recipe that is my "go-to" recipe when I need something quick and delicious when company comes over or for potlucks. Her recipe was easily adapted to create these lovely Biscoff bars. They are sweet, nutty, buttery, slightly chewy and have a hint of cinnamon. The topping is the best part. You might have to make it in the presence of others because you will want to eat yourself. I love the complement that butterscotch gives to the Biscoff spread. It was a match made in baking heaven.

These would be a perfect addition to any holiday gathering, to potlucks, serving to company or just for dessert when you want to eat something sinful. These whip up pretty quickly so it's a great recipe to have on hand when you need something quick. No one has to know that these didn't take you all day to make, although they will taste like you spent the day slaving away. That's what I love about cooking and being domestic---you don't have to spend tons of time to make great-tasting things. I think this will be a great recipe to add to your baking repertoire.

Here's what you need:
-1/2 C unsalted butter (1 stick)
-1/2 C sugar
-1/2 C brown sugar
-1 egg
-1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
-1/2 C Biscoff Spread (plus about 1/2c-3/4 c more for topping)
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 C all-purpose flour
-1 C quick-cooking oats

-1/2 C-3/4C Biscoff spread
-1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
-3oz butterscotch chips
-4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
-2/3 C toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add egg and mix. Add Biscoff spread and vanilla and mix. (Don't forget to lick the spoon with the extra Biscoff spread.) Add flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon to bowl together. Mix together just until incorporated. Add oats and mix. (You may need to try a taste of the dough. But once you do, I'm not gonna promise that the rest will get baked. It's better than cookie dough.)

Biscoff Dough

3. Spread dough evenly into your baking pan. Bake for 20-23 minutes--just until the top begins to brown. Don't overbake--it will look slightly "doughy", but it will be fine after it cools. I baked mine for 20 minutes, but each oven and baking times vary slightly.

4. Remove from oven. It will look puffy and will go down after it is removed from oven. Let it rest for 3-4 minutes and spread top with extra Biscoff spread.

Melty Biscoff Spread. Delicious.
5. Sprinkle with butterscotch and chocolate chips and put in oven for 1 minute just until you see the chips soften. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cinnamon and spread over Biscoff layer. Sprinkle with toasted pecans.

Let cool completely. Cut and thoroughly enjoy! And try to share them with others. But if you don't I won't judge you. Sometimes I feel tempted to take the pan and hide in my closet so that I don't have to share. :)
Biscoff Bars

Here's the printable recipe.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chicken Divan

Chicken Divan
When I was younger my Mom and another mom in the neighborhood held classes in the summer to teach us different domestic skills. My Mom would teach us about cooking and baking and we'd do a small version of a Home-Ec class each week. The other mom taught us about sewing and we worked on different sewing crafts. It was really fun to get together with some of my friends and attend the hands-on classes.

Throughout the summer we learned how to make a main dish, appetizer, salad, drink and dessert. Then at the end of summer we put it all together to make a complete meal. It was the Grand Finale! The end-of-summer meal was awesome. We spent the afternoon cooking and then served dinner to our parents. I remember it was a big event--we got to use my Mom's nice china, we served our drinks in goblet-style glasses, played classical Italian music in the background and my friend and I dressed up as waiters to serve the meal. Oh! Those were cherished times.

At that dinner we made one of my favorite dishes from my childhood, my Mom's broccoli chicken casserole. For some reason we made that dish frequently when having company over and it just evolved into being a favorite.

Chicken Divan is like broccoli chicken casserole, but with a grown-up, modern twist. This dish is rich and creamy, the chicken is super moist and the broccoli is perfectly tender. It's the best comfort food. The first time I made the sauce, I literally wanted to lick out my bowl. The sauce is the best part--so yummy that when I adapted this recipe, I doubled the sauce. I mean, honestly, how can a sauce go wrong when it has cream and butter? Julia Child would be proud.

This recipe is one of my favorites and I love serving it to company. It is not for the faint-of-heart because of how indulgent it is, so that's why I reserve it for special occasions or when I want to surprise my husband (or when broccoli goes on sale and I buy a bunch and need to use it before it spoils). This dish does take a little bit of time, but if you do all the prep work before you get cooking then it comes together relatively quickly. It's tastes like you've spent all day slaving away in the kitchen and people will be wondering how you are so domestically talented. Don't worry, this will be our little secret. :) And please pardon the lack of pictures-- I was majorly multi-tasking when making this dish to show you.

Here is what you need:
- 3 TBS of oil (I prefer olive or coconut), separated
-4 bunches of broccoli (about 1.5-2lbs), cut into bite-sized florets
-4 C low-sodium chicken broth, separated

-4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 lbs), cut in half horizontally (like cutting a roll to make a sandwich)
- 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
-salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 TBS each), separated into little bowls

-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or you can just use a garlic press)
-2 C heavy cream
-4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
-1/2 C dry sherry (optional)
-6 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 cups), (Good Parm cheese can be expensive, so I have used Asiago or Romano cheese and they all taste wonderful)
-6 large egg yolks
-3 TBS fresh lemon juice (I've also used Real Lemon concentrate when I'm in a pinch and it works fine)
-6 TBS unsalted butter at room temperature (you can used salted, but I prefer the taste of unsalted)
-1.5 C crushed corn flakes or good-quality bread crumbs

In a large skillet (I have also used a big soup pot when I'm making large quantities), heat 1 TBS of oil over med-high heat until it just begins to smoke. Add broccoli to skillet and cook it until it is spotty brown. This takes me about 2-3 minutes. Once broccoli is spotty brown, add 1/2 C of chicken broth and cover skillet with a lid. Steam the broccoli until just tender, about 3-4 minutes or so. Remove the lid from the skillet and finish cooking broccoli until most all of the liquid has evaporated. Line a bowl with a couple paper towels and transfer broccoli to the bowl. Cover broccoli with foil and set aside. Rinse and wipe out your skillet.

Next, season both sides of chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place flour into a pan or shallow dish. Coat each chicken breast with flour. Take your skillet and heat the remaining 2 TBS of oil over med-high heat just until it begins to smoke. Cook each chicken breast until a golden-brown crust appears, which takes about 2 minutes per side. (Chicken will NOT be fully cooked. We'll finish cooking it later.) Transfer chicken breasts to a plate and set aside.

Take skillet off the heat and add onions. Cook until they barely get some color, about a minute or so. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add the remaining 3 1/2 C of broth and cream and deglaze your pan (using your spoon to scrape off all of those tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan). Return chicken breasts to the skillet and simmer over med-high heat until fully cooked, which takes about 10 minutes. Do not overcook the chicken--you want it moist and juicy. Transfer chicken to a clean place and continue simmering sauce until it has reduced to about 2 cups, about 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure that the bottom doesn't scorch. Add Worcestershire sauce and dry sherry if wanted. Boil for 2-3 minutes and then turn heat down to medium. **Note: you do not have to add the sherry. It tastes great with or without it.

Turn on your broiler to high and adjust an oven rack to the middle. Stir in 2 c. of grated cheese to the skillet. Whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Temper the egg yolks by adding 1/2 C of the hot sauce to the small bowl while whisking. Take skillet off the heat and whisk egg yolk mixture into the sauce in the skillet. Then whisk in butter.

Cut your chicken breasts into 1/2-inch slices and arrange in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Scatter broccoli over top of chicken and pour sauce over the broccoli and chicken. Sprinkle the broccoli with the remaining 1 cup of cheese, sprinkle cheese with corn flakes or bread crumbs and broil until golden brown, about 4 minutes. **When I've needed to keep this dish warm, instead of broiling it I have baked it uncovered at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Or I have broiled it and then kept in the oven at 170 degrees.

**Time saving tip: You can make extra or freeze a portion of this if a 9x13 pan is too big. Make the recipe to the point of adding corn flakes and broiling. Place food in a freezer-safe container, let the recipe cool to room temperature (if you freeze while warm it could develop a sour taste) and then freeze. When ready to use, reheat at 300 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Then add corn flakes and broil the top for a few minutes until golden brown.

Serve and enjoy!

Makes my mouth water.
Here is the printable recipe.

I hope you love it. It's one of my family's favorite dishes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pie Dough & Donkey-Booses

Holiday Pies.
One of my favorite family traditions during the holidays is having the annual "Pie Pantry" at my parent's house during the Thanksgiving break. There are 6 children in my family and we all bring our favorite pie (or two), my parents make their favorites and we put them all together and so that there is a plentiful selection to choose from. Since we have so many pies, we get to enjoy them on Thanksgiving and during the break when we all get together to play board games as a family. It's one of my favorite traditions. And it's so yummy to have such tasty pies to enjoy together.

I'll be honest. Making a homemade pie crust was super intimidating to me. I usually chose to make a pie that had a graham cracker crust because making homemade pastry dough never really worked out for me. My mom makes fantastic pies and her crust is amazing. It's always super flaky and buttery. I went on a quest to make a pie like hers.

This summer I had a bunch of cherries and peaches that I wanted to make something with and my mom suggested making freezer pie filling. She came over and helped me prepare all of my pie fillings and she taught me how to make her pie crust. (As a side note: if any of you have family members that you enjoy learning how to bake or cook from, take the time to do it. Life is too short and you will treasure the time spent together.) It was so fun to be in the kitchen together and having her teach me. She is one talented lady. I hope my skills are that honed when I'm older.

So I'm going to share her amazing pie crust recipe with you. It's a pretty easy to make, but give yourself a batch to learn on. My biggest challenge making it for the first time was getting the liquid right because each brand of flour seems to have different moisture contents, so you have to learn how the dough is suppose to look and feel. Don't worry though, it's pretty basic. You can use this for pies or even for homemade chicken pot pie. Once you make your own, you won't want to go back to store-bought dough. This is super delish!

This recipe makes (5) double-crust pie shells as well as (2) single shells. I usually don't bake that many pies at a time, so I usually make 1/3 of the recipe which makes (1) double crust pie, (1) single shell and some leftovers. Here's what you need:
-6 C unbleached flour
-3 C butter-flavored Crisco
-3 tsp. salt
-1 1/2 C cold water

A little note about measuring flour: scoop the flour with a spoon and lightly put it into your measuring cup. When it is full, take the back of a butter knife and slide it on top of your measuring cup to make it even and flat. This will ensure a proper measure.

Put flour, shortening and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix together with your fingers (or a pastry cutter if you prefer) until it resembles a crumb mixture. 

You want pea-sized crumbs or smaller

Add cold water a little at a time until your mixture is moist and can be formed into a ball. Try not to work the dough too much. Mix just enough to form into a ball.

Formed Dough

Roll out a portion of dough into a large circle on a floured surface. Roll dough to be about 1/8" thick. Place dough over your pie dish. Press dough into pie dish, get out any air bubbles and cut off any excess dough with a butter knife.

You can leave the edge as-is, but I think it looks pretty to scallop the edge. I did this edge by pinching by thumb and pointer finger of my right hand while pushing the dough with my left pointer finger. If I make a double-crust pie, I make my decorative edge and then wisk an egg and apply to top crust with a pastry brush and then sprinkle with sugar. This makes a very beautiful golden and crispy crust.

Decorative Edge

I also used some of the extra dough to make a mini-pie for my daughter. She had lots of fun helping and I think she felt very proud to have her very own pie that she helped make. I love it too because all of the little mini pans we use in the kitchen were mine that I used when I helped my mom. It was fun to see them go full circle. 

My little helper. She was enthralled with the flour.

Bake filled pies at 375 degrees on lowest or second lowest oven rack for about an hour or per recipe. Keep an eye on your pie edges to ensure they don't brown too much before your pie is done. You can place some foil around your edges and remove them about half-way through baking time, but I usually don't have a problem with them over-browning. 

Pre-baked pie shells: Make sure to poke holes with a fork in the bottom of your pie dish before baking. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. Cool completely and fill.

Enjoy and Happy Baking. Imagine bringing homemade pies to Thanksgiving or Christmas parties. You will look like such a Domestic Goddess (or Domestic God for all of my male followers). :)

What is a Donkey-Boose, you say? Well, when I was little and I'd help my mom make pies any extra dough was rolled out into a circle, cut into strips and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and baked. It was one of my favorite things to look forward to after all that hard work in the kitchen. I don't know why they are Donkey-Booses, but they are. My mom called them that and her mother and her mother's mother. I guess it's just a generational made-up name that stuck.

So take remaining pie crust dough, roll into a circle and cut with a pizza roller. Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet and place pie crust on top of parchment paper. 

Poke holes with the back of a fork.

Donkey Booses

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. For these I used cinnamon and vanilla sugar

Yummy vanilla sugar

Bake at 375 degrees for about 8-10 or until golden brown. Enjoy them warm with some milk. They are yummy and remind me of being a kid. Enjoy and happy baking!

Can you see those awesome specks of vanilla bean? Yum.

Pie Dough
Makes (5) double-crusts and (2) single crusts

6 C unbleached flour
3 C butter-flavored Crisco
3 tsp. salt
1 1/2 C cold water

Place flour, shortening and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix with your hands until it resembles a crumb mixture. Slowly add cold water and mix until a ball is formed. Take a portion of dough and roll into a large circle about 1/8" thick. Place into pie dish and form. If making a double-crust pie, fill and repeat with top crust. Cut off any excess dough and  make any decorative edge that you prefer. Wisk an egg until well-beaten and use a pastry brush to apply to your top crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake filled pies at 375 degrees  on lowest oven rack for about 1 hour or per recipe. Pre-baked crusts: Poke holes with a fork in crust prior to baking. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

To make Donkey-Booses, roll out dough and cut into strips with a pizza roller. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar (or vanilla sugar) and bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vanilla Beans & How to Make Vanilla Sugar

Madagascar Vanilla Beans
I absolutely love vanilla. It is one baking ingredient that I could not live without. About a year and a half ago, I discovered vanilla beans. These little pods are so delicious and there are so many things you can make and use them in. Vanilla beans are not created equal. The first vanilla beans that I purchased were very expensive (were talking $10 for 2 pods), dry and brittle and had no aroma. I thought this was normal. Oh, not so! I just hadn't discovered what a good vanilla bean was. 

About a year ago I stumbled across a great website, Beanilla. This website and company is amazing! They have several varieties of gourmet vanilla beans, extracts and extract-making supplies. This is the best website I've found that offered high-quality products with reasonable prices. I loved browsing and learning about all the different types of vanilla beans. After reading about the different types of beans, I bought some Madagascar vanilla beans to try out. When they arrived in the mail, I could not believe my eyes! These vanilla beans were plump and when I took them out of the package, the aroma was intoxicating. The beans have a superior quality-- no splits or breaks and they have a high moisture content. The first time I baked with them, I split one open and it was chuck-full of vanilla caviar. Madagascar vanilla beans have a very full, smooth and rich flavor, which complements many baking dishes. You can store vanilla beans for up to a year, so go buy some and experiment with them in your baking. I will also be posting more recipes on how to use them, so stay tuned. Do you want to win some of this yummy vanilla beans? Just enter my giveaway for them here.

Vanilla Bean Sugar
One of my new favorite baking ingredients to have on hand is vanilla sugar. It smells amazing and it's something fun to use to add a gourmet twist to your baking dishes. You can use vanilla sugar in place of regular sugar in any baking recipe. You can also use it in tea, homemade hot chocolate and as a garnish. I also use it in homemade puddings, on top of pies, etc.

I made a big batch of vanilla sugar and put it in cute little jars for Christmas gifts. Just add a cute little label and you have a super cute, gourmet gift for friends and family. And who doesn't love getting personally homemade things for Christmas? I found these cute jars from The Container Store. They worked perfect! I love the 7.75oz jars for gift-giving and the 16-oz or 25oz jar for storing my vanilla sugar.

Here's what you need: (You can make a larger batch, just make sure you use at least a 1:1 ratio of vanilla beans to sugar. You can use more beans, you will just have a stronger vanilla flavor.)
-2 Madagascar beans, whole
-2 C. organic cane sugar (you can use regular sugar, but I like the flavor of cane sugar better)
-Food processor or heavy-duty blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec
-Airtight glass jar or container

When you get your vanilla beans, let them dry out for a day or two so that they don't have as much moisture content.

Place your vanilla beans in a blender or food processor with 1 cup of sugar. Blend until the vanilla bean is completely mixed. If you are using a Vitamix or Blendtec, make sure you don't use the highest setting for longer than 5-10 seconds at a time or you will end up with powdered sugar. After you blend, you may still have a few pencil-tip sized pieces throughout your mixture. If it bothers you just blend a little longer.

Transfer your sugar mixture into a bowl. Add the remaining cup of sugar. Stir together.

Stir and transfer to an airtight glass container of your choice. Use in any baking recipe, in tea or hot chocolate or as a garnish on pies, cakes, fruit, etc. Whenever you have any leftover vanilla bean pods, just throw them into your vanilla sugar and it will add more aroma. Enjoy and happy baking!

Gift-giving idea

Printable recipe:

Vanilla Sugar

2 Madagascar vanilla beans, whole (Allow to dry out for a few days)
2 C organic cane sugar
airtight glass container

Place whole vanilla beans in food processor or blender with 1 cup of sugar. Blend until vanilla beans are completely blended and incorporated into sugar. Remove from blender or food processor and transfer to a small mixing bowl. Add last cup of sugar and stir to combine. Transfer to an airtight glass container.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Something Quite Domestic Giveaway!

I want to do a giveaway and give out some yummy Madagscar vanilla beans that I purchased from my favorite company, Beanilla (more to come on them when I start my series on vanilla beans). These vanilla beans rock and once you start using them in your baking, you'll wonder how you ever lived without them. I am working on a series of posts on how to use and incorporate vanilla beans into your baking. It is going to be a lot of fun and I'm excited to share some ideas with you.

Here's the giveaway details. I'm going to give away some vanilla beans when I get 100 "likes" on my Facebook page and when I have 100 followers on my blog. Follow the instructions below for a chance to win some vanilla beans. Do each step for up to (4) entries:

1. Follow this link to my Facebook page and "like" my page. Please leave a comment on my wall of who sent you over!

2. Once you are on my Facebook page, "share" my giveaway post. It should be right at the top.

3. Follow my blog AND leave me a comment on this blog post telling me what steps you did for entries and what types of things you'd like to see on my blog.

4. Start following my "Something Quite Domestic" board on Pinterest.

Once I hit "100" likes on my FB page and 100 followers to my blog, I'll put everyone's entries down and use to pick a winner! I'll post the winner and send you out some yummy vanilla beans!

Biscoff Spiced Cream Frosting

Most of you know that I have a *slight* obsession with this stuff. It is like heaven in a jar and I have to hold myself back from eating it by the spoonful. This is the next best thing since Nutella was invented. I first tried Biscoff cookies when I was on a Delta flight. If you've never had a Biscoff cookie, it's like a shortbread-type biscuit made with spices. It reminds me a lot of gingerbread. A miracle formed when some intelligent person decided to take those cookies and make them into this delectable, creamy, divine spread. This stuff is a little hard to find, but I had luck finding it at Walmart and Walgreens. It's usually located by the peanut butter.

I love this stuff so much and I thought what could be better than homemade frosting made with this stuff. And then something miraculous happened.... yep, this frosting. It is creamy, fluffy, spicy and you will want to make it just so that you can eat it by the spoonful. This frosting is perfect because it holds it shape and it doesn't leave a greasy film in your mouth. Do you remember when I talked about my co-worker that preferred store-bought frosting because she had never tasted good homemade frosting? Well, I think this frosting converted her to the "dark-side" of homemade frosting. When I let her sample one of my cupcakes with this amazing frosting, she told me that it was the best frosting she had ever had. Seriously, it is delicious.

This is my new favorite frosting. It tastes amazing with the Butterscotch Spice Cupcakes. This frosting combines a bunch of my favorite frostings into one. It's like buttercream frosting meets cream cheese frosting and gets tangled up with marshmallow frosting. Get ready for something that will knock your socks off.

Here's a list of what you need:
-1/2 C. butter (no substitutions)
-2/3 C. Biscoff spread
-2/3 C. marshmallow cream (the canned stuff)
-4 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp
-1 tsp. vanilla
-1 TBS. lemon juice (I used the RealLemon stuff from the store because I didn't have fresh lemon)
-2-4 TBS of milk
-3.5-4 C of powdered sugar
-4 TBS of butterscotch chips for garnish

1. In a large bowl add butter and Biscoff spread and mix until smooth with an electric mixer.

2. Add mashmallow cream, cream cheese, vanilla and lemon juice and mix until incorporated and smooth.

3. While mixing, add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time. You may need to add a TBS of milk at a time if frosting becomes too thick or pasty. Mix until the frosting becomes light and fluffy and holds it shape.

4. This makes enough frosting to generously frost about 36 cupcakes. You can store any leftover frosting in an airtight container for a day or two. If you store in the refrigerator, you may need to whip it again right before frosting a cake or cupcakes.

5. Take 3 TBS of butterscotch chips into a rotary grater and grate some butterscotch shavings onto each frosted cupcake. Coarsely chop the other TBS of chips and place on frosting for garnish. Enjoy!

I'm working on a "How to Frost Cupcakes" Tutorial that I'll post when I've completed it. I'll show you different decorating tips with a pastry bag and techniques for getting that professional-looking appearance to your cupcakes.

Printable Recipe:

Biscoff Spiced Cream Frosting
Frosts about 36 cupcakes

1/2 C. butter (no substitutions)
2/3 C. Biscoff spread
2/3 C. marshmallow cream (the canned stuff)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
1 TBS. lemon juice
2-4 TBS of milk
3.5-4 C of powdered sugar
4 TBS of butterscotch chips for garnish

In a large bowl mix butter and Biscoff spread together with an electric mixer. Add in marshmallow cream, cream cheese, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix until smooth. While mixing, gradually add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time. You may need to add a TBS of milk at a time if the frosting becomes too thick and pasty. Beat frosting together until fluffy. Frost cupcakes. Place 3 TBS of butterscotch chips into a rotary grater and grate shavings onto cupcakes. Coarsely chop the other TBS of butterscotch chips and place on to frosting for garnish. 

Butterscotch Spice Cupcakes

I have this thing for cupcakes. I don't know what the obsession is, but I seriously love cupcakes. I frequent local bakery shops trying to find the perfect cupcake. But I'm not gonna lie, I've turned into a cupcake snob. I can find GOOD cupcakes, but not the "oh-my-heck-these-knock-my-socks-off cupcakes." Either the cupcake is a little too dry or the frosting leaves that filmy, greasy texture in my mouth.

I have tried several recipes trying to find the perfect cupcake. Well, I think this recipe is pretty dang close. I made a double batch of these delicious cups of heaven and took them to my work to let my co-workers sample. One co-worker said, "I'm not into cupcakes, but these are so delicious!" This same co-worker also said she didn't like homemade frosting because her mom never made good frosting, so she prefers store-bought (*gasp* I know!). It's been my mission in life to introduce her to lick-your-fingers delicious homemade frosting. My mission was accomplished with this cupcake. More to come later on that.

These cupcakes remind me of Fall. They are so full of flavor and contain everything great about Fall: spices, pumpkin and butterscotch. Then, when you think THAT can't get any better, those spices and pumpkin marry butterscotch and create this gloriously delicious cupcake. These cupcakes are moderately dense, extremely moist and have the perfect combination of spices, pumpkin and butterscotchy goodness. This recipe is definitely going to be added to our list of Fall traditions. I think these would be perfect for a Thanksgiving dinner if you want something different than the usual Pumpkin pie. They are pretty easy to make and all of the ingredients I had on hand.

 So here's what you need:
-(1) Duncan Hines spice cake mix
-(3) large eggs
-1/2 C. water
-1/3 C. canola oil
-1 C. pumpkin (plain, packed pumpkin)
-(1) tsp. real vanilla
-(1) small box of instant butterscotch pudding (not prepared)
-3/4 tsp. Pumpkin Pie spice
-6 oz of butterscotch chips (about 1/2 of a standard bag of baking chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with 22 cupcake liners (I love, love, love the foil liners made by Reynolds. The cupcakes stick less to the foil liners and makes a gorgeous presentation).

2. In a large mixing bowl, add cake mix, eggs, water, oil, pumpkin, pudding and spice. Mix well until incorporated. Add butterscotch chips.

3. Scoop batter and portion evenly into liners and fill to about 2/3 full. This batter doesn't rise a ton, so I use this little beauty and it made this step so easy and all of my cupcakes were uniform. I got this at my local restaurant supply store for about $8. It is a DSS24 size which is holds 1 3/4 oz.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 14-16 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Take out of oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Once cupcakes are completely cook, frost with your favorite frosting. When I made these cupcakes, I used the Biscoff Spice Cream frosting recipe. It's so yum!

Printable recipe:

Butterscotch Spice Cupcakes
Makes about 22 cupcakes

(1) Duncan Hines spice cake mix
(3) large eggs
1/2 C. water
1/3 C. canola oil
1 C. pumpkin (plain, packed pumpkin)
(1) tsp. vanilla
(1) small box of instant butterscotch pudding (not prepared)
3/4 tsp. Pumpkin Pie spice
6 oz of butterscotch chips (about 1/2 of a standard bag of baking chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with 22 liners. In a large mixing bowl combine cake mix, eggs, water, pumpkin, vanilla, pudding and spices. Mix well to incorporate. Add butterscotch chips and stir. Scoop evenly into muffin tins, filling to about 2/3 full. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely then frost.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cake Mix Pumpkin Cookies

It's Fall (even though it feels more like Winter, but hey, this is Utah!) and I LOVE everything about Fall. I love the changing leaves, I love the smells, but most of all I love baking Fall treats. One of my favorite treats are Pumpkin cookies. I have a friend that told me a few years ago about cake mix pumpkin cookies and I was REALLY skeptical on how they would turn out. First, because there's no added fat in the cookies and we all know that butter makes everything better. Second, something that only requires a few ingredients AND has no added fat AND tastes still tastes good, well, it seemed like an oxymoron. But let me tell you, these are the easiest, moistest, most tasty pumpkiny bites of heaven. And you don't have to feel guilty about eating these bad boys. Making these cookies has become one of our Fall traditions. The first time I made these was when were living out of boxes in our apartment right before moving into our house right before our first wedding anniversary. It was a stressful, but very fun time in our life. Every time I make these, it totally reminds me of it. Good times. :)

 So on to the recipe. All you need is:
-2 cake mixes, 1 yellow and 1 spice (or you can use 2 spice)
-1 29oz can pumpkin (not the spiced kind. Just the plain, packed pumpkin) or 3 cups if using your own fresh pumkin
-1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (omit if using 2 spice cake mixes)
-1 12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place the cake mixes, pumpkin and spice in a large mixing bowl.

Mix together until well-incorporated. The dough may be a little lumpy and that's ok. Add the bag a chocolate chips and stir to combine. And if you have a cute little helper it makes it all the better. Gives a little extra to "Making it with Love" as my Mom likes to say.

 Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and take 2 teaspoons and spoon onto lined baking sheet.

 Now is a great time to have a little sample of the batter. It's one of the best parts of making cookies, right?

Once the oven is preheated, bake for 12-15 minutes until tops start to crack and are golden. You can also do the toothpick test because each oven varies, so you may have to adjust the time more or less. Once they are done, take them out and let them cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet. Take the cookies off the baking sheet and let them cool on a wire rack. If you haven't eaten all of them while they are still warm, cool them completely and put them in an airtight container. These little guys freeze well or will last for a few days in an airtight container. This recipe can also easily be halved. Enjoy! 

Printable recipe:

Cake Mix Pumpkin Cookies
Makes about 48 cookies

(1) Duncan Hines Yellow cake mix
(1) Duncan Hines Spice cake mix
(1) 29oz can plain packed pumpkin
(1) tsp pumpkin pie spice
(1) 12oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl add cake mixes, pumpkin and spices. Mix well. Dough may be slightly lumpy and that's OK. Add chocolate chips and stir to combine. Spoon mixture on to lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until tops start to crack and are golden or toothpick comes out clean. Store cookies completely cooled in an airtight container for up to 3 days. May freeze leftovers for up to a month.