National Pie Day

Yesterday was National Pie Day.  I know this because I caught .5 seconds of a radio show this morning where it was mentioned (before 3 voices demanded a Pixar movie in the car instead).

Immediately I thought “I should bake.”  Followed by “Wait….PIE day or PI day.”

I pondered that question all the way to school and then, like any red-blooded American, I whipped out my phone in the drop off line and googled it.  Yep: PIE day. Not PI day…which, apparently, is March 14th -if you’re curious.  Or perhaps the curiosity lies in wondering why a number needs a day anyway?

But I digress.

The point is, National Pie Day is all the excuse I needed to get in the kitchen and bake.  However, I was not about to make an extra trip to the grocery store for any special ingredients (that would have been silly). So, I dubbed it my own “double-dare challenge” and decided the pie for this most sacred of internet holidays must be created from ingredients that we already have in the house.

And -let me pause right here to dampen your excitement with a bit of a spoiler alert: Nothing impressive came out of this challenge…we barely used a real ingredient. In fact, we essentially just made a pudding pie.  BUT it was really fun and -of course- delicious.  And we succeeded in honoring the day.

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First: Impromptu pie making is much more convenient when you have crust handy.  Luckily,  I always have an extra crust or two in the freezer (this recipe is my go to.  Can a pie crust be my “ride or die”? I don’t really know what that means, but it feels right here).

Anyway, I just whipped it out and let it thaw for about 30 minutes on the counter.IMG_1356 -1

Then, it was up to my kitchen helper and I to make it just right.

Sidenote – John LOVES cooking.  I have often times caught him in the kitchen cooking up a storm of crackers, salt, pepper and oatmeal (no idea why those things).  When we visit places that have toy kitchens, I have to drag him away.  Cooking is totally his jam!  He’d have done this for hours if I let him.IMG_1360 -1

In this case, I have learned that in order to create the perfect (or perfect enough) pie crust, you don’t ACTUALLY let the 2-year-old help.  You hand him a chunk of crust and let him beat the crap out of it and then make it into a snack he can eat right away (no recipe here.  Brush with melted butter and dust -or completely douse- with cinnamon and sugar.  Bake according to crust instructions).

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Then, once baked and cooled, this crust was ready for action!

And -because baking is more special for the kids when they get one-on-one time- Bristol and I were able to construct the rest of it during John’s nap time.

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And -yes- she is wearing a swimming suit in January in Iowa.  This is usually her outfit of choice for any activity.  Being 5 rules.

She selected peanut butter cups and chocolate candies as pie enhancements.  Don’t worry – all candy was thoroughly taste-tested and vetted for quality before any went into the pie.

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We whipped up a box of our finest (and only) chocolate pudding and poured it into the crust over the candy.

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And, like that, we made a pie, a memory and an after-school snack in one swoop! 

It wasn’t the most beautiful of things.  It was squishy (as you would assume pudding to be!) and didn’t hold up that well.   The candy color ran too…but perfection is so overrated!

I thought it tasted great…that crust recipe makes all the difference!  Evan was excited about the sweet treat and snarfed his piece, John refused to try any and Bristol took one lick, remembered we used milk to make the pudding, declared she didn’t like milk and passed on eating any more.  Kids these days…Ha!

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But we sure had fun making it!  Now…who wants to come get the rest of this concoction so I don’t eat it all myself?

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No-Bake Peanut Butter Balls

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One of my favorite memories in life is making peanut butter balls with my mom and siblings.  These (and chocolate chip cookies) were our ‘go to’ activity when we got bored and hungry.

We used to make them for after school snacks back in the day and stuff them into our mouths as quickly as we made them.  We would attempt to make the biggest peanut butter ball ever. We would see how many tiny balls we could make with one batch.  These things are awesome.

Peanut butter-aholics will cheers me on this one.  These delicious little balls of pea-nutty perfection aren’t even that bad for you!

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The most fun thing about peanut butter balls is being creative with the surprise filling and the outer ingredient you roll them in.  The sky is the limit!

Begin by adding honey, peanut butter and dry powdered milk to a bowl.  A tip here lightly dust the measuring cup for the honey with non-stick spray.   It makes the honey pour right out of the cup, instead of fighting it out with a spatula scrape-by-scrape.

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Once the ingredients are mixed, take a few tablespoons of the dough and form it into a rough ball. Use your fingers to make a well and add some M&M’s (these are mini ones), raisins, chocolate chips…you name it!

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Carefully close the dough around the filling and roll it into a ball.

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Have a bowl of something crunchy ready to roll them in.  We used to use wheat germ growing up, but now I use crushed up cereal (any rice cereal works well) or -for extra excitement- sprinkles!  PBB6

You could also use finely crushed up peanuts for an extra nutty layer.  Basically, you want to roll them in anything that will keep your fingers from getting sticky when you pick them up.

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They are good to eat right away, or store in the refrigerator to let them harden slightly.

If you’re pregnant, these would be a simple but fun way to do a gender reveal…just fill the middle with pink or blue M&Ms!  So much easier than making cupcakes.

Make these for after-school snacks, packing lunches or you could even make some fancy looking ones for party snacking.  You’ll be instantly popular (as if you aren’t already). 😉

Happy snacking!!

*nom*nom*nom*

Double Sprinkle Loaded Birthday Cookies

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I’m not a recipe creator by any means, but I am quite fond of “adding stuff” to anything when baking – which is why I constantly obsess over chocolate chip cookie recipes.  As you have probably guessed by the copious chocolate chip cookie-type recipes I experiment with, I love making cookies.  Something about the dough and the seemingly endless amounts of things you can add to them makes me feel all warm and gooey inside (or maybe its all the cookie dough I eat that makes me feel warm and gooey…I can’t tell).  Either way, I have several recipes that I go to when the urge to bake cookies strikes.

Which recipe I use depends on the amount of time I have (my favorite recipes require chilling the dough) and the consistency I want the cookies to be.  So, when my husband asked me if I would hastily make some birthday cookies for one of the guys working on the new shop with him, I knew I needed to use this recipe for yummy cookies done quick.  It’s my “go to” recipe when I need to have chocolate chip cookies ASAP.   And, of course, you can add almost anything to them!

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I like this recipe because since there is NO BUTTER (gasp! What? Don’t worry…shortening to the rescue) the cookies don’t splay out all over the place.  Since these were to be birthday cookies, I felt extremely compelled to make them extra special.  So instead of just chocolate chips, I added….

  • dark chocolate chips
  • white chocolate chips
  • butterscotch chips
  • mini m&ms
  • and sprinkles (the long, confetti looking ones).

And because I felt they weren’t celebratory enough, I dipped the tops in some more sprinkles (non pareils).  Of course all good things deserve a name, thus I’m dubbing them “Double Sprinkle Loaded Birthday Cookies.”

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Here are some tips on this basic recipe for chocolate chip cookies (or Double Sprinkle Loaded Birthday Cookies if you are a crazy party animal like me):

1) Use butter flavored shortening instead of regular shortening.  I’ve tried both ways and the butter flavored shortening makes all the difference.

2) Take cookies out when still soft looking.  Since they are thin, they get crispy fast.

3) When adding all the “stuff” make sure not to overload it, but don’t skimp either!  Add a few things at a time and mix them in by hand so you can adjust your additives.  You could always measure your ingredients so the total is close to the 2 cups originally called for…but that is so not walking on the wild side!

What are some of your favorite things to add to cookies??  I always appreciate inspiration beyond my own baking cupboard.

😀



Easy and Impressive Stuffed Brownies

It’s snowing outside.  I was panicked about what to do yesterday with a squirrelly 2 year old, so we baked these:OreoBrownies1

 

Yes…its snowing so we baked.  And Yes, it’s May 3rd and there is a blizzard going on.  We are having the most bizarre weather here in Iowa!!  This is what we were doing on Monday (normal for this time of year)…

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And this is what it looks like outside today…

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I am regretful about jumping the gun and planting my garden last weekend when it was 75 degrees and sunny, but luckily I have a raised garden bed that can be moved into the garage for such strange occasions.  My herbs are very sad without sunshine!  And so am I…and so are my kids.  Just when I thought cabin fever was clear for take off, it’s back in full force.

So, I bake.

And I thank the blogging gods for Sally.

Just when I get bored with a recipe, she swoops in with a tastey twist on something simple and it makes my day.  She posted these brownies a while back.  Her method : put Oreo’s inside your brownies before you bake them (she added frosting, too, but I left that out).OreoBrownies2

 

Do you have a box of brownie mix?  Do you have 12 oreos?  Then make these.  Now.  It’s easy!

  • After you make the batter, pour half into your prepared pan.
  • Add a layer of Oreo’s.
  • Cover with the rest of the batter.
  • Bake.

Easy and they impress your friends (just don’t tell them how easy they are).  OreoBrownies3

 

The cookies get really soft and fudge-like as the brownies bake.  The brownies come out fudgy as can be and the cookies add another dimension to the already delicious chocolate flavor.  You could also do a homemade brownie recipe with these if you have guilt about using a box mix, but over achieving is hardly in my vocabulary lately!

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I believe everyone has a Holy Grail of some sorts in their life – you know, something they chase after but never seem to find.  For me that is the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.  There are so many out there with so many different ingredient options!  I stumbled up on this recipe for New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies yesterday (let’s be honest, there was no stumling – it was Pinterest).  I was intrigued by the specific ingredient measurements (like 1 cup of flour minus 1 tablespoon), so I decided to give this recipe a try.  Sure glad I did, too.  I’m dubbing it “Damn Near The Most Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.”

Why, you ask?  The use of coarse sea salt gives them that extra layer of flavor.  Who doesn’t like a little sweet and salty?  The use of cake flour AND bread flour (no all purpose here!) makes them chewy with a crisp bottom and refrigerating it for 24 hours (or just overnight if you’re  like me and have no patience) really keeps the dough from spreading into huge flat cookies upon baking.  Have I mentioned that they taste incredible?  Because they do.  They taste exactly like I would expect “Damn Near The Most Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie” to taste.  And so did the cookie dough.

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Print out this recipe (from the original site, Baked By Rachel) and make sure you purchase both bread flour and cake flour before embarking on this recipe.  My tip on shopping: look for cake flour in a box, not a bag.  It took me 2 trips to the store the first time I needed cake flour because I failed to look for a box of flour the first time.

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Next impossible task…keeping cookie dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours without doing this repeatedly…

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Which is why I made mine yesterday around 2:30pm and baked them this morning at 9:30.  Cookies came out fine and I didn’t eat more than one or two cookies worth of dough while waiting (to be fair, I was very busy yesterday evening).  I also got lazy and didn’t roll my cookies into balls as instructed by the recipe.  Bristol (my darling 3 month old daughter who is down and out with some bug or another right now) fell asleep in my arms and I didn’t want to risk setting her down and waking her.  So, I only had one hand to make the cookie balls with.  This cheater method (my favorite cookie helping tool, a large scooper) worked just fine, although I had to let the dough get a little softer before I could dig into it.

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Simply put, these cookies are worth a go round if you feel like trying a little bit of a different method for baking Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I personally managed not to muck it up too badly, which speaks volumes. 🙂

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Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookie Trial

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If you can’t tell from recipes I’ve posted, I enjoy baking.  Bread, cookies, cakes and so on.  So, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I go crazy trying recipes I find on Pinterest.  While scanning through my pinned recipes yesterday, I stumbled upon and amazing baking blog, Sally’s Baking Addiction.  I was instantly sucked in by her amazing photos, creative recipes and use of sprinkles in almost every recipe.  I immediately located all the sprinkles I had in my baking cabinet, selected a recipe and began baking.

 Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies were my maiden recipe from this blog.  Good decision.  The thing I like about Sally’s blog is that she creates, tests and photographs all of her own stuff.  Originality definitely pays off because the incorporation of cake mix into these cookies makes them totally irresistible.  Trust me…I’ve eaten 2 since I started writing this.  I can only imagine how crazy amazing the rest of her concoctions are.

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I made the cookie batter, subbing in shortening for butter.  Using the recommended technique of rolling the cookie dough taller rather than wider, I piled huge globs of cookie dough onto my parchment lined sheet.  They looked so beautiful in their doughy glory…sprinkles and all!

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Unfortunately, this is what they came out looking like.  Delicious, but hardly photo worthy.

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So, I put less cookies on the sheet, still using tall balls.  Same outcome.

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I guess these cookies are happier in a crowd! However, I accept full responsibility for this small flub in cookie baking.  Here’s what I should have done differently:

1) Followed the recipe and used butter instead of shortening!

2) Not used so much cookie dough for each cookie.  I guess I was greedy and wanted huge cookies so I could tell myself that eating only 1 cookie would be enough (which it wasn’t anyway, due to the deliciousness of these hummers!)

3) Use parchment paper!  I got lazy with my last 4 cookies and threw them directly on the cookie sheet.  Bad idea.

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Aesthetics aside, let me tell you…these cookies are to die for!  They really do taste like cake mix, the texture is more chewy than a regular chocolate chip cookie and the sprinkles that I thought were only for decoration actually add a second tiny crunch to each bite.  How come I never tried this before?  Party in your mouth, I tell you.  Party. In. Your mouth.

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So, the take home message here (besides to follow directions) is to check out Sally’s Blog, try this recipe, try her other recipes (and report back to me!) and buy some sprinkles.  If you are suffering from dreary weather as we are here in Iowa, your day could probably benefit from some sprinkly (is that a word?), fun, deliciousness!

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Brownie Cups



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I am guilty of assuming that the more words there are in a recipe’s title, the better it is.  This isn’t always true since I love things like chocolate cake and bread, but in the case of Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Brownie Cups, my theory is right as rain.  This simple recipe that I found on my favorite recipe sharing website, Tasty Kitchen, is easy and it turned out mighty tasty.  I was pleased as punch with how they came out!  The peanut butter and cream cheese adds 2 amazing flavors to an already perfect treat.  You can’t go wrong here!  This is one of those easy to make recipes that people give you way too much credit for (“Wow, you made these??).  Feel free not to tell them how easy they actually are.

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Either use boxed brownie mix or use a ‘from scratch’ recipe.  I recommend – in ANY situation requiring brownies – that you try this recipe for Killer Brownies. They are heavy, fudgey (is that a word?) and go amazingly with a cup of coffee in the afternoon when both your kids are finally sleeping at the same time and you get a few blissful minutes to yourself to catch up on some Real Housewives series or the Bachelor (omg. Can you believe Tierra this season? Poor Sean).  *sigh*  …but I digress.

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Basically, make some brownie mix according to the packaging or recipe. Top it with a simple peanut butter and cream cheese mixture.  Put them in the oven and bake.  Then cool and eat!  A few tips I’ll share with you since this was my maiden run:

-melt the cream cheese and peanut butter slightly so they pour over brownies before baking.  I just softened mine and it didn’t melt down in the oven like I assumed it would.

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– make sure to leave enough room in the cups to add plenty of the topping! Brownies don’t rise much, but you want to make sure you leave enough room on top for a couple of generous scoops of the peanut butter cream cheese mixture.  Go ahead…put on more than the recipe says!

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We are locked inside today avoiding a lovely high temperature of 8 degrees.  Thankfully, there are plenty of these sinful treats to keep us warm!  Don’t worry, we have plenty of the “playing in a bed sheet fort” game to keep us active to offset the probably copious calories in each Brownie Cup (yeah right).

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