No-Bake Peanut Butter Balls

No-Bake Peanut Butter Balls - Plowing Forward

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!

No Bake Peanut Butter Balls - Plowing Forward

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*

Colored Ice Cubes

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I reckon I’m all about making awesome things in ice cube trays lately.  Bristol is into solids now, so I’m making baby food and I have trays full of coffee cubes for my iced coffees.  YUM!  But I know that ice cube trays are meant to make ice, so I’m showing H20 some love today and making fun colored ice cubes!

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Colored ice cubes make plain water fun for toddlers to drink, they make lemonade turn cool colors and -if you’re a cocktail hour type of guy/gal- vodka tonics are way more fun if you use colored ice.

These are -pretty much- just as they seem.  Color some water with food coloring (one drop goes a long way) and pour it into ice cube trays.

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Once frozen, plop the cubes into a glass and be amazed at how totally rad (people still say that, right?) your bevie looks.

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*clink*clink*

Cheers!

The Secret to Iced Coffee (Keurig style)

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I enjoy coffee.  I drink it in the morning.  I drink it in the afternoon.  I drink it in the evening (unless I’m drinking wine….which – truthfully – is more often the case).

And ever since my awesome husband got me a Keruig brewer for Christmas, I have been able to craft the perfect cup in seconds…making my coffee moments that much more perfect. *cue Folgers theme song*

But, it’s hot outside now (at long last after a chilly, wet spring) and I’m finding that a steamy cup of joe is not on my list of comfortable beverages in the sun.  Thank goodness for modern appliances that allow us ice.

Iced coffee in the Keurig is very easy…as everything is with one of these.  Fill a glass with
ice.  I use a  16oz reusable Starbucks cup. (I’m pretty sure that putting homemade coffee into Starbucks containers makes it taste that much more fancy.  It probably has nothing to do with the Starbucks Blond Roast that I’ve been drinking lately).

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Choose your K-cup or fill your reusable K-cup with the coffee of your choice.  No need to purchase the special iced coffee k-cups, unless you want to.  I recommend getting one of these little hummers if you don’t have one already…IcedCoffee4 Drinking Keurig coffee becomes much more affordable when you use bagged coffee in the reusable cup over the prepackaged K-cups.  And I think it tastes better because you can use fresh ground coffee.  But I digress…

Brew your coffee using the 6oz beverage size on the machine.

Add your goodies.  I am currently hooked on 1 packet of Splenda and a splash of low-fat Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss in Vanilla.

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This is where you can stop reading and go make a delicious iced coffee OR you can read on and discover the easy secret to a perfect iced coffee. (It’s really not a secret at all…but it sounds so much more romantic that way!) 

Regular ice tends to make iced coffee drinks too watery and I find myself saying “ew” by about halfway though.  The solution? Coffee ice cubes!  Genius.

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These are fool proof, but here’s the rundown:

Make a cup of coffee (brew it strong for the cubes) and pour it into ice cube trays.IcedCoffee1

If you want special coffee, only fill the trays half way and add a small splash of Bailey’s to each cube (now we’re talking!!).

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Freeze them overnight and the result is the perfect coffee cube to accompany your tasty summer beverage.

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A tip here when ‘assembling’ this: To avoid my coffee cubes melting completely right away, I usually brew my coffee over a small cup of regular ice (just a few cubes don’t water it down too much) or make it and place it in the refrigerator to cool before adding the coffee cubes to my drink.

Now the only hard part is deciding what you want to put in your drink!

*sip*slurp*smile*

Pizza Sandwich

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Hi.  My name is Jenny and I enjoy food that tastes good in a hurry.

I was blessed with a Cuisnart Panini maker for Mother’s Day and I’ve been using it like crazy for the past few weeks.  Having such a fancy new tool in my arsenal of kitchen stuff  make’s me feel almost illegally happy.

…but that doesn’t take much!

I can’t say I invented this pizza sandwich, but I’m proud to brag that it came to me in a moment of “Oh Crap, what is my 2 year old going to eat for dinner.”  Running out of nuggets was a blessing in disguise…now these sandwiches are requested more than anything else (“Pizza Sandwich, Mom! Pweeeeeees!!”).

Disclaimer: This is not fancy.  This is not special.  This is only super yummy and easy.  I make them for myself frequently.

This sandwich takes only about 8 minutes to make

  • While your panini grill is firing up, get out 2 pieces of bread, mozzarella (shredded or otherwise) and some pizza or marinara sauce.
  • Sauce both faces of the bread liberally.
  • Add a pile of cheese (and any toppings)
  • Assemble sandwich and place in panini maker.
  • Cook for 4-6 minutes (until cheese is melted and starting to ooze out).
  • Eat….and realize how freaking awesome 3 little ingredients can be!  For the visual learners, here’s a photo tutorial.  Scroll to the bottom for a few tips!

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Tips on making the perfect pizza sandwich:

1) DO NOT butter the outsides of the bread (one of the very few things in life that butter does not improve).  It took me many paninis to realize the sogginess was a result of buttering the bread.  Lightly dust the panini plates with some cooking spray, if desired.

2) Use bakery fresh bread.  Makes all the difference.

3) A sprinkle of Italian seasonings on the cheese tastes great.

4) If making for kids, this is a great one to sneak a few spinach leaves into.  They’ll never know!

5)Let your panini get screaming hot first.  Otherwise the bread won’t have that crunch.

What are the tried-and-trusted sandwiches in your home??

 

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.

😀



Preserved Lemons…the Beginning

 

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I heard about preserved lemons on a cooking show a few weekends back and felt motivated to try them.  Basically, you put lemons and salt in a jar with lots of lemon juice and let it sit for one month.  My kind of recipe!!  The radio talk show host discussed in length all the different things you could do with preserved lemons and the juice: marinades, salad dressings, sauces, sprinkle it on chicken or potatoes, etc.  I was intrigued and decided to try it.  I found many recipes on how to construct this apparently life changing stuff, and in the end went with this one from the radio show that I was listening to when I first heard of them.  I liked the idea of “sil gris” (or gray sea salt) over regular salt.  Made me feel special to use such a fancy ingredient (doesn’t take much to impress me!).  My dad picked this up at All Spice for me…$8 for a big bag (I used about half).Lemons4

I did not add the optional Juniper Berries because I have no idea what they are or where to get them….and I didn’t want them to go to waste should this incredibly simple recipe not turn out how I hope (which may very well be the case – since I am one of those “the easier it is, the more likely I am to mess it up” people).  So far, preserved lemons = easy as can be!

Step 1: Wash lemons.

Lemons1Step 2: Cut the tips off the lemons.

Lemons2Step 3: Cut each lemon into quarters lengthwise, leaving them attached at one end.

Lemons3Step 4: Pack lemons with salt (sel gris if you prefer to feel fancy).

Lemons5Step 5: Cram them into a jar and fill with lemon juice until lemons are covered. Seal jar.

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Step 6: Wait 4 weeks, agitating daily and adding more juice, should the lemons become exposed.

*tick tock tick tock*

My note on this recipe so far are this:

1) Get more than 8 lemons if you use the same side jar that I did.  I crammed about 8 lemons in the jar, but used the juice of another 5 lemons to fill the jar.

2) Pick lemons that are more long and narrow than round and fat.  I had a hard time getting mine into the jar, so I cut some of them in half and shoved them in.  I hope this doesn’t completely ruin the whole thing! (But how could it really?)

4) If you have any little cuts on your hands for whatever reason, you might want to slap on a pair of rubber gloves first!

Anyone ever cooked with this stuff before?  I’m dying to hear some first hand accounts. 🙂

 

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!