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.


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!


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


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.


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!!


The Secret to Iced Coffee (Keurig style)


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).


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.


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.


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!!).


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


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!


New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies



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.



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.


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



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.



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. 🙂


Easy Pumpkin Muffins with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

When I saw a recipe for pumpkin muffins containing only 2 ingredients I knew I needed to try it.  It just seemed too good to be true…but it turns out that  it’s not!  Of course, I couldn’t leave the muffins alone, so I frosted mine with an awesome Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting.  I wouldn’t be sharing this recipe if it wouldn’t have turned out to be a total success.  The muffins are dense, moist and super easy to whip up in a pinch.  I highly recommend frosting/icing/glazing them with something…it really finishes them off well and gives them that extra layer of flavor.

Cake Ingredients:

1 box of cake mix (I used and recommend Spice Cake)

1 15 oz can of Pumpkin

Ingredients you don’t need, but I added because I’m an overachiever today:

3 TBL milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Frosting Ingredients (halved from the original recipe).

1 stick butter (unsalted, room temp)

8 oz cream cheese (room temp)

½ tsp Vanilla

1 dash sea salt

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Begin by combining all (or both) the muffin ingredients in the bowl of your mixer.  I added a little milk to mine to thin the batter out slightly and the extra spices to ensure a strong “fall” flavor.  They definitely aren’t required, though.

Mix well and scoop into muffin tins.  Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes.

While the cupcakes are baking, start on the frosting.  This is pretty straightforward, but if you’ve never browned butter before it may sound complicated.  Trust me…it’s not.  Put half of the butter (1/2 stick) into a small sauce pan heated to medium-high heat.


It should only take 5 minutes for the butter to melt and brown. You will be able to smell it as it gets close to being done.  Be careful not to burn it!  Once browned (and it may not even be that brown in color), pour into a small bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until completely cooled.

Place the other portion of butter and cream cheese into your mixer with the cooled, browned butter.  Mix well until smooth.

Add vanilla extract and salt.  Mix.  Followed by the powdered sugar, mixing it in 2 portions.  Whip until smooth.

Once your muffins are cooled, frost them and enjoy!  These are great muffins for sharing and everyone will be amazed at the easy recipe (or just amazed at the muffins if you choose not to share how easy these are and let people believe you slaved for hours to make them!).  I recommend keeping these refrigerated due to the frosting, as it gets a little loose if you store them in a warm place.

Best Banana Bread Recipe

Banana bread is what becomes of at least half of the bananas I buy.  It’s a horrible problem.  And awesome at the same time.  I love having bananas on hand, especially since they are one of the few fruits that Evan and JJ will both eat.  But there is a short window between “too green” and “too ripe” (guess we are banana snobs), and we are often left with about 2 days to eat a whole bunch of bananas.  The result: a couple black bananas that I can’t bear to waste.  So, I bake.

(Yes…we have horses on our little plates.  Not sure if that makes me really cool, or really lame…I’m going with ‘cool’.)

The following banana bread recipe is THE BEST that I have tried.  I’ve probably made banana bread about 2 dozen different ways and this recipe is consistently the most moist and delicious (I think it has something to do with the sour cream).  My mom gave me a recipe from her church cookbook (which is like a secret arsenal of amazing dishes).  However, I misread the recipe, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the small changes I made caused the bread to be extra phenomenal. Good problem to have caused!

First, I must apologize for the lack of picture tutorial on this one.  I wanted to get the bread made before nap time was over and a little boy would be trying to climb in the oven.  Oh the joys…  Second, there is no printable link for this recipe.  Sorry.  You’re going to have to ‘old school’ it and copy/paste it into your word processing program.  I’m behind the times..or ‘authentic’ if we’re being positive.

Banana Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

1/2 c. Butter

1 c. White Sugar

1/2 c. Brown Sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp lemon juice

2 eggs

1 1/4 c mashed bananas

1 3/4 c. flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 c. sour cream

3-4 tbl white sugar (to coat the pan and sprinkle on top)

Preheat oven to 350.  Generously butter and sugar (not flour) the sides of a loaf pan.  Don’t skip the sugar…it makes the loaf slide right out and gives it a nice crust.

Cream butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice together.

Mix in bananas.

Add flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

Blend in sour cream.

If you decide to add anything like chocolate chips, nuts or berries, gently fold them in at this point.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle white sugar across the top of the entire loaf.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy! I’m off to play in the sunshine we are enjoying this week…75 and sunny!  Dirt, fresh air and…of course…the Polaris are calling Evan’s name!

What do you mean I need to be 16 to drive???

Beef Bourguignon: How To Make It

It may not be Julia Child’s recipe, but I’ve made Beef Bourguignon a few times and I absolutely love it.  And, it is amazing.  And it makes me feel cool.  And it’s incredibly rich and hearty. I’m in love.  In fact, I’ve developed a ‘scale’ to judge how good each meal I make tastes.  This Beef Bourguignon is the 10 at which I set my scale.  That should tell you something…those French people know a thing or two about cooking!  A couple of things to know before we start:

1.) This recipe takes at least 18 hours to marinade, then another 3-4 hours to prepare and cook.

2.) There are several steps to this dish, each taking time and careful watching to turn out right.  Pay attention and take your time.

3.) You will need cheese cloth and some kitchen twine for this recipe.

4.) Your kitchen will smell amazing and the neighbors may pop over uninvited as a result.  Sorry.

Now, print out the recipe and follow along!!!

 Begin with about 2 lbs of chuck roast.  I used 2.5 for this recipe.  Chop it into cubes, about 1 inch in size.

Chop up some celery, carrots and onion as well.  You can add mushrooms if you like, but JJ doesn’t do the ‘shrooms so I omitted them.

Dump 2 bottles (yes BOTTLES) of wine into a large metal bowl.  I once heard that you should never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink, however I do not have the budget of the person who said that, so I used Two-Buck-Chuck from Trader Joes (okay…actually, that is the wine that I drink, but you get my point.  I mean – I’m sure Beef Bourguignon tastes amazing when made with a couple bottles of Opus One, but…yeah right). Add the meat and veggies to the wine as well as the garlic.

Now time to make the sachet of spices.  Take the parsley, peppercorns (I coarsely ground up mine), thyme (use dried if you don’t have fresh) and bay leaf and place them in your piece of cheese cloth.  I had a loose-nit cheese cloth so I folded it over once to prevent spices falling out.

Once you’re loaded up, simply gather the corners and tie it tightly with kitchen twine, or any type of plain ol’ string.  Place it in the bowl with the meat, veggies and wine.

Cover the bowl and marinade in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 18 hours.  I usually let mine sit for at least 24, since the wine needs time to break down the tough meat.

When you’re about 3 hours away from eating, it’s time to start cooking.  Take the bowl out of the fridge and open the lid…this is when things start to smell fantastic! Strain the meat and veggies out of the wine, but SAVE THE WINE.  Separate the meat from the vegetables….

…and generously season the meat with coarse sea salt and pepper.  Set aside for the moment.

Take the wine and place it in a large sauce pan.

Bring it to a boil and skim off the foam that comes up on the top (kinda gross).  Scoop it all off and discard the foam.  Remove the wine from the heat and set aside.

In a separate, heavy bottomed pot, heat the canola oil.  Make sure it’s good and hot before you start to cook the meat (do the water test: drop a few drips of water into the oil; if it splatters, it’s hot enough).  In this pot you are going to brown (not cook, just brown) the meat.  Add the meat pieces to the pot, one at a time being careful not to crowd the pot.  Brown each side of the cubes.  It took me about 3 ‘batches’ before I had all of my meat browned.  It takes about 1 minute per side to brown the meat…don’t overdo it.  (Have a plate nearby to remove the browned pieces to once finished).

Once the meat is done,  cook the bacon (if you choose to do so…we did not.  Don’t ask me why.  I actually feel a little weird about not using it) then add the veggies to the pot ant let them get a little color.  5-7 minutes should do it.

Now, take your Brandy (a whole cup!!) and deglaze the pot.  Basically, dump the brandy into the hot pan with the veggies and use your spoon to scrape all they yummy bits off the bottom of the pot.  The alcohol should cook off pretty quickly, leaving the flavor of the brandy for the stew.

Dump in the wine, chicken stock and meat.

Bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.  Let it cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.  Long and slow is the key here, so make sure you leave enough time for this to have a good soak in the pot.

When the meat is tender (remove a piece from the pot and poke it firmly with your finger – if your finger squashes through it easily, it’s done) it is time to add the flour.  I mix my flour with chicken stock (or water) first because I’m horrible at adding it straight-up without getting lumps.  This is optional…you can sprinkle the flour on top of the stew and stir it in if you wish.

Mix it in and let the stew simmer for about 30 more minutes.  You might taste it at this point and add any salt and pepper you feel it needs.

Once things are thickened up a little, it’s time to eat!!  This dish (not surprisingly) goes fantastically with homemade french bread.  And the leftovers are even better.  I’m getting hungry all over again, just writing this post!

Enjoy and I hope you are able to impress someone with this dish…even if its just yourself!

Chocolate Amaretto Crepe Cake

This recipe caught my eye on Pinterest, a website you should join if you haven’t already.  If you’re looking for a knock-your-socks-off rich, chocolaty dessert, this Chocolate Amaretto Crepe Cake has your name all over it.  It’s easy (although a little time consuming) and the result is layer upon layer of rich chocolate and crepe based goodness.  I especially love this recipe because within it are 3 fantastic recipes that can be used on their own (crepes, chocolate amaretto whipped cream and chocolate amaretto ganache).  I wasn’t originally going to post anything about my ‘virgin’ crepe cake trial, so I didn’t take any pictures along the way.  In fact, I barely snapped any pictures at all because this baby went so fast.

  However, since it turned out so great and because I had never heard of a ‘crepe cake’ before, I decided to go ahead and pass on the recipe to you, with a few tips you might find helpful.  The recipe is simple, but, as I said, it’s time consuming.  From start to finish, it took me about 2 hours, mostly due to the fact that it takes a while to make the crepes.  After you’ve glanced over the recipe, you might find some of this advice helpful (click here for the printable recipe):

  • As the recipe’s author mentions, you do not need a fancy-schmancy crepe pan to make crepes.  I used a cruddy 10 inch skillet that has been used and abused by not only myself, but every single person that we have ever lived with.  The crepes turned out amazing.
  • Multi-task.  While you are working on the crepes make the whipped filling and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble.  Make the ganache when you are almost done making the crepes so you can move right into the assembly process.
  • Make extra whipped filling.  I ended up making double what the original recipe calls for, however I did have about 1 cup left over.
  • Spread the ingredients evenly.  As you can see in my photos,  my filling got thick in the middle and thinned out towards the edges, which made for not-so-pretty photos.
  • Let the cake set up in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.  I made the mistake of cutting in right away (but, seriously, who can wait to try something so decadent?) and the texture was slippery and strange.  After refrigerating it overnight, I was amazed at how much easier it was to cut, eat and enjoy.

There you have it and I hope you try it for yourself!!