Friday, January 31, 2014

Almond Poppy Seed Bread

I love when I try something new and it's a hit with the whole family.  That's exactly what happened with this bread.  We have devoured almost an entire loaf since baked yesterday.  I justified having a slice for breakfast because it has an orange juice glaze on top (but who am I kidding?  I eat birthday cake for breakfast with no shame).  

It is moist and not overly sweet.  The glaze seeps down in and makes the top part even more scrumptious.  The baking time is 50-60 minutes and when I checked mine at 50 minutes, the middle wasn't done but the top was pretty golden.  I tented it with foil for the last 10 minutes and they were PERFECT!   

Sometimes I make new things and we like it ok, but I would never make it again - so not the case with this bread!  I would make this again and again - and share with neighbors and family.  The original recipe is from The Girl Who Ate Everything and I'm so glad I tried it! 

Makes 2 loaves

Almond Poppy Seed Bread

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons melted butter

For the glaze
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 bread loaf pans.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.  In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, milk, vegetable oil, extracts and melted butter and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Add the poppy seeds.

Divide the batter into the 2 loaf pans and bake for 50-60 minutes.  Check at 50 minutes and tent with foil if necessary for the last 10 minutes.  Let cool slightly and glaze.

To make the glaze, simply combine all of the ingredients and stir.  If you want it thicker, add more confectioner's sugar.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chocolate Butter Pecan Bars

I love everything about this bar cookie!  The bottom layer is this buttery, sink your teeth into crust that is out of this world.  Then, while still hot from the oven, it gets topped with a mixture of chocolate chips and pecans.      

The middle may be a bit underdone at 25 or 30 minutes, but that's when the bottom layer is the best.  Don't over bake or you'll end up with more of flaky crust.  I actually wanted to not spread the chocolate chips as they were melting, just because I liked the way the top looked.  But...I couldn't help my self and needed to sneak a bite.  Once I cut into them while everything was still warm, the chocolate was just so melty everywhere that I ended up spreading it all over.  Still yum!    

Makes 9 bars

Chocolate Butter Pecan Bars

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the topping
1 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 x 8-inch pan.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix.  Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl, then add to the wet ingredients.  Beat until everything is combined.

Dump batter into the prepared pan and press with fingers to form an even layer.  Bake 25-30 minutes.  Top with chocolate chips and pecans while hot.  As the chocolate chips melt, use a butter knife or spatula to spread the chocolate all over the top.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Chewy Brown Sugar Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This is now my favorite way to make oatmeal raisin cookies.  They are chewy and sweet and just awesome!  Great for an after school snack, plus they make your kitchen smell just heavenly.  And it makes a ton!  About 6 dozen.     

Absolutely do not overbake these.  They should look underdone and gooey in the middle - that's when they are the absolute best and chewiest. 

I used a cookie scoop so they were all pretty much the same size.  I would say about 2 tablespoons of dough when you drop them on the cookie sheet.  They spread and get very thin, so anything bigger and they will completely fall apart.  Believe me, I had a lot of casualties.  Well, not so much a casualty, we still ate them of course!

When I stored these, I used an airtight plastic container.  Some advice - place a piece of wax or parchment paper in between each layer.  Because they are so gooey in the middle, they end up really sticking together if you don't separate them.  Again, from personal experience...

Makes about 6 dozen

Chewy Brown Sugar Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
2 2/3 cups packed light brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups oats
2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and brown sugar and beat until creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add dry ingredients to brown sugar mixture.  Beat until just combined.  Add oats and raisins and stir by hand.

Using a cookie scoop or spoon, drop cookie dough onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Cookies should be slightly underdone in the middle but golden around the edges.  Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Vegetable Lasagna

Confession - I cannot write this without laughing out loud thinking of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine and Putty break up (and get back together...and break up) on a plane and they nickname the guy next to them Vegetable Lasagna.  Elaine: "Oh please, I took you back! You know it, I know it, vegetable lasagna here knows it!"

Sorry, we're Seinfeld obsessed - my entire family and I can find a Seinfeld reference in practically any given situation.  Laughing aside, you're going to love this lasagna!  No red sauce, but it's plenty creamy and flavorful from a broccoli sauce and ricotta mixture.  

My favorite pieces to eat are the corners, which get all crispy from the melted cheese on top.  If you like, you can also add 3/4 pound of sliced mushrooms.  Just cook separate until slightly browned, then add them to carrot/onion mixture for that layer. 

I did 3 layers of lasagna noodles and used at least 4 noodles per layer (4 long ways, slightly overlapping, then 1/2 a noodle to go across the bottom because the noodles didn't reach all the way end to end in the pan.)  At the bottom of this recipe, I added 2 ways to assemble the lasagna.  Depends on if you want yours a little thicker (use the first option).

Serves 12

Vegetable Lasagna

1 lb box of dried lasagna noodles
2 (10 3/4 oz) cans cream of broccoli soup
1 (10 oz) package of frozen chopped broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, diced
2 (8 oz) packages of shredded mozzarella, keep 1 cup separate
1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese
2 eggs

Cook lasagna noodles in a large pot with boiling water - follow instructions on box for cooking time.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan on medium, combine and heat the broccoli soup and package of frozen broccoli until everything is warmed through.  Add olive oil to a skillet over medium high heat.  Stir in the carrots and onions and saute until veggies are very tender (about 10 minutes).  Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix the mozzarella (minus 1 cup), ricotta and eggs in a bowl.  Assemble the lasagna in this order:

1 cup broccoli sauce, lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the cheese mixture, all of the carrots/onions, 1/2 remaining broccoli sauce, lasagna noodles, 1/3 cheese mixture, lasagna noodles, remaining cheese mixture, remaining broccoli sauce, 1 cup shredded mozzarella.


1 cup broccoli sauce, lasagna noodles, 1/2 cheese mixture , all carrots/onions, 1/2 remaining broccoli sauce, noodles, remaining cheese mixture, remaining broccoli sauce, 1 cup shredded mozzarella.

Cook for 45 minutes until cheese is melted and the top starts to turn golden.  Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Super Fudgy Brownies with Chocolate Glaze

I love brownie mix in a box and make them quite often - usually with my own add-ins or toppings - who doesn't love the way they turn out so perfectly every time?  That being said, I'm also always on the hunt for a from-scratch brownie recipe that is equally as fudgy and moist.  These came pretty close!     

This recipe is adapted from 52 Ways to Cook and when I heard her title for them, SUPER MOIST Fudgy TRIPLE Chocolate Brownies with Chocolate Fudge Glaze, I had to try them.  I love the addition of chocolate chips because they don't always melt all the way and you get that occassional bite of a chocolate chip throughout.  YUM!! 

These are also best slightly underdone.  So, if you insert a toothpick to check them, don't worry if it doesn't come out completely clean.

Makes 9 large or 12 smaller brownies

Super Fudgy Brownies with Chocolate Glaze

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Pinch of baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the glaze
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Add the eggs, oil and vanilla.  Mix until just combined (do not over mix).  Add the chocolate chips and fold them in a few times.  Pour the batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, checking at 25 (do not over bake - they are better a little underdone!).  Allow to cool completely before topping with the glaze.

To make the glaze:  In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, cocoa powder and milk.  Gradually stir until the mixture begins to boil.  Allow to boil for 1 minute.  Add the butter and vanilla and continue to stir over medium heat until it thickens.  Cut into 9 larger brownies or 12 smaller ones.

Pour glaze over cooled brownies.

(Source:  Adapted from 52 Ways to Cook)

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Malt Vinegar Salt

This was definitely an experiment.  Be prepared for your house to smell like vinegar for a day or two!

I was giving this as a gift, plus I wanted to keep some for me so I doubled the recipe that I've listed.  Probably also the reason it took a little while longer to dry out than the original recipe said.  How cute is that little jar (Target!)?  The label I made using clear circle Avery labels.  

This picture was taken after about 1/2 a day - the mixture was still wet and had not started to dry out.  Mine took a little over a day and half.  I even took it off the original sheet after about a day and transferred it to a clean, dry plate, which seemed to help it dry out a little faster. 

Makes 1/2 cup   

Malt Vinegar Salt 

6 tablespoons coarse salt 
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 cup malt vinegar

Combine all the ingredients and stir.  Pour the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread in an even, thin layer.  Let stand at room temperature, uncovered for up to a day and 1/2.  

Rake with a fork until it becomes the texture of coarse salt.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. 

(Source:  Adapted from Martha Stewart)

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Salted Caramel Popcorn

We received a hot air popcorn maker for Christmas (from my lovely sister-in-law) and I've been so excited to try out new popcorn recipes.  She also gave us an awesome book that has a ton of great ideas, but I had this recipe saved on Pinterest for a while.  It's amazing!  The popcorn becomes chewy, not crunchy and it's addicting!  

This is the real deal caramel - using a candy thermometer (good thing I asked for one for Christmas!).  And it is very hot when you pour over the popcorn, so be careful.  After stirring, I poured it all out on a baking sheet covered with wax paper to help it cool.  

My children were sneaking pieces left and right as it cooled.  It's amazing!  I love the sweet and salty combination!  You can use a fine sea salt or a coarse Kosher salt (what I used). 

Makes about 10 cups

Salted Caramel Popcorn

1 cup of popcorn kernels, popped
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pop the kernels into a very large mixing bowl.  In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Once it reaches a boil, add sweetened condensed milk, then return to a boil and cook, stirring constantly until it reaches 236 - 238 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and 1 teaspoon of the salt.  Drizzle half of the caramel over the popcorn and stir to coat.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt over the popcorn and add the rest of the caramel.  Stir again until everything is evenly coated.  Allow to cool, then store in airtight containers.

(Source:  Adapted from Cooking Classy)

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Barbecue Ranch Chicken Wraps

This was a weekend creation that started with my husband wanting a wrap for lunch.  You know, something a little more substantial than our normal pb & j (as much as I cook, my kids live off of them during the week!).  He diced and cooked the chicken with a little seasoning salt and grill seasoning and I got the veggies ready. 

I've had quite a few barbecue chicken wraps at different restaurants so when we asked what else I wanted on it, I immediately thought Ranch dressing and barbecue sauce.  Instead of cheese to keep it a bit lighter, I topped it all with Santa Fe tortilla strips that I normally use on my salads (found with the croutons in the grocery store).  Oh my about lick your fingers good!

Makes 4 wraps

Barbecue Ranch Chicken Wraps

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons seasoning salt or grill seasoning (or combination of both)
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
3-4 leaves Romaine lettuce
4 tablespoons barbecue sauce 
4 tablespoons light ranch dressing
4 tablespoons Santa Fe tortilla strips
4 soft taco size tortillas

Add olive oil to a medium skillet and heat over medium for a couple of minutes.  Add chicken and seasoning and cook until done throughout.  In the meantime, assemble the wraps.

Place the tortillas between two damp paper towels and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds.  In the middle of the wrap, place a couple of pieces of lettuce, topped with 3 or 4 slices of tomatoes.  Top with about 1/3 cup chicken.  Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the ranch dressing and barbecue sauce (each) over the chicken, topped with about a tablespoon of the tortilla strips.  Roll up and cut if desired. 

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Crock Pot Pork and Sauerkraut

Pork and sauerkraut is a tradition in our family for New Year's Day.  We grew up in smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country and it is believed by them that eating pork and sauerkraut will bring you good luck all year long.  So, really, it's necessary...

I make mine in the Crock Pot and it's the easiest recipe you'll ever make.  One pork loin, a bag of sauerkraut, salt and pepper...done.  Serve shredded pork and the sauerkraut over creamy mashed potatoes.  I could eat that all day! 

I like to use sauerkraut from a bag because I think it tastes fresher.  You can typically find this at or near your deli counter - Boars Head brand is great.

Serves 6

Crock Pot Pork and Sauerkraut

1 boneless pork loin (about 2 pounds)
1 (32 oz) bag of sauerkraut
salt and pepper

Place the pork loin in the bottom of the Crock Pot, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover the pork with sauerkraut.  Cook on high for about 4 hours.  Shred or cut meat and serve over mashed potatoes, topped with sauerkraut and some of the juices.  Salt and pepper again as needed.  

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Stove Top Hot Chocolate

So it's been cold - like bitterly cold.  Too much for us down South to handle!  I mean 6 degrees and frozen pipes?  Not something we are used to.  Really not much to do except keep warm inside, play some games and of course make hot chocolate!

This is my favorite recipe for hot chocolate.  Made on the stove top, it will take just minutes!  It's creamy and sweet and perfect.  

We love it served with whipped cream because it cools it down and my children don't have to be as patient to drink it.  My 2 year old calls it cupcakes because I guess the whipped cream looks like frosting to him!  A fun treat for all of us.  

Makes five 1 cup servings

Stove Top Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
whipped cream or marshmallows

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa powder and salt.  Whisk in the water and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until it comes to a boil.  Let boil for 2 minutes, always stirring.  Gradually add milk and whisk, heating to desired temperature, but do not boil. 

Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla.  Serve topped with whipped cream or marshmallows.  

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Honey Bun Cake

This really does have the flavor of those Honey Bun cakes you can buy in the grocery store - only 1000 times better!  It's an incredibly sweet cake, which topped with a powdered sugar glaze makes it that much sweeter.  Great with a huge glass of milk or cup of coffee (yes, I eat cake for breakfast!). 

Not only it is super sweet, it's super moist.  I recommend storing it in the fridge, which will firm it up a bit.  You can also use sour cream in place of the buttermilk.

I made the glaze thin and sort of runny so it seeped into the cake more.  Use less milk in yours if you want it a bit thicker.  Can you tell my family enjoyed it?  

Serves 12

Honey Bun Cake

1 box of yellow cake mix
2/3 cup oil
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.  In a large bowl, beat the cake mix, oil, eggs and buttermilk with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes.  Pour the batter into the pan. 

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over top of the cake batter.  Use a butter knife to swirl the brown sugar mixture throughout the cake.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden.  Prick the surface of the cake with a fork several times.  

To make the glaze, whisk all of the ingredients until smooth.  Pour glaze over warm cake and allow it to cool completely.  Store covered in the fridge.  

(Source:  Adapted from Betty Crocker)

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Ranch Parmesan Popcorn Mix

The most addicting snack mix I have ever made.  This may even replace my homemade Chex Mix for awhile - and that's saying a lot! 

It takes just minutes to whip up - all done right in the microwave.  So easy and quick - your family will be begging you to make more!  This is a definite must make for your next party.  

You could very easily substitute other crackers or nuts in this - I used popcorn, pretzels and cashews.  The combination was awesome, but peanuts or pistachios would be very tasty as well.  

Makes 8 cups

Ranch Parmesan Popcorn Mix

2/3 cup canola oil
1 (1 oz) packet of ranch dressing mix powder
4 cups of popcorn 
3 1/2 cups mini pretzels 
1/2 cup cashews 
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the oil and ranch mix.  Stir.  Add the popcorn, pretzels and cashews and toss to evenly coat the mixture.  Heat on high for 1 minute, then stir, mixing from the bottom (the oil has a tendency to pool at the bottom).  Heat for an additional 1 minute, then add the Parmesan.  Toss to coat evenly.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.  

(Source:  Adapted from Averie Cooks)
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Friday, January 3, 2014

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

How amazing is homemade ice cream?  I typically make mine with half & half (because I always have it in my fridge) instead of heavy cream.  The consistency is a bit more icy than creamy, but that's exactly the way I love it!

This is by far the best tasting ice cream I've made at home so far!  You could also do regular chocolate chip ice cream by leaving out the peppermint extract and the food coloring.  This will be my go-to recipe for ice cream now, making it different by using other flavors or add-ins. 

Makes 2 quarts - serves 8

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
2 cups half & half
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3-4 drops green food coloring (optional)
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine everything except the chocolate chips.  Add the food coloring (if using) to get to the color you want.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Set up ice cream maker and pour mixture into the freezer bowl.  Turn the machine on and let stir until thickened, about 20-25 minutes.  About 5 minutes before it's done, add the chocolate chips.  When the ice cream is finished, scoop out into a freezer container and freeze for at least 2 hours before eating.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top Ten Most Viewed Recipes of 2013

I took a look back at my posts from 2013 and decided to compile a list of my Top Ten Most Viewed Recipes.  So in case you missed them the first time I've listed them all here...just click the title and it will take you directly to that recipe!  Enjoy!  

And the #1 most viewed recipe of 2013...Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Corn Soup

Happy New Year!  I'm looking forward to sharing many more recipes with my readers in 2014!  

Don't forget to follow me on Pinterest and Facebook!  

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I'm a super busy mom of 3 and a Beachbody coach. Follow along as I try to find a balance between eating good food and keeping my family healthy and happy! We eat mostly clean with a few fun treats thrown in every once in awhile. Thanks for stopping by!

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