Baking Time

Homemade Thin Mints

Stack of thin mints

My husband has asked me never to make these cookies again. Ever. They’re just too addictive. It’s impossible to eat just one and so we’ve been chowing down these homemade Girl Scout Thin Mints.

Thin mints with a bite

See, I had to make Thin Mints. We didn’t have any Girl Scouts come by and so I was left to come up with my own version. I used my favorite Chocolate Butter Cookie recipe as the base and added in peppermint extract. Now for the dipping! Looking through recipes online I saw plenty that relied on candy melts for the final dip. That’s a no-no. Candy melts have their place – a quick, fun addition to a dessert that you want to fancify, for instance. But you can’t rely on them. I like to mix them into semi-sweet chocolate chips to help it set, usually a 2:1 ratio. The better the chocolate wafers the better your cookies. I highly recommend Ghirardelli melting wafers.

Thin mints

 

Recipe

*Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Baking Companion Cookbook

Yield: 4-5 dozen cookies (depends on thickness)

Prep time: Not gonna lie, it takes awhile to put these together – but it’s worth the effort

 

Ingredients

Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cocoa (*see note below)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 butter at room temperature (not margarine)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon black onyx powder (opt.)

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1/2 tablespoon honey or agave

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Dipping thin mints

Dipping Chocolate

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup dark chocolate melting wafers

1/2 teaspoon black onyx powder (opt.)

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

2 tablespoons shortening or coconut oil

Dipped thin mints

Cookie Directions

  1. Cream the butter and sugars together. Add the egg, water, honey and extract to the butter mixture. Blend well.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
  3. Gently mix the dry ingredients gently into the batter just until incorporated. Place dough on waxed paper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or until solid.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your cookie pans with parchment paper.
  5. Working with 1/3 of the dough at a time and leaving the rest refrigerated, roll out the dough, using flour and a rolling pin, to 1/4″ thick. The object here is to keep the cookies AS COLD AS POSSIBLE so they don’t melt much when you cook them.
  6. Use a circular cookie cutter, the open end of a glass, or my favorite – a Linzer cookie cutter – to cut out the cookie shapes.
  7. Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes and then check on them. Let the cookies cool on the pan.

 

Dipping Directions

  1. Melt all of the chocolate dipping ingredients in a glass bowl in the microwave.
  2. Place the cookies into the dipping chocolate one at a time and smooth the top with a spoon. Move onto the waxed paper to set; I like to put the waxed paper on a cookie sheet and then into the refrigerator.
  3. If you want your cookies to have that perfect-Thin Mint edge try this tip from my neighbor who has her own candy-making business, Celestial Sweets. Once the chocolate coating is set use your vegetable peeler to trim the excess chocolate off the edges.

 

*Note: to get the dark color try using Hershey’s special dark cocoa at the grocers or order dark cocoa powder from King Arthur Flour.

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Easy No-Cook Noodle Lasagna

Lasagna Kit box

We’ve been hovering around freezing temps here in the Midwest so I’ve been on the hunt for recipes that heat up my house–and my tummy. Red Gold sent me a Lasagna Kit so that I can try out their version of this comfort food staple. I’m already a fan of Red Gold tomatoes–they’re grown here in the region in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, and they hold that just-picked flavor of tomatoes even when there’s a foot of snow outside.

 

I tweaked Red Gold’s Easy Classic Lasagna recipe to make my own version–I usually add an egg to the ricotta cheese to thin it out when I’m putting it into the uncooked lasagna and it helps hold the cheese in place once the dish is cooked. I can’t help but add a little heat to my lasagna, too–if you’re not a spice girl, feel free to leave off the extra kick of cayenne pepper.

 

To find more recipe ideas you can check out Red Gold’s other lasagna varieties. I have the Eggplant Florentine on my list to try soon since Mr. Squid loves eggplant.

Lasagna

Recipe

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup water

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning

1-2 cloves garlic, diced

1 pound cooked Italian sausage

1 16-oz. box lasagna noodles

1 15-oz. carton ricotta

1 egg

1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (I used 1 tbsp. fresh, chopped basil)

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (opt.)

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Use a handheld immersion blender to mix together the tomatoes, garlic, and water in a large bowl (or you can place these in a blender). In another bowl, whisk together the egg with the ricotta cheese and the Italian seasoning along with the cayenne pepper, if using. Now it’s time to assemble your lasagna!
  2. Generously coat a 9×13″ baking pan with baking spray. Spread 1 1/2 cups sauce on the bottom of the pan. Arrange 1/3 of the uncooked noodles over the sauce. It’s fine to overlap a little.
  3. Next, smear 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles (they’ll wiggle around a little, just put them back in place). Top with 1/2 of the sausage, sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
  4. Drizzle 1 cup tomato sauce over the cheese then top with another layer of pasta noodles.
  5. Repeat the steps above: ricotta, sausage, cheese, sauce, noodles.
  6. Pour the remaining sauce on the final layer of noodles then sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan.
  7. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour; remove foil and cook for another 1/2 hour or until the top is golden. Let the lasagna stand for 10-15 minutes before you cut into it.

Your turn: What’s your favorite tweak to classic lasagna?

 

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Easy Baked Alaska

Slice of Baked AlaskaLayered with two kinds of ice cream and topped with an impossibly golden meringue topping, Baked Alaska is an impressive dessert to serve to your family (invite guests for this one!). Here’s the secret: it’s really easy to make. The key? Be patient and have lots of freezer space. Lots.

So keep it cool for Valentine’s Day with this dessert.

Keep it fun: Around our house we have a bit of a competition when it comes to eating our slices of Baked Alaska. We serve them upright–no sideways slices. You try to see how small you can get your piece before it falls over.

 

Eating Baked AlaskaRecipe

Ingredients

Cake

1 store-bought graham cracker pie crust

2 containers ice cream (1.5 quarts or half gallons; I like a layer of chocolate and some kind of vanilla/caramel combo)

Meringue

8 eggs

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. pink food coloring (optional)

Chocolate sauce

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup heavy cream

Baked Alaska in the freezer

Directions

  1. Soften one container ice cream until just spreadable. Scoop onto the graham cracker pie shell trying to keep it in a dome shape. Freeze until hard. (Now’s the time to leave out the other ice cream container to soften.)
  2. Top the first layer of ice cream with the second just softened ice cream, keeping the dome shape. Freeze until hard.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, separate the eggs adding the whites into the bowl and discarding the yolks. With a blender whip the egg whites until they become frothy.
  4. Add the cream of tartar, food coloring, and powdered sugar into the egg whites, then gradually add in the sugar and continue to beat until stiff. (The mixture should form peaks when you dip a spoon into it and then pull it out.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and get everything ready. Clear out the freezer since you’re going to need to put your Baked Alaska inside in a hurry.
  6. Take the ice cream base out of the freezer and place it on a baking sheet. Quickly put the meringue all over the ice cream trying to cover it completely to the graham crackers edges. Have fun with it–create swirl shapes and peaks.
  7. Put the cake into the oven for 3 minutes. Watch carefully and remove as soon the the meringue peaks begin to cook.
  8. Stash in the freezer right away.
  9. Freeze overnight before serving.
  10. Make the sauce by melting together the chips and the heavy cream in a glass dish in the microwave. Allow to cool.
  11. Let the Baked Alaska sit out the freezer for 10 minutes before cutting. Run the knife under hot water before trying to cut each piece.

Making a Baked Alaska

 

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Hearty Apple Cider Waffles

Hearty Apple Cider Waffles pic

I’m happily drowning in apples around my house–we’re snapping up every last Honey Crisp apple until the season is over. But all those extra apples need a place to go (when we’re not munching on them). My idea? Waffles. To up the apple-y flavor I thinned the batter with apple cider and a touch of maple flavoring.

 

But I wanted these apple waffles to be filling enough to serve for dinner. So I used plain Greek yogurt for a dose of protein in the mix and added in some whole-wheat flour. Walnuts round out the nutrient boost to make these waffles worthy of dinner.

 

Recipe

Servings: 5 waffles

Prep time: 10 minutes + baking

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1 cup all-purpose, 1/2 cup whole-wheat)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tbsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup plain yogurt

1 egg

4 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup apples, diced small

1/4 cup milk

1/3 cup apple cider

1/4 cup  walnuts, chopped small

1/2 tsp. maple flavoring

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat your waffle iron.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Whisk together yogurt, butter, milk, maple flavoring, and the egg.
  4. Stir in walnuts and apple dices; thin the batter with apple cider.
  5. Add batter to the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Cook through.
  6. The waffle will be soft when you remove it from the iron and will then firm up as it cools.
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Flourless Chocolate Fudge Cookies

Flourless chocolate cookie with bite pic

Holiday cookie time. Who’s ready to start baking? I wanted to make the richest, darkest cookies I could find. I aimed for a recipe like flourless cake that left all the flavor to the chocolate. This IS it. WARNING: These are dangerously chocolatey. You can roll the dough balls in powdered sugar for a hint of sweetness. For more of a truffle taste, roll the cookie balls in unsweetened cocoa–the darker, the better.

 

Recipe

Servings: 18 cookies

 

Ingredients:Stack of flourless chocolate cookies pic

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips + 1/2 cup

3 egg whites, room temperature

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. espresso or black onyx powder (optional, but soooo good)

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat baking pans with cooking spray.
  2. Melt 1 cup of the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth; allow to cool. Stir in vanilla extract.
  3. Beat egg whites in a large bowl until they start to form soft peaks. Add in 1/2 cup powdered sugar and beat until it becomes thick and creamy.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, cocoa powder, black onyx powder, cornstarch, and salt.
  5. Add dry ingredients into the egg white cream at low speed until combined. Stir the melted chocolate into the egg-white mixture.
  6. Stir in 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. Batter will be stiff and thick.
  7. Roll batter into balls. Next, roll balls in either powdered sugar or cocoa powder.
  8. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until cool.

Tweaked from a recipe from Culinary Couture.

 

Powdered sugar fudge cookie pic

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Scottish Fruit & Nut Bread

Happy St. Andrew’s Day! November 30th is a national holiday in Scotland, St. Andrew’s Day. I wasn’t quite ready to tackle haggis so we went for a traditional Fruit and Nut Bread instead.

Fruit and nut bread pic

 

 

Recipe

Servings: 2 mini loaves or 1 regular loaf

 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup oil

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup toasted pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (like apricots or apples)

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil two 5.5″ x 3″ mini-bread loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add in pecans, raisins, dried fruit, and chocolate chips.
  3. In another bowl whisk together egg, oil, and buttermilk.
  4. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until moistened.
  5. Pour batter into bread pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.

*Tweaked from a recipe for Fruit & Nut Bread from Seamus McInnes

Slice of fruit and nut bread pic

 

 

 

 

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Fancify Friday: Fork Brownies

I only wish I’d thought of this one first!

Chocolate Vanilla Mousse cake

When I was served this impressive dark chocolate and vanilla mousse cake at a recent reception at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, my thought was simply, “Oh yeah, I can do this at home!” (The design, that is.)

Fork browniesHere’s how you can too:

  1. Plain plate–the bigger the better!
  2. Place a fork and/or spoon in the middle of the plate.
  3. Find a sieve with the finest mesh possible.
  4. Add powdered cocoa to the middle of the sieve. Gently tap the side of the sieve to create a pattern on the plate.
  5. Take off the fork and/or spoon.
  6. Place your brownie on the plate.

This is a perfect kid assignment–prepping the plates for the brownies.

 

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Whole wheat apple coconut sunrise muffins

Apples and coconut? Oh yeah! The sweet, tart flavor of grated apples meld perfectly with chewy coconut. Plus, this recipe is a fun one to make with kiddos.

Apple coconut muffinsRecipe

*Tweaked from King Arthur Morning Glory Muffins

 

Servings: 16 regular-sized muffins

Prep time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg (opt.)

1/4 tsp. ginger (opt.)Child grating apples

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups grated apple (about 2-3 large apples)

1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened

1/3 cup sunflower seeds or wheat germ (opt.)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3 large eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil (I used melted coconut oil)

2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup apple or orange juice

 

 Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin tin. I usually have enough batter to make 16 muffins. You can either work in batches or if you have a second muffin pan you’re good to go.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt.
  3. Stir in apple, coconut, nuts, and wheat germ (if using). A note on grating apples: My youngest daughter took care of this task. She had fun but you need to watch closely so there’s no inadvertent finger grating. She gripped the apple with a clean wash cloth to keep some distance between her fingers and the grater. When the apple got close to the grater we just ate the extras. Also, it’s up to you but you don’t have to skin the apple first–just shred away!
  4. In another bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and juice.
  5. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined.
  6. Place batter into muffin papers. Top with extra coconut.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Whole wheat apple coconut muffins

 

 

 

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Coconut oil whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

Coconut oil whole wheat chocolate chip cookiesShould you be swapping out butter and other fats in recipes for coconut oil in the name of healthier sweets? I love the idea that you can instantly healthify cookies simply by mixing in coconut oil for butter. If only it were that simple. After reading about the benefits of coconut oil on Snack Girl I thought I had to give it a try.

The smooth, nutty flavor of coconut oil soaks in the cocoa and amps up the flavor of the chocolate chips. It’s pure coconut-chocolate bliss. But is it healthier? Well, I’d like to think it is. Virgin, unprocessed coconut oil is thought to be healthier than some other fats–yup, we’re talking about you, butter–but it’s not quite outranked olive oil. And it’s not like you’ve nixed the fat entirely as you would when subbing apple sauce for oil (which sadly leads to smooshy sweets). My advice? Moderation in all things–with the exception of this weekend where I had to make a few batches of these to figure out if 100% coconut oil cookies are better. Yes, yes they do.

I tweaked my favorite King Arthur recipe for 100% whole wheat cookies to come up with this chewy version.

Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes + baking

Servings: Around 20 cookies

Ingredients

1/3 cup coconut oil (melt it in the microwave for 30 seconds)Cookies with coconut oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

3 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. black onyx powder or dark cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur’s white whole wheat)

1/2 cup chocolate chips, Ghirardelli preferred

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Directions

  1. Beat together coconut oil, sugars, dark cocoa powder, honey, and vanilla.
  2. Mix in the vinegar, egg, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. Next, beat in flour, chocolate chips, and walnuts.
  4. Refrigerate the dough for an hour then bake in batches at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Coconut oil chocolate chip cookies close up

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Braces busting brownies

Someone waiting to eat her first caramel in 18 months.

Someone waiting to eat her first caramel in 18 months.

This week my tween got her braces off (round one at least). To celebrate we made brownies featuring her favorite ingredient that’s been on the no-no list for the past 18 months–caramel.

 

You can use either individual caramels, or I found these handy caramel “bits” at Target.

 

Recipe for Coconut Caramel Brownies

 

Ingredients

1 family size brownie mix or your favorite DIY 9×13″ brownie mix

2 cups individual caramels or caramel chips

1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or almonds–or both!)

Handy way to use caramels--no unwrapping required

Handy way to use caramels–no unwrapping required

3/4 cup coconut (I toast mine before baking)

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (opt. hey, we’re celebrating)

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix up the brownie according to package directions.
  3. Line a 9×13″ baking dish with aluminum foil and then coat generously with cooking spray.
  4. Pour half of the brownie batter into the pan and spread evenly to the corners.
  5. Bake the brownie bottom for about 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup or bowl, melt the caramel until smooth. I put the caramel in the microwave at 30 intervals, stirring after each time. Usually, it takes around 90 seconds.
  7. Remove the brownie bottom from the oven and add caramel in glops followed by nuts, coconut, and chocolate chips.
  8. Top the caramel with the remaining chocolate. Don’t worry if the top isn’t even.
  9. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Cool completely before cutting.

Warning: Eat with braces at your own risk.

Layering coconut caramel brownies

 

 

 

 

 

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