St. Patrick’s Day Cookies: Rainbows, shamrocks and gold

These cookies are uber colorful, super duper easy, and oh so fun to make! This is also a great recipe to make with your kids, so don’t be afraid to let them dive right in. So whether it’s simple gold coins, green clovers, rainbow shapes or just round cookies using all the colors of the rainbow, you are going to love this fun treat.

You might remember this cookie recipe: Valentine’s Play Dough Cookies – but they aren’t actually made with play dough.

They are named that because when the dough is still raw and chilling in the fridge it looks like blobs of colorful play dough. I assure you though, these are 100% edible sugar cookies that everyone will love.

THE RECIPE – First, you’re going to need the recipe. Here’s the printable version or you can see it at the Valentine cookie link above.

Once I made the dough I separated it into two batches. One batch I separated into 4 pieces and the other batch into 6 pieces. The batch of 6 I used paste food coloring to tint each section a color of the rainbow. In case you don’t remember, those colors are:

red, orange, yellow, green, blue and indigo (purple)

For the other 4 pieces I tinted two of them green, one darker than the other, and the other two yellow, again, one darker than the other. In hindsight, the yellows didn’t end up looking any different, so if you want there to be some contrast, add a bit of orange to one of the yellow batches. The green dough is for the shamrocks and the yellow is for the gold coins. After you tint the dough it needs to chill in the fridge for a couple hours.

The gold coins are the easiest. Take your two different yellows, roll a 3/4″ ball of each one, then gently roll the two balls together. Don’t go crazy, just roll them enough to combine the two. Using the palms of both hands, roll into a snake, about 10-12″ long. Start at one end and roll the snake into a spiral cookie.

To make the shamrock cookies you’ll need three green discs.

Use the two shade of green as described in the yellow instructions above.

Next, where the coil ends, pinch the disc into a point.

Use a butter knife or a lollipop stick to create a dent at the opposite end, forming a heart shape.

Place the 3 green hearts together as shown above, insert a lollipop stick.

For the rainbows, simply roll colored dough into snakes. The smallest being purple and the largest red, just curve them around each other and insert a stick.

To make the rainbow twisted coiled cookies, you will need a 1/2″ ball of each rainbow colored dough.

Gently combine them into one ball. From here, you can simple roll into a snake then a coil and be done.

However, if you would like to know how to make these cool striped coil rainbow cookies, you’ll want to watch the video below.

Because the instructions for the striped coils are hard to describe, I made a quick video. I’m really sorry for the cruddy quality. My batteries were almost dead and I had no replacements and I was running low on daylight in my kitchen window. I’m also sorry for the background noise! UGH

Oh yeah, and I don’t talk in it, sorry! Sheesh, not a very good video-er. But hopefully you’ll get the idea of how to do this. Basically, after you roll the dough into a snake shape, then you roll the ends of the snake which twists the colors into a spiral. WATCH…

One last note, when you watch you will see that the snake breaks a couple times, don’t worry! Just pinch it back together it will bake up just fine :)

I hope you enjoyed these. Now go get busy baking. Your kids, husband, significant other, or coworkers will thank you for it :)

rainbow-deviled-eggs-and-egg-salad

If you liked these, you might also like my Rainbow Deviled Eggs and Egg Salad!

Irish Soda Bread (Spotted Dog, Railway Cake)

First off, let me state for the record that I am not Irish. In fact, I’m British born, raised in America and married to an American raised Italian. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and Irish Soda Bread was something I hadn’t baked yet, until today. Or had I? I thought I had, that’s what the recipe was called. But after a little searching, it seems what I may have made is actually called Spotted Dog or even Railway Cake. No matter what it’s actually called, I know it’s totally delicious. Reminds me of eating raisin bread when I was a “wee tot”.

I found this wonderful recipe on the All Recipes website. The recipe title is Irish Soda Bread. I didn’t see anyone arguing that in the comments either. However, according to this site, if it has raisins it’s actually not soda bread. They also say if it contains raisins, eggs, baking powder, sugar or shortening, it’s then called a cake, not a bread. Makes total sense to me! Unless of course you are referring to a quick bread…

The website Fabulous Foods has a recipe that is quite similar to the one I baked. Theirs is for Spotted Dog and they describe it as a “traditional irish fruit bread also referred to as Railway Cake”.

So whether it’s Irish Soda Bread, Spotted Dog or Railway Cake, this is a marvelous recipe, one I will make again and again. Don’t be alarmed by the number of raisins. Yes, it says 3 cups! It’s the perfect amount and has just the right amount of sweetness to be perfect for breakfast too. This is my first encounter with Irish Soda Bread… or whatever, but it won’t be my last!

Irish Soda Bread (Spotted Dog, Railway Cake)
slightly adapted from All Recipes

printable version

1/2 cup white sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups raisins
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch round cast iron skillet or a 9 inch round baking or cake pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour (reserving 1 tablespoon), sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, raisins and caraway seeds. In a small bowl, blend eggs, buttermilk and sour cream. Stir the liquid mixture into flour mixture just until flour is moistened.

Use wooden spoon to mix/knead dough in bowl about 10 to 12 strokes. Dough will be very sticky, similar to a loose cookie dough. Place the dough in the prepared skillet or pan and pat down. Cut a 4″ x 3/4″ inch deep slit in the top of the bread. Dust with reserved flour.

Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for 65 to 75 minutes. Let cool and turn bread onto a wire rack.


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Homemade German Pretzels

Homemade German Pretzel recipe from AmandasCookin.com @amandaformaro

I’ve made several German recipes for my kids’ high school German classes over the last few years. My daughter decided she wanted to try real homemade German pretzels when she was a Freshman. Previously I had made Bretzel Rolls , so luckily I was already prepared for this. The Bretzel rolls were amazing so I set out to find a genuine German pretzel recipe.

Homemade German Pretzel recipe from AmandasCookin.com @amandaformaro

I hit Foodgawker.com first where I found the delightfully amazing blog La Cerise. This blog is run by Astrid, she lives in Zurich and bakes up some true masterpieces. This German pretzel recipe was originally adapted by Astrid from a German website. I’ve calculated the adjustments from metric to standard, so I was very pleased that our homemade German pretzels came together so well.

Homemade German Pretzel recipe from AmandasCookin.com @amandaformaro

The first time I made them they were considerably smaller than I expected. Mine looked quite a bit fatter than Astrid’s, so when I made these again, I made sure to roll out my ropes longer.

Homemade German Pretzel recipe from AmandasCookin.com @amandaformaro

That was back in February of 2009. Fast forward a few years and I’ve made these homemade German pretzels several times.

Homemade German Pretzel recipe from AmandasCookin.com @amandaformaro

Authentic German pretzels are a little smaller and not as fat as the kind you get at the county fair or local food stand.

Homemade German Pretzel recipe from AmandasCookin.com @amandaformaro

They are delicious though and you should definitely try them!

Homemade German Pretzel recipe from AmandasCookin.com @amandaformaro

More Pretzel Recipes

Ham & Cheese Pretzel Roll Sandwiches
Bretzel Rolls (Pretzel Sandwich Rolls)
Homemade Pretzel Dogs – What Megan’s Making
Rosemary Sea Salt Pretzels – Two Peas and Their Pod

Homemade German Pretzels

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes

Homemade German Pretzels

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 pkgs active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling
  • Soda Bath
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 2 quarts water

Instructions

  1. Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water. Mix flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the flour mixture then add the sugar to the center of the well. Pour the yeast/water mixture into the well. Let it rest for 15 minutes before mixing.
  2. Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl and knead everything to a smooth dough. I used the dough hook on my Kitchenaid for about 6 minutes on speed #2, I did have to add about a tablespoon of additional water as it was not quite gathering all the dry ingredients. Remove the dough hook and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Cut the dough into twelve equal parts, then roll each piece on the table (don't flour the surface, you shouldn't need it) to about 20 inches, tapered toward the ends. Don't make it smaller than 20 inches as it's impossible to get a good shape with a short, thick rope of dough. The dough should not get too warm as you roll it out, or it might tear.
  4. Place the pretzels without covering them in the fridge for about an hour. This helps build a skin that will absorb the dipping solution better and make a beautiful shiny crust.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  6. Note: an authentic German recipe calls for a lye solution, but baking soda is a perfectly acceptable and widely used substitute.
  7. Fill large stock or pasta pot 3/4 full and bring the water to a boil. Carefully and slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. There will be a reaction when the baking soda hits the water and it will bubble furiously for a moment and then relax. Stand back a bit just to be safe. Using a slotted spoon, gently drop each pretzel into the bath for 10 seconds, then turn over for another 10. Astrid called for a total of 10 seconds only. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Score the dough once like for a baguette with a razor blade or sharp knife.
  9. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake the pretzels for about 15 to 20 minutes (mine took 20 minutes for a nice dark crust), depending on how dark you like them.
http://amandascookin.com/homemade-german-pretzels/

Homemade Claussen Pickles Copycat

Homemade Claussen Pickles Copycat by AmandasCookin.com

I have always been a Claussen Kosher Dill Pickle fan. Forever. I don’t like sweet pickles or bread and butter pickles, they just aren’t my thing. Claussen just tastes better, in my opinion, I don’t even like the shelf brand dill pickles. They are either too sweet or too tangy.

Homemade Claussen Pickles Copycat - AmandasCookin.com

Refrigerator pickles are a lot easier to make because they don’t require using the traditional canning process. That also means they can’t be stored on a shelf in the basement or in the pantry, they must live in the refrigerator.

Last year I made some pickles with the canning method and the recipe that I used had a very high vinegar to water ratio. So they were far too vinegary for me to eat straight from the jar, which is one of my favorite things, though they were great on burgers and in potato salad!

Homemade Claussen Pickles Copycat by AmandasCookin.com

So I started my search for a Claussen copycat. I found this one but it used apple cider vinegar. I as concerned that would create a sweet pickle, which I don’t like, even though the author of that recipe is just like me. Yuk to sweet pickles! So I looked at the actual Claussen ingredient label and it said they used distilled white vinegar. Some of the ingredients were different too, so I decided to use the recipe that I found as a jumping off point and created my own version.

The verdict? Everyone in this house loves them! They aren’t exactly like Claussen, but pretty dang close! Close enough that they get devoured by everyone in this house. They are actually fun for me to make. So while it would certainly be easier for me to grab a jar of Claussen from the grocery store, and I probably still will now and then, I love making my own.

My first batch was a bit cloudy, and they also had a distinctive mustard flavor. So I cut back the mustard seed in the second batch and I believe we now have a winner. :)

Homemade Claussen Pickles Copycat steps by AmandasCookin.comFull printable instructions are below. You’ll make the brine first, it’s easiest to do it in a 2 quart pitcher. You’ll see me mixing the brine in a bowl in the picture above. Don’t, it’s an extra step, just use a pitcher. Put the dill seed and dried garlic in the jars. Now, make sure you give your pickling cucumbers a good rinse, make sure there’s no dirt. Trim the blossom end, I trim both ends, then cut in half lengthwise and distribute in your jars.

Homemade Claussen Pickles Copycat steps by AmandasCookin.comBefore adding your brine, strain out the solids. Distribute the solids evenly among the two jars, then add brine. You will have leftover brine that can be discarded when you are all done.

Homemade Claussen Pickles Copycat steps from AmandasCookin.comThis is what they will look like after a day or so. They usually take 2-4 days. My first batch took the full four days while my second batch was ready in two and a half days. I think the difference was that I actually used three jars and they weren’t packed as tightly.

Enjoy – crunch!

Troubleshooting

Scum or film on top – During your first few days, fermentation takes place. You will probably see bubbles rising to the surface and may see some “scum” forming on the surface. Skim this off and discard. This is a completely normal step in the fermentation process.

White sediment at the bottom of the jar – According to Colorado State University, “A white sediment at the bottom of the jar may be caused by anti-caking agents in the salt or by the fermenting bacteria. Neither cause is harmful.”

According to Colorado State University “…factors that lead to spoilage include failure to remove blossom ends, failure to thoroughly wash products to be pickled, not removing the scum that accumulates on curing brines, using a weak brine or vinegar solution, not keeping the pickles covered with brine throughout the curing process, using deteriorated ingredients such as moldy garlic or decayed spices, or storing the pickles at too warm a temperature.”

You can download the complete PDF document from The Colorado State University here.

Important Things to Note

The Blossom End
The blossom end of the cucumber (the end opposite from the stem) contains an enzyme that can make your pickles turn mushy. Always cut it off, I cut off both ends for good measure and to keep them uniform.

Vinegar
Use vinegar that has at least 5% acidity. Don’t reduce the vinegar in this recipe.

Salt
Only use pickling salt or Kosher salt, though I always use pickling salt. Table salt contains an anti-caking agent that causes the brine to get cloudy. If you use table salt, it’s still safe, but you will have a cloudy jar of pickles with white sediment at the bottom.

Cucumber Types
Use cucumbers that are of the knobby variety, grown specifically for pickling. Check seed catalogs to find the different varieties. Cucumbers with a wax coating are not recommended as the brine will not be able to penetrate them. When selecting cucumbers, be sure that they are firm and not soft.

When your pickles are all gone, do you pour the pickle juice down the drain? Instead, try these ideas for reusing pickle juice! Looking for a unique recipe to try with your freshly make pickles? Here’s a Grilled Tomato Relish that’s great on burgers and dogs!

Homemade Claussen Pickles Copycat

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 2 quarts

Serving Size: 1 halve

Homemade Claussen Pickles Copycat

Ingredients

  • 20-25 small to medium pickling cucumbers
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup canning or Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried garlic
  • Fine mesh colander
  • 4-cup measuring cup

Instructions

  1. To make the brine, combine water and vinegar in a large pitcher. Add salt, coriander seed, mustard seed, red pepper flakes and black peppercorns. Stir until salt is dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Wash cucumbers in water and trim 1/8-inch off of the blossom end of each one. Slice each cucumber in half lengthwise.
  3. Divide the dill seed and dried garlic evenly between two clean quart sized jars. Fill jars with cucumber halves, fitting as many in as you can, they may be snug!
  4. Stir brine again to mix ingredients. Place a fine mesh colander over a large bowl or measuring cup. Pour brine through the colander, catching the brine solids in the colander. DO NOT discard!
  5. NOTE: You will not be able to fit all the water in this measuring cup or in the two jars. The goal here is to save the brine solids and use them, you will be discarding the left over vinegar and water mixture when finished.
  6. Once all the solids have been removed from the brine, distribute them evenly among the jars. Using the brine liquid in the measuring cup, pour into the jars until all the cucumbers are covered.
  7. Your brine level should cover your cucumbers and reach the bottom of the jar neck where the twisting begins. The cucumbers will also release some liquid as they brine, so don't overfill the jar. Discard any remaining brine liquid.
  8. Cover lightly with a lid perched on top but do not close and seal. Leave on the counter (out of direct sunlight) for 2-4 days, or until the cucumbers taste like pickles throughout.
  9. Secure lids on jars and refrigerate for up to six months.
http://amandascookin.com/homemade-claussen-pickles-copycat/

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I get a chocolate craving the first thing I wish I had were chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven. Chocolate chip cookies have really been done to death, so when you have a favorite recipe you tend to stick with it. Everyone has one they think is “the best”, as do I, but playing around with said recipe can sometimes create something with an entirely new dimension. That’s what happened on this particular chocolate chip cookie baking day.

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

There I was, minding my own business putzing around on Pinterest when I saw these. That pin originated from a recipe for brown butter double fudge chocolate chip cookie dough cookies (phew!) on the blog How Sweet It Is.

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

I loved the concept of the stacked cookie dough, but since I already have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, I decided to get my inspiration from her idea and use my own recipe instead.

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

So to make this work, I measured out all the ingredients for my cookie dough. After whisking together the dry ingredients I weighed them out. Then I separated the dry ingredients into two batches. Next I followed the instructions for beating the butter, brown sugar  etc, then weighed that out as well and separated it into two batches. I stirred together one batch of the dry ingredients with one batch of the wet ingredients, then added half of the chocolate chips.

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

For the second half of the dough I added 1/4 cup of cocoa to the remaining dry ingredients and whisked it together. Then I combined the wet ingredients with the dry to make the chocolate dough, finally adding the remaining chocolate chips. Assembly was the only thing left. Using a cookie scoop, I stacked one scoop of regular dough and one scoop of chocolate dough, end to end, and placed them on an insulated cookie sheet.

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

Speaking of insulated cookie sheets… see the photo at the top? Those cookies were made on a regular cookie sheet, see how they flattened out and became a bit crisp on the edges? The photo below that shows cookies baked from the same batch of dough, same oven, same temperature and same amount of time, but those were baked on insulated baking sheets. Makes a big difference! The ones on the insulated sheet are soft and chewy and did not flatten out.

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, simply add 1/4 cup cocoa to it. That’s it. Just remember, add all your dry ingredients together first, separate into two equal batches, then add the cocoa to one of them. Simple! Oh, and delicious!

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 11 minutes

Total Time: 26 minutes

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter flavored or regular shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Amanda’s homemade pudding mix (recipe here)
  • OR 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 package semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a mixer bowl outfitted with paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening, brown sugar, and sugar on low until bound together, then on medium-high until smooth and fluffy. Add vanilla, continue beating, then add one egg. Beat until combined, then add the other egg and beat until fluffy. Separate into two equal batches and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, stir or whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pudding mix. Separate into two equal batches. Whisk 1/4 cup cocoa into one of the two batches.
  4. Mix one batch of wet ingredients with one batch of the dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix the remaining wet and dry batches. Place half of the chocolate chips into one batch of dough and the remaining chocolate chips into the other batch of dough.
  5. Use a cookie scoop to measure out a scoop of regular dough and a scoop of chocolate dough and stack them together, one on top of the other and place on insulated baking sheets.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 8-11 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from oven; allow cookies to cool 5 minutes on baking sheets before removing them to wire racks to cool completely.
http://amandascookin.com/double-stack-chocolate-chip-cookies/

 

Double Stack Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Taco Chex Mix

Taco Chex Mix

There was a great sale on several cereals recently that I took advantage of. However, I was a bit overzealous and ended up with a lot more than I needed. I guess I literally bit off more than I could chew. I made a couple batches of traditional Chex Mix, but decided I wanted to try something different too.

Taco Chex Mix

I found the recipe for Taco Chex Mix on the Chex website. I wanted to use what I had on hand, so I changed mine up a bit. Theirs uses cheese crackers, I chose corn chips for mine. I also had an overabundance of generic Cheerios on hand, so I used some of those too.

Taco Chex Mix

I also used my own homemade taco seasoning but you can certainly use your own or an envelope of the premixed seasoning. Mix and match cereals, chips, pretzels or nuts. Whatever floats your boat.

Taco Chex Mix

This reminded me of taco flavored Doritos! Yum!

Taco Chex Mix

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 20 servings

Serving Size: 0.5 cups

Taco Chex Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Corn Chex
  • 2 cups Rice Chex
  • 2 cups Cheerios
  • 2 cups Fritos
  • 2 cups pretzel sticks
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 package (1.25 oz) taco seasoning mix (I use my homemade mix)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 F.
  2. Combine cereals, chips, pretzels and nuts.
  3. Melt the butter. Mix melted butter with water and taco seasoning mix.
  4. Pour half of seasoning over cereal and mix well with hands. Pour remaining seasoning mix over cereal and stir well.
  5. Pour onto a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour; stirring every 15 minutes.

Notes from Amanda

I found the easiest way to stir it was to have a large bowl on hand, remove the baking sheet from the oven and pour the contents into the bowl, stir, then return to the baking sheet.

http://amandascookin.com/taco-chex-mix/

Starbuck’s Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip Muffins

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip Muffins

Muffins are great take along breakfasts and I’m always willing to try something new. This time I wanted to use up some Starbucks hot cocoa mix we bought at Christmastime. Instead of letting the cocoa go to waste, I thought I would try and create a muffin recipe using it as an ingredient. I’m glad I did, these chocolate chip filled muffins were a big hit!

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip MuffinsYou can use any hot cocoa mix, Starbucks just happened to be the brand that I had on hand. Santa was nice enough to bring each of my four kids their own canister so I had plenty to choose from now that the warm weather is setting in. I also have a caramel flavored one I want to try these with!

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip MuffinsThese muffins are filled with big chocolate chips and lots of great chocolate flavor.

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip MuffinsAs you can see, they were a big enough hit with my daughter that she wanted to share them on her Facebook page with her friends.

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip MuffinsI adapted a few tried and true muffin recipes to come up with this one and I’m really happy with the results.

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip MuffinsSince sinking chocolate chips can be an issue with muffins, I divided some of the batter up into the muffin cups before adding the chips. Then you add the chocolate chips to the remaining batter and distribute it among the muffin cups. This will keep any of the chips from baking on the bottom.

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip MuffinsHope you try these, they were chocolatey and delicious and a great way to use up leftover hot cocoa!

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip MuffinsMuffins are a great after school snack and perfect for tossing in lunch sacks as well!

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip Muffins

Starbuck’s Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip Muffins

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 12 muffins

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Calories per serving: 266.1

Fat per serving: 12.6 g

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup Starbucks Hot Cocoa Mix
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray or line 12 muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, hot cocoa mix, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, milk, and melted butter. (Make sure the melted butter is cool before you add it.)
  4. Fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup. Add chocolate chips to remaining batter in bowl and fold in. Divide remaining batter evenly among the muffin cups.
  6. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Leave to cool in the muffin tin for 5 to 10 minutes before removing from tin and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes from Amanda

Saturated fat: 7.6 g Unsaturated fat: 3.1 g Carbohydrates: 34.8 g Sugar: 19.7 g Fiber: 2.1 g Protein: 3.8 g Cholesterol: 52.3 mg

http://amandascookin.com/starbucks-hot-cocoa-chocolate-chip-muffins/

Starbuck's Hot Cocoa Chocolate Chip Muffins

Cherry Swirl Muffins

Cherry Swirl Muffins

Four batches of muffins. That’s what it took to perfect this dreamy cherry muffin recipe. I’m really happy with the results of this last batch. You won’t find any chunks of fruit in these, even though I love them that way. I can’t get any of my kids or my husband to eat anything with chunky fruit, so these fruity swirly muffins are my way of pleasing my family. The bonus is that I love them too!

Cherry Swirl MuffinsIn my first couple of batches I tried drastically cutting the fat, but more often than not that results in a tough muffin. Yuk. I’d rather each less of a great thing than more of a “meh” thing. I also experimented with mixed berries paired with the cherries and that worked rather well too. You may substitute other fruits such as strawberries, peaches, mixed berries or blueberries. You can also use fresh fruit if you like.

Cherry Swirl MuffinsCherries paired with almond flavoring is a match made in heaven. So it was only natural to use almond extract in addition to the vanilla, but you could leave the almond out if there are any allergies you’re concerned about. Each muffin has 221 calories and 8 grams of fat. Not great, but not really too bad either.

Cherry Swirl MuffinsI’m sure someone will ask if you can substitute jam for the fresh or frozen fruit. Certainly, I don’t see why not. Just keep in mind that jams and spreads not only contain fruit but additional sugar. Not a huge concern? Go for it. :)

Cherry Swirl MuffinsInstead of sprinkling sugar on top of these, you could simply leave them plain or drizzle them with some powdered sugar glaze. But the tops are so pretty all swirly and such, I didn’t want to cover them up.

Cherry Swirl MuffinsI hope you try these. I’m really pleased with the results. I hope you will be too. Be sure to stop back and let me know if you do!

Cherry Swirl MuffinsIt’s pretty easy as recipes go. You combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl, whisk the wet in another bowl then add in the melted butter. Combine them and stir until no more dry ingredients show. Then run your cherries through a mini food processor.

Cherry Swirl MuffinsDistribute the batter among 12 muffin cups and add a dollop of whirred cherries on top, about a heaping half a teaspoon. Use a butter knife or the handle of your teaspoon to swirl the fruit into the batter. Don’t over swirl it, that’s called mixing. :) Just a few turns back and forth is enough. Then finish off by sprinkling with sugar. Bake. Enjoy.

Please keep in mind that if you make substitutions to this recipe it will change the nutritional information.

Cherry Swirl Muffins

Rating: 51

Yield: 12 muffins

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Calories per serving: 221

Fat per serving: 8

Cherry Swirl Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute (or 2 large eggs)
  • 3/4 cup frozen dark sweet cherries, partially thawed*

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly spray 12-cup muffin pans with non-fat cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine both flours, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine, set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg substitute, milk and both extracts until frothy. Whisk in the melted butter.
  4. Place partially thawed cherries in a mini food processor and process until smooth.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Fold together until just combined.
  6. Distribute batter among muffin cups. Add a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of processed cherries to the top of each muffin. Use a butter knife or the handle of your teaspoon to swirl the fruit into the batter. Don’t over swirl it, that’s called mixing. :) Just a few turns back and forth is enough.
  7. Using the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, sprinkle the tops of the muffin batter.
  8. Bake for 17-19 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool for ten minutes. Carefully remove each muffin and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Notes from Amanda

*Leave the fruit out long enough to soften them a little, but not long enough for them to be lying in a pool of their own juice. You may substitute other frozen fruits such as strawberries, peaches, mixed berries or blueberries. You can also use fresh fruit.

http://amandascookin.com/cherry-swirl-muffins/

Blackberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake and Mini Cakes

Today I have some breakfast amazingness for you. I used blackberry, but because the recipes uses preserves, you can pick your favorite flavor if you like. I love the little mini cakes, so easy to eat and take with you, but a slice of this cheese and fruit filled cake is a bit of Heaven too. Perfect with a piping hot cup of coffee.

I had spotted a recipe on Cooking.com called Strawberry Cheese Brunch Cake. That recipe was the inspiration for mine.

I only changed a few of the ingredients, but the method for mine is a bit different. I love to use my food processor, so the instructions will reflect that. However, you can certainly use a stand mixer instead.

I was asked by Pam Cooking Spray to give their new formula a try. I already use Pam, so I had no problem with that.

It worked beautifully as you can see.

You can see that the muffins come right out, even where the jam cooked onto the edges of the pan. They look stuck but peeled off effortlessly.

Clean up was a snap, no scrubbing or soaking needed.

Now back to these amazingly delicious cakes. I’ll share the steps here with you, a printable version of this recipe follows.

Process the cream cheese, sugar, flour and egg until smooth.

You’ll wash the food processor’s work bowl the pulse together the flour and sugar. Then add the butter pieces.

Process until coarse crumbs form.

You’ll reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture and mix with sliced almonds.

Add the remaining dry ingredients, sour cream, yogurt, almond extract and egg.

Batter will be fairly thick.

Spread one heaping tablespoon of batter into bottom of each muffin cup.

Add a tablespoon of cream cheese mixture to each muffin cup.

Add preserves on top of the cream cheese mixture.

Sprinkle about a teaspoon of crumb and almond mixture on top of each muffin.

After baking, tops should be light brown and preserves will be bubbly.

Remove and cool on wire racks.

For the cake, turn remaining cake batter out into the prepared 9×9 baking pan.

Spread remaining cream cheese mixture over cake batter.

Spread preserves over the cream cheese mixture.

Sprinkle the remaining crumb/almond topping over the preserves.

Bake cake. Cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Open mouth, insert cake.

 

Blackberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake and Mini Cakes
Recipe Type: Dessert, Breakfast
Author: Amanda Formaro
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 16
(Makes a 9×9 cake and 12 muffin sized cakes)
Ingredients
  • Cream cheese filling
  • 1 8oz. pkg. (1/3 less fat) cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • Cake batter:
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups butter, chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • Other
  • 1 small jar blackberry preserves
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin and a 9×9 square baking pan with Pam Cooking Spray.
  2. Place cream cheese, sugar, flour and egg into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Wash and dry the food processor’s work bowl. Add flour and sugar to the processor and pulse to combine. Remove butter from the refrigerator and cut into pieces. Add the cold butter to the food processor and process until coarse crumbs form.
  4. Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture and mix with sliced almonds; set aside.
  5. Stir baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and sprinkle over remaining crumb mixture in food processor. Add sour cream, vanilla yogurt, almond extract and egg. Process until homogenized.
For Mini Cakes
  1. Spread one heaping tablespoon of batter into bottom of each muffin cup. Reserve remaining batter for square cake.
  2. Add a tablespoon of cream cheese mixture to each muffin cup and spread over cake batter. Reserve remaining cream cheese mixture for square cake.
  3. Add 1 heaping teaspoon of preserves on top of the cream cheese mixture. Spread evenly. Reserve remaining preserves for square cake.
  4. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of crumb and almond mixture on top of each muffin and reserve remaining mixture for square cake.
  5. Place muffin pan in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Tops should be light brown and preserves will be bubbly. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing with a spoon to wire rack. Cool completely.
For Square Cake
  1. While muffins are baking, turn remaining cake batter out into the prepared 9×9 baking pan. Spread remaining cream cheese mixture over cake batter. Spread about 3/4 cup of preserves (or more if needed to cover) over the cream cheese mixture. Finally, sprinkle the remaining crumb/almond topping over the preserves.
  2. Bake cake for 40 minutes. The cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and will be golden brown, preserves will be bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.


Con Agra provided me with a toolkit (see below) and PAM Nonstick spray to help me develop this recipe. Watch for a giveaway in the next couple of weeks where you can will these goodies too. Con Agra compensated me for my time, however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza Puffs

Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza Puffs

My three boys love pepperoni pizza. I rarely buy frozen pizza, but make my own homemade. I make the dough from scratch, make my own pizza sauce and even my own pizza sausage from ground pork. So making a pizza isn’t one of those last minute meals, it has to be planned. However, I found these little pizza snacks that are pretty quick and a great snacking replacement!

One day while perusing through Stumble Upon, I came upon Cathy’s post for these little gems over at her blog, Noble Pig. I had bookmarked the recipe and forgotten all about. That is until one day I had to bring something to a get together at a friend’s house. I started going through my bookmarks and came across these little pizza puffs.

I followed Cathy’s recipe, but did add some sausage in some of mine and used my homemade pizza sauce as the dipping sauce. I also left out the fresh basil as my kids would have thought that was gross. :-P They were a huge hit and I keep the recipe in my permanent recipe binder now.

Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza Puffs

Rating: 51

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces pepperoni and/or sausage, cut into small pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni and/or sausage; let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping.
http://amandascookin.com/pepperoni-or-sausage-pizza-puffs/

Chocolate Chip Coffee Snack Bars

If you are looking for a bar cookie that’s great with a cup of coffee or to have as a quick snack, these chocolate chip coffee snack bars are a perfect fit. They are easy to make, cut nicely, and aren’t overly sweet like your average chocolate chip cookie. A more toned down dessert, it makes for a great treat with hot coffee or a glass of milk.

If you’re looking for a gooey sweet treat, this is not what you are after. These have a nice mellow flavor with the occasional chocolate chip to liven up each bite. I really like these for quick snack cakes. Because they aren’t all gooey and melty, they sit cleanly in plastic sandwich bags and are great for sack lunches. The coffee flavor is subtle, not overwhelming, so you could always adjust that to your tastes as well.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Snack Bars
From 400 Sensational Cookies
printable version

1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons half & half or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 13×9 baking pan with foil, spray with non stick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In mixer bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add in the half & half and vanilla and mix well. Add the dry ingredients with mixer on low speed until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake in preheated oven for 22-28 (mine took 24 minutes). Cool on a wire rack in pan then lift bars out by the foil. Cut into bars.


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Easy Mexican Tortilla Appetizers

Easy Mexican Tortilla Appetizers

As you already know, I live in Wisconsin. I’m sure you’ve heard how much we love cheese here in the dairy state. :) I’m also a huge fan of anything resembling Mexican food, the flavors, ingredients, even the simplest of recipes. I found this recipe for tortilla appetizers and they turned out to actually be a perfect lunch! Lots of room for adaptation here too, but these are wonderful just as they are.

I did make a few changes. I substituted red bell pepper for the green pepper since hubby has reactions to the green ones. I didn’t add the pepper flakes in order to keep it mild so the kids would try it. I also upped the number of green onions called for since I love them and they add such a nice splash of color. This recipe calls for taco sauce, which I had in the fridge, but would also be delicious with some homemade salsa.

Sargento asked me to take a look around their website, choose a recipe to try, and did compensate me for my time. I had no problem with that since I buy Sargento cheese on a regular basis anyway, and they are from Wisconsin! Woot! All opinions are genuinely mine. These really are wonderful and easy to make. In fact, these would be a great thing for older kids to make for themselves!

This makes quite a bit, perfect for a party, but you can cut the recipe in half if you like.

Spread the beans, taco sauce, bell pepper, and tomato on each tortilla. Top with cheese and finally with chopped green onions.

Bake and cut with a pizza cutter.

Easy Mexican Tortilla Appetizers

Rating: 51

Ingredients

  • 6 (7-inch) flour tortillas (fajita size)
  • 1 can (16 oz.) refried beans, divided
  • 1/3 cup taco sauce, divided
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 3 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) Sargento® Fancy Shredded 4 Cheese Mexican Cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Place tortillas in single layer on baking sheets. Bake 5 minutes or until crisp.
  3. Spread 1/4 cup beans, 1 tablespoon taco sauce, red bell pepper, and tomato evenly on each tortilla. Top with cheese and finally with chopped green onions.
  4. Bake for an additional 8 minutes or until cheese is melted. Use a pizza cutter to cut each tortilla into 6 or 8 wedges to serve.
http://amandascookin.com/easy-mexican-tortilla-appetizers/

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

The other day my daughter asked me to make muffins. Not just any muffins, mind you, but chocolate chocolate chip muffins. years ago I used to keep a homemade master mix on hand, a homemade Bisquick type concoction, for making muffins, pancakes, etc. Recently I’ve started making that mix again so this was a perfect time to develop a recipe using that mix and some instant chocolate oatmeal I’ve had in the cabinet.

I’ve adapted the instructions so that you can certainly use regular instant oatmeal in this recipe. I just happened to have this chocolate instant oatmeal on hand:

If you have old fashioned oats, you will want to grind them up in the food processor first as instant cooks a lot faster than old fashioned. if you want to sneak some healthy goodness in here, toss in a tablespoon of wheat germ! These muffins are great, but don’t let them sit out too long. Store them in a container if they won’t be eaten right away.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
2 cups Master Mix
3 tablespoons cocoa
scant 1/2 cup quick cooking oats or instant chocolate oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 400 F and spray bottoms only of a 6 cup jumbo muffin pan*. In large bowl, whisk together milk, brown sugar, oil and egg. Stir in master mix, cocoa, and oats just until moistened. Mix only until moistened, batter may be lumpy, do not over mix. Fold in 2/3 cup of the chocolate chips and divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup of chocolate chips on top of muffins.

Bake 8 minutes at 400 F, then reduce temperature to 350 F and bake an additional 18-20 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then remove to rack to cool completely.

The recipe for the Master Mix that I make is here. You can substitute your own homemade baking mix or use Bisquick.

* To convert this to a 12 cup muffin pan, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.


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Chocolate Topped Peanut Butter Bars

I wanted to make sure that I got this post in before Super Bowl Sunday. These bars are amazing. If you like that famous combination of chocolate and creamy peanut butter, then this is the treat for you. The crust is comprised of graham crackers, crushed pretzels and chocolate. So much deliciousness, so little time!

I found the original recipe for these on Guilty Kitchen where they are titled Idle Hand Bars. Her photos are beautiful and she wrapped them up in waxed paper with some twine, so lovely! Mine are a little different in that I didn’t include the salty topping and I had to adjust the powdered sugar amount drastically. I believe it was because I use regular jar peanut butter and her recipe used natural peanut butter. Perhaps there’s some sort of consistency difference, I’m guessing maybe the oil content, but mine required a lot more coaxing to become a paste. I also prefer bittersweet chocolate over semi sweet, so I went with that for my topping.

These are really good, so kudos to Guilty Kitchen for this fabulous recipe!

Chocolate Topped Peanut Butter Bars
Adapted from Guilty Kitchen’s Idle Hand Bars

printable version

Base Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 Tbsp. cocoa
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup coarsely crushed pretzels

In a glass bowl over simmering water, melt melt butter with the sugar and cocoa. While still over water, add egg and beat to combine (will thicken quite a bit here). Remove from heat and add crumbs and pretzels. Press into an 8 x 8 cake pan. Set aside.

Middle Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly.
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup smooth, peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

Combine peanut butter and butter together in small bowl. Mix in sugar and vanilla to form a thick paste. Dump onto base layer and smooth over, patting down to make a flat, even layer.

Top Layer
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In a glass bowl over simmering water, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir until smooth. Pour over peanut butter layer and spread out evenly.

Chill in fridge until chocolate is set. Cut into squares.


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Homemade Salsa from Canned Tomatoes

I usually make homemade salsa using fresh tomatoes, even better when they are straight from the garden. However, in the winter months there’s no garden to pick fresh tomatoes from and the tomatoes available from the grocery store are mediocre at best. So I decided to use canned tomatoes (Red Gold is my brand of choice), the ingredients I usually use in my fresh tomato salsa, and my food processor. Boy am I glad I did!

I made this salsa about half an hour before dinner. By the time dinner was ready half the salsa was gone and I was still fighting off hungry family members! They wouldn’t stay out of the kitchen. Of course, it didn’t help that after I taste tested it myself I let everyone else have some too. There was nothing left to save for the next day. The beauty of it was that it was fast and tasted great, a definite keeper in this house!

I prefer the flavor of Red Gold for my canned tomatoes. You can use whatever brand you like or use your own homemade canned tomatoes (I haven’t become a good enough gardener for that yet, but I’m getting there!).

Layer ingredients and run through your food processor!

Serve with your favorite taco recipe or tortilla chips.

You can also use this salsa in this fabulous hot fiesta dip, great for Game Day!

Homemade Salsa from Canned Tomatoes

Rating: 51

Ingredients

  • 1 14-oz can Red Gold tomatoes (whole or chopped)
  • 4 oz can green chiles
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 5 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • garlic salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (4 or 5 turns or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Layer ingredients in the food processor in the order they are listed.
  2. Pulse a few times to get the ingredients mixed together. You can continue using the pulse feature if you like your salsa a little chunky. I process mine for about 30-45 seconds or until it looks good.
http://amandascookin.com/homemade-salsa-from-canned-tomatoes/

Hot Fiesta Dip

If you are looking for a tasty appetizer recipe that will appeal to the masses, this hot fiesta dip is very easy to make and comes together in literally minutes. You can even make this recipe your own by using your own homemade salsa, or by adding some of your favorite ingredients. This would be a perfect addition to your Super Bowl party table!

I added refried beans to the original recipe. You can toss in green chiles, fresh cilantro, or use your own salsa or salsa verde. Serve with a side of sour cream if you add anything hot, such as jalapeños.

This recipe was adapted from Cooking Light Complete Meals in Minutes

Hot Fiesta Dip

Rating: 51

Ingredients

  • 1 10-oz pkg frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 1/2 cup salsa
  • 3/4 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/2 can (about 7 ounces) refried beans
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Instructions

  1. Microwave frozen corn according to package directions, drain.
  2. In a 9-inch pie plate, combine salsa and refried beans, stir until well combined. Stir in corn. Cover with plastic wrap and vent, then microwave on high for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove plastic wrap and immediately sprinkle with shredded cheese, let stand for five minutes or until cheese melts. Top with green onions and serve with tortilla chips.
http://amandascookin.com/hot-fiesta-dip/

Gouda and Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Ball

There aren’t a lot of appetizer recipes on this blog (yet). I don’t entertain a lot, but whenever my dad comes to visit I like to put out some dips, veggies and other munchables. I had the misfortune of being sick over Christmas, so I had to postpone his visit until the Sunday after New Year’s. When he came up I made this cheese and a few other fun things, which I will share over the next couple of posts. This cheese ball is delicious and packed with smoked Gouda flavor and wonderful sun-dried tomatoes!

Not only does this taste great, it looks marvelous as well. It’s really easy to put together and can be made ahead of time, saving you the stress of last minute preparations. This would be great for any Super Bowl get together you might be having! Serve it with sturdy crackers or celery and carrot sticks. You might want to take it out of the refrigerator an hour or so ahead and time to let it soften up a bit.

I made this using my new food processor I got for Christmas :) but you can mix everything with a wooden spoon. Using the food processor will cream the shredded cheese in with the cream cheese and combine it much better than by hand.

Gouda and Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Ball
adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook

printable version

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
2 cups shredded Gouda cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup chopped oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Combine cream cheese and Gouda cheese in food processor until creamy. remove cheese mixture from processor and place in a bowl. Stir in chives, tomatoes and garlic powder.

Shape mixture into 1 large or 2 small balls or logs; roll in pecans. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours but no longer than 2 weeks. Serve with crackers.

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Brown Sugar Cookies

I realize I’m running a little late on the cookie train, but I made these today and thought they were definitely good enough to share. :) These also bake up perfectly round making them a great cookie for gift bags! The dough itself uses ingredients that most people will have readily available and they bake up to a nice chewy and soft cookie. You can also add any flavor chocolate chips as this makes a great base for them!

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their votes in the Breakstone’s Blogger Challenge. I won’t know who won until the 28th of December, but still wanted to thank you all for your support! Also wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I wish you all the happiest of times and hope you are able to visit with family and friends. Hopefully Santa will leave something nice in your stocking. :)

If you are looking for a quick cookie fix, this is a great choice.

Brown Sugar Cookies
adapted from 400 Sensational Cookies

printable version

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup butter flavored shortening
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Whisk together flour and baking soda, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and brown sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Scrape down bowl. Turn mixer on low and gradually add in dry ingredients. Mix only until flour disappears. In necessary, turn off mixer and finish mixing with a wooden spoon. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a cookie scoop to measure out dough into 1″ balls. Roll in your hands and place on baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes (mine were 9 1/2 minutes). Slide parchment onto a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then remove cookies from parchment to rack to cool completely.

Variation: Simply add any flavor chocolate chips (I used peanut butter and milk chocolate swirls) and use a cookie scoop to measure out, do not roll in your hands. Bake 10 minutes.

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Santa’s Belly Marshmallow Pops

This Christmas I seem to be a little obsessed with Santa’s belly… er, rather crafts that look like Santa’s belly! I recently made these Santa’s belly treat cups, and before that this glittery Santa’s belly jar, and last year I made this super simple Santa’s belly ornament. There are lots of edible options for Santa’s belly, but marshmallows just seemed to be a natural choice. Their shape is perfect, no baking involved, and so simple the kids can make them too.

My good friend Meaghan over at the decorated cookie made these really awesome Santa’s belly cookie pops too. She’s an amazing cookie creator and decorator. In fact, you’ve probably seen tons of copies of her Mr. Melty melted snowman cookie. Meaghan is the creator of this totally fun confection! Anyway, I asked Meaghan what she thought of the idea for making these Santa’s belly marshmallow pops. Great minds think alike as she had been thinking of making something similar! We hashed out a few ideas and this is what I came up with.

I originally was going to dip the marshmallows in melted red candy melts but I don’t have any and Michael’s is just too far away and I’m impatient. Because of illness in this house I haven’t baked anything in almost two weeks! I needed to do something in the kitchen, anything! I’m sure there are other things you could use, I even thought of dipping a Cheerio in yellow tinted powdered sugar glaze for the buckles, just like I did for the eyes on my Monster Brownies at Halloween.

So here’s the easy step by step tutorial. These are fun and cute and tasty too. Hope you like them!

NOTE: Don’t be alarmed by the pink tint in my water below. I was experimenting on the best way to make these and got some red sugar in the water. ;)

Santa’s Belly Marshmallow Pops
by Amanda Formaro
printable version

Marshmallows
Lollipop sticks
Red sugar
White sprinkles
Fruit Roll ups (Berry Tie Dye)
Yellow Wilton sparkle gel

Getting ready: Have a small plate with a thin layer of water on it, and another plate for your red sugar and white sprinkles. If working with kids you might want to have separate plates for the red sugar and white sprinkles to avoid mixing them together. Open up a fruit roll up. The flavor I used was called Berry Tie Dye. Half of it is red and the other half is a purplish color. I used a knife and sliced the roll up down the center and just used the purple side.

Insert a lollipop stick into a marshmallow. Dip the top of the marshmallow into the water just to get it wet.

Next, roll the sides of the marshmallow in the water to get the marshmallow wet.

Dip the top of the marshmallow into the white sprinkles.

Roll the sides of the marshmallow in the red sugar.

Cut the fruit roll up down the center to make a thin strip. You will want enough to go around the marshmallow and overlap by about 1/4″ or so.

Dip your fingertip in water and wet one side of the roll up strip. Wrap the roll up strip around the marshmallow. When it overlaps, the wet roll up will stick to the overlap.

Use yellow sparkle gel to draw on a simple buckle.

That’s it! Wasn’t that easy? :)

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Quesados: A Mexican Appetizer

Quesados: A Mexican Appetizer

Quesados are soft flour tortillas that are stuffed with cheese and served with sour cream and guacamole. When you are serving quesados to a large group of people however, double dipping in the sour cream and guacamole dishes could be an issue. Instead, I’ve mixed the sour cream, guacamole and the cheese and stuffed them to make perfectly tender crisp little sandwiches. Place a dish of sour cream on the plate with a spoon so that guests can spoon out a portion for themselves on their appetizer plate.

This appetizer recipe is part of my Mexican holiday menu that I submitted to the Breakstone’s Sour Cream Blogger Challenge. I have some tough competition, so I hope you’ll vote for my menu when the challenge opens on November 15th!

Meanwhile, these quesados are a must try. They are a very easy appetizer to make, they taste marvelous (you can’t eat just one!) and would be ideal for game day too. No one wants to spend all of their time in the kitchen at the holidays, even a dedicated foodie! Keeping some of your dishes simple will allow you the opportunity to spend time with friends and family.

You can use any cheese you like and even substitute prepared guacamole to save you some time. While you can certainly use corn tortillas for this appetizer, flour is softer and works better. Incidentally, I used Tortilla Land fresh tortillas. To prepare their tortillas you simply steam them or cook them in a dry skillet for 30 seconds each side. Delicious! Use your favorite flour tortillas, just be sure to warm them a bit before starting.

Note: If you happen to taste test the filling mixture before the appetizer is complete, don’t be alarmed at the salty taste. The finished quesados are not too salty and come out perfect.

Try my Shredded Chicken and Chile Enchiladas and for dessert, Mexican Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Dulce De Leche Frosting!

Quesados: A Mexican Appetizer

Rating: 51

Ingredients

  • 6 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 ripe medium avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded Kraft Mexican Style Cheddar Pepper Jack
  • 1/4 cup Breakstone's sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Colby Jack

Instructions

  1. Prepare tortilla by warming them in a dry, hot skillet or by steaming them. Keep tortillas warm. Place avocado, onion, lemon juice, salt and garlic powder in food processor. Process until smooth.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the avocado mixture, 1/2 cup Pepper Jack cheese, sour cream, and 1/2 cup Colby Jack cheese.
  3. Spread avocado mixture on one side of 3 of the flour tortillas. Top with remaining tortillas and press down gently.
  4. Preheat broiler and using a pizza cutter, cut each tortilla into 8 triangles. Place on large cookie sheet and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of Colby Jack cheese. Broil about 3 minutes until cheese is just melted.
  5. Serve with sour cream or taco sauce. Corn tortillas can also be used.
http://amandascookin.com/quesados-mexican-appetizer/

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins with White Chocolate Chunks

Hands down, Dorie Greenspan’s pumpkin muffins are the best I have ever made. Full of flavor but not overly spiced, they are a perfect breakfast treat. I have a ton of frozen pumpkin that I pureed from last fall and several bags of frozen cranberries that need to be used up. I knew the combination of pumpkin and cranberries would be incredible, but I also knew that I needed something sweet to balance the tartness of the berries. White chocolate is ideal with cranberry, and so this recipe was born.

In all fairness to the wonderful Dorie Greenspan, this is her recipe. The only thing that I changed were the add-ins. Dorie uses golden raisins and pecans or walnuts, then tops hers with sunflower seeds. We made these muffins 2 years ago in the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group. I made mine into pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, and those were amazing as well!

Notes: Powdered milk came to my rescue. I had thawed my frozen pumpkin and measured everything out, I even cut the frozen cranberries in half. However, I had no buttermilk, and no MILK! What the?? So, I pulled out the powdered milk box, mixed up a cup and added some vinegar to get my buttermilk. Worked perfectly and the muffins were incredible!

This is probably one of the best muffin flavors I have ever had. The white chocolate is phenomenal. I used Ghiradelli Vanilla Dream, white chocolate with vanilla beans. Yum! So without further delay, you MUST make these muffins. They are THAT good. :)

P.S. If you don’t have Baking from My Home to Yours yet, you are really missing out on some amazing recipes. Check it out from the library, buy it from Amazon, head to the bookstore, ask for it for Christmas. GET IT. You won’t regret it.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins with White Chocolate Chunks
adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

printable version

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of ground allspice
1 stick (8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree (I used pumpkin I froze)
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh or frozen (don’t thaw) cranberries, halved
1 4-oz bar of good quality white chocolate, cut into chunks

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds on a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. (I used baker’s spray)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Place the halved cranberries in a bowl and toss with a tablespoon of the flour mixture. Place chocolate chunks in another bowl and toss with a tablespoon of the flour mixture. Set aside.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft. Add both the sugars and continue to beat until light and smooth. One by one, add the eggs, beating for a minute after the eggs are incorporated, then beat in the vanilla. Lower the mixer speed and mix in the pumpkin and buttermilk. With the mixer at low speed, add the dry ingredients in a steady stream, mixing only until they disappear. To avoid overmixing, you can stop the machine early and stir any remaining dry ingredients into the batter using a rubber spatula.

Fold in the cranberries, then fold in the chocolate. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan. Place muffin pan on cookie sheet.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully remove each one from its mold and finish cooling on the rack.

Like all muffins, these are best eaten the day they are made, but they can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.  Rewarm in a 350 degree F oven, or split and toast the muffins, before serving.

If you want more pumpkin recipes, here are some of my favorites:

Cranberry Pumpkin Coffee Cake
4 Layer Chocolate Dappled Pumpkin Cake
White Chocolate Pumpkin Blondies
Perfect Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Rum Whipped Topping

My friend Suzanne put together an awesome collection of pumpkin recipes on her blog too!

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Brown Butter Chocolate Toffee Blondies

In the past I have been leery of making recipes from Martha Stewart’s website. I’ve heard they are notorious for having problems, but I have only had one issue out of all that I have made. I’ve heard great things about her cookies, so I knew I wanted to try these. Luckily, I found a winner with these brown butter blondies.

I only changed things a little, substituting pecans for the walnuts and chocolate covered toffee bits for plain toffee bits. I also tossed those toffee bits and pecans with the dry ingredients before combining everything. I adjusted the instructions to reflect straining off the little dark brown crud that accumulates at the bottom of the saucepan if you brown your butter a bit too much. Tee hee.

Are these yummy? Yes they are! These are great lunch box treats too, so I’ll be adding them to the kids’ lunches tomorrow. The browned butter adds a wonderful caramel flavor to these, I’ll definitely make them again. :) So for now, way to go Martha. I know sometimes you get a bad rap, but this time you did okay. ;)

Brown Butter Chocolate Toffee Blondies
adapted from Martha Stewart

printable version

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup milk chocolate toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter and flour parchment paper (I used Baker’s Joy spray).

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it turns golden brown; remove from heat, and let cool. If you are like me and don’t read the directions close enough, you’ll cook on medium-high, then you’ll have to strain out the dark brown bits in the pan. *sigh*

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add pecans and toffee bits to the dry ingredients and toss to coat.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine browned butter and both sugars; stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Attach bowl to mixer; add eggs. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla, and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, spread into prepared pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Mine were done in 39 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before turning out of pan onto a cutting board. Peel off parchment paper; cut blondies into 3-inch squares. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

More from me you might like:
White Chocolate Pumpkin Blondies
Chocolate Chip Blondies
Brownies in a Cast Iron Skillet

More from other blogs you might want to try:
Samoa Blondies – from Recipe Girl
Heavenly Peanut Butter Blondies from Baking and Boys
White Chocolate Coconut Blondies from Good Life Eats

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Cookie Sticks

Chocolate chip cookies. Would you agree that they are as American as apple pie? Or baseball? I would say yes, absolutely. While there are a few that don’t care for chocolate chip cookies, you are pretty much guaranteed to bring home an empty plate if you bring some to a get together or party. That’s where these cooke sticks went; to a pool party where they were quickly devoured, leaving me with an empty container. That works!

I’ll admit, I didn’t change anything in this recipe, but I was very tempted. This recipe used canola oil, which I thought was odd considering every other chocolate chip cookie I have ever made uses either butter or shortening, or a combination of those two. It’s not too often you hear of using oil. I found it on the Taste of Home website, but decided not to change anything and give it a whirl. I thought maybe the oil might play a part in making the cookies stand up once cut. Not sure if that was the case, I just know that everyone enjoyed them. :)

Cookie Sticks
adapted from Taste of Home

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugars, egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to sugar mixture and mix well. Divide dough in half.

On a greased baking sheet, shape each portion into a 15-in. x 3-in. rectangle about 3 in. apart.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over dough; press lightly.

Bake at 375° for 6-7 minutes. (Bake for 8-9 minutes for crispier cookies.) Cool for 5 minutes.

Use a pizza cutter to cut each section into 4 large pieces to make them easy to transfer to cooling racks.

Use a serrated knife to cut the cooled sections into 1-in. strips.

More from me you might like:
Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Cookies
Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Chip Espresso Cookies

More goodies from the internet:
Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches – from Baking and Boys
Granola Chocolate Chip Cookies – from Cookie Madness
Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bars – from The Other Side of Fifty


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Cantaloupe Quick Bread

This bread is so moist, it could pretty much pass for cantaloupe cake. In fact, I think this would be really good baked in a bundt pan with a fabulous glaze. This is a really delicious bread and would make nice muffins too. The only thing is, it doesn’t taste like cantaloupe.. at all! I even cooked some extra cantaloupe puree in an effort to evaporate some of the water and create a more intense melon flavor to use in the glaze.  painstakingly created a glaze out of cantaloupe puree, cooked down, some powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. It only had a hint of cantaloupe flavor for all my efforts, and once it was on the bread, you couldn’t tell anyway. :-P

The cantaloupe puree adds moisture, much like when you make a banana bread. I guess the flavor just isn’t strong enough to shine through, or maybe the cinnamon overpowers it. Doesn’t matter though, this is an awesome way to use up cantaloupe or other melon that has become too ripe to enjoy in its fresh state. A truly delicious find!

I found this recipe on All Recipes. It included a Praline Glaze, which according to some of the reviewers did not complement this bread at all. Therefore, I made a simple glaze of powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. It was the perfect addition. The only real change I made was I used up the rest of my coconut oil instead of canola oil.

Cantaloupe Quick Bread (or Cake!)
printable version

3 eggs
1 cup coconut or canola oil
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups pureed cantaloupe
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Glaze
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
enough milk to make a thick glaze

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease and flour two 9×5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla and cantaloupe puree. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger. Stir flour mixture into cantaloupe mixture; stir to combine. Do not overwork the batter, stir just until no traces of flour remain. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a loaf comes out clean.

While the bread is baking, make the glaze. Add the vanilla to the sifted powdered sugar. Stir in milk, one tablespoon at a time, until a thick glaze is reached. When you lift the whisk, it should fall in an even stream and form a ribbon before disappearing.

Remove bread loaves from the oven and place on cooling racks. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Place wax paper under cooling rack to catch the drips. Pour the glaze over both warm loaves, covering the tops of both. The glaze will drip down the sides and drip onto the wax paper. Let cool at least one hour before serving.

More from me you might like:
Cantaloupe Cream Pie
Morning Glory Zucchini Bread
Cinnamon Chip Banana Muffins
Honey Pear Bread

More yummy stuff from the interwebs:
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread – from Barbara Bakes
POM Wonderful Blueberry Banana Bread – from Grumpy’s Honeybunch
Vanilla Pound Cake – from The Other Side of Fifty

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