Monday, December 31, 2012

Espresso Crinkles

I've been working on my goals and resolutions for the new year

One of them is to experiment with more non-dessert recipes.   You know, entrees, soups, salads.  Things that you can (and should) be eating for lunch or dinner.    Today I commented on facebook that I was pretty sure that the socially acceptable window of eating cookies for breakfast was closing.   It seems a lot of my friends feel the same.

But it's only New Year's Eve Day.    There is still time to splurge before you dive into your vegetable-loving, gym-visiting, latte-skipping resolutions.   Every one knows that New Year's Day is your day to recover and get it all out of your system before everything really starts on January 2.

So here you go.  

What You Need

4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup) - I added another 1/4-1/3 of a cup for altitude
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 1/4 teaspoons canola oil
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso (or instant coffee) granules
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg whites

What You Do

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk.

Combine oil and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat; cook until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Add espresso granules to pan; stir until blended. Remove from heat. Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl; cool 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla. Add egg whites, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring gently just until combined.

Cover; chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

When it's time to bake:  Preheat oven to 350°.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dredge balls in remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar; place balls 2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets using your silicone baking mats.  Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until tops are cracked and almost set. Cool cookies on pan 2 minutes or until set; remove from pan. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Recipe Source:  Cooking Light

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snickerdoodles & Snurtles

I did most of my Christmas baking early this year, so I had cookies ready at the drop of a hat for any situation.   Unexpected drive by cookie-ing?  Did it.   Cookies to work.   Cookies to friends.   Cookies in the mail.     And then right before Christmas I felt it was time.
Time to make more cookies.
My goal with holiday baking is that I give all the treats away and start the new year fresh.   Last night I took the last of these cookies to a friends house.
Mission:  Accomplished
So what is a snurtle? 
It's a snickerdoodle with caramel and a pecan.   A snickerdoodle turtle.   Deliciousness.
I finally visited Hammond's Candy, and they offer some of their candy in "Oops" format.   It's not pretty, but it's tasty.    During their Candy Cane Festival, they offered Oops bags of their vanilla caramels for $1.   That's a lot of soft, creamy caramel for a steal.     So I had caramel on hand for snurtling. 
You can use your favorite snickerdoodle recipe...or use this one.
What You Need
For the cookie dough:
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (I use skim)
3 1/2 cups flour (I used 3 cups regular and 1/2 cup whole wheat just for fun)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped - throw them in your food processor to make it easy
For the coating:
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons regular white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
To turn a snickerdoodle into a snurtle:
soft caramels
pecan halves
What You Do
Beat the butter until light and creamy.   Add the sugar and vanilla - keeping it light and fluffy.   Beat in the eggs and then the milk.   
Sift the flour and baking soda over the butter mixture and stir (or use beaters on low) to blend.   Stir in the finely chopped pecans.   Cool in the fridge for 15 minutes.   
Preheat the oven to 375 and put silicone baking mats on your baking sheets.
Combine all the ingredients for the cookie coating in a small bowl - you will use this to roll your cookies.     
Roll your chilled dough into balls (about the diameter of a quarter) with your hands and then roll in the sugar and cinnamon mixture.     If you're just going to make snicker doodles, set them on the baking sheet.
If you're going to make snurtles, press a small ball of caramel (no bigger than a dime) into the center of the cookie and top with a pecan half.    Press the pecan and caramel into the cookie - if you just let is rest on top the caramel and pecan will slide to the side while the cookie bakes.
Check out this picture to get the snurtle idea:

Whether you snickerdoodle or snurtle it up, bake your cookies for about 8 minutes.   Let them rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and then let them cool on a wire rack.    They will be soft (yum!). 
Store in an airtight container until all cookies are devoured.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Candy Cane Joe Joe's

Yet another amazing Trader Joe's treat just in time for Christmas!  
I open Mom's freezer and these just "fell" at my feet.   Sandwich cookies with crushed up candy canes in the filling.   I've only known these existed less than 24 hours, and I've already crushed them up on top of my Whitey's Peppermint Stick ice cream (with fudge, of course) as well as dipping them in my coffee.  
Oh Christmas food.   How I love you.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Toffee Bars

(This traveler is preparing to head out for the holidays and is hoping to share one or two more recipes before leaving one land of snow for another)
Toffee Bars have been a Christmas tradition in my family for years.   Probably because they are much easier than making toffee.    I found this recipe two years ago and it my new fave.    They are easy and are the first to be snagged out of the cookie tin.
Merry Christmas!
What You Need
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (or walnuts, if you prefer)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted and divided
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 (14oz can) sweetened condensed milk (regular or fat-free)
2 teaspoons vanilla
*check out my new Mexican vanilla below....yay!
1 (12oz) bag of chocolate chips
chopped pecans for garnish
What You Do
Preheat oven to 350.   Line a 13x9 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.   
In a large mixing bowl combine oats, flour, brown sugar, pecans and 6 tablespoons butter, and baking soda.   Press firmly on bottom of prepared pan.   Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the milk.   Cooki and stir until mixture thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.   Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.   Pour evenly over crust.
There are two fun new things in this photo.    When I was on my cruise in November, I picked up a bottle of vanilla while in Cozumel.    It is so good and this huge bottle was less than $10.     As a part of OXO's blogger outreach program, OXO sent me a free set of 4 mini beakers, which are perfect for measuring liquids.  Like vanilla.  Or alcohol.   You know, whatever you need at the time.   I've had fun using these new cooking toys this Christmas.  
(and now back to the recipe)
You've poured the milk/vanilla mixture over your crust, now you're going to bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown.     When you pop those bars out of the oven sprinkle the bag of chocolate chips over the top, let them stand for a minute or two until they melt.   Spread with a knife or offset spatula and then sprinkle with chopped pecans.    
Let bars cool completely then cut into small bars for sharing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012!

Today's the day!    All the food bloggers who participated in the Food Blogger Cookie Swap are posting their pictures, recipes and sharing the cookie love.   
My cookie choice:  Peppermint Mocha Cookies.    Dark chocolate, cocoa, peppermint, white chocolate drizzle....all good things.  
What You Need
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 eggs
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups flour   (add an extra 1/4 cup of flour if you're baking at altitude, like I am)
1  10oz bag of Nestle's Dark Chocolate Morsels
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
crushed candy canes for garnish

What You Do

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add peppermint extract.

In another bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, coffee, baking powder and salt. Add to wet ingredients and fold in chocolate chips.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto silicone mat lined cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Let cool.

Melt white chocolate chips in the microwave (use low heat and stop and stir every 20-30 can go too far and it will burn and start to smell before you know it) .  Use a spoon to drizzle chocolate over cookies.  While chocolate is still wet, sprinkle cookies with crushed candy cane. 

Recipe Source:   I found this great recipe over on Eat Live Run.   I made the adjustment in flour due to altitude and made smaller cookies, I ended up with about 45.

Where Did These Cookies Go?
Every blogger participating received the contact information for three other bloggers.  
All my cookies went east of Colorado:  North Carolina, South Carolina and New York. 

Wine and Plum  (picture on twitter)
Bonbons and Biscotti     
This Is For You  (and a special cookie shoutout

And I Got Cookies Too!

My first gift of cookies arrived courtesy of Mercer and Sage.  

My second gift of cookies arrived courtesy of CopyKat.

My third gift of cookies arrived courtesy of Sweet Jeanette.


Cookie Love and Merry Christmas from Traveler in the Kitchen!

FB Cookie Swap: 3rd Arrival!

The cookie madness continues!   Today I got my third and final arrival of cookies.    These praline cookies from Sweet Jeanette arrived today.    They had a long journey from warm Florida to snowy Colorado but were worth the wait.     Will there be any left by the time I'm done watching The Voice tonight?  I couldn't even spare a whole cookie for the picture, I had already started snacking.
These cookies didn't travel simply by luck.    All these cookies are being sent to and from food bloggers participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.   All participants made a donation to support Cookies for Kid's Cancer in partnership with OXO.
In other good news on a Monday, Passports with Purpose successfully raised $100k for wells in Haiti in partnership with   This holiday season if you have a few extra dollars, please consider donating to a charity that you believe in.      Giving to someone you may never meet is one of life's greatest gifts.
Peace.  Love.   Cookies. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jake's on the Lake (Tahoe, that is)

(humming to self:  "oh the weather outside is frightful....")
For some reason, I had Lake Tahoe on the brain this weekend.   Maybe it was the cold, snowy weather, reminding me that although I love mountains in the winter (hello skiing, hot tubs, and cocktails), they are also beautiful in the summer.    When I lived in Tahoe, I loved the summers so much more than the winter. When I went back this summer for a long weekend, I wanted to stop at some of my favorite summer places.    Including Jake's on the Lake.  
Nothing like sitting on their patio overlooking the wonder that is Lake Tahoe and enjoying a cocktail and lunch.
And now we return to our regular winter weather.
(resume humming "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....")

Sunday, December 9, 2012

White Chocolate & Strawberry Oatmeal Cookies

Cooking and Baking can be filled with failures as well as successes.    Since most people (including myself) don't like to broadcast our failures, we don't share that particular recipe and go on with life like it never happened.   

Sometimes I blame culinary mishaps on the elevation here in Denver.  
Sometimes it's user error - like me not reading the recipe correctly.  
And sometimes the recipe is just plain bad.   

Every time I try a new cookie recipe, I need to remind myself to bake just one cookie the first go round to see how it looks.    Not every recipe needs adjustments for altitude.   But if I bake a whole tray and they do need a little somethin-somethin (like an extra 1/4 cup of flour), I have 12 sad, flat cookies that aren't always suitable for sharing.     Sad, flat cookies still taste good.  For sharing, I'd really prefer that they look as good as they taste. 

This recipe is from the brilliant people at Cooking Light.     I did have to add an extra 1/4 cup of flour after my first tray fell into the "sad, flat" category.   Then they perked up into the tasty treats you see in the picture.  

There aren't a lot of options when it comes to dried strawberries.   I found a 3oz package near the craisins and raisins at King Soopers.  I chopped them smaller than "coarse."    I made a double batch of cookies, so I probably should have bought two packages.   The cookies were still great, so I don't feel too sorry.  

What You Need

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup regular oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried strawberries
1/3 cup premium white chocolate chips
What You Do

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in the bowl; beat at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended. Add strawberries and chips; beat at low speed just until blended.
Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets (use your silicone baking mats!).
Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; cool on pan 1 minute. Remove cookies from pan; cool completely on wire racks.

FB Cookie Swap: 2nd Arrival!

You can never get too many cookies in the mail!
My second "installment" of cookies came in the mail on Friday as a part of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.    These sweet goodies came from Stephanie over on    
Not only are baking cookies and sending them to complete (food-lovin' bloggin') strangers, all participants made a donation to support Cookies for Kid's Cancer in partnership with OXO.
Quick plug for another good cause....
Over on Traveler for Good, I'm participating in a travel blogger fundraiser called Passports with Purpose, raising money for to build wells in Haiti.  Tuesday, December 11, is the last day to make a donation with the chance to win a prize.  For every $10 you donate, you can pick another prize you want to win.   Good luck!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

FB Cookie Swap: 1st Arrival!

I'm participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap this year! 

In addition to baking cookies and sending them to complete (food-lovin' bloggin') strangers, all participants made a donation to support Cookies for Kid's Cancer in partnership with OXO.

I was really excited to get my first gift of cookies in the mail.   They are lemon slice cookies of awesome - and were packed smartly in this gift wrapped tin, courtesy of Susan at Mercer and Sage

I also got word from one of the bloggers that I sent my cookies to that they arrived safe, sound and delicous.    Caitie posted a picture of them on her blog This Is For You.  

There is nothing like getting treats in the mail.    Hooray for cookie swaps of all kinds!  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sausage Salsa Dip

Something about Thanksgiving got me on a sausage kick.    I made sausage rolls.    I made stuffing with sausage.     With the remaining sausage,   I made this dip. 
(pause:   looking at the spelling of sausage is driving me crazy.   It looks incorrect in every way, like there are too many letters.    I hate when that happens.    Overthinking.)
Going crazy here, making things that have 4 ingredients.   That's right.  4.
When Wisconsin came to Colorado in October, they brought cherry salsa from Weinke's Market in Door County.    They also brought two bottles of Frozen Tundra white wine from Parallel 44 Vineyard.   Oh Wisconsin, you have a soft spot in my heart.   And my stomach.  Hello, cheese curds?    
In this recipe, you're just drinking wine, not cooking with it.  
Here we go!
What You Need
1 cup crumbled, cooked breakfast sausage
1 package (8oz) of reduced fat cream cheese
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice, I used sharp cheddar
1/2 cup salsa - if you have Weinke's Cherry Salsa in your house you're a whole new level of cool
What You Do
Put all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl.    Microwave for 2-3 minutes.   Stir every minute and when the cheese is melted and the dip is creamy.
That's it.    
Make it and eat it. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Safe Drinking Water & Chances to Win!

I posted this over on Traveler for Good on Wednesday. It's a great cause and a lot of fun.  Why not share the love with food friends as well?


Passports with Purpose is here!

This year travel bloggers are helping to raise $100,000 to build wells in Haiti in partership with

Access to safe drinking water is one of the most basic keys to good health. Right now, 780 million people, three times the population of the US, lack access to clean water.

In a world that can seem so connected and modern, it's sometimes easy to forget that the ability to drink a glass of clean water is not a guarantee.

If you're sick due to a water-borne illness or have to travel long distances to obtain water it's hard to
  • Go to work and earn a living
  • Go to school and get an education
  • Take care of your family
  • Spend time with friends and neighbors
  • Play sports or enjoy a hobby
  • Cook / Serve foods safely
You Can Help!

Click here to make your donation. The widget on the right column of this page will show you the progress we're making towards the goal of $100,000!

You Can Win a Prize!

The 2012 fundraiser with prizes started on November 27 at 11:59pm EST and ends December 11 at 11:59pm EST. During this time, if you donate $10 or more, not only will you feel warm and fuzzy about supporting a good cause, you will also have a chance to win a prize. A great prize. Most likely, a travel related prize.

In fact, every person blogging about Passports with Purpose has secured a prize. There's bound to be one that you'd be happy to win.

Including this great prize...

I live in beautiful Denver, Colorado.
If you live here, you know it's a great place.
If you don't live here, wouldn't you like to visit in 2013?

Enjoy the best of downtown Denver with Hyatt Hotels!

The Hyatt Regency Denver and the Grand Hyatt Denver each generously donated a one night stay just for Passports with Purpose. Read on to see what you could enjoy if you are the lucky winner.

I've stayed at both these hotels and enjoyed their service, restaurants and amenities. These are the hotels I recommend to friends and family when they come to visit or when they want to stay downtown or celebrate a special occasion.

These hotels are two blocks away from each other in downtown Denver and the winner will have a chance to stay at both properties. Or, if you're feeling generous, you could give one gift certificate to a loved one for the holidays, and still have one for yourself. Your call.

Photo Credit: Hyatt

One night weekend night stay at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center including breakfast for two. This Hyatt is right across the street from the Colorado Convention Center and one block away from the 16th Street Mall, within easy access to anything you want to do in downtown. Peaks Lounge on the 27th Floor has an amazing view of both the city skyline and the mountains.


Photo Credit: Hyatt

One night weekend night stay at the Grand Hyatt Denver including Grand Club access. The Grand Hyatt just started a $28 million redesign that includes the guest rooms, lobby, and much of the meeting space. The renovation finishes in June 2013, so if you visit in the second half of the year, you'll enjoy a "Grand" new hotel! The Grand also introduced a new restaurant, Pub 17, in July of this year including a lot of locally sourced food and craft beers (this is Colorado, after all, and we're serious about our beer).

Whether you give the gift of water or win the gift of a Hyatt stay, thank you in advance for your enthusiastic participation and support of Passports with Purpose!

The fine print:
The winner of this prize will receive two gift certificates by mail (they will arrive together in one envelope/package). Each stay must be booked following the directions on the gift certificate. Each certificate is good for a one (1) night weekend stay (includes room rate + tax). Parking and other incidental charges are not included. Certificates are not valid for December 31, 2012.

Hyatt Regency Denver Certificate: Good for a weekend night accomodation and breakfast for two.
Expires December 1, 2013.
Grand Hyatt Denver Certificate: Good for a weekend night stay for two with Grand Club access.
Expires December 15, 2013.

*Passports with Purpose will determine and/or draw all the prize winners. As the writer of this blog, I am not involved in any of that, but my fingers are crossed that it's someone awesome, like you. Good Luck!*

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread

My kingdom for a packet of sugar in the raw....

This recipe calls for turbinado sugar.   Basically sugar in the raw.   Enough to sprinkle on the tops of the cookies.   Of course, when I was baking these, I wasn't ready to run to Whole Foods to see if they had it in their bulk bins.  I'm also not in the habit of liberating sugar packets from restaurants.  So there I was in the KS (King Soopers for those not in CO) and I gave in and bought a box of sugar. A freakin' $4 box of sugar. 

I'm going to be dusting cookies and sweetening my coffee with this sugar for a long time!  

Enough about the sugar, let's focus on the cookies:  Crisp, buttery and full of brown sugar goodness.    Yum!

What You Need

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons finely chopped pecans, toasted  (basically a 1/4 cup before you chop them)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (real butter is the only way to go with shortbread)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
What You Do

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring well with a whisk. Place butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 1 minute).

Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed. (Mixture will appear crumbly.) Sprinkle ice water over flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Shape the dough into 2 (6-inch-long) logs; wrap each log in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour or until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Put a silicone baking mat on your cookie sheet. Unwrap dough; cut each log into 16 slices (my slices must have been skinny, because I ended up with more than 32 cookies total...ok by me) using a serrated knife. Place dough circles 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle tops evenly with turbinado sugar, gently pressing into dough. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheets; cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Source:  Cooking Light, June 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Caramel Pecan French Toast

This french toast is amazing!

I had pulled this recipe from a library book earlier this year (I think it was from Paula Deen, but I'm not sure...let's give her the credit anyway) and was waiting for an occasion that could justify a recipe that involves copious amounts of brown sugar, butter and eggs.   

This is not your standard Saturday morning french toast. 

This is special occasion, plan ahead, who cares about calories, french toast.   
In fact, it was my Thanksgiving toast.  

After enjoying all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings at last weekend's Friendsgiving, I was not inspired to cook a big meal on Thursday.   My turkey, a holiday gift from my employer, is hanging out in the freezer.    I'll cook him later.   Possibly in early 2013.

What You Need

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (lay them flat on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 for 3-5 minutes - watch them so they don't burn)
1 loaf french bread, sliced into 16 slices (it's ok if they aren't all the same size)
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk (I used that like ordering a diet soda with meat lovers pizza?)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

What You Do

Ideally, make this the night before so that you don't have the morning impatience of waiting for it to "rest."      This toast of awesome will be served in a 13x9 baking pan.

In a medium saucepan combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup.   Cook and stir until butter is melted and the sugar dissolves.     Pour this caramel sauce into your ungreased 13x9 pan.   Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the toasted pecans.

Arrange half the bread, eight slices, in a single layer on top of the caramel sauce.    Sprinkle with the remaining pecans then top with the other eight slices.  

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla.   Gradually pour egg mixture over the bread.   Use a spoon to press the bread down to moisten it.    Mix the granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a small bowl.   Sprinkle over bread.

Cover and chill for 2-24 hours.  This is that "resting" phase I mentioned.    No one wants to wait 2 hours in the morning for the magic to happen.

Preheat oven to 350.   Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned.   Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.     Now here's the tricky part - the recipe says to invert the toast onto a platter for serving.   Inverting is never as easy as it sounds and increases the possibility of me making a mess.    However, it's how you get the caramel on top looking amazing.     If inverting scares you, just use a big spatula to pick up both the top and bottom slice of toast and flip it on to your plate, getting plenty of the caramel pecan sauce.  

This is so rich and delicious, that you don't need any syrup.    Just a cup of coffee or a big glass of milk.   

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends!


Friday, November 23, 2012

Sausage Rolls

Bacon gets all the love.       Recently a restaurant had a radio ad campaign about how their queso was better than bacon.   Bold statement.  Other things can be delicious, it's true.   But they can't replace bacon.    We had an impassioned discussion about this over Friendsgiving last weekend.

I digress.   This isn't about bacon.   These are sausage rolls.  

I forget that sausage is also delicious.   I don't normally order sausage over bacon when it comes to breakfast, but sausage can make for some tasty treats.    This is just one example.  

What You Need

2 tubes of crescent rolls
1 pound ground breakfast sausage, cooked, drained and crumbled
8 oz of cream cheese (I use the light cream cheese - tastes great), at room temperature
4 teaspoons dried sage (I'm sure fresh sage would be amazing, but I didn't have it on hand)

What You Do

Preheat oven to 375 (if your package of crescent rolls says something different - follow those instructions). 

Cook the sausage in a skillet, use your spatula to break up all the pieces.    Drain all the fat, then put your sausage in a bowl or on a plate. 

Mix the cream cheese and sage together in a small bowl to create your herb spread.

Open your tubes of rolls (I hate the popping sound - it always catches me off guard).   Break them apart into triangles.    Before you roll them up like the picture on the package, spread the triangle with your herb cream cheese and then press sausage crumbles into the cheese.   Now roll them up.  

Put a silicone mat on your baking sheet for easy clean up, 15 minutes or until golden brown.     These are great hot out of the oven or at room temperature, and they travel well.  

I did not use all the sausage when I made these rolls - I had enough left to make a great dip (recipe coming soon).

Now...back to bacon.   I can imagine a similar roll, maybe with some different herbs or sharp cheddar, made with bacon.   Yum!

Recipe Source:  Paula Deen (not sure which book - I got it from the library and only wrote down the recipe)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Playing with Your Food: Thanksgiving

Yesterday my sister and I went to a Friendsgiving dinner.     The co-hosts took care of the turkey, mashed potatoes and pie.   Everything else was up for grabs.

My sister had found pictures of these cookie turkeys on facebook and we traced our way back to the original sites that published the recipes - and step by step instructions on how to assemble these awesome treats.

Nutter Butter Turkeys:  7th House on the Left
Oreo Turkeys:  Our Best Bites

The authors of both these recipes were very specific about using cookie icing and it really helped to hold these top heavy birds together.    You can decorate faces and feet however you want.

Cookie Turkeys are Expensive:  When you're using brand name convenience foods like double stuff Oreos, Nutter Butters, Reese's cups, Nabisco Chocolate Wafers, and more, your grocery bill adds up fast.    You walk away from the grocery store thinking, "wow...all this food and I still have nothing to eat for dinner."  

Mind Readers:   Another friend who was going to the same party also made the Oreo turkeys.    Of all the things in the universe you could take to a Thanksgiving potluck, what are the odds that two friends who didn't plan this in advance would make the same treat?

Friendsgiving:  It's all the good things about Thanksgiving...without the family drama or the football.   Everyone brings their favorite dish, you drink some wine, and enjoy the best possible company.   I'm hoping this becomes an annual tradition. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Peanut Butter Toffee Bars

In honor of Halloween these bars are served with a side of spiders....that is not necessary the rest of the year.   Unless you like spiders. 

What You Need

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 cup peanut butter (I like the Kroger Honey Nut crunchy)
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 bag of Heath Bits O Brickle toffee bits
1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

What You Do

Line your 13x9 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.    Preheat your oven to 350 (375 here at altitude).

In a large bowl mix cake mix, peanut butter, water and eggs with a spoon or a electric hand mixer.   Stir in the toffee bits.   Spread in pan.   The batter is thick, you may need to flour your hands to press it in the pan.

Bake 22-27 minutes until golden brown.     Sprinkle chocolate chips over warm bars (you may not need the whole bag - your call) and allow them to sit for 5 minutes until melted.    Spread with an off-set spatula and allow to cool before cutting.  

For any occasion where you need to make spiderwebs out of icing, simply make 3 concentric circles (like a bulls eye) and then use a toothpick from the center to the outside.   As you drag the toothpick through the frosting it will pull outwards, making the web of your dreams.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Buddy Chow

Growing up in the midwest, chocolate coated Chex coated in powdered sugar was called puppy chow.    I have no idea why.      A friend who grew up in Florida calls them muddy buddies.    Whatever you call them,  you should make them more often.   It's an easy sweet snack to make that (in moderation) won't push you over the nutritional edge.
Oh candy corn....why is your season so short?
I associate candy corn with Thanksgiving.     At some family Thanksgiving of yore, there was a cornucopia on the dining room table that had fruit and candy corn spilling out of it.   That means that you don't have to limit yourself to eating these by next Wednesday.    Your snacking window has extended until the end of November. 
And I think that candy corn and salted peanuts are a match made in heaven.   The crunch and salt of the peanut.   The sweet softness of candy corn.   Instant party in a bowl.     This buddy chow has both candy corn and salted dry roasted peanuts along with the traditional chocolate / peanut butter blend on the Chex. 
This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, depending on how many friends you are sharing with. 
What You Need

4 1/2 cups Chex (or square cereal of your choice)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky, your choice)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup candy corn
1 cup salted peanuts

What You Do
In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the peanut butter, chocolate and butter/margarine.   Try 30 seconds on high to start, then stir until smooth.    I added the cereal to the bowl of chocolate so that I had only one bowl to clean, but you could pour the chocolate mix over the cereal too.     Stir until all the cereal is coated by the chocolate.   If you want, add half the peanuts and candy corn at this time so they get a little chocolate coating.

Pour the chocolate coated mix into a gallon ziploc bag.     Add the powdered sugar and shake until coated.   Then add the remaining candy corn and peanuts and shake again.     Pour your buddy chow out onto wax paper until it cools then store it in an airtight container.  

Happy Snacking!

What about you?   How do you feel about candy corn?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apple Coffee Cake

I'm a shameless baking self-promoter.   I post pictures of my successes up on Facebook.   Friends ask "where are you bringing that?"  A few weeks ago when I made the Toasted Coconut Pound Cake and the Chocolate Walnut Sticky Buns, I flat out said that I was bringing them to church the following day.   Needless to say it didn't hurt attendance in the Sunday School class that I was faciliating. 
I made this the following week to take to church.    It is really good, but really rich.  A lot of brown sugar went into this baby.  
This recipe comes from the Food Network and you can click here to see the original recipe in all its sugary glory.    Serve it straight out of the oven, or pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds before you dig in.     You can definitely enjoy this in smaller servings...sharing the love and calories around with your friends and family. 
You can make this a day in advance.   I prepared the cake batter and spread it in the pan and then put it in the fridge.  The next morning, I put the topping on and put it in the oven.  
What You Need
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples (three small Granny Smith apples did the job)

Crumble Topping:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Brown Sugar Glaze:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water

What You Do

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your 13 by 9-inch baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray (always thinking of the easy cleanup....always). 

In a large bowl, cream together the remaining stick of butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after the addition of each. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla. Fold in the apples. Pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading out to the edges.

To make the topping, in a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

To make the glaze, in a bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water and mix until smooth. Drizzle the cake with the glaze and let harden slightly. Serve warm.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some things should not be left for later or whenever.   Canned pumpkin, for example.  
After making the amazing pumpkin pie cupcakes I had a cup of canned pumpkin puree left over.   I opened all my cookbooks until I found something easy where I had all the ingredients on hand and ready to go.   Hooray for America's Favorites: Bake Sale.   Below is the recipe for Pumpkin Spiced Cookies, but cut in half to use the pumpkin that I had left.    I didn't feel the need to make the vanilla glaze indicated in the original recipe.  Why?   I had some of the (rich, delicious, smooth) maple cream cheese frosting left from the cupcakes, so I made a couple little cookie sandwiches just because I could. 
This half recipe made about 30 small cookies, maybe about the size of half dollar. 
Another chocolate chip cookie testimony:  I have no luck making standard chocolate chip cookies without them looking sad, flat and pathetic.  It was true when I lived in the midwest, and true here in Colorado (even when I try high altitude recipes).   BUT:  The minute that the cookies have something else in them - pumpkin, oatmeal, whatever, they turn out just fine.
What You Need
1 1/8 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick of butter/margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
What You Do
Preheat the oven to 375.   Line your baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.  
Combine the flour, spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.   Beat butter and sugar in a larger mixer bowl until creamy.   Beat in pumpkin, eggs, and villa.   Gradually beat in flour mixture.   Stir in chocolate chips.   Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the baking sheet.
Bake for 15-18 minutes (check at 15) until the edges are lightly browned.   Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Tis the season.

No, not that season (although I saw it lurking in the back corner of Target the other day.  A light up flamingo with a santa hat, really? ).   

The season of pumpkin and apple spiced everything!    Pumpkin lattes, apple crisp.   You name it and it's out there.   You might as well give in and enjoy.   

And if you're thinking that you need to take a fall treat somewhere in the next few weeks, these pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting are the way to go.

What You Need

For the cupcakes:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pie mix - and most cans have 2 cups, so you can either make more cupcakes, or perhaps some pumpkin cookies....)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the frosting:
8oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 cups powdered sugar

For the pecan topping:
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

What You Do

Preheat your oven to 350.   Place paper baking cups in 24 muffin cups (I actually made 26....24 for going out and 2 for eating in).

In a large mixing bowl beat cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs and spices with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.     Spoon batter into muffin cups, about 2/3 full.

Bake for 15-19 minutes (check at 15, that's what worked here at altitude).     Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then set on the counter or wire rack to finish cooling. 

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.   Add maple syrup.    Slowly add in the powdered sugar.  If you put it all in at once and at a high speed, you will end up wearing it.   Smooth frosting onto the cupcakes with an off set spatula and top with the pecan topping.

To make the pecan topping cook pecans and sugar over low heat in a skillet for 8 minutes, stirring constantly.    Allow nuts and sugar to cool before frosting and garnishing your cupcakes.

What's your favorite fall flavor?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Waffle Cakes - Denver

There is something about a portable waffle-to-go with awesome toppings that is irresistable.   
This isn't your standard, stodgy, Sunday brunch waffle.   

Love at first bite eating from the Waffle Cakes food truck at the Cherry Creek farmer's market.  
Goat Cheese.  Bacon.   Honey.

Yes please. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Toasted Coconut Pound Cake

I love shopping at Goodwill.   Your purchase benefits a great organization and provides jobs.   And you have the chance to score big.   My recent purchase was a 49 cent silicone loaf pan.   At any retail store or online, you'll pay at least $10.   Do I care that my pre-loved loaf pan is a burnt orange color?   Not at all.   I just keep baking away. 

There is a first for me in this recipe.   Friends, it is the first time that I have purchased buttermilk.   Usually I opt for one of the buttermilk tradeouts, such as yogurt, sour cream, or milk with a little lemon juice.   But in pound cake, where there aren't a lot of ingredients and you can taste each one, I thought I'd go with what the recipe indicated.    This cake is awesome and got rave reviews from the Breakfast Club at church on Sunday morning.   

What You Need

For the cake:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups toasted coconut

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons buttermilk (plus a little more to make it a better pouring consistency)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup toasted coconut

What You Do

Preheat your oven to 350.    Spray your silicone loaf pan with a little bit of cooking spray.

Toast your coconut, by laying out the 1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut on a baking sheet and putting the pan in the oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring often.   When it starts to brown, take it out.  It can go from beautiful to burnt really quick if you aren't paying attention.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.   Add the vanilla then the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl.    With the mixer on low add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of buttermilk.  Beat until combined.   Fold in the 1 1/4 cups toasted coconut. 

Pour into loaf pan and bake for 60-65 minutes until a toothpick put in the center comes out with just a few crumbs.   I put my silicone pans on a flat baking sheet when cooking.     Let cool in the pan on a wire rack.   When the cake is cool, invert onto your serving plate, or onto the wire rack.

Mix buttermilk and powdered sugar to form the glaze.   Drizzle over the cake and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of toasted coconut. 

Share your cake with friends and family!

Recipe Source:  Everday Food Magazine, October 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chocolate Walnut Sticky Buns

I recently learned about the book Food Rules  by Michael Pollan.   Flipping through the book this week, rule 39 caught my eye.
Rule # 39:  Eat all of the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.   
The idea behind this rule is that the food industry has made it very easy to eat high fat, high sugar foods every day.   The author gives the example of the french fry.   If you had to buy, wash, slice and then fry the potatoes yourself, you probably wouldn't be eating french fries that often.   They would be a treat only enjoyed occasionally when you had the time and energy to prepare them.
I'm not drawn to package or store bought baked goods.    Not a take and bake apple pie, not a slab of German chocolate cake, or a package of cookies.    On the contrary, I love to visit small bakeries and, of course, to make things myself.    I really enjoy potlucks because you get to try everyones favorite, and often homemade, entrees, sides and desserts. 
I don't eat sticky buns or cinnamon rolls very often.   On a buffet, at a restaurant or in the bakery section of the grocery store, I will walk right past (I'd rather have bacon, thank you).    Thinking Food Rules style, the food industry makes breakfast rolls easily accessible.   I could buy them in a tube in the store for about $2 and 15 minutes later be diving into warm rolls.    Rolls in a tube are ok.   Better than a sharp stick in the eye, but nothing like homemade.    However, these homemade rolls took quite a bit of prep time and more expensive ingredients.  These were perfectly suited to a cold and rainy Colorado day - but I don't usually have this kind of time.      So I don't eat that many sticky buns.  
Rule #39 is one I can live with.    Make these for a special occasion.   Enjoy every bite.   And eat some fruit for your other breakfasts this week.  
What You Need
For the dough:
1/3 cup heavy/whipping cream
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 packet (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
For the caramel (aka sticky) sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup heavy/whipping cream
For the roll filling:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips
What You Do
Confession:  I'm not sure the last time that I made something that required yeast.   Maybe in college in my food science and hospitality classes?   I tend to lean towards cookies, bars and quick breads when I'm baking.   I bought a three-pack of yeast, so I guess have I have two more chances to experiment. 
Making the Dough
Let's grow some yeast, shall we?
Heat 1/3 cup each of cream and water along with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in a small sauce pan until it reaches 110-115 degrees (pull out your candy thermometer for this one - it doesn't take too long...if it's too hot, you'll kill the yeast, so if necessary, let it cool).   Remove from heat.   Add packet of yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes until it is foamy.  
Transfer yeasty liquid to a large bowl and add 1 cup of the flour.  Using a mixer, beat on medium until smooth.   Melt 2 tablespoons butter;  add to bowl, along with 1 teaspoon salt and egg.   Beat until combined.   Beat in remaining 1 1/4 cup flour until combined.   Transfer to a buttered bowl and cover with plastic.   Let the dough sit in a warm place for until it doubles - about 1 hour. 
Making the Caramel Sauce (the sticky in sticky buns)
Preheat your oven to 350.   
Line a 9-inch round cake pan with foil for easy cleanup, then butter the foil.   In a small sauce pan, bring 3 tablespoons butter, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a simmer over medium heat.   Cook until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat. Whisk in the remaining 1/3 cup cream.   Pour into pan. 
Making the Bun Filling
Combine 2/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/2 cup chocolate chips in a small bowl (cereal bowl is fine). 
Putting It All Together
On a floured surface (a large cutting board works great), roll out the dough into a 12 inch by 18 inch rectangle.   Use the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter (warm in microwave if needed for easy spreading) and spread it over the dough, leaving an 1-inch edge around the outside.    Sprinkle the buttered area with your sugar, nut and chocolate filling. 
Start (gently and slowly) rolling from the long edge to create one long log of deliciousness.   The original recipe indicated that this recipe would make 9 rolls, but I managed to get 13 (the better to spread those calories out with more friends).
Slicing Tip:  Use a long piece of thread to slice your rolls.   Just slide the thread under the log of dough and where both ends cross at the top, pull opposite directions and your pieces will slice nice and easy - much better than a knife. 
Into the Oven We Go
Place your rolls into the round pan with the "sticky" sauce.   Line the rolls along the edge and put the remainder in the middle.  It's ok for them to touch.   Bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown.    Let cool and then flip over onto a plate.   Because you lined the pan with foil, this is really easy and doesn't leave you with pan coated with sticky sauce.   Right out of the oven - these are amazing!
Bottom right: Before Baking
Top right:  After Baking
Left:  Flipped onto the plate for immediate consumption
Recipe Source:  Everyday Food Magazine, October 2012 

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