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Archive for August, 2011

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Cardinals (the bird, not the baseball team!), Anne Murray, and Butter Pecan Ice Cream. Three things that always remind me of my grandmother.

I find it fascinating how certain things, be it a song, a scent, a food (anything really), can trigger a memory or a thought of a loved one. Memories remind us that even though our loved ones may have passed, they will always be with us.

While Butter Pecan ice cream isn’t one of my favorites, I do enjoy the buttery taste and the crunch from the toasted pecans. I also appreciate the wonderful thoughts I have of my grandmother, while I eat a small bowl- for her.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
Recipe by Brown Eyed Baker

What foods trigger memories of loved ones for you?

Made with love, not calories!

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Week One…10,000 steps

Friday was the 1st reading of our Step It Up competition. At 9am, the teams met with their captains and our pedometers were read, and  reset to zero. Later on in the afternoon, we had a quick stand-up meeting to praise everyone for their great efforts (and to offer encouragement for the next week of competition). We also found out how the teams did as a whole, and who had the most steps for this time period.

I won the 1st week!! 144,411 steps.

I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures to post. I never thought to take pictures before my pedometer was reset. I know, bad blogger :(
I’ll do better this week- I promise.

Anyone else count their steps this week? If so, how did you do?

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South Bend, Indiana

This morning, my guy and I made a 5 hour drive to South Bend, Indiana…and a 5 hour drive back home. All I got from this trip were these pictures from the Military Honor Park!!

Thank you to all our men and women that have served, and are currently serving, our country. For those that gave their lives, you will never be forgotten.

*The real reason for our visit to South Bend, will be revealed in a later post.

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Luscious Lemon Bars

If you or any of your loved ones like lemon, I suggest you make this recipe as soon as possible!

How’s that for an intro? :)

These lemon bars are everything you want from a lemon bar. The perfect shortbread crust- simple, unassuming, yet a wonderful buttery bite. Perfect to hold onto a luscious lemon filling. Easy to prepare and even easier to eat! 3 ingredient crust, 5 ingredient filling. You can handle that. I know you have taken on much more difficult recipes, now haven’t you? Well, there is no need to stress about this recipe. Buy yourself a few lemons, and I can guarantee you have everything else in the fridge or pantry that you will need.

Make these and watch your family shower you with love (ok, they had better be doing this already- lemon bars or no lemon bars).
Still, make these bars and everyone will be very happy!

Luscious Lemon Bars
Adapted from Paula Deen
Makes one 13×9 pan
Prep time: 10 minutes…Bake time: 40-45 minutes

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups + 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
Zest of two lemons
8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (usually 3-4 lemons)
Powdered sugar (for dusting on top of lemon bars, optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease 13×9 pan…set aside.

In medium mixing bowl, combine butter,  2 cups flour, and powdered sugar. Mix till well combined. I use a fork for this- the dough should come together (not a lot of crumbs). Spread (dump?) into baking pan and press to form a layer  (a little cooking spray or powdered sugar on your hands will help you pat the dough). Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and the crust is set. The dough will not be totally baked…don’t worry, there is another baking step!

While the crust is baking: in the same mixing bowl (don’t need to clean it- yay!), combine the eggs, sugar, remaining 6 tablespoons flour, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix with whisk till everything is well incorporated.

Once you have pulled the crust out of the oven, pour the filling over the top. Return to oven and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or until set (the center might wiggle a little- this is ok). Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate to firm up- at least 1 hour, but I like to refrigerate mine overnight.

Once chilled, cut into bars (a hot, clean knife will give you neat cuts). Dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

The crust is set, but not completely baked.

Made with love, not calories!

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Chewy Homemade Caramel

I love caramel. I don’t love how most commercial caramel sticks to my teeth. So what’s a girl to do? MAKE HER OWN! Yeah! Ok, can you tell I’m excited here?

Making your own homemade caramel is easy- you just dump all the ingredients in a large saucepan, and away we go! HOWEVER- it is time consuming…like don’t walk away for a good 45 minutes…time consuming. It is worth it though, I promise. And once you make this recipe, you can use it for so many yummy treats (caramel dipped apples, homemade snickers, turtles- the list goes on).

Are you ready for a story? No? Read it anyways (please)- it’s cute!

Picture this: mid December and my decorated Christmas tree was in the living room. Lights shimmering and reflecting off the ornaments, while snow was falling gently outside the bay window (ok, ok, I’ll get on with the story). I am standing at my stove, making a batch of caramel while my kittens were sleeping peacefully…or so I thought. The caramel had just come up to a boil- this is a point that you CAN NOT walk away- when all of a sudden I hear ornaments hitting the ground. It was like they knew I couldn’t walk away! All I could do was yell at them while still stirring the caramel. Looking back, I could have turned the heat off or moved the pot, but I wasn’t thinking. Oh well, it did make me laugh afterwards, and I think of it every time I make caramel.

Chewy Homemade Caramel
Makes 8×8 inch pan
Time: 35-45 minutes, from start to finish

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 cups whipping cream (heavy whipping cream can be used also)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract, optional

In large heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients, except vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously (you can use a wooden spoon or a silicon spatula). Once it reaches a boil, do not walk away- you need to keep stirring.

Caramel- boiling

Full boil. Do not walk away!

Caramel burns very quickly. Once the mixture looks like it’s subsiding and starting to thicken up, attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Be careful not to let it rest on the bottom of the pan, as it will throw off your temperature readings.

Caramel- almost done

It's almost there. See how it's gotten thicker?

You are looking for a temperature of 240-245 degrees (depending on how chewy or hard you prefer). Once it reaches 240 degrees, take it off the heat and add your vanilla extract, if using. I like to continue stirring the mixture, as it helps cool it down a little (this mixture is hot and will cause serious burns).

Finished caramel

We're done! Doesn't this look gorgeous?

Pour caramel into a foil lined, buttered, 8×8 inch baking dish. Let cool to room temperature (this will take a few hours). Cut into serving size pieces. Enjoy!

Oh, just a quick note to go with the story above… I was smart this time (No, I don’t have Christmas ornaments out), I fed the cats their dinner right before I started making the caramel! :)

Dinner time!

Made with love, not calories!

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Competition Begins…10,000 steps

At 9:00 this morning, those of us participating in our company’s walking program will have our pedometers reset to zero. This marks the beginning of our 6-week competition (Go White Team!).

Let's get a move on!

I will post weekly updates for anyone participating with me!

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Painting Cookies

I came across a video on University of Cookie, that shows how to paint on cookies with food coloring. I thought, HOW COOL! My second thought was that Mom T. would love this :)

Mom T. is an artist. A very talented artist. Go see her blog. LIKE NOW people! 

Artist at work

Anyways, I knew she would find this idea really fun for a class she teaches. I talked to her about it and she was just as excited as I was. So to try this out, I made some sugar cookies, frosted them with royal icing, packed up all my supplies (and my guy), and headed off for a visit.

Some frosted cookies, a little gel food coloring and water, paintbrushes, our imaginations, and a few minutes later…we have decorated (painted) cookies!

Note: The photos you are about to see are real! You will clearly see the different levels of artistic talent!

Artist: Dad T.

Artist: Mom T. Photo credit: Nick T.

Artist: My guy

Artist: Me

What a fun way to spend the afternoon (after a few grumbles from my guy, I think he ended up having fun also!). I definitely see more cookie painting in my future!

Made with love, not calories.

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Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

When you think about standard cookie recipes that most people bake, what comes to mind? My opinion, they are: Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, and Oatmeal Raisin. Oatmeal Raisin cookies are yummy! The little extra chew from the oats, the hint of cinnamon, and those yummy, plump raisins! My co-workers love these cookies. I make them every week for work, and they seem to go faster and faster. Why? A few people have told me that they are a “healthy” cookie! Oh really? I guess the oats and raisins override the butter and sugars! In any case, who am I to tell them otherwise? I’ll just make more :)

Oh, as a side note, my mom doesn’t like Oatmeal Raisin cookies because of the raisins (the baked raisin texture is weird for her). So, because she’s spoiled I love her, I substitute chocolate chips for the raisins. 

Oatmeal raisin cookies

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups quick oats
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add in egg and vanilla, mix till combined. Stir in salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Add flour and mix till just combined. Stir in oats and finish with adding in the raisins. Mix till distributed.

Using large ice cream scoop, place dough on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Remove cookies to cooling rack.

Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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10,000 steps

My work place is participating in a walking program, where the goal for each person is 10,000 steps per day. Those of us that are participating (me!), were given a pedometer to help us track our steps. There are 3 teams and man, the competition is brutal. There have been threats and smack talk… and we don’t start until Monday (competition goes until 9/28)!

001 Pedometer

I’m looking forward to this, as I seem to have lost my running groove. I have a half-marathon approaching in late September, and my butt has been planted on the couch (my laptop is my friend!) or standing in front of my oven baking tasty treats.

I need to get my fitness mojo back. I try to eat healthy, but I’m not perfect. I mean, come on, I bake like 5 nights a week! I’m bound to nibble on delicious, chocolatey, gooey sweets once a day every once in a while!

So starting today, I am officially starting my workouts again. This mornings outdoor run kicks things off in the right direction.

4:30am running extras!

4:30am running extras!

Anyone want to join me in counting their steps?

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Wow, that’s a long name for a cookie!

It’s raining out today, so what better excuse than to be in the kitchen baking! Oh, who am I kidding? It could be 100 degrees out and I would still be in the kitchen baking! It’s a disease I tell ya!

Anyways, I came across this recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies, from the Blue-Eyed Bakers. Chocolate, peanut butter, salty pretzels…oh yes, please! My mind started racing- mentally going through the ingredients in my cupboards. This is what I came up with- Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies!

P.B. Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies
Inspired by Blue-Eyed Bakers
Makes  2 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels (measured after crushing)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl, combine crushed pretzels with the 3 tablespoons melted butter. Mix well. Spread onto a cookie sheet (you can use the parchment paper lined cookie sheet that you will need later). Toast pretzels for 5 minutes. Stir every minute- don’t let them burn. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugars, and peanut butter. Add in eggs and mix until combined. Stir in salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add in flour and stir until incorporated. Add in chocolate chips and the toasted crushed pretzels- mix till all that chocolatey, salty goodness is combined.

Scoop dough (either a large ice cream scoop, or 1/4 cup) onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until set and golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Remove cookies to cooling rack.

P.B. Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies

Oh, these are yummy! As long as I have these cookies around to munch on, it can rain all day!

Made with love, not calories!

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