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Archive for January, 2012

I have been thinking about a dessert for Valentine’s Day. Something easy and not too time-consuming. Delicious, and of course it must have chocolate. It just wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without chocolate! :)

I really like shortbread for its buttery richness and slightly flaky texture. However, I didn’t want plain shortbread. Nope. If it’s for Valentine’s Day, there has to be red in it. Maraschino cherries! A nice burst of color and flavor. And mini chocolate chips are the chocolate element! What? I mentioned before that I must have chocolate! (Valentine’s Day is just an excuse. Just like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…!!!) ;)

These would be a cute treat to make and tuck into a loved ones lunch-bag, briefcase, backpack, or purse. Just a small reminder of how much you love them (your loved ones- not the shortbread. Though I know you will love the shortbread too!)! Of course you had better eat a few yourself. Why? You love yourself, right? RIGHT! :)

Cherry Chocolate Shortbread
Makes: a 15×10 inch pan
Prep time: 15 minutes     Bake time: 15-20 minutes

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries
2 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Stir in the maraschino cherries and juice. Add in the salt and cornstarch, mixing well. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add in the mini chocolate chips.

Spoon dough onto a non-greased 15×10 inch pan (a 13×9 inch pan works well here also). Distribute and smooth the dough evenly. Note: if the dough is a little sticky, you can sprinkle on some extra powdered sugar in order to smooth the dough. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges or lightly browned and the center is set. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, cut the shortbread into desired pieces, then let cool completely. After it is completely cooled, remove shortbread from the pan. Enjoy!

The next picture is of the shortbread dough. I took it with the flash on, just so you could see that the dough is pink (and not just a bad reflection off the orange mixing bowl!).

Note: You will have enough dough for the whole 15×10 inch pan. Mine was a little short because I decided to use some of the dough in my heart-shaped cookie mold also.

Made with love, not calories!

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This morning I participated in a virtual race, hosted by The Boring Runner! Adam hosts 2 of these every year, summer and winter. As you can tell by the picture, it is a 5k (3.1 miles). This can be done as a stand-alone run, or it can be included in a longer run…basically anything goes!

As it is snowing here, and I am a cold-weather wuss (the picture doesn’t show the snow falling, but trust me- it is), so it’s the trusty treadmill to the rescue! My 5k was completed in 28:35. Not too bad, as I ran another 3 miles to get my long run in for the week!

It's snowing now, but Mother Nature has made a pond in my side yard from all the rain!

Sunday: Rest
Monday: 3 mile run + 30 push-ups (x2) and 100 crunches
Tuesday: 30 minute interval hill workout
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 30 minute speed (HIIT) workout
Friday: 3 mile run + 30 push-ups (x2) and 100 crunches
Saturday: 6.1 mile run

These are the last few days of the 100 push-up challenge. If you have been participating, how did you do? I’m pretty happy with making it to 30. I know that is nowhere near 100, so I am going to keep adding these in to my workouts. I’m also going to re-visit this challenge later in the year, so maybe I will have a better chance at making it then!

One last thing: a quick “Thank You” shout-out to Skinny Runner and Fit Approach! Skinny Runner had a contest for a Sweat Pink tank top (from Fit Approach), and I was one of the random-drawn winners! I received my tank, along with some cool bright pink shoes-laces! It’s too cold for me to model (my skin goes into hibernation in the winter!), but here is a picture!

Question(s) of the day: If you read blogs (more than just mine!), have you ever won a contest…and if so, what did you win?  AND…for those of you with your own blog, have you ever held a contest, and of so, what was the prize?

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In order to continue to challenge my baking skills, I joined “The Daring Kitchen”. They offer monthly challenges for baking and cooking. I signed up to be a part of the baking challenges and this months challenge was to master biscuits! (In case this month’s challenge sounds easy, my first batch failed :( Also, last month’s challenge was to make sourdough bread with a natural starter…they had to nurture the starter for 7 days before making bread!)
Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

Biscuits are such a yummy addition to meals- for me- especially breakfast! Smothered with butter, then drizzled with honey or slathered with jam. It’s like dessert without being considered a dessert! Ok, did that make any sense? To my thinking, I can have a biscuit (I go the butter and jam route), and still have a small piece of chocolate for dessert. So 2 sweets in one meal- Score! Yes, I have issues!

(yes, I took a bite- yum!)

Basic Biscuits
Makes: 6, 2 inch biscuits
Prep time: 10 minutes     Bake time: 10 minutes

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, cold and diced
1/2 cup milk + additional for brushing tops

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, triple sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add in the cold butter, and using a fork or a pastry blender, work in the butter until the flour and butter mixture resembles coarse sand. Add in the 1/2 cup of milk and mix until the dough just comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface, and gently gather the dough into a ball. With your hands (no need for a rolling-pin today!), gently flatten out the dough (no specific size or shape, but don’t go thinner than 1/2 inch thick). Fold one side of the dough into the middle, then fold the other side of the dough all the way over the first fold (like an envelope). Gently flatten the dough again, then fold the dough like before. Note: after the 1st folding, I had more of a rectangle shape, so for the second folding, I took the top and folded it towards the middle, then took the bottom and folded it over the top. Folding the dough like this gives you layers to your biscuits!
Gently flatten the dough one last time. With a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into the desired quantity. Note: I cut mine width-wise in 3, then each one in half (to give me 6 biscuits). Transfer to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and brush the tops with the additional milk. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool (at least for a few minutes) before eating!

Before adding the milk

Biscuit dough

Look at all those layers!

Question of the day: What do you put on biscuits? Butter, honey, jam, sausage gravy?

Made with love, not calories!

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Cinnamon Red-Hots! My grandmother loved these! I remember her putting these out on her coffee table, in a beautiful white Fenton bowl. And while they were too hot for me as a child (so I had wimpy taste buds!), I like eating them now (plus they turn my tongue red)!

I picked up a box of Red-Hots the other day, knowing I would make something with them. I came up with a few ideas, but as I only picked up one box, I chose one idea (and wrote the rest down so I can play create another time!).

Cookies! If you have been following for a while, me making cookies should be no surprise!

I also have this weird desire to use other ingredients in place of sugar (like here and here). This recipe is no different. While I didn’t remove all the sugar, I did use less. Instead, I used my food processor to grind the red-hots to a fine consistency (wow, was that noisy!), and I used that in place of some of the sugar. This allows the Red-Hot goodness to be throughout the cookie, without being over-powering (and without large pieces of Red-Hots to bite into).

Oh, and these would make a great treat for Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Red-Hot Cookies
Makes: 3 dozen cookies
Prep time: 15 minutes      Bake time: 9 minutes

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup Red-Hots, divided (I used a 6oz. box)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, place 1/2 cup of the Red-Hots. Note: I suggest ear-plugs…this is going to get LOUD! Turn on your food processor and let run until the Red-Hots are smaller than mini chocolate chips (you will have some Red-Hot dust, but you don’t want it all to be dust).

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup Red-Hots (from your food processor). Add in the eggs and combine well. Stir in the salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Add in the flour and mix until just combined.

Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, leaving at least an inch between cookies. Top each cookie with one Red-Hot (from the remaining 1/4 cup). Bake for 9 minutes or until cookies are set. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, move cookies onto a cooling rack and let cool completely. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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Weekly Running Recap

I’m a few days late with this post :(

Sunday: Rest
Monday: 3 mile run + 100 crunches and 20 push-ups (x2)
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Zumba!
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 5 mile run +100 crunches and 20 push-ups (x2)

Did you notice something different this week (no, not all the rest days!)?

I took my first Zumba class!! It was So.Much.Fun!! It was a 2 hour class, and boy, did I feel the burn!
Our local hospital offered an open-to-the-public Zumbathon, with proceeds going to Lake Health Foundations Breast Health Fund.  I heard that there were 50 women participating! We had 2 awesome instructors (Lynn Kallay and Cassie McConville), who made sure we had high-energy music and routines (if a routine featured high-impact moves, one instructor showed the low-impact move)! After taking the class, I can understand why Gina loves it so much!

Instructors (l to r): Lynn & Cassie

Question of the day: Have you ever taken a Zumba class? What exercise classes do you attend?

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WHOOPIE!!!

As in hooray! Come on people, behave yourselves!

We celebrated Nick’s birthday the other day, and I asked him what I could bake for him. “You know what I like” was his response.
Now on one hand, this makes things easy. I can choose basically whatever I want to make. On the other hand, this makes things more difficult. There are so many things I could make! I was given no direction (like- “I’d really like a cheesecake”, or “brownies would be great”).

Sigh.

One thing I know he REALLY likes, is cream cheese frosting. So I decided whatever I made, I had to incorporate that. Spice cake and carrot cake both work well with cream cheese frosting, so I decided to make something similar. Apple Spice Whoopie Pies. A slightly spicy batter with grated apples mixed in. I used cake flour instead of all-purpose flour, in order to achieve a more cake-like texture. I also added vanilla bean paste to the frosting for a little more added flavor. The whoopie pies are a delightful combination of flavors, and they were an enjoyable dessert for Nick’s birthday!

Apple Spice Whoopie Pies (with a cream cheese filling)
Makes: 12 whoopie pies
Prep time: 20 minutes     Bake time: 12-13 minutes

1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup shredded apple, packed
3 cups cake flour
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, molasses, and brown sugar. Cream these items together. Add in eggs and stir to combine. Add in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Stir in the grated apple (Note: I used 2 small apples and peeled them before shredding with a box grater. If you don’t have a grater, chop up the apples into very small pieces). Stir in the cake flour until just combined.
Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Don’t under-bake!
Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, move to cooling racks and let cool completely.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the vanilla bean paste (you can substitute vanilla extract), then slowly add in the powdered sugar. Beat the mixture until smooth.

Once the whoopies/cake-cookies/cookie-cakes :) are completely cooled, spoon the cream cheese filling onto the bottoms of 12, then top with the remaining 12. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Dough- hmmm, not the prettiest picture!

Cream cheese frosting!

Question(s) of the day: What’s your favorite flavor of whoopie pie? What’s your favorite birthday dessert?

Made with love, not calories!

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HAPPY FRIDAY!!!!!

16 inches of snow(!)...

...that calls for hot chocolate with marshmallows!

Zumba! More on that tomorrow.

Are you in there?

And finally…

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Featured on Serious Eats: Share your sweets

Have a great weekend! Stay warm!

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