Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies…Mmmmmm!

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Ok…so today Mac left for another week away (such is life on an IndyCar team)…and that left me here…by myself…again.

I guess I need to get used to his travelling…because it will happen every week from February through August. I know there are things that I needed to be doing, but I found myself sucked into the Food Network.  This channel is ADDICTING. I can’t help it. There are so many delicious things that are created on each show that I feel like I just NEED to try…

THAT HAPPENED TODAY.

While watching Giada at Home, Giada was showcasing comfort food recipes with her sweet little girl, Jade.  The first recipe she shared was a recipe for Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies.

Um. Yeah.

As I was watching her mix together eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter, chocolate, flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt, and chocolate chips, I thought, “Hey! I have all of those things! I’m going to make those!

Well, I didn’t have all of the EXACT ingredients, but I had a couple of pinch hitters that would work.

You can find her original recipe here.

AND here is what I used:

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  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (Pinch-Hitter #1: subbed for semi-sweet chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temp
  • 1 instant coffee packet (Pinch-Hitter #2: subbed for the 1/3 cup choc. covered espresso beans)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temp
  • 2 tablespoons water, at room temp
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

NOW here is what you do:

  1. Place your oven rack in the center and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In a small bowl (set up like a double boiler), combine the 6 ounces of chopped chocolate with the butter.  Bring water in pot to a light simmer and stir the chocolate occasionally until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is smooth. (You can also microwave in 30 second increments stirring after every 30 seconds, until smooth.)
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the coffee packet, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In another medium bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, water, and vanilla.  Gradually add the dry ingredients and stir until thick and smooth.
  5. Fold in the melted chocolate/butter mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Using an ice cream or cookie scoop, scoop level 1/4 cup (2 ounce) dollops of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until slightly puffed and the tops begin to crack, about 18-20 minutes.  Allow to cool completely on the baking sheets before serving.

These cookies are DEEEELICIOUS. They are cakey, fudgy, and super chocolatey with a hint of coffee yumminess…

They are particularly good with an ice cold glass of milk…..MMMmmmMMMmmm! 🙂

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You have to try these. At least once. SO. GOOD.

Enjoy! 🙂

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I’m Back….It’s Been a While!

Life has happened and I’ve been away from writing for a while….

Let me give you an abbreviated version of  what’s kept me away for the past few months.

In the fall, I decided that I needed to get a part time job to be around people and because I was becoming slightly stir crazy at home everyday.  I also figured the extra money wouldn’t hurt (right??) and this would keep me busy while I worked toward transferring my teaching certificate. I began working at Barnes and Noble in September and met many lovely, wonderful people, and enjoyed the business of book selling, but my favorite part of the job had to be story time with the little ones. However, as the holidays got closer, my part-time hours became less part-time (you know what I mean if you’ve ever worked retail), and my longing to be back in classroom only grew stronger and stronger.

At the same time, Mac received a job offer that he’d been anxiously waiting for for almost two years….an offer he couldn’t refuse (said in my best Godfather voice)! 🙂 His new job would take us to the Chicago suburbs, and we only had about a month to accept the offer, pack everything, tie up any loose ends, find a new place, and move.

So here we are now….after a whirlwind month and a half, we are unpacked and mostly settled, and I’m back to being a “housewife”….at least for the time being. 🙂

Last night I made one of my hubs favorite soups…Baked Potato & Leek with Cheddar & Bacon.  Before I broke down and finally asked my mother-in-law for the recipe, I tried various different potato soup recipes (all yummy in my opinion), but all with the same result. He didn’t like it. “That’s not in my mom’s recipe,” “It doesn’t taste the same,” “Are you sure that’s supposed to go in there?,” etc., etc., etc.

My mother-in-law emailed me her recipe (I think she got it from a magazine years ago) a couple of weeks back and since we are heading into what feels like the gazillionth round of “polar vortex” frigid temperatures, I thought it would be warming and satisfying for dinner last night. (BTW, I am EXTREMELY tired of polar vortexes, snow, static electricity and winter…This has been the LONGEST winter everrrrrrr!)

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This soup is so yummy and tastes like a baked potato….what could be better?!?! I have to admit that this recipe is a little labor-intensive, and may get easier after the first time, BUT it is so worth it!

This recipe makes about 6 cups, or 4 servings.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes (about 1/2 lb. each)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced leeks (about 2 medium leeks; white and light green parts), rinsed well
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 1/4 lb.)
  • 2 Tbs. thinly sliced scallion greens or chives

1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees and scrub those potatoes well in water. Pat dry and pierce with a fork a few times. Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake until very tender when pierced with a fork (about 1 hour). Let cool completely on a wire rack.

2. Melt butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat.  Add the leeks and garlic, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 10 minutes). Add the broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the leeks are very tender (about 20 minutes).

**Note: To clean (as leeks can be sandy), I slice the leeks thinly and then place them in a wire/mesh strainer and rest the strainer in a bowl. I run cold water over them and give them a few shakes/swirls and let them drain.

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3. Meanwhile, put the diced bacon in a skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy (about 8-10 minutes).  Transfer the bacon bits with a slotted spoon to a saucer lined with paper towels to drain and cool.

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4. When the potatoes are cool, cut ONE in half length-wise. Use a large spoon to scoop the flesh in one piece from each half.  Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.  Coarsely chop the potato skin and the entire remaining potato and add to the pot with the leeks.

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5. Puree the contents of the pot in a blender until very smooth (you will need to do this in batches). Return the pureed soup to a clean soup pot and reheat over medium-low heat.

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6. Whisk together the milk and sour cream until smooth and then whisk the milk mixture into the soup, along with 1/2 cup of the cheddar.  Stir in the diced potato.  The soup should be fairly thick, but if it seems too thick, thin it with a little water.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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7.  Serve garnished with the remaining cheddar, bacon, and scallions or chives.

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I’m going to say it again….this soup is yummy! I may have some of the leftovers for lunch! Mmmmmm!! 🙂

I’m glad to be back…I hope my next post isn’t so long in the making…

Have a great week! 🙂

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Easy Pumpkin Oatmeal for Breakfast

Ok, so if you read my last post, you’ll know how much I love fall! This morning we woke up to a very chilly morning and I thought that nothing sounded better for breakfast than a nice big bowl of tummy-filling, and soul-warming oatmeal. Mmmmm! 🙂

After I climbed out from under the mountain of comforters on our bed and threw on my favorite sweats and sweatshirt, I made my way into the kitchen to gather my ingredients. I remembered that I had some leftover pumpkin puree in the fridge, so why not make warm pumpkin oatmeal, right?!?

This recipe was an experiment..but it turned out wonderfully and so delicious! It is also really easy!!

So here is what I gathered for this recipe:

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  • 1/2 Cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1/8 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chia seeds
  • 1/8 cup dried plums

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the oats, water, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and salt. Stir and cook for 3-5 minutes until thick and the oats are soft.

Place in a bowl and top with brown sugar (or your favorite sweetener), Chia seeds, and dried plums (dried cranberries would be yummy, too!).

This serves 1 and has about 9 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein.

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So good. Period. 🙂

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Crispy Rice Treats: A Little Taste of Fall

WARNING: You are about to read about a delicious and easy, sweet fall treat that is not low calorie or “healthy” and LOADED with marshmallowy, pumpkin goodness. Sometimes we just need something a little naughty….and what could be better than a bite of fall!

There is something so lovely about fall…It’s easily my favorite season for various reasons. I love fall for the beautiful colors that mother nature dresses herself in.  The oranges, reds, pinks, yellows, and greens blend together like the fabric of a beautiful dress and it’s often breathtaking.

I also love the cooler temperatures. Now, I’m not a fan of winter or cold. At all. BUT I LOVE sweatpants, sweatshirts, sweaters, blankets, and all things comfy and cozy. I love to sleep with the window open at night and snuggle close under a mountain of deliciously warm comforters and blankets, or sit on the couch under a cozy blanket in front of the fireplace ablaze with a crackling fire.  Makes me feel nice and warm just thinking about it. 🙂

I also love throwing on my favorite old sweatshirt with jeans or a new cozy sweater and boots and going for a drive in the fall to see mother nature in all her beauty and to find new fall faves.  We did this last weekend.  Since moving to Michigan, we’ve heard about many of the things this state is known for…and one of those things is a must-do in the fall.  We went to visit a local Cider Mill for some fresh apple cider and warm cinnamon-sugar donuts.

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These donuts and apple cider were yummy!! I can see why they are a fall fave of Michiganders.  So after our Cider Mill outing, I decided I wanted to make one of my fall faves….pumpkin crispy rice treats. (Mac prefers the regular crispy rice treats, so I made those too….I’ll share both recipes with you.)

There is something so warm and comforting about the taste of pumpkin and pumpkin spice and that is what makes these treats so special… 🙂

Pumpkin Crispy Rice Treats

**You can find the original recipe here, but as usual, I made a change or two.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 tablespoons butter, plus more to grease the pan
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 (16 oz) bag regular marshmallows
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups crispy rice cereal
  • fall colored sprinkles

Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.

In a couple layers of paper towel, place the pumpkin puree and press to release the moisture.  (I usually press the puree about 3 times using fresh, dry paper towels each time. If you don’t do this, your treats will be soggy….trust me). It should look like this:

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In a heavy saucepan or cast iron pot, melt butter over medium-low heat.

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Add the pumpkin puree and cook until it is warmed through (it will be lumpy). Fold in the 16 oz. of marshmallows, stirring frequently until almost completely melted. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt.  Remove from heat.

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Allow the marshmallow mixture to cool for 10 minutes.  Fold in 1 1/2 cups of the mini marshmallows and let the mixture cool for about another 5-10 minutes. Add in the crispy rice cereal and the last 1 1/2 cups of mini marshmallows.  Stir until combined.

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Press into the baking dish and sprinkle with fall colored sprinkles. (See tip below.) Allow to cool completely before cutting. Makes 12 Large crispy treats, or more if you cut them smaller. 🙂

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The pumpkin treats are on the right and I’m a dummy and forgot to take a picture after I cut them, but here is a picture of the regular crispy treats cut into squares:

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Look at all of that crispy, marshmallowy goodness!! YUM! 🙂

The recipe I follow for the regular crispy rice treats is from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. The recipe is here. I follow this recipe for the most part except that I use a 16 oz. bag of regular marshmallows, and the rest of the bag of mini marshmallows from the recipe above.

TIP (Thanks to my mother-in-law 🙂 ): In order to easily press the crispy rice mixture into the pan, turn the empty marshmallow bag inside-out and spread butter on the bag.  Slide the inside-out bag over your hand like a glove and use your “gloved” hand to press the mixture into the pan.  You may think this sounds crazy, but it’s so much easier than trying to press it into the pan with a spatula. 🙂

What is your favorite season? Do you love fall as much as I do?

Oh, one more things about fall that I LOVE…my Birthday is in the fall!! 🙂 🙂

Enjoy the treats!

Happy Fall!

Easy Sugar Cookies!

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Mac, my wonderful husband, loves sweets, but he LOVES sugar cookies.

Particularly sugar cookies from a little bakery cafe back home, Elegance Bakery.

Well…I love to bake, but I’m not a huge fan of sugar cookies because they tend to need to be refrigerated and then rolled, and cut, and decorated.  They are just a lot of work. Usually.

So Mac has been asking for the past few weeks if I could make him some sugar cookies and today, since it was chilly outside, I decided to give in and bake him some sugar cookies.

(I’m such a good wife!) 🙂

I researched various different sugar cookie recipes and read the reviews so that I could get an idea of what I was about to dive into…I finally decided on this simple recipe from callmepmc.com.

This recipe seemed simple (I had all of the ingredients) and NO REFRIGERATION needed!!! (YAY!!) 🙂

That means no waiting around for an hour or more before rolling, cutting, decorating, and baking! Whoop, whoop!

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used Gluten-Free, All-Purpose Flour from Trader Joe’s because that’s what I had on hand.)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Various colored sugars or sprinkles for decorating (you can also frost/glaze these if you prefer)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; about 5 minutes. (Note: I let my butter get SOFT-almost mushy-before putting it in the bowl. I think this helps get it nice and fluffy!)

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Once creamed well, add egg and vanilla.

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In a separate bowl, SIFT together flour, baking powder, and salt. (NOTE: I find sifting makes cookies seem fluffier….it could just be me, but I always sift.)

Spoon the flour mixture into the butter mixture a little at a time until well combined.

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Split dough into two parts, and roll one half of the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. (NOTE: I use powdered sugar in lieu of flour on my rolling pin and counter-top.)

Dip cookie cutter in powdered sugar before cutting. (NOTE: I don’t have any cookie cutters, so I use a small juice glass.) Roll and cut until all dough is used.

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Decorate with colored sugar or sprinkles.

Bake on and ungreased cookie sheet, or use parchment paper for 6 to 7 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet before removing to cooling rack to cool completely.

TA-DA!! 🙂

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If you want to frost or glaze these, do that after they have cooled completely.

Here is a recipe for a yummy, but simple glaze.

What you’ll need:

  • Powdered Sugar
  • Fresh Lemon or Orange Juice
  • Food Coloring (optional)

In a small bowl, combine a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar with some fresh lemon or orange juice until smooth (will be slightly liquidy). If too thin, add more sugar. If too thick, add more juice. Add food color of choice to create desired color.

I hope you had a SWEET Sunday like me! 🙂

Happy Baking!

Easy Veggie Breakfast Hash & Eggs

I love to be in the kitchen. I mean…I LOVE to be in the kitchen.

The kitchen is where good things happen and delicious memories are made.

I have so many wonderfully comforting memories of spending time in my Gramma’s and mom’s kitchens baking and cooking old favorite recipes, and creating new favorites with love and laughter. I love the special little methods and techniques in cooking and baking that only moms and grandmas can teach you. I also love the wonderful smells and delicious vittles that come out of the kitchen and ROCK my taste buds! 🙂

One thing I have learned from both my mom and Gramma is to not be afraid in the kitchen.  Sure…start with a recipe, and maybe make it from the recipe a few times, but then….make it your own.  🙂

Missing a recipe ingredient? Find a suitable substitute and toss it in!

My mom is a pro at making up her own recipes…sometimes things don’t work out so great….BUT most of the time, it is AWESOME

Kind of like my Easy Veggie Breakfast Hash & Eggs:

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This morning I wanted something a little different from my usual green smoothie or my avocado & egg pizza for breakfast, and I had a bunch of fresh veggies in the fridge that I needed to use.

So, being my mother’s daughter…I decided to dice up and toss together the veg and cook up a couple of eggs to top it all off…AND it was AMAZINGLY yummy! (And super easy!! BONUS!) 🙂

You can really make this with whatever veg you have on hand…but here is what I used (it seems like a lot of veg, but it will cook down a bit):

  • 1 small eggplant, diced (roughly about 1.5 cups)
  • 1/2 large zucchini squash, skin on, diced
  • 1/2 large orange bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dried oregano
  • 2 eggs

I diced up all of my veggies and tossed them into a skillet over medium heat with a little bit of olive oil. I seasoned the veggies with salt and pepper and let them cook for about 1-2 minutes.  I threw in a few dashes of garlic powder, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and a couple dashes of dried oregano. I gave it all a big stir and added in 1 tbsp of the fresh basil and let it cook another minute or so.  I piled it all into the middle of my plate and set aside.

I added my eggs to the pan, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and cooked them to a nice over-easy…or dippy egg (if you are from the East). I plopped the eggs right on top of that beautiful mountain of veggie hash and added 1 tbsp of fresh basil on top for garnish.

This is a low-cal, high-protein meal….and did I mention it was YUMMY!?!? 🙂

Enjoy! 🙂

Sunday Breakfast: French Toast! YUM!

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love sleeping in on a chilly Sunday (or Saturday) morning…snuggling close under the covers, and enjoying the lazy comfort of being together.

A chilly September morning like this calls for continued comfort after you finally decide to drag yourself out from under the deliciously warm covers and throw on your favorite pair of worn-in sweats and that old, ratty, full-of-memories sweatshirt…

Something that will keep your tummy comforted on this lazy Sunday, where you will lounge in your sweats and watch football (Yay! FALL!) all afternoon….

Something sweet…and savory…and DELICIOUSLY naughty.

Something that you might not have everyday, but as a special treat….

FRENCH TOAST!

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What could be more comforting than that warm, egg-soaked, cooked slice of bread, with melted butter and doused in warm maple syrup and a side of savory, salty bacon?!?! (Are you drooling yet??) 🙂

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You can’t go wrong with this recipe….so good and so easy!

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 Large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. sugar (optional, or you can use sugar substitute)
  • Healthy Dash of Cinnamon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 8 slices bread (you can use your favorite sandwich bread)

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together except for bread. 

Dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture until coated on both sides.

Set aside in a baking dish until all slices are dipped.

Pour extra egg mixture over the dipped slices in the baking dish, while you heat up your lightly greased skillet.

Cook each slice until golden brown on both sides over medium heat.

(**Note: I usually set a clean baking/serving dish in a warm oven (170 degrees) and place the cooked slices in the oven to keep warm while I finish cooking the rest of the slices)

Serve with warmed maple syrup and your favorite savory breakfast meat!

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This is a recipe I came up with after trying various different French toast recipes. This recipe is a crowd-pleaser with the surprising hint of Orange that comes through. 

 

One of my favorite breads to use for this recipe is Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, or sourdough bread.  The slight sourness in the bread works really well with the orange flavor from the orange juice in the egg mixture. 

Enjoy!

Happy Fall & Happy Comfort!! 🙂