Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homemade Cheez-its

Do you love to snack? I know I do. Sweet, salty, sweet AND salty, you name it I love it. But cheez-its? That's the ultimate! I mean are you kidding me... have you tried those Duoz with the sharp cheddar and Parmesan cheese. I think I died and went to heaven... Food heaven that is. 

Have any of you been on Pinterest? I absolutely love that site. Well recently I stumbled upon homemade goldfish crackers and pinned it instantly. Unfortunately, I have no little fishy cutter and wasn't willing to shell out almost $14 for one (are you joking?) so I adapted them into cheez-its. I added some pepper for a kick but I thought "how good would these be with cayenne, or Parmesan or make BIG ones" I think the options are endless.

My only mistake, and trust me on this one, make TWO batches. You won't regret it (like I do).

For the Cheez-Its:

2 Cups Sharp Cheddar, shredded.
3/4 Cup flour, plus more for dusting
4 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces (I used salted butter, but if you would like to use unsalted use 1 teaspoon salt instead)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and pepper in 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and process until the dough forms a ball, which takes about 10 seconds. 

On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 13x7 inch rectangle that is about 1/16" thick. I used a serrated fondant cutter to trim off the sides and make the serrated edges of the crackers. Next cut the dough into 1x1 inch squares. Transfer the crackers, carefully, to a parchment lined- large cookie sheet. Using the dulled end of a skewer make a hole in each cracker and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Bake the crackers on the middle rack for 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly on the cookie sheet. (Tip: remove crackers when they are still light as they will darken when cooling on the cookie sheet.)

Serve at room temperature and enjoy. 

My uber-picky son ate almost my whole batch which is why I regret not doubling the recipe. Please omit pepper if your kids have an aversion to spicy things. But please, please try these! They whip up quickly and are a fantastic snack for kids (and adults)! Also, since Superbowl weekend is right around the corner they would be a great game day snack!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

PB Cap'n Crunch Macarons

Yes you heard me right....No, this is not a test... IT'S  Peanut Butter Cap'N Crunch Macrons! I sure did take your fancy french cookies and laced it with sugary cereal and it was FANTASTIC! I absolutely love cereal and I also love pretending that those grown up bland cereals are good for me when secretly, I eat half the bowl of my sons'. HEY... we wouldn't want it to go to waste RIGHT!? 

Anyways, I'm going to share a little secret with you. This is my VERY first time making macarons! I was so nervous before but when I stumbled upon the fruity pebble macarons featured on The Novice Chef blog I became obsessed! Day and night I would whine to my husband and very best friend:

"All I want to do is make Cap'N Crunch macarons!!"

Needless to say I think they were praying for a sunny day just to shut me up. Finally it came and I was in bliss. Unfortunately, I just have to stare at them because these cookies take a full 24 hours of maturation before they are to be enjoyed... I foresee myself waking up at midnight and eating one. Not 24 hours you say? Well.. I wont tell if you don't!

For the Macarons:
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup Captain Crunch Meal**
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
3 large older egg whites
3 tablespoons meringue powder

** Grind about 2 cups of the cereal in your food processor until a fine meal/flour is formed. 

You don't need to go out and purchase older egg whites, you can simply use the eggs that you've had in the refrigerator for the last 4 or 5 days. After you separate the eggs, make sure you allow the egg whites to come to room temperature before whipping. 
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Prep 2 half sheet pans with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Sift together your almond meal, cereal meal and powdered sugar and set aside. I like to use the large, finer sifters with the long handle and push the flour mixture through.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or with an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy. Begin sprinkling in the meringue powder as you beat. Then increase the speed to medium and beat until soft peaks form. When you get to soft peaks (the peaks will curl when the whisk is lifted from the mixture), carefully proceed; you want firm glossy peaks in your meringue, you do not want to beat all the way to stiff peaks (peaks stand up straight when a whisk is lifted from the mixture).
Some recipes will tell you to add the flour mixture in thirds but I like to add mine all at once. I think it helps to not allow over mixing. I spooned the mixture into a large zip-lock bag and cut a medium size tip on the bottom. Pipe 1 inch mounds onto prepared pans and use a wet fingertip to gently press down mounds to a smooth tip. Once your sheet is filled, pick up your sheet and holding level, tap firmly on to counter several times. Allow the cookies to rest 30-60 minutes depending on the humidity outside, even on a sunny day 45 minutes is always safe.
Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, 1 sheet at a time. Let the cookies cool.

 You can fill your cookies with whatever you like, I used a basic chocolate frosting but the options are endless: Marshmallow fluff, ganache, peanut butter frosting oooh even a Captain Crunch buttercream would be delicious! And please feel free to sub in YOUR favorite cereal. Crunch berries? Yum. Fruity pebbles? Yummier. Reeses? Yummiest. Ok I'll stop :)
I hope you all have an opportunity to make these for yourselves because they are divine!*

*Updated after tasting :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Making Whoopie...Pies that is!!

WARNING: Copious amounts of hand pictures to follow and a cameo from my dog....

Everyone is in a Valentine-sy kind of mood in my house! Not to mention all of the hearts, flowered and red, pink and purple things lining the aisles at stores. So  I suppose I should post at least ONE Valentines recipe... 

I have 2 words for you: Cherry. Garcia. What comes to mind? Heaven you say... I agree. Then I thought... why not make Cherry Garcia filled Whoopie Pies! Genius if I do say so myself!!!! This is my first time making them and I was obviously oblivious  unaware of how delicate they are! Trial and error. Anyways, here's the recipe, hope you give it a try!

For the Whoopie Pies:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
    Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl. I didn't have buttermilk on hand but a trick to homemade buttermilk is:
    Place 4 1/2 teaspoons of white vinegar in a glass measuring cup. Fill the rest with milk to equal one cup! Let sit for 10 minutes (until curdles form) and mix. Voila! Buttermilk!
    Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a handheld, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.
    Spoon 1/4-cup mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto 2 buttered large baking sheets. I made hearts by piping the shape, free-hand, onto the cookie sheets. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack to cool completely.

    Cherry Garcia Filling: 

    1 cup (2 sticks) butter
    4 cups powdered sugar
    4 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice
    1/4 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries
    1/4 cup large chocolate chips
    With a large bowl and a hand mixer beat butter until smooth. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Add4 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice.  Continue beating and add the remaining 2 cups powdered sugar,chopped maraschino cherries and large chocolate chips.  Stir by hand to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
    Slather the filling onto one whoopie pie and top with a second. Sandwich together and enjoy! It's completely up to you how much or how little filling to add. Side note: the cakes are very fragile so be careful when topping! (I had to learn this the hard way!)
    I gave my husband my heart and he ate it... Typical. Happy Valentines Day everyone!

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    America's Favorite Cookies!

    Have any of you seen that super cute Oreo commercial with the little boy web cam chatting with his dad who is somewhere across the globe? And he says "good night son" and the son replies "Goo'morning Dad" in the cutest way possible? I love it. Almost as much as I love sitting down to a package of Oreos and a cold glass of milk. Call it my weakness (among other things!) Its no wonder they named it America's Favorite Cookie. 

    So when I found a recipe for these on the King Arthur Flours site I couldn't WAIT to try them!! I made some modifications to the recipe so mine is as follows:

     2 & 1/2 c. all-purpose, unbleached flour
    1/2 c. cocoa 
    1/2 tsp instant coffee/espresso powder
    1/2 tsp. coarse salt
    1 c. unsalted butter
    1 c. sugar
    1 egg
    1 tsp. vanilla

    1/4 tsp black food coloring

    Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Whisk together the flour,cocoa, espresso powder and salt; set aside.

    Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined.

    In 3 additions, add the flour mixture at low speed. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Add in the 1/4 teaspoon of black food coloring. Let me explain, by just adding the cocoa powder your mixture will be brown... Oreos are black! If you are able to find a fancy black cocoa powder by any means use that and nix the food coloring! I kneaded the cookie mixture by hand to fully incorporate the black color :)

    Mix together some cocoa powder and flour and spread on rolling surface, rolling pin and cutter. Cut the cookies with a 1 and 3/4" circular cutter and place in fridge for 10 minutes. I made it easy by rotating in each pan while the cookies baked.
    Bake for 8-9 minutes and cool completely.  


    • 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
    • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extra 
    • 2 teaspoons cold water
    Beat together the sugar, shortening, and vanilla. It'll seem very dry at first, but will eventually begin to clump together. Add the water, beating until smooth and spreadable. The filling should be stiff, but not so stiff that you can't flatten it when you sandwich it between the cookie. Place about a teaspoon (to tablespoon if you want double stuffed) sized ball on top of one cookie and flatten, place second cookie and sandwich together carefully.    
    Then enjoy! They definitely call for a tall glass of milk and if you desire crunchy cookies like the packaged kind... these might not be for you!!! But the chocolate coffee flavor is divine and the filling far surpasses the packaged ones! :)

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Wubbzy Bread (AKA lemony lemon bread)

    Ok this bread has nothing to do with the show Wow! Wow! Wubbzy... except maybe that they are both yellow but I am fairly sure any of you out there that have toddlers know of Wubbzy... That cute little... uhhhh catlikething? On Nick Jr. Well when I stumbled upon this recipe at the Glorious Treats blog it was exactly what I thought of and a little voice in my head rang "Wow Wow Lemony Lemon Bread"! I was contemplating making it for Christmas presents for a few special people BUT.... I never got around to it. So here it is...Delicious Lemony Lemon Bread!

    I suppose it really is more like a cake than a bread, we could even call it a pound cake, but throw anything into a loaf pan and it instantly becomes bread! Right? Who's with me!? Oh... Well, Anyways... Here is the recipe for this amazing bread. Your taste buds will go WOW... wow? OK I'm done.

    3 cups all purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 1/4 cups sugar
    8 large eggs, at room temperature
    grated lemon zest (from about 3 large lemons)
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    2 cups (4 sticks)  butter, melted and cooled (and I actually used 2 sticks salted and 2 unsalted)
    1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

    ~ For the Lemon Syrup 
    1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
    1/3 cup sugar

    ~ For the Lemon Glaze 
    1 cup confectioners' sugar
    2-4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    Making the Lemon Cakes (Recipe yields two 9"x5" loaves)
    Preheat oven to 350*F.  You can spray sides and bottom of pans with non-stick cooking spray. Then line bottom of pans with parchment paper and spray the paper as well or I love the idea of using a sprayed pan, lined (with a little extra hanging off the sides to act as handles) aluminum foil which is sprayed as well. Please see below for more details...

    Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.

    Blend the sugar, eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until combined.  Slowly add the melted butter, while mixing.  Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until just combined.  Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, one third at a time, until all the flour is combined or set your electric mixer on low the key is to  not overmix!
    Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, rotate the pans, reduce the oven temperature to 325*F and bake another 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes.

    My finger accidentally fell onto the spatula when I was bringing it to the sink, then accidentally into my mouth... I think this happened about 4 or 5 times. Sometimes my hands have a mind of their own... I cant control it! But I think when I am 90 and have 10 cats I'll make this batter again and sit alone on my couch with a spoon. Don't judge me!

    I've tried making breads time and time again and it never fails its crumbles on the bottom and sticks to the pan. I have finally learned to safe guard myself and spray the pan, then mold aluminum foil and spray that as well. Its like handles to remove the bread and comes out stick free! I love it!
    While the loaves are cooling make the syrup! 
    In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
    Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the loaves.
    Brush the tops and sides of the loaves with the lemon syrup.  Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again.  Let the cakes cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

    I however, being ridiculously impatient, let the cakes cool for only around 20 minutes then topped with the lemon glaze. 

    This is by far the best lemon bread I have ever had! Moist, succulent, taste-bud tingling. I love it... I plan to dream about it tonight. Wubbzy and I will be having high tea and eating Lemony Lemon bread. I am not crazy, promise. Enjoy your night everyone :)