Friday, April 29, 2011

Peanut Butter Toffee Truffle Balls

These little devils are ridiculously simple and divinely delicious! Seriously, make them. But you might want to make plans to give them away, at least some. Your thighs will thank you. That is unless you have a metabolism similar to my husband's. In that case, save the whole batch for yourself.

Peanut Butter, Pretzel, and Toffee Bon Bons

*These bonbons can be made up to three days in advance. The peanut butter pretzel filling can be made and formed into balls and frozen for up to 2 months before dipping.
*Makes about 10-12 dozen bonbons
8 tablespoons butter, softened to warm room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups peanut butter
1 cup toffee bits
2 cups chopped/crushed pretzel sticks (I used the twisty kind. I simply put them in a ziploc and smashed them with my meat pounder)
1 pound chocolate--semisweet, milk, bittersweet (I used one 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips and it was perfect)
2 tablespoons shortening or butter
Toffee, chopped nuts, chocolate jimmies for garnish
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until evenly combined. Add the peanut butter and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the toffee bits and pretzel pieces by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet (12X18-inches or several smaller baking sheets) with parchment or waxed paper. Roll the peanut butter mixture into 1-inch or so (it doesn't have to be exact) balls and place them on the lined baking sheets. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and freeze for 15-20 minutes until firm. At this point, the balls can be transferred to a sealed container or freezer ziploc bag and frozen for up to 2 months.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and shortening/butter together in a microwave-safe bowl or in a double boiler until completely melted and smooth (taking care not to overheat the chocolate as that can cause white streaks, bloom, to appear in the hardened chocolate).
One by one, toss a formed peanut butter/pretzel ball into the melted chocolate and using a fork, cover the ball with chocolate. Lift the covered bonbon out of the chocolate with the fork and tap the lower stem of the fork (right above where the rectangular tined fork part ends) on the edge of the bowl to let excess chocolate fall through the tines of the fork. Scrape the bottom of the fork along the edge of the bowl and transfer the covered bonbon to a parchment lined baking sheet (you can use the same baking sheet(s) used for freezing the balls if you have room). Set the bonbon very close to the parchment paper and using a second fork or butter knife, gently scoot the bonbon off the fork onto the baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle your garnish of choice on the top of the wet chocolate before it sets.

Roll em up and freeze them.
Dip in chocolate and sprinkle with goodness.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beautiful Sugar Cookies

I made beautiful and delicious sugar cookies and I am proud of it! They weren't even that difficult. The cookie recipe comes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. The secret to the delicious soft cookies is almond extract, lemon zest, and DO NOT overcook them. The icing recipe comes from Our Best Bites. The icing is a glaze that goes on so smoothly, and could not be more simple to make. These cookies are even stackable!

My Favorite Sugar Cookies
*Note: the baking temperature for this recipe may seem high but I believe it is one of the keys to success. The cookies still remain soft and light because they bake for such a short time (and they keep their shape really well!).
*Makes 2-3 dozen sugar cookies (about 2-3 inch size)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened to cool room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon zest; mix. Add two cups flour, baking powder and salt. Mix. Add remaining flour and mix just until flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and soft.
The dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or it can be rolled out right away. Dust a counter with powdered sugar or flour and roll the dough to desired thickness (I prefer my cookies on the thick side so I roll my dough out to about 1/4-inch, maybe even slightly thicker than that). Cut the dough into shapes. Place the cookies on a lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes. The cookies won't appear browned on top (or on bottom) when they are done baking so don't let them overbake! I find 7 1/2 minutes is about perfect but if they are even lightly browned on bottom, I decrease the time by 30 seconds. I like them super soft with not even a hint of browned edges or bottom. This way they literally melt in my mouth.
Cool the cookies completely on a wire rack before frosting. The baked cookies (unfrosted) can be stored in a tupperware or ziploc bag in the freezer for up to a month. I also often freeze 1/2 of the sugar cookie dough when I don't have time or don't want to roll it out and cut shapes. I wrap the dough in plastic wrap and then stick it in a freezer-safe ziploc bag and freeze it for up to a month. (I made this dough in February for Valentine's day and froze half. I just barely used the other half for Easter, and they turned out great!) I take it out the night before I want to roll it out and store it in the refrigerator to thaw (for about 12-15 hours). About 30 minutes before I want to use it, I let it sit on the counter to soften a bit and then I roll it out and cut out the cookies.

Then I used this icing recipe from for perfectly beautiful and delicious cookies!
Glacé Icing

1lb powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 C)
6T whole milk (low-fat actually works, but use whole if you can)
6T light Corn Syrup (6T is equal to 1/4 C plus another 2 T)
1 t extract (I use almond because I use almond in my sugar cookies)

With a whisk, combine sugar and milk until smooth (no lumps!) Then stir in corn syrup and extract.
You will use this same recipe for both glazing and piping. The way it is right now is the consistency you want for glazing. It easily runs off the whisk in a pretty thin drizzle.
To prepare the icing for piping, you just add more powdered sugar. Just eyeball it. You can’t really mess it up because if it’s too thick you just add more milk and if it’s to thin, you add more powdered sugar. I add it in small amounts until it’s a good consistency. For me, it’s when it gets to a point where it’s relatively hard to whisk it by hand. When I pick up the whisk, it still runs off, but in a very slow, thick stream now.

You can tint the glaze any color you want. I left the piping icing white and dyed the glaze. What you do is pipe a border around your cookies. Then let it harden for a few minutes. Then spoon a little glaze in the middle and use the back of a spoon to spread it out. I used a toothpick to get down in the corners. The icing that was piped on should act as a border and keep the thinner icing in place. Once the thinner icing hardens you can pipe a design on top if you would like. Let them harden before stacking and enjoy!
Just with the piping (I wish I would have made the icing a little bit thicker to prevent it from running off the edges.)
With the glaze all filled in. Be careful not to use too much glaze or you will have a flood, like with the tulip on the bottom. Aren't they pretty?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spinach Smoothies

I'm back! After a fabulous and exhausting vacation we had family in town for 10 days but now life is somewhat back to normal, for now. I have enjoyed every minute of it and did plenty of cooking along the way. I am ready to get back to the blog world!

This recipe is one of those sneaky ways to get your family to eat more green. While the greenish/brownish color may weird some people out, my one year old did not know the difference. She loves these spinach smoothies and always has a cute little green goatee afterward to prove it! This is more of an idea than a recipe. You can customize these to your liking. The original idea comes from 2 of my fabulous cousins Stephanie and Laura. Both are beautiful, creative, amazing moms who live in some sort of paradise (Hawaii and Huntington Beach respectively). And they are both great writers. I love being inspired by each of their blogs on a regular basis. So here's my version of their green smoothies. You can eat these for breakfast, a snack, or along side lunch or dinner. We may or not have had them with our dinner of hot dogs and tater tots last week to compensate for the greasiness of the rest of the meal. :-)

Spinach Smoothies
1/2-1 cup frozen blueberries
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (or your favorite flavor, but if you use plain yogurt you might want to add a little sugar)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2-1 cup milk (depending on how much liquid your blender needs and how thick you like it)
1 tsp. vanilla
fresh spinach (pile it in and fill the blender up!)

Add ingredients to blender in order listed. You may need to stop and push the spinach down after the other stuff is blended. Blend until smooth.
*Note: I don't add any sugar. I find the vanilla yogurt has enough sugar on its own. I also don't add any ice. the frozen fruit makes it cold and icy enough without diluting the flavor.
Put in your fruit (I added ice to this one because my banana wasn't frozen)
Add the yogurt, liquids, and pack in the spinach. Isn't it pretty?
Blend until smooth.
She knows what's good!

Monday, April 11, 2011

PB & J with a twist

Ok, this isn't really a recipe. But it is a new obsession of mine. Have you ever tried adding cheddar to an old-fashioned PB&J? Oh, you haven't? Well, you should.

PB&J with a twist
2 slices good bread--I like Oroweat 100% whole wheat
your favorite peanut butter--it's always super chunk around here
your favorite jam or jelly--make it raspberry or strawberry for me!
cheddar cheese--only Tillamook's medium cheddar at our house

Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread, top with jam, cheese, and other slice of bread. Cut in half and devour with a big glass of milk. You're welcome!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pico de Gallo/Fresh Salsa

I know I have mentioned on here my obsession with all foods Mexican and all kinds of dips. I'm pretty sure chips and salsa is tied with French fries as my favorite food. I love a good restaurant salsa, but when I'm at home this recipe is my go-to. Pico de gallo, is typically tomatoes, onions, and peppers simply chopped and tossed together. I like mine with lots of color. It's only about half tomatoes or less, and that's the way I like it!

Pico de Gallo
4-5 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced
1 yellow or white onion, diced
1 jalepeno, seeds removed, finely diced
1/4-1/2 cup or so chopped fresh cilantro
2-3 Tbs. lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Toss everything together and taste on a chip. If the flavor needs a boost, add more lime juice or more salt. This is great right away or after sitting in the refrigerator awhile. Eat it with chips, on a taco, or with a spoon!
Chop it all up,
And toss it all together!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sunday Dinner

My mom made roast in the crock pot with potatoes every Sunday my entire childhood (and she still does). It is the perfect throw-in-the-crockpot-and-forget-about-it meal and the ultimate comfort food. She would usually use a Lipton Onion Soup Packet for the seasonings, but I didn't have any the last time I made it and this is what I came up with. (Note: The onion soup mix is easier and a bit more flavorful. If you have it on hand I would recommend going that route, but if you don't this is a good alternative.)

Roast and Potatoes
1 beef roast (3-4 lbs.)
4-5 potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 bag baby carrots  or 2-3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, roughly chopped
1-2 tsp. salt
1/2-1 tsp. pepper
1/2-3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. chili flakes

Place roast in greased or lined crockpot. Dump veggies around the edges. Sprinkle seasonings on top. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve on a large platter with meat juices poured on top.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Eclair Cake

This is one of those dishes that you have probably had at a potluck or two, but may not realize how extremely simple it is to make until you try it. This was definitely a craving for me last week and it came off my list of "desserts to make" that I had all but abandoned since the holiday season--double whammy! I was sad when it was gone, but it was oh so good while it lasted.

Eclair Cake
1 box graham crackers (you will need about 24 whole crackers)
2 small (3.5 oz) boxes vanilla instant pudding
3 cups milk
1 8 oz. package Cool Whip, thawed
1 can store-bought chocolate frosting

Combine pudding mix and milk and stir until smooth and slightly thickened. Fold in the Cool Whip. Place graham crackers in a single layer at the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Spread half the pudding mixture on top. Repeat with another layer of graham crackers and the other half of the pudding mixture. Top with a final layer of graham crackers. Soften the frosting in the microwave for about 30 seconds and spread over the top of the graham crackers. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. This is important so plan ahead! The pudding will soak into the graham crackers and become the perfect consistency. Mmmmm!!!
Lay out the graham crackers,
Spread on the pudding and repeat.
Final layer of graham crackers,
Spread with the frosting and let it chill.
Slice and serve!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu

This is a classic chicken cordon bleu recipe. I picked it up in my cooking class in college and it's not as tough as I thought it would be. This isn't a quick-throw-it-together kind of meal. But it is a delicious, impressive meal without too much work.

Classic Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices Swiss cheese
4 slices deli ham
1/4 melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
2 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules or 1 cube chicken bouillon
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup grated Swiss cheese (cheeses are optional, but highly recommended)

Preheat oven to 350. Place one chicken breast in a large ziploc bag with the air pressed out or between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Pound flat with the flat end of a meat mallet or a heavy can until 3/8 inch thick. Repeat with remaining chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Layer ham and Swiss onto each chicken breast. Roll chicken up and secure with wooden toothpicks. Roll chicken in melted butter and bread crumbs. Arrange in medium casserole dish and bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked through.
While chicken is baking make the sauce. Start by making a roux of flour and butter by melting the butter in a sauce pan then sprinkling the flour on top and cooking until a light golden color. Then whisk in milk and bouillon. Bring to a boil and stir constantly until thickened. Reduce heat and season to taste. Add cheese and stir until melted and incorporated. Serve sauce over hot chicken and mashed potatoes.
Put chicken between plastic or in a large ziploc bag.
Pound it thin with the flat side of a meat mallet or a heavy can.
Cover each piece of chicken with a single layer of Swiss cheese and ham.
Roll up the chicken and secure with toothpicks. Roll in melted butter and bread crumbs.
While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce. Start with a roux of butter and flour.
Add other ingredients and whisk until thickened.
Serve sauce over cooked chicken and mashed potatoes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chicken Kabobs

It is grilling season again and I couldn't be happier! Not only do I love the flavors that come off the grill, but I love being able to turn over a large chunk of the cooking to my awesome husband! I know my way around the grill, but he is the master. We had these kabobs last week and I can't wait to make them again!

Chicken Kabobs
2 chicken breasts, thawed and cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red chili flakes
1/2 tsp. onion powder
wooden skewers (8-10)
rice for serving

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, chili flakes, and onion powder to make a marinade. Marinate chicken for 1-4 hours (longer is better). Soak skewers for 30 minutes to 1 hour to help prevent burning. Carefully thread chicken onto skewers, putting chicken next to each other, but don't pack it too thick. Grill on medium/low heat for 3-4 minutes on each side until cooked all the way through.
Marinate the chicken,
Thread onto skewers,
Grill em up,
Serve with rice and veggies.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Seven Layer Dip

As mentioned in the post below, the other half of our weekend (when not watching basketball) will be consumed with General Conference. Seven layer dip is a conference tradition for us around here. I think everyone probably has a version of seven layer dip that they make, but here is my version. (Did I ever mention my obsession with all kinds of dip and all things Mexican?)
Since General Conference has not happened yet, I do not have a current photo of my dip, but this one is close. However, the sour cream layer will be pink once you add the taco seasoning. Photo courtesy of via google images.

Seven Layer Dip
1 can refried beans
1/2 carton sour cream
1/2 package taco seasoning
1 avocado, mashed
1/2 cup jarred salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup diced olives
1/4 cup diced green onions
tortilla chips or Fritos for serving
*Feel free to adjust toppings to your liking. I have been known to leave off the avocado, onions, and/or olives for simplicity's sake. Of course, then it is no longer a Seven Layer Dip. The point is, make it your own.

Stir together sour cream and taco seasoning. Mash together avocado and salsa and season with salt and pepper. Spread refried beans evenly over a large glass platter or in a 9x13 glass pan. (This is most easily done with a wet spatula or wet hands.) Spread sour cream mixture evenly on top. Next spread avocado mixture. Sprinkle with cheese, tomatoes, olives, and onions. Eat with chips. This can be eaten as a side, appetizer or even a meal! This will serve many, many people, unless one of those people is yours truly. Then it will serve maybe 3 people. (Do you see why I only make this at conference time? Twice a year, and I've had my fill.)

Conference Treats and the Final Four!

So I don't know about you, but this weekend is going to be full of General Conference and basketball for us! I made these cute basketball cookies for the big BYU game last week. Unfortunately they did not bring us enough luck and an awesome season came to an end. This idea came from They had lots of cute game day ideas. they also had some fun April Fools Day ideas if you are into that kind of stuff. I would recommend going over to check it out! If you are watching the final four this weekend, you can of course customize to whichever team colors you prefer.
I used store-bought plain sugar cookies (shh, don't tell) with the yummy glaze found below, and store-bought blue gel frosting for these babies.
These bad boys were the same cookies with the same icing (dyed orange of course). Then I simply melted chocolate chips, poured the chocolate goodness into a little ziploc baggie, snipped a tiny hole in the corner and piped the lines on.
Start with an x, then add the curves. Tasty, cute, impressive!

Here is the icing recipe I used from, but I cut the recipe in half  and it was perfect for the 18 cookies I had!
Glace Icing
lb powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 C)
6T whole milk (low-fat actually works, but use whole if you can)
6T light Corn Syrup (6T is equal to 1/4 C plus another 2 T)
1 t extract (I use almond because I use almond in my sugar cookies)

With a whisk, combine sugar and milk until smooth (no lumps!) Then stir in corn syrup and extract.
You will use this same recipe for both glazing and piping. The way it is right now is the consistency you want for glazing. It easily runs off the whisk in a pretty thin drizzle.

Simply spoon a little icing on each cookie and using the back of the spoon gently push icing to the edge. Let it harden some before piping anything on top.