Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

I wanted to make something new today and decided since it was a snowy day and I had a pot of coffee going, biscotti seemed to be the perfect choice.  My mom sent me a White Chocolate Macadamia Biscotti recipe a while ago but unfortunately I didn't have either of the star ingredients on hand.  I did have some mini chocolate chips, so Chocolate Chip Biscotti it was...

Chocolate Chip Biscotti
adapted from Cindy Walter

1/2 cup butter (I used is all I buy)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
2 tablespoons Amaretto
2 1/4 cups uncleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar (I used my kitchenaid).  Beat in eggs, vanilla, and Amaretto.  Add flour and baking powder.  Mix in chips last. 

Butter a baking pan and set aside.  On a lightly floured worksurface, split dough in half to make two logs.  Bake for 25-27 minutes.

When they come out, the logs will still look like they aren't cooked all the way.  That's ok!

Allow them to cool for 5 minutes or so, and then slice using a serrated knife.  I got 10 pieces out of each log (not counting the ends that the kids and I ate).

Bake an additional 8-10 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom.  They should feel firm on the edges.  The middles will firm up more as they cool.  Remove from the pan and place on wire cooling racks.

While cooling, start making the chocolate dip (if using).  I microwaved 2/3 cup of mini chocolate chips with 2-3 tbsp fat free vanilla creamer.  I swear, creamer isn't just for coffee! :) Once all of the chocolate is melted, dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate and place on a cooling rack covered in wax paper.  This chip/creamer ratio covered 16 biscotti.  I ran out of chocolate chips or else I would have used more.  I think 1 cup chips and 4 tbsp creamer would be perfect for all 20 biscotti.

Allow the chocolate to set before serving.  As you can see, the kids could hardly wait to dig in.  These were a definite crowd pleaser.

*Note - these biscotti are not the crispy kind you buy in the coffee shop. They are firm on the edges but slightly soft in the center. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My CVS Bounty

I have never posted anything before about my thriftiness.  However, being a stay-at-home-mom we have to save where we can and I feel like a lot of other households are probably in the same situation so I wanted to share a couple of tips.

In any case, I am a frequent CVS shopper.  I am a coupon fanatic, and if there is a grocery store within a 20 mile radius, you better believe I read the flyer each Sunday to find out where the sales are that week.  Today was my weekly trip to CVS and I made out pretty well so I wanted to share.

Here is what I got at CVS today:

Colgate Total Toothpaste - retail $3.99
Crest Pro Health Toothpaste (2 tubes) - retail $7.58 for both
Tom's Wicked Fresh Mouthwash - retail $5.79
Orbit gum (2 packs) - retail $2.58 for both

The total of all of these items retails for $19.94.  I walked out of the store only paying $2.33. 

Here is how I did it:

I start with the items that are on sale in the flyer and find the ones that #1 I have a coupon for, and #2 have an extra bucks reward attached to them.  (In case you didn't know, extra bucks are basically CVS coupons that you can use on whatever you want on your next purchase.  Basically it is free money for the next time you shop). 

Still with me?? Good! Here is the breakdown of how I did it:

The colgate was on sale for $2.99 and I had a $1.00 off coupon.  I also got $1.00 extra buck for buying it (to use next time).

The crest was on sale for $2.99 each and I had a $1.00 off coupon for two.  I got $4.00 extra bucks for buying this (to use next time).

The Tom's mouthwash was on sale for $3.99 and I got $3.00 extra bucks for buying it (to use next time).

The orbit gum was buy one get one free.  Gotta love BOGO deals!

In addition to my 2 $1.00 off coupons, I also had a CVS extra bucks coupon worth $10.00 from my purchases last week (also a very good week)! 

After all the discounts and coupons came off, I walked out of the store only paying $2.33 and I got $8.00 worth of extra buck coupons for next week.  Not too shabby in my opinion!

My favorite part is seeing how much I saved during each shopping trip - today I saved $17.69. 

Needless to say, we will have very fresh breath in our household, at least until the supply runs out! One of these days, I should take a picture of my "stash"...I have a cabinet full of items I got from CVS either for free, or very cheap.

With a little planning and coupon clipping, you can be a CVS shopper saver too!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dear Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes...

Dear Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes,

We had a great week.  I made six dozen of you and it was fun.  Unfortunately, after being covered in cocoa powder and peanut butter in places I don't want to mention, it is time to say goodbye for a while. I feel slightly guilty about this but I am going to share your recipe with others so that the love can go on...just not in my kitchen.  I hope you understand.



Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
very slightly adapted from: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule

1 cup milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Use paper or foil liners in a 12-cup muffin pan.  Using a standing mixer, combine the milk and apple cider vinegar in mixing bowl and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.  While the milk mixture is sitting, sift together the dry ingredients, minus the sugar.  Start the mixer and add the sugar, vanilla, and oil.  Begin adding the dry ingredients a little at a time until everything is incorporated.  Scrape down the sides if necessary.  Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 2 minutes and then remove to a cooling rake and allow to cool completely.   Makes one dozen cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Frosting
very slightly adapted from: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule

4 tbsp butter, softened
3 tbsp shortening
1/3 plus 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp vanilla flavored coffee creamer (you know...the one in the refrigerated section of the supermarket.  I know it is weird...just go with it.  You can substitute half and half or milk if you want.)

Using the standing mixer again, cream together the butter and shortening.  Add vanilla and peanut butter and mix until smooth.  Add sugar and creamer.  Beat until light and fluffy...about 4 minutes.  Don't forget to scrape down the sides to make sure everything is combined.  Frost cooled cupcakes.  Makes enough frosting for one dozen.

If you are a the normal substitutions (soy milk, soy creamer, Earth balance).  Enjoy!

Homemade cards - It is so easy!

I talked a little bit before about how much I love making homemade cards.  I started doing it a couple of years ago, and while I don't do it all the time, when I get back into it, I just can't stop! I wanted to share a few that I have done, hopefully to inspire you to try it yourself! The hardest part is coming up with the design of the card...after that it is a piece of cake!

I tried to give you a couple of different designs hopefully to give you a few ideas. Don't forget the one that I made here.  It is one of my favorites! Most importantly, have fun with it! I know from experience, that friends and family love the thought of homemade cards and really appreciate the time you put into it.

Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Real Reason Kids Love Snow

I've come to the conclusion that the kids (all 3 of mine pictured below) don't go outside to play in the snow because of the actual's because mommy makes the best hot chocolate in the whole world and I'm ok with that :)

The secret? Hershey bars melted slowly into the milk and hot chocolate mix over the stove.  I swear, makes all the difference in the world.  P.S. Don't forget the whipped cream (marshmellows are for the birds)!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best Cinnamon Rolls EVER

Every year I make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning.  The family goes crazy over them! They are a bit time consuming so if you don't have the willpower to wake up at 5:00AM to start the dough for a normal breakfast, you can always make them for brunch.  I tried an overnight rise on the dough once and it did not turn out for me but feel free to give that a whirl too.  You seriously have to make these cinnamon rolls at least once...they will knock your socks off!

P.S. These can totally be made vegan by using Earth Balance sticks instead of butter, Tofuti Cream Cheese instead of regular, Egg Replacer for the eggs, and sub soy milk for regular milk.  It works perfectly as well.  I've made them both ways!

Cinnamon Rolls

2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup sugar (preferably unbleached but you can use whatever you have)
1 cup milk (or 1 cup soy milk)
2 eggs (or 2 eggs worth of egg replacer according to box directions)
1/3 cup butter, melted (or 1/3 cup Earth Balance, melted)
4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt

1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened (or 1/3 cup Earth Balance, softened)

4 oz cream cheese, softened (or 4 oz Tofuti, softened)
1/4 cup butter, softened (or 1/4 cup Earth Balance)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
pinch salt

Using the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the yeast, sugar, and warmed milk and let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes).  Using the dough hook attachment, turn the mixer on low and add eggs, melted butter, flour and salt.  Knead about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, not sticky.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to double in size, at least an hour. 

After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured work surface and cover to allow to rest another 10 minutes. 

While the dough is resting, combine the filling ingredients in a small bowl.

Roll the dough out into a large 16x21 rectangle.  Spread the filling ingredients evenly over the dough. Roll the dough snugly and cut the ends off by about 1/2 inch or so (the ends always have less filling! :) Cut the remaining dough into 12 sections using a sharp knife. 

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan with a little more butter.  If you are feeling adventurous, you can also sprinkle a bit more brown sugar and cinnamon in the bottom for extra gooeyness.  Place the rolls in the baking dish and cover again to allow time to rise.  They should almost double in size and take about 30 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Once the rolls are risen, bake about 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. 

While the rolls are baking, mix the icing ingredients together.  Spread the frosting on the warm rolls.

Enjoy these with a steaming cup of coffee and you will be in heaven!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Simple Marinara Sauce

Sorry for the extended vacation - the holidays overwhelmed me and I found myself busy with everything in life besides cooking.  There is some other news that I would love to share...just not yet ;)

In the wonderful husband got me a Le Creuset Dutch Oven for Christmas this year. 

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red

After bugging me since Christmas Day to make him a marinara sauce in it I started to think the gift was really for him instead of myself.  He got his wish yesterday when I put together a simple marinara and allowed it to simmer the day away on the stove top.  You definitely do not have to cook the sauce as long as I did, I was just home all day so I had the pot on low for about 9 hours.  I took pictures but can't find them on my camera or laptop for the life of me. looked like sauce...I think you'll be ok without the pics :)

Simple Marinara

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup red wine ( I used a homemade Diego Red but your favorite red cooking wine is fine)
1 32oz can crushed tomatoes
1 32oz can whole peeled tomatoes (I used with basil)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp dried bay leaves (mine are crushed, if you have whole, just put in one whole leaf and fish it out at the end)

Heat olive oil in the bottom of the pan.  Add diced onions and saute until soft.  Add garlic and allow to cook about 4 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add red pepper and red wine.  Stir to get all of the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Simmer about 5 minutes with the lid on. 

Add crushed tomatoes.  Add whole peeled tomatoes by crushing with your hand.  If you like a completely smooth sauce, run the whole tomatoes through the blender before you add them.  I like a little substance to mine so I crush them by hand. 

Add sugar, bay leaves, and salt and pepper. 

Simmer on low with the lid on for as long as you want.  I would recommend at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to combine.  Like I said, I did about 9 hours.  I also made meatballs and sausage in the oven and then placed them in the sauce during the last hour of cooking.  Serve over your favorite pasta, or use this sauce in my Vegetable Parmesan recipe.