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Posts Tagged ‘NYC’

The gusty wind and the countless holiday-themed movies already dominating the main television channels officially declare that the holiday season has arrived. So, to commemorate this time of the year, I’m going to share a few of my favorite holiday things (and by things, I mean treats). During this time of the year, my baking goes into full drive.. Some recipes are super easy while others require a little more time, patience, and attention. But all are wonderful! For your convenience, I will list the recipes in order of difficulty (beginning with the easiest). Prepare for a plethora of tasty options to try for yourself!

Chex Muddy Buddies

INGREDIENTS

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margerine
1 teaspoon vanilla
9 cups Chex cereal (any variety)– about one 12-13 oz bag
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla.

2. In large bowl, place cereal. Pour chocolate mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon food-storage plastic bag.

3. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool, about 30 minutes. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

*Recipe courtesy of General Mills Chex cereal

As you can tell from eyeing the ingredients, this recipe makes hardly a small batch. The little dish in the picture is only a tiny sample of what the actual recipe yields. Chex Muddy Buddies are a great snack for entertaining.. an easy, sweet crunch of a snack. But, I know what you’re thinking.. How much of these little guys can you eat? Honestly, I’m a one handful type of person. I think it’s tasty but–as much as I love making sweets– I’m a true fan of savory dishes.. Surprising, right? But Chex Muddy Buddies is one of my favorite recipes for sharing purposes. I personally find it messy to pass around a big container full of Buddies.. and it’s also flu season. However, a great idea is to get some cute containers or bowls (perhaps just cellophane wrap with a nice bow) and give them as token holiday gifts to friends, family, or neighbors.

As far as simplicity.. this is a no brainer. You can use the saucepan method, but the MICROWAVE in less than 2 minutes!!.. Well, I think that says it all. I did not have the 2-gallon food storage plastic bag. We only have 1-gallons in this household. No big deal. I just split the Chex mixture into two 1-gallon food storage plastic bags. Don’t try fitting the whole batch into one 1-gallon bag. That is forcing it. Trust me. Not a good idea. As for the powdered sugar, use just enough that will coat the Muddy Buddies. Don’t stress about measuring the powdered sugar, especially if you decided to separate the batch into a couple bags. Just have fun and enjoy!

Best Seller Caramel Corn

INGREDIENTS

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla
8 cups popped popcorn (1/3 cup unpopped)

DIRECTIONS

1. Pop popcorn

2. Preheat oven to 275F; have ready jelly roll pan.

3. Placed popped corn in a very large bowl.

4. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the sugar, butter, and corn syrup and bring to a boil; let boil for two minutes, stirring continuously.

5. Remove from heat.

6. Note that it is IMPORTANT to use a large saucepan, as this mixture will bubble up. (I don’t know why this is stressed so much in the recipe. A good-sized medium pot works just fine!)

7. Add baking soda and vanilla to sugar mixture and combine well.

8. Pour this mixture over popped corn and combine, then spread mixture out onto jelly roll pan.

9. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, stirring well every 10 minutes.

10. Let cool before eating.

*Recipe courtesy of RecipeZaar


For me, it’s hard to trust the Internet. Especially when I want to try out a new recipe, I’m always skeptical about following one from an unfamiliar source. Even after examining reviews and comments, how am I supposed to know if they’re lying? Well, you are hearing it firsthand from me.. Whoever posted this recipe on RecipeZaar was not lying about this recipe being “Best Seller Caramel Corn”. This is possibly the BEST (yes, THE.. BEST) caramel corn I have ever eaten.. including all of the store bought brands and holiday tins. If you have 40 minutes to spare, I guarantee you can successfully execute this recipe.** And then you’ll probably end up doing what I did and devote another 40 minutes to making another batch! I believe the response I received was: “You know what? It melts in your mouth.” It’s true. Somehow, even though you know that that plain low-calorie popcorn is covered in brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup.. it still seems light.

This past summer, my family invested in a Cuisinart popcorn maker. Not a very expensive kitchen appliance but I can understand how it may seem like an unnecessary one. However, after hearing some pretty terrible things about microwave popcorn and trying to cut back on chips, freshly popped popcorn sounded like a good alternative. And the popcorn maker has proven to come in handy. A little bit of corn kernels goes a long way (1/3 kernels makes 8 cups of popcorn!). My personal opinion is that freshly popped popcorn makes a big difference. I don’t mind plain popcorn but if I want some melted butter and/or salt, I can control how much to use. Carmel corn is a great treat to mix it up! I say ditch the big tin and make a batch of this caramel corn.. Oh yeah, and share.. if you want. If you really miss the big tin, then do what I did and put a batch into a tin. Like the Chex Muddy Buddies, you can also package this up as gifts. Just don’t forget to save some for yourself! You’ll regret it!

**SIDE NOTE: At the end of the 40 minutes, I suggest immediately transferring the pan of caramel corn onto parchment/wax paper to cool. Allowing the caramel corn to cool on the pan will make it difficult to remove when you are ready to eat. You don’t want to eat this in crumbs! Once the caramel corn is cooled (about 2 minutes), you can sift through the batch and gently break apart the clumps of corn so that every piece is a bite sized piece!

Peanut Butter Cookies

INGREDIENTS

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup pack brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Stir together flour, soda, and salt.

3. In a mixer bowl beat butter for 30 seconds. Add peanut butter and sugars; beat till fluffy. Add egg ad vanilla; beat well.

4. Add dry ingredients to beaten mixture; beat till well blended.

5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in granulated sugar, if desired. (I don’t roll the dough in the sugar.. It really doesn’t need it!!)

6. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet; crisscross with the tines of a fork.

7. Bake in a 375 degree oven about 10 minutes. Cool about 1 minute before removing to a wire rack.

*Recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

When I was in high school, I used to make cookies at least once a week. Especially during this time of the year, I had tons of extra gift boxes (probably from all of that holiday shopping). So in the large clothing boxes meant to wrap up the ‘Christmas gifts’ I bought for myself, I neatly packed as many cookies as I could fit inside.. tied a bow on the box.. and safely brought them to school.

I always go overboard during the holidays, so I usually made at least 2 or 3 different types of cookies. One chocolate chip, one snickerdoodle.. and then there is peanut butter. This peanut butter cookie is terribly wonderful. It is, indeed, terrible that they are so wonderful because I always do my best to avoid packing on the dreadful holiday weight. Since I like baking more than eating sweets, I’ve never had a problem. However, there is something about these peanut butter cookies that do it for me.

The cookies bake in the most amazing– surprisingly perfect– way. Uniform circles. The lovely criss-cross pattern. The slightly crisp outside with a chewy inside. These are by far the best shaped cookies you will ever make. I am sure that if I ever parted with my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (but let’s hope it never comes to that), I can whip these up on the spot with no problem. If you take a look at the ingredients, you’ll notice that more than half of the ingredients are “1/2”. 1 egg. And the dry ingredients all require a “1/4” cup or teaspoon. These little tidbits have made it easy to remember and certainly an easy cleanup.

Somehow, I haven’t yet found a plain chocolate chip cookie recipe that I have fallen in love with like I have with this peanut butter cookie recipe. So, these days, I’ve been adding some chocolate chips into the equation (about 1/2 cup-1 cup.. use your own judgement). Don’t let that fool you.. this cookie can stand on it’s own. I haven’t had any complaints.. and I don’t think I ever will.

Clementine’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 5 dozen 2-inch cookies

INGREDIENTS

12 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (2 cups)
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups oats, uncooked
1 cup walnuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color (about 4 minutes). Add vanilla and egg, and mix on low seed until incorporated.

3. Stir flour with baking soda, salt, and spices; add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats.Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.

4. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.

5. Bake 8-9 minutes for a chewy cookie, 10-11 minutes for a crisp cookie. Cool 1 minute on a cookie sheet; remove to wire cooling racks. Store in tightly covered container.

*Recipe courtesy of Ghirardelli Chocolate

You know my favorite shaped cookie.. this is my favorite drop cookie of all time. I believe it was one fine day during my senior year of high school. Well, now that I think about it, it could have been my junior year.. Yes, junior year..

First of all, I would like to say that I am very loyal to my favorite recipes.. especially when it comes to cookies. However, one night, I stumbled upon this Clementine’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe on the back of a package of Gharadelli Semisweet Chocolate Chips. Simply because it was different than my usual repertoire of cookies and it was a recipe with such a large yield (don’t forget I was baking for the mass.. well, kind of), I decided to try it out for fun. Quite possibly one of the best decisions I have ever made.

You may think.. What’s so great about an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie? Once you take a bite of this cookie.. you will know exactly why. Everything about this cookie is, well, everything a cookie should be and more. The very buttery and sugary paired with the combination of cinnamon and nutmeg. Good. Then you have chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. Good. The oatmeal that keeps the cookie nice and moist (I go with the bake time of the chewy cookie!!). Good. And, as if all that isn’t enough, I add Craisins! mmm.. Yep, that’s the topper. I have been adding Craisins to this cookie recipe since my first batch (as a substitute for chopped nuts because I didn’t have any at the time). Now, I never make these if I don’t have Craisins. Whenever I’m dealing with the works (chocolate chips, walnuts, and Craisins), I cut the walnuts down to a 1/2 cup and add a 1/2 cup of Craisins. You can certainly ration them out any way you like or stick with the original recipe. There really is no way you can go wrong.

There are small reasons why I rate this recipe with more difficulty. Large yield means lots of time. It takes 8-9 minutes (for the chewy cookie).. but the time adds up. So, if you are baking the whole recipe batch, it requires patience. Secondly, the batter is a bit sticky.. It’s not too bad, but I suggest keeping the bowl of your batter in the refrigerator while you are waiting for the sheet(s) baking in the oven to finish. By chilling up the batter (even just a little bit), it will be easier to work with when you are ready to dish out more spoonfuls to be baked. Thirdly, there is a lot going on in this cookie batter. I know that when I give the batter the works it seems like the amount of dough disappears and the extras (chocolate chips, walnuts, Craisins) seem to overpower my spoonful. Try your best to get those even spoonfuls (with a good amount of extras but enough of the dough to hold up the cookie). Definitely not too difficult. And lastly, the number of ingredients.. you had to know it was coming. For someone who looks for simplicity, this is one busy cookie. Although, to be fair, I can’t say it’s not worth it.

Overall, as much as I can appreciate the uniformity displayed by my favorite peanut butter cookie, drop cookies tend to look fancier for some reason. The time and effort really does show. I have received so many compliments because they taste and look so “professional”. I think I have been given a lot more credit than I really deserve. These cookies are just some type of magic; they turn you into a baked goods GENIUS overnight.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz. red food coloring (2 bottles)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set  aside. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined. making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

4. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Yes, it will fizz! Add vinegar mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the cupcake cups with cake batter (they shuld be 2/3-3/4 full). You may not fill all the cups. Place muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check early and don’t overbake!

5. Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting. frost cupcakes with cream cheese icing (recipe below) and decorate with red sprinkles if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting

INGREDIENTS

16 oz. cream cheese (2 cups), softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

1. With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth.

2. Turn mixer to low speed and bend in powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.

3. Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy.

4. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth).

*Recipe courtesy of Pinch My Salt

I tend to end most things in my life with a cupcake. In high school, I ended the school week with Happy Friday Cupcakes. As I was driving back to school with a carful of my friends from NYC, I ended Thanksgiving break with Red Velvet Cupcakes from Buttercup Bakery. So here it is.. the finale to a few of my favorite holiday things.. coincidentally, Red Velvet Cupcakes.

I have sifted through more Red Velvet Cake recipes than I would like to openly admit. Was the Red Velvet Cupcake with Vanilla Frosting from Buttercup Bakery more memorable than their Banana Pudding? ehhhhh.. not really. When it comes to any dessert, pastry, baked good– sweets, in general– I am somewhat hard to please. Call me a tough critic, but if I’m gonna indulge in some sugary bliss.. let it be bliss.

The cupcakes came out beautifully. I even made JUMBO cupcakes.. JUMBO cupcake liners and used a muffin tin to accommodate the extra large size. They were big enough that I had to use a knife to cut my cupcake to eat like I would cut a slice of a cake. The cream cheese frosting is delicious. The frosting is the perfect balance of sweet but with a distinct and enjoyable tanginess of the cream cheese, which pairs well with this cake. After making the frosting, I put it into a gallon-sized sealable plastic bag. To frost the cupcakes, I used the age old trick of cutting a corner of the plastic bag to create a disposable piping bag. My mom reminds me that we have piping tips somewhere in the kitchen.. but if you have a plastic bag, it works just as well. A very easy, very clean way of frosting a cupcake.

So, yes, let’s hear it.. Did these Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting make the cut? Truthfully.. for me.. not exactly. I realized that perhaps my attraction to the bright deep red color of the cake has confused me for loving the cake itself. BUT it certainly has nothing to do with this recipe or any Red Velvet Cake. In fact, when my dad brought these to work, everyone raved about how much they enjoyed them! Hmm.. I think it is just me.. Again, I stress to you, try it for yourself!

As far as difficulty.. this is the most difficult one out of the 5 I have presented to you today. Though, you can’t expect to make a homemade cake without it being a bigger challenge than if it came from a box. Making this cake– sifting the flour and then all the dry ingredients together, the separate bowls to the side, the alternating buttermilk and dry ingredients– does take work. The process really made me appreciative of cake-in-a -box (4 ingredients and less than 5 minutes to prepare the batter) that make cupcake-making so fast.. easy.. convenient. Attempting a cake from scratch is none of those things. That is a big warning. But, if you are someone who really loves baking (like me), you will love the challenge. And now, after this experience, I will probably bake many many more cakes from scratch until I find just the right selection of favorites.

For a cake without Betty or Duncan to credit, this cake is great. The festive red color is appropriate for the season, so it does make the cut for a one of my favorite holiday things. Because I do believe there is a Red Velvet Cake/Cupcake that will WOW me one day.. it will be my side mission to find it. I think I’ll try that Buttercup Bakery Red Velvet Cupcake recipe.. banana pudding was quite the distraction last time. As much as I liked the cream cheese frosting (and believe that people love Red Velvet for the cream cheese frosting), maybe a simple vanilla will make a difference for me.. or the cider vinegar instead of the white vinegar. I’ll let you know.

For now.. nom nom nom.

B

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Happy Friday! Today I was on a mission for my sweet-toothed fans! Ice cream, banana pudding, and toffee bar cookies.. Yes, I made all three.

I have never made homemade ice cream before. Okay, I said it. There has been an unused Krups ice cream maker in the house for years, and it’s about time to break in the little guy. As instructed by manufacturer, I placed the ice cream maker cylinder into the freezer last night to make sure it would be cool enough upon use. I searched for an simple ice cream recipe, quickly stumbling upon Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream recipes of all sorts. Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, Heath Bar Crunch.. Wow. I would have made them all if I had more than one ice cream maker and way more room in my freezer. I settled on the basic French Vanilla recipe. For my first ice cream making experience, all I can hope for is tasty success.

Ben & Jerry’s French Vanilla Ice Cream*

INGREDIENTS

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

1. Whisk the eggs until lights and fluffy.
2. Whisk  in the sugar until completely blended.
3. Pour in the whipping cream, milk, and vanilla extract, and keep whisking until smooth.
4. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

*This recipe is included in Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book.

Vanilla ice cream is a great starting point. Then, you have the option of adding in anything extra. Some suggestions: chocolate chips, mint chips, Reeses peanut butter cups, Heath Bar pieces, graham cracker, chocolate syrup.. pretty much whatever sounds good. Just 2 minutes before my ice cream was scheduled to be done, I added in milk chocolate chips and Nilla Wafer pieces.

After my ice cream thickened, I transferred the mixture into a container and set into the freezer to stiffen further.

My dad tried a couple scoops when he came home from work. He responded, “Wow, it tastes just like ice cream!” Yes, Dad, it is– in fact– ice cream.

french vanilla ice cream w/choc chips and nilla wafers!

Next, I began my banana pudding. I spent last Thanksgiving in NYC. M sent me back to school with a bagful of goodies, including some of Buttercup Bakery’s banana pudding. After a small cup of banana pudding from Buttercup Bakery in NYC just about a year ago, I knew I needed more! I discovered the recipe online: Magnolia/Buttercup Bakery’s Banana Pudding. Last winter, I made the banana pudding and fell in love all over again. It tasted just like I remembered.. and I was even happier that I didn’t have to go to NYC to satisfy my craving!

Magnolia/Buttercup Bakery’s Banana Pudding

INGREDIENTS

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix — preferably Jell-O brand)
3 cups heavy cream*
1 (12 oz) box Nabisco Nilla Wafters (no substitutions!)
4 cups sliced ripe bananas

*Can use whipped topping (Cool Whip) instead of heavy cream. I like using heavy cream– makes it more authentic!

DIRECTIONS

1. In a small bowl, on medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until well combined., about 1 minute. Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes more. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight, before continuing. It is very important to allow the proper amount of time for the pudding mixture to set.

2. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.

3. To assemble the dessert, select and large, wide bowl (preferably glass) with a 4-5 quart capacity. Arrange one-third of the wafters to cover the bottom of the bowl. overlapping if necessary, then one-third of the bananas and one-third of the pudding. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafters or wafter crumbs on the top layer of the pudding. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours- or up to 8 hours, but no longer!- before serving.

small batch banana pudding!

banana pudding packed for parentals to share at work.

Lastly, toffee bar cookies. True to its name, this dessert tastes just like toffee in a lovely bar cookie form. Unlike shaped or drop cookies, bar cookies are much simpler. After 15-18 minutes of cook time and one 15 x10x1-inch baking pan, a whole batch is ready.

Toffee Bars

INGREDIENTS

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 6-oz package (1 cup) semisweet chocolate pieces
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven 350

2. Beat butter for 30 seconds; add brown sugar and beat till fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour to beaten mixture, beating constantly.

3. Stir in chocolate pieces and nuts.

4. Press evenly in an ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan.

5. Bake in 350 oven for 15 to 18 minutes.

6. Cut into bar while warm.

Makes 48.

English Toffee Bars:  Prepare Toffee Bars as above, except omit chocolate pieces and nuts in the dough; bake as directed. Immediately sprinkle chocolate pieces over top and let stand till softened; then spread evenly. Sprinkle with finely chopped nuts.

*This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (aka MY BIBLE)

toffee bar cookies.

nom nom nom.

B

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