Calling All Caramel Fanatics–Caramel Fudge Brownies

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Calling all caramel fanatics!  I use to think that if you set a plate of peanut butter brownies down in front of me at the same time you set a plate of caramel brownies down,  I’d reach for the peanut butter brownies first.  But these brownies might just have disproved that theory.

These brownies are the rave.  They have a unique buttery/nutty flavor that can be noted even through all of that yummy dark chocolate.  If you’re planning on making brownies in the near future then I suggest you give this recipe a try.

Because these are so rich I cut them into bite sized pieces to serve them.  And then, I watched them disappear!

I modified my original recipe for Triple Chocolate Brownies to create these Caramel Fudge Brownies.

Caramel Fudge Brownies

1 stick of butter, melted

1 c. granulated sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 c. dark chocolate chips, melted

1 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. caramel sauce (plus 1/4 c. for topping)

1/2 c.  mini dark chocolate chips

Line the bottom of an 8”x8” pan  with a piece of parchment paper.  Spray the sides with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and eggs.  Beat in caramel sauce and melted chocolate.  Add cocoa, baking powder, salt, and vanilla; mix thoroughly.  Add flour and mix until all ingredients are well blended.  Fold in mini chocolate chips.  Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely and then turn onto a cutting board.  Cut into desired sizes and drizzle caramel sauce on top.

You know, it’s not too late to whip up a batch of these for your Super Bowl party!

Cheesy Potato Casserole

There isn’t much I’m going to gab about in this post.  Other than how deliciously sumptuous and belly filling this Cheesy Potato Casserole is.

Yesterday was one of those days that I decided to play mad scientist in the kitchen.  And oddly enough, I wasn’t craving sweets like I normally do, I was craving a comfort food.  Maybe it’s because we’ve had such cold and blustery weather for days on end.  Or maybe it’s because I was preparing myself for a night of cozying up in front of the television to watch the latest episode of Downton Abbey.  Whatever the reason, this mad scientist made the best cheesy potato casserole in her history of cooking.

Since I opted to make this dish later in the day I missed the chance to get nice bright photo’s but I went ahead and took pictures anyways.

Cheesy Potato Casserole

1/2 of a 8 oz. brick of Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated

1/2 of a 8 oz. brick of Pepper Jack Cheese, grated

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. diced onion

2 tbsp. diced red pepper

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 c. skim milk

1 pinch of salt

1/4 tsp. season salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 can of Cream of Potato Soup

5 mediums sized russet potatoes (with the skins on), sliced thin

1 1/2 cups French fried onions

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (set aside for topping)

Grease a large casserole dish with butter.  I used a 10” oval dish.

Grate the cheese into a large bowl.

Slice potatoes.  I used my Pampered Chef Mandoline to get the job done quickly.

Melt butter in skillet on low heat and lightly sauté onions, peppers, and garlic.

Add flour to sautéed vegetables and mix thoroughly.  On medium heat, stir in the skim milk making a white sauce.  Stir constantly until thickened.

Add potato soup, salt, pepper, and season salt to the white sauce, completely mix all ingredients.

Remove from heat.

Layer half of the potatoes on the bottom of the prepared dish.  Pour half of the sauce over the potatoes and sprinkle half the cheese over them. Then sprinkle half of the French fried onions on top.

Repeat the process.

Finish the dish by sprinkling the grated parmesan cheese on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees until potatoes are tender – about 1 hour.  Remove aluminum foil and bake for about 10-15 minutes more to brown the top of the casserole.

These potatoes are so good.  Cheesy, gooey, and crusty all in one dish!   I regret that I didn’t get a picture of the casserole bubbling and freshly baked.  We dug in before I even gave it a thought.

This would make a great dish to take to any potluck supper.  I can almost guarantee that you won’t have to worry about carting any leftovers home.

What is your favorite comfort food?

Simple & Sweet Shortbread Cookies

Somehow, January has nearly slipped right by me.  It wasn’t until today that I realized we will soon be entering the ever so cold month of February, (as if it hasn’t been ever so cold already) and soon Cupid will arrive with his love potion filled arrows.

Last year, in honor of what is suppose to be one of the most romantic days of the year, I made several delicious treats leading up to the big day.  I kicked off the celebration with Strawberry Kiss Cheesecakes.   Then came the Chocoholic Cupcake, the Marshmallow, Peanut Butter, and Cake Truffles, and let’s not forget the Valentine Cream Wafer (Heart) Cookies.  

I decided to start this years celebration off with one of my most favorite cookies ever.  The Simple & Sweet Shortbread Cookie.  These cookies are melt in your mouth perfect.  Butter, sugar, flour, a pinch of salt and a touch of vanilla.  That’s it – so simple, so sweet!

SIMPLE & SWEET SHORTBREAD COOKIES

2 sticks of butter, room temperature

1/2 c. granulated sugar

a pinch of salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 c. all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar for rolling

Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, add butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Cream ingredients together; add flour.  Continue to mix ingredients until everything is blended.  Form dough into a ball. 

Place a dough on a piece of parchment paper that is coated with a light coating of powdered sugar.  Roll dough out until it is about 1/4” thick. Use more powdered sugar if needed.  Cut out cookies using a cookie cutter.  Place cookies on prepared cookie sheet about 1 1/2” apart.  Bake for about 8 minutes.  Do not over bake.  They will firm up after removing them from the oven.  Allow cookies to cool completely on cookie sheet before moving them.

If you want to spruce your cookies up, roll the edges in a thin butter cream icing and then coat the edges with some colored sugar.   

I couldn’t resist sneaking this cute little (like new) tea cup from Teavana into this picture.  I found it at a local thrift store for 30 cents.  That’s my kind of bargain!

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about romance.  It can simply be about kindness.  Make a batch of these delicious cookies, pair them with a pretty tea cup or coffee mug, and give them to someone that’s deserving this Valentine’s Day.

I’m planning on sharing my cookies at one of my favorite hangouts – BeBetsy.  Make sure you check out their great site because there is something there for everyone.

Pineapple Coconut Cupcakes

 

Watching the snow fall yesterday made me long for tropical.  A bright sunny beach, a cozy hammock nestled under a row of palm trees, a warm tropical breeze, and of course a fruity cocktail in hand.  And once my daydream ended, I realized that a tropical flavored cupcake would be the closest I’d get to anything tropical for quite some time.

Pineapple Coconut Cupcakes

With some leftover pineapple slices in the fridge, and a box of coconut pudding in the cupboard, a new cupcake recipe was born 

These cupcakes are super moist and they don’t need a thick buttery frosting to make them shine.  The combined flavors do that all on their own.

Pineapple Coconut Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 12 cupcake tins with papers.

1 egg

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. olive oil

1 3.4 oz. package of Jell-O Instant Coconut Pudding/Pie Filling

1/2 c. diced pineapple

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 c. skim milk

In a large bowl, add egg, sugar, oil, pudding and pineapple; beat briefly with electric mixer.  Mix in baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla.  Add flour and skim milk and beat until all ingredients are combined.

Fill cupcake papers 2/3 full and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Allow to cool in tins before transferring to a baking rack. 

When ready to serve, sift confectioners sugar on top of each cupcake.

What are you doing to help you get through the long winter?  Are you daydreaming like me? Or are you planning a sunny vacation?

Grab & Go Bran Muffins

If I were going to invite (you) some of my closest friends over for a cup of coffee to catch up on things, which I really need to do, I’d make these yummy muffins to share.  This is by far is my most favorite muffin recipe – ever.  I can’t really explain why, but I’ll try.  These muffins are moist, a little sweeter than most, and their flavor is unique.  In other words, not so branny.

This recipe originated from one that my mom had.  Her recipe makes a whopping 50 muffins.  I certainly don’t have room for that many muffins in my freezer – do you?  So,  instead of making enough muffins to feed an army, I did a little adjusting and cut the recipe down considerably.  Now I can make a dozen at a time without having muffins up the wazoo.

These are some of the easiest muffins to make.  I just throw the ingredients in a large bowl and mix them up by hand.  This recipe makes a dozen muffins.

Grease muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grab & Go Bran Muffins

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. butter, melted

1 egg, beaten

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. sour milk

1 c. bran flakes (If you like raisins, use substitute raisin bran flakes)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into prepared muffin pan.  Bake for approximately 13 minutes.  Check with a toothpick to make sure center is done.  Remove from oven; let cool before removing them from the pan.

What is your favorite muffin?

Peppermint Meltaway Cookies and Merry Christmas!

My daughter just  introduced me to a cookie that I’ve never had before.  I can’t imagine how this one slipped past me in all the years that I’ve been baking!  This little shortbread cookie has now made it’s way to the top of my “favorites” list .

These cookies have probably garnered their name from the fact that they are so tender and will melt in your mouth.  Yep, one right after another!

We got the recipe from Taste of Home’s website.  If you’d like the recipe to these delicious little gems please follow the link I just provided.

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Happy baking, and Merry Christmas!

Dark Chocolate Mint Ovation Brownies

It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve made something really chocolaty and rich to share here on my blog.  Since I feel a wee bit irresponsible for not making more chocolate goodies for you, I’m making it up to you by sharing my newest chocolate brownie creation.

If you like the combination of mint and chocolate together then stick around.  These brownies (in my opinion) have the perfect texture; cake like and fudgy.  And the flavor is delicious – and that’s coming from someone who would normally prefer peanut butter to mint most any day of the week. 

These brownies will surely fit perfectly in your holiday cookie gift boxes this year.  If you don’t make cookie boxes, but are expecting to entertain guests this holiday season, then serve these up with a scoop of French Vanilla Ice cream and drizzle a little hot fudge on top – they’ll be a hit!

Instead of using mint chocolate chips in these brownies, I used Ovation Dark Mint Filled Break-A-Part candy.  These scrumptious candies come in the shape of an orange and they break apart into 20 pieces.  They also come in a variety of other unique flavors so you can really get creative when you bake using these.

Dark Chocolate Mint Ovation Brownies

1/2 c. margarine, melted

1 c. granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 c. dark chocolate mini chips, melted

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. baking cocoa

3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. chopped Dark Chocolate Mint Ovation Candy, (1/2 c. for the batter and 1/2 c. for the topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 8”x8” glass baking pan.

In a large bowl, add margarine, sugar, eggs, an melted chocolate dark mini chips; mix thoroughly.  Add baking powder, salt, cocoa, and flour.  Mix all ingredients together until blended.  Fold in 1/2 c. of chopped Ovation candy. 

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the pan of brownies.  Remove brownies from oven and immediately sprinkle remaining 1/2 c. of chopped Ovation candy on top.  Cool thoroughly before cutting.

Ovation Break-A-Parts also come in Milk Chocolate Raspberry, Almond, Pumpkin Spice, Orange, and Key Lime, and Dark Chocolate Orange.  Which flavor would you pick to bake with?

Candy provided by SweetWorks Candy.  I was not compensated for this post and the opinions are my own.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Bread (Yeast)

Slathered in butter, made into a sandwich, or toasted; there is nothing better than homemade bread.  Many bakers are intimidated by the process of making homemade bread.  But I’m here to tell you there is no reason to be.  Especially, if you use this recipe. 

The canned pumpkin in this recipe helps make this bread super moist and practically no fail.  There is no fancy mixer needed either.  I simply use a wooden spoon and mix the dough by hand.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour + 1/4 c. for 1st kneading

1 tbsp. light brown sugar

1 tbsp. instant yeast

1 1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. olive oil

3/4 c. pureed pumpkin

1 c. water

Grease 1 large loaf pan.

In a large bowl; add flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt, , cinnamon,  oil,  and pumpkin puree. Lightly stir ingredients until blended. Pour in water and mix by hand until all ingredients are combined.

Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface (using the 1/4 cup of flour you set aside). Knead dough until it forms a smooth ball. Place ball in a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, set in draft free location, and rise until doubled.

On lightly floured surface; punch dough down and roll into one large loaf. Place in prepared pan; cover and let rise until nearly doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until the loaf sound hollow when tapped. Turn onto cooling rack and brush with butter.

Do you make homemade bread?  If so, how frequently? 

Madagascar Vanilla Made with Vodka–A Special Homemade Holiday Gift

A couple of years ago, I won a bottle of homemade Madagascar Vanilla in a giveaway hosted by another blogger.  I have to tell you, I squeaked every last drop of vanilla out of that bottle.  For baking, there is nothing as good as pure vanilla extract; nothing…

Making homemade vanilla is a simple DIY project.  And if you get started right now, you’ll have a great holiday gift to give those bakers on your list.  And did I mention how delicious homemade vanilla extract tastes in French toast?

What you will need:

(8) 6 oz. Bottles & Corks, or Caps

(1) bottle 1.75 Liter of Vodka  (I used Barton’s Vodka)

(12) Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Sharp Pairing Knife

Cutting Board

Funnel

Wash all bottles with hot soapy water and let air dry.  Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise; then cut in half.  Place 1 1/2 beans in each bottle.  Fill each bottle with vodka.  Wipe edge of bottles with warm clean cloth and place a cork in each one.   Store in dark place; uncork in 3 months.

This picture above was taken right after making the extract.

Once you make the extract you will need to decide how you want to label it.  I opted to keep it simple, and made my tags out of cardstock.  I used my Cricut cutter to make my tags, and then I stamped the word Vanilla on each tag using my alphabet stamps and maroon ink.  On the back, I printed the date that the vanilla may be opened.  To finish them off, I punched a star hole in the top of each tag so it could accommodate a ribbon.

Tell me, what baker wouldn’t want a bottle of this in their stocking?

My vanilla now 10 days old.  It will get darker and stronger as time passes.  I can’t wait to pop the cork and use this in a batch of my favorite sugar cookies.

What kind of treat would you make using homemade vanilla extract?

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Iced Cinnamon Candy Cookies

I love cinnamon candies.  I like putting them in my applesauce and I like putting them on top of my homemade frosted sugar cookies.  They are so darned good!  So, when I recently stumbled onto a cookie recipe at Bakingdom that called for cinnamon candies, in and on the cookie, I knew that the cookie and I were destined for each other. 

I made some modifications to the original (shortbread) cookie recipe by trying to be conscientious of that fact that the recipe called for two sticks of butter or margarine. I cut the fat down to one stick, and as a result of doing so, my adapted version of the cookie is lacking in the soft and tender department.  In fact, my first bite was like oh, no…  But with that said they have grown on me and I’ve eaten my fair share, and then some!  Being a soft cookie fan just means I just had to change my mindset.

Iced Cinnamon Candy Cookies

1/2 c. margarine, chilled

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tbsp. cinnamon candies, crushed (set 1 tbsp. aside for topping)

1 3/4 c. flour

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, beat margarine, sugar, salt, and vanilla until mixture clumps together.  Mix in candies and flour; mix thoroughly.  Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface and roll dough out to about 1/4” thick.  Using a cookie cutter cut cookies out.  I made designs on top of my cookies with a smaller cookie cutter – similar to what Darla from Bakingdom did.  Continue to re-roll excess dough and repeat. Place cookies on prepared cookie sheets and bake for about 12-14 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing

In a separate bowl, add 1 1/4 c. confectioners sugar, 1 tbsp. softened margarine,  a drop of milk, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. Mix icing until it’s thin and can be drizzled on top of cookie.  Add another drop of milk if necessary. Drizzle icing on cooled cookies and sprinkle with crushed candies.

Store in an airtight container.

Are you planning on making cookies to share with friends and family this holiday season?  If so, what is the one cookie you must to make?

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