Friday, December 13, 2013

Key Lime Squares (with Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust)

I'm baaaaaack!  It's been a long time since I've posted.  My 6-month-old and almost-3-year-old seem to have a handle on the majority of my time lately. :)

This is a recipe I made for a luncheon with girlfriends in September.  The results were mouth-watering, and Martha Stewart can take every ounce of credit.  You may not love her or be into her style of doing things...but, man alive, the recipes that she publishes (whether they're her own or are the handiwork of her team)?  They're DELICIOUS.  And this one sealed the deal for me.

4 TBSP butter (melted and cooled), plus more for the pan
2/3 c shelled pistachios
1 c graham cracker crumbs (8-10 full crackers, roughly)
1/4 c sugar
1 TBSP grated lime zest

2 large egg yolks
1 can (14oz) sweetened, condensed milk
1/2 c fresh lime juice (I used bottled key lime juice, and you're gonna want to do the same!)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to about 8"x12".  Place into the bottom of a buttered 8x8 pan. (Martha says the butter holds it in place, and the parchment helps you lift them out.  And Martha?  She's right.) There will be a 2" overhang on 2 sides.

Grind pistachios, graham crackers, sugar, and zest in a food processor until finely ground.  Add (melted and cooled) butter.  Press mixture into pan and 1" up the sides.

Bake 8-12 minutes, or until slightly browned.  Cool 30 minutes.

For the filling, combine egg yolks and sweetened, condensed milk in a bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  Add lime juice (key lime, remember?) and whisk again until smooth.

Pour into cooled crust, carefully spreading to edges.

Bake until set, or about 15 minutes.  Cool in pan on rack.  Chill at least 1 hour before serving.

To cut, lift parchment paper (by the overhanging pieces) and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into 4 columns and 4 rows with a serrated knife (I used a chef's knife, so don't tell.), wiping knife clean with a damp towel between cuts.

Makes 16.

Comments from the cook:  TRUST MARTHA.  These are mouth-watering.  Tangy and a little sour, with just enough sweetness to make you reeeeally want to be Martha's next-door neighbor. (Imagine the Christmas neighbor gifts!) :) 

I was tempted to forego the pistachios in the crust at the last minute because I didn't have any, but a friend had some on hand, and they were the perfect addition.

Originally found here.  Most text (including ingredient list) taken from her website.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chocolate Marshmallow Frosted Brownies

I'm baaaaaack!  I'm sure you're well aware that this little recipe blog has suffered two casualties.  Each has lasted about 8 months...and, upon further consideration, is very definitely linked to a little pink bundle of joy.  My pregnancies are rough, and new recipes are few and far between when everything I eat leaves a bad aftertaste in my mouth.  BUT, we're just a few weeks from welcoming that 2nd pink bundle, and I have a recipe to share.  My mom has been making these brownies for years, and I thought I'd pass the recipe along.

Bottom Layer:  Brownies.  Normally, I'd grab a boxed mix for this.  But, I didn't have one, and didn't want to go to the store to get one.  So I chose an even better alternative.  I used my very favorite from-scratch brownie recipe, found here.

Bake according to directions.  For best results, go with a shorter cook time and a softer brownie rather than a crispier one.  

Middle Layer:  Mini marshmallows.  About half a bag.  Remove hot brownies from oven, and sprinkle with marshmallows.  Turn oven off, and place brownies back into oven to allow marshmallows to puff up.  This should just take a few minutes.  You want them to puff, but not brown.  I think mine took 3-4 minutes.

Allow marshmallow-topped brownies to cool for about 15-20 minutes.  Then frost.

Frosting: The chocolate frosting from this awesome cake has become my new go-to.  This time, I added another cup or so of powdered sugar.  I wanted the texture to be a bit more firm, and the thickness turned out perfectly.

So, there you have 'em.  Thick, chewy, and marshmallowey frosted brownies.  Perfect for a summer BBQ or family gathering...and richer than you think!  Trust me... you'll want a big one, but ought to start small.  And, while you're at it, make sure the milk is close-by :)

Comments from the cook:  I don't usually do so, but decided to line my 9x13 pan with parchment paper this time.  After melting the marshmallows and then frosting the brownies, I allowed them to cool for a few hours.  When I was ready to cut them up, I removed the parchment paper and used a large knife to do the job.  It worked BEAUTIFULLY.  So, take my word for it.  Use parchment paper if you want the cutting to go more smoothly.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fudgy Bon-Bons

This recipe won the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 1994 and was featured in the Tampa Tribune when I was growing up. My mom tried them and has had them in her cookie arsenal ever since.  They're different from a lot of other cookies, and are rich enough that you'll want to make sure you've got a glass of milk close-by!

1 (12oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
1/4 c butter (1/2 stick)
1 (14oz) can sweetened, condensed milk
2 c flour
1 tsp vanilla
60 Hershey Kisses, unwrapped
2oz almond bark or white chocolate
1 tsp canola oil

Unwrap Kisses and set aside.

Heat chocolate chips and butter in microwave-safe dish for about 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.

Add sweetened condensed milk and mix well.

Add vanilla and flour to chocolate mixture.  Combine until dough forms.

Spoon 1 TBSP of dough into a ball with your hands, then press a Hershey Kiss into the center.  Shape dough around Kiss by rolling it back into a ball.

Place 1" apart on cookie sheet.

Bake at 350° for 6-8 minutes.  Cookies will appear shiny (and uncooked), but will harden as they cool.  Do not overbake!

Allow to cool.

Combine almond bark and oil together and warm in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds or so.  Drizzle over bon-bons (I use a fork to flick the chocolate back and forth).

Comments from the cook:  Trust me... It's so hard to take these out of the oven after 6-8 minutes! They don't look ready, but they are!  The shiny-ness goes away after they are cooled, and the results are fabulous.  Overcooking makes them dry and crusty.  Trust me on that one :)

These are best when served same-day, in my opinion.  But, if they have a chance to cool completely, just use my mom's advice. Heat one in the microwave for 7 seconds - just long enough for the Hershey Kiss to melt inside - and they're magical again.  She's made different variations, and my (very) favorite is the kind she makes with Coconut Cream Hershey Kisses (available seasonally).  She follows the same steps, and sprinkles a bit of coconut on the top of the finished cookies.  Yum!

Hope you like them...

Originally the Pillsbury Bake-Off winner from 1994.  A version of the original recipe can be found here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All Things Pumpkin

I can't stand it.  I can't take it.  I've got cans of solid pack pumpkin in my cupboard that are DYING to be used.  What shall it be?

I could go with the ever-reliable Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins... Only a few ingredients, and easy-peasy.

Or I might be tempted to make a season-opening batch of my mom's Pumpkin Muffins... They're my favorite way to bask in the beginning of Fall.

Then again, it probably couldn't hurt to get a little fancy and go with the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins...

But really, how could I resist my maybe-favorite-of-all, Pumpkin Pie Bars?

Heck, if you need me, maybe I'll be busy...making all four. :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pink Lemonade Cookies

These little darlings have been in my mom's cookie arsenal for years.  She found them in a Better Homes & Gardens special interest edition called "Christmas Cookies" in 1998.  And they've been surprising, intriguing, and delighting people ever since.  They're far from traditional, and often raise eyebrows at first.  But, the taste of the lemonade in the dough and in the sweet frosting make these a home-run.

1/2 c butter (no substitutes)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1/3 c frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed*
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
pink food coloring
pink lemonade frosting (see below)

Beat butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Add sugar, b. powder, and b. soda and beat until combined.  Beat in egg and lemonade concentrate.  Beat in flour.  If desired, add pink food coloring to tint dough pink.

Drop by rounded teaspoons on parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden.  Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.  Frost with pink lemonade frosting.


2 TBSP butter, softened
2 c powdered sugar
2 tsp frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed*
enough water (3-4 tsp) to make of spreading consistency
pink food coloring
few shakes of salt from salt shaker

Beat butter, powdered sugar, and frozen lemonade together.  Add water as needed, and color with pink food coloring.  Add a few shakes of salt from your salt shaker.

Comments from the cook:  Though the recipe does not suggest it, I most recently refrigerated this dough for a few hours before baking it into cookies.  My hopes were the consistency is easier to work with this way (it is a bit gummy otherwise, though still workable).

* You can also use regular lemonade from concentrate, but you'll obviously end up with a different color of dough.  In a pinch, I had to use raspberry lemonade from concentrate once, and it was also excellent. 

Originally found in Christmas Cookies, 1998 - Better Homes and Gardens (r) Special Interest Publications.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Balsamic Chicken Tortellini

I'm baaaaaaack!  This summer has been a whirlwind for us, and it seems that new recipes always move to a back-burner when life gets in the way.  Here's a recipe I found on Pinterest at the beginning of the summer.  We've made it many times, and think you'll like it too.

1 (19 oz) pkg cheese tortellini - frozen or fresh (up to you!)
1 c grape tomatoes, cut in halves
1 c flat-leaf spinach, chopped
1 large boneless chicken breast
1/2 c Newman's Own Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper

Prepare tortellini according to directions.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes in strainer.

Cut chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, and cook over medium-high heat until thoroughly done.  Toss in 2-3 TBSP balsamic dressing and coat chicken.

Chop spinach and cut tomatoes.

Add chicken, spinach, and tomatoes to bowl with tortellini.  Toss in balsamic dressing until evenly coated.  Sprinkle with dried basil (I used about 1 1/2 tsp) and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately, or chill for a few hours before serving.

Comments from the cook:  We love pasta salad around here, and this one is a great addition to our arsenal.  The balsamic dressing listed above has been one of our favorites for a while, so basing a dish around it couldn't fail.  

We modified the recipe just slightly from the original (we don't marinate the chicken, and don't use the ground mustard), and have loved the results.  We have used fresh tortellini and really liked it...but have also had success with the frozen kind for a lot less (the Great Value brand at Walmart is about $2.75). We also use fresh basil when it's in season, and use 8-10 leaves diced for the recipe.

Originally found here, which links back to this great site.

P.s. May we have a quick moment of silence for how the countertops in this new apartment are SO MUCH BETTER LOOKING than the ones in the last!?  Hooray, times one thousand...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dirt Cake

This easy recipe is one of my husband's favorites, and has been for a long time.  I've been making cupcakes for summer get-togethers lately, so he put in a request for something fudgy and chocolate-based.  We went to this old favorite, shared it with friends, and the result was just what the almost-doctor ordered. :)

1/4 c butter
1 c powdered sugar
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 small boxes instant chocolate pudding
3 1/2 c milk
1 (8oz) container Cool Whip
1 pkg Oreo cookies, crushed (white stuff removed)

Blend butter, powdered sugar, and cream cheese in a small bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix pudding and milk until smooth.  Add cream cheese mixture and mix well.  Add Cool whip and mix until blended.

In a container, add 1/3 of Oreo crumbs, add 1/2 of pudding mixture, add another layer of crumbs, the other 1/2 of the pudding mixture, then top with remaining Oreo crumbs.

Refrigerate 4+ hours.  Serve with gummy worms.

Comments from the cook:  This dessert is so easy!  I used my food chopper/grinder to crush the Oreos (when they break and still have white stuff inside, I toss them in anyway), then did everything else with my KitchenAid.  I layered mine in a trifle bowl, with 4 crumb layers, and 3 pudding layers in between.

Not everyone cares to do so, but I used low-fat cream cheese, sugar-free/fat-free pudding, skim milk, and light Cool Whip in my recipe.  I was pleased to discover that the taste wasn't compromised, even though I'm sure the full-calorie version is even better!

Originally shared by Vickie Luker, dessert extraordinaire and long-time family friend

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie

This is my husband's FAVORITE pie, and I made it for him last week after he passed his comprehensive oral exam (one of the last requirements for his doctoral degree).  The crust is my mom's fabulous recipe, the pie is one of her specialties (my dad's favorite), and Brian likes it with cream cheese filling inside (because how could that ruin a pie!?).

1/2 c shortening (we use All-Vegetable Crisco - blue container)
1 1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c cold water
4 ice cubes
1 T vinegar (trust me...this is the zinger that makes this crust amazing!)

Mix shortening, flour, and salt together with a pastry cutter (or fork) until it balls together into pea-sized chunks.  

In a separate bowl, combine water, ice cubes, and vinegar.

Add 2 TBSP vinegar water to pastry mixture and mix.  Repeat until dough is soft and pliable (6 TBSP or so was enough for mine).

Roll out onto a floured surface.  Cut into a circle, put in a 9" pie dish.  Press edges if desired.

Bake at 400° until edges are slightly golden, usually somewhere between 6-10 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before filling.

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 c Cool Whip

Whip cream cheese with mixer until smooth.  Mix powdered sugar in.  Fold Cool Whip in.

Pour filling into cooled pie shell.

Strawberry topping:
2 (1 lb.) cartons strawberries
1 container strawberry glaze 

Wash and slice strawberries, then mix with strawberry glaze.

Pour glazed strawberries over cream cheese filling into pie crust.

Chill until serving, and refrigerate leftovers promptly.

Comments from the cook:  It had been quite a while since I last made this pie...and I couldn't quite remember how I'd done the cream cheese filling before.  This time, I just used cream cheese and sugar...and later realized that Cool Whip was in our earlier versions.  It makes for a fluffier filling, and I won't forget it next time :)  

Originally made by my fabulous mom, Alane Sleight

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Strawberry-Lime Margarita Cupcakes (Non-Alcoholic)

If I've ever doubted a Betty Crocker recipe, I take it all back!  Betty's Strawberry Margarita Cake recipe made for perfect cupcakes... and the awesome recipe for buttercream frosting I found (I made the limey version) took these babies from good to great in no time!  I made these for our Cinco de Mayo party, and can't wait to find a reason to make them again :)

1 white cake mix
oil and egg whites (as called for in cake mix instructions)
3/4 c strawberry margarita drink mix (syrup, non-alcoholic)
1/2 c water

1 c (2 sticks) butter (salted or unsalted)
1/4 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
4 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lime juice
2-3 TBSP milk

1 TBSP lime zest
sliced strawberries, rinsed and dried


Preheat oven to 350°.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Add 1/2 c water to 3/4 c margarita mix (to create 1 1/4 c of liquid).  

In large bowl, combine cake mix, strawberry liquid mixture, oil, and egg whites.  Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.

Bake for 16-20 minutes.  Set aside and allow to cool.


Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until completely smooth (about 1 minute).

Add salt (if using unsalted butter).

One cup at a time, add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating after each addition.

Add vanilla and lime juice and beat to combine.

Add 1 TBSP milk and continue beating.

Add 2 remaining cups of powdered sugar, one cup at a time.

Add remaining 1 TBSP milk until consistency is reached (1 more TBSP if you prefer thinner frosting).  Add a bit of lime zest, if you'd like.

Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes after they have cooled completely.


Top with a strawberry slice and a sprinkling of lime zest.

(If you chill these, make sure to take them out of the fridge a few minutes before allow the frosting to soften back up.  It hardens in the fridge!)

Comments from the cook:  I originally used a strawberry cake mix and added the strawberry syrup (by accident, actually).  The taste was phenomenal, though maybe a little on the overpowering side.  Fortunately (or unfortunately?), I baked them for a minute or two too long and they were too sponge-like for me.  I tried again (this time with a white cake), and had perfect success baking the cupcakes for about 17 minutes.

I will probably add 1/4 cup more powdered sugar to my frosting next time.  It was REALLY hot outside (about 90°) the day I took these to a party, and they might've held up just a little better with a bit more p. sugar.  And, though I tried to fight it, my strawberries still put off a bit of syrup that ran down the sides and into the frosting.  A small sacrifice for the taste we achieved...but enough to drive me a little crazy too!  Perhaps next time I'll throw the berries and lime zest on RIGHT before serving.  Or perhaps next time I'll just look the other way :)

Cake originally found here (thank you, thank you, Betty) and super-fantastic frosting recipe found here (can't wait to use this as my new go-to recipe!).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Browned-Butter Choc Chip Cookies

I'd heard about people using browned butter in recipes.  I was when I found this recipe, I decided to try my hand at the technique.  The results were fantastic...and I'm now converted.

1 c (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 c white sugar
1 3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

How to brown butter:

Heat pan on medium to medium-high heat (NOT high).  Cut butter into pieces and melt in pan.  Stir continuously.  Butter will foam up.

After foam subsides, small brown flecks will start to appear in bottom of pan.  Continue stirring, until butter has reached a nice brown color, and has a nutty aroma.  (This took 5+ minutes for me.)

Turn the heat all the way down, then pour into a bowl.  Refrigerate until solid again.  (This took 30+ minutes.)

For the dough:

Cream the solid browned butter and sugar until well mixed.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Continue mixing while adding the eggs one at a time (making sure they are well-incorporated before adding the next).

Mix for a few minutes until batter is light and fluffy.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda in a separate bowl.  Slowly add to the wet mixture, just until combined.  Don't over mix.

Fold chocolate chips in with spatula.

Bake at 350° for 11-13 on parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Comments from the cook:  This recipe definitely delivered a rich, moist cookie.  I generally bake one batch, then freeze the leftovers in pre-formed dough balls.  Personally, I always think the frozen dough balls make better cookies the next day...and that was definitely true in this case.

When I browned my butter, I don't think I had my heat quite high enough (I had it on medium), and met with best success once I moved toward medium-high heat.  I was afraid to burn the butter, so I watched it very closely...

Originally found here.  Most text (and ingredient list) taken from her awesome site.

Monday, April 9, 2012

M&M Pudding Cookies

I'm always on the hunt for a super-soft cookie recipe.  When I found this one online over a year ago, I was hooked!  This recipe has become a staple around here, and M&M's turn these from awesome cookies to over-the-top-good cookies!

2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) butter
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
1 small pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 bag plain M&M's (or half bag chocolate chips)

Sift baking soda, flour, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Combine butter, sugars, and pudding mix.   Beat until fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla, and beat until smooth.

Add dry ingredients.

Stir in M&M's.

Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375°.

Comments from the cook:  I haven't made these when they didn't turn out wonderfully.  I prefer to soften the butter JUST slightly (10 seconds in the microwave), so that it is still chilled and somewhat solid.  I've made this recipe with regular instant pudding, and have also tried it with fat free/sugar free.  Both were excellent.

For best results, I bake these cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  I love parchment paper and how evenly/beautifully it browns the bottom of cookies!  Like others I've mentioned before, I like to think that these cookies are best when the dough has been refrigerated overnight.

Originally found here.  Most text taken from her awesome site.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

When I saw this recipe, I knew it would be one I'd like to try.  I made these as a thank-you for a friend, and the partial batch I made left just enough for us to enjoy some too :)

1 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 c oats
2 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Cream butter and sugars together.  Mix in vanilla and eggs.

Stir in flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.

Add in oats and chocolate chips.

Drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, and bake for 8 minutes or until done.

Comments from the cook:  No, you weren't mistaken.  The original recipe only calls for 2 types of chocolate.  BUT, I have a container of Special Dark Hershey's Cocoa in my I used half regular cocoa and half special dark.  And there you have it.  3 chocolates!  And the result?  Rich awesomeness.  Mmmmmhmmmm.

Photography secret, just FYI... I usually only bake up a few cookies for eating right away, then refrigerate my leftover cookie dough (or freeze it in pre-shaped balls).  For best results, I bake another batch the next day.  Very cold or frozen dough generally results in cookies that spread less.  This makes for thicker, fudgier cookies...of which I am a fan :)  And they just happen to look better than the cookies from batch #1, too!

Originally found here, which linked back to here (most text taken from her site)
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