Monday, December 22, 2014

Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Bars

             
                    Only a few days left until the big day! Are you ready??? My husband has the week off and thankfully we were able to get a bunch of stuff done over the last few days. We made our way into the city center to do a bit of secret Santa shopping,managed to grab a bite to eat,and enjoyed the time together. Back home I am reading about friends who are grumbling over having to spend part of their Christmas with family members they don't get along with or feel exhausted over how many holiday meet ups they need to squeeze in. Over in my world I am just happy that my husband has the week off to spend with us. Folks, life is to short to be doing anything you don't feel good about. You should be spending the holiday as you want, not how someone else envisions it for you. If you want that calm Christmas then it's up to you to make that happen. If you need a place to go just holler!

My freezer is full of wonderful things to feed anyone who should stop by. These bars would be on offer and let me tell you something..they are super addictive and a snap to whip up. You'll need some dried cherries though and I only have one bag! I should have bought a ton more but wasn't sure if I was going to like them or not. I pretty much love them. I suppose you could use dried cranberries and that's what I plan on doing when I make these again.

If you still need one more thing to add to your cookie plates, then this is it!!!

Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Bars

2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 cup Unsalted Butter,room temp
2 cups Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla
1-1/2 cups Old-fashioned Oats
1 cup Semi sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut
1 cup Dried Cherries
1/2 cups M&M's,chopped..optional

Preheat oven to 350/180 c if using a metal pan or 325/165 for glass pan. Spray with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl,whisk together the flour,baking powder,baking soda and salt.

In a large mixing bowl,beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Reduce the mixer to low and beat the eggs in one at a time and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Mix in the remaining ingredients,minus the M&M's,with a wooden spoon. Spread the batter into the prepared pan evenly. Sprinkle M&M's on top.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean..Do not over bake. Cool on wire rack completely before cutting into bars.

Yield: depends on the size of each bar
Source: Barbara Bakes 











Friday, December 19, 2014

Eggnog Mini Loaves

       
                    Soooo there's no eggnog in this country. Well,let me rephrase that. They have what's called, Advocaat. And it's nasty. It's like a creamy custard type pudding with a strong taste of brandy and not much else. Plus they sell it on the shelves and not cold..and that creeps me out. I had the misfortune of tasting it when I first arrived here and stay a healthy 10 feet away from it now. So yeah..they have that and some say it's kind of like eggnog, but they are full of it. It's not. Don't be fooled. I've never bothered to make eggnog myself because I would be the only one drinking it and after one or two glasses I am good until next year. So since 2007 I have avoided all eggnog based recipes. 

Until now. Sometimes it takes me ages to acknowledge the light bulb that is blinking on and off inside my head frantically. Why couldn't I just swap out the eggnog for buttermilk? After all..the actual flavor of eggnog is,nutmeg,cinnamon,vanilla and a hint of rum and all recipes include most of that since I am not totally convinced you get a full on eggnog flavor without the addition of the spices and extracts. So I went for it and wouldn't you know..it tasted just like eggnog. I loved the flavor and so did the men in my family. You could add a eggnog glaze if you like but we were happy with it as is.

Eggnog Mini Loaves

2-1/4 cups All-purpose Flour
2-1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda..Only if using buttermilk
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2-1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
2 Eggs
1 cup Eggnog or Buttermilk
3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Butter,melted
2 tsp. Vanilla
1-2 tsp. Rum Extract..I went with one and found it to be perfect

Preheat oven to 350/180 c. Grease mini loaf pans with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl,whisk together the flour,baking powder,baking soda (only if using buttermilk),cinnamon and nutmeg.

In another bowl,beat eggs,eggnog or buttermilk,sugar,melted butter and extracts;Stir into dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for a few mins before removing from pans and allowing to cool on a wire rack.

Yield: Several mini loaves..depends on how many you have
Source: Taste of Home                








Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Take A Peek Wednesday: Today In My House..

                 

                     It's 10:30 am and it's dark outside. I should have the lights on in my house..but instead..I've got the warm Christmas glow going on. The candles are lit and the tree is bright.

             
         I've got this wonderful Christmas movie on and..

                
        
                   I've got the slow cooker taking care of dinner for me. Oh how I love this thing! Tonight we will be having THIS for dinner..but instead I am using a turkey loin. It's going to be a great day!










Monday, December 15, 2014

Double Chocolate Buttermilk Muffins

            
              Have you finished your Christmas shopping? My husband and I knocked it out of the ballpark this weekend when it came to shopping. We are done!! For us, that is a miracle. We are usually the crazy ones who are shopping up to the very last minute and then racing home like a mad person all frazzled and swearing not to do this again. But again we do it. Every single year that we've been married..Until now. We broke that crazy cycle for at least this year and we are so happy about that. I need to head to the post office today to ship a few parcels off and I can happily head home knowing I don't need to stand in lines for ages and ages.

I headed over to a candy store that has an American section and couldn't believe my eyes. They had salt water taffy!!! I haven't tasted that in,well,7 years now! I paid way to much for it but walked around smiling like a Cheshire Cat. It's the little things sometimes. You know what else I wish they would get? muffins that aren't dry and tasteless. I stopped trying all muffins at the cafe's I stop in for coffee. They are horribly dry and someone needs to leave a note stating a little buttermilk could help with that issue.

These muffins aren't dry. These muffins rock on all levels.

Double Chocolate Buttermilk Muffins

2 cups All-purpose Flour
4 TBS Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. BakingPowder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter,softened
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
3/4 cup Buttermilk
1 cup Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 400/200 c. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners.

Sift all dry ingredients together in a large bowl;set aside.

In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Gradually,beat in the eggs. Add the vanilla and buttermilk and beat just until combined. Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl,as needed. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin evenly.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for a minute or so and then take them out of the pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 12 Muffins
Source: Manila Spoon         












Friday, December 12, 2014

Candy Cane Sweet Bread

               
                 What a wet miserable week this has been. My husband has been hanging out with me with a nasty cold he caught and judging from the sound of my two teenagers they too will be spending some time with me next week. I of course have been able to fight off the cootie bugs so far and it's honestly been years since I was sick. I can't afford to get sick..with my from scratch lifestyle there is just no wiggle room when it comes to cooking and baking.

So..last week I brought you the Santa Face and this week I am bringing you,candy cane sweet bread!! This is a lovely recipe that produces 4 breads! Keep one or two for yourself and share the other two. The taste reminds me of a cinnamon roll..yum yum. The recipe isn't hard and you can change the nuts in the filling. The original recipe called for hazelnuts and I am just not a fan of those. So I used walnuts. This weekend I am baking up another Christmas sweet bread and will be sharing it with you next week!

Candy Cane Sweet Bread

2-1/4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
3/4 cup Warm Water
1/2 cup Warm Milk
4 Eggs
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Butter,melted
2 tsp. Salt
7-7-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour

Filling:

1 cup Chopped Walnuts
1 cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 cup Raisins
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
3 TBS Butter,melted

Glaze

2 cups Powdered Sugar
3-4 TBS Milk
1 TBS Butter,Softened or Spray Bottle filled with water
1 tsp. Vanilla
Sprinkles or Chopped Nuts for decoration

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook,dissolve yeast in warm water and milk. Add eggs,sugar,melted butter,salt and 3 cups of flour; beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Continue mixing on speed 4,for 6-8 minutes,until a smooth and elastic dough is achieved ( you can also knead this by hand if you wish..knead for 10 minutes or until a smooth and elastic dough is achieved). Place dough into a greased bowl,turning once to coat the top. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours.

For filling: Combine dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Gently deflate the dough and divide into fourths. On a lightly floured surface,roll one portion into a 12x7 inch rectangle. Either brush with some of the melted butter or use a spray bottle to mist the dough lightly with water ( I actually find that the water holds onto the filling just as good,if not better than the melted butter. Use whichever one you are most comfortable with). Sprinkle 2/3 cups worth of filling onto the dough and spread it out evenly. Roll it up,starting with the long side and make sure you keep a fairly tight roll so that everything sticks together. Pinch to seal the seam. Place onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and shape the top to form a candy cane and make sure to tuck the ends under to form a good candy cane shape. Repeat everything with the remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled,about 35 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350/180. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on wire racks.

Combine the first 4 ingredients of the glaze in a bowl and drizzle strips over the loaves. Sprinkle with either nuts or colored sprinkles.

Yield: 4 Candy Cane Sweet Breads
Source: Taste of Home












Monday, December 8, 2014

Mint Chip Sugar Cookies

                
                    This year marks the first time since I moved here that I won't be attending a Christmas market in Germany. The last few years my husband and I have noticed a switch. It's become to commercial for our liking. We're seeing more mass produced items at the stalls than anything else and it's lost a lot of its charm sadly. That didn't stop me from pulling out my favorite Christmas market mug and filling it with coffee and peppermint mocha powdered creamer!!! That plus these cookies gave me a nice swift kick of Christmas cheer and filled the house with the most delightful mint scent.

The recipe calls for mint chocolate chips and sadly that just doesn't exist over here. You won't find any flavored chocolate chips. However, like a good hoarder,I had a bag of the andes mint chocolate chips stashed away in the freezer. It ws my last bag so when I make these again at some point I will just chop up After Eight mints and hope for the best. I'm pretty sure it will work..especially if I chop and then maybe freeze them before adding them to the batter.

If you are a mint freak like myself then you totally need to make these! they are perfect in every way.

Mint Chip Sugar Cookies

1 cup Butter,Softened
1-1/2 cups Sugar
2 Eggs
1-1/2 tsp. Peppermint Extract
2-3 Drops of Green Food Coloring
3 cups All-purpose Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
1/2 tsp. Salt
6 oz Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips
6 oz Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350/180. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer or handheld mixer for a full 3 minutes. Add eggs,food coloring,and extract. Cream for a further 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour,baking powder,baking soda,cream of tartar and salt. Add to creamed mixture and mix just until combined. Using a wooden spoon,mix in the mint and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded 2 tablespoons worth of dough onto prepared pan.

Bake for 10 minutes ( cookies will take on a slightly cracked appearance and that is ok). Cool on sheet for 2 mins before removing to wire racks.

Yield: 4 Dozen
Source: Little Dairy On The Prairie 









Friday, December 5, 2014

Golden Santa Bread

                    
                   This holiday season I decided to tackle each and everyone one of my sweet bread recipes that scream Christmas in one form or another. I hope to get to each one so in order to do this I need to bake a new recipe up each and every weekend..My family is of course excited by this so I am getting lots of encouragement to go for gold and bake every single one up that I can.

First on my list was the Golden Santa Bread. I new going into this that it wouldn't look anything like the original. I went and looked up other bloggers who had made the bread and we have all one thing in common: It looks nothing like the original. I am not saddened by this at all but I say this in order for you not to feel like you did something wrong. You didn't. It's just one of those things where the original and what happens in real life are two totally different things. I am sure I could bake this up again and work out different ways to make it more santa like..but that takes away from the whole experience of just getting into the kitchen and having fun with it.

I am not going to bother typing the recipe out. I will include a link that has both the tutorial on how to make it as well as a link to the recipe on the Taste of Home website. I changed two things about the recipe and that was to add less sugar and in orange zest. The one tip I have is to go all out on the beard. To me that's the sticking point of a good Santa..and mine failed. It looked like it was going to be a great beard but the face was to thick and looking back I should have made his face longer and thinner and concentrated more on making the beard the largest part of him.

None the less this was such a fun project to do and a real winner if you have young kids in the house..or teenaged kids who pretend like it's no big deal that you are creating a santa face but laugh and smile when they see it all complete.

So here is the link and do let me know if you give a try! See you next week with a new holiday bread recipe!

Golden Santa Bread




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Take A Peek Wednesday: Tis the Season!

           
                      Yep..it's that wonderful time of the year!! We picked our tree up on Saturday as part of our tradition of buying and decorating the tree for my birthday. As always, the man laughed when he saw us and said the exact same thing he has said to us every single time we have arrived.." I always remember you since you are the very first ones to show up for a tree" and then laughs again. I adore that man. 

So it's up and I love it. I turn it on as soon as I walk into the living room and just stand there and stare at it for a few minutes. It always puts a smile on my face and warms my heart. I love Christmas and everything it should stand for. I still believe you know..The bell still rings for me,as it does for all who truly believe. You know what else has been going on?

            
             Fire!!! oh how I love this time of year! Pop in some wood,grab a cup of coffee with either peppermint mocha or caramel latte powdered creamer and kick back and smile. Life is good in my little world.

P.S. The flavored creamers were sent to me from back home. I've never seen flavored creamers here!







        



                








Monday, December 1, 2014

Orange and Cardamom Bundt Cake..and Turning 40!!!!!!!

                        
                   So guess who turned 40 today...40!!! I don't know..this number has stopped me in my tracks and really has me thinking. I don't know if it's because my 30's seemed to fly by or what but turning 40 has me in a bit of a..where do I go from here mode. 

My birthday was spent with the 3 most important people in my life and the older I get, the more I realize how special that is. I have never been the type of person who needed to be constantly surrounded by others. I am not easily impressed and have a hard time sitting in a room full of people who are all about themselves. I keep my numbers small when it comes to friends and have reaped the benefits in doing so. I'm all about the quality and not the quantity..unless it's chocolate and then I want large amounts of both!

So lets chit chat about cake.. I am not a cake person. At all. I wasn't going to bake one at all until I saw the sad faces of my two teenaged sons. If I'm totally honest, they just wanted cake. They didn't care that I didn't want any and was fine with not having one, they just wanted cake for themselves. So I got up this morning and baked a bundt cake in stead. I love a good bundt  and a quick drizzle in place of a mound of frosting suits me just fine. Orange and cardamom is quickly becoming one of my favorite combinations for the fall and winter season and to be honest,I have been on a massive orange zest kick and I've been adding it into everything I can. The cake is moist and each flavor and spice comes through perfectly. 

Orange and Cardamom Bundt Cake

3 cups All-purpose Flour
2 cups Sugar
1 TBS Baking Powder
2 tsp. Ground Cardamom
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Salt
3/4 cup Orange Juice
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
1 TBS Orange Zest
2 tsp. Lemon Zest
1 tsp. Vanilla
3 Large Eggs

Glaze:
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1-2 TBS Orange Juice

Preheat oven to 350/180c. Grease a 10-inch tube or bundt pan with nonstick spray. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour into the pan and turn the pan around as you coat all sides with the flour..shake out any access. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl,whisk together the first 6 ingredients. Make a well into the center and add remaining ingredients. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Spoon batter into prepared pan,spreading evenly.

Bake 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If the cake is becoming to brown,tent with foil.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes in pan before removing the cake and allowing to cool on a wire rack.

Combine the glaze ingredients and enough orange juice to reach the consistency you want. Drizzle over the warm cake.

Yield: 16 servings
Source: Cooking Light