Monday, December 17, 2012

Big New Things Happening! Moving to My New Site

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It's Moving Time!!

Hi!  I am so excited to announce that I have moved over to my new blogging platform over at wordpress, with my very own domain name and everything.  I hope you will follow me on over and join me there so you can keep up to date with all the new recipes and posts.  You can now find me over at:

All my social media contact information has remained the same.

Once again, I can not wait to see you over at my new site, so please come join me for lots more food, fun, and confessions.  See you there!



Thursday, December 13, 2012

34 Slow Cooker Soups, Stews, and Chilis

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This time of year screams soups, stews, and chilis.  Here is a collection of crock pot comfort foods that are sure to fill your belly, warm your soul, and be nice and easy!  I love set it and forget it meals, and these look like the reward at the end will be quite impressive.  I hope that there is something here for everyone.

Don't forget to pin it if you like it :)

 Mommy's Sweet Confessions' Hearty Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

Crockpot French Onion Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Nicole’s Corn Chowder


Crockpot Beef Stew-2 

Jimmy Fallon's Crock-Pot Chili 

black bean soup with toasted cumin cream

Beans and Turkey Chili


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Graham Cracker Pretzel Salted Toffee

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I don't have a lot to say other than "MAKE THIS!!  And make A LOT!" because it will be gone before it even sets up all the way, I guarantee it.  I am a die-hard toffee fan, second only to my love of chocolate truffles, and this stuff has blown my idea of toffee out of the water.  It is the perfect blend of sweet, caramel goodness, and salty blissful savoriness.  Really, match made in heaven.  I really ate probably a tenth of the tray before the chocolate even solidified.  I must get this out of the house, lest I gain ten pounds because I ate it all by tomorrow.  I know the pictures are not great, but I was afraid if I waited until tomorrow, there may be nothing left to take a picture of.

I know it may seem a little weird, the graham crackers and all, but I promise, on my crock pot and my hand mixer, that you will love it.  I implore you to pin this, make this, and share this with those you will make the world a brighter place.  Ok, maybe it won't, but you will have a smile on your face!

(Adapted from Six Sister's Stuff's Saltine Cracker English Toffee)


  • 15 graham cracker sheets
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed pretzels

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  3. Lay the graham cracker sheets side by side in the pan, it should end up being five across and three rows long.
  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter, salt, and brown sugar over medium heat. Bring it to a boil and let it boil for three minutes without stirring. After three minutes, remove from heat, add the vanilla and stir in quickly, then pour the hot brown sugar mixture evenly over the graham crackers.  Use the spoon to spread it out a bit if needed.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes, until bubbly.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the chocolate chips.  Let them melt for a few minutes and then use a knife or spatula to carefully spread the chocolate out evenly over the toffee.
  7. Sprinkle with the crushed pretzels and press them in to the chocolate slightly.
  8. Let it cool completely on the counter or in the fridge.  When set, break the toffee into two-bite pieces and enjoy!
  9. Store in an air tight container for 1-2 weeks or in the freezer for a few months (HA!  Like there will be any left to store....).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies Two Ways

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Deep down, I wanted to make some glorious Christmas cookies with beautiful royal icing decorations, that would just impress the heck out of my friends and family.  And then I tried.  And there was a disconnect the size of the Grand Canyon between what I was hoping it would look like, and what it actually did. I had initially made some for me to decorate and for my son to decorate.  My son and his cousin had a blast decorating their gingerbread men cookies (center bottom picture), and that was worth the tedium of cutting out the shapes.  I tried a simple cookie glaze from King Arthur Flour on the ones in the bottom left because I had neither meringue powder, nor a desire to use raw eggs, and I thought they came out pretty cute, but the glaze was tricky to pipe.  Then, my wonderful brother and his girlfriend bought me meringue powder in exchange for a lesson on macaron making, so I tried my hand at royal icing (bottom right).  That was where my desire to make beautiful, royal icing cut out cookies ended in a ball of flames.  The icing colors, in spite of using lots of gel food color, came out pastel, it was still too runny, it took every bowl in my kitchen I had, I didn't have good tips that were small enough, the bottles I bought to ice with were too narrow of a neck, and I just completely lack creativity and patience.

I do not have the patience, or the creativity, or the time, or the money to put in to what can only be described as a labor of love.  So what to do with the 1-1/2 recipes of gingerbread cookie dough sitting in my fridge?  I took it out, shaped it in to a log, and made gingerbread slice cookies (like the shortbread and sugar cookies).  It took 5 minutes, one pan, almost no mess.  Then I made the simple cookie glaze, and just slathered it on them haphazardly and called it good (picture top center).  Much more my speed.  So, now that I have given an explanation to my cookie cutting and icing experience, I am giving you two ways to tackle these cookies, cut out or slice.  Do whatever floats your boat :)

One last word on these cookies:  They are good!  As in the best gingerbread cookies I have ever had, good.  If you roll them or cut them a bit on the thicker side, I think they come out even better, because then they have a little chew and substance.  They are bursting with flavor, and I have yet to give them to someone to try who has not loved them.  So whatever way you choose, I hope they find a wonderful place in your Christmas traditions.

(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Gingerbread Cookies)

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (or cloves)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
Eggnog Icing 
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Simple Cookie Glaze)
  • 2-1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 to 2-1/2  tablespoons eggnog, as need for desired consistency  (use milk if you want plain vanilla icing)
  • Food coloring if desired

1. Dough: In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt butter.
2. Transfer the butter to a medium-sized mixing bowl, then stir in the brown sugar, molasses, salt, and spices. let it cool to lukewarm, and beat in the egg.
3.In a small bow mix the baking powder, soda, and flour, and then stir these dry ingredients into the molasses mixture.
4. Divide the dough in half, and wrap well in parchment paper or saran wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
5. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Get out several baking sheets and line with parchment paper (for easy cleaning)
6. For Shaped Cookies: Once the dough has chilled, take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator, and flour a clean work surface, and the dough. Roll it out as thin or thick as you like; for slightly less crisp cookies, roll it out more thickly. 
7. Use flour under and on top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the table or rolling pin. Alternatively, place the dough on parchment, and put a sheet of plastic wrap over it as you roll, pulling the plastic to eliminate wrinkles as necessary when rolling; this will keep dough from sticking without the need for additional flour. For soft dough, or dough to be rolled extra-thin, you may choose to roll right onto the ungreased back of a baking sheet.
8. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, cutting them as close to one another as possible to minimize waste.
9. Transfer the cookies to ungreased cookie sheets (or, if you've rolled right onto the parchment, remove the dough scraps between the cookies). Bake the cookies just until they're slightly brown around the edges 8 to 12 minutes, or until they feel firm. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for several minutes, or until they're set. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. 
10.  For Sliced Cookies: Once dough has chilled, take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator and roll it in to a log with your hands, about 6-8 inches long and 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Using a sharp knife, cut 1/6 to 1/4 inch thick slices and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake until they are just slightly browned and firm around the edges, 8-10 minutes.  Cool for several minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer them to a baking rack to finish cooling.  Repeat with remaining dough.
11.  For Glaze: Mix the sugar, vanilla, and corn syrup in a bowl.  Mix in 1-1/2 tablespoons eggnog and stir well.  Add more 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
12.  For Royal Icing: If you want to do royal icing instead, check out this tutorial from Chocolate, Chocolate, and More here.
13. Decorate the cookies as desired.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Caffè Eggnog Cupcakes

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I have been on a quest to find eggnog goodies to make for my husband, because he loves eggnog.  This was my second attempt at it.  Thanks to Inside BruCrew Life's Eggnog Latte Cupcakes, I was able to give him a treat that made him go back for seconds!  I made very few changes to their recipe, because it was just so good to begin with, not much room for change.  They have a wonderful, subtle eggnog flavor in the cupcake, and the frosting has so much coffee deliciousness in it, my husband and I were eating it with a spoon.  Yep, that good!  Perfect combo for those that love their eggnog coffee drinks.

Caffè Eggnog Cupcakes

(Slightly adapted from Inside BruCrew Life's Eggnog Latte Cupcakes)

Makes 18-24 cupcakes, depending on how full they are filled

    For the Cupcakes
  • 1 vanilla cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. eggnog
  • 1/3 c. oil
  • 1/4 c. fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. rum extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    For the Coffee Cream Butter Cream 
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. hot water
  • 2 Tbsp. instant coffee
  • 1/2 tsp. rum extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. eggnog
    For the Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line pan with cupcake liners. Beat the cake mix, eggs, eggnog, oil, yogurt, extract, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg on low for 1 minute and then on medium for 2 minutes. 
  2. Fill liners 2/3 of the way full. Bake 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
  3. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting with coffee buttercream. Dust with nutmeg. Keep cupcakes refrigerated. 
    For the Butter Cream 
  1. Dissolve the coffee in hot water and set aside. 
  2. Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy. 
  3. Add coffee water, extract, and salt. Beat in sugar slowly. After all the sugar has been mixed in, beat in eggnog to thin it slightly. 
  4. Keep refrigerated.

Easy Apple Braid

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I was going to make more of my Easy Apple Pie Turnovers last night to have for breakfast this morning, but by the time the kids were in bed, the dishes done, the toys picked up, and the elf on the shelf set up, I had no ambition left.  Unfortunately, I had half a can of apple pie filling left over that I refuse to waste, so I decided to do one large apple braid, using the same exact ingredients, just a different form of the turnovers.

This was quick, easy, and I think even tastier than the turnovers (which is saying something!).  I think it was the addition of the turbinado sugar over the top.  It added that lovely sugar crunch that you get with store bought ones sometimes, and it was incredible.

Before diving in to it.
Ooey gooey apple filling goodness.


Makes 1 braided pastry, about 6 generous portions when sliced

  • 1/2 recipe  Easy Puff Pastry (Scroll down towards the bottom of the post for this link), (Thaw it in the fridge for several hours to overnight if frozen, or if refrigerated, leave it out for 15 minutes to soften slightly)
  • 1/2 can apple pie filling
  • 1 egg, beaten, with 1 tablespoon water
  • Turbinado (raw sugar) sugar for sprinkling on top
  • 1 recipe for Vanilla Glaze (See below) 
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Simple Cookie Glaze)
  • 1-1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons apple juice, for desired consistency
  • 1 tablespoons light corn syrup  

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lightly dust with flour.  Place the puff pastry dough on the baking sheet.  Using a rolling pin, roll out in to a rectangle approximately 10 x 15 inches (it will be maybe 1/8 inch thick or thinner).  
  2. Using a pastry wheel, knife, or pizza cutter, trim the edges to form a nice rectangle, and then cut 3/4 inch wide strips that are about 3 inches long into the long sides of the pastry, cutting in towards the center, and on the short ends, cut 2, 2 inch long strips towards the center on each side.
  3. Using a knife, I chop the apple pieces in the pie filling into smaller pieces, right in the can. Spoon the filling down the uncut portion of the dough in the center.
  4. Starting at one end, fold in the ends over the filling and cross them over each other.  Then start folding the strips on the side in towards the center, alternating sides, making sure to cross them over each other slightly.  Repeat until you reach the other end, and then fold the two end pieces back towards the center, crossing each other.
  5. Using the beaten egg, brush the entire pastry with the egg wash.  Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top of the pastry liberally.
  6. Place the tray in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. After 30 minutes, place the tray into the oven for 45-55 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy.
  9. Make the glaze:  In a bowl mix the powdered sugar, vanilla, and corn syrup.  Add the apple juice one tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached for the glaze.  
  10. After the braid comes out of the oven and has cooled slightly, drizzle with glaze, and enjoy warm.
  11. Store remaining pastry (if there is any left) in the fridge. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Easy Apple Pie Turnovers

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My son spent all of yesterday asking for pop tarts.  He has never had a store pop tart, and I wasn't going to go buy him one.  I decided I would try a homemade pop tart with some puff pastry I had leftover in my freezer from the last time I made puff pastry.  I know he likes apple, so I made it easy on myself and used the can of apple pie filling I had in my cupboard (I know, I know, you can make it from scratch, but hey, I made the pastry part, and they are called "easy," so something has to give).  I searched for homemade pop tart recipes and came across Smitten Kitchen's recipe.  I used it as a guide and inspiration more than anything, but it is always nice to have a plan.   Once I made them, I decided that no matter how I worded it, I just could not legitimately call these pop tarts.  The crust was just too puffy and flaky and buttery.  So, I opted for the more likely accurate description of turnover.

So, after all the work I put into making these , I presented my son with one this morning, very excited for him to exclaim that this is the best thing he ever had, and instead he turned his nose down at it and proclaimed his dislike for pop tarts.  Crushed me, totally crushed me! And then later my husband tried one, said they were amazing, and the world was right again.  I had one, and yes, they are pretty fantastic.

I made this with my easy puff pastry recipe from a previous post, but of course, if you have frozen store bought dough, then use what you've got of course. 

Before being drizzled in sugary glaze goodness

(Inspired by Smitten Kitchen's Homemade Pop Tarts)

Makes 12 turnovers if the whole batch of puff pastry is used.

  • 1 recipe Easy Puff Pastry (Scroll down towards the bottom of the post for this link), (Thaw it in the fridge for several hours to overnight if frozen, or if refrigerated, leave it out for 15 minutes to soften slightly)
  • 1 can apple pie filling
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 recipe for Vanilla Glaze (See below)  
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Simple Cookie Glaze)
  • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract, to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons apple juice, for desired consistency
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup  
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lightly dust with flour.  Place half of the puff pastry dough on the baking sheet.  Using a rolling pin, roll out in to a rectangle approximately 10 x 15 inches (it will be maybe 1/8 inch thick or thinner).  
  2. Using a pastry wheel, knife, or pizza cutter, trim the edges to form a nice rectangle, and then cut into four strips width wise, and three strips length wise, to form 12 squares.  
  3. Using the beaten egg, brush all the squares with the egg wash.
  4. Using a knife, I chop the apple pieces in the pie filling into smaller pieces, right in the can.  Using a tablespoon, start with a half tablespoon's worth of filling, and place it in to the center of 6 of the squares.  If it looks like it can hold a little bit more, than go ahead and add it.
  5. Place an unfilled pastry piece, egg wash side down, onto a filled piece.  Repeat for all pieces.
  6. Spread the pastries apart as necessary, and then using a fork, crimp all the way around the edges to seal.
  7. Using a toothpick or fork, poke several holes in the top of the pastry for the steam to escape.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 for the second half of the puff pastry dough and place the finished turnovers all one one baking sheet, or keep on two separate ones.  
  9. Brush all the turnovers with more egg wash and place the tray in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  11. After 30 minutes, place the tray(s) into the oven for 22-27 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy.
  12. Make the glaze:  In a bowl mix the powdered sugar, vanilla, and corn syrup.  Add the apple juice one tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached for the glaze.  
  13. After the turnovers come out of the oven and have cooled slightly, drizzle with glaze, and enjoy warm.
  14. Store remaining pastries (if there are any left) in the fridge. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Challah Bread

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We LOVE bread in my family.  I am always looking for new ones to try.  While browsing my facebook news feed I saw a post for a lovely challah bread.  The baker inside me was inspired to make this beautiful bread, so I took off to my favorite bread baking site, King Arthur Flour, and sure enough, they have a lovely Classic Challah bread recipe.  I had received some Red Star Platinum yeast as a freebie a month or two ago, and had been saving it for a sweeter bread, and decided to give it a go.  My husband saw it as I was putting it in the oven, and was so excited, he is a huge fan of challah bread, and couldn't believe I was giving making it a try.  That made me very happy to see him so enthusiastic about it.  Now the pressure for it to turn out was really on though :)

This dough was very stiff, even though I measured everything by weight, and in hindsight I should have added a tad bit more water probably.  It was around 72 degrees F. today in my house, and after 3 hours it hadn't really risen at all.  I warmed up the oven, then put it in there and let it rise another 45 minutes, and it finally got puffy.  probably not doubled, but enough.  I proceeded with the recipe, and it worked perfectly fine.  I think my kitchen was just too cold.

This is the most beautiful bread I think I have ever made, and the flavor reminded me of the King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, just like 1,000 times better.  I am in love with this bread.  Slightly sweet, lovely crust, and incredibly tender and light inside.  Can not go wrong!  I did not alter the recipe hardly at all, except for the addition of diastatic malt powder to help with the rising, and some sesame seeds on top, because my husband loves sesame seeds on his bread.  I also left the directions as written on King Arthur Flour's recipe (see link under the title for the original recipe and more pictures), because I want to make sure that you all get the best information and directions for making this labor of love.

I don't know a great deal about the history and significance of this bread, other than it is significant for Jewish holidays, but I will be looking into it much more now that I know about it a bit better.

(From King Arthur Flour's Classic Challah)




  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)
  1. To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them, by hand, mixer, or bread machine, until you have a soft, smooth dough.
  2. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until it's puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.
  3. Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. (Mine was very stiff, and took closer to 3-4 hours to even rise barely double, but it still all worked out.  Ended up sticking it in a warmed oven for the last 40 minutes and it finally started rising.)
  4. You may braid the challah the traditional way, into a three-strand braid. For a fancier presentation, make a four-strand braid, as follows (Check out KAF's Baking Banter for step by step directions and pictures) Divide the dough into four pieces, and shape each piece into a rough 6" log. Cover the logs with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Roll each log into a 15" rope. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Continue rolling the ropes til they're about 20" long; they'll shrink back to about 18" as they sit.
  7. Lay the strands parallel to one another, and pinch the ends on your left together.
  8. Take the rope nearest you, and move it up over the two adjoining ropes.
  9. Next, move the rope back under the rope next to it. Fan the ends of the ropes out again.  
  10. Repeat the process, but start with the rope farthest away from you. Bring it down and across the two adjoining ropes, and then back under the rope nearest it. Continue in this fashion, alternating which side you begin with, until you've braided the whole loaf. Pinch the loose ends together, and tuck them underneath the loaf.
  11. Gently pick up the loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  12. Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and let it rise till it's very puffy, 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  13. Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water, and brush this glaze over the risen loaf.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds if desired.
  14. Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will insulate the bread's bottom crust, and keep it from browning too much. Put the challah in the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes. 
  15. Tent the challah loosely with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 25 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.
  16. Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.           
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