Friday, August 31, 2012

Thin Mint Truffles

So I decided to whip up some cookie truffles for a barbecue that my parents are having this weekend. I settled on these thin mint truffles and some cookie dough truffle pops. Thin mint first! Originally these are supposed to be dipped in green mint baking chips (something you can apparently purchase only online in this area) so I decided to dip them in white chocolate instead and garnish them with Andes Mint baking chips. They were okay when I taste-tested them. I'm not sure if it was that they weren't cold or the fact that I subconsciously knew that I had put fat free cream cheese in them as the recipe called for... they just seemed to have a weird after taste. I think I am also coming down with a cold which doesn't help with taste testing. Josh and Lana liked them though so I guess it is just me. Here's the recipe:

Thin Mint Truffles
1-9oz box Girl Scout Thin Mints {or Keebler's Grasshopper Cookies - these come in 10 oz. boxes so take four cookies out to get 9 oz.}
4 oz fat free cream cheese, slightly softened
8 oz white chocolate chips or white chocolate bark (I used CandiQuik)
Andes Mint Baking Chips
Popsicle Sticks
Cut popsicle sticks in half to make 24 mini sticks. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the Thin Mints a few times, and them blend them down until they are just crumbs. It might be easier to do this in two batches. Next, mix in the cream cheese and crumbs together in a bowl until well incorporated. Roll the mixture into 1-inch size balls, push them onto a mini popsicle stick and place them on a wax paper covered baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the fridge for about 30 minutes, so the balls are easier to dip in the chocolate and do not fall apart.

Once the truffles have been in the fridge for a while, melt the green mint chips or white chocolate chips in a double broiler or a microwave safe bowl (or follow the microwave instruction if you are using CandiQuik).

Dip the truffles into the melted white chocolate and then into a small bowl filled with Andes Mint baking chips. Place back onto the wax paper. Once all the truffles are dipped, place the baking sheet back in the fridge so that the chocolate can set. 
Unfortunately I have suffered an injury this evening, and due to a small cut that won't stop bleeding on my finger the cookie dough truffle pops will have to be postponed until tomorrow. Stay tuned for those and the Mississippi Sin Dip that is to be made!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pepperoni String Cheese Roll-ups

These things were so good that they didn't stick around long enough for a photo! And there were no leftovers to snapshot afterwards either. Definitely a home run with both the husband and the toddler!

Pepperoni String Cheese Roll-Ups
1 (8 ounce) package refrigerated crescent roll dough
4 cheese sticks, halved
1 (3.5 ounce) package sliced pepperoni
optional - marinara or ranch sauce for dipping

Garlic Butter Glaze:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasonings
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take each triangle of crescent roll dough and place about 6 pepperonis on the bottom of the triangle. Place half of a cheese stick on top and roll up. Place seam side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes or until golden brown.

While rolls are cooking, combine the melted butter, Italian seasonings, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.

When rolls are done remove from the oven and brush with the garlic butter glaze. Serve with marinara or ranch for dipping.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Neiman Marcus Bars

So I'm not sure what the original name of these delicious Southern bars was but I have seen them called Neiman Marcus Brownies, Chess Squares, Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and Texas Gold Bars. Since I originally pinned them as Neiman Marcus Brownies, I decided to stick close to that name. Although I thought they were more of a bar than a brownie.

Best thing about these bars are that they take a mere 5 ingredients to make. Truly decadent though! Very rich. They reminded me a lot of my mother's Lemon Chess Pie but without the lemons. Definitely a keeper for when I need a quick but nice dessert to take somewhere!

Neiman Marcus Bars
1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs (1 egg for crust, 2 eggs for topping)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and spray a 9×13 dish with cooking spray. Mix cake mix, melted butter and one egg until it forms a soft dough. Press dough onto bottom of the dish. Mix powdered sugar, softened cream cheese and remaining two eggs until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Spread evenly on top of crust. Bake at 300 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Disneyworld Character Letters

Write a letter to a Disney character and get a letter back! So technically it worked however I was disappointed that Lana wrote a letter to Cinderella and got back a mass printed message postcard from Cinderella. I wasn't expecting an actual letter but I think Disney has enough money and employees to get some people in there doing princess signatures so it seems a little more authentic... here's the address in case we want to try again... however I think we'll just take an autograph book when we go and meet the characters in Disney World instead...

Walt Disney World Communications
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

Maybe if we choose to write a villain or newer character it would work better? Might have to try that out! PS - I would have gotten the photo with Lana but we were literally out the door on a weekend get-away trip and when we got home we had an allergic reaction to medication emergency room episode. Poor Lana has been covered in an itchy mess of a rash that I don't think she would want documented on film!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cookie Sheet Alphabets and Sponge Blocks

Lana will be three in less than a month! The inevitable is here - the need for preschool touring has arrived! Lana was born in that oh so terrible time for the schooling years (first week of September). Should we start her early? Should we start her late? Either way it is time to start prepping her for pre-K. Lana knows her alphabet pretty well.... at least the upper case set. But she needs some more practice so I made her this letter recognition board. Just took a cookie sheet from the dollar store, attached some scrapbooking letters to it and ta-da! We can practice our letters. And to make it even better....

We put the lower-case letters on the back to practice. Break out the magnetic alphabet letters and let the alphabet practicing commence :)

While I was at the dollar store, I also picked up some sponges to make some "sponge blocks" for Lana to play with. Take regular sponges, cut in half, cut in half again and you have little log sponges to build with. Lana decided they looked like carrot sticks. She then proceeded to calling my husband and I her "donkeys" and "fed" us the carrots. She really loved them. So cheap and easy but with so many possibilities!

Here she is "feeding" mommy the sponges. I'm definitely going to need to get a few more packs so we have enough to build little houses for her princess figurines!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kitchen Table Fort

So I originally got this idea from the book Play Unplugged but I have seen a lot of fancy editions of it on Pinterest so I thought I would blog it. What does one kitchen table + old comforters + beach towels make? A killer hideaway fort for your toddler! Plus it leaves the top of the table free for mommies to organize things while their child plays :)

I just draped some old comforters around three sides of the table and used beach towels to make a "door" that wouldn't pull everything down when your munchkin goes in and out. I put another comforter on the inside to cushion the floor and then let Lana pile in all her pillows, mini blankets and stuffed animals. She loved it! Thinking about doing this again but with the sofas back to back and spread apart for a fort with two entrances! Or an entrance and an exit....

Lana even had her twilight turtle in their for a little light show. Great way to be able to use it without having to wait for it to be dark enough in the house.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken

So my last post was a pancake recipe when I said I didn't care too much for pancakes... except I changed my mind when introduced to heavenly flavored gourmet-style pancakes. I also don't care too much for Chinese food and here I am posting a Chinese recipe. Maybe I just like foods that I prepare myself? This Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken is pretty amazing. I even ate it with hot buttered rice... another thing I don't eat. Warning: This recipe takes TIME to make. You have to dice the chicken, coat in cornstarch, coat in egg, pan brown and then bake it for an hour! Worth eating dinner at 7? Yes.... Of course waiting that hour for it to bake gives you plenty of time to clean up the mess and gives you a fast, simple clean-up after dinner - plus!

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken
Chicken Coating:
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
salt + pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbs ketchup
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp garlic salt

Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees. Rinse your chicken breasts in water and then cut into cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip chicken into the cornstarch to coat then dip into the eggs.  Heat your 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet and cook your chicken until browned but not cooked through. Place the chicken in a 9x13 greased baking dish. Mix all of your sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a bowl with a whisk and then pour evenly over the chicken. Bake for one hour (during the baking process you will need to turn the chicken every 15 minutes).

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cinnnamon Roll Pancakes

I am not a pancake fan. Unless they are super-flavored gourmet pancakes of course :) I made Pumpkin Pancakes with Cinnamon Brown Syrup last fall and have decided I need to make gourmet pancakes all the time. So when I saw these Cinnamon Bun Pancakes on Pinterest I knew I was going to have to try them! The pancake batter was a little thin for my liking. Next time I'll either use a cookie cutter to control the spreading or just use a different pancake batter base. These would be great for birthday or holiday morning breakfasts. The cinnamon swirl is money!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
Cinnamon Filling:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, just melted (not boiling)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2-ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

Prepare the cinnamon filling: In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Scoop the filling into a quart-sized heavy zip baggie and set it aside (see *Tips below).

Prepare the glaze: In a small pan, heat the butter over low heat until melted. Turn off the heat and whisk in the cream cheese until it is almost smooth. Sift the powdered sugar into the pan, stir and add in vanilla extract. Set the pan aside while you make the pancakes.

Prepare the pancake batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk in the milk, egg and oil, just until the batter is moistened (a few small lumps are fine).

Cook the pancakes: Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-heat and spray with nonstick spray. Use an ice cream scoop (or 1/3 cup measuring cup) to add the batter to the pan. Use the bottom of the scoop or cup to spread the batter into a circle (about 4-inches in diameter). Reduce the heat to medium low. Snip the corner of your baggie of cinnamon filling and squeeze the filling into the open corner. When your pancake begins to form bubbles, add the filling. Starting at the center of the pancake, squeeze the filling on top of the pancake batter in a swirl (just as you see in a regular cinnamon roll). Cook the pancake 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bubbles begin popping on top of the pancake and it's golden brown on the bottom. Slide a thin, wide metal spatula underneath the pancake and gently but quickly flip it over. Cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the other side is golden as well. When you flip the pancake onto a plate, you will see that the cinnamon filling has created a crater-swirl of cinnamon. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, and repeat with the remaining pancake batter and cinnamon filling. Re-warm the glaze briefly, if needed. Serve pancakes topped with a drizzle of glaze.

Quick and easy tip: Use a boxed pancake mix as the base for this recipe.

*Tips for the cinnamon filling: Before swirling, open up the baggie again and give it a good stir to re-incorporate any butter that may have separated from the sugar. You want the mixture to thicken a bit- it's best when it's similar to the squeezing texture of a tube of toothpaste, which will happen if you leave it at room temperature for several minutes. Don't try to use the filling for the pancake swirl unless it has thickened, as it will be too runny to make a solid swirl.