Monday, January 30, 2012

Valentine's Sugar Cookies Recipe

I can rely on Aunt Ethel to contribute to all of my celebrations.  Whether it's Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, or even a Pokemon birthday party, Aunt Ethel is dependable.  Recently I called on her to help with Valentine's Day.  As usual, she came through.

Actually I don't have an Aunt Ethel although she does seem like a member of the family because I have been using her sugar cookie recipe for over thirty years.  Aunt Ethel's Sugar Cookies is the tried-and-true sugar cookie recipe that I use to celebrate all occasions.  Most recently I made a batch of Valentine's Sugar Cookies for a bake sale at my daughter's high school.  I mixed up a batch two nights before the event, chilled the dough in the refrigerator, and then rolled out the cookies and baked them the night before my daughter needed them.  

As I've stated before, I love Aunt Ethel's Sugar Cookies because they are soft and flavorful.  The dough can be easily cut into any shape and then adorned with sprinkles or iced with a cream frosting.  Also, these cookies can be rolled out quite thickly to create a tender and cakey texture.  Happy Valentine's Day from Aunt Ethel!

Ethel's Sugar Cookies
     adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book  (copyright 1977)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
  1. Mix butter, shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla thoroughly. 
  2. Stir flour, baking powder, and salt together.  
  3. Blend butter mixture and flour mixture.  
  4. Divide dough into 2 discs.  Cover each with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  5. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  6. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to sit on the counter for 15-30 minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
  7. On a board that has been lightly floured with a mixture of flour and confectioner's sugar, roll dough until it is 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with your favorite cooky cuter.  
  8. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Top with colored sanding sugar, if desired.
  9. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, or until cookies are a delicate light golden color.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.  If desired, decorate with Easy Cream Icing.
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cutter

Easy Cream Icing

1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-3 Tablespoons cream, milk or water
food coloring or icing tints

  1. Blend sugar, salt, and vanilla.
  2. Add liquid (cream, milk, or water) 1 tablespoon at at a time until icing reaches a spreadable consistency.
  3. Add food coloring.
  4. Spread on cookies with an off-set spatula.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats Recipe

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Pinterest is my new guilty pleasure.  After the homework has been completed, the kitchen sink has been shined, the laundry has been folded, and the children are tucked in their beds, I allow myself hours and hours a moderate amount of time on Pinterest (Pinterest is an invitation only website where one can organize interesting items from the web and browse what others find inspiring).  First I scan what has been pinned on my main page, then I click on luscious pictures of food, adorable snapshots of crafts, and intriguing images of elementary classroom decors.  Oh, then I adore other people's organized pantries, peak into craft rooms that I covet, and even admire chic hair styles and outfits that I will likely never wear.  Finally, after my husband has kenneled the dog and turned off all the lights, I force myself to exit out of Pinterest and shut down my computer.  I love being inspired right before bed!

A recipe that recently caught my eye on Pinterest was for Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats.  I pinned the recipe, clicked through to the original post, found another worthy food blog, and printed out the recipe.  The next day my children were greeted after school with a homemade snack.  Although these rice crispy treats appeared normal they had been taken from drab to fab thanks to Pinterest.  Who knew that a mere 1/3 cup of dry yellow cake batter could significantly heighten the flavor of a classic sweet treat?

After all of the Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats had been gobbled up by our family and various neighborhood children, I was left with a partial box of yellow cake mix.  What to do?  Why return to Pinterest, of course, and search for cake batter recipes.  The results:  cake batter blondies, cake batter ice cream, cake batter cookies, cake batter pancakes, cake batter dip, cake batter martini. . . The possibilities are endless, thanks to Pinterest!

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Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats Recipe
      recipe inspired by Pinterest compliments of Crumbs and Chaos

3 Tablespoons butter
1 - 10 ounce bag mini marshmallows
1/3 cup yellow cake mix (dry)
6 cups rice krispies cereal
optional:  1 container colored or seasonal sprinkles 
  1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium low heat.  Add marshmallows.  Stir constantly until marshmallows melt.
  2. Remove from heat.  Add dry cake mix to melted marshmallow and butter mixture a little at a time.  Stir after each addition until cake mix is fully incorporated.
  3. Stir in rice krispies cereal and gently stir until cereal is fully coated.
  4. If adding sprinkles, add half at this time and stir.
  5. Press into a greased 9x13 pan.  Top with remaining sprinkles, if desired.
  6. Let stand for about 30 minutes, if you can!
Melt butter with marshmallows, just like normal.
Add dry cake mix a bit at a time, mixing well.
Stir gently until all cereal is coated, try a bit, be impressed!
Plastic wrap or wax paper helps with flattening into the pan.
Observe family and friends as they detect a new flavor in their yummy treat!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Recipe

Woo Hoo!  It's my birthday and I no longer have to bake my own cake.  Three years ago my oldest child took this responsibility away from my husband who is much more of a cook than a baker.  The first time she attempted baking me a birthday cake was three years ago when she had yet to become a teenager.  That year she created an Oreo Cookie Cake, last year she concocted a scrumptious Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, and this year she made me a mouthwatering Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake.

My daughter's inspiration came from Smitten Kitchen, but, being the independent young woman that she is, she went about it her own way.  She started with a chocolate cake that she made from a box using butter instead of oil.  Then she iced the cake with a batch of peanut butter frosting which she had formerly used as icing for brownies.  Lastly she topped the entire thing with a luscious chocolate ganache.

The result was a decadent two layer cake that melded two of my favorite flavors, chocolate and peanut butter. My son pointed out that it was a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake.  No, not a cupcake for which my daughter is famous, but a cake that mimics the flavors of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  That gave her the idea that next time she bakes one of these confections she will adorn in with chopped or mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  I love my daughter's creative and adventurous spirit as much as I love enjoying a hunk of this cake alongside a tall glass of cold milk.  It truly is a happy birthday!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Recipe

  1. Bake a chocolate cake using two 9-inch round pans.  If using a box mix try to find one that uses butter instead of oil to produce a sturdy cake that will hold up to the frosting and ganache.
  2. Make a batch of Peanut Butter Frosting (recipe follows).  Double it if you want a ton of frosting.
  3. When cakes are cooled, frost them with Peanut Butter Frosting.  Chill frosted cake until ganache is ready.
  4. Make a batch of Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows) and pour over chilled cake allowing the excess to drip down the sides.  
  5. Chill entire cake for about an hour.  Remove finished cake from refrigerator about an hour before serving.
  6. Serve with big glasses of ice cold milk.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened to room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

In a large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter until fully combined and fluffy.  Slowly beat in 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Add 1/4 cup heavy cream and continue to beat.  Beat in the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Add the remainder of the heavy cream a bit at a time until the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency.

Chocolate Ganache
8 ounces (1 1/3 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the chocolate chips in a large stainless steel mixing bowl or pot.  Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Remove the  heated cream from the heat and pour it over the chocolate chips.  Using the wooden spoon, stir until the chocolate is melted.  Stir in the vanilla.  Let the ganache sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.

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