Monday, September 19, 2016

Chocolate toffee Butter Cookies

Speaking of America's Test Kitchen.  These are my all-time favorite cookie.  Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies.  I make them semi-regularly, and wish I had a batch of frozen dough in my freezer all the time!  They are easy, simple, but oh so good.  They are subtly delicious.  You don't take a bite and pass out from the goodness on the take a bite and think...nice cookie...then you find yourself eating another bite and then another until you've polished off about 6 cookies in no time flat.  And still want more.

They are also the best dunking cookie I've ever had.  Hot chocolate, Coffee...Orange juice maybe if you're Mr. Because I Can.  So good!

Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookie
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

2 1/3 C Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened, but still cool...this means straight from the fridge and about 10 seconds in the microwave for me
1 C packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 C. Heath Toffee Bits...they recommend without chocolate, but let me say I love them both ways.  If I have the toffee bits with chocolate, I just don't drizzle chocolate on at the end.  If I have the plain toffee bits, I do like little chocolate razzle dazzle at the end.  Both are good!
1/2 C. chocolate snaps (these are disks of chocolate that do not need to be tempered.  Similar to almond bark, but I like Callebaut brand, no surprise there)

Adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle positions.

Heat oven to 350

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in bowl. Set aside

In mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed for approximately 3 minutes until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

Reduce speed to low and add flour combo in two additions.  Mix until just combined.

Add toffee bits.  Mix until combined.

Divide dough in two.  Roll each piece into a log that's approximately 9 inches long.  Then smoosh

Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Using a chef's knife, cut dough into 1/4 inch cookies.  They will look quite thin.

Place on cookie sheets.  They don't spread too much due to the chilling, I can usually get around 21 cookies per cookie sheet.  So 3 across and 7 down.

Bake 10-12 minutes until the edges are just lightly browned...make sure you rotate your cookie sheets half way through the baking.

Cook completely on baking sheet.

Once cool, melt your chocolate in a micro-wave proof bowl, I use my Pyrex measuring cups, about 30 seconds at a time until melted.  Drizzle to your heart's content.

YUM!  Really, I don't put a recipe in this blog unless it is stellar.  Make this and find your cookie true love.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Frosted Chocolate Sheet Cake

chocolate peanut butter frosting
 Do you ever wish you had a go-to frosting that was easy, but darn versatile?  Something you can use on cookies, cakes...straight from bowl to mouth?  Then this is your frosting.  It uses things you have in your pantry....and it's so quick to make, you microwave it!  Whoot! 

Used while still warm over a fresh from the oven cake, it oozes into all the nooks and crannies and sets up soft and pliable.  Cooled down, you can pipe it over cupcakes or cookies for a glamorous look.

Today I'm using this frosting over a chocolate or Texas sheet cake.  I'm not providing the recipe for the sheet cake, so simply find one you like.  I prefer to use This one by the Pioneer Woman, but go with whatever works for you.  When the cake is about 5 minutes from being done, get going on the frosting.  You want the cake and the frosting to be warm at the same time.

In previous posts about this frosting, I've used a double broiler to melt everything...but not today!  Today it's all about making the yummiest frosting the simplest way possible, in the microwave.

 You do need a microwave safe bowl.  That can be glass or microwave-safe plastic.  I'm using a silicone bowl that I got for Christmas.  It's perfect if you make hand-dipped chocolates because the silicone doesn't hold onto the heat like glass or Pyrex does.

Okay, so let's get started.  Your cake has about five minutes left of cook time, and....

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Frosting over Chocolate Sheet cake
8.5 oz. chopped dipping chocolate or fine quality chocolate chips
4 Tbl. Creamy Peanut Butter
3 Tbl. softened butter
Handful of salted peanuts, chopped fine

**You don't have to be terribly particular about the measurements here.  If you have a bit more chocolate, that's fine, and I never actually measure my peanut butter.  Have you ever tried getting peanut butter out of a measuring spoon?  It's the worst.  I just throw in what looks to be 4 Tbl, and then taste it to make sure it's delicious.**

Chop your chocolate into smallish chunks.  You don't have to be too obsessive about this because you're melting them in the microwave.  If you were going to use a double broiler, then I might say cut them fine to save some melting time.  If you notice my fancy chopping tool, it's called a chocolate chunker, and if you regularly cook with large blocks of chocolate, it's a finger saver.  Urmmm....

Place chocolate, peanut butter and butter in your microwave-safe bowl.  Heat for 30 seconds at a time, remove from microwave, stir and check the consistency.  You want it to be nice and liquid-y smooth.   No chunks.  The reason you are heating in 30 second increments is you don't want to scorch your chocolate.  I think mine took about 1 minute and 30 seconds to get to the consistency I wanted.

Add peanuts and stir until they're coated.

The second the cake gets out of the oven, make sure it's on a level surface and then pour all the creamy, gorgeous frosting over the warm cake.  Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting all around until it covers the cake.  Be careful not to puncture the cake with the peanuts or your spatula and then let it sit and cool.

I did not lick the bowl kids did.

Once cooled, the frosting will have firmed up a bit and is the perfect foil for the rich, chocolate cake.

Serve with a scoop of ice cream and you'll have the best dessert around.  It's not too sweet thanks to the peanut butter and salted peanuts and for those of us who aren't impressed with big globs of sickeningly sweet frosting, this is perfection.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

How to do Glamping III Or...Making lists is fun to do.

This is my family's 3rd annual back-country glamping trip, and you get a glimpse of what it's like to go camping where there are zero modern comforts, except for what we pack in.  Now mind you, we pack in a LOT of modern comforts.  In fact, it's basically like staying in a luxury hotel...if a luxury hotel involves an OUTHOUSE, cooking for the crew over a fire, lots of mosquitoes, dirt, no shower and bees living in the outhouse along with the spiders.

how to plan a campout
Don't take this the wrong way, I love going on this adventure every year and I'd never pass on this camping trip.  It's an amazing experience for my kids and myself to pull the plug on the electronics and live and play simply.

The tricky thing is, it requires a lot of planning and prep work and if you're like many people, the very idea of trying to plan everything that goes into a large-scale camping trip is daunting, to say the least.  So I am sharing my experiences with you to help you know exactly what you need to bring....or pretty close as I'm sure you won't follow my menu plan to the T.  But it's easily customizable to your own needs.

I've written about how I meal plan for camping plus all kinds of other good stuff, as well.  This is what I do before every camp out to ensure I forget the least possible amount of things.  Forgetting happens and then you just Macgyver whatever you forgot.

Step 1:  Figure out what you want to eat every day for every meal.  I normally start with dinner as it usually involves the most work, and then I figure out breakfast because we have a nice breakfast every morning.  Lunch is always easy so it's a no-brainer, peanut butter, every lunch, every day.  If you are going camping with another family, decide if you are going to meal-share.  This year we decided to be in charge of all our own meals except for one.  Dutch oven potatoes (which my buddy made) to be served with campfire cheese sandwiches and dutch oven dessert (which I was in charge of).  You may want to meal share more meals than we did, but it makes things slightly more complicated. 

Decide what snacks and treats you want to bring.  It's amazing how much food you need to pack in when camping, but it's because there's usually not a store nearby to run to if you forget something or don't buy enough.   So, consider a few snacks a day for every member of your family.  Pre-packaged cheese, yogurt tubes, cookies, fruit and trail mix are all good options for snacks.

Step 2:  Make a list of what you need to buy at the grocery store and what you have already in your pantry.  If you don't need to buy it, don't.   Camping costs a startling amount of money.

camping list
My food list list.  I have everything separated into categories: What I need to buy at the grocery store, What I need to get from my pantry and My menu: every meal for every day.

Wednesday: Hot dogs roasted over the fire, veggies and dip and S'mores.
Thursday: Breakfast burritos.    Peanut butter and honey sandwiches.   Campfire cheese sandwiches and dutch oven bread pudding to go with my buddy's dutch oven potatoes....and S'mores in case bread pudding is a complete flop (it's always good to have a contingency plan).
Friday: Ham steak, biscuits and eggs.  Peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  Tin Foil dinners with diced melon and s'mores for dessert.
Saturday: Pancakes, sausage and eggs.   Peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

Step 3: Figure out what you can pre-make/assemble/freeze at home.  I freeze everything I can.  Remember, all we have are ice chests and food safety is a huge part of camping.  Nobody wants to eat something that's inadvertently spoiled, so the more items you have frozen, the better chance you have of keeping your food safe.

Step 4:  Start prepping, cooking, freezing and packaging and packing everything you can days in advance.  I have three storage boxes that are dedicated for my camping gear.  One for dishes and cookware (which are also exclusively for camping, thanks IKEA), one for food and pantry items that don't require to be kept cold and one for all the miscelaneous camping gear: matches, bug spray, newspaper, lanterns, flashlights, sunscreen, roasting sticks...   I also have two ice chests, one strictly for beverages and the other for the food.  This is because the beverage chest gets opened a lot and I don't want the food chest to be opened except when necessary to preserve coldness.
     * Put in the freezer your yogurt tubes and all candy, especially chocolate.

      * Make the filling for the breakfast burritoes: sausage, eggs and cheese (or whatever your family likes) and wrap them up in tortillas that are buttered to keep from getting soggy from the moisture in the filling and then wrap in two layers of heavy-duty foil.   Freeze.

     * Make your tinfoil dinners.  Cook your protein, par-boil your vegetables, season appropriately.  Wrap in heavy-duty tin foil, twice.    Freeze.

     * Make your own version of GORP:  Good Old Raisins & Peanuts.  My version involves: almonds, roasted peanuts, whatever pistachios I could find in the pantry, Reece's Pieces and raisins.
     * If you are going to make anything from scratch, assemble the dry goods in labeled zipper bags.  I made biscuits and bread pudding this trip from scratch so in one zipper bag I assembled the ingredients for the biscuits: flour, baking soda and powder, sugar and salt and then on the outside of the bag noted what else goes in, ie:  1/2 C melted butter and 1 C buttermilk.  For the bread pudding I assembled the sugar and spices that were required and marked it as bread pudding so it wouldn't get used for anything else.
     * I cut the carrots and celery for our veggies and dip.   I chose NOT to cut my melon as I felt that they could get squished.
     * Start packing all your non-perishable items.  Plates, cups, silverware, bug spray (lots of bug spray), sunscreen, flashlights, pots and pans, paper towels, toilet paper, lanterns, extra dry goods like flour and sugar, creamer and sugar for coffee, instant coffee packets, salt and pepper, vegetable oil, shortening, flour and lemon pepper (as there's a good chance I'll be frying up a batch of fresh-caught lake trout), hot chocolate mix, tea pot for making hot water for cleaning and warm beverages, matches, first aid kit, garbage bags, newspaper for starting fires, dish soap and hand washing soap.

     * Start packing fun things for the family: card games, bow and arrows, bb gun, frisbees, balls, nets to catch tadpoles and fishing gear (haha just kidding, that's the husband's job).

     * Gather up fun things for you: books, magazines and crafty stuff.

This isn't a complete list, you've got to remember your sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, tents, clothes (Make sure to pack appropriate clothes for where you are going.  We are way in the back country at about 10,000 feet above sea level, trust me, it was cold at times.  We brought lots of pants and jackets and even winter coats), tables, dutch ovens, canopies, air mattresses....or bunk bed cots if you've got 'em (best camping purchase EVER!).

Stay tuned, recipes will be coming up in future posts.  Lots of good stuff this camp out, and maybe a happens.

Hope you enjoy my pre-camping process.

Thanks for reading!


Please take a look at my previous posts on glamping:

How to do glamping

How to do glamping II

Image result for pinterest image
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