Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post-Holiday Bliss and Apple Bread

How was your Christmas? Or whatever holiday you celebrate. Mine was filled with tamales, lots of family, and a new book! My husband got me the last book in the Inheritance series. And a new kitten to play with our (lazy) Sarina. I knew there was a good reason I married him.

I'm so glad the stores are back to their serene nature, with one or two people in the line ahead of me, not 15. Blissful am I that traffic is sane once again. And those post-Christmas deals? Who can complain about 50% off Christmas lights and new ornaments for the tree? Oh yes, this lull is quite soothing, considering I've asked Sam to undertake the re-creation of Starry Night out of cupcakes for my impending birthday. No pressure or anything. I think he thinks I'm joking. I'm so serious.

I did make him Cupcakes of Catan for his birthday. That was no easy job. I think this is a fair exchange. :) Here's what his birthday looked like:

Anyways, I'm sure you had your fill of pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, or pumpkin muffins. Right? I know I am about ready for them to retire. They're good, but I guess I'm just not their biggest fan. Also, I made pumpkin cookies at the very beginning of December for my youth group girls, and then suddenly, EVERYONE was making them. At the cookie exchange, there they were, stalking me. And just last night, a sweet family in our church brought over MORE pumpkin cookies. Boy, was I thrilled.

There is, however, one holiday tradition that I'm sad to see retire away for yet another year. Goodbye, my sweet eggnog. No more eggnog,  ice cream, or fudge. It's such a shame. I guess that's why it always tastes so good when it comes around!

Anyways, on a completely new topic, I absolutely love the Pampered Chef and everything they sell (although, if you've read my past blog entries, you already know that). One of my favorite contraptions they have available for purchase is an apple corer-peeler combo. It looks like it belongs in a carpenter's workshop or something, but this baby is AWESOME.

It is one of those products you don't realize are absolute necessities until you try them. Seriously, I've never had more fun peeling and coring an apple! 

The reason I bring this up is because with this wonderful gift my mother gave me several years ago, I found a wonderful recipe. For apple bread. Oh, did I mention the cinnamon streusel? This is one of the select few recipes that doesn't need chocolate to make it perfect.

It tastes so delicious warm and smothered in butter. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Mmmm...

Apple Bread

For the Bread:
2 medium-sized Granny Smith apples (they have the most flavor when you cook them, much like brown, slightly gooey bananas make the best bread)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened but not melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Streusel:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

I like to at least double my streusel, since I found that if you use the recommended proportions, it doesn't feel like nearly enough.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bread pan.

Peel, core and slice your apples. (This is where that device comes in handy!)

Cream the butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs, lemon juice and vanilla, mixing only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Chop those apple slices and fold them into the batter.

Spoon only half of the batter into the pan. Sprinkle with half of the streusel mix. Spread the remaining batter on top, then top it with the rest of the streusel, pressing it gently into the batter.

Bake for about 55 to 60 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

The recipe says it serves 12, but not in my house! Maybe 4.

Credit for Photos:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cake Mix Cookies, Easier than Pie

Alright, I admit it. I'm on Pinterest. I don't think I fully understand the "greatness" of the thing, but it's kinda neat to learn new crafts or recipes. If you follow the original "pin" back to the website it came from, that is. Otherwise, you're just putting things on a wishlist and sharing it with EVERYONE. There's this 14-year-old girl that I know who basically only puts up pictures of clothes. And totally cliche sayings. It's one of those teenage things where everything is more dramatic than adults believe it is. And I keep getting emails about how "so-and-so repinned your pin!" I don't even know most of the people who are liking the pictures I've put up! On the plus side, I've been putting up tons of pictures from my blog, so Country Chic is getting TONS of traffic. And I've found some cute craft ideas that, in a million years, I will eventually have time to do. So I GUESS I kinda like it.

Anyways, enough about my ranting. I did have a point to this post, I promise. I have a really yummy, simple cookie recipe that I've been dying to share with you! Once you see these pictures, I hope you'll be as excited about these as I am.

You can add ANYTHING to these babies and they'll turn out fantastic! Chocolate chips, walnuts, dried fruit, you name it! I love using cinnamon chips because they taste like heaven. They're sooooo delicious and a nice deviation from chocolate or butterscotch.

like preheating my oven and trying to race to finish my prep work before the oven finishes heating up. I know, my life is so exciting. :) But I usually win with this recipe! It really is amazing just how simple these babies are. So without further ado, here's the recipe you've been waiting for!

Cake Mix Cookies

1 box of cake mix, any flavor (I picked spice cake. Yum!)
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water
small bowl of granulated (or powdered) sugar (I've never tried powdered sugar, but that's next on my 'to-bake' list!)
Chocolate chips or nuts (optional) (I used cinnamon chips.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine the cake mix, oil, eggs and water in a large bowl. 

Shape the dough into small bowls with two spoons (the dough will be really sticky, hence the spoons). 

Roll the dough in the sugar.

Now, place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten them just slightly before popping them into the oven.

Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (or only 9. They're gooier and more delicious that way!) and then let them cool on a cooling rack.

And then chow down!

This combination is the perfect fall treat! So tasty! :D

I haven't been able to get a good count of how many cookies this makes, since either my husband or I sneak a couple of cookies fresh out of the oven. I think it makes about 30 or so.

Seriously. That's all there is to it! Good luck and try not to eat them all in one sitting!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

No Baking, Lots of Enjoying!

I'm always a fan of no-bake cookies. They're ridiculously easy, and they taste SO GOOD! The medium is either chow mein noodles or oatmeal, and they taste like heaven. (of course, ANYTHING with chocolate and peanut butter can be nothing short of heaven, right?)

Here's some yummy oatmeal cookies.

I believe some people have called these "haystacks". I thinks it's so appropriate! And they're sooo cute, too!
 Also, most recipes for these cookies require rolled oats as well.

Never you fear, I've got both recipes for you!! I really love the simplicity of these snacks, and I'm sure you will too!

Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bakes

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. milk
2 c. sugar
4tbsp cocoa
1/2 c. peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract (I've only ever tried it with vanilla, but I think next time I'll go for almond.)
3 to 3 1/2 c. dry quick-cooking oats

Mix the butter , sugar, milk, and cocoa in a 4-quart saucepan.

Bring it to a rolling boil and leave the ingredients over the heat for about 1 minute. Remove it from the heat. 

Add peanut butter to the mix and stir until melted. Then add the vanilla. 

Lastly, mix in the oats and drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. Let them cool until they set. 

This should make about 24 cookies

No-Bake Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/2 c. chocolate chips, divided in two sections
1 (10 oz.) pkg. Reese's peanut butter chips, divided
2 tbsp. shortening, divided
2 1/2 c. (5 oz. can) chow mein noodles, coarsely broken and divided
1/2 c. quick-cooking rolled oats, divided

Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper. Place 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until the chips are melted.

Stir in the noodles (1/4 cup) and the oats (1/4 cup). 

Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper, then flatten them slightly. Press a couple of peanut butter chips into the top of each cookie. 

Repeat the whole process for the peanut butter chips. Allow all cookies to set until firm.

This recipe also makes about 2 dozen cookies

Photograph royalties:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cherry Cheese Coffee Cake and Me, Nerding Out

Okay, so when I first heard of Bakerella, I was intrigued. She turned average cake balls into little bitty works of art!

I love this one. The chicks are soooo cute!

And so today, I saw that I can check out where people are coming to my blog from. Mostly it's Facebook, since I did share the site with everyone there. :) BUT! (I do have a point, I promise.) There was one website that stood out from the rest. And it was.... Bakerella.com! Bakerella read my blog! OMG OMG! I love you guys for reading, too, don't get me wrong. But she's my idol!!! That bit of news totally made my day today. 

Also, I'm a part-time nanny for two of the most adorable kids on the planet. Ethan and Alexa, 3 and 8 months. So Ethan and I were playing "Star Tours" with play-doh star tours ships that he made himself, and I would love to share this conversation we had.
Me: Obi-wan told me you're a jedi and you have to use the force to run away from Darth Vader!
Ethan: Why is he there?
Me: Who, Darth Vader?
Ethan: No. Oba-lun. (He's not quite there with the names yet. But hey, he's super cute, so it's totally fine!) How'd he get there?
Me: Where?
Ethan: The forest.
And of course, I had to stifle my chuckle because he's just the cutest thing ever. And kids really do say the darndest things!

Anyways, I know the REAL reason you checked my blog is because your mouth is watering and your hands are itching for something to bake. My mom's best friend used to sell Pampered Chef stuff (which I love! Perfect Christmas presents, hint hint!) and would always hook us up with some deals. And if you've never bought PC stuff, let me tell you this wonderful tidbit: all of their baking equipment comes with recipes for you to test out with your new purchase! And so I decided to peruse some of the recipes for a new favorite. I found this:

Cherry Cheese Coffee Cake! (look at that alliteration! I'm a nerd for English, too. Don't judge me.) With cream cheese, one of my all-time favorite dessert ingredients!

Photo © Jessica at Catholic Cuisine

Confession: This isn't my picture. I regret that, when I made this for my hubby before we got married, I left it with a house full of boys to get my camera for photographing my lovely work. I was gone only a minute or two, but that's enough when you're a bachelor who eats basically only ramen noodles or Hungry Man dinners. :( I did get a taste, however, so I guess that's enough. It was amazing!! You can view the blog this photo belongs to here. And you can substitute anything you want for the cherry pie filling. Here it is, ladies and gents!

Cherry Cheese Coffee Cake

For the Coffee Cake:
2 packages (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 package cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling (or any fruit pie filling, as long as it's in syrup!)

For the Glaze:
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 to 3 tsp. milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Unroll the crescent dough. Separate into 16 triangles, and set 4 aside for decoration. 

On a baking sheet, arrange the 12 triangles into a circle so that the longer points are in the center but do not meet. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 14-inch circle, pressing the seams together and leaving a 3-inch hole in the center.

For the filling, combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg and vanilla in a medium bowl. Mix until smooth and creamy and then spread over dough. Leave about 1/2 inch uncovered at both edges of the dough. Top the whole thing with your pie filling.

Use a pizza cutter to cut those 4 triangles you set aside earlier into thirds. Start at the wider end, as it's easier to judge where your triangle should be cut. Arrange the strips evenly over the filling and press the ends to seal at the center and outer edges. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it's golden brown. Then drizzle the glaze over the top!

For said glaze, mix the sugar and milk until smooth. Pretty easy stuff. :) 

Enjoy this recipe brought to you by the Pampered Chef, with my very own stamp of approval! I might make this again pretty soon, and if I do, I'll update the pictures for you guys. :)

Photographs from these websites:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sinfully Delicious Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

So I went to my very first cookie exchange Tuesday! It was so much fun, and I scored some tasty new treats!

My mom tagged along, but she didn't have time to make cookies to exchange, so I whipped up some peppermint chocolate chip cookies for her. Me, on the other hand, I baked my (new) favorite cookies: dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies. The recipe calls for peanut butter (oh, yes!), so I thought chunky would be most appropriate. They're best slightly under-baked and fresh out of the oven. So I almost didn't have enough cookies to offer the girls at the exchange. Because I ate so many. ^^' Now, I know you want the recipe. It's so easy, you'll love to bake 'em over and over!

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

In a small bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, soda and salt, then set aside.

In another bowl (slightly bigger), cream the butter, sugar and peanut butter until light and fluffy. I like using chunky peanut butter because I like the added deliciousness. Plus, chunky is SO much better than creamy, no matter what my husband or anyone else says.

Add vanilla and eggs; cream. 

Then add the flour concoction to the mix. 

Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Roll cookies into balls that are about 1 inch in diameter. Place on parchment paper covered baking sheet. My sister-in-law swears by these silicon baking liners, so I thought I'd give them a try. So far, so good!

Bake them for 10 minutes. Or 9, if you're like me and you believe gooey cookies are the epitome of perfection.

You know you want to bake them. Right... now.

This makes about 30 cookies, but I like to make them on the smaller side. That way I don't feel so awful about eating two. Or three. Or... well, you get the idea. So my method usually makes about 48, plus or minus.

Also,I heard a funny story about Mexican Wedding Balls. Have you heard of them? They're crumbly, usually with an almond-y taste, and rolled in powdered sugar. They're very yummy. But they are neither traditional nor are they Mexican! One of the ladies at the cookie exchange shared an anecdote about how she made them and offered some to a friend from Mexico. Oddly enough, she had never heard of or tasted these little beauties!

So that's it for now. Happy baking!
Also, if you want the recipe for "Mexican" Wedding Cookies, I have a great one here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Life's a Picnik

I know I already posted today, but I really wanted to tell you all about Picnik, which is a photo editing website. I absolutely adore it! It makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, my dream of being a professional photographer are not, in fact, in vain.There are different effects for different holidays, which I absolutely love!

There are so many fancy things you can do to shape and mold your photos into works of art. I've been testing out tons and tons of different effects, shading, burning, even touch-ups! I've made myself look supremely tan (and boy, did I look odd.), the ocean look an even deeper and pure shade of blue than you've ever seen, and the edge of the world seem like the most romantic place anyone could ever imagine. And it's all free! Of course, the upgraded features and fancier effects cost extra, but it's still the greatest!

I think I might be addicted. I've spent so many hours pouring over this website that I might possibly have a problem... 

I feel like such an artist! And a photographer. Pretty much all of these photos were taken by yours truly! 

This last one, my brother in law took for our engagement pics. He did a great job with his photo editing skills, but I wanted to test drive my own amateur skill. So this one here is my very first! And it's also one of my very favorites.
So go check out this wonderful website and see if you fall in love with it as much as I have!

Heaven in an Oreo Crust, a.k.a. The Peanut Butter Tart

I love to try new recipes. Especially if they include any of the following: chocolate, peanut butter, or cream cheese. Well, one of my favorite recipes is for a peanut butter tart. Oreo crust, whipped, cream-cheesy melted peanut butter chip filling, and of course, melted Kisses on top.
You may be asking, "Why, oh why, are you torturing me with such a delicious description?" Well, my friend, you are about to enter the world of the peanut butter tart.

Peanut Butter Tart

For the Pie Crust:
16 to 19 Oreo cookies, crushed (leave the filling in; helps it stick together better)
2 1/2 tbsp. melted butter

For the Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 bag Reese's peanut butter chips
1 pint heavy cream
20 Reese's miniatures, chopped (My husband thinks the tart could do without the added peanut butter cups, but I told him he's crazy.)

For the Topping:
10 Hershey's Kisses, melted to sweet perfection
6 Reese's miniatures, cut in half

Finely crush the Oreos. Combine them with the melted butter in a medium sized bowl. Press it all into a pie pan and refrigerate or freeze to harden. I like to freeze it so it's perfectly ready by the time the filling is completely mixed and whipped.

Next up, chop your peanut butter cups and set them aside. Size of chunks is up to you, but I like them to be on the smaller side, since it won't detract too much from the creamy goodness that is whipped cream cheese.

Put the peanut butter chips in a microwave-safe bowl and add two tbsp. of water. The water helps the peanut butter to not harden while you're mixing it with the cream cheese. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat until slightly melted. It should look like very creamy peanut butter.

In a larger bowl, stir the cream cheese on its own to help it soften up a little more. Add the melted peanut butter chips and stir.

In (yet) another bowl, whip the cream until peaks begin to form. (This is where a mixer becomes a girl's best friend.) Add it to the cream cheese mix, then fold in the chopped peanut butter cups. Pour all of this into the crust. (Here comes the hard part) Refrigerate for about 3 hours.

Melt the kisses, then place the gooey, delicious mess into a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with the corner cut off. The design is up to you! Don't forget about those halved peanut butter cups, either!

This is what mine looked like. :) It's impossible to resist, and sooooo rich! This is always a favorite at my house, and I'm sure it'll be a favorite at yours!

Pictures borrowed from these websites:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Odd News

Sometimes, when I'm bored, I'll scroll through some news stories just for something to read. It's not that I don't have a million books at my fingertips, since I AM a bookworm, just that I'm looking for something "NEW!" and "FRESH!" to read. So I was bored today, since I'd already knocked out my cooking for the day, so I turned on my trusty laptop, and what do you know? I find an article about a very rich cat, inheriting millions from his late owner!
I've heard about phenomena like this in the past, but it always gets me wondering, why? What is a cat going to do with property in Milan or Rome, let alone a $13 million fortune? I love my cat, don't get me wrong, but even if I never have kids, I'd make sure to donate all my millions (since, in this fantasy of mine, I'm filthy rich) to some charity organization or another. And who is going to look after all the money after the cat dies? 

Granted, my cat is super cute, and I love her to pieces, but I still wouldn't leave my millions and billions to her.

In news closer to home, I've been on a baking crusade. My mother, who is notorious for not being able to keep Christmas presents secret for more than 3 days after purchasing them, gave me a cupcake decorating book with super cute ideas a few days before Thanksgiving. Then just last week she brought me the Cake Pops decorating book by my baking heroine, Bakerella! I've been so anxious to try out these new decorating tips and recipes. My first attempt at cake balls resulted in something that resembled cake porcupines, rather than smooth balls, but they tasted just fine!

My second attempt turned out much better than the first, and very delicious, too! Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I melted white chocolate chips to cover them, and then to finish them off, semi-sweet chocolate drizzle. Mmm... and they tasted as delicious as they look! Maybe even more so.

Well, I'll keep baking, and you keep reading! See you next time!