Bake the Halls – Sugar Cookie Swirls

These cookies are perfect for bringing to a Christmas party. This time of year reminds me of one of my first Christmas’s here in Kentucky, I was invited to a Christmas party at the house of one of the ladies (whom I’m now really good friends with) that works at the church I attend.

At the time the girls in my lifegroup (who are now in middle school!) were in the 3-5th grade area, and all the leaders were gathering at Wende’s house to hang out. This was before I had a iPhone and the internet, so I got the directions and didn’t write them down because, you know, I would be just fine. By the time I get  into her subdivision I no longer remember the name of the street she lives on nor the address, but no worries, I turned onto her street and went to the only house with an open door and the lights on. Now at this time I didn’t know Wende too well and only knew a handful of leaders, that night was the night to meet some new friends!! As I walk in the front door I greet the couple around my age inside with a Merry Christmas and they respond in kind.  They motion for me to sit on the couch, while I do, inside my head I’m wondering if I had ever seen them around church and notice that they must be great friends with Wende to be moving around her house in such a familiar manner.  I see them in the kitchen, and to be honest at this time I’m feeling a little bit awkward so of course I ask

“Can I help you guys with anything?”
“Oh we’re good, no worries”

But I was worried, what happened to Wende? And why was I the only one there? I was a little early since I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get there but I was just getting this weird vibe from the two people in the kitchen.

“Um, so where’s Wende?”
“What?”
“This isn’t Wende’s house?”
“No, we don’t know who you are, but just figured you were a friend of a friend”
“Oh my gosh! I’m at the wrong house!!! Ummmm Merry Christmas guys!”

And then I awkwardly leave a random strangers house. Thankfully they were nice and they wished me luck in finding the house and a Merry Christmas. With a burning face of embarrassment I hid in my car and call to find out directions, I wasn’t even on the right street! She lived a street over…

Now, back to the cookies this was the first time I did these and let me tell you there are a couple of things that I’ll do differently the next time I make them. When I originally saw these cookies here, they look beautiful! So of course I figured it would be a cinch to make them and like the story above didn’t read any directions in making them. They were messy but fun to make and the next time I make them I will try the recipe on the link above.

Sugar Cookie Swirls

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Ingredients:

2 packets of Betty Crocker Sugar cookie Mix
2 sticks of butter
2 eggs
Food coloring
Sprinkles

Directions:

1. Make the Betty Crocker Sugar cookie mixes separately,  using the food coloring on one of the batches. Let refrigerate for 30 minutes. (The refrigerating for 30 minutes is what I will do differently next time. It can be done without letting the dough get cold, I just think that by refrigerating it the dough will be easier to roll out.

2. Roll the dough out on a floured surface, then place one dough on top of the other and roll both of the doughs together to get the swirl pattern.

3.  This is what I think is the hardest part… Adding the sprinkles, once the doughs are rolled together the next thing to do is to add the sprinkles, and you know what? Sometimes those little stinkers don’t want to stick on to the outside of the cookie dough! Once the dough has been sufficiently sprinkled I wrapped my now sprinkle cover cookie tube in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for an hour or so.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring the cookie tube out of the fridge and get a sharp knife and cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices into the tube. Place in the oven for 7-10 minutes until the sides are just turning brown. Please note that the cookies will expand! Quite a bit, so give them their room, once cooked let cool for 1 minute and then transfer onto a wire rack to continue to cool.

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Bakes the Halls – Gluten free style!

I’m lucky enough to be part of a community of really great Christians, and have a close knit group of girls that I get together with on a weekly basis. We intentionally push one another on our walks with Christ. Th first time I had this treat we were celebrating 2 of the girls birthdays, both of them are gluten free. I was really skeptical of this brownie, but my expectations were blown away and I was surprised to say the I wanted the recipe! I’ve had other brownies that were gluten free and what I think makes this one stand out from those is the frosting that goes on top of the brownie.

Gluten Free Skillet Brownie

Original recipe found here

This tastes amazing!

This tastes amazing!

Ingredients:

Brownie:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp Nutella

Frosting:
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp Nutella
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar
Directions:

1. Pre heat oven to 325 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla and the eggs.

2. Stir in the dry ingredients; the gluten free all purpose flour (if you aren’t gluten free by all means regular flour can be used), cocoa, salt and baking soda.

3. Once those are all mixed, fold in the chocolate chips and pour batter into a cast iron skillet. Once in the skillet, add the Nutella and swirl with a knife.

4. Bake for 35-40 minutes

5. To make the frosting, I would wait until there was just a couple of minutes left before the brownie was finished, or even start right after you take the brownie out of the oven. The frosting doesn’t take long at all to make. The original recipe used a microwave, since I don’t have one I used the stove. Melt the butter and chocolate chips over low to medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning.

6. Just as the chocolate chips were half way melted I added the milk (the chocolate was starting to stick to the bottom of the pan) and the Nutella.

7. Once the chocolate, milk and Nutella are melted and creamy remove the mixture from heat, and slowly start adding the powdered sugar. Once all the powdered sugar is added pour the frosting over the brownie, cut and serve! Make sure not to touch the skillet, its HOT!

More baking goodness!

Bake the Halls – Gingerbread

Bake the Halls – Sugar cookie frosting

12 Days of Cookies

Chicken Alfredo Bake

Well it may come as a surprise to some, but this recipe did not, I repeat, did NOT come from Pinterest. At least that’s not how I got ahold of this recipe. My coworker mentioned that her roommate made this and absolutely loved it, so I texted her and asked for the recipe. The original recipe came from The Plaid & Paisley Kitchen, what a cute sounding kitchen. Anyways, as I was looking to upload and edit the pictures I took on my ‘big’ camera I noticed that the pictures didn’t come out! Super sad, I’m going to have to go and get it fixed, so I must apologize for the state of the picture before hand, this was just one I snapped mid meal with my iPhone.

Chicken Alfredo Bake  The actual dish is to the top right hand corner. If you were wondering what wine I had it was Millanova’s Brandon’s Blend. Millanova is a local Kentucky winery and to be honest it’s my favorite winery, I’ve tried several different wines from them and none has been a disappointment.

Alright now on the the actual recipe:

 

Chicken Alfredo Bake

Ingredients:

1 rotisserie chicken, pull and shred the chicken
3/4 box of your favorite pasta shape
1 jar alfredo sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese
salt, pepper and garlic, to taste
 

Directions:

1. Cook the pasta until al dente. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Shred the chicken and place in a medium size mixing bowl. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder, add 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, and I like to run it under some cool water. Add the pasta to the bowl with the chicken, now pour the jar of alfredo sauce over everything, and toss to coat. When everything is coated place in an 8×8 cooking dish, sprayed with some Pam. Add the second cup of mozzarella cheese on top.
4. Last but not least place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Take out and ENJOY!!
 

*You can substitute 3 chicken breasts in place of the rotisserie chicken if desired. Make sure to cook the chicken prior to placing in the bowl to mix with the other ingredients.

 

Beef and Bok Choy

First let me tell you two things; one, you need to be 21 to get cooking sherry in my state and two, I was nervous about eating bok choy. The reason I was so nervous stems from an incident a couple of years ago when I tried sushi for the first time. You have no idea how pumped I was to eat sea weed, you don’t even have to tell me how strange that is, trust me, I know. Needless to say when I didn’t like sea weed it kind of ruined the entire sushi experience, and I haven’t been able to eat it again. I like to try foods that I’ve never eaten before so I decided to throw caution to the wind and hope bok choy didn’t disappoint me like the sea weed did. If you are wondering, which I’m sure you are, I loved bok choy. The recipe came from a book I bought years ago when I worked at a book store, it’s called; The complete cookbook: Stir Fry. It is still apparently available on amazon!

Beef with Bok Choy

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Ingredients:
1 bunch of bok choy
oil for cooking
2 gloves garlic, crushed
8 oz rump steak thinly sliced (I found of beef stir fry meat that I used)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sweet sherry
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:
1. Was bok choy and drain. Cut leaves into wide strips and stems into thin strips. Heat wok until very hot, add 1 tbsp oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic, stir fry for 30 seconds
2. Add another tbsp of oil and then in batches the meat. Stir fry 3 minutes over high heat where meat has browned but not cooked through. Remove from wok.
3. Add bok choy to the wok and stir fry for 30 seconds or until just wilted.

20130808-162044.jpg Add the meat, soy sauce and sherry. Stir fry 2-3 minutes until meat is tender.

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4. Add the basil and sesame oil, toss well and serve immediately.

**I served this over rice, and also had it the next day for leftovers and it was very good!

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve kind of been on a cookie kick lately, especially if the cookies come from a cake mix! The last cookie that I made was the strawberry lemonade cookies. It was a pleasant surprise when I was looking at one of my favorite blogs, Sally’s Baking Addiction, and she had a recipe for strawberry chocolate chip cookies! Exactly what the girls’ night that I was going to needed, it was like chocolate covered strawberry, who doesn’t love those? Not only are these delicious summer cookies, but they could also be used for a cute Valentine’s day gift. When I made the other cake batter cookies I noticed the dough was really sticky, and for me personally I don’t care much for that so I added a little flour to this recipe. Needless to say it was a huge hit, and super quick to make. By the time the oven was done preheating the cookies were mixed and ready to go straight into the warm oven, so it might be a great idea to have some chocolate chips and strawberry cake mix always on hand for any last minute get togethers.

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Ingredients:
1 box of strawberry cake mix
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. In the first bowl mix together all the dry ingredients; cake mix, flour, and baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl, all the remaining ingredients minus the chocolate chips, whisk together the wet and dry ingredients. Make sure to break up any clumps that might happen, I notice this tends to happen with prepackaged mixes.
3. After the ingredients are well mixed, fold in the chocolate chips. I sometimes prefer smaller cookies, so about 1 to 1 ½ tbsps. worth of dough is rolled into balls and dropped onto a cookie sheet.
4. If you make cookies that are smaller than the original recipe calls for bake for 6-8 minutes. Or 8-10 minutes for larger cookies.

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Some other easy cookie recipes to try
Flourless peanut butter cookies (gluten free!)
Strawberry Lemonade cookies
Lemon Sugar cookies

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

I feel as if strawberry lemonade is one of the staples of summer life. Not gonna lie here guys, I still love Kool-Aid Strawberry Lemonade, it’s just so good! When I saw a recipe for strawberry lemonade cookies, how could I resist? If you are wondering where I found this recipe, it was Pinterest, and then was directed to this delightful site. Let me just tell you, I made these for this past Saturday to give to my friend Kate who is moving. I posted some pictures on Twitter, and needless to say people were asking for them so I’ll be making them again for this weekends’ game night!

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

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Ingredients:
1 package of lemon cake mix
1 package of strawberry cake mix
4 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil, per each batter
2 tsp pure lemon extract
2/3 cup confectioners’’ sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2. Pour lemon cake mix in a large bowl and the strawberry cake mix into another bowl. Stir in 2 eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 1 tsp lemon extract into each of the separate flavored cake batters and mix until well blended.
3. Take 2 rounded teaspoons of lemon batter and roll into a ball. Do the same with the strawberry batter. Combine the lemon and strawberry dough’s to make one large ball.
4. Drop the dough into a bowl of confectioners’ sugar. Roll them around until they are lightly covered. Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 10 minutes (honestly I only baked mine for 6 minutes…) in the preheated oven, until bottoms are light brown and the insides are chewy. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. These are also great the next day too.

Do you have a favorite summertime cookie, you’d love to share? Post a link in the comments section if you do. Also I’m looking for some yummy Christmas cookie recipes, I know I know, it’s still July! Well I’m going to try and do the 12 days of cookies again this year, and I might as well plan what cookies I want to make now so I don’t get overwhelmed with the holidays and completely forget!

Love lemons? I sure do, here’s some other recipes with lemon:
Lemon Sugar Cookies
Zucchini in Parchment
Hummus

Baked Mac and Cheese at Zillafest!

This weekend was Zillafest 2013! What is a Zillafest? Well to start with this is a Zilla:
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It was his birthday and so we threw a party, not just any party but one that impacts countless people’s lives. Instead of getting gifts on his birthday he asks all his friends to either make a dish, or donate so that we can all go out to the park and feed the less fortunate. The week or so leading up to Zillafest the guys go out to the neighboring areas and hand out fliers letting people know. This has been going on now for several years, what fun! This year I teamed up with my friend Theresa , you may recognize her from this post, and we made a big double batch of Mac and Cheese for this event. I have never made mac and cheese that wasn’t out of a box, I know I know, but now I have, and like with other things I’ve made from scratch I will never go back to the mac and cheese in a box!

Theresa’s Baked Mac And Cheese

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Ingredients:
8 oz macaroni
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups cheddar cheese
½ cup breadcrumbs, buttered

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cook and drain pasta al dente according to package and set aside
3. In a large pan melt the butter. Add the flour, salt and pepper, mix until well blended
4. Gradually pour in the milk and cream, stirring constantly
5. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
6. Add shredded cheese, little by little. Once all the cheese is added, cook for 5 more minutes, or until all the cheese is melted.
7. Add macaroni to the pan with the cheese sauce. Toss to coat and transfer the mac and cheese to a buttered baking dish (I used an 8×8)
8. Sprinkle with buttered breadcrumbs (just melt butter, add to the breadcrumbs, and mix). Bake for 20 minutes, it will be bubbly and delicious!

It was so good even the Pastasaurus tried to eat some!!!

20130726-101134.jpg but I said no!!! If you are ever wondering how to get into my good graces and exponentially increase my chances of cooking for you is this:

20130726-101528.jpg Theresa literally took dishes out of the dishwasher!! She is my all time favorite and I will cook food for her whenever she wants! For real though, I really will.

Some other great baked pasta recipes:
Mac and Cheese Baked Cups
Chicken Alfredo Roll Ups

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I love pasta, and have a weird hoarding compulsion in regards to it. I’m currently at my lowest inventory of pasta in 5 years! With less than 4 lbs of pasta left, I’ll be heading to the store to stock back up. I’m kidding! Pasta is an easy dish, with so many dishes that can use it. This is not some crazy out of the way dish though; this is your plain Jane spaghetti and meatballs. This is a combination recipe; the ingredients in the recipe are what my mother uses, but the technique is from a recipe I found online.

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Meatballs

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
¼ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 ½ tsp onion soup mix
1 tbsp each of fresh basil, rosemary, oregano
1 lb pasta of your choice
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a medium size bowl fill with water, a dash of salt and set to boil. Once the water is boiling add the uncooked pasta and cook per the directions on the box. Drain and set aside once cooked.
3. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients except the last two. When thoroughly mixed roll into 1-inch balls and place is in a casserole pan (I say this because there will be grease, and if it’s on a cookie sheet the grease will run over the sides and onto the bottom of the stove. This will cause massive amounts of smoke, possibly a fire, your fire alarm will go off and all your neighbors will think you are a horrible cook! Trust me on this, learn from my failure and put the meatballs in something that has decent sized sides) Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through.

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4. About 3-5 minutes before the meatballs are finished cooking, empty the pasta sauce of your choice (Might I recommend what i recently tried myself: Trader Joe’s Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce)

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into a sauce pan and set to medium heat.
5. Once the meatballs are cooked add them to the pan with the pasta sauce and make sure the sauce is heated through. Divide the pasta onto dinner plates and top with the sauce and meatballs

This will conclude my intake of Italian food for a while, next off I’m hoping to go on a culinary whirlwind adventure with Asian cooking. Not to worry there are several Asian pasta recipes I’ve seen. Let’s all pray I don’t set my apartment on fire! I think my first trial recipe will be beef with Bok Choy, hopefully it’ll be very soon.

Other fresh herb recipes
Fettuccine with Tomato Cream Sauce
Guacamole
Cilantro Lime Rice

4th of July Food Festivities

Last year right after I started this blog my second post was about the 4th of July. Last year it felt like a million degrees out, while this year is was gray and rainy. Sad, but we had a blast and all ate way too much! This year I made a dip, which really I felt more like I had made crack, I ate ½ the dip before the party, no joke.

Bacon Cheddar Dip (aka Crack)
originally found here

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Ingredients:

16 oz sour cream
1 packet ranch dressing mix
3 oz bacon bits
1 cup shredded cheese

Directions:

1. Mix together and refrigerate 24 hours.

My tip for this is get a sturdy chip! I had some Lays, while they were fine before the dip went into the fridge, they promptly broke when I tried to eat the dip once it had chilled.

This second recipe I debated about putting up, honestly I’m still not sure about it. It’s less of a recipe and more of a how to make a fun 4th of July cake. I used Betty Crocker yellow cake mix (the pudding in the mix makes a HUGE difference!) The original recipe was on the Betty Crocker website

Red, White, and Blue Cake

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Ingredients:

1 box Betty Crocker cake mix
water, vegetable and egg whites called for on the cake mix box
red and blue food coloring
1 container (12 oz) Betty Crocker whipped fluffy white frosting.

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees, also check the box, the type of pan you use will determine the cook time. I used 4 mini loaf pans. Make the cake batter as directed on the box, Divide the batter into 3 separate bowls. One will stay the same color, the second add red food coloring, and to the third add blue food coloring, mix and add more food coloring if desired.

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2. Pour red batter into the pan first, then white batter, and lastly the blue batter.

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3. Bake as directed on the box, again cook time will depend on what kind of pan you are using. I forgot to use any kind of grease on the pan, so the first one really there was no saving it. The rest I used a rubber spatula and worked my way around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake and they came out fine. Although for some reason the blue batter sunk to the middle of the cake, honestly of you look at the first picture of the cake it kind of looks like a little whale!

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4. The last step before enjoying this wonderful treat! The original recipe calls to do this in a microwave, since I don’t have one, I just used the stove top. I divided the frosting into 3 equal parts and started with the uncolored frosting. Put it on the stove for a couple of minutes until it had somewhat melted and became smooth. Below is me mixing red dye into the softened frosting.

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Then I put the warmed frosting into a plastic bag.

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and cut off a corner and drizzled it over the cakes. I repeated the process with the other two batches of frosting adding red and blue food coloring.

Artichoke, Spinach, Feta Stuffed Shells

Ever have something and realize, you really like it and can’t believe you’ve missed eating that your entire life?! Well that is how I felt when I first encounter artichokes; I know right, not what you were expecting but it’s awesome, for real. The first time I remember having it and falling in love with it, was last year at a friend’s house it was a cheese and artichoke dip, WONDERFUL! Now I know that I’ve got your hopes up, but that is not the recipe I’m about to tell you about. For a couple of reasons, I haven’t made that recipe yet, so I cannot blog about it, and the reason I haven’t made it yet is because I’m nervous I will sit and eat ALL of it without sharing and that wouldn’t be good for anyone. Another great recipe is this:

Artichoke, Spinach and Feta Stuffed Shells
Original here

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Ingredients:
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup chopped pepperoncini peppers
1 (28 oz) can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can no salt added tomato sauce
2 cup shredded provolone cheese, divided (I used Italian blend cheese)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup (4 oz) cream cheese, softened
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (9 oz) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
5 oz fresh chopped spinach
2 garlic cloves, minced
25 jumbo cooked shell pasta
Cooking spray

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil water and cook pasta

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat; cook 12 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside.

3. Combine 1 cup Italian blend cheese and the next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl. Spoon or pipe filling into the shells; place stuffed shells in a 13×9 inch backing dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon tomato mixture over shells; sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese on top. Bake at 375, for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese melts.

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This was my first time making stuffed shells, and it was a lot less intense than I had always thought! Not only have that, the leftover heated up great.

Other recipes to try:
Chicken Alfredo Roll Ups