Monday, April 4, 2011

Vanilla Bean Syrup

This is a horrible picture of something wonderfully delicious and something that has changed my morning routine!  I recently discovered that I can get fresh vanilla beans at my local Henry's for close to nothing - I got three beans for $1.27 because they charge per pound.  Since discovering this wonderful fact I have been loading up my life vanilla beans - I have a batch of homemade vanilla extract "brewing" right now along with a vanilla sugar that should be ready soon!  

The one thing that has transformed my life is this vanilla syrup, which used a vanilla bean pod that I had already scrapped for a cookie recipe, however you could make this with a whole unused vanilla bean pod.  This has also made my goal of cutting back on Starbucks even easier!  I add a dollop of this with my soy milk before heating - add a couple of shots of espresso using my stove-top espresso pot that I got as a gift a couple of years ago and I have a delicious and really inexpensive vanilla bean latte!  While I still get in a Caramel Macciato a couple times a week, these vanilla bean lattes have made almost made me a morning person! 

Vanilla Bean Syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 used vanilla bean pod

Place water and sugar in small saucepan, heat until sugar is just dissolved.  Add in vanilla bean and heat additional minute.  Turn off heat and allow vanilla bean to seep in the simple syrup until room temperature.  Once cooled store in airtight container in the refrigerator - use as needed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Oatmeal Spice Cookies

I have had a box of Spice cake mix in my cupboard for a couple of months waiting for some inspiration. When I saw these cookies on the Confessions of a Cookbook Queen earlier this week, I knew that I needed to try them out.  These cookies are SO unbelievably delicious that I have made these twice this week!  The first batch was for a boat ride that we took with our dear friends and their son - I gave them half of what was left over and my hubby ate the other half.  I do admit to eating one for breakfast...... The second batch was for the office and across the board everyone LOVED them!!! They are so easy to make, the only change I made was to add white chocolate chips and I didn't have any cream cheese frosting so I left that part out.  

These cookies have a wonderful warm spicy taste - the addition of cinnamon chips, which I love to add into my oatmeal cookies, give it a great cinnamon flavor.  The oats are enough to give it some texture and the addition of the white chocolate gave it a nice sweetness.  I am so glad that I found this recipe! 

Oatmeal Spice Cookies

1 box spice cake mix
1 stick softened butter
2 eggs
1 cup cinnamon chips
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together cake mix, butter and eggs until smooth.  Add in both chips and oats, scrapping down the sides.  

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll these into the sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 9 - 10 minutes.  Cool for 2 minutes on the sheet and place on cooling rack.  


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March Baking Gals

It's that time again!  This months care package included S'mores granola bars, chewy chocolate chip cookie bars and Oatmeal Spice cookies from my kitchen.  We also included some Chex mix, Planter's trail mix, Black Licorice and a couple of boxes of instant drink packets.  We also included two issues of Snowboarder magazine - hopefully this will be something that they enjoy!

We hope that these care packages let them know how much we appreciate the sacrifices and support that they give our country!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My First CSA Box!

I have been trying to incorporate more vegetables in our diet and decided to find a local CSA to join.  I have been debating if this is something that I would like/use for a while and finally decided to start out with baby steps. I am signed up with Tanaka Farms for a small box bi-weekly.   I am hoping that this won't be too much and that we won't have a lot of waste.  I think this is just perfect and am excited to try out some new recipes!

This week my box came with a huge head of romaine lettuce, a bunch of radishes, a bunch of carrots, a bunch of swiss chard, 4 pink lady apples and a jar of strawberry jam made from their own strawberries.  I am excited to incorporate these into our menu this week, I am planning on making a yummy salad of some sort, sauteed swiss chard and a radish chutney. 


Friday, March 4, 2011

Nutty Pumpkin Granola

I have been on a serious yogurt kick!  I have just discovered the wonders of Greek Yogurt and I can't get enough.  The hubby and I go thru a carton from Costco in a little over a week!  We have been getting the plain yogurt which I doctor up with some agave syrup, cinnamon and granola.  Most granola is pretty pricey so I decided that I would try to make my own - a quick internet search and I discovered a quick and inexpensive recipe for pumpkin granola on Ella Says Opa, most of the other recipes I found linked back to her recipe so I decided to try it out.

The process couldn't be simpler - mix all the ingredients together and bake on low heat - but the results were amazing!  I decided to add in only silvered almonds because I don't really like walnuts but otherwise I left it the same.  I spent about $3.00 total for a container of granola that is not filled with preservatives and that I LOVE!  I went to my local Mother's Market and was able to get the nuts and dried cranberries from the self service bins which is a money saver and has allowed me to try out some new products with little risk if I don't end up liking it.  Another bonus is that I was able to make the entire house smell delicious!

Nutty Pumpkin Granola
Recipe from Ella Says Opa

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup pepitas
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon each ground ginger, allspice and nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup agave maple syrup
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven 300 degrees.

Mix together oats, nuts and spices.  Add in pumpkin, vanilla and syrup, mix well until all ingredients are coated.  Add in cranberries and mix well.  Spread over greased cookie sheet and bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until golden and crispy.  Cool completely before storing in airtight container.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Popcorn

This was another goodie that I made this Sunday in honor of the Oscar's - you can't watch a show about the movies without some popcorn!  Since this is a night where Hollywood gets dressed up - I decided to dress up my popcorn!  This isn't my favorite caramel corn recipe - I wish that this had a LOT more caramel, but it was still yummy!  This was an easier caramel corn recipe that was perfect since I decided to make it about an hour before we left for to go watch the Oscars.

Chocolate Caramel Popcorn
Recipe from The Craving Chronicles

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
15 unwrapped caramels
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 Tablespoon butter

Pop popcorn in air-popper, place in large bowl.

Add caramels, heavy cream and 1/2 Tablespoon butter in saucepan over low heat.  Stir frequently until caramel is melted.   Drizzle popcorn with caramel mixture and stir to coat evenly.  Scatter popcorn on baking sheet lined with waxed paper.

Melt chocolate chips and remaining butter in double boiler.  Drizzle over popcorn.

Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour until chocolate hardens.


Shared on Sweets for Saturday!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Boston Creme Cupcakes

We watched the Red Carpet and Oscar's at a close friends house this Sunday and since I always bring the dessert and she has been asking for these cupcakes for a couple of months I decided to make these VERY easy and delicious cupcakes.  I have been making these for years - the inspiration is a making an easy to transport version of the classic.  I have made them a couple of different ways, using both store bought cake mix and homemade yellow cake.  I have used both traditional vanilla pudding as well as branched out with a white chocolate pudding and cheesecake pudding filling.  All of them have been really tasty and I don't really have a favorite way.  I decided to make this version the traditional yellow cake with vanilla pudding and chocolate ganache.   I used a cake mix because I didn't want to make a lot of them, and instant vanilla pudding with some vanilla beans thrown in to increase the vanilla flavor.  The result was very well received and these are a delicious treat that I highly recommend!

I forgot to take a picture of the inside!!!  Trust me they are filled with vanilla bean pudding!!

Boston Creme Cupcakes

12 prepared yellow cupcakes - either cake mix or homemade
2 cups vanilla pudding - either homemade or from the mix
1 cup chocolate ganache

Fill a pastry bag with a cupcake filling tip (Wilton tip 230) with prepared pudding.  Insert cupcake tip into cooled cupcake - fill cupcake, careful not to overfill.  You will start to see the cupcake expand - if you overfill it's okay but you will need to clean off the top of the cupcake.  Alternatively you can use an apple corer to take the center out of the cupcake, fill with pudding and replace top.

Once all cupcakes are filled, prepare chocolate ganache.  I used 1/2 cup heated cream, do not allow it to boil poured over 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips.   Allow this to sit 1 - 2 minutes and then stir until chocolate is melted.  With an off-set spatula spread ganache on each cupcake, smoothing to create a shiny smooth surface.   Place cupcakes in refrigerator for 1 hour to allow the ganache to cool and set.

These cupcakes stay good in the fridge for a couple of days before they start to get a little soggy inside.


Shared on Cupcake Tuesday and Sweets for a Saturday