Christmas Cookies-Cheater Edition

Sorry I haven’t been posting much but, you know…CHRISTMAS.

I haven’t been crafting much but I have been shopping and wrapping and baking.

A LOT.

Even though I love baking, I’m totally down with cheating.

I make many recipes based around cake mixes (these work with both regular and gluten free cake mixes), cookie mixes and canned frosting. I also like making candy in the microwave. Heck, I don’t even OWN  a candy thermometer!

Everyone loves them so shhhhh! Don’t tell…OK?

Anyway…here is a little sampling of some of the stuff I usually make…

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tarting at 12 o’clock and going clockwise…cranberry bars, microwave cashew brittle and lemon crinkles.

The cashew brittle recipe came from Taste of Home and I have been using it for years. The only caveat I have is too make sure you cook it enough after you add the nuts and butter. It says 20-50sec but when I did it that long the brittle didn’t…brittle. I learned I had to cook it more like 1:30 but do it 30 sec at a time and watch for the color.

The lemon crinkles are a variation of cake mix cookies, which are soooo simple! I add 2 eggs and 1/3 C oil to a lemon cake mix and combine. Then roll into walnut sized balls, roll in powdered sugar and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Once they are cooled melt 1/2 of a can of lemon frosting and drizzle over the cookies and let cool again.

The cranberry bars are a take on Lazy Cake Cookies from I’m a Lazy Mom. I add white chocolate chips and dried cranberries to the bars. Then I used canned cream cheese frosting and add chopped up dried cranberries and orange zest to it.

Here is another example of what I have been baking…

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Again starting at noon we have rice krispie treats with Christmas sprinkles, chocolate lazy cake cookies with white and semi sweet chocolate chips, vanilla lazy cake cookies with semi sweet chocolate chips and red velvet sandwich cookies.

I think they are all pretty self explanatory except the red velvet. There I used red velvet cake mix and made them the same way as the lemon, minus the rolling in sugar and the frosting glaze. Then I used canned cream cheese frosting as filling and rolled the edges in Christmas sprinkles.

These I made for friends, which is why they are packed up like that)…

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his time we will start in the upper right. We have peppermint chocolate rice krispie treats, molasses crinkles and Christmas Lazy Cake cookies.

For the rice krispie treats you just use peppermint marshmallows and then top with melted dark chocolate chips (in the microwave-30 sec at a time until melted) that you drizzle over the top before cutting.

What makes the Cake Cookies “Christmas” is a bag of these suckers:

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That’s it. They are basically a mix of colored white chocolate chips and chocolate chips and they look so festive! My oldest looks forward to these every year…she even claims they taste better then regular chips. I don’t know about that but they are pretty great!

Lastly there are these babies.

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They aren’t terribly Christmassy but they are easy! They are made from Bisquick and you can find the recipe here. Like the other recipes they work with either regular Bisquick and the gluten free version. I haven’t tested the healthy kind, but who wants healthy cookies?


What about the molasses crinkles you ask? Now those are made from scratch. From a family recipe. Which I can’t share under penalty of death…well, maybe not death, but it wouldn’t go over well so…sorry.

I think I’ve given you plenty to work with though.

And remember, the mixes are our little secret!

Nancy Drew Themed Cookies

The oldest and I are big fans of the Nancy Drew PC games.  We just love them! Every now and again Her Interactive has a contest and we love to enter them. This time it was to make Nancy Drew theme cookies. After much debate we decided to make Sinclair’s Oaxacan cookies from Secret of the Scarlet Hand and a cookie that looked like the necklace from The Captive Curse.

Here is what they should look like:

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We decided to make the first using a cake mix cookies recipe I have adapted and the second by making a bagged sugar cookie mix. After submitting I think we may be disqualified for this but oh well. We will see what happens.

Anyway…

I knew we would want to do a stained glass cookie sort of thing to make the “jewel” in the necklace. We crushed up some life savers for that purpose. Then we made the dough, chilled it, and started cutting out the shapes…

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The trial cookie we made was left a little too long in the oven (7min) which caused the life saver bits to bubble and turn black.  Also stick to the pan.

We only put the second batch in for 5min and they came out looking much better but they still stuck a bit. We were able to get most of them loose but not without trauma.

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And that’s not the worst of it. One of them was sticking until suddenly it wasn’t and it went flying  into air and landed behind the microwave.

But at least three survived and we decorated them. The green one was our decoration test cookies and it got eaten before we could really get a picture of it but here are the other two, modeled by the oldest!

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Next up were the Oaxaca cookies. It’s hard to see, but the cookies had a sort of face on them and were filled sandwich cookies.

We mixed up the cake mix cookies..

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and formed them into balls, onto which daughter tried to carve features. Once we baked them you couldn’t really see them so we pressed them in while the cookies were still hot. That worked pretty well.

I didn’t get very many (well any really) pictures of the process because by then everyone was pretty silly. And sticky. And I was a little afraid to ruin my camera.

I did get a picture of the finished product though!

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They are looking a little too happy if you ask me but nobody did 😉 In the game they are poisonous so…

Not sure how authentic these are but we had a blast making them (and are still giggling about the flying cookies) so I consider the experience a success!

Shortbread Bites

I have been doing my Christmas baking this week and was looking for another cookie to fill in the spaces in some tins I was putting together.

These little lovelies looked perfect!

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Santa’s Shortbread Bites from Baked Perfection

Aren’t they adorable? I even had all the ingredients!

I think my first mistake was not using a food processor. I wasn’t sure if a “knife blade” was the same as the regular blade so I decided to do it by hand. I measured and mixed flour and sugar. I cubed up the butter and started combining. After a ridiculous amount of time it finally formed a ball. A crumbly ball, but a ball none the less!

My next mistake was not taking the hint when it was nearly impossible to “flatten the dough” at all, never mind into a 8″ x 5″ rectangle. I persevered and managed to cut a sheet full of 1/2″-ish cubes and stuck them in the oven. They were inherently unstable though, and just bumping the cookie sheet on the way into the oven made them crumble a bit.

At this point I was feeling a bit frustrated so I decided to wrap up the rest of the dough and put it in the fridge to see if that helped it hold together better.

20 minutes late I removed the cookies from the oven…

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Um…not quite.

They tasted good though so I thought “maybe the rest of the dough in the fridge set up!” and I went and got it and unwrapped it.

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Nope.

At this point I gave up.

Shortbread Bites?

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Waste of butter 😦

Halloween Wrap Up!

I know this is late but right after Halloween we had a virus run through the house. I felt like crap for days so I never got around to posting…sorry!

Our Halloween tradition is to make a dinner of spooky foods, carve pumpkins and dress up. Nobody felt like dressing up this year 😦 so instead we added watching a scary movie to our regular routine. We chose The Woman in Black.

Our appetizers consisted of these baby mummy dogs made by wrapping cocktail weenies in thin strips of crescent dough. We found we could make 7 mummies from each crescent roll so this feeds a crowd for sure!

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There was also this poor pumpkin who had too much candy…

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but the guacamole vomit was delicious! Rather than carve this litle guy we just cut a notch out for his mouth, lined it with plastic wrap and drew on the face.

For dinner we had what were supposed to be mummy pizzas, but we forget the olives so they were eyeless and not worthy of their own picture. They are easy to make! You just use English muffins for the crusts, add sauce and top with sliced mozzerella that we had cut into strips and then laid across the muffins. You are supposed to then use black olive slices for eyes but…yeah.

We also had a rice brain..

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and breadstick bones!

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The brain was made by putting hot rice in a bowl then once it was a little cooler we turned it out onto the plate, sculpted it into the brain shape and added ketchup “blood”. The bones are canned bread stick dough shaped into bone shapes. We served them with marinara “blood” sauce.

Here is the whole spread…

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There is a plate of gluten free/dairy free english muffin pizzas back there using store bought gf/df muffins, tomato sauce and daiya cheese. My daughter decorated a bottle of lime soda to look like toxic waste.

Here is a close up of dessert!

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Which was rice krispie treats made using 1/2 pumpkin spice marshmallow and topped with Halloween sprinkles and gluten free brownies from a mix with ghost peeps on top.

After dinner and a movie we carved pumkins!

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It was raining out so no good pictures from that night but here is one from the next day

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All in all it was a fun night! We even had our own scary moment when our woodpile outside fell over right in the middle of the movie! My youngest was convinced it was zombies but we are pretty sure it was the rain, or maybe neighbor kids 😉

Penguin Cake…sort of

My daughter Is crazy about penguins. She also loves  cookie bars. So when she requested cookie bars in place of cake for her birthday I knew just how to decorate them!

First I gathered all the ingredients:

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For the penguins you need:

tootsie rolls (one per penguin)
mini marshmallows
orange colored morsels

Here’s how you do it.

First take you tootsie roll and slice a bit off the bottom…

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then you round off the big piece (this will be the body)…

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cut the smaller part in half and flatten both into wing shaped and attach them to the body.

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Next take a mini marshmallow and cut off a slice then stick that slice to the front of the body like so.

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This next part is kind of tricky. Cut off two tiny pieces of marshmallow and roll them into balls then stick them on as eyes. It’s trick because those little suckers are sticky! They need to be to stick to the body but they also want to stick to your fingers. Just be patient and try using the end of you knife.

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For this next part make sure you have a very sharp knife. You need to cut the tip off…

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and stick it on the penguin to make a beak.

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And you have a penguin!!

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Or a bunch! These guys are hanging out waiting for me to make the cookie bars 🙂

Of course it probably would have been easier to just put on eyes and beaks with décor icing but I didn’t have any and I did have orange morsels and mini marshmallows so there’s that. You work with what you’ve got people!

Next I baked the cookie bars. For them ou need:

yellow or white cake mix
5 tbsp. butter
2 eggs
2 C chocolate chips or m&ms or whatever you like

Basically you melt the butter and mix it all together and spread it in the pan like so…

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The batter will be VERY thick and sticky and you are probably going to have to use your hands to spread it into the pan. Get them wet to help keep the dough from sticking to your hands.  The recipe calls for a 9X13 but I can’t get the batter to spread that far. I use either a 8.5X12 disposable or an 8X8.

Once the bars had cooked and cooled I frosted with vanilla frosting and got ready for the next step in cake decorating…the igloo!

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Basically I just built up levels of sugar cubes until we got something vaguely igloo shaped…

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and topped it with more frosting “snow” and a penguin 🙂

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I finished it off with a blue sugar “ocean” at one end w/ some icebergs then populated it with penguins!

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Penguin love ❤

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You know you can swim, right buddy?

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Creamy Cauliflower “Alfredo” Sauce

I found this recipe at Pinch of Yum. Doesn’t it look delicious?

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Well I thought so and I decide to make some!

I didn’t take many pictures but I did get one of the finished sauce. You’ll see that later.

First I gathered all the ingredients:
cauliflower
veggie broth
milk
butter
garlic
Parmesan cheese
Pepper

(now this is supposed to be “healthy” but looking at the ingredients except that there are veggies, not so much)

Anyway…I broke/cut up the cauliflower, put the veggie broth in my stock pot and set it a ‘simmerin.

(another note here, it calls for 6-7 cups of veggie broth to cook the cauliflower in but that seemed a lot of broth to toss so I did 1/2 water)

While that was going I melted my butter and cooked my garlic (from a jar, I don’t have the time or fine motor skills to chop garlic). You have to watch this carefully or the garlic and butter can burn. Guess what? I didn’t and so I had to throw away a crapload of burned butter and garlic. Sad face. After re-doing that step the cauliflower was def done so I turned the heat off the butter and got to pureeing!

Here’s where I hit the second snafu of the evening. I don’t have a blender. I do have a Kitchen Ninja, which I love, but it’s on the small size. Also, I found out that if you fill it too full when you push the cover down hot liquid will shoot out the space around where to blade spindle thingy sticks out the top and burn the shit out of your hand. It also makes a farting noise which seems funny until molten cauliflower liquid hits your skin. Also pureeing all that cauliflower took, like five batches which was a pain.

Once I was done I turned the heat back up on the garlic, added the puree, pepper and cheese and stirred whilst it heated through. It looked and smelled AWESOME! We served it over pasta with more cheese.

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It was pretty good but did not taste like Alfredo. It wasn’t nearly as smooth as the recipe claimed but that may have been the fault of me and my 3rd degree burns. Also later in the recipe it says that adding olive oil will help with that so I may try that next time.

And there will be a next time, although I don’t think as a pasta sauce. Maybe with rice or some kind of casserole…we will see!

Easy-Peasy Car Bomb Cupcakes

This Is an old one. I made these last St. Patrick’s day and everyone loved them!
Well not my son but he doesn’t like cake the weirdo or my daughter who had her own GF cake.

We used to have a little cupcake bakery in town that made the best Car Bomb cupcakes. Unfortunately they went out of business 😦 I feared St. Patty’s day might never be the same again until I hit on the idea of making my own. Thing is…I’m lazy. Like seriously. I hardly ever make bake goods from scratch and all the recipes I found looked so complicated!

Oh, and in case you don’t know know what makes a Car Bomb cupcake is, it is basically a chocolate stout cupcake filled with an Irish whiskey ganache and topped with an Irish Crème buttercream.

Finally after searching the interwebs for ideas, combining several and adding a dash of my own ingenuity and came up with this recipe. These are not completely authentic: real Car Bomb cupcakes are filled with chocolate whiskey ganache and mine are dipped in chocolate ganache-no whiskey. They are pretty close though and the are delicious!

 

Easy-peasy Car Bomb Cupcakes

Ingredients:

for the cake
1 box dark Chocolate cake mix + ingredients to make it
Stout such as Guinness

for the frosting
Store bought vanilla frosting
Irish Cream coffee creamer
powdered sugar

for the ganache
1 bag dark or semi sweet chocolate chips
1 C  cream or half and half

Basically you make the cake mix subbing in stout in place of water, it’s really that simple.

For the frosting add a few tablespoons of creamer to the store bought frosting. Depending on the brand you may want more and then you may need to add some powdered sugar to get the frosting back to the right consistency.

For the ganache you need to heat the cream to almost boiling in a saucepan, take it off the heat then dump in the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted. That’s it! Ganache is one of those things that sound fancy and complicated but are seriously easy.

To assemble you need to bake and cool the cupcakes. While waiting for the cakes to cool you can make the frosting but do not make the ganache until you are ready to to the cakes as it will harden.

Once the cupcakes are ready and the ganache is ready just dip the tops in ganache and set them aside to cool again. They should look like this:

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Once the ganache has set, you are ready to frost. I make a piping bag out of a ziplock bag with the corner snipped. I added green food color gel for festivity an topped with green sprinkles.

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And there you have it! Car Bomb cupcakes for the lazy!