Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Almonds

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Almonds

The other day, I went to the mall and saw fall merchandise in the stores. I know it’s August, and it’s too soon…however, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I get crazy excited about seasonal changes early on. :-) In fact, this past weekend when I was at Starbucks, I asked the barista if they had pumpkin ANYTHING in the store. They had bread, and I totally ate it in 100 degree weather, while dreaming about cool, crisp fall weather and pumpkin spice lattes. :-) Is anyone else itching for fall?

I made these almonds a while back for my husband, since he’s crazy obsessed with almonds lately. He really loves Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar Almonds, and I knew it would be a lot cheaper for me to purchase the raw almonds myself and make these for him.

I decided to make these when he was out of the house, so it could be a surprise when he got home. This recipe was super simple to throw together, and oh man, it made our house smell like one of those roasted nut carts that they have in the mall around the holiday season. It was well worth making this recipe, and I’m thinking about making these around the holidays for gifts now!

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Almonds
Source: Taste of Home

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 6 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups raw almonds
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk/beat the egg whites until they turn frothy. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add in the raw almonds, and fold the mixture gently until the almonds are coated.
  3. In a smaller bowl, mix the sugars, salt and cinnamon together. Then, add that to the almond mixture, folding gently until everything is mixed well.
  4. Divide the almond mixture into two pans, and then spread the mixture evenly inside the pan. Bake the nuts for 25-30 minutes, or until the mixture is crisp, taking the pans out once at 15 minutes to stir the mixture and re-spread the mixture out. Allow the almonds to fully cool, and place in an air tight container to enjoy later.

Red Velvet Peppermint Bark

redvelvetcakebatterbark

One of the things I can’t get enough of lately is peppermint + chocolate. I’m obsessed with Chick Fil-A’s peppermint chocolate chip shake, and I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten half a bag of Candy Cane kisses. It’s just insane how much I love it, because usually I could give or take peppermint bark. Eggnog is usually my thing. I’m really not sure what’s gotten into me, but I’m not complaining!

I originally saw the idea for cake batter bark on How Sweet It Is. I’ve been wanting to do it with red velvet, and thought that it would be so festive to use red velvet cake mix in peppermint bark. The results were great! One of my coworkers tasted it, and then grabbed 4 pieces haha! It’s also very simple to make, and it makes a good bit!

Red Velvet Peppermint Bark

I packaged these in simple printed cello bags, and added Christmas sprinkles with the crushed candy canes for a more Christmas-y touch. Y’all know I’m all about sprinkles!

Red Velvet Peppermint Bark
Source: inspired by How Sweet It Is

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp. canola oil (divided)
  • 3 1/2 tbsp. red velvet dry cake mix
  • 10 mini candy canes, crushed
  • Christmas sprinkles
  • red powdered food coloring

Directions:

  1. Melt the 1/2 lb. of dark/semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, along with 1/2 tsp. of the canola oil, until melted. You’ll want to do this in 30 second increments at 50% power, being sure to stir well between each microwave cycle. Pour and spread the chocolate, using a spatula, on top of a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Allow it to set for 15 minutes.
  2. Melt the 1/2 lb. of white chocolate with the remaining 1/2 tsp. of canola oil, until melted. Microwave this in 30 second increments as well, at 50% power, being sure to stir well between each microwave cycle. Mix in the dry cake mix, as well as the powdered food coloring (a little at a time until desired color is achieved), until everything is well combined. Pour this over the set dark chocolate and spread the red velvet white chocolate carefully, making sure to cover the dark chocolate. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes and Christmas sprinkles liberally over the red velvet white chocolate.
  3. Allow the bark to cool completely before breaking into pieces and serving.

2013 Holiday Bake-Palooza

2013 Bake-Palooza

This past weekend was a busy one in our kitchen. We had our annual holiday bake-palooza for coworker/neighbor gifts! I think after doing this for 4 years, we have figured out a good system for doing this. We were done much earlier than I anticipated, which is awesome. :-)

2013 Bake-Palooza

At the end of the weekend, this was what we ended up with. The packaging this year was a mish-mash of items from Wal-Mart, Target, Hobby Lobby, Pick Your Plum, TJMaxx & World Market. This year was a year to use up leftover packaging from previous years, so nothing is really uniform. However, it doesn’t really matter to me, because I think it looks really fun sitting together.

The recipes that we decided on this year were:

To divide things up, about a month ago, I made all of the cookie dough and froze it using this method in the post. Then on Friday, we made all of the candy (2 batches of fudge, caramel, elf’s mix & bark)., and on Saturday, we baked up all of the cookies and made the bread. It really wasn’t bad at all, compared to previous years. The biggest time saver is making all of the cookie dough in advance, especially when you’re making 3-4 batches of each cookie dough.

2013 Bake-Palooza

These are trays that I made for each of our offices. I purchased these at Wal-Mart for $3, and they come with a lid and a handle. They hold a ton, which is perfect since we wanted to give our coworkers a nice variety of things to enjoy.

2013 Bake-Palooza

This is the inside of the tin in the first picture. We gave these gifts to neighbors, and they were the perfect size. We squeezed in some fudge, homemade caramels, as well as cookies.

2013 Bake-Palooza

Since I work on a very small team, I wanted to give little bags of treats to them as well. Sure, they could pull from the large break room tray that I made, but since my office is pretty large, I wanted to make sure they had their share of the goodies too. :-)

Have you done any holiday baking yet? When do you plan on baking for holiday gifting?

Tree & Wreath Cupcakes

christmascupcakes

This weekend is the grand bake-palooza in our house. I have the bags of pre-scooped cookie dough ready, and went on one last Target run for necessary ingredients for Mom’s fudge, Elf’s Mix & a few other recipes that I’ll be sharing on here soon. :-) I just love making these gifts every year…edible gifts are always a winner, and it’s fun to package them up. I’m a sucker for treat boxes, cellophane and a ton of curling ribbon. :-)

This week, I was just itching to throw some cupcakes together. Sometimes, I just have to take those old Wilton tips out and go crazy with buttercream. I actually first attempted these with a grass tip, and they just looked so messy. However, a star tip (#21) did the trick.

I didn’t take pictures of every step with these cupcakes, because they’re pretty simple to pipe out, and you can easily see where I piped the stars.

I started off by thinly frosting (completely cooled) cupcakes with a layer of un-dyed vanilla buttercream (I used this recipe for the buttercream). To make the trees, I started with 5 stars on the bottom, then a row of 4 (between each star in the 5 row), and then 3, 2, 1. For the wreaths, I piped two stars next to each other, and continued in a circle around the whole cupcake. To make the bows, I just used a small round tip (#5) and piped a sideways “8″, and added the edges. The ornaments were made using the same tip, in small, random dots in the gaps of the piped stars. The tree trunks were piped with the same round tip in brown frosting.

I think these cupcakes would be especially festive with a funfetti cupcake recipe, using holiday colored jimmies!

Are any of y’all baking this weekend for the holidays? I’d love to hear about what’s baking in your kitchen. :-) I’m sure I’ll be tweeting about the flour/confectioner’s sugar clouds in my kitchen.

Christmas Cookies & A Giveaway!

handmadeholidays

It’s now socially acceptable to decorate with all of the Christmas things! I just felt like stating that to you guys. :-P

Since it’s now officially the holiday season, I think I’m going to ask a certain husband who isn’t afraid of heights to go in the attic and grab all of the Christmas decor. ::fingers crossed:: I seriously can’t take 3 steps on a ladder without taking deep breaths and telling myself “I think I can…I think I can…”.

I just love making cookies for the holidays. I bake so many for gifts, since it’s always a winner with coworkers and neighbors. I learned a great trick when it comes to baking in bulk for the holidays…make your dough in advance to freeze and then bake them all later. It makes things a lot easier when you’re making dozens of cookies at once. :-)

What also makes things easier while baking is knowing that your favorite recipes will always come out the same when using quality ingredients. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that good, quality ingredients really do make a difference in your baking. For example, I used to grab store brand flour, and the results of my baking weren’t always consistent. I really thought it was me making a mistake in the recipe, but when I switched to a bag of King Arthur Flour, my favorite recipes come out the same way every time. I will admit that King Arthur Flour is slightly pricier than store brands, but to me, it’s worth it to use a brand that has such high quality standards when it comes to flour. You don’t have to order their flour online only either…they carry their flour at so many stores now (I recently saw their flour at Walmart for $3.95/bag!). Also, I’ve seen quite a few of their baking products, like espresso powder (which is so hard for me to find anywhere else…is it just me?) and specialty extracts, at Sur La Table. :-)

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Cinnamon Rolls & A Giveaway!

handmadeholidays

It’s amazing how quickly one can go through butter for holiday baking, so it’s essential for me to stock up when it goes on sale! Usually $2/lb. is my stock-up price, and when I stock up, I usually buy 10 lbs. at a time. I have to wonder what the cashier thinks of me when I purchase all that butter, and I’ve been asked if I own a bakery once. Nope…I just LOVE to bake!

This recipe for cinnamon rolls goes through some butter, y’all. At first, I thought there was no way all of that butter was going to go in the cinnamon rolls…no way. However….yup…I used over a pound of butter in a batch of cinnamon rolls. 4 sticks alone served as part of the filling! Now, this recipe isn’t just for 8 rolls…I got 48 rolls out of this recipe. It’s the perfect recipe for gift-giving, and it comes from someone who is always cooking for a crowd: The Pioneer Woman.
cinnamonrolls1

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about her cinnamon roll recipe, but since it’s such a large recipe, I felt like I needed an occasion to make these. Well, how about the holidays? When this recipe makes 6 pans worth, you could totally get away with gifting this to neighbors, family, friends….whoever you want! I took a tip from The Pioneer Woman, and baked them in cheap disposable baking pans. While they aren’t the prettiest, you can totally dress up the pan by dying the icing, adding sprinkles on top of the rolls & wrapping the pan in holiday cellophane paper! How awesome would it be to give something like this to a loved one?

cinnamonrolls2

These cinnamon rolls were divine. Just…divine. This is my first time making cinnamon rolls from scratch, and I firmly believe that the scent of butter/sugar/cinnamon/dough needs to be in a candle. Holy moly…it smelled like king cake in our house! The rolls themselves were a tender, fluffy texture, thanks to Red Star Platinum yeast. I first heard about Red Star Yeast when I attended a King Arthur Flour seminar a couple of years ago. We were given samples at the seminar, and when I baked with the yeast, I was so surprised at how well the dough rose! I ended up purchasing a full 1 lb. block of Red Star Yeast the next week. I’m definitely a fan of their yeast.

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Lumps of Coal & A Giveaway!

handmadeholidays

I’m ridiculously excited about this week’s posts. As you guys may already know, I’m a big fan of the holiday season. One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to DIY some of the gifts, and this week is going to be all about homemade holiday gifts that you can easily make from the kitchen. So, everyday this week (with the exception of Thanksgiving), I’ll be featuring a fun homemade holiday gift idea, along with a giveaway from some very generous companies whose products I love to use!

Today, I wanted to share with you guys how easy it is to make these adorable “lumps of coal”.

candy2

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Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices

cranberrycrumbbars

I’ve been waiting for months for fresh cranberries to be back in stores. As a few of you may remember, I used to contribute on Weddingbee (under the moniker, Mrs. Ballet Flat). Every year around this time, some of the bloggers exchange ornaments, making one of the giftee’s moniker. So, I have quite a few ballet flat ornaments on my tree that I truly cherish. :-) Last year, along with the ornament, I also got a few of these bars in the mail (an awesome surprise!). I was addicted….absolutely addicted.

After the holiday craziness, I went to the grocery stores to buy fresh cranberries to make these bars, since my exchange friend mentioned they were from Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook (which I had recently purchased). Well, all of the stores near me were sold out. Gone. No more cranberries. I promised myself that once they were back in the produce section, I was going to immediately make these bars. They’re just as good as I remembered…a subtle spiced crumb layer and cranberry filling with a hint of orange in it. It’s marvelous (as if I expected anything different from Deb of The Smitten Kitchen).

I brought these to my coworkers, thinking that cranberries are an iffy ingredient for some people…they probably wouldn’t go that fast. Um…these bars left faster than when I bring cupcakes to work! They were an absolute winner! If you’re looking for a festive holiday dessert that is a little different than the norm, give these a try. The recipe comes together fairly quickly, and any cranberry lover will probably go crazy over these. :-)

Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices
Source: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients:

For the crumb base:

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled (saving the wrappers to grease the pan)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 large egg

For the filling:

  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. orange juice
  • 3 cups (12-ounce bag) fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a 9×13 inch baking pan by lining it with parchment paper and rubbing the butter remnants left on the inside of the butter wrappers on top of the parchment paper.
  2. In a large, wide bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices. Whisk the mixture well. Using a pastry blender or fork, work the chilled butter and egg into the dry flour mixture until the texture resembles a coarse meal. Pat half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of your prepared baking pan (note: the layer will be thin).
  3. In a food processor or blender, add the filling ingredients and pulse the mixture until the cranberries are coarsely chopped (but not pureed). Using a spatula or spoon, evenly spread the filling over the pressed crumb base. After the filling is evenly added, sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the berry mixture.
  4. Bake the bars for 30-35 minutes, or until just lightly brown on top. Allow the bars to cool completely before serving, cutting the bars into 36 small squares.

 

Holiday Spritz Cookies & A Giveaway!

bakingbook2

I am in hog heaven lately. It’s no surprise to you guys that Christmas is a holiday that I just adore, and with the holidays, there is always baking. Lots and lots of baking. I know I mentioned last week that I had to special order 28 blocks of cream cheese…well, when the butter goes on sale, I’m pretty sure I’m going to need 15 boxes. I’m not even kidding. I just love holiday baking, and truly enjoy sharing those treats with the ones that I care about.

America’s Test Kitchen recently came out with their newest book: The Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book, and sent me a complimentary copy to review. I just adore America’s Test Kitchen. I subscribe to both Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, as well as frequently cook from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. So when they asked me if I’d like to review this book, I didn’t even have to think about it. I actually had this book on my holiday wish list when I first read about the book in this post (which is what encouraged me to bake those scrumptious sticky buns in the first place). :-) When I received it in the mail, I had my post-its in hand ready to mark the recipes that I wanted to make right away.

The book contains 15 different chapters, with 450 recipes total. The book also has a comprehensive section called baking basics, explaining pretty much anything you ever needed to know about basic baking ingredients and tools, as well as tips to become a better baker in the kitchen.

bakingbook1

It’s also beautifully illustrated. I’m usually a sucker for color photos when it comes to food photography, but the black and white photography just draws you in. Also, in true Cook’s Illustrated fashion, there are step-by-step illustrations for some of the more complicated recipes. I appreciate this, because while you don’t necessarily always need step-by-step photos, there are some recipes where you just need an illustration or two to guide you along the way. There’s also notes in the beginning of every recipe, explaining what the recipe is and how certain ingredients in the recipe work to make this recipe just perfect.

As I was skimming through the book, these holiday spritz cookies caught my eye. Really, it was the word “holiday”. ;-) I’ve attempted to make spritz cookies before, and sadly, the dough ended up being too thick to use in the cookie press. I haven’t attempted spritz cookies since, and that was a few years ago. While I own a cookie press, I wanted to try it with another method that they recommended: a star tip and a piping bag. Genius….

I was so excited when these cookies actually piped out, and they baked up perfectly. These cookies put those holiday tin cookies to shame. They’re perfectly buttery, not too sweet, and are so simple to make! I ended up adding some sprinkles to some before baking as well, and that gave them some extra holiday flair. Of course, they’re delicious on their own, but sprinkles make everything more fun, right?

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Sweet Potato Pie

sweetpotatopie

I went to the grocery store tonight, since they had cream cheese for 99 cents. When it gets this low in price, I do the annual stock-up for cheesecake season. See, this cheesecake has made me famous between our families, and well, that cheesecake calls for 4 blocks of cream cheese. It can get spendy during the holiday season, so it’s always fun to go to the store to stock up and request 30ish boxes of cream cheese. A bit crazy, but I use every last bit of it. :-)

I was thinking about cheesecake the other day when it came to brainstorming Thanksgiving recipes, and what bothered me is that I never make something traditional for the holiday. So, I wanted to try to make sweet potato pie.

When I went to Fresh Summit, I connected with a company called Frieda’s Produce, and they generously offered to send me one of their featured produce items for me try. When I saw these potatoes on their list, I just had to try them, and the first thing that popped in my head was to try pie. Yes, these are purple sweet potatoes, and I can’t tell you how many times I was asked if I used food dye to enhance the color. Nope…these potatoes are very purple. It’s gorgeous, and they taste great, too!

This pie was definitely the classic pie that I’ve loved for years. It’s not too sweet, but with the bourbon and molasses in there, the flavor was much deeper and richer. This dessert makes me want to curl up on the couch with an electric blanket and drink warm hot chocolate along with a slice of this.

Sweet Potato Pie
Source: filling from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, pie crust via Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs + 2 large yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. bourbon
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 recipe pie dough (this recipe is meant for a double-crust pie, so half will work for this single-crust pie), partially baked and still warm

Directions:

  1. Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Poke each sweet potato several times with a paring knife or fork all over the entire surface. Place the potatoes on a paper towel-lined microwave safe plate and microwave the potatoes until they are tender, but not completely mushy (about 10 minutes…the purple potatoes need to cook longer so they took 15 minutes), being sure to flip the potatoes halfway through the microwaving. Take the sweet potatoes out of the microwave, and peel the skin off of each sweet potato carefully while holding the potato with a towel or potholder to prevent from burning yourself. You should end up with about 2 cups of sweet potato after peeling.
  3. While the potatoes are still hot, add the butter and mash the sweet potatoes with a potato masher until a few small lumps remain. In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, eggs, egg yolks, nutmeg and salt. Add in the bourbon, molasses and vanilla extract, and stir those into the potato mixture. Whisk in the milk.
  4. Slowly add the egg mixture to the mashed potato mixture, stirring/whisking gently until just combined.
  5. Sprinkle the dark brown sugar evenly over the pre-baked pie crust, and then pour the sweet potato mixture on top. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes, until the edges are set, but the center will still jiggle slightly when shaken. Allow the pie to cool to room temperature before serving.

Disclosure: I was sent a 5 lb. case of Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes at no cost to me to sample. All opinions are 100% my own.