Halloween M&M Biscotti

biscotti

Here is part 2 of the bake-palooza. I decided to make biscotti for my Operation Baking Gals package, since biscotti is a pretty sturdy cookie. I knew it would hold up well for shipping!

A few months back, when I was actively blogging for Weddingbee, I saw a fellow blogger use this recipe for making possible edible favors. I starred it, but as usual, I forget about my starred recipes. I’m obviously making it a goal of mine to look back and make these recipes!

So, I decided to give this recipe a shot. It’s a little different than my normal go-to biscotti recipe, which uses olive oil instead of butter. However, this came out beautifully. I added crushed Halloween M&M’s to make it more seasonal instead of the chocolate chips that were called for.

Chocolate Halloween M&M Biscotti
Source: Epicurious, via Weddingbee blogger, Mrs. Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (subbed 8 oz. crushed M&Ms)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate baking chips (omitted)

Directions:

  1. Line large baking sheet with double thickness of foil. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in semisweet and white chips (or M&Ms).
  2. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheet in two 10- to 11-inch-long strips, spacing 3 inches apart. Using metal spatula or wet fingertips, shape strips into 11- by 2 1/2-inch logs. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake logs until tops are cracked and dry and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes; cool 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Using foil as aid, lift logs onto work surface. Line baking sheets with clean foil. Using serrated knife, gently cut warm logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange half of slices, cut side down, on each prepared baking sheet. Bake biscotti until just dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Turn biscotti over. Bake until top is dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Cool on sheets.

My First Operation Baking Gals

This past month, I decided to participate in Operation Baking Gals for the first time. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies, and now that I’m on a diet, I’m trying to find opportunities to bake that don’t require me to have a pan of brownies housed on my counter for a few days. Too tempting!

I knew I was going to bake three items: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies, Halloween M&M Biscotti and The Chewy, which will all be featured on the blog.

I first went to the Dollar Tree and bought three packs of disposable containers, along with packing supplies. I also got the flat rate APO/FPO shipping box for free at the post office to do this. If you were doing this to send to someone NOT in the military, go ahead and just get a flat rate box. You’ll be glad you did…my box of goodies ended up being 7 lbs.!! Flat rate rocks!

First, I followed the directions on the OBG website, which said to line the containers with paper towels and place a few pieces of apple peel in the fold nearest where the baked goods will be placed. Then, I loaded up the containers with baked goodies, put another paper towel with apple peel and taped the container shut, just in case!

Then, I put in one layer of baked goods in the box and squished in grocery plastic bags around them to make the boxes as immobile as possible. The trick here is to make everything in the box stay absolutely still, so if they are shaken, they won’t get super crumbly before reaching their destination. I’ve shipped two boxes of decorated cookies using this method with GREAT success!

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Then, I added a second layer of baked goods. I ran out of containers, so I lined two ziplocs with a paper towel and apple peel and filled them up. I wrapped them tightly in bubble wrap as well. I’m not quite sure how these will fare, but hopefully, since they ended up being packed in pretty tightly, I’m hoping they will be ok!

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I also added a note to tell them how much I appreciate what they do for our country. :) Then, I added a bunch of plastic grocery bags to surround the second layer of boxes/bags, as well as on the very top, put two layers of bubble wrap, so they don’t accidentally cut through the goodies when opening the box!

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All in all, this was a fun way to show appreciation to our troops! I paid maybe $20 (including $11.95 shipping) to do this, and I know I’ll definitely be doing this again!

I’m thinking, if I have enough Internet buddies interested, of hosting a team for December’s shipping dates. It is the holiday season after all, and who doesn’t like baking with fun holiday sprinkles?! :)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

cookiebrownie

I think I’m pretty brilliant. I have to be. I mean, who in their right minds would join Weight Watchers the week before bake-palooza was going to happen at their house? That’s right, me. There WAS a plan here, I promise!

Bake-palooza happened this weekend for me, because I joined a team on Operation Baking Gals for the first time. I’ve been ITCHING to just have a weekend of baking bliss, and this was the perfect opportunity. My brilliance kicks in even more, because I got to give away all of this food to people I think completely deserve a little something to remind them of home. In other words, I only had one sliver out of this pan vs. eating half of the pan had it been left home with me for a couple of days b/c I felt that the box needed to be filled to the BRIM with goodies for these wonderful soldiers!

However, brilliance did meet with stupidity. Stupidity was this happy baker going to Albertson’s on a Saturday morning to get butter and eggs on sale. Not just ANY Saturday morning…the morning of an away game for LSU. Usually Saturday mornings are so slow, but no, this Saturday involved standing in long lines on Saturday morning surrounded by baskets of ribs, Doritos and LSU colored Bud Light. It took me 15 minutes of waiting in self-checkout (shortest line, or so I thought) to get out of the store, but I had my supplies in tow! I was ready to bake!

I decided to bake three things for the soldiers. This first recipe was featured on Bakerella in the beginning of the year. I’ve had this bookmarked for quite some time, but never got around to making it. I’m glad I did. These turned out to be some very sturdy (shippable) brownies, and the one sliver I tasted was so yummy!

Oh yeah, and these aren’t from scratch. Yeah, I broke a couple of rules here, but it was, after all, game day. Shortcuts needed to be taken since these were thrown together during half time!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies
Source: Betty Crocker (via Bakerella)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Betty Crocker Original Supreme brownie mix (w/ chocolate syrup pouch)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pouch Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 container Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy chocolate frosting (omitted for shipping reasons)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray bottom only of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray, or grease with shortening. Make brownie mix as directed on box, using oil, water and 2 eggs. Spread in pan.
  2. Make cookie mix as directed on pouch, using butter and 1 egg. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls evenly onto brownie batter; press down lightly.
  3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes. Frost with frosting. For brownies, cut into 8 rows by 6 rows.

Stay tuned for what I made after the game! :)

Baby Sheep Cookies

cookie1
My fellow blogger friend from Taste of Home Cooking is expecting a baby girl in a few short weeks!

I wanted to send them a gift card to Target, but doing only that seemed impersonal since we are both food bloggers. Looking for any excuse to bake, I decided to make her some cookies! As I was looking through my cookie cutters, I found a sheep one, and thought aww, baby sheep.

Then, the icing ideas started flowing. I ended up making a good bit, but I was picky and wanted to make sure they got the prettiest ones. My husband was anxiously awaiting the rejects, since he kept smelling almond extract throughout the day!

I made these using the recipes for cookies and royal icing from Cookie Craft. I can’t recommend this book enough! It’s so great for ideas and how-to’s. Even Bakerella recommends it! I’m not a pro, but I’m getting better with my cookie skills.

I think the mom-to-be was really surprised! Congrats! :)

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My Vow to Cleaning

I’m sure many people can relate to me when I say that cleaning the house is very difficult to upkeep and just plain tedious. I mean, I’ll spend a good half day of my weekend to make sure the house is spotless, only to find myself doing the same thing all over again the next weekend! I want my weekends back!

After reading this article about housekeeping, it seems that people CAN keep their homes clean when they work on it a little everyday, consciously preventing the mess from happening all over again. This isn’t a deep cleaning, but more of a way to keep things organized in your home and prevent clutter. Deep cleaning still would need to happen, but it won’t take up 1/2 of my day!

So, here is my vow to my home until the end of the year. I will spend 15 minutes everyday cleaning you, other than doing the daily things like dishes and laundry. I will also share with you every week what I did!

15 minutes is nothing. It’s a quarter of an hour, in a day when I come home from work and have 7 hours to spend on doing other things. Now that I type that..7 hours….wow, I feel lazy! Where does that time go?

So, it’s time to put on the iPod, jam to 4-5 songs and spend that time CLEANING! It’ll be over before you know it!

15 minutes cleaning ideas

  • Steam clean the kitchen floor with the Shark Mop.   I can’t tell you how much my kitchen floor gets grimy from my messing cooking and baking. It gets on my dang nerves!
  • Throw away junk mail and organize bills.   I usually do this once a month and it proves to be a pretty daunting task. Once a week would be MUCH easier and would allow me to have our kitchen island back!
  • Clean out the pantry and organize food to giveaway to a food bank.   This is especially great since the holidays are coming up, and I know we won’t be needing all of that Chef Boyardee since no hurricanes hit this year! Whew!
  • Clean the bathroom countertop.   Blech…all that make-up residue and hair around the sink? Clean it up with a Clorox wipe and put everything back in their drawers!
  • Weed the garden.   If I did this once/week, I know would only take me fifteen minutes. Pesky weeds!
  • Clean the bedroom floor.  I can’t tell you how much stuff I just throw on the side of my bed. Magazines, dirty socks, coupons…ugh!
  • Switch out the bed sheets!   I think I’m supposed to do this once/week or something like that. I don’t want to imagine the dust mite colony that we sleep in. I only change the sheets every 2-3 weeks!

Does anyone want to take this cleaning vow with me? C’mon, you know you hate it when your weekend is taken up by Clorox and the broom!

 

Pumpkin Bread

bread

I can’t believe this pumpkin shortage. I mean, who would have thought that store shelves would be empty where this stuff is usually stocked? In fact, around this time, most groceries have special holiday baking sections with rows and rows of pumpkin. None to be found. It’s SO weird!

However, as a woman with a craving, I went on a mission to find this rare canned pumpkin. Five stores later, I found myself in a grocery store in a pretty bad part of town. (I went during the day, if you are wondering how wild I am.) I walked down the baking aisle in crazy anticipation. There they were – two large cans of pumpkin puree. I grabbed them quicker than a kid grabs the bubble gum off the candy aisle.

I was so excited when I got home, but I knew I have 58 precious ounces of pumpkin puree. I need to ration this wisely, just in case I can’t find any for the beloved Thanksgiving pie. (You never know!) I couldn’t help but make myself pumpkin bread. It’s a Fall breakfast staple for me!

I’ve seen this recipe from Allrecipes around many food blogs, and people rave about it, so I decided this would be the lucky recipe. It turned out to be a really good pumpkin bread, however, it wasn’t very spicy. I prefer spicy pumpkin bread, like this one I made last year.

Of course, I did my favorite applesauce for butter/oil substitution and it didn’t disappoint. I also halved the recipe  since I don’t need 2 loaves at one time.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread (full recipe)
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (sub applesauce)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans. (When I halved the recipe, I used one large loaf pan.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes (took mine 60 minutes) in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

The Skinny - per serving, Serves 24 (in full recipe)
Calories 187.6
Fat 1.1 g
Fiber 1.3 g

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken

generaltso

My husband’s favorite chinese dish is General Tso’s chicken. Unfortunately, the restaurant near our house makes the most unhealthy version possibly available, so it’s an indulgence for him to have it. A few months ago, however, I starred a recipe from Proceed with Caution, but like every recipe I star, I forget about it rather quickly.

I have been in a chicken slump, looking for new ideas, so I went through my starred entries, and I was so glad to find this recipe all over again. I decided to make it last night, and wow! This was very flavorful and good. It’s not exactly the General Tso’s chicken that I’ve tasted, but it’s still good!

I also made some “fried” rice with this to add more veggies to the meal, rather than just plain rice. This fried rice is really simple to make, and I used less sodium soy sauce to flavor the dish.

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken
Source: Proceed with Caution, originally from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
Directions:  
  1. Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).
  4. Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.
The Skinny - per serving, Serves 4
Calories 179.6
Fat 7.1 g
Fiber 1.2 g  

Fried Rice
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups enriched white rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2/3 cup chopped baby carrots (used frozen)
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • soy sauce to taste  (I used 1/2 cup, less sodium)
  • sesame oil, to taste (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, combine rice and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In a small saucepan, boil carrots in water about 3 to 5 minutes. Drop peas into boiling water, and drain.
  3. Heat wok over high heat. Pour in oil, then stir in carrots and peas; cook about 30 seconds. Crack in eggs, stirring quickly to scramble eggs with vegetables. Stir in cooked rice. Shake in soy sauce, and toss rice to coat. Drizzle with sesame oil, and toss again.

The Skinny – per serving, Serves 8
Calories – 170.9
Fat – 4.9 g
Fiber – 1.1 g

Note: You can add more vegetables to your rice, which is what I did, to fill your plate more!

Banana Bread

banana bread1

I always make sure to have some fruit options at home. This past week, I realized that I overlooked a small bunch of bananas which were ripening quickly, so I knew it was time to make some banana bread. The last time I made banana bread, I wasn’t very impressed, so I tried another recipe. This one was much better!

Banana Bread
adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together applesauce and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

The Skinny – per serving, serves 12

Calories: 184.5
Fat: 1.3 g
Fiber: 1.7 g

banana bread

Spaghetti and (Turkey) Meatballs

spaghetti

I love meatballs and spaghetti. It’s one of my childhood favorites, but it’s not a regular on the dinner menu since I’m a huge pasta lover and it’s not exactly diet friendly. I was thawing ground turkey with absolutely NO idea on what to make. I wasn’t in the mood for burgers or tacos, so my husband brought up meatballs and spaghetti. Since he’s not much of a pasta fan, this was a surprise to me, but man, hearing that brought on a huge craving. I had to make it!

I’m all about shortcuts on a weeknight, so I bought canned marinara. I mixed Classico’s Cabernet Marinara with Target brand’s Three Cheese and just spiced it from there.  For the pasta, we used Ronzoni’s Smart Taste pasta.

As far as meatballs go, here is my recipe, which is a definite winner…even my husband loved them! I adapted it from a recipe I found on Aimee’s Adventures, which is a W/W friendly recipe website, and it came out wonderful!

Turkey Meatballs
adapted from Aimee’s Adventures

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 cup italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. Form into appx. 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fully cooked.

The Skinny - per meatball, Makes 22-24 meatballs (calculated at 22 meatballs)

Calories: 50.2
Fat:  2.6 g
Fiber: 0.1 g

Smothered Chicken with Rice

chickenrice

This is one of those dishes that is a simple, weeknight hit in our house. I’ve already blogged about it here and here (post with a recipe), but I figured another time shouldn’t hurt.

This is a great W/W dish to cook up in your home, so definitely give this one a try!