Dark Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies – Week #7 of the “12 Week of Christmas Cookies”





It’s hard to believe that we are into week #7 of the “12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies” challenge. I have been pretty strict about sticking to theme of cookies, but other bloggers have done some very interesting desserts such as this Pumpkin Crunch Cake , or this Cinnamon Chai Pie , Peppermint Patties, or my all-time favorite (wink, wink) Butterballs. You should seriously check out all of the other great recipes. Everyone can find at least 1 recipe that they would love to share with their family during the holidays.

There is only 1 key player in my kitchen, well, besides me (ok, I’m not really this cocky, but it just sounded like the right thing to say) – so, the key player in my kitchen is my Kitchen Aid mixer…KA for short.


Have I ever told you the story of how I obtained my KA mixer? Ok, even if I have told some of you, it’s worth telling again. I just love this story because it was one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to me. Here goes…a few years back I was unemployed. I wasn’t down on my luck or having a hard time making ends meet, but I was doing some odd jobs here and there to make some extra money while I was searching for a job. It just so happened that my dad was on a home buying spree (he buys rental properties), so he had a ton of apartments and homes that needed to be prepped for rehab and/or cleaned prior to occupancy. I agreed to help my dad clean up some of these places – I almost said I “volunteered” to help, but that would indicate that I was helping for free. Let’s just say…it was almost free!

During this time my father purchased the infamous house owned by Gabby (this is not her real name). Gabby was a hoarder and her house was piled high with stuff. She would buy things from QVC and then never open it or use it. She had multiple ice cream makers, blenders, tapes, records, etc. She had so much stuff that my father had to rent her house back to her after he purchased it just to give her and her family time to finish cleaning out her home. Finally, the day had come for her to move, and she had barely made a dent in her mess. I can honestly say…I have never seen anything like this. It appeared as though her and her family had thrown their hands in the air and said “Forget it!” Trust me, I would have done the same thing, and I wanted to as soon as I saw the mess that they had left for us. By default, everything left in the house or on the property became the property of my father. If you have ever owned rental property, you know that this isn’t necessarily a good thing. People generally leave things that no one wants.

After many days of cleaning we finally made it to a back storage room in the basement. I’m fairly certain that this room had been inaccessible for at least 20 years. There was nothing in this room to indicate that there was anything in there that was made prior to 1990, and I think that’s a stretch. I found a Bugs Bunny toothpaste dispenser:



I also found an old Eeyore cookie jar and a bunch of random mail from the 60’s. But, the find of the day came when I looked on the back of one of the bottom shelves and spotted something beautiful. I knew what it was as soon as I saw it. It was a Kitchen Aid mixer! It still had the tags on it! It was clearly from the 60’s and had never been used. All of the attachments were still there including the 2 bowls. There was also a grain grinder that was still in the box. I think I jumped around and did the happy dance for an hour. Of course my dad let me have it – I don’t think he knew what he was letting me take. Oh well, thanks dad!

My KA mixer gets used almost every day. It is one of the most versatile kitchen tools I have ever owned. I know, people say…”I have a mixer that is just as good as a KA.” All I have to say to them is, your mixer probably works great for you, so keep using it. But, once you have tried a KA, you will truly understand why it’s the #1 player in MY kitchen.

Now, on to the cookies. I was all set to make a white chocolate chip cookie with toffee pieces. I had everything laid out on the counter, when my oldest daughter begged me to make something with regular chocolate. I really wanted to use my white chocolate chips (I love white chocolate), but I gave in to her chocolate craving and used my dark chocolate morsels instead. Although, I did still use the toffee bits in some of the cookies.



So, due to the last minute change in plans, I went straight to the back of the Toll House Morsel bag for a recipe. Seriously people, you cannot go wrong with their recipes. I haven’t used one yet that I didn’t really enjoy. For this recipe it calls for sifting the dry ingredients together (minus the sugars). I love sifting stuff together…I think it looks cool. Yes, I know I’m a dork!





I also like creaming together the butter and the sugar. I l-o-v-e butter! Add in a little sugar and you have pure heaven!



Finally, the recipe calls for melted chocolate.



Wow! This is a winning combination. I am in love with these cookies. I made them with and without the toffee bits and both versions are OH-SO-GOOD! I brought a container of them to work with me and they were gone in 5 minutes. I must admit that the chocolate and toffee were my favorite, but a chocolate lover will like either one. Enjoy!

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Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with optional Toffee Bits
Adapted from: Nestle Toll House Jumbo Dark Chocolate Cookies Recipe
Printable Recipe
Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup dark chocolate morsels (divided into 2/3 cup and 1 cup)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Heath toffee bits (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degree. Prepare a large cookie sheet by covering with parchment paper or lightly spraying with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In microwave safe bowl, add 2/3 cup dark chocolate morsels and heat at 70% power in microwave for 40 seconds. Stir and heat an additional 20-30 seconds at 70% power until chocolate is melted. Set aside.

In large bowl of stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Add in the melted chocolate and mix. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined (about 1 minute).

Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Finish mixing in the 1 cup of morsels and optional toffee bits by hand.

Drop by large tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 17-18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet before moving to a cooling rack. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.

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Grilled Pork Chops – An easy marinade that makes this meal delicious



Have you tried Holiday Grapes yet? I had no idea what Holiday grapes were. I’m sure I’ve had them before, but I didn’t know what they were called. My discovery of Holiday Grapes was made through a wonderful program called Fruit my Cube. This program was designed by the Farmer’s Market in Belleville, Illinois. They decided to put together boxes of fruits and veggies that are delivered to employers throughout the area. Individuals can order a “Fruit Cube” that contains apples, oranges, grapes, pears, etc. Each week, employees can order a cube for $10 and then go to a designated pickup area and get their cube. Last week’s cube contained Holiday Grapes, among other things. They were the sweetest, juiciest grapes I have ever had. There is no bitterness in the skin either. If you see these are your local grocery store, try them. Yum!

We have a great meat market/grocery store in our area. They have wonderful cuts of meat that are all fresh and offered at a decent price. When I was there to pick up something for dinner, I found these amazing pork chops. They were HUGE – about 3″ thick. I wanted to come up with an easy recipe that allowed me to marinade them all day and just throw them on the grill when it was time for dinner.



They took a while to cook because they were so thick, but I think everyone liked them. I served them with my mashed potatoes and some frozen corn.

Enjoy!



Grilled Pork Chops
Printable Recipe
Ingredients:
4 large pork chops
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
Garlic Powder
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic to large, plastic zipper bag and mix. Add in pork chops. Place in refrigerator to marinate for several hours, turn bag over halfway through the marinating process.

Preheat grill and place pork chops directly on grill over medium heat. Discard remaining marinade Sprinkle chops with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, turning once, until juices run clear and the meat reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees. Remove meat from grill, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Chocolate Chunk Birthday Cake – The best and easiest birthday cake you can make at home.



Three of my four children have the worst birth dates. The twins were born 3 days before Christmas, and the youngest was born on Labor Day weekend. They never get a good turnout for their birthday parties, so we try to have something for them on a more acceptable date. This past weekend was the date we chose for their birthday party. The youngest had a few of her friends and the twins had several of their friends join us for a fun night.

I love birthday parties because I have an excuse to bake. I know that I can always find an excuse to bake, but parties give me an excuse to bake AND cook. It’s a beautiful thing! My oldest daughter always asks for the same thing…cookie cake. What’s not to love about a cake that’s a cookie?! Not only is it delicious, it’s very easy to make. Stop paying the $10 at the grocery store to buy these cakes. Make them yourself for a fraction of the cost. The only upside to buying these at a store is that they will decorate them for you. As you can see, my decorating skills are very, very poor. The little, lime green blobs were the best I could do.

Decorating attempts from previous years haven’t turned out much better (see pics below).



Apparently I decided to start the “B” for “Birthday” in the middle of the cake, so I had to write “Bday” instead. This was last year’s cake, so I can laugh about it now.



I have given up on being able to decorate a cake. Check out the pan of brownies in the background.



This was one of the worst decorating jobs I have ever done. I’m not even sure what I had going on with this one. I will let you, and all of the party goers, in on a little secret. That pan of brownies was gluten-free AND they came from a box….GASP! Don’t tell anyone. As a crazy foodie, this is a huge embarrassment. But, the hubby always gets left out of the baked good at birthday parties, so I made something he could eat as well. No one had a clue that they were gluten free because I loaded them up with extra chocolate. And, with my stellar decorating job, they were irresistible.

My little sous chef asked for a simple chocolate cake with chocolate icing. So, of course, I made a rootbeer cake with rootbeer icing. Um, mom doesn’t listen very well. It actually tasted ok, but the icing was ugly. It really wasn’t a hit at the party, so I won’t bother posting the recipe or any pics. I was kinda disappointed, but I don’t think anyone else cared.

I am posting the recipe for the cookie cake. All of the kids and the adults loved this cake. I hope you enjoy making and eating it at your next birthday party.



Chocolate Chunk Cookie Cake
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup chocolate chunks

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare 2-9” inch cake pans (if you want 2 smaller cakes), or 1 large pizza pan by spraying lightly with cooking spray. I used the disposable pans that you can buy at the grocery store.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Continue mixing and add in vanilla and egg.

Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Do not overmix. Turn off mixer and pour in chocolate chunks. Mix in by hand.

Press the cookie mixture into the pan(s) and bake for 15-18 minutes. Once cooled, decorate with your favorite icing. You can also use chocolate syrup, or leave it plain.

Mashed Potatoes – Recipe for Mom’s Crazy Cooking Challenge



I recently joined a challenge that asks us to explore recipes from other bloggers. This first challenge was to make mashed potatoes using a recipe from someone else’s blog.

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I’m pretty partial to my own mashed potato recipe, so it was tough to decide on a different recipe. The only real difference between the recipe I found at Life’s Ambrosia and mine was the use of half and half. Other than that, it’s identical.



My little sous chef helped peel potatoes, in fact, he peeled most of them. I chopped them this time, but he usually does that as well.


We prepped the potatoes ahead of time, so they had to be submerged in water so they wouldn’t turn brown before we used them.



These potatoes are really yummy and creamy. They aren’t complicated to make. I did change it up a bit because I only had heavy cream, but I made the appropriate adjustments. This is the perfect mashed potato recipe….and it’s super easy. One look at these yummy potatoes will make you wish you had made some already.


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Mashed Potatoes
Recipe adapted from: Life’s Ambrosia

Ingredients:
8 russet potatoes – peeled and cubed
6 tbsp. butter
1 cup half and half (or 1/2 cup milk + 1/2 cup heavy cream)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Place cubed potatoes into large pot of boiling water. Let boil until potatoes can be pierced and broken with a fork. Drain potatoes.

Add butter and half and half to bowl of stand mixer. Place potatoes in bowl on top of butter and milk and let sit for one minute to allow butter to melt.

Turn mixer on medium speed and whip for 2 minutes. Add in salt and pepper during mixing. Taste after 1 minute to determine if you need more salt. Serve immediately – plain or with your favorite gravy.

Thanksgiving Menu – Simple recipes for those that don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen

I recently had a request from a friend to post a Thanksgiving menu that is super easy, but still really good. I love to torture myself by spending hours upon hours in the kitchen, but I forget that others don’t really prefer that kind of torture. I’m not sure why, but apparently they don’t. I’m sure all of you foodies can relate.

So, what are my favorite, easy recipes for the holidays….here they are:

Appetizers


Pumpkin Dip – Serve with gingersnaps or Nilla Wafers
Chocolate Chip Dip – Tried and true! Everyone loves this one.
Sausage and Cheese Tray – I really hope you don’t need a recipe for this one.
Veggie Tray – See above

Main Dishes
Slow Cooker Turkey – I have been making this recipe for many years. It is perfect for a small family gathering and tastes amazing. I made this when I hosted thanksgiving at my own home.
Slow Cooker Ham – I just made this for the first time a month ago. You will not be disappointed in how great this ham is. No need to even turn on your oven!

Potatoes
Cheri’s Mashed Potatoes – Use the mashed potato recipe from my meatloaf cupcakes post. These aren’t tough to make, but you do have to spend time peeling potatoes. If you don’t want to peel potatoes, then move on to recipe #2.
Hashbrown Casserole – Everyone loves this casserole. It’s easy, cheesy and full of yumminess. I highly recommend these for anyone that needs potatoes and doesn’t want to spend much time preparing them.
Sweet Potato Casserole – I haven’t tried these, but they look easy and they got good reviews.

Vegetables


Green Bean Casserole – This is the same recipe that almost everyone in America uses. You can use any type of “Cream of…” soup. They all pretty much taste the same. This is my favorite Thanksgiving dish!
Roasted Vegetables – Use this recipe to roast sweet potatoes, zucchinis and carrots for a quick and easy veggie.

Desserts


Chocolate Pudding Pie – I make this pie for every holiday. Everyone loves it and it’s EASY!
Pumpkin Pie – This is the recipe from the Libby’s can. You cannot go wrong with it. Buy a premade pie crust in the dairy aisle or buy a frozen one and then pour in the mixture. It doesn’t get any easier then this. Just make sure the pie is cooked thoroughly. Serve with whipped cream!
Chocolate Eclair Dessert – This one is excellent! Make it the night before and it will be perfect by the time you are ready to eat dinner.
Peanut Butter Cookies (chocolate optional) – These are very easy and can be prepared ahead of time.

Noticeably absent from my menu is stuffing/dressing. We have a traditional family recipe that I make every year, but it is not easy and it is not quick. I’m not going to post it with this menu for that reason. I have never made stuffing any other way, so I am leaving it off the list. Feel free to grab a box of Stove Top and read the instructions. I’m sure it’s easy and probably pretty good.

Also absent is cranberries. I have never, ever had a good experience with making any type of cranberry sauce or jelly. They have all turned out terrible. If your family likes the stuff that comes out of the can, I would just keep using it. It’s easy and can easily be found in your local grocery store. I will continue to pretend like cranberries, in any form, are not a traditional Thanksgiving dish.

Remember, this menu is not meant for someone who wants to prepare a complicated dinner with fancy dishes. This menu is meant for those of you that don’t like to cook, or don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but still want to prepare a delicious meal for your family.

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Happy Friday to everyone! I am going to be putting together a wonderful Thanksgiving menu that’s perfect for people that don’t have a lot of time and/or don’t know how to cook. This menu is going to include recipes that I have made in the past, but I made them before I started my blog. In other words….no pictures. BOOOOO! I will put together the entire menu, but I need to get each recipe posted first.

This first recipe is something that I made a few years back when I hosted Thanksgiving at my house for the hubby’s family. I’ve also made it several other times, but I think it’s important that you know I did actually make it for Thanksgiving. Everyone loves this recipe. It is fool-proof! If you are scared to make a turkey for fear it will be gross and dry, try this recipe. It only uses the breast portion of the turkey, so if you have a small family, this will be the perfect size. I would say that this will easily feed 6 people. Make sure you have a large crockpot because this will not fit in the smaller ones.

Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
Recipe by: The Accidental Cook
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 – Whole turkey breast (6-8 lbs.) – These are found in the freezer section with the frozen, whole turkeys.
2 – Dry onion soup mix packages
1 yellow onion – cut in quarters
3 celery stalks – cut in sections
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 – tablespoons butter

Directions:
Spread onion soup mixture on the outside and inside cavity of the turkey. Place the onion and celery on the inside of the turkey and underneath and around the turkey if you have space in your crockpot. Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the crockpot being careful not to pour over the turkey and wash off any seasoning. Cut butter into 4 squares and place them on top of the turkey. Cook on high for 1 hour and then on low for another 7-8. Remove turkey from crockpot and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Discard the onion and celery. Slice turkey and serve.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – Recipe for the “12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies”





My grandmother swears that every time she makes oatmeal raisin cookies, someone dies. Maybe she’s psychic and just knows when to start baking them, maybe it’s coicindental, or maybe she just knows a lot of people that are waiting for her to bake cookies so they can die. I have no idea. Either way, I was scared to even add this to my list of Christmas cookies this year. While there are people out there that I have wished dead in my life, there are no guarantees that when I bake these cookies that they will be the ones to die. I guess I will take my chances….this curse only seems to follow my grandmother anyway – at least I hope. Cue the creepy Halloween ghost noises.




Ok, enough of the morbid talk. Christmas cookies make me happy. They are wonderful. I can only think of a couple of cookies that I just don’t like – the “snowball” cookies that are filled with nuts and rolled in powdered sugar. YUCK! I haven’t met a snowball cookie (they may be called Pecan balls or butter balls) that I like. They have all been hard and crumbly – not exactly the most desireably qualities of any good cookie. You won’t see too many recipes on my website that have nuts in them anyway. I don’t like pecans or walnuts, so I never, EVER bake or cook with them, unless it’s a pecan pie for the holidays. I also have a child with a mild peanut allergy, so I cook with peanuts, but only occasionally. I know a lot of you like nuts in your cookies and brownies, so you’re gonna have to jump over to someone elses’ blog to find those. But make sure you come right back!



I wanted to try adding vanilla pudding to these cookies because pudding adds a level of softness to cookies that can sometimes be hard to obtain. I know it’s an interesting addition, but I think you will like it. You can also bake these without the pudding if you don’t have it on hand.



My sous chef decided not to cook with me yesterday evening. He was too busy pretending to kill people on XBox. That sounds so bad…why do I let him play those awful games?? I know why…because every parent in America does. Ah, the joys of being a parent. Sometimes you just have to pray that you raised them right and they won’t try to recreate the scenes from Modern Warfare or Grand Theft Auto. Anyway, although he didn’t help bake the cookies, he certainly didn’t waste any time devouring 3 of them before he went to bed. I have to admit, the kids generally eat 1 or 2 cookies and then they move on to something else, so I was ecstatic to see him gobbling them up. That’s generally a sign that these are some darn good cookies. The addition of cloves to these cookies really takes them to another level. They are just plain delicious!



I will give my normal, “cookie baking” disclaimers:
1) Please follow the recipe, especially if you are just learning to cook.
2) Do not overmix your cookies. Those hard and crumbly cookies that you hate – yep, they were overmixed. Mix until the flour is just combined. No need to mix the dough to death!
3) Only bake until the cookies are golden, about 9-10 minutes MAX.
4) Let them cool for at least 2 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
5) If you like lots of raisins, add another 1/4 cup to the recipe.



Make these cookies for Christmas. I know I will be. For more yummy recipes from other bloggers for the “12 Weeks of Christmas Cookes” or to enter YOUR blog, click here.



Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 package instant vanilla pudding (4 oz)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins (soaked in hot water for 10 minutes then drained)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and pudding. Add eggs one at a time, and then add vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; gradually mix into the sugar mixture just until combined. Mix in, by hand, the oats and raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 9 to 10 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing and moving to cooling rack. Once completely cooled, store in airtight container.

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