Homemade Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Has anyone else noticed that Reese’s peanut butter cups don’t taste like they used to? Actually, I think they taste like the old recipe tasted when it was stale. The peanut butter isn’t as creamy or oily or something. I’m sure they decreased the transfats and made them a titch healthier. I don’t eat them often, but when I do, I’m willing to spend the extra calories for that yummy deliciousness. Unfortunately, last time I did it, it wasn’t the deliciousness I remembered.

So, when I came across this recipe at Michelle’s Tasty Creations, I had to give it a try! It’s pretty easy. All you need is:

  • 1 cup butter, unsalted and melted
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-1/4 cup peanut butter, divided
  • 1-1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

The quickie version: Mix the butter, graham crackers, powdered sugar and 1 cup of the peanut butter together until smooth with little lumps.

Then melt the chocolate chips and remaining 1/4c peanut butter in whatever way you like. I used a double boiler.

Now here’s where I changed it up a little. Michelle spread the graham cracker mix on the bottom of a 9×13 pan and poured the chocolate on top. This is dangerous for me. When is comes to peanut butter and chocolate, I have little restraint, so I decided to press small amounts of the graham cracker filling into mini muffin tins, and cover with a spoonful of the chocolate mix.

                                                                                                                   

I refrigerated them overnight, and in the morning they easily popped out of the muffin tins with a butter knife.

    Voila!

You could even use the paper liners to make it more authentic, or give them as a gift for Easter!

I wouldn’t say they taste exactly, like Reese’s, but it’s pretty darn close, and dare I say–better?!

Let me know what you think!

Apple Wontons (Cleaning out the fridge, Part 2.)

We had new Year’s Eve 2012 at our house this year. It was an hors d’oeuvre  (who are we kdding, let’s call it finger foods) party. One of the things I made was baked crab rangoon. It’s a super easy, and super delicious recipe, but I had about half a pack of wonton wrappers left, hanging out in the fridge.

I also went a little hog-wild at the grocery store when I found organic, locally grown apples (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!) on sale.

I bought 10 pounds. (Apples store, right?)

We still have our canned applesauce and apple butter from the fall, so I didn’t want to make that. And, I’m trying to watch my weight, so delicious buttery apple desserts are out. Then it occurred to me… APPLE WONTONS!

My sincerest apologies for my crap-ola pictures. I’m trying.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 medium apple, cored, peeled and chopped
  • 2 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Splash of lemon juice, or vanilla extract
  • 24 wonton wrappers

HOW LONG IT TAKES:

  • PREP: 10 minutes
  • BAKING: 8-10mins

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix apple, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.
  3. Drop mixture into 1 wonton by 1 tsp full.
  4. Use finger or brush to apply a small amount of water to edges of wonton. Fold in half to form a triangle, press and seal.
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

We ate ours with caramel sauce. But I bet they would be killer with some vanilla ice cream!

Enjoy!

Homemade Burnt Popcorn, in 3 Acts.

ACT I: Mr. and Mrs. Lost Art attend a farmer’s market, where they buy a medium sized bag of DELICIOUS kettle corn for $4.00. Mrs. Lost Art immediately decides she will make her own kettle corn at home, which will give her an inexpensive substitute, and will taste better, obviously.

ACT II: Mrs. Lost Art purchases organic kernels for $1.50. She hurriedly runs home, and heats 1/4c of vegetable oil and 3 of the kernels in a large stainless steel pot on the stove, set to medium-high. With baited breath, she waits for the 3 kernels to pop. Once they do, she adds 1/4 cup sugar (mistake number one) and 1/2cup of popcorn kernels. She gives them a good stir. She socks on the lid, and gently shakes the pot, without removing it from the heat (mistake number 2) and giggles like a school girl when the popcorn begins to pop against the clear glass lid. She anxiously waits for all the kernels to pop (mistake number 3).  Once the popping has slowed, Mrs. Lost Art, removes the pan from the heat, and yanks off the lid in mouth-watering anticipation, ready to sprinkle the salt, and

*POOF*

Her kitchen is immediately filled with the too familiar scent of burnt popcorn, and smoke. Lots of it.

ACT III: After flinging all the windows and doors open, throwing the malodorous kernels outside and turning on the fans, she irritatedly scrubs her stainless steel pot for a good 15 mins. (Removing burnt kettle corn is a grand task, even for her Bar Keeper’s Friend.) But, after semi-successfully removing the stinking grime, Mrs. Lost Art bravely decides to try it again. This time she heats the oil, adds the kernels first then the sugar. She waits for the popping to begin (no giddy laughter is heard). She removes the pot every 3 seconds, and shakes vigorously until securely placed under garments begin to shift. She then returns the pot to the stove for 3 seconds. She repeats this until the popping is 2-3 seconds apart. She removes it from the heat, and continues to shake until the popping slows.

Slowly, and solemnly she removes the lid, and prepares for the *poof*.

But ALAS! There is no smoke! It’s not burnt, and actually smells appetizing! She quickly lightly sprinkles the popcorn with salt, gives it another hearty shake, and transfers it to an appropriately sized bowl.

Mrs. Lost Art is happy, but will probably be eating kettle corn from the farmer’s market from now on.

The End!

Homemade Iced Coffee.

I found this recipe on a blog last Spring (if this is your recipe, please let me know, I lost your link!), and have been making it nearly every week since.  I just can’t bring myself to buy the Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s kind anymore. Why? Because mine taste’s better, it’s cheaper, and it’s better for me!

Sorry for the crappy pics, but here she blows:

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 cup ground coffee
  • water
  • quart jar (or some similar sized container)
  • flavoring
  • milk
  • ice
  • glass
  • small strainer
  • coffee filter

ESTIMATED TIMES:

  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Brew: 24 hrs
  • Strain: 30 mins

 

WHAT YOU DO:

  • Put 1 cup of ground coffee in 1 quart jar. Fill to the top with water (just use lukewarm). Twist the lid on tightly, and give it a shake. Put it in the fridge overnight. ( I usually leave it for 24 hours. This time I forgot about it and left it for, ohhh, 72 hours. It’s still good.)
  • Set up your strainer over another quart jar, or large-ish bowl, insert coffee filter, and slowly pour coffee through it. **TIP #1: If you give the jar a good couple shakes before you pour, you’ll prevent a big splat of coffee grounds from landing on your counter. **TIP #2: It filters slowly, due to the coffee grinds, so I’ll sometimes dump half in the filter, then when it’s done, use a new filter for the second half, but not necessary.
  • Once it’s done straining, put in a sealed container (I just rinse the same jar out, and put it in there) and refrigerate OR add a few ice cubes to a glass, fill half with coffee, and add a splash of flavoring. (My favorite is the caramel.)
  • Fill the rest with milk, and VOILA, you have yourself some delicious, refreshing, homemade iced coffee.

Enjoy!!

Easy Breakfast Bake (and a great way to clean out the fridge.)

My husband got some left over ham out of the freezer the other day to make sandwiches to take in his lunch. (It’s impossible to find a spiral ham small enough for two people, so we freeze half of it.) We had so much of it, that he’s tired of ham sandwiches, and there was still a good portion left. Not being one to waste, I went to my handy-dandy “Breakfast bake” recipe.

I guess it’s not really a recipe at all. It’s kind of an idea of foods I throw together to clean out the fridge. Today I had a half an onion that was on it’s way out, the extra ham, less than a cup of shredded cheese, 1 cup of milk and 3 eggs. Add to that a cup of bisquick, and voila- breakfast for the week.

(Don’t be fooled, that recycled egg carton has farm fresh eggs in it.)

So here’s a quickie on how to make this quick breakfast:

Spray a 8×11 or 9×13 pan (depending on how much you intend to make) with cooking spray.

Spread 1-1.5 cups of meat cut up (today it was ham, but I’ve used bacon, sausage…whatever.) and 1 cup-ish of shredded cheese on the bottom of the pan. I also chopped up the extra onion and threw in, but not necessary.

Mix together 1 cup bisquick, 3-4 eggs, and 1 cup milk.

Pour it over the goodies in the pan.

You could throw a handful of frozen hashbrowns, extra cheese, or whatever on it. I just added some pepper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 mins, or until golden brown around the edges, and cooked in the middle.

Let it cool, cover and put it in the fridge for breakfasts. It stays good for a couple days. It also makes a good dinner!!

Now, sit back, and enjoy some breakfast bake, and bask in the vastness of the shelf space in your fridge!!

Rosemary dipping…bread? My Delicious Goof.

I came across this recipe for rosemary olive oil dipping bread, over at Caramel Potatoes. (A recently found blog  full of homemade deliciousness!) In her post, she refers to some restaurant that serves it, that I have never heard of.  We have a place called Bravo that serves it, and it is my ffffffaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaavorite.   We’ll go there rarely, for special occasions. When we do, I’m usually full prior to my meal coming, because I stuffed myself on rosemary bread. So, needless to say, I was all over this recipe like white on rice.

And it turned out AWESOME!! Just like the restaurant.

Oh wait….

Sad specimen of "RAISED" bread.

I won’t even tell you what comes to mind when I look at this. I thought the recipe was “good for beginners.” Piff. And I’m not even a beginner!!

Anyway, there’s a number of things that could be the culprit to this pile of sad looking dough.

1. The yeast packet was already opened. It looked like it was bubbly when I added the warm water but, who knows. I was doing 10 other things at the same time.

2. I cut the recipe in 1/2, because I didn’t have a full packet of yeast.  I am notorious for forgetting that I halved the recipe halfway through, and ending up with half of some ingredients, and all of the rest.

3. My impatience got the best of me, and I didn’t let it rise long enough.

Of course, being frugal in nature, throwing this out was not an option. So, after doing a quick search on how to salvage flat bread, I decided just to roll it out, cut it into pieces, and see what happened. And look!

They’re delicious!

The yeast must have been somewhat active, because they rose just a titch. I ended up with biscuit/breadstick kind of things that taste wonderful! I baked them at 375 for 20 minutes, and they ended up soft on the inside, and crispy on the outside. I brushed them with olive oil while they were still hot.

I’ll definitely try to make the rosemary dipping bread again (with a new packet of yeast). But if all I ever end up with are these little treats, I’ll be happy.

Happy baking!

Homemade Christmas Gift Round-up, 2011

I may be repeating myself, but I love homemade Christmas gifts. They’re unique, and something you can be sure the giftee won’t be receiving from someone else. (Some day I’ll tell you about the Christmas everything I bought my husband for Christmas, someone in my family also gave him. Ugh.) I’m sure there’s someone out there that hates getting my homemade gifts, but I figure that’s their problem. 🙂 So, with Christmas rapidly approaching, I wanted to take stock of the Christmas gifts I’ve made thus far, before I wrap them.

1. Christmas Chili, featured in my Can-It Santa post. Here’s the final product!

I always try to give my gifts a little flare. The beans and seasonings are in the can, sealed tight.

2. Headbands. My friend Bridgette has worn a headband every day since the day we’ve met. She loves bold, bright colors, and lots of glitter. Completely opposite of my style. But I saw a few tutorials floating around cyberspace on making cloth rosettes. They were putting them on pins, and clips. So I figured I’d make Bridge some headbands. What do you think?  I really like them.

3. Book Wreath. This summer when I was between jobs, I made a few book wreaths to hang in my living room. There is an abundance of beautiful book wreaths floating around the blog world. Some are very delicate, and carefully crafted. When I craft, I’m, shall we say, impatient. I know what I want, so I want to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Point being, my wreaths ended up being less delicate, and more full. They’ve received mixed reviews, but my cousin Heather came for a visit, and just loved them. So, I figured, what better gift! Here it is.

         

4. Ornament Wreath. Also popular in blogdom are various types of ornament wreaths. It’s super easy to make, and really inexpensive. (I found plastic ornaments for 49 cents for 12 at a local discount store, WHAT?!?) So I made 6, 4 for aunts and uncles, and 2 for myself. 🙂 They’re really beautiful in real life.

 5. Glitter Ornaments. These are super popular on craft blogs right now. They’re SUPER easy to make, and really dress up packages. I make ornaments every year and give them to co-workers, cousins, neighbors, etc.

 6. Package of Homemade Candy. Two of my brother-in-laws are young, and still live at home. So, the whole Chili idea didn’t seem appropriate for them. So I made some homemade candy,put them in a pretty box, and this is what you have!

                  

                      

 

And finally, every year I make pumpkin rolls and cookie trays for neighbors, bosses, co-workers (I really like) and that inevitable person I forgot to shop or craft for. (oops!) I plan on finishing my baking this weekend and putting them together to give out next week….CHRISTMAS week… 🙂

Happy Gifting!

It’s Christmas cookie time!

If you can’t tell by the new header, it is, indeed, Christmas cookie time. 🙂 So far I’ve made Chocolate chip (a must have for every and all occassions!), and the sugar cookies in the header.

I used a new recipe for my chocolate chip cookies this year. I am always on the look out for a soft cookie, because they’re my fav. I found this recipe from The Frugal girls and gave it a try. I made regular sized cookies. At first, I thought they didn’t taste much different that the ones I usually make, but two days later, they remain moist and chewing! That’s definitely different than the ones I usually make. YUM!! I put 3/4 of the batch in the freezer until cookie tray time. My husband is sad…

Another staple I make every year is sugar cookies. I have a love/hate relationship with sugar cookies. I love to make them, but I always gripe about how much work they take. Then, I love to roll them out and cut cute shapes, but am always dissappointed because they cook unevenly. You know, the edges are crisp because I made them too thin, or the angel got squished when I put her on the tray, so now she looks like an Oompa Loompa.

I don’t like my cookies crunchy, and I had yet to find a soft sugar cookie recipe, UNTIL NOW!  Let me introduce you to my new favorite sugar cookie recipe found at allrecipes.com.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, stir into the creamed mixture until dough comes together. ***
  3. Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until bottom is light brown. Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks.

***The original recipe says to roll into wall nut sized balls, and dip in sugar. My terrific husband got me a Wilton cookie mold tray for Christmas last year (probably after getting tired of my complaining about my “stupid cookie cutter sugar cookies“). So I just pressed the dough into the molds evenly and baked until they were a light golden brown, and they turned out PERFECT! 🙂 No Oompa Loompa angels or crispy santas!

Then, the best part!

The FROSTING! 🙂

I don’t really measure when I make my frosting. But I’ll guess-timate.

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup (it makes it shinier, I think.)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla (I like vanilla)

Then just mix. If it’s too runny, add more sugar, if too thick, add more milk or corn syrup.

I really like how they turned out this year. They’ll make the cookie trays really pretty.

There was one mistake however…

The gingerbread man.

As soon as I stopped frosting him, I realized “He looks like he’s wearing a diaper.” And it looks like it might be full…. At least he’s happy about it! 🙂

Happy Baking!

 

Semi-Homemade Gingerbread Pancakes. YUM!

Remember how I wrote the post about all natural foods and cutting back on junk, etc, etc?  Forget that for a moment.

Between rushing to church, being starved, 2 wiley dogs itching to go for a run,  a husband frantically finishing an end of the semester project, cleaning, wrapping, shopping, baking, and all the other joys that come with the month of December—-

Somedays you just have to go with some bisquick and a Betty Crocker recipe, you know?

In my defense, my first thought when my eyes flew open this morning and my brain was screaming “GINGERBREAD PANCAKES!!” was to go to IHOP, which we haven’t been to in years. But this time of year, they always advertise their gingerbread pancakes, and they have whipped cream with cute green and red sprinkles…mmmm….Anyway, luckily upon further wakening, I realized I could make some more cost effective, tastier, healthier pancakes right here at home!

So, thank you Betty Crocker for this easy, quick recipe.

2 1/2 cups Original Bisquick® mixMy dad says you could patch a tire with this stuff. I think he’s joking, but I’ve never tried. 😛 It does EVERYTHING!
1 cup milk
3/4 cup apple butter—-I used my home-canned, made in the crock-pot, applebutter from this summer! YUM!
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs

Stir, and cook as usual. I served with some corned beef hash (Hiss, moan, boo–I know, terrible), apple slices and coffee. Oh man was it good.

Now for all you PHO-TO-GRAPHERS (said in my native rural PA dialect), this picture is for you…

THE FINAL PRODUCT

PA-POW!

Yeah, these are the left overs, ready to hit the fridge. I didn’t have the will power to take the time to photo them prior to filling my belly. Sorry. The jar is the scrumptious homemade applebutter. I encourage you all to try it!

Thanks for reading!

Food for thought, and a thought on food…

Boy, do I love food. Always have. I’m one of those soft-around-the-edges-rather-bake-cookies-than-go-for-a-jog-live-to-eat kinds of people. And I’m ok with that. I’ve always enjoyed passive gardening as a hobby. (You know, throw a couple seeds in some dirt and see what happens?) But within the past year or so, I can honestly say I’ve become passionate about food, especially growing my own food. I think the catalyst to this change in thinking was the film “The Real Dirt on Farmer John” I ran across on Netflix one lazy afternoon. This led me to the film “Food, Inc.”, as well as some others. That was definitely the start for me. I had no idea that our food system was so complicated, corrupt and unhealthy!!! I kind of miss the naivety, but knowing this now may save my life! (Or at least help me live longer.)

I don’t know if there are more articles coming out now, or I’m just paying more attention, but I saw this generic article today “7 Foods You Should Never Eat” and I wanted to share. Now, by no means am I an expert at this. There is a huge learning curve going from McDonald’s and Velveeta Shells and Cheese to fresh caught fish with organic greens and potatoes. But I definitely put more thought and time into preparing our meals than I ever have before. Now, I’m only a fraction organic, and there is still a lot of junk food in my house. I’m working on it. It’s a tough habit to shake when that’s all you’ve know for, well, your whole life.

 So, based on the list in the article above, here are the things I’ve changed that might work for you too.

1. Canned tomatoes (and really anything canned. See “It’s December, and I’m Stewed” for a link about canned soups): This one was easy. I grow my own tomatoes and can and freeze them each year, along with a lot of other vegetables. Easy to do anywhere, even if you only live on a patch of pavement! Google “Growing in containers” and you’ll find all the info you’ll ever need!

 2. Corn-Fed Beef: This was probably the most shocking thing for me to learn about, and one of the things I feel most strongly AGAINST eating. So I contacted a local farmer, and buy my beef from him a couple times a year. It’s a higher cost up front, but because we have such a nice selection right in our freezer, we eat at home more, so it evens out. And it tastes and smells so much better. We also get our pork and chicken from local farms.  (I plan on doing a more in-depth post about grass-fed vs. conventional beef soon.)

3. Microwave popcorn: This article says you shouldn’t eat microwave popcorn because of the chemicals in the bag. I did not know this. But we did change the way we make popcorn after reading the labels on the most common brands and finding that they are made, mostly, from genetically modified corn (GMO). —Don’t even get me started– Thankfully, I found this tip from Frugalgirls.com about making popcorn in a brown paper bag. Now I get organic popcorn kernels for a couple bucks and go to town!!

 4. Nonorganic potatoes: We grow our own potatoes. They are the easiest, best return veggie you can grown, I swear. They are so fun to dig, because you just never know what they’re going to look like! My grandmother says: “Ohhh, I just love digging potatoes; it’s like opening presents at Christmas.” It really is.

5. Farmed Salmon: Fish is a new food for me in the past few years. As I kid I HATED fish. But my husband eased me into it with some Lake Erie Perch (Probably the most toxic fish ever) covered in 3 inches of fried batter. Now, I like to cook tilapia and other white fish in a little olive oil on the stove. But, I do try the get “freshly caught” or whatever the lingo is, because they are doing some CRAZY stuff with fish these days. (Cloning, genetically modifying, etc.) Maybe I should start buying organic…

6. Milk with artificial hormones: I look for labels that say “Without rBST.” They sell it at Trader Joe’s and Wal-mart now, too. It’s a little more expensive, but I’d say it’s worth it to keep my ovaries functioning.

7. Conventional Apples: Ok, this is admittedly the hardest for me. I try to buy local, which is seasonal, so then I try to buy organic, and they are all grown in Chile or somewhere they’ve been stored and shipped across continents for 3 months before making it to my kitchen. So, sometimes I just get disgusted and buy the regular ones. Which, now I’m re-thinking. I did can applesauce and apple butter from my grandfather’s tree this summer, so it’s a start.

And as always, I encourage buying all your food locally! Personally, I think buying locally is more important than buying organic. But organic is a close second.

Do you have any helpful tips to improve your food quality? What do you do to decrease preservatives and chemicals in your diet? I’d love to hear, because I’m still learning!!