Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

Adorable, right? Ok, maybe these reindeer are slightly special....but they taste great, so who cares?

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies
via Budding Baketress

3/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
Chocolate-covered mini pretzels
Mini brown M&Ms
Regular-sized red M&Ms

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine brown sugar, peanut butter, shortening, milk, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add egg; beat until just blended.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix just until blended.

Form dough into 1-inch balls. To make reindeer-shaped cookies, pinch the bottom of the ball slightly to form a point, then gently flatten with your hand. Space cookies about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until set or just beginning to brown. 

Remove from oven and immediately (and gently) press two mini pretzels into the tops of the cookies for the reindeer's antlers. Press two mini brown M&Ms in for the eyes and one red M&M for the nose (or any other color... some of mine ended up with green noses. They might be South Pole reindeer.). 

Allow to cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack or paper towel to cool completely. 

Makes about 40 reindeer cookies.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chocolate cupcakes with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

These cupcakes were delish! The chocolate cake is my go to Hershey's recipe, and the peppermint cream cheese frosting was divine. Seriously....squirt in your mouth-divine.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes
(makes 24-27 standard sized cupcakes)

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (best quality available)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (best quality available)
1 cup boiling water

~ Directions ~
*Line muffin tin with paper liners. Heat oven to 350*F.
*In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
*Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for one minute.
*Stir in boiling water (the batter will be thin, don't worry, this is right).
*Fill liners 2/3 full with batter. (I usually put the batter into a large measuring cup with a pour spout, and then pour the batter into the liners.)
 *Bake cupcakes for approximately 22-24 minutes.
*Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick, 8 Tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (about 3/4 of a regular block of cream cheese)
4 cups powdered confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 to 3 Tablespoons heavy cream, heavy whipping cream (or milk- although I do like the richness that cream adds)

~ Directions ~
*Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly. Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
*Add powdered sugar (a little at a time) and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
*Add vanilla and peppermint extracts
*Slowly add the heavy cream, a little bit at a time until desired consistency is met. (Don't add too much if you want the frosting to stay in place when piped on cupcakes.)
*Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
*Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.)

To achieve the red stripe in the frosting:  Before filling a large piping bag with frosting, add some red gel food coloring to a toothpick, and draw two (vertical) lines with the red dye on the inside of the piping bag. Then carefully fill the piping bag with frosting.  Squeeze some frosting into a bowl until you begin to see the red stripe, then frost the cupcakes. 

Top cupcakes with some crushed candy canes (they will "melt" after a bit, so they need to be served right away) or a small piece of peppermint bark (I used a little peppermint Andes candy).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jalapeno Popper Dip

This was spicy yet satisfying. ;) Delicious, basically. And so easy to whip up!

via Our Best Bites

2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened (light works great)
1 c. mayonnaise (light also works here, but DON’T use Miracle Whip!)
1 c. Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 4-oz. can fire roasted green chilies
1/2-1 4-oz. can diced jalapeno peppers*, drained
optional: 8oz bacon, cooked and crumbled
1-2 sourdough baguettes, sliced, and/or crackers
*1/2 can is mild with a little bite, a whole can is definitely on the spicy side, but if you’ve got taste buds of steel, you might prefer a 7-oz. can. 4 ounces definitely pushes the limit for my husband and I and our kids won’t touch it.
Preheat oven to 350. If using bacon, reserve 2-3 Tbs and sprinkle on top of dip before baking.  Combine cream cheese, mayo, parmesan, and garlic and stir until smooth.  Add jalapenons and green chilies.  If using bacon, stir in remaining bacon.  Spread dip into a 9″ pie plate or a small baking dish.  Sprinkle with remaining bacon if using.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until dip is bubbly and golden brown.

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites

I made these for Thanksgiving appetizers, and they disappeared. Fast.

 Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites
via Annie's Eats
For the dough:
1½ tsp. instant yeast
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
¼ cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
2½-3 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
½ cup small diced ham
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
To finish:
6 cups water
4 tsp. baking soda
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Kosher salt (or pretzel salt), for topping

To make the dough, combine the yeast, brown sugar, water, milk, and 2½ cups of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix until a dough has formed.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until a soft, elastic dough forms.  Add the remaining flour a 1-2 tablespoons at a time until the dough is tacky but not sticky.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, until the dough has doubled in size and bubbles on the surface, about 1½ to 2 hours.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide into 4 equal pieces.  Stretch or roll one piece of the dough into a 12 x 4-inch rectangle.  Sprinkle some of the diced ham and the shredded cheese over one third of the dough closest to an edge, lengthwise.  Roll up tightly, filling edge first, so that the filling is tightly sealed inside.  Slice the log into 12 pieces and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Repeat with the remaining 3 portions of dough, and the remaining filling.
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the baking soda and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Boil the pretzels in batches, cooking for about 2o seconds and turning once. They should be slightly puffed.  Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to transfer them back to the baking sheet.
Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Brush the warm pretzel bites with the melted butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Snickerdoodle cupcakes

YUm! I don't even really care for snickerdoodles the cookies, but I should have known that a cupcake version would be awesome.

Snickerdoodle cupcakes
via Martha Stewart


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
  4. To finish, combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip (Ateco No. 809 or Wilton No. 1A), pipe frosting on each cupcake: Hold bag over cupcake with tip just above top, and squeeze to create a dome of frosting, then release pressure and pull up to form a peak. Using a small, fine sieve, dust peaks with cinnamon-sugar. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are frosted; keep at room temperature until ready to serve.

Perfect Cupcake Frosting and Filling

recipe by
3 T Flour
1/2 C milk (whole milk is best, but I used non-fat when it's all I have and it's actually fine)
1/2 C real butter
1/2 C sugar (that's granulated sugar, not powdered sugar)
1 t vanilla extract, or other flavor if you wish.
Whisk together the flour and the milk. Heat in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. I think this is the critical point for any of you who have had problems with this recipe. I have a feeling people are under-cooking this part. Let it cook, while stirring, until it looks like pudding (you should be able to see the bottom of the pan when you stir it). Even though it's thick, you can still it through a mesh strainer (just whisk the mixture in the strainer to push the thick stuff through) and then let it cool completely to room temp. or chill it in the fridge. It needs to be cooled completely. If you don't let it cool completely, it will melt the butter and you'll have runny frosting.
It an electric stand mixer, beat the butter and the sugar for a minute or two until well combined and fluffy. You'll want to use the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, not the flat paddle. Then while beating, add in the thickened milk mixture and the vanilla. Beat on the highest speed you can get to without it spraying all over the place for 7 minutes. Yes, 7 whole minutes, maybe even 8 or 9. I know that seems like a long time, but that's when the magic happens!

You will be scared because it will look like a weird goopy mess at first and you'll wonder what on earth you did wrong. Keep beating and something amazing happens. It goes from that goopy mess to something thick, velvety smooth, and perfectly fluffy.

Use it to fill cupcakes or other pastries, or as a frosting on top. You can't go wrong putting this on just about anything :)
One batch makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes .