Friday, December 18, 2009

Rice Crispy Trees

A simple twist of turning a standard rice crispy treat into a tree is pretty simple - so I thought. Have you ever tried to get the gooey mess into a shape?

Found a great technique to keep your hands mess-free and get the trees nice and firmly packed. I took a simple plastic baggie and sprayed the inside with oil cooking spray. Spoon a dollop of the crispy treats in and press down into the corner of the bag (can twist the top to pack or use your hands to push on different sides of the bag repeatedly). To remove, peel back the plastic or turn inside out. Cool on a lightly sprayed piece of wax paper.

6 c Rice Crispy cereal
3 T Butter
1 bag Mini Marshmallows
Green food colloring
Decorations (red hots, red icing, rope licorice, etc) - optional
Cooking spray

Melt butter in a large pan over medium low heat. Add marshmallows and stir constantly until smooth. Do not over cook or allow it to brown. When the sugar in the marshmallow starts to caramelize, it gets hard and tough. Turn heat off (add coloring if desired) and add cereal, stirring until evenly coated and slightly cooled.

Press into a lightly greased pan (use a sprayed piece of plastic wrap or wax paper to press it in) or scoop into bags to make trees. Decorate as you wish.

Total Cost: $1.99
Marshmallows $.79 (Aldi)
Butter $.20 (Aldi)
Cereal $1.00 (Aldi or Meijer)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Your Turn

Here's your chance to share. I'd love to know what your favorite Christmas recipes, tips, and celebrations are. Share away!!! Please.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cinnamon-Apple Brunch Bake

This is like an acceptable dessert to eat for breakfast/brunch, or at least I pretend it is.

3 T Butter
1/2 c Brown Sugar
1 can Apple Pie Filling (21 oz)
1 t Cinnamon
1/4 t Vanilla
1 can Refrigerated cinnamon rolls
1/2 c Chopped nuts or raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In sauce pan, melt butter, stir in sugar and apple pie filling, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread 1/2 of apple mixture in 2 qt shallow baking dish.
Separate rolls and cut into quarters. Arrange pieces (points up) over mixture. Spoon remaining mixture over biscuits and sprinkle on nuts or raisins if desired. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and drizzle icing packet from rolls over the top. Let stand 5 minutes and serve warm.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Apple French Toast Strata

1 (1 lb) loaf cinnamon bread, cubed
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup diced peeled apples (I use extra)
8 eggs
2 1/2 c half-and-half cream
6 Ts butter, melted
2 T cinnamon
1/4 c maple syrup
  1. Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange 1/2 of the cubed bread in the bottom of the dish. Whip cream cheese and sugar together and spread the mixture over the bread, and top with the apples. Top with remaining bread.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the cream, butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Pour over the bread mixture. Cover with plastic wrap, and press down so that all bread pieces are soaked. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  4. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Bread - $1.19 (Aunt Millie's Outlet)
Cream Cheese - $.89 (Aldi)
Powdered Sugar - $.20 (Aldi)
Apple - $.25 (Meijer)
Eggs - $.75 (Aldi)
1/2 & 1/2 - $.75 (Costco)
Syrup - $1.00 (Meijer)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Croissant French Toast & Strawberry Sauce

This beautiful piece of art on a plate comes from Southern Living magazine. I served this for a baby shower to RAVE reviews. It's melt in your mouth goodness, perfect for holiday feasts.

Check the day old rack at grocery store for croissants. You don't want to use the bake from a can kind because they are too soft and doughy. You want a large and light croissants - good deals on large quantities at Sam's Club or Costco.

4 lg Day-old croissants
3/4 c Milk
2 lg Eggs
1 t Vanilla
2 T Butter

Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into a shallow dish. Slice croissants in half lengthwise. Dip croissant halves into egg mixture coating well. Melt 1 T butter in large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add four croissant halves and cook about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Repeat procedure with remaining butter and croissant halves.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar, top with whipped cream if desired and strawberry syrup.

Strawberry Syrup:
1 qt Fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 c Sugar
1/4 c Orange Juice
1 t Grated orange rind

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and let sit for 30 minutes. Cook over low heat stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. DO NOT OVER COOK to keep strawberries slightly firm.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Santa's Snickers Surprises

Found this little gem in the coupon section years ago from snickers. This are delicious cookies with a perfect blend of peanut and chocolate. I'm going to try to make these cookies with sunbutter (creamed sunflower seeds) and Milky Ways this year since we can't do the peanut thing.

Last time I made these (2004) the elementary/junior high girls baking with me thought these were the best cookies ever to make - and easy too. Sure do miss these cookies. Make a batch and eat one for me.

1 c Butter, softened
1 c Creamy peanut butter
1 c Light brown sugar
1 c Sugar
2 Eggs
1 t Vanilla
3 1/2 c Flour, sifted
1 t Baking soda
1/2 t Salt
1 pkg Snickers miniatures

Combine the butter, peanut butter and sugars using a mixer on medium to low speed until light and fluffy. Slowly add eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Then mix in flour, salt, and baking soda.

Cover and chill dough for 2 – 3 hours. Unwrap Snickers miniatures. Remove dough from fridge and divide into 1 T pieces and flatten. Form the dough into a ball around each candy bar.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on making rack. Drizzle cookies with melted chocolate if desired.

Monday, December 7, 2009


This Dutch Banket recipe is from my husband's grandma. It's a family tradition and we fight over them until the last bite.

1 lb Almond paste, room temperature
1 c Sugar
2 T Cornstarch
2 Eggs (save 1 of the egg white for top)
1/2 t Lemon extract
Mix together and chill overnight. Make into 4 balls.

2 c Flour
1 c Butter
1/3 c Ice water

Mix together and separate into 4 balls. Cover and let sit in the fridge overnight.

Flour surface and rolling pin well and roll out pastry into 2” wide lengths and thin like a pie crust (thick enough to roll). Flour hands and roll paste into log shape and place in the center of dough. Fold pastry over filing and press dough seam to seal (can use cold water seal ends). Repeat with other 3 sections.

Place on greased cookie sheet. Brush pastry with reserved egg white. Can sprinkle sugar on top if desired. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes and turn oven down to 375 for 10 more minutes until light brown.

Awesome Sales

I've mentioned Aldi numerous times on this blog, partially because of their good quality product at a price to make our feasts frugal. They have some TREMENDOUS sales this week on baking products, so time to stock up, for holiday baking and for the pantry stock. (NOTE: this is not a paid endorsement)

Powdered/Brown Sugar (32 oz) $.95
Semi-Sweet, Butterscotch, Milk or White chips (12 oz) $1.29
Butter (1 lb) $1.49
Milk (1 gal) $1.49

I really try to buy on sale rather than by need. That way I've got what I need when I need it, and spend a lot less money in the process.

Would I like to buy organic and high end quality products? You betcha. But I do what I can, when I can - and focus on those products when they really matter both taste and healthwise.

Happy holiday baking my friends.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Blue Ribbon Almond Roca Cookies

This tasty treat was a goldmine from The Food Network, a recipe contest won by Lynn Scully. My sister-in-law made these for Christmas and I wanted to eat every cookie on the plate. I put a pretty good dent in them though. This is a Christmas crowd pleaser to be sure.

2 1/2 c All-purpose flour
1/2 t Baking soda
1/4 t Salt
1 c Dark brown sugar
1/2 c Sugar
1 c Butter, room temperature
2 Eggs, room temperature
2 t Pure vanilla extract
1 Package toffee bits
1 c Coarsely ground almonds
4 oz Milk chocolate
1/2 T Vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend sugars together on medium speed. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste. Add eggs and vanilla and mix at medium speed until light and fluffy. At low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and then the toffee bits. Mix until just blended; do not over-mix.
Place ground nuts in a small bowl. Using hands, roll balls of dough into 1 to 1 1/2-inch balls, then roll in the ground nuts. Place on cookie sheets several inches apart. Bake approximately 22 minutes and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
Melt the chocolate with the vegetable oil in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Drizzle melted chocolate over cooled cookies. Place cookies on a cookie sheet and place in freezer or refrigerator until chocolate is firmly set.

Total Cost: $7.49
Flour - $.50 (Aldi)
Brown Sugar - $.65 (Meijer)
Sugar - $.15 (Aldi)
Butter - $1.00 (Aldi)
Eggs - $.15 (Aldi)
Toffee - $2.49 (Meijer)
Almonds - $2.00 (Trader Joe)
Milk Chocolate - $.50 (Aldi)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pumpkin Cake

I found this cake idea in the coupon section of the newspaper from Duncan Hines. The kids LOVED having a cake that looks like a pumpkin for Thanksgiving. Their recipe didn't sound that great to me so I concocted my own. It's more of a cinnamon flavored cake than a true spice cake, so the kids seemed a bit happier with that. The icing/coating takes a little bit of technique to make it really smooth, but still really simple.

1 yellow cake mix (prepared)
1 pkg pumpkin pie spice pudding
1 t cinnamon

Pour into a well greased and floured bundt pan and bake according to box directions for bundt cake. Cool in pan 5 minutes and turn out onto cooling rack.

1-2 can vanilla frosting
Green, Red & Yellow Food Coloring
1 Cake Ice Cream Cone

Take a small portion of frosting and color it green and frost the ice cream cone for the stem. Set aside. Melt the rest of the frosting until thin and color with red and yellow to make the orange desired. Place the cooling rack over a cutting board and pour the frosting over the cake to coat. "Bounce" the cooling rack up and down to get rid of ridges. Scrap off frosting from cutting board, reheat frosting and pour again, bouncing until entire cake is coated. Place cone in center of the pumpkin. I used a bit of extra frosting to make a couple of leaves and vines.

Cake Mix $1.00 (Aldi's)
Frosting $1.00 (Aldi's)
Pudding $.66 (Meijer)
Cone and Coloring from stock

I'm gonna try doubling the recipe for 2 bundt cakes and have them flip together to make a bigger pumpkin.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Aunt Vi's Church Window Cookies

Once again I offer another staple from Aunt Vi's Christmas table... the church window cookie. This is a sugar high waiting to happen and simple enough to have kids help in the kitchen.

1/2 c Butter**
12 oz Chocolate Chips
1 pkg Colored mini marshmallows
Powdered sugar or coconut

Melt butter and chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly. Gently fold in marshmallows until coated.
Spread into logs on tin foil sprinkled with powdered sugar of coconut. Roll up tight and refrigerate. Slice about 1/2" thick.

**You can substitute margarine, but you won't want to...

Total Cost: $3.48
Butter $.50 (Aldi's)
Chocolate Chips $1.49 (Meijer)
Marshmallows $1.49 (Meijer)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Aunt Vi's Sugared Peanuts (or Almonds)

I don't make these anymore due to my son's peanut allergy, but MAN DO I MISS THEM. These are another one of my Great Aunt Vi's recipes that are carved into my holiday memories. I use to give these lovely treats for gifts, but alas no more. This is for Andrea so you don't have to call for the recipe again this year. ;)

2 c Sugar
1 c Water
4 c Raw redskin peanuts (or almonds)

Mix ingredients in large saucepan.
Bring to a boil and cook until moisture in almost gone and nuts and quite dry - stirring frequently. Pour out on a greased cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1/2 hour - stirring after the 5, 10, and 20 minute marks. Allow to cool before serving. Store in an airtight container.

I have no idea anymore what peanuts cost - just remember that they are really inexpensive around Christmas. Look for the RAW peanuts in the bulk area.