Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Peanut Butter Balls

  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are one of my favorite candies.  Do any of you have a special way that you eat it?  I eat around the outside, saving the center for last.  That amazing taste of peanut butter and chocolate together.....nothing beats it.

If you are like me and love the pb/chocolate combo, you are going to go wild for these.  A simple, tasty treat for the holidays!

Peanut Butter Balls

Mix together 2 cups smooth peanut butter and 3/4 cup softened butter.  Add 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar and 3 cups crushed Rice Krispies (measure out 3 cups, then crush).

Roll into balls.  Chill for 1/2 to 1 hour.  Melt 1 lb of chocolate.  I used almond bark to keep it simple.  Dip balls into chocolate and cool on wax paper. 



 
 

Smooth. Creamy. Slightly crunchy. Chocolatey (from Whitney).  Peanut buttery (from Wyatt).  Good (from Wyatt... he is a boy of few words!).  Awesome (from Ellie).  

Enjoy,
Stacey

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Tradition Continues....

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is our annual cookie baking day.  Since I was 5 years old, my grandma, my mom and I have had a tradition of getting together to spend an entire day baking cookies. As my daughters have gotten older, they have been included as well.....and my sister-in-laws, and someday my nieces.  We all brave the cold temperatures, haul into the house cardboard boxes full of 5 lb bags of flour and sugar, chocolate chips, as many cookie sheets as we have and whomever has a kitchen aid mixer, they are required to bring that as well.  We have several mixers going at once, a cooling table, and a 'display' table....we churn out a crazy amount of holiday cookies.  This year, I hosted and my mom came up to join me, Whitney and Ellie.  What a day!  We ended up with 11 different kinds of cookies.  Some we make every single year....and I mean every single year without fail.  Others, we make every so often.  And each of us always has one or two new ones that we want to try. 
 




This recipe is one that we make every year.  It's a crowd favorite, so much that last year I entered it into the Des Moines Register Cookie contest......and WON!  Wahoo!  What was the prize, you ask?  52 FREE GALLONS OF MILK!!  It was great.....we go through a lot of milk with 5 in the family, so I was super excited about winning.
This will become a favorite in your house as well.....

FARMHOUSE MINT COOKIES

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 T water
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 lb Andes Mints

Place butter, sugar and water in saucepan on low heat until butter is melted.  Add chocolate chips and stir until partially melted.  Remove from heat.  Continue to stir until chocolate is completely melted.  Pour into a large mixing bowl and let stand about 10 minutes to cool slightly.  With mixer at high speed, beat in eggs one at a time.  Reduce speed to low and add combined flour, baking soda and salt, beating just until blended.  Chill dough about 1 hour.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 cookie sheets with foil.  Roll dough into teaspoon size balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.  Bake 11 to 13 minutes---do not overbake!  Immediately place mints on hot cookie.  Allow to soften, then swirl mint over cookies with back of a spoon.  Remove from cookie sheets, keeping cookies on the foil and cool completely.



These will become part of your Christmas baking too!  Your family will begin to ask for them each year.  They will fight over the last ones.  They are moist, minty, cool and chewy.  It makes a very large batch and they freezer very well.  If you store them in plastic containers, keep these separate or every cookie in the container will taste like mint!  :-)

Enjoy!
Stacey

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Whole Wheat Bread

Hey everyone!  Here we are, in the Midwest, minding our own business and enjoying some cooler fall weather--when all of a sudden---IT SNOWED TODAY!  Ufda.  Totally not ready for that kind of weather.  Fortunately, it was wet enough that nothing stuck to the ground. 
But a cold and damp day like today always gets me in the mood to bake and today was no exception.
 
I toyed with a few different options and decided on this:

Whole Wheat Bread!

Like most of you, we try to stick with a budget when it comes to our grocery shopping.  I usually spend about $130 per week to feed our family of 5.  When I am at the grocery store, I am always frustrated at how much a loaf of bread costs!  Seriously, a good quality, whole wheat loaf is at least $4-$5!  Wowza.  Homemade bread DOES take some time to make, but it is so worth it.  This recipe will make 4 loaves and they freeze beautifully.  Once you taste it, you will not believe the difference.  Plus, you know what ingredients are in this bread--NO preservatives or chemicals or anything fake. 

Take a look at this sad looking recipe card:
Shows you how much I've used it......AND spilled on it!  :-)  It is my late mother-in-law's recipe.  I have tried many other whole wheat bread variations, and I keep coming back to this one for it's texture, little bit of sweetness with the brown sugar, and the fact that it makes 4 loaves.  If you are going to the work to make homemade bread, you might as well get 4 loaves out if it instead of 1.

Whole Wheat Bread
In a very large bowl (this makes a LOT of dough)  dissolve 2 packages yeast (one package=2 1/4 tsp) in 4 cups of very warm water.  Add 4 t. salt, 4 T. white sugar, and 4 cups of white all purpose flour ( I use unbleached).
Set this in a warm place and cover with a tea towel.  Let rest for 20 minutes.  It will get bubby.

In another bowl, place 1 cup hot water, 5 T. Crisco, and 1 cup packed brown sugar.  Microwave for 2 minutes, then stir to dissolve shortening.  Set aside to cool (lukewarm at least or it will kill your yeast when you mix it together)

When mixture is cooled, add it to the bubbly flour mixture.  Add 4 cups of whole wheat flour and 4 cups of white flour.  Mix to incorporate.  The dough will still be pretty sticky.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead it until it is easy to handle.  You may need to add a bit more flour. 

Put in a greased bowl and let rise 45 minutes in a warm place.

Punch dough down and shape into 4 loaves.  Put in pans and let raise 1 hour in warm place.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.  When the top sounds hollow when you tap on it, they are done!


You must try this for toast in the morning and it makes the world's best grilled cheese sammie!

I hope you will give this a try!  Don't be afraid of working with yeast.  Show it who is boss--I know you can do it!
Enjoy---
Stacey

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Soup's On! Crockpot Vegetable Beef Soup with Barley

When I headed out last week for my weekly grocery shopping trip, I knew that there was a forecast for snow AGAIN this weekend.  Honestly, I am so sick of winter!  But.....I did wake up on Friday morning and I HEARD BIRDS CHIRPING!  A sure sign that we are heading in the right direction.  Back to the impending snow.....so knowing that snow was coming, I anticipated being snuggled under my new quilt (A pinterest project and an entire post in itself!), a good book in hand and a crockpot of Vegetable Beef Soup simmering in the crockpot. 
The snow arrived and it has been going off and on all day!  So, the crockpot got drug out early this morning to start the Vegetable Beef soup before church.

This recipe was given to me by a friend and has become one of my family's favorites.  I love that it is:
1)  Easy!
2)  Done in the crockpot so I can get it ready in the morning and forget about it all day.
3)  It makes a huge batch, so there is always enough for leftovers or to share.  We usually take over some to our neighbor lady, Sue.  She just turned 90 and is just a delightful lady that we enjoy visiting with, sharp as a tack and loves sports!  We knew she would be watching the NCAA tournament games and might enjoy something warm for dinner. 
4)  Healthy---Fresh vegetables, barley for fiber, it just speaks 'comfort'.
5)  It gets a thumbs up from all 5 in my family!


VEGETABLE BEEF SOUP WITH BARLEY

2-3 lbs stew meat
Onion, diced
6 C waters
2 C tomato juice
8 oz tomato sauce
1 T salt
2 t. worchestershire sauce
1/4 t. chili powder
1 beef bullion cube
2 bay leaves
celery, diced
carrots, diced
potatoes, diced
1 cup cooked barley
1 can corn
1 can green beans
1 can peas


Cut any fat off of stew meat and cut into bite size pieces.  Brown in skillet.  When brown, pour meat and all pan drippings into crockpot.  Add everything else to crockpot and mix well.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  With about 1 hour to go in cooking time, add cooked barley (just cook quick cooking barley in boiling water for 10-15 minutes.  Don't add it uncooked or it will absorb all of the soup liquid.)  Fish out bay leaves and add 1 can each of peas, corn, and green beans.  Simmer one more hour. 
That's it!  It's yummy and packed full of veggies and tender bites of beef.  Serve it with a crusty loaf of French bread or some buttermilk biscuits. 


This is a super easy meal to whip up before work as well.  Nothing makes you relax like walking in the door of your home after a long day at the office, and being greeted by the aroma of dinner waiting for you!!  The work is done, you can enjoy a healthy meal with your family.  A crockpot is a working mom's best friend many days! 

Thick and hearty, this soup will bring your family to the table quickly!
Enjoy your time at the table with your loved ones,
Stacey










Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chippy Dippy Bars

I'm still here!  I aplogize for being MIA for the last month!!
I hope all you mommies had a wonderful Mother's Day!  It was a beautiful day to top it off!  Today's post is a tribute to my amazing mother, Judy.  I want to be just like her when I grow up!  :-)
Mom is the strongest woman I know, yet she radiates joy, kindness and gentleness.  Her commitment of care to our entire family and my late father during his 20 some years of health battles, has been an incredible example of Christian love---in sickness and in health.    She loves to laugh and always has a smile on her face.  She taught me the importance and value of taking care of your family and that your faith is not what you do, it is who you are. 

AND SHE ALSO HAS AN ENORMOUS SWEET TOOTH!  So, in honor of mom, here is one of her favorite treats - CHIPPY DIPPY BARS!
Just a mix and bake recipe....here's the cast:


Easy Peasy people.....Mix one stick melted butter with 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs.  Press into a square baking pan.  Sprinkle with 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 cup butterscotch chips, 1 cup coconut, 1 cup chopped pecans.  Pour 1 can sweetened condensed milk over the top (you can use fat free here too!) Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Oh - My - Gravy!  These are over the top yum.   I think of my mom each time I bake them, so this is for you Mom!
They are oooey, they are gooey, they are rich, they will knock your socks off. 

I hope I can be as good of a mom to my little ones.....


 as she has been to me.  Here are a few more pics for you to enjoy!  I love you, Mom!

Enjoy~
Stacey

Monday, April 16, 2012

English Muffin Bread

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!  When the weather is cool and rainy, not to mention the gale force winds we had over the weekend, I always get the urge to bake.  Baking homemade bread is one of my favorite things to do, I find it very soothing and relaxing.  I was craving some English muffin bread and this recipe is as simple as you can get for a yeast bread.  I know, some of you are already nervous.  But I encourage you---DO NOT BE AFRAID OF WORKING WITH YEAST!  It will not harm you!  Many home cooks have had such terrible experiences with yeast bread, either the yeast not activating, loaves that turn out like something you would landscape your yard with.  That is the great thing with this recipe, it tells you what temperature to bring the liquid to---therefore, no risk of it being too cool (and not activating the yeast) or too hot (which would kill the yeast), either way giving you flat, dense loaves.  And, with just the one 45 minute rising time, instead of two that most bread recipes require, you can pull English Muffin Bread together for dinner that same night.  I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook but if you don't have a big mixer, use a mixer for the first portion, then stir the second batch of the flour in with a spoon. 
There is something about the texture of this bread that is so alluring.  It is firm, yet moist and delicate.  It also makes the absolute BEST toast! Good thing it makes two loaves---one will be gone the same day!

English Muffin Bread
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

5 cups all purpose flour
2 packages of active dry yeast ( or 4 1/2 tsp if you use the jar of yeast)
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
2 T sugar
1 t salt

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of flour and the yeast.  In a saucepan heat and stir milk, butter, sugar and salt until warm (120 to 130 degrees) and until butter nearly melts.  Add to flour mixture.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly.  Beat on high speed 3 minutes.  Mix in the rest of the flour.  Do not knead this bread dough.  Batter will be VERY stiff.  Divide into 2 greased loaf pans.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes.  Remove from the pan immediately.

Enjoy!
Stacey

Monday, March 26, 2012

Buttermilk Brownies

As you know, I am a complete choco-holic, as they say.  I love anything chocolate and enjoy making all different kinds of recipes using chocolate.   I remember coming home from school as a kid, and being so excited when I smelled cookies or brownies as I walked thru the back door.  This meant my  awesome mom had done some baking for our after school snack.  I love to surprise my kids with a special something after school, to me it shows them that I have been thinking of them during the day. It allows us time to sit at the kitchen island, talk about their day and laugh together.
Homemade brownies are so easy.....you always have the basic ingredients on hand!   These brownies are their favorite!  They are easy to mix up, and they knock those brownie mixes out of the park!  Moist, cake like and melt in your mouth....these are the best.

Start by mixing your dry ingredients together....flour, sugar and salt. 

Then combine water, oil and butter in a small saucepan...bring to a boil.  Let cool just a bit and then add to the flour mixture.

Mix well.  Now add the next three ingredients.....eggs, cocoa and vanilla.


Mix well.   Add buttermilk and soda....mix thoroughly.  I love this step as the batter looks swirly...
The buttermilk makes these brownies oh so moist and rich.
Pour your batter into a jelly roll pan, which is a large cookie sheet with sides.


Bake for 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees.  I like to rotate my pan half way through the baking time, just to ensure even baking.
This recipe comes with an incredible icing to add over the top, right as the brownies come out of the oven.  Sometimes I ice them, sometimes I just sprinkle the top with powdered sugar.  This cuts a bunch of calories and is a bit quicker.  Today, I just sprinkled with powdered sugar.
oh man, are these good!  And speaking of man....my husband just stopped home to grab some tax info and inhaled this one I had cut for the photo~!  And, a warning....be careful when you eat them, if you choose the powdered sugar route.  My dad always joked and called these suicide brownies....just don't INHALE when you go to take a bit or you choke to death!  :-)

BUTTERMILK BROWNIES
2 c flour
2 c sugar
1/4 t salt
Whisk together.
1 c water
1/3 cup oil
1 stick butter
Bring to a boil and add to dry ingredients.  Stir well. 
Add 2 eggs
3 heaping Tablespoons cocoa
1 t vanilla
Mix well.  Add 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1 t soda.
Stir until thoroughly combined.  Bake 20 minutes at 350 or until set.  Do not overbake.  Frost immediately out of the oven with this icing.
Bring 1 stick butter, 3 T milk and 2 T cocoa to a boil.  Remove from heat and add 1 t vanilla and 2-2 1/2 cups powdered sugar.  Whisk well.
Pour over brownies and cool completely.

Seriously, these are the best brownies I've ever made and they make a huge pan...Great way to make a treat for your family, and then take some to a neighbor or new mom.  Boot the box and go for scratch...your family will thank you!
Enjoy!
Stacey