Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday's In My City...

              I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! I can't believe it's already sunday. Next week I am heading to the zoo with some other expat friends and hope to bring you some great photos! This week it's all about the birds : )
      All of these photos were taken inside my house. When I stood outside they would hear the constant focusing sound of my camera and would take off. So I've learned to hold my breath to keep my camera still while standing at the window.
       I keep a constant supply of delicious bird food for them.
         They reward me with a few seconds of non movement as I frantically snap away.
            They sure are cute : )
        Can you believe we even had a light dusting of snow the other day? Thank goodness it was gone within a few hours. I wish you all a wonderful week ahead! My two sons head back to school tomorrow after having a week off. I'll be busy planting seeds for my veggie container garden, baking, and working on some DIY around the house..with my lovely husband who also took an additional week off : ) I love the 7 weeks of paid vacation a year here!!! Head over to Unknown Mami and see what she is up to along with everyone else!    
Unknown Mami

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paula Deen's Monster Cookies

             So this week my husband and two sons are home:) I go into a strange time warp when this happens. I sleep in really late and forget what day it is. I love it! My husband reminded me that today was Tuesday..wich ment my usual day to bake something for him to take along with him to work on Wednesday. I guess it's to much to ask to be on vacation aswell when it comes to baking. Lucky for him I love it :)

I saw a post by a friend on Facebook. She included a link to Paula Deen's Monster Cookies and I clicked on it right away. I've seen several blogs where people were going on and on about how great these cookies were and how much they loved them so I knew they were for me. What's great about these is that they use bits and pieces of whatever you may have on hand to throw in. I used chocolate covered raisins and subbed 1/2 cup of the oats for rice krispies. The recipe makes a ton..wich makes these great road trip cookies. I froze a bunch to be eaten next week during a zoo trip :)

It's important that you not over bake these. I pulled mine out of the oven at 9 mins..and even then they looked slightly undone. However when you allow them to sit and firm up they are perfect. The cookies are soft,chewy,peanut-buttery and oh so good.

Monster Cookies..3-4 Dozen

3 Eggs
1-1/4 cups Packed Brown Sugar
1 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1-1/2 cups Peanut Butter..smooth or chunky
1/2 cup Butter;Softened
1/2 cup M&M's
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup Raisins;Optional
2 tsp. Baking Soda
4-1/2 cups Quick cooking Oatmeal (Not Instant)

Preheat oven to 350 or 180 celcius. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, butter and baking soda. Beat until smooth. Turn mixer off and using a wooden spoon mix in M&M's, chocolate chips, raisins if using, and oatmeal.

Drop by tablespoons full onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 mins. Do not overbake. Allow to sit for atleast 3 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

** My mixing directions differ slightly from the original recipe. It's never mentioned that you use an electrix mixer. However I wanted to make sure my sugars,eggs,peanut butter and butter were totally blended in. I also added my baking soda to the mixture instead of waiting to sprinkle it in while mixing the various add ins.**

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday's In My City...

               Hi everyone! it's sunday again..and you know what that means :) If it's your first time here..My name is Sonya and I'm an American living in The Netherlands. Unknown Mami allows all of us to join in everyweek to share a piece of our life with you. Please head over and visit her and everyone else who joins in. Today my husband and I went out for a quick walk. I had hoped it would be longer but it was so cold that we had to turn back. It's sunny out but freezing!
      I quickly snapped two photos and ran for the car!
        Here is a picture of a street that I travel on alot.
       A typical Dutch's not one house but two.
        Some of the roads are so narrow here..and they appear to be single roads..but are infact a double. As you can see you need to watch out for parked cars,bikers and cars coming at you. I've held my breath many times thinking we were going to side swipe someone while passing. I hope everyone has a wonderful week! My two boys have this week off from school and my husband took two weeks off. We have many things planned and I look forward to showing you the photos of everything : )      

Unknown Mami

Friday, February 18, 2011

Faux Rice-A-Roni

            Lookie here..I'm posting a regular recipe..not a baked item! I started feeling guilty that I hadn't posted anything else other than a dessert type recipe. I don't want anyone thinking that I don't feed my family a properly balanced diet : )

I don't know about you, but I seriously lack in the side dish department. I spend alot of time thinking about the main meal that I never stop to think about whats going to go along with it. It usually ends up being either a salad with a potato in some form or rice. I love flavored rice dishes and really miss Rice-A-Roni. I know it's not the most healthiest of side dishes to serve but once and while is ok. I've come across several faux recipes for the box mix but none have been what I wanted. I spotted this recipe over at Cooking During Stolen Moments and bookmarked it right away. She does a ton of from scratch cooking and when living abroad you really rely on those recipes because you can't find the same products in your new country.

This was a fantastic version of the real deal! I was so happy. I've actually started to forget what rice-a-roni tastes like but I don't care anymore because this recipe is wonderful. I think you can do alot with it aswell. You could add some sauteed mushrooms,maybe some shredded cheese,steamed broccoli..the possibilites are endless. Thank you Kate!!

Faux Rice-A-Roni
1/4 lb. Vermicelli,Angel hair or spaghetti pasta
1 cup Rice
3 Chicken Bullion,crushed or 3 tsp. Chicken stock base
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1/4 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/4 tsp. Paprika
4 TBL. Butter
2 cups Water

If using angel hair or spaghetti pasta, break it up into small pieces. Combine with rice and set aside. Place the seasonings into a small dish and stir to combine.

Melt butter in large skillet or saucepan. Stir in the rice combination and cook for 5 mins,stirring frequently over medium heat until pasta is lightly browned. Stir in seasoning mixture and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low,cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 15 mins.

** For my Euro peeps. I went ahead and crushed my bullion cubes and then measured 3 teaspoons from it. I don't know anymore if our cubes are the same as in the U.S. Also my rice cooked super fast and I needed to add in an additional 1 cup of water. So keep an eye on that.**

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Caramel Crumb Bars

        I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day! My husband and I went to see "True Grit" and it was awesome! It's a must see : )
     He also surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers! One of the reasons I love it here so much is because of the seriously beautiful cheap flowers! I wish they had more affordable flowers in the U.S. because women there deserve to have them more often :) So lets talk bars!!
     These caramel bars are sooo addictive. The shortbread-like crust is buttery delicious and the homemade caramel filling is to die for. I made these for my husband's weekly meeting and I think they are going to go nuts over them. I told my husband to remember to tell them that this was it for 2 whole weeks. Our two sons have next week off and my husband took 2 weeks off so there will be no goodies to send in. I'm looking forward to having everyone home. There will be seed planting going on for our container garden,lots of DIY around the house and backyard,day trips,sleeping in,and fondant rolling and cake baking! I must be seriously crazy for attempting a fondant cake..but it's not due until June so I figured I would start now and get all the kinks worked out before the big day!

You must make these must. They are not hard to make and my only advice would be to make sure that the caramel is covered in the crumb topping. I had to trim the sides because the caramel became to dark around those edges and was super chewy and hard to eat. I subbed the corn syrup for honey without any problems and thats only because they don't sell it in the stores here and my attempts at making it have failed so far. You can get away with cutting the bars into small pieces because of how rich they are. I will for sure be making these again! Thanks to Tracey's Culinary Adventures for posting the recipe!

Caramel Crumb Bars

1 cup Butter; Softened
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Vanilla
2-1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour

Caramel Filling:
4 TBS(1/4 cup) Butter
1 TBL Light Corn Syrup or Honey
1/4 cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar
1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Place oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat oven to 350F or 180 celcius. Spray a 13x9 pan with cooking spray, then line pan with either foil or parchment paper making sure to leave an overhang so you can pull the bars out later on. Spray the foil with cooking spray and set aside.

Beat butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until soft and light, about 2-3 mins. Beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low, add 2-1/4 cups of the flour, beating just until the dough is smooth and flour has been absorbed, and stopping to scrap the sides of the bowl and beaters as necessary.

Transfer 3/4 of the dough into prepared baking pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan to form the bottom layer. Transfer pan to fridge while you make the filling and top crumb layer.

Add remaining 1/4 cup flour to the remaining dough in the mixer bowl and work it in with your fingers until 1/8-1/4-inch crumbs form. Set aside.

Filling: In a medium sauceapan, combine the butter, corn syrup or honey, dark brown sugar and condensed milk. Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally. When the mixture begins to boil, whisk frequently until it begins to thicken and darkens in color slightly, about 10 mins. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 mins.

Remove pan from fridge and pour filling over the bottom crust. Use an offset spatula or whatever you have to spread it evenly- then distribute the crumb topping over the filling. The caramel can be slightly hard to spread out but keeping working at it and it will go into place.

Bake for about 30mins, or until the filling is gently bubbling and a dark caramel color. Cool the bars in the pan on a wire rack until lukewarm, about 15-20mins. Use the foil to lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Once completely cook, cut into 2 inch squares.

**My bars never did the gentle bubbling thing. I let them bake slightly over 30 mins to see if they would do that. They were a beautiful caramel color so I decided to pull them out at that time and it was perfect**

Monday, February 14, 2011

Raspberry-White Chocolate Cupcakes

        Happy Valentine's Day! Does anyone have anything special planned? My husband and I are heading to the movies tonight. We are going to watch "True Grit". I'm super excited since this is like the first time since moving here that I'm going to the movies! I don't know why it's taken us this long to go. For the most part I am not a big movie goer. I prefer to wait until it has come out on video and watch it from the comfort of my own home..However I'm happy to say that my husband surprised me with the tickets and I can't wait to go! One thing thats different about the movies over here is that they stop it half way so you can get up and use the restroom or get something to eat. You can also drink alcohol while watching the movie aswell.

This weekend I needed to get several things baked up. I had an order for giant heart shaped lemon sugar cookies and I went ahead and whipped up these cupcakes for us to share today. The recipe comes from My Gourmet Connection. The cupcakes are raspberry flavored only but you can add fresh raspberries to go on top if you like. They are a cinch to whip up and have a nice flavor to them. The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest. I didn't taste it in the cupcakes so you can leave out if you aren't a fan of the zest. I would start checking the cupcakes to see if they are done slighlty before the 20mins. I thought they were slighly dry and was probably due to the fact that in my oven they cooked a bit faster.

The frosting is really delicious and I must confess that I left out the white chocolate! I had planned on using it, but I burned it while trying to melt it in the microwave. I don't whats wrong with me but I have the worst time melting chocolate both in the microwave aswell as on the stove top. Incase you don't have the white chocolate,the frosting is just as awesome without it.

Raspberry-White Chocolate Cupcakes

1/2 cup Unsalted Butter;Softened
2/3 cup Sugar
1 tsp. Lemon Zest
1 tsp. Raspberry Extract
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 Eggs
1-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1-1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 cup Milk

1/2 cup Butter;Softened
1/4 cup Half-and-Half
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3/4 tsp. Raspberry Extract
Pinch of Salt
1 or 2 drops of Red food coloring
2 cups Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup White Chocolate Chips
Fresh Raspberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 or 180 celcius. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners and set aside. In a small bowl,combine the flour, baking powder and salt;set aside.

Beat the butter,sugar, lemon zest, and both extracts with an electric mixer on medium speed until very smooth..About 3 mins. Add the eggs,one at a time and continue mixing until well blended. Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture and continue mixing until well combined. Mix in the milk and the remaining flour mixture. Continue mixing,scraping the sides of the bowl as needed until the batter is smooth and creamy.

Spoon the batter into the paper-lined muffin cups. Bake 20-22 mins or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: Using an electrix mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, half and half, vanilla extract, raspberry extract, salt and food coloring until thoroughly blended. Add the powdered sugar and continue beating until smooth and creamy.

Melt the white chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave. Melt the chocolate on 80% power and stirring every 15 seconds until melted. Stir the melted chocolate into the frosting mixture and beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Frost cooled cupcakes and top each one with a fresh raspberry.
Makes 12 cupcakes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday's In My City...

                A quick hello for today. I am knee deep in raspberry flavored cupcakes and lemon sugar cookies. I will be glad when Valentine's Day has passed! One of the things I love most about living in The Netherlands,is the small fishing villages they have here. It's like taking a step back in time. The cobbelstone streets,hansel and gretel type homes..heck I've seen some of the older people wearing the old style clothing with clogs on their feet : ) 

Please head over to Unknown Mami and see what she is up to along with everyone else! I hope everyone has a lovely Valentine's Day tomorrow!
Unknown Mami


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine Cookies Roundup!

                 Valentines Day has proven to be just as busy as christmas! to be honest I don't usually go all out for it. My husband makes me special every single day,buys me flowers all the time and any time I want the most amazing chocolate at a cheap price..I just buy some at the store! This year I decided to bake several cookies for my husbands work. I took a simple chocolate cookie recipe and decorated it several ways. You have your plain white chocolate.
         Since the chocolate cookie has crushed walnuts in the dough I decided to dip the cookie into melted chocolate and crushed walnuts.
          I left some with just a simple dip at the top.
       I also took some plain pretzels and dipped those into melted white,milk and hazelnut chocolate. 
       I took my favorite Lemon Sugar Cookie recipe and cut the dough into heart shapes. I used a raspberry frosting and made designs on the top.
        Last year I took the heart shaped cookie,flimped them upside down and turned them into bra and panties : )

I'm including the recipe for the chocolate hearts. These were the biggest pain for me out of everything I made. The dough never came together like the recipe stated and I ended up having to pat the dough out instead of rolling it. If I were to ever make these again I would bump the chocolate flavor up and use almond extract instead of vanilla. They are a nice crispy cookie but lacked the chocolate taste I was hoping for.

Walnut Chocolate Hearts..4 Dozen

1 cup Butter, cubed
2/3 cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 Egg,lightly beaten
2-1/4 cups Flour
1/4 cup Cocoa
1/2 tsp. Salt
3/4 cup Finely chopped Walnuts

1-1/2 cups Semisweet Chocolate Chips
2 TBL Shortening
1/2 cup Ground Walnuts
** I went ahead and used melted white and chocolate almond bark other wise known as candy coating.

In a saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Cool for 15 mins. Stir in Egg.

Combine the flour, cocoa and salt;add to butter mixture. Fold in walnuts. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 or 180 celcius. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with floured 3 inch heart shaped cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-10 mins or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool.

For topping,in a microwave, melt chocolate chips and shortening over low heat,stir until smooth. Dip half of each heart into chocolate mixture,allowing excess to drip off. Dip sides into ground walnuts. Place on wax paper,let stand until set. You can also drizzle the chocolate over the cookies,dip in other flavors,add other types of chopped nuts,sprinkles,candy..whatever you like!

Source: Taste of Home                        

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday's In My City...

                It's a lazy sunday at our house today. We are popping popcorn and watching various movies. I'm catching up on laundry and doing some baking. I love these kinds of sunday's : ) Head over to Unknown Mami and see what everyone else is up to this weekend!
Unknown Mami


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mocha Muffins

                Yesterday I baked 67 muffins..sixty freaking seven muffins. I am officially, without a doubt, totally muffin'd out! I don't want to look at a muffin,bake a muffin or eat a muffin for as long as I live. Well...thats a bit going overboard but I don't want to go near one for atleast a month:P The muffins were sent in for my husbands weekly meeting AND some are on their way to special customers who will hopefully purchase large amounts in the near future. The Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins that I sent in last week was another big hit. They kept saying over and over again how much they loved the fresh lemon flavor.

I made two new muffin recipes. One was for a coffee cake muffin and although the taste was fantastic,the overall appearance made me mad. I worked way to hard to have the muffin come out just ok looking..therefore I gave those muffins as a freebie and won't be baking them again or posting the recipe. It was way to time consuming and I don't want to post a recipe that I don't feel 100% happy with. I'm on the hunt for another coffee cake muffin!

The second were these mocha muffins :) I have a love/hate relationship with chocolate muffins. I love the taste but hate how dry they can be. I've noticed that recipes that contain oil and buttermilk tend to be more moist than with just butter. So I gave them a shot :) I am very pleased with the outcome. They were moist and had a wonderful chocolate flavor. The recipe calls for strong coffee and I must admit that I never tasted it in the baked muffin. I suppose it could be that I just didn't use strong enough coffee..but never the less these were spot on in flavor. This morning I wanted to eat another one to test the dry factor. The first one I ate was warm from the oven and just perfect. The one I ate this morning was slightly dry. I popped it in the microwave for 15 seconds and that made all the difference :) You can add pecan or walnuts to the recipe..I added pecans and it was fantastic!

As with most of my muffin and cupcake recipes, I came away with way more than what the recipe stated. I have a feeling my European muffin/cupcake pan is smaller than my old American one. I'm sure you can freeze these without any problems..just make sure to wrap them up individually with plastic wrap and place into a freezer safe plastic bag.

Mocha Muffins..12 muffins or more depending on the size of your pan 
2 Larg Eggs
1/2 cup Buttermilk
1/2 cup Oil..any flavorless oil will do
1/4 cup Strong Black Coffee or temp
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 cup Flour
3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour or regular flour
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder;Sifted
1 cup Light Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Pecans or Walnuts,coarsely chopped
1 cup semi sweet,milk,cappuccino or white chocolate chips.

Position rack in center of the oven and pre heat to 375 or 190 celcius. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or coat with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the eggs,buttermilk, oil, coffee and vanilla extract.

In another large bowl combine the flours, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda,ground cinnamon and salt. Stir in chopped nuts and chocolate chips. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are just combined..over mixing causes a tough muffin.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with batter. Bake 18-23 mins or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. I would check the muffins at 18 mins. If you overbake muffins they tend to dry out. Transfer pan to wire rack and allow to cool for 5 mins in pan before removing and allowing to cool completely on wire rack. Serve warm with coffee.

Source: Joy of Baking


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Communal Global!

         Happy Birthday to Communal Global!!! I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed being a part of this special group! I've met some wonderful women,gained new blogging friends and they all push me to take better photographs..I still have sooo much to learn! I hope you will join in the celebration! Post a special pic of your "Today" and link up with us!