Homemade Oreo Cookies

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I’m still chuckling over the hugeness of this picture but alas, these cookies deserve to be in the spotlight. If you haven’t noticed yet, I have a soft spot for all things sweet and chocolaty. I suppose it is also contributing to my physical soft spot but details, shmetails. We have been making soft homemade oreo cookies for a few years from a cake box recipe that I received from Mike’s mom. They are pretty good but I have really been trying to move away from boxed anything and so one night I spent an exorbitant amount of time hunting for a good homemade version. I stumbled upon the recipe that I am going to share today and I LOVE IT! They are a lot different from the other version but I really like them because they more closely resemble an Oreo than the soft oreo counterparts.

The picture above was from the last time I made these cookies which happened to be the day before Garrett was born. I meant to post this recipe way back then but Garrett has had other things in mind. The last time we made these cookies I made half the batch regular and the other half with mint extract and some natural green food dye. Tomorrow the girls and I are going to make some of these for Christmas except for this time I am going to use peppermint extract and crunch up some natural candy canes and put them in the frosting as a tribute to my new favorite Candy Cane cookies from Trader Joe’s. I’ve also considered doing some dipped Oreo’s but for now I think I’ll stick with the Candy Cane ones. I’ll post pics when we finish them.

For now here is the recipe. Enjoy!

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Homemade Oreo Cookies

Makes 25-30 cookies


For the Cookie:

1 1/4 cup Flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch Process Cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 – 1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) room temperature butter

1 large egg

For the Frosting:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room temperature butter

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

2 cups sifted confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)

2 tsp vanilla extract.

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. While pulsing (or on low speed), add the butter and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

3. Take rounded teaspoons (or larger, just depends on how big you want your cookies) of batter and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough (I had success by cooking these on our baking stone and flattening with a parchment paper lined glass to get them uniformly round and flat).

4. Bake 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

5. To make the cream filling, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl. On low speed gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

5. To assemble cookies put filling in a  pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip (or use a gallon size ziploc bag and snip off the corner). Pipe a teaspoon sized amount of filling onto a cookie and place another cookie (of equal size) on top. Lightly press to work the filling evenly to the outside of the cookie. Continue until cookies or frosting is gone.

6. Eat the cookies! I love to have extra cookies because they make the BEST ice-cream sandwiches. The best I tell you! Simply put your favorite ice cream in the middle of them. Wrap with plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for a few hours and then devour.

Tips:

Yes, you should use vegetable shortening. I try to avoid it too but really it is a somewhat necessary evil in these cookies to achieve the right consistency with the frosting. I have also used the Spectrum version of shortening and this worked pretty well. Lard would also work.

-The type of cocoa you use does make a slight difference because of the way the dutch cocoa affects the alkalinity of the cookies. If you can’t find the dutch process cocoa then you could also use Hershey’s Special Dark. If you don’t have that either you can use regular cocoa but your cookies may be puffier. They’ll still taste delish though!

-If you are going to make mint or peppermint filling omit the vanilla and replace with 1/2 teaspoon of pure mint or pure peppermint extract. Trust me you don’t need more than 1/2 teaspoon.

-The sugar content in the actual cookie (1 to 1 1/2 cups) should be adjusted based on how sweet you want your cookie. I prefer to use only 1 cup because I think it is plenty sweet with just the one cup.

-For a gluten free version go HERE.

I found the recipe HERE. Originally the recipe appeared, HERE.

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Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Winter will be shortly upon us and with the approach of the cold weather I like to find meals that bring comfort. Pot Pie is definitely one of those meals. Mike and I both love chicken pot pie but we have always resorted to the Marie Callenders frozen concoctions because it never even occurred to me that it might be possible for me to make it myself.

I decided to be brave and seek out a recipe to make one from scratch. It took me awhile to find the kind of recipe I was looking for because I didn’t want to make it with what Mike and I lovingly refer to as “cream of crap.”

Here is a recipe for an honest to goodness completely homemade Chicken Pot Pie. It is sooo yummy and so worth every ounce of effort you put into it. It really isn’t hard either, a little time consuming but definitely not hard. It is definitely worth it to make the crust yourself too. Trust me, you can make this! I’d never made anything like it before either and now my mouth is watering again just thinking of it.

This recipe is also incredibly flexible. You can use any meat or veggies you like and in fact you don’t even need to use meat at all. I made a veggie version of it for my vegetarian friend and it was delicious (I used potato, corn, carrot, green beans, broccoli, red pepper, onion and added shredded cheese to the sauce). I have made the pot pie with cubed and shredded chicken and personally I like shredded best. It would also be delicious with roast beef or turkey, etc. I also recommend using fresh vegetables. If you don’t have fresh use frozen. Don’t use canned veggies in this recipe. Also when I made mine I didn’t really measure the veggies and wound up with enough filling for two pies so don’t be surprised if you have more than enough filling. If you are going to make 2 pies you will want to double the sauce.

My tip is to make the crust first and then start making the pot pie while the dough is chilling.

Also, next time I am thinking us using heavy cream as opposed to milk for the sauce. I ignore fat content when it comes to dishes like this. Kind of like alfredo, some things are worth every calorie and every bit of fat.

The other reason I love this meal is because it can be very cheap and it is very hearty. If you are making the crust yourself then you probably have everything on hand for the meal. You can also get away with not using much meat in this recipe, especially if you cube up some potato for the pot pie.

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

(recipe improved and adapted from HERE)

Ingredients:

Filling:

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast (We like to save money by using less meat and used one breast. Shredding the chicken also helped it to go further.)

1 cup sliced carrots

1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn

1 cup cubed raw potato

1 cube chicken, beef or veggie bouillon (I use the organic Better Than Bouillon paste or I skip this part entirely)

seasonings of choice

Sauce:

2/3 cup butter

1/3 cup onion

3 to 4 cloves freshly minced garlic

2/3 cup flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp poultry seasoning

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 1/3 cups milk

2 1/2 cups broth from filling

Directions:

1. Cut and prepare the veggies for your filling.

2. Combine chopped veggies, raw meat and bouillon in a pot and add water enough to cover everything. You can also add any seasonings of choice if you’d like to help flavor the broth that will later be used for the sauce (ex: salt, pepper, basil, thyme, etc). Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes or until meat is cooked.

3. Drain veggies and meat and reserve liquid in a bowl. Set veggies aside. Shred or chop meat. Combine meat and veggies in a bowl, set aside.

4. For sauce begin by melting butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Saute onion in butter until soft and translucent. Add minced garlic and saute for a minute. Add flour to saucepan and whisk. Whisk the flour/butter paste for 30 seconds or so to allow the flour to cook a bit. Slowly pour milk and broth into saucepan while whisking. Whisk in salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Simmer the sauce over medium low heat until thick. Make sure to taste your sauce and see if it needs any additional seasoning. Keep in mind that potatoes absorb a lot of salt so you may want to add more salt/seasonings. Remove from heat.

5. Begin to add your sauce to the bowl your meat and veggies are in and mix. You may not need all of the sauce. Add a bit more sauce than you think you will need because the potatoes and crust will absorb some of the sauce and you don’t want your pie to be dry.

6. Add filling to pie crust (directions below) and then put on top layer of crust and seal. Brush with egg white and cut slits in top crust to vent.

7. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until filling is bubbly and crust is golden.

Homemade Flaky Pie Crust

(recipe from HERE but recipe is doubled for a top and bottom crust)

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup cold butter (best frozen)

1/4 cup and 2 tbsp ice water

1 egg white

Directions:

1. Before starting your crust it is best to put your butter in the freezer. Frozen butter makes better pastries and is easier to cut into flour for dough.

2. Whisk flour and salt in a large bowl.

3. With pastry blender cut in butter to flour mixture until mixture resembles course crumbs. (You will need to chop your refrigerated or frozen butter. The easiest way to deal with frozen butter is to use a cheese grater and grate your butter, the small flakes make it easy to blend. Your hands will get messy but that is part of the fun.

4. Drizzle 4-6 tablespoons of water over dough. Toss/Blend mixture with a fork to moisten adding more water a few drops at a time until dough comes together. (I wound up using all the water even from the melted ice. Dough will still be rather dry.)

5. Gently gather the crumbles into 2 balls and mold together. I wound up with some crumbles that were difficult to adhere to the ball but with patience I was able to form together. You can always add a few more drops if you need to but you don’t want the dough to be pasty.

6. Wrap balls of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

7. Remove balls of dough from fridge and roll out on lightly floured surface. I found it easiest to roll dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap (wax paper works great too) that way extra flour wasn’t needed. It also makes transferring the dough to a pie plate easier.

8. Put bottom crust in pie plate. Whisk egg white in a bowl and then brush onto bottom crust. This prevents your crust from becoming mushy. Poke bottom crust with fork.

9. Add filling and top with second crust. Brush top crust with egg white.

*If you are making two chicken pot pies you need to double the crust recipe above so that you have 4 balls of dough.

Peanut Butter/Sunbutter Brownies

These pictures were taken from SmittenKitchen, where I got the recipe. I couldn’t get my pictures to turn out and these ones are beautiful, so here you go.

We are on a brownie kick, apparently.

Peanut butter brownies (in our case sunbutter brownies) were sounding so good and I stumbled across a fabulous recipe. I took them to a mommy gathering yesterday and I didn’t go home with any – so that is always a good sign.

I made half with the ganache and half without. It is good both ways but the ganache adds a nice touch and seems to give it the perfect balance. I prefer a lighter layer of ganache than showed in the picture, however. Very easy to throw together and they are full of yummy, yummy goodness. They are even better tasting the day after you make them. They are very rich so I’d cut them into small pieces. I love these stored cold in the refrigerator. It is the perfect balance of peanut buttery cholateyness.

Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 3/4 cup sugar

1 cup peanut butter/sunbutter

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk

2 tsp vanilla exract

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I like milk chocolate chips)

*1/2 tsp salt (If you are using something like Jiff or Skippy you can omit this, only use if you are using a natural type peanut butter/sunbutter because they have less salt)

Ganache

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream (aka heavy whipping cream)

1 TBSP butter, softened

Directions

-Preheat oven to 350

-Butter 9 X 13 pan. Line with parchment paper and butter parchment (if you don’t have parchment just butter the pan)

-Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add peanut butter/sunbutter until it is incorporated.

-Beat in eggs, egg yolk, *salt and vanilla

-Reduce mixer to low and mix in flour until just combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

-Dough will resemble a cookie dough. Spread in pan and bake for 30-40 minutes (mine were done at 35). You want them golden but not overbaked or they’ll be too dry and crumbly. I’d say when the edges are a nice golden you can assume they are done.

-Cool completely with the pan on a wire rack (about 1 1/2 hours)

-To make Ganache: bring cream to a boil in a saucepan and pour over chocolate chips in a heat safe bowl and let stand one minute. Gently whisk in butter. Spread or drizzle over cooled brownies. Let ganache set and then cut and serve.

Zucchini Brownies

Yep, that’s what I said! Zucchini Brownies. Yesterday I started craving some brownies and stumbled across Zucchini brownies and decided to give it a try. They are excellent! We tried them with and without the frosting. It is good both ways but better with frosting. Without frosting they are yummy but the sweetness is much more mild. They are nice and moist, the texture is perfect and I would never, ever guess they had zucchini in them if it weren’t for the fact that I put it in there myself. Mike ate two of them when he got home and didn’t say a thing, lol. I also didn’t tell him. Tee hee. Camden of course could care less. She watched me put it in there and for all she knows zucchini is always in brownies.

When you make these brownies be aware that the batter will be very dry and crumbly until you add the shredded zucchini. Don’t drain any of the liquid when you shred the zucchini throw it all in with the batter. Mix the batter with your hands, it is too hard to incorporate the ingredients with a spoon. Once the zucchini is in there it gets nice and moist and even more moist when you bake it. They aren’t dry at all. An easy way to get zucchini into the whole family. And unless you tell them no one will know it is in there.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup cocoa (unsweetened)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups shredded zucchini (Peel first. I needed 4 zucchini to make 2 cups – my zucchini were fairly small)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Frosting:

6 TBSP cocoa (unsweetened)

1/4 cup (half a stick) of butter, melted

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9 by 13 baking pan. (I found it easier to line my pan with foil and use cooking spray on the foil. Then the brownies lifted right out of the pan and there was no problem with sticking.)

In a large bowl, mix the oil, sugars and vanilla until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt and stir until mixed. Combine with sugar mixture and mix by hand (mixture will be VERY dry). Add in zucchini and mix by hand. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (longer if you are using a smaller pan) until brownies spring back when gently touched or when a toothpick or butter knife comes out clean.

To make the frosting: melt the butter and then add cocoa and stir, set aside and cool. In a medium bowl, blend powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Stir in cocoa mixture. Mix with hand mixer. Spread over cooled brownies.

Store brownies in the fridge if you frost them.

Zucchini Brownies with Frosting

Camden enjoying some frosting

Yummy Good Old Fashioned Pancakes

The kiddo’s wanted pancakes this morning and I wanted to use up my flour since we’ll be going Gluten Free soon (sigh…very sad). Here is a yummy homemade recipe for pancakes and they turned out really good. Sorry no picture.

This takes a little planning ahead so that all ingredients are at room temp. If you are in a pinch, like I was, you can bring the milk and eggs to a warm temperature by putting them in the oven for a minute or two. I just put my pyrex dish of measured milk and a small pyrex bowl containing my eggs on a cookie sheet in the oven just long enough so they weren’t cold.

Good Old Fashioned Pancakes

3 cups Flour

4 tsp Baking Powder

3/4 tsp Salt

1/8 cup Sugar

2 1/2 cups Milk (room temperature)

2 Eggs (room temperature)

1/2 cup butter (one stick), melted

1 tsp Vanilla extract

1. Measure out dry ingredients into a bowl (flour, baking powder, salt & sugar) and then sift. If you don’t have a sifter you can use a mesh colander over a bowl and dump the ingredients into the colander and tap until it is sifted through.

2. In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients (melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla). Make sure the milk and eggs are not cold or they will re-solidify the butter. Whisk together.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk sparingly. Don’t overmix. Let sit for 10 minutes before beginning pancakes.

4. Preheat a lightly oiled griddle. We use coconut oil and it gives the pancakes a delicious flavor. Not to mention coconut oil is very healthy for you.

5. Use about 1/4 cup for each pancake. You may want to cut the recipe in half if you are just feeding a few of you. This was more than enough for me and three children and I had to throw some batter away. One of the children ate 5 pancakes :).

In regards to Syrup…

We use pure maple syrup in our house all though the children that I watch are not used to it’s flavor (as most people aren’t who have grown up with syrup from the store). I have learned to dress it up for them. To make it absolutely delicious pour some pure maple syrup (Costco has a great deal on a big jug of organic pure maple syrup) into a pyrex or oven safe bowl. Add some butter, a bit of powdered sugar and a little bit of vanilla and place in the oven, put the dish on a cookie sheet, at about 350 while you are preparing and making the pancakes. Syrup is always better piping hot. Make sure you use an oven mitt to get it out. The kids prefer this over store bought syrup now and this is much better for you than the concoction you’ll buy in the grocery store which is mostly high fructose corn syrup and artificial everything.

Banana Bread Muffins with Honey

Here is a yummy banana bread muffin recipe that uses Honey instead of sugar. I have all ready adjusted the recipe to account for using honey vs sugar so you can make the muffins, as is, and don’t need to do anything about the liquid, etc.

We are relishing all things carb this week because we will be looking to go on a gluten free diet for awhile which is going to very tough and I’m not really looking forward to it. More about the gluten free stuff later.

These muffins are so good just by themselves and a bit of butter but my friend Lisa had the killer suggestion of topping them with cream cheese frosting which then converts them into something evil and just as good as any cupcake. :) For cream cheese frosting just throw some plain cream cheese in a bowl, a bit of butter, some powdered sugar and vanilla and whip. No need to measure but if you want an actual recipe here is a good one.

Banana Bread Muffins with Honey

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup raw honey (or regular but raw tastes better)

3 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp oil (vegetable or coconut)

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 325. Throw all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until mixed. Don’t overmix. Line muffin pan with muffin liners or grease pan. Fill to rim of liner or of muffin pan. Makes about a dozen muffins or if you want smaller muffins can make about a dozen and a half. Bake for about 30-45 minutes. Keep an eye on them. When they are golden and a toothpick or butter knife comes out clean they are done. Transfer muffins to wire rack to cool.

*These would be even better with a cup of chopped nuts but we don’t do nuts in our house.

Where did Spring go?

This weather is really starting to peeve me off. This time last year we were all ready heading off to the local parks on a daily basis. Normally it is in the low to mid 60’s this time of year. Yesterday and the day before there was hail and snow mixed. Nothing that sticked of course, but c’mon?! We live in the desert and it is officially Spring so this is just obnoxious.

Today looked promising. It was sunny, there was no wind (we get A LOT of wind here), beautiful blue skies and low 50’s. Camden and I decide to go to a nearby park and eat our lunch there. We pack up some snacks and head out. We go to the post office first and then to the store to grab a few items. By the time we get to the park it is windy, raining and completely cloudy and soooooo cold with the wind (with wind chill about 10 degrees). Bah! Camden is crying and upset, I’m annoyed. What does a mom do?

Well, we brought Spring inside. We decided to make some chocolate covered strawberries to cheer us up. Boy did they ever. These were sooo good. Just melted some Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips in our double boiler, dipped the fresh strawberries, put them on parchment paper and then in the fridge to harden. Mmmmmmm