Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Monster Cookies (Gluten Free)

 These are the cookies that I am taking to a holiday cookie exchange party this afternoon. I love these cookies not only because they are delicious (because they are!) but also because of how easy they are to throw together. And with a fifth little one demanding my attention, I need things to be as easy as possible right now. Have you heard of a dump cake? Where you just dump the ingredients together and bake. Well, these are pretty much dump cookies. It takes minimal mixing and no fooling around with wet and dry ingredients separately. They are so easy my almost 5 year old can make them with no interference from me. So, if you find yourself needing an easy cookie for a party these might be your ticket! As an added bonus, they are gluten free (if you need that sort of thing) but don't taste like it. (I should note that if you have a high sensitivity to gluten then make sure you get products that specifically say "gluten free" on them. While all of these ingredients are inherently gluten free, some products -like the oats or the chocolate- might be made in a factory that handles gluten so just be aware of that.)
  Ok, onto the recipe:

First, get all of your mix-ins together. These are all the "chunks" in the cookies that you want to munch on. Really, they could be anything you like. I have a mixture of Christmas themed milk chocolate M&Ms, semi sweet chocolate chips, roasted and chopped pecans, and Craisins.

Then assemble the batter. It consists of room temperature butter, chunky peanut butter, white sugar, dark brown sugar, salt, baking soda, pure vanilla extract, and eggs. No need to cream the butter and sugars and add eggs one at a time like other recipes call for. Just put everything into the bowl of your mixer (or in a large bowl and use a hand mixer), and that's it.

Beat it together until smooth (there will be some tiny lumps from the chunky peanut butter), and that part's done!

Now, just add in the oats (I only keep old fashioned on hand, so that is what I use. I think they add a nice chew and texture to the cookies.)

When the oats are mixed in, then it's time for all your "chunks."

Just mix until everything is combined, and then scoop out onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I use my smallest scoop, and my biggest pan so I can bake 1 dozen at a time. (This recipe makes about 6 1/2 dozen of this size.)

Sorry the color is so horrible in these pictures. It was very rainy and overcast when I was baking, and my florescent kitchen lights doesn't do the food any favors.
After baking @ 350F for 8 minutes, they come out looking like this:

Just let them cool before packing up to take to your party. (If you can keep your husband from eating them all. I needed 3 dozen cookies for the party, and he would eat some from every batch, so I ended up baking 4 1/2 dozen cookies so that I would have enough. I portioned out and froze the other 2 dozen cookie dough balls for later use.)

These pictures were taken this morning, when the light was a little better. It's still overcast and rainy, but at least the sun isn't setting. :)

I think they are called monster cookies because they are like every cookie rolled into one. Kind of like Frankenstein, they are just a jumble of parts thrown together that work.

They are so yummy. I actually made a batch of these two weeks ago, and I made the mistake of baking up all 6 1/2 dozen cookies. Then I proceeded to eat them all (OK, not ALL. I did let the family have some  . . . but not many). This time I was smarter, and froze some for later. :)
Here's the recipe:
adapted from Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies *You can use any mix-ins you like
makes 6-7 dozen cookies
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chunky peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened (I use salted, but either works)
*3/4 cup milk chocolate M&M's
*3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
*3/4 cup roasted, chopped pecans
*1/2 cup craisins, optional
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together the eggs, sugars, salt, vanilla, butter, peanut butter, and baking soda until smooth. (There will be small chunks from the chunky peanut butter.) Mix in the oats, then the *mix-ins: M&M's, chocolate chips, pecans, and craisins. When everything is combined, scoop out dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I use my smallest scoop and get cookies that are 2-3 inches across after baking. Bake for 8 -10 minutes (do not over bake! Mine only take 8 minutes in my oven.). Let the cookies set on the baking sheet for 3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Creamy Pumpkin Pie (and Baby update)

I meant to post this pie before Thanksgiving, but things got a little crazy and it never happened. So, I am posting it now.
   My son's favorite pie is pumpkin pie. He takes after me when I was his age, and loves it as much or more than most desserts. For my 8th birthday I asked if I could have a pumpkin pie instead of a cake. So, of course my awesome parents complied and made me that pie. :) Well, it goes without saying that during the holidays, pumpkin pie will always be found in my kitchen. The recipes might vary (like this Chocolate Pumpkin Pie) but there is always some version around. Well, this year I thought I would try Paula Deen's recipe for Pumpkin Pie. It's like a cross between a traditional pumpkin pie and a pumpkin cheesecake. I tweaked it just slightly, and made two of these this year. They were a hit! A great recipe that I will use again and again in my pumpkin pie rotation.
   Before I get to the recipe, I wanted to give you all an update on the baby. She was delivered this last Sunday, December 7th. We came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon and we are recovering well. Thankfully I have an amazing women's church organization (Relief Society) that has offered to bring dinners for me and my family for the next few nights so I don't have to worry about that. We are really blessed. So, even though I will be taking a break from the kitchen for a little bit while I heal up, I can't ever stop thinking about food. :) I do have some posts (like this one) that I started before the baby came but never finished. And if I find a rare moment to myself, like now, then I will post those recipes for you. But we will see how things go.
   OK, so back to the recipe:

It starts with a block of softened cream cheese.

Then you need some pumpkin. Paula's recipe says to use a can, but I had fresh in my freezer so that is what I used. (If you use fresh pumpkin then the pie will be lighter in color. If you use the canned, it will be darker/more orange.) Also, if you use fresh pumpkin, you will need to put it into a fine mesh sieve/strainer and let it drain some of the excess water out of it. Otherwise it will take a really long time to cook your watery pie. I usually drain my frozen/thawed pumpkin for at least 1 hour before making the pie, and it releases about 3/4 cup of water.

The cream cheese, sugar and pumpkin go into a mixing bowl. (Mix the cream cheese by itself first so that you get out any lumps.)
Then add in the spices. I used Trader Joe's pumpkin pie spice because I like it, but you are more than welcome to use the separate spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg) to suit your own tastes.

The eggs, half and half, vanilla, and butter are whisked together and added in to the cream cheese mixture.

When it's a homogenous mixture, then the filling is poured into a 9 inch pie shell. (I often use the Marie Callender's frozen pie shell.) I like to pre-bake my crust a little, to make sure that it doesn't get soggy, but that is optional.

The pie bakes for almost an hour. It's done when the top looks set, but the center slightly giggles when you move the pie.

Let the pie sit and set up at room temperature, and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  After it's cool it slices beautifully.

A dollop (or more) of whipped cream is all that's needed.

See what I mean about the color? It's not the traditional orange, because I used fresh pumpkin instead of canned. Incidentally, I was once told that to make the best pumpkin pie you should use butternut squash instead of pumpkin! Definitely works and gives you that orange color too.

I made one pie for the guys at the fire station, for their Thanksgiving feast (the hubby had to work the holiday) and another one for us at home. Needless to say, my son made sure that the one at home didn't last long. :)
Here's the recipe:
adapted from Paula Deen's Pumpkin Pie

 Creamy Pumpkin Pie
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups pureed pumpkin (drained if using fresh)
1 cup sugar
*1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter (*if using salted butter, then omit the 1/4 tsp salt)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 9 inch pie crust shell

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

  Pre-bake the pie crust for 10 minutes, (either prick the crust with a fork first, or use pie weights to prevent the crust from bubbling up) or until the crust is dried out and beginning to color. Take out the crust and set aside.  Turn the heat down to 350F    
  For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin, sugar, and salt, and beat until combined. Whisk together the eggs, yolks, half-and-half, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the cream cheese mixture and mix to combine.
   Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the pie looks set, but the center barely giggles when you move the pie.  Cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate for 4 hours. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream (optional).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes

These are the mashed potatoes I love. These are the only ones that I serve at my Thanksgiving table, and they are the creamiest mashed potatoes I have ever had. All other mashed potatoes pale sadly in comparison. Why? Because they are smooth, unbelievably creamy and just salty enough to taste scrumptious. They are so good that I don't even bother with gravy. (My picky husband says that the gravy ruins them anyway, because they are perfect as is.) These truly are remarkable, but the taste and texture are not the only reasons why I have a love affair with these taters. It's also because they can be made ahead! I'm talking like days ahead. Do you know how valuable that is? To be able to make something when you have the time, and then serve it up when you don't? Well, I do, and it's my secret to getting everything done for any big holiday (especially Thanksgiving!).
   I saw The Pioneer Woman make this on the FoodNetwork a while back and I just had to try them. I have been making them ever since and wouldn't dream of doing anything different. I usually tweak recipes a bit, but this one was perfect as written, so I didn't change a thing. As a result, I just copy and pasted her recipe and instructions at the bottom of the post, so that nothing got lost in translation. :)
   Ok, enough chatting, let's get to the taters.

You'll need 5 pounds of taters. Yes, that seems like a lot, but if you have a mashed potato loving family like mine, or you are making these for a crowd, then it is the perfect amount. Yukon Gold potatoes will give you a more buttery texture and flavor, but Russet potatoes work well too.
Just wash, peel and dice them up. The smaller the dices, the faster they will cook so I usually dice them about 1 inch thick, but if you had the time you could just quarter the whole potato up. The main objective is to get all the potato pieces about the same size, so that they cook at the same time.

Put all the chopped potatoes into a large pot, and cover them with cold water.

They need to be completely submerged in the water.  Add some salt and crank up the heat.

While the potatoes are cooking, you will notice the starch rising to the top and looking kind of foamy. I grew up in a house where the foam was rarely scraped off, so you can leave it if you want. It won't hurt you, it's just not pretty.

If you do scrape it off, just use a large spoon and gently skim the top of the water to remove all the starchy bubbles.

When the potatoes are fork tender, drain off ALL the water and then return the potatoes to the hot pot. Turn the heat on low, and start mashing. You want to get as much water out of the potatoes as possible, while getting them nice and smooth.

When the potatoes are mostly smashed, turn the heat off.

Now comes the good stuff. Butter, and lots of it. If I have it, I like to use this Danish butter because it tastes extra creamy; but any salted butter you have is fine. (You could also use unsalted butter, but you will need to adjust your seasoning later on.) You need 1 1/2 sticks.

The cut butter and 1 block of softened cream cheese go into the potatoes. I know. Cream cheese is not the most conventional ingredient in mashed potatoes, but I really believe that this is the "secret ingredient" that makes these potatoes so good.

Mash in all the butter and cream cheese until it's melted.

Then comes the half and half. (I never said this was a low-fat recipe. This is the holidays after all.)

Seasoned salt gives these potatoes a special flavor that just plain salt can't replicate.

Just mash and stir everything together until they are smooth and combined well. See how dreamy they are? It's takes everything in me not to just grab a spoon and have at it right now. (Don't think that I let that potato masher go untouched, though. It gets licked so clean that you'd be hard pressed to realize I used it at all.)

Now, if you are making these for dinner right now, and you don't need to put them away for later, then by all means just serve them up. However, if you (like me) are making them in advance, then get out a casserole dish and generously butter that sucker. Don't be shy. We already loaded up the mashed potatoes, why skimp with buttering the baking/serving dish?

Scrape all the potatoes into the buttered dish, and even it out. (This spatula also becomes my personal mashed potato lollipop when I'm done using it to get the potatoes evenly into the dish.)

When the potatoes are sufficiently smoothed out, just dot the top with a little more butter (to keep the top moist and also because it tastes good!). At this point it can be wrapped up and refrigerated for a few days.

When I'm ready to heat them up, I take them out of the fridge at least an hour before (TPW recommends 2-3 hours ahead), so that they can get to room temperature. I leave them covered with foil and put them into a 350F oven. I bake them for about 10 minutes with the foil on, and then take the foil off for the next 20 minutes. (You could leave the foil on for the whole time, but then the top doesn't get any sort of crust.)

Heads up, if your casserole dish is as full as mine, you might want to put a cookie sheet underneath it while it bakes, to catch any butter that may dribble out of the dish.

When the potatoes are hot and butter is bubbling, it's time to serve! (If you are thinking about your Thanksgiving time table, I usually put the potatoes and my other casseroles in the oven while the turkey is out and resting. Depending on the size of your bird, you will want to rest it for at least 45 minutes - even up to 2 hours if you have a huge bird. That's plenty of time to heat up anything you have made ahead of time, so that all your food can be hot at the same time.) Happy Eating!!
Here's the recipe:
from The Pioneer Woman

Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes

  •  5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 3/4 cups Butter
  • 1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1/2 cup (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half
  • 1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper
Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.
Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.
Turn off the stove and add 1 ½ sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper.
Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.
Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ruth's Mile High Biscuits

It's pretty chilly outside. If you are warming up with a bowl of soup, or just want a warm bread to have with any meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) you should really try these biscuits.
    These are my husband's favorite biscuit. I, myself am not a huge biscuit fan (I'd rather have a homemade Parker House Roll or No-Knead Rich Dinner Roll any day) but these biscuits are pretty amazing. They are slightly sweet, with a nice buttery flavor. I found them on Pinterest a few years ago, and my hubby hasn't found a recipe that he likes better. So, when I make biscuits now, this is it.
They are so light and flaky with a crunchy exterior that is really something wonderful. They are called Mile High Biscuits because they rise so tall. Don't they look delicious?
Here's the recipe:
from Deals to Meals

Ruth's Diners Mile High Biscuits

3 c. flour 
1 1/2 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 stick cold butter, cubed
3/4 c. cold buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 c. cold water

Whisk together the dry ingredients, and then cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or two knives. Whisk together the egg, buttermilk and water and mix the wet ingredients with the dry until the dough just starts to come together. Turn out the dough onto a well floured work surface and fold it over on itself until it comes together (at least 4 times). DO NOT overwork your dough, or the biscuits will be tough. Press the dough flat until it's about 1 to 2 inches thick. (The thicker it is, the taller the biscuit.) Using a biscuit cutter, or an upside down drinking glass, cut the biscuits into rounds. Bake @ 425F 12-15 minutes (depending on size), until golden brown.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and butter until crumbly. Mix in buttermilk, egg and just enough water to make a workable dough. Mix the dough until it is just barely combined (don't over mix). Roll the dough onto a floured cutting board about 1 inch thick. Cut with a 2 inch biscuit cutter, or a 2 inch round cup. Place on a greased baking sheet (touching each other) and bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 12-15 biscuits, depending how thick you make them. - See more at:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and butter until crumbly. Mix in buttermilk, egg and just enough water to make a workable dough. Mix the dough until it is just barely combined (don't over mix). Roll the dough onto a floured cutting board about 1 inch thick. Cut with a 2 inch biscuit cutter, or a 2 inch round cup. Place on a greased baking sheet (touching each other) and bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 12-15 biscuits, depending how thick you make them. - See more at:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Corn Casserole

It's that time of year, when everyone starts thinking about what they will be serving (and eating) for Thanksgiving. While I could never choose a favorite dish I do have some holiday dishes that are near and dear to my heart. I will be sharing them with you (as often as I can) in the next few weeks. (That being said, I am about 37 weeks pregnant now so we'll see how things go.) :)
   This corn casserole is a recipe that I recieved from church a few years ago, and haven't changed much since. (I did reduce the amount of butter and added an extra egg.) If you are looking for a low calorie side dish, this is definitely not it, but if you are looking for something quick to put together, and delicious with some hidden veggies then this is the ticket. It's like a very moist cornbread with little bits of corn running throughout. Some people call it corn pudding, but I was given the recipe with the title "corn casserole" so that's what I call it. If you haven't tried it at your holiday table (or even as a nice change up to a weeknight meal) try it out and let me know what you think!

As many good recipes do, this one starts out with a stick of butter. I prefer salted, but you can always use unsalted and then add a little salt later.

Melt the butter,

and then stir in all of these lovely ingredients.

When it's all smooth and combined, like this:

pour the mixture into a 9x13 or 11x13 inch casserole dish. (I usually don't grease the dish because the mixture has plenty of butter in it, but if you are worried about it sticking then you can go ahead a grease the dish a little.)

It bakes for a little less than an hour and it comes out like this:

Unassuming, and not very impressive looking, but let me tell you. The taste is amazing!

It holds its shape nicely, but is so incredibly moist. Definitely one of my top ten holiday side dishes.

Incidentally, I served it up with a weeknight meal of pork chops and a side salad. Yum, yum!
Here's the recipe:

Corn Casserole

1 stick (half cup) butter, melted
1 (8.5 oz) box of Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 (15 oz) can of creamed corn
1 (15 oz) can of whole kernel corn
3 large eggs, beaten
8 oz sour cream 

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients and pour into a casserole dish (lightly greased if you want). Bake 45-60 minutes (an 11x13 dish will be done in about 45 minutes, where as a 9x13 dish might take up to 1 hour) until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm.