Cake Mix Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Have a spare cake mix just screaming to be used? I did. As I’ve said before, I have no shame in using a cake mix. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy “from scratch” baking too. So the other morning I had some spare time before I woke the house up and threw these together. The recipe is extremely easy and yields a tasty breakfast option. You can mix and match for flavors too, but I went with the kids favorite, chocolate chip. Here is the base recipe…

Cake Mix Muffins (Chocolate Chip)

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 (4 serving) box instant vanilla pudding
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup oil, vegetable or canola
  • 1/4 tsp extract (vanilla or almond)
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used mini)

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Line 2 muffin pans with paper cups or use baking spray.

Combine all ingredients except for chocolate chips. Stir until moist then fold in chocolate chips. The batter will be lumpy, don’t over-stir. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake 23 – 29 minutes. Note I filled the cups nearly full and it yielded 18 muffins. As you can see they don’t rise a lot, so I don’t think you can overfill them.

I hope you enjoy this shortcut recipe. The original recipe came from the book “101 Things To Do With A Cake Mix” by Stephanie Ashcraft and it was for a double chocolate chip muffin using a fudge cake mix and chocolate instant pudding.

Oreo Truffle Hearts

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Oreo Truffles are no secret to the food blog world, especially with Valentine’s day, but hey, I liked how these turned out, so why not post on them! Besides, it will ensure I get my post a week in… (LOL). This is your classic 3 ingredient truffle made with cream cheese, Oreos and candy coating. I would say it is pretty user-friendly. After I combined the first two ingredients I rolled level tablespoon spheres (I hate the other word) and placed them in the freezer to harden. Then I used a small heart-shaped fondant cutter resulting in these cute, one-bite heart truffles. I will post the recipe just in case you don’t know it.

P.S. I really don’t care for Valentine’s Day. It is so commercialized and a financial rip off, but I have three kids and I don’t want to be a Valentine Scrooge…

Oreo Truffle Hearts

adapted from, well anywhere.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 package double stuff cookies (less about 10)
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese
  • Candy Coating for melting

Directions:

Finely crush the Oreo cookies (a food processor is ideal here) and combine with cream cheese until well blended. Roll into desired shape and size and refrigerate or freeze until hardened.

Melt candy coating according to package directions, dip and let the coating dry before indulging.

 

MIA & Double Chocolate-Oatmeal Cookies

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It has been an exciting few weeks, to say the least. Ok, exaggerating completely. I have been MIA from my blog for several weeks. I hate that too. It has just been hectic and everyone in the family has been trading virus’. The most recent one knocked 4 of the 5 of us out for several days. Don’t get me wrong though, I haven’t starved my family, I just haven’t had the time or energy to photograph and post on the recipes. I have been experimenting with new dinner recipes too – but haven’t taken pictures and I don’t like to post without them. I am hoping now I will have a little more time to devote to this blog… and to the kitchen!

On to the reason I am typing now… I have had this weight watchers cookbook for over two years and scan these cookies quite often. I don’t do WW, I just prefer to purchase cookbooks that have nutritional values listed… and often these tend to be diet cookbooks. Here is the recipe taken directly from the Weight Watchers 20 Minute Recipes, Fall 2008 cookbook. The recipe is quite easy and it’s not a terrible choice for a chocolate treat, especially with this coming Monday… Valentine’s day (and I will save my opinion of this day, I am just not a fan). Taste you ask? I didn’t actually try one (shame, shame) but my daughter said they were really good. I like the fact that it is a rich cookie, but the richness is mellowed out by the white chocolate and the oatmeal.

Double Chocolate-Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup uncooked regular oats
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 ounce white chocolate, chopped (I used chips)

Preparation:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (this is important)

In a large bowl combine the first five ingredients, beat until smooth.

Combine the oats, flour, baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture, stirring just until blended. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart on parchment. Bake for 9 minutes or until cookie centers are almost done. Remove and cool for 1 minute on pan then transfer to wire rack to cool completely (or indulge in a warm one!)

Makes about 10 cookies

Per serving (1 cookie): Calories: 109, Fat: 4.3g, Sat Fat 2.4 g, Protein 2 g, Carbs 17g, Fiber 1.1g, WW Points (old) 2 points

*Update, thank you to Susitrvl at Mad for Mexican Food for calculating the WW points in the new system – they total 3 points!

This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday at Sweet as Sugar Cookies – check it out!

Fruit & Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

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This week’s post (yes, I am trying to keep up with the “post a week”) was last-minute, to say the least. I picked up a Good Housekeeping Cookbook, saw this recipe and thought it would be perfect for a cold, rainy holiday morning. Plus I knew I was going to dump on everyone and meet a friend at Starbuck’s for some “me” time.

The most complicated thing about these muffins was the shredding of fresh fruit. The actual recipe uses apple, but I only had one, and didn’t want to use it for this, so I used a pear… since I had three of those… I suppose any fruit would do. The recipe also called for walnuts – which someone apparently ate all of over the past few days. So I subbed some dry cranberries for the nuts. Needless to say, this recipe falls under the “adapted from” category as you will see my changes noted.

The muffin is moist, dense and filling (note 2 cups of oats!). Your options for fruit and nut combinations are nearly endless. So far, they have held up well and even my picky kids ate one without complaining that it tasted healthy. Make extra or freeze the leftovers for a quick, on the go breakfast!

Fruit & Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

(adapted from Good Housekeeping’s Supermarket Diet Cookbook, Winter 2011)

  • 2 cups oats, old-fashioned or quick cooking
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (160g)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used lower fat)
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup shredded fresh fruit (1 large pear or apple will do)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (I used dried cranberries)
  • 1 handful white chocolate chips

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 standard muffin-pan cups, or line with paper liners.

IN a large bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, with a fork, beat buttermilk, oil and egg until well blended; stir in shredded apples. Add apple mixture to flour mixture and stir just until the flour mixture is moistened (the batter will be very thick). Stir in chopped nuts.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan and drop 5 or 6 white chocolate chips onto the top of each muffin. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Mine actually took 21 minutes exactly. Remove pan and remove muffins immediately. Serve warm or freeze for a quick breakfast.

Calories: 210, 7 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 33 grams carbs, 18mg cholesterol, 320mg sodium, 3 grams fiber, and 5 grams protien. – Note these are for the original recipe, it does not taking into account my changes, although I am sure it is close.

Sweets to Celebrate the Playoffs…

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Sadly, our home team will not see the NFL playoffs… again, at least not from field level. Actually, I really don’t care much about NFL football, I am more a high school and college fan. I just can’t appreciate the site of grown men running around knocking each other down. That is not the point of this post however…. Have you ever had a Oreo Truffle? They are an easy, three ingredient candy that is rather difficult to screw up. They can be easily adapted for different affairs. I’ve seen them at birthday parties, baby and wedding showers and holiday events.

This “adaptation” fits right in with the ongoing playoffs and would be a great addition to your Superbowl party. You could even choose candy melts in your teams colors for dipping. I didn’t have any colored melts, just some chocolate bark. Shaping them like football’s makes an unbiased candy that can be enjoyed by both teams.

Classic Oreo Truffles (original recipe from Kraftfoods.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Oreo cookies (originals)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
  • Dipping chocolate: Milk Chocolate and White

Directions:

Finely crush the Oreos and mix with the cream cheese until well blended. Shape into 1-inch balls*. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, then remove and shape into oval football shapes. Return to fridge until the chocolate is ready for dipping.

Melt the dipping chocolate according to the package directions and dip the balls in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour or until the chocolate has set. Melt white chocolate and pipe on as pictured. Store any leftover truffles in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

*I used my food processor to both crush the Oreo’s and to combine with the cream cheese. The Kraft recipe doesn’t call for them to be refrigerated, but this is helpful in keeping the shape and setting the chocolate.

The Cake That Almost Wasn’t

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Happy New Year!

I didn’t exactly keep up with the Jones’ (of blogging) and post any end of the year top 10 or 20 lists, I did however enjoy reading through them! I had some memories from the year and some recipe ideas for the new year.

Instead of searching through my archives or little read or seen posts, I got to baking. The decision to make this cake was a last-minute one I found after looking through my new Food Network Magazine (which I highly recommend). In the readers letters section I saw a comment about a cake that ran in their October magazine. My husband and I would be attending a party that evening and I knew right away this cake would be my choice to bake and bring to the party.

The cake portion was not complicated but the caramel topping was time-consuming. All in all it came together nicely. The “almost wasn’t” came in while the cake was in the oven. About 15 minutes into baking the power went out. It was a beautiful, warm sunny day, so I knew weather probably was not a factor. Then we heard sirens… All I could think about was this cake that I needed in just a few short hours, and the prep that had gone into making it. Turns out a transformer had blown and caught fire. No biggie, except for the fact that it knocked out power to what seemed like half of the city (slight exaggeration here). I had waited long enough and knew I needed a hot oven, and soon. Calling around I found no one nearby who had power. The decision was made then to pack up the half/baked cake and head up to my office, about 4 miles away.

Of course about 5 minutes after I arrived my husband called and said the power was back on. I wasn’t driving back home again, so I sat in a cold dark building and waited what seemed like hours. Ok, well one hour. We were supposed to be at this party around 6 p.m. and it was now after 5 and I was still waiting on a cake and completely unprepared to go. Shame on me, I left the office, oven on, cake in the oven, and ran home to grab the family and a change of clothes. Then we returned to grab the cake (which was cooked perfectly) and headed straight to the party. Ugh

So long story short – power outages stink, especially when you have food in the oven. Now on to the cake:

The cake is a dense “pound cake” like cake with a hint of cinnamon when served resembles highly that of a caramel apple. I guess that’s where it gained its name (duh!). I am sure if you wanted to cut down the prep time, a purchased caramel sauce would suffice. Here is the recipe. Hopefully if you decide to make it, the cooking process will go easier than mine did.

I’ve added a link to the recipe on Food Networks website, they have some step by step pictures available too. Again, Happy New Year from my oven to yours!

Caramel Apple Cake (link to recipe here)

From Food Network Magazine, October 2010, pg 142

For the Caramel and Apples:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large Golden Delicious apples

For the Batter:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Directions:

Butter a 9-by-3-inch round cake pan. Make the caramel: Cook the sugar and corn syrup in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is dark amber, 7 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Carefully add the cream and 4 tablespoons butter (it will splatter) and cook, stirring, until combined, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let sit 1 minute. Pour 1 1/2 cups caramel into a glass measuring cup and set aside. Pour the remaining caramel into the prepared pan and set aside until set, about 30 minutes.

 Cut 3 apples into quarters and cut out the cores with a paring knife. Arrange the pieces skin-side down in the pan (overlapping them slightly) to form a ring about 1/2 inch from the edge. Save any pieces that do not fit for later. Halve the remaining whole apple crosswise. Scoop out the seeds with a melon baller or measuring spoon, leaving the stem on the top half. Chop the bottom and any of the leftover quartered apples into pieces; set aside. Arrange the apple top, stem-side down, in the center of the pan. If the quartered apples shift, just push them back into place.

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the batter: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream, orange juice and vanilla. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. Slip them into the mixer bowl, one at a time, and beat until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 5 more minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beater with a rubber spatula.  

With the mixer on low-speed, add half of the sour cream mixture, then half of the flour mixture. Repeat. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula; finish combining the batter by hand. Spread the batter over the apples in the pan. Top with the chopped apple. Bake on the middle oven rack until the cake is brown on top and springs back when pressed, 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes (don’t worry if the top is dark). Cool in the pan on a rack.

**Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a skillet wide enough to hold the cake pan. Carefully run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan several times, then rest the pan in the water to soften the caramel, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the water and dry. Invert a plate on top of the cake, then flip over the cake and plate. Using pot holders or a towel, wriggle the pan off. Soften the reserved 1 1/2 cups caramel in the microwave, about 2 minutes. Drizzle the cake with some of the caramel. Slice and serve with the rest. (I only used about 1/2 of the reserved caramel and um, serve this cake warm with some ice cream and you will get new friends.)

Note: On their website some of the reader comments spoke about finding (or not finding) the correct size pan. I didn’t either. I found an 8″ x 3″ pan, and a 10″, but not a 9″. So I used a 9″ springform pan that I lined with heavy foil. It worked perfectly and I was able to omit that last step of simmering water to loosen the cake from the pan.

Two Cookies!

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An annual Christmas tradition that my kids count on every year is baking and decorating cookies for Christmas with thier cousins. This year was no exception. Except for the fact that the kids decorated all but two cookies before I could get to them, I would say that decorating was a success. Our “artists” ranged in age from 9 to 17 years old. While they decorated, my sister in law and I prepared our Angel Wings (see this post, they are awesome!).

I tried another new sugar cookie recipe this holiday. They were excellent for keeping their shape when baking and the taste was mild enough that being loaded with frosting didn’t give you an overwelming sugar rush. I’m not sure I will ever settle on a rolled sugar cookie recipe, but this one has made it’s way to the top of my list. It is very easy to prepare and rolled well. It was rather sticky when first being rolled, but what sugar cookie is not? With the right amount of flour added it rolled easily. I found the recipe from a third party link here, at Tidy Mom (and I believe she got it from Bake at 350).

Here is the recipe:

Vanilla Almond Butter Cookies

yields approx 30-35 large cookies or 60 smaller cookies 

  • 6 Cups Flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Cup butter
  • 1½ Cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp milk
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp pure almond extract

 Directions:

Combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream sugar and butter, then add eggs and extracts. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat until combined. Refrigerate for at least an hour to ease rolling and cutting. Bake in preheated oven at 350° for 10-12 mins. Remove and once completely cooled, decorate with royal icing or fondant.

Now, the title of this post is “Two Cookies”, so here is the second one. It is a very, very common recipe found at probably most blogs and recipe sites. My oldest daughter really wanted to make these and we literally started them about an hour before we were scheduled to meet for Christmas dinner. They are really easy and the ingredients are common pantry staples.

No-Bake PB Choc-Oat Cookies

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 3 cup oatmeal
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Directions:

 Measure peanut butter and oats, set aside.

Combine all other ingredients in medium saucepan over med-high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and oats. Quickly drop cookies onto wax paper and let cool. (I use a tablespoon size cookie scoop).

Our Holiday Table

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Christmas in our family is quite traditional, as far as dinner is concerned. Only one of the recipes in this post are new to us and our table. Even though any of our kids could recite what will be on the table, and who will be preparing it, it just wouldn’t be the same if we switched things up. We talk about it every year, but never do.

For the main courses are ham and turkey. My sister-in-law cooks the ham, and we grill the turkey at our house. I began grilling the turkey several years ago when I ran out of oven room. Grilling the turkey, I have found, yields the most moist white meat of any cooking method. It is very simple, a little butter, salt and pepper on and under the skin along with about 3/4 of an inch of stock in the pan. Covered then slow cooked with only the outside two burners on and in about 3 hours, a beautiful golden brown bird emerges!

Cinnamon Kissed Cranberry Sauce

For the Cranberry Sauce, I prepared a recipe first used at Thanksgiving. I found the recipe over at Recipe Girl and it is not only easy but blows the canned stuff out of the water. It is also great with a little butter on a biscuit or toast in the morning. I highly encourage trying this recipe.

Now, for the best part. Dessert. I made the Browned Butter Pecan Pie (that I made last month) from Cookie Madness, No Bake PB Oatmeal Cookies from well, anywhere, but I have my own recipe, a great sugar cookie (that I will post later), and our family tradition of “Angel Wings“. The Sour Cream Pound Cake, Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie played an essential part of this holiday meal too. Needless to say, I have a TON of dessert leftover in the freezer.

It was a wonderful holiday but I must say that I am relieved that it is over. The pressure involved in food preparation and making three growing kids happy have worn me out. I am looking forward to having the rest of the week off and doing, well, nothing.

Happy New Year to all!