Sunday, January 25, 2015

Peanut Butter Cookies & PB-Chocolate Swirl

2015 has started and I haven't even blogged yet! What is my deal?!
So far this year has been exciting for me!
I GRADUATED college!
Yep, it is true! I finished my bachelor's degree with Southern New Hampshire University in Creative Writing.
So...I am officially in debt and waiting for my piece of paper diploma that proves the $40k was worth it :)
I also kicked off this year with a job change!
A big change for me. I have been home the past few years with my daughter and running a daycare in my home, so working outside of the house is a big change!
Even though it is only a few blocks away from my house, 4 days a week, and only during school hours, it is a big change!
But, the best part of it is that I really enjoy it! (I'm working a pre-school as a para)
The hours are great for a mommy and I still get to work on all my other stuff easily with the hours.
The thing is...I just haven't had time to do much else (like blogging, baking, writing) because I'm trying to get everything in order for my daughter's big birthday party next weekend.
She will be six. Seriously. {hear my heart break?}
And oh yeah - a little thing called GILMORE GIRLS is on NETFLIX is occupying all my spare time.
Yes. That is the honest truth. I'm lame, but I finally have the time to binge-watch shows and I am doing it!!
No schoolwork eating up all my Sunday and evenings is just AMAZING!

Enough about me.
What's new?
Well this recipe is for me!
I received a delicious jar of the new spread from Reese's. You may have heard about it?
It is a peanut butter chocolate spread, rivaling Nutella's spread...
Well I received a jar from in exchange for an honest review.
So here it is.

Reese's Spreads Peanut Butter Chocolate is scrumptious!
My daughter eats it by the spoonful.
Really, she does.
And I may have dipped in a time or two also.
But, of course that was after we made these cookies!
We made traditional peanut butter cookies (if you follow my blog at all, you'd know they are my daughter's aboslute favorite cookie) but we kicked it up a notch and mixed in the spread to make a chocolatey swirl in the cookie.
The chocolate is just enough to make it taste like a little something wonderful.

The spread itself is a wonderful combination. Not too much chocolate, not too much peanut butter.
Reese's really created a wonderful combination with this. They blend together really well!
If you haven't tried it yet, pick some up when you go to the store next. You will not be disappointed!

We also eat it on toast, with some banana slices, on vanilla wafers, graham crackers, and we even melted it down a bit and swirled it in with our vanilla ice cream. YUM!

Peanut Butter Cookies & PB-Chocolate Swirl

by Emily Chhouy
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 8 min
Ingredients (48 cookies)
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, room tempterature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup Reese's Spreads (peanut butter chocolate)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (for rolling)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the peanut butter and butter.
Add the sugars, egg and vanilla.
Beat well.
Mix in the flour until combined.
Warm the peanut butter chocolate spread in the microwave for 30 seconds, drizzle half of the spread over the cookie dough.
Gently fold into the dough.
Repeat with the other half of the spread.
Roll into 1-inch sized balls, roll in sugar (if desired) and place on ungreased baking sheet.
Press with fork design and bake for 8 minutes, until puffed in the center and slightly browned on the edges.
Let sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing and letting cool on a rack.
Store in an airtight container.
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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sweet Potato Praline Casserole

Sweet potato casserole covered in mini marshmallows are a thing of past.
Well, at least for me.
I enjoy sweet potatoes when they have a bit of a crunch from pecans.
And the warm sweetness from brown sugar.
Seriously. So very good.
That's why this is my absolute favorite side dish at Thanksgiving (or any big meal that requires a huge casserole-sized-dish of potatoes covered in brown sugary goodness).
My sister is vegetarian, therefore says she doesn't want the praline topping on her's.
I feel like deep-down , she is longing for it though!
So I always leave one strip of the casserole topping-free. (Don't tell her how much sugar is in the sweet potatoes - she'd beat me up) ;)

I snapped this photo before popping it in the fridge the night before Thanksgiving and sent it to her!

As with most casseroles, this is easy to whip up the night before a dinner and just cook it when you cook everything else for dinner.
I mixed everything for the potatoes, sprinkled on the topping, and then let it hang out in the fridge until the next day. Works wonderfully!
I could eat this almost as a dessert. It reminds me of sweet potato pie with a crunchy praline topping on it.
Just, take my word for it - you need to make this ASAP!

Sweet Potato Praline Casserole

by Emily Chhouy
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Ingredients (10 servings)
    For Potatoes
    • 8 sweet potatoes, large - all about the same size
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
    • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
    For Praline
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup butter, melted
    • 1 1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
    For Potatoes
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
    Cut a few slits in each potato and place on the baking sheet.
    Bake until the potatoes are fork tender (30-45 minutes or so, depending on size of potatoes).
    Set baking sheet aside to allow the potatoes to cool completely.
    Remove the skins and place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl.
    Add the sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs, and butter to the potatoes and mix until they are well combined.
    Spread into a casserole dish, either 9x9 for a thicker potato, or an 8x11.
    For Praline
    In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, melted butter and chopped pecans.
    Mix together until it just holds together.
    Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes.
    Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, until praline starts to darken.
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    Monday, December 8, 2014


    One of my daughter's favorite movies is The Princess and The Frog.
    I happen to find it quite enjoyable as well. The music is just so catchy!
    Well, during one of the many times of us watching it, she finally asked me what the heck are "beignets" ?
    I haven't ever been to New Orleans...yet. It is on my bucket list of "must-go-to" locations.
    So, trying to explain a pastry with a puff of air in the middle and then coated with powdered sugar is kind of hard to do for a five-year-old.
    Especially when I have only heard about how amazing they are.
    I hadn't ever actually ate one until we made them. How do we solve this problem when we are in Iowa? Far, far away from the French Quarter?
    Well, we set to work making our own, of course!
    Tiana from the movie must have amazing beignets, because everyone wants them so badly.
    I settled on a recipe from someone I know is an amazing baker.
    Paula Deen.
    After scouring the internet for a suitable recipe to try, her's popped up over-and-over again. I think it is safe to assume that her's are probably the Queen Bee of beignet recipes.
    You can easily pop over to her recipe here.

    As I mentioned above, I had never made these before, so I wasn't sure what to expect.
    I followed her directions exactly, and I came out with a TON of beignets!
    The box above we delivered to my husband's work while they were still hot so they could enjoy them. We made them during our first big snowfall this year, so it was like delivery a snow was a beautiful sight. Fresh white snow and these fresh, hot, powdery beignets.
    Since it was snowing, my daughter bailed on me while I was frying them to play in the snow. I literally stopped frying half-way through the dough so we could deliver this box of wonderful deliciousness before frying the rest for us to enjoy at home. 
    I cut them into about 2 inch squares. I could have made them bigger, but as I said before - I've never made them and since *technically* they were for my daughter, I wanted them small enough for her to be able to eat them without wasting half of it. 
    I probably ended up with 60-75 beignets altogether. I should have kept track. 
    But in the business of frying and then shaking in the powdered sugar, I lost track of everything else for a bit.

    My tips for making these:
    • Don't leave the fryer - they cook up quickly
    • Have a cooling rack with paper towels underneath to drain them on
    • Use a metal strainer for flipping in the oil
    • Have plenty of brown paper sacks handy with powdered sugar in them - my bags ripped after tossing around a few batches
    • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar per sack covered quite a few beignets at one time
    • Allow yourself plenty of time for the dough to rise and then again for the frying
    • Don't crowd the fryer! I fried them in a large iron skillet, frying only 4-6 at a time
    • Don't let the oil get too hot! Adjust as necessary to prevent burning
    • Let the dough to puff up and then flip immediately 


    by Emily Chhouy
    Prep Time: 20 min
    Cook Time: 20 min (total)
    Ingredients (3-6 dozen)
    • 1 1/2 cups warm water
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
    • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup evaporated milk
    • 7 cups flour (or bread flour)
    • 1/4 cup shortening
    • Oil (for frying)
    • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
    Mix water, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl.
    Let rest for 10 minutes until bubbly.
    In another mixing bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together.
    Add this mixture to the yeast mixture and mix together.
    Add 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and combine slowly.
    Add the shortening and continue stirring.
    Slowly add the remaining flour, stirring constantly.
    Remove the dough and knead until smooth on a lightly floured counter.
    Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray and add the dough.
    Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel.
    Let rest in a warm place for 2 hours (or longer)
    After it is done rising, heat the oil in a large skillet or fryer.
    Add powdered sugar to the paper bag(s) and set aside.
    Turn dough out onto a floured counter and roll into a large rectangle, 1/4 inch thick.
    Cut into 1-2 inch (or larger, if you prefer) squares.
    Add a few at a time to the hot oil, flipping constantly (why using a little strainer works well.
    I let them puff up, then flip immediately so one side doesn't brown too much.
    Remove once both sides are lightly browned, place on wire rack to drain.
    While still warm, place in the paper bag and shake to cover with the powdered sugar.
    Serve while still warm.
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    Saturday, December 6, 2014

    Crisp & Chewy Breadsticks

    First off, you are probably wondering how in the world a breadstick could be crisp and chewy.
    Am I right?
    Well...these are the number one breadstick in our house!
    The bottoms get crisp, yet they are still chewy on top.
    They have replaced our favorite Cheddar Bay Biscuits as a side! (GASP)!
    Seriously. I kind of made these by accident.
    The dough really isn't supposed to sit long, well I made it up and left it out while my daughter had dance class.
    This resulted in the crisper, a bit denser breadstick, instead of the fluffy kind you might be more familiar with making, (such as the Olive Garden kind).

    These are a cinch to whip up.
    So easy, that we actually made them twice in one week.
    Yes, it is true. And the hubs is already asking me when I am going to make them again?
    Soon. Probably very, very soon!
    I made them for a side when we had chili the other night instead of cornbread. 
    It was amazing. I didn't miss the cornbread at all.
    And I always have cornbread with my chili. Always.
    I sprinkle the tops with garlic salt before baking, but you don't have to. We just love garlic. A lot.
    They are just as delicious with just butter. Yum. Anything with butter is tasty, right?
    This recipe makes about 14-16 breadsticks, depending on how wide you make them.
    There is seriously no way you could eat just one of these bad boys.
    I make the dough up and let it rest while I prep the other food for our meal and then toss them in the oven 20 minutes before everything is supposed to be done.
    They come out perfect every time!

    Crisp & Chewy Breadsticks

    by Emily Chhouy
    Prep Time: 15 min
    Cook Time: 20 min
    Ingredients (14-16 breadsticks)
    • 1 1/2 cups warm water
    • 1 tablespoon yeast
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 3 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • garlic salt
    Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water in a large mixing bowl.
    Let set a few minutes until the yeast is starting to get bubbly.
    Combine the flour and salt and mix into the yeast mixture.
    Mix well for about a minute.
    Then cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let sit for 20 minutes or until it starts to puff up and looks airy.
    Preheat the oven 475.
    Place the butter on a baking sheet with edges and let melt in the preheating oven.
    Roll out the dough into a large rectangle on a floured counter.
    Cut the dough into even strips.
    Fold each strip in half and twist.
    Remove the baking sheet and the butter (before it starts to burn) and rolls the twisted breadstick in the butter to coat it.
    Lay side by side.
    Sprinkle the tops with garlic salt, if desired.
    Bake for 20 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown.
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    Friday, December 5, 2014

    Cranberry Scones

    Last night was my daughter's winter concert at school.
    Nothing beats watching a group of kindergartners come together and try to sing a variety of holiday songs. They were all so cute dressed up in their best clothes. Some boys sported some ties. Girls donned their best skirts and headbands. 
    It just made my heart happy!
    Unfortunately, the people sitting in front of us made getting a good snapshot of her virtually impossible. But it was a sweet 25 minutes of song.
    But then today it created a crabby, tired, "I don't like school" girl who decided to bawl before leaving the house...during the entire drive to school...and continue as I had to walk her to her classroom.
    So I needed a pick-me-up.
    I had a bag of fresh cranberries just hanging out in the fridge since I forgot all about them in my Thanksgiving preparations.
    I stared at them for a brief moment.
    What to do with them?
    Yep, breakfast for me would be scones.

    Once you have made scones a few times, you learn that the recipe is pretty basic. You can add or subtract as you'd like to make it your own.
    I used self-rising flour, but you can sub regular flower and baking powder if you don't have any on hand.
    I also ate mine while they were still warm from the oven, well slightly warm.
    The cranberries get tart and will make you pucker the longer they cool.
    So be prepared and perhaps make the icing as a dip? Yes. I recommend that to cut the tartness out.
    Anyway you do it, these were delicious
    And in typical "Emily-scone-eating-fashion" I inhaled a few (2) rather quickly...

    Cranberry Scones

    by Emily Chhouy
    Prep Time: 15 min
    Cook Time: 15 min
    Ingredients (8-10 scones)
      For the Scones
      • 2 cups self-rising flour
      • 3 tablespoons sugar
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
      • 1 cup heavy cream
      • 1 1/2-2 cups fresh cranberries
      • 1 teaspoon orange juice
      For the Glaze
      • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
      • 1-2 tablespoons orange juice
      For the Scones
      Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
      In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.
      Add the cubed butter and blend with a pastry blender until pea-sized balls form.
      Slowly add the heavy cream and orange juice until a dough forms, mixing until it just combines.
      Create a thick square shape with the dough and roll it out onto a lightly floured counter creating a long rectangle.
      Sprinkle the fresh cranberries over the dough, pressing them down firmly into the dough with the palm of your hand.
      Fold each of the long sides so they meet together in the middle of the rectangle, covering the cranberries.
      Fold the smaller ends in to "close" the rectangle.
      Press the seams together to seal.
      Using a sharp knife, slice the rectangle into 4 or 5 small squares.
      Then slice each square in half diagonally.
      Place each wedge onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
      Bake for 15 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned.
      Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the glaze.
      For the Glaze
      In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and orange juice until you've reached the consistency you'd like.
      Drizzle over the tops of each slightly cooled scone, if done while still hot, it will melt off the tops.
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      Wednesday, December 3, 2014

      Chicken Cordon Bleu

      Lately I've been in a dinner slump.
      Nothing sounds good to make.
      I just don't know what I want to cook.
      I feel like we've eaten the same thing over and over again...
      Dinner time has been boring!
      I needed something to liven things up so instead of browsing the internet (like I normally do to find a new dish) I decided to research my trust recipe box.
      Many of the recipes were recipes my grandma would make and I had copied them, or wrote them down from memory after preparing them with her.
      This is one of the recipes I remember making.
      I decided this was a perfect recipe for my five-year-old daughter to help out with making as well.
      I let her pound the chicken breasts flat (which she loved!) and she pressed the crumbs onto the chicken. Her job was always handing me the toothpicks to keep the breasts folded together while cooking.

      The best part was that she loved this chicken!
      I can't say anything bad about this easy dish, except that I don't care for blue cheese.
      Say what? The girl from the hometown of the best blue cheese in the world (many would say) doesn't like blue cheese!?!
      Yes, it is true. Even the famous Maytag blue cheese cannot convert my taste buds into enjoying that delectable stinky goodness that so many enjoy. You can check out the famous Maytag cheese website here and order some up for yourself to try if your local grocery store doesn't stock it.
      My grandpa even grew up on the Maytag Dairy Farm, so my roots are deep... :) I just can't get past the smell...
      So, this is obviously a recipe that originally calls for blue cheese, hence the name of the dish, but you can sub with your favorite cheese. After much playing around with this recipe, I found that we enjoy swiss cheese in this! It works perfectly with the ham and the chicken. Mozzarella works well also. Just whatever your family enjoys. Of course, you could order some of that blue cheese and try it with that if you want to stick with the classics!

      Like I said before, I let my daughter flatten the chicken breasts and crush the cornflakes (don't use cracker crumbs for this, or panko, you want the texture and flavor of the cereal - try it with Wheaties!) I took this snapshots of her in action. Get your kids involved, they will love this part, too! I guarantee it!

      Once we sat down for dinner and began eating, I remembered why my grandma always had this as a staple dish at the dinner table. It is simple to whip up, is filling, and tastes great!
      This brought me out of my cooking "rut" I was in and I have been revisiting our family's staple recipes since then!
      Enjoy cooking with your kiddos!

      Chicken Cordon Bleu

      by Emily Chhouy
      Prep Time: 20 min
      Cook Time: 40 min
      Ingredients (4-6)
      • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; flattened and cut in half if rather large
      • 8-10 slices ham (thinly sliced lunch meat)
      • 4 slices swiss cheese
      • 1 cup milk
      • Crushed cornflakes or Wheaties
      • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
      • salt and pepper to taste
      Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
      Lightly grease a large baking dish and set aside.
      In a processor or zipped plastic bag, crush the cereal (a few cups) until they are in small pieces.
      Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper to the crushed cereal and toss to distribute.
      Add the milk to a bowl and set this aside as well as the crushed cereal.
      With the chicken breast flattened, add 2 slices of ham to cover most of the chicken.
      Add a slice of cheese to the middle.
      Fold up the chicken breast to conceal the cheese and the ham inside of the chicken.
      Use 3-4 toothpicks to hold the edges of the chicken together.
      Dip the breast into the milk, then into the cereal mixture (careful of the toothpicks - they are sharp!)
      Press the topping onto the chicken until all sides are coated.
      Place in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken.
      Bake for 35-40 minutes, until juices run clear.
      Remove toothpicks before serving.
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      Tuesday, December 2, 2014

      Apple Fritter Bread

      Now that the big meal is over and the kitchen is finally clean again.
      You can now see all the leftover food that you have to use before it goes bad.
      Do you happen to have a few apples hanging around after baking up those delicious apple pies?
      I made 5 apple pies and 3 apple cheesecakes this year.
      So I have a few apples to spare.
      There is a bakery in Pella, IA (Jarrsma Bakery) and they make the most delicious apple bread I have ever eaten in my entire life! It is studded with walnuts and has a caramel icing on the top.
      Just thinking about it makes me want to jump in my car right this moment and drive the 30 minutes just to buy a loaf (that I am totally capable of inhaling by myself on the drive home. Sadly, it is true - although I haven't ever actually done it. I just know I could because it is that good).
      Well, I would love to know how to make that delicious bread.
      I have tried several different bread recipes and nothing seems to compare to that wonderfulness that I can buy for around $3, which is totally worth it, by the way!

      I happen to own a few "old" cookbooks. Thanks to me and my family picking them up whenever we are "antiquing" while on vacation. When I say old, I mean it. Most are early 1900's up through the 50's. I have a lot of newly released cookbooks as well, but something about those worn pages with notes written in with pencil in beautiful cursive that nobody writes in anymore, just make me so happy!
      Plus, the way these recipes are written makes them virtually extinct now due to modernization of practically everything!
      Well, I was craving that bread from the bakery, so I set out on a mission to find an apple bread recipe that I haven't tried yet.
      I stumbled upon this one and it is sooooo freaking tasty.
      I have made apple fritters before, and this tastes like those in slice form!

      Now go peel and dice up those spare one or two apples you have and make this delicious bread for breakfast in the morning. You will not be disappointed!

      Apple Fritter Bread

      by Emily Chhouy
      Prep Time: 10 min
      Cook Time: 50 min
      Ingredients (1-9" loaf)
        For the Bread
        • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
        • 2/3 cup white sugar
        • 2 eggs
        • 1 teaspoon vanilla
        • 1 1/2 cups flour
        • 2 teaspoons baking powder
        • 1/2 cup milk
        For the Filling/Topping
        • 2 apples, peeled and diced into small pieces
        • 1 teaspoon sugar
        • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
        • AND
        • 1/3 cup brown sugar
        • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
        For the Icing
        • 1 cup powdered sugar
        • 1-3 tablespoons milk
        For the Filling/Topping
        Toss the 1 teaspoons of sugar and cinnamon together with the diced apple.
        In a separate bow, mix together the brown sugar and other 1 teaspoons of cinnamon together.
        Set both aside.
        For the Bread
        Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
        Grease a 9x5 bread pan; set aside.
        Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy
        Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
        Stir in the vanilla.
        In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
        Add the flour to the butter slowly, alternating with the milk until all is just combined.
        Do not over mix.
        Spoon half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
        Sprinkle with half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
        Add half of the apple mixture over the sugar, press gently into the batter.
        Pour the remaining batter into the pan.
        Repeat with the remaining brown sugar and apple mixes on the top of the bread.
        Bake for 50 minutes, or until golden brown and bread is baked in the middle.
        Let cool on a rack while preparing the icing.
        Remove from the pan after 10-15 minutes to continue cooling.
        For the Icing
        Stir together the powdered sugar with a tablespoon of the milk.
        Add milk a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency you'd like.
        Put the loaf of bread on a serving platter (or keep on the cooling rack, just place wax paper beneath it to catch any excess icing)
        Drizzle with the icing.
        Cut and serve.
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        Monday, December 1, 2014

        Sugar Rush {a cookbook review}

        Wow. Johnny Iuzzini is pretty much the king of sugar. Seriously. 
        I love to make candy and all things caramel, so I knew I would have a deep interest in this cookbook.
        I was spot-on choosing to pick this one up!
        His steps are easy to follow, and best of all, there are photographs of EVERYTHING!
        So many times when I am working with sugar, the description just isn't enough for me to know when things are ready. I am a visual person and this book lends me a hand by having snapshots of everything, and many include step-by-step photos. 
        The pictures are clear and beautifully done. The details of the goodies really shine through on the big, glossy pages of this thick book.
        I have managed to make the Salted Caramels so far (which is amazing)! I never knew you could smoke sugar, and the flavor is so intense and definitely worth the extra time to do. My new favorite caramel, that's for sure!
        Iuzzini shares tips before harder recipes (such as meringue) which means that anyone will be the sugar master of their own kitchen.  (I am planning to make the eclairs next - he makes it look so simple! Even photos of his filling technique are included!)
        I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to take their sugar-candy making skills up to the next level. The broad range of recipes that are included span from super simple recipes like grandma used to make, to more complex recipes that top-notch restaurants receive rave reviews about. 
        Nobody can fail with the king of sugar on their side, and this book proves it.
        I received this book in exchange for an honest review from bloggingforbooks and I am blown away by the beauty of this cookbook! Seriously a sugar rush waiting to happen, just from looking at the pages along!

        You can purchase the book here
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