December 29, 2011

Your Top 10 of 2011 {Most-Viewed Recipes of the Year}

Well, here they are!  Your top 10 of 2011 ... as 'voted for' by your clicks.  And I must say, you all have great taste.  Hee, hee.

1.  Funfetti Cake Balls - By farrrrrrr your most clicked post.  This post was viewed a whopping 7 times more than the #2 post.  Boy, who would have thought that one of my biggest 'oops' of the year would turn into such a fabulous-little-favorite treat.  One reader even called me "the MacGuyver of the kitchen" for this recovery of a flop ... I'm so flattered!


2.  Salted Chocolate Cake Pops - Oooohh, this one brings back such a wonderful memory ... an entire day this summer spent making cake pops and cake ball truffles with my friend Jenny.  Thanks so much for giving me this walk down memory lane!


3.  Nutella French Toast with Maple Syrup, Bananas, & Strawberries - I've definitely been on a Nutella kick this year.  Yum.



4.  The BEST Vanilla Cupcake + the BEST Coffee Buttercream - Thank you for coming along on my quest for the BEST vanilla cupcake!  It was surprisingly difficult to find a vanilla cupcake that I was truly happy with.



5.  Stovetop Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese - This one holds a special place in my heart, because it was created for the first ever Crazy Cooking Challenge, the brain child of and hosted by Tina of Mom's Crazy Cooking.  I love participating in the Challenge with Tina and the other 80-or-so participating bloggers!  (Hey, check us out on January 7th when we'll be going live with a Chicken Noodle Soup Crazy Cooking Challenge ... I know, I know, shameless plug.)

6.  Margarita Cupcakes - a.k.a Top Shelf Margarita Cupcakes.  These were a July creation that were just perfect for summer.


7.  German Chocolate Chip Cookies - These tasty little beauties were also made for a Crazy Cooking Challenge ... the 2nd one, featuring chocolate chip cookies.  I decided not to submit these as my entry though, going instead with Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies (which also made the top 10 list at #9).  Looks like you all liked these even better than the Nutella Chocolate Chippers ... maybe I should have gone with these for the Challenge!



8.  Black Bottom Cupcakes - Chocolate & cheesecake together in a two-or-maybe-three-bite-sized cupcake.  What more could we ask for?  This is the post in which I included a blast from the past ... Animal of the Muppets singing "mnah-mnum" ... love that little puppet guy.  This is also the sweet treat I featured in my personal cancer story post for 'Frosting for the Cause' in support of breast cancer research.


9.  Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies - My 2nd Nutella-based treat to make your top 10.  These little tasties were baked up for the Crazy Cooking Challenge.  Delish.



10.  Margarita Cake Ball Truffles - Margarita Cupcakes' little sister!  This post even features a visit from Elvis.




And I would like to include my favorite find from 2011 in blogland ... S'More Pralines, adapted from Bakergirl's Graham Cracker S'mores Candy.  Incidentally, these made Bakergirl's 2011 Top Ten!  Believe me, these are absolutely scrumptious.

Thank you to everyone who has stopped by my little spot in blogland this year!  I truly appreciate you reading, your comments, your support, and your encouragement.  Happy New Year to you!!

I invite you to follow The Kitchen is My Playground with Pinterest, Facebook, Google Friend Connect, Linky Followers, bloglovin', or Feedburner. Buttons are in the right sidebar. I'd love to have you back soon!


Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground

This post is linked with Savvy Homemade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's CreationsCreative Juice hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Weekend Bloggy Reading hosted by Serenity Now, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Countdown to 2012: Best Desserts of 2011 hosted by Finding Joy in My Kitchen, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Feature Yourself Friday hosted by Fingerprints on the Fridge, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence.

December 23, 2011

Tortellini Salad {By Request}

Hello, everyone!  This is just a real quick post to share a recipe that's been requested.  Back this summer, I did a 'My Mom Throws a Great Party!' post series, featuring recipes she served at a wine tasting party.  Well, see the tortellini salad in the bottom left of the photo below?  A fabulous-and-faithful reader of The Kitchen is My Playground has requested the recipe for this salad.  I'm more than happy to oblige!  (And Mom doesn't mind either.)


The reader writes,

"Could you please post the Tortellini Salad recipe pictured in 'My Mom Throws a Great Party {Party Series Part 1}'? I simply can't take my eyes from this picture." 

Sure thing!  Here you go.

Tortellini Salad
Source:  My Mom, and we're pretty sure she adapted the recipe from Cooking Light magazine
Ingredients
1 lb. frozen cheese tortellini  (Mom uses tri-color tortellini - ya know, 'cause it's fun)
1/4 c. wine vinegar (Mom uses white wine vinegar)
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp. prepared mustard
2 T. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. dill weed
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Your favorite vegetables*


Directions
1.  Cook tortellini according to package directions; cool. 

2.  Combine remain ingredients (except vegetables) to make the dressing. 

3.  Combine tortellini and chopped vegetables; top with dressing.  Toss to coat.  Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

*My Mom used a combination of julienned red bell peppers, zucchini, and carrots.  I think yellow bell peppers, yellow squash, or cherry/grape tomatoes would also be wonderful.  Or ... whatever fits your fancy!

Enjoy!


The {Party Series} Posts:
My Mom Throws a Great Party! {Party Series 1}
Grand Marnier & Spiced Rum Fruit Dip {Party Series 2}
Antipasto Platter with Grape Tomato & Caper Salad {Party Series 3}
Marinated Cheese {Party Series 4}
Mini Mocha-Toffee Crunch Cheesecakes {Party Series 5}
Raspberry Chocolate Truffles & Drunken Cherries {Party Series 6}
Raspberry-Almond, Caramel-Walnut, & Lemon-Coconut Bars {Party Series 7}
Toasted Pesto Rounds {Party Series 8}

December 21, 2011

What's Your 'Perfect' Gingerbread Man?

The best classic Gingerbread Cookies recipe!  It just wouldn't be Christmas without these.


Each year at Christmas time, I do the tradition of gingerbread with my little 1st graders as we're learning about different holiday traditions.  I'm always surprised to see how many of the students have never tried gingerbread before.  This year was no different ... over half my class had never tried it.  I love to introduce my students to new things!  I've discovered that my idea of the perfect gingerbread man is drastically different than a 1st grader's idea of the perfect gingerbread man.  Take a look at the photographs below and you'll see what I mean.

Here's my perfect gingerbread man ... just plain.  No frosting.  No icing.  No decorations.  Just 'nekked,' some might say.  I like to taste the wonderful spicy gingerbread flavor without any competition from sweet icings or embellishments.

My idea of the perfect gingerbread man ... just 'nekked!'

Here's 1st graders' idea of the perfect gingerbread man ... their philosophy = the more frosting the better!  It's so fun to watch them having a big ol' time decorating their gingerbread.  (I especially love the cookie on the bottom right with the long red hair.)
1st graders' idea of the perfect gingerbread man

On 'Gingerbread Afternoon,' I set up three stations in the room that the students rotate through.  At two of the stations, students work on the gift we make for their parents - a gingerbread ornament with a photograph of the student as the gingerbread "man's" face, and a gingerbread house gift bag made with a brown paper lunch sack.  At the third station ... they get to decorate and eat their gingerbread cookie.  And they love it!

What made this year's gingerbread stations extra fun was that my Mom and Dad came to help out.  I loved having them there!  My Mom facilitated the ornament station.  My Dad helped me with the cookie station.  It was my Dad's first time volunteering in my classroom, and he was so sweet with the kids.  We worked together to demonstrate decorating a cookie for each group, and then we'd let them have at it themselves.  Fun, fun, fun.  It might be one of my favorite 1st grade days each year.

The recipe I use for my gingerbread cookies is adapted from Muster Day Gingerbread in Valerie Barrett's The Complete Book of Gingerbread.  The recipe gets its name from the military Muster Day held in New England each year.  According to the recipe note:

"In New England before the Civil War, the first Tuesday of every June was Muster or Training Day.  All men from 18 to 45 were required to go for military training and many of them took their families along.  It became a festive occasion and gingerbread was an essential part of the day's menu," (p. 18).

So, whether you prefer gingerbread 'just nekked' or the 1st-grade-way, enjoy creating your perfect gingerbread man! 

I wish you a very merry Christmas filled with tasty treats and wonderful times with family and friends.


Gingerbread Cookies
Adapted from: Muster Day Gingerbread in The Complete Book of Gingerbread by Valerie Barrett
Ingredients
1/4 c. brown sugar
Generous 1/3 c. molasses
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. butter, cut into chunks
1 egg
2 1/2 to 3 c. all-purpose flour


Directions
1.  Put sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a pan* and heat to boiling point.  Stir in baking soda.  Take off heat and pour mixture over the butter in a bowl.

2.  Stir until the butter has melted.  Break egg into the mixture and then work in the flour.  Mix gently together until it becomes a smooth dough.

3.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

4.  When chilled and stiffened slightly, roll out and cut out cookies with cookie cutters (I roll mine a bit thick ... probably about 1/4" thick.  I like thick, soft cookies).

5.  Place cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

6.  Decorate with icing, if desired.

(*Note - Place your brown sugar, molasses, and spices in a saucepan larger than you think you'll need.  When you stir in the baking soda, the mixture foams up on you!)




This post is linked with Tea Party Tuesday hosted by Sweetology, Mrs. Fox's Sweets Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweets, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage, Creative Juice Thursday hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Christmas in JulyChristmas Link Party12 Days of Christmas Cookies.

December 18, 2011

Christmas White Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods

White Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods gets all dressed up for Christmas with the help of beautiful holiday sprinkles!  Or, change the sprinkle colors to match any occasion.


Need a quick-and-easy Christmas treat?  Here's an idea for you!  These White Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods are perfect for little treat gifts, or for get-together nibbles.  Not to mention, they're just fun... both to make and to eat.

And, again, I'm realizing that I've been on a total pretzel kick this Christmas baking season.  So far,  four out of my five posts for December have included pretzels!  That was not at all intentional.  First there was Dark Chocolate Pretzel Fudge for the December Crazy Cooking Challenge, followed by Pretzel Cookies with Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chips, and then Yuppy Chow with ... you guessed it ... pretzels!  Now I've moved on to simply dipping pretzels in chocolate.  White chocolate.  With colorful sprinkles.  Ya know, to deck them out for Christmas and all.

Don't they look cute?  I think these White Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods came out pretty good, if I do say so myself.

I whipped these up at the last minute one night.  I was asked to make a batch of cake pops (like these Salted Chocolate ones) to include as a little "giftie" with the gift cards our teacher staff was giving the office staff for Christmas.  Now, I love to make cake pops ... but any of you out there who've made them know they aren't the quickest things to make.  They happen to be just a teeny tiny bit tedious and time-consuming.  So, I quickly said that wasn't going to happen at this point in the busy Christmas season.  But ... I did have another idea for a cute tasty treat.  And that's how these white chocolate-dipped pretzel rods came to be.

I think I whipped up (or dipped up!) an entire bag of pretzel rods in less than 30 minutes.  So quick.  So easy.  Then I put five of them in a cellophane baggy, tied it with a colorful ribbon, and voila! ... Christmas white chocolate-dipped pretzel rod bouquets!

All you need to make these beauties is a bag of pretzel rods, some white chocolate bark coating, a tiny bit of shortening, and an assortment of colorful sprinkles.

Melt some bark coating together with a tiny bit of shortening.  The shortening thins the coating out a bit and makes it so you get a nice, smooth layer of white chocolate.  Use a tall, skinny container that is tall enough to fit most of the length of the pretzel rod in it.  I had a hard time finding something in my kitchen tall and skinny enough, and ended up using a pottery cup.

Once you've melted your coating, dip a pretzel rod in.  Tilt the container a bit if you need to to get the coating as far down the pretzel as you can.

Dipping

Take the pretzel out of the coating, gently shake off the excess, letting it drip back into your container.  Then, sprinkle with your chosen, well .... sprinkles.

I started off with my sprinkles laid out in shallow platters, thinking it would be best to roll the pretzel rods in the sprinkles.  Not the case.  It turned out to be easiest just to grab a pinch of sprinkles and sprinkle it over the pretzel rod with my fingers.  Just make sure to do this over a bowl or something with a bit of a side ... not the flat platters like I did.  Why?  Because the sprinkles tend to bounce when they land back on whatever dish you're sprinkling over.  I've swept my kitchen floor three times since making these pretzels, and I'm still finding little sprinkle balls hiding around my linoleum!

See my finger marks in the green sugar sprinkles below?  Yup, much better way to go than rolling.

Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle

Lay your dipped-and-sprinkled pretzels out on a sheet of waxed paper or parchment, let the coating set up, and then ... there you have it!  A beautiful, festive platter of White Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods.



Tie a few up with a bow for a cute and tasty little give-away treat.


Ribbon makes everything just that much more fun!


Christmas White-Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods
Source:  I'm sure I saw them somewhere, but I have no idea where!

Ingredients
1 (10 oz.) bag pretzel rods
1 (24 oz.) package white chocolate bark coating or 1 (1 lb.) bag white candy melts (you'll only use about 10 or 12 oz.)
1 to 2 T. shortening
Assorted sprinkles


Directions
1.  In a tall skinny container (such as a pottery cup or perhaps even a small glass vase), melt bark coating or candy melts and shortening together in the microwave per package directions (typically in 30 second intervals, stirring in between).

2.  Dip each pretzel rod in the candy coating, letting excess coating drip off back into the container. Sprinkle with sprinkles, as desired.

3.  Place on waxed paper and let stand for coating to set up.

I pour the leftover white chocolate coating into a plastic storage container and save it for another use later.  All you have to do is heat it back up in the microwave, omitting the shortening (since it's already in there).

Enjoy!



Place in a cellophane baggy for a sweet little bouquet


This post is linked with Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Savvy Homemade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Market Yourself Monday hosted by Sumo's Sweet Stuff, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, Tasty Tuesday hosted by For the Love of Blogs, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Tea Party Tuesday hosted by Sweetology, Mrs. Fox's Sweet Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweets, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Creative Juice Thursday hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Christmas Link Party.

December 14, 2011

'Traditional' & Nutella Yuppy (or Puppy) Chow



Yuppy Chow.  Puppy Chow.  White Trash.  Whatever you call it, the bottom line is ... this stuff is good!  Not just good.  Addictively good.

My family was introduced to this delectable sweet treat years ago by my brother's mother-in-law.  And ever since, my Father has been in love with Yuppy Chow.  To him, it's just not Christmas without it.  Of course, the rest of us like it pretty good too.  Crunchy cereal, pretzels, chocolate, ... all coated in powdered sugar ... what's not to love?  (Well, the calories maybe.  But we're going to forget those are there.  Okay?  Please just agree with my denial.  And nobody will get hurt here.  Deal?)

My Mom and I especially love the big hunks created when a bunch of pieces of the cereal-pretzel mixture all clump together.  That means there's extra chocolate coating holding the big clump together!  (You do all know I'm a choc-a-holic right?  And you all have figured out who I inherited that from, right??)

Well, given my family's love of Yuppy Chow and my love of Nutella, can you imagine how excited I was when I came across Healthy Tasty Chow's Nutella version?  I just had to give it a try!  Had to.  No choice about it.

So I did.  And then, of course, I put it to a head-to-head taste test against the traditional version. 

The results, you ask?  This one was a super tough call! ... and I actually have to call it a tie.  I love them both.  I might ... might ... love the Nutella version just a teeny-tiny bit better.  It's so slight it's impossible to decide!  I think which one I like better just depends on my mood.  If I'm in the mood for a chocolate-and-peanut-butter-kind-of-taste, then I like the traditional version better.  If I'm in the mood for a chocolatey-hazelnutty taste, then I like the Nutella version better.

Here's how to whip these chows up, so you can decide for yourself.

Start by melting together your chocolate coating ingredients ... chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter for the traditional version ... chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and Nutella for the Nutella version.

Melting

Then pour the melted mixture over your crunchy mixture.  Ummmmm, does anyone else just want to stick their finger right into that beautiful chocolate waterfall?

Yummy chocolatey waterfall  (Does "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" come to mind??)

Next, gently stir the mixture together to coat the crunchies with the chocolate.  Sometimes I use a spoon ... sometimes I just dive in with my hands.  I'm not afraid.

All coated!

Once your crunchies are coated, dump them into a brown paper grocery bag and dump the powdered sugar on top.

Shake, shake, shake

Close up the bag real good, and then shake, shake, shake ... shake, shake, shake ... shake your baggie ... shake your baggie!  (Gotta love a little play on the classic KC and the Sunshine Band!  I haven't included a song in one of my posts for a while.  I was due.  Sooooo ... just in case you don't know that song, here it is!  Classic "Shake Your Booty."


That was fun.  Now back to Yuppy Chow.)


Your Yuppy Chow should now look like this ... 

"Hey!  Who left us out in a blizzard?"

... all nicely coated and white.

You're ready to serve up a bowl and enjoy.  But be warned! ... once you start eating this stuff, it's really hard to stop!


'Traditional' Yuppy Chow
Source:  A family friend

12 oz. (2 c.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 oz. (1 c.) butterscotch chips
3/4 c. peanut butter
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 box Kellogg's Crispix cereal
1 (12 to 16 oz.) bag small pretzel twists
1 c. peanuts
1 (1 lb.) box confectioners sugar

Melt chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter, and butter together slowly over medium-low heat, stirring to combine well.  If consistency is too thick for pouring, melt in additional butter.

Combine cereal, pretzels, and peanuts in a large bowl or other container.  Pour chocolate mixture over the cereal mixture.  Gently stir to coat the cereal mixture with the chocolate mixture.  Place the coated mixture in a large paper grocery bag and add the confectioners sugar.  Close tightly and shake to coat the cereal mixture with sugar.  Place bag in the freezer for one hour to set the chocolate mixture.  Store in an airtight container in a cool place.  This can also be frozen.




Nutella Yuppy Chow
Source: Adapted from Healthy Tasty Chow

12 oz. (2 c.) white chocolate chips
6 oz. (1 c.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. Nutella
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 box Kellogg's Crispix cereal
1 (12 to 16 oz.) bag small pretzel twists
1 c. hazelnuts (or peanuts)
1 (1 lb.) box confectioners sugar

Melt white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter together slowly over medium-low heat, stirring to combine well. If consistency is too thick for pouring, melt in additional butter.

Combine cereal, pretzels, and hazelnuts in a large bowl or other container. Pour chocolate mixture over the cereal mixture. Gently stir to coat the cereal mixture with the chocolate mixture. Place the coated mixture in a large paper grocery bag and add the confectioners sugar. Close tightly and shake to coat the cereal mixture with sugar. Place bag in the freezer for one hour to set the chocolate mixture. Store in an airtight container in a cool place. This can also be frozen.


This post is linked with It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Savvy Homemade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, This Week's Cravings hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking, Market Yourself Monday hosted by Sumo's Sweet Stuff, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, Tasty Tuesday hosted by For the Love of Blogs, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Tea Party Tuesday hosted by Sweetology, Mrs. Fox's Sweet Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweets, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, This Week's Cravings hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking, Christmas in July.

December 11, 2011

Pretzel Cookies with Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chips

I'm on a pretzel kick! - First, Dark Chocolate Pretzel Fudge, and now these Pretzel Cookies with Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chips.  There's just something about the classic sweet-and-salty combination that I love.


When I found this recipe on Sugar Cooking's blog, I just knew I had to make them.  And what better time than now - Christmastime!?  So these little confections are going into my holiday goodie bags this year.

Now, if you pop over and check out Sugar Cooking's version (and I hope you will), you'll notice that hers and mine look a bit different.  That's because Sarah of Sugar Cooking suggested changing the base cookie batter  ... which I did.  Taking her advice, I went ahead and just whipped up the classic Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie dough as my base batter.  There it is below - all ooey-gooey and ready to go!

Classic Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie dough base

Then, per Sarah's original recipe, I crushed up some pretzels into pieces (hitting them gently with a meat mallet worked great) ...

Tap pretzels gently with a meat mallet ... or you'll end up with just pretzel dust!

... and tossed them into my cookie batter along with some chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.  Yum!  I could stop right now and just eat the batter.  Really, I could.  (And I might have.  Just a little bit.  Maybe.)

Yum

Next, drop the dough by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and sprinkle each dough ball with sea salt or fleur de sel.  Oh my! 

Sprinkling with fleur de sel

Pop 'em in the oven and bake 'em up.  The Tollhouse cookie base worked beautifully.  The cookies spread out the perfect amount, and stayed nice and soft - just the way I like them.  As suggested by Sarah of Sugar Cooking, if you have a favorite base cookie dough, go ahead and use it.  I think this combination of add-ins will make any delicious cookie base just that much better!  (I think it would also be wonderful with just the chocolate chips, too ... ya know, if you've got something against peanut butter.)  Enjoy!



Pretzel Cookies with Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chips
Source:  Adapted from Sugar Cooking and Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. (about 9 oz.) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
1 c. (about 6 oz.) peanut butter chips
1 c. pretzel pieces
Sea salt or fleur de sel (for sprinkling)


Directions
1. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  In a large bowl, combine butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla; beat until creamy.  Beat in eggs.  Gradually add flour mixture; mix well.

2.  Stir in chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and pretzel pieces. 

3.  Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle the top of each cookie with sea salt or fleur de sel.

4.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.  Let stand on the pan for about a minute or two before removing.


This post is linked with Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Market Yourself Monday hosted by Sumo's Sweet Stuff, Savvy Homemade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, Tasty Tuesday hosted by For the Love of Blogs, Holly Bloggy Christmas Recipe Party hosted by Chef in Training, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Mrs. Fox's Sweets Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweets, Tea Party Tuesday hosted by Sweetology, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, 12 Days of Christmas Cookies.

December 7, 2011

Dark Chocolate Pretzel Fudge {Crazy Cooking Challenge}


Well, hello there, Crazy Cooking Challenge time!  The challenge presented for December by our hostess, Tina of Mom's Crazy Cooking, was  FUDGE!  Gloriously decadent and totally indulgent fudge.

I'm new to making fudge ... I made my first fudge just last month, when I put two family recipes to a head-to-head taste and texture challenge.  (My mother-in-law's recipe beat my sister-in-law's!)  I always thought fudge was difficult to make, but ya know, it's not.  It's really pretty simple.

So, with just one batch of fudge under my belt, I set out to find a fudge flavor to play with for the Crazy Cooking Challenge.  I came across many interesting and intriguing flavors ... like eggnog, mocha, and cappuccino ... but being a choc-a-holic, I went with a good ol' chocolate variation ~ Dark Chocolate Pretzel Fudge, adapted from Beantown Baker's Oreo Pretzel Fudge.  When I saw the combination of fudge and pretzels, I just couldn't resist!  I left off Beantown Baker's Oreo cookies 'n cream layer, and went with just straight chocolate and pretzels.  Oh my.

This fudge is incredibly intense and rich, so just a little dab will do ya.  But my oh my, it's a choc-a-holic's dream.

To make it, start by preparing an 8"x8" pan with an aluminum foil or parchment paper sling.  This will make it easy to lift the finished fudge from the pan for cutting, and will make clean-up of your pan a breeze.

Melt some dark chocolate and combine it with sweetened condensed milk.  I used Baker's semi-sweet chocolate squares.


Then stir in about a cup of crushed pretzels.


Pour half of this mixture into your prepared pan and top it with a layer of whole pretzels.


Pour the remainder of the fudge mixture on top and smooth it out.


Now, Beantown Baker suggested sprinkling the top with sea salt.  And I agree.  I wish I had taken her advice and done that.  And next time I make this fudge, I will give it a little sprinkling.  While you indeed do get the beautiful chocolate-and-salt flavor from the dark chocolate and pretzels, I think another little kick of salt on the top would be totally fabulous.

Cool the completed fudge and cut it into small squares.  Pop it in your mouth and enjoy the salty goodness!



Dark Chocolate Pretzel Fudge
Source:  Adapted from The Beantown Baker
Ingredients
1 (8 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate squares (I used Baker's brand)
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. crushed pretzel pieces (approximately 25 small twist pretzels)
Additional whole small twist pretzels (approximately 20 additional pretzels)
Fleur de sel or sea salt (optional)


Directions
1.  Line an 8"x8" pan with an aluminum foil or parchment paper sling.

2.  Melt the chocolate and condensed milk together in a small saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in pretzel pieces. 

3.  Spread 1/2 of the chocolate mixture in the prepared pan; top with a layer of whole pretzels.  Pour remaining chocolate mixture on top and spread it evenly.  Top with a sprinkling of fleur de sel or sea salt (optional). 

4.  Refrigerate for about two hours or until firm; cut into small squares.

(Note - The pretzels do begin to soften after a couple of days.  It's still tasty after they soften, but just be aware that the pretzel 'crunch' fades.  So ... if you want to 'keep the crunch,' eat up within a day or two!)

Enjoy!

Check out the other Crazy Cooking Challenge participants through the links below. Looks like there are some delicious fudge variations. Hmmm ... which should I try first??

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{Click to view my other Crazy Cooking Challenge entries.}

This post is linked with Wow Me Wednesday hosted by Polka Dots on Parade, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Mrs. Fox's Sweet Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweets, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Friday Favorites hosted by Simply Sweet Home, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Christmas in the Kitchen hosted by At the Picket Fence, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Savvy Homemade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light.

December 4, 2011

Rum Balls {with Spiced Rum}

Chocolate Rum Balls with spiced rum ~ a Christmas classic in our home.


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! ... And in our family, it's not Christmas without Rum Balls with Spiced Rum!!  My Mom has made Rum Balls at Christmastime ever since I can remember.  I have happily continued the tradition.  

Of course, once I got my hands on the recipe, I "Tracey-ified" it, as I like to do.  Isn't it so fun to tinker with a recipe to make it your own?  To me, that's what cooking and baking is all about!  So, I changed the regular white rum in the original recipe to dark spiced rum, and added some extra ~ ya know, just for good measure.

I make these Rum Balls with Spiced Rum each year to include in the Christmas treat bags I give to friends.  At this point, I don't think I would get away with not  putting them in there without some form of a riot.  

The extra beauty of these?  They're so easy.  

A bit time consuming if you're making several batches, like I do ... but easy.  And hey, you can just turn on your favorite Christmas movies and roll away to your heart's content while getting in the holiday 'spirit' (pun intended! ... I know, it was a bit of a weak one).

But do be warned, I love my Rum Balls with Spiced Rum quite  'spirited' (aka: I make 'em a wee bit strong).  You can adjust the amount of spiced rum to taste, if you'd like.

Happy holidays!!

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Rum Balls (the Tracey way!)
(Source: My Mom)

Ingredients
1 c. crushed vanilla wafers
1 c. confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
2 T. cocoa
2 T. honey
1/4 c. + an extra splash of dark spiced rum


Directions
1.  Mix all ingredients together.  Chill one hour in the refrigerator.

2.  Form into small smalls (I use a small cookie scoop to measure out each one).  Roll each ball in additional confectioner's sugar.

3.  Store in an airtight container.  These can be made in advance and stored in the freezer until needed.

Note:  Each batch makes about 3 dozen Rum Balls, give-or-take a few depending on the size you make each one.  I usually make at least a double or triple batch.

Enjoy!


This post is linked with Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, The Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Market Yourself Monday hosted by Sumo's Sweet Stuff, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy Homemade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Mingle Monday hosted by Add a Pinch, A Themed Baker's Sunday hosted by Cupcake Apothecary, Tuesday Tutorials hosted by The Kurtz Corner, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, Tasty Tuesday hosted by For the Love of Blogs, 12 Days of Christmas Goodies hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking, Wow Me Wednesday hosted by Polka Dots on Parade, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Friday Favorites hosted by Simply Sweet Home, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Christmas in the Kitchen hosted by At the Picket Fence, Holly Bloggy Christmas Recipe Party hosted by Chef in Training, This Week's Cravings hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking, Creative Juice Thursday hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Christmas in JulyChristmas Link Party12 Days of Christmas CookiesHomespun ChristmasShow Me SaturdayShow Stopper SaturdaySaturday Night FeverThink Pink SundayInspiration MondayMonday Funday.

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