Friday, March 29, 2013

Super Soft Sugar Cookies

There are two treats that I will never turn down.  Ever.
Homemade cinnamon rolls and homemade sugar cookies.
If either of these treats is ever available to me, I have no choice but to eat it.  I don't even try to resist because it's useless.
My son has been wanting to make sugar cookies since Halloween.  And although I love eating them, I don't really love making them.  So it only happens once or twice a year.  Last night we made egg-shaped sugar cookies and decorated them for Easter.  I tried a new recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks, which coincidentally, is called, "Favorites."
They turned out really soft and yummy and I think this recipe is definitely a keeper.
1 1/2 cups butter, softened (3 cubes)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp. almond extract
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups flour

*Beat butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, sour cream, almond and vanilla extracts, and mix well.  Add soda, salt and flour (gradually) and mix on low until combined.  Don't over-mix.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.  Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into shapes and bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes, depending on how big your cookies are.  Our small cookies took about 8 minutes and the big ones took a little longer.  You don't want them to brown.  Cool on racks before frosting.  


8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
16 oz. powdered sugar
dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
cream, half and half, or milk

*Beat cream cheese and butter until no lumps.  Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Add a little salt and the vanilla and then add a little cream (or whatever you have) until you like the consistency.  Add food coloring if you want to different colors and decorate until your heart is content!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Homemade Dark Chocolate Brownies

I used to think that box brownies were just as good as homemade brownies.  That was a few years ago before I really started looking for good homemade brownie recipes.  Turns out, there are a lot of good brownie recipes out there that are way better than the box.  Not that I won't bust out a box of Ghirardelli brownies now and again, though, because those are still really good.
But if you have a little extra time and want to go the "from scratch" route, here is a winner of a brownie recipe.  This came from Mel's Kitchen Cafe and we all know that we can count on her for jackpot recipes every time.
2 sticks (8 oz.) butter
8 oz. good-quality semisweet chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
5 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup flour

*Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9x13 pan with foil.  Spray with cooking spray and set aside.  Melt butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth.  Add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture.  Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm.  Whisk in the remaining cup of sugar and the vanilla.  Whisk in eggs, 1 at a time, until mixture is glossy and smooth.  Whisk in salt and cocoa powder, then add flour and stir until it disappears.  Do not over-beat.  Spread in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with crumbs, about 25-35 minutes.  (Mine took 35).  Cool to room temp and then chill for an hour or more.  Lift from pan and cut into squares on a cutting board.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes

I don't think I know anyone who doesn't love a cupcake from Sprinkles.  Their strawberry cupcake is probably my favorite out of all of the flavors they have and since it really isn't convenient (thank goodness) to go get cupcakes all of the time, we just make our own. :)


2/3 cup strawberry puree (puree fresh or frozen strawberries)

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

2 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup whole milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cubes butter (1 Cup)

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

4 large egg whites, room temperature


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 24-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.

Place fresh or frozen and thawed (about 1 1/3 cups makes 2/3 cups) strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. Add a few more strawberries if necessary or save any extra puree for frosting; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.



6 T. strawberry puree

1 cube butter

pinch of salt

6-7 c. powdered sugar

1/2 t. vanilla

Mix butter and strawberry puree with mixer. Add vanilla and mix well.  Add powdered sugar just until spreading consistency.  Add a little milk or cream if it's too thick.  Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Basil Cous Cous Salad

Basil Cous Cous Salad

Yet another recipe from my friend Susie.  I get all my good ones from her.  This salad will knock your socks off.  Throw some grilled chicken on it to make it a meal or keep it as a side.  Sorry for my phone pictures.

Basil Cous Cous Salad

1 large package spinach
1/3 cup craisins
1/3 cup asiago cheese
2 cups white corn
1 pkg. couscous (olive oil and garlic flavor - prepared per package instructions

1 cup fresh basil leaves roughly chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 shallot
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Add ingredients in blender and blend well.  Salt and peper to taste.  Toss with salad just before serving.

Friday, March 8, 2013


I know its not summer yet, but it is spring and I am loving our warm/coolish AZ weather! And I LOVE MANGOES!! I grew up eating them year round, just like most of us do bananas. We often took trips to the beach in Mexico and sat on the beach with ripe mangoes, a knife and some limes.  The drill was:  Peel one, squeeze lime juice on it and eat that sweet messy fruit down to the pit! Then jump in the ocean to wash all the mess off your arms and face! Heaven, I tell you. 

 Anyway--I'm off on a tangent, but here is a great recipe. I was organizing some recipes and found it--haven't made it in a long time and wanted to share.  Oh, and avocados--another FAVORITE!!

I posted a picture of a yellow variety of mango instead of the green and red ones that are usually found in the grocery.  This variety is sweeter and less stringy. In AZ you can always buy them at Lee Lees Market (aka Lee Lees "stinky" Market--smells like fish).  Sometimes Costco and Sams have them in a six pack. Let them sweeten on your counter until they are soft and even a little wrinkly. The flesh will be like candy!! Anyway--here is the recipe!! Great with fish tacos (which I don't like) or just eat it with a spoon!!

mango avocado salsa
1 roma tomato, chopped
1 jalapeƱo, seeds removed and finely diced
1/2 mango, peeled and chopped
1/2 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
a pinch of salt + pepper

Mix and chill.  You can adjust the jalapeno for your desired heat preference.  

Monday, March 4, 2013


Thanks to my cute friend, Loni, this is a delicious and easy way to make lasagna! We had it for "Sundee" birthday dinner yesterday and it was a hit! Mrs. Sam's Club and Mrs. Costco sure can make cooking a breeze! Sam's Club carries the Artisan Fresh brand of ravioli and it comes in a 2 pack.  Costco carries a different brand but they both taste the same. They are stuffed with chicken and cheese and some herbs. The two pack will make a 9x13 pan of "lasagna" but if you want a smaller amount, only use one pack and make it a 9x9 pan.  You could actually use any ravioli! A good idea for taking a quick meal to someone (especially if you forget and it's 4 o'clock)! I may or may not have done that a few times!!

1 two pack of stuffed ravioli (see above)
1 small container Ricotta cheese 
1 container shredded Parmesan cheese (or a blend)
Mozzarella cheese
Your favorite marinara sauce 

Spoon a small amount of marinara sauce in bottom of 9x13 pan.  I used a bottle of Ragu mixed with a little leftover sauce I had from spaghetti last week. Lay one of the two packs of ravioli in a single layer on top of sauce.  Spread Ricotta cheese on top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  sprinkle with a layer of Mozzarella cheese.  Spread with a layer of marinara sauce.  Repeat the next layer without the Ricotta. (There is only Ricotta in the middle). 

 I actually made two of these yesterday and left Ricotta out of one of them--some in my family don't like it.  Bake at 350 for 30 min.  Serve with a nice green salad and garlic bread.

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