Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Cake, cookies, Desserts, Food, lunch box

Plain Jane Blondies

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My daughter called last week and asked if I still had this simple blondie recipe in my kitchen library. It had been so long since I had made them, I had to search through some of my old magazine clippings to find the recipe she was referring to. It’s modeled after the recipe used in the Nancy Drew Movie about the teenage detective in the series of mystery novels that we often read as a child. In the movie, Nancy used these treats as a tool of bribery to gain information and solve her latest mystery. When the Nancy Drew movie came out, my youngest daughter became so enamored with the young mystery sleuth that she asked me to make the popular Nancy Drew shoulder bag with lots of room for gadgets and note taking materials specifically selected for her make believe adventures. She took the bag everywhere. She especially enjoyed showing off all of the clever gadgets tucked neatly inside the mystery solving bag. A couple of years ago, I donated it to Good Will Industries, but now I am wishing that I would have kept it for future generations of mystery sleuths.
The original “Nancy Drew Blondies” were much thicker so I’m assuming her recipe was baked in a 9X9″ pan. In the movie, Nancy entices others when she opens a cute, round, stainless steel tin and inside sits a perfectly shaped, moist and scrumptious looking blondie. Well, my recipe isn’t quite as famous, but we sure enjoy the taste. That’s why I have named my recipe…Plain Jane Blondies.

Plain Jane Blondies

2 /14 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ pan.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugars, egg and vanilla until smooth.
Stir in the flour mixture and the nuts until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake 35-45 minutes. Cool completely and cut into bars with a sharp knife.

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Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, cookies

Ginger and Spice Biscotti

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Over the holidays, we spent a few days in downtown Chicago where we visited a charming little store called Teavana. Housed in Water Tower Place, this was our first visit to the store. As we headed into the cozy shop, we were encouraged to taste-test a variety of deliciously fruity tea samples and admired all of the containers of loose leaf tea stacked high on tidy shelves lining the store walls.
Well, after spending over $100.00 in purchases, we headed out the door with several pounds of tea, and a few Teavana trinkets that we convinced ourselves we absolutely needed.
Arriving home, M and I decided to make a batch of Ginger and Spice Biscotti cookies to have on hand during our evening ritual (enjoying a cup of piping hot tea and watching the Hallmark Channel).
…And there’s nothing like a warm cup of tea and a spiced cookie during the cold winter months living in the Midwest.

Ginger and Spice Biscotti

1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
3/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground oatmeal (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray, with cooking spray, a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, eggs, and molasses. In another bowl, combine flour, wheat flour, baking powder, and remaining spices. Mix into the wet ingredients to form a stiff dough.
Divide dough in half, form each piece into a roll about as long as your cookie sheet. Place roll onto the prepared cookie sheet, and press down to 1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle with ground oatmeal. (Optional)
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool 5-10 minutes.
Cut into 1/2″ thick diagonal slices. Place sliced biscotti on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Cool, store in airtight container.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Cake, Chocolate, cookies, Desserts, Food

Devilishly Delicious Brownies

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I must admit, I often use a boxed mix when baking brownies. While it seems relatively easy to open a box and pop in a few ingredients, the result is never quite as delicious as the “made from scratch” product. This brownie recipe is quite easy as it combines a few simple ingredients and is truly delicious. The four, lightly beaten eggs help create a cake-like texture with a moist, fudgy interior. The chocolate chips are a wonderful (partially melted) surprise. So, if you’re looking for a quick fix as you move through the stressful holiday season, this recipe just might fit the bill. I must caution you though, these babies are devilishly delicious!

Devilishly Delicious Brownies

1 cup butter, melted
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 13X9″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Combine butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add eggs and mix well. In a medium bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt together. Combine flour mixture and the egg mixture; mix just until batter is combined. Stir in chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish. Bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. Lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, cookies, Desserts, Food, holiday, holidays, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box

Holiday Cutouts

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As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I’m all about sending goodies to my college kids living on campus. Receiving a thoughtful care package from home is always a welcome surprise for students. Last week, while I was visiting campus, I dropped off decorative trays of Holiday Cutouts to each of my children. I’m told they were a big hit as M shared her tray with her Resident Assistant, roommate and a few of her friends from home. K and P shared their cookies as well. M confessed that she couldn’t imagine eating too many of the cookies without putting on a few pounds so, “out of site, out of mind”, was her motto when passing off the tasty treats to friends and floor mates.
This cookie is quick and easy to assemble as the recipe doesn’t call for the traditional wait time for refrigeration when making the stiff rolled dough. Use your favorite cookie cutters to represent holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions. After a quick cool down, top with icing and colorful sprinkles. Pack in airtight containers or transfer to a platter for a friendly holiday tray. (I found a few Halloween buckets at a local discount store so I packed a few cookies in with a bit of tissue paper.)
Kids, no matter what their age, always enjoy a flavorful treat for the holidays.

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Holiday Cutouts

1 cup butter, softened ( 2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract; mix until well blended. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Carefully, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine well. Form the dough in to a smooth ball. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4″ thick. Cut out with cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6-8 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks. Decorate as desired when cool.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, cookies, Desserts

Valentine Shortbread Cookies

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Every year, when the swim season is at its peak and our swimmers are getting ready for the big championship meets, the girl’s team picks a secret buddy to surprise with a week’s worth of little gifts.
This week, M and I scoured the shelves of the local discount stores to find little trinkets and goodies to pack into colorful bags, each marked with an inspirational swimming quote. In the early morning hours, the girls sneak into the pool locker room and place the goodie bag in front of their “buddy’s” locker. It’s all in good fun and a welcome release from the daily grind of swimming yard after yard in the pool, during the long winter months. Yesterday, M surprised her “buddy” with a beautiful container full of Valentine Shortbread Cookies and a few other little trinkets.
These cookies are kind of over the top in the “sweets department”. The recipe includes lots of creamy butter and a load of sugar. Certainly not something you’d want to munch on everyday. But for this special occasion, and for the upcoming Valentines Day holiday, maybe this is the cookie you’d like to make and share with your sweetheart!

Valentine Shortbread Cookies

2 cups butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups flour
1/4 cup Wilton sprinkles + extra for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla and almond extract. Carefully add flour and mix well. Gently fold sprinkles into batter. Using a small ice cream scoop, form cookies and place on baking sheets. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass or with slightly damp fingers. Lightly pat remaining sprinkles into top of cookies. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze when cooled.

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, cookies, Desserts, Food

Perfect Pumpkin Cookie Bars

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Well, it’s been one year since I starting this blogging adventure and I am just thrilled to celebrate my first anniversary with Simply Made Kitchen and Crafts.
What I enjoy most about the WordPress experience is certainly not what I expected it would be. You see, I never realized how many wonderful people I would “meet” through the blog.
There are certain blogger posts that I so enjoy reading. Two of which are — Dani’s blog at teddyandtottie.com and Shanna’s blog, Curls and Carrots, at shannaward.com.
Shanna, mother of two adorable children, is always whipping up a batch of something wonderful (and super healthy). She is a talented writer and is incredibly supportive to fellow bloggers. I am grateful that I found her through the daily newsfeed.
I simply adore Dani’s blog (teddyandtottie.com) about family, crocheting, gardening, pets and everyday life in Australia. She, too, is a talented writer and her words seem to jump from the page to take me clear across the globe into her everyday world. Thank you both, Shanna and Dani, for your kindness and support.

And now for today’s recipe…

Last week, M asked if I had any canned goods that we might be able to donate to the food pantry. (There had been a sale on Green Giant vegetables the previous week and I purchased 12 cans for this purpose.) As I looked through the kitchen pantry for the supply of cans, I noticed that I had an abundance of pumpkin purée as well. M loves anything made with pumpkin so I searched through my folder of treasured recipes and magazine cut outs for recipes that have been given to me over the years. I quickly found the favorite that I had in mind…
When I first graduated from college, I worked in the garment/fashion industry in the city of Chicago. I was employed by a very talented clothing designer and I very much enjoyed the task of ordering fabric and notions, communicating with retail customers, following production and making sure that finished ordered were shipped to satisfied customers. We were a small staff of fifty or so and it often felt like we were a family.
One of the young pattern makers brought in a batch of these bars during the holidays some twenty or so years ago. After one bite, I asked for the recipe. She stood at her pattern-making table and wrote out (from memory) the recipe on an index card. I still have the very same recipe card, beautifully written in perfectly formed letters. Every time I make this recipe, I think of my early years, fresh out of college…boy, how time flies!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Perfect Pumpkin Cookie Bars

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
2 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt

1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese,
softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir into the pumpkin mixture until thoroughly combined. Spread the batter evenly into a lightly greased 10×15 inch jellyroll pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven. Cool before frosting.
To make the frosting, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Stir in vanilla. Add confectioners’ sugar a little at a time, beating until mixture is smooth. Drizzle or frost completely spreading evenly on top of the cooled bars. Top with chopped walnuts. Cut into squares.