February 2015 Bakin’ Friends

Love getting packages in the mail? Join Bakin’ Friends, a group that is similar to having a pen pal but with baked treats!

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After over a year I have finally jumped back in with Bakin’ Friends, which is a group where you are paired up with someone different each month for whom to bake! Each month also comes with its very own secret ingredient which must be used in your creation. It should come as no surprise that February’s secret ingredient was chocolate. I actually got to send my goodies to Leah (MacKenzie Memories) who took over after Stephanie (Steph’s Bite by Bite) stepped down. I sent her my double dark chocolate cherry cookies which she said she’s been able to hoard them all to herself since her husband and daughter are not huge chocolate fans. And I quote “I had one before dinner…they were fabulous!!”. You should probably go get the recipe HERE.

February 2015 Bakin' Friends

As for me, I was lucky enough to have Dora send me some of her homemade Snickers! Her uncle (who unfortunately passed away recently) was a chocolate maker for over 40 years where she lives. When his health took a turn for the worse she began trying her hand at some of the things he used to make and found a renewed respect for all the effort it takes. She warned me that I may want to go to the gym in preparation for their arrival and she was right! Definitely a good thing I am a regular gym goer. Thank you so much Dora for a literal slice of your family’s history. I hope you made another batch for your husband ;-).
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Greek Lemon Potatoes

Looking for a side dish for your slow cooker gyros? These Greek lemon potatoes are a great option for any meal. Soft inside, slightly crisp outside and infused with lemon.

Greek Lemon Potatoes 1

Alright folks these are not your regular everyday spuds. Not because they take over an hour to cook and convincing you to cook them on a regular basis would be crazy talk (or is it?) but because they are one the best potato side dishes I’ve ever had. Other than the cook time they are actually quite easy to make. The potato wedges are roasted in a mixture of olive oil, water, lemon juice, oregano, and garlic which gets infused through the entire wedge making them both soft and flavorful. Then with the help of a secret ingredient, flour, the outsides get just a little crispy. In the end these potatoes became the stars of my dinner plate despite the beautiful gyro sitting beside them. “And the award for best spot-light stealing side dish goes to…”

Greek Lemon Potatoes 2

One year ago: Oven-Fried Mac and Cheese Ravioli Salad

Two years ago: Baked Banana-Pecan Oatmeal
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Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

My favorite chewy chocolate chip cookies take a turn to the dark side – the double dark chocolate side. Inspired by chocolate covered cherries, you will also find dried cherries in these cookies.

Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies 1

I know moved over a month ago but there are still boxes left to be unpacked. Permanent spots for the things in such boxes remain to be determined. On the flip-side, the massive amount of boxes that were unpacked made me realize that I may have slight hoarding tendencies. As a result I found myself purging a lot of things and have several boxes in the spare room full of things to go to a donation center. Just another set of boxes waiting for a home.

Another area in which I hoard things is evidently the kitchen, specifically the pantry. I have so many different kinds of chocolate chips, nuts, flours, honey flavors, dried fruits – you name it and I probably have it. After being overwhelmed with this overly adequate stock pile I did the only thing that made sense – baked cookies! And yes it is another variation of my favorite chewy chocolate chip cookies. This version has double the dose of dark chocolate with dark cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips. Then I threw in some dried cherries because I had my chocolate covered cherries on the brain.

Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies 2

One year ago: Honey Almond Ice Cream with Fudge Ripple

Two years ago: Garlic Lover’s Pizza

Four years ago: “Creamed” Berry Cheese Spread
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Slow Cooker Chicken Gyros

My favorite chicken gyros are now available in from your slow cooker! Complete with an easy homemade tzatziki sauce.

Slow Cooker Chicken Gyros 2

Ever since I reentered the working world after a year off post graduate school, cooking dinner has been a struggle. Per my usual working-life schedule I usually go straight to the gym after work and by the time I get home, shower, and cook, dinner won’t be on the table until 8pm at the earliest. This combined with the never ending frigid temperatures has given rise to more slow cooker meals. I hope whoever invented that magical contraption won some sort of award.

One such slow cooker recipe that has appeared was these slow cooker chicken gyros. I modeled the recipe after my non-slow cooker version. The very delicious success of these gyros has spawned my desire to attempt to turn all kinds of older recipes into those suitable for the slow cooker. If any more of them turn out as good as this one, you better believe I will be sharing those as well.

Slow Cooker Chicken Gyros 1

After preparing the chicken for it’s hot bath in the slow cooker, mix up the tzatziki sauce and refrigerate. The flavors will marry while the slow cooker does its job. Then when you get home for dinner all you have to do is slice up the chicken and any other toppings you prefer before stuffing it all in a nice soft pita. Just don’t forget the tzatziki sauce!

One year ago: Smoked Sausage with Peppers and Onion

Three years ago: Grilled Balsamic Chicken with Mozzarella and Pesto

Four years ago: Cheesy Chicken, Bacon & Avocado Quesadillas
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Speculoos Cookie Butter Mousse

Now you really can eat your favorite cookie butter by the spoonfuls in this Speculoos cookie butter mousse. Light and rich at the same time.

Speculoos Cookie Butter Mousse 3

If you’ve had the pleasure of sampling either Biscoff of Speculoos cookie butter spread and you liked it as much (or even more than) your favorite nut butter, then you may be guilty of eating it straight from the jar using a spoon. If so, this dessert is for you.

Speculoos Cookie Butter Mousse 1

This fluffy mousse harnesses the sweet yet rich flavor of Speculoos cookie butter making it light and sinful at the same time. You’ll find yourself savoring each spoonful and scraping every last bit out from your bowl. You may even start eyeing your neighbors if you finish first or vice versa so guard your bowls!

Speculoos Cookie Butter Mousse 2

One year ago: Mini Caramelized Banana Nut Bread

Three years ago: Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Dried Cherries and Israeli Couscous

Four years ago: Homemade Tagalongs
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Blood Orange Margarita Jello Shots

You don’t have to be in college to enjoy these jello shots. Prepare them inside of the rinds of blood oranges to impress guests at your next party.

National Margarita Day

Happy National Margarita Day! I’ve teamed up with a fun group of bloggers to celebrate this boozy holiday with an assortment of margaritas and margarita-inspired food items. We’ve got you covered no matter what way you like to get your margarita fix. I contributed a grown-up version of jello shots because they arn’t just for college kids anymore. These are made with fresh blood orange juice and gelatin, not a boxed mix, and then allowed to set inside the rinds of the blood oranges themselves. Once solidified you can slice them up just like and orange!

Blood Orange Maragita Jello Shots 2
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Maple Walnut Blondies

Love Trader Joe’s maple walnut blondies? Now you can make them at home! Chewy blondies packed with walnuts and maple flavor.

Maple Walnut Blondies

On my most recent trip to Trader Joe’s I snagged a bag of their Maple Walnut Blondies. They’re freaking fantastic by the way and I highly recommend picking some up if you are able. If not then you’re in luck because I did my best to recreate them!

On an unrelated note, since getting my first smart phone in December I have slowly accumulated favorite apps. The obvious ones being Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (yes I finally have instagram – follow me). But the app I abuse most is Target’s Cartwheel app. You can either browse offers to add to your barcode which is scanned at checkout or you can scan products while shopping to check if there are any offers. When there are not any for that particular item, if there are other offers for similar items it will tell you. I’ve already saved over $30 using it and in the process got the deal of the year – combat boots for $6.75!

What are your favorite smart phone apps?

One year ago: Southwestern Oven-Fried Chicken Salad with Avocado Dressing

Two years ago: Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder
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Homemade Soft Pretzels with Cheddar-Cream Cheese Spread

Sure you can find soft pretzels in the frozen section at your local grocery, but what about beer soft pretzels? Complete with cheddar-cream cheese spread.

Homemade Soft Pretzels with Cheddar-Cream Cheese Spread 1

Carbs and cheese might be one of the best appetizer food combinations ever created, improved only by the addition of bacon. While I neglected to add that salty meat into the mix this time, there’s no denying soft homemade pretzels and cheese dip. The inspiration for this ensemble comes from one of my favorite bar foods at the Flying Saucer – soft pretzels served with queso dip (just like Ro*Tel queso dip) and a cheddar-cream cheese spread.

While homemade soft pretzels are a bit of a commitment, it’s worth it in my opinion. I’ve never been disappointed with the end results and since most of the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise it makes for a great weekend project. Speaking of the weekend, why not make them with beer instead of water? Boozy pretzels! You can’t buy those at the store.

Homemade Soft Pretzels with Cheddar-Cream Cheese Spread 2

I took the opportunity to bust out Red Star’s Platinum yeast for the occasion, being the first yeasted recipe to be made in my kitchen since moving in. (Yes these were made before the skillet rolls I posted on Sunday which btw were also made using Red Star’s Platinum yeast.) Let me tell you, that yeast does some work! And I know my yeast ;-). I may spoil myself by only buying that brand from now on because it’s not as finicky as others I have used in the past.

One year ago: Cookie Dough Oreo Cake

Two years ago: Pepperoni Pasta Bake

Four years ago: Butterscotch Haystack Cookies
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Hurricane Cupcakes

Turn your hurricane cocktail into a sweet treat with these hurricane cupcakes! Tastes just like a tropical storm without all the destruction.

Hurricane Cupcakes 1

I know we just spent the weekend being romantic but now it’s time to get boozy because it’s Mardi Gras! How about some rum infused cupcakes? Rum in the batter, rum soaked into the baked cupcakes, and then rum in the frosting. These cupcakes were inspired by the hurricane cocktail which is made of passion fruit juice, orange juice, lime juice, grenadine, and rum. You will find all of those flavors in these cupcakes however I could not find straight passion fruit juice and instead went with a mango-passion fruit blend. Oddly enough Bob did not enjoy these cupcakes at all, which upset me at first until he explained that he said it tasted like a fruity girly drink. Mission accomplished!

Hurricane Cupcakes 2

One year ago: Goat Cheese, Spinach & Tomato Quiche

Three years ago: Crispy Parmesan Green Beans

Four years ago: Feta & Broccoli Pizza
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Cream Cheese Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Squash

A new take on your favorite cream cheese chicken enchiladas made gluten-free and stuffed into an acorn squash! But still featuring all the creamy, cheesy goodness you love.

Cream Cheese Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Squash 1

The #1 all time most popular recipe on this blog has been my cream cheese chicken enchiladas. (Second most popular? My favorite chewy chocolate chip cookies.) Every day it is the most viewed post which has lead me to believe that what you really want are enchiladas! As a result I have shared several other enchilada recipes such as cheesy veggie, chicken and spinach, and spicy avocado chicken. Yet the cream cheese version still reigned as king.

Cream Cheese Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Squash 2

Since the cream cheese chicken enchiladas remain the most popular enchilada on my blog, I figured it was time to reinvent it a bit. This gluten-free version only has two changes from the original: the addition of bell peppers and substitution of tortillas with acorn squash! It was a huge success and may need to have a regular position on the menu. That says a lot folks because I rarely make the same exact thing without changing it at least a little bit (Exhibit A: this recipe).

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One year ago: Giant Peanut Butter Snickerdoodle Cookie For One

Three years ago: S’mores Molten Lava Cake

Four years ago: Chocolate Chip-Peanut Butter Layer Pie
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