Valentine’s Chocolate Pie

For Valentine’s day this year we decided to do a nice candlelit dinner at home.  I just didn’t want to do the whole restaurant thing this year.  And we never do candlelit dinners at home (although we may start now, cause I loved it!).  Neither of us wanted to do the task of cooking though, so we ordered take out instead.  Steak dinner for me, ahi tuna and veggies for Greg.  They were both delicious 🙂Feb13-Valentines (11)We didn’t cook dinner, but I did want to make a dessert for us to enjoy.  I looked through my recipes and found one for chocolate pie that I got from my Nana’s house.  I’d never baked it before, but I’m glad I did.  It was yummy!!!  So here’s the recipe….

Easy Chocolate Pie

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (5oz) can evaporated milk
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1/2 stick margarine, melted (or butter)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Uncooked pie crust

Mix all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.  Roll out an uncooked pie crust into dish, and pour mixture into crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 mins. Allow to chill, then serve.

That’s it.  I mean, really.  Could it be any easier? 🙂

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 Ok, you ready for a funny story?  So I’m out at Walmart getting ingredients for the pie then I wanted to get some fresh flowers for the table.  I kinda figured Greg was coming home with flowers, but I wanted the table to be ready and set for him too.  And you can’t have too many fresh flowers, right?  So I decide to go to this new place in town, Fresh Market.  I figured they’d have some pretty unique flowers, not just roses, which is all Walmart had.  Call me crazy, but I’m not a fan of bouquets of roses.  I like variety.  So I go to Fresh Market, and I’m standing looking through some flowers, picking them up and making decisions.  I look up, and…..standing 5 feet in front of me completely oblivious to my presence, is Greg…picking out flowers.  I called him out, and we both just died laughing!  He was totally busted!!  But props to him, he picked a great place to pick out flowers.  You cannot go wrong there! 🙂Feb13-Valentines (9)So we enjoyed a lovely candlelit dinner at home.  No tv.  No cell phones.  It was fantastic 😉  And before we even started dinner, Greg was dying to give me my present.  He handed me a bag and I pulled out this book. Feb13-Valentines (12)Yep!  Guess what that means?  WE ARE GOING TO SAN FRAN!  I told him I was taking a week of vacation from work between this semester and summer semester.  I wanted to just have a week free from work and school, and told him I wanted to take a trip to the beach or something just to get away.  But I’ll take San Francisco!  We are so excited!!  He did good!

Happy Valentine’s day to me and my sweetie.  4 down, many many more to go!

No-bake Banana Pudding

I’ve posted this recipe before on another blog (the Wooden Spoon)that I have been majorly slacking on contributing too for several months!! But I wanted to include them here on my personal blog as well, so over the next few days I’ll be posting them here. I am a sucker for homemade banana pudding, and I’m disappointed in myself for not making any yet this summer.  What’s summertime without banana pudding!?  If you ask around, almost everyone will agree that oven baked banana pudding is better than no-bake versions. I have made both, and let me tell you, if you stick with this no-bake recipe, you’ll never go through the hassle of a double boiler with a baked version again. This recipe is easy, and if you’re like me, the benefit of making a pretty presentation with your banana pudding will seal the deal.  (Yes, I bought a trifle dish just for this very purpose!)
Ingredients:
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese (room temp)
1(14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (5 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix 
3 cups cold milk
1 lemon (juiced)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping (thawed) 
3-4 bananas (sliced)
1/2 box vanilla wafers
Directions:
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in condensed milk, pudding mix, cold milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Fold in 1/2 the whipped topping. (Mixture will be thin at this point). Line the bottom of a 9×13 inch dish (or dish of your choice) with vanilla wafers. Dip banana slices into lemon juice (to prevent browning), and arrange slices evenly over wafers. Spread with a layer of pudding. Repeat layering, making sure to end with a pudding layer on top. Top with remaining whipped topping. Chill in fridge for a few hours until thickened.

the cookie chronicles – part 3

Unfortunately this step of the cookie chronicles was not actually photographed.  Needless-to-say, this step was a near failure.  And I was getting super crunched for time at this point (the party was about 4 hours later).  And I had called my friend Lauren for back-up.  So photographing was not high on my priority list.  But, I will do my best to pull some internet photos to accurately describe the process.

Here’s what you need….

 Decorating tips of your choice (depending on what patterns you want to make), disposable bags, couplers (the white pieces that allow you to interchange tips), and icing dye.  Once I made the frosting, I decided I wanted to use 3 colors on our cookies.  White, black, and purple.  The frosting naturally was white, so I didn’t use any dye for that.  The black and purple dye I got at Hobby Lobby.  They are made by Wilton, and unlike food coloring, these icing dyes are the consistency of jelly, and they are very concentrated. So, to color the icing, you simply dip a toothpick into the dye and mix it into the icing, and of course, depending on how dark you want the colors to be, you keep adding color with a new toothpick each time.  A little goes a long way.

Once you get the coloring how you want it, scoop each color into it’s own decorating bag.  (Now, here’s the part where I almost thought we were gonna totally fail.)  The frosting (although it came from a recipe that was intended for cooking decorating, was too thick to squeeze out the bags through some of our tips.  So, I slowly added a little bit of water to each frosting to make it a little more runny, because the bags kept bursting and getting holes in them from the pressure.  HOWEVER, even though it came out of the bags easier, we then had trouble with the frosting not “releasing” from the tips.  In order to make some of the decorations, like stars, flowers, etc with the tips, you need the frosting to easily release when pressure is not longer applied to the bag.  We had trouble with this, and I’m wondering if it’s because we had made the icing too thin at that point.  But we still struggled with holes bursting….so I’m not sure what the magic trick is.  Like I said in the first post, there is definitely a learning curve to this cookie decorating business.  Clearly I haven’t mastered it yet!

But, in the end, we got some pretty cute cookies.  And they tasted delicious regardless of how they looked!!!!  I CAN vouch for the taste of these recipes, even if they didn’t perform the way I had hoped.  I’m SURE it’s a mistake on my part, not the recipe itself.

Here’s our final result.  Lots of panties and high heels for our dear friend Leah Oh and a few bras here and there!

And it just wouldn’t be a bachelorette party without at least one penis cookie 😉  We had to bake her just one.

the cookie chronicles- part 2

So after my first (what I would consider failed) attempt at some lingerie cookies for my friend’s bachelorette party, I did even more research online for cookie decorating recipes and helpful tips.  That’s when I came across this website: Karen’s Cookies.  It was a life saver!! Anything you need to know about basic cookie decorating is on this site.  And the best part is she goes into much detail about each step of prepping and baking. You should check her out, she’s much more of a pro than me!  I decided to use her “Basic Rolled Sugar Cookies” recipe and her “Meringue Powder Buttercream” frosting recipe.  She has several other types of cookie and frosting recipes, but these were the ones I chose.

So here’s how it goes:
Basic Rolled Sugar Cookies
Ingredients:
     – 1 cup butter, softened
     – 1 cup superfine sugar (or granulated sugar, processed in blender for 30 seconds)
     – 1/2 tsp. salt
     – 1 large egg
     – 1 large egg yolk
     – 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
     – 1/2 tsp. Almond extract (optional)
     – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:
First of all, I didn’t bother to buy superfine sugar, so I opted for the toss-sugar-in-a-food-processor route.

In a stand mixer (or with a hand-held), cream the butter, sugar and salt together until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes with mixer set at medium speed.

Add the yolk, beat well. Add the whole egg, vanilla and optional almond extract and beat until mixed. Add flour and beat at low speed just until flour is mixed in (do not overmix- remember, we don’t want heavy cookies!).  Divide dough in halves or thirds and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour and up to 2 days.

Oh, and make a big mess in the kitchen….that’s step 4, 7, and 10

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dust work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll dough to 1/4″ thick, sprinkling with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. Cut into desired shapes and place on parchment-lined baking pans.

Bake in preheated oven until cookies appear dry on the surface and are light golden brown on the edges, about 10 minutes (very large cookies may take up to 12 or 13 minutes). Remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks and cool completely before decorating.

Meringue Powder Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:
     – 1/3 cup water
     – 3 Tbsp. meringue powder
     – ½ cup shortening
     – 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
     – 1 tsp. vanilla extract
     – ¼ tsp. almond extract

**Helpful hint #2: Don’t bother looking for Meringue Powder in grocery stores. Just take my advice and safe yourself a bunch of trips, and get it at Hobby Lobby, on the baking aisle of course!**

Directions:

Place half of the powdered sugar and the meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk together well.

Turn on mixer (use whip attachment, if you have it) and, while motor is running, slowly stream in the water.  Once the water is mixed in, turn mixer to high speed and whip until stiff peaks form (this step took me about 7 mins). 
 still too runny…
stiff peaks…

Add flavorings and mix well. Change to paddle attachment or dough hook (if you have them…I do not.  My mixer is a true antique, and I just have plain old-fashioned beaters!). If using a hand mixer, use the same beaters you were using before. Add remaining powdered sugar and shortening and whip for 2-3 minutes more.

Note: Don’t skimp on the whipping time after adding the shortening. You really need to whip it well to prevent separation later.

Next is the fun part….cookie decorating!

the cookie chronicles- part 1

For my friend Leah’s bachorlette party I knew I wanted to make some lingerie cookies.  Ya know, like these…

I’ve never decorated cookies before, so this was all new to me.  But Greg and I used to watch a lot of Cake Boss, and he makes it look so easy.  And I wasn’t decorating a 10-tier cake, so how hard could it be, right?  Haha.  Let’s just say I think there is a learning curve to this whole cookie decorating business.  I found some supplies at Party City, but honestly Hobby Lobby is the place to go!  They have a whole aisle dedicated to baking.  As far as supplies go, you need disposable decorating bags, decorating tips of your choice, cookie cutters, and some good recipes.

I bought this cupcake decorators set that included bags and 4 tips, but any of these supplies can be bought individually too.  And I even bought some additional tips to work with in different shapes (at Hobby Lobby!).  Below is a tip guide to give you an idea of what each shape does…

I didn’t bother with trying to make the “full body” lingerie cookies, but the “panties” are pretty easy because you can just use a heart-shaped cookie turned upside down.  Hobby Lobby also had some high heel cookie cutters, so I did those as well.

Now for the recipes!  I did some research online (and on Pinterest, of course!), and thankfully did a trail run on the cookies on Wednesday before the party on Friday.  The first attempt wasn’t bad, so I’ll give you those recipes in a minute.  It’s a recipe similar to these frosted cookies you see in grocery stores all the time… (and I got it from this site: Annie’s Eats)

Yes, they are very yummy, but for what I was trying to accomplish, they didn’t work.  In order to get the frosting to hold the shape and make detailed designs on your cookies, it has to be somewhat thick.  And the frosting I made in the first trial was way too runny.  Yummy, but too runny, so none of the decorating tips worked…all the icing just flowed together. Make sense?

But since they still tasted good, here’s the recipe from the first trial:
Helpful tip! The dough has to chill for 1 hour prior to baking. Plan accordingly when you begin. 😉
Frosted Cookies
Ingredients:
For the cookies
     – 4½ cups all-purpose flour
     – 4½ tsp. baking powder
     – ¾ tsp. salt
     – 1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
     – 1½ cups sugar
     – 3 large eggs
     – 5 tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting
     – 5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
     – 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
     – 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
     – 7-8 tbsp. milk (plus more, as needed)
     – food coloring (optional)
     – sprinkles (optional)

Directions:
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk together to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed. Gently divide dough into halves or thirds, wrap in saran wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day). You want to gently handle the dough at this point to avoid activating the gluten, which could result in heavy cookies, and we want light fluffy ones!

While the dough is chilling you can make the frosting. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and whisk until smooth. (I used my stand mixer). Whisk in additional milk as necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. Tint with food coloring if desired.

When you’re ready to bake, line your baking sheets with parchment paper (works MUCH better than foil for preventing sticking). If you have cookie cutters, roll out your dough with a rolling pin. You want your dough to be fairly thick for these fluffy cookies, so roll it out to roughly 1/2inch thickness. If you have cookie cutters, cut out your shapes. If not, you can skip the rolling step and just scoop out approx. 1/4 cup of dough and flatten it to 1/2 inch size balls and place onto the cookie sheet. Place cookies approx. 2 inches apart. Bake at 350˚ F for 10-12 minutes. Keep a close eye on these cookies! You don’t want to overbake them. The tops won’t brown, just the edges will be a very light brown when ready. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Once they are cooled, you can spread the frosting on with a spatula or spoon. (If the frosting begins to thicken as you decorate, just continue to whisk in small amounts of milk to smooth it out.) Top with sprinkles if desired!

And to show you what I mean by the frosting not holding it’s shape, here’s my trial 1 of lingerie cookies….

 Greg thought they were good, but I believe my exact words to him were “amateur.”  haha. I knew I could do better.  Check out “Cookie chronicles- part 2″…..