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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Monster Goodness

When I was growing up, there was a lady from church who always made Monster Cookies. They were so good. I have no idea what took me so long (30+ years) to actually make some, other than the fact that I recall it made a ton and as I've mentioned before, making cookies is my least favorite thing to bake. But I'm realizing as I'm making more cookies, I'm not as bothered by it as I originally thought. I think it's because even as great of a cook/baker that my mom was, she usually made crisp/hard cookies and I only like soft & chewy, so cookies really weren't an appealing item to me. This recipe makes approx 4 dozen, so 4 trips into the oven isn't so bad. I've searched for Monster Cookie recipes in the past but never went so far as to make them. I think coming upon this recipe from Something Swanky along with her story about what Monster Cookies mean to her that appealed to me to finally just pick this one.  And, I'm glad I did. Super easy to make, no flour involved and absolutely delicious. Not to mention pretty when you use the fall colored M&M's. :) I used my 1.5 tbsp cookie scoop so they aren't as "monster" as they probably could be, but I think they're the perfect size.

They're going pretty fast.... I may have to make more very soon. I'm not one to sneak spoons of cookie dough, but even this stuff tempted me and I succumbed. How could you not to this yummy-ness?!

And, to my hubby to loves cookie dough, I even set aside a few tablespoons for him to enjoy when he got home from work. 

Make a batch today and get some guaranteed extra hugs & kisses from the fam. ;)

Monster Cookies (from Something Swanky)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp hot water
4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 tsp salt
1 pkg M&M's
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat together the butter and peanut butter until smooth and combined. Beat in the brown sugar and regular sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add in the corn syrup and vanilla. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and mix into the batter.  Mix in the oats and salt. Fold in the m&m's and chocolate chips. Scoop dough by tablespoons onto a parchment paper or silicone lined baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, until the edges look set and golden, but the tops are not brown. Note: (I had my cookies in for 6 minutes, rotated my pan and baked another 6 minutes & they were perfect.)

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Friday, October 11, 2013

NO Soliciting!

I don't mean to be rude, but I can't stand door-to-door solicitation. For some reason, our neighborhood seems to get a lot of it. It's not your normal neighbor kid selling something for sports or school, it's creepy adults selling something..... like home security systems from UTAH. I have nothing against Utah, but I'm in Wisconsin. Why are you bothering me??? Or the one that is the worst - the truck that pulls up with the cooler in the back end selling meat. Seriously? Who buys meat from a cooler with an extension cord plugged into the cigarette lighter? Every time we get one, I say to myself "I've got to get a sign out there saying no soliciting." but then I think, OK, no one else is going to be coming (since everyone and their brother has already come) but then oh no...... we keep getting more. So I finally said today is the day.

I've seen cute ones that politely insinuate no soliciting and ones that joked around. I wanted to be sure my sign was taken seriously, so I wanted it short and sweet. No Soliciting. Ever.

I grabbed a spare piece of wood from the garage that looked about the size I wanted to use. I spray painted it gray. I didn't start pics of this project because I didn't really plan on blogging about it but then it was suggested that I should.  So after this point the project get documented. :)

So, I had my gray board and while it dried I stopped at Jo-Anns and bought some alphabet scrapbooking stickers. Lucky me, they were 40% off at the time so I didn't even need to use a coupon! I wrote down my words on a piece of paper, decided on the middle of the quote and put that letter in the middle of the board. Then did the rest of the letters before and after that.

Our house is gray and has a red door, so I wanted a sign that matched. I decided to do the gray underneath, paint it red, then I'd have the gray letters on the red background and then sand it down to have some of the gray show through, looking aged. So next I spray painted my board red.

Before you paint over the letters, make sure they are all stuck down really good.

After it dried, I peeled off my stickers. Found a piece of scrap sand paper in the garage and sanded down the edges and a little off the front. 

Then, I used a soda can tab for the hanger. I just glued that sucker on with a glue gun. Disclaimer: A Diet Pepsi was sacrificed in the making of this sign. The liquid contents were poured down the drain. We are not Diet Pepsi drinkers, it was left over in the frig from some party or another. Our recycle day was just 2 days ago and so there were only 2 cans in the recycle bin and our bins are huge. I would've had to practically climb inside to get a can out from the bottom and that was just not happening!

Then all that was left was to hang it up!

I had to move my welcome sign to the other side of the porch because I thought it was a little conflicting to have both so near each other.

Hopefully it works!

Do you welcome solicitors?

And because it was so easy & fun, I made one for my living room. The beauty of making your own is you can say whatever you want! I just painted this one orange, put my stickers on, glued a leaf from the yard down as a template and sprayed the brown over top, removed the stickers and sanded down.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Easy Squash & Spinach Lasagna Rolls

I made these butternut squash lasagna roll ups the other night for dinner and they were really good. My recipe is based on a recipe I saw at skinnytaste.com but then I put my own spin on it and used a few different ingredients which probably didn't make it so skinny. Super easy to make too, but I must admit I already had some roasted squash and basil pesto cubes in the freezer that all I had to do was thaw. So if you don't have squash already prepared and want to keep the "skinny" in the taste, then I'd check out her recipe for complete directions. I also used fresh spinach instead of frozen so that cut back on time having to cook & drain the spinach. 

To make these bad boys, I thawed my butternut squash and basil pesto cubes. I then boiled 10 lasagna noodles. 

While my noodles were boiling, I drained my cottage cheese to get rid of some of the excess liquid. I don't usually have ricotta on hand, and we eat cottage cheese, so that's what I'm using.

I also cut up 4 pieces of mozzarella string cheese into 10 pieces.I know there are 9 there, I followed the original recipe that said to use 9 noodles so that's all I made, but a 9x13 pan fits 10 noodles so I'm telling you 10 so you aren't jipped one. Just lookin' out for ya!

I mixed my cottage cheese with my pesto, some Parmesan cheese, an egg, salt & pepper. 

Next, I sauteed some onion & garlic in a pan, added the squash, pepper, Parmesan cheese and a little bit of water to thin it out. I forgot to take a picture. Sorry!

I spread a little bit of the squash in the bottom of the 9x13 pan.

Then I took a noodle, put a cheese chunk at the beginning of the noodle and spread some of my cottage cheese mix on it, then added some spinach leaves. 

Then, just roll it up!

Put each roll in your pan, and continue with all the noodles. See, clearly there was room for another noodle.

 Next, scoop some of your squash mix on top of each noodle.

And top with more cheese. Mmmmmm!

Bake those boys at 350, covered with foil, for 40 minutes.

Doesn't that look delish? Paired with a salad and some bread, it's a winner! Even my non-squash eating daughter gave it a thumbs up. It makes me want to roast and freeze more butternut squash to have on hand to make this more often and easily. I mean really, lasagna rolls can't be too proprietary, you can put whatever you want inside them or on top of them. Kind of like burritos, quesadillas or grilled cheese - the possibilities are endless of what to put inside them. I think next time I will add mushrooms.

Cheesy, yummy goodness.

Tell me how you roll & what you put in your lasagna noodle!

Easy Squash & Spinach Lasagna Rolls (print version)

adapted from skinnytaste.com

1 tsp oil
3 tbsp finely chopped onion
2 tsp minced garlic
2 cups cooked or roasted butternut squash
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, divided
salt & pepper to taste
10 lasagna noodles, cooked
1 - 16 oz container cottage or ricotta cheese
4 tbsp pesto
1 egg
1 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
approx 30 leaves fresh spinach
4 string cheese sticks, cut into 10 pieces

Heat oven to 350. In a pan, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until soft. Add the squash, 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper. Mix together and cook a few minutes until well blended. Add 1 tbsp water at a time if needed. Spread a thin layer of the mixture in the bottom of a 9"x13" pan. 

In a small bowl, mix your cottage or ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, egg, pesto, salt & pepper. Lay out a lasagna noodle and place a string cheese chunk at the beginning. Spread cheese mixture on the noodle from end to end. Lay about 3 pieces of fresh spinach leaves on top. Roll up, and place in your pan. Repeat with all noodles. Spread remaining squash mixture evenly on top of rolls and top with shredded cheese. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, remove tinfoil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Best Ever Pumpkin Bars


I know, I know... everyone claims they have the best ever recipe for lots of things. But I promise you, once you make these, you will be able to claim it as well... that you've just made the best ever pumpkin bars! Up until now, I have kept this recipe closely guarded. It's been the recipe I grew up with, my mom used to start making these every fall. Once I was on my own, I was known for my pumpkin bars at {other side} family or work events. But, then I caved and gave it to my bestie Sue. I figured we'd been friends since we were 10, she deserved it. And my bestie Jill because well, she's my bestie. They are the only two so this is a big step for me! This recipe is also interchangeable with bananas for excellent banana bars. See notes in recipe.

So here it is folks! Make a few batches and watch them disappear quickly. Revel in the accolades at your work or family functions. Make them all jealous a few times before you share the recipe. ;)

Pumpkin Bars (printable version)

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 - 15oz can pumpkin puree
1 1/2 sticks melted butter
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a jelly roll pan (15 1/8"x 10 1/2") with cooking spray. Mix eggs, sugar, pumpkin and butter in a large bowl or stand mixer bowl. Sift dry ingredients together and combine with pumpkin mixture. Pour and smooth evenly in pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
9 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla 
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp milk

Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla, add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and milk 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

For Banana Bars: substitute 1 can of pumpkin puree for 2 cups mashed ripe bananas. Omit cinnamon and ginger, but use a pinch of nutmeg. 
yummy banana bars!
I've also used this recipe to make a cake with 2 round pans, bake for approximately the same amount of time but start checking at the 25 minute mark. I've also made cupcakes with this recipe and my baking time was 18 minutes.

I hope you & yours enjoy them as much as we have through the years!

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