Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

You may remember that I posted about my wonderful friends baking for my birthday and generally making the entire weekend amazing.  I must confess, I didn't have enough faith in them and I totally baked for myself.  Yep, I did.  My mom told me not to, she said surely someone else would take care of it.  But I didn't listen.  There's a lesson in there somewhere...

I wanted something special for my birthday, and darned if I wasn't going to make sure that happened.  I thought and thought about what flavors I wanted to include in this special treat...  My love for Nutella goes back to the summer I was an exchange student and my host-mom gave me Nutella and brötchen before going to school in the morning.  I could eat a whole jar of the stuff in one sitting; lucky for me this recipe calls for just that.  As a side note, can I just say how much I love that I can type in an ingredient to Tasty Kitchen and instantly get a ton of options from which to choose?  I know the website doesn't need any additional press, but I find myself turning to it time and again when I'm having a hard time deciding what to bake.

These cookies were just what I was looking for- the hazelnut aspect didn't get lost in the chocolaty cookie, something I've experienced before when baking with Nutella, and the white chocolate drizzle really does make everything taste better.  I skipped it for the first few I tried; big mistake.  I highly suggest including it, if and when you decide to make these cookies. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Margarita Cake and Allison's Birthday

A month after my birthday (well, really a day shy of a month) was my friend Allison's 25th, that's her up there.  She was a huge part of making my celebration the extravaganza that it was, so I wanted to be sure that hers was just as awesome.  Lucky for us, her birthday landed a few days before Memorial Day-a built in three day weekend!  I was out of town all week for work but when I got back, the fun started!

I made margarita cake since it's appropriate for the season and who doesn't like a little baking with booze?
I took Annie's suggestion and brushed the cake with tequila after it cooled, I think it was probably only two or three tablespoons for the whole cake (two 8-inch rounds).  Nothing that'll get you in trouble for trying this out at work, but completely worth it.  The only notable difference from the linked recipe is that I made a different frosting than the one she describes.  I tried to make the swiss meringue that was suggested, but had a considerable amount of difficulty with it and ended up just throwing it all away.  I don't know what happened, but figured I could turn to my trusty Bailey's Buttercream and substitute tequila for the Bailey's.  I was SO right.  The frosting was delicious, and really did complement the lime-y aspect of the cake.
We barely got to taste the cake, we were so busy with festivities for the birthday celebration.  Two concerts, two river floats, and a shopping trip or two later left us very tired and not terribly hungry for sweets.  We all tried it and decided the recipe is definitely a keeper; I've made it since and it hasn't disappointed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fourth of July

I went home last Thursday for my mom's birthday and to spend some serious time with my family.  Some unexpected health news resulted in all four of us girls being home at some point throughout the holiday weekend, and I really enjoyed being around everyone.

On Sunday night, Amanda and I hopped in the car to find a spot on 190 to watch the fireworks display put on by Ft. Hood.  An awesome 4th of July celebration, complete with carnival rides and live music, is definitely one of the perks of being so close to post and they really outdid themselves this year.  Amanda took a bunch of pictures with her fancy-pants camera and was nice enough to share them with me.

Hope your 4th of July was filled with some combination of fun, family, and fireworks!  I'll post later about all the baking I did while at home, you didn't think I'd go home for my mom's birthday and not bake, did you?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Funfetti Cupcakes

I made these a few weeks ago for the bartenders' last night of quiz.  Aren't they adorable?  The cupcakes, I mean.  Pictures of our favorite bartenders are pretty rare, so how would you know if they're adorable... 

Anyway, I was running low on time and ended up making these from a mix.  I know, I know, mixes are the easy way out.  But I made the frosting from scratch, and then I put sprinkles on top.  So that's something, right?  I love making buttercream frosting, can I tell you that?  Because it's true.

Lucky for us, the last night of quiz coincided with the boys' last Thursday of work.  I ended up being out of town the next few weeks for work, and missed out on quiz night.  So, as a tribute to the super fun times we had on Thursday nights, I'm posting some of the "artwork" that Anna included with our quiz sheets.  She's got talent, that roommate of mine.

Devin's birthday, naturally.

Seriously, this describes us perfectly.

To really understand this, you have to look at our answer to one of the questions...

I don't even know anymore.  But there's a dolphin!

She illustrated the songs. Yep.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Birthday, Part Two

On Saturday morning, after we recovered from Friday night's festivities, I met the girls in downtown Bryan for breakfast at a Mexican food restaurant for chips, salsa, and breakfast tacos.  Naturally, everything was delicious.  Then we headed out to a local vineyard for their annual Wine and Roses Festival.  Despite the fact that I've lived in B/CS for nearly seven years, I've never been to the vineyard, and I have been missing out!

We took a tour of the facility, took advantage of the tasting tent, and walked around the vineyard a little bit.  Everything was so beautiful; flowers in bloom, bright sunshine, and fantastic friends to share it with.

After we finished up at the vineyard, we went back home to change and head out to dinner.  Little did I know, my friends had gotten together to surprise me at one of my favorite restaurants in town.  Those little sneaks were all there when I walked in, and it took me a little longer than it probably should have to realize what was going on.  I finally figured it out when I saw my friends Cara and Daryl, who live near Houston, at the table.  Jessi baked me a cake (chocolate with raspberry filling, delicious) and afterward we went out for drinks and dancing on Northgate.
Sunday was my official birthday and it was an appropriately low-key, fun ending to the craziness that was my 25th birthday.  The girls and I went to an Aggie Baseball game to cheer our boys on to victory against OU. Though we ended up losing, we had a good time yelling and heckling, and that's really what baseball's all about.  Isn't it?

I really wanted to share how much I appreciate what my friends did to make my birthday special.  If you're reading this, THANKS!  You have no idea how lucky I feel to have people like you in my life.

I promise the next few posts will be baking related; I've made so many things in the last few months, there's a lot to catch up on!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

My Birthday, Part One

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a birthday recently (and by recently, I mean at the end of April so not recently at all).  It was by far the most amazing birthday I've had in a very, very long time.  I've written before about what a big deal birthdays were when I was growing up, and have tried and failed to recapture the magic for myself throughout the years since I moved away from home.  This year though, I decided things were going to be awesome. 

Want to know why having an awesome birthday was so important to me?  I seriously spent the night of my 21st birthday by myself, in the library, studying for a lab practical and finishing a sociology paper. That's why.  Seriously, terrible birthday.

THIS birthday, my 25th, was amazing.

It started a whole nine days before my actual birthday, I went home and spent a wonderful weekend with my family.  My mom made me a cake, I slept in, had a sleepover with Shelby, and all was right with the world.  I got the Pioneer Woman cookbook from Dominique and it turned out to be perfect timing.  My mom was leaving for D.C. at the end of the week and would be attending the Pioneer Woman's book signing while she was there!  I love the Pioneer Woman.  For serious. 

I decided to do one thing every day the actual week of my birthday and it went a little something like this:
Monday- volunteering and Pilates, doesn't sound very exciting but a good way to get ready for the week
Tuesday- meeting in Austin until 8:00, which resulted in meeting at Magnolia Cafe with my step-sister and a friend for Mag Mud (which you should rush out and try ASAP)
Wednesday- kickball games followed by burgers and beer
Thursday- Quiz Night!

I'll stop here and say that Quiz was the official kickoff to my birthday weekend celebration.  Allison and Nicole had cupcakes waiting for me at the bar when I got there, and I felt really, really special.  Seriously, look at them.  So pretty, and tie-dye!

I took the next day, Friday, off because who wants to work on the Friday of your birthday weekend?  And I really enjoyed waking up late and goofing off almost all day.  That night there was a concert that I was looking forward to; Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, and Coolio were all performing at the same venue, so we packed up our lawn chairs and set up camp in the grass at Wolf Pen. We danced and sang along to almost everything, and then there was a robot.  Pretty much the perfect start to an awesome weekend.
*As a side note, can I just say the fifth-grade version of me was so pumped to see Coolio perform Gangsta's Paradise?  I know it's lame but, at least in my hometown, there's no way you didn't know all the words to that song and LOVE IT.  True story.*

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pictures I Love

I usually write about my baking, but lately I've felt a bit nostalgic.  I blame the rapid on-set of my 25th birthday, but it could just be due to the fact that I'm now surrounded by mementos from my entire life.  You see, when I thought I was going to be moving to another state to be with my now-ex, my mom gave me all of my old stuff.  Not in a "get out of my house" kind of way, more "you're a grown-up who is starting a new life and you should have these things with you".  Anyway, there are boxes and boxes; baby clothes from Germany, a scrapbook of elementary school accomplishments, my trunk filled with high school yearbooks. And pictures.  Oh, the pictures.  I was quite the snap-happy junior high school student, let me tell you. That's not what I'm going to post though, the reasons for which only start with the bangs I was sporting during 1997...

This is one of my most favorite pictures in the collection/ever.

Let's just pause to marvel at my cuteness as a two(ish) year-old.  I mean, honestly.  That's adorable.  Except for that hair, what is going on there?!  This was taken at a biergarten in Germany, and I'm sitting beside my dad.  He obviously has no idea what's going on right next to him; I was quite the little sneak back in my younger days.  Also, thanks to this picture, I want a pretzel.  I'm even willing to risk dealing with yeast to make my own. *Update: I've bought the yeast so all that's left is for me to work up the courage to make the pretzels.  One of these days...*

Then there's this...
That's me and three of my cousins hanging out at my MeeMaw's house, probably around Christmastime.  I can tell that it's Christmas because we're all wearing jeans and I recognize the shirt I'm wearing as a long-sleeve.  Gotta love Texas weather.

This picture is special to me because the four of us represent one kid from each family; my MeeMaw has four children and they're all represented here.  That and the fact that Cody, the tiny one on my lap, is SMILING.  He's much, much, much taller now, and considerably more reserved, so I like to remember that he used to be a smiley little kid that would just plop down in my lap of his own free will.  He just graduated from high school.  I feel old.

Then there's this one.  It's of my great-aunt and uncle who are two of the most generous, caring people I've ever met.  When I was 16 I went on a summer exchange trip to Germany with my school.  We were given the option of staying overseas for a bit longer if we had family over there and these two (who hadn't seen me in eight years) said I could stay with them for two whole weeks.  These people offered to take in a 16 year-old girl who didn't speak the same language as them, for half a month!  That's crazy talk!  My great-uncle died in November, and this is how I'll always remember him.  Smiling, making kissy-faces at my Tante, and having a fantastic time. 

These are just a few of the pictures I've found and felt like sharing, so expect more to pop up from time to time.


Apparently I write blog posts and then don't post them.  I wrote this at the beginning of April...

This week was Michael's birthday!  I bet you didn't know Michael is who started my baking craziness.  Sort of.  His last birthday was my first venture into baking new and crazy things; Guinness Chocolate cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting.  I can count on him for an honest opinion, and he's not shy about requesting something specific- a characteristic I value, since I am constantly worrying about what to make.

When I saw this recipe, I knew Michael needed to see it if he was to make a fully informed choice for his birthday treat.  I mean, c'mon.  It's beeramisu.  Michael LOVES beer.  Once he gave me the green light, I promptly forgot about it.  I even suggested something else, Bacon Brownies, but he reminded me about the beeramisu and I set about finding my ingredients.

The savioardi, ladyfingers, were what I knew I'd have the hardest time finding. Luckily, we have a World Market in town and another blogger had posted about seeing them there.  Whew, seriously that was the hardest part! 

Here's the link to the recipe.  I went a little overboard and bought two packages of the savioardi, which seemed dumb at the time but actually worked out quite well.  The mascarpone/heavy cream/Kahlua mixture makes a lot of filling and I was able to make two large batches, a small "tasting" batch, and we still had cream left over.  Delicious.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sopapilla Cheesecake

 Oh. My. Goodness.
You guys have no idea how delicious this was.  I printed off this recipe about six months ago and just never got around to making it.  Until last week.  I was in a rush and wanted something super quick to bring to quiz, so I busted out the page and bought my ingredients.

Everything came together so easily, I couldn't believe that I was "done" so early.  I was getting ready for the evening when suddenly, I could smell the wonderful mixture of cinnamon, sugar, butter, and cream cheese.  It was calling to me from the kitchen.  I ran to tell Anna, her door was closed and the scent hadn't quite gotten all the way down the hall, to stop studying and come in to the kitchen. I opened the oven door and we were hit in the face with one of the most delicious aromas I've ever smelled.  Wow. It was as if I had a cinnamon roll candle in the oven.  

I took the pan out of the oven and set it on a wire rack, hoping it would decrease the amount of time it took to cool.  Right before we left for quiz I cut the cheesecake into squares and took just a little bite.  Quality control. You understand.  Then I had Anna taste it since two opinions are always better than one.  We decided they didn't live up to the smell but, as Anna pointed out, that's probably a good thing since candles are rather waxy...

As with the Toffee Sandwich cookies, these were better the second day.  The cheesecake layer needs to set a little, so I would suggest letting them come fully to room temperature before serving (though I tried them as soon as they were cool enough to cut and they were still really good).

Sopapilla Cheesecakes
2 cans crescent rolls
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese
1 1/2 Cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a 9 x 13 with cooking spray.  Unroll and press one can crescent roll dough into the bottom of the pan, pressing the seams together to seal. 

In a large bowl, blend the cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until well combined. Spread cream cheese mixture over top of dough. 

Unroll second can of crescent rolls and place on top of cream cheese layer, pressing seams together again.

Melt butter and pour over the top layer of dough. 

Mix the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar generously over the top.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly and bottom crust is slightly brown (the pan I used wasn't glass, so I couldn't see the bottom, but the top was super bubbly).  Cool on a wire rack.  Wait until bars are completely cool before slicing/serving.  It's worth the wait, promise!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Honey Beer Bread

A few weeks ago Anna and I threw ourselves a party.  As you may have read, we moved and we LOVE our new place.  We love our new house to the point of inviting people over for the sole purpose of showing it off.  I didn't ever want people to see the last place I lived, so this was quite the adjustment.

The party was amazing; so many of the people we love (and a few that we just like) came, including my sisters and Anna's parents, and we listened to music, ate a ridiculous amount of food, and made up plotlines to terrible horror movies while they were on mute.  Overall I think it was a success.  The point I'm planning on getting to is that, post-party, we had a rather large amount of (adult) beverages in the house.  So much so, that our crisper drawers no longer held produce and cheese.  Beer had taken over the fridge. And our counter top. 

I've had a few recipes for beer bread set aside and, since I don't really drink beer, thought I could do my part to get rid of some of the beer by trying them out.  I chose to go with honey beer bread first because I love honey.  Love it.  Remember my friend Julie?  Her parents keep bees.  Do you know what that means?  Fresh honey.  And they gave me some.  It's delicious!  I thought this would be a fitting purpose for the Wilde Farms honey, since most of the Wildes I know enjoy their fair share of adult beverages.

Honey Beer Bread
3 Cups flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons honey (Tip: heating the honey in a pot of hot water will make it easier to get out of your measuring spoon)
12oz beer (I used a Sam Adams Boston Lager, but use what you like)
4 Tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Stir honey and beer in until just mixed.  Pour 2 Tablespoons butter into a loaf pan, then spoon batter into pan.  Pour remaining butter on top (I left this part out, but will include it next time).

Bake for 50-60 minutes.  You'll know the bread is done if you tap it and you hear a hollow sound.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Irish Cupcakes, Part Two

I know I'm late with this post, I do, and I'm sorry about that but I've been BUSY!  Well, sort of busy.  A little busy.  Anyway...  Last Wednesday was St. Patrick's Day and I made these again with one small update.  Instead of using the Bailey's Buttercream, I chose to adapt The Best Frosting I've Ever Had that The Pioneer Woman wrote about.

As a side note, I sent a tweet to her asking if it was really sweet and she responded to me!!  I know getting excited about something like that makes me super lame and a huge nerd, but she's kind of a big deal to me so just go with it.  And to answer my question, the frosting is not overpoweringly sweet.  I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try it then, since my roommate doesn't care for super sweet. 

I adapted the frosting by subbing in about a tablespoon of Bailey's instead of vanilla.  The verdict: the frosting was alright, but could have used a bit more time in the mixer and fridge...  I won't use it for these cupcakes again, but it'll definitely find its way on to another baked good sometime in the near future.  As The Pioneer Woman said; it's magic.  I also used a better quality chocolate in the ganache (I love Ghirardelli) and it almost didn't make it into the cupcakes.  I might have eaten some of it with a spoon, after I made sure the cupcakes were full, of course...

Since I was so busy with baking, I made the cupcakes twice last week, I completely forgot to take any kind of pictures...   How about a rainbow?  That's St. Patricks-y, right?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Butterfinger Cookies

There was another bartender birthday last week at Murphy's!  As I may have mentioned before, I love helping people celebrate their special day, even if it's just by baking something especially for them.  Frazier requested something containing either Reese's Pieces or Butterfinger, so I put my thinking cap on (yes, I seriously wrote that) and tried to figure out what to make with those two flavors...  It was, to say the least, a challenge. 

Let me put in a disclaimer that I know I don't have to bake every week, and that I'm aware that the people I bake for could care less what I bring in.  I know it, I really do. I know this is all self-imposed.  I'm competitive though, and despite the fact that there's no one to compete against AND no real prize, I look forward to it and that's what's important.   That and I like being able to try new things out on a willing audience.  Anna is a good sport, but there's only so many baked goods I can force on her before she threatens to move out and I'm left without a roommate and have to leave the beautiful house.  I can't have that happen.  So I bake for other people.  But back to the issue at hand...  Frazier's birthday!   

Cake cookies are always popular but, since they're so easy and I've made them before, I didn't feel they were quite special enough for a birthday treat.  I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen, and decided to make two kinds of cookies because nothing says "Happy Birthday!" like two kinds of cookies with lots of candy in them.  True story.

Naturally, I didn't take any pictures.  But both of the cookies went over really well.  I was concerned that baking would change the texture of the candy, which was part of the reason Fraz requested those two types, but thankfully that didn't happen.  The chocolate cake cookies with Reese's Pieces were crunchy, and the Butterfinger cookies managed to retain the stick-to-your-teeth texture that so many people (though not really this girl) love about the candy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mixed Berry Cornmeal Muffins

I normally try to bake at least once a week, usually Thursday for Quiz, but I changed my routine and baked last Monday because I had to go out of town for work Wednesday-Friday.  Though I was bummed about missing out on the funtimes I've come to count on every Thursday, I learned a lot from the conference I went to AND we had a special treat as well.  The Hotel Zaza; if you haven't heard of it before, check out the link.  It's a beautiful hotel, and I'm so thankful the meeting's host was able to set us all up there.  The picture above was the view from my room. Amazing, right?!  Below is my bed, complete with samurai headboard.  I felt safe knowing they were there, above my head, the whole time.  (Totally kidding, I know the samurai aren't real.  I haven't completely lost it.)
Oh, and as if the hotel wasn't enough, our fabulous hostess got us tickets to the Houston Rodeo.  I know rodeos aren't everyone's cup of tea, but Kenny Chesney performed after all the bull-ridin', barrel-racin', and mutton bustin' was over, so there was a little something for everyone.  On a completely different note, I've decided my niece needs to get in on mutton bustin'.  She's a smart kid, and apparently they give out prizes to the winner.  I've offered to bankroll her first attempt, my sister seems to think I'm kidding.  Here's a picture of the concert!

Enough about fancy-pants hotels that I'd never be able to afford if it weren't for getting the state rate; let's talk about these muffins! In addition to bringing some in to work on Tuesday, I had plenty to take with me for breakfast on my trip.  I'm going to be honest with you, they were TERRIFIC.  No, seriously.  There is something about cornmeal that is deliciously comforting and perfect.  I really should eat more things containing it.  It's true.

I can't remember where I got the recipe from, but it's really easy and comes together quickly.  The original just called for fresh blackberries but I used a bag of frozen mixed berries (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry) and I think they really added something special.

Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins
1 1/4 Cup flour
1/2 Cup fine or medium ground yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup buttermilk, room temp
2 large eggs, room temp
7 Tbs butter, melted and cooled
12 oz. berries (like I said, I just bought a bag of mixed berries and managed to fit three in each muffin cup)

Preheat oven to 375.  Whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 Cup plus 2 Tbs sugar in bowl.  In another bowl, whisk buttermilk, eggs, and butter together.  Pour over dry mixture, whisking to combine.

Fill muffin cups with 1/4 Cup batter, top with berries, sprinkle evenly with remaining sugar.  Here's what mine looked like just before I put them in the oven.
Bake 20-25 minutes, until browned on top.  These were best when warm, I ended up heating them for 10 seconds in the microwave and then putting just a smidge of butter on them.  Delicious.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've made this recipe.  It's a go-to, for sure.  I do remember that the first time I took these to a family event, my cousin Cody's girlfriend ate about six of them in a very short time period.  In case you're wondering, that's high praise from a 16 year-old girl if I ever saw it.  More recently I assisted my friend Allison with making these for her boss' birthday and was told they were a hit at her office.  I originally found this recipe here, though I've been told it's nearly indistinguishable from others out there.

Oh, did I mention it snowed again last week?  It did, and it was amazing.  This time there was significant accumulation and Anna, Allison, Nicole, and I all went sledding down Mount Aggie on the Texas A&M campus.  Naturally we froze our tushes off, but it was so worth it.  Everyone was having a good time, and I definitely counted it as my workout for the day. Here's a picture of Nicole and Me at the bottom of the hill, having successfully avoided a collision with each other. 

 Afterward, since Anna and I had worked up an appetite, we went to our usual hangout for dinner, and what turned out to be quite the show.  Some of the bartenders threw together a band with a few other guys and they played their first gig in front of us.  Anna was impressed with the choice of music, while I bopped my head to the beat and stared (in a not creepy way) at the cute guys in the band.  Don't judge, you would have too.  Those guys are adorable!  Anyway, Bartender Kyle requested something made with cherry and these were fresh on my mind (since I'd helped Allison with them the night before), so it's what I decided on. 

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

1 Cup crushed Vanilla Wafers (the original recipe calls for a whole box, but that's overkill and really just leads to me overeating a box of cookies)
2 8oz. packages Cream Cheese (I tried these with reduced fat cream cheese and it worked out decently)
3/4 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 can Cherry Pie Filling (you'll have extra of this too, but there's really not a smaller container)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line mini muffin tin with paper liners, I love my mini muffin tin in case you didn't already know that.  People love tiny things!

Put 1/2 teaspoon crushed vanilla wafers in each muffin cup.  Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Fill paper cups with mixture, almost to the top.  There's not a lot of rising that happens in this recipe, and once you take them out of the oven they'll fall a little bit.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Cool.  Top with cherry pie filling.  I find that the mini cheesecakes are the perfect size for one cherry and some filling.  Adorable!

Side note: when I made these with Allison on Monday, they were gorgeous.  I was a little worried about underbaking them, but I quickly took that statement back after a taste-test.  On Thursday I had a mix-up with my timer and forgot about them, resulting in slightly overdone cheesecakes.  Though I was disappointed in myself for the timer issue, they were still good and went pretty quickly at Quiz.  Despite that, I have resolved to make these again soon to make up for it.  I'm weird like that.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Toffee Sandwich Cookies

I have a lot of toffee left in the house from making cake cookies and my friend Allison, who invited me to go to a concert with her this past weekend, happens to love toffee.  I wanted to do something different, one can only eat so many cake cookies, so I turned to Tasty Kitchen.  If you haven't checked it out yet, you really should.  The site was started by The Pioneer Woman and, like most of what she does, it's amazing.  I've already mentioned another recipe that I found on the site, and it didn't disappoint when I looked for something to do with all the toffee I had in my kitchen.  Here's a link to the original; I followed it exactly and was not disappointed. 

This picture doesn't do these little babies justice, they were incredible.  Quizmaster Devin definitely downed three of them without taking a breath, and that's high praise.  I won't lie though, these were better on the second day.  Something about the flavor of the cream working in to the cookie really complemented the toffee.

I took these on a road trip to San Antonio with Allison and Nicole this last weekend; Allison's wonderful boyfriend Michael snagged some sweet tickets to the rodeo/concert and was nice enough to host all three of us crazy girls.  We had such a fantastic time; shopping at La Cantera, eating at Jenny's every chance we got, singing along as loud as we could to the Eli Young Band...  These cookies were definitely a nice treat after we got back from our adventures.     

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bailey's Cream Puffs

I've got some exciting news.  It SNOWED last Thursday.  And I almost missed it, a tragedy that would have resulted in my being more than a little upset, because I love snow.  So much.

Though I consider myself a native Texan, I was born in Germany and lived there for several years before coming back to the States, so when I was growing up snow wasn't uncommon. We saw it regularly in our own backyard and when visiting relatives, and it was always a wonderful experience but nothing out of the ordinary.  Moving to Texas changed my relationship with snow.  Since we live in the central part of the state we didn't/don't see a lot of the white stuff, though I do remember sledding down the hill in our neighborhood one crazy winter day when I was about nine...

Back to my point though, it snowed and I didn't know about it until we were leaving the house for quiz.  We walked out the door and there it was, big fat flakes of snow.  Hitting me in the face, smacking against the windshield of my car.  Magic.  I personally feel that snow makes everything beautiful.  Not day-after-it's-snowed snow that's turning in to slush, but snow right after it's fallen.  Everything is quiet (maybe because we're afraid to drive in it?), and soft, and beautiful.  I love it.  Here's a picture I took, it doesn't do justice to what happened but it's all I have.

Back to the baking though.  Since it was almost Valentine's Day, I thought I'd try something a little different for this week's recipe.  I made profiteroles, or cream puffs as they're more often called.  I made these several years ago for a friend's birthday (the first anniversary of her 21st birthday, a very special occasion) and they were a hit so I thought I'd bring them back, but with a slight twist.  Can you guess what I did?  Yep, I added booze the the cream mixture and it was DELICIOUS.  Honestly, baking with booze is a terrific idea and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I did have one slight issue with the temperature of my oven and didn't follow the baking instructions to the letter.  For some reason my oven gets super hot, and I ended up pulling the first batch out of the oven and not letting them gradually cool down like the recipe tells you to.  Then I thought I'd be sneaky and lower the temperature for the next batch.  Also a bad idea, because the bottoms burned on those.  I solved that problem by just cutting the bottoms off and filling them anyway.  Here's a picture of that.

My last batch was perfect, and I can't really remember what I did...  I do know it involved putting an empty cookie sheet on the rack beneath the cream puffs to provide a little bit of insulation from the heat.  I didn't get a picture of the pretty ones though, naturally.

Moral of the story: If you have a crazy (but still better than a homicidal) oven keep an eye on these suckers!
Here's how to make them.

Cream Puffs
Bailey's Cream Filling (recipe below)
2/3 Cup water
7 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons margarine, divided
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 Cup flour
4 eggs

1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate

Prepare Bailey's Cream Filling.  Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly grease baking sheet, set aside.  In 2 1/2-quart saucepan, bring water, 7 Tablespoons margarine, sugar, and salt to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in flour.  With wooden spoon, cook flour mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, five minutes or until film forms on bottom of pan.  Remove from heat, stir in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Immediately drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet.  Place baking sheet on middle rack in oven.

Bake 20 minutes.  Decrease oven temperature to 350 and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Turn off oven without opening door and let puffs stand in oven 10 minutes.  Cool completely on wire rack.  To fill, slice off top 1/3 of puffs and set aside.  Fill with Bailey's Cream Filling, replace tops.

In small microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate and remaining two teaspoons margarine on high power for 30 seconds or until chocolate is melted; stir until smooth.  Drizzle chocolate mixture over puffs.

Bailey's Cream Filling
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 Cup milk
3-4 Tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 Cups whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping

In a medium bowl, with wire whisk, blend pudding mix, milk, liqueur, and vanilla.  Fold in whipped cream.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour or until set.  (I completely messed this step up and just mixed it all in at once.  Aside from it being a little less fluffy than it normally is, it was totally fine)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cary Grant Cupcake Challenge

Last week I discussed with Amanda my love for Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and old movies in general.  She suggested creating a "tribute cupcake" to be enjoyed during Cary Grant Sundays and, while I thought it sounded like a fantastic idea, I'm having trouble coming up with appropriate ingredients.  What would be a fitting homage to a man so super dreamy that my mom and I both swoon over him?

I need your help people!  If you're reading this blog, even if you're not following me, do some research or just throw out a suggestion.  If you're going to take this literally and suggest including his perfect hair or something like that, please also add in something I might be able to incorporate into a finished product.  I'm open to trying out several different iterations, I do enjoy a challenge, so keep the ideas coming.  If you can't come up with an ingredient, let me know what your favorite Cary Grant movie is, sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places.  If you haven't seen a Cary Grant movie get thee to the nearest video store (or put your TV on TCM or AMC) and watch!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cosmopolitan Cupcakes

Image from SuperCocktails

I love to bake, that's no secret.  What is also not a secret is that the people in my life love...booze.  That's right, I said it.  So far, the two baked goods I've made that contained alcohol were more popular than anything else I've made.  A few weeks ago we had a meeting at work that required one of the most hilarious women I've met to travel down and participate.  She's super fun and, after we've completed work for the day, enjoys herself a Cosmo or two.  Once when we were at dinner, she drank her Cosmo so fast that she almost convinced the waitress she hadn't brought it.  Point being, she likes the drink.  In a totally healthy, not substance abusing way.

I figured I would adapt the same recipe I used for the Mimosa Cupcakes, just substitute ingredients more in line with what's in a Cosmo.  Vodka, cranberry juice, and orange zest in the batter paired with lime frosting.  The frosting needs work-it ended up being nothing special and I think that's mostly due to the absence of lime zest, next time I'll include that and hope for better results.  The cake was different, interesting even, and seemed to be pretty well enjoyed across the board.  Still thinking of ways to make it stand out a little more, perhaps more cranberry juice and less vodka.

Cosmopolitan Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
1 Cup Vodka (I would probably switch proportions for next time, adding more cranberry juice, less vodka)
1/3 Cup Cranberry Juice (I used diet, to keep it from being overly sweet)
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest

Preheat oven according to package directions.  Combine all ingredients in large bowl (I replaced the water the box mix calls for with vodka and cranberry juice, so if your mix requires a different amount of water adjust accordingly), mix until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared muffin tins (as previously discussed, I never end up with the amount the box tells you) and bake according to package directions.

Lime Buttercream

1 stick Butter (softened to room temperature)
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
1-2 Tablespoons Milk
2 Tablespoons Lime Juice (this could probably be taken out and replaced with a tablespoon of zest)

Cream butter in a large bowl.  Sift powdered sugar in to butter, mixing between additions.  Add milk and zest, mix until combined.  If you're not happy with the consistency, add more powdered sugar (to thicken) or milk (to thin) until it's easy to spread on the cooled cupcakes.

Here's to you, Susan.  Cheers!

Monday, February 8, 2010

An Award?!

I've mentioned before that my stepsister Amanda has an amazing blog.  I may not have mentioned that I'm completely jealous of her writing and photography skills, but I really am.  Recently, she gave me a blog award.  What a sweetheart, right?  It's true, she's a nice girl.

Anyway, the award comes with the stipulation that you have to write seven random things about yourself.  Since I know myself, it's difficult to decide what's random and what's not, but here's my best shot!

1. I love Cary Grant movies, so much so that I sometimes have Cary Grant Sunday at my house.  There was an AMC marathon of his movies that I recorded and I'm slowly making my way through them.  So far my favorites are To Catch a Thief and Houseboat.  I'm a sucker.

2. I was in a relationship for nine years that recently ended.  I'm still figuring out how to be a grown-up without my identity being so closely linked to someone else.  It's weird.
3. People think I'm shy when they first meet me.  Shy and nice.  And quiet.  This quickly changes after they get to know me. 
4. I have a tendency to curse like a sailor (this is related to the previous statement).
5. I am passionate.  About my family.  About my friends.  About causes I believe in. This also relates to the previous statement.  Emotions run high around here people!
6. After learning about something that piques my interest, I can't get enough.  I want to know everything there is to know about it, and then share it with everyone I meet.  For some reason, I feel like the things I find interesting are also interesting to other people.  Generally, this is not the case.
7. My favorite word is apoptosis, it just sounds neat.  The definition is also pretty cool, I thank my genetics professor for teaching it to me (even if I didn't learn anything else from him).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Heavenly Lemon Angel Cake

Last Monday was Kristi's birthday- HAPPY BIRTHDAY KRISTI!  She's eating healthier lately, something that's not a terrible idea for the rest of us (coughmecoughcough) to start doing and out of respect for that I wanted to make something special for her birthday that didn't contain eight sticks of butter.  I thought about it and remembered that angel food cake isn't too terrible for those who are trying to eat healthier, and decided to go ahead with that idea.

Crystal found this recipe in a Pampered Chef book for cooking light, and forwarded it to me.  I know it looks like I'm pimping Pampered Chef lately, but i promise that'll go away.  I don't sell it, nor do I want to, though I do appreciate the products I own.

The recipe was really easy, you don't even have to have a tube pan to make this!  And I'll confess that I used a box mix.  Would you believe that I helped some friends of mine move last weekend?  That cuts down on the amount of time I had available to grocery shop and spend in the kitchen.  I'm sorry Kristi, my use of a mix in no way reflects on my affection for you, I just ran out of time. 

1 pkg (16 oz) angel food cake mix
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 Cup fresh lemon juice
2 Cups powdered sugar
2 Cups thawed, fat-free frozen cool whip (I used sugar-free!)
1 pkg (10 oz) frozen raspberries or strawberries in syrup, thawed (I used mixed berries)

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare cake mix according to package directions.  Pour batter into 13x9 inch baking dish.  Bake on center rack 35-40 minutes or until top of cake is golden brown, cracked and firm to the touch.  Do not underbake.  Remove from oven and invert onto cooling rack to cool completely (do not remove cake from baking dish).

You can prepare cake in advance through this step - when cake is completely cooled, tent loosely with aluminum foil until ready to serve; proceed with remaining steps.

Turn baking dish upright; poke holes in cake about 1 1/2 inches deep and 1/2 inch apart with large fork.  Combine powdered sugar , lemon juice and lemon zest; whisk until smooth.  Slowly pour glaze over cake, spreading evenly.  Let stand 30 minutes until glaze is set.  Garnish each serving with whipped topping and top with raspberries or strawberries.

The cake was delicious-good on you HEB and your fantastic box mix.  Even though the directions were confusing, I think it had more to do with my inability to comprehend NOT adding things to a mix, and not the way the instructions were written.  The tartness added to the cake by the glaze was amazing and unexpected, this would be perfect during the summer since it's so light and refreshing!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Italian Cream Cake

As I mentioned in my previous post, I baked twice last week during the great move.  I somehow forgot that the first official day we could move in to the new place was also the date of my boss' Pampered Chef party, that I'd offered to bake for.  Silly me.  But, I do love a challenge and that's what this was.  Despite having moved a good portion of the kitchen to the new place, I managed to hang on to a few essentials and made this last thing in the tiny kitchen's homicidal oven.

I haven't ever made a layer cake before.  I know it seems crazy, since I kind of bake all the time, but I usually stick to a 9x13 or cupcakes.  The fact that I didn't (until this Christmas, thanks Mrs. Jann!) have 8 or 9 inch round cake pans didn't help the matter but, as Anna pointed out, if I'd wanted to make a layer cake I would have made it happen by now.

I was presented this particular challenge by my boss' friend, who is also my former professor (no pressure there, right?).  She said that she's always loved Italian Cream cake and I stupidly agreed to make it, because I didn't have my calendar in front of me and didn't bother to look up the recipe before agreeing to make one.  I used Billie's Italian Cream Cake recipe from Tasty Kitchen, because I love the Pioneer Woman and anything related to her.  It's an illness that I'm (not) seeking treatment for, don't judge.

I only made two 8-inch round cakes because I only had two pans, even though the recipe calls for three layers, and had enough batter left over for seven cupcakes.  In the future I'll just go ahead and use all the batter for the two cakes.  Even though the cupcakes were delicious, I think the cake would have been prettier if I'd filled the pans more.  I halved the frosting recipe and still had more than enough to put between the cake layers, frost the cake (ok, so Anna frosted the cake while I got changed for the party), and frost the cupcakes.  

Overall the cake was a success, people seemed impressed that it was all from scratch and it was also an excellent marketing opportunity for Crystal and Kristi, since I used Pampered Chef pans to prepare the cakes.  Unfortunately, in the rush to get this cake out the door, I didn't take a picture of it intact.  Here's what I managed to snap at the party.

Pretty and delicious!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

I haven't posted in a long time. Well, at least it feels like a long time.  In the grand scheme of things it really hasn't been that long.  Not long in the way of the Earth (name that movie!) or anything, that's for sure.  Here's what happened though, I moved.  Normally, this raises people's stress levels and is cause for much wailing, the rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth.  Not for me though. I've been looking forward to moving for 11 of the 12 months I lived in my previous place. Remember, I talked about the tiny kitchen and the homicidal oven?  Those things are no more!  This new kitchen has SPACE, and lots of it.  I can't really express how excited I am about this.  Really.  The only downside was that it's taken me a while to get around to writing about the two things I baked last week.  Yes, I baked TWICE in the week I was moving.  I'm a sucker for a challenge.  And birthdays.

It was Bartender/Quiz Master Devin's birthday two weeks ago, and he managed to not tell me in time to bring something for his actual birthday.  What a little jerk, right?  Devin loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so I decided to make peanut butter and jelly cupcakes.  The recipe can easily be adapted to use whatever kind of jelly you have on hand and I've made them before, so I knew I'd be able to make these on Thursday night after work/before quiz.  Here's a picture of me and Devin a million years ago; before I lived off-campus and discovered my love of baking and definitely before he became everyone's favorite Quiz Master at Murphy's.

The cupcake recipe is called Vanilla-Strawberry Cupcakes and comes from my Baking Bible, but I generally reduce the amount of jelly in the cupcakes because of an unfortunate incident the first time I made them.  Something about jelly being all over the muffin tin, oven, and stove made me think a reduction was in order.  There was also a request to not stir the jelly into the batter next time, just drop the jelly in the batter and let it sit there for more of a "punch" of jelly flavor.  I'll take it under advisement though that does make it a bit more like a jelly donut, no?

Jelly Cupcakes

2 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 Cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 egg whites
1/2 Cup strawberry preserves

Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl; mix well and set aside.  Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl with electric mixer for one minute.  Add milk and vanilla, beat for 30 seconds.  Gradually beat in flour mixture, beat for two minutes.  Add egg whites, beat for one minute. 

Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling half full.  Drop 1/2 teaspoon preserves on top of batter; swirl in to batter with toothpick.  Bake 20-22 minutes or until toothpicks inserted into centers come out clean.  Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans to wire racks, cool completely.

This frosting is not from the Baking Bible, I actually discovered it when I was researching Guinness cupcakes for another friend's birthday last April (beer and peanuts, get it?).  After finally locating the piece of paper with the recipe on it, I've figured out it came from How to Eat a Cupcake.  Anyway, since it's debut last April this recipe has gotten heavy use.  Everyone loves it!  The texture is really nice and the peanut butter flavor takes center stage.  I won't lie, I'd knock down a small child for it, including Shelby.  It's that delicious and Aunt Courtney needs her frosting.  Just don't tell my sister.   Luckily for all involved this recipe makes plenty, so there's no need to harm anyone.

Peanut Butter Frosting

2 Cups powdered sugar
1/2 Cup butter, room temperature
Pinch of salt (can be omitted depending on how salty your peanut butter is)
1/2 Cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tablespoons milk

Beat sugar, butter, and salt until creamy.  Add peanut butter, beat until combined.  Add milk, beat until smooth and creamy. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Smores Brownies

My good friend Cara loves smores.  So much so that, the last time she came to visit, we made smores in the tiny kitchen of the apartment I lived in.  This was also my first experience with Sterno, but that's a story for a different day.  When making smores inside, I generally prefer to toast marshmallows over the coil of a hot stove because I don't like burned marshmallows.  Cara, on the other hand, totally enjoys the crispy texture of a blackened marshmallow. *Shudder* I haven't seen her since then, and that's a downer.

Here we are at her wedding two years ago...

Looks like a fun group, right?  We have such good times when we're all together and so I have decided that she and her lovely husband, The Daryl, should come see me. As a method of enticing her to visit again, I decided to make some sort of smores dessert.  I looked and looked and saw so many different methods of combining chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker that my head began to spin just a little bit.  I saw these two recipes on Tasty Kitchen and decided that, by combining the two, I would have a winner.

For the crust:
Take one package of graham crackers and crush them up.  I used the Mix'n'Chop to do this, I think you know how I feel about it already.  Add 1/2 stick of melted butter to the graham cracker crumbs and line the bottom of your brownie pan (I used a 9x12 glass pan) with them.  Bake at 350 for 5 to 8 minutes. 

For the brownies:
¾ Cups Shortening (I used butter)
1-⅓ Cup Sugar
3 Eggs
1-⅓ Cup Flour
½ teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Tablespoons Cocoa
⅓ teaspoons Salt
1-½ teaspoon Vanilla
1 Cup Chocolate Chunks

Mix the brownie ingredients (shortening, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, cocoa, salt and vanilla) in the order given. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

Take brownies out of the oven and cover with marshmallows and chocolate chunks. The marshmallows will get puffy, so they don’t have to touch each other, but you do want the brownie covered. Put back in the oven for 3 minutes or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean.

In the future I'll probably just line the bottom of the pan with graham crackers.  I didn't much care for the crust, that might have something to do with how I underbaked the crust and it totally moved around when I was putting the brownie batter in the pan but we won't talk about that right now.  I will also be sure to add the chocolate chunks to the top like she suggested in the original recipe.  This version was really good, but I think those two changes would have made these AMAZING.  For serious.  So Cara, if you're reading this, make a trip back.  I promise it'll be worth it!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins

It's difficult for me to imagine not eating breakfast in the morning; I just can't skip it.  I've been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that's not the entire reason I need to have a meal when I wake up...  For some reason, I get irrational and a little crazy when I don't eat regularly.  I'm aware that this makes me a weirdo, but I have heard of other people with similar issues, and regardless of that, it really can't be helped.  The only way to avoid the crazy is for me to eat at regular intervals.

Since I'm normally running crazy late in the morning, I've been eating breakfast bars along with my morning coffee.  These are a heck of a lot tastier and, since they contain fruit, I convinced myself that they're actually healthy.  I really like this recipe because it comes together really easily and makes just enough batter for 12 perfectly sized muffins.  Normally the yield count is wildly inaccurate for me, apparently I fill muffin cups too high, but this one is dead on.

This also marks the first time I was able to put together a streusel that struck the proper balance between sugary goodness and crumbly deliciousness.  My previous attempt involved a food processor and it was not pretty.  My suggestion to you, if you're making streusel and don't happen to have a pastry blender and don't want to use a fork or knife, is to get one of these.  I got mine for Christmas last year and have used it to crush candy canes, mash bananas, blend streusel ingredients, and all sorts of other things (not all at the same time of course). So buy one, if you've got the space in your kitchen, because it'll make your life so much easier.  Promise!

Strawberry Banana Muffins
1 1/2 Cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 Cup sugar
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 Cup buttermilk (I used a tablespoon of lemon juice in enough milk to make 1/2 a cup)
1 egg
2/3 Cup (about 2) mashed bananas
5 or 6 strawberries, washed and cut into small-ish pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla

Banana Streusel Topping
1/2 Cup flour
1/3 Cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons shortening (I substituted butter and it worked fine)
1 Tablespoon mashed banana

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line a muffin tin with paper liners.

While the oven is preheating, make your topping: Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl.  Cut shortening (or butter) into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the mashed banana and set aside.

For the batter: Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl whisk together sugar, vegetable oil, buttermilk, egg, bananas, strawberries, and vanilla.  Pour flour mixture into banana mixture and stir until batter is just combined.  Try to stir this as little as possible or your muffins will be super dense and not really good.  Remember that scene in Charlie's Angels (the new one) where Lucy Liu's character brings in muffins and they start throwing them at each other because they're so hard?  She stirred too much, guaranteed. 

Fill the muffin tins about 2/3 full with batter and top with the crumb mixture, I had plenty of streusel leftover but I'll figure out what to do with that later.

Bake for 18-21 minutes or, if you've got a possessed oven like I do, until a tester comes out clean and the muffins spring back when gently touched.

My honest opinion is that these were ok, nothing terribly special.  I've got a muffin recipe that includes honey and I think I like it better; definitely worth trying with the strawberries and bananas!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oatmeal Cookies

They're gone, the holidays are over.  I've found it difficult to get back in to the routine of going to work and being productive.  There's just something about the holidays and not working a full five-day week in the office until the end of January that really messes with my ability to concentrate.  Funny how that happens.  Anyway, the scatterbrain even extended into deciding what to bake, that never happens to me! Finally, on Thursday, inspiration struck.

You see, after every holiday the candy that goes along with it is put on sale.  I'm not so much a sucker for candy corn after Halloween, or Necco hearts after Valentine's Day, but after Christmas they put M&Ms on clearance!  Who doesn't love that kind of thing?!  Anyway, I bought three different kinds of M&Ms (dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and mint) for half price, then there was a ton of Christmas candy, and even marshmallows left over from the holiday festivities.  The endless possibilities flooded my brain and suddenly it was Wednesday night and I still hadn't made a decision.

For some reason, after getting an H1N1 immunization (it was the nose thing instead of a shot, free and I didn't even have to wait in line so I figured it would be a good use of an afternoon), I felt inspired.  I would make oatmeal cookies with various mix-ins.  I knew I could use the rest of the toffee bits from the chocolate cake cookies but wanted to have another option, just in case.  I myself have yet to decide whether or not I like toffee, so people should have options.  "What people?", you ask?  I don't know what people really, since it's not like I bake for a demanding audience, but just in case someone was picky?  I really enjoy the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies at Potbelly, but didn't have any chocolate chips at the house so I substituted my discounted M&Ms (don't judge).  The substitution sparked some discussion because I wasn't sure if the candy shell would interfere with the texture of the cookies.  I honestly don't know why I worry about these things, it's a stupid cookie, but I'm weird like that.

I used the oatmeal cookie recipe in my Baking Bible.  Seriously, that's the title of the book.  It's pretty amazing and for the life of me, I can't find any more copies of it. It's part of a series of "bibles" that Barnes and Noble carried for a while and, thanks to my working at a B&N College for far too many years, I was able to snag one for a ridiculous deal several years ago. 

1 1/4 Cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Cups quick or old fashioned oats
Mix-ins: I used about half a bag of M&Ms for half of the dough and about 1/3 of a bag of toffee chips for the other half.

Preheat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

  In a large mixing bowl beat butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until combined.

Gradually beat in the flour mixture (rather pretty, isn't it?). 

Stir in oats and mix-ins.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 7-8 minutes for chewy cookies, or 9-10 minutes for crispy cookies.  Or, if you have a crazy oven like mine, check the cookies after 6 minutes and remove them from the oven only to find that they are crispy.  Let cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

These ended up being pretty good, even Anna wasn't terribly opposed to them and she said she's not generally a fan of oatmeal in cookies.  I think she may be converting to a sweets lover, if only just a little bit.