Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grown Up Mac and Cheese

With all this snow and freezing temperatures I have really been craving big pasta dishes and comfort foods, so last week Denis made this mac and cheese for me. The recipe yields 2 servings but there was more than enough for left overs. I was expecting it to be very gooey but it wasn't, which was actually perfect. The pieces of bacon with the mixes of cheeses tasted so good. Denis used Panko bread crumbs instead of fresh, as the recipe called for, and the crunchiness was a nice touch to the mac and cheese.

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
Ina Garten
Serves 2

4-ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed (I used a 1/2 cup of Panko instead)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumble bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes. (We actually used a 11 x 9 baking dish, and had left overs).

If you are using bread; place bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb over the top of the pasta. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce in bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dora the Explorer and Friends Cookies

An old friend from home has an adorable little girl Bella who turned 3 years old last week and is having a Dora themed birthday party with all her friends today. Instead of having a bunch of three-year- olds with messy cupcakes, my friend Jess decided on cookies. So I made some cookies with Dora and a few of her best friends!

Dora the Explorer and Friends...




and Backpack!

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Happy Engagement Cookies

I just did two orders of Engagement cookies for my friend Kim's friends. I did some heart shaped bride and grooms and some cakes with dark purple roses and congratulations cookies.

Bride and Groom....

All packaged and ready to go!

Wedding Cakes and Congrats Cookies....

Ready to go!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

So this is my last peanut butter related dessert I am making for a while. I just can't help myself, I could eat peanut butter everyday, seriously! I received a Cookie Cookbook for my birthday a few weeks ago (thanks Lisa!), and it is full of great cookie and dessert bar recipes, there are sure to be some more entries in the future from this book. The recipe says it makes 7 1/2 dozen but I made them bigger using a 2 inch ice cream scoop. The scoop was helpful because all the cookies were the same size and shape and tasted AMAZING! Denis said these were his favorite chocolate chip cookies I ever made.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Taste of Home Cookies
Yields 7 1/2 dozen small cookies, about 4 dozen larger cookies


1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups chopped peanut butter cups ( about six 1.6-ounce packages)


In a large bowl, cream butter, peanut butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanut butter cups.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes for smaller cookies, 12-14 minutes for larger cookies, or until edges are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.

NOTE: Reduced-fat or generic brands of peanut butter are not recommended for this recipe

Friday, January 7, 2011

Red Velvet Cake Balls

These little bites are sort of a little piece of heaven. The chocolate on the outside adds something extra to the really soft and delish red velvet interior. A co-worker made these a few years ago and I couldn't get enough. I made them last Christmas and had some requests for them this year. The recipe comes from, she has tons of other great recipes and ideas for cake balls. I followed the recipe exactly so the link is below (Click on Red Velvet Cake Balls).

Inside goodness!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kick A$@ Peanut Butter Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing

This might be one of the best dessert recipes I have ever tried. It is actually called Peanut Butter Cake with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Icing but it is Kick A$@! So I sort of changed the name. I made it for Denis's birthday celebration and it was a big hit. It is so moist and just the right sweetness with a rich peanut-buttery chocolate icing. I pretty much followed the recipe but made small additions and changes, I added some extra peanut butter, used Milk chocolate instead (because I love it), added a 1/4 cup of milk and I didn't add chopped peanuts. Below is my recipe but I've included the link for the original recipe too.

Bon Appetit
Serves 12

1 18.25-ounce package yellow cake mix
3 cups creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)

3/4 cup chocolate syrup
8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 3/4-inch-high sides. Prepare cake according to package directions, beating in 1 cup peanut butter. Divide between prepared pans. Bake until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

Combine chocolate syrup and milk chocolate in heavy saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Transfer chocolate mixture to large bowl. Stir in remaining 2 cups peanut butter, then powdered sugar, then milk. Continue stirring until smooth. Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread top with 1 1/2 cups icing. Top with second cake layer. Spread top and sides of cake evenly with remaining icing. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover.) Cut into wedges and serve.

Note: To make a nice and clean presentation on the stand or platter, place 2 or 3 pieces of wax paper under the cake. Place them so they are under all edges of the cake, but close to the edge so it is easy to slide out. Once you have finished icing the cake pull out the pieces of wax paper so you have a clean platter or stand.