Friday, February 18, 2011

Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies

The mind is a funny thing.

I can't remember what I did two weeks ago, but I remember being eight years old like it only happened yesterday.

Growing up, Mom never let us have too much sugar. Sugar cereal in the cupboard was unheard of and soda was definitely out of the question. She loved to bake, so we always had homemade treats on hand. However, Mom's idea of a treat were rhubarb teacakes or cheddar muffins. Not very appetizing to a child.

My best childhood friend, Charlene, invited me over to her house to play after school quite often. I loved going there because her Mom bought every sugar laden treats the supermarket had offered. To a kid, it was literally like being in a candy store. Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies - those beautiful little processed snack cakes wrapped in all its cellophane splendor were a staple in her home.

As I got older, I was thankful for Mom's diligence when it came to healthy eating habits and making us eat pounds of fruit and vegetables, because as an adult, I lost all willpower and discovered the love of baking.

When I saw there was a copycat version of these beauties I could make at home, I was super happy!

It's a good thing when one finds a recipe that claims to deliver the likeness of a much loved snack food; it's a bad thing when it actually delivers on its promise and one eats the entire batch. Seriously folks, they are amazing, if not better than the real deal.

Don't say you haven't been warned, but you WILL thank me.


1 cup butter
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups quick oats


½ cup shortening
1½ cups marshmallow cream
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons milk

In the large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time and beat until well combined; add vanilla.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and oats. Add to the creamed mixture. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Drop by tablespoons of dough on cookie sheet, 1 inch apart.

Bake at 350ºF for about 9 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown around the edges.

Place cookie sheet on wire rack to cool for 2 minutes, transfer to wire rack.

To fill cookies:

Drop a generous tablespoon of filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Sandwich with another cookie, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie.

Place oatmeal creme pies into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

Yield: About 12-18 good sized cookies.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Muddy Buddies

What do you do with an active 4-year-old, her 2 just-as-active playdates, a few opened boxes of cereal that no one wants to eat anymore, half eaten chocolate from past holidays (yes, leftover chocolate. It does happen), 5 day old tuna noodle casserole, and a too-cold-to-go-outside kind of day?

You make Muddy Buddies. And throw the tuna noodle casserole away. Ick.

This recipe is both amazing and super simple - and if you have read my past blogs, you know how much I like simple. I found this recipe on the back of a Rice Chex cereal box a couple of years ago. It's one of those recipes that, because of it's simplicity to make, can get overused, but if you can’t find the cereal brand where you live, you crave incessantly. 

I have tweaked this recipe a few times, mainly adding things to it, only to come back to the original everytime. Like the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". This delightful creation falls under that category. It's sweet, salty, and crunchy goodness all in one. 

There is nothing like sugaring up your child's friends, sending them home, and seeing their Mom the next day at school with an extra large coffee and under eye bags to her chin, wondering why her children were up until 11pm.


Adapted from the back of the Chex Cereal box.

9 cups Rice or Corn Chex Cereal -  If you can't find Chex, Crispix Cereal is the next best thing.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips**
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups powdered sugar

In large bowl, measure cereal; set aside. I used both Rice & Corn Chex.

**This is where my little spin on the recipe comes in. Rather than using chocolate chips, this is a great recipe to use up any solid chocolate bars you may have lying around.

Substitute one cup chocolate chips for one cup chopped chocolate bars and follow recipe accordingly. If you are using all 100% milk chocolate, I recommend throwing some dark chocolate in to counterbalance the sweetness. White chocolate works well, but I wouldn't suggest using only white as it will yield a very sweet mixture.

Just be sure to chop coarsely so it melts evenly. 

In microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate, peanut butter and butter for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla.

Pour chocolate mixture over cereal.  

Stir until evenly coated.

Pour into resealable food-storage plastic bag. Add powdered sugar.

Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Yield: 18 servings (½ cup each)

Happy Baking!

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Friday, February 11, 2011

French Toast Casserole

Today is my birthday!

As much as I love it, and I do love it, I have never been one to go up to people, draw attention to myself and say, "Hey, today's my birthday!" It's just not my style.

Unless you know me or you're privy to the fact that you know it's my birthday, I'm more of a party-in-silence kind of gal.

I adore breakfast food. One of my favorite breakfast foods is french toast. There are so many ways to make and enjoy it that I have lost count. I've had it stuffed, grilled, candy coated, you name it. Then I had it in casserole form and let me tell you, it's like dessert in a baking dish.

One of the best perks about this casserole is that it's one of those make-the-night-before jobbers. Not having to rush around making breakfast on my birthday - or any morning for that matter, enjoying a nice cup of tea with my husband and getting cuddles from my 2 most favorite little people in the world is the best gift I could ever ask for!

That and a new kitchen appliance never hurts.


1 loaf challah or egg bread - about 8-10 cups. Slightly stale bread works fine.
7 eggs
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
Maple syrup 

Generously grease a 13x9 baking dish.

Tear bread into bite size pieces and spread out evenly into prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Pour over bread and pat down lightly so bread absorbs egg mixture. Dot with butter, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning, place foil-covered dish into a cold oven, then crank oven to 350ºF. Bake covered for 40 minutes. I like the casserole to have a soft and fluffy consistency inside while the crust has a slight crunchy top.

Serve immediately, drizzled with maple syrup and a nice cup of tea.

Yields: 8-12 servings - or one big serving. Don't worry, we won't judge.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vermont Maple Cookies

I have never been to Vermont. The closest I got the the Green Mountain State was when my husband & I went to Montreal on a camping trip back in 2002. If it's anything like these cookies, it's a gorgeous place to be. 

The first time I came across this recipe, I was a bit nervous when I read the ingredients. Vermont is a state that takes their maple syrup very seriously. Since the only maple ingredient is a flavoring, I knew I had to incorporate the real deal in there somewhere to allow these little lovelies to do the State proud. I couldn't very well use just the flavoring and slap the name Vermont on them.

After some tweaking, I was praying I didn't mess up the recipe.

Once these maple morsels were signed, sealed, and delivered, I took one bite and suddenly, the hills were alive with the sound of Vermont's State Song.

And this Mama knew all the words.

You're welcome Vermont.


½ cup butter
1½ cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk or sour cream
¼ cup REAL maple syrup
2 ¾ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
OPTIONAL: 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped 

Brown Butter Maple Glaze

½ cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
4 tablespoons milk

Combine flour, baking soda, salt together in a medium bowl; set aside. I like to sift everything together using a mini sieve. Like this....

Mix butter and brown sugar together until incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time.

Add buttermilk and maple ingredients. Mix well.

Drop by tablespoons onto a baking sheet. I use an ice cream scoop. It makes like so much easier!

Now for the glaze.
Melt butter in a pan until it gets a nice nutty color.  Stay close to the stove as it only needs about 4 minutes. 

Add confectioner's sugar, flavoring, and milk.

If you use the glaze immediately, this is how the cookies will look....

Let the glaze cool for a bit, you will get more of a frosting effect....

Yield: 3 ½ dozen cookies.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Every country is known for a specific food. Italy is know for it's pasta, Belgium is chocolate, India for their spices, and so on.

When it comes to the country that knows how to create unique desserts with even more interesting names (Spotted Dick or Banoffee Pie to name a few) there is one land that understands the need for stodgy goodness.

Home of the Chip Butty, it's the United Kingdom.

Here's a little geography lesson for you. Don't worry, you won't be tested, but don't be surprised if you feel a bit cheated from the educational system.

The United Kingdom is made up of 4 countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Great Britain, however, only consists of England, Scotland, and Wales. It's kind of like the USA in a way. Although there are Fitty States (yeah, that's right, I said Fitty), 48 of them are contiguous States. Alaska and Hawaii are still members of our great land, they're just not connected to the same land mass. Same goes here. Just as each state has their own flag, each country in the UK also has their own flag. 

Anyway, we were in England a few years back for a wedding. We were staying at my husband's mate's parents house. These are some of the most wonderful people you will ever meet. I just adore them.

Mama Angela is an amazing cook. One night after a gorgeous meal of Lancashire Hot Pot, she brought out her homemade Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Oh. My. I took one bite and I literally needed a moment. I mean, I had Sticky Toffee Pudding before, but nothing like this!  My daughter was 2 at the time and I don't think I ever heard her so quiet at the dinner table.

This dessert should come with a disclaimer: Be prepared to lick the bowl clean and wet yourself a little.



½ cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs

Preheat oven at 350 F.

Butter 8-inch square cake pan.

Put dates and ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Boil over medium heat until the dates are very soft - about 5 minutes. Like so....

Transfer dates into a food processor and puree. (You should have about a cup). Let cool for 10 minutes.

Whisk flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder in a bowl; set aside. 

In separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until pale in color. Add eggs one at a time until well blended.

Incorporate flour mixture in small batches, alternating with the date mixture until all is well blended.

Pour into prepared 8-inch pan. I like to do intricate designs in all my cakes. It's like my signature move.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Toffee Sauce:

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup unsalted butter

Add the 3 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure everything is melted and incorporated. Pour over cake.

Note: Both cake and toffee sauce are best enjoyed warm.

Happy Baking!

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Monday, January 31, 2011

No Bake Cookies

Confucius once said, "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." Such words never rang more true. 

I am a simple baker. I don't like anything too fussy or recipes that call for too many ingredients. This is probably why I don't make my own bread as often as I would like to or make my Grandma's gorgeous Seven Layer Torte - unless the occasion is extra special.

Take these cookies for instance. These babies are so simple that a 5-year-old can make them. In fact, that's how I came to make these delicious heaps of bliss. I found this recipe in a box my Mom gave me when I moved out of the family home and on my own at 21. Attached to it was a Polaroid of me with my Kindergarten class proudly making these cookies - complete with paper chef hats! I've been making them ever since.

The moral of the story: Never underestimate simplicity. The goodness of a simple homemade chocolate chip cookie can do wonders for a bad day. It's not fussy, but damn can it make life a bit more bearable.

Even if only for a few minutes.


½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup milk
3 Tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar

3 cups oatmeal (you can use quick oats or steel cuts oats)
½ cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Combine first 4 ingredients together in a saucepan. I like to use a whisk to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.

Boil for one full minute. Remove from heat. Add  peanut butter and vanilla. Whisk.

Add oatmeal.

Drop by tablespoons onto foil or wax paper. Allow to cool.

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dinosaur Cookies for Noel

We love parties in our household. My husband and I have been known to throw parties for the most ridiculous reasons just so we can entertain. Ask anyone we know and I guarantee they have been to at least one of our get togethers. One year, we had 8 parties. This is not counting birthday parties.

We especially love birthdays. Our friends invited my family to their son's 5th birthday party/dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. It's all my daughter has talked about for DAYS! So, naturally, she asked if we could make cookies for him. Not that I ever need a reason to make cookies, but it always makes it that much more fun when we make them for someone else.

She chose to do butterflies and hearts, but I had to explain to her that he probably doesn't like them as much as she does, so we settled on a dinosaur theme instead - only because that's what he likes.

He went crazy when he saw them. His reaction was worth all the work we had put into them. As we were stepping out of our seats to go have a look around, someone walked by and asked if the cookies were made of modeling clay.

They get out of the hospital on Wednesday.

Okay, okay, I'm kidding.

But seriously. 

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