New Jersey Crumb Buns!

Hello! I am doing my best to catch up from my London Bears game trip, and apologize for the lack of communication.  What a blast we had in London and Londoners couldn’t have been more welcoming to us fans.  We stayed at the JW Marriott in Grovesner.  The service was impeccable.  This is the hotel where the Bears stayed as well, so my pals and I were sure to book a room early, as the entire hotel was sold out.  We became fast friends with the hotel staff…Luka and Thomas took especially great care of us.  I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone traveling to London.  It is not cheap, but if you know me, I like to pretend I have lots of money  when what I really have is lots of room on a credit card…ha! So I vacation in style and don’t worry about a thing until a month later when I’m home and my bill comes in the mail.  Life is too short not take advantage of trips like this, right?!  That’s how I feel, anyway.  At any rate, we were just a short walk to the Marble Arch tube stop, Buckingham Palace, the Embassy District and one of my favorite bars now of all time, The Grenadier.  After taking pictures in front of Buckingham Palace on day 3, we decided to check out this Mexican restaurant that we had walked by on our way there (we had already consumed lots and lots of Fish and Chips in the 2 days before!).  So, not sure if you know this but London is not known for their Mexican food, and this restaurant – while lovely and lively and pretty darned good margaritas – made us realize that we should be checking out more London Pubs and consuming more Fish and Chips.  The food was just okay but with a hefty price tag… and the gold covered grasshopper in our guacamole just about put me over the edge!!!  What the heck!?!  Our friend Ted ate it and said it tasted something along the lines of a Cheeto.  Okay. Gross again.  So we finished our margaritas and grasshopper guacamole and then I Googled “Pubs near me” and Google Maps took us down a beautiful street lined with Embassies from around the world – “Embassy Row”, then right past a quaint little church where a wedding was just finishing up and the bride and groom were taking off in a horse and carriage (I felt like I was in a scene from ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’) and then through some cobble stoned alley right up to the steps of The Grenadier.  What a place! Go there if you are ever are in London.  Small, charming, great beers, one of the oldest Pubs in London…and haunted.  Fun stuff!  We ran into more Bears fans there as well.  Just a jolly good time everywhere we went!  Can’t wait to get back.

Ok, enough about London.  Before I left for that trip, I had been talking with my friend Kathy who is from New Jersey.  She said “have you ever made New Jersey Crumb Buns?” I had never even heard of them before.  I was very curious and thought this could be something new to send to the Bears if they went over well in my test run.  Kathy sent me a couple recipes  that she had tried but said she had to doctor up both.  So I decided to do some research of my own and spent time reading reviews on all the recipes I found.  I ended up choosing this one because a couple of the reviewers that actually tried the recipe themselves said they this cake is just like the cake they grew up on in New Jersey.  Enough said.  I woke up early enough to whip one up to bring to work with me.  It was still quite warm when I covered it and put it in a travel bag to bring to the office.  By the time I arrived at the Chamber it was still warm on the bottom but cool enough to cut.  I sent my All-Staff office email out telling them this was a new recipe and I needed honest opinions only.  Every review from every co-worker was positive…not one was at all negative.  Some people even took the time to walk across the office to let me know how much they enjoyed it in person vs. just an email response to my memo.  I had a piece dropped off to Kathy later that evening.  She sent me a text the next day that said “Let’s talk Crumb Buns soon. “.  That was it.  No smiley face or thumbs up emoji.  No heart.  No nothing.  So, I’m not sure if that means, “Boy, you really nailed the New Jersey Crumb Bun, Chicago Girl!””…or “This New Jersey Crumb Bun is the pits and you so don’t know what you are doing when it comes to this New Jersey treat”.  Soooo, that said, you will have to decide weather or not you try this one.  I personally thought it was a great recipe, especially if you like the Hostess Crumb Cakes that were popular when I was growing up.  That is what this cake reminded me of, only home made and much better!  I will be seeing Kathy in the next couple weeks and will be sure to talk Crumb Buns with her.  And weather she thinks the cake I made was good or bad, I’ll update this post (if I know how) and will let you all know.

Ok, here is the recipe I used: New Jersey Crumb Bun Cake

I’ll be posting again this week from Palm Beach, Florida, where Tom & Hackett, two of my best friends, are celebrating their wedding.  I am the ring bearer!  Can’t wait.  I’m still deciding on what to make for treat day.  But I’m thinking something Chocolate…so will be in touch again soon!

Thank you so much for reading my blog and please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.

Go Bears!!!

P.S. I forgot to get a pic of the baked piece of cake (sorry!), but you will see on the blogger who shared the recipe, that the crumb topping should be just as thick if not thicker than the actual cake bottom. YUM!

Treat Day – Week 3: Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll Cake!

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Ok, I was planning to make pound cake for Treat Day Week 3, knowing that the Elvis cake is widely popular already with the guys… and then my recipe A-D-D kicked in at about 1pm on baking day, and I started looking at Instagram posts from other bakers that I follow.  I went from deciding to make pound cake to Apple Toffee cake, to Texas Sheet cake, and then somehow landed on a Cinnabon cake recipe that looked like something that would be a big hit.  So, I went out on a limb, and whipped up 2 cakes from this particular blogger’s site.  It’s always a big deal for me when I decide to make something that I’ve never ever tested before.  Because I am my own worst critic and a flipping worry-wart beyond belief, and have tossed entire batches of baked goods out at 10pm the night before Treat Day, and whipped up something else, all because I think to myself, “What was I thinking trying this recipe without a test run and the stamp of approval from my friends and co-workers first? Am I insane?” Why, yes…yes, I am at times.  But in a good way… haha!  These are treats for goodness sake!  Lighten up, Francis.  (That’s a line from a favorite old movie, “Stripes”, btw).  Ok…let me tell you the honest truth..these cakes turned out great, and were relatively easy to put together considering the cake is a scratch recipe and not from a box.  The butter-brown sugar-cinnamon dollops are heavenly and when baked turn into a sweet caramelized gooey center (which makes them a little messy for cutting and  transferring to cupcake liners for serving – but well worth the effort!).  The only thing I did differently from what this recipe says, is for the 2nd cake, I decided to look for a cream cheese based frosting, because that’s what a true Cinnabon Roll from the retailer has, right?  Or do Cinnabon’s have a glaze?  I can’t recall. But I love cream cheese frosting regardless, so wanted to test-taste the difference on the cakes.  My brother said the cream cheese frosting cake was better than the glazed…but both were delicious. And I have to agree.  He actually had to tell his intern to quit eating so much before the players came in from practice.  So next time I make this recipe I will definitely forget using the icing that the recipe calls for and will use the “Cinnabon Frosting” copy-cat recipe. This cake would be perfect for a brunch, at the Holidays when entertaining guests, or a weekend morning to give yourself and family a little something special, and something different from the refrigerated rolls that come in a can (and they never give you enough frosting!).

Here are the links to the cake and the cream cheese frosting:

Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll Cake

Click & Scroll down for the FROSTING

And here are the only few tips I have for you:

  • If you plan to make the cream cheese frosting, double what that recipe calls for… I did and it was the perfect amount for the 9×13 cake
  • Be sure to get your butter to room temp. for the butter-sugar-cinnamon filling.  Because my dollops were thick and a little difficult to run a knife through to make the swirls
  • I always use salted butter in EVERYTHING… I don’t buy unsalted – but that is just my preference
  • I always use Philadelphia Cream Cheese – full fat.
  • My oven baked these cakes to where a toothpick came out clean at 35 minutes…be sure to cook all the way, as it will help the gooey butter sugar dollops meld into the cake and cut easier

And I think that it’s… this recipe was simple and delicious!  Very happy with my spur of the moment choice in picking a recipe…so thank you to the bloggers who shared this with us!

And thank you to you for reading my blog.  Go BEARS!!!

 

Treat Day – Week 2: Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies!

 

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Good Morning! Treat Day – Week 2 was last Thursday at Halas Hall since the game is today vs. the Denver Broncos.  For our 2nd week of treats I wanted to send something brand new to the team.  2019 marks my 8th season of treat-making for the guys so I already know that Peanut Butter anything is very popular with them.  I found this  recipe in late July (when the team goes to training camp, I get to work on finding and testing new recipes on my friends and coworkers at The Chicagoland Chamber).  While scrolling my Instagram feed one night I came across a picture of a brownie that I knew had to be tested.  I woke up the next morning, ran to the store for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I had all other ingredients on hand) and got to work on test baking.  When I got to the office, I popped the pan into the freezer for a few minutes to let the brownies set a little more, since my commute downtown is about an hour door-to-door.  I waited about 10 minutes, and then cut them up for bite sized portions.   I sent out an “All-Staff” memo subject line: “Peanut Butter Brownies in the Kitchen” and then in the body of the email told them this is a new recipe, so needed honest opinions from anyone who tries them.  The results were overwhelming positive….Joey sent me a response email and said, this is the best thing he had ever tasted and I was his  new favorite person.  Haha!  That was only one of SEVERAL  opinions from my friends at the Chamber.  I myself even thought they were exceptional, and peanut butter is actually not my favorite choice when it comes to treats.  SO, that morning I officially added the brownie recipe to my rotation of treats for the upcoming 2019 season.  The blogger calls these brownies “Peanut Butter Cup Crack Brownies” but I have renamed them and refer to them as “Peanut Butter CRUNCH Brownies” because they are loaded with, not only Peanut Butter & Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, but a half a cup of chopped peanuts…as well as Rice Krsipies – so they are crunchy!!  And they are delicious.  On Thursday morning treat day, I received a text from Jack who works in the Video Department for the Bears and it read:  “Holy cow…those peanut butter fudge crispy things are AMAZING”.  There you have it…these treats are everything and more that you’ve been looking for in a Peanut Butter treat.  Give yourself a  break from standard peanut butter cookies and give these brownies a try… everyone will love you for it…I promise!  Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies

And here are the few tips I have for you:

  • I used Ghiradelli Boxed Brownie Mix – the chocolate with the syrup pack – but your favorite brownie mix will do just fine, as the star of the show here is not really the brownie base, but the Peanut Butter Cups and peanuts and chocolaty peanut butter fudgy layer on top!
  • I use Jif Creamy peanut butter.  I grew up on Skippy but made the switch to Jif in my adult life, as I think it has a better peanut flavor…  just my opinion!
  • I used Planters Honey-Roasted Peanuts… because I love them right out of the jar
  • I always use Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips – and this recipe says you can use semi-sweet or milk chocolate… I use semi-sweet because I am afraid milk chocolate might be too sweet in here.  But again, just my preference.
  • Definitely chill the brownies to  set them up before cutting into them.   I then put them in cupcake liners for serving

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy them if you do try them.  You will not be disappointed!

Thank you so much for reading my blog…and GO BEARS!!!

Treat Day Week 1 – Frosted Sugar Cookies!

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Hello! It’s officially Football Season and I am beyond excited!!! With the Bears playing the Packers  earlier in the week this Thursday night, Treat Day was today,  Monday, at Halas Hall.  And so great for me that it was a 3-day holiday weekend and I had the time to experiment with a new frosting technique!  I love doing cut-out cookies with royal icing because it is like being back in college art class for me…but they are time consuming, so be sure you give yourself ample time to get them done!  With last year being so special as well as this year coming up, the 100th Anniversary of our Bears, I knew I had to do something extra special for the first Treat Day of the season.  I had been to my brother, Dan’s house a couple weeks ago and he had a really good looking Bears shirt on that said “CHASING GREAT”.  He mentioned that this is Head Coach Nagy’s theme this year.  So, I started thinking and pretty much got my idea for opening Treat Day! However, I am no expert at cookie design, especially hand writing with frosting.  So I started googling and found a ton of info. on cookie stencils.  I was able to rush order 2 custom stencils from some place out east that arrived just in time on Friday afternoon.58895922743__75C8A3DB-CF18-4264-A248-03A80F1FEFF2

 

 

I bought some Wilton’s edible blue spray color in a can and couldn’t wait to get to work on my cookies and paint the stenciled words on.  I made the dough of my favorite sugar cookie The Best Rolled Sugar Cookie  and Best Tasting Sugar Cookie Icing

* I use vanilla extract (not almond) for my icing

I got to work rolling dough, cutting the cookies and baking.  Cooled them completely, outlined everyone of them with the royal icing which needs to be the consistency of toothpaste.  So be sure to take enough out of your batch of icing before you add all of the milk to make your flooding icing.  A neat trick I  learned while watching videos this weekend is to remove the “outlining” icing and place it on a piece of plastic wrap. It should be pretty thick so you have time to wrap it up before it spreads out. Then just cut one end and place it in your piping bag – no mess…brilliant!85862A3B-B591-4B8A-9CD2-1FFC934A24BE

Once I frosted every cookie, I tested the blue paint on one that seemed pretty dry, I gave it a nice long spray in hopes of getting big bold blue letters … and I carefully lifted the stencil up…and it looked like I was reading without my contacts or glasses on…it was a runny blurry blue mess and barely legible.  I had even bought some hand paint and brushes from Michael’s as back-up in case the spray paint didn’t work.  Well guess what, neither did the brush paint. CRUD! It’s now Saturday night, well Sunday morning at 1am, and I am thinking “now what?”  So, I did what I needed to do and went to bed. I mean, they are only cookies after all, and no matter what they looked like, even if I just ended up putting blue and orange sprinkles on them, they’d still taste good, right? Wrong. Not good enough or special enough for me… I HAD to use these special stencils!

Side note: do NOT cover your frosted cookies while letting them dry overnight.  The bakers on the internet all said to leave your frosted cookies out over night uncovered to air dry… and I am a freak and didn’t think that was a good idea, so I covered every one of my cookie trays with heavy duty foil.  Not only were they not completely dry 7 hours later, one of my pans of cookies stuck to the foil and made for unsightly smoosh marks on my previously beautiful and smooth iced cookies.  After my internal emotional meltdown from this, I pulled myself together and reminded myself that they were darned cookies and they will still taste good.  And these are for the players that, quite frankly, have a few other things to worry about this week than eating a cookie that isn’t perfectly smooth.  Ok, it’s not easy being me sometimes.  Have I mentioned that before? Haha!

I then started googling “buttercream frosting on cookies with stencils”…and low and behold  I found a site with video tutorial that saved the day.  She basically taught me how to use a stiff buttercream and essentially spackle it over your stencil that is placed carefully on top of your royal iced cookie.  Perfect…I had my solution! I whipped up my favorite buttercream recipe and colored some navy and some orange. My Cake School Classic Vanilla Buttercream

I used an offset spatula to gently plop a dollop of buttercream onto the stencil, and then smear the buttercream carefully over the words… and tried not to push down too hard which causes the grooves of your letters to catch onto the spatula and then screw up the look of the final result.  The “G” was giving me a hard time by the final cookies because of this.  Light and steady… you can watch the video tutorial on this site to see how it’s done correctly: Stenciled Buttercream Cookies

After doing about 15 or so cookies, I started to get the hang of it and then I was on a roll.  And happy. In the end they weren’t perfect but who is…ha!  My Bears insider scoop texted me earlier in the day and said the Bears cookies are delicious and a lot had already been eaten.  Treat Day Week 1 is going down in the books as a WIN…thanks to all of the bakers out there on the World Wide Web that taught me a thing or two this weekend on how to stencil! I did use up all of my buttercream when I ran out of royal icing.  I had some fondant that I rolled out and then used these cute little letter and number cutters to make the “Club Dub” and “100” cookies.  So fun!   Moral of the story:  Don’t feel like you have to be a pro to make fun stenciled cookies… there are even some gadgets out there that you can buy to help keep your stencils perfectly in place to make your cookies look even more professional. Give it a try and feel free to contact me with any questions!

Thank you so much for reading my blog and GO BEARS!!!

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Churro Cupcakes!

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Hey, hey! The b*tch is back…haha!  I’m getting ready, getting excited, getting organized, and getting geared up for the season opener just 2 short weeks from today… testing and tweaking new recipes…lulling myself to sleep at night reading Instagram posts from bakers around the globe…woke up at 6am this morning and got an urge to bake something new…pulled up that cupcake recipe I’ve been thinking about since February…ran to the store for sour cream…  And just brought these cupcakes in for voting by my coworkers at the Chicagoland Chamber. The overall co-worker consensus:  “Light”, “So good”, “The frosting is what makes this cupcake”, “I am LOVING these cupcakes”, Final answer: Delicious & BEAR-worthy! There are a few variations of this Churro Cupcake recipe out there, so I might be tempted to try another… and if I do, I’ll be sure to share my findings with you.

Here is the link to the blogger’s recipe site by “Lemon Tree Dwelling” (have never made anything from this site before):    Churro Cupcakes

I’ll be back in full-swing on Monday, Sept. 2nd which is Treat Day – Week 1 at Halas Hall since the Bears play on Thursday night that week. I am still deciding on what to bake for the season opener…so stay tuned.

I am so excited!!!! Calm down, get a hold of yourself, Sarah.

Ok, Thank you for reading my blog and GO BEARS!!!

Simple Breakfast Potatoes!

Hello!  I know these potatoes are not “baking” nor are they for the Bears.  But they are so good I wanted to share them with you, in case you are in a search of a delicious and simple potato during these final cold months in Chicago while we wait for Spring to show up (and for the NFL to release the Bears 2019 schedule)!

My Aunt Lee turned 90 years old this weekend and so all of us Tuohy nieces through a really nice birthday brunch for her.  I was in charge of the potatoes.  My first thought was “Potatoes for 35 people?  I’ll just whip up some sort of potato casserole that I can prepare the night before”.  But then I decided I didn’t want to serve anything heavy since we were already having quiches, French toast casseroles, coffee cakes, crab cakes and salads.  I wanted a simple, yet delicious potato as my side dish.  I am super picky when it comes to breakfast potatoes.  They have to be cooked all the way through, but not mealy and dry. They have to be crisp on the outside with a good seasoning, even if it’s just a simple salt and pepper to taste.  I also know that not all potatoes reheat well… for instance, I think left over french fries taste terrible…no matter how good they were the night before, they are never satisfying the next day.  I wish someone had a resolution for making leftover fries taste good.  If you know of a trick, please share!  That said, these potatoes I made got rave reviews.  I did wake up at 6:30 am on Sunday morning to go to Mariano’s to buy the potatoes and come home and make them fresh for the 11:30 brunch so that I didn’t have to refrigerate them at all… I didn’t want to risk re-heating and losing the quality.  So, if you’re just making these for a small crowd or yourself, these are perfect, simple and quick to make.  I think you will enjoy them even as a dinner side dish.

Here is all that I did to make them (I bought 9 pounds of pre-washed potatoes and made them in 1 pound batches between 2 skillets – so this is broken down for a regular serving of  1 pound which should serve 4 people)

1 Pound of small mini Red New potatoes

1 tsp of Garlic Powder

1 tsp of coarse Sea Salt

Few dashes of pepper

About 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil

2 tablespoons of butter – or enough to fill your skillet

Poke your potatoes with a fork or a knife a couple times and put them on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 6 minutes. Cut them into quarters. In a bowl toss the quartered potatoes in olive oil and sprinkle the garlic powder, salt and pepper on them and toss some more to evenly coat.  Heat up a skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Strategically place your potatoes with the inside or meat of the potatoes facing down on the skillet and the skins facing up. After about 4 minutes (or until browned to your liking, flip the potatoes to the other side that needs browning, skins remaining up. Brown for another few minutes.  And Voila!  You will have amazingly crisp, perfectly cooked and deliciously seasoned potatoes.   And feel free to add any other herbs you’d like, such as Rosemary or Thyme.  But they are perfect as is!

I hope you enjoy them and please feel free to reach out to me with any questions.

Thank you for reading my blog and … GO BEARS!

And Happy 90th Birthday Aunt Lee! She is the one in the middle and talked about how this was “the trip of a lifetime” that she took with her best friend to Italy and then over to Greece.  I loved hearing her story behind this photo. She said this was probably the 1950’s. I also loved how they used to “dress” for flying and pose on the tarmac in front of the plane for photos.  Flying with class! I hope to be as well traveled as Aunt Lee by the time I turn 90.

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