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!!!

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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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Special Edition: Recipes for the Big Game on Sunday!

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Hello – Happy New Year & Happy Super Bowl Weekend!

First off, thank you to Bill Leff & Wendy Snyder for having me on their WGN show this morning…as always, it was so much fun!  With that said, I wanted to share with you the recipes that we talked about – all which will fit in well with your Super Bowl Sunday party plans.

  1. Buttermilk Brownies with Buttermilk Frosting
  2. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip
  3. Bacon, Beer and Potato Chip Bars (“Man Bars”) – The only thing I changed in this recipe was I substituted the peanut butter chips and chocolate chips for chopped up mini Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups – not the really mini, but the small ones individually wrapped.
  4. Oreo Cookies and Cream Cheese Ball – The only thing I did differently in this recipe was to omit coating the ball in chocolate chips, but I am sure they would be delicious if you do add them!
  5. Spinach Dip (recipe below)

 

The Best Spinach Dip – if you follow these simple rules 🙂

Ingredients:

Knorr Vegetable Mix – 1 pouch

16 oz Sour Cream – I tend to use Daisy, but am not too particular on the brand, however, it ALWAYS has to be full-fat for dips when I am entertaining.

1 cup of HELLMAN’S Mayonnaise – this brand is a must, and of course, full-fat!

3 green onions – I chop up the bottom half all the way through to a little bit of the green ends

1 can of Water Chestnuts, drained – I use Reese and have been using the “Diced” vs. “Sliced”, but really, either will do…just give them a rough chop before mixing them into your dip.

1 package of Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and drained– I am not too picky on brand name, however, I have found that some generic brands are not as good quality…so I tend to almost always use Green Giant, unless my grocery store is out of it.  Bird’s Eye is great too… and if at Mariano’s, their generic brand is good! Be sure to thaw and drain your spinach well and then give it a little bit of a rough chop before adding into the mix, because sometimes spinach can be stringy, and it doesn’t attach to your crackers as well!

1 Bakery Round Bread Loaf – I tend to always use either a sour dough or Italian round loaf.  However, my sister uses a sweet Hawaiian bread loaf, and it goes really well with the dip too… so whatever you prefer is fine! Mariano’s has a really soft and fresh sour dough… it’s currently my favorite!

This recipe is on the back of the Knorr Vegetable mix found in the soup isle of your grocery store.  I mix everything except the spinach, and let it sit in your fridge for a good hour.  Right before my guests arrive I add in the spinach to the dip mixture.  I hollow out my bread bowl and use that to serve the dip in and use the inner bread pieces along side your favorite crackers for serving with the dip.

I hope all of you have a great weekend and if you are celebrating, have fun and feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or need any additional dip recipe ideas…I’ve got lots!

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

Week 16 & 17 – Pound Cake Cupcakes & Mini Cherry Cheesecakes!

 

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Hello & Happy Holidays! I hope everyone has had a great time celebrating and that you are having fun getting ready to ring in the New Year.  I am behind in my blog posts because the past two weeks have been nuts with baking, shopping, cooking, baking, celebrating and baking some more!  But all good stuff.

With the Bears beating the Packers at home and clinching the NFC North Division in week 15, I wanted to send special treats in week 16 that, to me, said “CONGRATULATIONS!”, and I think festive cupcakes do just that.  So I found a brand new yellow cake recipe from scratch that, in many ways, resembles the Elvis Presley Pound cake that everyone loves so much.  It called for lots of egg & cake flour…very similar ingredients and measurements to that pound cake recipe. Interesting, because I have often thought of how I could convert the pound cake recipe into cupcakes. So, I decided to go out on a limb and just make this new cupcake recipe without a test run.  Low and behold, I think I did ok because the word back was “Great job on the treats – everything was delicious!”  I also decided to do one batch of my favorite chocolate cake cupcakes, which is found right on the back of the Hershey Cocoa box.  Seriously good, rich & moist chocolate cake every time! I made two kinds of frostings – vanilla buttercream for the chocolate, and cream cheese frosting for the yellow cupcakes – the same frosting from the Gingerbread bar recipe that I posted earlier this month.  I’m telling you that frosting is the best cream cheese one out there! Of course, I forgot to snap pictures of my cupcakes, but that’s ok, you guys know what cupcakes look like (hehe!).  But I did get a few shots of one of the best days of 2018!  So here is the recipe from Week 16: Yellow Cupcakes from Bon Appetit ,  Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake  & Classic Vanilla Buttercream from My Cake School

And then today was Treat Day – Week 17, so I consulted with my brother on what to send. Because, I don’t know about you, but with Christmas just two days ago, nothing sounds good to me, except maybe a  vegetarian health spa for a week on a beach.  I decided that these little Mini Cherry Cheesecakes would be a good treat, not too heavy, and they look very festive, as the holidays are still not over.  I have sent these little treats in the years past to Halas Hall.  I remember the first time I ever sent them, my brother called me and said the players loved them so much that the took the entire batch into a meeting with them.  I love it!  They are quite easy and a crowd pleaser… so if you need a little something for New Year’s Eve, these are a great make-ahead treat that travel well in an air tight container. You can always wait until you get to your party to put the cherries on top, and that way you can stack these in your containers for traveling.  Just a thought!  You could also top with anything else that you like, such as a drizzle of caramel, or chocolate, or any other fruit preserve.  So, here is the recipe link from The Brown-Eyed Baker: Mini Cherry Cheesecake Cookies

So,  that concludes my 17 weeks of recipes during the regular NFL Season and Baking for the Bears.  But because we are closing out this year on a GREAT note… and our beloved Bears are going to the play-offs, I’ll be baking and blogging right into the Post Season and New Year…  So, stay tuned for some extra special and exciting Play-Off TREAT recipes coming up!

Thank you so much for reading my blog – Happy Holidays & Happy New Year to you all … and GO BEARS!!!