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!!!

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Treat Day – Week 15 (Gingerbread Cookie Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting!)

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Hi! So, this week I sent a bit more than usual to Halas Hall because I knew that I wanted to send them pound cake for sure, knowing that they enjoy that recipe.  But I also wanted to send something new and fun for the Holidays.  So I found this really great recipe from a blogger by the name of “Shugary Sweets”.  She posted it earlier this month and I had been thinking about it ever since.  I brought a couple bars in to Bill and Wendy at WGN and Bill approved.  That means a lot to me now that I know he makes gingerbread cookies every year! And then yesterday morning, I got a text from my favorite Chicago Bears camera man, Kevin, and he said “Those gingerbread iced squares are da bomb!!!”.  I love the feedback. This is what makes me happy.  So I am very excited to send you guys to this recipe link because I didn’t even know that I liked gingerbread until I tried these bars!  You will love them too… and keep that frosting recipe close by for your Valentine’s day Red Velvet cupcakes coming up in the New Year! I think it is the perfect ratio of butter – sugar – cream cheese.  Light and fluffy and perfectly sweet with a tang from the cream cheese.  I forgot to get a decent picture of mine, but they looked just like Shugary Sweet’s.  When I pulled them out of the oven the middle sank a little bit from the edges, but that is good…when you frost and cut into them they are moist, dense, and chewy. Delicious!  I didn’t change a thing to the recipe but here are the few notes I have for you:

  1. Be sure not to over do it on the Molasses. I use the “Grandma’s Original”. I think they sell a darker variation, but don’t go there.  Use the original or you might overpower these bars
  2. I always use Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese – no matter what!
  3. I always use salted butter. Just my preference

And I think that’s just about it! These are so simple and quick to make.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Here is the recipe link Gingerbread Cookie Bars

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

Holiday Recipes: “ROSE FARM ROAD” FUDGE!

IMG_2109Good Morning! I know it’s crunch time to Christmas to get your baking  done so, you are going to see more posts than usual from me this week, as I share some of my favorite Holiday recipes.

This morning I am sharing my absolute favorite fudge recipe that I got from a woman whom I’ve never even met.  But she signed the email with the recipe as “Kelly”.  I used to work with a guy named Sean 10 years ago…and in fact, I don’t remember Sean’s last name even. It doesn’t matter. The story goes, he brought in some fudge that his mother-in-law made, and I told him that it was the best fudge I had ever had and could he possibly get me the recipe.  I’m pushy like that when it comes to good recipes.  About a day later I got an email from his mother in law, “Kelly”, and  in it she said she gets requests for this recipe every year at Christmas, but she only gives it out to the first three people who ask for it, and I was the first.  My pushiness pays off!  So, I am happy to share it with all of you.  Fudge is definitely one of my holiday favorite treats, because growing up, my mom only made it at Christmas time.  I thought it was the best thing ever!

Here is page 2 of the actual email that I printed from Kelly that contains the recipe.  The only thing I change is, sometimes I will substitute the 25 large marshmallows with 3 cups of the mini marshmallows.  And like Kelly, I use HERSHEY chocolate for the milk chocolate, and Ghiradelli for the semi-sweet.  I also will sometimes split this batch up into two 9×9 pans versus one 9×13 pan and sprinkle sea salt on top of one of the pans.  This yields a lot of fudge! I wish I knew the story behind where Kelly got this and why it’s called Rose Farm Road. I googled it and nothing comes up.  I guess since I never met Kelly and barely remember Sean I will never know (and no offense to Sean, I blame it on my old age).  But I thank them both for sharing this recipe because now it’s a little bit of holiday cheer that we can all enjoy! 🙂

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

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Holiday Recipes: BUTTER BALLS!

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First & foremost, thank you, to Bill Leff & Wendy Snyder for having me on their show today.  They are so nice and fun to talk with! And by the way, thank you to all of you who have reached out to me after listening and or reading my posts.  It’s really great to hear from you, and makes me feel like I’m not alone at my computer talking to myself. Haha!

In this post I am sharing my mom’s Butter Ball recipe.  Now, I doubt she was the actual creator of this recipe. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say I’m 100% certain she was not the creator of this recipe.  However, I don’t know where she got it or who created it. I wish I did, just because it’s fun to think that back in the day, mom’s had to rely  solely on newspaper, magazines and cookbooks for finding recipes.  At any rate, you all may already have a similar recipe like this even, because I’m pretty sure it has been a traditional holiday cookie for a very long time. What I do know for certain is she made these Butter Ball cookies every year at the holidays and eating one last night brought me back to Christmas in the 1970’s, growing up in a household of 8 kids, and just loving this time of year.  This cookie, for me anyway, is the stuff that makes the holidays special…and I love that my sisters had the wits to keep my mom’s recipes and share them with me this week. And it made me miss my mom. Ok, I’m getting a little sappy here over a darn cookie! But seriously,  where the heck have I been, and why have I not made these for myself EVERY Christmas!?

So here goes:

My mom’s Butter Balls:

Ingredients

1 Cup Butter

1 Cup Sifted confectioner’s sugar, *plus more to roll the cookies in after they come out of the oven

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 Cup Ground pecans or ground almonds – I use pecans and today’s batch I simply chopped up whole pecans, and they got good reviews, so either nut is fine and chopping or ground is fine too

1 Tablespoon of Vanilla

2 Cups of flour

Directions: Cream butter. Add the cup of sifted sugar & salt, creaming well into the butter. Stir in pecans/almonds and vanilla.  Add flour gradually.  Mix thoroughly.  Shape into 1 inch or so balls, and place them on a cookie sheet (I always line my sheets with parchment). Bake @ 325 for 15-18 minutes. DO NOT BROWN! They will look a little underdone, but don’t worry, the bottoms will have a tint of golden.  Remove them from the sheet while they are still warm and roll them in additional confectioner’s sugar.  This will create a delicious glaze.  Place on a rack to cool.  Enjoy!

I’ll be posting more holiday recipes this week too (My “Rose Hill Farm” Fudge recipe, the Gingerbread Cookie Bar w/Cream Cheese Frosting, and the pavlova one…although that one was not my favorite, but you might like it!) Stay tuned.

Thank you so much for reading my blog. And as always…GO BEARS!!!

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Treat Day – Week 14 (Ultimate MAGIC Bars!)

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Shortbread crust, sweetened coconut, caramel, chopped pecans, & rich chocolate…all wrapped up into one cute little bar…so darned good!

I have never been much of a coconut lover – was never a hater, just never really went nuts for it.  And I always traded my Almond Joy bars when I would get them trick-or-treating.  Actually, nobody wanted to trade anything for Almond Joys when we were kids, so my dad would just eat them for me. But when I saw this recipe from one of my favorite recipe bloggers, The Brown-Eyed Baker, her picture looked so good, that I decided to give them a try.  My brother, who won’t touch anything with coconut in it, texted me on Thursday and said, “Those magic things are a hit… people are eating them and liking them”.  There you have it.  Oh, and there are several versions of this “Magic” bar out there. Many of which call for butterscotch chips, and honestly, those recipes are nowhere near as good as this one! So, stop making those butterscotch ones and give this one a try… you will like it, I promise!

I’m keeping this post short and sweet because, it’s a little late, and we are already into week 15. By the way, this upcoming week 15 is a big one in Chicago as far as Bears fans are concerned… we have our last home game of the season at Soldier Field on Sunday, and it’s against the Green Bay Packers. I’ve decided I need to be in the stadium on Sunday when we win.  I’ll be posting this upcoming treat day recipes on Friday.  As well as all of my Christmas and Holiday treat recipes on Wednesday, which I’ll be talking about this Wednesday morning on the Bill Leff & Wendy Snyder WGN Radio show.

Ok, here are the few notes I have for you on this recipe:

  1. Be sure to use SWEETENED  coconut. There is unsweetened available, but that will not taste as good and will be much drier than the sweetened version
  2. For the caramel part, I used the already prepared SMUCKER’s caramel in the glass jar.  This is the one recipe that I don’t use the Kraft individual wrapped caramels. And I only used the special “Simple Delight” version because I already had some in my fridge. But the regular kind is terrific for this recipe too!
  3. I use Ghiradelli semi-sweet milk chocolate chips – and for those of you that live near Mariano’s, they usually have the best price around town for this brand.

That’s it! I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it.  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

Here is the link Ultimate Magic Bars

Thanks so much for reading my blog… and GO BEARS!!!

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Treat Day – Week 13 (Easy Cinnamon Roll Cake!)

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Hi!

So this week I took my “Baking for the Bears” show on the road and headed up to Milwaukee on Tuesday night.  My sister Tracy lives in Fox Point, and had invited me up to go see Celeste Barber’s comedy show with her and a couple of friends.  I love Celeste Barber! If you don’t know who she is, check out her Instagram @celestebarber . She takes HILARIOUS selfies that imitate celebrity selfies.  If you want a laugh, you should follow her.  Her stand up live show was very funny as well.  So that was Tuesday night, and because I live in Chicago, I had packed an overnight bag – and a few baking essentials since I knew that baking day is Wednesday…and because I absolutely LOVE cooking and baking…and sitting and eating and drinking wine…in my sister’s kitchen.  Tracy is also an excellent cook and baker, and she always tells me “come up here and we’ll bake!”.  So this week I took her up on the offer.  We had a ton of fun.  It was truly a “good-for-the-soul” couple of days and nights up there with my big sister.

We woke up early Wednesday morning, and she tackled the balls while I got to work on two different kinds of coffee cake.  These cakes are really quite different from each other but equally delicious, which is why I couldn’t decide which one to make, so just made one of each to send to the Bears.  One has pecans, and the other is cinnamon – no nuts. Always good to have a no-nut option, I think.

The first one I made is a cake by Ree Drummond, which she calls “The Best Coffee Cake Ever”.  If you follow Ree, you know she calls quite a few of her recipes “Best Ever”, like  her “Best Lasagna. Ever.”, “Best Ever Chocolate Sheet Cake”, and honestly…she could be right, her recipes are fantastic, at least the ones I’ve tried so far.  This coffee cake is one that she says was her mother’s recipe.  I love old family recipes so as soon as I read that on her blog, I decided to try it. I did a test run on family and my cousin said it was “the best coffee cake” she had ever tried.  That’s all I need to hear to have the confidence to send it along to the Bears.  However, Tracy and I were busy baking and prepping and talking, when this one was in the oven, and every time we checked it with a toothpick it didn’t come out clean, so we would put it back in for a few minutes.  Because I was not entirely familiar with cooking times on Tracy’s oven, I trusted that it wasn’t done.  WELLLL, that was not the case.  Turns out the toothpick was just picking up the butter topping, not raw batter. In the end we over-baked this a bit, but Tracy is the queen of improvising and not wasting a thing…so when I cut into it and noticed it was dry as the Sahara and was going to toss it, she immediately said “No! Wait, the topping is SOOOO good, we cannot let these go to waste.  I will cut the cake down thinly and we will call them Pecan Crunch Bars!” I was hesitant but did as she said, and sure enough, when my brother Danny called me last night he said “everything got eaten, including that cake you were worried that you over baked”.  Wiig

YAY! I was so excited to hear this! So, here is the recipe link to The Pioneer Woman’s cake.  The Best Ever Coffee Cake

The second cake I made is so simple – from a box cake mix. I love frosted cinnamon rolls, especially from Ann Sathers here in the city.  But I feel like you need to eat the rolls pretty soon after they are baked and they are never as good the second day.  So I found this recipe for an easy cake that resembles the fresh baked cinnamon roll taste.  Its from a blog called Cookies & Cups: Easy Cinnamon Roll Cake… and Danny texted me early in the morning on Treat Day and said “Delicious cinnamon cake, it’s already gone!” So it was the first thing to go.  A true sign that it’s a good recipe.

There are so many different coffee cake recipes out there, so I’ll continue my search and test bake them and share my findings with you in the months to come.  But for now, I hope you try either of these.  And below are the few tips I have for you on each:

  1. For Ree Drummond’s cake, just make sure you follow her instructions on time, and don’t go by what your toothpick shows…because you will never get a clean toothpick with the thick butter pecan topping.  And hey, if you do over bake it, just do like Tracy does and cut the cake down so you can enjoy the sugar and buttery pecan top!
  2. For the Easy Cinnamon Roll Cake, I always use Betty Crocker cake mix – not only for flavor, but I used to work with a kid that had peanut allergies, and any time I brought something baked in he would ask me how I made it.  I remember him saying Betty Crocker was safe for allergies.  I never did any research myself on this, but that comment did stick in my mind. Good to know. But please be sure to do your own research on this if you do have anyone that has nut allergies.
  3. I also made about a quarter cup extra of the icing for the Cinnamon Roll Cake because I like frosting.

I think that is it – but if you have any questions or comments please feel free to reach out to me!

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