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!!!

 

 

 

Treat Day – Week 12 (Pecan Pie Bars!)

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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying this long holiday weekend celebrating! I know that I have a lot to be thankful for and really need to start practicing the attitude of gratitude all year round… not just on Thanksgiving.

Every year my cousins host a Pie Bake Party on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and they take orders ahead of time from all the guests invited.  They make and send every guest home with at least one pie so that they can, in turn, bring the pie(s) to their own Thanksgiving celebration.  A lot of the guests also come in and help with the pie making themselves. This has been a family & friend Thanksgiving tradition for 25 years now.  It’s a ton of fun to see all the pies come out of the ovens while there is a full blown party with appetizers, sandwiches & drinks going on at the same time! It usually gets pretty crazy around 9 o’clock when the guests are all here and the pies start getting boxed up.  This year I think there were a total of 42 pies made.  Some years there have been over 50 made!  Crazy.

But all the pie talk got me thinking about Pecan Pie, one of my Thanksgiving favorites,  and so I found a simple recipe in the form of bars that I thought the Bears might enjoy, especially knowing that they had to play a game in Detroit on the actual holiday and wasn’t sure if everyone would get home in time to enjoy any pie with family or friends. I thought it would be nice to send a little taste of a traditional Thanksgiving treat a couple days ahead of the holiday. Well, I was told on treat day that they all got eaten so I guess I’ll take that as a sure sign that they were well received.  I  thought they were decent, but part of me thought they could use a little something more… I was so tempted to add a layer of melted milk chocolate on top, until I realized I was out of milk chocolate and didn’t have time to run out for some.  So, I’ll let you be the judge of adding a layer of chocolate on top or not.  Either way, you will enjoy this simple shortbread crust, and pecan toffee filling bar if you like Pecan Pie… obviously 🙂  Just be sure to find the toffee bits with chocolate (not the plain toffee bits). So here is the recipe from a sight called “A Taste of Home“Pecan Pie Bars

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

 

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Treat Day – Week 11 (Salted Caramel Brownies!)

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Hi there!

So this week I was a little nutty and sent a brand new brownie recipe from scratch to the Bears, without testing it on friends or family, (or myself because I am trying to diet!)  What the heck was I thinking? So, as back-up to my bold move, I knew I had to send something that is tried and true… Mrs. Lloyd’s Raspberry Bars, just in case the brownies were a miserable mess.  However, my Bears insider scoop thankfully came back all positive.  When I don’t get a text from my brother all day, I tend to worry that everything I sent was terrible (I know, I’m all in my head…it’s not easy being me…haha!). So at 9:38pm last night, I found a reason to text him, and nonchalantly said “Oh, and hey, how were the treats?” His response was “Great, they were all gone before lunch – thank you!” and I said “Ok, good because I wasn’t sure about the brownies”. And he said “They were very good, but the chocolate chip cookies were the first thing to go….did you not send as many this week?”  Busted.  I skimped on the cookies this week, because I drank wine at dinner and got tired.  Whoops. So much for the diet.  Any-who! All good reviews on this brownie recipe…so I encourage you all to try it if you are a brownie lover.  I used to always make the triple chocolate brownies in the box mix from Ghiradelli, but then found that scratch brownies taste great too.  And now I love looking for different variations of scratch recipes.  I have another awesome recipe that I have made several times – Buttermilk Brownies with Buttermilk frosting.  I’ll share that one at some point too.  But today is all about the salted caramel version.

Here are my few tips on making this:

  1. Because of my love for Ghiradelli chocolate, I purchased their brand of dry 100% cocoa powder.  It’s a little lighter looking than the Hershey brand.  I love Hershey too, so use whichever you’d like. I’m just letting you know what I used.
  2. I ALWAYS use Kraft Caramels… they melt well, and set up well in baking recipes.  I have used another brand in the past, and the taste is just not as smooth and creamy as Kraft.  Just my opinion.
  3. Don’t skimp on the salt! It really adds to the deep, rich dark taste of the chocolate.

I think that is it! This recipe comes from a blogger by the name of The Recipe Critic… I have made a few things from her… all great! Salted Caramel Brownies

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

 

Weekend Update – Hall of Fame Balls Just in time for the Holidays!

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Good Morning!

With the snowfall in Chicago yesterday, and the Christmas & holiday music being played on some of the radio stations, it really feels like the holidays are here already! I love Thanksgiving and Christmas time.  With that said, I wanted to let you all know that the “Hall of Fame Balls”, the ones that I make for the Bears each week, are going to be sold exclusively at and for the Gateway to Learning Holiday Bazaar on December 1st.

Gateway to Learning is a wonderful organization.  Here is a little information on their mission:

The mission of Gateway to Learning (GTL) is to provide lifelong learning to adults with intellectual challenges and developmental disabilities that promotes active inclusion at home, at work and in the community. Founded in 1973 as a Special Education school, Gateway to Learning is now licensed by the Illinois Department of Human Services as a day training center. Currently serving 85 adults (and growing), in Chicago’s Lincoln Square Neighborhood, GTL’s programming focuses on skill acquisition, development and mastery in key life sectors, including: academia, employment, citizenship, empowerment and advocacy, and daily living/home life. A strong emphasis is placed on vocational training specifically in the culinary arts, with 4 operating kitchens, a bakery and store front café (Dorothy’s Can-Do Cafe) which sells over 30 varieties of cookies and chocolates. The culinary arts and customer service programming, designed and modified for adults with various DoAbilities including Autism and Down syndrome, supports participants in obtaining food sanitation credentials and/or developing a career path for future employment in the food industry. Although the majority of participants reside at home with their parents or siblings on the northside of Chicago, GTL does not have a geographical requirement for services.

I hope those of you that are in the Chicago area will come out to the Holiday Bazaar and pick up some holiday treats and support this wonderful cause!  These balls freeze well too, so you can buy them early and serve them later. But there will be plenty of other goodies to choose from as well… so save the date! I’ll post more information with the exact time and location after Thanksgiving.

Thank you so much for reading my blog…and Go Bears!!!