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!!!

 

 

 

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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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Treat Day Week 10 – Banana Cake!

IMG_2342Hello and Happy Friday, Friends!

Ok, Buffalo, NY was a blast – a great dinner with girlfriends, and then met up with the crew from the Bears for some fun in the city.  Game Day was even more fun with another WIN on the books! My brother hooked us up with field passes and the players just looked like they were having a ball dancing to the music that New Era Field was blaring during pre-game warm up.  And then, of course, the game itself was SO GOOD! Oh, and Syracuse, NY (where my friend Lisa just moved to) was such a pretty & quaint town.  So beautiful this time of year with the leaves on the trees in full color. We had so much fun catching up over some delicious wine – and then dinner in the downtown area with more friends. A tour of the Syracuse University campus (where Lisa now works) on Saturday morning, delicious lunch at a bar as we cheered on Syracuse U to a win! Then packed up the car and headed to Buffalo to cheer on the Bears.  Just a great weekend all around! And did you know that Buffalo NY is where Buffalo wings originated?? I did not.  But was sure to order some, and they were great! Chicago does a fantastic job of replicating them too…

Ok, enough about me.  This week, I weaned myself off the cheesecake kick, and decided to send “Best Banana Cake” to Halas Hall (along with the balls & chocolate chip cookies, of course).  My brother said “Great job on the cake…everyone LOVED it!”.  I had sent this to them one time in the past.  I remember I sent this cake without a test run that season, and was a little nervous as to how it would go over, but it got rave reviews, according to my brother.  I actually have two great recipes for Banana Cake… one has a browned butter frosting which is more of a glaze.  Very good, but I particularly love this cake because it comes with a very thick & creamy cream cheese frosting…just like you’d see on a carrot cake or red velvet cake.  It’s delicious, and the blogger that I found it on calls it “Best Banana Cake”, and I think that title is pretty true.  It’s made with buttermilk, and I think that helps make this cake super moist. It’s also a very dense cake, bordering a banana bread. At any rate, this recipe is worth the effort! Even people who are a little weird about anything banana flavored, tend to enjoy this cake, because I think the frosting off-sets any issues you might have with bananas.  I don’t know… I love bananas and cream cheese frosting, so I am biased.

So, here are the only tips I have for you on this cake:

  1. If you are like me, and don’t think far enough in advance to have already purchased bananas and let them sit for days to brown them for baking, then here is a wonderful trick I learned from the old google machine: Take unripened or yellow bananas and place them on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. They will turn black. They tend to ooze too, so I always line my baking sheet with parchment. But you will have perfectly ripened bananas in a matter of minutes. Just be careful when you take them out of the peel because they will be hot!
  2. The recipe says add an extra 1/4 cup of powdered sugar for a stiffer frosting.  I do this.  I like the frosting thick and sweet, and a more firm frosting makes for a nicer cut and less mess… and I love a sweeter cream cheese frosting.
  3. And the only product that I am particular about in this recipe is the cream cheese.  I always use Philadelphia full fat cream cheese!  Never ever do I deviate from that brand.  Ever. 🙂
  4. Oh, and I use salted butter no matter what the recipe says.  Salted. Never ever do I buy unsalted.

Ok, here is the recipe from a really good blogger – Sally’s Baking Addiction :Best Banana Cake

I hope you try this recipe and that you enjoy it! 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!!!!

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Treat Day – Week 9 (Cinnamon Churro Cheesecake Bars!)

IMG_2219Happy Friday!

So, this week the feedback was that the players were requesting my pound cake… remember the Elvis Pound Cake that I posted a few weeks ago? Really? Already you want pound cake again?  Seems like I just made that, and I have sooooo many more delicious and fun recipes to share.  But of course I am going to listen to what they want. Plus, I am really happy that they love it so much. That makes me happy.  So, to solve my own personal dilemma, I decided to make and send the Elvis Presley pound cake AND whip up a couple batches of the Cinnamon Churro Cheesecake bars as well for the guys. I wanted one more week of the “cheesecake” theme and was craving these little bars myself.  Because after all, it’s all about me and what I want…and I want to share good recipes.  Haha!

This recipe is so easy and delicious.  In fact, the first time I brought it to work to test it on co-workers, one of the guys, Kristian, who is a pretty darn good cook himself, said, “This is the 2nd best thing you make, after Mrs. Lloyd’s Raspberry Bars”. That was one opinion, but hey, I will take it because this recipe is a breeze to make, but looks like you spent hours over it… and can be made the morning of any occasion because it is made with already prepared dough.  Do  you remember one of the early Food Network stars, Sandra Lee & her show “Semi Homemade”?  This would have been a good recipe for that show!  Simple.   All you need to do is whip up the cream cheese base.  If you love cinnamon churros, and cheesecake filling… then you should add this to your list of recipes to try!  Perfect for any occasion – and not too sweet for a morning treat with your coffee.

Here are the few tips I have for you when making this:

  1. Pillsbury now makes crescent dough in full sheets without the little cuts, so if you can find those in your grocery store, I would suggest using them.  Otherwise, the ones with the perforated lines is just fine, you will just need to pinch the dough together as best you can.
  2. I double the vanilla amount in this recipe
  3. I grease my 9×13 pans with real salted butter (not cooking spray) because I think it helps the flavor come out better when replicating a real churro
  4. I always use Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese – full fat!

And speaking of Philadelphia, I’m sitting in the Philly airport right now waiting for a connecting flight to Syracuse.  Spending time with some old friends in Syracuse tonight and then we are shuffling off to Buffalo to cheer on the BEARS this weekend!

So here is a link to the recipe which I found on a great blogger that calls herself The Recipe Critic. Cinnamon Churro Cheesecake Bars

I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it.

If you have any questions please comment or email me!

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