Sunday, November 29, 2009

M&M Bars

In case you couldn't tell, let me just state for the record that we love M&Ms. Any recipe that calls for M&Ms usually goes to the top of the recipe pile. This recipe for M&M bars is one of our tried and true. I made up a batch for Thanksgiving since the recipe makes enough that we could take some to my parent's house while still saving some for ourselves.

The nice thing about M&M treats is that they're easy to customize for the different holidays. Throw in some red and green M&Ms and you have an instant Christmas treat. Okay, so Christmas isn't for another month but what can I say? The Christmas spirit just makes everything taste better.

M&M Bars (adapted from King Arthur's Cooking Companion)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups M&M's (we used dark M&Ms)

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly spray a 10 X 15" jelly roll pan with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar, stirring until evenly distributed. Allow to cool slightly. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well after each one. Mix in vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture and when combined add in the M&M's. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 24-26 minutes, until they are shiny and golden brown on top. Try not to overbake these or they will be dry. Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chocolate Gingerbread Bars

The closest I came to eating gingerbread growing up was when my Mom and I would attempt to make a gingerbread house at Christmastime. Our houses never quite stayed together and had a look about them as if a really strong storm had just blown through. And since the houses themselves weren't very attractive I never felt an urge to nibble on the actual gingerbread.

Now I've finally branched out beyond gingerbread houses and realized that if you combine gingerbread with chocolate the results are pretty delicious. I make a chocolate gingerbread cookie for Christmas that Dennis specifically requests so I'm sure it'll be making a return appearance this year. But for a regular weekend treat I wanted something less labor intensive. This recipe is easy and got two thumbs up from Dennis and my co-workers. We topped it with ice cream because really, what isn't better with ice cream? But it's definitely just as good on its own.

Chocolate Gingerbread Bars (from Everyday Food)


* 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
* 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
* 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
* 1 large egg
* 1/4 cup sour cream
* 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with a strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper. Dust paper and sides of pan with cocoa; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, ginger, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Using paper overhang, lift gingerbread from pan. Transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)

Makes 16 servings.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

I'm the biggest wuss when it comes to cold weather. I'll just hunker down on the couch under a big blanket and refuse to move for hours. Yes, I do appreciate the irony of the fact that I went to school in Syracuse.

The one thing the cold weather has going for it is the food it brings with it. Soups, stews and chili are some of my favorite things to eat. Not to mention all the great fall flavors, including pumpkin. I love pumpkin. Though in all honesty, pumpkin really doesn't have much of a flavor. So I guess what I really love is all the spices you can add to pumpkin to make something comforting that warms you up on a chilly fall day.

The pumpkin muffins here are easy to make and great to freeze and then defrost for when you need a quick breakfast. These are also a bit healthier than traditional muffins since they swap out most of the oil for applesauce, and also use whole wheat flour. For me, these muffins almost make the cold weather bearable.

Pumpkin Muffins (from Cooking Light)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice (I also throw in some nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup fat-free buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, you can put about a tablespoon of lemon juice in a cup of milk and just wait about ten minutes for it to turn sour)
1/2 cup egg substitute or 2 egg whites
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375°.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, granulated sugar, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Combine pumpkin and the next 4 ingredients (through applesauce) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 16 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool muffins in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1 muffin)