Friday, April 29, 2011

Cookies 'n Cream Cupcakes

I just realized that I've posted a lot of 'sweets' lately. Sorry about that. This has been a busy month for me, which happened to involve a lot of baking. I would like to mention that my waistline has suffered tremendously this month so I am looking forward to trying out new grilled and lower fat savory recipes :) I mean, seriously, the other day I had a cupcake and honey mustard pretzels for lunch. Not good.

Ok, back to these new cupcakes. They are soooooooooo good. I made them as per requested by my oldest son for his birthday. He was actually the one that first saw this recipe on Tasty Kitchen a while back (my son wants to be a chef when he grows up so he loves looking at recipes-with pictures-just as much as I do). He insisted that I make them for his party. And now, I am insisting that YOU make these cupcakes soon. Oreos in vanilla cupcakes, 'nuff said.

Cookies 'n Cream Cupcakes --makes 24 cupcakes
(recipe adapted from Lauren's Latest on Tasty Kitchen)

For the cupcakes:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour *
1 1/2 cups crushed Oreos

For the frosting:**

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 pound confectioners' sugar
5 T milk
1/2 cup finely ground Oreos
24 mini Oreos for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with 24 paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, one at a time and then add the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again until thoroughly combined.

Gradually add the flour and milk, alternately, until all the ingredients have been added. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Mix once more and then fold in the crushed Oreos.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean (try not to over bake them so they stay moist!)

To make the frosting:
Cream together the butter and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the confectioners' sugar and then add the milk. Mix for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy. Stir in the ground Oreos. Frost cupcakes and then enjoy!

* To make your own self-rising flour: for each cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt, mix well.

** If piping frosting onto the cupcakes, I recommend doubling the recipe.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Billy

Billy, 1 year old

Billy, 1 year old, again

Billy, 3 years old (Emily, 1 year old)

Billy, 5 years old

Billy, turning 7 years old

Billy, 9 years old......

There's that smile I love :)

Today is my oldest son's birthday. Billy was born April 26, 2002..... 9 years ago. I seriously cannot believe that. Nine years? Wasn't he the wild, tantrum throwing, yet very cuddly and super sweet two year old, that used to call me honey, just yesterday??
Happy birthday, Billy.  I love you so very much and I hope you have a super fun birthday. And please, do me a favor.....stop growing up so fast!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

It was my husband's birthday recently so, just like every year, he asked me to make his favorite cake. I've been making this same cake for him since he and I were just dating. Actually, my mom was the first to make it for him, for his 19th birthday (which was soooo long ago, I might add...haha!). He loves it and I don't blame him because the cake is really good. It's definitely one of my all-time favorites.

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
4 eggs
1 T vanilla
3/4 cup milk
2 cups mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously spray a 10 inch bundt cake pan with baking spray.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix again.

Add half of the flour mixture, mix, and then add half of the milk and mix again. Repeat with the remaining flour, followed by the remaining milk, mixing well after each.

Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt cake pan.

Bake for about 70-80 minutes, until golden brown on top and when a cake tester is inserted in the middle, comes out clean. Let cool for about a half hour in the pan and then invert cake onto a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Egg Basket Cupcakes

These super easy and fun Easter Egg Basket Cupcakes are a great addition to your Easter menu, especially for the kids.

Bake your favorite vanilla or strawberry cupcakes, then frost them with your favorite white or vanilla frosting only around the edge. Fill the centers with sweetened flaked coconut colored with green food coloring (or whatever color you choose). Then add your "eggs" on top of the coconut using jellybeans, Cadbury mini eggs, M&M's, etc. 

To finish the "basket", cut a pipe cleaner in half and form it into a arch. Gently stick into the cupcake. Add a pretty bow to make it look extra cute. Enjoy!

From  our family to yours, we wish you a very happy and blessed Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Bunny Bows

Happy Easter!

For most of you that know me (well), you know that I am NOT a crafty person. In fact, I would categorize myself as one of the least crafty people in the entire world. God gave me the gift of knowing how to cook and bake and that is IT.

So, for this Easter, I really, really wanted to do something crafty and fun, even possibly find a new hobby (one that doesn't require chocolate chips and butter--my waist line is suffering!). And folks, I think I did!
I was searching the web for cool Easter craft ideas (found thousands of great ones, but all were WAY out of my league) until I stumbled upon homemade hair bows. I was instantly in love with the idea and as I searched further, I found out just how easy it is to make your own! One of the ONLY craft tools I know how to use, fairly well, is a hot glue gun. When I found the blog Ten Cow Chick and saw how easy it was to make bows using simple tools like a hot glue gun, I knew I could do it!

And so I did and now I am hooked. I just want to make bows all the time. It's so much fun. I fear though that all the new recipes I want to try are going to be put on the back burner (no pun intended) for a while.
So here is the first bows I made, themed for Easter:

Aren't they super cute? My daughter LOVED them. I gave some to my 2 year old niece, Kayla as part of her Easter gift.

They were seriously quick and easy to make so I decided to make these butterfly bows as well, which I happen to love even more:

 SO stinkin' cute! I made them in a few different colors. The blue one is for my daughter, it matches her Easter dress.

Don't be surprised if you start seeing frequent hair bow posts from now on! I do have a fun Easter cupcake recipe to share as well so stay tuned :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Individual Cheesecakes

Every spring my church hosts a special "ladies tea". It's always so much fun. We use fine china, eat lots and lots of great food, fellowship with wonderful women and drink lots of tea, of course.
This is one of my favorite events to cook/bake for because it gives me the chance to be a little creative and fancy. This year I decided to make individual cheesecakes and they were sooo good. Everyone loved them and they looked super cute.

Individual Cheesecakes
(adapted from

Makes 12 individual cheesecakes

For the crust:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 T granulated sugar
4 T unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

2 - 8oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat-free)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream (full fat)

Garnish (optional):

Fresh berries, strawberry, blueberry or raspberry sauce, and/or melted dark chocolate drizzled over the top.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a muffin pan with two paper liners in each cup (to hold the weight of the cheesecake).

For the crust: In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Mix well.
Spoon 1 Tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup, pressing the crumbs firmly (I used my 1 T cookie scoop so each cup had the same amount).
Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

For the filling:  In the bowl of an electric mixer (or hand mixer), beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth. Add the sugar and mix well. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, mixing well after each. Then add the vanilla and sour cream and mix well.

Remove the muffin cups from the fridge and carefully divide the cheesecake mixture among each cup (I used my ice cream scoop so they would all be the same size).

Bake for about 18-22 minutes or until firm, but the centers of the cakes still wobble a little. The cakes may not look completely cooked, but they are. Remove and let cool on a wire rack (don't take the cakes out of pan).

Cover the cakes with nonstick foil, still in the pan, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. I HIGHLY recommend refrigerating overnight.

Carefully remove the cheesecakes from the pan, still in the paper liners. Garnish if desired and then store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Make-Ahead Meal"--Baked Kielbasa and Cheese Pasta with Broccoli

For the last recipe in my "Make-Ahead Meal" series, I decided to re-create one my family's favorite meals using kielbasa instead of ham. This was a HUGE hit with everyone and I, personally, liked this version a lot better then with the ham. This made A LOT. We had a lot leftover (which was still good the next day) so I would say that this would easily feed 8 people.


Baked Kielbasa and Cheese Pasta with Broccoli

1- 13.25 oz pkg whole wheat rotini pasta, cooked al-dente
1 1/2 lbs turkey kielbasa, cut lengthwise and then sliced into half-moon slices
1- 12 oz pkg frozen broccoli, cooked
6 T unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
1/3 cup flour (plus more, if needed)
3 1/2 cups 1% milk
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp ground mustard (or more if you want)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
6 oz 2% milk reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated reduced fat parmesan cheese (plus more for sprinkling)

Cook pasta to package directions just to "al-dente", drain. Cook broccoli until done, whatever method is preferred by you (microwave or stove top), drain.

Melt butter in a 3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 4-5 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium, add flour, mix well and cook for 1 minute to create roux stirring constantly. Gradually add milk to roux to form a thickened sauce (add more flour if needed to desired thickness), also add the parsley, mustard and salt/pepper, to taste, to roux (I started with a 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper and then added more if I desired). Remove from heat. Add cheddar cheese and parmesan to roux and mix well until all melted.

Add pasta, kielbasa and broccoli back to pot used to boil pasta in. Add the cheese mixture and stir gently until well combined. Pour pasta mixture into a 9x13 pan, sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with more parmesan cheese on top.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days. (Or bake immediately--adjust cooking time to only 20 minutes though)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and replace with nonstick foil (or foil sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking--a major pet peeve of mine!). Bake covered for about 40 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Make-Ahead Meal"--Sour Cream Noodle Bake

I'm sending out a big thank you to my loyal and dear friend, Andrea, from Pie Birds, Buttons and Muddy Puddles, for sending me a wonderful make-ahead recipe that I can't wait to make :) Congratulations on winning the Target gift card!

Here's another great "make-ahead meal". I love the layers in this dish and the flavor is wonderful. My family loved it. This can either be baked right away or refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Here's the recipe:

Sour Cream Noodle Bake
(generously adapted from the pioneer woman)

3/4 package whole wheat egg noodles (or 3/4 package regular egg noodles)
1 1/4 lbs ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2- 15oz cans tomato sauce
3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 1/4 cups fat-free cottage cheese
1 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese or cheddar/Jack blend (freshly shredded is better)

Cook the egg noodles according to package directions to al-dente, then drain and return to pot, off of heat; set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook for a few minutes. Add the onion and garlic and continue to cook until beef is done. Drain. Reduce heat to low, then add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1/2 tsp of the salt and black pepper. Let simmer for a few minutes, then remove from heat.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the olive oil, sour cream, cottage cheese, 1/4 tsp salt and parsley. Then add to the pot with the noodles and mix well.

To assemble: Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray. Add half of the noodle mixture to the baking dish. Then layer with half of the meat mixture. Sprinkle half of the cheddar cheese over the meat. Repeat with remaining noodles, meat, and finishing with the cheese.

Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 2 days). When ready to bake, remove from fridge to warm for about a half hour or so (to decrease cooking time a little, but not required--just adjust cooking time). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap/foil and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Serve with crusty bread and Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Make-Ahead Meal"-- Jen's Pasta Bake

We all have some sort of a pasta bake or dish that we use as our "go-to" meal. This pasta bake happens to be mine. I like to use ground turkey instead of ground beef because I can control what flavor I want better using the turkey. A lot of people have gripes about using ground turkey, because, well, it's tastes like bland turkey. The secret to making a good dish using ground turkey is to season it well. The turkey will take on whatever flavors you put on it so you have to be a little creative with it.
This pasta bake is a perfect make-ahead meal. It's super quick to throw together and can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before baking or can easily be frozen. It can also be made quickly for a last minute weeknight night meal by serving it "goulash" style right from the stove top.

Jen's Pasta Bake

1 box whole wheat penne, rotini or medium shells pasta
1 to 1 1/4 lbs ground turkey (99% fat-free turkey is fine or lean ground beef can be substituted)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 large jar favorite pasta sauce (or about 1 1/2 smaller jars)
1 cup 2% milk reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 grated reduced-fat parmesan cheese

Begin by cooking the pasta according to package directions, just to al-dente, then drain (don't rinse), then set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and seasoon with the seasoned salt, onion powder, italian seasoning and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until about halfway done and then add the onion and garlic. Continue to cook turkey until done and then drain (you may not need to though).

Reduce heat to low; then add the drained tomatoes and about 1 1/2 cups of the pasta sauce, stir to combine. Let simmer for about 5 mintues and then remove from the heat to cool several minutes. Check seasonings and add more salt if desired.

Add the pasta back to the large pot it was cooked in. Then stir in the turkey mixture. Add the remaining pasta sauce and mix well.

Spread the pasta mixture into a 13x9 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. I usually let it sit and cool for a little while at this point (maybe 10 minutes or so). Then I evenly sprinkle the mozzarella cheese and parmesan over the top of the pasta, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take the pasta bake out of the fridge to warm up a little while the oven is heating. Remove the plastic wrap and replace it with nonstick foil (regular foil will work fine, but I recommend spraying the side that touches the cheese with cooking spray so the cheese doesn't stick to it).

Bake covered for about 30-40 minutes or until hot and bubbling. If desired, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes or so of cooking to slightly brown the cheese.
Let sit for a couple of minutes, then serve and enjoy! This will easily serve 6-8 people.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jen's Heath Bar Cookies and A Contest

Baseball season is starting soon for my oldest son, which means dinner at 6pm will be no more. We'll be lucky to be eating by 7:30 pm most nights. So, I'm going to be starting a series of "Make-Ahead Meals" to kick off the season right, but I am always looking for new and exciting recipes! If anyone has a tried and true "Make-Ahead Meal" that you and your family love, and are willling to share it with me, please email it to me or a link to it, to Please include a brief comment about why you love the recipe so much. In one week, I will choose one recipe and the winner will receive a $10 gift card to Target and the recipe will be featured on Miss Jen's Kitchen Adventures. This should be fun!

In the meantime, I have a new cookie recipe for you! I don't know why, but I have been on a huge baking spree lately. It's probably because I put myself on a limited sweets diet (trying to lose the last 15 pounds that I need to in order to reach my goal weight). You always crave the things you can't have, right?
Anyway, I made these cookies the other day and they came out sooo good! I took my few (small) tastes and then brought a few cookies to random people to try them and the verdict was unanimous! These cookies are awesome!
Here's the recipe:

Jen's Heath Bar Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee bits (8 oz bag)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the sugar, brown sugar and butter until fluffy. Then add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

In a seperate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then in a another seperate small bowl, combine the Heath toffee bits, chocolate chips and walnuts.

Add half of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar and mix well. Then add half toffee mixture and mix again. Then add remaining flour, mixing well, followed by the remaining toffee mixture, mixing well again.

Now that looks good!

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (an hour would be ideal).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place rounded tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheet a couple of inches apart (I used my tablespoon cookie scoop). The cookies will spread a little so try not to crowd the pan.

Bake for 10-13 minutes until the edges of the cookies are just golden brown. Remove, let cool and enjoy! Makes about 36 or more cookies, depending on how big you make them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Snickerdoodle Muffins

I love snickerdoodle cookies. I remember making them with my mom when I was younger, along with her recipe for Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies found here. The combination of cinnamon and sugar is just so comforting and sooo yummy! These muffins are wonderful and taste just like the cookie. They are light, delicate, and the flavor is phenomenal. You have to try these!

Snickerdoodle Muffins
(recipe adapted by Heather Christo from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, softened (I used margarine)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour (I used 1 cup white whole wheat and 1 1/4 all-purpose)
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream (I used light because that's what I had on hand)
1/4 cup buttermilk (can substitute 1/4 cup milk mixed with 1 tsp white vinegar--let sit 5 minutes before using)

For the topping:

2/3 cup sugar

2 T cinnamon Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners. *These muffins are very delicate so the use of the paper liners is highly recommended.

In a bowl of a mixer, mix butter, sugar and cream of tartar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Then add half of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and stir to combine. Add the sour cream and buttermilk and mix well. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping.

Use an ice cream scoop and plop a big, rounded scoop of batter into the bowl with the sugar and cinnamon. Gently roll the batter in the sugar and cinnamon. Then place the ball into the muffin liner. Your hands will get messy!

When you have completed all of the muffins, sprinkle the leftover cinnamon sugar onto the tops of all of the muffins. Bake the muffins at 350ºF for about 15-20 minutes or until they are golden on top and just baked through. Enjoy!

* I would like to take a moment to brag a little :) Two weeks ago, my cheap Walmart hand mixer (it was literally only $15), that I had had for over 2 years died while I was making frosting. I was very sad because even though it wasn't any where near top of the line, it had worked very hard for me and I took good care of it. BUT, I am so over that mixer now. My husband, the sweet man that he is, INSISTED that I buy myself a good (meaning expensive) hand mixer to replace the cheap one. So I bought this Cuisinart hand mixer and I LOVE it! I think I have used it almost everyday since I got it. It has sooooo much more power then my old one and I LOVE the beaters, they are awesome! Ok, thanks for letting me brag...I rarely get new appliances for my kitchen so I am very excited :)