Sunday, December 11, 2011

Graham Cracker "Gingerbread" Mini Houses

When doing gingerbread houses it can often be maddening to spend lots of time and effort for small children only to see your creation end in ruin. I combat this I whipped up some of these little houses for my 3 year old twins to go to town on. They are small yet sturdy and the perfect size for little kids to feel they have their own creation.

   4 whole graham crackers per mini house
   Commercial Frosting for decorating
   Cement icing
This frosting is not edible since it uses raw egg whites. I use commercial frosting to decorate so I don’t worry if my kids pull off candy to eat later.

2 egg whites
3 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, taking care not to get even a speck of egg yolk in the mixture. Beat the mixture on high speed for approximately 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Keep the bowl covered with plastic wrap until you're ready to use the icing.

   Break 2 crackers into squares to make 4 squares. Cut the 2 remaining crackers carefully with a serrated knife as shown in the picture.
   Apply the frosting around the edges of the crackers and arrange the crackers to make the mini house.
   Use the commercial frosting to apply the candy as desired to create your amazing creation. Below are the examples of my 3 year olds.

Gingerbread House

Making gingerbread houses has been a tradition in my family for many years. Here is my basic recipe/instructions for a delicious and sturdy gingerbread house. This dough can also be used for gingerbread cookies, just reduce the cooking time to 6-8 minutes. This is a laborious process but well worth the effort.

Gingerbread Dough
This is not my creation but it sure is awesome
Whisk together thoroughly:
     6 cupls all-purpose flour
     ½ tsp baking powder
     4 tsp ground ginger
     4 tsp ground cinnamon
     ½ tsp ground cloves or allspice
     ½ tsp salt
Beat on medium speed until very fluffy and well blended:
     12 TBSP (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
     1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
Beat in until well combined:
     2 large eggs
     1 cup dark molasses
     1 TBSP water
Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour, then knead the mixture until well blended. If the dough is soft, stir in more flour until it is firmer and more manageable but not at all dry.
Place the dough in a sealable plastic bag or airtight plastic container. Set aside in a cool place, but not he refrigerator, for at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours. Or refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days; bring to room temp before using.

Meanwhile, cut out pattern pieces to your desired layout using either graph paper or smooth, manila-folder-weight paper. Save the pattern for use immediately after pulling the pieces from the oven.

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350º. Have ready several cookie sheets. Divide the dough in half. Working with 1 portion at a time (leave the other covered to prevent drying), roll out the dough to a scant ¼ inch thick directly on a large sheet of wax or parchment paper; keep the layer as uniform as possible. If necessary, dust the rolling pin with flour to prevent sticking.

Before placing pattern pieces on the dough, lightly rub the surface of the dough with a small amount of flour. Gently lay as many pattern pieces as will fit on the dough. Using a sharp knife, wiping blade clean as you work, cut out the pieces of your pattern. Cut the parchment paper around the pattern pieces and transfer pieces one at a time gently to the baking sheets taking care to keep the shape of the pattern.

Bake the pieces until they are tinged with brown and beginning to darken at the edges, 11-15 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and let stand about 15 minutes to set. At this point I like to take the pattern pieces out and put them on top of the cooked pieces to ensure they are still the right size. It is very easy to cut a little cookie off when they are still hot to maintain the correct size and shape. You won’t be able to cut the cookies after they are cooled without breaking them so I highly recommend this step.

Frosting for Construction:
This frosting is not edible since it uses raw egg whites. I use commercial frosting to decorate so I don’t worry if my kids pull off candy to eat later.

2 egg whites
3 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, taking care not to get even a speck of egg yolk in the mixture. Beat the mixture on high speed for approximately 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Keep the bowl covered with plastic wrap until you're ready to use the icing.

Construct the Basic House

This is where it really helps to have more than two hands working on a house, and why making a gingerbread house is so much more fun with company than alone. If you are working on this alone, it may help to grab some canned goods from the pantry and use the cans to help prop up the pieces while the icing mortar is drying.
1 Pick a solid base for your gingerbread house - either a flat cookie sheet, or a thick, sturdy piece of cardboard. If you want, line the base with aluminum foil or wax paper.
2 Pipe a thick line of icing along a short end of one of the side pieces. Press the iced side piece against the edge of either the front or back pieces. Hold in place for a few minutes until the icing is partially set. Repeat with the other side piece. Prop up with cans if necessary. Repeat with the other short edges of the side pieces and the remaining front/back piece. Pipe icing along the seams, inside and outside of the house, to fill in any gaps and to add extra stability. Pipe icing along the edges of the house where it meets the base. Let set for at least an hour before attempting to add the roof pieces.
If any of the gingerbread house pattern pieces breaks, as can happen easily when working with what are essentially cookies, most likely you can repair them. On my house I forgot to cut out the door and window until the front piece had almost completely cooled. When I went to make the cuts, the piece broke. Fortunately, it was easy to mortar back together with royal icing. We even created a "splint" out of cardboard and used royal icing to hold the splint to the piece. Let harden completely before using the piece for the house construction. When it comes time to decorate, you can pipe icing right over the broken seam and no one will be the wiser.
3 Once the royal icing has dried enough so that the base structure is solid, you can go to work on the roof. Pipe icing all along the top edges of the structure, front and back and two sides. The roof pieces are a rectangular shaped. Place the roof pieces so that the long ends of the rectangle are running along the top of the house. It helps if you have two people working together to place the roof pieces on the house at the same time so that they meet easily at the top center, and extend out a little bit, forming an overhang at each end. Gently hold the roof pieces in place for a few minutes until they are set enough so they don't slide off when you remove your hands. Pipe the top seam of the house with extra icing. Let the house stand for at least an hour, and preferably 8 hours before decorating.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding (cake)

I was totally clueless about the amazing dessert sticky toffee pudding until Hagaan Daz introduced an ice cream flavor of the same name a few years ago (sorry it was limited edition and no longer in stores) and I am obsessed. These are an English pudding which means they are an ooy gooy cake. If you love caramel like I do these are a dream come true. Be sure to use dark sugars to get the tawny toffee flavor to come through, otherwise it is more caramel.

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut up
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray. Heat all sauce ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat 2 to 4 minutes or until sugar and butter are melted and mixture comes to a boil. Spoon 1 tablespoon sauce into each muffin cup; reserve remaining sauce. (Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Warm sauce in small saucepan over medium-low heat before using.)
2 Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Whisk 2/3 cup brown sugar, eggs and egg yolk in large bowl until blended; whisk in melted butter. Whisk in flour mixture until almost smooth. Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons batter into each muffin cup.
3 Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cakes spring back when gently touched. Immediately run small knife around edge of each muffin cup to loosen; invert onto large rimmed baking sheet. Cool 5 minutes. 
4 Meanwhile, beat 1 cup cream and sugar in medium bowl at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Serve warm cakes topped with warm reserved sauce and whipped cream. (Cakes can be made 1 day ahead. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. To serve, heat in 350ºF. oven 3 to 5 minutes or until warm.)
12 servings

Thursday, November 10, 2011

French Banana Pancakes

I make breakfast every morning, so I'm always looking for something more interesting than oatmeal and scrambled eggs. I would call these crepes.

1 C flour
2 T sugar
1 C milk
2 eggs
3T melted butter
1 t vanilla
1/4 t salt

1/4 C butter
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 C milk
4-5 firm bananas, cut in half, the split in thirds.
whipped cream (optional for topping)

Sift flour and sugar into mixing bowl. Add milk, eggs, butter, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth. Heat a lightly greased 6" skillet; add about 3 T batter, spreading to almost cover the bottom of the skillet. Cook until lightly browned; turn over. Makes 10-12 pancakes. Grease skillet as needed.

FOR FILLING: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stiry in cream and cook until slightly thickened. Add bananas a few at a time and spoon sauce over them. Place one banana in each pancake and roll up. Top with whipped cream if desired. 5-6 servings.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Super Easy and Delicious Banana Dream Pie

I am usually a big fan of making everything from scratch, but this banana cream pie always gets rave reviews and it is seriously one of the easiest thing to make. To make it even easier, use prepared whipped topping to finish.


  • Nilla Wafer Crust (either homemade or store bought)
  • 3 envelopes DREAM WHIP whipped topping mixes
  • 3-1/4 cups cold milk, divided
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla, divided
  • 2 pkgs (4-servings each) JELL-O instant pudding, banana flavored
  • 1-2 very ripe bananas

  1. Beat 2 whipped topping mixes, 1 cup of milk and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed 6 minutes or until topping thickens and forms peaks.
  2. Add 1-3/4 cups mik and pudding mixes; beat on low speed. Beat on high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. 
  3. Slice ripe banana and arrange the slices to cover the bottom of the nilla wafer crust. Spoon pie filling into crust.
  4. Mix remaining whipped topping mix, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until blended.
  5. Beat on high speed for 4 minutes or until topping thickens and forms peaks.
  6. Top pie with the prepared dream whip.
  7. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lemon Bars

This recipe has been a family favorite for a long time. When I would visit my parents it seemed there were always lemon bars either just made or being made. These remind me of home.

1/3 c.     butter
1/4 c.     sugar
1c.         flour
2            eggs
1/4 c.     water
2 Tbsp   flour
2 tsp       lemon zest
3 Tbsp   lemon juice
1/4 tsp    baking powder
               powdered sugar

1. In a medium mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. add the 1/4 cup sugar; beat till combined. Beat in the 1 cup flour till crumbly. Press mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 8" pan. Bake in a 350 oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden.

2. Meanwhile, for filling, in a small mixing bowl combine eggs, the 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the 2 Tbsp flour, lemon peel, lemon juice, and baking powder. Beat 2 minutes or till combined.

3. Pour filling over baked layer. Bake 20 minutes more or till lightly browned around edges and center is set. Cool on a wire rack. Sift powdered sugar over top.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Peach Blackberry Cobbler

I made this scrumptios treat for Father's Day because my local Sunflower Market had both peaches and blackberries at crazy good prices. I ended up only making a half recipe because it serves a lot! You can use canned peaches if fresh are not available or too expensive. It was very good and I will absolutly make this again in the fall when I can get some killer peaches. Serve with vanilla ice cream.


12 medium peaches, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh blackberries

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon coarse sugar

In a large bowl, combine the peaches, flour, honey, lemon juice and salt; let stand for 15 minutes. Fold in blackberries. Transfer to a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray.

For topping, in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut in butter until crumbly. Make a well in the center; pour in buttermilk. Stir just until a soft dough forms. Drop by tablespoonfuls over fruit mixture; sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake at 400° for 40-45 minutes or until filling is bubbly and a toothpick inserted in topping comes out clean. Serve warm. Yield: 12 servings.

Monday, May 2, 2011

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

My husband really wanted peanut butter bars last night but I didn't feel like doing anything too intense so I found these no bake bars that are fantastic. For the graham cracker crumbs, if you put them in the blender you will get a nice smooth crust, but if you like it chunkier, smash them with a rolling pin like I did. This can easily be doubled to put in a 9x13 pan. These are great for letting kids help out as well. The hardest part is waiting for them to set up!


1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons peanut butter

1. In a medium bowl, mix together the butter or margarine, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners' sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased square pan.

2. In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bunny Buns

This recipe was in this month's Friend (an LDS children's magazine). While it is too hard for kids to make on their own, they are really cute and very delicious! I didn't have orange peel on hand so left it out. This might be a new Easter tradition!

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk, warmed not quite to boiling
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
5 1/2 cups flour, sifted
Glaze: 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup hot water, 1 teaspoon butter
  1. 1. 
    Wash hands with soap and water.
  2. 2. 
    Sprinkle yeast in the warm water and set aside.
  3. 3. 
    In another bowl, blend milk, sugar, shortening, and salt. Cool until lukewarm, then add eggs, water with yeast, orange juice, and orange peel.
  4. 4. 
    Stir in flour a few cups at a time to make a soft dough. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  5. 5. 
    Knead dough 5–10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover bowl with a clean towel and put it in a warm place. Let dough rise for 2 hours, or until double in size. Punch dough down and let stand for 10 minutes.
  6. 6. 
    On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a rectangle 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into strips 1/2 inch wide and 14 inches long. Roll between hands into rounded snake shapes. Cut one strip into pieces 1/2 inch long, and roll into balls.
  7. 7. 
    Place one long piece of dough on a greased cookie sheet. Place one end of the strip over the other to make a loop; bring the end that is underneath up and cross it over the other end. Place a ball of dough on top of the bottom loop.
  8. 8. 
    Cover bunnies and let rise in a warm place for 45–60 minutes, until nearly double in size. Bake at 375ºF (190ºC) for 12–15 minutes.
  9. 9. 
    For the glaze, stir powdered sugar, water, and butter together. Frost bunnies with the glaze while they are still warm.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pie Crust Cookies

I made these the other day because I had left over crust after making chicken pot pies. They are so amazing that I might make pie crust simply for these cookies! If you want a quick treat use frozen pie crust.

Simply roll out pie crust to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out cookies in desired shapes. Place on greased cookie sheet. Brush cookies with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 400º for 7 minutes.

Pie Crust
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening or cold butter cut into pieces
6-7 Tbsp water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in butter or shortening. Add water by the Tbsp until moist.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Classic Cheesecake with Berry Topping

I LOVE cheesecake. This is my version of baked cheesecake. I say it is my version because I make Junior's cheesecake filling with a graham cracker crust. The topping is a slight variation from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I mix and matched recipes to find what works for me. Enjoy!

Graham Cracker Crust Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted

Graham Cracker Crust Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the crumbs and sugar; add butter and blend well. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-in. pie plate.
  2. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling, or bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack before filling.

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Filling
(4) 8 ounce packages cream cheese (the regular variety, not light Neufchatel cream cheese) at room temperature 1 2/3 cups sugar 
1/4 cup corn starch 
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 
2 extra large eggs 
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions for the Cheesecake Filling

While the crust cools, make the cream cheese filling: Place an 8 ounce package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Beat in the remaining 3 packages of cream cheese.
Increase the mixer speed to high and beat in the remaining 1 1/3 cups of sugar, then beat in the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating the batter well after adding each one. Blend in the heavy cream. At this point, mix the filling only until completely blended (just like they do at Junior's). Be careful not to overmix the batter.
Gently spoon the cheese filling on top of the baked sponge cake layer. Place the springfoam pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake the cheescake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Cool the cake on a wire rack for 1 hour. Then cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it's completely cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the sides of the springfoam pan. Slide the cake off of the bottom of the pan onto a serving plate. Or if you wish, simply leave the cake on the removable bottom of the pan and place it on a serving plate. If any cake is left over, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

For the topping:

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Granola Mini Bars

I made these for a class at school and everyone loved them. They are not low calorie, but they are healthier, especially if you use natural peanut butter.

   1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
   1/3 cup honey
   1 egg
   2 Tbsp canola oil
   1 tsp vanilla extract
   3 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
   1/2 cup packed brown sugar
   3/4 tsp salt
   1/3 cup peanut butter chips
   1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, honey, egg, oil and vanilla  until blended. Combine the oars, brown sugar and salt; add to the peanut butter mixture and mix well. Stir in chips. (Batter will be sticky.)

2. Transfer to a 13x9 in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350º for 12-15 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Yield: 3 dozen

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Molton Chocolate Cakes

This is such a simple recipe that I make it when I get a serious chocolate craving that needs to be satisfied quickly. Any dark chocolate will do. My husband is a dark chocolate fiend so I usually melt his chocolate bars down to make this. Serve with a huge glass of milk or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

what you need

4 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1/2 cup  butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 whole  eggs
2 egg yolks
6 Tbsp.  flour

make it

HEAT oven to 425°F.
BUTTER 4 small custard cups; place on baking sheet.
MICROWAVE chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1 min. or until butter is melted; whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Add whole eggs and egg yolks; mix well. Stir in flour. Spoon into prepared cups.
BAKE 13 to 14 min. or until sides of desserts are firm but centers are still soft. Let stand 1 min. Carefully run small spatula or knife around cakes to loosen; invert into dessert plates. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.