Lavender Cupcakes

I love lavender, and I love cooking with it.  I’ve been eyeing these lavender cupcakes for a while, but for some reason I haven’t gotten to them.  Finally I decided that any day is a good day for cupcakes and went for it.  For this recipe you will need:

  • Lavender
  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Milk

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Just Desserts board.

Lavender Cupcakes

Review

Most of the recipes I’ve tried with lavender say to strain out the lavender after doing something with it (like steeping in a mixture).  This recipe, though, leaves the lavender in it.  I kind of wish I had a food processor because it was actually pretty hard to cut those tiny buds without them going everywhere.  But in the end, I could see why the chopping and leaving was the best option-the lavender flavor was super strong in this recipe, which I liked because lavender usually feels more like an essence to me in most recipes.

I didn’t add food coloring to mine because I didn’t have any, and no one but my husband and I would see or eat them.  If I was making these for a party, though, I would add the coloring because it is a great visual.  Once the lavender is chopped, this recipe is pretty much like any other basic cupcake recipe.  It was easy to follow and there were no difficult techniques.  The same was true of the icing (which was a perfect complement to the cake).

Overall, I would totally make these again.  I think that this is a great recipe to “show off” a bit to your friends without having to actually put in more effort than your normal cake.  They’ll think you did something fancy, but really, you just chopped some lavender.

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Overnight French Toast

Really good French toast is a favorite breakfast of mine.  Mediocre French toast?  Not so much.  However, that never stops me from trying out all the French toast recipes I come across.  For this recipe you will need:

  • Bread
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Brown Sugar
  • Milk

Find the full recipe here, or check out my pin on my Breakfast board.

Overnight French Toast

Review

As always, I had to change things.  I used regular bread because there was no Texas toast at the store, and I used soy milk instead of regular.  And, since it’s just two of us, I halved the recipe.  I was really worried that the change in bread thickness would mean that my French toast would be soggy. I was surprised to find that was not the case.  Honestly, this makes me think that using the thicker bread would mean a drier result.  I also found that the layer of sugar and butter at the bottom meant that there was only that sweetness if your bite included some of the bottom.

Overall I was not impressed by this recipe.  You prepare it the night before, but it needs to bake for 45 minutes in the morning, which felt like a long time to me.  I had to do it on a weekend because we wouldn’t have been able to eat it otherwise.  I also felt like the flavors weren’t well dispersed.  Basically. my husband and I looked at each other and agreed-this was a one and done recipe for us.

Back to looking for French toast recipes.

Zucchini Lime Bread

The other day I bought a zucchini for a recipe that I later looked at and thought, “what was I thinking?!”  Other recipe scrapped, I had a use for all the other items…except the zucchini.  Eventually I realized that I’ve never had zucchini bread before, and I had a shiny new loaf pan.  Problem solved!  You will need:

  • Zucchini
  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Limes

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Yum Board.

zucchini lime bread

Review

As per usual, I changed things.  I used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, limes instead of lemons, and soy milk instead of buttermilk.  You know, my usual substitutes.  (I still have yet to see buttermilk in my dairy case.  How weird is that?  Maybe it sells out right away, and I just miss it?)  I had the limes left over from a second batch of my key lime tarts, and, besides, I love the flavor of limes.  So, obviously, my results are based on those changes.  Your mileage may vary.

Overall, this recipe was a snap to follow!  Super easy and straightforward.  No strange or tricky techniques.  When I read that I would need to pat the zucchini dry after I grated it, I thought that was odd, but once I had a wet pile of zucchini, I was all over it.  I grated waaaay too much, but I really had no idea how much 1 cup of zucchini was.  (Hint:  depending on the size of your zucchini, around half of one.)

I loved the citrus flavor, which felt like the perfect balance in both the bread and the glaze.  However, the bread needed that glaze to reach its full potential, so don’t skip that part!  Will I make this again?  If I have more zucchini in my house, sure.  But I’m not necessarily going to go out of my way to have zucchini in my house again.  Unless, that is, you have an awesome idea for how I could use it (besides bread).

Homemade Granola Bars

Now that the weather is more Spring-like, it’s time to get back to hiking. When hiking, it’s important to bring food and water, and granola can be a nice option.  So, when I saw this recipe for homemade granola bars, I saved it for warmer weather that finally came.  For this recipe you will need:

  • Oats
  • Honey
  • Brown Sugar
  • Nuts

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Yum board.

granola bars

Review

As usual, I halved the recipe.  This was partially because I was just testing, partially because there are only two of us, and largely because I didn’t have 7 cups of oats.  And, let me say, I am glad I halved it because even 3.5 cups of oats is still a lot of oats.

This recipe was fraught with little problems I didn’t expect.  First, I don’t own a rimmed baking sheet, so I “made” a rim by rolling up the foil I used to line it.  However, in order to do that, I needed to use two pieces of foil, which created a seam that the oats loved to slide under.  Also, I broke my rim when I poured the toasted oats back into the bowl to mix with the honey sugar mixture, and so I had to remake it.  Of course, none of this is the recipe’s fault, but it did cause problems for me.

In the end I found the result just okay.  However, I have a sneaking suspicion that my oats were starting to go stale, so this could be entirely my fault.  I think I would have liked them better with some more “stuff” in them.  Maybe some additional nuts or some dried cranberries.  Also, I might not have halved the sugar/honey mix totally right because some of the bars fell apart.  I think that would be due to not enough sticking agent.

Will I make this again?  Maybe.  However, I have since found another granola bar recipe, so I will probably give that one a try first.  This one isn’t bad by any means, but I like trying out new things.

Honey Wheat Bread

The other day I was cooking something that required flour, and I looked at my bag and noticed a bread recipe.  I buy honey wheat bread at the store as it is, so I thought I would give this a try to see if I could stop purchasing and start making.  I’ll provide the full recipe here, since it was on the flour bag and there’s no link.  (All credit for this recipe goes to Hungarian whole Wheat Flour.)  You will need:

  • 1 packed active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/3 cup honey or dark molasses
  • 2 Tablespoons soft shortening
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5.5-6 cups flour

Here are the directions.

  1. In mixing bowl, place in order given all ingredients except for flour.
  2. Add flour gradually to make a stiff dough.
  3. Knead on well floured surface until smooth and satiny, 8-10 minutes.
  4. Place in greased bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled; 1.5-2 hours.
  5. Divide in half and shape into balls.
  6. Cover with bowl and let rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Shape into loaves.
  8. Place in well greased 9×5 or 8×4 inch pans.
  9. Cover and let rise until light and doubled, about 1 hour.
  10. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, or until deep golden brown.

honey wheat bread

Review

First of all, I halved this recipe because, even if it was perfect for us, we could never eat two loaves before they went bad.  The recipe was easy enough to follow, though I was surprised that we didn’t let the yeast do it’s thing with water and honey before adding the shortening, salt, and flour.  Other than the halving, I did everything the recipe said and had each of the ingredients.  I made no substitutes.  I must say, I was disappointed at the size of my loaf.  I did not get a full size loaf, but rather something that was more like half size.  The recipe does state that using all wheat flour will result in a denser loaf than dough that is made from part wheat part all purpose, so maybe that was a factor.

I will make this again, but I think I might make the full recipe and only mold it into one loaf to see if I get a better size.  Maybe I should also play with the yeast a bit to help create a larger loaf.  Overall, the taste was good and the recipe simple, but, as is, it would not replace my grocery store buy.

Monkey Bread

Monkey bread is one of those things that I didn’t hear about until I was out of college.  It just wasn’t one of those recipes that my family made.  However, since then, I have learned that it is a holiday tradition for many.  It sounded delicious, so I decided I had to try it out, audition it if you will, to see if it was worth adding to my holidays.  You will need:

  • Biscuits
  • Brown Sugar
  • Butter
  • Cook and Serve Pudding Mix

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Breakfast board.

Monkey Bread

Review

I don’t own a bundt pan, or, at least I didn’t.  So, when I made these I thought it would be fun to try and make them in individual cupcake tins.  I also couldn’t find the biscuits mentioned in the recipe, so I just used a tube of Grands.  All this probably meshed together into my downfall.

You see, this was a disaster.  Parts of the biscuits didn’t cook all the way while other parts cooked too much.  The brown sugar/butter sauce didn’t coat well in this setting either, so what was salvageable wasn’t always tasty.  Some parts were super sugary while other parts were just plain biscuit.

However, after I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, she bought me a bundt pan ans a little surprise, so I pulled it out to try again.  I will say that I had a lot more success with the proper pan, but that I still had some of the “not fully cooked” issue with the biscuits.  There were still some that were gooey.  I threw it all back in the oven when I realized what happened, to some success.  I still couldn’t get it to come out of the pan in the beautiful ring that the original recipe showed, but it did taste good.

Will I try this recipe again?  Maybe.  I think if I do, I will try a different type of biscuit to see if I can get better results.  However, I think it will be several months before I try this again.  I’d much rather give something new a chance before I come back to this.

Blackberry Poppyseed Bread

Lemon poppy seed bread is one of my favorite things.  I love the smell and the mild lemon flavor.  I’d never made it before, so I was excited when I saw this recipe while looking for something else.  But I had used up the last of my lemons on salmon the night before.  I did, however, have some blackberries on hand, and an idea was formed.  For this you will need:

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Blackberries
  • Blackberry jam
  • Eggs
  • Butter

To see the recipe I altered, you can go here, or check out my pin on my Yum board.

Blackberry Poppyseed Bread

Review

Let’s start off with what I changed.  The first change I encountered was the lemon zest.  I did not have anything to zest, so I just dumped around 5 or 6 blackberries into the sugar and rolled them around in it before I added in the butter.  The second change was whole wheat flour instead of white flour (because that’s what I had).  Next, I used vanilla Greek yogurt instead of the sour cream in the recipe.  This was partially that I had read elsewhere that Greek yogurt could be a sour cream substitute, and part I had yogurt and not sour cream in my refrigerator.  The final change I made was a teaspoon of blackberry jam each time I was supposed to add lemon juice.  I also opted not to make the glaze as I tend to prefer my lemon poppy seed bread without glaze.

Whew-that was a decent amount of changes.  Enough, in fact, that I wasn’t sure this was going to turn out at all.  (You might have also noticed that I don’t own a loaf pan so I used a 9×9 pyrex.)  But I need not have worried-this was excellent!  The blackberry flavor was subtle-enough to tell what it was, but also enough to make me think I would add some more blackberries to the sugar if I was to do this again.  It was sweet, but not overly so.  It cooked up just right in 45 minutes.

Would I make this again?  Maybe.  I might try a different fruit next time.  Maybe some orange poppy seed or cranberry poppy seed.  I feel more confident about making small changes to a recipe now that I’ve been successful once.

Caramel Pretzel Cookies

I love salt and sweet together.  It’s just a good combination.  And when that’s what you’re craving, you want it NOW.  I was having one of those “now” moments when I found this recipe.  I ran to the store and got straight on making a batch.  Here’s what you will need:

  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Caramel pieces
  • Pretzels

You can find the full ingredient list and recipe here, or check out my pin on my Just Desserts board.

caramel pretzel cookies

Review

Did I like this recipe?  Let me present the evidence:  I ate the entire batch in a three day period, I made a second batch, I ate all of those as well.

These cookies are SO GOOD.  Even using the whole wheat flour, I could not stop eating them.  They are the perfect combination of salty and sweet.  Plus, they are super easy to make!  Seriously, instead of reading the rest of this review, you should be on your way to the store to get the ingredients to make these cookies.

Here are some tips I picked up from making my second batch:  break the pretzel sticks into thirds or smaller for better incorporation into the batter (in the first, pictured batch I only broke them in half).  You do not need the chocolate chips.  I left them out of my first batch because I wasn’t feeling like chocolate (I know), but I did put chocolate chips in my second batch.  I kind of liked them more without, but your mileage may vary.  Finally, enjoy them with a nice cup of black coffee.  The bitterness of the coffee is a great pairing for the salty and sweet.

Seriously, why are you still reading?  Go make these cookies!

(If you made these cookies and the soft chocolate chip cookies and took them to a party, you would probably always be invited to every party ever.)

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking is one of my favorite things. Back when I lived in IN, I would bake a batch of something and take it in to work to share.  Here in AZ, I bake a lot less frequently because I don’t have coworkers to share with.  When I do bake, I tend to half the recipe so there’s not as much.  This recipe, though, looked too good to not make a full batch. For these cookies you will need:

  • Flour
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Sugar
  • Cream Cheese

Yes, that’s right-cream cheese!  Get the full recipe here, or check out my pin on my Just Desserts board.

soft chocolate chip cookies

Review

Even though it looked delicious, I was a little bit wary of this recipe because I’ve been burned before by recipes that claim to make “soft” cookies or “the best” cookies.  I really wanted these to work out, though, so I went for it and made the full batch instead of halving it.  (Also, my judgment might have been impaired by a serious cookie craving.)  So, I went to it, hoping for the best.

Turns out, I didn’t need to worry at all because these cookies are seriously amazing!  They absolutely make wonderfully soft cookies.  A full batch of cookies takes a while to eat around here, and days later they were still soft and delicious.  They practically melted in my mouth.  This recipe made me a believer-cream cheese CAN go in cookies, and it will rock your world!

My mom used to host a holiday cookie party every December.  The idea was that you come with dozens of one type of cookie (one dozen per participant), and go home with just as many cookies, but all different dozens.  Every year someone wouldn’t show up and there would be an extra dozen or two of a cookie and everyone would “fight” for the best ones.  This would definitely be one of those cookies everyone would fight over!

I absolutely will make these again when I am dying for a chocolate chip cookie.  If you’re looking for a cookie to make this holiday season, give this one a try!

Cinnamon Sugar Prezel Bites

I’ve had this pin sitting on my board for quite a while now, but I simply hadn’t made it.  So the other day when I was craving something sweet, I looked at what recipes I hadn’t tried and which recipes I had the ingredients for.  It was finally time for these pretzel bites to shine!  You will need:

  • Flour
  • Yeast
  • Baking Soda
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Butter

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Just Desserts board.

C S Pretzel Bites

Review

My bites did not turn out as pretty as the picture did, but that’s okay.  I’ve made these twice now, so obviously I was a fan of the recipe.  My husband really liked them, thus the second batch later that same week.  However, while the results were tasty, I had a few problems with the recipe.

One problem was that both times I felt like there was too much of a baking soda taste on some of the bites.  I am fairly certain this has something to do with how long the bite was in the boiling water, but it was still a shock whenever I popped one in my mouth and it felt like I was licking a baking soda covered spoon.  I guess this is more my fault than the recipe’s, but I did have less baking soda bite when I reduced the amount in the water with my second batch.

I also had difficulty rolling the dough into ropes to cut apart.  The dough just wasn’t very elastic for me.  I do think I might have been trying to make my ropes thinner than necessary, but even at the start my dough was uninterested in acting like a play-doh snake.

These drawbacks aside, this is still a great recipe.  It is time consuming, and not what I would label “easy,” but still worthwhile.  Obviously I’ve already made them twice, and I do anticipate making them again.  This is probably a once a quarter sort of recipe for me.