Pretzel Peeps

I read somewhere that Peeps marshmallow candies have been in production for about 60 years. That's probably right, because I grew up with them and decades have passed since then. Every year it seems that I am seeing more and more new colors and kinds for different holidays. I love to make these sweet and salty dipped pretzel treats.

Pretzel Peeps

1 (12 ounce) bag white candy melts 
1 bag large pretzel rods
Assorted sprinkles
1 (12 count) package Peeps marshmallow bunnies

Prepare a large sheet pan by lining with parchment paper. In a microwave safe dish, melt the candy according to package directions.  Dip the end of each pretzel rod in the melted candy, shaking off the excess. Holding the coated pretzel rod over a small dish, apply the candy sprinkles. Lay the pretzels on the prepared pan to dry. After the candy is dry on the pretzel rods, apply a small blob of melted candy to the back of a marshmallow bunny, then attach to the coated pretzel rod, holding in place for a few seconds. Place on the parchment paper to dry again.

Lay the dipped and sprinkled pretzel rods out to dry on parchment paper.

Attach the Peeps to the pretzel rods with some of the melted candy coating.

When the candy coating was dry, I packaged the Pretzel Peeps in little cellophane bags, and now they are in a basket of Easter grass just waiting for someone special. Something would just be missing if there were no Peeps at Easter.



Fruit & Nut Granola Bars

Granola bars are one of my favorite breakfast and snack treats, and I love making my own bars at home. I don't think I'm really a control freak in most areas, but I do like to be in control of what goes into my food. Being able to choose the ingredients for my granola bars gives me the assurance that none of the ingredients will have names that sound like they were poured from a chemistry lab beaker.

Print Recipe

Fruit & Nut Granola Bars

3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup Rice Krispie cereal
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup dried apples, chopped
1 1/2 cups honey
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch pan by lining with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to over hang the sides of the pan slightly.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, cereal, chia seeds, walnuts, almonds, cranberries, and apples; mix well.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine honey and peanut butter, stirring until melted together. Pour the melted mixture over the oat mixture and stir together. Firmly press the granola mixture into the prepared pan, then bake for 25 minutes. Cool, then lift the foil from the pan and cut into bars.

Chop the dried cranberries and dried apples into smaller pieces.

I love the mix of nuts and grains in this recipe.

Add the dried fruit to the grains and nuts; mix well.

Melt the honey and peanut butter together, then add to the granola mixture.

Press firmly into a 9 x 13-inch pan that has been lined with aluminum foil. I like to use a small pastry roller to pack mine in tightly.

Bake for about 25 minutes, then cool. Lift the granola out by the aluminum foil.

Cut into bars or squares as desired. I cut mine into 18 large bars.


My Sister's Cakes

My sister and I enjoy decorating cakes for family celebrations. We are both just amateur home decorators, but our family members are always happy with whatever we bake up. I have been decorating cakes a lot longer than she has, but in the short time she has been "playing" with cake decorating, she has far surpassed me in skill.  Over the past year she has sent me pictures of some of the cakes she has done for her family, and although I don't have tutorials for her cakes, I thought they would be fun to share with others who enjoy cake decorating too.

I love this peacock cake with the long fondant tail feathers. The feathers are cut from fondant with a leaf shape. The peacock is made from rice krispie treats that have been shaped, then covered in fondant.

This birthday cake features a lawnmower, shovel, rakes, hose, etc., all in fondant. The lawn mower is shaped from rice krispie treats and straws that have been covered in fondant.

This Texas Rangers cake is all done in buttercream.

This is a rose cake done in buttercream. I always think these are too pretty to eat!

This huge wrestling cake is done in fondant. It was baked in two 14-inch layers.

This girly polka-dot cake is done in pink buttercream with fondant dots and was a joint effort between my sister and her daughter-in-law.

This Cars themed cake is blue buttercream with fondant cut-outs, and I love the winding road.

Guess what special birthday was being celebrated here! This was a very large cake and was done in green buttercream. The candles around the side were cut from black and yellow fondant. She uses the viva paper towel method to smooth out her buttercream to look like fondant.

And last, these gorgeous buttercream cupcakes are done in different flowers. All are beautiful, but I especially love the shading in the hydrangeas. 

I think my sister's cakes are pretty amazing!


Shamrock Pretzel Rods

These Shamrock Pretzel treats will be sure to please any little (or big) leprechauns you might have around the house celebrating St. Patrick's Day with you. The sweet and salty taste of these treats make a great addition to a party table, and the candy shamrocks add a pop of color.

This was my first attempt at using candy melts to make a shape from a template, and it was easier than I expected. The first step is to either print or draw a sheet of shamrocks in the desired size. Then, cover the template with a sheet of wax paper. Follow the outline and fill in with melted candy. The worst thing about working with candy melts is that is gets hard quickly, and you have to keep returning it to the microwave to keep it flowing, but then again, the best thing about working with candy melts is that it gets hard quickly, and you don't have to wait very long to have a finished design.

Print Recipe

Shamrock Pretzel Rods

1 (12 ounce) package green candy melts
1 (12 ounce) package white candy melts
1 (12 ounce) package large pretzel rods

Print or draw a template for shamrocks the size you would like to make. Cover the paper with a sheet of wax paper and tape both in place so they won't slide as you are working.

Melt the green candy according to package directions. Spoon melted candy into a squeeze bottle. Carefully squeeze the melted candy onto the wax paper, following the shamrock outlines and filling in. Let the candy shamrocks cool completely, and when they are firm they will peel right off the wax paper.

Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper; set aside.

To decorate the pretzels, you will need one squeeze bottle filled with green melted candy and another filled with white melted candy. Spread out a sheet of wax paper to catch drips, and holding a pretzel rod above the paper twirl it around while squeezing first one color then the other onto the upper half of the pretzel, or if you prefer dip the pretzel rod in the melted candy. Lay decorated pretzels out on the prepared pan to dry.

To attach shamrocks, squeeze a small amount of melted candy onto the pretzel, then place the shamrock on the candy and press together gently until attached.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, friends!






Coconut-Date Rice Krispie Balls

I know kids sometimes go through phases, but it looks like I'm going through one too. We'll just call this my "dried fruit phase." First I baked a Chocolate Coffee Cake that was filled with dried apricots, then I turned around and made Dried Cherry Cardamom Bread immediately afterward. Well, the coffee cake and bread are gone, and I'm still looking for dried fruit recipes. This time I have gone retro and pulled one out of the 60's. These Coconut-Date Rice Krispie Balls are from an old recipe that I used as a teenager.

Coconut-Date Rice Krispie Balls

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup chopped dates
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or can substitute rum extract if you make these for the holidays)
2 cups Rice Krispie cereal
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 cups coconut

Prepare a sheet pan by lining with parchment paper; set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar, dates, and egg. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, cereal, and pecans. Let mixture cool for about 15 minutes, then shape into 1-inch balls. Place the coconut in a shallow dish, and roll the balls in the coconut. Place on the prepared pan. Chill until firm, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container. Makes about 3 - 4 dozen.

This small spiral pad has lost its outside cover, but it has held some of my first and dearest recipes. My friend Janis gave me this blank recipe book just before I got married, and this month my husband and I will celebrate our 45th anniversary. I wrote recipes from home in this little book, and the Coconut-Date Rice Krispie Ball recipe is one of them, only slightly updated over the years.

Because I'm going through a "dried fruit phase" this recipe features chopped dates.

After the cooked mixture is cool enough to handle, make into 1-inch balls and roll in coconut. Chill for about 15 minutes until firm.

The crunchy taste of these little goodies takes me back in time - I remember first making these in one of my mother's copper-bottomed pots in her kitchen.


Dried Cherry Cardamom Bread

Sometimes I find myself craving certain foods without any explanation. Recently my taste buds have been asking for dried fruit, and I keep trying to make them happy. I thought the dried apricots in the Chocolate Coffee Cake might take care of my latest yearning, but today I found myself wishing for something with dried cherries. I found a recipe for Dried Cherry Cardamom Bread from Pillsbury, and I may never stop craving cherries now!

Dried Cherry Cardamom Bread

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup dried cherries, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray by spraying the bottom only. (I opted to use three - 5 x 2-inch mini loaf pans.)

In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, buttermilk, and eggs; blend well. (Mixture will appear curdled.)

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom; whisk to combine. Add lemon zest and cherries; mix. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour batter into prepared pan, bake for 55 - 75 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (For 5 x 2-inch loaf pans, baking time will be shortened to 25 - 30 minutes.)

Remove bread from oven, loosen edges of bread; cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, continue cooling on rack. Wrap cooled bread tightly and store in refrigerator.

I opted to use the three mini loaf pans instead of one large loaf pan so that I didn't have to wait on the longer baking time.

This recipe would make an impressive larger loaf of bread, but the mini loaves are so cute and bake in less than half the time. When you're dealing with a craving, time can be important!


Chocolate Coffee Cake

This recipe is one that I just happened across in a little cookbook called The Best Muffins & Quick Breads by Gregg R. Gillespie. I'm so glad that I found this recipe for a coffee cake made rich with chocolate, cream cheese, and dried apricots. Whether you're serving it for breakfast, snack, or dessert, it's always the right time for chocolate.

Chocolate Coffee Cake

1/2 cup finely ground almonds, divided
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups dried apricots, finely diced
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur (I substituted 1/2 teaspoon almond extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch pan. (I used a 10-inch springform pan.)
Press 1/4 cup of the ground almonds up the outer edges of the pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, blend together the remaining almonds, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and diced apricots. In a separate bowl, beat shortening, cream cheese, and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the Amaretto (or almond extract). Combine the two mixtures, blending until the dry ingredients are just moistened.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. (My cake needed 60 minutes baking time). Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 to 7 minutes before removing from pan onto wire rack to continue cooling. Serve warm.

Some ingredients you'll need are Dutch-process cocoa, cream cheese, almonds, and dried apricots. I used a food processor to grind the almonds.

Press 1/4 cup of the ground almonds up the side of the pan before filling with batter.

This Chocolate Coffee Cake is very unique with the combination of chocolate and dried apricots, and can be enjoyed any time of day.