Monday, January 24, 2011

Contesting Update: Dough Boy Fever

I have Dough Boy Fever.  The blog has been forgotten in the past week as all of my brain power (which is not much since I am not sleeping due to a recent toddler bed upgrade), or what little brain power I have, has all gone to creating Pillsbury recipes.  A few good and a few pretty bad.  The entire bottom shelf of my fridge is full of Pillsbury products; crescent rolls, biscuits, French bread, pizza dough, sugar cookies, peanut butter  cookies and even gingerbread cookies (which incidentally do not qualify for the contest).  Oh and the freezer has 3 boxes of pie crust!  Here is a tip, make sure your Pillsbury tubes don't roll back and stack up along the back of your fridge as they will block the air flow and your salad will freeze.  Just a little something we have learned the hard way with frozen sour cream and other condiments.  As previously stated, I will not share my Pillsbury ideas until I win that million dollars, but I will tell you I have been baking with bananas and having fun!  And I might be the worst mother in the world because I keep making things with peanut butter when I have a peanut allergy kid in the house.  He is not so allergic that he can't be in the house with it, but I feel bad he can't eat any of the things I make so I just slice of a few pieces of that gingerbread dough and make him cookies.

A bit of travel in the next week so I am not actually sure how many blog posts I'll get out.  I should have some fun ones upon my return.  Heading to Seattle for wedding, will definitely have to do a Pike Market post.  Even though I have been all about the Pillsbury Blue & White, there are some other great contests out there right now.  Ritz Crackers has something going, Sun Maid Chocolate Covered Raisins and the big Gilroy Garlic Festival is taking recipes, just to name a few I have interest in and need to make time for.  So that is my update and why I am neglecting the blog.  Hope to have time for a good post this week.  Feel free to share any Dough Boy tips and I'll do the same.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cookie Week: Italian Anise Cookies

Cookie Week continues with Tammi's Italian Anise Cookies.  I believe this is actually her grandmother's recipe.  When you put an Anise Cookie on the table you either get lovers or haters, there really is no in-between on the licorice-anise flavor.  Maybe it is because I am more on the hater side of the anise cookie that I found it very surprising the kids loved them.  They could not keep their little hands off this tray, they would shove past the Hersey Kiss cookies and every other yummy thing on the table to grab the anise cookies.  Guess we have some little anise lovers here, now I'll have to make them.  I am not a true hater, I can appreciate the anise cookie and I eat them whenever I find a tray of Italian cookies just to try them again to see if I can love them.  I can't love them, but I can eat one or two a year.  Tammi did an excellent job of perfectly executing these little Italian treats.  If you are an anise lover, make Tammi's cookies, you will be very happy indeed.  

Italian Anise Cookies

5 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
2 ½ sticks butter
5-6 teaspoons of anise (depending on preference)
5 ¼ cups of flour
3 teaspoons+ baking powder

Melt butter, then cool
Mix eggs and sugar and beat
Add in baking powder and beat
Add in anise and beat
Sift flour into mixture slowly and beat

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes
Bake one batch at a time

2 ½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk

That Tammi is a cool cookie herself.  She showed up with this nifty cookie caddy carrying case.  Good job Tams!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cookie Week: Pine Cones or Hay Stack Cookies

We learned a little something at the Cookie Exchange, seems it depends on what part of the country you are from as to what you might call these little Chow Mein Noodle delights.  Colleen, the talented cookie attendee that made these, is from Maine; land of the deep woods and as such she made Pine Cone Cookies.  Now my friend Robin and I are from Texas and immediately yelled "You made Hay Stacks!  Yea!"   Who is right?  Who knows or cares, I love these little things.  I was first introduced to this fun little snack when living in the sorority house.  Our house mom made these all the time and I ate nearly a whole tray each time she did.  They are so simple and have my favorite combo of sweet and salty.  Whatever you call them, where ever you are from, this is a simple, fun and yummy treat.  Make some!

Pine Cone Cookies

6 oz. semi-sweet morsels
6 oz. butterscotch morsels
2 cups chow mein noodles
1 cup lightly salted peanuts

Melt morsels in double boiler, remove from heat, mix in noodles and peanuts until evenly covered.  Drop spoon size portions on wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until cooled.
Makes approx. 2 dozen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cookie Week & Guest Post: Raspberry Bow Tie Cookies

I am excite to introduce my first guest blog post!  My dear friend Janice hosts the blog Trying to be a Stylish Mom where she discusses fashion, art and her career as a Home Stylist for Stella & Dot Jewelry.  I raid her jewelry box every time I have a special event or want to ad some fun flare to my day.  Janice also attended my Cookie Exchange and brought beautiful little Raspberry Bow Tie Cookies.  Here is her account of the Cookie Event. 

Trying To Be A Stylish Mom

My first entry as a guest blogger!  Very exciting.  Thank you Stephanie for asking me to be here.  Stephanie's cookie exchange party was the first I had ever been to.  I am not much of a baker, so when someone who is a pro asks you to bake cookies and come to her house, it's a little nerve racking!  Sadly, other than chocolate chip cookies, I had never made cookies from scratch before.  My husband's aunt is an expert at Christmas cookies and I decided I wanted to attempt to bake one of her cookies.  I didn't know what they were called and didn't have the slightest idea where to begin.  I just started searching recipe websites for raspberry filled cookies.  I found one that I thought was it, got all the ingredients, and two days before the cookie exchange I read the directions.  Bad idea.  I should have read the entire recipe when I found it.  I realized that they were not the right ones!  I went back to my online search and realized the cookies I wanted to make were raspberry filled bow tie cookies.  Luckily I only had to run out and grab one additional ingredient and I was ready to start.  So for those of you who are not experienced at baking, make sure you read the entire recipe before getting the ingredients.  Also, this recipe calls for a stand mixer.  I do not own one, so I used a hand mixer until the dough was too tough and then I used my hands.  It was time consuming!  I refrigerated my dough overnight and it was pretty stiff in the morning.  I would recommend only refrigerating it for several hours.  This is definitely not a beginner cookie recipe, as I learned the hard way.  Next year I will definitely look for an easier recipe that doesn't call for a stand mixer! 

 Raspberry Bow Tie Cookies

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (in microwave)
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 12 oz. jar of good quality raspberry preserves
1 large egg beaten
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl and paddle.  With the mixer on low, gradually mix in the flour until smooth dough forms.
Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough gently to form a ball.  Divide the dough into thirds, wrap each in plastic or waxed paper, and flatten into squares.  Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400*F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment.  Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 1/8 inch thick rectangle.  Trim the rough edges of the dough so the sides are straight, and then cut into 2 inch squares.  Spoon about 1/2 tsp of the preserves onto the center of each square.  Fold one corner into the center, dab with the beaten egg, and then bring the opposite corner into the center and pinch firmly together to seal the corners.  Dab with more beaten egg.  Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake one sheet at a time until golden and very lightly browned and puffed, 10 to 12 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely and then dust with confectioners' sugar.  
Can be frozen in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.  

This recipe is from  I substituted raspberry preserves for the apricot preserves.  Here is the link: 

Janice's pretty Bow Tie Cookies.  She was even good enough to pre-package them in dozens in nice little Christmas tins which definitely scores her an invitation back to the Cookie Exchange. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cookie Week: Macaroon Kisses

It only seems appropriate today to honor and share Amanda's Macaroon Kiss Cookies from the Exchange.   In order to understand why I chose Amanda as my honored Cookie Queen for the day, I must share our little sob story with you.  We live in a two family house, or duplex as they are called in other part of the country, and Amanda lives next door.  Today New England is getting hit with a doozy of a Noreaster, we have at least 16 inches of snow now and they say we should get up to 20 inches before it is over.  My husband had his appendix out last week so he can't shovel and Amanda's husband is stuck in California so that leaves Amanda and me to handle all the shoveling, oh and the 5 kids we have between the two of us.  Ugh.  Actually it has not been too bad yet.  So far this morning we got a good start to the shoveling and my husband has been able to keep the kids happy, well mine anyway.  I have been sharing our little sob story with everyone in the neighborhood hoping to find a nice fellow with a plow that might have mercy on us.  Here is my offer to the plow drivers of Woburn - a big heaping plate of fresh cookies and cash if you come plow even just the end of our driveway.  Please!  Ok, self pity over.  Going to finish this post them go shovel some more, back to the cookies.

Amanda made these special macaroons with Hersey's Kisses on top for the Cookie Exchange.  Brilliant!  I love a good macaroon.  My experience with home made macaroons all look like this cookie as opposed to those fancy colorful ones you see on all the blogs these days.  I feel like I should try making some fancy ones as it is all the rage on the blog sites, but I am quite content with the classic mom-made macaroon like this. Amanda's cookies were a hit and I am so glad she joined our little cookie party.  Now I am off to beat on her door with a snow shovel so she can help me dig.  Happy Snow Day!

Macaroon Kiss Cookie


  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 package (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups Sweetened Coconut Flakes, divided
  • 48 HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates

1. Beat butter, cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add egg yolk, almond extract and orange juice; beat well. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in 3 cups coconut.

2. Cover; refrigerate 1 hour or until firm enough to handle. Remove wrappers from chocolates. Heat oven to 350°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in remaining 2 cups coconut. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; immediately press chocolate on top of each cookie. Cool 1 minute; carefully remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cookie Week: German Chocolate Lace Cookies

I hosted my first Cookie Exchange back in December.  Seven of my girlfriends baked up cookies and came over for a little swap.  Seems more wine than cookies were consumed at this affair, but thus is this the norm with this group.  I was a little surprised by some and very impressed with all of the beautiful cookies my friends made.  In an effort give each cookie their due, I would like to declare this week Cookie Week here at Adventures in Contesting.  I will post several of the recipes from our little exchange over the course of this week and maybe even talk someone into becoming the first guest post on my blog.  Hope you enjoy our cookies as much as we did, maybe you should crack open a couple bottles of wine so you may enjoy them as we did.  

German Chocolate Lace Cookies

For the Cookie Exchange, I made German Chocolate Lace Cookies.  My mom loves the Silver Palate Cookbooks and she has made this recipe from the SP Good Times Cookbook a few times.  I remembered it as being good and I love all things German Chocolate so it seemed like a great choice.  These cookies came out very thin, hence the lace title I guess, but I was sort of surprised by how thin they were, I thought I did something wrong.  I was sort of embarrassed that, as the host, I might have the worst cookies.  My husband was really sweet, I had no time to make more as I had over committed myself this week, he offered to make cookies for me so I would have worthy cookies to present at the swap.  That is quite the gesture from a man who's entire cooking experience includes only grilled cheese and Kraft Mac'n Cheese.  I went with the lace cookies and no one complained (to me).

German Chocolate Lace Cookies
Source:  The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets.

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in 1 teaspoon of rum, heat for about 1 minute more.

Heat the cream to boiling in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat and stir in remaining 1 teaspoon of rum.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chunks until melted and well blended.  Beat 1/3 cup of the chocolate mixture into the butter mixture. 

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together.  Stir into the butter mixture.  Fold in the oats, coconut, and nuts.

Drop rounded teaspoons of batter 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes to harden.  Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.

Drizzle remaining chocolate mixture over the cookies in a lacy pattern.

My lacy cookies with a sneak peek at more cookies to share this week.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

45th Pillsbury Bake Off is Open!!!

It's here!  It's here!  Pillsbury has opened the door for entries to the 45th Pillsbury Bake Off.  This is the Big Daddy of all contests with a grand prize of $1 Million Dollars!  That's right, ONE MILLION DOLLARS, Mwaa Ha Ha (Dr. Evil laugh).  The last winner was on Oprah, a dream of mine.  Time to start cooking up some Pillsbury goodness.  Sorry to say that I will not post any Pillsbury recipes until well after the contest is over and my recipes are clearly dead, but I will share any stories I have during the process and keep you abreast of all things Pillsbury I learn.

Entries are open until April 18th.  There will be 100 finalist selected that will participate in the live Bake Off in Orlando, FL March 25-27, 2012.  90 finalist will be chosen by Pillsbury.  20 "Semi-Finalist" will be chosen by Pillsbury then put up for a public vote with 10 of the 20 winning a Finalist title and completing the total for the Top 100 Finalist List.

Oh to be one of the Top 100!!  Swag bags, meeting all the great contesting cooks, famous celebrity chefs and to experience the hoop-la of it all.  What an amazing dream, I could babble on and on, and I will until the Million is awarded in March of 2012, so be ready for several "dreaming out loud" posts.

Check out Pillsbury's Bake Off website for all the exciting details.  Pillsbury Bake Off

I will report on all I can and keep you posted of any exciting news to be shared.

Let the baking begin!!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Banana Split Bread

Yucky Bananas = Yummy Bread!

Yucky Bananas
Yummy Bread 
I have never been one who is able to throw out a brown banana.  I use to take the "past due" bananas from the hotels I worked at so I could make banana bread for the staff, it just seems sad to throw them out.  This little personality flaw, if you will, has me always searching for new and different banana bread recipes.  Here is a recipe that sounded a bit sketchy when I first read it, but I happened to have all the ingredients on hand so I figured let's give it a whir.  So glad I tried it, it is great!  I discovered this recipe on one of my new favorite recipe websites:  Dairy-Free!!  Well it has chocolate chips in it so not totally dairy free, but my little guy is starting to handle small amounts of dairy, chocolate chips now seem ok.  His 2nd birthday is in February and I have worked my hopes up way out of line with reality.  I seem to think he will be 100% cured of all allergies and will sleep through the night on the date of his 2nd birthday.  Sooo setting myself up for heartache, I know.

I had to change this recipe up a bit as it called for a banana bread mix.  I took a "from scratch" recipe and altered it slightly to adjust for all the moist fruit in this bread.  It also called for a sugary icing, it is plenty sweet enough with all the fruit and sugar.  I skipped the icing and am glad I did.  The bread is perfect and not at all like a creepy fruit bread.  It also seems like the sort of thing that would have been invented by a home cook for a cooking contest so I will call it practice for the future.

Banana Split Bread 
Source:  Variation on recipe found here:  Crisco Banana Split Bread

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup smashed bananas (or a bit more, I used 3 old bananas)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz can sliced pineapple, then chop it small
1/3 cup diced maraschino cherries
1/3 cup chocolate chips
optional - 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a 9x5 loaf pan with baking spray or Crisco/flour.

Cream together the sugar, banana, oil and eggs with electric beater.  In separate bowl mix flour, baking soda and salt.  Slowly sift the flour mixture into the bananas until batter is completely mixed.  Drain the canned pineapple and chop it into small chunks (you could use crushed, but it seems like it would be too wet).  Chop the cherries into quarters so they are decent bites in the bread.  Add pineapple, cherries and chocolate chips to the batter and fold in mixing by hand, add nuts now if you desire.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Contest Entries - Johnsonville Pastaville Contest

Pastaville - Italian Sausage Recipe Contest : Image

Here are my two entries in the Johnsonville Pastaville Italian Sausage Recipe Contest: Sweet Sausage Empanadas and Hogs in a Wrap.  Click through to the Johnsonville site for the recipe, I'll do a separate post when the contest is complete. The funny thing about this contest is it does not have to actually include pasta as the name might lead you to believe.  A little something I learned on the Cooking Contest Central members forum and a good bit of information as I would have only been making pasta dishes.

Growing up in the South I didn't really know much about Italian sausage, or good Italian food for that matter.  I was first introduced to Italian sausage and peppers on my first date with my husband.  It was a Red Sox/Yankees game at Fenway Park.  My first trip to Fenway and my first time to smell the wonderful aroma of the sausage vendors.  Somehow the smell of the sausage vendors is actually better than the sausage tastes, it is that dirty, burning, grill smell that is so so good.  We did not eat Italian sausages on our first date, classy as that would have been, none the less anytime I get a whiff of Italian sausages and peppers on a grill it takes me right to Fenway Park.

Hopefully my sausage dishes will be as good as the Red Sox and win the big one.  We'll see.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dairy Free Snickerdoodles

Crisco!  I can just feed my child with dairy issues Crisco.  I knew they made sticks of Crisco for baking, but did not realize they have butter flavored Crisco sticks.  Genius!  The following recipe for Snickerdoodles was on the Crisco website.  I love Snickerdoodles, mostly because it is so fun to say.  I hope one day to name a pet Snickerdoodle.  I think I was introduced to these little balls of cinnamon goodness in my mid-20's, there are no childhood memories of this cookie, but I guarantee my kids will have many-a-good Snickerdoodle memory.   

Anyway, the cookies are simple and just the most perfect buttery treat.  The Crisco Snickerdoodle did not disappoint.  The cookies were slightly fuller or thicker than a butter only Snicker-D, but the flavor was still buttery and perfectly sugar spiced.  Also, you do not have to refrigerate the dough like a classic butter doodle.  This recipe will be repeated often.  

I have continues my experimenting with Crisco butter sticks and it seems to work well in most baked things when it is used in a solid form.  It does not melt like butter and was not good in Monkey Bread.  Will share any future success with this product, so far I am tickled pink to have found it!  

Crisco Snickerdoodles

Source:  Crisco website 

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (I used a 1/2 cup of the Crisco Butter Flavored Shortening)
  • 1/2 cup Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening
  • OR 1/2 Crisco® Baking Sticks All-Vegetable Shortening
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups White Lily® All Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon

HEAT oven to 400ยบ F. Lightly spray baking sheet with no-stick cooking spray. Beat butter, shortening, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed, until well blended.

  1. 2.
    COMBINE flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat flour mixture into shortening mixture at low speed until combined. Shape dough into 1-inch balls.

  2. 3.
    MIX 1/4 cup granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll balls in sugar cinnamon mixture. Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.

  3. 4.
    BAKE 6 to 7 minutes, or until cookies are puffed and crackled on top and the edges are set. The centers will be soft. Allow to cool 1 minute on baking sheet. Remove to cooling rack.

    A 1/2 stick of regular Crisco and a 1/2 stick of buttery Crisco.

    Dusting the dough with cinnamon sugar.  YUM!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year - Celebrate with a Zebra Ice Box Cake!

First celebrate with a perfect gin martini and a quick review of 2010.  What a great year!  Family life was wonderful, loving every minute of being home with my little toddlers.  Older women stop me in the grocery store all the time to tell me to treasure these moments.  It is no wonder, my boys are 1 and 3 years old, life is pure magic and a riot a minute.  I am so grateful I have had the opportunity to stay home from work to treasure these moments.  When family life is great, all other parts of life are easy to handle, so no complaints from 2010.

2010 Accomplishments:  I started this fun little blog and won 2 recipe contests.

My blog has been a great outlet and opportunity to flex my creative muscles.  I am still shocked that I have won any contests.  I was an alternate in the OceanSpray NE Tailgate Contest  and a finalist in What Does Vlasic Do for You? Contest.  I have big plans to expand my blog, win more contests and hopefully grow my blog audience in 2011.  Stay tuned for the good times in the New Year!  And now to that cake I promised.

This is the simplest cake you will ever make!  Some call it an Ice Box Cake, my family called it the Zebra Cake because of the pretty zebra stripes when you cut it.  I am not sure the history of this cake, if it has regional roots or anything, but it has been a family favorite of ours for generations.  I am suspicious it has some regional popularity as it is hard to find the cookies in certain parts of the country, like Texas.  Both of my grandmothers made this cake often and they both spent their child rearing years in Illinois.  I am not sure if this is a mid-west thing or just something that was popular in my grandmothers generation.  If you are familiar with this cake, share a comment on it's history in your family or region if you know it.  I whipped one up for New Years Eve for my hubby and I.  Simple perfection!

Zebra Ice Box Cake
Source: Nabisco

2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 9oz package of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers

Beat the whipping cream and vanilla with an electric mixer till it forms stiff peaks.  Spread a long strip of whipped cream on the cake plate in a long line.  Spread about 1-2 tablespoons of whipped cream on one wafer, stack another wafer on top, spread with whipped cream, stack a wafer, repeat with 5-6 wafers then place the stack long ways on the whipped cream on the cake plate.  Repeat this process until you have a log of wafers and whipped cream.  Ice the entire log with remaining whipped cream.  Top with cherries if you like.  Refrigerate the cookie log for 4 hours or over night.  Slice on a diagonal to create beautiful zebra striped pieces of cake.

Variations:  My dad has made rows next to rows to create large cakes.  He even used food coloring once to create a pink pig.  I made stacks last year to create shamrocks for St. Patrick's day.  Food coloring and creative stacking adds endless possibilities!

Ingredients:  There they are.  So simple.  Look closely at the cookie package, you must buy this exact brand. Even in the stores that carry the wafers there are usually only a few boxes, so look closely in the cookie isle to find them.

Whip/cookie/whip/cookie/whip/cookie.... you get it.  Stack them up!

The log pre-icing.  You can be messy with the cookie stacking as it all gets covered up.  This box of cookies was damaged in my grocery cart by a certain 3 year old boy so almost all of the cookies were split in 2.  I just forced them together with the whipped cream and it all worked out.