S’mores Bars

S'Mores Bars via Brittany's Pantry - Just as good as the original but SO much easier!My 4 year old has been on my case for a week, begging for me to make these with her.  She got a Betty Crocker Kid’s Cookbook for Christmas and has been working her way through the recipes.  And I had to admit these sounded pretty good.  I had no idea they would be so addicting.  Unfortunately they aren’t too sweet so you can eat a million of them and not get sick of them.  The peanut butter adds a nice balance to the bars and you don’t even notice it.  They definitely appeal to the child in all of us!
The bars chillin’ on our OH so cold screen porch!
S'Mores Bars have all the flavor and all the fun of the real thing, just easier to eat! {Brittany's Pantry} S'Mores Bars via Brittany's Pantry - Just as good as the original but SO much easier!S'Mores Bars via Brittany's Pantry - Just as good as the original but SO much easier!Smores Bars
Adapted from Betty Crocker

14 graham cracker squares, or 7 big rectangle ones, broke into pieces the size of a postage stamp
3 c chocolate chips
2 T creamy peanut butter
3 c mini marshmallows

In a  microwave safe bowl melt the chocolate chips and peanut butter together in 30 sec intervals, stirring between each time, just until melted.  Carefully fold in crackers and marshmallows.  Spread evenly in the bottom of a sprayed 9X13 pan.  Chill for at least an hour or until chocolate has set.  Cut into bars 36 bars.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Brown Sugar Shortbread-The 5 Minute Christmas Cookie

Brown Sugar Shortbread -The Five-Minute Christmas Cookie! {Brittany's Pantry}Nope!  I am not exaggerating!  This cookie will literally take you 5 minutes to make.  A half an hour total from start to finish if you count baking time, a few minutes to cool and then cutting it into squares.  Its light, crunchy, and the perfect addition to a holiday cookie tray or treat box for the neighbors.  I was feeling a bit guilty that I haven’t flooded you with Christmas recipes so I thought I would make up for it with the easiest recipe I know.  And everybody loves shortbread, right?  Most shortbread recipes only have a few ingredients and this one is no exception.  Three to be exact.  So no excuses!  You barely even need a recipe!  Feel free to be really sinful and dip one end of the cookie in melted chocolate.Brown Sugar Shortbread -The Five-Minute Christmas Cookie! {Brittany's Pantry}Brown-Sugar-Shortbread-Christmas-Cookie Brown Sugar Shortbread

1 c flour
1 stick of softened butter
1/3 c brown sugar

Mix all ingredients until fully incorporated.  Press into the bottom of an 8X8 or 9X9 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until evenly golden brown across the top.  Cool slightly and then cut into 16 squares.  Cool completely.  Store at room temperature, tightly sealed.

Chewy Ginger Cookies

Chewy Ginger Cookies from Brittany's PantryAh!  Cookies from Joy!  ‘Joy’ refers to The Joy of Cooking , the source of the modified recipe below and an excellent cookbook for every one-experienced or not-to have on a shelf in their kitchen.  ‘Ginger’ is in reference to the main flavor of these fabulous cookies.  And calling them ‘Jewels’ is because I am pretty sure you could use them as currency in some countries.  Yup.  They are that good.  I don’t know what the exchange rate would be because I would rather give up money than these cookies, but it has got to be pretty high.  Maybe 3 cookies on the dollar?

Now I must explain myself, as ginger is a spice I love, but…well…it isn’t my absolute favorite.  Chocolate, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin; all of these are cookies I am more likely to choose before picking up a ginger cookie.  I suppose the main reason is because I grew up not really liking ginger snaps.  You know, those hard as a rock, kinda bitter, spicy cookies that are the size of a silver dollar?  No thanks.  Never being a fan of food with the texture of cement, I generally ignored these types of cookies.  And ginger was not a flavor my parents incorporated into the menus of my youth very often.  Asian food, a cuisine that uses ginger on a regular basis, wasn’t exactly prevalent.  Chow mien was about it, which, incidentally I actually loathe.  Yes, Mom and Dad, I still hate chow mien.  A lot.  I wasn’t kidding all those years when you made me eat it for dinner.  Its one of the only foods in existence that I absolutely can’t stand and the memories of it make me shudder.

Chewy Ginger Cookies from Brittany's Pantry But back to ginger, the one exception in eating it was these cookies.  My Mother has been making them for years and I think that the original recipe even has frosting included.  But I am not really sure because my edition of The Joy of Cooking does not have the recipe in it.  I think my Mom got the cookbook as a wedding gift sooooo….30+ years later, the editors apparently thought it was expendable.  For SHAME!!  Obviously they never made them or they would give these cookies their own page.  Their own chapter!  *sigh*  You may think I am over exaggerating and if you know me personally…well…that isn’t so much of a stretch.  But seriously!  They are quite fantastic.  And I have never had anyone disagree with me.  They have a bite of ginger without being overwhelming, and they turn out thin, chewy and perfect EVERY TIME!  Without fail.  My favorite feature?  They freeze beautifully.  Why is this such a perk, you ask?  The recipe makes about four dozen so you have enough to fill a gallon freezer bag and save them for later.  And when you take them out and defrost them they are just as chewy and wonderful as the day you baked them.  I like to make a batch to tuck in the freezer for families with a new baby.  Its a little treat for when company comes over to visit the new addition and it is instant calories in the middle of the night when you have been up for 36 hours straight.  Sharing is something they taught us in Kindergarten so spread the love!  And maybe.  Just maybe.  Someday, I will be able to pay my cable bill with them.  Fingers crossed.Chewy Ginger Cookies from Brittany's Pantry Chewy Ginger Cookies (updated w/new pic 12/5/12)
These are perfect for the holiday season, but I make them all the time.  You should too.

Cream together:
3/4 c butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c molasses
2 tsp white vinegar
3 3/4 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Mix until combined.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.  If desired, roll each ball in granulated sugar. Bake at 325 degrees for exactly 11 minutes!  Cool on pan for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Puppy Chow

Classic Puppy Chow from Brittany's PantryAh! That ever present addictive snack food that so many of us remember from our childhood.  Simple ingredients, easy steps, and I think that every parent I knew as a kid made this.  Well, except mine.  Chocolaty, crunchy goodness that leaves you with powdered sugar covered fingers.  I am, of course, speaking of Puppy Chow.  It actually came up on Wikipedia and apparently, it is a Midwest food.  Specifically the Dakotas, Iowa, MN and Nebraska.  Huh.  I have no idea if Kellogg’s (the company that makes Crispix) created the original recipe or if it was some creative Mom who knew that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate on cereal would be a golden combination.  Heck!  I don’t even know what the original recipe is!  But this is how I make it and I haven’t had any complaints.  Put this out at your next holiday party and watch it disappear!  Just be sure to lick the powdered sugar off your fingers when you snitch!Classic Puppy Chow from Brittany's Pantry Puppy Chow

1 stick of butter
1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c creamy peanut butter (JIF makes this taste the best-seriously!)

Melt the above ingredients in your LARGEST microwaveable bowl.  Put it in for 30 seconds, take it out and stir.  Repeat this until chocolate chips are melted.  Dump in 1 whole (12 oz) box of Crispix cereal.  Stir very carefully until coated evenly.  Ever so gently, dump the whole thing into a clean paper grocery bag.  Add 2 c of powdered sugar, roll the top of the bag closed and gently turn and shake the bag to break up the clumps and coat the candy evenly.  Add more powdered sugar if necessary.

Marshmallow Pumpkin Dip

Marshmallow Pumpkin Dip | Brittany's PantryThanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday, mainly, I suppose, because it is centered around eating.  Roast turkey and mashed potatoes are at the top of my very long list of favorite foods and when you add in the fact that you are with family and friends without the stress of gift giving, everyone just relaxes and has a great time.  I am a firm believer in tradition, but Thanksgiving is where I love to mix it up.  With the exception of a great bird (I like it plain and simple) and creamy mashed potatoes, everything else on the menu is subject to change.  I do like to serve some sort of pumpkin dessert, but not necessarily pie.  If I was allowed I would leave off the stuffing completely, and the fact that my husband likes green bean casserole sooo much causes me significant misery.  I like it too, but if I never ate it again, it would be too soon!  Do something different people!  There are so many amazing dishes out there just waiting for you to try.  My only advice is to test the recipe before you serve it to a crowd of people.  You don’t want to experiment with Braised Brussels Sprouts and Bacon, only to discover that the recipe has too much vinegar in it and no one can eat it.  While these episodes make for a memorable holiday, they add stress too.  Something we all wish to avoid at large family gatherings.

Expecting a crowd?  Feed them Marshmallow Pumpkin Dip while they watch the game and wait for the main meal.  It has all the flavors of the season but mixes up a lot faster than a pie.  I made this a few days ago and we all really liked it, even the kids.  I have no idea where I got this recipe or even how long I have had it, but it is cut from a magazine.  Anything with cream cheese catches my eye so I was particularly drawn to this recipe.  Adjust the spices as you like.Marshmallow Pumpkin Dip | Brittany's Pantry Marshmallow Pumpkin Dip

1/2 c mashed pumpkin, canned or fresh
1/2 c marshmallow cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk till smooth.  Serve with sliced apples and crunchy gingersnap cookies.  Graham crackers are great too.

Apple Crisp

Classic Apple Crisp via Brittany's PantryIts that time of year when you just want to grab a sweatshirt and head outside!  I love fall and I am fortunate to live in a state where it lasts until Christmas!  We don’t have any autumn colors starting yet, but after a week of nearly 90 degree weather here (central IL) I am thrilled to finally have a high of 68 today.  WOO HOO!  I love it!  I love it!  I am sorry for the sporadic blog entries, but we are continuing to gut the main part of our house and yesterday the fireplace came down.  Needless to say, we ordered take-out last night in the interest of trying to keep sane in a very messy house.  Demolition doesn’t always leave much energy for cooking, no matter how much I love to do it.  But then…

In the middle of all the chaos, I get a text from my friend, Sara.  She wants to make an apple crisp and would I, by chance, have a good recipe for one.  By golly Sara, yes I do!  I immediately emailed her the following recipe, confident that she would love it.  My family made apple crisp all the time when I was a kid and it is one of my favorite comfort foods still today.  I love the smell that fills the house, I love the way it looks, I love it for breakfast!  It is truly a simple dessert to do, even on a weeknight.  So.  Lets get started.
Classic Apple Crisp via Brittany's Pantry This recipe is sort of pieced together.  I have made apple crisp, or any kind of crisp for that matter, without a recipe nearly my entire life.  The apple filling is super easy and when it comes to the crisp on top, I just throw ingredients together and everything turns out great.  That is the way my Mother always did it and I am a good enough cook that I can wing it.  The one bummer is that I rarely write down my recipes.  I just rely on memory to make them the same every time.  I make these grilled teryaki beef skewers and every time I make them, they turn out the same.  Even though I almost never really remember what goes in the marinade, it all seems to come together.  Unfortunately, my apple crisp never seemed to do that.  Sometimes the crisp would turn out dry and crumbly, sometimes soggy and soft.  Sometimes perfectly crunchy and toasted.  So, I decided to search for an actual recipe for the topping so that I could have it turn out perfectly every time.  Maybe I would find a recipe that contained something different that I hadn’t though of.  Anyway, my search led me to a name you might have heard me mention before.  Ina Garten.  And she did not disappoint.  Turns out, I was doing just fine on my own, I just needed more butter.  So go apple picking and whip this up.  I promise it will make you think of fall, even if it is 90 degrees outside.
Classic Apple Crisp from Brittany's PantryApple Crisp

6 c apples peeled, cored, and chopped, such as Golden Delicious-or however much it takes to fill a medium sized baking dish
1 heaping T flour
pinch of salt
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Gently mix all ing. together and spread evenly into a sprayed, 2 quart baking dish.
3/4 c flour
3/4 c oatmeal
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick of cold butter, cut into cubes

Mix all topping ingredients together until butter is completely incorporated and mixture starts to stick together.  Crumble evenly over apples.  Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes, or until top is golden brown and center is bubbly.  Let sit for 15 minutes after removing from the oven.  If you like, add a scoop of frozen yogurt or vanilla ice cream.  Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Spiced Peach Jam

Homemade Spiced Peach Jam | Brittany's PantryWow this jam is good.  It cooks down so much it concentrates the flavor so you don’t just end up with peaches floating in sugar syrup, but thick, all peach syrup with fruit in it.  The cardamom is what takes this over the top.  And if you use it in this recipe and pour it over pork, it may just make your year.  I would definitely step up your game and make two batches, saving some to give as gifts at Christmas.  But only if you are prepared to make it again next year.  Your neighbors may riot of you don’t.

Spiced Peach Jam (Recipe updated July 2013)
Inspired by CCA
No pectin needed!  This cooks down considerably and yields about 6 full pints.

12 c diced fresh peaches, already peeled and pitted (about 6 lbs)
6 c sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 c lemon juice
1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan.  I like to use my Le Creuset Dutch Oven for this.  Stir to combine and bring to a rolling boil over med heat.  Stirring constantly, boil about 15 minutes till mixture starts to thicken.  If desired, mash fruit with a potato masher till fruit is as chunky or smooth as you like.  Continue boiling for another 10-15 minutes stirring almost constantly.  Don’t let it burn!  When jam is ready, you should almost be able to see the bottom of the pan when you stir.  It should be thick, reduced, and not quite hold its shape on a spoon.  Pour hot jam into sterilized pint jars (leaving 1 inch of head space), wipe rims clean, top with sterilized lids and bands and process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes.  Alternatively, pour into jars and store in the fridge for up to 1 month, or pour into plastic freezer jars and freeze for 6 months.