Dark Chocolate, Sour Cherry and Marcona Almond Cookies

Yes, I've been on Pinterest again!  These sounded so good, dark chocolate and dried sour cherries?  Hello!  And what the heck are Marcona Almonds anyway?  I'd never heard of them.  Heather Cristo, the blog on which I found the recipe, raved about them.  So I bought some Marcona almonds.

Oh boy, these are good!  I had to put the container in the cupboard while I mixed up the cookies or I would have emptied it.  These almonds are a little rounder than a regular almond and they are white.




They have a bit softer texture than a regular almond and, in my opinion, a much different flavor.  They are almost like a cashew!  Hence me not being able to put them down.  I should never bake before dinner!

The cookies are easy, cream butter and sugar, add the dry ingredients then the cherris, nuts and chocolate chips.  I used my favorite Ghirardelli!


The recipe said it made 2 dozen.  I used a 2-tablespoon scoop and got 30 cookies out of the batch.  I didn't chill the dough (lazy) so they did spread quite a bit.



Were they worth the cost of the almonds?  I'm going to say yes, the dark chocolate and cherry were the amazing flavors for me but the almonds added a nice texture.  They cookies will be going to work with either Dave or I tommorrow.  They can't stay in the house!

Bacon Cupcakes?

I like to bring treats to my coworkers on their birthdays.  Last week a coworker had a birthday and I made these really cute "ice cream sundae cupcakes" to bring in then the weather hit.  We had arguably the worst winter storm so far this year.  It started the day before with rain that turned to sleet that turned to snow and just didn't stop snowing.  We got close to a foot of snow at our house.  It started out so wet that the tree branches were coated then froze and we lost several big branches and one whole tree.  The roads were sheets of ice, it was ugly.

Lucky for me I have the ability to work from home when necessary.  I deemed that day necessary!  So the ice cream sundae cupcakes went to the neighbor boys who help us around the house and the yard and with the dogs.

I promised treats the following Monday.  His manager told me that this person's favorite saying is "everything is better with bacon" and he was even nice enough to send me a link to a recipe for French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes.  I had to make them.

Here is a link to the recipe:
French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

Before you can do anything you have to cook the bacon.  The person who published the recipe microwaved her bacon.  No offence but, yuck.  I baked my bacon.  Maybe it took longer but I know it tasted better.

I cut a couple of slices into about one-inch pieces for garnish, the rest was crumbled up and put in the batter.




One batch makes 14 cupcakes.  I knew I needed at least 24 so I made a double batch.  I only put the cooked bacon in one batch, yes, I was skeptical, why ruin two batches?

After they baked you couldn't tell the "with bacon" from the "without bacon" by looks so it didn't impact baking at all.  I did use different cupcake papers for the ones with bacon so I could tell people which were which.


The cupcakes are frosted with a maple butter cream frosting then garnished with the pieces of bacon.

So how did they taste?  I am not a fan of maple so for me they were only OK.  The added bacon wasn't terrible but I'm not sure, for me, it added anything other than novelty.  My husband LOVED them.  He is a huge maple fan and with maple in the cupcake and the frosting, well he was in heaven.  There were four extra cupcakes, he ate them all!

My coworkers loved them too.  The ones with bacon disappeared before the ones without and everyone raved about the maple butter cream.  I'll have to remember that when I'm looking for a unique frosting flavor!


Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas

I love breakfast.  It's my favorite meal to eat out and one of my favorites to cook at home too.  While I was perusing Pinterest yesterday I came across this recipe for baked oatmeal.  I had all of the ingredients in the house so it was decided it would be today's breakfast!

The recipe is from Skinnytaste.  If you haven't heard of this website, Gina Homolka publishes healthy dishes that don't sacrifice on flavor.  I've tried many of them and they are all really good.  Her Chicken Pot Pie Soup is one of my favorites this time of year.  Those of you who know me know I really, really love food but it has to be good food.  I don't eat fat free cheese (honestly, it's not food) or some of the other "diet" substitutions out there.  If there's something in a recipe I don't like, I just change it, it's still a good recipe!  For those of you on Weight Watchers, Gina also publishes both the old and new WW points for every recipe!

Here is a link to the oatmeal recipe:
Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas

The ingredients are simple and like me, you probably have them in the house, ripe bananas (OK so mine weren't so ripe but I really wanted to make this), blueberries, honey, quick oats, walnuts or pecans, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, milk and egg and vanilla.


Slice up the bananas and put them in the bottom of a ceramic baking dish.  I used one of my Pampered Chef Pie Plates.  They cost less the more you use them, right?  Top those with half of the blueberries and a little cinnamon.  This gets baked, covered, for 15 minutes to soften up the bananas.  I had to give mine a few extra minutes because my bananas were eating ripe, not baking ripe.



While that's baking the remaining dry ingredients are mixed in one bowl and the wet in another.  When the bananas and blueberries are removed from the oven they are topped with the dry ingredients (oats, nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt) and then the wet ingredients are poured on top of that (milk, egg, honey, vanilla).



Finally the remaining blueberries and nuts are sprinkled on top and back in the oven it goes for 30 minutes.  How simple is that?  This picture doesn't do it justice, it was a beautiful golden brown and the kitchen smelled like cinnamon!


This was delicious!  And the possibilities are endless!  Don't like blueberries, use raspberries!  How about apples?  They would be amazing with the cinnamon!  Need to feed a crowd?  I can see baking a double batch in a 13x9 for a big family brunch.  Want to make it "fancy," how about individual servings in ramekins?  I am sure I'll be making this again and again!


The best laid plans... lead to lemon pepper linguini and eggs!


I had big plans for the weekend.  Sunday is my mother's birthday and for the past few years I've been traveling to Green Bay and making dinner for her and a select few of her friends.  Well, this year I didn't get that planned soon enough so I decided I would just surprise her and my brother and his family.

Through some recon I found out that mom would be at my brother's because my nephew was in a basketball tournament this weekend.  So I started planning the menu, buying ingredients, arranged for the kids down the block to take care of the dogs and booked our hotel room.


I was planning on making lemon pepper linguini with shrimp and asparagus served with homemade Italian garlic bread and, of course, birthday cake for dessert.  For the picky eaters I had traditional lasganetta and red sauce. 

And then I got sick.  Actually I've been sick for a little over a week but it got to the point I couldn't power through it anymore.  I went to the doctor and, based on my symptoms I have a sinus infection and/or a virus that has been going around.  A guy I work with has been battling this since December.  I sure hope I kick it faster than that!  


So we called off the trip so I can have a relaxing weekend at home.

As a result of this failed trip, we have LOTS of Sunrise Creative Gourmet lemon pepper linguini in the freezer!  This is delicious pasta.  If you haven't tried it I highly recommend it.  Toss it with a little olive oil and serve it with salmon or shrimp, delicious!


I also had a big loaf of homemade bread. 





This morning I got thinking, could I use it for breakfast?  Maybe a breakfast pasta egg scramble thingy?  I got to work!

I started by sauteing some onions in some lemon infused EVOO from The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company.  I like it when the onions are caramelized!



I boiled up some of the pasta, it only takes a few minutes, then tossed it in the pan with the onions, some beaten eggs and a little smoked ham.  It only took a couple of minutes to cook.  I topped it with a little freshly shaved Parmesan and a side of toast made with that homemade bread.  The verdict?  We loved it!



I still have A LOT of lemon pepper linguini in the freezer.  I wonder if I could use it in a dessert?

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