Friday, March 30, 2012

Easter "Nest" Cookies {Times Two!}

Easter and eggs are pretty much synonymous with one another {not that there's much mention of eggs, brightly colored or not, in the Bible ~ but we tend to take a little creative liberty with our holidays these days}.  Of course, on Easter morning children will be waking up to baskets brimming with bright green "grass", a plethora of candies, perhaps a toy or two, and even a few dip-dyed eggs in some houses.

If you want to keep the Easter Egg theme going from morning straight through to dessert, give one of these yummy Easter egg "nest" cookies a whirl.  Both recipes call for just a handful of ingredients {especially if you use ready-made dough and frosting for the sugar cookie variety}, and the second kind is even no-bake!

On either of these nest cookies, your "eggs" could be jelly beans, Cadbury mini-eggs, Easter-colored M&Ms, or any other candy you think looks good.   Bright jelly beans will look the most striking, but chocolate-based candies will probably taste better combined with the other ingredients.

All credit goes to Pillsbury and Art of Dessert for these festive morsels!  {Follow the links for the original posts ~ especially Art of Dessert's, who included great step-by-step pics}.

These sweet little pastel-y darlings are a snap to make with your preferred store-bought sugar cookie dough and frosting; or, use your favorite homemade recipes to give them an extra special touch!  {Hint:  while homemade buttercream frosting made with real butter is divine, it tends to have a yellow tint; these cookies look best with a pure white frosting.  To achieve this in a homemade frosting, use shortening instead of butter}.

Easter Nest Cookies
yields 24 cookies

1 pkge {16 oz}   refrigerated sugar cookie dough {or homemade sugar cookie dough}
12 oz                  fluffy white frosting
1 cup                  flaked coconut
                          food coloring
                          jelly beans {or egg-shaped candy of choice}

Bake cookies as directed on package {or according to your recipe}.  Cool completely, about 10 minutes.

Frost cookies.  Add coconut to a 1-quart resealable food-storage plastic bag {separate into multiple bags if you're making the "grass" more than one color, as in the picture}.  Add 2-3 drops of food coloring, shaking bag to blend color.  It may be necessary to add 1 to 2 teaspoons of water to help disperse the color evenly or additional food coloring until desired color is reached.  Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of coconut on each cookie.

Top with jelly beans or candy.

For a true "nest" to hold your candy eggs, try these adorable, no-bake sweets.  You only need three ingredients {including one not often found in desserts!}.

Bird's Nest Cookie's
yields 30 cookies

12 oz         chow mein noodles
12 oz         butterscotch morsels
90             egg-shaped candies

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Pour the butterscotch morsels into a microwave-safe bowl and place them in the microwave.  Heat for 30 seconds; remove to stir.  Return morsels to the microwave and heat again for 30 seconds.  Stir until melted.  Add in the chow mein noodles and mix until combined.  Use a 1/4 measuring cup to portion out the cookies onto the baking sheet.  If the mixture starts to solidify in the mixing bowl, you can reheat for 15 to 30 seconds to melt.  Place three egg-shaped candies in the center of each cookie, first dipping the bottom of the candies in melted butterscotch to help them stick to the nest.  Allow to set for at least 5 minutes before serving or transferring.

AoD tip:  Depending on the brand of butterscotch you use, 12 ounces may not seem "wet" enough to coat the noodles.  If so, just up the amount of melted butterscotch morsels.

{photo credit:;}

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jello Easter Eggs {with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting}

I've saved the link to these easy, festive little Easter treats for the past few months.  I knew they were too cute not to share, but I had to wait til we hit Easter season.  ButterYum posted these festive and colorful sweets last April ~ you only need a handful of ingredients and an egg-shaped mold {like this one from Freshware}.  ButterYum recommends a snap-together type mold, which you should be able to find on eBay.  Check out their original post here.

ButterYum's Jello Easter Eggs 
with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients and Instructions ~ Eggs

3 ounce       package of Jello (any flavor)
1 1/4 cups  boiling water

Lightly spray egg mold with non-stick cooking spray.  Snap mold together and set it on a small tray to catch any spills.  {The mold I linked to doesn't snap together}.  Combine Jello and boiling water together; stir for 3 minutes until the Jello is completely dissolved.  Slowly pour mixture into 3 whole eggs {or 6 halves}.  Repeat as many times as you like, with as many Jello flavors as you like, until all your eggs are filled.  Chill for at least 4 hours.

When you're ready to unmold the eggs, slowly pry the mold halves apart if you're using a snap-together mold {use a butter knife to gently coax the halves apart} and, using a sharp chef's knife, cut the eggs in half lengthwise using one continuous motion.  {If you're using a half-mold, like the one linked to above, you skip this step}.  Next, use a melon ball tool to make a well in the large end of each egg half.

Ingredients and Instructions ~ Frosting
makes enough to fill approx. 24 egg halves

8 ounces       cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup         sugar
1 tsp             vanilla
1/8 tsp          salt
1/2 cup         heavy cream

Cream together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth.  Add the heavy cream and whip until stiff peaks form.  Put the cream cheese filling into a pastry bag that has been fitted with a star tip and pipe the filling into the egg halves.  Chill until it's time to serve.

Note:  If you're filling the eggs with the cream cheese frosting more than six hours ahead of serving, you may want to add a packet of Dr. Oetker's Whip It to help maintain the consistency of the frosting.



{photo credit:}

Friday, March 16, 2012

{Guilt-Free} Shamrock Shake!

Last week I told you about Dashing Dish's amazing I Can't Believe It's Not a Milkshake protein shakes {good for a meal or a snack, with calorie counts and Weight Watchers PointsPlus included!}.  This week, Dashing Dish rolled out their Shamrock Protein Shake.  It's on the lower end, calorie- and Points-wise, of all her shakes {180 calories and 5 PointsPlus!} and promises to give McDonald's famed Shamrock Shake a run for it's money.  {The McDonald's stats, by the way ~ 540 calories for the 12 ounce shake; 680 for the 16 ounce; and 840 for the 22 ounce!  And you don't even want to know about the sugar counts.}

This shake is easy-peasy to throw together ~ water, ice, protein powder, no-cal sweetener {I use Truvia}, lowfat cottage cheese, mint extract, and food coloring.  You could add some sugar-free pudding mix as well {pistachio would give it the green color, or vanilla would just add a boost of flavor and creaminess}.  As I said in the original post ~ don't be afraid to use the cottage cheese if you aren't a cottage cheese fan!  I don't like eating cottage cheese at all, but you don't taste it and it's what gives the shake it's milkshake-like texture {plus gives you some protein and calcium!}

I didn't have time to make my shake for breakfast this morning {sad face}, but at 180 calories, this Shamrock Protein Shake will be the perfect afternoon snack when I get home from work!

Dashing Dish Shamrock Protein Shake

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Use the "pulse" option of your blender, especially in the beginning, so that your blender motor doesn't burn out trying to chop up the ice.  Remember ~ more water/less ice = "drinkable" shake; less water/more ice = "spoonable" shake.

1/2 cup         lowfat cottage cheese
1 scoop        vanilla protein powder {around 100 cal/scoop}
2-3 packets  sweetener
1/2 cup         to 1 cup water
5-10             ice cubes
1/8 tsp          mint extract {this stuff is strong!}
                    green food coloring {a few drops}

optional:  1-2 Tbsp sugar-free instant pistachio pudding mix

Here is Dashing Dish's original post.  And if you're looking to get all sugared-up with your festive Irish treats this weekend, try these Frosted Irish Cream Brownies!

Enjoy, lads and lassies!


{photo credit:}

Monday, March 12, 2012

Frosted Irish Cream Brownies

Whether you're a little Irish, a lotta Irish, or not really Irish at all, most Americans love to celebrate the most recognizable Irish holiday of the year ~ Saint Patrick's Day of course!  You can whoop it up in public this Saturday, bedecked in shamrocks in a sea of green while bellying up to the bar for another pint of Guinness, or you can tuck into a plate of these yummy, Bailey's-infused brownies at home.  {Or, you can do both}.

I first made these brownies last spring, and I had to make several batches in a weeks' time to satisfy friend-and coworker-demand.  These brownies call for a 13x9-inch pan, and while I am a hard-core 8x8-inch pan devotee when it comes to brownies {to turn out the thickest, chocolatey-est, moistest brownies possible, of course}, a 13x9 inch pan is actually perfect for this recipe.  The sweet layer of spiked frosting on top makes these brownies just as thick and yummy as their traditionally-baked 8x8-inch-pan counterparts.  And, with this much sweetness and flavor going on, using an 8x8-inch pan with this recipe would yield brownies that just might be a little too much of a good thing {with inches of frosting atop each brownie}.

Creamy Bailey's in both the brownie batter and the frosting makes for an irresistibly delicious sweet with just enough of an Irish kick.  {Here is the link to the original recipe, courtesy of Betty Crocker}.

Frosted Irish Cream Brownies

Ingredients ~ Brownies
1       pkg. fudge brownie mix {1 lb 3.8 oz}
1/2    cup vegetable oil
1/4    cup Irish cream liqueur {like Bailey's}
2       eggs

Ingredients ~ Frosting
1/2    cup butter or margarine, softened
2       cups powdered sugar
2       Tbsp Irish cream liqueur
1/2     tsp vanilla extract
2-3    tsp milk

Ingredients ~ Drizzle
1        ounce semi-sweet chocolate, chopped {or chocolate chips}
1        teaspoon butter or margarine {or vegetable oil}

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease bottom only of 13x9-inch pan.  In a large bowl, combine all brownie ingredients; beat 50 strokes with spoon.  Spread in greased pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until brownies are set and begin to pull away from sides of pan.  DO NOT OVERBAKE.  Cool 45 minutes or until completely cooled.

Beat 1/2 cup butter in a small bowl until light and fluffy.  Beat in all remaining frosting ingredients, adding enough milk for desired spreading consistency.  Spread over cooled brownies.

Place drizzle ingredients in a small microwave-safe bowl.  {I melted chocolate by itself and added vegetable oil after to make it thin enough to drizzle}.  Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds; stir until melted and smooth.  Drizzle over frosted brownies.  Refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm.  Cut into bars.

Yields 24 brownies {cut 6 rows x 4 rows}




Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How about a Milkshake -- For Breakfast?

...and, it's healthy!

Okay, what?  Let's start at the beginning, shall we?  I was blog-hopping the other day, following one link to the next and getting introduced to some pretty fabulous food bloggers.  I landed on Dashing Dish, a blog that offers "healthy alternatives to the food you crave".  {Some examples ~ guacamole, lemondrop cupcakes, loaded pasta salad, and banana bread french toast...hello!}.  Dashing Dish is run by a girl named Katie who could not be any more adorable if she tried; she includes fitness information {and has some religious-based posts too}, but the overwhelming majority of the site is recipes, recipes, recipes!  Katie mentions that she lost 20 pounds and has kept it off for five years, and she is also a nurse, so I feel confident taking some healthy recipe tips from her.

The most divine post I came across on Dashing Dish is her I Can't Believe It's Not a Milkshake protein shakes.  Now, most of us have knocked back a chalky, watery, and/or unnatural-tasting protein shake after a workout at one time or another.  Protein is important, especially when you're working out, but many protein shakes leave much to be desired.  So I was instantly intrigued when I hit upon Dashing Dish's list of delicious sounding shake combinations.  They all start with the same base ~ a mix of lowfat cottage cheese, protein powder, sweetener (like stevia), ice and water.  Then a dash or two of a few extra ingredients transforms this shake into a decadent treat that you can feel good about!  {Don't let the cottage cheese part weird you out ~ I don't like cottage cheese at all, but you don't taste it, it blends right up into the shake with everything else and gives it that milkshake-y texture, and it sneaks some calcium into your diet}.

I upgraded the Cookies and Cream Shake from a breakfast or post-workout shake into more of an indulgence by using two real Oreos {instead of the 100-calorie pack kind} in the shake and a dollop of whipped cream on top.  If you're counting calories or Points, remember that modifications like this will alter the calories or Points a bit.

I gave the Peanut Butter Butterscotch Shake a whirl last Friday ~ and I've had a Dashing Dish Shake every day since then!  Peanut Butter Butterscotch is my favorite so far ~ it tastes so good, you think you're being naughty!  Katie posts the calorie and Weight Watchers PointsPlus information for each shake, though, so you know you're actually not being bad at all!  I've also tried the Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake, the Oatmeal Cookie Shake, a modified Cookies and Cream Shake {see above}, and a taste of the Thin Mint shake I made for my husband.

I usually have my shake for breakfast, which also happens to be a post-workout protein boost for me.  I work out right when I wake up, so these shakes pull double-duty in providing me with a filling meal and delivering some all-important protein to my hard-working muscles.

Here, the recipe for my now-beloved Dashing Dish Peanut Butter Butterscotch Shake! {Click here to access Katie's original I Can't Believe It's Not a Milkshake post, including lots of variations; or click here to scroll through her entire Shakes category, which includes seasonal shakes like Pumpkin Pie and Malted Milk Chocolate}.

Dashing Dish Peanut Butter Butterscotch Shake

1/2 cup    lowfat cottage cheese
1             scoop protein powder  {around 100 calories/scoop...Katie and I both use Designer Whey vanilla}
1-3          packets of low-or-no-calorie sweetener {I use Truvia}
5-10        ice cubes {I use 7 to be able to drink through a straw, or 10 to eat with a spoon}
1/2 cup    to 1 cup water {I use a little more to be able to drink through a straw}
2 Tbsp    sugar-free butterscotch pudding mix {in powder form}
2 Tbsp    peanut flour, or 1 Tbsp peanut butter
              a few drops maple extract {optional}

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Remember to use the "pulse" mode on your blender so that your blenders' motor doesn't burn out from trying to chop up the ice.  Once blended completely, pour into a glass and serve with a straw or a spoon, depending on the consistency.

Enjoy!  {I know you will}