Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Brownie Week Winner!

If you follow The Cookie A Day Challenge you will know at least two things about my family:

1. We eat a lot of cookies and
2. Peanut butter rules in the Zielinski home.

With that knowledge it is no surprise that the winning brownie was the.....

All 4 boys loved this brownie, so did the guys laying the cement in our new drive way!

Thank you for all the suggestions and brownie tips!

Remember you can also follow The Cookie A Day Challenge on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The "A" Theme

This week, Deb from Focus on the Magic of Disney provided us with an "A"theme. During our visit to Epcot there was one moment that was truly "A"-mazing. Epcot provided us with a chance to eat and drink around the world. We are huge sushi fans, so it was only fitting we have sushi while in Japan. Even though Noah doesn't look to thrilled in the first pic :).

The boys were asking about the wasabi (you can see the lump of the wassabi in the picture above)served on the side of the sushi. Adam explained what it was, then proceeded to say "I will give the first one to try...." Before he could finish, Dane picked up the WHOLE SIDE of wasabi and popped it into his mouth!!

What happened next was truly A-MAZING!!! Dane ate the whole clump of wasabi!!! Not without a little struggle as you will see below:

Dane after putting the clump of wasabi in his mouth

Trying to swallow the wasabi.

A little H-O-T

GONE!!! He ate the whole thing and was all smiles after!!!

We couldn't believe he actually ate wasabi! His only complaint was that we didn't video tape his feat. Dane thought the wasabi challenge would have made him a you tube sensation!

Click on the this Wordless Wednesday Button on the right sidebar to follow other great Disney themed posts. You will not be disappointed!! The bloggers that link up with Deb at are some of the nicest people you will find on the web. Enjoy The "A" Theme this week! 

Day 61: Dark Chocolate Berry Brownies

What a weekend! We had a jammed packed Memorial Day Weekend. Soccer tournaments-Noah and Dane's teams played awesome (even in the rain!)-a baby shower-Congratulations to my cousin Christina and her husband Forrest!-and lots of fun time spent with family and friends!

To conclude brownie week I made a Dark Chocolate Berry Brownie.
I enjoy the flavor of raspberry and dark chocolate. So decided to aim for that flavor combo. I had a jar of E.D. Smith's More Fruit in the fridge. It not only includes raspberry but cherry, pomegranate and acai berries. What could be better then that?

Dark Chocolate Berry Brownie

1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 squares of Ghirardelli Intense Dark (72% Cacao) broken in pieces
4 tbs all fruit spread (I used E.D. Smith's More Fruit)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Stir together melted butter and sugars.
Stir in eggs and peppermint extract.
Mix in flour, dark cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
Add dark chocolate pieces.
Pour into a greased brownie pan (11x7)
Spoon 4 tbs of fruit spread throughout the batter.
Swirl using a figure 8 pattern.
Bake for 20-30 minutes.
Cool in pan then cut and enjoy!

**Tip** You may be tempted to add more fruit because it 4 tbs doesn't look like much, but be careful. Adding more fruit spread will make the brownies too soft and they will be hard to handle.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 60: Dark Chocolate Mint Brownies

Brownie week continues! Through out the week I have been asking readers to share their opinions on what would make up the perfect brownie. The suggestions and recipes have been pouring in. Most of the suggestions are coming from The Cookie A Day Challenge's facebook page. Thank You!
One reader even left a full recipe for Thin Mint Brownies that I know I will try. The only problem is having left over Thin Mints. I tend to pop those suckers into my mouth like tic-tacs. Especially when they come right from the freezer.

I love the taste combination of dark chocolate and mint. I turned this basic dark chocolate brownie  into a minty fudgy treat. I even had some candy in the pantry to add along with some sprinkles.

Dark Chocolate Mint Brownies

1/2 cup of melted butter
1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup mint M&Ms
green candy sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Stir together melted butter and sugars.
Stir in eggs and peppermint extract.
Mix in flour, dark cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
Stir in mint M&Ms.
Pour brownie batter into a greased brownie pan,
Cover with green candy sprinkles.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool completely before cutting.

Since this is only day 60 of 365 I have a feeling I will be checking back to brownie week for suggestions and inspirations, so please leave your suggestions below! :)

Besides subscribing to this blog, there are a few different ways you can follow and share The Cookie A Day Challenge.

1. You can "LIKE" The Cookie A Day Challenge on facebook.
2. Follow @cookieaday on Twitter.
3. Follow and Like Cookies From The Cookie A Day Challenge board on pintrest.
4. Follow cookieaday on Instagram.
If you haven't downloaded instagram yet to your smart phone, you should. It is a great photo app and so much fun. No smartphone? No problem! Through the above link you can follow along on the web. How neat is that??

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 59: Ooey Gooey S'more Brownies

The count down has begun! The kids have 16 days left of school, then it's summer vacation!!! I cannot wait for the lazy days at the pool, nights at the ball park and relaxing by the fire pit in the back yard. With outdoor fires comes the inevitable question from the boys..."Can we make S'mores???"

There is something about the thought of S'mores that instantly transports me to summers on Lake Huron. My Mom's family has been going to the same cottage rental place, Lakeport Resort, since she was a child. And thanks to my Grandpa Lankin, we will be spending a week there with the kids this year! I have so many great memories of our weeks at the cottage. Swimming in Lake Huron, playing on the beach, walking to the skipping pond to skip rocks...then getting in trouble for walking by myself to the skipping pond.

I had to be about Noah's age when I thought I was left behind on a walk to the pond. So, took off down the beach to catch up. Well, in the olden "pre-every kid having a cell phone" days once I left the cottage property I was on my own. I knew the way and thought I would catch up with the rest of the group, eventually. As I got closer to the skipping pond I realized that my uncle and brothers weren't there. I started to panic, not because I was alone, but because I knew I was going to be in TROUBLE. When my uncle and brothers came back to the cottage (they walked the opposite direction on the shore) with out me, it was realized I was missing.

I don't remember how much time passed from the moment it was discovered I was gone to the time I showed back up. At the time, I could only imagine the panic my parents and family must have felt, until I was the parent in a similar situation.

Last fall, I couldn't spot Noah while we were in a wave pool at a popular indoor water park. I was next to Ian. Dane was right behind me...but I couldn't see Noah. I kept telling myself, he is 12. He is a great swimmer. He is fine...but panic still set in. I still couldn't find my child. I took the other two boys out of the pool and started walking around the pool. Then I saw him happily bopping up and down in the waves on a tube. Smile from ear to ear. Only minutes passed, but boy the worry that went through my head!

I know, Karma. So now, I would like to publicly apologize to my parents for leaving the cottage with out telling anyone where I was going. I am soooo sorry!

After my parents found out I was okay, they hugged me and then grounded me to the inside of the cottage for the rest of the evening.  The next day, we were sitting by the campfire and my uncle started singing a campfire song. One of the lyrics...."getting in trouble for walking down the beach by yourself...AAAAmen, amen, amen!"

I was handed a S'more and learned my lesson.

This brownie is sure to stir up S'more memories (hehe) of your own, and the best campfire needed!

Ooey Gooey S'more Brownies

Graham Cracker Crust
1 cup crushed graham crackers
3 tbs of melted butter

1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup broken chocolate pieces
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup graham cracker pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix together crushed graham cracker and melted butter press into a greased brownie pan. bake at 350 degrees until set, 5-8 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool.
Mix together melted butter and sugars.
Add eggs and vanilla, stir well.
Mix in flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips.
Pour brownie batter over cooled (doesn't have to be cooled completely) graham cracker crust.
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan before center of the brownie sets. *I start watching at 15 minutes*
Add the toppings press gently into the batter.
Return to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes more until batter is set and marshmallows are golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool completely.

Wordless Wednesday-Disney Castles

Yeah, it's Wednesday! Today's theme from Deb at Focused on the Magic of Disney is: Disney Castles. Visiting Cinderella's Castle was at the top on the boy's to do list. Seeing the castle was like the pinch they needed to make them realize...we were in DISNEY WORLD!

When we planned this trip to Disney World my husband and I were convinced we would be a "one and done" Disney family. What we didn't plan on was how much our family would LOVE this trip! One of the things that will definitely bring us back will be the opening of the new Fantasyland. To see Beast's Castle would be worth the trip!

Thanks again to Deb for hosting! Check out her site and the other's linked for some neat Disney pictures, fun stories and great Disney tips! Also, please remember to "like" The Cookie A Day Challenge on Facebook along with the other blogs you visit.

Below is a sneak peek to today's Brownie Week post: Ooey Gooey S'more Brownies!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 58: Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies; It's Brownie Week!

To say peanut butter is a staple in our home is somewhat of an understatement. I get asked frequently by the boys if they can have a spoon full of peanut butter for a snack. Adam even dives into the peanut butter jar before his longer runs. Out of everyone, Noah is the biggest fan. Give that kid anything with peanut butter in it and he will love it!

Since I finally think I cracked the perfect homemade brownie recipe (you can thank me later), I am dedicating this week to all things BROWNIE! Each day will have a variation of the original recipe.
At the end of the week, I will reveal The Z's favorite. Please comment along and share any other variations you can dream of...I still have a lot of days left in this challenge, I may need to refer back for ideas!

Without further ado, I present BROWNIE WEEK!

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4-6 teaspoons of natural creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix together melted butter, and sugars.
Add eggs and vanilla, stir.
Mix in flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
Pour brownie batter into a 11x7inch pan.
Drop teaspoons of peanut butter onto the batter.

Using a butter knife swirl peanut butter in a figure eight pattern.
Make sure to incorporating the peanut butter through out the batter, but DO NOT over mix.
Over "swirling" will mix the batter and you will not get the visual peanut butter effect.

The finished swirl should look like this:

Bake for 20-30 minutes until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.
Cool in the pan then cut.

So Good, little fingers could not wait to try them!!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 57: Dark Chocolate Fudgy Brownies with Walnuts for Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day

When I was a child and we would go over to my Grandma and Grandpa Caponi's house for dinner I didn't realize the important lessons that were being shared. At Grandma's everything was homemade and home prepared. Looking in her pantry you would find basic baking supplies, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar and vegetable oil. Nothing came from a box or came frozen. Everything was fresh and whole.

Whole foods, real foods,  non-processed and preservative free foods are regaining their popularity. From my Grandma's perspective she found it healthier and more cost effective to feed a large family this way. She also made it a point to have not just one vegetable served, but many. A typical dinner would include; a protein, like chicken cacciatore, home made pasta with homemade sauce, a salad dressed with red wine vinegar and salt and pepper, steamed zucchini, boiled beets, and fresh cut green beans. For dessert; homemade cookies and cakes.

I truly believe eating this way helped both my Grandma and Grandpa live into their 90's. They ate a diet mostly free of processed food. I'm not saying that they didn't have the occasional bag of Lay's Potato Chips lying around or carton of Stroh's Neapolitan  Ice Cream in the freezer, but for the most part they knew what was going into their food.

I have been a big fan of Jamie Oliver since his Naked Chef days. Jamie is fighting for food reform in schools all across the USA and the UK. Adam and I were glues to his show, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on abc. Today is Food Revolution Day. A day where people can share advise about food and bring awareness to the changes that need to happen. Check out the Food Revolution Day website for some great events in your area or to donate to the cause!

Adam and I are big advocates for healthy eating and exercise. We are both currently training for the Chicago Marathon, Adam is running his first ultra marathon (50 miles!) in September, and all three of our boys run with us, play sports, and activity play outside with the neighbor kids.

All this activity would not be possible without a healthy diet. And yes, I do believe a healthy diet includes cookies! Making cookies for my family everyday gives me the control to know what goes into the cookie and to monitor the portions.

I have attempted homemade (not from a box) brownies in the past. However, they always came out cake-like. My family prefers their brownies more on fudgy side. After years of trying I resorted to using the old stand by box mix which is full of preservatives and things I cannot even pronounce! Why would I want to make these for my kids???

I finally created a fudgy, chocolaty, and wonderfully moist brownie recipe. In my opinion, this recipe is better then anything you would make out of a box.

Dark Chocolate Fudgy Brownies with Walnuts

1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup of DARK brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup of dark cocoa powder (like Hershey's 100% Cacao Special Dark)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix melted butter and sugars together.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Stir in flour, dark cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
Add walnuts if desired.
Pour batter into a greased 11x7 inch brownie pan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool, cut and enjoy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 56: Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Cookies with Dried Cherries and a Tonsillectomy

It's not everyday we are up and out of the house by 6am. Today, Ian was scheduled to have his tonsils out at 7:50am. We needed to arrive at the surgical center by 6:30am.

Ian was a champ. He was a little nervous, but bravely walked in to the surgical center and checked him self in. Ian is one of those children that takes everything in stride and approaches everything with a smile. It wasn't long before he had charmed all the nurses. While we were waiting he allowed me to take a few pictures.

The first picture was before the nurse gave him the medicine, the second after.

The procedure took about 35 minutes and then we waited another 20 minutes before we went back to the recovery room to see him. When our pre-op nurse took us to the room. We met two more nurses that were just as smitten with our little patient. When Ian arrived, he was groggy, but happy to eat a popsicle.

Having your child go through surgery is scary. Adam and I were both a bundle of nerves as we waited. Ian is home now and resting comfortably (allowing me some time to post). We are hoping that his pain level stays down and he continues to eat all the slurpees and ice cream he can handle.

I let Ian pick the cookie that went along with this post. He LOVED this cookie when I made it a few days ago. I think a batch of these will be a part of the big thank you we give to the  staff at Alice Gustafson Surgical Center. They were fantastic, and made Mr. Fancy Pants feel so comfortable and safe!

Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Cookies With Dried Cherries

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup nonfat plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups of flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy.
Add yogurt and vanilla, mix well.
Stir in flour, baking soda and salt, blend well.
Stir in chocolate chips and dried cherries.
Drop a rounded teaspoon of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 8-12 minutes until golden brown.
Cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute.
Transfer to a cooling rack to complete cooling.

Recipe Note: I used the vanilla Greek yogurt. If using plain Greek yogurt you may need to increase the about of vanilla from 1 tsp to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 55: Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almonds

Since I began this challenge I have notice a definent increase in our weekly grocery bill. I need to make it a point to utilize the ingredients I have in my pantry before going out for more. I am lucky enough to live three minutes from six different grocery stores so even the most obsuce ingredient is with in reach. That makes it easy to keep adding to the pantry!

I find myself strolling through the baking isle and imagining what kind of cookie I can make from the ingredients in front of me. My family is even starting to joke about how I will see some random ingredient and say "I should make a cookie out of that!"

For this Cookie Of the Day of COD, I looked in my pantry first. I had some white chocolate chips left over from day 46 along with some slivered almonds and cranberries. This is what I came up with.

Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almonds

1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg YOKE
1/2 tsp of almond extract
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.
Cream butter and sugars together.
Add egg, mix well.
Add egg yoke and almond extract, mix.
Slowly add flower mixture stirring until well incorporated.
Add cranberries, white chocolate chips and almonds.

Drop a teaspoon full of dough onto a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on cookie sheet for one minute then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

A cookie and homework, perfect!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Deb from Focused on the Magic of Disney has once again provided a fun theme to post and share our favorite Disney pictures. This week: Disney Royal Ladies.
Last time, I shared the pictures of the boys visiting the Disney Princesses. As much as they complained about waiting in line to see...princesses...they were good sports and I got some fantastic shots. This Week, I decided to share my 12-year-old's reaction to posing with the Royal Ladies of Disney.
This was him before and after meeting Belle :)

A great sport, but still couldn't believe he was posing with the Princesses.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 54: Cookie Butter Clusters

The Cookie A Day Challenge began just after Christmas. When I think of Christmas one of the first things that pops into my head is gingerbread. Gingerbread has been a long standing Christmas tradition. Decorating gingerbread houses and cookies is something most families look forward to every year.

I love the spicy taste and really love the smell! There is nothing like the smell of a fresh baked gingerbread cookie.

I came across a product at our local Trader Joe's that turned all that's good with gingerbread into a creamy delicious butter. Yep, you read correctly, butter. Much like peanut or almond butter, this Cookie Butter is spreadable, dip able and just completely enjoyable!

I was crunched for time (what else is new?) so I opted to create a no-bake cookie from this wonderful invention.

Cookie Butter Clusters

1 Stick of Butter
1 bag of mini marshmallows
1/4 cup of Trader Joe's Cookie Butter
5-6 Cups of Flake Cereal (I used Kellogg's Special K)

In a large sauce pan over medium to low heat, melt butter.
Once butter is melted add mini marshmallows stir occasionally until melted.
Add Cookie Butter and stir.

Once Cookie Butter is incorporated, remove pan from heat.
Add the cereal a little at a time until completely covered. Some times a little more or less is needed, use your best judgment.
Once the cereal is covered, spray a spoon with PAM.
Drop a spoon full of the cookie mixture onto a piece of parchment paper, continue until finished spraying spoon with PAM as needed.

Let cool, and enjoy!