Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 5 Kylee's Kitchen Recipes of 2016

I’m counting down the days to the New Year with the “Top 5” Kylee’s Kitchen recipes of 2016!

I’ve made a wide variety of recipes this year, from cookies to slow cooker meals to more sweets, but these are the five most viewed recipes on my blog this year!

I'll update this post every day for the next five days as we count down to 2017, so keep checking back!

Starting at #5...

S'mores Dessert Cheese Ball

And the #1 most viewed post on Kylee's Kitchen this year was Candied Bacon!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas French Toast

I think during the holiday season we often get so caught up with trying to make everything perfect. Instead of “the most wonderful time of the year,” it becomes unenjoyable and stressful.

I know I’m definitely guilty of this. I become so stressed out that I make myself sick.

It’s just very easy to get caught up in the fantasy world of Pinterest and Instagram where everyone has beautifully decorated homes and picture-perfect cookies.

So today, I’m going to be brutally honest and tell you exactly what went into this blog post.

First of all, you should know I didn’t originally intend to make Christmas tree French toast. I actually wanted to make gingerbread man French toast after seeing this adorable recipe from The Gunny Sack. But after visiting several different stores, I couldn’t find croissants big enough to fit a gingerbread man cookie cutter. Not even the croissants at Costco were big enough, which is saying a lot because everything is bigger at Costco. So I had to resort to using the Christmas tree cookie cutter.

Okay no big deal, rght? Except for I’m a perfectionist, and in my opinion, the croissants just looked like triangles after using the tree cookie cutter. Not cool.

And then there was another bump in the road—I didn’t buy enough croissants on the first trip, so I had to go back to the store to get more.

By the time I taped everything and took pictures it was 5:30 p.m. and I was still in sweats and my hair was a mess and guess what—today is my birthday. So I completely missed my favorite workout class and my birthday dinner because I was so focused on making everything perfect. And then of course, I was upset when I realized I spent my whole birthday making Christmas tree French toast that just looked like triangles.

This is a sponsored post by Challenge Butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

Fortunately, my sweet mother convinced me that the French toast actually does look like Christmas trees. And even if I don’t think so, they’re absolutely delicious.

Was my life ever in danger while making the French toast? No. Did my job depend on it? No. So why was I so stressed out about it? Because I was judging my recipe based off of what I saw online.

I wanted to share this story as a reminder that what you see online may not necessarily be the full truth. Also, you should never compare yourself or base your self-worth off of what you see online. I can guarantee you’re not getting the full story, and all it will do is drag you down. You are uniquely you and you are the best you you can be. Remember that.

Additionally, I just want to say how grateful I am for my parents. Without them, I would still be in the kitchen worried that my Christmas trees just look like triangles. I couldn’t ask for a better support system.

So if you made it through the essay of a story, I applaud you. And now I will reward you with an absolutely delicious French toast recipe that would be perfect Christmas morning or any other day you’re feeling indulgent and festive!

Christmas French Toast
  • 12 croissants
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup Challenge butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Use Christmas tree cookie cutter to cut shapes out of croissants; save leftover croissant scraps to use for stuffing or in a French toast casserole later
  3. Whisk together eggs, milk, melted butter, vanilla, brown sugar and cinnamon in large bowl
  4. Dip trees into egg mixture and line them up in a loaf pan
  5. Slowly pour extra egg mixture over trees
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes; remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes
  7. Remove from oven and dust powdered sugar on top before serving 
Note: You can prepare this ahead of time so it’s all ready on Christmas morning. After covering pan with foil, do not bake and place it in the refrigerator. In the morning, bake as decorated.

Recipe adapted from The Gunny Sack

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

This is a sponsored post by Challenge Butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

It’s undeniable that cut-out sugar cookies are extremely popular during the holiday season. There are so many adorable cookie cutters and Christmas shapes – if there was a cookie of the month for December, this would be it!

Unfortunately, they’re not necessarily the easiest cookie to make. The recipe itself is simple enough to make, and it uses ingredients that you most certainly already have in your pantry. But rolling them out can be a royal pain, and it’s very frustrating when the beautiful tree you were excite to bake just looks like a lumpy circle.

So today, I wanted to share my tips to ensure your cookies turn out picture perfect every time.

Room temperature ingredients
It’s important that all of your ingredients start out at room temperature – the eggs, the butter, the sugar, the flour… everything! This is important because ingredients can react with each other if they’re different temperatures. For example, cold eggs will curdle when combined with dairy.

I always set my refrigerated ingredients out on the counter for an hour before I start baking.

This is ESPECIALLY important with butter. Butter is the foundation for many baked goods. You know your butter is the right temperature if when you touch it, your finger leaves an imprint. It shouldn’t be too soft though that it doesn’t pull away from the wrapper.

Measure ingredients by weight
Unlike cooking, baking is an exact science, and it’s important all of the ingredients are measured properly.

The best way to do this is to measure your ingredients by weight. One of my favorite baking tools ever is the EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale. I use it to measure everything.

I try to add weight (in grams) to each ingredient listed in my recipes, but when I encounter a recipe where the weight isn’t listed, I used this ingredient weight chart to check.

Do not overmix the dough!
In order to get cut-out sugar cookies to hold their shape, it’s necessary to use a recipe with a higher concentration of flour. Because of this, there is obviously more gluten in recipe.

When you overwork gluten, cookies become tough. So once the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients, put those beaters down and stop mixing! This rule applies to all cookies. Cookies are more tender with less mixing.

Roll your dough out before refrigeration
It may seem backwards to roll out your dough before refrigeration, but it actually makes the most sense!

It’s significantly easier to roll out the dough right after you mix it because it’s soft and pliable.  It’s kind of like trying to flatten a rock if you wait until after refrigeration.

Also, a lot of recipes call for you to refrigerate the dough for several hours before baking, but if you roll out the dough first you don’t have to do that because it takes a fraction of a time to chill a sheet of cookie dough than it does to chill a block of dough.

Roll dough between two sheets parchment paper
In my opinion, the worst thing you can do to sugar cookies is to over flour them.  This happens when people put flour the baking surface before rolling out the cookie dough. They do this, of course, so it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin.

But you can avoid using extra flour by rolling out your dough between two sheets of wax or parchment paper.

Refrigerate dough
I guess this goes without saying if you’ve already read the previous steps, but you must refrigerate your dough after rolling it flat. If the dough is warm, the cookies will spread and will look like blobs. No one wants that.

A lot of recipes will recommend that you chill the dough for several hours, but I don’t think that’s necessary. In my opinion, 30 minutes to 1 hour is plenty of time. The dough should be cold enough that when you use a cookie cutter, the shape will lift off of the rest of the dough.

Your cookie dough should feel cold when you put it in the oven. This will prevent spread. In between batches, stick the dough back in the refrigerator.

Use one cookie cutter at a time
Get the most bang for your buck by using one cookie cutter at a time.

For example, the first batch of cookies I make, I will only use the tree shape. You’ll be able to cut more cookies out of the dough and have less scraps. It’s important to not put the cookie cutter too close to the edge because the edges are thinner and that will bake faster than the rest of the cookie.

Also, when you use the same cookie cutter, all of the cookies are the same size and bake evenly.

Do not overbake
Cut-out sugar cookies cook quickly because of all of their different edges. Start checking on them about 4 minutes prior to what the cooking time suggests. Once the edge of the cookie starts to look golden, remove them from the oven immediately.

Buttercream frosting
This is personal preference, but I think buttercream frosting has a lot more flavor than the royal icing that is generally used when frosting sugar cookies.

If you plan to use sprinkles, do this immediately after frosting, otherwise it will harder (or “crust”) and not stick.

I always use a piping bag and piping tip to decorate my cookies. They’re inexpensive and very easy to use. I just make small little dots all over the cookie to achieve the textured look.

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
For the cookies
  • 3 cups flour (360 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks Challenge butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (198 grams)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
For the frosting
  • 1 stick Challenge butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons heavy cream 
For the cookies
  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter for one minute; add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
  3. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed and add egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat until combined.
  4. Add dry mixture to bowl and beat on low until just combined.
  5. Lay a piece of parchment paper on your counter top, place dough on paper, and then put another piece of parchment paper on top of dough.
  6. Use a rolling pin to gently roll out the dough between the two sheets of parchment paper.
  7. Once dough is about 1/3-inch thickness stick it in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.
  8. After cookie dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Use cookie cutter to cut out shapes and transfer to baking sheet.
  10. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges of cookies just barely turn golden.
  11. Repeat with remaining dough; cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting
  1. Beat butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and heavy whipping cream to bowl; increase mixer to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes.
  3. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more heavy whipping cream if frosting is too thick.
  4. Frost cooled sugar cookies.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Reindeer Brownies

This is a sponsored post by Challenge Butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

I love holiday-themed treats more than anything. Any holiday – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween… I just think making holiday treats is so fun. And there’s just something so special about Christmas treats.

Last year, you may remember that I made Christmas tree brownies for National Brownie Day, which is December 8. They were a total crowd pleaser! Everyone wanted one!

This year I wanted to do the same concept except with reindeer instead of Christmas trees! 

The first step in making the treat is of course preparing the brownies! It is very rare that I use a box mix for anything, but in this case you should definitely use a box mix. The reason being is that you’re already going to decorate these brownies so why create even more work for yourself? 

This Ghirardelli mix is my absolute favorite. But I always doctor it up by substituting the water for milk and the oil for Challenge butter.  The brownies will taste so much richer! 

Also, to create the triangle shape of the reindeer, I recommend baking the brownies in a round cake pan. The cake pan I used is 9 inches in diameter. If you do not have a round cake pan, you can certainly use the pan with which you normally bake brownies. You just may have some scraps leftover after cutting the triangles.

Now, let’s talk about decorating the reindeer. For the antlers I used big twist pretzels, snapped in half. The eyes are brown M&Ms, and the nose is a mini vanilla wafer with a red M&M on top.

The “glue” that keeps everything in place is vanilla buttercream frosting.  This was the only way I could think of to adhere the reindeers’ facial features. If you find an easier way, go for it! Also, keep in mind, vanilla buttercream is delicious and you can use leftovers to spread on graham crackers.

So there you have it! That’s all it takes to make the most adorable holiday brownies ever!

Also, remember this month Challenge Dairy has partnered with UNICEF to fight the childhood malnutrition crisis with their campaign called “Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child." Through December 31, 2016, if you pin a recipe from the “2016 Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child” Pinterest board, Challenge will donate a meal to UNICEF for a child in need.

Reindeer Brownies
Yield: Makes 8 brownies
For the brownies
  • 1 (18 ounce) box of brownie mix
  • 1/3 cup Challenge butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
For the buttercream frosting
  • 1/2 cup Challenge butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the decorations
  • Large pretzel twists
  • Brown M&Ms (or chocolate chips)
  • Vanilla wafers
  • Red M&Ms
For the brownies
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Line 9-inch cake pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick baking spray; set aside.
  3. Mix the milk, butter, and egg in bowl. Add the brownie mix and stir until well blended.
  4. Spread mix into cake pan and bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  6. Once cooled, lift aluminum foil out of pan and cut into 8 triangles. 
For the buttercream frosting
  1. Beat softened butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add powdered sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt and mix until combined
  3. Increase mixer to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes.
  4. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if frosting is too thick.
  5. Decorate brownies by using frosting to adhere the eyes and nose to the brownie. Stick 1/2 pretzel twist into each side of brownie for antlers

      Sunday, December 4, 2016

      Hot Cocoa Cookies

      This is a sponsored post by Challenge Butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

      One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is bake cookies with my mom to share with all of our neighbors and family. Seeing as today is National Cookie Day, I wanted to share a unique cookie recipe that I’m serving up to my friends this season!

      Hot cocoa and Christmastime go together like peanut butter and jelly. So I transformed the decadent drink into a rich, chocolatey cookie. This past summer I made s’mores cookies in which I stuck half a marshmallow on top of a cookie and toasted it in the oven. I decided to use the same concept with these hot cocoa cookies! And for an extra-chocolatey surprise I stuck a piece of chocolate under each marshmallow.

      Hot Cocoa Cookies
      Yield: Makes about 24 cookies
      • 1 (15.25 ounce) box of milk chocolate cake mix
      • 8 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
      • 1 egg
      • 4 ounces Challenge cream cheese,
      • 1/2 cup chocolate morsels
      • 8 ounces milk chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
      • 12 large marshmallows, cut in half
      1. In a large bowl, combine dry cake mix, melted butter, and egg.
      2. Add cream cheese and beat until completely incorporated.
      3. Stir in chocolate morsels.
      4. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes so it’s easier to shape into a ball.
      5. Once dough has been chilled for a half hour, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
      6. Form dough into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes.
      7. Remove baking sheet from oven, add 1 piece chocolate to center of each cookie.
      8. Place one marshmallow half on top of each piece of chocolate on each cookie, pushing down slightly so the marshmallow adheres.
      9. Return baking sheet to oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or just until marshmallows have puffed.
      10. Remove cookies from oven and allow them to cool on baking sheet.
      11. Store cookies in airtight container for up to one week.

      Idea for recipe adapted from Averie Cooks

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