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The best Apple Crisp…ever…



It’s been a long time since I’ve posted because life has been so busy, but this recipe is going to allow me to come back with a bang. This recipe is awesome!

You can find this recipe at AllRecipes.com and something you should know about this site is that user reviews is what is going to make these recipes go from good to great. I’ve taken a few recipes from here over the years and learned  that if someone is going to give their input about a recipe, it’s a good idea to listen up. Especially for a novice cook like me. Let others go before me and make the mistakes that I would have made because I didn’t know any better. If you like input on recipes, this is an awesome site to help you out.

This recipe drew my attention because it meant, I didn’t have to go to the store to pick up any special pantry supplies. Low on money right now so I love that. Also, I had just been apple picking a few days before which means the fruit was taken care too. Success!

The recipe is simple and basic but some users gave some helpful tips that I took into account when I was putting mine together:

1. Replace the water with apple juice

2. Replace the full amount of white granulated sugar with half white sugar and half brown sugar

3. Don’t cream together butter and sugars, but use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter. This will allow there to be a crunchy topping without the oatmeal

4. Cook the crisp for 50 mins instead of 30-40 minutes.

Here are a few things I would recommend as well…

JA Tip 1: BUY AN APPLE CORER. I splurged and bought one for this project with a gift card from Jamie for my birthday. It’s exactly what made this whole recipe easy.

JA Tip 2: Peel your apples and rub the outsides with lemon juice so they don’t get brown before you cut them up. If you do use the corer make sure to put some lemon juice down in the core of the apple too. I didn’t think about that till I cut my apples and found the cores browning already. Some apples are better then others so you may not notice as much but since I used a variety of apples I used the lemon juice on all of them.

This recipe is set for 6 servings but I made mine for 8. The website will help you alter your ingredients for the larger serving size.

Here’s the recipe without the adjustment I indicated above:

2-2/3 cups sliced apples
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish.
2. Place apples in prepared dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Pour water over all. In a bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Blend in flour. Sprinkle mixture evenly over apples.
3. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 40 minutes, until apples are tender and crust is golden.

I hope you try this recipe! It’s one of the easiest and tastiest desserts I have made in awhile and will definitely make again soon since it is apple season!!!

UPDATE AS OF 10.22.12: I just made this recipe again but didn’t measure my apples and I also cooked it in my mom’s smaller toaster oven. These two changes made for a less crunchy top. I’m not sure if any extra apples caused more moisture or if the toaster oven just didn’t get the topping firm enough, but I would suggest that you actually measure your apples and if you’re cooking in a smaller oven, to maybe put it down 10-25 degrees for the same amount of time or longer if needed. I had to pull mine out before the 50 mins were up because things were going from caramelized to burnt. The lower temp for longer time, might have done the trick. Let me know if you have any suggestions or if one of these causes you the same problem. Would love to get some wisdom on the soggy crust dilemma.

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Summer S’mores Cookie Bars



Don’t judge…I know my last post was preaching about how I’m doing low-calorie dieting and cooking. However, I was asked to bring a dessert to a wedding reception bbq for a couple in my life group and the bride mentioned s’mores as an idea.  So, I decided to hunt around for a recipe for a s’mores type dessert since that seemed very summer picnic friendly. I got lucky when I pulled up Pinterest (my go-to for recipes)  and a few friends had recently re-pinned just those sorts of recipes.

The recipe I decided on is from a blog titled “Lovin’ From the Oven“. She gives this recipe in her 12 days of cookies series during the Christmas season. Not sure if she created these or borrowed the recipe, but wanted to give her credit since it is where I’m pulling the recipe.

Kim says on her blog that if you throw these in the microwave before demolishing, they go up a few notches in amazingness (I’m paraphrasing). I tried this and…yes….it is extremely delicious. Please do that!

These are pretty simple so I don’t have a lot of pointers. I will just let you enjoy my improving photography skills (they are getting clearer!)  and give a few notes and recommendations along the way.

The recipe from Kim’s blog calls for you to use a square pan but I decided to use a 11.5 x 8 pan and double the recipe. The bars are fairly rich and messy so if you did the square pan, you could make smaller bars and it would still be a tasty, generous, and less messy bite.

A few ingredient related notes:

*Later in the recipe you will need to crumble up your graham crackers so if you don’t have a food process, improvise :O) I was thinking a hammer or a chopper would do nicely if I didn’t have the food processor.

*I found a few recipes that wanted you to use marshmallows so if you don’t like using the Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Cream or have marshmallows you want to get rid of, there are recipes out there for bars like these that may work better for you. Personally, I hate marshmallow fluff, but this recipe looked the best to me so I went and bought it. I only used part of one container so that is the one ingredient that I chose not to double in the recipe.

*I would recommend buying the really big chocolate bars and getting 3 or four of them if you are choosing to do a larger pan. You’ll see in my pictures later on that I had to space out my chocolate  to cover the pan. The recipe says to just lay the chocolate bars in the pan, which was not exactly what I did even though I did technically double the ounces from the original recipe. Feel free to learn from my mistakes on this one because you can never have enough chocolate.

I didn’t want to wait for my butter to get room temperature so I put my butter in the window and direct sunlight to soften it up a bit. Glamorous I know, but I hate microwaving butter because I always overdo it. This worked well and it was ready to go in about an hour.

The butter will go into your large bowl along with your brown sugar and granulated sugar. You will be adding your dry ingredients into this bowl so make sure you have a good sized mixing bowl for this part.

I used a full package of graham crackers then an additional 3 board from the next package to get my full amount. This is an essential part in the s’mores so you’ll want to make sure you have enough so it really has that graham cracker taste. 

Taking your crushed graham crackers,  add them to your other dry ingredients. This combination will be added to your butter sugar mixture after you combine the eggs in to start your dough.

The dough ends up being very similar to a normal cookie dough, but a little rougher because of the graham crackers. After most of it was mixed with the hand mixer, I turned it off and used my hands to get the last of the flour mixture into the rest of the dough.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands in there and finish it up so you end up with the smoother dough. You will be separating your dough into two parts so I used my spatula to do the deed since it was sharper then my hand. One half will be  for the bottom layer and the other for the top layer.

After you split the dough, take half and press it into your greased pan. I tried to get it as thin as possible, which was good in the end. I made the top layer too thick, but the bottom layer held together really well. Your next layer is chocolate which, ideally, you will be able to just lay down as full bars. I needed one more chocolate bar to be able to do that, so instead I broke mine down to fill the pan. I bough two of  a size larger then the King Size but three would have been just enough. So, if you can only find king size, buy four or five just to be safe. I don’t think you’ll have a hard time figuring out what to do with any extra chocolate…marshmallow fluff on the other hand…ugh. I’m not sure what to do with all the extra I have. On that note…

…my next mistake involved the marshmallow fluff. I didn’t even think about sticky-proofing my spatula for the next layer until I had glopped on my first dollop of the fluff. Which is why you see the picture of my very messy spatula and some cooking spray. I just sprayed it over the mess and used it on round 2 which went on much smoother. Some bummers about the marshmallow and cooking with it is that it doesn’t change form. Chocolate will soften in the oven and then harden as it sets…marshmallow… is what it is. I’m really glad I went lighter on the fluff because the finished bars had marshmallow oozing out of them even after they had set. Maybe using actual marshmallows would have been better. Hard to say, but if I make them again, I may choose to do a layer of actually mini marshmallows instead. I would love to hear if you’ve done that and how it went.

For your final layer, the recipe suggests that you piece together the top. I like the idea because it’s much easier then trying to do anything else. What I don’t like about it is how brittle the top is after it is baked and you’ve cut them into bars. They don’t hold together as well as I would have hoped for and I’m thinking the piecing together may have been the reason. I wonder if you were to use a rolling pin to roll out your last round of dough into a square shape how that would do on top??? I’m willing to try it next time and see if it’s just a dainty cookie or if the piecing on the top layer made the difference. Let me know how it goes if you make it and roll our the dough. Either way, it made for a cool series of photos.

It’s time to put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. 35 worked great for me and everything was nice and brown. I don’t think I was expecting to love the way the kitchen smelled while these were in the oven, but the first time I check on them, my room mate and I both took a big whiff and went “Wow, those smell good!” Not like a traditional cookie smell but almost more gourmet then usual. I’m sure I’m over-exaggerating a bit but I really don’t mind you trying this recipe out and seeing for yourself what I mean :O)

Here’s the finished product before slicing. It honestly looks more like corn bread then a cookie bar so that was disappointing. I wish the chocolate was peeking through a little on the side. However, if you double up your chocolate bars like I failed to do, you’ll be able to get that yummy side profile I was hoping for and thus the ooos and ahhs from your spectators. Very important as we all know.

And the money shot! Don’t these look awesome?! I’m happy to say they were a crowd please and even more happy to say that despite all my mess ups, they were easy to do. Take my few recommendations and you’ll do it awesome the first time. These are still pretty great so even if you do mess up, be encouraged that they won’t taste horrible.

Now for those of you counting calories, I can’t offer you much hope. I did a little research on other sites for similar recipes and ended up on about 210 calories for a bar. Not the 100 calorie desserts you can find at the store, so it’s got to be worth it to you. I think they are worth the splurge, but be encouraged that you can share a bar with a dieting buddy….or four…. and only loose 50-100 calories to this dessert. Smile! A bite size is better then none at all…I’m starting to learn.

As of this post I’ve lost 5lbs and as good as these are, I’m happy to say that the motivation to keep strong with my daily calorie goal was stronger then eating 4 of these! God is good :) It was fun to share these with others and watch them enjoy them. Brings just as much satisfaction.

Happy cooking and baking all. And as always, I would love to hear your reviews and comments!

S’MORES COOKIE BAR RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)
  • 1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.
  3. Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together).
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes 16 cookie bars.

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Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe!


It’s been a little while since I’ve posted because life has been overwhelmingly busy which means there has been very little cooking in the kitchen by me!

But even when you’re busy you have to eat, right?!

I found this awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe on a new favorite of mine…Foodfolio.com. It’s a very friendly place to store all those recipes you love from multiple websites. I believe they give you over 100 free recipe uploads and then you have to pay for the site. I’m thinking I will just be using it for recipes I’ve made and not for what just looks good. This gives you the space to comment on the recipes and the set up is very cute and friendly and it is where I found this new gem!

If you’re anything like me, the Nestle Tollhouse recipe is your go to for chocolate chip cookies. I’m never thrilled with the outcome and have wondered why my cookies never look like the ones you can get at Paradise Bakery or other tasty shops with delectable cookies! Mine are always average and they don’t look that amazing either…there has to be a better way!

Ta da! Here is your new chocolate chip cookie recipe Nestle Tollhouse (can you just hear Phoebe saying it!!) recipe replacement! You will never go back to that recipe after trying this one.

Here are a few things that surprised me about this recipe that you should keep in mind:

  1. You melt your butter
  2. You use milk
  3. You use bread flour
  4. You use 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  5. You use kosher salt
  6. You refrigerate your dough (I sort of did this already)
  7. You use a hand mixer (never used this before, but I’m a fan!)

These things may make total sense to you expert cooks out there, but remember, I’m a novice…I don’t know what I’m doing. So, if you know why we do a few of these these…especially with the bread flour, milk and melting the butter….I would love to know! I was always told that melting butter was a big no-no with cookies because it will flatten your cookies. That totally didn’t happen so let me know why!!

A few things I would recommend:

1. Set the temperature for 350 not 375. And set your timer for 10 min not 14. You can see that the cookies on the right are over done at that temperature and time. I played around with the time and temperature for a bit and decided that low and slow was a better cookie. I know altitude plays a part and I’m not sure our altitude here in Whittier, CA, but the 350 degrees 10-11 min worked well for me.

2. Add in fun ingredients! I used Heath Bar pieces in my first batch which was delicious. I’m going to be using coconut and butter scotch chips in my next batch…maybe not together.

3. Don’t use just one beater on your hand mixer…I was missing one and so I thought that using 1 would be just fine…true…it was fine, however I now know why they don’t sell hand mixers with just one beater. It was like trying to handle a fire hose that was out of control! A little wild and things got all over the place, but I did end up with cookie dough when it was all said and done…had to share my trial and error experience :O)

Let the suspense be over…Here’s the recipe:

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate-chip-cookie-small.jpg
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies   Prep Time: 15 min         Cook Time: 20 min

Ingredients

  •  2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Hardware:
Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact)
Parchment paper
Baking sheets
Mixer

Directions

1.Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

3.Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4.Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

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Salted Peanut Butter-Toffee Thumbprint Cookies


Tis the season for making Christmas cookies! I am not an avid baker, but this time of year, it seems like you should be participating in the baking fun! This year I am a little more inspired since I have two cookie exchange parties to go to :)

Am I the only one that stresses over which cookies I should make?!? I’m gone on to so many sites and looked at so many recipes. I assume I’m not alone in secretly wanting to have THE BEST cookie of the whole party…and what does it really earn me other then bragging rights and the thought that everyone thinks I’m an incredible baker! Nevermind…it’s worth fighting for!!!

So, Cookie Exchange number 1 was with work friends. Registrar ladies seem to have the tradition and I got an invite this year :) Thanks to Jeri Price for organizing it for all of us. It was a really fun time to connect and get excited about the food of the season. I loved having a bin of cookies to take away and a few recipes at that. Definitely something I hope to be apart of in the years to come.

So, I decided on this recipe this year since it’s a nice combination of all the flavors I like in a cookie…chocolate, toffee, and peanut butter! They ended up being really good so I highly recommend this recipe! You can find it here: Salted-Peanut-Butter-Toffee-Thumbprints. Something you should know about this recipe is that you will need to refrigerate your dough for 1 hour. I didn’t read that in the recipe but got lucky (since I did them the night before) and had an hour to refrigerate while I went to church last week. Score :)

Here we go…

Step 1: Mix together your dry ingredients…flour, salt, baking soda. Sadly, this is one of those recipes that requires a lot of dishes. The end product is worth it but make sure you have a few bowls ready to go.

Step 2: Melt your butter in the microwave. I put mine in for 1 min in a Pyrex measuring cup which did the trick.


Step 3: While waiting for melted butter, use a separate bowl and measure out your brown sugar and granulated sugar. When butter is melted, that can be poured in on top and mixed up.

Step 4: Still working with your sugar mixture you will add your egg, peanut butter and vanilla  and  mix it up.

HINT: I used one of the tips that I posted earlier about how to get sticky ingredients out of a measuring cup…..the tip was to run your measuring cup under hot water before adding the sticky ingredient. Ideally it just slides right out of the measuring cup.

I am happy to report can IT WORKS! See how clean the cup is after just one little spoon-out of encouragement?! It was way less mess to clean up in the measuring cup. I will be doing THIS again!

Step 5: Mix together you wet ingredients mixture with the flour mixture a little at a time….key work here is MIX! Don’t do what I did and try to WISK the ingredients togehter. I know better and had quite the time banging out the wisk. I got it cleaned out and was able to continue mixing but…just thought I would give that word of wisdom.

Step 6: The next thing to do is refrigerate our dough. The recipe calls asks that you put it in for an hour to 1 day. I think mine was in for 3 our so hours which was great. It firmed up and was easy to work with when it was time to roll and bake. While the dough is refrigerating you can start in with prepping your peanuts.

Step 7: So if you’re anything like me…there is always that one appliance that you love to use, but also hate to pull out because it’s in that obscure place in your kitchen.

Our counter tops are full with knife blocks, toasters, blenders, etc. so my food processor will not fit on the counter top at all times. It’s just too big. You can see in this picture that mine is on the VERY top shelf of our pantry and I am way too short to be reaching up there! So, here is my solution…I think everyone needs this in their kitchen if you don’t already…especially for the shorties out there! 

But I digress….

Step 8: The toffee peanuts that these cookies get rolled in is what makes them different from normal peanut butter cookies. I think I would like to try this with chocolate chip cookies! Right?! Wouldn’t that be yummy. Something to do in the future.

So onto chopping…You’ll notice that the first picture here looks  very clean and put together…however, there was a lot of work to get to it looking like that. For the life of me, I couldn’t get the top on the stand.

I kept trying to turn it on and it was not being friendly because I didn’t have the cup on there correctly.

So, I’m mostly putting this little picture below as a reminder to myself since I don’t use this kitchen gadget that often….JESSICA…LINE UP THE ARROWS. It will snap on if you do this! Don’t forget!! Below is the handsome result if you snap everything on correctly…imagine that. I used the tin that the peanuts came in to save the pieces till it was roll time.

You’ll notice two containers that and I’ll be candid and say I had to buy the second because I had started eating out of the first tin and quickly realized I did not have enough to do this recipe. Thankfully they were cheap at Ralphs the week I was making these :)

Step 9: When your dough is cool and ready to work with you will begin making the dough balls and rolling them in your toffee peanut pieces you have chopped up. My recommendation is that you push the pieces into the dough balls like I’m showing here. I was not as generous as the recipe pictures show they should look like so next time I’ll possibly roll the tough with some toffee pieces in the middle and outside. There can never been too much toffee! They don’t really spread out on the baking sheet so don’t worry about there only being an inch between your cookies. You’ll put them in the oven for 13 to 15 min at 325 degrees. I kept them on the longer side which did the trick.

Step 10: At some point you will need to do your thumb print part of the cookie making process. I decided I would do them when there were still about 3 min left on the timer. This ended up being a good way to start the process. When you pull them out, they have basically puffed up again in the last 3 min. However, you’ve already started the depression in the middle and helped spread out the cookies by doing it in the oven. So, when I did it again when they came out it was prepped. The recipe says to do differently, however, this worked well for me. You can see in the oven picture how the cookies have not really spread out like chocolate chip cookies do. The picture to the right shows that by doing them in the oven, they end up being a little bit rounder and less like a drop cookie.

Step 10: I have mentioned in my Oreo truffle recipe post that I STINK at melting chocolate to pipe on anything. It is SO not my forte in when it comes to baking and if I ever see it in a recipe I get nervous about giving it a try.  That has changed! This recipe gave instructions on how to end melt chocolate. Most recipes say…melt your chocolate…with no help on how to go about the process. I love this recipe for educating me and not assuming I already knew how to do it. This tip is officially the way I will melt chocolate I am wanting to pipe chocolate.

The instructions say to put some hot water in a bowl and place your piping bag (AKA plastic bag) in the bowl and let the chocolate melt. This works amazingly well and I’ll be translating this tip the next time I make those Oreo truffles.  When your chocolate is melted…you may need to work the bag a big with your fingers to feel if you have it completely smooth. I pulled it in and out of the water a few times to feel it and make sure it was melting correctly. I think it took a total of 10 min to get it ready for pipping. And I have to say that when you get chocolate to melt well it is fun to do :) I ended up having to make two bags of chocolate chips up to pipe in the thumbprints of all my cookies, but it was still way easier then I’ve done in the past. HURRAY for learning a new trick!!

Step 11: Finishing up the cookies can be your choice..I thought of a few ways to top the cookies since they were needing something extra to stand out. I had a lot of broken up peanuts that I ended up placing on top of the cookies to doll them up a bit. I liked the look since it kind of appeared that a reindeer had left it’s hoof print in the chocolate…or at least I liked to think so ;) I had some festive cupcake holders that I put the cookies in which made them easier to store and very easy for people to grab…..Anyways I hope that you give these a try and got a few tips for your cookie making this season! Enjoy :) 

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Oreo Truffles


OREO TRUFFLES

So, my sister Elizabeth had her bridal shower last year in July and we had a bunch of her friends down for a “little black dress” themed personal shower. Lots of fun and a great way to combine a bachelorette and bridal shower. We had lots of appetizers and ended up with a really impressive table of desserts. One of the hits of show were these Oreo truffles that Elizabeth’s friend Elma put together. Hers looked a lot prettier then mine did, but here is my attempt at the same result. I put these together for fun but ended up serving them for my life group when they came over to my house. They were a big hit, no matter how messy they may have turned out. They were simple because of the ingredients, but tough because of melting chocolate! I got the recipe from food.com.

Ingredients

STEP ONE:

This was the toughest part for me since I don’t own a double broiler. I have always had the worst luck trying to melt chocolate in the microwave so I rigged up this contraption! I filled my pot with water and turned one of our veggie steamers in the water upside down. The bottom has three prongs that the glass bowl rested perfectly in. It took a little longer for the chocolate to melt, but it did happen!

STEP TWO:

You combine the Oreos, cream cheese, and vanilla in a food processor to make up the centers for these lovely treats. It ends up being like a chocolate dough which was a very easy consistency to work with. I went ahead and rolled them into their serving size rounds and stuck them in the fridge to harden up a bit. I think it helped them hold their shape through the dipping process. When the milk chocolate gets smooth enough I “forked” the round Oreo balls and dipped them in the chocolate. You can see how they turned out… a little messy, but tasty-looking, none the less!

STEP 3

The last step for me was melting the white chocolate. You would think…piece of cake! If I can melt milk chocolate, then white chocolate shouldn’t be much different. WRONG! It was a crazy messy process that I wasn’t prepared for.  For a reason unknown to me (feel free to enlighten me), the white chocolate did not like the melting process I used on the milk chocolate. I decided since I was going to be piping this across the top of the

completed truffles I would go for the microwave. If you remember I said my failure rate is 100% for melting chocolate in the microwave….this failure rate did not change one bit. It was a globby mess that was not even sort of a good piping consistency. Ugh!

No worries, this spontaneous, lets-give-it-a-try cook did something on a whim,

that ended up looking pretty amazing!
The white chocolate globs on the top of my truffles annoyed me so much and I wanted to take them off, but they become a swirly mess on the tops….that actually looked kind of cool. I decided to play around with the swirling idea and you can see that it was not a bad look for an alternative! I had to be careful when swirling because it started to take off some of the milk chocolate.


All this chocolate work makes me just appreciate the impressive work I see on the Food Network Shows all the more! I would love some tips and trick for working with chcolate so please feel free to give me some ideas of what works better/best for you!Hope you give these a try!