Category Archives: Brownies

New Take on an Old Goodie!

I have made countless banana breads and posted a few of them already so I wanted to do something different with the ripening bananas sitting on my counter top! I saw a recipe recently for ‘banana bread brownies’ on, of course, Pinterest which got me thinking of my best friend Emily’s banana bread cake she made! I settled on a combination of the two (calling them bars) and topped it with a healthier peanut butter frosting recipe to keep it as more of a breakfast pastry rather than a dessert! Although, with some chocolate chips and my go-to peanut butter frosting recipe, this would make one hell of a dessert as well…very similar to the chocolate chip banana cupcakes (referred to as Elvis Cupcakes) I posted about a while back!

Banana Bread Bars:

Moist, chewy and everything a brownie should be!

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oats or oat flour (grind oats in food processor)
  • 1 t baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular) or sour cream
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 2 t vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9X13 pan. Mix/sift together flours, soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream sugar and butter together until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth. Add in yogurt or sour cream, mix until combined. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla, beating after each addition. Add in bananas. Beat in dry ingredients, mixing until well combined. You do not have to fold in the dry ingredients or mix until just combined because this is not a ‘bread’ where over-mixing the batter can leave it tough and chewy, but supposed to be more of a bar that is chewy and gooey! Pour batter into pan and bake 25-30 minutes.

Peanut Butter Yogurt Frosting:

  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 8 ounces vanilla yogurt (the vanilla is kind of important here if you do not want a ‘sour cream’ type of flavor coming through)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-4 T milk (I used vanilla soy which worked well)

I couldn’t resist taking a few bites!

Beat peanut butter until smooth and creamy, add in yogurt, beating until combined well. Add in powdered sugar, beating until smooth with no visible clumps. Add milk one tablespoon at a time, until reach desired consistency. (I ended up using 3).

Another option would be to use plain yogurt and add in 1/3 – 1/2 cup cocoa powder to make a peanut butter chocolate version (would probably need a little more milk to reach desired consistency, and using chocolate milk would really enhance the chocolatiness)! This would go extremely well with chocolate chips in the brownie batter…next time for sure!

These turned out to be better than I thought while coming up with the recipe! I even ate an end piece (which says a whole lot)! I cut from the middle outwards, and once I reach the edges, I am done! I am not a dessert crust fan, pizza, different story, but not dessert!

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Nutella, ella, ella

After this past weekend, even though it was filled with delicious food and all the pastries in the world, I was craving something super chocolatey and rich! I was settled on basic brownies with my favorite peanut butter frosting when I realized how much peanut butter and overall nuts I had eaten recently so decided to switch to something with Nutella. It seemed perfect; still satisfy that nut butter craving while also accomplishing the chocolatey goodness I desperately wanted! Also, I knew last night was going to be a super late one at work so I wanted to utilize the crock pot so we’d have dinner ready as soon as we got home! I saw a recipe on (my new fav) Pinterest for a Balsamic Pot Roast type thing….and since I loooove balsamic so much, I figured I’d give it a try! Not gonna lie, the brownies turned out to be amazingly delicious however the roast, not so much! It was just so greasy and lacking something. I did use a beef brisket which I know is a fattier cut of meat, but the grease was almost inedible (although sadly didn’t stop either of us, but definitely gave us stomach aches all night)!

Nutella Cream Cheese Brownies:

Brownies:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
    1 t salt
    2 T cocoa powder (I used dark to enhance the chocolate flavor)
    11 oz dark chocolate, chopped
    1 cup butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 t instant espresso powder (optional but really brings out the chocolate flavor)
    1½ cups sugar
    ½ cup brown sugar
    5 eggs, room temp
    2 t vanilla extract

Nutella Cream Cheese Layer:

  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 T butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13 pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

For the Nutella Cream Cheese layer: Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Beat in Nutella, until smooth and incorporated. Slowly beat in powdered sugar until no lumps and all is smooth. Pour over brownie batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.

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Balsamic Roast with Onions:

  • 2-3 pound beef brisket or eye of the round roast
  • seasoning salt
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • pepper
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 large onions, sliced thickly

Season beef with salt, garlic, onion and pepper. Heat cast iron skillet with olive oil until hot. Sear meat on both sides. You want a really nice brown crust, so give it time to brown, at least a few minutes each side. Meanwhile, cut onions into thick slices and place in the bottom of the crock pot. Also, heat beef broth in saucepan, boiling until reduced from 1 cup to 1/2 cup liquid. Once reduced, remove from heat and add in balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce. When meat is done, transfer to crock pot, on top of sliced onions. Deglaze pan the meat was seared in with 1/4 cup water, scraping all the flavor crystals from the bottom of the pan. Add pan drippings to balsamic mixture. Pour over beef and onions in the crock pot. Cook on low 7-8 hours. Serve over mashed potatoes if you like!

As I mentioned, this was not my favorite recipe. If I ever make it again, I would definitely use a leaner meat and add in more veggies to soak up some of the juices.  The mashed potatoes helped, but not all that much! I plan on using the leftovers for a sandwich, melting some cheese on the top and using some of the caramelized onions….I am hoping that this might be the way to eat this, rather than over potatoes! We shall see!

Savory Bread Pudding, aka Stuffing!!

I had three chicken breasts, a container of  mushrooms, a log of goat cheese and a fresh block of pecorino-romano in the fridge and figured they would all go great together but did not want to do yet another pasta. I also had four Trader Joe’s brioche buns that were a few days old that I didn’t want to waste since they are sooooo good…so I made my first attempt at a savory bread pudding. Overall, I am not a huge bread pudding fan, not rich enough for my dessert tastes and always seem to make a better cold breakfast to me! I do however have one go-to sweet bread pudding recipe that seems to get rave reviews so I will share that recipe as well! The savory bread pudding turned out to be very good; moist and creamy, yet reminded both Josh and I of stuffing at Thanksgiving! This is obviously not a bad thing at all, but savory bread pudding is essentially a version of homemade stuffing! I would definitely  make it again and again, adding different ingredients and seasonings each time, great recipe to play around with!

Savory Bread Pudding:

  • 8 ounce container mushrooms of choice (I happened to have Portobello)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced finely or sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 T butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 6 or so cups of torn bread (I used 4 Brioche buns from Trader Joe’s and it was a little too much actually, but I didn’t want to waste any 😉
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk (or you can do 2 cups heavy cream for more richness)
  • 5 ounce log goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup pecorino-romano, plus more for topping
  • Thyme and rosemary to taste (this is what really gave it the Thanksgiving stuffing feel)!
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, diced

Heat oil and butter in large saucepan over medium-high until butter has melted. Add in mushrooms, zucchini and onions, saute until softened, 5-7 minutes, salt and pepper to taste (you can also add a little thyme and rosemary to the veggies as well). Add in garlic and saute a few minutes more. Pour in white wine to deglaze the pan and let simmer until most of the liquid has reduced. In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, milk, seasonings to taste and cheeses. Add in bread pieces and chicken, toss to combine. Add vegetables to bread mixture, mixing so everything is coated with the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, tossing every so often. When ready to cook, top with more pecorino-romano and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through and center is heated through. We ate it right out of the oven for dinner last night and cold for breakfast this morning and I can’t say which I liked more but I am leaning towards cold breakfast, just like the sweet bread puddings I’ve had!

As is custom, no meal in our household is complete without dessert and I stumbled across an amazing looking picture online and wanted to repeat the recipe and of course after much research, could not find a recipe online! The bars are for sale online by Whimsy and Spice and look divine! Just look at this picture:

My own version of Chocolate Butterscotch Bars:

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Brownie layer:

  • 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional but enhances that deep chocolate flavor)
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Butterscotch Layer:

  • 1 (14 ounce) can condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch morsels

For the graham cracker crust: pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together crumbs and melted butter until moistened. Press into greased 9X9 baking pan. Bake 11-12 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile, for the brownie layer, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a double boiler and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan and let cool. Add 1 egg to the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining egg and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be too cakey. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible. Pour the batter over the top of the graham cracker crust. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. While cooling, for butterscotch layer, heat sweetened condensed milk and butter in saucepan over medium heat until thickens and begins to turn a nice amber color, about 10-12 minutes. Add in butterscotch morsels and remove from heat, stirring until smooth and morsels have melted completely. Pour over brownie layer in pan and let bars cool completely before cutting.

These turned out to be just ok. A little too much butterscotch in my opinion and by the end of the night when they had really fully cooled, the butterscotch layer became quite hard and unappetizing in my opinion! The only thing I can think of would be to use less condensed milk and a few tablespoons more butter next time! Here’s how mine looked…not quite as pretty as Whimsy’s!

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Lastly, as promised, here is the only bread pudding recipe I have yet to really like!

Cinnamon Caramel Bread Pudding:

  • 20 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups chilled whipping cream, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • Purchased caramel sauce, warmed

Cut or rip bread into 3/4-inch cubes. Place in very large bowl. Whisk eggs, milk, 1 cup cream, and next 4 ingredients in large bowl until sugar dissolves. Pour egg mixture over bread; toss to coat. Cover with plastic and chill at least 4 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally. Let stand at room temp 30 mins. Preheat oven to 375. Butter 13X9 baking dish and pour in bread pudding. Bake pudding until puffed, edges are golden, and tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Serve with caramel sauce over top!

With that much cream and fattiness, there’s no wonder this is the only one I’ve ever really cared for…sadly though, it is still a breakfast to me, fattiness and all!

 

Happy birthday Gram!

This past weekend we celebrated my Gram’s birthday with quite the tasty feast! Our family does not know how to do things in a small way and always go way overboard…but that’s the bets part about our gatherings!! Not to mention all of the delicious leftovers that keep me from cooking for a few days! This get together was no different with everything from beef to fried chicken and pop’s cake donuts with chocolate frosting to a peanut butter death by chocolate trifle! Surprising though, I only baked one thing and I even cheated using a boxed brownie mix for part of it!! But hey, it was still tasty enough to share on here! It did require a few separate things to be made and then layered together including the peanut butter frosting I have posted about at least two or three times now…but we will start with the cookies, the middle layer!

Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 T whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 t baking soda
  • 1 package Hershey’s Toffee bits or crushed Skor or Heath bars

Bake at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes.

 

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 5 T butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Cream together butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add in powdered sugar, slowly. Beat until smooth, add in vanilla then cream. Whip to desired consistency!

 

Peanut Butter Death By Chocolate

  • Brownie mix (I used a dark chocolate Duncan Hines): made using package instructions but substituting 1/2 of the oil for coffee for a richer chocolate flavor (and added bonus of less fat)!
  • 2 boxes chocolate pudding made with 2 cups cold whole milk
  • Peanut butter toffee cookies
  • Peanut butter frosting
  • More Heath bits

Crumble the brownies into chunks. Layer half of the brownie chunks in the bottom of the trifle. Top with 1/2 of the chocolate pudding (or 1 package if made separately). Then layer cookies, crumbled into chunks. Next is the second package or other half of the chocolate pudding, then the remaining brownie pieces. Lastly, dollop peanut butter frosting over top and spread around, topping with more heath bits! DIG IN!!

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for ICE CREAM!

So since returning home from vacation, I have really been slacking and I apologize! No excuses! So I decided to post about a few different desserts I have recently concocted. Italy did not have much in terms of dessert besides Gelato and breakfast type pastries…which of course I took full advantage of and ate cake almost daily for breakfast which was absolutely wonderful…so by the time I got home, I was realllly craving something rich and chocolatey! So of course, the first thing I did was bake a type of brownie and made some decadent ice cream of my own!

Rice Krispie Treat Brownies:

  • Home made brownies or your favorite mix (I used a dark chocolate brownie mix and added extra chocolate chips to it)!
  • Jar of Fluff or frosting of your choice
  • 2 cups Rice Krispies
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2/3 – 3/4  cup peanut butter

Bake brownies as directed on package or your recipe calls for. Let cool completely. Top with fluff or frosting and refrigerate until firm and set (at least 45 minutes). Once set, melt peanut butter and chocolate together in double boiler. Once melted, remove from heat and fold in Rice Krispies. Let cool slightly and then top brownies with mixture. Put back in the fridge to harden and set up, at least another 45 minutes to an hour.

Oreo Ice Cream:

  • 1 container Edy’s Ice Cream (I used chocolate but you can use literally any flavor you like, my grandma uses vanilla)
  • 4 ounces cool whip
  • 2-3 rows of Oreo Cookies, chopped (I used the double stuffed for more goodness)

Let ice cream soften to room temperature so that it is mixable with a hand mixer. While softening, crush Oreos in food processor or however your little heart desires! In a large bowl, beat ice cream until smooth, add in Cool Whip and mix all together until well blended and smooth. Fold in crushed Oreos. Freeze until firm in a freezable container or glass pan!

Thin Mint Ice Cream:

  • 1 container Edy’s Ice Cream (again any flavor can be used, I went with cookies and cream for this one)
  • 4 ounces cool whip
  • 1 – 1 1/2 rows Thin Mint Cookies, chopped

Same process as listed above for Oreo Ice Cream…just with crushed Thin Mint Cookies!

The Oreo ice cream is something that my grandma used to always make and that we had pretty much forgotten about until recently! Such an easy yet delicious recipe…my favorite type of recipe! Also, she uses an entire gallon of ice cream, 8 ounces of Cool Whip and a package of Oreos crushed up and puts it into a 9X13 pan to set up in the freezer. So if you have a large party or big group outing, this is a great idea, a real crowd pleaser!! Gram also told me that the original recipe she got from her friend calls for Butter Pecan ice cream…she has never used it and always uses Vanilla but just goes to show you that any flavor will do!

Cravings…

So lately, as if this is anything new, I’ve been seriously craving peanut butter and chocolate….waaaay more than usual! But surprisingly I was craving them separately, not necessarily together…which is somewhat odd! So I decided to make some peanut butter bars for breakfast and then some rocky road brownies for dessert! The bars turned out to be pretty good, however could have used more crunch, as they were super soft and chewy. Soft and chewy is not necessarily a bad thing, but these were almost crumbly they were so soft…they were better after I put them in the fridge. And the rocky road brownies were fairly good, but the marshmallows on top ended up kind of crunchy and chewy as they cooled. All in all, I would make both again but making some minor changes!

Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars:

  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vanilla silk soy milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup crunchy peanut or almond butter
  • Dash of salt, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix together all ingredients. Pour into a greased 8X8 inch pan. Bake 18 -20 minutes. Let cool and top with Nutella or more peanut butter if desired! (At one point, I even covered a few slices with melted chocolate…I couldn’t resist! And it was quite tastier that way!

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Rocky Road Brownies (Brownie recipe adapted from my sister-in-law Mandy)!

  • 1¼ cups  flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 11 oz. chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 1½ cups g sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 t vanilla
  • mini chocolate chips
  • For the topping:
  • mini marshmallows
  • mini chocolate chips
  • hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans (any nut of your choice), coarsely ground or chopped

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees and butter/flour a baking pan, whatever size you prefer (I went with a 9X9 because I really like super thick brownies)…but the smaller the pan, the longer it takes for them to cook and cool! Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler, stirring occasionally until smooth. Turn off the heat and add the sugars, whisk until smooth and  set aside, off of heat, to cool. Once cooled, add eggs one at a time, whisking just until incorporated each time. Sprinkle flour and a 1/2 cup or so of mini chocolate chips over chocolate mixture and fold with a spatula just until combined (some white specs of flour will still be visible), do not overmix! Pour into prepared pan and bake (the 9X9 took about 45 minutes so a 9X13 would probably take about 30-35 and an 8X8 closer to 50-55). During the last 10 minutes of baking, I covered the top with marshmallows, mini chocolate chips and a mixture of ground hazelnuts and almonds…push down slightly so the topping adheres to the brownies and put back in the oven until brownies are cooked through.

These were delicious right out of the oven…the marshmallows were super soft and melty, the nuts had a nice crunch and the chocolate chips melted in  your mouth. As they cooled, the marshmallows got hard and crunchy, the chocolate chips hardened and the nuts got kind of soggy! An easy fix was to throw them in the microwave for a few seconds to melt everything again but taking them with me for the day made that difficult! Didn’t stop Josh and I from finishing off the rest at lunch today though (yes, I made them last night), so I guess they couldn’t have been that bad!

A Valentine’s to remember!

Who doesn’t love Valentine’s Day?! But I must begin by saying, we are one of those couples that doesn’t really go all out and celebrate the so-called ‘Hallmark Holidays!” We came up with an idea/agreement that I treat him to dinner on Sweetest Day and he treats me on Valentine’s Day (but not on the actual days to avoid the crowds and pre-fixe menus, etc) but no elaborate gifts or anything! I am one of those lucky girls you always hear about or see in movies, the ones with the boyfriends/husbands that constantly bring them with flowers for no reason, surprise them with gifts, cook them dinner, etc. So I don’t need a Valentine’s Day to feel appreciated and spoiled, but it surely doesn’t hurt to feel special!Unfortunately this year, I dropped the ball on Sweetest Day and we didn’t do a darn thing and we recently purchased our first home and are trying super hard to save as much money as possible so we weren’t even planning on doing dinner for Valentine’s Day.  But I still wanted to do something sweet for my sweetheart and make him feel special for a change! Instead of going out, I decided to make a meal I think he’d order out at a nice restaurant! I went with homemade angel hair pasta with scallops in a white wine, tomato, butter sauce and mussels. And for dessert, 7 layers of pure amazingness!

I’m not going to lie, I decided to do homemade pasta so I can try out some new gadgets I got and the cake, well that was also mostly for me too! But he surely enjoyed it, so it was well worth it! The mussels though, those were all for him!

Homemade Angel Hair:

  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T water
  • Salt to taste
By hand: pour flour on working surface, make a well in the center, add the eggs and mix by hand, add in olive oil, water and salt and hand knead until dough comes together. If sticky, add more flour, if dry, add more water or oil. With Kitchenaid mixer (preferred method): with paddle attachment, mix together eggs, olive oil, water and salt. Switch to dough hook and add in flour a little bit at a time until dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand until perfectly smooth and together (same rule as before, if sticky add more flour, if dry, add more water or oil). Divide dough into 6 sections and feed one at a time through Kitchenaid mixer attachment or roll out by hand. Feed through pasta cutter attachment or cut by hand, set out to dry. I left mine out overnight and it was very dry and tasted wonderful!
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Sauce (adapted from Giada):
  • 3 T cup olive oil
  • 3-4 T butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 t crushed red pepper and/or flakes
  • 1 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • package of mushrooms
  • fresh scallops

Melt butter and heat with olive oil. Saute mushrooms and shallot until soft, add in garlic, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to taste and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add white wine to deglaze, let cook until reduced by half. Add in tomatoes and let cook down until thickened a bit. Add in scallops and mussels, cover and cook in sauce for 3-5 minutes. Add in some Parmesan and serve over pasta…adding more parm as necessary while eating! Be sure to serve this with some hearty, crusty bread (we baked some Ciabatta rolls and they were perfect for slopping up any extra sauce)!

Dessert is a wee-bit more complicated and took about 3 hours in total to construct…but it was definitely worth it! You essentially bake your favorite brownie, chocolate chip cookie and cheesecake recipes, splitting each batter between 8X8 or 9X9 pans so you end up with 2 brownie rounds, 2 chocolate chip cookie rounds and 2 cheese cake rounds. You  make two different frostings and then assemble from there! Here are the recipes I used:

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This is what it looks like when it is all said and done! Standing at least one foot tall!

Brownies (courtesy of my lovely sister-in-law Mandy):

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of two 8X8″ or 9X9″ round pans. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray again.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.

3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pans using the parchment paper. Cool completely on a wire rack before assembling cake or frosting!

Cheesecake:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter two 8X8″ or 9X9″ round pans, line with parchment paper and spray again. Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add in Ricotta and sugar, mix until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Finally, beat in sour cream and blend until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pans, evenly and bake in oven for 15 minutes, turn temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 45 more minutes. Let cool before removing from pan, freeze until ready to use.
Chocolate Chip Cookies (I used the bake-shop cookie recipe from a previous post):
  • 3/4 cup salted, butter, room temp (if you use unsalted, just add about 1/4 – 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8X8″ or 9X9″ round pans, line with parchment paper and spray again. Sift together flour, cornstarch and baking soda; set aside. Beat butter until light and fluffy, cream together with sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add in flour slowly. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour half the batter into each prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until golden and still soft. You definitely want a soft cookie, not a crunchy one for this recipe…make sure they are completely cooled before assembling cake!
Marshmallow Frosting:
  • 1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow fluff
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

To make the butter cream, beat together the marshmallow fluff and butter, on medium speed, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat for another minute. Increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes until it’s light and fluffy. Set aside until cake assembly time (will need to be divided into four equal parts)!

Chocolate Frosting:

  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled (I let it cool about 1 hour, stirring occasionally)
  • 4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. (will have to be divided in half, and then on of the halves in half so you have 1/2 of the mixture, 1/4 and 1/4).

 

Whew, that’s a lot of components! Ok, now that everything is done and cooled completely, here’s how the layering goes: one brownie layer, marshmallow frosting, one cookie layer, marshmallow frosting, one cheesecake layer, chocolate frosting, graham crackers broken to fit around circle, chocolate frosting, other cheesecake layer, marshmallow frosting, other cookie layer, marshmallow frosting, other brownie layer, chocolate frosting to cover top and sides!

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So the layers will look like this, maybe even a little neater than mine!

Obviously you can arrange the layers  in whatever way you want but I saw this on a blog through Pinterest ( http://www.fatgirltrappedinaskinnybody.com/2011/06/ultimate-smore-anniversary-cake/) and that’s how she did it so I figured I’d follow it! After seeing this, I knew I had to make it, and boy was it amazing, what a creative and great idea!

Cafeteria Make-over!

I can still remember the disappointment and lack of excitement when my mom would tell me we were having meat loaf for dinner! I was just never a big fan, and came to find out neither is Josh! We share (or I suppose I should now say shared) the same feelings about meat loaf….boring, same-old same-old, and just overall blah! That was until Friday night when I decided to re-invent meat loaf and make it something we’d want to eat and look forward to eating! Having never made a meat-loaf before, this was quite the challenge! The project was a definite success and now meatloaf is something to get excited about!

Stuffed Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 t garlic salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 t chili powder
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1.25 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 egg
Stuffing
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 container mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • velveeta cheese, 8 thick slices
Sauce (Adapted from Alton Brown)
  • 1/2 cup catsup
  • 1 t cumin
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 dashes Siracha
  • 1 T honey

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. For the filling, heat the olive oil and butter in large skillet. Add the onion and mushroom, season to taste and saute until softened. Add in the garlic and saute a few more minutes. Set aside. In the meantime to make the meat loaf, combine the bread crumbs and all seasonings. Combine the ground meat and veggies with the bread crumb mixture. Add the egg until combined thoroughly. For the sauce, whisk together all of the ingredients.

Place half of the meat mixture into the loaf pan. Top with 4 of the slices of Velveeta, the mushroom mixture then 4 more slices of Velveeta. Top with remaining meat mixture. Place in oven for 50-60 minutes, topping with the sauce about 10 minutes into the cooking process.

For dessert, I decided to combine two of my favorite things together: raw cookie dough and fudgy brownies! I made the mistake of concocting edible cookie dough that is absolutely delicious! Delicious enough that I ate the entire thing and had to make more for the brownies! Here’s how it goes:

Brownies (best brownie recipe ever by the way…adapted from King Arthur)

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t espresso
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Once melted, stir in sugar until dissolved. Return to heat, but do not let boil, just heat up. While the sugar is heating the second time, whisk the four eggs with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso and vanilla. Add the butter mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Add in chocolate chips and flour, stir until chocolate melts. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes for an 8X8 or 9X9, and about 30 for a 9X13.

Chocolate Frosting:

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled (I let it cool about 1 hour, stirring occasionally)
    2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
    1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
    3 tablespoons milk
    1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
Place all in a food processor and blend until smooth and thick. Set aside.

While the brownies are baking, mix together one can sweetened condensed milk, 8 T softened butter, 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 t vanilla and 1 cup chocolate chips. Store in fridge until ready to use!

Once the brownies are completely cooled. Spread with chocolate frosting and then spread cookie dough on top. If there is remaining frosting, throw another layer on top of the frosting!

These are incredibly rich and decadent…not for the faint of heart!

Enjoy, and get excited about meat loaf Mondays!

Baking = My Therapy

I not only bake because I love it, but it is my zen time, my time for me, all to myself, to just do what I want to do and clear my head. Also, baking is much cheaper than a therapist! I use baking as a tool to overcome obstacles and challenges in life, and to get through the hard times.

My grandma passed away last Wednesday and we had the wake and funeral Sunday and Monday. Needless to say, I’ve been a baking machine. My poor husband has been surrounded by delicious baked goods for the past few days…which resulted in him and I eating an entire cake in less than two days…it’s fine! (Not only does the actual act of baking help, but devouring any form of chocolate surely never hurts)! I tried new recipes in an effort to have to concentrate and take my  mind off of things, instead of making things I have already baked that don’t require much focus. Here are a few of the ones I tested out:

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  I tossed my oatmeal into a food processor for a few pulses to make smaller, finer flakes but that is up to you and how prominent you want the oatmeal to be in your cake! Put oatmeal into mixing bowl and pour boiling water over top (I used a tea kettle to boil the water), let stand 10 minutes or until oatmeal is softened and most of the liquid is absorbed. Add in sugars, applesauce and eggs. Mixing well with each addition. Sift together flour, soda, cocoa and salt. Add dry to wet ingredients, mix just until incorporated. Pour into greased pan (I used a 8×12 brownie pan). Top with chopped chocolate or chocolate chips if desired. Bake 20 minutes.

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This cake came out to be the perfect combination of a cake and a brownie! The oatmeal gives it this super chewy texture similar to a brownie.  Very moist, soft and tasty! Next time, I might add the chocolate chips into the batter and/or top it with some Nutella!

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins:

  • 1 stick butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 1/3 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 2 1/2 T poppy seeds
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Add in egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in almond extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, soda, powder, poppy seeds and salt. Add flour mixture, alternating with sour cream doing two of each, and ending with flour. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter. I used a jumbo muffin pan and baked them for 25 minutes.

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I think this was a hair too long and probably would should have pulled them a few minutes earlier, so I’d say to check them at 20 minutes. Also, I didn’t get too much lemon flavor so would probably suggest adding in the zest and juice of another lemon but that is up to you and your personal tastes!

Caramel Cake with Chocolate Ganache:

Cake:

  • Duncan Hines Caramel Cake Mix
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup coca cola
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 eggs

Ganache:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 9 ounces chocolate (I used chocolate almond World Famous Chocolate Bars)!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine buttermilk, cola, and oil. Add eggs in one at a time. Add in cake mix and stir just until blended. Pour into greased pan (I used two 9 inch round pans). Bake 25-28 minutes. While the cake is baking, heat whipping cream over medium-low until almost boiling. Pour over broken up chocolate, let sit 5 minutes, stir until smooth. Let cool and harden until ready to frost cake.

I know it sounds crazy to have soda in a cake but it is my secret ingredient when using store-bought mixes…it adds a nice moistness to the cake and you can’t taste it, I promise!

After this baking frenzy, I am feeling much better and am coping just fine…I miss my gram, but I know she is in a better place, one without pain and suffering and is finally reunited with my grandpa after 17 years! I know she is resting in peace and is finally happy! Love you ‘Frankster,’ always in my heart!

Pumpkin Bliss!

So to continue with the pumpkin fun, I went out on a limb and tried a new recipe combining two things I usually don’t like together: pumpkin and chocolate. I think the reasoning behind this is that I am not a big fan of cinnamon with chocolate…I like fudgy rich chocolate all on its own or pumpkin pie with all its cinnamon and nutmegy scrumptiousness! But I figured for the sake of the fall season, I’d give them a whirl! Not gonna lie, they’re not my favorite, but I figure I’ll share just in case some of you love the choco-pumpkin combo! You can start with any standard brownie recipe you have/love/typically use or even go with a boxed version to save some time and energy (don’t worry, no one will scoff at the idea)…and then just swirl or layer in the pumpkin cream cheese mixture. Here’s the recipe I used:

Brownies:

  • 5 oz chocolate (I prefer to use semisweet Ghiradelli)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • Dash of salt
Melt chocolate and butter together in saucepan over medium heat or in a double boiler over boiling water. Remove from heat once almost melted and stir until smooth, and stir in sugar. Add in eggs, vanilla and dash of salt. Fold in flour and pour into buttered pan (I like to use 9X9 because I love super thick, extra rich brownies, but this does increase cooking time and it is standard to use a 9X13 pan)!
Pumpkin Swirl:
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 – 2 t pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon and nutmeg combo, whatever you prefer)
Beat softened cream cheese with pumpkin puree. Add in egg, sugar and spices. If you put the pumpkin cream cheese layer between half the brownie batter, you can either leave it as a separate layer in the middle of the brownies or  swirl in with top layer of brownie batter. Or just spread it atop the brownie batter and leave it as its own layer on the top…however you prefer, it will taste the same regardless and is more a matter of presentation! Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes!
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Not the best pic but it’ll do!!
I would also like to share with you the easiest recipe in the world. Also one that is perfect for cold nights or when you are feeling under the weather! It is Josh’s family’s chicken noodle soup and it is hearty and delicious and most importantly incredibly easy!
3 chicken breasts
1 bag of shredded carrots or you can shred/dice your own (personal preference)
4 ribs celery, diced
14 cups chicken broth or stock
2 packages Reames Homestyle Egg Noodles
Salt and Pepper to taste
I like to sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, then grill it before adding it into the soup instead of letting it cook in the soup, I think it adds a bit more flavor! So while that’s grilling, heat up the chicken stock/broth/bouillon cubes and add the diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper. Once boiling, add in the noodles, cook for about 5 minutes then lower heat and let simmer about a half hour. With so few ingredients, the keys here are to use quality chicken broth or stock since it is a main flavor component, to let it simmer for a bit so the chicken flavor creeps into all of the veggies and chicken itself, and to use these particular noodles (they are pretty much the star in this soup, being so thick and gummy)! You can find the noodles in the freezer section of the grocery store, by frozen breads and pastas! Served with take-and-bake ciabatta bread rolls (our personal favorite), this is a great, easy, quick and filling dinner!
 Most of the broth has already been soaked up…easy fix, just add a cup or so more of broth when re-heating!