Category Archives: Cookies

Any Reason to Celebrate is a Reason to Bake!!

So this past weekend we celebrated my ‘grandma’ Katie’s 89th birthday. I use the quotes around grandma because she is not actually my grandma but may as well be! She has been around since long before I was born and is my mom’s Godmother. Katie does not have any grandchildren of her own, but we are as close as can be to her actual grandkids! Katie has done more for us than most ‘real’ grandmas do for their grandkids! We do not get to see Kayster (as I like to call her) very often anymore so I had to jump at the chance for a little celebration in her honor…couldn’t miss it! And of course, since there was something to be celebrated, I got to try out a few recipes I’ve been wanting to try!

I had made some pumpkin spice syrup for lattes earlier in the week and had the majority of a can of pumpkin left over in the fridge so definitely wanted to use that up; gooey pumpkin butter cake, done! Next I have been wanting to try out this brownie batter dip recipe I saw a while and figured that if I combined it with chocolate chip cookies, I could use it as a ‘cream filling’ for a cookie sandwich rather than a dip! So I also baked up a batch of chocolate chip cookies using a new recipe I saw on Pinterest! The cake turned out really good…tasted like pumpkin pie on top of buttery cake…not a bad combination! I did overcook it a tad though so the center was mostly where any ‘gooeyness’ was but it was still tasty! The cookie recipe I used yielded some very moist and chewy cookies, definitely using that recipe again in the future! And the brownie batter dip is simply sinful, I was just eating it with a spoon, no dippers needed…and sandwiched between two soft, chocolatey cookies was so good…my mouth was doing a little happy dance!

Gooey Pumpkin Cake 

Adapted from Paula Deen

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 8-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 10-12 ounces powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch square pan. For the bottom layer, combine the cake mix, egg and melted butter until smooth and all mixed. Pat the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Beat together the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth and combined. Add in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and melted butter. Next add the powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat until combined and pour over cake mix in bottom of pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Do not over-bake this, it is supposed to be ‘gooey!’ The center should still be a tad ‘wobbly’ when it is finished cooking but the edges will be brown and starting to pull away from the pan.

Not exactly the same size, but how pretty do those look?!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray or lay down a silpat on a cookie sheet. Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside. In separate bowl, beat together butter and sugars until smooth and dissolved. Add in vanilla, egg and egg yolk, beating after each addition. Add in dry ingredients, then fold in chocolate chips. Making larger cookies, this will not yield all too many, I think I got about a dozen or 15 tops! But I used a 1/4 cup or so of batter per cookie! You can make them any size you’d like, but I wanted big, chewy bake-shop style cookies! If you go with larger cookies, make sure they are spaced apart more than the usual amount and bake for 13-15 minutes. Center will appear slightly undercooked but bottoms should be brown and the center will set up when cool.

Don’t you just want to eat those up!?

Brownie Batter Dip:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 T flour
  • 5 T cocoa powder
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T milk

Combine cream cheese and butter, mixing until incorporated and smooth. Add in powdered sugar, flour, cocoa and brown sugar. Add in vanilla, then milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Adding more if thinner consistency is desired. Try not to eat the whole thing, honestly!

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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!!

Finally!

I always wonder how those packaged cookies you see at places like Jimmy John’s, Pot Belly’s or even Walgreens look so perfect…all large, perfectly round and shaped, and so soft and chewy still?! Well, by George, I think I’ve got it! After years and years of trying different cookie recipes in a quest to find the ultimate, perfect looking and tasting cookies, I think I did it! I stole the method/idea for these cookies from a pin on pinterest and ran with it! This was a method I have never seen for baking cookies before…it consisted of stacking rectangles of dough on top of each other, with shaved chocolate in between the layers and then using a biscuit cutter to cut out perfect circles! The recipe for this was a bit more difficult than a standard cookie dough recipe but it was well worth it, let me tell you!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1 cup butter,room temp
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temp
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3/4 – 1 bag peanut butter and chocolate chips (or all chocolate, whatever you prefer), chopped up

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined, then add the vanilla. Slowly and on low-speed, add the dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.

Divide the dough into three equal portions and try to shape each into same size rectangles as best as possible, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This might seem difficult because the dough will be somewhat sticky, but wrapping in plastic will help shape them.

Unwrap the dough rectangles. Place one on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle half of the chocolate evenly over the dough rectangle. Top with a second piece of dough. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the second piece of dough, then finally top with the third piece of dough. The tower of dough and chocolate will be tall, and chocolate may fall out the sides, that’s ok.

Like so

Dust the top piece of dough lightly with flour, then use a rolling-pin to gently roll the stack of dough and chocolate into a rectangle about 1 1/2 inches thick. Use a 2-inch round cutter to cut as many rounds as possible from the dough. Transfer the rounds to a parchment-lined or silpat lined baking sheet. (Flour the cutter as necessary if it’s sticking to the dough.) Gather the scraps of dough together into a 1 1/2-inch thick mound and cut additional cookies out.

Pretty little cookie biscuits!

Cover the baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate the unbaked cookies for at least an hour or two. You can leave them in the fridge this way for several days even and bake them off as you want/need!

Preheat oven to 375 F. Separate the cookies by at least 2-3 inches because these babies spread! Bake for 12 minutes. The centers will still seem really soft and under-baked, but that’s fine. They’ll set up as they cool. 

Gorgeous, I should have stacked them on top of each other!

 I might have cooked mine a minute or so too long, the edges got a little crunchy for my liking, but the centers were still soft and gooey! The peanut butter added a wonderful element of surprise to an otherwise chocolate chip cookie and the oats add a great, chewy texture.  I am so happy with this result, the extra work is well worth it in my opinion!!

Childhood memories!

I am sure you all remember oatmeal cream pies…I mean who didn’t/doesn’t love Little Debbie!? As a kid, I was not a huge fan of the oatmeal cream pies but I sure went to town on the nutty bars and  honey buns! Josh and I got into a minor argument the other day about whether or not oatmeal cream pies have raisins in the cookie portion. I swore they do and he was positive they don’t…I should have just agreed right then and there since these were one of his all time favorites growing up, not to mention just how he despises raisins…I really should have taken his word for it, but of course my stubborn ass didn’t! And much to my disliking, I was definitely wrong!

In an effort to apologize and make it up to him, I decided to make a homemade version of this special little treat….raisin free of course! For the first time in my life, I did not have fluff on hand (we are moving and I am trying not to grocery shop too much and use up as much stuff we have stored away as possible…I know, no excuses though)! Anyways, usually I would have used fluff for the filling but since I was out, I tried to become a little creative…did not work out quite as well as I hoped but it did the job! Next time, definitely using fluff and allowing more time for the filling to harden so it doesn’t leak all over when the sandwiches are assembled! I started by making regular oatmeal cookies, slightly larger than normal and letting them cool completely.

Oatmeal Cookies:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 3 cups oats

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift or mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add dry to wet ingredients, mixing just to combine. Stir in oats. Bake 8-9 minutes. Let cool on wire rack until completely cool.

Cream Filling:

  • vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 ounces cool whip, thawed
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 T butter

Mix together pudding and milk until thickened. Fold in cool whip, set in fridge until needed. In a separate bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese until fluffy and smooth. Beat in powdered sugar. Fold into cool whip mixture and set in fridge to harden a bit. Once set and cookies are cooled, scoop some filling onto one of the cookies and top with another. If the filling is still too runny, you can place the entire sammy in the fridge or even freezer. We froze a few and they turned out to be quite tasty, kind of similar to an ice cream sandwich cookie, but with a little crunchier of a cookie!

As I mentioned before though, I would make this with fluff next time, I think it would taste more like an original oatmeal cream pie that way, and I would definitely allow more time for the filling to set up!

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:

IMAG0320-1.jpg

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!

This S*** is Bananas!

So my last post was dedicated to my grandma that just passed away….thought it would all kind of be in the past once the wake and funeral were over but forgot about aftermath post-funeral; going through her belongings, recipes, seeing her name in my recent calls, etc. No fun but on the bright side, at least she’s got some good stuff to have shared with us now to remember her by! On another sad note, my other gram, the one I talked about in the beginning of starting this blog, the big baker/chef I have learned just about everything about food from just suffered from a stroke this past Sunday and scared us all to no end! She is home and doing much better, things are looking great for her, a full recovery is expected with the help of some speech therapy! So needless to say, things haven’t exactly been going well here in 2012 but they are on the up and up, that’s for sure!

In light all of this negative stuff, I have been baking like no other! Just Tuesday, I baked 3 banana bread loaves alone! And with gram’s stoke being partially due to high blood pressure and cholesterol, I wanted to show the family that you can bake healthier stuff that still tastes good! It must have been good since my brother and mom requested a loaf each for themselves! Here is the recipe I used:

Healthy Banana Bread

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • dash of salt (optional)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (I made my own by adding 1/4 t lemon juice to 1/4 cup skim milk and letting it stand for about 10 minutes)
  • 2-3 bananas, mashed

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. This bread comes out very moist and not super dense like a lot of things baked with applesauce. As a general rule of thumb, I’ve found that applesauce or yogurt (especially Greek yogurt) can replace butter or oil in most baked good recipes, except for cookies. The texture is just nowhere near a normal cookie when the fats are replaced…my husband kindly refers to these as ‘mookies,’ a muffin in the form of a cookie!

Off of the lower fat/healthier side for a few moments: as mentioned in previous blogs, I am obsessed with peanut butter and was craving the amazing combination of peanut butter and chocolate (my peanut butter and jelly if you will)! So I decided to make chocolate peanut butter cookies with chopped up Reese’s peanut butter cups as chocolate chips. (yes, as I warned, not exactly ‘healthy’)! They turned out sooo good, very light and fluffy but surprisingly could have used a little more sugar in the dough but I was hesitant, thinking the peanut butter cups would be too rich…next time I’d increase the sugar by 1/4 cup at least. And I would even consider decreasing the butter to 3/4 cup since they were a little greasy and flattened out a bit.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 10 peanut butter cups, chopped up

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Enjoy and try not to eat 6 of them right out of the oven as I did…more power to you if you are able to stop though!

Is it a Cake or is it a Cookie?

We had our company holiday party last night and I usually bring with a tray of Christmas cookies but it was held so late this year that all the cookies have already been eaten or aren’t too fresh anymore! I didn’t have time to prepare ahead as we did not get home Wednesday night until after 11…so I had to do something that would be fairly quick, yet still awesome! I settled on a cookie cake, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a cookie cake!?

I’ve only made a few cookie cakes in my day but they’ve always turned out and tasted just like a cookie, except giant! So I took the tried and true ‘bake shop cookies” (https://valuptuousvittles.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/bake-shop-cookies/ ) recipe I posted previously and made one giant cookie instead of a batch of cookies. To my surprise, it turned out to have somewhat of a cake-like consistency rather than a soft, chewy cookie. The taste was all there, but the texture was different! This got me thinking, is it something in this recipe in particular that made it turn out this way or perhaps was it the cooking time? (Sidenote: Josh was kind enough to volunteer to watch the cake for me so I threw it in the oven and headed to bed! He said he took it out when the timer went off but it looked too gooey in the middle so he threw it back in for 5 minutes and then took it out)! It didn’t look overly browned and was still soft to the touch in the center but this could possibly be part of the reason for the cake-like consistency…I usually take cookies out when they almost still look raw, as they continue to cook in the pan for a little while.

All in all though, this was not a bad mistake! It turned out to be, literally a cookie cake; a cake that tasted like a chocolate chip cookie, a winner in my book! And I even remembered to take a pic of this one…ignore the decorating, that’s not my strong suit…yet! But I plan on getting plenty of practice with all my new gadgets from the wedding so I have confidence that I will only go up from here!

It’s Christmas Time!!

As do most people, my mom and I have an annual Christmas cookie baking tradition that we delved into yesterday! In a mere 6 hours, we managed to bake twelve batches of cookies! We have the few we make every year that we can’t live without, but then we try a few new ones too…some of these end up becoming regulars and some we never see again! I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few of our favorites and possibly get a few of yours too! This list does not include the traditional Italian Christmas cookies that gram bakes every year…including the ever-so-secret wine cookie recipe that I may just share with you all next week after we bake them next week! But I will preface this recipe by stating how difficult it is right off the bat! You have to have severely decreased feeling in your hands to even attempt this one….almost equivalent to throwing your hands into a pot of boiling water! But we’ll get to that next week! For now, here are a few easier, less harmful ones!

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • Sugar to roll balls in
  • Kisses (we prefer the caramel ones, but any will do)!

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix wet ingredients together and sift dry ingredients together. Add dry to wet, mix well. Roll into balls, roll balls in sugar, bake balls about 8 minutes. While baking, unwrap kisses. Remove from oven, stick a kiss in each ball, place back in oven for 2-4 minutes.

Seven Layer Bars: (These are my absolute favorite)!!!

  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 bag of coconut
  • 1 bag of chocolate chips
  • 1 bag of butterscotch morsels
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I prefer pecans or almonds myself)!
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in oven in a 13X9″ pan. (Or melt in microwave or stove top and pour into 13X9 pan). Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over melted butter until absorbed (add more crumbs if necessary, you don’t want overly wet patches). Sprinkle chocolate chips and butterscotch morsels over top of graham cracker crumb layer. Next sprinkle coconut and nuts. Lastly, as evenly as possibly, pour sweetened condensed milk over top of everything. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is slightly golden.

Coconut Macaroons:

  • 1 bag coconut
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • pinch of salt

Mix all together and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes.

Almond Biscotti:

  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 Tablespoon water
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups almonds chopped course

Toast the almonds in the oven for 10 minutes on baking sheet.  Mix all together.  Shape into 4 logs and rub with egg yolk.  Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes. Slice while still warm.

Italian Knot Cookies:

  • 6 cups flour
  • 6 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ lb of butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 fresh oranges, just the juice from them
  • Grate a little bit of the orange rind, about 1 tsp
  • Frosting:
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T milk
  • 16-oz powdered sugar

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, butter and sugar (with hands) until consistency like cornmeal. Beat eggs, vanilla, juice from oranges and zest with a fork. Add into flour mixture until it doesn’t stick…add in more flour if necessary.  If dough is soft add more flour. Shape dough into knots.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Let cool. Mix together ingredients for frosting.  Let sit a few minutes, frost cookies. The frosting can be dyed any color with food coloring.

Hershey Bar Cookies:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups sifted flour

Cream butter, add brown sugar, yolk, and flour.  Grease a cookie sheet and spread the dough to fill the bottom of the cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes. While cookies are baking, melt a hersey bar in double boiler, spread over hot crust and add chopped nuts on top if desired. Cut while warm.

So these are just a few of our favorite, must have every year, Christmas cookies! There are way too many to choose from, but this was a good start! Wine cookie recipe to follow sometime soon! I’d love to hear some of your favorite cookie recipes for the holidays…trying out new recipes never gets old! And my mom and I are always looking for new ideas!

Bake Shop Cookies!

My cousin had a gorgeous baby girl October 21, 2011…she may be a tiny little thing but she is perfect! I finally made my way over to meet the little peanut in person yesterday and decided to bring over some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies! I tried out a new recipe, and they ended up being the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made…beating my old tried and true recipe I used to bake religiously! I cannot thank my old colleague and friend enough for the outline for this recipe! This recipe produces, in my opinion, the best textured cookie ever (I’m talking bake shop good…hence the name I gave this recipe)…what I’ve been searching for and experimenting to get for ages now; a slightly crunchy exterior giving way to a chewy, soft and moist middle. They even looked like they came out of a package…however I of course forgot to take a picture…no worries though, I will definitely be baking these again soon!

Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Barely adapted from Anna Olson, Food Network Canada

  • 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
  • chocolate chips, to taste (I love chocolatey cookies so I use an entire bag)
And just for fun, the old recipe I used to use, uses a ‘secret ingredient’ of vanilla instant pudding. These cookies are definitely very good as well, very soft and chewy but not the same texture as the new recipe, which I just love so much!
Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies:
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened (same as above, add salt if you use unsalted butter)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • chocolate chips
I will definitely still make these from time to time just because I’ve been making them this way for so long now, I can’t abandon this recipe completely! This recipe is delicious however, very soft cookies, no crunch when you bite into them really at all…just very light and fluffy! Enjoy, and if you make either or both, let me know what you think!!