Pumpkin Spice & Chocolate Swirl Fudge

Pumpkin Spice & Chocolate Swirl Fudge

I absolutely adore fudge for the holiday season. My mom’s fudge, especially. It’s a little bit of work, since it involves cooking the sugar to the soft ball stage, but it’s SO worth it! It’s really the only fudge I knew for a long time, but one year at a Christmas potluck, I tried microwave fudge. It’s not the same texture as regular fudge, but it’s still delicious!

This fudge only takes a few minutes to cook in the microwave, and then you just have to pour it out in a pan and let it chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. The original recipe just calls for semi-sweet chocolate, but since I adore Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice kisses (I’ve seen them at Target and Walgreens out here.), I just had to swirl these two together.

Because of the pumpkin spice kisses (which are usually softer than regular chocolate at room temperature), I recommend serving these just out of the fridge. As the fudge sits out, it doesn’t melt, but it does get fairly sticky.

Pumpkin Spice & Chocolate Swirl Fudge
Source: adapted from Nestle

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. pumpkin spice kisses, unwrapped (in weight)
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (in weight)
  • 14 oz. can condensed milk, divided
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment paper with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Place the pumpkin spice kisses and 9 oz. of the condensed milk in a medium bowl. Microwave the mixture on 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring well after each microwave cycle, until melted. Stir in 2/3 tsp. of the vanilla extract and set aside. In another bowl, add the semi-sweet chocolate chips and the remaining 5 oz. of the condensed milk. Microwave the mixture on 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring well after each microwave cycle, until melted. Stir in the remaining 1/3 tsp. of the vanilla extract and set aside.
  3. Spread the pumpkin spice kisses fudge into the bottom of the lined baking pan, and then drizzle the semi-sweet chocolate fudge over the pumpkin spice fudge. Swirl the two together with a fork or butter knife.
  4. Refrigerate the fudge for 2 hours or until the fudge is firm. Lift the parchment paper from the pan, and cut the fudge into 48 equal pieces.

Weight Loss Wednesday: Honesty is the Best Policy

I’ve done this before. 

I’m sure a few of you had suspicions since I wasn’t sharing as much on here/Twitter/Instagram about weight loss. And well, at my current weight, things are a bit out of control.

Before: 298.5
This Week: 284.1
————-
Total Loss: 14.4 lbs.

Yup.

October 2014

I have no excuses. None. I haven’t gone for a run in well over 7 months, and the gym? Heh…obviously not.

I have to look back on what went wrong. I stopped working out, I ate whatever I wanted in whatever portions I wanted, and most of all, I started to hate myself again.

I’ve always had self-image issues, and when I was losing weight, I was slowly becoming capable of being comfortable in my own skin.

70 lbs. down

Then, the weight gain started. My 16W jeans were tighter and tighter, and then I was like…well 18W isn’t bad. It’ll be temporary. Then, those got tight. I then purchased 20W jeans, and even those are a little snug right now. It’s just bad….for both me and my wallet (I donated most of my too big clothes because I swore I’d never be this size again…)

We have a cruise coming up in a couple of months, so I joined a Dietbet to sort of get things in control before I binge eat on the cruise ship. I also need to lose a bit of weight, so I don’t have to purchase a new swimsuit for this cruise. Yes, I’m larger than my largest swimsuit right now…

I guess the biggest take-away from this is that weight loss isn’t easy. Maintenance isn’t easy. It was so easy to go back to my old ways, and I miss my motivated self. I miss that sore post-gym feeling. I miss being in complete control of the foods I eat, no matter what I craved. I’m human, and well…I guess the only positive thing out of this is that I didn’t gain ALL of it back (almost did…) and that I’m back!

So, I’m here to hold myself accountable again. I’m going to start writing about my weight loss journey, and every Wednesday, you’ll get some sort of update from me. I’ll start posting my gym work-outs again (or video work-outs). I don’t want to say I’ll be back to 5x/week work-outs, but I will ease myself back into things. I’m also on MyFitnessPal (username niftyfoodie) to get back into calorie counting. :-)

Classic Caramel Apples

Classic Caramel Apples

Do you guys ever watch QVC? I usually only watch around the holidays when the kitchen show is on, and OMG…half of the time, I’m so jealous of the guy who hosts the program. The other day, they were advertising for these really fancy caramel apples, and the craving hit me. I had to have caramel apples. HAD to.

So, I grabbed a sack of small Granny Smith apples and got to work. I always get a bit anxious when it comes to candy-making, but we recently purchased this thermometer (it was on clearance at Target), and it worked like a charm! I usually have to use the bowl of ice water trick, because my thermometer is always a bit off, but these came out perfectly. I think the hardest parts were waiting for the caramel to cool down for dipping, and then cool completely for enjoying!

This recipe is a little different than the usual caramel that I’m used to…there’s a hint of molasses and maple flavor to it, which just makes you want to wear a pair of fuzzy socks, make my house smell like fall spices and take a nap. Perfect fall afternoon, right?

Classic Caramel Apples
Source: Epicurious

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. box dark brown sugar
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. dark molasses
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 popsicle sticks, chopsticks or long cookie sticks
  • Heavy whipping cream, just in case the caramel thickens too much during dipping
  • Optional: decorations (I used crushed candy corn M&Ms and a mixture of graham cracker crumbs with sprinkles) and/or melted dark, milk or white chocolate

Directions:

  1. Place the first 8 ingredients in a deep (at least 3 inches), heavy saucepan or dutch oven. Stir the mixture with a wooden or silicone spatula over medium-low heat, until the sugar dissolves (about 15 minutes). Have a wet pastry brush handy for brushing down the sides of the pan/pot.
  2. Add a clip-on candy thermometer to the side of the pan/pot. Then, increase the burner to medium-high heat, cooking the caramel to a rolling boil, stirring constantly (yet slowly) until the candy thermometer reaches 236 degrees F. If needed, use the wet pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan/pot.
  3. Carefully pour the caramel into a metal bowl, making sure not to scrape the pan/pot. Place the candy thermometer in the bowl, and allow the caramel to cool, without stirring, to 200 degrees F. This step will take 20-30 minutes.
  4. While the caramel is cooling, prep the apples by washing them in warm water, and wiping the excess water off of the apples once they are cleaned. Carefully stick in a popsicle stick/chopstick/cookie stick a couple of inches into the stem side of the apple. Place the apples on buttered foil or a silicone baking sheet.
  5. Once the caramel cools, dip one apple into the caramel, submerging all of the apple, except for the very top of the apple. Take the apple out of the caramel, and allow the excess caramel to drip back into the caramel bowl. Once that’s done, turn the caramel apple upside down, and hold the apple like that for several seconds, in order for the caramel to sort of set around the apple. Place the apple on the foil or silicone sheet. Repeat with the remaining apples, being sure to space the apples apart on the buttered foil/silicone sheet. Just in case the caramel thickens too much, add 1-2 tbsp. of heavy whipping cream to the caramel, and briefly whisk the caramel in the bowl over low heat to thin it out.
  6. If you are using decorations or chocolate, prepare them at this time for the apples.
  7. Place the apples on baking sheets in the fridge for about 15 minutes, or until the caramel is partially set and cool to the touch. Remove the baking sheets from the fridge. Lift one apple from the foil/silicone sheet, and using your hand, press the pooled caramel from the bottom of the apple, back onto the apple. Place the apple back on the foil/silicone sheet. Repeat with the rest of the apples.
  8. At this time, firmly press the decorations into the caramel, and then return the apple to the foil/silicone sheet. You can also dip the caramel apples into melted chocolate (allowing the excess to drip off for a few seconds), and then roll the chocolate coated caramel apple into your decorations. Another option for decorating the caramel apples is to drizzle melted chocolate over the apples and press on decorations that way too.
  9. Place the apples on the baking sheets back in the fridge for about an hour to allow everything to set. Cover or place in food-safe cellophane bags, and chill the apples for up to a week. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Espresso Cream Cheese Muffins

Pumpkin Espresso Cream Cheese Muffins

Just the other day, my husband and I were at Costco, and I was super tempted to purchase these trees for our mantel when the holiday season is here. I’m always a little eager to decorate for the holidays (if it were up to me, I’d have everything up in mid-November), but I held back from purchasing them.

Out here, it still feels summer-ish. We had a quick cool blast of weather this past weekend, which was a sweet relief. I took most of the day to weed the gardens, combat dodge wasp nests (OMG, the wasps this year), add new pine straw and add pretty new annuals for the upcoming seasons. It was nice to be out there, and for once, not really feel the effects of being outside until the next day (yeah, my legs were sore for two days after all of that..). However, once Monday hit, we were back to ridiculously humid days and highs in the mid to upper 80s. I rebelled with pumpkin spice coffee, but no dice. Still humid and gross outside. :-\

Oh, and we also decorated for Halloween. I totally forgot just how many decorations we purchased after Halloween last year haha! Pulling all of the Christmas decorations from the attic is going to be a surprise for sure, because I know we ransacked stores once things got to be 75% off last January.

Even though it’s practically summer outside, I’m still cracking open cans of pumpkin. In fact, one of my husband’s coworkers was sweet enough to bring him pumpkin puree, since they get a lot of what I bake in the kitchen. I sent him to work with a batch of pumpkin snickerdoodles and half of these muffins (I need to bring something for my coworkers, too!)

This is a twist of the popular Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins that are typically seen in a certain coffee shop during the fall, and while the twist is subtle, oh man…it MAKES these muffins! Instead of filling with a plain, sweetened cream cheese, I decided to add in some espresso powder (since I’m ALL about the pumpkin spice coffee lately) with a little bit of cinnamon as well. The dozen muffins that I brought to work didn’t even make it to the break room table! (If my coworkers see me with an aluminum tin, they know some baked goodness is hiding underneath the foil.) While these muffins do take a few steps more than normal muffins (due to the layering of the batter/cream cheese/batter/streusel topping), it’s definitely worth it.

Pumpkin Espresso Cream Cheese Muffins
Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Bakespace

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

For the muffins:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

For the streusel topping:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • Optional: roasted pumpkin seeds

Directions:

  1. To make the filling, mix the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, espresso powder and cinnamon together in a medium-sized bowl, until the ingredients are well-mixed and the mixture is smooth. Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter, and transfer the mixture to the plastic wrap. Shape the mixture into a 1 1/2 inch diameter log, and then wrap the cream cheese mixture tightly with the plastic wrap. Then, wrap the plastic wrap with foil, and place the cream cheese mixture in the freezer, for at least 2 hours (making sure the log is at least slightly firm before using for the muffins).
  2. Once the filling is ready, make the muffins. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two muffin pans by lining them with cupcake/muffin liners and set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, add the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda. Whisk the dry mixture well.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix the wet ingredients on medium-low speed, until well-mixed. Turn the mixer on low speed, and add in the dry ingredients, mixing everything together until just incorporated. Set aside.
  4. To make the topping, add the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small-sized bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients well. Add in the butter cubes, and using a pastry blender or two forks, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. (Keep this mixture in the fridge if you aren’t immediately baking the muffins.)
  5. Assemble the muffins by filling each liner with about 1-2 tbsp. of muffin batter, making sure to just cover the bottom of the muffin liner. Take the cream cheese log out of the freezer, and slice it into 24 equal slices. Place a slice of the espresso cream cheese mixture into each liner, on top of the just placed muffin batter. Divide the rest of the muffin batter among the muffin liners (until about 2/3 of the way full), being sure to completely cover the cream cheese slices. Lastly, sprinkle the streusel mixture (as well as the pumpkin seeds, if you wish) over each of the muffins.
  6. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, and then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to allow to completely cool. Note: DO NOT consume these muffins until they are completely cool, because the cream cheese will be ridiculously hot on the inside after baking. Enjoy!

A Bunch of Randoms

Is it just me or is it really hard to resist holiday make-up sets? I don’t even need any make-up. I own more eyeshadow palettes than I care to admit, and I ran out of room in my organizer for lip glosses. The holiday sets are just so darn pretty!

I’ve been back on the weight loss journey, and I keep thinking back to when I was 70 lbs. down (which was April 2013). I don’t know where my willpower went, but if anyone sees it, can you please tell it to head back to Louisiana? I’m going to really need it (especially) these next few months!

Why is it still in the upper 80s outside? Just walking from the parking lot to a building makes my hair stick to the back of my neck. SO GROSS. I’m over it. (Although I’m sure I’ll be begging for 90 degrees in mid January…) We’re supposed to be getting a “cold” front this weekend, and I’m totally forking out my boots…even if the cold front makes it 70 degrees or something silly like that. I’m ready to knit a cowl (or 10).

I pre-ordered the iPhone 6 Plus a couple of days after the pre-ordering opened, and I’m just itching to get my mitts on it. I’m actually sort of bummed with the phone I have right now. At the time, AT&T was offering a $200 gift card trade-in deal for my old 4S, but it was only valid until 9/30. Sadly, when I went to order, I found out that I wouldn’t receive the phone I wanted to purchase until November…that’s right…NOVEMBER. The rules at the time stated that it needed to be traded in by the end of September, so I dug out my 3GS and activated it (to take advantage of the trade-in on my 4S). It’s crazy how much slower my 3GS is vs. my 4S. Erg. First world problems! (Oh, and I kept saying at the time, because apparently a couple of days later, AT&T changed the trade-in offer to be valid as long as you pre-ordered before the end of the month, regardless of how long it took for the new phone to ship out.. Just…my….luck.)

Pumpkin Cupcakes

These cupcakes…ugh. I totally want to make a batch. However, I’m worried about the lack of willpower (see 2.), because I’m fairly sure I’d eat 3 of them and regret it 30 minutes later. Actually, I probably wouldn’t regret it, because those cupcakes are worth it :-P. ::sigh:: (See the mental dilemma?!) Getting back on the weight loss wagon is hard work, y’all!

Pumpkin Confetti Soft & Chewy Bars

Pumpkin Confetti Soft & Chewy Bars

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to an LSU football game. It was my first game in Tiger Stadium since I graduated from there (years ago), and my alma mater has changed so much. The campus is the same size, but they seem to be tearing down buildings and building new ones left and right. When we were walking around, I had moments of nostalgia. Part of me misses the college days…the super late night study sessions with friends, random on-call nights (yeah, I was a party pooping RA) and of course, the LSU student section at football games.

Our seats were super high up, which totally made my knees buckle under me since I have a terrible fear of heights. I needed a good 10-15 minutes to get used to our seats, but once the game started, I had no problem jumping up during big plays and looking over the ledge to see the crowd below…haha! I also teared up like a wuss when the LSU Tiger Band played the alma mater during pregame, mostly because I still have regrets about quitting marching band after a year and heck, I just miss the college days! I mean, I love being an adult and all, but there will always be a piece of me that misses those wonderful college days. :-)

Speaking of nostalgia, anything involving funfetti mix makes me think of my childhood. My mom made funfetti cookies and cupcakes all the time in our house! In fact, for my bachelorette, there was a fresh batch of funfetti cupcakes just waiting for me and my friends in the hotel room. While cakes from scratch are wonderful, there will always be a place in my heart (and stomach) for funfetti. I thought that I should combine pumpkin with funfetti, because everyone in my life knows how pumpkin obsessed I am. The moisture in the pumpkin helps them to come out so soft and chewy, and these bars are then topped with a pumpkin spice/sugar mixture that adds a little crunch to them. It’s a great, simple recipe to bake up this fall. :-)

Pumpkin Confetti Soft & Chewy Bars
Source: an original

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (divided)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the cake mix, pumpkin puree, eggs and 1 tsp. of the pumpkin pie spice together for about a minute, until no lumps in the cake mix remain.
  3. Evenly spread the dough with your hands in the 9×13 inch cake pan (it’s helpful to dip your hands in a bowl of warm water to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands). In a small bowl, mix the granulated sugar and remaining 1 tsp. of pumpkin spice together. Sprinkle the pumpkin pie spiced sugar over the bar dough, and bake the bars for 15-18 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean.
  4. Allow the bars to fully cool in the pan, slice into bars and serve.

I might like pumpkin…

It might not be news to you guys that I love pretty much everything pumpkin. When August hits, I have this uncontrollable urge to go fall crazy. Football…cooler weather…baking season…comfort food….spicy pumpkin scents.

Yep. I love it all.

Now, the minute Bath and Body Works comes out with pumpkin products, I tend to a go a little crazy. Labor Day weekend, however, it’s like they were in my head. They offered a pumpkin pail that weekend, and I was STOKED.

Pumpkin B&BW Basket

I mean…that pumpkin bath poof? Ugh. I LOVE it all. I’m going to smell of pumpkin spice all fall and winter…I have no issues with this. :-)

Then, since I’m obsessed with home scents, I went crazy with candles. I have to admit, I usually go with candles at Bath & Body Works or Yankee Candles. However, after reading rave reviews on Jessica’s blog last year, I decided to give Candles by Victoria a try.

Her prices are comparable to other brands, and she always offers 10% off with code: cbvictoria (or sometimes more if you check out her Facebook page). You do have to pay for shipping, but I’m OK with that. I love the idea of supporting a family business, and these candles are SO scented….it makes my old candles seem like they barely smell like anything. These candles have spoiled my nose.

Pumpkin Candles (Candles by Victoria)

I’ve already made a few orders. These are just the pumpkin-y scents I purchased. She has about 900 scents to choose from (yeah..), so this definitely helps to give me my pumpkin-y fix for the fall. I also purchased some holiday scents and normal bakery scents. My current favorite scents from her shop are gooey pumpkin butter cake (I know, right?), buttercream, pink cupcake, and pumpkin cupcake.

And the two candles in the center? I can’t even. The one on the left is Maple Butter Pumpkin Frap and the one on the right is Pumpkin Gingerbread Splash. Wouldn’t these be adorable as gifts? They’re just too pretty to burn…well, almost. :-)

And then of course….there is this. Not at all pumpkin scented…smells more like outside, but this is the cutest pumpkin ever. EVER.

Happy Halloween!

Yay for the Fall! What are your fall favorites?

Disclosure: I purchased all of the mentioned products with my own money. These opinions are 100% my own. I just love pumpkin/pumpkin spices. I also like to randomly plug in pictures of my dog whenever I can. :-)

Chocolate Spritz Cookies with Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter Icing

Disclosure: I wrote this post as a part of OXO’s Bake a Difference for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer (#OXOGoodCookies) campaign. I received no compensation for this post, but was given OXO products to use to make this recipe.

Chocolate Spritz Cookies with Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter Icing

My best friend is about to have her first baby. It blows my mind, because um…wasn’t college last week? Not really, but time is just flying by. My husband and I want to have kids some day, but oh man, I sometimes still feel like I’m too young for this. When did I reach my 30s? Weird.

Anyway, I’m super thrilled for her and her husband. I can’t wait to meet their sweet little baby and spoil him/her rotten with random craft-y things. :-P

I have been in a major cooking mood this past week, which means fall is really around the corner. I rarely cook in the summer, and if I do, it’s slow cooker meals, because I don’t want to heat things up in the house when it’s 100+ heat index outside (kitchen slacker). So, now my kitchen is about to be crazy haha! I made these chocolate spritz cookies for coworkers, and then two pans of chicken enchiladas (one for us and one for my friend/her husband, just so they have one less thing to worry about when prepping for baby). :-)

These chocolate spritz cookies are very simple to throw together. It’s not fussy…just one bowl needed, and the dough comes together in no time! I got this recipe off of OXO’s recipe book, but decided to add my own little fall twist by icing the cookies with pumpkin spice peanut butter icing. Perfect combination for the fall! I used OXO’s cookie press to make them, and I was especially excited to use the fleur de lis disk, since it’s football season. (Yay Saints!)

I made these cookies to Bake a Difference with OXO for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. This fall, keep your eyes peeled for certain OXO products with this sticker on the tag.


(Image courtesy of OXO, used with their permission.)

For every stickered item sold, OXO will donate 25 cents in support of pediatric cancer research as part of its $100,000* pledge to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Look for specially marked OXO products at participating retailers in September.

* In 2014, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer through specially marked baking tools, bake sale matches and other fundraising efforts. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fund pediatric cancer research.

If you’re looking to purchase some new kitchen products very soon, it’s the perfect time to bake a difference, especially with the holidays coming up!

Chocolate Spritz Cookies with Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter Icing
Source: cookies from OXO and icing is adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

 For the icing:

  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Directions:

  1. To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set aside two un-greased baking sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and salt together, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, and add the vanilla extract and egg into the bowl, mixing on low.
  3. Slowly add in the flour and cocoa powder, beating until the mixture is well mixed.
  4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown on the edges.
  5. To make the icing, whisk the peanut butter, pumpkin pie spice, milk and vanilla extract together in a bowl until well mixed. Add in the powdered sugar and mix until there are no clumps in the icing. It will be a thin icing.
  6. Once the cookies have cooled, place them close together on a cooling rack and using a fork, drizzle the tops of the cookies with the glaze. If you’d like, you can add sprinkles on top right after icing them. Enjoy!

 

Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies & A Contest!

Disclosure: I received no compensation for writing this post, but I did receive whole grains products at no cost to me as an ambassador. I developed this recipe for the “Make the Switch” campaign since I’m a 2014 Whole Grains Ambassador for the Whole Grains Council. This recipe is an entry into a recipe contest for a potential prize. All opinions are 100% my own.

Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies

Right now, I want nothing more than comfort food. It feels like 100 degrees outside, but with crisp, fall weather on the horizon, I’m in the mood to practically live in my kitchen right now. I mentioned that there would be quite a bit more baking on the blog, and well…here’s more of it! This time, however, I’m pushing all-purpose flour to the side and giving you guys quinoa cookies.

No, really. These cookies aren’t exactly diet-friendly (hello PB and M&Ms!), but they do make use of whole grains, which is a great thing to incorporate into every day recipes. As a whole grains ambassador, I was challenged to “Make the Switch” to whole grains using a well-known dish to celebrate Whole Grains month in September. I decided to bake up these chewy quinoa monster cookies, since monster cookies are one of my favorite cookies. You can’t go wrong with peanut butter, M&Ms and raisins. So tasty!

Check out the other 15 bloggers who came up with fantastic ideas for all of us to make the switch towards using whole grains. There’s everything from soups to entrees to dessert! So many wonderful ideas. I’m so excited to be included in this group of bloggers, and I hope some of these recipes inspire you all in the kitchen to try more whole grains in your every day cooking/baking.

Now, you may notice that there is a way to VOTE for your favorite recipe by a blogger. One lucky voter could win $500, along with a prize package of whole grain products! I’d really appreciate your vote for my recipe, if you have a moment. The top 5 blogger recipes voted through by readers will be judged in a recipe contest, and the winning bloggers from the resulting contest will win some great cash prizes as well! Voting is open now through September 30th (official rules and further details are linked on the voting website). :-)

Now, this recipe….

Y’all. I really was worried about developing a recipe for quinoa cookies, because I’ve never used quinoa in a dessert, but they came out SO chewy and decadent. My husband brought these to his work, and his coworkers loved them! These quinoa cookies went just as fast as the usual baked goodies that I send to work with him. And yeah…I really did eat three of these the night I made them. They are fantastic!

Again, thanks in advance for reading this post and for potentially voting for my recipe! I really appreciate your support!

Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies
Source: A Nifty Foodie Original

(makes about 30 cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups peanut butter (not natural)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup pre-cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 1 cup candy coated chocolate candies (like M&Ms)
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup raisins

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir the peanut butter, egg and sugar together for a minute or so, until everything is thoroughly mixed. Add in the salt, vanilla extract and baking soda and mix until just combined.
  3. Gently stir in the quinoa, candies, chocolate chips and raisins, until just combined.
  4. Using a standard size cookie scoop, scoop the cookies about 1 ½ inches apart on the baking sheets.
  5. Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, and keep them on the cookie sheet for another 10 minutes out of the oven, to continue the baking process and to allow them to set a bit. They will be very soft just out of the oven, so those extra 10 minutes allows them to be easily transferred. After the 10 minutes, place them on a cooling rack to finish cooling. Bake the rest of the cookies on one of the cookie sheets once the first batch has cooled enough to free up the pan.
  6. Enjoy!

 

Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

I know I have been fairly infrequent in my posting lately, which kind of stinks. Life has really been happening (all good things), but none of it has to do with this blog. So, of course, it has suffered a little bit. However, I’m pretty excited that my favorite baking months are ahead, so there will be more recipes for me to share. I tend to get more inspiration in the kitchen during the cooler months, so I’m pretty excited to share recipes more frequently again. :-)

This past week was my coworker’s birthday. At my current job, I’ve sort of become one of the unofficial birthday cake makers. When I asked my coworker what she would like for her birthday, she asked for the New York Times cookies that I posted about a while back. I was originally thinking of decorating the cookies with buttercream and just passing those out, but then I thought that a cookie cake would be especially fun.  I love the look of the un-iced cakes lately, so I went for that look with this cookie cake.

This post isn’t really a recipe, because the recipe for the cookies and buttercream have already been posted. However, I did want to share how I went about making this recipe, which is meant for individual cookies, into a layered cookie cake.

Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
Source: inspired by un-iced cakes, which are all over the Internet lately

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. Divide the cookie dough into four pieces (Just to note: As you can see, this cookie cake has three layers. I only used three of the pieces for this recipe, and baked the rest of the dough into individual cookies). Press one piece evenly into the bottom of the 8-inch cake pan. Repeat with another piece of cookie dough into the other pan.
  3. Bake the two layers in the oven for 18-22 minutes, until the top of the cookie layers are golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven, and allow the cookie pans to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. The pans will still be hot after this, so carefully flip the pans over onto a cooling rack, remove the parchment paper and allow them to finish cooling on the rack.
  4. When one of the pans is fully cooled, line the pan with parchment paper and press another piece of cookie dough evenly into the pan. Bake the last layer for 18-22 minutes, and allow it to cool the same way as the other two layers.
  5. Once all of the layers are cooled, place a small dollop of buttercream frosting on the cake serving plate, and place the first layer over the frosting. The dollop of frosting will help the cake adhere to the plate. If you’d like, you can dye the buttercream whatever color(s) you’d like. Set aside about 1 cup frosting for decorating the top/sides of the cake for after you’re done assembling the cookie cake.
  6. With the buttercream that you didn’t set aside, evenly spread half of the buttercream on top of the first cookie layer. Place the second cookie layer directly over the frosted first cookie layer. Then, evenly spread the rest of the buttercream (not including the cup you set aside) on top of the second cookie layer. Finally, place the third cookie layer on top of the second cookie layer.
  7. With the remaining cup of buttercream, I added a few piped swirls on top and piped some buttercream along the sides of the cake, to make things look cleaner. Add sprinkles, if you’d like! Slice like a normal cake and enjoy!