Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies

In the 13 months that I’ve been on my weight loss journey, I’ve never found myself as challenged as I am this month. Last January, when I started counting calories, I was on a weight loss high. I was dropping weight left and right, and it was completely motivating to stay on track. This January, however, my weight isn’t coming off as quickly as it did (of course), and for some reason, I keep having a raging craving for all things sweet. I usually have some awesome willpower to say “no”, but I’m finding that I can’t trust myself lately.

Example: I bought a king cake for the first time this season. That same day, I ate THREE slices. The scale went up 2 lbs. ::sad:: Must.find.willpower.ASAP!

Now, I find that I’m improving a bit since Christmas. Y’all….the holidays had a ton of food. It all started with a cruise that my husband and I went on. Unlimited food that was already included? Well, let’s just say five pounds later I found myself standing on the scale in awe. You would think my mind would say GET BACK ON TRACK, but no…my mind said WHERE’S THE CHOCOLATE? Ugh.

So, all of the candy had to go. All of it. The best way I’ve discovered to get rid of a bunch of random candy? Add oatmeal and peanut butter and make some monster cookies! This was my first time making these cookies, and y’all….I think these were a worse temptation than the darn candy! I had to revert back to the days when I couldn’t resist baked goods, and immediately wrap the cookies in saran wrap, and ask my husband to just take them to his office. I know…I really need my willpower back, y’all. My husband told me some people took 5-6 of these cookies with them, so I know they were a hit in the office!

Monster Cookies
Source: adapted from Paula Deen

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup M&Ms
  • 1/2 cup assorted chocolate candy (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal

Directions:

    1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
    2. In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs and sugars for about a minute on medium, or until mixed well. Scrape down the bowl and add the salt, vanilla extract, peanut butter and butter. Mix everything on medium high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and using a silicone spatula or spoon, stir in the M&Ms, chocolate candy, chocolate chips, raisins, baking soda and oatmeal.
    3. Scoop the cookies out with a medium sized scoop, allowing 2 inches between each cookie, onto the already prepared baking sheets.
    4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, making sure not to over-bake the cookies. Allow the cookies to cool for about 3-5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring the cookies to wire racks to finish cooling. Enjoy!

 

 

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Red Velvet Cookies

I’ve been blogging for almost 5 years, and I never imagined what would come out of it. I’ve made so many wonderful friends through this blog, and when there’s good news in the blogging community, I feel like it’s happening to a real life friend. Sometimes, I actually almost tell my real life friends “OMG ::blogger name:: is engaged!”, but I thankfully stop myself because my friends would think I’m a little crazy. Oh well….

Today, I’m contributing a dessert to Amy’s (of Amy’s Kitchen Creations) virtual baby shower, which was organized by Carrie of Carrie’s Sweet Life. I know Amy from a cooking forum that we post to. I feel like this little cooking/food forum is just a big group of friends. While we no longer post on The Nest (where the original forum was), it’s great that someone started a forum elsewhere for us to remain in contact. A bunch of us on there are bloggers, and it’s just wonderful to discuss things with other bloggers. It’s not like I can go to my friends/family and ask them about a certain plug-in or blogging conference lol! So, being able to “talk” to these gals is just amazing.

Anywho, back to Amy. Amy is expecting a little girl very soon, and I figured I’d contribute a dessert (as always haha). I went to her blog to see what she enjoyed dessert-wise, and thought that I should contribute something chocolate, but well….chocolate isn’t very pink. I like to make pink desserts for showers haha! So, I kept reading and noticed her post about red velvet cupcakes…I thought, hrm….could I make something PINK velvet?! So, I went to Pinterest, and found these red velvet white chocolate chip cookies. They sounded awesome, and I thought if I added enough pink coloring, I could get the color to stand out over the cocoa. Well…they still turned out red lol, so it’s the thought that counts, right?

While the cookies aren’t that pink color I was hoping for, I will say that the taste of these cookies more than make-up for it! These cookies are thick and chewy…the cornstarch is an ingredient that I’m loving lately in cookies. It just gives cookies a wonderful texture, and the flavor of these cookies are spot-on. Definitely the red velvet that I know and love. :-)

Congratulations, Amy! I wish I could really send you these cookies…I think you would enjoy them!

If you want to check out what other bloggers contributed to Amy’s shower, check out Carrie’s round-up post.

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Cooking Classy

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. red food coloring
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Set this aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer, mix together the butter, sugar and vinegar for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and scrape down the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and food coloring and mix until just blended.
  4. With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients and mix until everything is just combined. Using a spatula, mix in the white chocolate chips.
  5. Using a medium sized cookie scoop, scoop the dough out onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie for baking. Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes, and allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Then, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Enjoy!

Top 10 Recipes of 2012

Man, what a year it has been! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family. :-)

Most years, I feel like time has flown by, but for some reason, it feels like last January was truly a year ago. So many great things have happened to us this year (as well as some really crappy events).  

Some highlights and not so highlights:

  • It was our first full year in our new house, which has been such a blessing. It’s just awesome to finally have friendly neighbors, who don’t throw their trash in our backyard or play loud music at 2am (side-eye to the neighbors at the old house).
  • My husband and I have both decided to live healthier. Between us, we’ve lost over 150 lbs. this year. (I’m sure my husband is rolling his eyes at me sharing this, but seriously..I’m gonna brag here!) That’s just amazing to me. I’m so proud of us.
  • Another weight loss highlight. I fit into a clothes size that I haven’t been able to wear since 10th grade. That was 12 years ago. OMG!
  • A not so highlight. Hurricane Isaac…don’t want to go into too much detail with that one, but yeah, hurricanes suck. Oh, and for the record, labradors don’t care if the winds are 50 mph outside. If there’s rain/water, it’s playtime! (ugh)
  • I think I’m making some good progress on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list.

And of course, it’s been another fun year blogging. I really appreciate all of y’all taking the time to read my tiny corner of the Internet. Thank you for your sweet comments, emails and tweets. In January, it’s gonna be this blog’s 5th anniversary, and I’m just amazed by all of the friends I’ve made and people I’ve “met”  through this blog. You guys are the best!

Just to round up the year, I wanted to share with y’all your top 10 most read posts from 2012.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream

10. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Buttercream - These whoopie pies were made for a work fundraiser, and they were a huge success. Great pumpkin/spicy flavor, and the salted caramel buttercream just makes them super indulgent. Pumpkin + caramel is a wonderful combination!

Red Velvet Bundt Cake

9. Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting - I love anything red velvet. This bundt cake is a fun change from a regular cake, and it was pretty easy to throw together and bake!

Baked Oatmeal

8. Baked Oatmeal - My breakfast has been forever changed by this. This oatmeal is not soggy at all (which I hate about cooked oats), and it’s very sweet with the addition of bananas.

Peanut Butter Cookies

7. Peanut Butter Cookies - Just simple, classic peanut butter cookies. :-) Very good!

Candy Corn Oreo Truffles

6. Candy Corn Oreo Truffles - Oreo truffles are insanely good, and it was fun to make these with seasonal flavors. Always a favorite when I bring these truffles to work!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

5. Fresh Strawberry Pie - I’m SO glad strawberry season is back. I need to make this pie again…it’s not rich at all, and since it involves no cooking (except for the crust), it tastes so fresh!

Snickers Cupcakes

4. Snickers Cupcakes - Oh, I totally need to make these again. If you love Snickers, you will LOVE these!

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade

3. Homemade Strawberry Lemonade - Meyer lemon season + strawberry season? Um…guess I need to make this too and ASAP!

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

2. Red Velvet Swirl Brownies - These were just delicious, and so pretty too! Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Feta

1. Spinach, Strawberry, Pecan and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette - This is a huge favorite of y’alls. I think Pinterest made this a popular one, and it is VERY easy to throw together! This is a salad you want to make for your next party…it’s an awesome combination!

Thanks so much for reading this blog, and I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! Time to get used to writing/typing “2013″. :-)

Molasses Spice Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Molasses Spice Cinnamon Chip Cookies

One of the biggest addictions I had as a kid around Christmas were the Little Debbie frosted gingerbread man cookies. If my Mom brought those home….oh man, they were gone within 2 days between us 4 kids. I’ve made rolled gingerbread cookies before, which tasted very good, but soft and chewy is my ideal preference when it comes to cookies.

When I was at the store a couple of weeks ago, I came across cinnamon chips. I’ve always seen them on blogs, but NEVER in the stores near me. Maybe I’m just not that aware or it could be a seasonal thing around here, but when I saw them, I knew I had to scoop them up. I was thinking of how I could use them, and I didn’t want to just make chocolate chip cookie base and replace chocolate chips with these, so I thought that a molasses-y cookie would taste wonderful with these! I went to my favorite cookbook, and dug around for a recipe that featured a soft, spicy molasses cookie. When I read soft, chewy and “gently spiced”…I was in.

I will admit, I burned a batch of these. It’s VERY easy to overbake these cookies, so it’s best to keep an eye on the first batch to see how long it takes to bake them up in your oven. They will look kind of raw out of the oven, but they finish “baking” on the cookie sheet during the first part of the cooling process. These cookies have a wonderful flavor, and the cinnamon chips are the perfect enhancement to these. I rolled them in Christmas-y sparkling sugar instead of the granulated sugar as originally called for, which gave them a more festive feel. (Y’all can tell I’m obsessed with Christmas sprinkles, eh?…if you follow my Instagram, you know what I mean!)

Molasses Spice Cinnamon Chip Cookies
Source: adapted from Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup granulated sugar (can sub 1/2 cup sugar for 1/2 cup festive sparkling sugar)
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup light or dark molasses
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and make sure the oven rack is in the middle position. Prepare your cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a silicone sheet liner and set aside. Place 1/2 cup of granulated (or sparkling) sugar in a baking dish or pie plate and set aside for later.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add in the egg yolk and vanilla extract. Once those are added, increase the speed a bit and beat until everything is incorporated (about 20 seconds).
  4. Reduce the speed to medium-low again and add in the molasses. Beat the molasses in until the batter is well-mixed. Scrape down the bowl at this time, if it’s necessary. Reduce your mixer speed to low and add in the flour mixture. Mix everything until the dough is just incorporated. Using a spatula or large spoon, stir in the cinnamon chips.Scoop the dough into tbsp. sized scoops, and place the top half of the balls in the leftover sugar. Place the balls of dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking pans.
  5. Bake the cookies 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are browned but still puffy, about 11 minutes, making sure to rotate the pans halfway through baking. The centers of the cookies will still be soft, and look raw between the cracks. Do not overbake these cookies…they can overbake very easily (within a minute, I found).
  6. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Chewy Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Chip Cookies

Last Christmas, my in-laws got me this awesome cookbook as a gift. I’m a big fan of Cook’s Illustrated’s recipes, and so I was so thrilled to unwrap this book last year. I immediately skimmed through it while we still had family at the house…I just couldn’t wait! While the cookbook doesn’t have pictures throughout, I have to say it’s a VERY comprehensive cookbook, full of tips and recipes that are well-tested. Whenever I think of a recipe I want to make in the kitchen, this is the first book I look to for a recipe, and it hasn’t let me down yet!

I wanted to try a new cookie this year for food gifts, so of course I had to flip to the index to find a chocolate cookie.  The original recipe calls for chopped semi-sweet chocolate, but I just had to use up the Andes chips that I had in the pantry. (I used both the creme de menthe and peppermint crunch varieties since I made a ::gulp:: triple batch of this dough..)

This cookie is insanely rich and fudgey…I could barely finish one without gulping down water! The addition of the mint chips makes it so festive, not just flavor wise, but color wise, since the two chips are green and red. :-)

Chewy Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies
adapted from: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup granulated sugar (separated)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup mint chips (like Andes)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment or a silicone sheet.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Place the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in a small, shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a medium-sized bowl, and in a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, egg white and vanilla.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium-low, and add in the corn syrup mixture. Beat the mixture for about 20 seconds, until everything is fully incorporated, being sure to scrape down the bowl as needed.

Turn the mixer to a low speed, and add in the flour mixture, as well as the mint chips. Mix everything together until the dough is just incorporated (do not overmix), making sure to scrape down the bowl as needed. This should take about 30 seconds to mix. With a spatula, turn the dough a couple of times to make sure there are no pockets of flour in the dough. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow it to firm a little.

Roll the dough into tbsp. sized balls, and then roll the top half of the dough balls into the sugar (in the baking dish or pie plate) to just coat them. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet (with sprinkled sugar halves facing up), and bake the cookies until they are puffed and cracked, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway into baking. The edges of the cookies will have begun to set, but the middle of the cookies will still be soft. Be mindful not to over-bake these.

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, and then place them on a cooling rack to remain cooling. Enjoy!

 

Homemade Holiday Gifts: Part 1

I absolutely love baking during the holiday season. I’m always looking for excuses to bake, and during the holidays, I tend to find a ton of excuses. :-)

One of our biggest traditions around the holidays is what I like to call the annual bake-palooza, which is the weekend before Christmas. Basically, we live in the kitchen for the majority of the weekend and bake, bake, bake for friends, coworkers, neighbors…you name it! It doesn’t sound fun to most, but to me, it’s a blast! Over the years, I’ve learned which recipes are great for gifting, and which recipes, while impressive, are just too much work to make for 15-20 gifts.

This year, I’m doing something different. While I’m still baking up a storm, I figured I could lighten the load a little by spreading out the majority of the work—the cookies.

Since we’re making a ton of goodies (husband likes to help), I had to do the math to see how many batches of each recipe I’d need to make for gifts. Most cookie recipes make 24 cookies (check your recipes first), so after doing the math, I decided 11 batches of cookies was a good number (2 of those being cookie dough gifts, which is a whole ’nother gift idea). Of course, I doubt we’ll need all of those cookies, but I wanted to make sure I had extra dough, just in case…you can never have too much cookie dough, right?

One of the first things I always do for a big bake-palooza, is to stalk the grocery ads. I refuse to buy butter that’s over $2/pound box. I live in a fairly low to middle cost of living area, and from experience, I know $2 is rock bottom for the price of butter. It’s probably different in, say, New York or Los Angeles, but the idea is to buy butter when it’s the cheapest. Oh, and buy a LOT of it. I bought 12 boxes. Did you know that you can freeze butter? Just in case you don’t use it all..

Butter isn’t the only thing I shop for…I usually go through 3 bags of flour and sugar, multiple bags of chocolate chips, as well as 2-3 cartons of eggs. All of these go on sale this time of the year, and I know I sound like a cheap person for saying BUY EVERYTHING CHEAP, but seriously, when you’re baking multiple gifts, it all adds up! (and hey, saving money on ingredients means more money to buy pretty packaging, right?)

Once you have your ingredients, now of course you can make your dough. Since I’m usually doubling (or tripling) some recipes, I do that math in advance. Write those numbers on a post-it or something and stick it next to your recipe OR retype out your recipe with the correct amounts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve doubled a recipe, only to realize I forgot to double one thing…like sugar. Yup. Not good. Just do the math in advance. :-)

Side note: Just keep in mind your mixer size when you’re doubling or tripling recipes. My standard 5 qt. mixer can usually handle a double batch of cookie dough, but tripling really pushes the limits on the capacity of my bowl. I was able to triple recipes just fine in the 7 qt. mixer I have, though. 

Once your dough is mixed, use a medium sized cookie scoop (or large, if recipe calls for it), and scoop dough balls out. My freezer is a side by side, and a 9×13 cake pan fits just fine in there. So, I scooped them out into a cake pan, making sure to leave a tiny bit of space between dough balls, to make sure they don’t freeze together.

Holiday Prep Pt 1 (1)

If you have more than one layer of cookie dough, just layer balls of dough between sheets of wax paper.

Holiday Prep Pt 1 (2)

Once you have your cookie dough scooped out, place the pan into a freezer and allow the dough balls to freeze for 1-2 hours, until they are fairly set. Then, take them out of the pan and throw them into a freezer bag. Allow all of the excess air out of the bags, and seal until you’re ready to bake them.

Holiday Prep Pt 1 (3)

To bake the cookies, all you need to do is place the balls on a cookie sheet, allowing a couple of inches in between for spreading, and bake at the temperature specified for the recipe for just 1-2 minutes longer than called for.

Holiday Prep Pt 1 (4)

You can see that I burnt the cookie in the back, but that was because it was meant to be baked 25 degrees cooler than the others. Whoops! Glad I learned that lesson before the big baking weekend!

Stay tuned for the next posts in this mini-series: one about favorite recipes for gifting and another about packaging. :-)

Gingerbread Blossom Cookies

Gingerbread Blossom Cookies

Since Halloween is officially over, I usually just eat all of the candy leftover from trick or treaters like it’s no big deal. Heck, that’s why I’d get chocolate…always. However, with this diet thing going on, I felt like I could totally do the whole portion control thing. That lasted one night…when I caught myself eating 3 Reeses cups the next afternoon, I decided ALL of the candy had to go.

Even the pumpkin spice kisses in the freezer. :-(

So, I decided to make blossom cookies with them, but I didn’t want to do plain sugar cookies. I wanted to do something a little different and more festive. I know it’s not the holiday season yet (to the majority, that is…I’m so ready to decorate for Christmas…judge away). However, gingerbread is fall spice-ish, so I figured it would probably work. Um…yeah…this totally worked. TOTALLY. These cookies are a soft, chewy gingerbread and with the pumpkin spice kisses in the middle?? Y’all…I can’t even. These cookies had to get out of our house! Thankfully, my coworkers didn’t mind polishing these off. :-)

Now, I know these kisses are a Halloween candy, but you may luck out at your store. I saw them at my local Target a couple of days ago, and right now, the Halloween candy is SUPER cheap, so if you love these kisses, stock up! I really wish Hersheys would make this a year-round candy, but I guess it’s better for my thighs this way. :-P

Gingerbread Blossom Cookies
Source: cookie recipe from Taste of Home

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Additional sugar for rolling
  • Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses, unwrapped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a mixer, mix the butter and sugar for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add in the egg and molasses.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix until everything is well-combined.
  3. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out cookies and roll the dough into granulated sugar. Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on a parchment or silicone mat lined cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for 8-11 minutes, until puffy and lightly browned along the edge.
  4. Immediately after taking the cookies out, press a kiss candy into the center of each cookie. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely. Since these kisses are a softer chocolate, you may want to place them in the refrigerator for about 10-20 minutes, to allow the kiss candy to set before serving.

 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

This past weekend, Hocus Pocus was on cable. Twice. So I watched it twice, of course. Thank goodness LSU’s game was a morning game or I would have been a little torn. Growing up in the 90s, Hocus Pocus just screams Halloween to me. I actually remember my parents not letting us watch the movie at first, because it was rated PG. Yes, I know how sheltered this makes me sound, but I understand. I probably would have had nightmares about my life being sucked out by a witch or something.

I love my parents, but as a kid, they were very strict about what my siblings and I could have. For example, when I got my first CD player, “Santa” included a copy of “Jagged Little Pill” with it, and the minute my mom heard “da*n” from the CD, I had to return it and ended up with Spice Girls. No offense to Spice Girls, but I really wanted Alanis Morissette’s CD. Also, when I had braces, most of the kids in class were rule breakers. They ate sticky candy and chewed gum, but I didn’t dare try that in front of my parents. One of the biggest candies I missed was caramel. Caramel is in so many things I love, like Snickers or a good ice cream sundae. So yeah, the braces phase of life REALLY stunk.

Now that I’m an adult, of course I don’t have anyone to tell me no PG movie or gum for you. I don’t necessarily junk up my life, but it’s cool to have that freedom, especially in the kitchen. A few weeks ago, I noticed these caramel bits in the grocery store and immediately thought of throwing them in cookies. Since it’s fall, of course I had to involve pumpkin, and I found this recipe. The original recipe involved butterscotch chips, but I added caramel bits and dried cranberries instead. Fantastic, right? Oh heck yes. :-) You can’t go wrong with these cookies…in fact, the pumpkin oatmeal base makes it too tempting to add all sorts of fun ingredients to them.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
Source: adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup caramel bits (or you could use chocolate chips)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set those aside.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients in a small bowl. (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and salt) Set the dry mixture to the side while you prepare your wet ingredients
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, mix the butter and sugars for a couple minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix until well-blended. Add in the pumpkin puree and mix until well-blended.
  4. Slowly add in the dry mixture, and mix until just combined. With a spatula or spoon, stir in the oats, dried cranberries and caramel bits (or chocolate chips).
  5. Using a tablespoon sized scoop, scoop the dough and drop each dollop onto your cookie sheets (giving about 2 inches in between). Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies appear to be set and are golden along the edges. When they are done, allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes, and then transfer the cookies to a regular cooling rack until they are completely cool!

Levain Copycat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This time last week, our living room was completely full. While I enjoy having family over to visit, it wasn’t because of a celebration. Rather, we were sitting in our living room, praying for our power to stay on,  and stressing about how terrible the wind/rain would be. Hurricane Isaac visited slammed southeast Louisiana, almost making landfall on the exact day that Hurricane Katrina hit. All of these feelings of anxiety just rushed back, and I hoped and prayed that our levee system would hold for my family’s sake.

When the storm was at its peak, I noticed that my family and I were definitely stress eating. I know stress eating isn’t healthy but sometimes, something like a freshly baked cookie just hits the spot and helps a little to make things more comforting. Of course, sitting through a hurricane where the winds are howling past your windows, rain is pouring horizontally, and the dogs are freaking out just can’t ever be comfortable, but something about snacks…I can’t explain it, but it just helped to get our minds off of things. These cookies were thick, chewy and just darn delicious.

Now, as for me and my (immediate) family, we were very lucky. My parents’ fence fell down, and that was the worst of it for them. However, my heart is heavy for those whose homes were flooded or otherwise destroyed from this storm. When I go to Facebook lately, quite a few of the statuses from my friends aren’t about football or politics. They’re about finding a place to do laundry, because they have no power; finding a place to take a shower after spending their whole day hauling damaged items out of their home; hoping they can find water and food for their families; hoping that FEMA can assist them in some way; scared about what the rest of the hurricane season has in store for us.

I’m tearing up as I write this post, because I’m sitting on my couch, with an intact roof over my head, knowing that all of my family members are safe and sound. I’m thankful, and I realize how truly blessed we are. We are truly blessed. If you have some prayers or good thoughts to spare, there are thousands of people out here who could use them as they rebuild. I don’t know of many local charities right now who are accepting donations for disaster relief (feel free to leave a comment if I’m wrong, though), but I do know that the Red Cross is out here. (Just to note, I’m not writing this post to ask for money, but if you wanted to donate, here’s the link for Red Cross.)

Levain Copycat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter (very cold, shredded with your food processor or cut into small cubes)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 12 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the cold butter and sugars until just combined. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
  2. In another bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Add this to the wet mixture and mix until everything is just barely mixed together. Add the chocolate chips and hand mix in until the chocolate chips are well mixed into the dough.
  3. Divide the dough into 12 balls, about 4 oz. each. (Size-wise, a little larger than a golf ball. You can use a jumbo cookie scoop to get a slightly rounded scoop as well.) Place the balls of dough in the fridge for about 20 minutes to chill.
  4. Once chilled, place 6 balls per ungreased cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for 18-22 minutes, until browned along the edges and set in the center.
  5. Allow the cookies to fully cool on the pans before transferring to an airtight container.

 

 

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

A few weeks ago, I decided it was finally time to organize the pantry. Food was just stacked all over the place, and it became pretty darn difficult to figure out what we already had when it came time for grocery shopping. The shelf I spent the most time on was the baking shelf. Y’all…I can’t even tell y’all how many extra boxes and bags of baking supplies were in there, and sadly some of them were expired. :( What a waste. Within that, I also discovered that I had two unopened jars of peanut butter, and one of them was expiring in a month. So, of course I needed to use it up ASAP. Lesson learned….I’m cleaning the pantry more often from now on!

I’m a big fan of cookies, but for some reason, I hardly ever make peanut butter cookies. I like them, but I’m so used to making cookies involving chocolate or just good ol’ sugar cookies. To me, these are sort of the forgotten cookie, and there’s really no reason for that, because peanut butter cookies are delish!

Peanut Butter Cookies
Source: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the shortening, sugars, egg, vanilla and peanut butter, until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Scrape down the bowl and add the flour, baking soda and salt to the wet mixture, beating slowly until the mixture is just combined. This is a dry dough, so it could take a while to come together. If the dough is too crumbly, add a little water at a time until the dough is no longer crumbly.
  4. Using a tablespoon scoop, drop the cookie dough onto your baking sheets, making sure to leave 2 inches between each cookie. Take a fork and flatten the cookie to a 1/2 inch thickness, making a cross-hatch type of design on them.
  5. Bake the cookies for 12-16 minutes, until they just start to brown around the edges of the cookies. The tops will not brown at this point. Cool the cookies on a rack and enjoy!