Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie "Cheese" Ball

Last week, I went on an impromptu trip to Sonic. Since I’m back to calorie counting, I try to keep my splurges to a minimum, but that night, I couldn’t shake the craving for peanut butter + chocolate (pun intended) :-). So, I fulfilled it with a PB Chocolate milkshake at Sonic that was probably my entire calorie count for the day. It was delicious. DELICIOUS.

I haven’t gone back to Sonic since, though…even though I drive by it every.single.day on the drive home from work. Willpower struggles, y’all.

Speaking of willpower struggles…I stupidly made this dessert cheese ball for an office party. I managed to avoid the break room for a good part of the day, but once I went in there for lunch, I couldn’t help myself. I served these with Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie Chips. I received a few packs of these a while back as a complimentary sample to try and just had to get more for this dessert! You could also use graham crackers or animal crackers with these, but I thought PB Chocolate Chip cheese ball with PB/Dark chocolate cookie chips? I mean…c’mon.

This went over really well at the office party. The cheese ball itself is a peanut butter/cream cheese combination, mixed with chopped Reese’s and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Then, I put some refrigerated Reese’s cups in a food processor, and chopped them up until they were crumbly. THEN, I coated the cheese ball in the candy. Yeah….I’m not sorry at all. In fact, this snack went over so well that I ran out of Cookie Chips just after lunch. I seriously thought that meant I’d have a ton of this to bring home, but um…some people had to have eaten this straight up with a spoon, because there wasn’t much left at all when I went to bring my dish home! :-P

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball
Source: slightly adapted from Buns in my Oven

Ingredients:

  • 1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (NOT natural)
  • 3 tbsp. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 bag Reese’s miniature cups, divided and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Beat the mixture until everything is well-mixed, about two minutes. Stir in half of the Reese’s and all of the chocolate chips. Wrap the mixture in plastic wrap, in a slightly flattened ball shape.
  2. Refrigerate the ball for 2 hours, as well as the remaining Reese’s cups. Remove the Reese’s from the fridge, and place them in a food processor. Process the candy until crumbly, and place them in a large plate. Remove the cheese ball from the fridge, and coat the ball thoroughly in the crumbled Reese’s.
  3. Place the cheese ball on a clean serving plate, and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight, until ready to serve. Enjoy!

 Disclaimer: I was sent samples of Cookie Chips at no cost to me. All opinions are 100% my own.

Red Velvet Ooey Gooey Bars

Red Velvet Ooey Gooey Bars

One of the things I love about family is that no matter how long it’s been since you last saw them, everything seems to click and you pick up right where things left off. I went to a family member’s birthday party, and for the first time, I was nervous about going to a family event. Nervous because of the weight gain, and it’s been a while since I last saw quite a few of these family members. I know it’s really silly, but I feel like I should always apologize when I see people who once congratulated me on my weight loss. I know that my gain doesn’t affect them, but right now, I just feel like a weight loss slacker. I know…I know. It’s a journey, after all…however, I can’t help but think about what people see when they haven’t seen me since I was at my lowest weight.

Of course, no one said a word about it. No one. And we were all happy to see each other and catch up. It was a lovely day, actually. Surprisingly nice weather, gorgeous scenery on the lake, and it was just so nice to see everyone. Of course, I should know better. Family and friends don’t care what you weigh or how you look at a party. They just care that you’re there.

These ooey gooey bars are famous in the family. My mom, aunt, grandma…they all have made these bars for parties, and they’re always a hit. They’re fantastic and super easy to throw together (which is why they make an appearance at every party)!

When we were asked to bring a dish this past weekend, I asked my mom for her recipe for these infamous ooey gooey bars. They’re called ooey gooey bars, because the cream cheese layer is super rich, and for lack of a better word, ooey gooey. :-P My mom usually makes them with yellow cake mix, but I thought it would be a fun, southern twist to make them red velvet. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional added chocolate drizzle to a dessert. :-)

Red Velvet Ooey Gooey Bars
Source: adapted from my mom

Ingredients:

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a 9×13 inch pan by lining it with aluminum foil and greasing the inside with butter or baking spray. Set aside.
  2. Mix the cake mix, melted butter, one of the eggs and pecans together until a cookie-like dough forms. Press the dough evenly into the baking pan (it may be sticky, so keep a bowl of water handy).
  3. Beat the cream cheese, confectioners’s sugar, the last egg, vanilla extract and salt together until well-mixed. Spread the mixture evenly on top of the red velvet dough.
  4. Bake the bars for 40-50 minutes, until the top of the bars are browned along the edges and are starting to brown in the middle. Allow them to cool completely in the pan. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate in a bowl, and drizzle the top of the bars with the melted chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set and enjoy!

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

New York Times CCC

This past weekend was just lovely. I drove down to New Orleans to celebrate Mother’s Day with my family. It was so nice to catch up with all of my siblings, as well as treating my mom to a nice lunch out (even though at ages 21-30, we’re still pretty silly in public haha!). One of the things I appreciate about my family is that while we’re all pretty busy and don’t see each other very often, it seems like we just pick up where we left off. We talked about old home videos, past holidays, and just caught up with each other in general.

It makes me appreciate everything about my family. We have our quirks, but I feel so lucky to have the family that I have. We’re all so supportive of each other, and oh man, did I appreciate my family like crazy last year! I remember calling my family just after the lightning strike/fire happened. I had reached my low point, because the “what ifs” were eating at me. There wasn’t anything they could do to undo the damage, but to have people there to vent to/cry to…it’s what I needed.

While I’m pretty happy right now (Thank you, new awesome job…funny how a new day job can boost your mood!), I felt 10x happier after seeing everyone. Sure, we may have gotten a few stares from laughing too loud in the restaurant, but who really cares? I feel like we need to do this more often, but with 3 busy siblings and my parents who seem busier now vs. when I was a kid, I’m afraid it probably won’t happen again for a few months now (maybe for Father’s Day…hint hint family?).

Chocolate chip cookies remind me a lot of my family. My mom used to bake cookies like crazy when we were kids, although she’d sneak in oatmeal chocolate chip cookies any chance she could get. :-P Also, the Pillsbury cookie dough rolls? I’m pretty sure we ate more raw dough from those than actual baked cookies (I know…not safe because of eggs/salmonella risk…don’t judge me). Since today is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, I thought it would be fitting to finally make the infamous New York Times cookies. It was SO difficult to just let the dough sit in the fridge for 48 hours, but it was definitely worth it. I mean…3.5 oz. of dough for each cookie….you really can’t go wrong. If you want to impress someone, try this recipe. They had the perfect crunchy texture on the outside and were wonderfully chewy on the inside.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: New York Times

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups minus 2 tbsp. (8.5 oz.) cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (8.5 oz.) bread flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (8 oz.) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate (disks or roughly chopped)
  • Sea salt (for sprinkling)

Directions:

  1. Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set the dry ingredients aside for later use.
  2. With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down, and add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about a minute after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined (about 5-10 seconds). Mix in the chocolate by hand, to avoid breaking the chocolate.
  3. Place the cookie dough in a container, and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for 24-48 hours before baking (I waited 48 hours).
  4. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
  5. Weigh out 3.5 oz. of cookie dough (this isn’t a typo…they’ll be pretty large), and form it into a ball. Space out 6 balls of dough on the baking sheet, and sprinkle the tops of each cookie lightly with the sea salt. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown but still soft. Allow the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then place the cookies on the cooling rack to finish cooling. Repeat with the rest of the dough until all cookies are finished baking. Enjoy!

Watermelon Strawberry Sorbet

Watermelon Strawberry Sorbet

I’m really not that much of a fan of the summer. The 100 degree weather with humidity is no fun….at all. However, I’m a big fan of warm weather produce. Louisiana strawberry season is coming to a close (boo), but watermelon season is just gearing up. I had a flat of strawberries in the fridge, and really wanted to make a sorbet out of the berries again. I was flipping through my cookbooks, and came across this recipe in John Besh’s “My New Orleans” cookbook, and thought that watermelon + strawberry = match made in heaven. It just so happened that we had a seedless watermelon that needed to be cut into as well, so it was recipe fate. This sorbet needed to be made. :-)

By the way, if you’re ever in the market for a good, solid New Orleans cookbook, I’m a big fan of Besh’s cookbook. There’s quite a few recipes in there (for pretty much any classic New Orleans dish), and it’s a gorgeous cookbook that could double as a coffee table book. :-) (Also, John Besh has no earthly idea who I am…just wanted to gush about this book…)

Anyway, sorbet is one of the easier recipes for an ice cream machine. Seriously…it’s just pureed fruit, sugar and some citrus mixed together. Nothing fancy…nothing to cook, and yet, it’s incredibly perfect. Refreshing…cooling…and sweet!

Watermelon Strawberry Sorbet
Source: My New Orleans

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1 cup diced, seeded watermelon
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend everything until smooth and well-blended.
  2. Add the sorbet mixture to the bowl of an ice cream maker, and make the sorbet according to the manufacturer’s instructions (mine mixed for 30 minutes).
  3. Enjoy immediately or place in the freezer for a couple of hours, until hardened.

Apple Spice Mini Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

applecupcakes

You guys may remember how rough of a year 2013 was. Every time something would happen, I’d think…well, it really can’t get worse. Well, I feel like God really tested us last year, because oh man…it just kept getting worse. It was just a rotten year all around. :-\

2014 is proving to be so much better. I got some good news…like REALLY GOOD NEWS. You may have noticed lately that I’ve been a bit quiet on here and on social media….

…well….

I got a new job!

I don’t want to give specifics, but let’s just say I’m in the same field and I’m pretty darn happy here. While the job is still very new to me, I feel like I can honestly look forward to work every day. I have to admit, I had some new job jitters. What if I wasn’t smart enough for it? What if I didn’t make friends?

I had my doubts, because I held my previous job for almost 5 years. It’s what I knew, and this new job is a pretty big change for me. However, so far I’m loving it. LOVING it. Everyone I’ve met at my new job is very friendly, and it’s just a different, yet refreshing dynamic. It reminds me a lot of my first job out of college, which I loved (I had to resign from my first job, since I moved to a new city).

I’ve been in such a cheerful mood because of this change (amongst other things), and you guys probably know that “Happy” song by Pharrell? Well, yeah…that’s my theme song right now. In fact, I caught myself humming this in Target the other day…haha!

Also, another reason to be happy is that my birthday is coming up. I’m pretty sure I’ll be eating cake all weekend, so it’s fitting to share this recipe for cupcakes. :-) I made these for the Opal Apple dessert party, and they were SO good! I love mini cupcakes, because I can enjoy one and feel like I had dessert, or like some others who had these, enjoy 5 or 6 of these without too many judge-y stares. :-P

This made about 40 mini cupcakes for me, so it’s more than enough to go around for a party. :-)

Apple Spice Mini Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction & frosting is an original 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 Opal Apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 batch spiced cream cheese frosting
  • Optional: 1 batch caramel sauce (for drizzle)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a mini cupcake pan by lining each cup with a mini cupcake liner and set the pan aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large-sized bowl and set aside. Whisk the melted butter and sugars together in a medium-sized bowl, until well-combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time (beating for 30 seconds with each addition), until smooth. Add the whole milk and vanilla extract to the batter, whisking until everything is combined.
  3. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring the batter gently until just combined. Fold in the finely chopped apples.
  4. Fill the mini cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full with cupcake batter (using either a small scoop or a piping bag, to make it easier). Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Remove the mini cupcakes from the oven and allow them to completely cool before frosting.
  5. Once cooled, generously swirl on the frosting, and if you’d like, drizzle the cupcakes with a simple caramel sauce. If you’re not serving these immediately, refrigerate them until you’re ready to serve. Enjoy!

Disclosure: I’m a 2014 brand ambassador for Opal Apple. I was compensated in the form of free products, a party kit with all printed materials necessary for the party, and a gift card. All opinions are 100% my own.

Mini Apple Tartlets

applepietarts

Well, yesterday was Mardi Gras. Usually, I’m super jazzed about it, but I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life, and Mardi Gras sort of just snuck up on me. I’m glad I didn’t get my hopes up too much about parading though…we had SLEET on Mardi Gras Day. SLEET…ICE…they closed roads…in Louisiana…in March! Let that sink in for a little bit. This winter has been a weird one..

Now that Mardi Gras season is over, and I’m mourning over an empty king cake box, I have to face what I’m giving up during the lenten season: candy and soda. I was really considering all refined  & artificial sugar, but I really want it to be something I know I can handle. Soda is hard enough (diet coke addict here!), but candy during Easter season? Ugh…I’ll buy a box of Cadbury eggs for the week after Easter. :-P Hopefully, this will kick my sweet tooth to the side for a while…I really need to stop craving Reese’s cups darnit!

Speaking of the sweet tooth, I’m still thinking about these mini tartlets that I made for my Opal Apple dessert party. They were so simple to make, and they made quite a bit for a party! I think this would be a perfect dessert to throw together at the last minute, and if you have some caramel sauce or ice cream lying around, they would be perfection on these!

Mini Apple Tartlets
Source: Opal Apples

Ingredients:

  • 2 Opal apples, peeled, cored & chopped
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. candied ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 2 packages (containing 15 each) mini phyllo dough cups

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, add all ingredients, except for the phyllo dough cups. Heat the apple mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cover. Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes and remove the mixture from the heat.
  3. Once slightly cooled, fill each phyllo cup with a tsp. of the apple filling. Place the cups on the prepared baking sheet, and bake them for 8-10 minutes. They’re best served warm, but also taste great at room temperature!

Disclosure: I’m a 2014 brand ambassador for Opal Apple. I was compensated in the form of free products, a party kit with all printed materials necessary for the party, and a gift card. All opinions are 100% my own.

Opal Apple Dessert Party

Opal Apple Party 2014

I absolutely love making desserts. One of the biggest reasons I miss the holiday season is because of the holiday baking. Our mixers (yeah, I’m crazy…I said mixers) and oven were going like crazy, and after the holidays (and a bit of weight gain), I decided to just stop baking. It’s been a couple of months, but I’m confident enough in my will power to give baking another shot. Since I’m a brand ambassador for Opal Apple this year, I was asked to throw a party featuring these awesome apples. So, I decided to throw a dessert party and get to baking!

Opal Apple Party 2014

Opal Apples were discovered in 1999 in Europe, but were brought to the states in 2010 and are sold exclusively through FirstFruits Marketing of Washington. They’re a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Topaz apple.

They are very crunchy in texture, and are super sweet with a slight tang. They also don’t brown as quickly as other apples, so when you’re serving slices at a party, there’s no need to dunk the slices in citrus juice. They’ve quickly become my favorite apples, and they’re available in stores from December through April.

Opal Apple also has their “Youth Make A Difference Initiative“, which awards funding to organizations that help the community, where the youth in the community take on a leadership role within the organization. If you know any organization in your community that follows the criteria listed on Opal Apple’s site, they’re still eligible to apply for funding until February 28, 2014! More information can be found here.

Opal Apple Party 2014

For the dessert party, I wanted to keep everything mini, so everyone could try one of everything and not feel too guilty about it.

The dessert menu was simple, but so tasty:

  • Apple Spice Mini Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting & Salted Caramel Drizzle (recipe coming in another post)
  • Mini Apple Tartlets in Phyllo Dough Cups (recipe coming in another post)
  • Apple Bites, which were simply Opal Apple slices, white cheddar slices and grapes

Opal Apple Party 2014

Since two of the recipes from the party were from Opal Apple, I also placed recipe cards (made by the folks at Opal Apple) in a basket for guests to take home with them. :-)

Opal Apple Party 2014

All of the recipes were a hit, especially the cupcakes! I loved throwing this party together, and everyone had a great time getting together. :-) There were a few leftover desserts, but thankfully my coworkers were happy to take care of that. :-)

Thanks to Opal Apple for the opportunity to be a brand ambassador this year, and for the idea to throw this party! It was fun!

Disclosure: I’m a 2014 brand ambassador for Opal Apple. I was compensated in the form of free products, a party kit with all printed materials necessary for the party, and a gift card to throw this party. All opinions are 100% my own.

Top 10 Recipes of 2013

Tomorrow is the start of 2014. :-) It’s completely crazy to me that we’re already here, but it seems like time flying is becoming the norm in my life. It’s been a rough year for us, so I’m hoping that 2014 brings better news. At least it’s a fresh, new start.

I want to thank y’all for reading this blog. Next month will be my 6 year blogiversary, and I’m thankful for each and every one of you who take the time out of your day to read this blog. Your comments, tweets, etc. make my day, and I’m excited to share more with you guys in 2014.

Here’s the list of the top 10 most popular recipe posts of 2013:

10. Peanut Butter Cup Cookies 

These cookies are a favorite of mine. I’m a sucker for Reese’s, and these cookies are just SO good!

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

9. Fireworks Cupcakes

I started challenging myself to use cake decorating tips more often this year, and these were just so fun. You could make these for the 4th of July or hey, if you’re looking for something to make tomorrow, these would be perfect for the New Year, as well!

fireworks_final_text

8. 20 Minute (Pressure Cooker) Beef Stew

One of my favorite new appliances this year has been our pressure cooker. Meats that you cook low and slow are no big deal in this cooker. It’s so much quicker than a crock-pot or conventional cooking in the oven!

20 Minute Beef Stew

7. Banana Biscoff Protein Shake

I make this protein shake all the time. It seriously tastes like a milkshake, and is such a treat before/after a work-out!

Banana Biscoff Protein Shake

6. Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I think I’m going to have to make this before the fall again. Oh man…this was insanely good!

pumpkinbreadpudding

5. Whipped Chocolate Pudding Frosting

Pudding in frosting? Oh yeah…this fluffs up beautifully, and while it doesn’t taste like conventional buttercream, it certainly has has won me over for a new type of frosting to make!

Whipped Pudding Frosting

4. Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

Boozy cupcakes….there’s nothing wrong with boozy cupcakes. :-)

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

3. Melting Chocolate Cake (for two)

Since we just came back from our cruise, I’m itching to make these again. I miss that warm chocolate melting cake so much! This tastes JUST like the cake from the cruise ship!

Melting Chocolate Cake for Two

2. Red Velvet Cookies

I was pleasantly surprised by these cookies. They baked up perfectly, and really tasted just like red velvet!

Red Velvet Cookies

1. Holiday Spritz Cookies

This was a quick favorite of y’all’s! The most popular recipe of 2013, and it was just posted in November! I love that you don’t need a cookie press for this…a large piping bag and a large star tip — that’s it! These are just so tasty. I can’t keep them in my kitchen whenever I make them, or I’ll just snack on them like crazy. :-)

bakingbook2

In case you want to see what was popular in past years, check out my top recipe posts:

Top 10 Recipes of 2012

Top 10 Recipes of 2011

Top 10 Recipes of 2010

Thanks again for a wonderful year, and I hope you enjoy the start of the new year surrounding by the ones you love! :-)

Red Velvet Peppermint Bark

redvelvetcakebatterbark

One of the things I can’t get enough of lately is peppermint + chocolate. I’m obsessed with Chick Fil-A’s peppermint chocolate chip shake, and I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten half a bag of Candy Cane kisses. It’s just insane how much I love it, because usually I could give or take peppermint bark. Eggnog is usually my thing. I’m really not sure what’s gotten into me, but I’m not complaining!

I originally saw the idea for cake batter bark on How Sweet It Is. I’ve been wanting to do it with red velvet, and thought that it would be so festive to use red velvet cake mix in peppermint bark. The results were great! One of my coworkers tasted it, and then grabbed 4 pieces haha! It’s also very simple to make, and it makes a good bit!

Red Velvet Peppermint Bark

I packaged these in simple printed cello bags, and added Christmas sprinkles with the crushed candy canes for a more Christmas-y touch. Y’all know I’m all about sprinkles!

Red Velvet Peppermint Bark
Source: inspired by How Sweet It Is

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp. canola oil (divided)
  • 3 1/2 tbsp. red velvet dry cake mix
  • 10 mini candy canes, crushed
  • Christmas sprinkles
  • red powdered food coloring

Directions:

  1. Melt the 1/2 lb. of dark/semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, along with 1/2 tsp. of the canola oil, until melted. You’ll want to do this in 30 second increments at 50% power, being sure to stir well between each microwave cycle. Pour and spread the chocolate, using a spatula, on top of a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Allow it to set for 15 minutes.
  2. Melt the 1/2 lb. of white chocolate with the remaining 1/2 tsp. of canola oil, until melted. Microwave this in 30 second increments as well, at 50% power, being sure to stir well between each microwave cycle. Mix in the dry cake mix, as well as the powdered food coloring (a little at a time until desired color is achieved), until everything is well combined. Pour this over the set dark chocolate and spread the red velvet white chocolate carefully, making sure to cover the dark chocolate. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes and Christmas sprinkles liberally over the red velvet white chocolate.
  3. Allow the bark to cool completely before breaking into pieces and serving.

Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices

cranberrycrumbbars

I’ve been waiting for months for fresh cranberries to be back in stores. As a few of you may remember, I used to contribute on Weddingbee (under the moniker, Mrs. Ballet Flat). Every year around this time, some of the bloggers exchange ornaments, making one of the giftee’s moniker. So, I have quite a few ballet flat ornaments on my tree that I truly cherish. :-) Last year, along with the ornament, I also got a few of these bars in the mail (an awesome surprise!). I was addicted….absolutely addicted.

After the holiday craziness, I went to the grocery stores to buy fresh cranberries to make these bars, since my exchange friend mentioned they were from Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook (which I had recently purchased). Well, all of the stores near me were sold out. Gone. No more cranberries. I promised myself that once they were back in the produce section, I was going to immediately make these bars. They’re just as good as I remembered…a subtle spiced crumb layer and cranberry filling with a hint of orange in it. It’s marvelous (as if I expected anything different from Deb of The Smitten Kitchen).

I brought these to my coworkers, thinking that cranberries are an iffy ingredient for some people…they probably wouldn’t go that fast. Um…these bars left faster than when I bring cupcakes to work! They were an absolute winner! If you’re looking for a festive holiday dessert that is a little different than the norm, give these a try. The recipe comes together fairly quickly, and any cranberry lover will probably go crazy over these. :-)

Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices
Source: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients:

For the crumb base:

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled (saving the wrappers to grease the pan)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 large egg

For the filling:

  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. orange juice
  • 3 cups (12-ounce bag) fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a 9×13 inch baking pan by lining it with parchment paper and rubbing the butter remnants left on the inside of the butter wrappers on top of the parchment paper.
  2. In a large, wide bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices. Whisk the mixture well. Using a pastry blender or fork, work the chilled butter and egg into the dry flour mixture until the texture resembles a coarse meal. Pat half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of your prepared baking pan (note: the layer will be thin).
  3. In a food processor or blender, add the filling ingredients and pulse the mixture until the cranberries are coarsely chopped (but not pureed). Using a spatula or spoon, evenly spread the filling over the pressed crumb base. After the filling is evenly added, sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the berry mixture.
  4. Bake the bars for 30-35 minutes, or until just lightly brown on top. Allow the bars to cool completely before serving, cutting the bars into 36 small squares.