Meyer Lemon Cranberry Biscotti

Meyer Lemon Cranberry Biscotti Wreath

Last year’s winter was one of the harshest winters we’ve had in years. I was so used to having hardy plants that could survive the winter, but sadly, we had to redo most of our garden. We also lost our meyer lemon tree, which was just starting to produce more than 5 lemons/year. :-(

So, last spring, we replaced our plants and lemon tree, and we even added a satsuma tree to the collection. This year, we were surprised to get about 10 lemons! I guess it’s a happy tree. :-) I’m slowly but surely learning how to NOT kill anything that we plant. :-)

So, of course with all of these lemons, I had to bake something with them for the holidays. While lemon flavor isn’t typical of holiday baked goodies, I mixed in dried cranberries and arranged them in a wreath type of display to make things more festive.

This biscotti isn’t overwhelming as far as lemon flavor goes. Since it’s not too heavy of a lemon flavor, it goes really well with the dried cranberries, and the extra drizzle of white chocolate doesn’t hurt either. This really isn’t that difficult to make either. While biscotti looks a bit intimidating, it’s simply cookies that are baked twice, until dry in the oven.

Meyer Lemon Cranberry Biscotti
Source: a Nifty Foodie original

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. light olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. meyer lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. meyer lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 8 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp. canola oil
  • Sprinkles and pearl dust (food safe) spray, for decoration

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, butter and sugar until well-blended. Mix in the lemon juice and vanilla extract, and then beat in the eggs. Combine flour, salt, zest and baking powder in another medium sized bowl; gradually stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Mix in cranberries by hand, until a dough forms.
  3. Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12×2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. If the dough seems sticky, wet your hands with warm water to work with the dough more easily.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until logs are light brown. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).
  5. Cut logs on diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay on sides on parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry; cool.
  6. Form into a wreath or tree on a cake plate, using melted white chocolate as a sort of glue to hold the biscotti in place. When done, drizzle the remaining white chocolate on top of the wreath. For a finishing touch, add large sprinkles and pearl dust.

Raspberry, Pistachio & Dark Chocolate Rugelach

Disclosure: I received a copy of “Baking Chez Moi”, as well as a gift card and coupons for ingredients used in this recipe, in exchange for this sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Raspberry, Pistachio & Dark Chocolate Rugelach

So, this past long weekend threw me way off. Our house is decorated for Christmas, and it’s officially the holiday season. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but it really doesn’t feel like December. Sure, the UPS guy probably knows us on a first name basis by now, and my dog is randomly bringing me ribbon scraps, but it just doesn’t FEEL like the holiday season. I’m sure the 70 degree weather outside isn’t helping right now, either. Where did the year go?!

I’m actually fairly behind on things. By now, I would normally have my homemade holiday gifts planned out, but I haven’t even made the cookie dough yet to place in the freezer..heck, I haven’t even chosen the recipes to make! Yikes. I still need to do that…haha.

In the meantime, I’m still baking on the weekends (and my/my husband’s coworkers are loving it). I was recently sent a copy of Dorie Greenspan‘s latest book, “Baking Chez Moi“. I just adore Dorie Greenspan, so when I was approached about this post idea, I couldn’t reply soon enough! Her tall and creamy cheesecake is my favorite recipe of hers, which I make at least 5 times in November and December (between Thanksgiving and Christmas). One of the things that makes Dorie so wonderful is that she makes intimidating recipes completely approachable to the home baker. She writes out everything in perfect detail to where you feel like she’s right there in the kitchen with you. This book is no different. The instructions are perfectly detailed, and her recipes are mouth-watering. Her book contains recipes, like limoncello cupcakes, gingerbread buche de noel, cocoa linzer cookies, caramelized rice krispies…just to name a few. I have so many recipes bookmarked already!

For this post, I was asked to incorporate Driscoll’s berries into her famous rugelach recipe. While I’ve had rugelach before, I’ve never made it. After a bit of brainstorming, I thought that raspberry, pistachio and dark chocolate would go together perfectly in this bite-sized dessert. I’ve used the cranberry/pistachio/white chocolate combination before in biscotti, so I had a feeling this combination would work. Also, after making it, if you look at the picture, don’t they look like peppermint swirls? So festive for the holiday season!

As for the recipe, it tasted great! I reduced a pint of Driscoll’s fresh raspberries (along with sugar, lemon juice and zest) to a spread-like consistency (to avoid watering down the cookies), and sprinkled finely chopped chocolate and pistachios on top of the raspberry spread to make the filling for the rugelach. This combination works so well…sweet raspberries, melted chocolate with a hint of crunch from the pistachios? Oh man, I love it! My coworkers also went crazy over these the next day…they were perfect with a morning coffee. :-)

Raspberry, Pistachio & Dark Chocolate Rugelach
Source: Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan (filling adapted)

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 4 oz. cold cream cheese
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp.) cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

For the filling:

  • 1 pint fresh Driscoll raspberries, washed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar, mixed with 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg (for glazing dough)
  • sanding or granulated sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Remove the cream cheese and butter from the refrigerator 10 minutes before you’re ready to make the dough and cut each into 4 equal pieces. This will allow them to slightly soften, but still be cold.
  2. After the 10 minutes, place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and scatter the pieces of butter and cream cheese over the flour/salt. Pulse the mixture 6-10 times, until flour coats the cream cheese and butter. Then, process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl ever so often, until large curds form in the dough (before it processes into a ball of dough).
  3. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface, mold it into a ball, and divide the dough in half. Then, shape each dough half into a square and wrap the squares in plastic film or wax paper. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours (or up to a day).
  4. To make the filling, cook the raspberries, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small pot over medium heat. Cook the mixture, stirring ever so often, until it reaches a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the mixture thickens (about 10 minutes) to a spread. Set the raspberry filling aside to cool.
  5. Place the pistachios and chocolate chips in the food processor and pulse the mixture until the mixture looks finely chopped, but not crumbs. Set aside.
  6. Working on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle flour on top of one piece of dough, and using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s about a 12″ square, making sure to turn the dough frequently while rolling (and flouring lightly, if necessary). It doesn’t need to be precisely a square. The dough will be rather thin when finished.
  7. Cut the rolled out square of dough in half, to where you will have two pieces of dough that are approximately 12″x 6″. Brush the tops of each half of dough with the melted butter, and then sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Thinly spread 1/4 of the raspberry filling on top of the butter/cinnamon sugar mixture. Then, add 1/4 of the pistachio/dark chocolate mixture, gently pressing it into the dough.
  8. Starting from the long (ragged) side of the dough, carefully roll the sheet snugly (like you would when making cinnamon rolls), ending with the neat, cut edge at the bottom of the roll.
  9. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap or wax paper, and place it in the freezer. Fill and roll the other rectangle the same way as above. Then, repeat the whole dough rolling/filling process with the other square of dough.
  10. Ideally, you want the dough to rest for an hour in the freezer, to allow for easier slicing, but you can take them out of the freezer and (carefully) slice them after about 15-20 minutes. You can also freeze these rolls for up to two months, if you don’t want to bake all of the cookies at once.
  11. To bake the cookies, place the oven racks to where it divides the oven into even thirds. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
  12. In a small bowl, beat the large egg lightly with a splash of cold water.
  13. Working with one roll at a time, remove the rolls from the freezer, and brush the top of each roll with egg wash. Then, generously sprinkle the tops of the rolls with sugar. Using a sharp knife and a gentle sawing motion, divide each roll into 12 slices, and place the cookies seam down on the baking sheet, with a little space between each cookie (each baking sheet held 24 cookies for me).
  14. Bake the cookies for 15-17 minutes, making sure to rotate the cookie sheets in the oven from top to bottom rack, and then flipping them front to back, being sure not to under-bake these. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow them to completely cool to room temperature. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Just the other day, I realized that Thanksgiving is a few short weeks away. I feel like I was forking out the pumpkin cans way too early last week, and burning fall candles in the 100 degree weather fairly recently. How am I already planning out things to cook for Thanksgiving?

I’m also Christmas shopping like crazy, just so I can avoid the mall once Black Friday hits. I used to thrive on Black Friday shopping, but I think I prefer the rush of online shopping more anyway. :-) Cyber Monday rocks (even though I’m sure the UPS guy doesn’t agree with me on this one…).

We’re totally in holiday season, and I love it. Halloween…Thanksgiving….Christmas….New Years! It’s a great time of the year!

For Halloween, my work had a pot-luck type of party, and they held a pumpkin baking contest. Of course I had to try…even my coworkers were asking me from day 1 what I was bringing. I guess they know that I keep Libby’s (pumpkin) in business this time of the year with the treats that I bring to the office. :-)

I decided to finally try my hand at a cheesecake cake. I saw this idea on Erin’s blog a few years ago, and always thought that I should make it happen. I just never did, because I was intimidated. Two desserts in one? (Yeesh!) However, it’s totally manageable to do. While it seemed daunting, I broke it up into two days (which is explained in the directions). Basically, day one = cheesecake making/freezing and day two = cake making/assembling. I followed Erin’s tips, and it came out perfectly!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Buttercream

So, y’all. If you have a couple of days to make this, oh man….it doesn’t even have to be pumpkin. Just make a cheesecake cake. It’s amazing!

Oh, and if you’re wondering how the contest went, I won! However, it was definitely a close contest! The judges were split between all of the delicious desserts…my coworkers are SO talented in the kitchen. :-)

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake

Recipes:

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray, and line the bottom of the springform pan with a 9-inch piece of parchment paper.
  2. Pour filling into the springform pan, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set and measures 140 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes.
  3. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove the ring of the springform pan (not the bottom yet), and wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap. Then wrap the plastic-wrapped cheesecake in heavy duty foil. Freeze the cheesecake overnight.
  4. The next evening, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two round cake pans with parchment paper, and split the cupcake/cake batter amongst the two pans. Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
  5. To assemble the cheesecake cake, take the cheesecake out of the freezer to thaw for about 10 minutes. Remove the bottom of the springform pan from the cheesecake (the parchment paper in the bottom of the pan should help with this step). Level the pumpkin cake layers, and if necessary, level the cheesecake as well. Assemble the cake with one layer of cake, the cheesecake layer on top of the cake and then the remaining layer of cake on top of the cheesecake layer. You won’t need frosting between the layers. If you only had 8-inch round cake pans (like me) and a 9-inch springform pan (like me), you’ll need to carefully shave the cheesecake edges to the edge of the 8-inch cake layers.
  6. Ice the cheesecake cake with the spiced cream cheese frosting, and if you’d like, add sprinkles! Enjoy!

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.

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!

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!

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!