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!

Circle (Unisex) Baby Quilt

Circle Baby Quilt

It has been quite a while since I used my sewing machine. It’s really sad. I tend to only sew when I either need to hem pants or make a baby quilt. I use to be SO into random crafting, but lately..I’ve been a bit uninspired. Womp wah…

When I started making baby quilts a few years ago, I promised my best friend that when she was pregnant, I would absolutely make a quilt for her baby. Since this is my best friend, I felt like I needed to try a more challenging pattern than my usual charm pack or strip quilts. I’ve had this pattern from Bijou Lovely bookmarked for a couple of years now (here is her updated pattern that I used), so I figured now was the time to give it a shot!

Since I wasn’t in the mood to cut out perfect circles, I purchased a Go Baby circle die (which is a cartridge for the Go Baby fabric cutter). I swear, that machine makes quilting so much easier. I really don’t like cutting lol!

Circle Baby Quilt

For the quilt, I used 7 different fabrics for the circles. My friend is team green, so I stuck to a palette of blues/greens/yellows/oranges. I tried to make everything have hints of her nursery decor in there, from the green gingham binding (which matched her basket liners in the nursery) to the ABC fabric (which was similar to her nursery bedding). I’m always a bit worried when it comes to ordering fabric online, but the colors worked so well together!

I also loved using this Essex Putty fabric for the background. I really think this fabric makes colors on a quilt pop! It’s so great…I’m actually kind of bummed that I waited so long to finally use this fabric, actually. :-)

Circle Baby Quilt

I will say that this pattern is definitely worth making again. I loved making this quilt, and I feel like the pattern wasn’t bad at all (I’d like to think I’m an advanced beginner at quilting, just to give you an idea…). However, I did use a die cutter for the circles, so that part was a breeze.

Here’s the finished quilt. I ended up cutting it a bit in size (not using the full circles), because I stupidly ran out of quilt backing fabric. I still think it looks great, though! :-)

Circle Baby Quilt

And here’s the back of the quilt, where I really highlighted the ABC fabric. :-)
Circle Baby Quilt

I think it’s SO adorable! :-) Also, you can see it a lot better on the back side of the quilt, but all I did for the quilting was “stitch in the ditch”. The actual quilting really didn’t take much time at all, since I did it this way. :-)

And…I had to include this picture. The mom-to-be has a dog herself, and didn’t mind that Millie snuggled up to this blanket before it was done. :-) She’s such a good helper haha! Thank goodness for lint rollers. ;-)

Circle Quilt

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Almonds

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Almonds

The other day, I went to the mall and saw fall merchandise in the stores. I know it’s August, and it’s too soon…however, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I get crazy excited about seasonal changes early on. :-) In fact, this past weekend when I was at Starbucks, I asked the barista if they had pumpkin ANYTHING in the store. They had bread, and I totally ate it in 100 degree weather, while dreaming about cool, crisp fall weather and pumpkin spice lattes. :-) Is anyone else itching for fall?

I made these almonds a while back for my husband, since he’s crazy obsessed with almonds lately. He really loves Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar Almonds, and I knew it would be a lot cheaper for me to purchase the raw almonds myself and make these for him.

I decided to make these when he was out of the house, so it could be a surprise when he got home. This recipe was super simple to throw together, and oh man, it made our house smell like one of those roasted nut carts that they have in the mall around the holiday season. It was well worth making this recipe, and I’m thinking about making these around the holidays for gifts now!

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Almonds
Source: Taste of Home

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 6 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups raw almonds
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk/beat the egg whites until they turn frothy. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add in the raw almonds, and fold the mixture gently until the almonds are coated.
  3. In a smaller bowl, mix the sugars, salt and cinnamon together. Then, add that to the almond mixture, folding gently until everything is mixed well.
  4. Divide the almond mixture into two pans, and then spread the mixture evenly inside the pan. Bake the nuts for 25-30 minutes, or until the mixture is crisp, taking the pans out once at 15 minutes to stir the mixture and re-spread the mixture out. Allow the almonds to fully cool, and place in an air tight container to enjoy later.

Grilled Corn Guacamole

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, on behalf of Amaize Sweet Corn/Golden Sun Marketing. I was compensated for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own.

Grilled Corn Guacamole

Confession time. For the longest time, the types of corn I was familiar with was canned corn and frozen corn on a cob. I never thought to buy fresh corn from the grocery store, since those other types were what I really knew. I was pretty intimidated by fresh corn for a while, but after having freshly grilled corn a couple of years ago, I got hooked!

[Read more...]

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!

Strawberry Basil Mojito

Strawberry Basil Mojito
(Please drink responsibly.)

I love strawberries. Love them. I’m sort of sad that I’m staring at this mojito, and I can’t make them with fresh, local strawberries anymore. Our strawberry season is very early in the year, since it heats up early in the spring, and right now, it’s pretty much a sauna outside. Louisiana heat is no joke, and when things heat up around here, our basil plants pretty much grow like weeds. Of course, I’ll make tons of pesto to freeze this summer, but I’ve been looking for other ways to use it, and this recipe is just wonderful!

You might be a bit skeptical of a strawberry and basil combination, but it totally works. When I saw this on Pink Parsley a couple of years ago, I bookmarked it (and of course, forgot all about it). This drink would be perfect for a summer party, since you could make a ton of the strawberry syrup in advance and just quickly throw together a pitcher of this (you’d have to multiply this recipe a good bit to make a pitcher, but it’s very simple to do) before your guests arrive. It’s also such a pretty drink! I love the colors in it, and wouldn’t it be super fun with both purple and green basil leaves?

Strawberry Basil Mojito
Source: Pink Parsley

Ingredients:

For the strawberry syrup:

  • 1 heaping cup chopped strawberries
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp. cold water

For the mojito:

  • 2-3 fresh basil leaves
  • 5 tbsp. strawberry syrup
  • ice
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum
  • sparkling water
  • Optional: strawberry slices and basil leaves for garnish

Directions:

  1. To make the strawberry syrup, place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend the mixture until smooth. (You can strain the seeds out if you’d prefer, but I didn’t do that.) Refrigerate the mixture until you’re ready to make the drinks!
  2. To make the mojito, place the basil leaves in your glass and use a muddler or the back of the spoon to bruise the basil in the bottom of the glass. Add in the strawberry syrup, ice, light rum, and stir. Top off the drink with some sparkling water. Garnish the drink with basil leaves or strawberry slices, and enjoy!

Citrus Berry Avocado Salad with Orange Basil Vinaigrette

Citrus Berry Avocado Salad with Orange Basil Vinaigrette

I’m absolutely loving the summer flavors lately. I currently can’t get enough avocado in my life, and a bowl full of fresh berries is my ultimate craving. Comfort food is great and all, but when the summer is around, I just want to live in the produce aisle.

Currently, our veggie garden is thriving. Our jalapenos are growing like crazy, and I’m fairly tempted to make more jalapeno pepper jelly to use some of them up. I just dug up some garlic that I planted last July as well and can’t wait for it to dry out, and also, our basil plant just won’t stop growing! I’m going to have to take a weekend to make a large freezer batch of pesto!

Now, when it comes to basil, I’ve been looking for more ways to use it up (no offense to pesto), and I thought about adding it into my salads. I love a good, herby vinaigrette and thought that combined with orange, it would be a great combination. This salad is a great way to use up leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken from the store, and because of that, it’s a meal that comes together very quickly. It’s also very colorful, which makes for a fun presentation.

Citrus Berry Avocado Salad with Orange Basil Vinaigrette
Source: an original

Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 1 9 oz. bag baby spinach
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup canned mandarin oranges, strained (preserved in water, not syrup)
  • 1 Haas avocado, cut in large cubes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (juice of one large orange)
  • 1/4 tsp. orange zest
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. To assemble the salad, place the baby spinach in a large bowl. Sprinkle the blueberries, oranges, feta cheese, avocado and chicken on top.
  2. To make the dressing, place all ingredients in a blender and blend until everything is well mixed and the basil is finely chopped. Pour the dressing over the salad, and sprinkle the almonds on top. Toss the salad well and enjoy!

Frozen Strawberry Margaritas

Strawberry Margarita
Please drink responsibly. :-)

When I was in college, I fondly remember being a broke college student, and spending $7 on a chicken caesar pita & $4 on a frozen margarita (since they were 2 for 1 and my friends and I would pay half of $8 for the price of 1) when I went to Chili’s. They were crazy sweet, tasted like a popsicle and I’m fairly certain the calories were just absolutely bananas. However, those frozen margaritas introduced me to one of my favorite drinks. I just love a good, fruity margarita, and sadly, until last year, I only made margaritas out of a bottled mix (I know…calories..).

So, when my husband and I splurged on a new blender, I decided to try to make them from scratch. Completely from scratch, featuring frozen local strawberries. Oh my gosh…do you SEE how red that margarita is, y’all? There’s no dye in that…that’s just the berries. And the flavor? Y’all. Just put the bottled mix down, and try these. You will not regret it! It’s still sweet, but not tooth pain sweet. :-P

Even though this recipe is from Cooking Light, I have to admit that this is still a splurge to me. I prefer not to drink my calories (unless it’s in the a healthy smoothie), but if I do, knowing that I’ve reduced the sugar/calories a good bit makes me feel a little better about enjoying 1 or 2 of these. :-)

Frozen Strawberry Margaritas
Source: slightly adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed ice
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec (or other orange-flavored liqueur)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Optional: Coarse salt (or sugar, if you prefer)/sliced limes or strawberries for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients, except for the salt/sliced limes meant for the garnish, in a blender. Blend the mixture until the ice is crushed, and everything is thoroughly blended. To garnish, wipe lime juice from a lime slice around the rim of your serving glasses, and then dip the rims in coarse salt (or sugar). Garnish the rim with another sliced lime and/or a sliced strawberry as well. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.