Tropical Fruit Smoothies

I’m a little bit torn right now.

I really, really, really want to tell you about these delicious little smoothies that you are currently seeing. But I also really, really, really want to tell you about the meal that I devoured last night. So I guess I’ll tell you about both.

I’ll start with last night’s meal. It was a doozy. Our power went out [long, complicated story - it was out for about 24 hours, hence the reason that this post has been published a little bit later than most of my posts are published. no electricity = no wifi/internet], so we went out to dinner at this cute little family diner that’s not too far from our house. I was definitely in a burgers & milkshake kind of mood, so that’s exactly what I ordered. BUT. My sister ordered the chicken quesadilla appetizer and it was literally the best thing I’ve eaten all year. Maybe even the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I’m not kidding. So ridiculously good. The chicken was cooked to perfection and the entire thing was smothered in cheese. I dipped mine in sour cream and ate so many that I was practically full by the time that my meal came.

But you know that I’m never too full to turn down good food, so I was pretty pumped when my food arrived. I went with an angus beef burger with cheddar jack cheese, lettuce, bacon & tomato on a pretzel bun with a side of mac n cheese and a chocolate milkshake to drink. The burger was absolutely delicious, the mac n cheese was pretty wonderful and the chocolate milkshake was the best milkshake I’ve ever had.

And I haven’t even told you about the best part of my meal yet.

Dessert. I barely have words to describe it. It was called “peanut butter blitz” and it was kind of like a slice of pie. There was a chocolate cookie crumb crust, topped with a layer of peanut butter fudge filling, covered in dollops of super light and fluffy chocolate & peanut butter mousse and the whole thing was drizzled with extra chocolate & peanut butter. It was completely wonderful. All I know is that I need to recreate it at home as soon as humanly possible. Gah.

And now I’m realizing that it’s pretty unfair that I’ve just told you about all of this crazy rich and ridiculously delicious food, but now I’m going to share a smoothie recipe with you. But it’s my current favorite smoothie recipe and it’s definitely a good one, so I think it’s worth it! I’ve been on an “early morning workout then drink a smoothie” kick lately, so I’ve experimented with lots of different versions. This strawberry/banana/pineapple/orange combo is currently my fav. I freeze all of the fruit the night before and then the next morning, I simply toss it all in the blender & whip it up and then sip away. Perfectly delicious & refreshing and super easy.

Tropical Fruit Smoothies

2 bananas, frozen & sliced
1 cup frozen strawberries
½ cup frozen pineapple
¾ cup orange juice

Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend in 30-second increments on medium-high speed until smooth. This recipe makes three 8 ounce smoothies. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to one day. Enjoy!

I wrote a paragraph about working out & drinking smoothies after discussing the richest dessert I’ve ever eaten. So ironic…

Frosted Red Velvet Cookie Cups

So there was this one time when I made red velvet cookies.

I believe it was back in February. My cousins were staying with us for the week and one of them really loves red velvet desserts. I prefer cookies over cake, so I made him a big batch of red velvet cookies instead of a big red velvet cake. If I'm recalling correctly, we devoured the entire batch within minutes because they were so chewy and delicious!

I've been thinking about those cookies a lot lately because I've been experiencing lots of red velvet cravings [which is weird because I don't particularly love red velvet] and I've really been craving cookies. And then last week, my brother was all "why don't we have any cookies in the house!?" and that sealed it. I knew I had to make some more red velvet cookies. 

So I went back and took a look at that blog post so that I could grab the recipe and I noticed that in that particular post, I had gone on and on about how I should have added frosting! 

You know what that means. I had to make them again and I had to add swirls of fluffy cream cheese frosting because cream cheese frosting pairs perfectly with red velvet desserts and it just so happens to be my favorite frosting of all. I also decided to bake the dough in mini muffin tins so that I'd have little cookie cups instead of regular cookies. Cookie cups are basically extra mini cupcakes, so they're really, really cute and they make the perfect vehicle for little dollops of perfectly swirled cream cheese frosting. 

SO, that is the story of how these little cookie cups came to be. I guess the only thing I've left out is the part about sprinkles. I added colored red sugar, but you can added any kind of sprinkles or colored sugar that you'd like. You know how I feel about sprinkles - they make everything better. Oh, and I should probably mention - these cookie cups? Absolutely delicious.

Frosted Red Velvet Cookie Cups

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 teaspoons red food coloring

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1-1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two mini muffin tins; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until combined; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg, heavy cream, vanilla extract and red food coloring and mix until combined. Add in dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Roll the dough into 24 one-inch balls and place the dough balls in the mini muffin tins. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until set. Cool completely.
To prepare frosting, cream cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar and beat until combined. Add heavy cream and whip until light and fluffy. Use to frost the cookie cups. Decorate with sprinkles or colored sugar, if desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

(cookie recipe adapted from: the novice chef blog)

Red Velvet Cookie Cups (4).JPG

Ooooh and make sure you eat some of the dough!

Blueberry Cheesecake Pie

I shouldn't really be writing this post right now.

Because my pictures do not do this cheesecake/pie justice and I'm sure that the words I'll use to describe it won't either. The bad pictures happened because we didn't have any cornstarch in the house, but I wanted to make this so badly that I went without the cornstarch and as a result, the filling was a lot, uhhhmm ... more runny than it should have been. So photographing this pie was very messy and super difficult. And me not doing this dessert justice through my written descriptions is happening because I'm just not the greatest writer. 

But bear with me because this is worth it! Speaking of which, I'm really not sure whether to refer to this dessert as a cheesecake or as a pie throughout this post. It's is a cheesecake, but it's baked in a pie plate and it has a blueberry fruit topping which is very similar to a pie filling. I guess it's kind of a hybrid, so I'm just going to refer to it as a "cheesecake/pie." 

Not that we've got that confusing stuff out of the way, let's talk dessert.

My blueberry infatuation is insane this summer! It's the only fruit with which I've been baking. And you guys know that I'm not a fruit person, but I just can't resist when it comes to the blueberries this summer. I've been putting them in everything. I've made lots of desserts with them, but I've also been putting them in my post-workout smoothies too. This cheesecake/pie is my newest favorite way to enjoy my favorite summer berry. If you wanted, you could substitute a different type of berry for the blueberries in this recipe, but I highly recommend sticking with the blueberries!

You can't go wrong with the traditional graham cracker crust and cheesecake filling [oooooh and this cheesecake filling is particularly good - so velvety and creamy!], but when you add the blueberry topping, it just takes this whole thing over the top [pun intended]. I've never been big on fruit fillings, but this blueberry mixture has converted me. I loved it so much! 

Blueberry Cheesecake Pie

1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, melted

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons flour whisked into 2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and salt. Drizzle in melted butter. Mix until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press this mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie plate. Bake for 8-9 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while preparing filling.
In a large mixing bowl, cream cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix until creamy and no lumps remain. Pour into the cooled crust and bake for about 25 minutes, or until set, but the top is not browned at all. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for one hour. 
Meanwhile, prepare topping by combining blueberries, water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Uncover, stir in the flour mixture, increase the temperature to medium and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly, for one minute. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Spoon topping over chilled cheesecake. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Cover any leftovers and store in the refrigerator for up to five days. 

(adapted from: brown eyed baker)

This is one of my favorite things I've made in a while!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Dessert Pizza

I apologize for the abnormally long recipe title.

Sometimes, recipe titles work out and sometimes, they don't. There is really no element of this dessert pizza that is so unimportant that I could leave it out of the title. Chocolate? Obviously, no. I can't leave that out. So important. Strawberries? Basically the star of the show! Cheesecake? UM. Quite possibly the most delicious part of the pizza - I just couldn't leave it out. And it's a dessert pizza. So I had to leave that in the title or else you wouldn't know what this chocolate covered strawberry cheesecake goodness actually IS. You know? Does this paragraph make any sense at all? [I really hope it does.]

I don't need to tell you again that I adore pizza to the point that I wish that I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week. For the rest of my life. With the occasional taco/nachos night thrown in. I just really love it. And now, I've found a new way to enjoy it - in dessert pizza form! How did I never think of making this before?? The possibilities are endless! 

[my pizza obsession is only slightly over exaggerated in the above paragraph. I really do love pizza a whole lot, but eating pizza and only pizza for the rest of my life is a bit much.]

This dessert pizza is inspired by this chocolate covered strawberry cheesecake which is possibly the greatest thing I've ever eaten. The pizza dough crust is even infused with graham cracker crumbs to give it that authentic graham cracker crumb crust. Next there is a cheesecake layer which is actually just that cream cheese frosting/whipped cream hybrid that I've been using in and on everything from parfaits to cupcakes. Then I covered the whole thing in fresh, sliced strawberries and drizzled it all with chocolate and called it a day. A very good day. A great day. 

The only thing about this little dessert pizza that I wasn't crazy about was how difficult it was to slice which you can probably tell from the less than stellar slices in my photos. I'd recommend keeping it in the refrigerator and using a very sharp knife to slice it up. Or, you know, you could just eat it straight from the pan with a fork. My brother and I may or may not have done that. 

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Dessert Pizza

1 cup warm water
2-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons olive oil

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh, sliced strawberries
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons canola oil

Place warm water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Let the yeast sit for five minutes. Add flour, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt and olive oil. Mix on medium speed until dough pulls away from sides of the bowl, adding additional flour if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a 12" circle. Bake on a pizza dish for about 18 minutes at 350 degrees or until lightly browned. Cool completely.
To prepare the topping, beat cream cheese in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add whipping cream and beat until stiff peaks form, about 6-8 minutes. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and mix just until combined. Spread this filling evenly over the cooled crust. Top with sliced strawberries. 
Melt the chocolate chips and canola oil together in the microwave in 30-second increments. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over the strawberries. Let set for about 10 minutes. Store in the refrigerator before slicing and serving. 

(crust adapted from: picky palate)

I'm thinking this would be even better with a brownie crust ... ahhh! 

Double Chocolate M&M Cookies

Mini m&m's are one of the best inventions ever.

Double Chocolate M&M Cookies.JPG

I know that electricity is important; I love my laptop and I don't know many people that can live without their iPhone. But m&m's, man. They can't be beat. And they have to be mini! Mini m&m's taste a thousand times better than the regular sized m&m's. Don't get me wrong, you won't ever see me turn down an m&m. But for snacking and especially baking, mini m&m's are always my first choice. They taste better and they're so much cuter. I know it can be difficult to find the mini m&m's, so you can totally substitute the regular sized ones if necessary, but I highly recommend the mini ones. Mini m&m's are always better.

I think, quite possibly, my favorite thing about these cookies is that the recipe makes enough to feed an army. Every time I make cookies, the dough looks like it'll make a good 3 or 4 dozen cookies. But every time, I end up with about 2-1/2 dozen cookies. But with this dough, I baked over 5 dozen cookies! We ate cookies for two days straight. It was incredible.

Obviously, these cookies taste phenomenal, but what I really want to do right now is accurately describe the texture to you. The texture of these cookies is a cross between a brownie, a cookie, fudge and cake. That probably makes absolutely no sense, but these cookies were a cross between cakey and chewy with a little bit of fudgy brownie texture thrown in the mix. I think?? It's [obviously] very difficult to describe, but let me just tell you, the texture is lovely and the taste is so on point. Texture can totally make or break a cookie. In this case, the texture makes the cookie. Anything that has a texture that can be described as "fudgy" is something that I'll love. 

Also: let's discuss the combination of m&m's, chocolate chips and cocoa powder. These cookies are so intensely chocolatey [hello, three different types of chocolate], but not at all too rich or over the top. With a glass of milk, these are the perfect dessert or snack. And I mean, you don't even actually need the milk, but come on. Cookies and milk just go together. Love love love!

Double Chocolate M&M Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups mini m&m's
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix well. Beat in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt on low speed and mix just until combined. Stir in mini m&m's and chocolate chips.
Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until set. Cool on pans for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. 

(lightly adapted from: picky palate)

these cookies made my day.

Chocolate Frosted Cake Doughnuts

Look at these massive doughnuts.

They were so small when I cut them out of the dough, but once I dropped them into the vat of boiling oil, they puffed up. A lot. More than I thought they would. So I had to add extra chocolate frosting and sprinkles to compensate, but of course I didn't have a problem with that. I do, however, have a problem with Dunkin Donuts. I mean, I love their doughnuts, but how do they shape them so perfectly all the time and why do they not share this secret with me so that my doughnuts can be delicious and pretty?

I'm sure at this point that it has to have been proven that food tastes better to us if it is visually appealing. If I had a scientific bone in my body, I'd do the research and write up the report by myself, but uhmmmm ... no. Science is not my thing. I also don't have a single artistic bone in my body. Apparently, my body only has baking bones.

Or, in this case, a deep frying bone? [I am well aware that this analogy is going way too far.]

I'm sure that I've mentioned my hardcore adoration for doughnuts many times on this blog, but have I ever mentioned my just as hardcore adoration for actually making doughnuts? I find it oddly satisfying to make dough, roll it out & cut it out, and plop those babies in a deep fryer. And then, once they're all fried up, dunking them in chocolate frosting and dousing them with sprinkles. Plus ... the end result is a doughnut. So yeah, it's an extremely satisfying process. 

Oh, and this frosting? It is basically pourable/liquid fudge. In other words, it's absolutely wonderful and it serves as the perfect complement to the somewhat simple [I say simple in the best possible way here!] doughnuts. Though they're not complex in flavor, the doughnuts are super soft and fluffy and, uh, they're fried. What more could you want? You really can't beat a good old fashioned fried doughnut. 

Chocolate Frosted Cake Doughnuts

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 tablespoons butter, melted & cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
oil, for frying

4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon dark corn syrup
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. 
In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, butter and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid mixture into the center of the dry ingredients. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Stir until dough is combined but do not overmix [dough will be sticky]. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and turn out onto a well floured surface. Roll out the dough to 1/2-3/4" thickness. Cut out doughnuts using a round cookie cutter. Using the bottom of a pastry tip or a small round cookie cutter, cut out the center of each doughnut.
Heat oil to 360-365 degrees. Fry the doughnuts, 2 or 3 at a time, 2-3 minutes per side, until puffed and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon. Allow doughnuts to cool on paper towels almost completely.
To prepare glaze, heat a small saucepan over medium heat and add butter, vanilla extract, corn syrup and milk. Whisk to combine and once butter is melted, reduce heat to low and add the chocolate chips. Stir to combine, then, once smooth, remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar. Whisk continuously until all lumps are dissolved. Allow the glaze to cool for about 10 minutes. Dunk each doughnut in the glaze and decorate with sprinkles. Serve immediately.

(lightly adapted from: how sweet it is)

I know it seems like a long recipe, buuuuuut do it! It's simple, I promise! 

Blueberry Cupcakes

This is the summer of blueberries.

I'm pretty sure I've used blueberries in every single fruity recipe that I've baked. Oh, wait. There were strawberries once in this pie. Other than that, there has been the usual - chocolate - and numerous blueberry recipes like these cupcakes. 

Let's talk about these cupcakes. The first thing you should know is that  I used a vanilla cake mix and simply stirred in mounds of fresh blueberries. I wanted to use this vanilla cupcake recipe, but I've been having problems with it. The first time I made that recipe, the cupcakes baked up perfectly with nicely domed tops. But ever since then, the recipe is not baking correctly. The cupcakes end up flat and underbaked or overbaked. So I used a cake mix. It was easy, it baked perfectly and it tasted delicious. Win win win situation. 

But the most important thing that we need to talk about here is this frosting. THIS FROSTING. It is major. Majorly important. Majorly life changing. I want to whip it up and spread it on everything. It's so light. It's SO fluffy. I used it in these parfaits that I shared last week and I've been enthralled with it ever since.

Basically, it's a combination of two of my favorite things - cream cheese frosting and whipped cream. I just mixed those two things together and whipped them up and the result is so wonderful. Last week, it paired perfectly with the strawberries and this week, it's pairing even more perfectly with the blueberries. I'm pretty sure all I need in life is fresh fruit and this whipped cream/cream cheese frosting hybrid.

You wouldn't believe how quickly my family devoured these cupcakes. I saw a few people going back for thirds and even fourths. That was probably possible because these cupcakes are much lighter and fresher than most of the desserts I make. But they were still so delicious...

Blueberry Cupcakes

1 vanilla cake mix plus ingredients to prepare it
1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries, tossed lightly with flour

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups cold whipping cream
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
fresh blueberries, for garnishing

Prepare the cake mix according to package directions and stir in the fresh blueberries. Divide the batter between two cupcake pans lined with paper liners and bake according to package directions. Cool completely before frosting.
To prepare frosting, beat cream cheese in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the whipping cream and beat on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and mix just until incorporated. Use to frost the cupcakes as desired. Garnish each cupcake with a fresh blueberry, if desired. Store in the refrigerator until serving and refrigerate any leftovers. Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

(inspired by: cooking classy)

You're gonna love these.

Golden Grahams S'mores Squares

So we're renovating our attic.

And it's completely killing my cooking game [hence these delightful little no-bake treats]. I've been so busy helping with the renovation process that I've hardly had time to bake at all this past week. For instance, I had "make cupcakes" on last Wednesday's to-do list. But it didn't happen because I ended up working in our attic. So I pushed it off till Thursday. And the same thing happened. So I pushed it off to Friday. AND the SAME thing happened. So I finally made them on Saturday and just before I was going to put them in the oven, our oven exploded [I guess that is actually what really killed my cooking game]. 

Ok. So it wasn't quite an "explosion," but it made a loud popping noise and caught fire and stopped working. We ended up buying an entirely new stove, so it ended quite well. Also, I am not at all cut out for physical labor. Working in our attic these past few days has made my entire body ache. And it's so dusty and dirty. I think I'd rather write a research paper.

Since my oven was out of commission for a day, I had to resort to a no bake recipe [which happens to be my favorite kind of recipe]. And it's summer, so s'mores are on my mind. Annnd when I think of a no-bake s'mores treat, these Golden Grahams s'mores bars come to mind instantly because I used to make these allllll the time when I was younger and I adored them so much! Not much has changed. I'm still making these bars. And I still love 'em! The only difference is that when I was younger, I didn't realize just how much of an addictive quality these little bars had to them!

Seriously. I ate one and couldn't stop. My dad literally asked me to move them to the other side of the table. And then our dinner guests literally asked me to move them off the table. All because no one could stop eating them! Because, well, think of it. Cereal, marshmallows and milk chocolate - what's not to love?! 

Golden Grahams S'mores Squares

5 tablespoons butter
6-1/2 cups mini marshmallows
8 cups golden grahams cereal
1-1/2 milk chocolate bars (4.4 oz each)

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add 5-1/2 cups mini marshmallows and stir until smooth and melted. Remove from heat and add the remaining 1 cup of mini marshmallows, cereal and 1 of the chocolate bars, chopped into small pieces. Stir until the entire mixture is combined and thoroughly coated. Press evenly into a well greased 13" x 9" pan. Roughly chop the remaining half chocolate bar and press onto the top of the bars. Let set for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container. 

(adapted from: my baking addiction)

I wanna eat the whole pan!

Strawberry Shortcake Brownie Parfaits

I'm calling these "strawberry shortcake" but there's really no shortcake going on here.

These parfaits are simply inspired by strawberry shortcake. I basically took a strawberry shortcake and replaced the shortcake with brownies and the whipped cream with sweetened whipped cream cheese frosting. Best decisions ever. These little parfaits are unreal. I'm still dreaming about them.

Oh, and uh. When I say "little parfaits," don't be fooled. These parfaits are not little. They're very big. One parfait would serve two, at least. I have the biggest parfait glasses ever and I think that it's about time that I find a few that are a more reasonable size.

So for these parfaits I used a new-to-me brownie recipe from Handle the Heat and they were fantastic. The fudgy factor was off the charts. I chopped the brownies into little cubes and tossed them into the bottom of my parfait glasses to act as a base/crust [the cubed brownies were like little brownie croutons and I want to snack on them eternally. UGH] [oh, and apparently, I have a thing for the word "little" today. I keep using it. it's getting weird]. I do love strawberry shortcake, but replacing the cake with brownies was a pretty genius idea [which, sadly, was not an original idea of mine - I can't take the credit].

I layered on some fresh strawberries. I am completely loving fresh fruit this summer. It's making all of my fruity dessert so ... fresh! I love it. And instead of whipped cream, I added, like I mentioned above, whipped cream cheese frosting. I basically just make cream cheese frosting and then added a ton of heavy cream and whipped it up really good. It made a stiff whipped cream that was perfect for piping and so incredibly delicious that I was eating it by the spoonful. It was so light and so fluffy and so ... whipped! Loving these so much.

Strawberry Shortcake Brownie Parfaits

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups cold whipping cream
cubed brownies
fresh strawberries, sliced

To prepare the whipped cream cheese frosting, cream cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the whipping cream and beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. 
In four large or eight small parfait glasses/cups, layer cubed brownies, whipped frosting and strawberries. Repeat the layers once. Garnish the top with an additional brownie cube, whole strawberry and/or a dollop of frosting. Refrigerate until serving. 

(inspired by: recipe girl)

This combination is just too good.

Monkey Bread Muffins

You're going to need a fork for these bad boys.

Because they are gooey and fluffy and sticky. And every single time I make a muffin recipe, I go on and on about how "the muffins can be dessert or breakfast or a snack!!" but that is not the case here. These are straight-up dessert food. I mean, if you're looking for a completely decadent breakfast that is completely free of any nutritional value, than these can be breakfast. But for the rest of the population, these muffins are a dessert food [although, I AM going to put them in the "breakfast" category in my recipe index just because I don't have a "muffin" category, so I put all muffin recipes in the "breakfast" category]. 

You know how much I thoroughly adore cinnamon buns?? I love monkey bread almost that much. And I really can't help but be completely enamored with these muffins because they taste like a combination of cinnamon buns and monkey bread all in muffin form with a rich caramel sauce. Really, how could anyone resist?!

Let's do a little recipe rundown here. I started with my favorite dough recipe which I use for everything from pizza to muffins to cheesy bread. It's just the perfect recipe and it's easy & no-fail. I simply season it according to how I'm going to use it - garlic powder for savories and cinnamon sugar for sweets. I chopped the dough into little cubes which I coated in cinnamon and sugar and piled the little cubes into the muffin tins. I then made a caramel sauce which was so easy, I couldn't believe it! It smelled phenomenal and tasted even better. I spooned this over the muffins and then baked them up.

And these wouldn't be complete without a nice little cream cheese glaze. The glaze is so wonderful and sweet and creamy and it really takes the muffins over the top. I know this might seem like a lot of steps and a lot of time, but 1) it's really not very difficult or time-consuming and 2) any extra time or effort put out by you will be completely worth it when you take your first bite. I may sound like I'm over exaggerating, but these muffins are no joke. What they are is ridiculously delicious. I could eat these all day [and probably get sick, but I think it'd be worth it].

Monkey Bread Muffins

1 cup hot water
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1-2 teaspoons milk

In a small bowl, combine the hot water, yeast and sugar. Stir to combine, then allow to sit for about five minutes until yeast and sugar are dissolved and the mixture is foamy. 
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and cinnamon. Add the yeast mixture and knead until a smooth dough forms. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about one hour.
Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a large disk, about 10" in diameter, and cut the dough into small cubes, about 2" each. Combine the 1/4 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a large plastic bag. Add the cubed dough, seal the bag and shake vigorously to coat all the dough pieces in the cinnamon sugar mixture. 
Lightly grease 9 muffin wells in a muffin pan. Place 6-8 dough balls/cubes in each well. 
Add the butter, brown sugar and water to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until the mixture begins to boil. Cook for 2 additional minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Carefully spoon this caramel mixture over each muffin. 
Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Once removed from the oven, use the back of a spoon to carefully push the muffins back into their wells to help them retain their shapes. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk together to make the frosting. Drizzle over the warm muffins. Best if served warm. 

(dough recipe adapted from: baked by rachel // muffin recipe adapted from: my baking addiction)

[my frosting drizzling skills are a tiny bit embarrassing]

Peanut Butter Pudding Cookies

These are the easiest cookies ever.

Seriously, three ingredients and about ten minutes. But uh, as I typically do, I jazzed these simple little cookies up with pretzels and melted chocolate because pretzels and chocolate and peanut butter just go together so well. Also, I find that some of my favorite things that I've made included pretzels and chocolate. I have a weird thing for pretzels in dessert. And my chocolate obsession ... well, that's just a given. 

What I'm trying to say is that I love all the star ingredients in these cookies. They are my favorite dessert ingredients, so I just love combining them in one delicious cookie. 

I know that I claim that all of my desserts are "the easiest thing ever!! you must make now!!!" but I really mean it with these. The cookie dough literally includes three ingredients. Everything else is optional [but highly recommended because overdone desserts are the best desserts]. 

These cookies have the same great taste and texture of a regular peanut butter cookie, but the recipe is completely simplified. Peanut butter and an egg make up the wet ingredients. A box of instant vanilla pudding mix takes the place of any dry ingredients and makes for excellently chewy and thick cookies. And that's it! No added sugar or flour. Well. Unless you roll the cookies in a little sugar and top them off with a whole small pretzel. And then drizzle some melted chocolate on top. SO I guess there's a little bit of added sugar and flour. 

But I'm SO obsessed with the texture in these cookies. It's been a little while since I've gone on and on about the texture of a dessert that I've made, so I'll do it now - the cookies are soft and chewy and the pretzel is crunchy and the chocolate is smooth and almost creamy. And when you put it all together, it's just way too ridiculously good. I love!

Peanut Butter Pudding Cookies

1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg

Sanding sugar
12 whole small pretzels
3 teaspoons chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, add pudding mix, peanut butter and egg. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth and combined and a dough forms. 
Roll the dough into 12 balls and roll each ball in sugar. Place the sugared balls on the prepared baking sheet. Place a whole pretzel on top of each cookie ball and press down gently. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool on pan for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave in 30-second increments. Stir until smooth, than drizzle over the warm cookies. Let the chocolate set before serving or storing. Store in an airtight container.

(adapted from: picky palate)

Ugh. So delicious.

weekend stuff {07/05/14}

I'm mildly embarrassed that I only have four pictures to share with you, but it was kind of a slow week for me. But, as always, there was plenty of good pizza and good food. Oh, and I also decided to shopping with a few people in an outdoor mall on Thursday night and a massive storm came out of nowhere and it was ... comical. Running in wet flip-flops is not very attractive. I'll leave it at that.

Have a wonderful weekend!

[follow along on facebook, twitter & instagram!!]

Mini Funfetti Cupcakes

I meant to be super patriotic today.

I thought that I had red, white and blue sprinkles in my pantry! But I didn't. I only had the rainbow colored ones [I bought a huge tub of rainbow sprinkles a few weeks ago and I'm using them on everything! I'm mildly addicted to colorful sprinkles], so I just used them. Instead of being patriotic, I'm being festive. And actually, all sprinkles taste the same, so does it really matter? 

I actually doubled the amount of sprinkles called for in the original recipe, so these little tiny cupcakes are possibly the most sprinkle-laden cupcakes of all time. And it's fantastic. Or, at least. I think it is. There's nothing I love more than cute and colorful food. Except pizza. I'll always love pizza best  [I'm so predictable when it comes to my love for pizza].

Anyhoo. Cupcakes. I've haven't made any in a long time, so I thought I'd jump back on that. With mini cupcakes! The funny thing is that cupcakes are mini cakes. So mini cupcakes are mini-mini cakes. A mini version of something that is already a mini version of something else. Does that make any sense at all? I've got to stop babbling about meaningless things and learn to just get to the point. The point here is that this little tiny cupcakes are really delicious. I used my favorite cupcake recipe and simply cut in half and it produced 2 dozen mini cupcakes. I highly recommend pouring the batter into a large plastic bag, snipping off a corner and piping the batter into the pan. It's super easy and keeps the pan nice and clean. 

I frosted these little guys with a buttercream recipe that I kind of just made up on the fly and it was wonderful. Nice and light and fluffy - everything a good buttercream recipe should be. You could even add a good amount of heavy cream and whip it until it's the consistency of a thickened whipped cream. Gahhhhh. I'm making myself hungry now. 

Mini Funfetti Cupcakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles

1/4 butter, softened
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
Rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two mini muffin tins; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until combined. Add in the butter in small pieces and mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add egg, milk and vanilla extract and stir until a smooth batter is formed. Gently stir in sprinkles. Fill each section of the muffin tins about halfway full with batter. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool completely. 
To prepare frosting, beat butter, powdered sugar and milk together until smooth and combined. Frost cupcakes and decorate with rainbow sprinkles.

(cupcake recipe adapted from: cookies and cups)

look how little! I love these so much!!

Easy Cheddar Garlic Bread

I'm pretty much speechless over this bread.

Except. I have to tell you all about it so I'm forcing myself to form words that will accurately describe just how wonderful this loaf of cheesy, carby goodness is. Regrettably, I can't photograph bread to save my life, so my pictures don't do this loaf justice, so please! Trust me on this - it's SO good. You've got to make it! For once in my life, I'm actually not overreacting when I tell you that this is one of the best things I've ever eaten. No kidding. My dad ate half the loaf and then talked about it for days. My brother couldn't stop telling me how incredible it was. And everyone insisted that I make another loaf asap. 

And the crazy thing is that it's so ridiculously simple and easy. You wouldn't believe that something so easy and quick would taste this delicious. But it does! I promise. It's lightly garlicky and super cheesy and pretty perfect all-around.

The funny thing is that I was trying to make some sort of cheddar pull-apart bread, but that didn't work out so well. So I just ended up stuffing cheese all throughout the loaf. And it was so, so, so fantastic! I ate it warm, straight from the oven, with a little butter. I ate it cold all by itself. I would have eaten it for breakfast the next day, but there was none left. Bottom line: you can't really go wrong with something that tastes this phenomenal. 

I'm freaking out over this one. It's way too delicious.

Easy Cheddar Garlic Bread

1 cup hot water
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a small bowl, combine the hot water, yeast and sugar. Stir to combine, then allow to sit for about five minutes until yeast and sugar are dissolved and the mixture is foamy. 
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and garlic powder. Add the yeast mixture and knead until a smooth dough forms. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a standard loaf pan.
Shape the dough into a log, approximately the size of the pan. Place the log into the pan and push gently to fill the pan. Cut a grid pattern into the dough and stuff cheese in the cracks. Sprinkle any remaining cheese on top of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

(dough recipe adapted from: baked by rachel)

look at all that cheese! ugh, I can still smell the bread baking...

june favorites

Ahem. I completely skipped writing a "favorites" post last month. Honestly, I was super busy with finals, graduating college and applying to new colleges [which is actually more stressful and time-consuming than studying for finals!] and that's partly why I didn't post my May favorites. But the real reason was that I could only think of a few things that I loved and wanted to share with you. But, this month was different and I've got plenty to share with you! So let's get started.

the fault in our stars - I obviously had to read this book and see what all the hype was about and wow. it completely lived up to the hype! so fresh and funny, but heartbreaking and almost beautifully sad. I can't recommend this one enough - I read it in a few hours!

honey nut Chex mix - I'm such a fan of Chex mix [my all-time fav is the cheddar flavor!], but this honey nut version completely blew me a way. a little sweet & salty and completely addicting.

st. ive's apricot scrub - regrettably, I have possibly the worst and most acne-prone skin ever, but I tried out this scrub recently and I'm pretty sure it's working wonders! I saw improvements within two days of using it! 

panera bread - my friend took me here for the first time ever a few weeks ago and WOW. so delicious!! I got this sandwich with a side of mac n cheese and half a French baguette plus some sort of iced acai berry tea which was wonderful. but the best part? the chocolate chip cookie that I had for dessert which was bigger than my face. I need another one asap. I'm already planning my next visit. 

iPhone - I may be the last person in the world to get an iPhone [I've had an android for the past two years] but can I just say how much I adore this thing? my android was great, but the iPhone can take screenshots and has emoji's. enough said. 

forever 21 v-necks - just recently bought myself five of these [black, charcoal, pink, blue and olive green] and I have been living in them. seriously, I hardly wear anything else these days. they're comfy, soft and durable plus they're perfect for the hot summer weather and they go with anything and everything! best purchase I've made in a while. 

candles - I've been burning this flower bouquet one and this laundry day one and they both smell so fresh and light. I can't get enough and my room smells wonderful.

white cheddar popcorners - these are my new favorite snack ever. it's basically popcorn in chip form which is perfect for me because it means that I don't have to deal with kernels. this white cheddar version is so ridiculously delicious and addicting. I can't stop eating them. 

samsung chromebook - finally bought myself a new laptop! and I couldn't be happier with it - incredible battery life [I charge maybe twice a week?], super fast, great internet connection and it's nice and lightweight so I can easily carry it anywhere. I kinda love it!

starbucks passion fruit iced tea lemonade - have I ever mentioned my Starbucks obsession? it's gotten slightly out of hand lately because I can't stop drinking this iced tea/lemonade. it is, for sure, my favorite drink of the summer. I can't wait to drink another one in a few days. so delicious and refreshing! love love love.

what are you loving this month?? follow along on facebook, twitterinstagram for more of my favorites and lots of fun behind the scenes photos!!

[**disclaimer: as usual, I am not affiliated with any of these links/companies and was not compensated for this post; I just really, really love this stuff and I wanted to share it with you!**]

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Ok so, technically, granola bars are breakfast.

Or maybe, at most, a snack. But these granola bars are the real deal and I'm pretty sure you could consider them a dessert. Because these are seriously decadent. I mean, as decadent as a granola bar can be. Two kinds of chocolate and peanut butter go into these bars and they're kind of fantastic. Also, I can't really stop making no bake stuff, which is one of the reasons I made these granola bars. At some point, I'll probably turn my oven on again, but with this summer heat, who knows? Actually, wait. Who am I kidding - I can't go without cookies for long, so my oven will probably be on today. 

I also really want to make some very festive and patriotic [baked] desserts for the fourth of July this weekend [HOW are we already over halfway through 2014?!??], so the oven will have to go on for that as well. I generally make a layered red, white and blue jello salad which includes fresh fruit and a really delicious creamy white layer, but 1) I'd like to broaden my horizons and 2) I'm a little too scared to even attempt to photograph that for blog purposes. So I'm thinking of making something else this year, but who knows? I kinda, sorta love my comfort zone, so I might end up making that and calling it a day. 

But anyway. Let's talk breakfast and these granola bars which are probably way too rich and dessert-like for any sane person to eat for breakfast, but obviously, I'm not so sane when it comes to food. Because actually, these granola bars are kind of like a glorified rice krispie treat and who eats rice krispie treats for breakfast? [I wish I did...] 

These are, by far, the chewiest granola bars I've ever made. I absolutely love granola bars [seriously, you should see the stash I have in my desk - there are probably over 50 Quaker granola bars - it's getting out of hand]. I also absolutely love making granola bars and I have to say, this is probably my favorite recipe yet. Like I said, the texture is spot on - so soft and chewy! Plus, you can't go wrong with the ever popular chocolate + peanut butter combination. Make sure you drizzle these bars with plenty of extra chocolate or peanut butter. Or both, of course. 

Pretty sure these are calling your name...

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars

2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups quick oats
2 cups crispy rice cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Lightly grease an 11" x 9" pan; set aside.
In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine corn syrup, peanut butter and brown sugar. Microwave for one minute, then stir to combine. Return to the microwave for an additional 45 seconds; stir again. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and salt and mix to combine. Add the oats, cereal and 3/4 cup chocolate chips and mix until the oats and cereal are thoroughly coated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press down evenly with the back of a metal spatula. Refrigerate for one or two hours, until firm and set. Slice into about 12-14 rectangles.
Melt the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave in 30-second increments. Drizzle over half the granola bars. Melt the 2 tablespoons of peanut butter in the microwave in 30-second increments. Drizzle over the remaining granola bars. Let the granola bars set until the chocolate and peanut butter drizzles are firm. Store in an airtight container. 

(source: averie cooks)

You know I wish there were some of these left over for my breakfast this morning... 

Chocolate S'mores Cookies

S'more is my favorite flavor of the summer.

My s'more obsession developed recently. My brother's girlfriend's family has a small fire pit in their backyard. Every time we go over to their house, we build a little fire, roast marshmallows and make & eat s'mores. So I've eaten my fair share of s'mores this summer and I'm kind of becoming addicted to them. I used to be indifferent to them, but now, I love 'em. And since I have now discovered my love for s'mores, I'm making s'mores desserts. Of course.

So remember this picture that I posted on Instagram of some s'more cookie dough? It was fantastic. I used this cookie dough recipe from Picky Palate and added graham cracker crumbs, mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. And the dough was out of this world delicious. I couldn't stop eating it. However, when I baked it, it completely failed. For one, I left out a key ingredient and the cookies spread a ton and got super flat. Also, mini marshmallows baked in a cookie? Well. They don't turn out well. It melted into a giant sticky mess. 

I was so depressed because I had no cookies to eat.

Chocolate S'mores Cookies.JPG

But, you know. I came through and made a new version. I stuck with the same general dough recipe, but I used instant chocolate pudding mix instead of vanilla pudding mix. And I used regular chocolate chips [but you should use the chocolate chunks because they look so much prettier! I just didn't have any left] and mallow bits in place of the mini marshmallows. This recipe worked much better. The dough was phenomenal and so were the baked cookies.

These cookies turn out perfectly every time thanks to the pudding mix. It gives the cookies the perfect thick and soft yet chewy texture. I can't get enough. Plus the graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips and mallow bits make for the perfect s'more flavor. Go ahead and make a batch then eat a few. Or, make a batch and eat way too many. You know what I did...

Chocolate S'mores Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup mallow bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a stand mixer, cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract and mix well. Add flour, baking soda, salt and graham cracker crumbs and mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and mallow bits until combined and thoroughly coated. Scoop tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes until set around the edges and very lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. 

(adapted from: picky palate)

It's Friday, so have some cookies & have a lovely weekend!