Twix Truffle Brownies

I made brownies again

These were even better than those little brownie sundaes that I shared with you on Wednesday. Remember how I said that the brownie base of those sundaes was the best homemade brownie I'd eaten yet? Well, I was wrong. The base of these twix truffle brownies is the best homemade brownie that I've eaten yet. It actually compares to a boxed mix. They're so chewy and so fudgy and ridiculously easy and simple. The recipe was so straightforward that I almost thought that I was doing something wrong or leaving something wrong.

Well. I didn't do anything wrong or leave anything out. And the brownies were perfect. Annnnd then I went a little bit crazy and added a pretty substantial bunch of toppings. 

I think I've mentioned before that Twix bars are my favorite candy bar? Well, they are. I absolutely adore them. So good. [oh, and if you don't know what a twix bar is - it's a candy bar that features a layer of shortbread cookie topped with caramel and wrapped in chocolate. it is as fantastic as it sounds.] I made these a few weeks ago, but I had to make them again and photograph them for the blog because - uhm. Best brownies ever.

When I'm excited about the most recent decadent dessert that I've baked and devoured, I tend to not complete my sentences or make a lot of sense or use proper English grammar. I'm sorry about that. Buuuuut, to make up for all of my ramblings, I'm sharing with you my current favorite dessert and perhaps, the best thing I've made so far this year. I love everything that I share with you guys, so sometimes, I may sound like I'm exaggerating. For once in my life, I'm actually not exaggerating - these brownies really are ridiculously good.

SO. What makes them so good? Well, I mean, the fudgy brownie base is really, really wonderful. But topping that with all of the elements of a Twix bar just takes these brownies straight to perfection. First, there's the shortbread truffle layer which is just ridiculous. Next, there's a layer of gooey caramel which is one of the best things in life. Lastly, there's a thin chocolate layer to finish it off. Please don't be afraid of all of the steps. These are quite simple to make, and I promise that the little bit of extra time is so, so, so worth it.

Twix Truffle Brownies

3/4 cup butter, melted
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 box (10 oz) shortbread cookies
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 bag (14 oz) chewy caramels
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13" x 9" pan with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the eggs and mix until well combined. Stir in flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and mix just until combined. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely in pan while preparing the twix bar toppings.
Add the shortbread cookies to a large plastic bag and crush them into fine crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a bowl and mash together with cream cheese and sugar. Press gently over the cooled brownies. 
Next, in a microwave safe bowl, melt caramels and heavy cream in 30-second increment, stirring between each 30-second burst. Heat until completely melted and smooth. Pour over the shortbread layer and place the entire pan in the refrigerator to cool briefly.
Add the chocolate chips and canola oil to a microwave safe bowl. Melt in 30-second increments, stirring occasionally until smooth and melted completely. Pour over the cool caramel layer and refrigerate until the chocolate is set. Slice and serve. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. 

(brownie recipe adapted from: life, love and sugar // toppings adapted from: chef in training

I'm already craving about four of these. 

Individual Brownie Sundaes

Gahhhhhh, I'm finally telling you about these sundaes.

I made them forever ago. Seriously, I think almost a month ago?! But really, there's not much to tell about these. All I did was bake some super fudgy brownies in my muffin top pan [I'm mildly obsessed with it. if you don't have a muffin top pan, you could just use a regular muffin pan, I think], plop giant scoops of chocolate ice cream on top and douse the whole thing in colorful sprinkles. These are ridiculously easy, foolproof and make a perfect end of summer treat. 

Speaking of which, woah. Summer is over and all the kids are heading back to school and every social media outlet that I have is full of back to school pictures, tips and tricks. Also, I am not going back to school and that's making me super sad because the only thing that I love more than super fudgy brownies and extra cheesy pizza is sitting in a lecture hall or writing a paper or taking an exam. My college plans didn't work out, so I'm taking the year off to work and bake and consume plenty of chocolate. And then, in January of 2015 [what!], I'll apply to a number of other colleges.

But let's get back to the brownies. These brownies were the star of the show. They're not the best brownies I've ever eaten, but they're pretty darn delicious. They're super fudgy and they're probably the best homemade brownies I've ever eaten. 

My brother brought a girl over to our house last weekend and she brought brownies that she had cut up and placed in cupcake liners and sprinkled with powdered sugar. She got major points for presentation, plus she had made her brownies from a box and we agreed that boxed brownies are just better. Hers were SO good! I ate, uhm .... a lot. 

Anyway, these little sundaes are super easy and they're completely versatile. You can swap out the chocolate ice cream for any that you'd like, but chocolate is my personal favorite. And when it comes to toppings, the possibilities are endless. I kept mine simple with sprinkles, but you can add sauces, whipped cream, cherries, nuts, candies and more! Gooooo crazy with it.

Individual Brownie Sundaes

1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup butter, chopped
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
ice cream
sprinkles + any toppings you'd like!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin top pan; set aside.
In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips, butter and unsweetened chocolate. Heat in the microwave for one minute then stir. Continue heating in 30-second increments, stirring between each burst, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Let cool slightly.
In a large bowl, beat sugar, eggs and egg yolk on medium speed until thick and pale. Beat in vanilla extract. Add chocolate mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the flour and salt and mix gently until combined. 
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin top pan and bake for 8-11 minutes or until the brownies are set. Let the brownies cool completely before topping with scoops of ice cream and toppings. Serve immediately. 

(brownie recipe from: handle the heat)

guess how much fun it was to shoot that melty ice cream in the middle of July?

Chocolate Pretzel Rice Krispie Treats

It's been approximately 16 days since I last wrote a blog post

I'm pretty sure that in all my 3+ years of blogging, I've never not blogged for that long. This summer has been intense. There has been a lot of family drama and a lot of big changes coming for my family. On top of all that, I spent about a week and a half of the last two weeks out of town. There was also a funeral. And finally, a few devastating & painful losses in my personal life. All of this added up to a complete loss of creativity and basically no desire to write. Or bake. But of course I still wanted to eat baked goods. 

So I had to suck it up. Plus, I realized that baking and writing is making me feel better. So I whipped up a series of intensely chocolatey desserts which you will see on the blog this week. 

These rice krispie treats came about last week while I was at my aunt & uncle's house. I have two cousins who possibly like dessert even more than me [woah ... what?!], so making some after-dinner treats was a must. And I've been craving rice krispie treats for about the last seven and a half months, so I finally made some.

But you know me. I can never leave well enough alone. So I opted for rice krispie treats. With lots of salty pretzels crushed up inside. And extra chocolate on top. I've always adored rice krispie treats, but this extreme sweet and salty chocolate version was just .... woah. Mind blowing. Oh, and ridiculously easy. I whipped these up in 15 minutes. And I may or may not have eaten one or two before we even ate dinner. Oops. 

Chocolate Pretzel Rice Krispie Treats

1/3 cup butter
1 bag (10.5 oz) mini marshmallows
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups cocoa krispies cereal
2 cups pretzels, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons canola oil
additional crushed pretzels

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows, stirring constantly util completely melted. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract. 
Stir in cereal and pretzels and mix until well coated. 
Using a buttered spatula, press the mixture evenly into a greased 13" x 9" pan. Set aside to set. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and canola oil together in small, microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave in 30-second increments. Stir until smooth. Sprinkle the crushed pretzels all over the top of the rice krispie treats. Drizzle with the melted chocolate mixture. Let sit until the chocolate is completely set. Slice into bars and serve. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

I feel like I haven't blogged in months. I'm never going this long without blogging again.

Easy Peach Breakfast Muffins

These are the simplest & freshest muffins ever.

They're plain but not boring and I love that about them. Generally, I love over the top desserts like those brownie batter cheesecakes that I shared on Friday, but once in a while, you just need a little dessert detox. Sooo naturally, I detox with muffins. They have fruit in them! So we're basically talking health food here! [haha, I sound like one of those ads that makes a bowl of cereal and a piece of toast slathered with Nutella a "healthy & balanced breakfast" if you just drink a glass of orange juice with it. in other words, these muffins are not health food.]

So. These were supposed to be blueberry muffins. Blueberry muffins are such a classic, right? Well. I didn't have blueberries. But I wanted muffins. And I had peaches. So these peach muffins were born. I'm mildly disappointed though because blueberry muffins are a thing. Peach muffins are not a thing and I had to make them a thing. Think about it this way - what if you had to make strawberry shortcake, but you could only get your hands on blueberries? You'd have to make blueberry shortcake, but that is not a thing! So sometimes, you have to create a new thing.

Best Peach Muffins (2).JPG

Case in point - these peach muffins. They're super easy and I think that I'd like to eat them for breakfast every day of the week, if possible. The peaches that I used were soooo ripe and sweet and juicy. I'm not one to go on and on about a piece of fruit, but let me tell you, these were some seriously spectacular peaches. They were absolutely perfect in the muffins [so much flavor and made for such moist muffins!] and they were absolutely perfect on their own as a mid-day snack or part of a [real] balanced breakfast. 

This muffin recipe is, quite possibly, the simplest & easiest muffin recipe ever, which is perfect! If you want, you can make them the night before, but they're fast enough to prepare in the morning and eat for breakfast. You will need a couple of bowls, but overall, these are very simple and take hardly any time at all. 

You must try experimenting with different fruits!

Easy Peach Breakfast Muffins

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups fresh peaches, diced
coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two muffin pans with liners; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside. In another bowl, mix together sour cream, buttermilk and vanilla extract; set aside.
In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beat well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and the sour cream mixture in three additions, alternating between wet & dry and ending with the dry. 
Evenly divide the batter between the pans and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 24-27 minutes, or until muffins are golden and baked through. Cool in pans for about ten minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

(adapted from: bakers royale)

annnnnd now, I'm craving some blueberry muffins too.

No Bake Brownie Batter Cheesecakes

Gah. I hardly know where to start.

Everything about these delicious little no bake cheesecakes is everything that I love in a dessert. Crispy crumbly chocolatey crust - check. Rich, fluffy chocolate cheesecake - check. Super light sweetened homemade whipped cream - check. Individual, no bake, in little trifle glasses - check, check, check! I love it all so much. 

My life has been a chaotic mess lately [I'll tell you all about it soon. or maybe, soon-ish]. So a few days ago, I rolled up my sleeves, put my ear buds in, closed out the world and spent about an hour and a half making these, chilling these and photographing these. It was so good to just ignore all of my responsibilities and whip up an incredibly good dessert. The only problem is that I literally don't know which element of these cheesecakes I should tell you about first. I guess I'll just start from the bottom and work my way up.

So let's discuss crust! This crust is the first of its kind that I've ever made or eaten. It's a graham cracker crust, but made with some additional sugar and a little cocoa powder whisked in. So it's basically a chocolate graham cracker crust. It was such a nice change up and makes a great base for the cheesecake. Speaking of cheesecake - OH. MAN. Wow. This cheesecake filling is so wonderfully fudgy and rich and, true to its name, is almost brownie like. Generally when I make a no bake cheesecake, I add whipped topping to lighten up the cream cheese base.

I didn't do that this time. This time, I add homemade whipped cream and I'm pretty sure it made for a way better no bake cheesecake than I've ever made before. Which leads me to the last element of this cheesecakes - the giant dollop of homemade whipped cream on top. I think I've finally found my perfect cream to sugar ratio. This whipped cream was just sweet enough. A swirl of whipped cream plus a little sprinkle of the crust mixture makes the perfect finishing touch for these cheesecakes. You're gonna love these!

No Bake Brownie Batter Cheesecakes

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, sugar and melted butter. Mix until combined and moist. Reserve about 1/2 tablespoon of the crumbs then divide the remaining crumbs between four or five 8 ounce dessert glasses. Press onto the bottom and slightly up the sides of the glasses. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
In a large, clean mixing bowl whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and whip for an additional minute to incorporate the sugar. Spoon out of the mixing bowl and set aside.
Add the cream cheese to the mixing bowl and cream on high speed for about one minutes or until fluffy. Add cocoa powder, flour and sugar and beat on medium speed until combined. Add milk and whip for about one more minute. Gently fold in half of the whipped cream until completely incorporated. Spoon this filling evenly into the dessert glasses right on top of the crusts. Pipe the remaining whipped cream on top and sprinkle with the reserved crumbs. Store in the refrigerator until serving for no more than one or two days. 

(adapted from: lauren's latest)

this is the best thing I've eaten in soooo long!

Toasted Marshmallow Blondies

I have only recently discovered the wonder of toasted marshmallows.

I know - I'm so behind and I'm so out of the loop and I fall in love with things that people have been over for months or even years. Except, are people over toasted marshmallows? How could you possibly be over toasted marshmallows?? 

Anyway. I've spent a bit of time around a fire pit this summer and that is something that is kind of new to me. I mean, I've experienced sitting around a fire pit before, but it's happened a lot more than it ever has this summer. [side note: I ramble too much and probably make my blog posts a lot more complicated than they need to be. I'm sorry!] Sooo along with fire pits comes s'mores, right?? And with all of the s'mores that I've devoured this summer, I've realized something big: I adore toasted marshmallows. I'd rather just toast a marshmallow and eat it by itself than add the chocolate and graham cracker.

Me turning down chocolate is huge.

Because I'm so obsessed with that delicious toasty marshmallow flavor, I decided to start incorporating it into my desserts. I thought that I'd start out with something simple like these blondies. Blondies are basically a batch of cookie dough baked in a pan, so they look like blond brownies [pretty sure that's where the name comes from...?]. Generally when I make blondies, I use a chocolate chip cookie recipe, but this time, I used a slightly different recipe. Instead this recipe uses lots of vanilla extract, a ton of toasted marshmallows and no chocolate!

Obviously, I contemplated throwing some chocolate into the cookie dough, but I opted to leave these chocolate-less. I think it was a good idea because without the chocolate, these blondies were perfectly sweet. These blondies are buttery & sticky and full of intense vanilla and toasted marshmallow flavor. We adored these - you have to try them for yourself!

Toasted Marshmallow Blondies

6 oz regular sized marshmallows
1 cup butter, cold
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 egg
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice each of the marshmallows in half and place on the prepared baking sheet. Toast under the broiler, on high heat, for 1-2 minutes, watching carefully. Once the marshmallows are thoroughly toasted, place the pan in the refrigerator and chill for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line an 11" x 8" pan with parchment paper; set aside.
Chop the cold butter into small cubes and add to a large mixing bowl along with sugar and brown sugar. Cream for 1-2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Slowly add in flour, baking soda and salt, mixing just until combined. Coarsely chop the chilled toasted marshmallows as best and possible and add to the dough. Mix just until no large globs of marshmallow remain.
Press the dough into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature. Chill for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

(adapted from: Annie's Eats)

These blondies are perfect for a late summer day like today! Make make make!

The Best & Chewiest Cookies

On Friday, I told you guys about this cake. The one that didn't look special, but actually is.

Well. I'm here to tell you a similar story about these cookies. They don't look special. They look ordinary. They look like any of the other hundred variations of chocolate chip/oatmeal cookie recipes that I already have on the blog. But I promise you, these are better. In fact, they're the best. I don't normally refer to a recipe as "the best ____," but I'm going to this time because these are, in fact, the best & chewiest chocolate chip oatmeal cookies I've ever eaten. And trust me, I've eaten a lot of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies before.

You may or may not know that chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are my favorite. I love chocolate chip cookies, but adding the oatmeal is like adding an element of awesomeness that puts the cookies completely over the top. AND they must be chocolate chip oatmeal. NOT oatmeal raisin. I enjoy raisins once in awhile, but not in a cookie. Never in a cookie. Raisins and nuts are two things that are just fine by themselves but do not belong in cookies. I'm very particular about my cookies. That's why I'm giving you this recipe for the best cookies ever.

Let's discuss. This is much more a method than a recipe and it's a very particular recipe which should be followed precisely in order to get the best results. I will admit, however, that I mildly adapted the recipe from its source, but I was extremely happy with my results. It produced the thickest and chewiest cookies I've ever made and it didn't skimp on flavor! 

Lately, I've had no trouble baking soft & chewy cookies. I learned all the tricks to the perfect cookie texture long ago. But lately, though my cookies were perfectly soft & chewy, they kind of lacked flavor. They didn't have that buttery depth that I love so much. So I've been looking for a new go to recipe. And I've found it! This recipe was perfect. Not only was the texture exactly how I like it, but the flavor was also perfect. Everyone was going back for more!

The Best & Chewiest Cookies

1 cup butter
1-1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Remove from heat. Stir in brown sugar and sugar until combined. Pour this mixture into a mixing bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove the mixture from the refrigerator and add eggs and vanilla extract, stirring until smooth. Add flour, oats, baking soda and salt and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips. Chill the dough for 30 minutes. 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into 2" or 3" balls. Place on prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
Remove from refrigerator and bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool on pans for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen large cookies

(lightly adapted from: i am baker)

I'm not even going to admit how many I ate...

july favorites

So many things about the month of July ending are causing me serious surprise. Like, woah. We're heading into the eighth month of the year, meaning we're 2/3 of the way through 2014! It never surprises me just how quickly time flies by. Also we've only got one month of summer left! Which is depressing since we've just started seeing some beautifully sunny days. And I'm starting school in less than four weeks! 

Before I become an emotional wreck about something as minuscule as the calender, let's get on to all of my fav things from the month of July! (please note, these pictures don't necessarily correlate to the items that they are pictured below/above, I just wanted to share some of my pictures from instagram this week.)

cucumber water - I've long been a fan of cucumbers & I drink a ton of water, but recently, I haven't been able to get enough glasses of ice cold water with chunks of fresh cucumber. love!

2048 - ok. so this is a puzzle game app and I was completely addicted to it until I beat it. and it took me forever to beat it! please download it. but actually, don't. because your productivity will be ruined forever!

ed sheeran's album "x" - this album is ridiculously good. every single song is so beautiful and heartfelt. I love every song on the album, but my absolute favorites are sing, afire love, don't, all of the stars and especially, photograph. gooo listen!!

black plimsolls - I'm absolutely loving these shoes from forever 21. pretty sure I'm gonna buy a pair in black and in a few different colors to wear all the time when school starts back up!

pb&j sandwiches - I literally ate a pb&j sandwich every single day for three weeks straight this past month. I'm addicted. creamy peanut butter & grape jelly is the way to go!

white jacket required - I love Jenna's blog Eat, Live, Run so I knew I had to read her book at some point. I picked it up earlier this week and read in less than two days. it was wonderful! beautifully written and so heartfelt with plenty of foodie stuff mixed in. I loved it!

smoothies - I can't stop drinking them!! if you follow me on instagram, you've probably seen plenty of of pics of smoothies because I'm currently addicted. I really like blueberry/banana/orange or strawberry/banana/orange/pineapple. so refreshing!

being outside - this isn't necessarily a product or "thing," but I've been loving getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine. so good for the soul!

tell me what you're loving lately!!

[be sure to follow along on facebook, twitter & instagram!!]

Cream Cheese Sheet Cake

I KNOW. This cake does not look special. It does not look important.

But but but! Just you wait. It is special. And it is important. And it happens to be my favorite cake of all time and possibly, my favorite dessert of all time. So this is huge! It is also delicious.

If you had to ask me to pinpoint what exactly it is about this cake that I love so much, I probably wouldn't be able to tell you. It's not like the sheet cake is the most phenomenal thing I've ever eaten and the frosting, though completely delicious, isn't exactly mind blowing. But the combination of those two elements? Out of this world. There is something about pairing the simple, dense, pound cake-like cake with pourable fudgy frosting. It is my favorite combination and I am currently very annoyed with myself because my very weak writing skills are probably not doing a very good job of convincing you that this cake will be the best thing you've ever eaten.

Let me just tell you this: every single time I make this cake [and I make it fairly frequently because it's the best], I try to restrain myself and I tell myself that I'll eat one, maybe two, pieces like every other sane human being. But every single time, I find myself on my eighth or ninth piece for the day and I can't stop! And then the next day, when I wake up and realize that it's all gone, I sometimes feel a panic attack coming on. My love for this cake is real and intense and I'm betting that if you make it too, you'll feel the same way!

Cream Cheese Sheet Cake

1 cup + 2 tablespoons butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2-1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 15" x 10" x 1" sheet pan; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each additon. Beat in vanilla extract. Add flour and mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare frosting by combining sugar and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in butter and chocolate chips until melted. Cool slightly; stir and pour over cake. Let set before slicing and serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

(lightly adapted from: taste of home)

This recipe makes a huge cake, but I'm sure you'll be able to find a way to finish it up.

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!