Category Archives: Sweets & Treats

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

On August 23rd we welcomed our beautiful son into the world. With a head full of hair and a smile that melts hearts, he has already changed my life in so many ways. There was no question in my mind that I would love him – but I honestly had no idea my heart was capable of SO MUCH MORE love! I’m just crazy about the newest little man in my life!

This sweet little boy who giggles in his sleep has completely re-prioritized my days (and nights, for that matter). For instance, here is an example of what my “to-do” list for Mondays use to look like:

  1. Sort Laundry
  2. Wash Laundry
  3. Create Weekly Menu
  4. Grocery Shop
  5. Deep Clean Kitchen
  6. Pick Up the Rest of the House
  7. Process Invoices from Last Week’s Customers
  8. Send Thank You’s to Last Week’s Customers

One of my favorite things to do is scribble big fat check marks next to completed tasks on my “to-do”. As you can imagine, it’s been hard for me these past several weeks to look down at my list at the end of the day and see so many boxes left unchecked. To help with this I had to modify my daily “to-do’s”, as I’m now well aware that as a new mother of a two-month old it’s just not possible for me to get as much done in a day as I was once capable of. So, here is my new pared down Monday “to-do” list:

  1. figure out what to eat today

Yesterday, as I was making these cookies one handed with a baby slung over one shoulder, I thought to myself, “You know, you could regain the satisfaction of checking off multiple items from a ‘to-do’ list if you just made a more realistic list”. And so I did. And here it is:

  1. Change diaper
  2. Feed baby
  3. Change diaper
  4. Feed baby
  5. Change shirt and ask yourself why you keep forgetting to grab burp rags before burping your baby
  6. Change diaper
  7. Pack diaper bag
  8. Rush in and out of grocery store as fast as you can
  9. Drive around a few extra blocks to see if you can lull your sweet adorable baby to sleep
  10. Tip-Toe into house, carefully remove baby from car-seat to bassinet for a nap
  11. Put away half of your groceries
  12. Change diaper
  13. Feed baby
  14. Put baby back down to finish nap
  15. Put away the rest of your groceries
  16. Prep dinner
  17. Feed baby
  18. Google “how much is a two-month old suppose to sleep during the day?” and “why isn’t my two-month old sleeping as much as other two-month olds?”
  19. Finish making dinner one handed with baby slung over one shoulder

Now THAT is a list I can zip through in a day!

OATMEAL PUMPKIN COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS AND WALNUTS

Last weekend I was able to spend some time with one of my very favorite friends (who happens to be an excellent baker). We enjoyed catching up over lunch and did a bit of shopping. She took me to a super cute boutique where I purchased a mustache pacifier for my son. Before I left, she gave me a loaf of her delicious and addictive chocolate-chip pumpkin bread. Working together, my husband and I had that loaf polished off by the following morning. And, as I sat there, saddened by the fact that the bread was gone, a thought crossed my mind – what if I tried to turn that tasty bread into a cookie? Is it even possible? Would that be a disaster? Or would they turn out awesome? The answers – Yes. No. And YES!  And they’re DELICIOUS.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2  cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 2  eggs
  • 2/3 c canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3  cups old fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1-1/4  cups chocolate chips
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. In large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and pumpkin; mix well.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in separate bowl. Add to pumpkin mix and combine. Add oats, nuts and chocolate chips; mix well.
  4. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12 minutes or until light golden brown.

This recipe makes 48 cookies.

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WEEK 18 – Sticky Sweet Potato Cookies with Marshmallow Glaze

WEEK 18 was the first time I felt our baby move – or so I thought. Looking back now I know for sure that’s what it was. But at the time, I just didn’t know.  I mean, I was pretty confident that was the baby moving around in there. It felt like flutterings inside my belly and was certainly something I’d never felt before. But yet…

I kept thinking “maybe it’s something I ate?”. Perhaps. But, again, I’ve eaten a lot of things over my past 33 years and NEVER had I felt something like THAT before.

It was weird – in a fun way. And much lower in my belly than I expected it to be. And so very slight! If I wasn’t paying close attention, I’m sure I would have missed it.
The first movements that were quite noticeable that week happened during the first night of my church’s Easter Choir performance. It seemed as though our baby was moving around throughout the entire thing!  My assumption – our sweet little baby is going to be a singer him/herself.

It was ALMOST distracting. Each time I felt a flutter I’d get excited and stop paying attention to where we were in the music. Luckily, I had the program mostly memorized. And, I sing in the 2nd row, so I’m sure no one saw how many times I turned a page late.

Being a first time mom, it was an amazing thing to experience!  I’ve mentioned this several times already in this blog, but sometimes it’s still so hard to believe that this miracle has truly happened – we prayed for so long and waited for so long. And at times I still find myself wondering, “Are we really pregnant? Are we really going to be blessed with a baby in just a few short months? Are we this lucky?”  And at this point in my pregnancy I still didn’t have much of a belly, I was feeling much better (morning sickness was OVER), so there really wasn’t much of a change as far as I could see or feel. So it’s moments like these that really make it REAL! And I love each and every one of them!

In WEEK 18 our baby was about 5 1/2 inches long – about the length of a sweet potato. He/She was busy flexing his/her arms and legs (something I definitely felt!). Blood vessels were visible through thin skin and an ultrasound should be able to let us know if we’re having a boy or a girl. BUT – we’ve decided to wait and be surprised!

STICKY SWEET POTATO COOKIES WITH MARSHMALLOW GLAZE

So… Sticky Sweet Potato Cookies. You’re asking – “Why not sweet potato fries? Or sweet potato pie?”  I know. Jeff wondered the same thing. And here’s my answer – because I’m pregnant and I wanted COOKIES!  This is another recipe I threw together on a whim, using the Angeletti Cookie recipe as a base. And I’m really excited about this one!  The cookies are big and fluffy and moist with a very satisfying bite. Without the glaze they are lovely – a simple delicately flavored spiced sweet potato cookie that’s perfect for someone looking for a lightly sweetened cookie. However, once you pour on the marshmallow glaze they transform into a whole other cookie – sticky, sugary and perfect for someone looking for a sweet-tooth fix!  Last night, as Jeff and I devoured a plate of these amazing things, I said, “Don’t you think these cookies will be perfect for Fall? Or Thanksgiving?” He replied with “Why limit it to just one season? These cookies are awesome – they’re perfect for Fall, Spring, Summer, any holiday, Tuesdays…” and the list went on and on.

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2/3 c mashed sweet potato
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Glaze: 1/4 c marshmallow fluff, 1/2 cup powder sugar, 2 TBSP milk, 1 tsp lemon juice

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, eggs and cooled sweet potato until blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined (do not overmix).
  3. With floured hands or a scooper, roll level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and the bottoms are pale golden, 10-11 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  4. Make glaze by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing with a fork. Once cookies are cooled, dip the tops of each cookie in glaze, sprinkle with cinnamon, and set on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes. Tops will set, but will be sticky.

Makes: 13 large cookies

WEEK13 – Nectarine and Blackberry Shortcakes with Fresh Whipped Cream Topping

I’m back!

If you’ve noticed, I’ve not written in about two weeks. That’s because I’ve been searching high and low for PEACHES.  I’ve learned that peaches are just not available in the Midwest during the months of March/April. So, while grocery shopping today I spied a lovely nectarine and thought that perhaps that would make a nice stand-in for WEEK 13 since the produce clerk told me I was out of luck on the peaches front until June.

So… prepare yourselves for an amazing peach pie recipe later on this summer.  Now, back to celebrating WEEK 13!

WEEK 13 was the last week of my first trimester, and boy was I anxious to get it OVER with. Why? A few reasons.

1).  Every book I read told me that morning sickness would begin to wain once I moved on into the second trimester.

2).  More importantly, the chances of having a miscarriages decreases significantly once you’re no longer in your first trimester.

Up until this point Jeff and I had decided not to do a whole bunch of purchasing or planning until we had officially reached the 14th week of our pregnancy. Not out of superstition, but out of caution. It took us so long to get pregnant – we just wanted to make sure we were smart about how we progressed.

Near the middle of WEEK 13 I started to experience very painful cramping in my lower abdomen. At first it occurred only when I stood for an extended period of time. But, after a few days it became a constant and somewhat excruciating pain. By the very last day of WEEK 13 I couldn’t walk, let alone stand. I’d called and left a message for my doctor, but hadn’t heard back from her and kept telling Jeff that I was sure everything was just fine, even though I was terrified something terrible was happening.

The last night of WEEK 13 was a rainy one. We had several thunderstorms roll through that brought lots of lightening and wind and other spooky sounds. Around 10:30 PM I tried to get up off the couch to go pour myself a glass of milk and I had to stop, doubled over, after only taking two steps away from the couch. Jeff said, “That’s it – I’m taking you to the emergency room”.

We drove in the pouring down rain to the closest hospital, forgetting to take umbrellas. When we got to the ER doors Jeff told me to hop out so that he could go park the car. As soon as I closed the door I saw that they had free valet parking and tried to get Jeff’s attention before he took off by pounding on the car hood, resulting in him backing over my toe. Luckily, it was the very tip of just my shoe and other than panic I felt nothing.

The ask-a-nurse that I’d spoken to just moments before Jeff whisked me away to the ER had told me there was a good chance that I was having a spontaneous abortion. Typing that even now brings tears to my eyes. I was so very terrified and all I could think was “not even two hours left of my first trimester and everything is coming to an end”.

After what seemed like hours, which I’m sure was only minutes, we were called back into one of the rooms where we were greeted by a very friendly doctor who asked a bunch of questions. They took several viles of blood on three separate stickings and told me it seemed as though I was dehydrated, so they immediately put me on an IV and started having me drink glass after glass of water. The doctor told me that from what she could deduce I may just have a bladder infection, but wouldn’t be able to confirm that until after reviewing lab results and a sonogram.

Now… I’d never been to an ER before I’d met Jeff.  However, after meeting my husband I can tell you that I became well versed in ER visitations. But this was the first time I’d ever been the one on the table instead of the one in the chair. After hearing that the doctor thought I might simply have a bladder infection, laying back in that cushioned table/bed flipping through the TV channels became quite relaxing. I had a warm cozy blanket and cool beverage to sip on. Had I not been interrupted umpteen times by a nurse needing more blood I would have said that that part of the evening had been quite enjoyable.

But, I was quickly reminded that I was not on a mini-vacation when the sonogram technician came to whisk me away. We flew through the halls as if we were on a roller coaster with Jeff trailing us the entire way. When we got into the room where the monitoring equiptment was I began to panic all over again. What if the sonogram showed us something we didn’t want to see? What if the nurse on the phone was right and this wasn’t just a bladder infection?

I couldn’t lay still because I was shaking so bad. Jeff kept asking me if I was cold – I wasn’t. I was scared. But then we saw him/her – our baby. And it was amazing. So tiny, so precious, so ACTIVE! The sonogram technician said, “Well, I can tell you this much – all of that movement is definitely a good sign. You have one very mobile baby in there”.  And, at that very moment we saw our sweet baby jump and both arms flew towards his head and Jeff said, “Look! He says ‘HI’ like his daddy does – with both hands!”. That is when I lost it and began to cry – happy tears this time. I was so relieved that everyone – my baby and myself – was okay. I began thanking God immediately.

When the doctor came back to our room with the results from the lab work and sonogram it was well past 2AM. She told us that everything looked just fine, except for the level of sugar I had coursing through my body. I explained to her that earlier that night I’d made blueberry lime jelly and had eaten one or two (okay three) biscuits completely slathered with it. She agreed that that was probably why my sugar levels were sky high. But, no bladder infection. No problem with the baby. And no explanation for why I was having terrible cramps in my lower abdomen. She suggested that perhaps it was because I wasn’t drinking enough water and encouraged me to make sure I get at least eight glasses a day.

Jeff and I drove home happy. We’d seen our baby and knew that he/she was just fine. I was still in a lot of pain, but I wasn’t scared anymore and that made the pain bearable. What started off as a terrible and scary night turned into the night that we were able to see our baby for the first time, and for that reason it ended up being quite lovely.

At WEEK 13 our baby was around 3 inches long, about the size of a nectarine.  Fingerprints had formed on our baby’s tiny fingertips, veins and organs were clearly visible through still-thin skin, and his/her body was starting to catch up with his/her head — which made up just a third of his/her body size.

NECTARINE AND BLACKBERRY SHORTCAKES WITH FRESH WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING

As I admitted above, I had planned on doing a peach recipe for WEEK 13.  But, for the life of me could not find one. I searched at least 10 different stores in two different cities. So, much like WEEK 10 (where I had planned on using kumquats but ended up using habanero peppers) I decided to switch gears. And, I’ll tell you now – I’m glad I did! Because nectarines are delicious! I’d never had one before today, but I’ll certainly be eating them from now on! They’re just like peaches, only not fuzzy, making them super easy to prepare. They’re just as sweet, perhaps not as juicy, but equally delicious and satisfying. I wish I’d know that two weeks ago!

For this recipe I used Betty Crocker’s shortcake recipe using Bisquick because I wanted to make a short-cut shortcake and they turned out fantastic. Light and sweet with a tender inside and crispy outside. You are welcome to use whatever shortcake recipe you want, though.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (6 oz) pkg blackberries, washed and drained
  • 3 nectarines, cut into chunks (no need to remove skin)
  • 1/4 c white sugar

For the shortcakes –

  • 2-1/3 c Original Bisquick mix
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 3 TBSP white sugar
  • 3 TBSP butter, melted

For the whipped cream –

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 c powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. (If using the this shortcake recipe) Set oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, mix blackberries and nectarines with 1/4 c sugar and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir Bisquick, milk, 3 TBSP sugar and butter until a soft dough forms. Drop into six equal mounds onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until gold brown. Meanwhile, beat whipping cream and powdered sugar with an electric mixer on high speed until desired consistency.
  4. Split warm shortcakes and fill with fruit mixture and whipped cream. Enjoy!

WEEK11 – Coconut Lime Rice Pudding with Toasted Almonds

WEEK11 was a VERY good week.

This was the week we had our very first prenatal visit with our new doctor. My fingers were crossed that we would like our doctor, and lucky us, we loved her! Still do!

With this being our first ever prenatal appointment we had no idea of what to expect. At this point Jeff still had his fingers crossed that we were having (at least) twins. So, the very first question I asked Dr. L was “can you tell me today that I’m only carrying one baby? PLEASE?”

She let us know that it would be closer to week 20 before we’d be having an ultrasound, giving us a definitive answer, but promised that before we left she’d see how many heartbeats she could find.

Before I continue, let me tell you how nervous I was before meeting Dr. L and her medical assistant because I really really really wanted to love them. I think it’s important to have a good relationship with all of the medical type professionals in your life and that’s just not possible when you don’t like the person you’re working with. Case in point – my last doctor. I didn’t like her at all, and believe me I tried. But she was cold and quite honestly rude. Having not met Dr. L yet I was unsure as to whether or not we’d get along with her, but I did know that regardless of the fact, she was going to be my doctor for the next 8 months because we didn’t have time to look for a different one. So I was hopeful!

Lucky us, we fell in love with both Dr. L and her assistant the very moment we met them! Both ladies were so friendly and personable and funny and comforting – all wonderful traits to have in a medical professional. In addition to being fun loving and enjoyable they both instilled us with the confidence that they are very serious about their jobs and are experts in their field – even better traits to have in a medical professional.

In fact, Dr. L was so confident in her abilities as a doctor that she told us “Usually you have to wait until week 13 or 14 to be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat, but I’ll be able to do it today”.  And you know what?  She did.

Laying still on that table holding Jeff’s hand while listening to our baby’s heartbeat for the very first time was the most amazing experience I’d ever had in my life. It was overwhelmingly and unexpectedly emotional.  I had tears streaming down my face and saw Jeff wipe a few away himeself. Those brief seconds that we were able to listen to our tiny baby’s heart beating away… that was the moment I finally felt a connection. As a mother. As a family. It was, and more than likely will always be, one of the best experiences of my life.

Oh! By the way, she only found one heartbeat. SORRY JEFF!!!  🙂

At WEEK 11 our baby was just over 1 1/2 inches long and about the size of a lime. He/She was almost fully formed. Tiny tooth buds were beginning to appear under gums and some of his/her bones were beginning to harden. Our baby was busy kicking and stretching. And his/her diaphragm was forming, giving him/her lots of possible hiccups.

COCONUT LIME RICE PUDDING WITH TOASTED ALMONDS

Holy moly this rice pudding is satisfying. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet, like some rice puddings can be, but certainly cures a sweet tooth craving – which I was having today. I like to use arborio rice when making rice puddings because it produces a much creamer and more pleasing texture than other rices (however if all you have is basmati or a short grain rice, that would be fine, too. It just won’t create the same texture and consistency.). It’s creamy and smooth with a delicious crunch and packs a surprising zing from the lime zest. You are going to dig this.

Makes four 2/3 cup servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (13.66 oz) can coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 4 TBSP milk
  • 1/2 c arborio rice
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 2-3 tsp lime zest (or zest from 2 to 3 limes)
  • 1 c sweetened and flaked coconut
  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds

Directions:

  1. Combine coconut milk, milk, rice and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Once boiling, cover with a lid and turn heat down to low. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
  3. Meanwhile, place coconut in a pan over medium heat and cook for 3-4 minutes, constantly stirring until toasted. Repeat with almond slices. Combine toasted coconut and almonds in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  4. Remove rice from heat and stir in lime zest and half of the coconut almond mixture. Pour into 4 separate bowls. Top with remaining coconut almond mixture and addition lime zest, if desired. Eat warm or chilled.

WEEK8 – Double Berry Jelly (Stuffed Cupcakes)

I have a confession.  My last blog (WEEK 7, the blueberry), I fear, gave the indication that in week 7 we told EVERYONE that we are pregnant. I must clarify that we only told a few people. Our immediate family members – you know, moms, dads, sisters, brothers – all knew by WEEK 7. We also told a few of our oldest and dearest friends. Our plan was to wait until WEEK 14, aka the beginning of our 2nd trimester, aka TODAY, to tell everyone.  So, before continue, let me go on record saying that in WEEK 7 we only told a handful of folks. At this point, most of the wonderful people in our lives still did not know.

Now, on to WEEK 8!

By this point in my pregnancy we were still being pretty quiet about the whole thing. Well… I was anyway. Poor Jeff was about to explode from excitement, so to keep that from happening we agreed that he could tell our customers if he wanted to. But I kept my lips sealed.

My fingers, however, were not as good. I made a few posts on Facebook that I thought were innocent enough that no one would pick up on what was going on. However, I forgot that one of my best friends is also one of the smartest of the super smarties I know…

On December 25th I wrote: “Best Christmas ever!”  Innocent enough, right? I didn’t think this screamed, “Hey everyone, I took a pregnancy test this morning and guess what – I’M PREGNANT!”

On December 29th I wrote: “It’s home improvement time. Jeff is replacing the old window in the bathroom. WOO HOO for new windows!!!”  Yes, we kick started ourselves into the GET-READY-FOR-BABY mode, but how could anyone see that from this post?

On December 30th I wrote: “Home improvement project #2 – whole house water filtration. It’ll be like having a Britta in our bathroom, laundry room AND kitchen!”  Everyone wants clean water to drink, not just pregnant women, right?

Later in the day on December 30th I wrote: “Some things, as it turns out, are NOT simply mind over matter.” This was when I had my first experience with morning sickness. But, it could have meant anything.

On January 3rd I wrote: “Great day! Spent most of it with my mom, just goofing off and buying yarn. Wish we lived closer to each other so that we could have more days like today.” My mom came to town so that we could figure out a pattern for a baby blanket I wanted to crochet. We shopped for yarn and spent the entire day talking about babies. But, yarn isn’t just for baby blankets. Maybe we were buying it for… non-baby blankets?

On January 6th I wrote: “Something has died in our fridge. And I can’t find it”. Holy moly, was that a terrible smell. It didn’t effect Jeff the way it did me, but I’m pretty sure that’s because he’s NOT pregnant. But, I wrote nothing about how the smell coming from our refrigerator sent me running to the bathroom every time the door was opened.

On January 9th I wrote: “Great day with the moms!” This was the day that my mom and mother-in-law and I had our cloth diaper shopping spree. While I truly was referencing a day that was all about babies, this post certainly didn’t indicate that.

On January 11th I wrote: “Making baked kale chips. I wish I knew BEFORE I put kale in our oven how AWFUL it would smell as it baked. My stomach is n-o-o-o-o-o-o-t happy right now.”  Okay, maaaaaaaaaybe this was gave something away.

From these posts alone, my friend Devon figured it out. One day in January I received a text message from her saying “You wouldn’t happen to have any need to share, would you, friend???”  I knew immediately that she knew. While I was shocked, I wasn’t completely surprised. Devon is clever and smart and has a lock-box for a brain. I replied with a “Yes, I do have something to share” text and then simply told her that Jeff and I had a lot of fun hanging out with her the other night. Her response: “Lol. Ok, I’ll let it ride until the time is right. But remember this conversation.”

She could work for the FBI.

The very next week (WEEK 8) I emailed her to see if she’d like to have dinner with me. I said that I thought it would be nice to get together and catch up since we’d not seen each other since Christmas. We met at Panera, I had two bagels (carbs!), and we exchanged Christmas stories. Then, I said, “So, I have some news to share with you,” to which she responded by grabbing a gift bag out from under the table and a card. In the gift bag was an adorable onesie and the card was a congratulations on your pregnancy card.

I was completely blown away! I confirmed her suspicions and she congratulated Jeff and me. It was a fun night of catching up!

At this point we were 8 WEEKS along and our baby was around 3/4 of an inch long, about the size of a RASPBERRY. By this time our baby was moving all around on its own and it had all of it’s sweet little fingers and toes.

Double Berry Jelly (Stuffed Cupcakes)

I absolutely LOVE raspberries and chocolate and the combination of the two. That’s why we asked my brilliant friend Devon, who is also an awesome baker, to incorporate both flavors into our wedding cakes in some way. I wanted our wedding cake to be a white cake, so she made a beautiful White Almond Sour Cream cake with alternating layers of raspberry filling and champagne butter cream filling that was also covered in a champagne butter cream.  The groom’s cake was a Dark Chocolate Fudge cake that had a raspberry filling as well. It was covered in a chocolate ganache. Both were heavenly. But, if forced to choose a favorite, I’d vote for the chocolate raspberry groom’s cake.

While I enjoy baking muffins and cookies from time to time, I would never have the courage to attempt baking an impressive cake. When I need an impressive cake, I call Devon (click her name to see her stuff!). So, when I’m in the mood to reminisce about our wedding I make these sweet little things. They are in NO WAY comparable to the gorgeous and beautifully delicious cakes Devon made for us. But in a pinch, they provide as a tasty little reminder of how fun and awesome that night was.

The recipe below is just for the jelly filling because unless I’m doing something special (like a birthday cake), I usually just get a box of cake mix and a tub of pre-made frosting when I’m in the mood to make cupcakes…

Ingredients:

  • 1 (6 oz) package black berries
  • 2 (6 oz) packages of raspberries, set 24 aside for topping cupcakes
  • 2-1/4 c white sugar
  • orange peels from 2 oranges
  • 1 Yellow or White Cake Mix (and necessary ingredients)
  • 1 tub of Chocolate Frosting

Directions:

  1. Wash and sort berries. Remove any stray leaves. Select 24 whole raspberries and set them to the side to use as cupcake toppers. Place the remaining berries in a pot on the stove over med-high heat with sugar and bring to a boil while mashing with a potato masher.
  2. Once your berry mixture comes to a boil toss in the orange peels. This will add a nice subtle citrus flavor while providing the necessary pectin the jelly needs to gel.
  3. Boil for 2 minutes and then bring down to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes. Cool completely. (This can be made several days ahead if you like.)
  4. While your jelly cools, bake cupcakes according to directions and cool completely.
  5. Once cool, using a cupcake plunger (or apple corer or melon baller or grapefruit spoon), cut out a hole in the center of each cupcake and set aside. NOTE: resist the urge to eat the centers of the cupcakes! You still need these.
  6. Spoon the double berry jelly into the centers of each cupcake and then top with the piece of cake you pulled out of the center. Frost with chocolate frosting and top with a raspberry.
This recipe makes 24 very satisfying cupcakes and will provide you with extra delicious jelly for biscuits, toast, and PB&Js.

Frozen Chocolate-Peanut Butter Banana Bites

One day after school, back when I was 13 or 14 years old, I remember coming home and thinking “I’m going to make myself a sandwich with all of my favorite things”.  It made absolute perfect sense at the time. I grabbed two pieces of bread and covered them with peanut butter.  And then I started layering.  BBQ flavored potato chips. Banana slices. M&Ms. Miniature marshmallows. Dill pickle spears. My thought was this – if I liked all of these things separately, surely they’d taste amazing smashed together into one ultimate sandwich. Sadly, I was mistaken.

When I came across this recipe on Pinterest the other day, it made me think of my “ultimate sandwich”. Much like that sandwich, it contained a variety of my favorite things thrown together into one snack: Chocolate Chips, Peanut butter, Bananas, Coconut.

Luckily for me, this recipe turned out MUCH better than the sandwich.

FROZEN CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER BANANA BITES

In the mood for something cold and sweet? These little treats will do it! I’ve convinced myself that they are healthy for you because they’re made of bananas (a fruit!), unsweetened coconut (unsweetened fiber!), and peanut butter (protein!).  They’re like a chocolate coated vitamin… right?  Well, maybe not. But hey, eating a few of these is way better for you than downing a peanut butter chocolate banana split, that I know.  Original recipe found here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bananas, cut into 1.5 inch chunks
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate and peanut butter together in a bowl.
  2. Dunk banana chunks in melted mixture and place on a piece of waxed paper. Continue until all banana chunks are coated and pour remaining chocolate/peanut butter mixture over bananas.
  3. Sprinkle with coconut.
  4. Place in freezer and eat whenever you like.
We preferred eating them after just 45 minutes of chilling.  Once they were frozen through, it was a little difficult to bite into and just super cold. But, you do what sounds good to you! Enjoy!

Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

I have a confession. I love Martha Stewart. I really do.

I know. You think she’s the devil. I say “Nay”.

Sure, back in 2001 she told a lie that landed her in jail – not a good thing. But, she did her time. (And yes, I own a shirt just like this one and loved to wear it back in the day.)

At one time in my life I had a subscription to each and every one of her magazines. Oh, those were the days… Now that we’re attempting to live a more frugal life, I’ve canceled all of my subscriptions. But I do look at her website frequently – especially around holidays and when I’m looking for a new recipe to try.

This recipe that I’m posting today is one of hers. And it’s fantastic. I promise, even if you don’t like Martha, you’ll love these.

BLONDIES WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS AND WALNUTS

Ever find yourself in the mood to eat cookies but not in the mood for all of the work involved? You know what I mean… Mixing the dough, portioning it out onto cookie sheets, rotating them in the oven half-way through the cycle, transferring hot cookies to a cooling rack just so that you start over with the portioning, rotating and transferring over and over again… It can be exhausting at times. That’s why having a delicious bar cookie recipe comes in so handy. Mix the dough, plop it in a pan, put in the oven and WALK AWAY. Go read a book. Or catch up on a show. Or take a 45 minute nap. Whatever you like!

This recipe below is one of my all time favorites. As mentioned above, it’s one of Martha Stewart’s. I always double it and put it in a 9×13 pan. It makes thicker bars, which I love. And it makes MORE bars, which I also love. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush an 8-inch square baking pan with butter; line pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk butter and sugars until smooth. Whisk in egg and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix just until moistened (do not overmix). Fold in 1/2 cup each chocolate chips and walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and walnuts.
  3. Bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack, and let cool completely. Using parchment overhang, lift cake from pan and transfer to a cutting board; cut into 16 squares.

Monster Cookies

I’ve been asked before what makes my monster cookies so good.  My answer, of course, is I use quality monsters.  No generic or imitation monsters here. The trick is this – do your research. Make sure your monsters are authentic. It will say so right there on the label.  And never purchase monsters from North America… they’re all mass produced and have lost their edge.  In my opinion, the Icelandic and Alpine country monsters are the best. (It must have something to do with all of the Christmas candy stuffed children they eat…)  But, as it is with all of the highly sought after ingredients, they are harder to find.  In a pinch, the more readily available yet still delicious South American monsters will work just fine.

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MONSTER COOKIES

I love love love monster cookies and have tried several recipes over the past few years. Of them all, this one, by far, is my favorite. The cookies are nice and chewy.  The peanut butter flavor is spot on. And when I make them around a special holiday I like to color coordinate the M&Ms, just for fun. The recipe was given to me by a co-worker/friend from Make-A-Wish. They are flourless cookies, but they do contain oatmeal, so don’t assume these cookies are gluten free.  Cross-contamination is always a possibility because wheat is often grown in fields next to oat fields. So, be careful if you’re making these for someone with a gluten allergy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup margarine (or 2 sticks), softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 cups peanut butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 9 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 pound candy-coated milk chocolate pieces (like M&M’s)
  • 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, white sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs, two at a time, then stir in the corn syrup and vanilla. Mix in baking soda and oats until well blended. Stir in the chocolate candies and chocolate chips. Roll dough into 1.5 – 2 inch balls, and place 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Do not flatten with a fork, unless you like flat cookies.
  3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven. I always rotate the pans halfway through because that’s what my mom taught me to do.
  4. Cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes, before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 72 cookies!!!

Nothing Rhymes with Orange Cookies

When I asked my husband to help me come up with a name for these cookies, here is how he responded:

1.  You should call them “F-ing awesome”.

2.  “Sunrise Cookies”, because it tastes like biting into a sunrise.

3.  “Orangettis”, because they’re based on the Angelletti cookie recipe.

4.  “Breakfast Cookies”, because they’re not as sweet as regular cookies and you could totally get away with eating them at breakfast.

5.  “Chocolate Chip Cookies”.  He gave no explanation for this, other than he thinks his creative bone may be broken.

Naming cookies is hard. You can either choose to go with the obvious – Cookies with Orange Zest and Glaze.  Or you can make up something ridiculous – The Cookie the Chicken Crossed the Road For.  I suppose I will just reserve the right to come back and rename this cookie sometime down the road when genius strikes.

NOTHING RHYMES WITH ORANGE COOKIES

Sweet, but not too sweet. Nice delicate natural flavors. Wonderfully satisfying. I’m pretty happy with this cookie. Based on the Angeletti Cookie.

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • zest of two oranges
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for rolling the dough
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Glaze:

  • 1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 TBSP and 3/4 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, eggs and zests until blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined (do not overmix).
  3. With floured hands, roll level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and the bottoms are pale golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  4. Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice until the mixture forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more juice if necessary).
  5. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, rounded side up, on a rack set over a piece of parchment paper. Allow the glaze to set, about 20 minutes. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Brandy Bread Pudding

My love affair with bread pudding started when I was just a child – at a truck stop. It was one of my favorite places to go with my Dad when I was young.  Sadly, it no longer stands at the corner of Huntoon and Wannamaker.  Today there is an Old Chicago, a Buffalo Wild Wings, and an On The Boarder sitting where my beloved truck stop use to exist. I imagine the truck stop had an official name, but I never took the time to learn it. All I know is that every now and then Dad would take my sister and me to a place that made me feel like a tiny creature amongst giants for breakfast or lunch and I LOVED IT. The waitresses always call us “Honey”, “Doll” or “Sweetie”.  The majority of the clientele were large harry men with crazy beards, ball caps, and shirts with the sleeves torn off. And man-oh-man did they have the most incredible bread pudding.

To this day I believe the bread pudding served to me there at that truck stop is my favorite bread pudding I’ve ever had.  And I’ve had plenty.  It’s one of my favorite desserts to try when eating at a nice restaurant.  Some that stand out are the White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Roasted Pineapple, flambéed tableside with rum at Pierpont’s, the rich and addictive bread pudding at Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen, and of course the Peachtree‘s bread pudding, complete with raisins and a creamy vanilla frosting.

Oddly enough though, there was just something special about the bread pudding served at the humble truck stop in Topeka.  It was simple. It was custardy. It was pillowy soft.  It was so delicious that by the time you finished eating the spice-glazed dessert you had completely forgotten that it was made out of old, stale, boring bread.  Perhaps it’s nostalgia – or maybe it was truly the best.

Years ago I started a new tradition in our family.  Every Christmas night I make bread pudding for our dessert.  And it is awesome.  My dad and I took a look at a handful of recipes, trying to find one that best represented what we both love in bread pudding.  We selected a few, did some taste tests, made a modification here and there, and now have what we believe to be the best homemade bread pudding recipe ever created (if we do say so ourselves).

If you like bread pudding and appreciate the simplicity of it, you should try this recipe. I hope you’ll agree that it is truly wonderful.

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Brandy Bread Pudding

If you are a fan of brandy, you are in luck! The brandy sauce that’s created while this bread pudding bakes is quite distinct and packs a flavor punch you’ll love.  However, if you are not so fond of brandy, you may want to consider reducing the amount of alcohol used in this recipe, or skip it all together.  If you’re worried about having alcohol in a dessert, you can always use brandy flavored extract (3 TBSP be perfect).  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs of cubed, stale bread
  • 4 c scalded milk
  • 1/2 lb butter (2 sticks or 1 cup)
  • 2/3 c brandy plus more for soaking raisins (or 3 TBSP brandy extract)
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 c white sugar
  • 1/2 TBSP grated nutmeg
  • 2 TBSP vanilla
  • 1/2 c raisins, soaked overnight in brandy (if using extract, just soak the raisins in water)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 baking pan and set aside.
  2. Cut up bread and place in baking pan while milk and butter heat in a pot.
  3. Combine liquids, eggs, sugar, nutmeg and drained raisins (be sure to temper the eggs so that they do not scramble).
  4. Pour liquid mixture over bread. Take the time to submerge each cube completely in egg mixture to ensure a nice custardy texture.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream if you like!