Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chocolate Fantasy Bars

Today is the Big Game. And I am so nervous.

I can't remember the last time I was this nervous about something. Perhaps it's because I know my husband's there, his team is playing, and if they lose, I'm not around to dab the wounds. I have all the faith in the world they will win, but it's always 50-50. And a long drive back home.

I was up at 3am, baking. It's better than staring at the ceiling until my kids woke. I padded into the kitchen, rummaged through the pantry, trying to find something I could make that didn't require a mixer, but came up empty handed. I flipped through my scary folder and found this recipe stuck to an artichoke casserole. Not the actual casserole. That would be awful.

2 bars and 2 cups of tea later, I'm worse off than I started out. Nervous, jittery AND wired. On the upside, my kids think I'm hilarious and I'm dancing like I've never danced before. 

Kevin Bacon has nothing on me and Hall & Oates can preach it all day - or at least until the sugar high wears off.

It's gonna be a long day.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 box chocolate cake mix
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 dash salt 
OPTIONAL: ¼ cup of tub frosting 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat 13 x 9-inch baking pan with a non-stick spray. Beat cake mix, oil and egg in large bowl with electric mixer until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Batter will be relatively dry. Reserve 1 cup crumb mixture. 

Firmly press remaining crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. 

Recipe calls for nuts to be stirred in before lining pan, but I topped the crust with them. I like the texture better this way. 

  Melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and salt in small saucepan. 

I don't know what happened with the remaining photos or what's up with the capitalization - I promise I'm not screaming at you! Bear with me. It was 3am.

Pour milk mixture evenly over prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over top. 25 to 30 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool completely before cutting.

If you want to add frosting, you can do so as recipe calls for it, but I find these are sweet enough without it. 

Yields: About 3 dozen
Happy Baking!

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cannoli Cookies

There are four seasons in our home - Baseball, Football, Hockey, and Soccer.

Being married to the biggest sports fan alive, you have to have a lot of patience - and support. Luckily, I have some experience. I come from a family of diehard football and racing fans. I know all too well how it can go down.

You see, when you support a team, you become part of the team. Teams will disappoint. Teams will surpass expectations. Teams will make you cry tears of joy or break your heart from utter disappointment. I have seen all sides of it. Drew Barrymore's character in Fever Pitch has NOTHING on me. After Super Bowl XLII, I watched as my husband sat in silence and complete darkness for 3 hours. The New England Patriots lost to the New York Giants. I felt so helpless.

This year, I'm attending my first Big Game party since dating my husband. I know, right? My husband feels that parties interfere with the game. People stopped inviting us after a few years because we always decline. I miss out on all the greasy and fatty foods, but not this time. While lucky ducky is attending the Super Bowl and crossing that wish off his bucket list - I KNOW, RIGHT? - me and the kiddies will be partying it up with friends, juice boxes, and processed meat platters.

I'm taking along my chocolate chip cannoli cookies. These are SUPER simple to make and always a crowd pleaser.

You know, maybe separate vacations aren't such a bad idea.

Just kidding babe. Go Patriots!


24 ounces (3 cups) full fat ricotta cheese, COMPLETELY drained
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon orange zest
24-36 vanilla flavored pizzelle cookies

*These cookies should be made and eaten almost immediately or as soon as possible. They will go soft, just like proper cannoli, within a few hours.  

If you're not sure what pizzelle containers look like, here you go. This is usually how they are sold.

Drain ricotta cheese using a cheesecloth or layered paper towels. Try to extract as much liquid as possible.

It should look like this once drained - dry and clumpy.

Add sugar, vanilla, almond extract, orange zest and blend well.

Add chocolate chips.

Spread a generous amount of cheese mixture on one cookie and sandwich with another.

Easy Peasy! You can play around with these by dusting powdered sugar on top or dipping half of one cookie into melted chocolate. They are pretty versatile, but amazing as is.

Yields: About 12-18 Cannoli Cookies.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Saltine Peanut Butter Toffee Bars

One word. Delicious.
Two more words. Really Simple.
Three words. I like eggs.

Yeah, I just thought I'd throw out a random fact about me.

If you're a fan of Skor or Heath bars (and even if you're not), you will thoroughly enjoy these. They are so much better than the actual candy and have something for everyone whether it's a salty, sweet, peanut butter, chocolate, crunch or chewy factor. 

Four Words. She shoots, she skors! 

Pun totally intended.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from my Aunt Ronnie's recipe box

1 package SALTED saltine crackers
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
Toppings if desired: Sprinkles, chopped nuts, chopped candy bars, etc.

Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Apply a thick coating of butter or cooking spray. This will help the toffee from sticking. Turst me, you do not want to skip this step.

Place saltines on tray in a single file, side by side; do not overlap crackers. Set tray aside.

Place butter and sugar in a saucepan on stove on high heat. Once mixture hits a rapid boil, allow it to do so for a full 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Remove from heat and immediately pour over crackers, covering completely.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of toffee, and allow them to sit for a few minutes to soften and melt. You can also put the tray in the oven for a minute or so to help the melting process along. 

Once softened, use an offset spatula or knife to spread the melted chocolate over the entire surface of the toffee in an even layer.

Melt peanut butter chips in microwave, using a heat-safe container. Drizzle over top of chocolate. I used a skewer to make pretty designs.

Sprinkle with your choice of toppings if desired. My daughter opted for some Valentine colored sprinkles.

Allow tray to cool completely. I threw mine in the fridge for about 30 minutes to harden. Once solidified, remove foil lining from tray and let set for a couple minutes. You can break apart, using your hands for a rustic look, but I prefer to use a pizza cutter for nice, uniform lines.

Keep refrigerated for best results.

Yields: About 36 servings.

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Me and box cake mixes have become BFF's. Not that we weren't friends before, but I've been using them a lot more than usual. I had a hankering for some chocolate cake the other day and made one. It was delicious.

This week, I've added strawberries to my BFF circle. I want strawberries every. minute. of. the. day. They are not my usual go to fruit in the winter months, but the past few days, I can't shove them in my mouth fast enough. So I thought, why not set my two latest food cravings on a delicious date.

The outcome? My stomach wed them in holy matrimony. 

Three times. 

1 box yellow or white cake mix (plus ingredients to make the cupcakes)
1 pound FRESH strawberries, washed, hulled, and chopped into small pieces*

1 package cream cheese
¼ cup butter
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 digestive biscuits or graham crackers, finely chopped

*I recommend using a hand chopper to get bite size strawberries.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two 12-cup muffin tins. Combine ingredients according to back of cake mix box to make cupcake batter. Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each muffin cup.

Add about 1-2 tablespoons chopped strawberries to the top of batter.

Top with cake batter (roughly 2-3 tablespoons), covering strawberries completely.

Bake for suggested time frame of back of box. (I used Duncan Hines and my cupcakes took about 17 minutes). Allow to cool completely.

Pipe or smear cream cheese frosting over cooled cupcakes. Add cookie crumbs. The crumbs are essential for giving it the 'cheesecake' effect. Top with a strawberry slice.

Yields: 24 cupcakes

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Indoor S'mores

Here is a funny thing about writing a blog. You learn quickly what you like and what you don't.

I'm not a fan of graham crackers. I mean, I will eat them, but I wouldn't cry if I could never have them again. Growing up, I was never a big cheesecake fan, unless it was from Lindy's in New York City (double drool) or I made it myself. Now I know why. It had a lot to do with the graham cracker base. Lindy's has this amazing creamy textured top with a just right cracker base. Mine is the same way. It's there, but only just. Unfortunately, that's my husbands favorite part, so when I make it, it takes up half the pan. 

I was never a fan of s'mores either. I know, *shock horror*! When we would have backyard campfires (one thing I really miss about living in the sticks) I would use one of the graham crackers as a spoon to eat the chocolately marshmallow goodness off the other graham cracker that served as a fabulous makeshift plate. 

My daughter has a playdate today and asked if we could make 'saaa-mores'. I didn't think she knew what they were, but apparently she does. Never one to say no to her sweet face,  I realized we faced a problem. First, we live is Suburbia. No open fires allowed. Second, it's like -145º outside and our barbeque grill in snowed in. Third, making them in the oven doesn't seem authentic. I would feel like I was cheating. Plus, they are so messy.

I remembered snipping a recipe off the back of a cereal box not that long ago. Off to my scary recipe folder I went and found these. Indoor S'mores. 


Gimme, gimme, gimme S'more!

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from the back of a Golden Grahams Box

5 cups Golden Grahams cereal
4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup chocolate chips
⅓ cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons milk**
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup miniature marshmallows
½ cup peanut butter - optional, but so good!

**Here is a trick I learned many years ago when first learning to make Crispy Treats squares - or recipes that call for marshmallow as a binder. When I used to make them, they would go hard on me once cooled or shortly after, making eating difficult. Our 72-year-old neighbor told me to add 2 tablespoons milk to the marshmallow mixture as it's melting. The treats will stay soft and gooey. I don't know how or why it works, but it always does.

In a large bowl, measure cereal. Coat an 8 or 9-inch dish with non-stick cooking spray. In saucepan, heat 4 cups marshmallows, chocolate chips, butter, milk, and peanut butter, stirring after every minute, until melted and smooth when stirred. Stir in vanilla. 

Pour over cereal; quickly toss until completely coated.

Stir in 1 cup marshmallows.

Press mixture evenly in pan. I gently use the palm of my buttered hand. It gets the job done a bit easier.

Let stand uncovered at least 1 hour, or refrigerate if you prefer a firmer bar. I prefer these right out of the fridge. Store loosely covered for 2 days...if they last that long!

Yields: About 24 servings

Happy Baking!

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blogiversary Banoffee Pie!

Wow. I actually did it. I made it to my one year blogiversary! Yay me!

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I would. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm a fad chaser. My husband often calls me 'Faddington Bear' whenever I embark on the newest fad quest. While I do enjoy a new, shiny toy every now and again, I get bored very quickly with it and my fad becomes a fade.

Since I love celebrations of every sort, I decided to throw one for myself. I settled on the delightful British favorite, Banoffee Pie. I personally never make it, but figured now's a good a time as any. Whenever we visit the UK, every home has it prepared for our arrival...well, that or Sticky Toffee Pudding, along with one of my most favorite British confections, Dolly Mixtures. It always makes me feel SUPER special!

All in all, this pie is so worth the effort. 

Channeling my inner Mary Katherine Gallagher, "My feelings for this pie would best be expressed in the musical style of Gwen Stefani....

"This sh*% is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S!"

Really. It is. 

BANOFFEE (or Banoffi) PIE
Recipe adapted from my UK 'Mama', Angela

1 can sweetened condensed milk, caramelized* OR 1 jar Dulce de Leche
8 ounces (1 cup) digestive biscuits - if you can't find them, use shortbread or Rich Tea cookies. You can use graham crackers, but I think it loses its British authenticity if you do.  
4 ounces (½ cup) butter, melted 
4 large bananas - perfectly ripe, but just slightly green work best here!

Coffee Whipped Cream:
2½ cups heavy cream (35% fat)
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
OPTIONAL: 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (dissolved in 1 cup heavy cream before whipping)

Chocolate shavings - To make pretty chocolate curls, chill chocolate and use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate.

*To properly caramelize sweetened condensed milk, open can and pour into oven safe bowl. Tightly cover with foil and bake at 425ºF for 1 hour. 

However, because I am not a safe Sally, I use the stove top method *gasp*. If you choose to use the stove top method, please read carefully:  

Remove label and set sweetened condensed milk can in a saucepan. BE SURE THE CAN IS COMPLETELY SUBMERGED UNDERWATER! I cannot, cannot, cannot stress this enough! I don't want to scare you, but it's easily done where it can be forgotten and the water will evaporate from the pan. As long as you keep the can submerged, you shouldn't have any problems!

Bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, adding water as needed, about 3 hours. Remove can from pan; let cool completely. If you open can too soon, you can get badly burned, not to mention the mess! Think of a soda can under pressure once vigorously shaken! 

This is what you will get once cooked and cooled:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Pulverize biscuits in food processor. Toss them into a bowl and add melted butter. Mix until incorporated.

Place crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate or fluted tart pan (which I used) and spread evenly over bottom. Use a flat-bottomed cup to press crumbs evenly over bottom of pan and up the sides.

Bake until fragrant, about 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Using mixer or whisk, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy and thick.

To assemble pie, spread cooled sweetened condensed milk or dulce de leche over pie bottom, top with bananas, and finish with whipped cream.

Sprinkle with chocolate curls and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made several hours before serving. 

This pie is like revenge - Best served cold. Not that I condone revenge.

Yields: One awesome pie. 

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake Cups with Peanut Butter Frosting - Part II

Tonight is Beth's party. It's a karaoke party.

I love karaoke. I can't hold a tune to save my life, but I love it. I am one of those people that can get up to sing, completely sober, without a care in the world. Isn't that what it's about? I'm not a big fan of those that sing really well. I mean, how do you follow a Celine wannabe? We went to karaoke one night where the girl actually brought her OWN material. What the.....seriously? I might spring to sing Eric Carmen's, 'All by Myself' tonight. Or maybe butcher some Mariah Carey. I'll see what the atmosphere pulls out of me.

For tonight's edible portion of the show, I'm making some cupcakes. Brownie bottom cheesecake cups with a ridiculous amount of peanut butter goodness on top. Beth loves cheesecake. I thought I would pimp them up a bit more. 

After all, what's a party without cake?

Or a pimp. 



1 cup unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips)
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350º. Line muffin tins with FOIL cupcake liners. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and turn off heat. Combine butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over pan of hot water. Stir occasionally until melted.

Whisk eggs together in a large bowl, then whisk in salt, both sugars, and vanilla. 

Stir in chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in flour. 

Fill cups about a third into liners. This recipe will make 24 cupcakes plus an 8x8 pan of brownies. Bake for 5-7 minutes to help set up the brownies. Remove from oven and set aside.

2 packages of cream cheese
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream

Combine ingredients and mix until well blended. Pour into cups over the brownie mixture and fill, leaving about a half inch at the top. The cheesecake will settle once removed from oven, so don't be alarmed if it seems full.

Bake for 20 minutes. Don't worry if you see cracks. They will be covered with frosting. 

Let set for a minute or two and carefully remove from pan.

Peanut Butter Frosting:
(You can also completely omit frosting and opt for cherry pie topping!)

½ cup butter
1 cup smooth peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar
⅓ cup cream

Combine ingredients into a bowl, slowly adding powdered sugar. Otherwise, you'll end up with a cloud of sugar smoke.

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, place frosting in a piping bag with your tip of choice and apply. Add sprinkles or drizzle with caramel. I opted for peanut butter cups and dulce de leche.

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