Friday, March 16, 2012

Choco-Scutterbotch Cookies

My profound love affair of cake mix continues. Who would have thunk it?

Actually, I've been making these cookies for years. I never quite understood the name they (I will make it my mission to one day to figure out who this 'they' person is people often speak about) chose for these cookies and have tried to dissect the origin of it several times - I'm scientific and crap like that. I finally gave up trying to figure it out and decided it doesn't matter anymore - they yum factor totally makes up for it. A hundred times over.

Thank you They. Whoever you are.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from The Cake Mix Bible

⅔ cups real butter, at room temperature
½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 package yellow cake mix - I used Duncan Hines
1 cup crispy rice cereal - I used Rice Krispies
½ cup chocolate chunks

½ cup butterscotch chips**
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
- I used walnuts

**If you are not a big fan of butterscotch chips (like me), you can totally substitute peanut butter chips in its place. I prefer them so much more.

Preheat over to 375ºF. Combine butter and brown sugar in bowl. Mix until well blended. Beat in eggs. 

Gradually add cake mix to butter blend. Mix well. 

Stir in cereal, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and nuts with a spoon until incorporated.

Shape dough into 2 inch balls - I highly recommend using an ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly.

Bake for 7-9 minutes or until lightly brown around edges. The first batch takes the full 9 minutes for me for some reason, the others, 8 minutes. 

Cool for 2 minutes before transferring to a rack.

Yields: About 3 dozen cookies.

Happy Baking!

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Maple Bacon Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting

Today is a VERY special day. It's my hubby's birthday!

He is such a wonderful guy and I am so incredibly blessed and proud to call him mine. He is one of the most positive people I know. Aside from also being smart, sweet, and a little shy, he's secretly hilarious, but only those super close to him would ever know that. He never has a bad word to say about anyone, his outlook on life is something to be admired, and he's just gorgeous in every way. There aren't enough pretty words to say about him. He's simply an amazing person.

Today is also our 4th Annual World Vision Charity Soccer Tournament. World Vision is a charity that is very close to our hearts. What other person would plan, organize, and execute a tournament on the day of his birth? God love his beautiful soul.

A fabulous guy like him deserves a spectacular man treat - and what screams 'man' more than bacon? Plus, it's totally maple syrup season, so this cupcake was meant to be.

Oh, and just for the record, REAL men eat cupcakes. 

Happy Birthday lover. You are my hero, my confider, my very best friend, and so much more. You are loved more than you will EVER know.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Life is Better With Cake

2½ cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar - I used ¼ cup dark brown and ¼ light for a richer flavor
2 large eggs
1½ cups REAL maple syrup - NOT pancake syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk


1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2¾ cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons REAL maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon 

6 strips bacon, cooked
Real maple syrup

Fry bacon in a pan until crispy - the crispier, the better. Drain fat and rest on paper towels. Finely chop bacon; set aside. 

Preheat oven 350º. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners. (Cupcake batter yields about 18 cupcakes, so you won't actually need all 24 cups) In a bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in another bowl until fluffy. Add in eggs, syrup, and vanilla. Mix until blended.

Mix in flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk in one-third increments. The batter will be fluffy.

Fill cups about ¾ of the way. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Mine were good to go at 18 minutes. Remove cakes from tin and cool completely.

To make frosting:

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add maple syrup, cream, cinnamon, and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Slowly beat in powdered sugar. Mix until frosting is fluffy - and it will be fluffy!

Frost or pipe cupcakes and sprinkle bacon bits over top. Drizzle with maple syrup if desired.

Yields: About 18 cupcakes.

Happy Baking!

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Raspberry Lemonade Crumb Squares

We're back home after a much needed and well deserved holiday to Florida. How I pine for you right now Florida sunshine. PINE. Currently, it's 28º, but feels about minus 113º with the wind chill. It's just cruel.

When we stepped off the plane at 8pm last Sunday evening, we were smacked in the face with 75º weather. I embraced it. Hard. Unfortunately, when we arrived at our home for the next 7 days, we found the air conditioner dead as a cockroach in a seedy Miami hotel.


So, lover and I did what anyone respectable adult would do. We put the kids to bed, opened all the windows, pulled out some lawn furniture, filled up the kiddie pool, poured ourselves a drink, tore our clothes off, and soaked our travelled out tootsies. It was fabulous.

I went to the shop the next morning to grab some essentials for the week and saw these amazing bars, staring up at me, with big, doughy eyes. 

Raspberry Lemonade Bars. Are you kidding me?  

After a few tweaks in the kitchen, I created athese are so much better that the shop version. 

I've made a request that the sunshine be shipped overnight delivery for a 7am arrival to enjoy these bars and recreate the full effect of our holiday.

It'll be 58º tomorrow.

Ask and you shall receive. 

Recipe adapted and modified from King Arthur Flour

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
¾ cup confectioners' sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 large eggs
¾ cups lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 cups raspberries, pureed and strained to make about ¾ to 1 cup seedless puree - recipe calls for frozen, but I used fresh. Amazing. For a rich pink color, use the full cup.
2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch baking dish with foil or parchment paper. You don't want to skip this step.

To make the crust: In a bowl, KAF recommends to beat butter first, then mix in the remaining ingredients until the dough holds together when you squeeze it. I mixed the flour, sugar, and butter together. It turned out fine.

Reserve 1 cup of dough and press the rest into the bottom of prepared pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Bake the crust for 22 to 26 minutes, or until it's golden. Mine took 24 minutes in the oven for golden deliciousness.

To make the filling: In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and raspberry puree. Whisk cornstarch with the sugar and salt, then stir into juice mixture. Do this to prevent clumping.

Pour filling over the baked crust.

Bake the bars in oven for 15 minutes. Leaving pan in the oven, carefully pull out the rack and sprinkle reserve crumb topping over raspberry filling. Bake for another 15-18 minutes or until the middle is set. Don't worry if some of the topping falls into filling. As long as you don't put crumb on top while it's completely liquid, it's fine.

Resist temptation and cool completely before cutting.

Yields: 16 servings

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Once upon a time, a girl made these bars. One bite and she was immediately cast under its spell. Her eyes rolled back into her head, she started to drool and she swore she heard a Disney theme song play every time she walked. She couldn't stop at one and almost ate the entire dish. The more she ate, the more bliss overcame her.

When all was said and done, she didn't develop superpowers, but she did gain 5 pounds.

All in her boobs.

The End.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Paula Deen - God love her.

2 cups flour
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

3 apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped - ANY apple works here. Use YOUR favorite!
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons sugar

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup quick oats
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

I used dulce de leche. From a jar. Bought in a store. Done.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.

Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.

Sprinkle evenly with streusel topping.

Bake 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping and let cool.

Yields: About 24 bars

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cake Batter Pancakes

Today is Saturday...and my birthday! Happy Birthday Me! I remember being a kid and thinking how awesome it was when my birthday fell on the weekend. Ya know what? That frame of mind never went away for me. In fact, I think it's even better the older you get. No work. All play.

I'm probably one of the few women that enjoy receiving gifts with cords. I don't get too upset about things like that. I'm a pretty practical person. I don't care for jewelry, shellfish is my kryptonite, I don't drink alcohol, and I'm housebroken. I'm a cheap date overall. As long as I get a spectacular cake I don't have to make and spend the day with those I love most, I'm super happy.

Saturdays are known in our house as Pancake Saturdays. (Although, sometimes it's french toast Saturday, depending on the mood, but for the most part, pancakes take precedence). Birthdays don't alter that fact, so I was looking for a special pancake to make and found these. God bless the internet. 

They are intense. This is one of those ideas that I wish I would have thought of, but thankfully, didn't need to and can make anytime I want despite the fact. 

I think I have a new favorite birthday breakfast.

As well as every Saturday morning. 

Recipe adapted and modified from How Sweet It Is

1½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cake mix - I used Betty Crocker
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons ground flax seed- this is totally optional, but I put it in everything!
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk
assorted sprinkles* - I tried a few different varieties of sprinkles and found that nonpareils are the best. Jimmies made a mess and didn't look very pretty due to size and sugary sprinkles (not sanding sugar, but the sort that are the same taste and texture of candy cigarettes - if that makes ANY sense) did nothing but add crunch.

Combine flour, cake mix, baking powder, sugar, ground flax seed, if using, and salt in a bowl.

Add egg, vanilla and start with 1 cup of milk when mixing and gradually add more until 2 cups, if needed. I used the 2 full cups once I revised the recipe. You want the batter to look like regular pancake batter; uniform in consistency.

According to How Sweet...'s post, this will depend on the brand of cake mix you use. Do a quick taste test to see if the pancakes are flavored enough for your liking. I did and found my version was high-fiving my taste buds. I figure, if I'm going to do it, I might as well go big.

This photo was using 1 cup milk. It's still pretty thick.

Preheat a frying pan - or electric griddle, (which I need, HINT HINT lover) - on medium heat. Original recipe calls for the sprinkles to be folded in. I did so and started with only a small amount, but they dissolved into the batter, changing the color, and defeated the purpose, so I opted to add them after batter was poured in the frying pan. Done and done.

Pour batter in ¼ cup measurements onto frying pan/griddle and let cook until bubbles form on top, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional minute more.

Serve with vanilla glaze below if desired. Again, I went for the gold and wasn't disappointed.

1 cup powdered sugar
½ Tablespoon milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
assorted sprinkles

Mix milk, extract and powdered sugar until glaze forms. You may need to add a little more sugar or milk to reach desired consistency. Mix into glaze and drizzle on pancakes.

Yields: About festive 20-25 pancakes
Happy Baking!

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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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