Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Samoa Cupcakes

What is a Samoa you ask?

Well, if you guessed a country, then technically yes, you'd be absolutely right, but not in this case. If you weren't raised in the beautiful US of A, there is a pretty good chance you have no idea what I'm even talking about.

Samoas are a gorgeous cookie confection consisting of coconut, caramel, and chocolate the Girl Scout Organization have locked and loaded in their arsenal of deliciousness every year. Keebler came out with a version of them several years ago called, 'Coconut Dreams' and Canada has their own version, called 'No Name Caramel Chocolate Cookies'. I know, sexy, right?

When I saw the amazing cupcake version of these, I was like, "Why and how did I not think to create this masterpiece?" Seriously though, why did I not think of this?

Oh, I know why. Because I was too busy eating the box of actual Samoas to do anything about it. That and I'm a bit lazy when it comes to creating - but thankfully I wasn't too lazy to get off my tush and make these.

I'm not kidding folks. These cupcakes are kick ass.

Consider them the Chuck Norris of cupcakes. Just don't tell Chuck I said that. I'm not too sure he'd be thrilled his name and the word 'cupcake' are in the same sentence.

And I'd hate to show him up.


1 box devil's food cake mix, plus ingredients needed to make cake
2 boxes Coconut Dreams OR No Name Brand Caramel Chocolate Cookies

Frosting adapted from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

1 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

12 cookies, cut in half
1 cup toasted coconut
½ cup chocolate chips, melted

To toast the coconut, spread the coconut onto a rimmed sheet pan. Toast in a 350°F oven, stirring frequently, until the coconut is an even brown color, about 10 minutes. 

To make caramel, melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Stir in the salt and brown sugar and heat the mixture to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Use caution as mixture will bubble up once milk is added. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in vanilla. Allow caramel to set at room temperature, about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2-12 cup muffing tins with liners. Drop one cookie into tin, chocolate side up.

Prepare cake mix according to box. Fill liners about ¾ of the way.

Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer cakes to rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For Caramel Frosting:

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat caramel and slowly add powdered sugar. Mix until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as you go. Pipe or spread on cupcakes.

Yields: 24 cupcakes.

share this on »

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mandarin Orange Dessert Squares

My family and I were invited to a very impromptu BBQ this past weekend. 

Now, I'm not talking about the, "Hey, we're having a BBQ with a small group of friends tomorrow about lunchtime. We'd love if you could come" type of invitation. I'm mean the, "Hey, we're having a BBQ at one o'clock TODAY. We've invited the entire neighborhood over for a swim. You need to be here - and no is not an option!"

As I looked at the clock, it was 9.45am. You're kidding, right? Naturally, I did what any domestic goddess would do in this situation.

I panicked.

You see, I was raised to never, EVER show up to someone's home empty handed. It's something that has been instilled in me from a young age. It doesn't matter if you come bearing a box of chocolates or a shaving kit, you better have something for the hosts who graciously opened their home to you. 

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to run to the store for flowers and I would prefer to make something rather than buy something, but that still didn't help me, because I still didn't have time to run out.  

After a few deep breaths, I powdered my nose, reapplied my lipstick, threw on my apron and hit the recipe box to see what I could find with the ingredients I did have on hand. 

And found this. It's easy, light, refreshing, and also quite pretty upon completion. 

Thank goodness for that because I'm not sure how the hosts would have felt about receiving a bottle of fabric softener. 

Or a box of Barbie Band Aids.


18 graham crackers 
1 box vanilla pudding
1 cup cold whole milk
2 cups Cool Whip, thawed
2 (10 ounce) cans mandarin oranges, drained
⅓ cup peach jam
2 Tablespoons orange juice 

Line an 8-inch square baking dish with half the graham crackers. Break them apart if need be to fit into dish; set aside. 

In a bowl, mix vanilla pudding and milk together for a few minutes until pudding starts to get thick. Fold in Cool Whip until fully incorporated. 

Pour half the pudding mixture over graham crackers. Repeat the layering process by placing another layer of graham crackers over top and top with remaining pudding mixture. Using an offset spatula will help to ensure an even layer.

Top with mandarin oranges.

In a small bowl, microwave jam and orange juice on high for about a minute until melted and smooth. Drizzle glaze over top of mandarin oranges.

Chill (both you and the dessert) for at least 3 hours before serving. 

Yields: About 9 servings.

share this on »

Friday, June 8, 2012

Jello Cookies

Yesterday, I had five little girls and one adorable little boy under the same roof. All under the age of six. 

Mind you, two of them are mine, but as any parent knows, sometimes your own children can be the work of 5 extra kids. You do the math. Then times that number by giggles, grilled cheese sandwiches, and stocks with high dividends and you'll get the average diaper changes plus cups of tea needed. Don't forget to sprinkle generously with APR financing, of course. Did you understand that? 

All it means is that some people would have a full blown panic attack if they were in my shoes.

It was non-stop super fun from 8am until 7pm. (Feel free to throw a little sarcasm in that sentence). I am convinced now more than ever that if I could just find a way to harness the energy kids possess, I'd be one very rich Mama. Cha. Ching. In the million billions my friends.

For some *ahem* 'quiet' time, I found this recipe via Pinterest. These are so colorful, fun, and yumm-mmy. I can't believe it's 2012 and these aren't a staple in my home for craft time. We all had oodles of fun playing, creating, and baking. 

That is until someone went and poked their eye out. And got some dough stuck up their nose. And spilled chocolate milk all over the floor.

Yeah, it's always fun and games until someone goes and does that. And it's usually my children that are perfect for the job. 

But I wouldn't have them any other way.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from I {heart} Nap Time

3½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups salted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 packages flavored gelatin, like Jello - I used strawberry, orange, berry blue, and lime, but feel free to use any flavor

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a cookie sheet with silicone mats or parchment paper. 

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and vanilla. Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Divide dough into 4 sections. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of gelatin into each section. Knead into dough until incorporated. You may want to add a few drops of food coloring to make the dough more vibrant.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour extra jello from the packets into small bowls and roll around to cover. We also used plain sugar. The girls thought the plain sugar looked more like pixie dust. And isn't it always about the pixie dust?

Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Flatten with bottom of glass.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for a couple minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  

Yields: 5 dozen Jello Cookies 

share this on »

Monday, June 4, 2012

British-Style Raspberry Flapjacks

My UK gauge is almost on E. I need to plan a trip there very soon before I start crying like a school girl. I really miss that place.

This is a weird confession I'm sure, considering I'm an American, living in Canada. But I do. I love everything about it. The people, the different accents, the clothing - you have no idea what good quality clothing is until you wear clothing bought in the UK. Trust me on this. Of course, I love the food. Except ANY food that has animal organs shoved in it. *Shudder* Ugh, no thank you. 

Flapjacks are a classic treat in the UK. Not to be mistaken for the pancake kind North Americans are used to, these yummies are snack bars made from oats. The best way to describe them is a cross between a cookie and a granola bar. They are also usually chewy, unless you bake them too long and end up with paperweights. You can find these pretty much everywhere, especially at motorway service stations and dodgy petrol stations, wrapped in cling film, sitting on the counter by the till, for about a quid. Translation: These are Hostess snack cakes of the gas station world; you'll find them at just about every one in some form or another.

Although traditional flapjacks are amazing on their own, I like to dress them up a bit and, in this case, add raspberry jam. You can also make them gluten-free by using gluten-free oats. They are super good any way you make them.

Just please don't add animal organs. For the love of Jamie Oliver. Don't.


4 cups rolled oats - I used Bob's Red Mill
¾ cup real butter
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup golden syrup or light corn syrup*
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds - I used Bob's Red Mill
¾ cup raspberry jam

*If you can get your hands on some proper golden syrup, like Lyle's Golden Syrup, I highly recommend that you do. This syrup is like eating liquid cotton candy and adds to the authenticity of the bars.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil or parchment paper. This will allow easy removal of bars from the pan.

In a large saucepan, heat butter, brown sugar, and syrup until melted. Remove from heat and add oats. Stir until combined.

Layer the bottom of pan with half the oatmeal mixture.

Spread raspberry jam on top. For easier spreading, put jam in the microwave for 30 seconds and use an offset spatula. Layer remaining oats over top.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in pan. Remove from pan and cut into bars. For an extra special treat, serve with vanilla ice cream.

Yields: About 9-18 bars, depending on size.

share this on »

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reese's & Caramel Stuffed Oreos

It's that time of year again. 

The time of year I hate to do anything. It gets too warm to bake and and all I want to do is bask in the sun with a good book and a cold glass of something, well, cold.

And I usually want something sweet to go with it. I'm almost as bad as that mouse in those children's story books, "If you give a Mouse a....".

Yesterday, my hubs surprised me with a package of Peanut Butter Oreos. One can NEVER go wrong with buying me Oreos. Or peanut butter. Or an all expense paid trip to Paris or Bora Bora. But, hey, whatever. I'm easy. 

Needless to say, the Oreos and I got into a deep discussion. Before I knew it, their crowd dwindled down to about 6 and the party diverted over to my hips where it got very crowded, very quickly, and in such a confined space.

Then I remembered one of my favorite bloggers, Shelly of Cookies & Cups, posted a MUST TRY treat involving Oreos several months back. Actually it was probably more than several months ago, but the point is, I was suddenly inspired and needed to have them at THAT particular moment.

Marrying my two most favorite treats? This was one of those slap my head senseless moments for waiting this long to try them out. 

Now my head really hurts. Serves me right I suppose. 

Moral of the story: Learn from my mistakes people. LEARN. FROM. MY. MISTAKES.

And yes, I'm yelling at you. 

Deal with it.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Cookies & Cups

1 package each Double Stuffed Oreo or Double Stuffed Golden Oreo Cookies
16 regular sized Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
1 jar Dulce de Leche
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate or white chocolate, melted - I used Baker's chocolate.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats; set aside. On the stove top, using a double broiler method with a glass bowl, melt chocolate until smooth. Keep warm.

Twist Oreos and line a (separate) tray with the cream-filled side of the cookie. Set the other portion of the cookie aside to pulverize for the garnish. 

Apply a small amount of melted chocolate to the cream or the underside of the peanut butter cup to help glue it together.

Spread a generous amount of dulce de leche over the peanut butter cup and top with another topless cream-filled cookie. 

Freeze cookies for about 15 minutes. This will help the icing in the cookie to firm up a bit so it doesn't 'melt' when being dipped. This is a good time to grind the cookies that were set aside to use as a garnish into fine crumbs.

Remove from freezer several cookies at a time and and begin dipping. I used 2 forks and a rubber spatula.

Set onto prepared cookie sheet and sprinkle with cookie crumbs. You can also melt chocolate and drizzle over top. 

Freeze cookies until chocolate is set. 

Yields: 16 heavenly cookies.  

share this on »

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pimped Out Magic Cookie Bars

I am so embarrassed to say this, but I'm actually going to my first ever MLS soccer game tonight. 

If you know a certain member of my immediate family, you'll know why I'm glowing red from this admission. I guess it is something you take for granted when you can probably go whenever you'd like. It's kind of like living by the Golden Gate Bridge for example. You know it's there and what the fuss is all about, but you've never walked up to or across it in the 100 years you lived 10 minutes from it.  

Regardless, I'm super excited. We'll also be seeing a very dear friend of ours at the game. His family live just over 3,300 miles from us, so our visits are far and few, but when they do happen, it's like time stood still and we pick up where we left off.

I absolutely ADORE their kids, but they won't be there. It's too bad really, because I love to spoil them with treats. I made these magic bars quite a while back and they went mad for them. Naturally, I'm making them again. Why fix something if it ain't broken? Am I right or am I fabulously right?

After all, what better way to tell someone you care about them than with sugar. And lots of it. Isn't that what are honorary Aunties are for? To love them, sugar them up, and laugh while the parents deal with them?

I'm sure their Mom & Dad will just love me in the morning.

Recipe adapted and modified from Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

1¾ cups shortbread cookies, finely crushed
¾ cups butter, melted
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup plain M&Ms 
½ cup chopped candy bars - I used Butterfingers as I like the toffee effect it yields once melted, but you can use any candy bar of your choice
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1 cup toasted coconut, finely ground 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with foil or parchment paper. 

To toast coconut:

Spread sweetened shredded or flaked coconut on a baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, until golden, about 5 to 10 minutes. If toasting sweetened coconut, check and stir more frequently because the added sugar causes irregular browning. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs and butter and mix until incorporated. Press into prepared baking dish.

Pour sweetened condensed milk over top of cookie base, ensuring you cover entire bottom.

Begin layering components. I stated with the walnuts and ended with the M&Ms. Using a fork or the palm of your hand (which I did), apply pressure to smush the ingredients and allow sweetened condensed milk to ooze through all the nooks and crannies.

Bake for 25 minutes. When there is 10 minutes left on the timer, add toasted coconut to top. This will prevent coconut from baking any longer and will give bars a nice nutty flavor with added crunch.  

Remove dish from oven and allow to cool completely before cutting. 

Yields: 24 servings

share this on »

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

To all the ladies who are lucky enough to be called Mommy, Mom, Mum, Mummy, Mama, Grandma, Grammy, Granny, Nanny, or Nana, I wish you a beautiful and blessed Mother's Day!

You are so loved. 

Even more than cupcakes.   


share this on »