Thursday, June 28, 2012

Irish Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

A riddle.

What do you get when you cross a bottle of Irish cream liqueur in the pantry, the last day of school, and hankering for a chocolate chip cookie? 

I don't know for sure, but it could very quickly become happy hour in the teachers lounge courtesy of one very delicious cookie.

I think being a teacher is a tough job, but I can imagine, it's a very rewarding one. I don't think they always get the credit they deserve either. Sure, there are some rubbish teachers out there (yeah, I'm talking to you, Mrs. Matthews, my 9th grade Biology teacher with skirts up to there, ALWAYS flirting with the other male teachers and cute boys in class. It was so gross and I learned absolutely nothing that whole year, thankyouverymuch), but for the most part, these scholars inspire our children. You really do have to be a certain kind of person to do that everyday. I know how far my daughter has come since her first day of school, so I have all the respect and admiration in the world for them. 

I'm especially not a fan of those that criticize teacher wages. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, "Well, they make enough money" or "That's why they earn the big bucks", I'd have a lot of money in my possession.

Like $543.28.

Hey, I didn't say I was good at the math, I just said I'd have a lot. This is no reflection on you, Mr. Benson, my awesome 5th Grade Math teacher. I may not be smarter than a 5th Grader anymore, but I can bake better than one, so it evens itself out. 

All I'm trying to say is that teachers earn and deserve their paychecks. Sit down with one and ask them all that they do. You may be surprised.

Show them your love and support. You'll get back so much more than what you give.

Even if it has to be explained by using a Venn Diagram, word problems, or by opening your Calculus book and turning to page 146. 


2¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1¼ cup packed brown sugar 
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
¾ cup Irish cream Liqueur 
1 teaspoon Irish whiskey, optional
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts OR ½ cup of both

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare cookie sheets by lining with silicone mats or parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and Irish cream, and whiskey, if using. Mix in dry ingredients and blend until creamy. STIR in chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheet or by using an ice scream scoop with a retractable mechanism.

Bake for 10-14 minutes. Please know that times will greatly depend on the size of ice scream scoop you use. I used a large scoop, so my cookies took approximately 13 minutes in the oven. You can probably tell from the lettering on the silicone mats how big my scoops actually are. 

Remove from oven and transfer onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.

share this on »

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chocolate Cheesecake Pops

That's right. Chocolate Cheesecake Pops. There are no words.

Wanna know the best part? With my version, you can even eat the stick. Hazardous to the hips, but environment friendly to the landfill. 

All the more you should eat them. 

Waste over waist.


3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste (extract works fine as well)
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
¼ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon lemon zest

24 Pocky Sticks OR 24 lollipop sticks. Pocky Sticks come in a box of 24, but you'll want extra in case of breakage....and this will happen.

16 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate squares
1 cup graham cracker crumbs

* These can be made gluten-free! Omit graham cracker crumbs and use crushed crispy rice cereal.

Preheat oven at 350ºF.

Using a mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and flour together until creamy. Add eggs, lemon zest, and milk and mix until combined.

Pour into a 10 inch pan with a removable base or a springform pan. Place pan on a cookie sheet and pour hot water into the sheet. This will help to keep the top from cracking.


Bake for 40 minutes. remove from oven and allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Overnight is best. 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using an ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism, scoop out balls. You may need to roll them to by hand for a more uniform ball. Don't worry if they look a bit wonky, they will be coated with chocolate. Place on prepared cookie sheet.

I used Pocky sticks in place of lollipop sticks for an extra treat. These are sold in most grocery or convenient stores, so you shouldn't have a problem finding them. If you do use these, it's VERY important that you use extra caution as they will break very easily if you're a bit heavy handed. I placed mine in the refrigerator to keep the chocolate from melting and some added support. 

Place one stick in the center of the cheesecake balls and freeze for several hours, overnight for best results. 


Melt chocolate using a double broiler method. Carefully dip balls into melted chocolate. The chocolate will freeze quite quickly, so you need to work a bit fast so the graham cracker crumbs will adhere to the chocolate.

Dip pops into graham cracker crumbs and place on lined cookie sheet.

Keep refrigerated for best results. 

Yields: 24 Cheesecake Pops.

share this on »

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Caramel Crunch Bars

It is an absolute scorcher outside today. Like, fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement kind of day. It's also the kind of day that is perfect to sit on a dock, under a big oak tree and dip my toes into the bustling river, speaking to me in a way only I can understand.

Well, that is if I had a dock. Or a big oak tree. Or lived by a river. I'm quite fluent in river language, so that part is actually a shame.

Instead, I'm improvising by sitting on the deck, under my purple lilac bush, with my feet being soaked by our Walter the Whale sprinkler. In tow is a cold glass of iced tea and these lush Caramel Crunch Bars. 

Funny enough, these bars have been deemed a 'homemade version' of the ever popular KitKat Bars, but as a *a-hem* professional KitKat connoisseur, I don't think they taste anything like them. In fact, I think they favor more so on the side of a Twix bar, which is equally amazing. Either way, these bars have the satisfying factors of both, but in their own delicious way. The best part about these bars is that no oven is required. 

I'm going to go and enjoy a nice conversation with my buddy Walter while noshing on these, but I implore you make these. 

You'll be happy you did. 

Your thighs may not, but you definitely will. 


Recipe adapted from Paula Deen's Best Desserts Magazine

Club Crackers or Toppables Crackers (in Canada), about 2 sleeves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup milk
⅓ cup sugar
⅔ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup butterscotch chips
½ cup chocolate chips
Sprinkles, if desired

Line a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with foil, leaving some hanging over the sides. This will help with removal upon cutting. 

Line the foil with one layer of club crackers. Don't worry if they don't line up or are are a imperfect. Any flaws will be covered.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, milk, and sugar. Bring mixture to a bubbling boil and allow to bubble for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. 

Remove from heat and spread half of the butter mixture evenly over crackers, using an offset spatula to help smooth over. Place another single layer of crackers evenly over the butter mixture. Spread remaining butter mixture evenly over crackers, again, using an offset spatula to coat evenly. Add a third layer of crackers over top. 

In a small saucepan, combine peanut butter, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips and melt over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until smooth and creamy. You can also use the microwave to melt the chocolate, just be sure to use a microwaveable-safe dish and stir after 30 second intervals. 

Spread chocolate evenly over top of crackers, using an offset spatula to smooth over. Add sprinkles at this time, if desired. 

Cover and chill for at least 4 hours. Remove from fridge and allow chocolate to rest for a minute or so before cutting. This will help avoid breaks in chocolate as it's being cut. I used a pizza cutter to create uniform lines. 

Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

share this on »

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

To all the superhero Dads. Today is all about you. Enjoy and be blessed, because you truly are.

I wish you the best Father's Day ever.  

share this on »

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Inside Out Carrot Cake Muffins

Thank God it's Saturday. Oh, and thankful I am.

Yesterday, I did not once proclaim, 'Thank God it's Friday!' If I did, it would have implied that I was happy it was Friday and could deal with the day's worth of issues because tomorrow was Saturday.

Yeah, not so much. Not this time.

I had the *craziest* week. I can't remember the last time I felt so many emotions in one go. It was ridiculous. I won't bore you will all the details of my going-ons, but trust me when I say that if I had a button to stop the world just so I could get off, I would have pushed in on Tuesday at 7am. It's like the saying goes, 'When it rains, it pours'. Someone for sure got that right. It's also like the....sorry, I'm going to stop. Now. I'm starting to sound like those frustrating friends that put vague statuses on their Facebook page.

Yeah, and can we just talk about that for one quick second? Seriously, what is that? We all have at least ONE friend on our list that does this, so I know you know what I'm talking about.

"Jane Bag of Doughnuts is weighing out the options..." or "Jane Bag of Doughnuts is hoping for the best...." or "Jane Bag of Doughnuts thinks it's a good thing this has happened..." 

And that's ALL they give you.  

Really? REALLY? You're gonna make me go there? You're going to make me ask, "What options, Jane?" "What's going on?" "Are you alright Jane?" Even when I feel like indulging them and ask, I still don't get an answer much of the time! Why Jane? I deserve at least that much. Of course I care about you and truly hope you're okay, but don't make it like pulling teeth. It's frustrating as all get out.

However, I don't need a Facebook status to say these muffins are incredible, but they are. Oh, they are. The weekend already looks brighter.

"I think it's a great idea..." 

" make these muffins! Now."

Don't worry, I'd never leave you hanging. 

Unless you're hanging off the side of a skyscraper. Then it's all you baby.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from King Arthur Flour 

1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 

2¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¼ cup buttermilk
½ cup water
⅓ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup grated carrots
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.  

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla; Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In another bowl, beat the eggs, butter, buttermilk, water, and vanilla together. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Fold in the grated carrots.  

Drop about 2 tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup, making sure to completely cover the bottoms. 

Drop about a tablespoon of filling into each cup on top of batter. I piped the filling into the centers of the muffins as it was less of a mess and I knew that the filling would be right in the middle.

Cover with enough batter to fill the muffin cups. You can sprinkle with sanding sugar if you like. We added pink sanding sugar to half of the muffins because, well, why not?

Bake for 20 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick into the muffin (not the filling) and it comes out clean

Yields: 12 muffins.

share this on »

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 »