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An Ice Cream Cake For My Long Distance BFF

31 May

Friendships have always been something that is super important to me – and as I get older (and in theory – wiser?), I am reminded just how much a good friend is worth. Sometimes it’s a lot of effort to maintain/cultivate friendships, and it can be even tougher when the friends don’t live near each other. Long distance relationships – whether they be romantic or just platonic friends – are HARD. For those of you who haven’t experienced it – you’re lucky – TRUST me!

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A few snapshots of me and my Long Distance Bestie over the years

My best friend from college lives in Virginia with her husband and two kids, and I miss her every day. We are lucky enough to get to text, email, call, and FaceTime pretty often (thank GOD for Iphones, right?), and we also take turns traveling to see each other several times a year.

In fact, we just returned from a long weekend at their house – full of fun and crazy kids and laughter – and I wouldn’t have it any other way! We celebrated hers and her husbands birthdays while we were there – and when I was thinking about how to celebrate, I KNEW some kind of baking had to be involved – I just wasn’t sure what. Her favorite (and probably my LEAST favorite) birthday dessert is Ice Cream Cake. I hate it because it’s not even really cake – which means no frosting (a BIG no no for me – as what’s the point of cake with no frosting?), and she loves it because ice cream is awesome and it reminds her of her childhood as they always got them growing up. So – I can see where she’s coming from – and decided to make one for her – cuz I love her THAT much

Finding a recipe was not too hard – scrolling through Pinterest and This one caught my eye – using store bought brownie mix and ice cream – easy enough!

Peanut Butter Brownie Ice Cream Cake
(Recipe Courtesy of Suburbia Unwrapped)

Ingredients
1 box brownie mix for 9 x 9 inch pan
1 container Blue Bunny PB N’ Cones ice cream
FOR THE CHOCOLATE SAUCE
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
FOR THE TOPPING
peanut butter chips or chopped peanut butter cups

Instructions
-Make the package of brownies according to package directions EXCEPT bake in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan for 20 to 25 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean. Let brownies cool completely
-When you are ready to assemble: Let the ice cream sit at room temperature for 20 minutes until slightly softened. Spread over cooled brownies and place in freezer.
-MAKE THE SAUCE: In a double boiler, combine the heavy cream, chocolate chips and peanut butter. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly. (SAVE 1/4 CUP FOR SERVING!)
-Remove the brownie/ice cream layer from the freezer and pour the chocolate sauce over the top. (don’t forget to save some!) Smooth it out and return to the freezer.
-MAKE THE WHIPPED CREAM: In a mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.
-Remove the brownie/ice cream/ sauce from the freezer and spread the whipped cream over the top.
-Sprinkle the peanut butter chips or chopped peanut butter cups on top and freeze for THREE HOURS before serving.
-Right before you serve, drizzle with remaining chocolate sauce that you have heated slightly.

I was lucky enough to have TWO tiny adorable kitchen helpers this time – my son and my BFF’s daughter helped with all the prep:

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Brownie baking and Ice cream testing (both very important)

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Whipping the cream and assembling the layers

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“Decorating” the cake with Mini Reese’s Cups

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The delicious finished product

I used Moose Tracks Ice Cream for this – which is basically vanilla with PB swirl, fudge and PB cups – but you can really use any kind you want for it – anything with peanut butter would work great! I also substituted the PB chips for the mini PB cups – I figured they would be more delicious

This was really easy to put together, and the kids had a blast helping! My BFF and her husband loved it so much that they didn’t even want to share it with their friends when we had them over for a Memorial Day BBQ the next day! And I can’t blame them – this was REALLY tasty – the chewy brownie, the ganache – YUM. While it in no way constituted a cake in my mind (what with it’s lack of frosting) – it was still a really delicious dessert, and I was glad to make it and get to enjoy it with my BFF (who I won’t get to see until July now – boo – but luckily, there’s FaceTime to get us through!)

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“Death By Oreo” Cupcakes (What A Way To Go!)

11 May

I wanted to make something for our daycare provider’s birthday this week (I mean – it’s the least I can do, after all, she wipes my kid’s butt and all that, so) – and I wanted to make something special, something more than just your typical chocolate or vanilla cupcakes. So I figured – well – everyone loves Oreos, so why not incorporate them somehow? Then I came across this recipe for Death By Oreo Cupcakes – and I knew they would be perfect!

Death By Oreo Cupcakes
Ingredients
1 package Oreo Cookies, regular size
1 package Mini Oreo Cookies, for decoration (optional)
1 package chocolate cake mix (mix according to directions on box)
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cupcake liners

Directions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Mix packaged cake mix according to directions
-Line cupcake tins with liner, place a regular size Oreo cookie in the bottom of each liner
-Take 1/2 of remaining cookies and chop coarsely and add to cake mix. Fill the cupcake tins
-Bake for 15 minutes (or according to box directions). While cupcakes are baking make the frosting
-Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla, then add powdered sugar slowly until blended well
-Chop remaining regular-sized Oreos very fine & add to frosting
-After cupcakes have cooled frost and decorate with Mini Oreos

These were really easy to make, since they started off with your basic boxed cake mix (what a time saver!), and then added the cookies to that. 

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Which – speaking of – I was distracted by my little sous chef and forgot to add the Oreo pieces to the cake batter – but – no worries – I just added some on top of each one and kind of tried to mix it in with a spoon – turned out fine!

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Speaking of my little sous chef – he was MORE than happy to help prepare the frosting portion of the recipe….

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I used a scoop to ensure I was getting a relatively similar amount of frosting on each cupcake – worked really well!

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Taste Tester #1 – APPROVES!

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Taste Tester #2 – THUMBS UP!

Our daycare provider loved them too – she raved about them to me, and I have to agree with her – they are a winner! A nice break from a traditional birthday cake, these would be fun for anyone who loves chocolate, and Oreos (so – basically EVERYONE!)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

2 May

Peanut Butter and chocolate is one of those magical combinations – from peanut butter cups, to cakes, to brownies and cookies – it is a union that will forever be amazing and delicious. These Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars are no exception – and they were so easy to make, too!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
(Recipe Courtesy of Averie Cooks)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1/3 heaping cup peanut butter (I use Jif, Skippy or similar; natural PB can separate and/or be too oily)
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips + 2 tablespoons, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS:
-Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
-In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
-Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don’t scramble it. Add the peanut butter, egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
-Add the flour and stir until just combined, don’t overmix.
-Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips.
-Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
-Sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, smoothly the top lightly with a spatula.
-Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until done. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow bars to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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This is one of those doughs I had to restrain myself from inhaling raw – it was just so perfect looking (and tasting!)

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Before and after baking

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That cross section says it all – melty chocolate and gooey bar – yum!

Had all ingredients on hand? Check
Easy to make? Check
Delicious? CHECK!

These were a winner – definitely great for beginner bakers – and anyone else who cherishes the marriage of Peanut Butter and Chocolate as much as I do!

Nutella Monster Cookies

2 May

I was itching to bake something new, and so instead of starting a new search for something, I headed to my “Must Try Desserts” Pinterest board. Ah….Pinterest. The home of ambitions, dreams, ideas – and most of all, the home of “shit I want to try/make/do but will never have the time/money/patience to do so” (harsh, but true). So – needless to say, there were plenty of recipes saved there that I have yet to find time to bake – and after careful consideration I decided to give these Nutella Monster Cookies a try

Nutella Monster Cookies
(Recipe Courtesy of Something Swanky)

Ingredients
3 eggs
1/2 c. shortening (not butter!)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking soda
4 1/2 c. oats
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1 tbsp. corn syrup
1 1/2 c. Nutella
1 package M&Ms
1 c. dark chocolate chips

Instructions
-Using the paddle attachment in a stand mixer, combine all ingredients except for the M&Ms and the chocolate chips.
-Add in the chocolate chips and M&Ms using the lowest speed on the mixer.
-Scoop by tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets.
-Bake at 350 for 7 minutes. Let set and cool on the baking sheet.

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It was my little sous chef’s first time trying Nutella – he LOVED it!

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Bringing these “monsters” to life – the various stages of dough and baking 

Ok – so – truth be told – I really don’t care much for these cookies. I hate how much they spread, how crispy they are, how thin they turned out…NOT a favorite for me. The recipe doesn’t have any flour in it, and I think that’s the main issue – they didn’t stay together and rise like a “normal” cookie does

I got so mad about halfway through that I ended up adding a few cups of flour to it – helped a lot in keeping the cookies from spreading into crispy thin masses – but it sort of took some of the taste away, too

I think one of the reasons I am so irritated with the way these turned out is that I went to the store and spent money on a bunch of ingredients: Nutella, M&M’s, dark chocolate chips, extra oats, etc – and the results were just not something I really enjoyed at all. I LOVEEEEEE a huge, gooey, thick cookie – and these just did not do it for me. However, everyone else who tried them liked them – so if crispy cookies are your jam – you should give these a go!

And if you’re a Nutella lover (like me) who likes a thick, gooey cookie (like me!) – try these Soft and Chewy Nutella White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Scones: First Attempt (With Tasty Results!)

4 Apr
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My husband and son cuddling our newborn niece ❤

I mentioned recently that I was going to be baking some items to bring to my brother in law and sister in law when we went to visit them and our BRAND NEW NIECE – one of the things I made (with the help of my little sous chef!) were some these No Bake Cereal Bars which were easy to make and turned out great!

I also said I was going to attempt scones for the first time – and truthfully I was nervous! I don’t know why – but scones seemed like fancy, and higher difficulty level than most baking I usually did – but nonetheless, I was determined to give it a go

I started by getting a recipe recommendation from a friend who had recently made scones a bunch of times – and has made this exact recipe multiple times (and I was lucky enough to try some when we had brunch together – so good!)

Cinnamon Chip Scones
Recipe Courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction)

Ingredients:
Scones
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (careful not to overmeasure)
1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream (plus a little extra for brushing)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups cinnamon chips1
optional: coarse sugar for sprinkling on top before baking
Glaze
1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
3 Tablespoons (45ml) black coffee (or milk/half-and-half/cream for a plain vanilla glaze )
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Adjust baking rack to the middle-low position. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
-Grate the frozen butter. Toss the grated butter into the flour mixture and combine it with a pastry cutter, your fingers, or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside.
-In a small bowl, whisk the cream, egg, and vanilla together.
-Drizzle it over the flour mixture and then toss the mixture together with a rubber spatula until everything appears moistened.
-Slowly and gently fold in the cinnamon chips. Try your best to not overwork the dough at any point. Dough will be a little wet.
-Work the dough into a ball with floured hands as best you can and transfer to the prepared baking pan. Press into a neat 8″ disc and cut into equal wedges with a very sharp knife.
-Using a pastry brush (or your fingers!) brush lightly with a little bit of cream and then sprinkle with coarse sugar, if using. Separate the scones and line them on the baking sheet with a little space between each one.
-Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
-During this time, make the glaze by whisking all of the glaze ingredients together until completely smooth. Drizzle over scones right before serving.

Make ahead tip: Scones are best enjoyed right away, though leftover scones keep well at room temperature for 2 extra days. Scones freeze well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and heat up to your liking before enjoying.

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Not gonna lie – the butter grating was a huge pain – it took forever and the butter was so hard from being frozen that I actually got a workout in just to get it grated

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Gloriously fragrant dough

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Before and after their time in the oven (they look a lot better once baked!)

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Drizzle on the glaze? Screw that – how about we heap it on? 

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The new parents enjoying the finished product

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My brother in law sent me this a few days ago – I am so glad they enjoyed them!

A few notes:
-Ok the butter grating – I mentioned above how I didn’t love it – and honestly next time I might forego it altogether. I would still freeze the butter but I would probably just cut it into small chunks and then work it in that way
-I kinda want to experiment with a smaller scone – like 16 instead of 8 per batch? Obviously I would have to bake them for less time – but I like the idea of a smaller version for like a brunch or baby shower or something like that
-I substituted maple syrup for coffee in the glaze (mostly because I was too lazy to brew some coffee!) and it turned out great – a substitution I would recommend if you don’t like the idea of using coffee – BUT the coffee version tastes amazing too so if you want to stick to recipe you won’t be disappointed

I don’t know what I was scared of! They really weren’t that hard to make, and they are pretty impressive looking and make a great gift! Oh – and they taste good – so – that is a plus, too obviously!

No-Bake Cereal Bars – Perfect For Breakfast On The Go

22 Mar

First things first – important announcement – I AM AN AUNTIE! My beautiful niece was born last week, and I can’t WAIT to meet her – we are headed there this weekend, and I am SO EXCITED!

Normally I would make a meal or two and some cookies or something and bring it all over for the new family – but since they live 4 hours away, transporting perishable food wasn’t really something I was prepared to deal with – so of course the next best thing would be to do some major baking for them, right? Cookies are great – but what about cookie bars, scones, brownies, and cereal bars – because 4 things are way better than 1, right? Needless to say – I had my hands full getting this all together. First thing I made was the one that would easily freeze and keep the longest – the No Bake Cereal Bars

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Strangely enough, my little sous chef originally had no interest in helping me (which is rare!). When it was time to make the bars he was preoccupied (Play-doh) and only ran to my assistance when I said the magic word  – CHOCOLATE  and I can’t blame him – that is my magic word too!

No Bake Cereal Bars (Recipe Courtesy of Buzzfeed Tasty)
INGREDIENTS
½ cup honey
¼ cup peanut butter
3 cups toasted oat cereal
1 cup yogurt chips (save ½ cup for melting)
½ cup unsalted toasted almonds, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional)

PREPARATION
1. In a bowl, mix honey with peanut butter. Microwave for 45 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds, or until melted.
2. In a large bowl, combine oat cereal, ½ of the yogurt chips (save the other half for later), chopped almonds, and dried cranberries.
3. Pour the melted honey mixture into the bowl and stir until well mixed.
4. Pour into an 8×8 baking pan lined with parchment paper, and gently flatten the mixture evenly around the pan.
5. Freeze for 30 minutes, or until the mixture has hardened enough to cut it into 8 pieces.
6. Melt the other half of the yogurt chips in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time, until melted. (Optional: adding 1 tsp of coconut oil will help with the melting process)
7. Dip the bottom of the bars in the melted yogurt chips and place on a piece of parchment paper. Freeze for another 15 minutes.
8. Wrap each bar in parchment paper & store in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 3 months.
9. Enjoy!

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NOTES: As with most recipes, I figured “why not double it?” – have some for us to keep here at home and then give some to my brother and sister in law.

The only thing I would actually change about this recipe is they didn’t stick together super well (the white chocolate coating on the bottom helped!) – so I might use a bit more of the honey/peanut butter mix next time to help everything stay together and maintain bar form more easily

Also. The recipe calls for “yogurt chips” What the hell is a yogurt chip I mean really?? I searched all over the grocery store – and even asked the grocery manager – who had never even heard of them. Just – ok. So – I substituted white chocolate for the dipping, and then a mix of white chocolate and mini semi sweet chips in the bars

You can really customize these to your liking – different cereals, dried fruits, and chocolates can easily be substituted in. As is – I really like the flavor though – they turned out pretty well, and I would definitely make them again!

Easy to make, and even easier to grab on the way to work for breakfast – or in my in laws case – easy to eat one handed while the baby is asleep on your other arm

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I actually managed to not make a huge mess with the dipping (normally me plus melted chocolate is a disaster – so if even I can make these look good, you can too!)

These Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies Pack Some SERIOUS PB Punch (Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You…)

9 Mar

I have come across these Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies a few times now – on Pinterest and via Facebook recipe vidoes (which – these days – it seems most of my Facebook feed is made up of food videos – probably because I love food and Facebook knows that!) – and finally the other day I decided screw it – I am gonna make these bad boys!

I think what really pushed me over the edge into wanting to make these was the fact that there was a whole layer of peanut butter cups sandwiched between the brownie and crunchy fudge layers – I love Reese’s cups so much that I could eat them for every meal and snack forever. Seriously – that’s how amazing I think they are. So – these brownies were basically my destiny come to life, in dessert form

Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies
(Recipe Courtesy of Dinners Dishes And Desserts)

Ingredients
Brownies
2 oz unsweetened chocolate , melted
1/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2nd Layer
1 cup chopped peanut butter cups
Fudge Layer
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbls butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup crispy rice cereal

Instructions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 inch baking dish. Or line with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.
-In a bowl combine melted chocolate with canola oil. Add sugar, and eggs. Mix until well combined. Stir in flour and salt.
-Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, until a tester comes out mostly clean.
-Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle peanut butter cups over the brownies. Let sit for 5 minutes, then gently use the back of a spoon and spread the melted chocolate over the brownies. Let cool completely.
-In a microwave safe bowl melt together chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter; heat for 1 minute, stir. Heat at 15 second intervals until smooth. Stir in vanilla and cereal. Pour over brownies.
-Place in fridge to completely set up before serving.

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As usual – my tiny sous chef was ready to help out! Mostly with peanut butter and chocolate chip eating – but still – gotta take what I can get (After all -it’s hard to find good kitchen help these days!)

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Brownie? Check. Amazing Peanut butter cup layer? Check!

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While the peanut butter cup topped brownies are cooling, I prepped the top layer – crunchy fudge-y goodness!

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The finished product – layer upon layer of yum

Overall – these were easy to make, and ingredient wise I had everything on hand so that is always a plus for me if I don’t have to run to the store before starting a recipe!

As for the taste – like I said in the title – these pack some SERIOUS PB power – so if you’re super into Peanut Butter, these are for you, but if you’re expecting to distinctly taste the Peanut butter cups and brownie layers – you might be disappointed.

I personally think the top layer of “fudge” overpowered the whole thing – it was all I could taste, and while it was good and I really loved the crunchy texture, I wanted more brownie and especially more peanut butter cup taste

If I was to make these again I think I would dial down the amount of fudge on top – about half of what the recipe calls for would still provide a decent layer, and it would allow the other tastes to come through

Oh – and I would add more peanut butter cups. A lot more. like double. Because – peanut butter cups are life.