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Pecan Pie Bars – The Perfect Holiday Dessert For A Crowd

31 Dec

A friend of mine has been making these DELICIOUS Pecan Pie bars at holiday time for years – and I decided this was the year I finally try to make them on my own!

Pecan Pie Bars
(Recipe Courtesy of All Recipes)

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons margarine, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Directions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 10×15 inch jellyroll pan.
-In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Cut in 1 cup of margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the prepared pan, and press in firmly.
-Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.
-While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a large bowl mix together the eggs, corn syrup, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoons margarine, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the chopped pecans. Spread the filling evenly over the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven.
-Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into bars.

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Ok. So. Some notes
-Grease THE HECK out of your baking pan. Like. Grease it, then add some more. and then redo it again. Otherwise they will stick like crazy
-Cook it a little longer than the suggested time (to avoid the middle being soupy)
-Let someone super strong cut them for you – as they are hard as HECK to cut and get out of the pan

BUT – in the end – it’s all worth it – they are so good, and perfect for a big group at Thanksgiving, or anytime!

M&M’s Marshmallow Dream Bars – An Easy, Sweet Holiday Treat!

31 Dec

Hope everyone had an amazing Christmas – I know I did! It was pretty low key, got to hang out with my little family and just relax (much deserved I think, after all the work that us moms and dads put into the holiday season, am I right?). One of the best parts of Christmas in my eyes is not the presents or singing carols or waiting for Santa – those are all great don’t get me wrong, but let’s be real – I am here for the FOOD. Specifically – the SWEETS – cookies, baked goods of any kind – this is really their time to SHINE. People who don’t normally bake whip out their aprons and spatulas to create cookie trays to DIE for!

I attended a cookie exchange in November – where I brought along Snickerdoodle Blondies, and the treats I got to take home and try were SO AMAZING, everyone REALLY brought their “A” game to the table for this one! One treat really stood out for me though, and I knew after just one bite of the M&M’s Marshmallow Dream Bars that I would be making them for myself – PRONTO!

M&M’s Marshmallow Dream Bars
(Recipe Courtesy of Mom On Timeout)

Ingredients
12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
11 oz package butterscotch chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
10.5 oz bag mini marshmallows
1 cup M&Ms

Instructions
-Line a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick foil. Set aside.
-Combine first three ingredients in a large microwave safe container.
-Microwave on high heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until the chips are fully melted and the mixture in smooth.
-Stir in marshmallows until fully coated.
-Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
-Sprinkle on M&Ms and press down slightly.
-Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
-Cut into bars.
-Store leftovers in an airtight container.

I was lucky enough to have some adorable helpers on this one – it was the perfect recipe to let them measure and stir (and taste test the ingredients, of course!)

Are these messy? Yes
Are the delicious? YES
Will they make a perfect addition to your cookie trays? YES
Should you make them now? YES!!

Patriotic Puppy Chow – An Easy (and Delicious!) Red, White & Blue Treat!

8 Jul

John recently attended a kids cooking class at a local grocery store near us – it was geared towards aged 4-7 and “red white and blue” themed – so they made patriotic, kid-friendly treats, including a super awesome Patriotic Puppy Chow – it was so good in fact, that I decided to make it again this past weekend for the 4th of July!

Patriotic Puppy Chow
Ingredients
Red
1 cup red (vanilla flavored) candy wafers
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
3/4 cup Duncan Hines strawberry cake mix
4-5 cups Rice Chex cereal
1/2 cup powdered sugar
White
1 cup red (vanilla flavored) candy wafers
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
3/4 cup Duncan Hines white cake mix
4-5 cups Rice Chex cereal
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Blue
1 cup red (vanilla flavored) candy wafers
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
3/4 cup Duncan Hines white cake mix
4-5 cups Rice Chex cereal
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions
1. Melt Candy wafers in microwave safe bowl
2. Whisk in the vegetable oil
3. Add the cake mix – stir until smooth
4. Pour the wafer mixture over 4-5 cups of Rice Chex and stir lightly until cereal is evenly covered
5. Pour into a large ziploc bag, add the powdered sugar and shake until evenly coated
6. Repeat the process with the white and blue as well – and then combine all three colors

*If you can’t find colored candy wafers you can use white chocolate chips and food coloring instead

The kids loved helping me with this, and while I didn’t get any pictures of the finished product, I can assure you – it was delicious!

John’s Cookbook – Page 5 – S’mores Dip

19 Mar

The snow is melting, the sun is shining, and Spring is here! It may not feel like it for sure yet, but warmer weather is on its way, and I for one can’t wait to get out there and enjoy it. Admittedly, I am NOT much of an outdoor girl AT ALL – BUT – when you have kids that have been cooped up inside for the past several years (months really – but feels like years), you gotta embrace the wonder that is the great outdoors

One of the best things about warmer weather is having campfires and roasting marshmallows for S’mores. It may not be S’more weather yet – but it is S’more dip weather (which – is really anytime!)

S’more’s Dip
(Recipe Courtesy of Wine & Glue)

Ingredients
8 oz cream cheese room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup fudge sauce
7 1/2 oz marshmallow cream
1 tsp vanilla

graham cracker sticks for dipping
mini chocolate chips/marshmallow bits for topping

Instructions
In a large bowl, blend together with a handheld mixer: the cream cheese, powdered sugar, fudge sauce, marshmallow creme and vanilla until smooth

Transfer to a serving bowl, top with mini chocolate chips and marshmallow bits and serve with graham crackers

John’s favorite part? Anything marshmallow related – he loved the fluff, and the tiny little marshmallows blew his mind!

He looks oddly like the Joker while “taste-testing” the ingredients

DIPPPPPPPPPP – so good!

As with most dips – this wasn’t exactly hard to make, and I love the idea of a dippable S’more!

It was enjoyed by all, big and small – and while it was great, it just made me want a REAL s’more even more! Still – a worthy winter time substitute, and I personally enjoyed it right off the spoon (no graham crackers needed!)

Pretzel Treats – The Salty/Sweet Combo That Everyone Will Love

14 Feb

I have been wanting to make these FOR FOREVER – seriously. I have been looking for an excuse to make Pretzel treats for a while, and finally – the perfect occasion came – superbowl! What better snack to grab than something small & bite size, that is the perfect combo of sweet and salty?

Pretzel Candies
(Recipe courtesy of From Valerie’s Kitchen)

Ingredients
Pretzels square or round
Rolo Candies, or Hershey’s Kisses (any variety)
Plain M&M’s

Instructions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Line baking sheet with pretzels. Center one Kiss on each pretzel.
Bake for 1 to 2 minutes. Kisses will soften but still hold their shape.
Remove from oven and carefully place one M&M, printed side down, on top of each Kiss, pressing lightly.
Refrigerate until set.

I of course enlisted the assistance of my helpful husband and my little sous chef to help unwrap the candies – because that part can get tedious!

A few minutes in the oven and these were shiny and ready for their M&M’s!

One by one – pressing the M&M’s into the treats to complete them

These were super easy to make, and cute to boot – since I was able to grab the Valentine-themed M&M’s for them.

The ones with the Rolos on them didn’t turn out as cute – the M&M’s tended to almost “disappear” in them if you pressed too hard – BUT – they tasted WAY better than the ones with the Hershey Kisses – so I am glad I did both kinds for sure

You can do this with a variety of Hershey Kisses and M&M’s for every season – so they can be the perfect treat for any Holiday! They would also make a perfect gift for someone too, for Christmas or for anytime!

Mixin’ It Up – Snack Mix Trials (And A Miss)

17 Jan

After doing my annual Christmas Cookie Baking this year, I started to think – what if next year I tried something DIFFERENT? And while I of course LOVE baking, I don’t love spending a whole day or multiple days doing it, switching cookie racks every 5 minutes for hours and scooping out a million cookies onto cookie sheets….I want to bake because I LOVE it – not because it is what I always do or have to do at Christmas – so I decided that this year – I want to mix it up. Luckily, I have all year to try out new recipes, and after making this amazing Crock Pot Christmas “Crack” this year, I knew that would be on my “must make” list this upcoming year, as would a few batches of the always amazing Saltine Toffee.

But I also wanted to do something a bit more on the “savory” side, as there are SO MANY sweets at Christmas time that even I get tired of it all sometimes (ME – a sugar FANATIC!). So I decided to make my family the guinea pigs (as they usually are) for this Cheesy Ranch Snack Mix:

Cheesy Ranch Snack Mix
(Recipe courtesy of Plain Chicken)

INGREDIENTS:
8 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp Worceshire sauce
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
4 cups Rice Chex
4 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Cheez Its
2 cups small pretzels
1 (12.5 oz) can redskin peanuts

INSTRUCTIONS:
-Preheat oven to 250ºF.
-In a large bowl (the biggest you have), mix together all ingredients. Place mix on 2 large baking sheets.
-Bake 1 hour – stirring every 15 minutes. Allow to cool and transfer to an airtight container.

Ok – so – this recipe made a LOT of snack mix. And it smelled SO GOOD while it was baking – just – made my mouth water! The finished product, however – was just nothing to write home about. My family and I found it to be too salty, and too “Worceshire-y”

BUT – I felt that something good could possibly come of this. So – I made it again, but with a few changes:
-Used UNSALTED butter
-Instead of Worceshire – I used Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, about 1 tsp
-I used Wal-Mart brand ranch dip mix this time (instead of the Aldi one I used the first time – not sure if this made any difference at all, but wanted to note it anyway!)

The second batch turned out a LOT better – less salty, and the seasonings were more in balance. I think this one will join the others as a winner for Christmas baking/gifting – as who doesn’t love a nice snack mix alongside their cookies? I know I do!

Last Minute Crock Pot Christmas “Crack”

27 Dec

Honestly – I don’t know who comes up with these names. “Christmas Crack?” I mean, I know it’s just supposed to be funny like “Oh it’s as addicting as crack!” but it’s not the most descriptive name is it? Like – what’s IN IT? Well, I guess it doesn’t matter what’s in it or what it’s called, as long as it’s delicious, right? Well – this one certainly delivers on being tasty!

Crock Pot Christmas Crack
(Recipe Courtesy of Just A Pinch)

Ingredients
1 jar(s) unsalted peanuts, 16 oz
1 jar(s) salted peanuts, 16 oz.
1 bag(s) semi-sweet chocolate chips, 12 oz
1 bag(s) milk chocolate chips, 12 oz
2 bag(s) peanut butter chips, 10 oz each
2 pkg white almond bark or vanilla candy coating, 1 lb each
Directions
1. Layer all ingredients in a large Crock Pot (starting with peanuts).
2. Break apart the bark into chunks and place into the Crock Pot as the last layer.
3. Turn the pot on low, cover with lid, and leave sitting for 1 hour.
4. Then, remove the lid and stir to combine.
5. Replace lid and leave sitting for another 30 minutes keeping an eye to make sure it doesn’t burn.
6. Stir again. Then spoon mixture onto wax paper or non-stick aluminum foil.
7. Allow candy to harden for at least 1 hour. Enjoy!

Christmas may be over, but the need for quick and easy to make homemade gifts NEVER ends – and this “crack” makes the perfect gift for any occasion!

My Top Picks For Quick, Budget Friendly Homemade Gifting This Holiday Season

6 Dec

I don’t know about you – but my Christmas list is LONG this year. And I’m not talking about my “wish list” either – I am talking about my “To-Do” list – baking, wrapping, cleaning, crafting, movie watching, and of course – SHOPPING – that part of the list is longer than ever! Neighbors, friends, kids, family, teachers, mailmen – there are just so so many people I want to give to – and with the constraints of time and money – I have to be strategic in executing my gift giving – ESPECIALLY this year – as it’s my first Holiday season as a stay at home mom – so we are feeling that budget constraint a bit more this year than in years prior.

So far – I have loved staying at home with my son – it’s awesome to get to spend so much time with him, and I love being the one to pick him up and take him to school every day. Oh – plus – I am home for package deliveries – a big perk this time of year!

Like I said, I want to give gifts to basically everyone I know – and now that we are a “single income family” – that means I have to be more creative in my giving. And what better thing to give than something homemade? Crafts have not always been my forte – BUT – BAKING is my JAM. So I made a list of my top 3 Homemade Gift Ideas – they are easy to make, not too expensive or time consuming, AND they are delicious

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My little elf helping me make some saltine toffee last week

1. Saltine Toffee This little gem is one of those things you can hardly believe tastes so good – because it was SO easy and fast to make. Brown sugar, butter, saltines, and chocolate chips are all it takes to make this, and you can add some festive sprinkles on top too – making it perfect for Holiday gift giving!

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Muddy buddy action shot – the shaking part!

2. Muddy Buddies – I love this because it’s one the kids can help with – they love shaking the sugar onto the treat (which is also known as “puppy chow” or “white trash”) – and you can easily add in some seasonal red and green M&M’s to make this an awesome Christmas treat to share

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Tiny pantsless sous-chef loves helping me make cookie bars

3. Large Batch Cookie Bars These bars are so easy to make – and they are quick too because you don’t have to portion out individual cookies. And one batch makes a TON – a whole cookie sheet’s worth of bars, which can cover several people on your gift list

All gifts are great, but I personally love giving something homemade when I can – I feel like it really shows that you care, and I’m convinced the receiver of the gift can taste the love that was baked right in! Plus – I love teaching my son that gift giving doesn’t have to be big and expensive to still be worthwhile (and delicious!)

 

Spooky Bat Brownies – A Fun Halloween Treat For All

30 Oct

My son loves all things “Spooooooky” – from haunted houses to scary movies and everything in between! So when I saw the title of these Spooky Bat Brownies I knew he would love making them with me (almost as much I would love eating them – as they combine two of my lifelong loves – chocolate, and FROSTING)

SPOOKY BAT OREO BROWNIES
(Recipe Courtesy of Something Swanky)

INGREDIENTS:
-brownies, baked and cooled*
*Before baking: spread half of the batter in the baking dish. Layer 15 Oreos (5 rows of 3 cookies) over the batter, and then spread the remaining batter on top of the Oreos.
-vanilla buttercream (check out my preferred recipe Here)
-8-12 ounces store-bought hot fudge sauce, room temp
-30 Oreos (15 for inside brownies, 15 for bat decorations)
-30 candy eyeballs

DIRECTIONS:
-Spread buttercream on top of the cooled brownies.
-Drop small dollops of hot fudge sauce (NOT heated) over the buttercream. Use the offset spatula or a knife to swirl the hot fudge sauce into the buttercream.
-Split the remaining 15 Oreos. Layer the halves with the cream, cream side up, on top of the swirled frosting.
-Pipe two small dots of fudge sauce on the Oreo cream and place two candy eyeballs on the fudge sauce.
-Take the “plain” remaining halves of the cookies and cut them in half to make the bat wings. Press them into the frosting under the bat “heads” (as pictured).

Here’s the making of the brownie base layer – a simple store bought 9×13 mix, with oreos added in

Here are the finished brownies – cooled off and ready for frosting!

Some of the work in progress stages – all I can say is good thing I had extra cookies, as I had a lot of trouble getting the ‘wings’ to evenly halve without breaking

Frosting, meet fudge

Bat Creation! I didn’t have any candy eyes (plus I didn’t want my son eating them since they are usually pretty hard to chew anyway), so I just saved some of my buttercream, tinted it black, and used it for eyes/faces. As you can see – the results garnered mixed emotions (from the bats, that is)

My little sous chef helped make the frosting, and was also a big help at eating the “broken” and unusable bat wing pieces

I was actually lucky enough to have not only my sous chef, but his two apprentices – Walter and Buzz Lightyear – on hand for some on the job training. Buzz enjoyed tasting some frosting, and Walter enjoyed all the broken cookie pieces that little sous chef accidentally dropped

This guy is unsure of what is happening….

Overall, this was a great recipe for me – it was easy, fun for my son, and used ingredients I had on hand (including the boxed brownie mix – I love a good shortcut!). The ONLY drawback was how hard they were to cut – but that is probably my own fault, as I kept them in the fridge. Once I left them out for a bit the cutting became substantially easier

They are delicious tasting too, but pretty rich – I cut each “bat” in half as any bigger would have been too much (probably why this bat looks so scared – he knows what’s coming!). This would be a great treat to make and bring to a Halloween Party, as it has the super cute bat presentation going on. I think next time I do it, I might go nuts and make the buttercream orange and purple to give it even more of a Halloween-y vibe!

Skip The Fire With This Easy (And Tasty!) S’mores Poke Cake

5 Jul

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Happy (slightly belated) 4th of July! I hope you enjoyed your day off with family, friends, and GOOD FOOD – I know I did! We went to a friend’s house for a BBQ – and it was a great time (despite the heat and humidity ugh)

I took this opportunity to try out a new dessert (obviously – any gathering is a good excuse to try something new!), and what better to try than a recipe that turns everyone’s favorite campfire treat into a delicious cake?

Enter – the S’mores Poke Cake – Graham flavored cake with chocolate, topped with marshmallow buttercream and all the makings of the classic s’more – what could be better?

S’mores Poke Cake
(Recipe Courtesy of Delish)

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE CAKE
Cooking spray, for pan
1 box vanilla cake mix, plus ingredients called for on box
1 1/2 c. crushed graham crackers (about 10 crackers)
FOR THE FILLING
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips, melted
FOR THE MARSHMALLOW FROSTING
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 (7.5-oz.) jar marshmallow crème
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. heavy cream
FOR TOPPING
2 Hershey’s chocolate bars, broken into squares
1 1/2 c. mini marshmallows
2 graham crackers, crushed
Melted chocolate, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS
-Preheat oven to 350º and spray a 9-x-13” pan with cooking spray. Prepare cake batter according to package instructions. Fold in crushed graham crackers.
-Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
-Let cool slightly, then poke holes all over bottom of cake with a wooden spoon. -In a small bowl, mix together sweetened condensed milk and melted chocolate. Pour mixture into poke holes.
-Make frosting: In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy, then add marshmallow crème, powdered sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Gradually add heavy cream if mixture is too stiff.
-Frost cake and top with marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers.

 

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Liquid chocolate – ready to go into the “poke” holes

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Tried my best to direct the chocolate into the holes – didn’t work so well, but at least I was left with an awesome chocolate layer on top of the cake!

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So – marshmallow buttercream -it’s sort of like vanilla frosting, only WAY SWEETER (I was on board with this for SURE)

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I love the way the top turned out – makes it pretty clear what’s in it anyway ha!

I mean – truthfully, this one had me at “marshmallow buttercream” – because – what’s not to love about EXTRA sweet frosting? Overall the dessert was really sweet – but definitely accomplished embodying the S’more itself – the graham, chocolate, and marshmallow flavors all came through really well

This was really easy to put together, and was a great alternative to actual S’mores. Everyone at the BBQ seemed to like it, and I think I will definitely make it again next time I head to a summer get together!

Oh and if you’re looking for some more s’more treats – check out these s’more bars, and these s’more cookie bars (both delicious and gooey like the real thing!)