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These No Bake Toffee Fudge Bars Are The Perfect Holiday Gift!

23 Nov

Well. It’s that time again – the holidays. It really snuck up on me this year, not sure about you – but suddenly it was September and fall, then Halloween, and now Thanksgiving, and Christmas is looming, too! 2016 is quickly coming to an end, and if you haven’t started Christmas shopping already, then you might want to get on it!

I love to incorporate handmade gifts whenever and wherever I can – I make applesauce and jar it every year to share with friends and family, and cookies are another item I love to give (and receive!). This year I plan to make at least two kinds to share (maybe more, time permitting!), and I came across a recipe that would make a perfect addition to my sweet gifts – these No Bake Toffee Fudge Bars. Whipped them up in no time and they were so easy and delicious! Check it out:

No Bake Toffee Fudge Bars Recipe

Ingredients:

2-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup (2 sticks) butter , divided
1 cup sugar
1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk
1 bag (10 oz.) miniature marshmallows
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) HERSHEY’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup HEATH Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits
1 cup HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate Chips or HERSHEY’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Directions:

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1. Line 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with foil. Melt 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter; combine with graham cracker crumbs. Press crumb mixture evenly in bottom of prepared pan.

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2. Combine sugar, evaporated milk, remaining 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter and marshmallows in large saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, stirring until chips are melted.

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3. Immediately pour over crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle surface with milk chocolate toffee bits and milk chocolate chips, pressing in lightly. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. Cut into bars. Store leftover bars covered in refrigerator. Makes 24 bars.

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These set up nicely and were easy to remove from the pan and cut after being in the fridge all morning

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These were loved by all – big and small!

And the great thing is the recipe makes 24 – so they are great to share (as they are pretty sweet so you only need to tuck a couple in each gift package!).  What’s better than an easy and delicious recipe that you can share with those you love this Christmas? Not much in my book!

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies – A Seriously Easy And Delicious Addition To Any Cookie Exchange

4 Dec

Holiday Time = FOOD TIME. Seriously – there’s always so much to eat at the holidays, and it’s all so amazingly delicious! Personally, I enjoy the baked goods the most (big surprise, right?) – and while I love to spend time in the kitchen baking away, sometimes I like to whip out a fast and easy recipe that will get me in and out in no time.

These cookies are perfect for last minute party invitations, or in case you forgot about that cookie exchange you agreed to go to…just two ingredients, 8 minutes in the oven plus some cooling time, and you’ve got a delicious, “cookie exchange worthy” dessert!

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

You Will Need:
-Premade Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Logs
-Reese’s mini peanut butter cups (unwrapped)
-Mini muffin tin(s)
-nonstick spray/shortening

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 375
2. Grease mini muffin tins using nonstick spray or shortening
3. Cut peanut butter cookie dough log into 1 ¼ inch pieces, and then cut each of the pieces into quarters
4. Place one piece into each greased muffin tin
5. Bake at 375 for about 8 minutes
6. Once removed from the oven, IMMEDIATELY press an unwrapped Reese’s cup into each cookie
7. Let them cool before removing from the muffin tins

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The biggest pain about this? The fact that you have to unwrap a bunch of peanut butter cups and NOT eat them all immediately – willpower is a tricky thing…

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Here they are before and after baking – they are ready for their chocolaty additions!

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Quick work done by me – I pressed all those suckers in quick!

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The holidays are a BUSY time – and these cookies are the perfect way for me to make something for a party without too much time in the kitchen. Frees up my time for this guy – ain’t he cute? He liked the cookies too!

Holiday Gift Ideas For Bakers

3 Dec

The holiday season is upon us! Carols, snow, lights, trees, baking and SHOPPING are all on my “to-do” list this year – and baking is the one I am most looking forward to – measuring and mixing, feeling the kitchen fill up with the scent of cookies and cakes while Christmas carols play softly in the background – that’s my favorite Christmas tradition.

Me, my turkey, my boy and my Minnie Mouse Apron on Thanksgiving!

Me, my turkey, my boy and my Minnie Mouse Apron on  Thanksgiving!

If you know someone like me who LOVES baking, but you aren’t sure what to get them this year, then check out my list of Holiday Gift Ideas For The Baker In Your Life:

A Really Good Spatula: A thick bladed, wooden handled spatula is a must have for every baker out there – as scraping the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated is an essential part of most any recipe. I love my spatula so much I even wrote about it last year, and a set like this would be a great addition to any Baker’s utensil collection!

Cookie Cutters: Ok, so most bakers probably have at least some cookie cutters already, but if you could find a unique one for them that fits their personality, it’s a great (and usually pretty cheap!) gift option. For example, I love Disney, and dogs, and reading – so any type of cookie cutter that is related to those themes would be something I would LOVE to receive. Or you can give a set of mini cookie cutters – like these adorable animals, or some seasonally appropriate Mini Christmas cookie cutters

An Apron: Ok, so this one may seem kind of lame – but aprons have come a long way – they are no longer just some frilly thing that housewives wear – they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. If you’re crafty, you can sew your baker a custom one like my mother in law did for me – it is Minnie Mouse themed on one side, and apple patterned on the other – two of my very favorite things! If you aren’t great with a sewing machine, then check out the TONS of amazing options on Etsy – all you have to do is search for “apron” and up come a whole bunch of results, and the great thing about Etsy is that most shops will work with you to customize your gift to your specifications – so initials, words, material – it’s all able to be chosen by you to create a super amazing gift for your baker

Tools For Their Littlest Bakers: Most bakers enjoy sharing their love of baking with others – I know I do – and I can’t WAIT until my son is old enough to help me roll out dough and cut the shapes out with cookie cutters. If the baker on your shopping list has kids or nieces or nephews, you might want to consider getting them something they can use with them – like a Kid-friendly cupcake decorating set, or a copy of this Better Homes & Gardens Junior Cookbook

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Something Pretty and Shiny: My husband got me this necklace a few years ago for Christmas – and I just love it. You can find necklaces, bracelets, earring and more on etsy – I’ve seen ones with little whisk and spoon charms too – perfect for a baker!

Baking-Themed Gift Basket: You can put a ton of different things in here – a roll of parchment paper, kitchen towels, cute measuring spoons, an apron, a cookbook, nice wooden spoons or spatulas – and you can package it all up nicely in a big mixing bowl or measuring cup. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just some things you think your baker might like, put together with love and care. Wal-Mart currently has a new line of Pioneer Woman cookware & dinnerware – it’s decorative, with plenty of different pieces to pick from, and best of all – it won’t break the bank, and would make a perfect addition to your gift basket!

A Kitchen Aid Mixer: This is the ultimate kitchen tool that every baker lusts after – I have a vintage one from the 50’s that still works great, so not only is it cool and old school, but I didn’t have to pay for it (as it was my grandmother’s) – so that makes me extra happy – as they are NOT cheap – the smallest models start at around $200, and go up from there. One that is big enough to handle a double or triple batch of cookies will run around $500 or more. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it – and it’s a gift your baker will absolutely LOVE. Bonus – they come in all kinds of colors now, so you can even get one that will match their kitchen!

A Recipe Book Stand/Tablet Stand: Give one of these so your baker can keep their recipes nearby and easy to read. You could go for an easy to clean, budget friendly plastic version, or you could go with a slightly more decorative version. If your baker likes to get most of their recipes electronically, then check out this awesome kitchen mount/stand for Ipad/tablets – perfect for viewing recipes or watching how to videos on different cooking and baking techniques

Hopefully these ideas will help you check at least one person off your shopping list – and if you’re a baker like me, then you may want to consider asking Santa for some of these items – they will make your Christmas even more Merry and Bright!

Gettin’ Into That Holiday Spirit With These Molasses Triple Chocolate Cookies

7 Dec

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is less than three weeks away – time sure flies doesn’t it? I think for me time has gone particularly fast these past two months – as my little guy has been growing up so quickly !

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Needless to say – I haven’t had a ton of time to shop, or cook, or bake, or do much except cuddle my boy (which isn’t exactly a bad thing in my book!), but when I came across this recipe for Molasses Triple Chocolate Cookies, I knew I had to make it for my man – who is a huge molasses cookie fan, and a huge chocolate fan (but who doesn’t love chocolate, right?!)

I love Averie Cooks – her recipes are easy, delicious, and most of all I love her pictures – they are so beautiful and I always strive to make my desserts look just as good as hers! I get emails when she posts new entries on her blog, and I have made a bunch of stuff from her site, and I figured what better way to get into the Christmas mood than with the scent of molasses wafting through the house?

 

Molasses Triple Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients:

For the Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 cup brown sugar, packed (either light or dark)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsulphered molasses (not blackstrap, it’s much more pungent and bitter; I use Grandma’s Original)
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
6 ounces (3/4 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
5 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate or dark chocolate, roughly chopped into chunks (I use Trader Joe’s 72% Pound Plus bar; use a favorite bold dark chocolate or chocolate bar)

For the Cinnamon-Sugar Coating for Rolling
about 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

For the Cookies – In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power. To the slightly cooled butter (so you don’t scramble the egg), add the next eleven ingredients – the egg, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, molasses, oil, vanilla, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and whisk vigorously to combine until batter is smooth and silky. Add the flour, baking, soda and stir to just incorporate; batter will be thick

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Fold in the chocolate chips and chocolate baking chunks (I used nearly 6 ounces; using a total of 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips is okay if you don’t have baking chocolate or a chocolate bar to chop). Cover mixing bowl or transfer batter to an airtight food storage container and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours, up to 5 days, prior to baking.

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Preheat oven to 350F, line two baking trays with Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat liners, parchment, or spray with cooking spray; set aside.

For the Cinnamon-Sugar Coating for Rolling – In a small bowl, combine about 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and stir to combine.

Using a cookie scoop, form 2-ounce mounds of dough and roll each ball through the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on baking trays, spaced about 2 inches apart (I bake 8 to a tray).

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Allow cookies to bake in fairly domed-up, mounded, ball-like shapes. Bake for about 8 to 9 minutes, or until tops have just set, taking care not to overbake so they stay soft and chewy.

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Upon removing trays from oven, if cookies stayed domed while baking (likely they will) immediately give cookies a firm yet gentle tap or two with the back of a spoon to flatten them. This creates a crackled top appearance and exposes some of the melted chocolate chips and chunks. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes before moving them to a rack to finish cooling. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months

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I followed this recipe exactly, and was very pleased with the results – a dense, chocolaty cookie with a fine cinnamon sugar coating that went perfectly with milk and hot cocoa

The only thing I would do differently next time is I used dark chocolate, I think I would like to try it with the bittersweet chocolate to give more of a flavor contrast (as the chocolate in the cookies all tasted pretty much the same)

My man was happy, and so was I – these are a great alternative to plain gingerbread or molasses cookies, and they are perfect to make and give as a gift from the heart this Christmas (just be sure to make extra for yourself…)

Pumpkin Season Continues With Easy Cookies And Delicious Oatmeal

27 Sep
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Me and my (three!) pumpkins love fall!

I already kicked off my fall baking season with this amazingly easy Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter – and I loved it so much that I figured why not keep the pumpkin-y good times rolling? Plus – I am officially 9 months pregnant now – and I figured this might be one of my last chances to bake or try some new fall recipes before our little guy arrives, so I wanted to take full advantage!

Starting with the most important meal of the day, I decided to whip up some Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal so I could get my breakfast on before I moved on to the heavy labor of making cookies

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal (Recipe Courtesy of Food Network)

Ingredients
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
2 cups milk, plus more for serving
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed), plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Kosher salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds), for serving

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Directions
-Whisk the pumpkin puree, milk, 2 cups of water, the dried cranberries, brown sugar, pumpkin spice, vanilla and a large pinch of salt together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then add the oats and reduce the heat to medium-low
-Gently simmer, stirring frequently, until the oats are tender and the oatmeal is the consistency you like, 10 to 15 minutes (15 minutes for very thick oatmeal)
-Ladle the oatmeal into bowls and serve drizzled with milk and sprinkled with a little extra sugar and pumpkin seeds

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The only modification I made to this was I didn’t include the toasted pumpkin seeds – not for any particular reason except that I forgot to get them at the store – whoops…but I am thinking that if you don’t have them on hand, you can substitute sliced almonds or other nuts

My husband and I both really enjoyed the way that this turned out – the oats were well cooked and it wasn’t too thick – my husband’s only complaint was “too many raisins” but that is a matter of personal opinion I think! The spices and pumpkin taste weren’t too overpowering, and since I am an oatmeal LOVER – this really hit the spot!

 

Delicious breakfast – check! Now on to the COOKIES….

Last year I tried out these Salted Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cookies – and they had a nice cake-y texture and were overall a success. But personally, I prefer a more dense, thick cookie – which is what led me to this recipe for Pumpkin Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Someone is ready to help make cookies (and eat them!)

Pumpkin-Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (Recipe courtesy of Cooking Classy)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 14 minutes
Yield: About 4 dozen

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups packed light-brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger for 30 seconds, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy (occasionally stop and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl throughout entire mixing process). Blend in egg then blend in vanilla extract and pumpkin puree.

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Various stages of cookie dough – is there any sight more beautiful than when butter and sugar meet?

With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and pecans (if you want some chocolate to show through set some aside to press into tops before baking). Let batter rest 5 – 10 minutes (this just gives the oats some time to absorb the liquids so batter isn’t so sticky and cookies don’t spread so much)

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Before and after their time in the oven

Scoop dough out 2 Tbsp at a time (I used a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop, which I recommend using for evenly shaped cookies and fill it heaping), and drop onto Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 12 – 14 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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The deliciously moist finished product – oats, chocolate, pumpkin – what more could you want?

 Aside from the slightly selfish reason of wanting a dense cookie (which these definitely were by the way!), I wanted to make something my husband would enjoy but with a slightly fall twist – as his favorite cookie is oatmeal chocolate chip. He liked these too – and kept sneaking them off the rack when he thought I wasn’t looking! The pumpkin gave them a nice flavor but also helped to keep them moist and dense – and between the texture of the oats and the chocolate chips, I would say it’s definitely something I would make (and eat!) again!

The great thing about both of these recipes is that I had most of the items on hand, and the few items I needed (canned pumpkin and raisins) were easily and cheaply obtained. Overall these are both easy and would please just about any crowd – and are perfect for celebrating the best season of all – FALL!

Making The Most Out Of Fall With “Apple Brownies” and a DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte

14 Sep

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Apple season is in full swing here in Upstate NY – so every weekend I am out there picking, which is a great time – but what’s even MORE fun is then getting to figure out what new and delicious things I can make with the apples!

There’s always going to be apple pie, apple crisp (served warm with vanilla ice cream – yum!), applesauce, and apple butter – those are all basically a given, as I love to eat and share all of them with those I love – but I figure, why not try something different with this newest batch?

When I saw this recipe for Apple Brownies, my mind first assumed that it was a chocolate treat – but once I read the description that stated this was a recipe for a “Cinnamon-spiced blonde brownie” I was actually even more excited than when I was when I thought chocolate would be involved! A bar with nuts and apples sounds like the perfect fall treat, doesn’t it?

 

Apple Brownies (Recipe courtesy of All Recipes)

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
3 medium apples – peeled, cored and
thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×9 inch baking dish
2. In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter, sugar, and egg until fluffy. Fold in the apples and walnuts
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon
4. Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture until just blended. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking dish
5. Bake 35 minutes in the preheated oven (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean)

 20140914_090156  20140914_090605 My favorite little kitchen helper wants to make sure I don’t drop any apple peels…

I think what I like about this and other apple cakes/bars/cookies is that they really can be passed off as dessert, a snack, or even breakfast and they go well with milk, coffee, tea, or cider – so you can bake these for a ton of different occasions!

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They turned out so good – much more like a cake than a bar or brownie though- but that’s fine by me! the brown sugar gives it a nice caramelized taste, and the nuts are the perfect addition. Very moist, and if you pair paired with this delicious DIY pumpkin Spice Latte mix then you’ve basically got the perfect fall breakfast!

Pumpkin Spice Latte {homemade recipe for 1 week of yummy drinks!} – Recipe courtesy of A Farm Girl’s Dabbles.com

Ingredients
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 T. pure vanilla extract
1 T. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground dried ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
strong coffee
slightly sweetened whipped cream
cinnamon
dark chocolate shavings
Preparation
In a blender, combine all the pumpkin spice mixture ingredients. Puree for about 30 seconds. If you
want a smoother mixture, puree for a couple minutes, or until the mixture is to your desired
consistency.

Pour 1/2 cup (more or less, depending on your preference) of the pumpkin spice mixture into a large
mug. Microwave for about 20 seconds, then add 1 cup of hot strong brewed coffee and stir. Top with
a nice lofty pile of sweetened whipped cream. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. And if you’re looking for
extra deliciousness, top with chocolate shavings. So pretty!

Pour the remaining pumpkin spice mixture into a quart jar or similar sized container and top with a lid.
Store in the refrigerator. When ready to make another drink, shake the jar well and repeat the
assembly of the pumpkin spice latte. The pumpkin spice mixture will keep well for up to 1 week in the
refrigerator.

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Personally, I skipped the whipped cream and chocolate shavings – I wanted to just try the pumpkin latte mix without the frills (plus I always skip the whip on my Starbucks lattes – just doesn’t do it for me) and I really liked it, it wasn’t exactly like any of the coffeehouse versions – but I loved the pumpkin and cinnamon combo with my coffee – and I love that it will be good for the next week so I can start my mornings off the right way!

 

Fall is here – and I couldn’t be happier!

Ringing In Pumpkin Season With This Super Easy Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter

6 Sep

September = Fall. You may disagree with this statement, as I know fall doesn’t technically start until the later part of the month, but I don’t care. In my world, September is when it all begins – apple picking, pie making, pumpkin scented candles, pumpkin spice lattes (Starbucks helped me out with that one by releasing them early this year!), leaves changing, a cool crisp breeze in the air – it all adds up to the best season of all – and I am so glad it’s here once again!

Last year, I made tons of apple stuff – from Apple Crisp to Classic Apple Pie, to Applesauce and Apple Butter that I gave as Christmas gifts – let’s just say that we picked a LOT of apples, and not one of them went to waste!

This year, I want to try and focus a little more on Fall’s other signature flavor – the pumpkin! There’s always pumpkin pie or pumpkin cookies or pumpkin bread – all of which are amazing and delicious – but I thought maybe another item I could potentially jar and give as Christmas gifts might be just the ticket – so when I stumbled across this recipe for Pumpkin Butter I knew I had to try it out!

Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter (Recipe courtesy of Moms with Crockpots)

Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 5 hours

Ingredients
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
½ cup apple juice
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

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The ingredient list for this one is pretty simple!

Instructions
1. Set your crock pot on low heat.
2. In the bottom of the crock pot, thoroughly combine all of your ingredients.
3. Cover and let cook for about 5 hours, stirring occasionally, until pumpkin butter is thick enough to stick to
a spoon turned upside down.
4. Spoon pumpkin butter into a jar and let cool completely in the refrigerator before using.
5. It keeps in the refrigerator for up to one week or the freezer for up to 6 months.

I decided to double the recipe, since the ingredients are so few and cheap, and I figured if it turned out awesome then I would have twice as much to enjoy! So for whatever reason – I don’t have pumpkin pie spice at home – never have, I don’t know why – but luckily you can substitute the following to make the 3 teaspoons you need of pumpkin pie spice for the doubled recipe:
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

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The finished product. Doesn’t look like much really, but I really love the texture of it – it turned out really smooth and the flavors combined to make it a really delicious spread (which definitely took some time to thicken up – so don’t panic if you finish making it and its still hot and seems thin – it will get thicker as it cools!). The only change I would make is that I personally would add more of the pumpkin pie spice to it – as is its great, but a little more spice would kick it up into the next flavor dimension for sure! Next time I make it I will definitely be giving that a try

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This stuff would be great on bagels, bread/toast, english muffins, or even pancakes or french toast! Hmm…maybe I can convince my husband to bake us some delicious white bread to enjoy the pumpkin butter on…HAPPY FALL!