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Forgotten Sweets

27 Feb

I’m sitting at home, sick, well sick-ish. Sick enough that my throat is not allowing me to swallow and I sound like a freak, so definitely too sick to go talk on the radio for two hours today. But not sick enough to sleep all day or just be content watching movies in bed. Also I have no TV in my room.

Getting back on track here. I am well enough to realize that I never did my Christmas post and I’m very behind in dessert writing. Does it matter? No, but I like sharing my desserts, especially during lent when I can’t eat any. So this will be a slew of forgotten sweets. Whoops.

Let’s start with what I referred to as “Fake Christmas.” We celebrated Christmas with my immediate family – all 13 of us – on Michael’s birthday this year because when Christmas is on a Tuesday, things get messy. We were all busy on different days and couldn’t find the right time to exchange gifts, so we had fake Christmas and Michael’s birthday together on the 15th. It worked fine, but hopefully in the future, when Christmas is not on a dumb Tuesday, we will get it together.

I was extremely excited to make this three layer red velvet cake covered in chocolate! I saw it on Pinterest, which is where most of my dessert inspiration comes from these days. It was pretty easy and my nephews were mesmerized by the deep red color, and of course the puddle of chocolate ganache that covered everything. You should absolutely put this on your 2013 holiday baking list.

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Since we were also celebrating my brother’s birthday, I threw together some minty brownies, his favorite flavor combination. I’m not 100% sure but I believe these are my famous Bailey’s brownies with added dark chocolate and mint chips.

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And, to top off the day, I made some Christmas punch. I honestly don’t remember the entire recipe. I think it was raspberry sorbet, orange juice and sprite zero. I left it kid friendly, with the choice to add in some white wine for the rest of us. Madeline and Michael loved it, Michael forgot to put the wine in.

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On to real Christmas! Sugar cookies are a staple for our family. Though my mom debates me on this, I always say that these cookies are the only holiday cookies I remember from my childhood. Whether I’m right or wrong, they are the most important cookie of the season, and the only cookie I can guarantee my mom will help me with, on our scheduled Sugar Cookie Day, of course. At this point, we are pros. We have a huge assortment of cookie cutters and know which ones make the best cookies, though we do attempt to make snowflakes each year despite the high percentage possibility that they will break.

 

 

 

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I slacked off a little this year. I think I only made about 12 different cookies, when I prefer making 18. I know that sounds crazy, but once I cover the handful of cookies that I feel like I have to make each year, I want to experiment with new ones. This December was a little crazy and flew by super fast, so 12 was all I could bake. We all survived.

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I referred to these as pop tart cookies, though the recipe called them french toast cookies. These guys actually really frustrated me because I was trying to do too many things at once and forgot to add cinnamon to the batter, and then we accidentally thought they were sugar cookie dough rolls for a while, but in the end they turned out cute and different, which is always my goal. They were also pretty delicious – and my dad attempted to help me frost them. They were a little big, so I think people were less likely to grab them from the dessert buffet, but I was happy to have them as leftovers. Now I want a pop tart.

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I apologize that I can’t figure out how to flip this mouth-watering coffee cake picture. Good thing you are probably reading this from a lap top or a phone, you can rotate your device. I made this for my mom’s Christmas brunch with her friends, it was also super yummy, pecan cinnamon coffee cake. I do recall this recipe being very strange. I think I ended up mixing more of the dry ingredients in with the wet ones, so be careful with these instructions.

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My FAVORITE christmas dessert is a cranberry bliss bar. These are amazing and were developed to copy a Starbucks dessert. A delicious combination of dried cranberries, white chocolate and cream cheese. I find it so weird that I love these because I’m not a white chocolate fan and I do not like cream cheese. Weird, right? But these are a huge exception to those rules. I love them, so will you, that is all.

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More Bailey’s Brownies. What can I say? They’re really good and everyone needs extra Bailey’s at Christmas.

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Here begins a selection of drop cookies. Traditional Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Raisin, Mint Oreo Chocolate Cookies, (amazing even though I totally messed up the recipe) Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bark, and some sort of layer bar that I think I made from a few bags of leftover stuff. They were also really delicious and while I’m typing this I will try to find the recipes.

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I try to Pin all of the things I make so that I can find them later, success for this one. The bark was not supposed to be giant chunks. This is again what happens to me when I accidentally try to do nine million things at once. But you know what? This was the best tasting thing ever in life, so it’s ok. More odd shaped scraps for me and my dad.

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I adapted this recipe from the leftover things I had on hand: weird tasting chocolate marshmallows, super old coconut and chopped pecans. It was actually really really good. Kind of mushier than I think the crust was supposed to be, but another accidental taste of awesome.

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Dark Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookies. Growing up I never understood why Michael and my friend Stevie liked mint chocolate things so much. I hated them for about 16 years. Finally, I’ve come to my senses and realized the intense satisfaction that comes from mixing them together. Plus this recipe has crushed Oreos in it.

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Oatmeal cinnamon chip (an ingredient you must buy) raisin drop cookies can from the recipe on the cinnamon chip bag. Sometimes that is just the way to go.

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I used the “Mrs. Field’s” Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I found for Septemberfest for these guys. I think they were better as a giant bar, but still pretty good.

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I made these because I really like Pretzel M&Ms. I didn’t like them as much as my drop cookie recipe, but you live, you eat and you learn.

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Fudge. This is actually another recipe my mom made every year for christmas and I make at least 5… ok 10 times a year. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had it and you love it too.

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Is it a holiday without Oatberries? These were leftover from my unsuccessful attempt to be on the new CBS baking show. That was frustrating because the “taster” ate about 1/16 of one of these. At least I went to round two, that is my goal with most things in life.

 

 

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I was planning on adding my February desserts to this list but I’m too hungry now, plus it’s lent and I don’t know if I have the willpower to look at brownies any more. I still have 32 days left!

Hopefully you did not give up dessert for lent and since there is more snow on the ground than I’ve seen in two years, you can pretend it’s Christmas. Play some deck the halls and make one of these recipes – let me know how it goes!

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2013 Cupcakes

29 Jan

I totally forgot to tell you about my recipes for my New Year’s brunch. 

I wanted to make sure that the cupcakes I made were very moist since they were going to be served unfrosted. Even though some of my cupcake eaters are under five and would eat almost anything covered in frosting and toppings, I still wanted these to be delicious.

Since I was so concerned with the awesomeness of these cupcakes, I went to the cupcake queen for my big event. Martha Stewart.

There was some leftover buttermilk in the fridge from christmas cookie baking and luckily Martha had two perfect recipes for buttermilk cupcakes, one chocolate and one vanilla.. Thanks to google I found them in a few clicks and they were as perfect as I wanted. I even had guests take them home unfrosted. Cupcake success. Please bake these anytime you feel the urge for a baby cake!

It also turns out I completely forgot to write about Christmas cookies. Embarrassing, I’m adding that to my to-do list.

 

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Bear down with Brownies! And cupcakes and cookies!

13 Dec

December means a whole lot of fun for most people, celebrating holidays, enjoying peppermint mochas at Starbucks and of course devouring desserts. But if you know my brother, it also means the annual BEARS TAILGATE.

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This year was the Ninth Annual Bears Tailgate and it didn’t disappoint, well the Bears disappointed us, because they lost. But the event was still {almost} flawless. I will leave the disastrous defense, misplaced Michelle items, and the unforgettable yet difficult to remember details, out of this post, and instead tell you about the desserts I brought along. Since that is how I get my $10 discount.

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I decided to bring three different items since we were a bus of about 25 people, plus I’m always worried people won’t like things, so I bring multiples.

First up, my new favorite recipe – Bailey’s Brownies. These are pretty simple and ridiculously amazing. All you do is buy your favorite brownie mix and swap the water for Bailey’s. Don’t worry, kids can enjoy them, there’s only a shot or two in the entire box and the alcohol cooks out, but the flavor stays in and is such a complement to the chewy chocolate bites! I also added in chocolate chips to max out on the fun.

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Next, oatberries. Amanda Lee requested my signature cookie that she’d never tasted. She loved them – success.

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Finally I made some graham cracker cupcakes with green vanilla buttercream frosting topped with chocolate marshmallows that were supposed to look like footballs. These weren’t the best things I ever made because some of the bottoms burnt. Embarrassing I know, though I can probably say it was because I used foil cups – whoops, forgot I don’t like to use those.

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Also, the marshmallows were gross and no one knew they were footballs. And you know, there isn’t a 60, 70, 80 or 90 yard line on the football field. Fortunately I realized that one myself the night before the game, so at least I could laugh about my dumbness instead of having someone point it out to me!

As aforementioned, things were lost both physically and mentally, so I don’t know how many cupcakes were actually eaten, though I do know that a certain Termini dropped giardiniera on one of those 40 yardline-rs, so I made him eat that one, and the brownies were gone before kick-off!

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Thanksgiving Treats

28 Nov

Oh, Thanksgiving. My favorite, most delicious holiday, and the day I always make a dessert trifle.

All of you FRIENDS fans must remember the Thanksgiving episode where Rachel makes the crazy jam, custard and beef trifle. Since that is my favorite show of all time, and one of my favorite episodes, for that past six or so years I’ve been making a trifle to celebrate the holiday. No beef though, just sweetness.

I always make my trifle a little different, and this year I went with a simple combination of Bailey’s brownies, fresh whipped cream, melted chocolate and crushed mini Oreos.

Bailey’s in brownies is amazing, I’ve already made some for my next dessert event, so easy too! I just subbed most of the water in the recipe for the liquor. They smell and taste decadent.

My whipped cream recipe is simple as well. Just whip up some heavy cream with a spoonful of powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla. Be sure to chill the bowl and the whisk before beginning.

I really enjoyed the combination of thick brownies and lots and LOTS of whipped cream.

 

We also got together the Saturday after Thanksgiving at my house where I attempted to make French Silk pie. I figured it’s time for me to start working on some desserts I’m not too familiar with for my audition next weekend!

The crust was so easy and delicious. I used Carla Hall’s Perfect Pie Crust from The Chew. It was flawless. The flaws came later, when I attempted to make a filling from an App on my phone. Major fail, it was grainy and gross. Since I didn’t want to spend the entire night in the kitchen, I made a quick decision to melt an entire bag of milk chocolate chips and spread that in my crust, then I made some more whipped cream and topped it with that. Honestly I thought it was pretty delicious. It was nothing like french silk pie, but it was pretty yummy and I’d like some right now!

I also made mini pie crust cups for ice cream – loved these! Plus, they were great to send home with my nieces and nephews to enjoy whenever they wanted a crunchy cup.

Saturday morning I spent the day walking around Chicago tasting chocolate with my sister-in-law to be, Erin, so I have to say I had a really sugary few days – I hope you all had a sweet Thanksgiving weekend too!

Oh – and I made these mac & cheese cups as an appetizer!

And of course, honey butter!

Some Sweet Advice on Celebrations & Competitions

18 Nov

Three things inspired this post today.

First, Thanksgiving is coming! This year we are going to my aunt & uncle’s house, so I don’t need to worry about assisting my mom with mashed potatoes or mac & cheese. Instead I’m focusing all of my efforts on the sweet side of things, and of course, honey butter.

Second, my former high school Journalism teacher, Ms. Syed, started following me on Twitter and invited me to come to her 1st period class’s bake-off! I was more than honored to be invited. Unfortunately, the BIG Radio Shopping Show is too far away for me to make it from Conant to Aurora by 10am. After I regretfully declined, she asked me to give her bakers some advice.

Finally, I’m gearing up to audition for the CBS Baking Show in three weeks and have been thinking about practicing some sweets that I don’t make too often.

The two things on my plate plus Ms. Syed’s first hour freshmen reading students’ bake-off made me think of some important baking advice that I want to share with you guys. These are especially important around the holidays.

Practice what you’re going to make before the big holiday or competition. By this I don’t mean you need to make the exact same item beforehand, but what you can do is practice the technique. If you’re planning to make a pie, make a tart with the same dough a few weeks in advance. Maybe you’re going to have secret ingredients in the competition to make a drop cookie. Master the chocolate chipper before you go to the bake-off.

Know what you’re not good at. Personally, I’m not good at cheesecakes. I think I’ve made one successful cheesecake in my life and so if I were going to be providing dessert at a big event or proving I’m a good little baker, I wouldn’t start with this one. However, I should probably work on it for my audition.

Always have parchment paper on hand. Whether you’re putting together cookies, cakes, brownies or even covering pretzels in chocolate, you will always be more successful with parchment paper. Pause and actually cut the paper to the size you need. Take it from the girl who does everything too quickly, this is a step when you should breathe and slow down.

Make something you want to eat! The most fun and rewarding part of baking is eating the results, right? Even though baking doesn’t always give the same opportunities to taste test like cooking does, it’s good to have a reference point so that you know what it’s supposed to smell and look like. Then when you do taste it, you’ll know that you did a good job.

Have fun. Dessert is an extra. It isn’t required in life. It’s something you get to pick, plan and polish off. It makes people happy and hyper, that’s why it pairs so well with coffee. Everyone loves the person that brings desserts!

Good luck CHS bakers!

Two Bite Jiggler Shots

24 Aug

I thought the worst had happened.

Last Friday I was prepping for our annual Brewers tailgate and I couldn’t find my Jell-O lounge recipe for jiggler shots. I started freaking out a little because despite the countless times I’ve made these babies, I never bothered to memorize the ratio or boiling water to cold water to jell-o to alcohol. I panicked for five minutes and then I got to work with my best friend Google.

What I discovered is my dear Jell-O lounge doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe Kraft thought that Jell-O, generally marketed toward children, didn’t need its own adult-only section on their website. Obviously they are wrong, but it’s their company, so you know, I’m not going to write a complaint letter or anything.

Luckily I remembered the actual recipe title, Cosmo Bites, which I have never actually made. I always pick my own flavors of liquor and Jell-O mix. Google search Cosmos Bites and the recipe does still exist in the Kraft database!!

Remember what your teachers and parents tell you, what goes on the internet, stays on the internet. So who do I thank for my recipe discovery, Al Gore?

Anyway, back on track. I used leftover pear vodka from Elizabeth’s bachelorette party, strawberry Jell-O mix, the correct proportions of boiling and cold water, lime juice and a lot of silver tequila. I was going for a strawberry margarita flavor. They were delicious.

This picture shows I was slightly lazy when I made them, I didn’t know where my other baby muffin tins were so I just made an extra enormous shot. We are it with forks.

The rest are my favorite go-to two bite jiggler shots. Any suggestions for next weekend’s?

Only after I wrote everything above did I realize I never took a picture of my creations. I think this is a first. So here is a picture of last year’s jigglers, and two pics from last weekend – our tailgate group and the aftermath of the day. 

Testing…Testing

19 Aug

Last week I got a text message, “Why do my chocolate chip cookies always go flat on me?!”

I answered Elizabeth by sharing that the temperature of her butter or over-creaming the butter and sugar was probably the issue, and that lead me to my weekend cookie experiment.

I was in charge of cookies for our 3rd annual Brewers tailgate yesterday and I thought that was the perfect time to do some testing. First though, I had to fulfill a request of oatmeal butterscotch cookies. Thanks, Hershey’s.  (and so sorry for the blur, I may have been too excited to get on to my experiment to stand still)

Then I tackled my experiment. Since chocolate chips cookies are my fave and easily a crowd pleaser, I wasn’t worried about having too many cookies and grabbed two recipes for the weekend. First, the cold butter, puffy cookie, and second a softened butter, chewy cookie.

As the first recipe explains, you begin with chilled butter cut into cubes, much like pie crust, and the batter you create is thick and smooth, but tight, almost like a rough peanut butter.

These are pretty mess-less and easy to make because if you don’t have a cookie scooper or dough disher, you can roll these into balls without being sticky!

For the chewy cookies, look no further than Martha Stewart. I mean, she’s pretty much the cookie queen, right? This recipe was almost identical, except the recipe called for softened, room temperature butter and a deep creaming with the sugar, this dough looks a lot more like a thick cake batter and is prettttttty sticky!

Definitely needed a scooper to help me out here.

For both cookies I used half dark chocolate and half milk chocolate mini kisses, for scientific experiment consistency, of course. Plus, you know I like to mix things up.

The verdict? They were both delicious, but I kinda like the puffy ones better. It might’ve been the cuteness factor. Your thoughts?

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