Caramel Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Can you think of a more delicious-sounding cookie?? Perfect for fall. I found this recipe and it called for Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses. I know, I think they sound awesome too. Problem is, my Meijer doesn’t carry them. So I improvised, with caramel. They turned out fabulous. These are by far the best thing I’ve baked in a long time. So easy, and sooooo good. I made them for my coworkers as a little treat for completing the first quarter of school, and I’m pretty positive they’ll enjoy. You will too if you make these!! Happy eating. 🙂

Also I’m still playing around with my new fancy camera, so lots of photos in this post. Scroll down to the bottom for the recipe in its entirety.

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks Softened butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 12 oz bag chocolate chunk pieces
  • 12 oz bag caramel bits

Photo Instructions!!

Preheat oven to 350° F. (No photo for this). 😀

In stand mixer (or in a medium sized bowl if you’re poor like me and don’t own a fancy stand mixer), cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

Side note about me: I’m obsessed with brown sugar. Seriously. I eat it by the spoonful. Sick I know. But to me there is no happier sight in baking then that big lump of packed brown sugar. Mmmmmm. You know a recipe’s gonna be good!

Beat in eggs and vanilla

Add pumpkin and mix to combine. {Unpaid advertisement: The Pampered Chef measuring cup shown here is awesome. If you know someone that sells pampered chef you need to get one of these. You know how annoying it is to spoon something into a measuring cup and then spoon it out? Well this eliminates that! And it’s super easy to clean. The suction pushes all the pumpkin (or peanut butter, or whatever) out so you just wash off the top. And it measures liquids too! Seriously, go get one}

Place flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl, mix to combine then add slowly to wet ingredients.

Add chocolate chunks and caramel bits. Stir to combine.

Scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Space about an inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until brown around the edges.

Let cool on baking sheet for five minutes before moving to cooling rack.

Enjoy the awesome deliciousness that is packed inside each cookie.

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. In stand mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined, then add pumpkin.

2. Place flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg into large bowl. Mix to combine then slowly add wet ingredients, then chocolate and caramel. Mix only until just combined.

3. Scoop medium cookie scoop of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Space about an inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges just begin to brown. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls

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Give me a recipe with the words “Buffalo Chicken” in the title, and I’m going to want to try it. Buffalo Chicken dip with Frank’s Red Hot sauce has to be one of my favorite things. I think I could eat an entire crock-pot of the stuff. The problem is, it’s super calorie-laden and not good for my waistline. These lil’ guys come in at about 100 calories a piece, and I really liked them. I wouldn’t say they were overly easy to make, they definitely take some time to put together. Putting them together is not hard though, and I really enjoyed making them. Also I got a new fancy camera this weekend, so hopefully the quality of my food pics will improve. I highly recommend these for your next tailgate or get-together.

Yumm!

New format for this post: I’m going to post picture instructions, followed by typed instructions at the bottom.

Ingredients

  • 1 – 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • 1 cup of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • 1 – 2 cups Trader Joe’s Broccoli Slaw (or another dry slaw)
  • 4 oz blue cheese crumbles
  • Spring Roll Skins or wrappers

Photo Instructions

PreHeat the oven to 400°F, and gather your ingredients. (If you need a picture tutorial for this, you’re in trouble and probably shouldn’t attempt these bad boys).

Ingredients: Broccoli slaw, blue cheese crumbles, spring roll skins, and a bowl of shredded chicken saturated with Frank’s

I used spring roll skins that you have to wet before using. If you buy square wrappers from the refrigerated section, you will not need to follow all my steps about submerging the skins.

My prep station.

I used spring roll skins that you have to submerge in water in order for them to be pliable. That’s what my cake pan is for. If you get them too wet they’ll be sticky and harder to work with, so just briefly wet them.

This is what happens if you don’t wet the skins.

Next you’ll want to start putting your rolls together!! Here’s the fun part…

Start by putting a “clump” of the slaw about two inches from the bottom of the wrapper.

You don’t need to put in too much slaw. This pic is a bit too much slaw. It was my first roll, and if you put this much in, you’re going to have a long thick roll. A three-inch clump is what you should shoot for.

Top the slaw with the buffalo chicken. I used a fork to do this, otherwise it can get messy real fast.

Next top the chicken with the blue cheese crumbles. Then you start to roll…

Start by folding the left and right sides of the wrap up, then start from the bottom and roll the spring-roll up. If you use the refrigerated wraps, you’ll have to wet your finger and then wet the final edge to get the roll to stay wrapped up. Otherwise the skins I used were perfect. Not a single one fell apart.

Finished product!! (Almost)

Place the roll on a parchment-lined pan, and repeat the steps until all your rolls are finished. Then spray them with butter-flavored spray and bake for 12 – 15 minutes. Then enjoy!!!

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Mix the chicken and sauce together in a small bowl. You can add more or less sauce depending on how spicy you want the rolls to be.
  3. Get a station ready for assembling the rolls. You’ll need a shallow bowl or plate of water for the spring roll wraps, your slaw, chicken, blue cheese crumbles and a pan lined with parchment paper.
  4. Start by getting the paper ready by submerging it in the water. Then place it on your work station. Place a small amount of slaw in the bottom center of the wrap, about 2 inches from the bottom.
  5. Top the slaw with chicken and then blue cheese crumbles.
  6. Fold the right and left halves of the wrap over. Starting from the bottom, fold the wrap up, tucking in the sides if needed. Place the roll on the pan and repeat until you’ve created all your rolls.
  7. Spray the tops of the rolls with butter-flavored cooking spray and then bake for 12 – 15 minutes.

My Notes…

The rolls will not become a golden-brown like what you’re used to seeing. That’s because you’re baking them and not frying them. So don’t leave them in the oven until they become golden-brown on top because it will never happen. I cooked them until they were crispy on the edges. Sooo good! You could serve them with ranch or blue cheese dressing or whatever you normally enjoy with buffalo chicken.

Blackberry Bonanza

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I’m not a huge fan of fruit, but I do love me some blackberries. Tart, yet sweet, and totally popable. Also I have a strong emotional attachment to blackberries. My grandpa used to grow them, and when I was little we would go pick them. It was the biggest thrill to find a huge blackberry that wasn’t rotting or had a bite out of it. We would take the berries back to my mom and grandma and they would make a pie or cobbler or we would have blackberry shortcake. I very much prefer blackberry shortcake to strawberry shortcake. Given my affinity for this lil’ berry, I was anxious to try this recipe:Blackberry Crumb Bars. It’s from my girl Martha, and it was pretty easy. Great summer dessert. Also a great way to use up blackberries from the farmer’s market!!

 

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, and 1/2 cup (1 stick), room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 containers (5 ounces each) blackberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter and flour paper, tapping out excess.
  2. Make topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; add 1 cup flour, and mix with a fork until large moist crumbs form. Refrigerate topping until ready to use.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat room-temperature butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture. Spread batter evenly in pan; sprinkle with blackberries, then chilled topping.
  4. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares.

My Notes…

I used Pam to spray the parchment paper, and I didn’t flour it. I don’t think it’s really necessary with parchment paper. I thought these were really tasty, and the recipe is pretty straight forward. Also, I’m pretty lazy, and don’t usually mix the dry ingredients in a bowl before mixing them with the wet stuff. But that’s up to you. Personally I think it all gets mixed in, and I don’t like having to clean another bowl. Also, I cut these into much smaller bites. These are pretty rich with all the butter, but I enjoyed them.

Rocky Road Brownies

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Saturday I finished my second triathlon. I didn’t do as well as I wanted, but I thought that finishing the tri itself warranted some dessert. The triathlon was a 500 meter open water swim, followed by a 10 mile bike run, and then a 3 mile run.  I wasn’t as fit for this tri as I would have liked, but I’ve still been trying to eat 1200 calories a day.  But after busting my butt for an hour an a half, I felt like I deserve a calorie-counting free day and some chocolate.  If you’re calorie-counting, you might just want to stop reading now. These rich guys are definitely not for those dieting.  However, they were super, super easy to make, looked amazing, and you don’t even have to get out your stand or hand mixer. If you like rocky road, then you will definitely like these. I would absolutely make them again. Oh, giving credit where it’s due. I got these from the Martha Stewart website, but I tweaked the directions a bit, so you might want to check out my notes to simplify the process. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, such as cashews, pecans or walnuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.
  2. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water, combine butter and 1 cup chocolate chips. Heat, stirring occasionally, just until melted, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove mixture from heat; stir in sugars and salt, then eggs, and finally flour, stirring just until combined. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes
  4. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips, then marshmallows and nuts. Bake until chocolate is shiny and marshmallows are puffed, about 5 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares.

My Notes…

First of all, I did not have an 8 x 8 pan, so I used a 9 x 9 pan. I really preferred this (if you have the 9in pan) because these were so rich, that if they would have been thicker it would have been too much. Also I didn’t heat the chocolate chips over hot water. I used the microwave. I think it’s easier, and works well. Just follow the heating instructions on the package of chips. I used walnuts and thought they tasted great. It was nice to have the crunch with the chewy gooey goodness of the chocolate and marshmallows. Also, they’re difficult to cut, but cutting them in to 16ths makes huge brownies. I would recommend 25 brownies, or at least 20. Make sure you have some milk on hand. Good stuff.

Back to School Banana Cake

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August means only one thing to me: The end of summer vacation, and the beginning of a new school year. This is my sixth year of teaching, but this year is just so different from all the other years. I’m really excited about all the new techniques I’m going to try this year, as well as meeting all my new students. One of my favorite things about school is my lunch group. Every day I get to eat with the same group of teachers. Several of us have had lunch together since my first year of teaching at this school. Our lunch group is kinda notorious for being a little rambunctious and often inappropriate. And that’s why it’s my favorite part of the day. After minding every word you say around a bunch of middle schoolers, it’s nice to kick back and say what you want with your friends, if only for 20 minutes. In honor of the first day of school, I decided to make this cake for my lunch group. I’ve been dying to try it for a while because it just sounds so delicious. Also I had some brown bananas, so that was perfect. In my opinion it’s an impressive cake and very easy to do. I also think the icing/frosting would be great on other cakes. I had a great first day, and a slice of cake with my friends at lunch was just icing on the cake (pun intended).

Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Peanut Butter Frosting

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 Box of Yellow Cake Mix (See! Told you it was easy)
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup brown bananas, smashed
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips

Cake Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare pans. (I used two 9in rounds)
  2. Combine cake mix, oil, water, eggs, baking soda and cinnamon and beat on low for 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed a little bit and beat for 2 more minutes.
  3. Stir in the bananas and chocolate chips by hand.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Check with a toothpick to be sure your cake is finished.
  5. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then flip out on a wire rack to cool completely. Frost.

Icing Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 4 Tbsp. water
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Icing Instructions

  1. Cream butter and peanut butter.
  2. Add 2 Tbsp. water, salt, and vanilla and cream again.
  3. Slowly add the powdered sugar. After all the sugar is added, beat in another 1-2 Tbsp. water.
  4. Beat in the honey until creamy.

My Notes…

First of all, make sure you don’t prepare the cake according to the package. The measurements have been adjusted to compensate for the bananas. I wouldn’t recommend using regular chocolate chips over the mini. You could, but the mini’s are by far much better for this recipe. With the frosting, I didn’t have 4 cups of powdered sugar. I just used what I had, which was probably closer to 2 cups. I would recommend starting with 2 cups, and then adding more if you needs a thicker consistency. I thought mine was a little runnier than most icings, but the flavor was good (not too sweet), and it was great on the cake. It’s a rich cake, a little goes a long way. But if you like bananas, chocolate, and peanut butter this cake is for you! So good. I also sprinkled some of the mini chocolate chips on top of the cake if you’re confused by the photo. Why? Because I love chocolate and I could. I did not regret it.

Happy Birthday America!!

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American Flag Cheesecakes!

Ah The Fourth of July. Probably  my favorite holiday. Seriously. I think it’s because it’s so close to my birthday, but I love this day. Good food, time with friends and family, and fireworks. Since I was little I’ve loved the American Flag and the red-white-and-blue combo. When I was in second grade I dressed up as Betsy Ross for “Hero Day.” No joke. I was “that girl.” But anyways, I love this day. And what better way to celebrate today with some cute 4th of July treats!! These are an easy, but impressive treat. I posted this recipe earlier (see my Black-Bottom Mini Cheesecakes), but I made some changes for the 4th. Basically I wanted to make a red, white, and blue snack. So check it out and I hope everyone has a Fantastic Fourth!!

 

Ingredients

  • 9 Graham Crackers
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Blueberries and strawberries for topping

 

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with foil baking cups and spray the cups with vegetable oil spray. In a food processor, crush the graham crackers. Add the butter and process until fine crumbs form. Spoon the graham cracker crumbs into the prepared baking cups and press with the bottom of a glass to compact. Bake for 5 minutes, or until almost set. Leave the oven on.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the goat cheese, then add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  3. Pour the cheesecake batter into the baking cups, filling them three-quarters full.
  4. Bake the cheesecakes for 15 minutes, or until slightly jiggly in the center. Remove from oven and place your topping of choice on each cheesecake. Transfer the muffin tin to the freezer and chill the cheesecakes until set, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the cheesecakes from the pan and peel off the foil baking cups. Transfer the cheesecakes to a platter and serve.

    These can be refrigerated for up to four days.

My Notes…

If you don’t like goat cheese, you could easily use 6 ounces of cream cheese instead. I sliced the strawberries to get them to fit. These cheesecakes are pretty bland, so you might want to also use some strawberry jam in addition to the actual strawberries. As you can see from the photos I got 20 cheesecakes, I think the recipe definitely makes more than 12. Next time I want to try vanilla wafers as the crust instead of graham crackers.

 

Chocolate Cake with Caramel Icing

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The past few days have been insane. First of all, I got engaged. Unbelievable. Guess I’ll be cooking for two a lot more often. Secondly I turned 28 yesterday. Birthdays have never been a big deal in my family, but we do always have a cake. Last year I didn’t get any cake. This year I took matters into my own hands. Chocolate Cake with caramel icing has to be my favorite cake. This isn’t just any caramel icing. This is a labor of love. It takes a lot of love to make this icing, and the icing returns my love by being so delicious if it were in a jar, I would eat it straight out of the jar with my finger. Not a spoon, there wouldn’t be time for that. It’s just soooo good. Writing about it makes me want to go eat some. Now I wouldn’t say this cake is for everyone. My family raves about it, but outsiders have not been so enamored. Regardless, I love it. And I will be eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it is no more. If you’re going to attempt this icing, be sure to read my notes. As I said, it’s a labor of love. But it’s not unrequited I assure you.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of margarine or butter
  • 1 box of light brown sugar (2 1/4 cups/a 1lb box)
  • 1 5-oz can evaporated milk

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cook for 5 minutes or until “soft-ball” stage. (This means you can form a ball in cold water).
  3. Let cool and beat with a mixer until spreadable.

My Notes…

I learned how to make this icing from my mother, who learned how from her mother (my grandmother) and I’m not sure how far it goes back. It’s very rich, but oh so good. I like to make this icing when I have other chores around the kitchen or apartment to do. The reason is you really have to be patient with this icing. The best technique is to let it cool then beat for a few minutes. Let it cool some more, beat some more, cool, beat, cool, beat and on and on. It literally takes an hour or so to set up. So I will beat the icing, then unload the dishwasher. Beat the icing, take the clothes out of the dryer. Beat the icing, make myself a drink… You get the idea. If it’s really humid the icing will not set up, but it will still taste good. It will just be a tad runny on the cake.

A note on the chocolate cake: For yesterday’s cake I used a box of Devil’s Food Cake and then added a can of diet coke. This is one of my favorite cake tricks. You don’t use the oil, eggs or water. Just a can of diet coke. None of the calories, all of the chocolate cakey goodness. You could also use this trick with angel food cake or white cake and sprite or 7up. Make sure you let the cake cool completely before icing. I cannot imagine this rich icing on any cake other than chocolate (specifically Devil’s Food), but it would be good on sticky buns or cinnamon rolls I’m sure.