Newlyweds navigating their way through married life – and the kitchen

Category Archives: Desserts

groundhog cupcakes

“Rise and shine, campers, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today.”  (love that movie).  Happy GROUNDHOG DAY folks!

Ya gotta feel for poor Punxsutawney Phil – he lives in a hole, and the one time that anyone cares what he has to say is one day a year, when 9 times out of 10, he let’s us know that there will in fact be another 6 weeks of Winter.  And then everyone gets mad at him and he goes back in his hole all sad until next year.

Groundhog Cupcakes

I guess I have a weakness for furry animals with buck teeth.

Well today I’m giving Phil a shout out – these cute little Groundhog Cupcakes, adapted from an idea a co-worker sent me from Family Fun where they actually used chocolate pudding cups and Milano cookies, which is equally as fun and delicious!  But  I decided to up the anty a smidgen and make brownie cupcakes out of them.  The groundhogs take a bit of time to assemble, but once they’ve come to life, well they’re almost too cute to eat.  Almost I said.  Sorry Phil 🙂

Groundhog Cupcakes
Adapted from Family Fun

INGREDIENTS
*yields 12 cupcakes

1 box of your favorite brownie mix, prepared according to the instructions

12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

12 Nutter Butter cookies

sliced almonds (not slivered)

peanut butter chips

white chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

*green sprinkles or Oreo crumbles

1) Prepare your brownie mix according to instructions.  Take a 12-muffin tin, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and fill each muffin slot 2/3 way full with brownie batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a fork or toothpick comes out clean.

To assemble your groundhogs:

1) Start by taking 1/2 of the 12oz bag of chocolate chips (6oz) and melting them over a double boiler or in the microwave.  This chocolate will be used as the ‘glue’ to paste your eyes, cheeks, teeth, etc. to the groundhog.Groundhog Day Cupcakes

2) When the chocolate is melted, you can start putting his ‘face’ on.  Start with the teeth – find some broken almond pieces that kind of look like teeth and if you can’t find any, just take some of the slivers and break them. They don’t have to be perfect.  Take a toothpick, dip it in the melted chocolate, and dab a little bit of it on back of the almond and stick it in the center of the Nutter Butter, about half way down.

3) Then add the nose by taking another dab of chocolate and making a small circle right at the top of the teeth/almond.

4) Then add your ‘cheeks’ by cutting the tips off of 2 peanut butter chips so that they lay flat on the cookie.  Take another dab of chocolate to the side of the chip that you cut off, and then place a chip on either side of the almond teeth, underneath the nose, almost making a diamond shape.

5) Add your eyes by again, cutting the tips off of two white chocolate chips, dabbing chocolate on the cut side of the chip, and then gluing the eyes to the top part of the nutter butter.  Take another small dab of chocolate to make the ‘pupils’ of the eyes in the center of the white chips.

6) Lastly, take 2 sliced almonds and stick them on either side of the top of the nutter butter to make the ears.  They stick really nicely in the peanut butter so you won’t even need to use the chocolate to glue them in.

To assemble the cupcakes

1) Prepare your chocolate ganache topping by combining the remaining 6oz. of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup heavy cream in a double boiler, stirring until smooth.  Top each cupcake with the ganache so that it covers the entire cupcake top (it’s ok too if it spills over the sides).

2) While the ganache is still wet on the cupcake, sprinkle the green sprinkles (for grass – slightly unrealistic for Groundhog Day) or the Oreo crumbs (for dirt – I used sprinkles – trying to be optimistic about spring!).

3) Take each groundhog, cutting about 1/4 off the bottom (otherwise they’ll be a bit too tall for the cupcake) and sticking in the center of the cupcake, just so their heads are peeking out.

And the best part is that I made sure these guys did NOT see their shadow, so get your bikin’s out folks 🙂 Spring’s a comin’!


Peanut Butter & Nutella Bites

Sorry for the lull in Quinoa bite postage gang! But as with most things, I prefer saving the best for last – the DESSERT!

When I said that Quinoa is a power food, you probably assumed that all these bite recipes would be healthy and good for you. Well – all good things can go bad sometimes.  And when I say bad, I mean the good kind of bad – the AMAZING kind of bad.

Peanut Butter & Nutella Bites

I needed a ‘dessert’ quinoa bite.  So I thought of 2 of my favorite things on the planet – peanut butter and nutella – and then I went crazy – and crazy won – love when that happens!

Peanut Butter & Nutella Quinoa Bites

INGREDIENTS
*yields about 2 dozen bites

1 cup cooked quinoa, warm

1 cup quick oats

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup your favorite brand of creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup Nutella

2 cups corn flakes, crushed into crumbs
(preferably in a food processor)

6 oz. Dark chocolate for drizzle

1) While your Quinoa is still warm, place it in a large mixing bowl.  Add the quick oats, chocolate chips, peanut butter, nutella and corn flakes to the warm Quinoa (the heat from the Quinoa will help all the ingredients to combine together).

2) With a small spatula (or your hands!) mix all of the ingredients together until fully combined.  I started doing this with a spatula but then just went right in for the kill with my hands, and it made it much easier to combine the ingredients (and I got to lick them after!)

3) Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and chill it for about 1/2 hour in the refrigerator.  After the mixture has chilled, take a heaping tablespoon of the mixture, roll it between the palms of your hands to form a ball and place each ball on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.

4) Once all your balls have been formed, melt your chocolate in a double boiler and drizzle over the quinoa balls.  Can be served immediately or stored in the fridge for up to a week! (but trust me, they won’t last that long)

O.M.G.  When I tell you that these are amazing, I’m not lying.  The Corn Flake component may seem a little strange, but I felt the mixture needed a sort of ‘glue’ to hold it together, being that there were no eggs for this recipe.  The Corn Flake crumbs acted almost as bread crumbs do with meatballs, giving them some holding power and a little somethin’ more to sink your teeth into.

Peanut Butter & Nutella Bites

So there you have it folks – what’d we learn from this series?

Quinoa is DA’ BOMB!


Peanut Butter Oreo Truffles

Happy Friday everyone!  Here’s a Friday present for you:

4 ingredients.

4 steps.

1 of the most delicious tasting and easy desserts ever.  EVER.

Peanut Butter Oreo Truffles

INGREDIENTS
*yields about 20 truffles

 6oz of cream cheese (3/4 of an 8oz block)

1 regular sized package of Oreo cookies

1/2 cup of your favorite creamy peanut butter

12 oz. Milk Chocolate
(You could use a bag of Milk Chocolate chips, or, as I do most times when I use melted chocolate, about 3/4 of a  Trader Joe’s 1lb Belgian Chocolate Bars)

*Peanut Butter Drizzle
(an optional step that can be achieved with either Wilton’s Peanut Butter Flavored Candy Melts or by melting about 1/2 cup of peanut butter over low heat in a saucepan)

1) In a food processor, pulse your Oreo cookies until they become a fine crumb texture.

2) In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and peanut butter on low speed until fully combined and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Slowly add in the Oreo crumbs until a dough like mixture forms.

3) Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  Take about 2-3 tablespoons of the dough and roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball and place on the waxed paper.  Once all the dough has been shaped into balls, chill them in the freezer for 1/2 hr – 1 hr.  Cream cheese based dough can soften very quickly so this step is important!

4) While the dough is chilling, melt your chocolate in a double boiler.  After the balls have chilled, dip each one in the melted chocolate and place on the waxed paper to allow the chocolate to dry.

5)*Optional Step: If you’re feeling adventurous and want to add some peanut butter drizzle, you can either melt about 1/2 of a 12oz bag of Peanut Butter flavored candy melts or you can simply melt 1/2 cup of Peanut Butter over low heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly.  Then just dip the fork in the melted peanut butter and drizzle it over the truffles (these chocolate squeeze bottles also create a really nice drizzle effect – you can find them at any Michaels or A.C. Moore in the Cake decorating/candy making section).

Happy 1st Friday of 2013 everyone!


Homemade Oreo Cookies

There’s a lot of great things about Boston – one of them being Flour Bakery.  Joanne Chang, the owner and brains behind the operation, decided that her degree in Applied Mathematics & Economics from Harvard and thriving consulting career wasn’t making her jump out of bed with excitement every morning, so she decided to pursue her love of cooking.  And after spending several years at several jobs as a pastry chef in Boston and NYC, Flour was born – and it’s now one of the best bakeries in Boston (in my opinion anyway!), with three locations throughout the city and it’s very own cookbook! Love inspirational stories of success such as that one!

My first Flour experience was a mixed box of treats – one of them resembling a whoopie pie, one of my all-time favorite desserts.  But when I bit into it, it wasn’t in fact a whoopie pie – it was actually an Oreo! Tasting very similar to everyone’s favorite cream filled cookie, but softer and MUCH bigger – bonus!

I’ve been meaning to try these for years now so Christmas was the perfect opportunity to give them a whirl.  They took a bit of time to make, primarily because of the chilling time required for the dough, but I’ve always been a firm believer that patience is a virtue 🙂

Homemade Oreo Cookies
*Adapted from Flour Bakery’s Recipe

INGREDIENTS
*yields about 16-18 large oreos

For the Cookie

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

1 egg

1 & 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

For the Filling
(this is actually doubled from the original recipe – I prefer Double Stuff if ya know what I mean)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 & 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons milk or cream

2 Pinches salt

1) In a medium bowl, whisk the butter and the sugar until combined. Whisk in the vanilla and melted chocolate. Add the egg and stir until well blended.

2) In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to blend them. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. The finished dough should feel like Play-Doh. Cover the dough with plastic, and chill for 1 hour.

3) Place the dough on a long sheet of wax or parchment paper. Use your hands to shape it into a rough log, about 10 inches long and 2 & 1/2 inches in diameter. Place the log at the wide edge of the paper and roll it around the log. With your hands on the paper, roll the dough into a tighter log, keeping the diameter the same.

4) Refrigerate the log for at least 2 hours  – after 2 hours it should be firm enough to slice without crumbling.

5) Set the oven at 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

6) Remove the dough from the paper. Cut the log into 32 slices, each about 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick. Set them on the baking sheets 1 inch apart.

7) Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, checking them often after 15 minutes, or until they are firm when touched in the center. Let them cool completely on the sheets.

8) In the meantime, prepare the filling  – in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on low speed for half a minute. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth.

9) Beat in the milk and salt. The filling will be somewhat stiff and spackle’ish.

10) Place 2 tablespoons of filling on the flat side of 16 cookies. Press the remaining 16 cookies on the filling, flat sides against the cream, to evenly distribute the filling.  Be careful when pressing the top cookie down onto the filling.  I found that the stiff texture of the filling caused the top cookie to crack a little when I was pressing it down so just be gentle with it.

11) Store finished cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Safe to say you’ll never go back to store bought after having these puppies 🙂


New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

Coming down off of the Christmas High is like coming down from Prom when you’re in high school – or your wedding day – all the planning, the cooking, the baking, the wrapping, the shopping and then BOOM, it’s over like that.  But, the best part is that there’s only 364 more days until we can do it all over again!

Anyway though, I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas – we did a lot of eating, drinking, and traveling (not all in the same order) but it was a fantastic few days spent with family and friends.  I’m always sad to see it end, but it was great while it lasted.

Another thing that was done in abundance was BAKING – holy moses.  5 different cookies, which in reality doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re in the throws of flour, sugar, and butter, well you realize that it is in fact a.lot.  Some of the usual suspects showed their faces – Easier than Ina’s Pecan Squares & Chocolate Drizzled Macaroons, but a few new players were introduced to the rotation. And even though the Christmas Baking accessories have maybe been put away for the year, these are year-round winners.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who doesn’t love a Chocolate Chip Cookie – it seems like they’ve been around since the creation of man, and there’s probably some cave in the arctic that has the recipe chizzled on the walls.  But there are many many different versions of this all-time favorite circulating the earth.  Back in June, I tried these Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies  and mmm…they were good. But, anyone whose read this for a bit knows that many a recipe on this blog has been inspired or just flat out stolen from my friend Ashley, and this recipe is another ‘hot’ recipe of hers.  We were still rooommates when she first started making these ‘New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies’ and over the years, she has gotten them down to a science, experimenting with ingredients, cooking and dough-chilling times, literally perfecting this cookie.  The recipe differs from others in that it uses a combination of cake flour and bread flour vs. the standard all-purpose flour and it also adds the seemingly unlikely touch of salt on the tops of each cookie, which really adds a lot of dimension to the flavor.

They are worth their weight in gold (and whatever weight they add to your hips) 🙂

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
*Adapted from Jacques Torres & Chef Ashley Rogers

INGREDIENTS
*yields about 20 cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
*If you can’t find Cake Flour like me, this is a great alternative from Joy the Baker to make your own

1 & 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 & 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 & 1/2 sticks (1 & 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 & 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 & 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks, at least 60 percent cacao content
*I used the Ghiradelli 60% Cacoa discs

Kosher Salt

1) Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2) Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

3) Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and stir them in by hand with a wooden spoon.

4) Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

5) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

6) Take a 1/4 cup and measure out 6 mounds of dough (1/4 cup each – the size of generous golf balls), roll them into a ball, and place onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie.

7) Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and bake until golden brown on the edges but still soft in the center, about 16 to 18 minutes. Let cookies sit on sheets for a couple of minutes & then slip them onto a wire rack to cool.  Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

There were many tips both from the original recipe and from Ash that were useful, but above is exactly how I did them.  I think they key with these is experimentation, trying different baking & cooling times, on and off the baking sheet, as well as varying how long you chill the dough.  Personally though, I let this dough sit for just about 72 hours based on her recommendation as it allows the flavors to really meld together producing a really rich tasting cookie.  And the size of these may be off putting, but if you’re someone who likes a cookie with crunch edges and a soft, chewy interior, than these are your cookie.  You could certainly make them smaller though too.  Ash originally recommended measuring out 2.5 ounces of dough, but since I didn’t have a food scale I thought 1/4 cup would yield a healthy sized ball of dough and that amount seemed to work really well.  Also don’t be alarmed when the cookies come out, as they’ll still look a little undone in the center.  That’s what will make the chewy goodness when they’re cooled!

If you go make these now, your dough will be ready just in time for some gigundo NYE Chocolate Chip Cookies! Why would you start your diet now anyway? There’s still a few more days of holiday fun to be enjoyed 🙂


Angel Sugar Cookies

Last Friday started out like any other day a week and a half before Christmas at Sandy Hook Elementary School – Christmas pageant preparations – final touches on Christmas wish lists to Santa.  But it soon turned into a nightmare, a day that changed a community and the lives of 26 families forever, when 6 heroic faculty members and 20 innocent first graders lost their lives to an unspeakable tragedy.

Our hearts are heavy with a wide range of emotions being felt, not just here in New England, but all over the world.  That feeling of relief that it didn’t happen in our town, to our family or friends, that we can still hold our loved ones close to us, knowing that they’re safe, contrasts with the feeling of guilt that it wasn’t us who it happened to – that we still can hug and kiss our loved ones whenever we want, and that there are 26 families out there that will never have the chance to do that again.  The world can be a scary and confusing place sometimes, and in my 30 years on this planet, this is one of those times where I can’t seem to wrap my head around what has happened to these people, and why – why?

I know that no matter how many tears are shed, and screams of anger and frustration are uttered, it won’t change that they’re gone. But we can honor their memories in so many ways – and that is what these angel cookies are – 26 angel cookies for those 26 angels who were taken from us too soon.

Angel Sugar Cookies
*Adapted from Land O’ Lakes & Peppermint Plum

INGREDIENTS
*this is actually halved from the original recipe and strangely enough, made just about 26 angel cookies.  I think it would yield about 2 & 1/2 dozen medium sized sugar cookies though.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted utter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1.5 teaspoons. vanilla

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 & 3/4 cups flour

Wilton© White Chocolate melting discs

Flipz©  White Chocolate Covered Pretzels (2 bags)

Mini Chocolate Chips

Twizzler Pull & Peel Licorice

Various sprinkles

*Decorating these is obviously your choice! I kept it simple, but you could use different color frosting, sprinkles, get creative!

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and then the sour cream.

3) In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together the salt, baking soda, and flour, and add to the butter/sugar/egg/sour cream mixture.

3) Roll out on a WELL floured surface to about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. (this dough is pretty sticky and tough to handle, so make sure you have lots of flour!)  These are meant to be nice and thick and chewy so make sure to not roll the dough too thin.

4) First, cut out small circles for the angel heads with either a cookie cutter or you could even use a shot glass as your ‘cutter’ – about the diameter of a tablespoon (that’s what I did).  Carefully transfer with a spatula onto one cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.  Next, with the rest of the dough, cut out the angel bodies.  I actually used a gingerbread girl cutter that I had and just cut the arms off.  You could also just eye ball a triangle with a knife.

Angel Sugar Cookies

5) Bake these for only about 7-8 minutes.  They may still look undone, but that is what will make them chewy and soft, not overcooking them.  After 8 minutes, let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, and then remove them to a wire rack.

6) While the cookies are cooling, you can melt your candy melts in a double boiler.  Once the heads have cooled, you can ‘put their faces on’.  Dip the tops of the heads in chocolate and then in the sprinkles to make the ‘hair’.  Then, I used two mini chocolate chips for the eyes and a small piece of string licorice for the mouth (I used the pull & peel kind, since that’s a bit more pliable than the regular string licorice).  Simply dab a small amount of the white chocolate onto the face and then place the eyes and mouth on top.  Hold in place for about 30 seconds until the chocolate dries.  Get creative with these faces!  There’s so many fun things you can do!

Angel Sugar Cookies

7) To assemble the angel bodies, take 2 White Flipz, dip them in the melted chocolate, and then flip the angel body over and adhere them to the back of the cookie, holding for a few seconds to let them stick.  This will form the wings.  Then, dip the bottoms of each cookie in the melted chocolate and dip in sprinkles.  If you have left over chocolate like I did, you can drizzle it over the angel bodies to add some zing.  Get creative with this too!

Angel Sugar Cookies

8) Once you have your bodies and heads ready, take the remaining chocolate and smear a dab of it onto the back of the angel head, and then stick it on to the body.  Hold it there with your finger to hold in place until it sticks.  And there you will have your angels 🙂

Couple Tips for these:

1) I personally thought it was easier to prepare the heads and bodies separately and then stick them together, but you could also put the head on top of the body and bake them together as one cookie, vs. having to assemble them later.  Might save you some time.

2) For the mouths, I used the Licorice, however, I would recommend just getting one of those mini tubes of red or pink frosting for the mouth of each angel.  Trying to get the licorice to stick was somewhat of a trying process, so I think the frosting would be a lot simpler and look just as cute!

Angel Sugar Cookies

While these were time consuming and a bit of a process, even on a Monday night after a full day of work, I didn’t mind it.  It was almost theraputic in a way, watching each little angel come to life.  This really is a fantastic sugar cookie recipe though, for any cookie decorating you’re planning to do with the kids.  And with these angels, you can really let them get creative with different frosting/sprinkles/hair color/etc.  I decided not to add Halos onto these angels, but you could certainly do that as well.

They certainly weren’t the most perfect looking angels in the world – they were different shapes and sizes – some of their eyes were closer together than others – but the same can be said about all the boys and girls that lost their life on Friday – they were all different shapes and sizes with their own personalities and smiles, and as angels, they’ll be just the same 🙂


Mint Cookie Dough Ball

When I was young, there were many things that I wasn’t able to do because I was “too young” – and I swore, when I got older, G’damnit I was gonna DO IT! Stupid things like staying up late – eating McDonalds as many times a week as I wanted – and eating as much raw cookie dough as I could stand whenever making cookies.

For some reason, I have vivid memories of  making cookies with my mom when I was a wee young thing, and always wanting to stick my face in that buttery, sugary chocolate chipy goodness that was the cookie dough, right before it went into the oven.  Or when we did slice and bake, I always thought “One slice for me, one slice for the oven” – but nooooooo – “you’ll get a tummy ache” – “that’s not good for you” – “get your fingers out of there!” – augh, the trials and tribulations of my adolescence.

I found one of the most sinful and genius looking concoctions on Picky Palate’s blog for a Peppermint Crunch Cookie Dough Ball – um, WHAT? I suspect maybe she was denied many a raw cookie dough sample as a child too to come up with this amazingly genius idea for indulging in cookie dough without worrying about the raw eggs.   I modified hers a smidgen, to still be minty, but CHOCOLATEY instead and all I can say is, take that mom!

Mint Chocolate Cookie Dough Ball
*Adapted from Picky Palate

INGREDIENTS

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon mint extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup your favorite brownie mix
(I used Ghiradelli)

1 cup mini-chocolate chips

8-10 Andes Mints, chopped into small pieces

*Confectioners Sugar

Mint Cookie Dough Ball

1) In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined and fluffy.  Then add the mint extract.

2) In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the salt, flour and brownie mix.  Then add gradually to the butter and sugar mixture and mix on low speed until all the ingredients start to combine together.

3) When the dough starts to form, you can add the mini chips and Andes Mints and mix by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

4) Transfer the dough onto a piece of wax paper and form into a ball with your hands.  The dough will be quite sticky, so I layed some confectioners sugar out (not a lot, just enough to lessen the stickiness – probably about 1 or 2 tablespoons) and rolled the dough in that, just to take the sticky edge off.

5) Roll the dough ball in fun Christmas sprinkles or leave as is!  Serve with Oreos, animal crackers, graham crackers…the options are endless.

I felt like a kid again last night, licking my fingers eating as much of this delicious dough as  I wanted without anyone telling me I couldn’t! Oh what fun!

But, after one too many dips and a lingering sugar hangover today, it didn’t take long for me to realize that most times in life, you should listen to your mom 🙂

*Many apologies for the meh photos – don’t let this stop you from trying this recipe! It’s delicious! Hairy and I were partying late last night while Dave was at his Hockey Game and my pictures suffered as a result…

Mint Cookie Dough Ball


Lemon Surprise CookiesMy Uncle Jimmy is a great and funny guy – a creature of habit if you will.

On summer days when I’d be over playing with my cousins Erin and Jen, he’d come home from work every day at noon on the dot, watch t.v. for a bit, and eat his lunch with one of ten bags of ‘Tri-Sum’ potato chips on top of the fridge.  At every holiday, when stocking the fridge or cooler, you’d see at least 1 liter or a few cans of Coke, an Uncle Jimmy necessity.  There’s a comfort in people like my Uncle Jim, in their predictability and routine – they make you feel like in this crazy world we live in that changes every hour of every day, that as long as there’s ice-cold Coke in the fridge and potato chips for lunch, than all will be o.k with the world.

But….since he’s retired….he’s gone a little crazy….

Lemon Surprise Cookies

…doing things like growing goatees – going to Ireland for bachelor parties and drinking whisky! WITHOUT Coke! And much to my delight, he’s developed a knack for baking, which I discovered at Thanksgiving.

Of 75 desserts on the table, you really need to strategize your plan of attack.  But there was one dessert on the table that I noticed was new, not one of the old stand by’s like my Aunt Kathy’s Eclair Ring or my cousin Jen’s picture perfect trifle.  These little bite size, ball shaped cookies with chocolate drizzle.  I popped one in my mouth, and not only was it delicious, but it had a surprise chocolate kiss interior – and after I ate about 1/2 dozen of them I said “ok, who made these?”  And who was the culprit?

Uncle Jim.  Who knew?

Now this past weekend, I tried making them for a cookie swap.  I followed the recipe to a T and waited with baited breath for them to come out of the oven.  But when it was time to take them out, they looked NOTHING like Uncle Jim’s – TASTED nothing like them either – they were a hot mess of cookie, pun intended.  Honestly, I have no idea what happened.  My theory is that perhaps I chilled the dough for too long (the original recipe called for some chilling time to make the dough easier to handle, which is pretty standard with shortbread recipes) Disappointed was an understatement, because I was so excited to showcase these.

I woke up Sunday morning though, feeling determined to get these right, so I tried AGAIN using a different shortbread recipe, this time not chilling the dough and making a few other changes here and there, and B.I.N.G.O! Success!

Lemon Surprise Cookies
*Uncle Jim (and pillsbury & simple bites)

INGREDIENTS
*makes about 6 dozen

3 sticks of unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon extract

3 & 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 bag (13 oz) KISSES® milk chocolates, unwrapped

Powdered sugar

8 oz. milk chocolate, melted
(about 1/2 bag chocolate chips – I used Trader Joe’s 1lb Milk Chocolate Bar)

Lemon Surprise Cookies

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the lemon extract.

3) In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.

4) Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and bring everything together with your hands.  Take about 1/2 tbsp. of the dough and wrap it around the hershey kiss.
*This step is key, as you really only want enough dough to just cover the hershey kiss.  If you use too much dough (which is another mistake I made first time around) the shortbread will flatten out on the bottom, making the finished product look more like little hats instead of balls. 

5) Take the dough-wrapped hershey kiss and roll it in between the palms of your hands to form a ball.  Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

6) Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set and bottom edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute then remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely, about 15 minutes on wire racks.

7) Lightly sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar. In a double boiler or microwave, melt the chocolate and drizzle over each cookie.

Lemon Surprise Cookies

While being slightly labor intensive, the end result is well worth it as this slightly lemon flavored shortbread has a chocolatey surprise center and the recipe makes a TON, so they’re perfect for gift giving or swapping – 1 batch will make more cookies than you’ll know what to do with!

So thanks for the recipe Uncle Jim! Keep livin’ that ‘crazy’ retired life – it looks good on you 🙂


Snowman Cake Balls

I’ve mentioned my cousin Erin before in my ‘Easier Than Ina’s Pecan Squares‘ post a while back.  Well, she’s getting a shout out again.  Erin lives in L.A, doing casting for all kinds of fun shows like Hell’s Kitchen, Nanny 911 and even the Biggest Loser (which clearly is a conflict of interest based on her baking talents) and the few times a year that she’s home, I think myself and the rest of my family feel like it’s our celebrity family member coming home from Hollywood to grace us with her presence and fill us in on all the latest goings on in Tinsel Town.

kateerinLike any hot L.A. celeb, Erin’s always reinventing herself and her style, rocking the sassiest of outfits and accessories that only someone who lived in L.A could pull off.  So in addition to guessing what color nail polish and lipstick she’ll be wearing when she comes home, we also loveeeee being ‘tasting guinea pigs’ to all her latest baked goodies from her side business, BellaBoos Bakery.  And she never disappoints in that department either.  The dessert table grows exponentially any time Erin’s home for the holidays, and last year, it grew to include these ADORABLE snowmen cake pops, almost too cute to eat, but let’s be honest – nothing is that cute 🙂

Snowman Cake Balls (or pops)
*My Celebrity Baker Cousin Erin

INGREDIENTS
*yields 18 snowmen

1 box cake mix, made according to instructions
(I used chocolate devils food cake mix)

1/2 cup of chocolate frosting (or flavor of your choice)

White melting chocolate
(I used Wilton’s white chocolate melting discs (2 – 12oz bags) – I would HIGHLY recommend using these…you’ll see why later)

Oreo cookies, 2 sizes – the mini sized and regular sized ones

Mini chocolate chips

orange tic-tacs

Snowman Cake Balls

1) Prepare your cake mix according to the instructions.  Once it has baked and cooled, crumble it up into pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.

2) Add frosting to the cake – a lot of recipes for cake balls/pops call for the entire can of frosting, however I think this is far too much.  I only used 1/2 cup and it was plenty.  The cake itself is already quite moist, so personally, I think too much frosting can make it too mooshy, but start with 1/2 cup and feel free to add more until your cake ball dough reaches your desired consistency.

3) Take a good scoop of the dough (maybe 1/4 cup or so, depending on how large you want your snowmen to be – 1/4 cup will yield about 18 balls/snowmen) and roll it into a ball.  Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Once all your balls have been rolled, place them in the fridge to chill for about an hour (this just ensures that they’ll stay together when you dip them in the chocolate).

4) While your balls are chilling, prep your ‘top hats’ by pulling apart an Oreo cookie, scraping the cream off the sides, and placing the single cookie on wax paper, with a mini oreo on top.

5) Melt your chocolate discs in a double boiler.  Once your chocolate has melted, start by taking just a little smidge of it to fuse the mini oreo to the larger one to make your hats.  Then, with the remaining chocolate, dip your chilled cake balls in the chocolate with a toothpick or skewer of some sort, letting the excess chocolate drip a bit, then placing them on the wax paper.

6) Take your mini chocolate chips, making 2 eyes, a mouth, and then stick the orange tic tac in the center to make his ‘nose’.  For the final touch, put that top hat on Frosty’s head – it’s winter for goodness sakes! Heat escapes through your head! (even if you are a snowman)

I must admit, these snowmen caused some heartache and frustration, and the source of that was brought on by the seemingly difficult task of melting white chocolate.  I never have problems with milk or dark, but white….ohhhhh white….pain in my rump.

On my first try, I actually used Ghiradelli White Chocolate Chips.  When I melted them in the double boiler, they turned to a big pasty ball of yuckniess, and I tried to remedy this by adding cream, which seemed to do the trick, however, when I went to dip the snowmen, well, let’s just say the finished product looked like a snowman does in March (see below)

Snowman Cake Balls

sad, melty snowman

So I sent a frustrated email the next morning to none other than celebrity baker cousin Erin, and this is what she said:

Picture1

She typed the words right out of my mouth.

So to Michaels I went, gave it another go last night and the results were amazing! My sad, melty snowman became the happy, smiling ball of white stuff that I knew he was meant to be 🙂

Snowman Cake Balls

“And the children say he could laugh and play just the same as you and me!”

By the end of the night, I couldn’t help but smile back at Frosty – he just looked so happy….

But then I ate him…and one of his friends…I think getting eaten is a lot less painful than a slow melty death don’t you?


y Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I’ve mentioned before that my family is pretty serious about desserts – well, they’re even more serious about cookie swaps, or so I learned this weekend.

My Grammy Murphy is quite the grandmother – she was the first of anyone to get AOL, email and a ‘screen name’, her recipes for things like whoopie pies and pecan rolls are legendary (even though they never taste quite as good as when she makes them), and at 84, she still manages to have more style than I will ever have in my entire lifetime.  AND, her new digs at the Assisted Living facility she just recently moved into are straight up 5-star, making Dave and I’s ‘love nest’ look like just that – a nest – made of sticks – where birds live.  But if anyone deserves a sweet pad to hang their hat, it’s grammy Murphy – so that makes me just a little less bitter about it 🙂

My mom organized a cookie swap with all my Aunt’s this weekend to put some trays together for all those fab people who are there to help my grandparents on a day -to-day basis and everyone dawned their best baked goods and prettiest bows and ribbons to make some seriously good looking goody trays.  cookie swapComing from a family that loves to bake, I think that the best part of the holiday season is that a huge tray of freshly baked treats wrapped up in cellophane and tied with a bow can be just as great a gift as a cashmere scarf or that blender you’ve been eyeing all year – and appreciated just as much, if not more, because there’s the added ingredient of TLC in them!

One of my favorites are these amazingly easy to make Chocolate Dipped Pretzels.  I can’t remember when my cousin Jen started making these, but like many other things in the Murphy Family, they must be present on the dessert table for at least one Holiday to avoid stomping, shouting and crying fits – and that’s just my reaction!  Pretty basic I know – pretzel – chocolate – dip – let dry – repeat.  But, she took them to a new level by adding fun toppings and even hidden surprises like a slab of peanut butter hidden under the chocolate.  So while being visually appealing, they’re equally as tummy appealing, especially when you bite into one and say “Wait, is that….is THAT what I think it is?”.

Holiday Chocolate Pretzels
* Adapted from my cousin Jen (if you think these are good, you should see her Trifle!) and Twist, A Unique Approach to Pretzels

INGREDIENTS

mini salted pretzels

milk/dark/white chocolate (one or all three!)
*again, I use the Trader Joe’s 1lb chocolate bars and Ghiradellis’ White Chocolate Chips

Toppings galore!
*For today, I chose Holiday Sprinkles, Heath Bits, Chopped Almonds, Coconut, Peanut Butter, Fluff and Nutella, but seriously, sky is the limitChocolate Covered Pretzels

1) Lay out your pretzels on wax paper-lined cookie sheets or wire racks.

2) In a double boiler (or in the microwave), temper your chocolate.  To temper, take about 2/3 of the chocolate and place it in the double boiler (or microwave-safe dish). When the chocolate starts to really melt, remove it from the heat and add the remaining unmelted chocolate to the pan, stirring constantly until it melts into the melted stuff.  The tempering will provide a nice shiny looking chocolate and avoid those unsightly little white spots that can sometimes pop up on chocolate.  If you’re doing 2 or 3 different kinds of chocolate, be sure to repeat this process with each kind.

3) Assemble your pretzels:

For the Peanut Butter/Fluff pretzel – on one half of your pretzel, take about 1/2 tsp. of peanut butter and 1/2 tsp. of fluff, and stick them on the 1/2 of the pretzel that will go in the chocolate.  Then dip that side in the chocolate and place on wax paper to dry.  Top with sprinkles (or if you’re feeling really fiesty, mini peanut butter chocolate chips or rescees pieces!)

For the Nutella Pretzel – repeat the same process as above, only with Nutella.  Top with sprinkles like I did, or for the fiesty (and not cheap like I am) dipper, sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts on the top.

For the Heath Bar Pretzel – dip pretzel in chocolate (with no filling) and sprinkle with Heath Bits (you can find those in the baking section a the grocery store)

For the Almond Joy Pretzel – same as above, and sprinkle with chopped almonds (I used the sliced almonds) and coconut

y Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Honestly people, I think the thing I love so much about these is that your options are essentially endless – I had soooo many other ideas but 1) it’s a week night and 2) I still have a sugar hangover from the swap yesterday, so I kept my pretzels to a minimum.  But really, you could do a spin on the last post, and do Dark Mint Chocolate with either Oreo crumbles or Peppermint bits.  These are fun, so easy, and a serious crowd pleaser.  Who doesn’t love Chocolate Covered Pretzels? I mean, really?  They also wrap/travel really well, so load them into a holiday tin with some wax paper, or a fun jar with a snap top!

ay Chocolate Covered Pretzels

So shake up your Cookie Swap this year – be the mysterious swapper that brings Chocolate Pretzels instead of Chocolate Chip Cookies or Peanut Butter Kisses – make them wonder – and drool at the same time 🙂



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