Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola

As of today I’ve been in Destin, Florida for five days.  Surprise!  Jealous?  You should be, it’s awesome here.  Sun, sand, emerald blue water and doing a whole lot of nothing.  It’s been glorious.  But of course I had to take a little time out of my day and tell you all about a little road trippin’ snack I made.

See Jeremy and I are actually pretty health conscious (despite what I blog about) and have been getting in shape for this vacation for awhile.  Knowing that we would be in the car for 12+ hours, I wanted something healthy to snack on should hunger strike.  And let’s face it, the healthy options at a 7-Eleven are pretty much limited to the bottled water.  We had to be prepared!

So I thought a nice snack would be homemade granola.  I’ve seen a few recipes but never attempted it myself, so after doing some research I found one that sounded like it had potential and was super versatile (because no way in heck was I NOT going to change the recipe!).  I started with Playgroup Granola Bars from Allrecipes.com.  I modified it alot but the bones of the recipe were great…the granola turned out awesome!  I could not keep my hands out of it and seriously didn’t know if there would be any left by the time we actually got on the road.  And yes, this recipe is healthy.  But healthy can taste really, really good.  Like, “no way can this be healthy” good.  Eat it by the handful or pour some milk over it and enjoy it for breakfast.  And DO play with the recipe…experiment with flavors and ingredients!

Enjoy!

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola
Author: 
Category: Breakfast, Snack, Dessert
10 cups
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Thick Rolled Oats
  • 2 c. Hard Red Wheat Flakes
  • ½ c. 7-Grain Mix (If you can't find it at your local health food store, substitute Wheat Germ or Flax Seed)
  • 2 c. White Whole Wheat Flour (I like King Arthur)
  • 1½ t. Salt
  • ½ c. Sugar in the Raw
  • ¼ c. Cocoa Powder
  • ½ c. Chocolate Protein Powder (I like the All Natural Chocolate Muscle Milk)
  • 2 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¾ c. Honey
  • ¼ c. Safflower Oil
  • ¼ c. Peanut Oil
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ c. All-Natural Peanut Butter
  • ½ c. All-Natural Dry-Roasted Peanuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oats and the next 7 ingredients.
  3. In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the eggs and the next 5 ingredients.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread evenly into the cookie sheet, pressing down with the back of a spoon or your hands. Sprinkle the dry-roasted peanuts on top and gently press into the mixture. Bake for 22 minutes and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, or until the granola is cool enough to handle.
  5. Get another cookie sheet and break up the granola into small pieces (the peanuts will probably fall off but that's ok), dividing between the two cookie sheets. Bake both cookie sheets of granola for another 10 minutes. Let cool completely and store in an air-tight bag.

 

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Peanut Butter Ice Pops

Apparently ice pops are all the rage right now, from homemade to artisan pops created by companies like people’s pops.  And with the crazy hot weather we’re in the middle of, I’m thinking about making some myself.  Maybe I’ll start with this recipe from Serious Eats for Peanut Butter Ice Pops.  They look and sound cool, refreshing and just the teensiest bit indulgent without breaking the calorie bank (I mean we are in the middle of bikini season after all!).  Find the link to these yummy little treats below.  Happy Wednesday!

Peanut Butter Ice Pops

 

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DIY Cake Stand

(Colorful Tiered Stands by Joy’s Hope)

A couple months ago I happened to see a picture on Facebook of a cake stand that one of my friend’s had made.  Yes, made.  How you ask?  She simply glued a candlestick to the bottom of a plate and voila!  Cake stand!  So naturally I was intrigued as I absolutely love cake stands and would buy them all if I could.   And the basic premise seems simple enough:  buy cheap, vintage cake plate, glue to cheap vintage candlestick.  Well, I set out this weekend to do a little vintage shopping and about two hours into my search I came to the conclusion that I’d rather shell out $30-45 bucks for a brand new one instead of searching through antique store after antique store for something that was kinda, sorta cute and might possibly work even though I’d really like to spray paint it or alter it in some major way.  I mean, this is supposed to be easy right?  Shop, buy, glue.  That’s it!  Right???

Well, I might have been in too much of a hurry or just simply didn’t want to take spend the money on “vintage” items (we’re talking at least $3 for a semi-ugly candlestick and another $7-15 for a somewhat decent vintage plate…a look I’ve discovered I’m not that into) but I soon gave up trying my hand at this little DIY craft and decided to just share some links with you all that I found, should you decide to do it and have better luck for materials than I did.

I still think the idea is awesome and want to try it, I just need more time to shop and plan.  In the meantime, check out these uber-talented crafty blogs.  Let me know if you try it–I’d love to see a picture of what you come up with!

1. Vintage Stands

2. Wooden Tiered Stands

 

 

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35th Anniversary Celebration

Yesterday was my parent’s 35th anniversary and we celebrated at a place called Marina Cafe, one of my families favorite restaurants in Destin, FL.  The food is superb and the view of the harbor tops it all off.  We surprised my parents with two amazing desserts, White Chocolate Macadamia Cheesecake and Rum Raisin Bread Pudding Souffle with Caramelized  Bananas.  They were two of the best desserts I have ever had.  If you’re ever in Destin, be sure and put this on your list of must-go-to restaurants.

It was a special night, with two of the best parents in the world.  Love you mom and dad…happy anniversary!

 

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N.Y. Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under but apparently there was a chocolate chip cookie recipe in the New York Times a few years ago that everybody went crazy over.  Who knew?  So I finally got around to trying the famous recipe to see what all the hype was about.  These cookies are interesting because they call for two different kinds of flours, cake flour and bread flour.  Cake flour produces a very tender baked good and bread flour is used for more of a chewy factor.  The recipe also called for sea salt sprinkled on top but I omitted that…just didn’t really appeal to me.  The cookies are supposed to be huge but I scaled mine down a bit just to make them go further.  And finally, the dough has to sit in the fridge for 24-36 hours.  I only was able to do 30 hours but I’ve read that the longer, the better.

The cookie was really good.  To be honest, it reminded me alot of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe that is a regular in my baking rotation.  I think I’ll most likely make them again and follow the recipe exactly as written just to see if it makes any difference (you can see the original recipe here).  Enjoy!

N.Y. Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
Author: 
Category: Dessert
32
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. minus 1 T. Cake Flour
  • ½ plus ⅓ c. Bread Flour
  • ½ plus ⅛ t. Baking Soda
  • ¾ t. Baking Powder
  • ¾ t. Salt
  • 1 stick plus 2 T. Unsalted Butter
  • ½ c. plus 2 T. Light Brown Sugar
  • ½ c. plus 1 T. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 c. each Bittersweet and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
Instructions
  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 egg, mixing well. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Stir in bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate chips. 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.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  4. The dough will be quite stiff (I had to use a knife to break mine up). Break off a piece about 1½ in. and use your hands to form a ball. Place on baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating and transferring the pans to different racks halfway through. Let cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.

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Almond Joy Truffles

Homemade candy is one of my all-time favorite things to make.  I started making my own candy at home about 5 or 6 years ago and have loved it ever since.  In the beginning, I even took a couple of classes through a local college in town, which was a lot of fun and I definitely managed to pick up some good tips that I still use to this day.  Part of what I love about making candy (and even baking) is that there really is a science behind it…ingredients have to be weighed and measured properly, mixing of ingredients has to occur in a certain pattern and temperatures have to be just right to get the kind of candy you want, whether soft, chewy, hard, etc.

It all sounds kind of intimidating at first but all it takes is a little reading and testing out a few recipes and before you know it you’ll be making your own homemade caramel, marshmallows, peanut brittle or whatever candy you crave and impressing everyone you know!

So today I’m sharing a very simple recipe for Almond Joy Truffles.  This was one of the first things I made in my candy making class years ago and I still love it.  These little coconut bites taste just like the candy bar you can get in your local grocery store…only without all the extra junk they tend to put in.  I put toasted almond slivers on top of mine but if you’re not a nut fan, sprinkle them with toasted coconut or drizzle with white chocolate.  Very pretty and tasty.  Enjoy!

Almond Joy Truffles
Author: 
Category: Homemade Candy
25 pcs
 
Ingredients
  • 2½ c. Dessicated (Unsweetened) Coconut
  • ¾ c. Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 lb. Good Quality Milk or Dark Chocolate Coating
  • Slivered Almonds, toasted (or toasted coconut, white chocolate, etc)
Instructions
  1. Place coconut in a medium bowl. Bring the corn syrup to a boil over high heat. Pour the corn syrup over the coconut and gently mix to coat. Let this sit for at least one hour.
  2. Melt chocolate in a bowl in the microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each time until completely smooth and melted. Roll the coconut into small balls and dip in the chocolate. Top immediately with one almond sliver (or whatever you are using) and let dry completely on foil.

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The Catering Divas Divalicious Bake Shoppe

I had heard about a new bakery in Hollister, MO, The Catering Divas Divalicious Bake Shoppe (what a name!) and got my chance to stop in and visit a couple weekends ago after a trip to White Water in Branson with my sister and her husband.  I felt a little bad dragging them along for my “research” but they didn’t seem to mind.  After a short little drive right down into the heart of downtown Hollister, we arrived at our destination.  I was a little shocked to learn the bakery was just a tiny room off of a bar, so that was a little off-putting at first but the space was cute inside.  On the small countertop were a few pieces of pineapple upside down cake, cookies, brownies, a couple of pastries, a few cake pops, zucchini bread, some quick breads and rolls and a few chocolate cupcakes in the refrigerator.  I thought they’d have more to choose from because they supposedly stay open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday so they might have had a rush that day, but we still managed to choose quite the selection between the four of us.

The things we chose were cupcakes (chocolate with peanut butter buttercream and chocolate with vanilla buttercream), red velvet cake pops, a brownie and a slice of pineapple upside down cake.  The pineapple upside down cake was good but I probably wouldn’t get it again (only because everything else we got was way better).  The brownie was really yummy, more cake-like with a chocolate glaze, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with pecans.  The red velvet cake pops were also really, really good and not sickeningly sweet like a lot of cake pops I’ve tried.  Possibly the best cake pops I’ve had yet!

And finally, the cupcakes were delicious.  They only had a few chocolate varieties left (I typically like to try white cake with vanilla buttercream).  The chocolate cake part was very moist and had a mild chocolate taste and both the peanut butter and vanilla buttercreams were amazingly smooth and not too sweet…I think the frosting might have actually been an Italian or Swiss buttercream because it definitely did not taste like a typical powder sugar buttercream.

As for the prices, they were very good, if not even a little low on some things.  Jeremy and I got four items and only spent $7.  Overall, we liked the treats very much–you can definitely tell that the owner knows her cake!  I’m already thinking about stopping by for a cupcake the next time I’m in Branson.  Let me know if you’ve been there or plan to stop by sometime soon–I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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Chocolate Ooey Gooey Butter Cake

Ooey Gooey Butter Cake is one of my most favorite cakes ever. EVER.  I can still remember the first time I had it and thinking “what the crap is this?!?”  It was love from that point on and I honestly think if left to my own devices, I could eat a whole 9×13 pan of it in one sitting.  Hopefully I never find out.

Thankfully, the chocolate version is just a little too rich to eat more than one piece (at least for me) but it’s amazing nonetheless.  And you can throw this recipe together in about 15 minutes and have it in the oven baking in no time, so in case you still haven’t figured out what you’re bringing to that July 4th party tomorrow, I’d consider making this incredible cake!  The bottom layer is thick and slightly chewy and topped with rich, gooey, chocolatey, umm…goodness.  Hard to describe but just trust me on this one, it’s awesome. I highly recommend pairing it with milk or homemade vanilla ice cream–delicious!

Enjoy!

Chocolate Ooey Gooey Butter Cake
Author: 
Category: Dessert
18
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, melted, plus one more stick Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1 (18.25 oz) package Devil's Food Cake Mix
  • 1 Large Egg, plus 2 more Large Eggs
  • 1, 8 oz. Package Cream Cheese, softened
  • ¼ c. Cocoa
  • 1, 16 oz. Box Powdered Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 c. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking pan.
  2. In an electric mixer, combine the cake mix, one egg, one stick of melted butter and beat on low speed until well blended. Press mixture evenly into baking pan and set aside.
  3. Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the remaining two eggs, one at a time and the cocoa powder. On low speed, add the powder sugar and beat until all ingredients are well combined. Beat in the remaining one stick of melted butter and the vanilla. Stir in one cup of the chocolate chips and spread the filling over the cake mixture in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining one cup of chocolate chips over the cake.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the cake--the center should still be slightly gooey when finished baking. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

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4th of July Dessert

You’ll have to excuse me if this blog post isn’t quite as coherent as it should be but I just got done taste-testing tonight’s recipes and I think I’m in a bit of a sugar coma.  Not necessarily a bad thing but if I stop making sense about halfway through this post, I warned you!

Ok, let’s get down to it–4th of July themed dessert recipes are a pain in the butt!  Why?  Because if you limit your use of artificial color (like I do), you’re pretty much left with blueberries and strawberries to work with (and who are we kidding–they’re purple and pink!).  That’s it!  And don’t even mention the word TRIFLE.  Seriously.  I racked my brain for hours and googled until I could google no more but honestly couldn’t bring myself to make the same whipped cream/berry/pound cake trifle that everyone else was making.  Then it hit me–BREAD PUDDING.  I’ve only recently discovered the nirvana that is bread pudding and I love it with all of my heart.  I know, I know. You’re thinking “a HOT dessert?  ugh!”.  But throw in some vanilla ice cream and it’s all good.  Promise.

So here’s the recipe–Berry Bread Pudding with Lemon Drizzle.  First, let’s start with the sugary, slightly crunchy top crust.  Next, imagine sweet cream soaked chunks of soft French bread, studded with blueberries and raspberries.  Finally, spoon on some tart lemon drizzle and top with cold, vanilla ice cream.  Are you drooling?  Out. Of. This. World.

What’s that?  You want a second recipe?  Done.  You can do this one in less than five minutes–Berry Bark.  White chocolate with dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries.  Yay for options!

Hope you enjoy these recipes and try them yourself!  And most of all, have a safe and fun July 4th weekend!

Berry Bread Pudding with Lemon Drizzle

1 lb. Day Old French Bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

8 Eggs, lightly beaten

3 c. Half-and-Half

3 c. Heavy Whipping Cream

2 c. White Sugar

4 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

2 1/2 t. Lemon Zest

3 c. Blueberries

3 c. Raspberries

Directions

Spray a 9×13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy whipping cream, half-n-half, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Gently stir in the bread.

Place half of each of the berries in the bottom of the 9×13 dish.  Spoon half of the bread mixture over the berries.  Sprinkle the remaining berries over the bread and top with the rest of the bread and pour any liquid that is left, evenly over the dish.  Gently press the bread down with the back of the spoon and make sure no berries are peaking through the top.  Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour, so the bread can absorb the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle the top of the bread pudding with sugar and place in the oven on top of a baking sheet (sometimes the liquid part will bubble and overflow..no fun cleaning that off the bottom of your oven!).  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the middle is firm.  While the pudding is baking, make the Lemon Drizzle.

Lemon Drizzle

1/2 c. Unsalted Butter

1 c. White Sugar

1/4 c. Water

1/3 c. Lemon Juice

1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Large Egg, lightly beaten

Directions

In a small, heavy saucepan, combine butter, sugar, water, lemon juice, vanilla and beaten egg.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Serve over warm bread pudding and top with ice cream.

Berry Bark

4 c. (2 lbs) Good Quality White Chocolate, chopped (or White Chocolate Chips)

1 c. Dried Mixed Berries (Blueberries, Cranberries and Cherries)

Directions

Melt chocolate in the microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until completely smooth.  Stir in 3/4 c. of the mixed berries and then spread onto a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with remaining berries.  Pop in the freezer for about 30 seconds to harden up.  Cut into pieces with a sharp knife.

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Summer Drinks

I heard earlier today that we are in an “excessive heat” warning for the next few days, all the way through July 4th and beyond.  Ugh.  While I love the July 4th weekend, I am dreading the thought of being outside for hours while my makeup runs off my face, my hair falls flat and pit stains form under the arms of my non-black shirt (Because who wears black in the middle of summer?! Unless it’s a bikini??).  Lovely.  So I thought I could perhaps cheer myself up by finding some delicious, cold drinks to share on here.  It’s worth a try!

(I want one of these…whatever it is.)

First, I have a recipe for a Thai Tea that is out of this world!  If you’ve never had Thai Tea before, now is your chance.  This recipe is so delicious…sweet, spicy (as in cinnamon/clove spicy) and creamy.  Unfortunately, I don’t have photo but I’m sure it’s not too hard to imagine a glass of tea with half-and-half poured in.  Delicious.

I also linked to a few more yummy summer drinks below, in case you need more beverage inspiration.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be making that Sour Cherry Fizz concoction this weekend…sounds ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

Enjoy!

Thai Tea

6 c. Water

1 c. Thai Tea Leaves (found at Asian market)

4 Cardamom Pods, crushed

1 Whole Clove, crushed

1/4 t. Cinnamon

1 c. Granulated Sugar

1 c. Half-and-Half

Bring water to a boil in a large pan.  Stir in tea leaves and next 3 ingredients and cover.  Remove from heat and steep 5 minutes.

Pour tea through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a pitcher, discarding tea leaves.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Cover and chill.

Pour into a glass 3/4 tea and 1/4 half-and half.

More Summer Drinks

Summer Mocktails

Frozen Blueberry Lemonade

Sour Cherry Fizz

Raspberry Lemonade

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Homemade Whipped Cream

Did you know that before there was Cool Whip people actually made homemade whipped cream in their very own homes?  It’s true.  And although you may think that there is no reason to ever make your own homemade whipped cream when you can simply wander down an aisle in the freezer section of your grocery store, pick out a tub and purchase it for mere dollars, you are wrong my friend.  So very, very wrong.  You see, there are many things that are mass produced and sold in grocery aisles that are simply an impostor of the real thing.   Whipped cream is one of those things. In it’s homemade form it is creamy, thick, sweet and void of all the artificial junk in Cool Whip.  It is simply divine and way too easy to eat buy the spoonful.

And let me tell you it is EASY to make.  I am not kidding.  I don’t know why people automatically assume things like this are hard, but they are not.  And once you try it, you’ll never go back to store bought.  Below I’ve given you my recipe for homemade whipped cream and a few suggestions for uses and how to take it to the next level, beyond vanilla.

Enjoy!

Homemade Whipped Cream

1 c. Heavy Whipping Cream

3 1/2 T. Powder Sugar

2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

Directions

Place your mixer bowl and whip into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour.  You want it to be as cold as possible when you whip your cream.  Place the heavy whipping cream in your mixer and whip it on high until it is thick and stiff. Add sugar and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Makes about 2 cups whipped cream.

Tips and Uses

-Feel free to add more or less sugar depending on how sweet your prefer your whipped cream.  Just remember, you can always add more of something but you can’t take away, so add in small increments whether sugar, flavorings, spices, etc.

-You can use homemade whipped cream in any recipe that calls for Cool Whip.  Top pies with it, use it for dipping fruit, cookies, etc.  Also makes a yummy frosting for cupcakes and cakes.

Variations

-I made a chocolate amaretto whipped cream by simply adding a bit of cocoa powder and almond extract.  SO good.

-Cinnamon, Nutmeg, other spices

-Oils and Extracts (LorAnn Oils is great–find them in craft stores or buy online)

-Lemon, Lime or Orange Zest

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Vogue Girl-Cake for Princess

I haven’t done a lot of non-dessert recipe posts on my blog–as a matter of fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever done any!  But, I saw these pictures from Vogue Girl that someone had shared on Facebook and I knew that I just HAD to put them on my blog.  I love everything about these pictures from the chandeliers to the tables to the way the models are posed…and of course the desserts!  Just beautiful.  I plan to be doing more posts like these in the future…not necessarily a recipe, but always dessert-related.

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I did.  Have a lovely evening!

 

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White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

When I was a kid we didn’t eat out alot and if we did, we usually went to Subway or Taco Bell, which met our criteria of both fast and inexpensive.  I actually liked Subway alot and we’d always get their cookies that were three for a dollar.  You wouldn’t think that the cookies at a fast food place would be that great but the ones at Subway were really, really good (at least to my young, inexperienced tastebuds they were).  They always seemed fresh and were so soft.  My absolute favorite was the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie, so when I first decided to make them at home, I wanted one that was as close to Subway’s as possible.

Now I haven’t had one from Subway in a loooooonnnng time but this one is just as good, if not better, than the ones I remember from my childhood.  They are a little underdone when you take them out but I think that’s what makes them so good.  Oh, and they’re a snap to throw together too which is always nice.  Jeremy and I both love these so they are somewhat dangerous to have in our house but hey, every now and then you’ve got to have a little treat!

Enjoy!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie

1/2 c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened

3/4 c. Granulated Sugar

1 Large Egg

2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

1 1/4 c. AP Flour

1/2 t. Baking Soda

1/2 t. Salt

3/4 c. White Chocolate Chips

3/4 c. Salted Macadamia Nuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking pans with parchment paper.

In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and add to the mixer.  Beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Chill dough for 30 minutes to an hour.

Roll dough into a 1 1/2 inch ball with the palm of your hands and place on baking sheets.  Bake for 8 minutes, rotating pans and switching halfway through.  Let cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes and then move to a cooling rack.  Store in an airtight container.

Makes 25 small cookies.

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Honey Nut Bars

Alright, here are some adjectives: ooey, gooey, salty, sweet, soft and chewy.  Like the sound of that?  Good, then you will l-o-v-e, LOVE these Honey Nut Bars.  They embody every single one of those yummy descriptive words.  Oh, I forgot ADDICTING. I had to get these out of my house fast…I have absolutely no self-control when it comes to salty and sweet things!  If you love that combination as much as I do, make these immediately!  You will be so very happy you did…or maybe not once you have three or four or ten of them.  Ooooops.  I would know nothing about that though….

Enjoy!

Honey Nut Bars

Crust:

1 Stick+2 T. Unsalted Butter, melted

1 c. AP Flour

1 c. Rolled or Quick Oats

3/4 c. Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar

1/2 t. Baking Soda

1/4 t. Salt

Topping:

3/4 c. Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar

6 T. Unsalted Butter

1/3 c. Clover Honey

1/2 t. Salt

2 T. Heavy Whipping Cream

2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

1 t. Cinnamon

3 c. (17 oz.) Whole Salted Mixed Nuts, toasted (I forgot to toast mine and they turned out fine)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×13 pan and line with foil, leaving extra foil to hang over the ends so that you will have “handles”.  Grease the foil.

For the crust, thoroughly combine all the dry ingredients.  Add melted butter and combine well.  Spread and press the crust into the bottom of the pan evenly.  Bake for 10 minutes and then let the crust cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Place the nuts in a large bowl.  Bring the sugar, butter, honey and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often.  Slowly and carefully add the cream and return to a boil.  Remove from the heat and carefully add the vanilla and cinnamon.  Pour mixture over the nuts and coat them thoroughly.  Pour the nut mixture over the crust and spread evenly.  Press down on the nuts slightly with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 20 minutes, until the topping has just started to bubble slowly.

Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then using the foil “handles” remove from the pan and let cool completely.  Cut into squares with a sharp knife.  Make sure no foil has stuck to the bottom of the bars.

Makes 16 bars.

 

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Missouri Baking Co. – St. Louis Bakeries, Pt. 2

About a week ago I posted the first part of two bakery reviews from a trip that Jeremy and I took to St. Louis recently.  Now it’s time for the second review and I have saved the best for last!  When we were googling “St. Louis bakeries”, one of the first things to pop up at the top of the search was Missouri Baking Company.  This place had awesome reviews and people especially raved about their Italian desserts, cookies, pastries and gooey butter cake.  Since they don’t have a website, I wasn’t really sure what to expect in the way of a menu or what the place looked like.  We pulled up to an old, brick, factory-like building that was quite non-descript except for a large sign that said “Missouri Baking Co.” on the side of the building.  We walked inside and were greeted by several bakery cases, people everywhere and no tables or chairs.  This place was very straightforward, no frills which probably meant they don’t need to impress you with decor or aesthetics because their baked goods are just that good!

So, we got a number (yes, you had to take a number!) and I frantically tried to pick out what I wanted.  I am not so good with the decision making so trying to choose from this sea of delectable looking sugar was SO hard.  Plus, we couldn’t see any prices so we had no idea what we were going to spend AND they only took cash.  What to do?!?  Finally our number came up.  I knew I wanted a cannoli and asked the girl working which of their bazillion different kinds of cookies was popular and she recommended the Amaretti cookie.  Jeremy settled on a slice of Italian vanilla cheesecake and a brownie.   Our total was $4.75.  Say what???  Jeremy and I immediately looked at each other in shock and wanted to choose at least five more items…but we didn’t.  So we took our stash out to the car and got busy taking pictures and eating (between being in the car and extremely overcast skies, these are the best pics we could get but I thought Jeremy still did a great job).

Ok, first the brownie.  It was just…meh.  Kind of like they threw it in as an afterthought for the person who comes in the door and says “what the heck’s a cannoli?”.  It was a more cake-like brownie studded with chopped walnuts and covered with a thin layer of chocolate frosting, very reminiscient of the ones they sale at Walmart, two to a package that school kids get in their lunch.  So definitely our least favorite item.

But, things got immensely better from them on!  Jeremy’s cheesecake was awesome.  Not overly sweet, super creamy and smooth, with some sort of delicate indescribable crust (now that I think about it, I’m not sure it even had a crust) and was dusted with cinnamon.  So simple and so delicious!

Next the cannoli.  Isn’t it pretty?  I think I’ve had a very Americanized cannoli once it my life and this one was nothing like it, thank goodness.  It consisted of a waffle-cone like shell, filled with some sort of sweet custard that had a faint hint of cinnamon and was studded with semi-sweet chocolate chips and finished with a cherry.  So, so delicious!  We loved it.

Lastly, our absolute favorite was the Amaretti cookie.  The almond flavor of this cookie was INSANE and I love almond flavor.  And the texture was perfect–slightly chewy outside but so soft inside.  Just divine.  I definitely wished I had chosen more cookies, so if we ever get a chance to go back (we’ll find some excuse!), I plan on getting quite the selection of cookies and without a doubt will try their gooey butter cake.  This place really is all about the BAKING, especially authentic Italian baking which is refreshing since everyone and their brother thinks that if they can make a cupcake, they can open a bakery.

Check them out if you are in the St. Louis area!  You will most likely find something delicious that you’ve never tried before!

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Mudslide Cookies

This amazing cookie recipe was given to me by my friend, Judy.  I met Judy at my first “real job” I had shortly after I graduated college.  Judy was pretty much the resident office baker and she brought in desserts like I had never seen or tasted before!  I mean, I grew up loving to bake and cook but the treats she brought in soon made me realize there was a whole wide world of baking I had never explored.  I’ll never forget the first time I had ganache was in a dessert she had made.  I thought it was absolutely divine!  From then on I started reading and really digging into baking, beyond basic cookies and brownies.

So, she really inspired me and I have her to partially thank for my love of baking, especially baking with chocolate!  This recipe was one of the first I made of hers and I fell in LOVE with it.  These cookies are rich and chocolatey, almost like a brownie in cookie form.  And they look beautiful too because they form a shiny, delicate shell of sorts on the outside.  It’s almost like a brownie, cookie and chocolate truffle all rolled into one!  Just scrumptious!  Enjoy!

Mudslide Cookies

4 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate, finely chopped

3 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 c. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

3 T. Unsalted Butter

1/3 c. + 2 T. AP Flour

1 t. Baking Powder

1/2 t. Salt

3 Large Eggs

1 c. White Sugar

1 1/2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

1 1/4 c. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, melt the unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and butter in a microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until completely smooth.  Set aside and let cool.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.  Add the cooled, melted chocolate mixture and combine on low speed.  Add flour mixture and continue to beat on low speed until almost combined, about 1 minute.  Stir in chocolate chips by hand.

Using a 2-inch scoop, drop onto baking sheets, about 3 inches apart.  Bake for 10 minutes, rotating pans and switching racks half way through.  Let cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Makes 28 cookies.

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BitterSweet Bakery – St. Louis Bakeries, Pt. 1

Last weekend, Jeremy and I headed to St. Louis to see Jimmy Eat World Saturday night.  The concert didn’t start until 8 p.m. so we had plenty of time to go at a somewhat leisurely pace and make some stops along the way.  We managed to hit up three vintage stores that we came across while driving and then proceeded into St. Louis to check out a couple of bakeries that had pretty decent reviews online.

I’ll start with the second bakery we visited that day, Bittersweet Bakery.  First, the space itself was really cool, one of those refurbished old brick warehouse buildings.  Inside were hardwood floors, exposed ductwork and modern chandeliers.   The bakery case was full of cakes and the countertops displayed quite the assortment of jumbo muffins, breakfast breads, biscotti and jumbo cookies.  I was a little surprised at the lack of selection just judging by what I’d seen on their website.  They did have a small display with a couple of whoopie pies that looked awesome, an amaretti cookie and a couple macaroons.

My first two selections they were out of, a whoopie pie and a mini peanut butter pie.  Apparently they were out of a lot.  So I finally settled on a Chocolate Chunk Cookie and Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake.  Jeremy chose Chocolate Buttermilk Cake.  The cakes themselves were very good, dense and probably some of the most moist cake I’ve ever had.  Inside they had chocolate mousse/vanilla pastry cream fillings and they were topped with a huge swirl of what I thought was Swiss buttercream but apparently it was Italian.  Not sure what the difference is but either way, I loved the frosting.  Jeremy, not so much.  He’s used to the American style of buttercream.  I also loved the fact that you could really see and taste the vanilla bean in mine.  At $5 each they were enough for two to share so we could only eat about half.

The cookie was allright, nothing special.  The texture was pretty good, very chewy but the flavor was somewhat lacking and a teensy bit on the salty side.  I kind of liked it but Jeremy didn’t like it at all.  It was somewhere around $3 and most of it went into the trash, unfortunately.

So, our overall experience here was ok.  We got there around 4 p.m. so I guess it was a little late in the day for them to have much left.  That was really disappointing to me because I would have really liked to have tried some other things.  But I will say their cake was absolutely delicious!  So if you are in the area, get there early for the best selection and definitely split one of the cakes with someone–you won’t be disappointed!

I will have Part 2 of our St. Louis bakery adventures next week–I’ve saved the best for last!  Oh and in case you were wondering, the concert was AWESOME.

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