Cowboy Cookies

I know that these cookies look like they’re for kids because of the bright colorful M&Ms.  Well forget the kids, the adults love this cookie too!  They are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, my favorite.  The candy shell also gives it a nice crunch and the oats give it a great chewy texture.

I adapted this from a cookie jar mix recipe.  It is a beautiful  way to give a gift and even better because they taste amazing!!

Cowboy Cookies

Adapted from Bakerella

 

1/2 cup softened butter  (1 stick)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup cooking oats

3/4 cup M&Ms

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, blend the butter until soft.  Add egg and vanilla, then the sugars and blend well.  Next pour in the rest of the dry ingredients and blend until everything is incorporated well.  Use a #30 scoop or roll the cookie dough into 2 inch balls.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-13 minutes.

Yields about 24 cookies.

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Chocolate Eclair Dessert

This has got to be one of the easiest yet most divine desserts I’ve ever made.  It hits all the notes of sweet, creamy, crunchy and chocolate-y.  The best part about it is there’s no cooking involved.  It’s just really easy to assemble, but you certainly don’t have to tell your friends or family that.

Start by making the vanilla pudding from a box.  Whisk until thick and creamy.

Fold in the store-bought whipped topping.

Butter a pan and puzzle piece together some graham crackers.

Layer the pudding mixture and crackers, using an off set spatula to smooth everything out.  Lick fingers as needed.

Melt together bittersweet chocolate, heavy cream and butter.  What’s bad about that?

Nothing!

After three layers of graham crackers, pour on the chocolate ganache.  It should be thin enough to pour and cover the whole pan easily.

Here’s the beautiful layered shot.  Sprinkle some toffee bits for crunch and it’s ready for the fridge.

After a few hours or overnight in the fridge, what you’ll get is a decadent dessert that pleases adults and children alike.  The graham crackers turn soft and creamy.  The vanilla pudding mixture is just sweet enough to balance the bitterness of the chocolate.  And then the toffee chips on top give it just the right amount of crunchy texture.

This turned out to be one of my favorite new desserts of the summer.  Mostly because it did not require turning on the oven, but even more so because of the taste, yummers!

Chocolate Éclair Dessert

Cake:

1 (1-pound) box graham crackers

2 (3 1/4-ounce) boxes instant French vanilla pudding

3 1/2 cups milk

1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Toffee bits

 

Ganache:

1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

 

Butter the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan. Line the pan with whole graham crackers. In a bowl, mix pudding with milk; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping. Pour half the pudding mixture over graham crackers. Place another layer of whole graham crackers on top of pudding layer. Pour over remaining half of pudding mixture and cover with another layer of graham crackers.

For ganache, combine ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute and stir.  Continue in 30 second intervals and stir until melted and glossy.  Pour ganache over the cake  and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Salted Toffee Brownie Cookies

Don’t make these cookies the way I did.  I know that sounds weird, but please heed my warning!  Actually, everything about this cookie was great except………I put WAY too much sea salt on them.  I forgot that sea salt is much saltier than normal table salt, hence do not overdo the salt on these cookies!! I beg of you.

Mix together the eggs, sugar and vanilla.

Dump in the melted chocolate and butter.

Lick the chocolate bowl when no one is looking.  I won’t tell!

Blend in the dry ingredients.

I used an ice cream scoop and then pressed the cookie batter down for even cooking.

Do you see the amount of salt on here?  Use half as much as this.  Trust me.  Mother knows best.

This brownie cookie is delightfully light and not very sweet.  I love the surprise crunch of the toffee chips too.  It really is a good balance between brownie and cookie.  The balance of salty and sweet however, was way off.  Hence the warning.

Salted Toffee Brownie Cookies

From Kitchenist

makes 24

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup toffee bits
a few pinches sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 170°C/350°F. Melt chocolate and butter together, either in a small saucepan over the stove, on in a bowl in the microwave. Set aside.

2. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In another bowl (or using a mixer), beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate/butter mixture and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in the toffee bits- batter will be very thick.
4. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 1 to 2 inches apart. (These cookies will not spread much.) Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the top of each cookie, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. The tops of the cookies will be shiny, crackly and brown, like a brownie. Cool on a wire rack.

Triple Berry Crumb Cake

I’m very sad to say that summer is almost over.  My kids go back to school tomorrow and a new year of responsibilities, schedules, and homework begin.  So this is my homage to summer and the wonderful berries that we’ve enjoyed for the last 3 months.

This berry crumb cake is the epitome of the balance of flavors.  The cake is moist and tangy from the berries, then crunchy and sweet from the pecan crumb topping.  Make this for an easy evening at home or fancy it up with homemade whipped cream and fresh fruit on the side.

Put all the crumb topping ingredients into a food processor and pulse until………..

you get this.   Pour it out and set it aside.

Add the cake’s dry ingredients  to the same food processor and blend until crumbly.

In a bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together well and then pour in the dry ingredients from the food processor.

Mix it all together with a spatula until well incorporated.  It’s okay if it’s a bit lumpy.  The lumps are the magnificent specks of butter reminding you of how buttery good this cake will taste!!!

Pour out into a greased 8×8 pan.

Spoon the berries over the top and be sure to press them into the cake dough.

Sprinkle the crumb topping all over, covering every square inch.

See….this is what I mean by pressing the berries in well.

Here’s the lovely warm cake just out of the oven.  I could take a spoon and dig right into this, but that wouldn’t have looked very nice for my quests, huh?!  But………….I wish I could have!

Run a knife all around the gooey berry edges to release the cake from the pan, making sure you lick the knife when you’re done.  Not the sharp end of course, that would be silly, and irresponsible.

Enjoy my homage to summer and the berries that its warm weather brings us.

Care to share some of your end-of-the-summer recipes?  I’d love to know!

Triple Berry Crumb Cake

Adapted from Real Simple

 

FOR THE CRUMB TOPPING:

1/2  cup  pecans

1/3  cup  brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4  cup  all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

2  tablespoons  cold unsalted butter

 

FOR THE CAKE:

1/2  cup  (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan

2  cups  all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

1  cup  granulated sugar

2  teaspoons  baking powder

1  teaspoon  kosher salt

1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon

2  large eggs

1  cup  whole milk

1  teaspoon  pure vanilla extract

1  pound  frozen blackberries, blueberries, raspberries thawed (about 3 1/2 cups)

 

Heat oven to 350º F.

Make the crumb topping: In a food processor, pulse the pecans, brown sugar, flour, and butter until crumbly; transfer to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the food processor.

Make the cake: Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. In the food processor, pulse the butter, flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until crumbly. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the blackberries and crumb topping.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan before serving.

Cake Cutting Tip

Let me start by saying I did not have my usual SLR camera for these photos, so forgive the bad lighting and weird colors. Sometimes a girl just doesn’t want to be weighed down by a big camera at a party, ya know!

I went to a graduation party where there was a beautifully made cake to celebrate my step-niece’s high school graduation.  I was handed this plate with a perfectly cut piece of cake on it that looked like it was from a wedding reception.  I walked into the kitchen and this is what I found on the table.

It took me a while to understand what I was seeing.  I then realized that my step-brother who brought the cake, cut it the professional way.  This is the way to cut a large round cake and he mentioned that is how wedding cakes are cut too.

So you first cut a smaller circle in the middle and then the slices are a a manageable size.  This also helps with the falling cake issue when you are cutting a multi-layered cake…………..genius!!

Now, I just want to bake a 4-layered cake just so I can cut it this way.

Here is the perfectly cut piece of cake.  Now you can go to any wedding and be confident you’ll be able to cut a beautiful slice of cake!!

American Flag Cake

This is a cake that I made last year, but I thought I’d bring it up to remind you of the wonderful holiday coming up in America in a few days, Independence Day.  Not only is this cake patriotic, it tastes amazing!!  This cake celebrates the colors of America’s flag and the tasty sweet berries that summer has to offer.

This 4th of July, enjoy your family, the fireworks and this cake!

Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes with Avocado Mascarpone Cream Frosting

So, you’re probably wondering why in the world someone would use avocados in a cupcake.  Well, let me tell you, it wasn’t my first choice either.  I recently had a potluck dinner at my house with some students from the college ministry I work with.  They decided it would be fun to have everyone bring a potluck dish that included avocado in it.  And of course, they assigned me the dessert course.  Lucky me!!

I searched for a while before I decided to go with cupcakes.  I’d never used avocados in dessert before, so I wanted something  a little safe, that I knew I could do.

So here it goes.

I didn’t get any photos of the chocolate cupcake, but it’s pretty basic.  I posted the recipe below.  The great thing is that it is a vegan recipe.  The avocado takes the place of the butter and egg and you really can’t taste the avocado in the cake.

The frosting was the fun part for me.  I started with mixing the mashed up avocados with powdered sugar and then silky mascarpone cheese.

After incorporating the cheese, I realized the frosting was too liquidy to actually stay on the cupcake.

That’s where the heavy whipping cream comes in………

Whip up the heaving cream to stiff peaks.

Add it to the avocado mixture and voila…….

The creamiest sweet frosting with a hint of avocado green color and flavor…….perfect.

When I first heard about using avocados in cupcakes, I was really skeptical, but I am definitely a believer now.  The cake was chocolatey and moist and I really did not miss the butter and eggs at all!

The fact that I can use avocado in the place of butter and eggs means I can feel better about eating more cupcakes and that’s always good, right?  Yay for avocados!

Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes with Avocado Mascarpone Cream Frosting

From Joy the Baker

makes 4 dozen cupcakes

6 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

4 teaspoons baking soda

4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 cups soft avocado, well mashed, about 2 medium avocados

4 cups water

4 Tablespoons white vinegar

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare cupcake tins with paper liners.  Set aside.

Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar.  Set that aside too.

Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado.

Add sugar into the wet mix and stir.

Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.

Pour batter into cupcake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cupcakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting with avocado buttercream.

Avocado Mascarponse Cream Frosting

16 ounces of avocado meat, about 4 medium, very ripe avocados

8 tablespoons lemon juice

6 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 small tub (8 oz) mascarpone cheese

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Peel and pit the soft avocados.  It’s important to use the ripest avocados you can get your hands on.  If the avocados have brown spots in the meat, avoid those spots when you scoop the meat into the bowl.

Place the avocado meat into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment.  Add lemon juice and whisk the avocado on medium speed, until slightly lightened in color and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat.  Add vanilla extract until combined.  Pour mixture into separate bowl.  Whip heavy cream until you get stiff peaks, then incorporate avocado mixture slowly.  Put frosting into a piping bag with a star tip and pipe your cupcakes.

If not using right away, store in the refrigerator.  Don’t worry.  It won’t turn brown!

Chocolate Banana Bread

Everyone’s had the typical banana bread, right?  Well, take that and kick it up about 10 notches.  Oh and of course, add some chocolate to that.  It pretty much takes the typical and moves it into the extraordinary!

If you happen to have some browning bananas, I would highly suggest transforming them into this spectacular creation of a banana bread.  I would even go as far as to hide bananas from my kids, in the hopes that they get brown fast enough to make this again.

Cream the butter and sugar.

Use two brown bananas and mash them in a bowl.

Add the mashed bananas and sour cream.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients, then add it to the wet.

Add the mini chocolate chips and walnuts, for extra sweetness and crunch.

Pour the batter into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.

Look at this warm chocolate beauty!  I like how those mini chocolate chips are peeking out, enticing you to come and pluck them out one by one.

I guarantee that after this banana bread comes out of the oven, the 10 minutes you need to wait for this to cool will be the longest 10 minutes of your life!!  Even though banana bread is thought of as more of a breakfast food, my family ended up eating it for dessert.  Yup, it’s that good!

Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe

From Savory Sweet Life

 

1 stick of salted butter, softened to room temp.

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

2 large ripened bananas mashed ( or 2.5 small bananas)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 Tbl. cocoa powder

1/2 cup of sour cream

1 cup of mini chocolate chips (regular chocolate chips work too)

optional 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts

 

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan, or 2 mini pans with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Stir in egg, mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla until well blended.

Add baking soda, cocoa, and flour.

Mix everything until well incorporated (about 3 minutes in a stand mixer).

Add chocolate chips and nuts (if applicable).

Pour batter into loaf pan(s) and bake for 50 minutes – 1 hr.

Insert a tooth pick into the center of the loaf and check to see if it comes out clean when you pull it out.

Remove from heat and allow bread to rest in the loaf pan for 10 minutes.

Invert the loaf pans onto a cooling rack. Enjoy warm or cold.

Chunky Granola

My family has been granola crazy since I started making it myself.  They can’t get enough!  We find ourselves not only having it for breakfast on our yogurt with fresh berries, the kids are having it as an after school snack and my husband is eating it as a late night dessert.  I tell you it’s crazy the amounts of granola we are going through.

Here’s the main reason: I finally learned how to make it correctly!  Actually, I didn’t make it incorrectly before, it just wasn’t chunky like my family likes it.  My previous Maple Almond Granola recipe is still what I use now, but I learned how to chunk-i-fy it.

Here’s the secret ingredient for chunky granola!  Can you tell what it is?  C’mon, give it a guess………………..

It’s egg whites!  This is one egg white, for 3 cups of oats.

You beat it until it’s a little frothy and just add it to your favorite granola recipe.  Easy peasy!

Dump the beautiful mixture into a heap on a parchment-lined sheet pan.

Lay it out flat and do not touch it at all while it spends one and a half hours in the oven.

Here’s is what you’ll get.  Lovely sheets of yummy granola.  You can break it apart into bite-sized pieces and enjoy any way you like, for breakfast or dessert.

Strawberry Shortcake Skewers

When I saw these adorable skewers on Lady Behind the Curtain, they were just too cute to pass up.  I had to make these for my daughter’s tea party!  They are made with pre-made biscuit dough so it’s super easy too.

Roll out one piece of refrigerated biscuit dough to about a 5 inch circle and cut into 1 1/2 inch circles.  Each one should give you 7 circles.  Make sure you use your handy-dandy homemade circle cutter.

Yes, this circle cutter was made by my Dad.  First let me explain the type of guy my dad is.  He can make ANYTHING!!  Really, he’s a general contractor by trade, but a mad scientist in the workshop. He whipped up this little cutter and just soldered it together and voila, I have a cookie cutter!

Place the the biscuit circles on parchment paper and brush with an egg wash and sprinkle each one with sugar.

They are done when they’re a nice golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Now prepare the strawberries.  First wash and dry all the berries.  Cut the tops off.

Then the small end.

Then slice in half, giving you two strawberry circles.

I stacked them together and the kept each of the two pieces together, so it would look more uniform on one skewer.

I cut my skewers down in size to about 6 inches so they would look nicer.  You don’t have to do that.

Now just start layering with the biscuit, whipped cream and strawberries.

Start and end with a biscuit.  Easy peasy.  It was fun to make and even more fun to eat.  These were a hit at the tea party and they are fun to slide right off and pop into your mouth.

Strawberry Shortcake Skewers

Adapted from Lady Behind the Curtain

Biscuit Rounds:

1 can of grands biscuits

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

sugar for sprinkling

20 large strawberries, 2 slices per strawberry

Cream:

2 cups heavy cream

½ jar marshmallow fluff

3 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll a biscuit into a 5-inch circle.

Cut 7 – 1-1/2 inch circles and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with non stick cooking spray.

Whisk together the egg white and water.  Brush on each biscuit and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.

While the biscuits are baking prepare the strawberries.  Cut two 1/2 inch slices from each strawberry.  I also kept the two slices stacked on themselves, so I could use the same strawberry for one skewer.  This way they fit together better.  Once the biscuits are baked, transfer to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before constructing the skewers.  Then start layering; biscuit, strawberry, whipped cream.  Do this twice ending with a third biscuit on top.  One can of biscuits made 20 skewers.  That’s WITHOUT using the scraps.  If you use the scraps you’ll need to adjust the ingredients for extra.

Cream:

In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream and sugar and beat until firm peaks form.  Add half a jar of marshmallow fluff until just combined.