Monday, May 23, 2011

#8: Rocky Road Chocolate Cookies

Okay, so these cookies were technically my first real "test" in my baking challenge. I had started this blog Easter weekend, when Stephen was in town to visit family, and had made the mistake of letting his mother know all about my project. Naturally, and much to my horror at the time, the first thing she did was spit out a request, I think it was along the lines of "OH MY GOSH, you're baking!? Oh my, you HAVE to find this recipe for rocky road cookies! There was a woman in my ward who was famous for those kind of cookies and I never got the recipe. I NEED that recipe! It had marshmallows and chocolate, and, oh my, I need that recipe!" Yeah, it was a challenge if I had ever heard one. A good portion of my life is spent trying to figure out, with Stephen's assistance, little ways of getting on Mothers Baird's good side (starting out the wrong foot without even INTENDING to is really tough, mind you). What better way than by baking her something she REALLY, REALLY wants: cue the rocky road chocolate cookies. I was VERY nervous about this recipe- I had only been baking for about a month, and the idea of having to present these cookies to Midge, a lifelong member of the LDS church (I don't know if you're all aware of this, but they are KNOWN for breeding phenomenal bakers, casseroles, and jelly molds...) and MOTHER OF TEN... well, it was all VERY intimidating. Plus, I didn't want to give her ANOTHER reason to be hesitant of me- "STEPHEN! Your girlfriend can't BAKE!"- it was just too much! After searching for awhile, I think I had finally found a recipe that sounded similar to the one Midge had described...

#8: Rocky Road Chocolate Cookies (as adapted from


2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder (Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder is what I used)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup broken toasted pecans
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
2 cups mini-marshmallows

Glaze Ingredients:

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons boiling water


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together 3 times. Set aside.
     - Yeah, I'm not sure about the three times. I took a whisk and blended it together until all of the ingredients were a uniform color- kind of a light brown. You know me and my issues with sifting. Sheesh.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat 1 minute longer. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Mix in the sour cream and the vanilla.
     - I cheated again, I'm getting pretty decent at that. I went ahead and melted the two sticks of butter in the microwave for about 45 seconds, and then took a rubber spatula to it until the butter was super creamy. PS- for some reason, I found this step and putting the sour cream in my cookies TERRIFYING. Who puts baked potato ingredients into a cookie, honestly?!
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing just until blended.
     - Or use your weapons of mass destruction like I always have to (still waiting on that mixer, people)

5. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the pecans and chocolate chips.

6. Using about a quarter cup measure, shape dough into mounds and place 3 inches apart onto parchment paper or Silpat lined cookie sheets. Bake for 12 minutes or until just starting to set on top.
     -  Again, I just used cookie sheets... although I could also REALLY use a stonewear baking set like Nichelle's. So that brings us to my birthday wish list of- a stand alone mixer, bundt pan, miniature cupcake tins, a karaoke machine, and stonewear. ALSO, I didn't like how the cookies turned out at 12 minutes. They were just TOO MUSHY, and felt undercooked. Since I am always afraid someone is going to get salmonella off my cooking (says the girl who actually had salmonella back in October- YOU DON'T WANT IT), I stuck the next batch in for 14 and a half minutes. Much better!

7. Remove from the oven and press nine or ten mini-marshmallows at random onto the tops. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for another 2 minutes or just until the marshmallows start to soften. WATCH CAREFULLY. Do not allow the marshmallows to become too hot or they will melt. These cookies are best slightly underbaked.
     - Nine to ten?! UH, no, they barely fit three to four marshmallows.

8. Let rest on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes or until firm enough to handle before loosening with a large metal spatula. Remove to a wire cooling rack set over a jelly roll pan or a sheet of wax paper.

Glaze the Cookies

Combine the chocolate chips and the butter in a medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Melt together, stirring occasionally. [Or microwave for 30 seconds or so] Add the boiling water , ½ teaspoon at a time, to thin to a pouring consistency. Using a spoon or a fork, drizzle the glaze over each cookie. Let stand on the cooling racks until the glaze sets.

Note: I left out the boiling water, spooned the glaze into a heavy duty zipper bag, snipped a tiny hole in the bottom corner and squeezed the glaze out the corner.

KRISTEN NOTE: I left out the glaze entirely. Seriously. I tried ONE of the cookies and it was more than enough on it's own. The amount of sticky, sweet things in this cookie could put you into a sugar coma, so I left it off.

Well, the cookies turned out beautifully, Midge LOVED them (winner winner), and I left their house Sunday in one piece. She even asked for the recipe, so I must've done something all right... NOW, what else should I bake her...

PS- That one cookie was enough. These things are WAAAAAY too rich for me. Needless to say, Lori got the baggie of all the extras I didn't take to the Bairds. I'm sticking to my simpler cookies!! PLUS, guess who forgot to take a picture because I was in such a hurry to get to their house? Here is the picture the website provided, WITH the glaze.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

#7: Applebee's White Chocolate Walnut Blondies

We've all tried the blondies at Applebee's. Since their dessert menu is kind of limited, and with the amount of times you know YOU'VE been there (Wait, people don't visit Applebee's once a week like I used to? Um, whoops...), you knew you were bound to cave in and order it eventually. Since I first tried this particular dessert, I've been kind of stumped- just what exactly IS a blondie?

I love me some brownies. All kinds. Their slightly crunchy edges and warm gooey insides, all chocolatey and... mmmm. So, is a blondie just a... Caucasian brownie? Or is it more like a cookie? I've had a good three or four people ask me this very question since I've been going around telling anyone who will listen about how I'm taking on this recipe, and I STILL couldn't tell you the answer. I do KNOW that this recipe is DELICIOUS, and VERY close to the actual dessert at the restaurant. I am a culinary genius... AND I'm starting to get compliments along the lines of "Wow, Kristen, you're a REALLY good cook." Apparently my challenge is doing its job...

#7: Applebee's White Chocolate Walnut Brownies (as found on


1 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup unsalted butter or 1/3 cup margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

*Maple Butter Sauce:

3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional) 


1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ 

2. Sift flour, add baking powder, baking soda, and salt; sift again.
     - If someone can explain the importance of sifting to me, I'll buy a... sifter. Mixing the ingredients together with a whisk is working wonderfully for me.  

3. Add chopped nuts; mix well and set aside.

4. Melt unsalted butter; add brown sugar and mix well.
     - This is called "creaming." Consider that a technique well learned by now. Has anyone else noticed how much butter I use these days? Holy guacamole, I'm going to be 400 pounds by the time this project is done...
5. Add egg and vanilla; blend well. 

6. Add flour mixture, a little at a time, mixing well. 

7. Stir in white chocolate chips. 

8. Spread in a 9x9x2-inch pan.
     - Yeah, my only complaint is this recipe makes an extremely small amount of blondies. Double up!!  

9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with slightly fudgy-looking crumbs.
     - I left it in for 25 minutes, and it worked beautifully. Crunchy outsides, warm cookie-like insides. Kristen, for the win! *fist pump*

10. Serve with vanilla ice cream and maple butter sauce.
     - I skipped the ice cream. I'm sorry, but the blondie and sauce alone is decadent enough! 

 ---To Make the Maple Unsalted butter Sauce--- 

1. Combine syrup and butter, cook over low heat until butter is melted. 

2. Stir in brown sugar until dissolved. 

3. Add walnuts, if desired.
     - Do I want to add walnuts to my maple sauce? Uh, is the Pope Catholic?

This was SUCH a simple recipe, with the best results! Plus, again, it's another one of those recipes that is a cinch to make, but it looks super fancy and refined. For instance, I created this delight while talking, dancing around the kitchen, and listening to an 18-year old boy whine incessantly from the other room. Naturally though, the pictures I took DO NOT to this treat justice... so I bring you the pictures the website provided:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

#6: Monkey Bread

I have been dying to try this recipe. No joke. Ever since Jon and Kate Plus 8 (pre-Ed Hardy, hair extension wearing, Dancing with the Stars days) aired their Christmas episode, in which Kate produces for the camera a lavish breakfast pastry, so chock full of nuts, sugar, and butter it was dripping down the sides of the plate, I knew I HAD to make this. Low and behold, who should produce a recipe for this concoction but Stephen's friend from school, the woman who inspired me to take on my 365 days, 100 recipes challenge. Using her recipe, I created this Saturday morning for my family's breakfast. The results were good, although I think Kate said it best when she described her monkey bread as being "soooo good... but so very bad."
Monkey bread (taken directly from Breanna, you'll get some sort of loyalties for this, I promise. I owe you.)

36 oz (2 packages) refrigerated biscuit dough
1 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 or 10 inch Bundt pan. 
      - My mother doesn't own a Bundt pan (there's ANOTHER birthday idea, folks. I am going to be SO easy to shop for this year. Electric stand alone mixer, bundt pan... and a karaoke machine), so I opted to use a well greased angel food cake mold. 

2. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a big ziploc.  Separate the biscuits and cut them into fourths. Put 6-8 pieces into the bag of cinnamon sugar, and toss around until covered.  
     - This was my FAVORITE step. I took Breanna's suggestion of using a pizza cutter to easily separate the biscuits into fourths, and it worked beautifully. Plus, there was something strangely therapeutic about throwing those pieces around in the Ziploc... especially when I started pounding the bag against the kitchen counter.
3. Place the pieces into the pan. Do this with all the pieces until the pan is about 3/4 full.
     - This is the step where you can add in nuts or raisins between the layers. My brother doesn't like either in his pastry, so I left them out. 

4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar and boil for about one minute, and then pour it over the biscuits.  
     - PS, boiling sugar is dangerous. I burnt the crud out of my tongue TRYING this mixture. You learn something new every day.
5. Bake for 35 minutes, let the bread cool for 10 minutes, and then turn it out onto a plate.
     - I had to keep it in for 40 minutes. Again, my parents' oven is HORRIBLE.
Such a delicious morning treat. I didn't realize how HUGE the portion was on this though... definitely way too much for a family of four. Here are some pictures of my finished product:

My apologies for how I look. I had just gotten back from the gym, burning off enough calories to be able to TRY my monkey bread. PLUS, my mother insisted I pose with the finished product like I used to in front of our house for every first day of school.

Friday, May 13, 2011

#5: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I did it. I finally did it. I FINALLY brought in treats for my kids at school. Were they appreciative? Maybe for all of two minutes. I bribed my students that if they did the very best they could on our state standard's test, I would bring in something delicious for them to snack on during one of their breaks. The trick was finding something that wouldn't hype them up on tremendous amounts of sugar, and be a large enough batch that I would most definitely have enough of them to share (learned that lesson with the snickerdoodles). After my failure on Saturday afternoon, I was also feeling a little discouraged and wanted an easy recipe that I knew I wouldn't be able to mess up- cue the Peanut Butter Cup Cookies.

Having scrounged the internet, I came across this EASY cookie recipe that also looked like something a kid would REALLY enjoy. Plus they look like I spent all night on them, and that was the guilt trip I laid on my students the next afternoon. The cookies start out as a basic chocolate chip cookie dough, minus the chips, and then you press a miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cup into each cookie- the perfect mix of a chocolate chip cookie and those stinkin' peanut butter blossom cookies you KNOW your mother makes each Christmas.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies (recipe found at

2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
48 miniature peanut butter cups, unwrapped


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven.  Butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, 48 miniature muffins tins.
     - I don't know ANYONE that owns that many miniature muffin tins, so I found a set of three tins with 12 muffin cups each at Albertson's for less than four dollars. Do they sell honest to goodness, NICE miniature muffin tins? 
2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes).     
     - What is with all of the 'electric mixer' crap? I just pulled out a whisk and went to town. Naturally though, being a little nervous about this "room temperature butter" business, I went ahead and nuked my butter for a total of 45 seconds prior to adding in the sugar. I am NOT dealing with the same issue I had with my cupcakes this last weekend, thank you kindly!

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. 

5. Fill each miniature muffin cup with about one tablespoon of batter. Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges but still soft in the center. 
    - I went for 9 minutes in the oven, and it worked perfectly. AND, being the multi-tasker I am, I spent this time unwrapping ALL of those peanut butter cups... and then was absolutely mystified by the sheer number of cups I had in a measuring cup at one time. So much so, I took a picture...

6. Remove the cookies from the oven, and gently press one miniature peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie. The peanut butter cup should be even with the top of the batter. Return the cookies to the oven and bake an additional 3 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely (about two hours) on a wire rack before removing the cookies from the pan.
     - I got impatient, so I popped the cookies out of their pans and put them on a plate in the fridge. Having learned from experience, I assumed these things would be soooo much better chilled... and I was right. I tried them right away, and not only did the cup scorch the roof of my mouth, but they just weren't as... good? Check out how ADORABLE these cookies are. Totally poppable too... like cookie popcorn!

So the cookies KIND OF worked to get my kids to try harder- I told them that if they paced themselves, and took their time on the test, I'd give them a cookie. Well, being the little manipulators they are, every time I walked past their desks, they'd pick up their pencils and start fervently working on their exams... sneaky. I wasn't tricked, but I certainly didn't need to take home an additional 24 cookies, so they "earned" their treats. Best comment of the bunch- "WOW MISS PETERS! These actually turned out pretty good. I thought you said you couldn't cook!?" Awwww, thank you... I think.
Check out what ELSE I made while baking. I am THE complete package. Ha ha haaaa. Bagel sandwich, anyone?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

#4: I don't think the batter is supposed to be CHUNKY...

Nichelle had a special request for our Mother's Day weekend together- cupcakes. Any kind. For her to decorate. I had been looking around for cake recipes anyway, and had found a simple vanilla recipe I had wanted to try, so this fell perfectly into place. Plus, I'm not doing a DECORATING blog (oh heavens no, I'm baking incompetent, not creative!), so I had no problem with her taking over the frosting. Although I won't be able to give you the 411 on her decorating tips, I am pleased to bring you my version of Martha Stewart's vanilla cupcakes. Try 'em out, tell me what you think:

Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla cupcakes (as adapted from


1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
     - Ohhhhh, the trouble I had with this particular step. First of all, my parents DO NOT own a working electric mixer, much less one of those really neat KitchenAid ones (which, by the way, if you want to get on my good side, I would love one of those for my birthday- never mind waiting until I register for a wedding one day- preferably in red). I had to put all my muscle into mixing the batter all on my own. Plus, imagine my confusion when I had to use TWO separate flours. I understand I am making myself look less and less intelligent with each blog post, but I literally thought there was only one kind of flour in the world.

2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
     - Again, this was SUPER difficult without a mixer. PLUS... excuse me? Who's idea was it to keep the butter in 1-inch pieces? I don't understand that step at all. Usually recipes call for softened or melted butter. Needless to say, I followed the recipe, and was left with enormous chunks of butter in my batter, even after I spent endless minutes attempting to incorporate all the ingredients. I don't think the batter is supposed to be chunky, does this look normal?

Up close, it reminds me of tapioca pudding... which I DON'T think is the consistency I'm looking for.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
     - I had mine in for, literally, 25 minutes each batch. I'm pretty sure there is something seriously wrong with my parents' oven. Helpful tip, that I am sure all of you "bakers" know, but I always use an ice cream scoop to measure out the batter for each liner. It always provides the perfect amount, AND all of the cupcakes are pretty close in size. I'm all about uniformity, it's the type-A personality in me.

4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter.

Okay, so, problem with this recipe. The cupcakes were gorgeous in color, but they turned out tasting much more BUTTERY than VANILLA--Y. Plus, there was this horrible layer of grease at the bottom of each liner that I had to wipe off as I took each cupcake out of the pan. Could this be due to the fact that my butter wanted to stay chunky in my batter? I don't know... all I know is, as cool as it is to make cupcakes from scratch, I've had better ones from the box. With that being said, I'm not really sure if I should count this recipe as a success or a failure... someone else try this recipe and tell me how yours turn out.

What everyone REALLY wants to see: Nichelle's decorating. ADORABLE. She created a garden, with each cupcake being a separate plot containing a different candy vegetable. I had these come to my house not long after I got back from church on Sunday-

Aren't these cute? Lettuce, peas, and carrots. My favorite were the peas: I'm pretty sure they were made out of gummy "strings," taffy, and M&M's. Uhhh, yum! Unfortunately, the cupcakes were a bit of a blow to my ego that afternoon. Having sat a night in Nichelle's waiting to be frosted, they dried out considerably. Luckily her decorating saved them. Ah well, back to square one...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

#3: "I almost went out and bought cream..."

I promised my kids baked goods at sometime. Having made the mistake of discussing both my journey into blogging, as well as my failed attempts at baking prior to my project, my 4th graders wanted physical proof that I'm actually starting to feel a little more confident in the kitchen. At this point, I was already feeling a little "chocolated out"... actually, that's not true at all. I absolutely believe a woman can never TIRE of chocolate, but I did kind of figure that I should probably branch out A LITTLE. With that being said, last Sunday, I had started to run down my game plan with Nichelle concerning the next few weeks baking timeline, and what sort of projects I wanted to tackle. I mentioned that my kids were requesting baked goods, and what came to mind? Snickerdoodles! Everyone loves those, and as luck would have it, Nichelle just happened to have a recipe she swore up and down was THE BEST she'd ever had. I'd have to be the judge of that:

Snickerdoodles (as created following Mrs. Parrish's world famous recipe)


2 2/3 cups of sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
3 tablespoons of baking powder
1 cup of melted butter
2 eggs
*TOPPING: 4 teaspoons of cinnamon
4 tablespoons of sugar


1. Mix and sift flour, salt, and baking powder
     - Um, yeah, I couldn't find a... sifter (I know there is an actual word for that particular tool, but it escapes me at the moment), so I went ahead and mixed the three ingredients really well with a fork, and guess what? It seemed to work just fine, suckers.
2. Cream and sugar until fluffy
     - If you're like me, you just saw this step and went, um, excuse me? There's no cream in this recipe! Yeah, for us non-bakers out here, the verb "to cream" means nothing to us. I stood there for a good three minutes trying to decipher what Nichelle and Mrs. Parrish meant by "cream and sugar." I almost went out and bought cream. Luckily, being the problem-solver I attempt to be, I assumed that the cream was the only dairy product in the recipe- the butter. In Kristen terms, to "cream" means to melt the butter in a bowl, add the sugar, and beat the two together until they fluff up. There you have it, you're welcome! I just saved you a big-old headache (PS- Nichelle didn't come home and laugh until she cried over this story... humph). The picture below shows my "fluffy" butter and eggs, so you understand the consistency they want:


3. Add beaten eggs and mix
     - How this recipe had me dirtying a bowl for the dried ingredients, the butter and sugar, AND the eggs, I'll never know.
4. Add dry ingredients and mix
     - I added the wet ingredients to the dry a little at the time, since that bowl was bigger.
5. Chill in fridge
     - I think I had the bowl sitting in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. I kind of forgot. I started making dinner at this particular time, and wasn't entirely paying attention.
6. Mold the dough into balls, and roll into the topping.
    - I made my balls a little smaller than golf ball sized. I had some major issues with the proportions in the topping though. When I followed the recipe, there was waaaaay too stinkin' much cinnamon, so much so that the sugar was completely overpowered by it. I went ahead and added another 2 tablespoons or so of sugar, so I suppose the topping is kind of up to your own tastes. My topping looked like this:

7. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees
     - I did 11 minutes, and it worked perfectly. Crunchy on the outside, warm and soft on the inside.

Another successful project tackled. These cookies were wonderful. Nichelle was right, they were probably the best snickerdoodles I've ever tasted, not to toot my own horn or anything. Unfortunately, the two of us chose to have guests over that night, so there weren't enough for my kids... but we got to enjoy them. That's a win in my book. Plus, I still have another 22 days with my munchkins, I'll bring something out to them SOMETIME!

Picture proof they were great: a half eaten cookie. Yes, I know I need a fill, shuuuuush.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

#2: Heartbreak Cake

It's becoming slightly pathetic how therapeutic I'm actually starting to find this baking/blogging combination. With that being said, I'm also thoroughly beginning to enjoy spreading my JOY OF BAKING to others around me: take Saturday night. My friend needed a picker upper, and naturally what do I come to the rescue with? CAKE... and nachos... and burritos... and sodas with pebble ice. Uh, yum. The cake I chose to make is called, um, well... "Better than Sex Cake," but for the sake of this blog, and for the sake of me shouting across church the recipe I had most recently tried, I've renamed it "Heartbreak Cake." Seriously though. This concoction contains everything a woman needs post break-up/giant disappointment: chocolate, caramel, toffee, whip cream... my goodness, I already swore to Nichelle that if my daughters ever come home one night crying over a man, this will be the first thing I plunk down in front of them... and then they'll be over 400 pounds and unable to FIND a date, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
This is only one of several varieties of "Better than Sex Cake" I found on the internet. Evidently there are thousands of women across the U.S. who supplement their lack of... adult entertainment... with cake. I'm not SURE if this really IS better than said activity... but I'll let you be the judge, since who am I to make that call, HONESTLY?! Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Heartbreak Cake:

As adapted from
1 18.25 ounce package of devil's food cake mix (I used Betty Crocker... I know, I know, I cheated using a mix. The next time I make a cake, I promise I'll make it from scratch!)
1/2 a 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (I chose to use fat free, attempting to make this a LITTLE less sinful)
6 ounces caramel ice cream topping (I definitely used more than that. Just do what I did- go out and buy the giant 20 ounce squeeze bottle of Smuckers caramel ice cream topping...)
3 1.4 ounce bars of chocolate covered toffee, chopped (Heath Bars, darlin')
1 8 ounce container of frozen whipped topping (Light Cool-Whip for me)


1. Bake cake according to the directions in a 9X13 inch pan; let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Make slits across the top of the cake, making sure not to go through to the bottom.
     - I one upped this. I also made holes in the cake using the back of a spoon in between the slits. I wanted an extra-gooey cake, thank you!

2. In a saucepan over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping, stirring until smooth and blended. Slowly pour the warm topping mixture over the top of the warm cake, letting it sink into the slits; then sprinkle the crushed toffee bars liberally over the entire cake while still warm. 
     - Leave the pieces of Heath bar a little bigger; that way you have something to crunch on!

3. Let cake cool completely (I had it sitting for about 45 minutes), then top with whipped topping. Decorate the top of the cake with more of the chocolate toffee chunks and swirls of caramel sauce. Refrigerate and serve right from the pan. 

So easy, so stinkin' good. I know it's gonna kill you, but I highly recommend making this the night before and letting it refrigerate overnight. We tried it that same night, and it was so-so (talk about devastating for me!), but the next day it had all combined together. Soooo much better chilled!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

#1: "What's the secret ingredient? ... Love"

Stephen and I took on Mrs. Field's chocolate chip cookies. Truth be told, I had already tried this recipe twice prior to Tuesday with mixed results. I was DETERMINED to get a decent batch following my mental breakdown on the kitchen floor when I completely decimated 4 dozen cookies one Thursday evening. The result: the BEST homemade chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted. Seriously. We could attribute the success to Mothers Baird suggestion of adding almond extract to the recipe, but I'm gonna go with what I told Dave- "What's the secret ingredient? ... Love."

Recipe (as followed from the website such a cool site. Check it out):

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 twelve ounce bags of chocolate chips
*2 1/2 teaspoons almond extract (not in the recipe, but seriously, DO THIS)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, *and almond*
     - Note: Don't do what I did. Thinking I knew what I was doing, I didn't listen to Midge's advice, and put the first stick of butter in a bowl in the microwave to soften it. Silly me. She put out a plate, insisted I heat one stick at a time for 16 seconds each. I did what she said on the second stick, and it worked perfectly. Humph. Needless to say, being the stubborn girl I am, I went ahead and tried to beat the two sticks of butter into the wet ingredients anyways. After about five minutes of that, Stephen grabbed the bowl from me and used the hand-mixer on it. Pretty confident that's what made the cookies rise so well in the oven. Dang it, I was out baked by the Bairds...

3. In another bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda
4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients
     - We poured the wet ingredients into the dry a little at a time as we stirred the mixture. I don't know if this really matters, but I'm trying to be a precise little lady.  

5. Stir in chocolate chips
     - I use a mixture of semi-sweet and milk chocolate. Best of both worlds, baby. This time I used an entire bag of semi-sweet and about 3/4 a bag of milk (I added a little extra, whoooops!)

6. With your fingers (the LOVE I described), place golf ball sized portions of 2 inches apart of ungreased cookie sheet.
     - Mine were pretty true to this size, the batches Stephen put on the sheets were much bigger, buwhaha.

7. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
     - I think we went a little over 10... maybe. Sheer luck that one batch turned out perfect: we forgot to set a timer. Eeeep.

This apparently makes two dozen cookies. I think we got around 32 cookies out of it, if I remember right.

Here are the results, soooo delicious. Definitely going in my future family cook book.