No Bake Cookies


I can cook up a storm when it comes to baking cookies.  I've never been able to make a  No Bake Cookie.  Not even to save my life.  Seriously, if someone told me I had to make a no bake cookie or die, I'd be as good as gone. . .  until . . . I found this recipe!  I conquered the No Bake!

I don't even like No Bakes.  The texture is unpleasant to me (I'm finicky about the texture of my food).  That probably has something to do with my inability to make them.  I did try one of these cookies after I made them.  It tasted pleasant, but I still couldn't get over that texture. 

The people who I shared them with (read: the poor souls who are kind enough to eat the results of my never ending recipe experiment) reported that the No Bake Cookies were really good.  And these are the kind of folks who are not gonna blow smoke for me.  So, you're just gonna have to rely on their opinions and give it a shot yourself!

Slightly adapted from: Indecisive Baker

Here's what I used:

1/2 Stick of Butter
1/2 Cup of Milk
2 Cups Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla
1/4 Tsp Salt
3 Heaping Tbsps Cocoa
1/2 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
2 3/4 Cups Quick Cooking Oats

1 Cup Mini Marshmallows

Here's what I did:

In a saucepan I melted the Butter and then added the Milk, Sugar, Vanilla, Salt and Cocoa.  I let that mixture boil for 90 seconds (don't let it boil longer than that!).   

After the 90 seconds, I removed the pan from the heat and immediately added the Peanut Butter.  After I mixed the Peanut Butter in completely, I added the Oats.  (You may use slightly more or less oats than I did -- somewhere between 2 1/2 and 3 cups) 

After the Oats were mixed in, I added the Miniature Marshmallows and stirred just until it was well combined.  

Finally, I dropped the cookies by heaping Teaspoon full onto waxed paper.  Let them cool completely before you eat them.



Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes


For Father's Day I made my dad a delicious Carrot Cake that I owed him.  But, since I don't like vegetables with my dessert, I had to make something else, cause I'm not going without dessert.  I saw a recipe for Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes and thought they looked adorable, so I decided to give them a try.  I simplified the recipe and they ended up being not only adorable, but delicious too.  I was really surprised at how much they actually tasted like a hot fudge sundae.  And they really are quite easy to make.

Adapted from: Joy the Baker

Here's what I used for the cupcakes:
1 White cake mix and the ingredients needed to make the cake according to the box
3 Tbsp Vanilla Extract

Here's what I did to make the cupcakes:
I prepared the cake mix according to the directions. I also added 3 Tbsp of Vanilla Extract.  I baked the cupcakes according to the box, removing them from the oven when they were golden brown.  I put them on a cooling rack upside down until they were cool.

Here's what I used for the chocolate ganache:
2 1/4 Cups Miniature Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (a little more than a 12 oz bag)
3/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Here's what I did to make the chocolate ganache:
I poured the chocolate chips into a bowl.  I put the cream in a pan and simmered it on the stove until it was very warm (but I did not let it boil).  Once the cream was warm, I poured it over the chocolate chips.  I let that sit for about a minute.  Then I stirred the mixture together, letting the cream melt the chocolate, until the mixture was completely smooth. 

     Hint:  If you didn't get the cream warm enough to melt the chocolate chips all the
      way, just put the bowl in the microwave and heat it up for 10 seconds at a time. 
      Stir after you heat it up each time to see if the chocolate chips are melted -- you
      only want to heat it enough to melt the chocolate chips.

Here's what I used to assemble the cupcakes:
Whipped Cream
Maraschino Cherries
Chocolate Sprinkles

Here's what I did to assemble the cupcakes:
I wanted to try stuffing the cupcakes, so the first thing I did was use an apple corer to remove the center of each cupcake (Bonus!  I get to eat all the centers!).  Then I filled about half of the center of each cupcake up with whipped cream.  I filled the other half of the center up with caramel.  (The caramel was a last minute idea.  I was at my mom's house and she happened to have those little cups of caramel for dipping apples in, so I used those.  I just heated each one up a bit in the microwave to make the caramel easy to work with.)

Then I iced the cupcakes with the ganache.  I made sure to put a little extra ganache over the center of each cupcake so that the ganache would seep into the center of each cupcake as well.

After I let the ganache cool until it was firm, I put whipped cream, a cherry, and chocolate sprinkles on each cupcake.  



Homemade Mac-N-Cheese


I love homemade mac-n-cheese.  Who doesn't?  I've tried several different recipes in the past, but this one wins.  By far.  It's creamy and thick.  It's nice and gooey.  It's a little crunchy on top.  And, it has a little kick.  Perfect!  I made this for a family dinner and between 5 adults and one 1 yr old, we ate about 3/4 of the pan.  It's that good.

For this recipe, I checked out a whole bunch of different recipes and then I came up with my own. 

Here's what I used:

6 Slices of White Bread, without the crusts
1 Stick of unsalted Butter
5 1/2 Cups Milk
1/2 Cup Flour
1 1/2 Tsp Dry Mustard
1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
2 Tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
1/4 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
4 1/2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, finely grated
1 1/3 Cups Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
1 1/4 Cups Pecorino Romano, finely grated
1 Lb. Macaroni Noodles

Here's what I did:

First I preheated the oven to 375 degrees.  Then I buttered a casserole dish.  I used a 2.2 quart dish, but had a little overflow, so use something bigger than that.

Next, I tore the bread into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces and put them in a small bowl.  I melted 2 tablespoons of butter and poured it on top of the bread.  I tossed the bread in the butter to evenly coat the pieces.  Then I set that bowl to the side.  I put a pot of water on the stove to heat up for cooking the noodles.

I put the milk in a pan and heated it on medium heat.  In another pan, I melted 6 tablespoons of butter on medium heat.  When the butter bubbled, I added the flour and stirred well.  I cooked that mixture (called a roux) for 1 minute while constantly stirring.  I slowly added the milk to the roux while whisking.  I continued whisking the mixture for about 12 minutes while it remained on medium heat.  At that point, the sauce had started to thicken.   Then I added the dry mustard, nutmeg, kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.  I stirred that well and then added 3 cups of cheddar cheese, 1 cup of parmesan cheese, and 1 cup pecorino romano cheese.  I added each cheese one at a time and made sure to mix well before adding another cheese.

Then I set the sauce to the side.  I added the macaroni noodles to my now boiling water and cooked the noodles until aldente.  After rinsing the noodles in cold water, I mixed the noodles and the cheese sauce together.  I transferred that mixture to the baking dish. 
I topped that with the remaining cheeses. 
On top of the cheese, I put the pieces of bread.
 I baked the dish for about 30 minutes.  Remove it when the cheese is bubbly and the bread pieces are a deep golden brown.  Here is what mine looked like right out of the oven:



Father's Day Carrot Cake


Last year for my Dad’s birthday, he requested a Carrot Cake.  I’d never made one before, but that never stops me.  So, I got a recipe and went to the store.  When I got home, I set out to make his cake.  I peeled and grated the carrots and I went to town.  I got most of the way through making the batter when I realized I didn’t have any flour.  None at all.  It was after midnight on a work night and if I wanted to run to the store to get flour, it would be at least a half hour excursion.  So I scrapped the carrot cake, made a pan of brownies, and gave my dad an IOU.  For Father’s Day this year, I decided to make good on my IOU.  This recipe calls for you to whisk the flour together with other dry ingredients at the beginning of making the cake.  Aha!  I will not be gotten again!

I hear it came out well.  I don’t eat carrot cake, so I don’t know.  But I do know that the icing was delicious!

Adapted from:  Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy

Here’s what I used for the cake:

2 ¼ Cups Flour
1 ½ Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
2 Tsp Cinnamon
½ Tsp ground Ginger
1 Tsp Salt
¼ Tsp ground Nutmeg
4 extra large Eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ Cups Sugar
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Buttermilk
2/3 Cup firmly packed Brown Sugar
2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
8 oz crushed Pineapple, drained
1 Pound finely grated Carrots

Here’s what I did:

First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  Then I peeled, washed, and grated the carrots.  This is what one pound of grated carrots looks like:

I sprayed an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Then I whisked together the Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Cinnamon, Ginger, Salt, and Nutmeg.  I set that bowl to the side. 

Next, I mixed together the Eggs, Sugars, Oil, Buttermilk, Vanilla, and Pineapple.  I slowly incorporated the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until everything was mixed together well.  Then I stirred in the carrots just until they were evenly distributed throughout the batter. 

I poured half of the batter into my pan and put it in the oven to bake.  It took about 45 minutes for my cakes to bake completely.  Here is what mine looked like fresh out of the oven:

If you have more than one 8 x 8 pan, you can bake both layers of your cake at once.  I only have one right now.  It’s a long story . . .

Stick a toothpick or skewer into the center of your cake to make sure it’s done.  If it comes out clean, it’s done.  As always, be sure to keep an eye on the cake as it’s baking – you don’t want to over bake the cake.

I let each cake cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes before I tried to take the cake out of the pan. 

Here’s what I used for the frosting:

16 Oz Cream Cheese, softened
1 Stick of unsalted Butter, softened
3 Tsp Vanilla Extract
3 Cups Powdered Sugar

Here’s what I did:

First I beat the Cream Cheese and Butter together until they were smooth.  I added the Vanilla and beat the entire mixture until the Vanilla was incorporated.  Finally, I added the Powdered Sugar 1 cup at a time until the frosting tasted like I wanted it to.  I ended up using 3 cups of Powdered Sugar.  You could use 4.  Or more.  Or less.  Just whatever suits you.

I found the frosting to be a bit runny, so I put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to thicken it up a bit before I iced my cake.

Hint:  Be sure that you do not ice the cakes until they are completely cooled. 
If you ice them when they’re warm, they’ll heat up your frosting, which will
make it runny and you’ll have a terrible mess on your hands.

And, for those of us like to keep our vegetables separate from our desserts, I also made Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes.  They were deeeelicious!  That recipe will be coming soon!


P.S.  Since this was a Father’s Day Carrot Cake, here’s a picture of my Dad and I:




My mom and my Aunt Pat both make this dish in Cherry.  I call it Cherry Jubilee.  I’ve also heard that this is called a dump cake?  I love the cherry version of it, but was looking for something a little different, so I decided to try blueberry as well.  The blueberry turned out just as delicious as the cherry normally does. 

It’s a super simple recipe.  Essentially fool-proof.  AND, it requires that you only dirty the pan you bake it in and a couple of pieces of silverware.  How awesome is that!?!  

Here’s what I used:
Either 26 oz Cherry Pie Filling or 21 oz Blueberry Pie Filling (I couldn't find a 26 oz in blueberry)
20 oz Crushed Pineapple                                        
1/3 of a Yellow Cake Mix, Dry
¾ - 1 stick of Butter, cubed

Here’s what I did:
I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  I opened the pie filling and poured it into an 8 x 8 baking dish. 
I opened the pineapple and drained the juice off of the top (I didn’t drain the whole can).  Then I poured the pineapple on top of the pie filling in the baking dish.

I mixed the pie filling and pineapple together.
I put a layer of the dry cake mix on top of the pie filling/pineapple mixture.
Then I put a layer of the cubed butter on top of the dry cake mix.
            Hint:  The smaller your butter cubes, the more evenly your butter
              will disburse, which will result in a more uniform crust.  To make 
              your butter easier to cut into small cubes, toss the stick into the
              freezer for a while before you cut it up.

I baked the Jubilee for about an hour.  Watch it towards the end to make sure you don’t over cook it.  You want to take it out of the oven when the crust is nice and golden brown.  Here are what mine looked like straight out of the oven:

This is a dish that I think tastes much better completely cool than it does straight out of the oven, so I suggest letting it cool completely before digging in. 



S'Mores Bars


A few weeks ago my sweet tooth kicked into overdrive right before bed.  I had to have a s'more.  Now.  So, I pranced into the kitchen, prepared to make a microwave s'more.  Classy, I know. 

When I opened the freezer to pull out a chocolate bar, there were none.  I had seven chocolate bars in there.  SEVEN.  And they were all gone.  All. Seven. Of. Them.  I was not a happy camper. 

So, I had two choices.  I could be a big kid and run to the store and grab a chocolate bar to make my s'mores.  Or, I could pout.  So, I pouted my way right back to bed.  

I woke the next morning with s'mores on the brain.  And they stayed there all day.  Clearly, this was not going to go away until I did something about it.  I headed over to one of my favorite food blogs, The Girl Who Ate Everything, to see if she had any s'mores recipes I should try.  Of course she did.  She has everything.  But, just one s'mores treat wasn't enough for this girl.  Nuh uh.  Nope, I needed two.  So I made these S'mores Bars and I also made her S'mores Cookies.  I'll post that recipe later.  Here's the info on these delicious S'mores Bars:

Slightly adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

Here's what I used:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 king-sized Hershey's milk chocolate bars

1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff (7 1/2 oz jar)

Here's what I did:

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and sprayed an 8 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

First I mixed together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  I set those dry ingredients to the side.  Next I creamed the butter and sugar together.  Then I beat in the egg and vanilla.  I slowly added the dry ingredients into the wet ones until everything was mixed well. 

I pressed about half of that dough into the bottom of my greased pan.  I broke up my chocolate bars into pieces that would fit into the pan and covered the bottom dough with chocolate (only one layer deep).  You could use more or less chocolate, depending on your tastes.  I thought this amount worked out just right for me.

 Then I spread the marshmallow fluff on top of the chocolate bars.  Finally, using parchment paper, I made a square out of the remaining dough that was roughly the size of my pan.  I transferred that square on top of the marshmallow fluff for the top layer.  

I baked the bars for about 35 minutes.  Don't let your crust get too brown or too well done.  This is what mine looked like fresh out of the oven:

You do want to let the bars cool before you cut them, but I think these bars and infinitely better if eaten warm.  So if they aren't still warm when you go to bite into them, toss them in the microwave for just a few seconds.  It's totally worth the wait.

The original recipe provided that this pan would make 16 bars.  I found these bars to be very rich and couldn't eat an entire bar if I only divided the pan into 16 pieces.  I ended up cutting mine into about 24 different bars.  Make your bars whatever size you prefer.



French Vanilla Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies


So, I happen to have a realllly great chocolate chip cookie recipe.  But, I’m always looking for a better one.  I’m looking for one that will make me say “Wowza!”  This, is not that recipe.  However, if you’re looking for a moist chocolate chip cookie that stays soft for a long time, this is your recipe.  A friend of mine who was singing the praises of these cookies ended the conversation with, “I guess I’m just a cookie simpleton.”  Well, I guess that makes me a cookie snob. . .

Anywho, as I looked around for a recipe to try, I noticed a lot of people raving about cookie recipes that have dry pudding mix in them.  So, I decided to give it a whirl.  I basically combined a whole bunch of different recipes into one and here is what I came up with:

Here’s what I used:

1 Cup of Butter, Room Temperature
¾ Cup Light Brown Sugar
¼ White Sugar
5 oz French Vanilla Pudding Mix
2 Eggs
 Tsp Vanilla
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Salt
2 ¼ Cups All Purpose White Flour
3 Cups Chocolate Chips
¼ Cup 2% Milk

Here’s what I did:

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  Then I creamed the butter and both sugars together.  I added the pudding mix to the creamed butter and mixed well. 

     Hint:  I didn’t have any butter at room temperature when I wanted to make these cookies, so I preheated
     the oven, took the butter out of the refrigerate and cut it into small cubes.  I then put the cubed butter in
     a bowl and set the bowl on top of the preheating oven.  I left the bowl there while I gathered the rest of
     my ingredients and by the time I was ready to cream the butter and sugars, the butter was close to
     room temperature.

My local store did not have a 5 oz box of French Vanilla Pudding, so I bought two smaller boxes and guessed about how much pudding I was using. 

I added the eggs and vanilla to the dough and made sure they were mixed well.

In a separate bowl, I combined the Baking Soda, Salt and Flour.  

I slowly poured the dry ingredients into the dough and mixed it all together.  Finally I added the chocolate chips. 

I like LOTS of chocolate chips in my cookies, so you may want to decrease or increase the amount of chocolate chips you use, depending on how you like your cookies.  Towards the end of mixing everything together, my dough seemed a little dry, so I added the Milk to moisten everything up. 

I rolled the dough into balls and placed them on an ungreased cookie sheet. 

I put them in the oven to bake for about 10 minutes.  Start checking your cookies at about 8 minutes to make sure you don’t overbake them.  This is what mine looked like fresh out of the oven:   

This recipe made about 72 cookies for me, but I make really small cookies – almost bite sized. 



Biscuit Pizzas


I used to make these little pizzas with my mom and my sister when I was growing up.  I totally forgot about them until a couple of months ago when I was trying to come up with some ideas for heavy appetizers to serve at one of my book clubs.  These just randomly popped into my head.  So I made them, and I was reminded of how simple and delicious they are.  They can be served as an appetizer or as a main dish.  I’ve eaten them as both in the last couple of months.  As is the case with any pizza, you can modify the toppings to fit your tastes.  And, they’re a great food to let the kiddos help make -- I remember how excited I’d get when my mom would let me help with these. 

Here’s what I used:

1 Can of Biscuits
1 Partial Jar of Pizza Sauce
1 Partial Package of Pepperoni Slices
1 Cup of finely shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese
1 Cup of finely shredded Italian Cheese Mix
1 Small Can of Black Olives, sliced
1 Small Can of Mushrooms, sliced

Here’s what I did:

I preheated my oven according to the directions on the can of biscuits.

At my local Wal-Mart, I couldn’t find a single can of regular biscuits.  If I wanted regular ole’ biscuits, I had to buy a four pack.  What am I going to do with four cans of biscuits?  I don’t know either.  So, instead, I bought 1 can of Jumbo Flakey Buttermilk Biscuits.  That whole rant was to tell you that if you buy the jumbo flakey biscuits, you should divide each biscuit in half-ish horizontally before you get started. 

After dividing my biscuits in half horizontally, I laid each half biscuit on a cookie sheet (if you have a regular can of biscuits, use the full biscuit, don’t half it).  I put down parchment paper because I’ve learned that parchment paper makes my life easier. 

Then you need to find some apparatus in your kitchen to push down the center of each biscuit, creating a wall to hold the pizza sauce in.  I used the bottom of a plastic measuring cup.  When I was little we used the bottom of child sized Tupperware drinking cups.  I dipped the bottom of the measuring cup in flour (to keep the cup from sticking to the biscuit) and then gently pressed down on each biscuit to create an indention with walls to hold the sauce in. 

Then, I spooned a little bit of pizza sauce into each biscuit.  I’d say I used about 1 to 2 Tablespoons of sauce per biscuit.

Finally, I added the toppings.   

Some of the pizzas I made had just pepperoni and cheese.  Others had black olives and mushrooms as well.  Just use your imagination – the possibilities are endless! 

After I had all the toppings on the pizzas, I threw the pan in the oven and let them bake for about 8-10 minutes. 

     HINT:  Keep an eye on your pizzas and be sure to remove them when the biscuits
                get a golden brown color and your cheese is melted. 

Here are what mine looked like fresh out of the oven:

Let them cool a couple of minutes before you eat them.



Monster Cookies??

I'd never even heard of Monster Cookies until this Christmas when my mom started mentioning them.  The way she talked, I thought they were some new fangled invention.   Clearly, I was wrong.  A couple of weeks ago, I was cruising my recipe websites trying to come up with a good recipe to make and a friend suggested Monster Cookies.  So I gave it a shot. 

I adapted this recipe: Paula Dean's Monster Cookies
Here's what I used:

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened 
1/2+ cup multi-colored chocolate candies (M&Ms)
1/2+ cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (Not the same thing as instant otameal)

Here's what I did:

Preheated the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lined the cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combined the eggs and sugars. Mixed well. Added the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. 

     HINT: Make sure  the butter really is softened.  I prefer to let it set out at room
               temperature to soften rather than heating it up in the microwave.

Mixed well. Stired in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, baking soda, and oatmeal. Droped by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the parchment paper.

Baked 10 minutes.

     HINT: On your first batch, make sure you start checking on them around 8 minutes as
               oven times vary.  You do not want to overbake these cookes.

Removed from oven.  Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire cooling racks.  This is what they looked like fresh out of the oven:
See how they're still a little bit gooey in the middle?  That's how I like 'em!

These cookies turned out to be really good.  The base of the cookie tastes a lot like a peanut butter cookie.  I don't like peanut butter cookies, so I expected to not like these, but I just kept eating them.  Funny how that happens . . .

These cookies were very soft and stayed that way for days.  I put them in plastic baggies after they cooled and they kept just fine.  I will warn you though, this recipe made a lot of cookies.  A LOT, a lot.  Like, 72+ cookies.  And that was after I ate half my body weight in dough.