Birthday Cake Bars

Ya’ll remember last year’s birthday food extravaganza for the hubby, right? It left a pretty bad precedent for how birthdays should be handled, which I was not able to live up to this year. In my defense, he was out of town, which made it difficult for me to shower him with food and sugar and gifts. But in reality, I’m sort of a crappy wife. I could’ve probably planned better and shipped a bunch of stuff to him, but I suck, and I didn’t.

did, however, fly out to South Carolina to visit him for the weekend, with these ooey, gooey gems in tow:

Birthday Cake Bars | Chrissie CooksI think they made up for it.

So packed with glorious sugar, and chocolate, and sprinkles, and Oreos, my beloved Oreos–Birthday Cake Oreos, at that.

Make these bad boys for the next lucky birthday boy or girl in your life, and you will never have to buy an actual birthday gift again. Everyone will just want you to give them these from here on out. You can thank me later (with a batch of these, preferably).

Birthday Cake Bars | Chrissie Cooks

Birthday Cake Bars
Adapted from The Domestic Rebel

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Funfetti cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles
  • 12 Birthday Cake Golden Oreos, roughly crushed
  • 12 Birthday Cake Oreos, roughly crushed
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13×9 inch pan with foil, extending edges of foil over the sides of the pan. Mist with cooking spray. This stuff is going to be sticky, ya’ll.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, egg, and melted butter until a soft dough forms. Press into prepared pan in an even layer, and bake for about 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately top evenly with the following, in order: marshmallows, semi-sweet and white chocolate chips, sprinkles, and crushed Oreos. Drizzle the can of condensed milk over the top.

Place back in the oven and continue to bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting into bars. They’re super gooey, so you might even stick them in the fridge for an hour or two to solidify them a bit before cutting.

Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. They’re great eaten at room temperature, slightly warmed, cold, frozen… any which way you want ’em!

 

Advertisements

Back with a Chocolate Chip Bang

Chocolate Chip Cookie Party | Chrissie Cooks

So this is awkward. I feel like I’ve just bumped into a friend whose calls I’ve been dodging for 4 months. Four. Months.

I swear, I totally haven’t been dodging your calls. I’ve just been busy and boring and my brain and iPhone have both been too full for blogging.

But after the marathon baking weekend I just had, I’m forced to make time for it and start anew! So here it goes…

I’ve always said I was determined to find the quintessential chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’m not talking New York Times, multiple-types-of-flour, 23-step chocolate chip cookies… I’m talking down-home, easy peezy, go-to-in-a-pinch chocolate chip cookies that I can make my signature treat.

So I decided to host a bake-off… against myself… to find the best one.

My limits were pushed, my flour stock was emptied, and by hour 8 of dough-ball rolling, my will was broken. But at the end of the night, we had sugar-stuffed friends and family and a new go-to cookie (sort of).

I’ll start from the beginning, in case any of my fellow masochists want to attempt a Cookie Party of their own one day. If you just want the winning recipe, jump to the bottom.

First, I scoured the Internet (hello, Pinterest) for recipes claiming to be the “best chocolate chip cookie.” Some that used oil, some that used cornstarch, some that used cream cheese, all with varying amounts and consistencies of flour, eggs, and brown and white sugar. Here are the six I ended up comparing:

  1. Two Twenty One’s “Chocolate Chip Cookies”
  2. Just a Taste’s “Secret Ingredient” Chocolate Chip Cookies
  3. Savory Sweet Life’s “Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER”
  4. Sally’s Baking Addiction’s “Chewy Chocolate Chunk” Cookies
  5. Averie Cooks’ “Chocolate Chip and Chunk” Cookies
  6. The Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie

I emailed myself this numbered, linked list, so I would have each recipe and its corresponding number handy. This is important.

Then, I wrote down all of the ingredients for each recipe, and added up the amounts of all the staples, so I could make sure I’d have enough of each (and failed, somehow–the hubby had to run out and pick up more brown sugar and chocolate chips at the last minute… whoops), and picked up all my supplies at the grocery store.

The day before the party, I made up all my dough, for two reasons: (1) To save me from waking up at 5 a.m. the day of the party to mix and bake all six batches of dough, and (2) almost all cookie recipes recommend chilling overnight to let the ingredients blend.

Thankfully, my angel of a mom was in town, and was able to zip around me cleaning periodically, otherwise the house would’ve been an absolute disaster. Thank God for mothers.

Each batch of dough went into a bowl that had a piece of tape with that batch’s number on it, and into the fridge, until my fridge looked like this:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Party | Chrissie Cooks

If you thought this part was hard, you should quit now and have a salmonella party instead, because you won’t make it through this last part. You’ve been warned.

Predictably, the whole day of the party was spent rolling dough into consistently sized and shaped balls. Like, the *whole* day. The party started at 7:30, and the last batch came out of the oven at 7:20. Now, I only have two baking sheets, and I’m a smidge OCD, so I’m sure this could’ve been done faster if you had more pans and didn’t have to let them cool for 15 – 20 minutes in between each batch, or if you didn’t care if your dough balls weren’t exactly the same size and shape. But alas, these are the cards I was dealt.

As each batch came out of the oven, they went to a cooling rack, and the next batch went onto the cookie sheets and into the oven. When the next batch came out of the oven, the previous batch went from the cooling rack to its pre-numbered serving tray and was covered with foil. And repeat.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Party | Chrissie Cooks

Mix in some appetizer-making, party-decorating, and house-cleaning, and this process was a full-on beat down. By the time our first guests arrived, all I wanted was a nap.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Party | Chrissie Cooks

I made some voting cards so our friends could pick their favorite and leave comments:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Party | Chrissie Cooks

So when all the votes were tallied (mine included), the winner was…

A tie. Between recipes #4 and #5. Sigh.

So my solution is to combine the two recipes. Most people seemed to like that #5 was packed with chocolate chips, but the flavor and texture of #4 seemed to win over its voters. SO, here’s my own, personal winning recipe. I’ll update with more photos when I make this version (when we finally finish off the leftovers from the party, in approximately six years, that is).

Chrissie’s Go-To Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction and Averie Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2  tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

Directions:
Mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until no lumps remain.

Add in the egg, then the egg yolk.

Finally, add the vanilla.

Slowly mix in the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt, until combined. The dough will be very soft, yet thick.

Fold in the chocolate chips. Get them as evenly distributed throughout the dough as you can. Cover the dough and chill for 2 hours, or up to 3 days. With this particular dough, you really can’t skip this step.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow to slightly soften at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

Roll the dough into 1.5″ balls. The dough will be crumbly, but the warmth of your hands will hold them together. Roll your dough balls to be taller rather than wide, to ensure the cookies will bake up to be thick. Space your cookies about 2″ apart. Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes.* The cookies will look very soft and underbaked. They will continue to bake on the cookie sheet. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

 *I actually baked them for 9-10 minutes, then just kept checking them every minute or two until I felt like they were actually ready to come out.

Oreo Truffle Brownies

Oreo Truffle Brownies | Chrissie Cooks

Guys, this is important. Like, monumental.

I’ve found the perfect dessert.

Yes. The. Perfect. Dessert. It’s just the right combination of delicious, easy, and OREOS.

Most people know that my favorite thing to make, for years now, has been Oreo Truffles (or Oreo Balls, as all my friends call them). They’re simple enough, with just three ingredients, and always a big hit, but all that rolling and dipping is a lot of work and a lot of mess.

So when I stumbled across a picture of something called “Oreo Truffle Brownies” on Pinterest, I knew I had to make them. I just needed the right occasion, so I wasn’t left eating them all by myself (I know, like that would be *so* tragic).

So when my best friend was 9 months pregnant and moving into a new house (and basically insane, clearly), I thought they would make a perfect housewarming gift / pregnancy-craving quencher.

And they were a big success. Dan even threw a mini temper tantrum at the idea of my friend getting them all, so I had to keep just under half of them for him (and myself). The good news is, it made a ton, so it wasn’t an issue.

Oreo Truffle Brownies | Chrissie Cooks

And for the added happy ending to this post… That best-friend-who-was-pregnant is now my best-friend-who’s-a-mommy! Her sweet baby girl came a few days ago. Safe to say you can prepare for some cooking overload, as I plan to provide her with an endless supply of home-cooked frozen meals.

Oreo Truffle Brownies
Adapted from Chef In Training

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 pkg. Oreos
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 10 oz. dipping chocolate

Directions:
First, make the brownie layer: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs. Add vanilla, salt, cocoa, and flour. Resist eating the entire bowl of batter, and pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

While brownies are cooling, make the Oreo truffle layer: Whip the cream cheese up in a mixer. Drop in most of the Oreos (saving 5 or 6 for the optional topping, if you’d like), breaking them into halves or quarters as you drop them in. Mix on medium speed, until the Oreos are crushed and well-blended with the cream cheese.

When the brownie layer has cooled completely, spread the Oreo truffle mixture on top.

Melt dipping chocolate (or chocolate chips or chocolate candy coating) and pour over the top of the Oreo truffle layer, spreading it out evenly with a spatula. Crush up remaining Oreos, and sprinkle evenly over the top. Cover, and put in fridge for at least 30 minutes, until chocolate layer is hardened. Cut into brownies, and enjoy!

Pink Fluff

That’s right, ladies & gents. I’m actually about to tell you to make something as nondescript as “pink fluff.” Just go with it, OK?

ImageI know what you’re thinking: “Just because it’s pink, doesn’t mean it’s good.” But au contraire… I have come to find that most pink desserts are in fact, quite good. And Pink Fluff is no exception.

Shockingly enough (considering its low-cal nature), this has become one of Dan’s most requested desserts. In fact, I’m willing to bet he’s going to see this post today, and immediately ask me to make it.

And best of all, there’s no baking and no dirtying of excess bowls. Just dump, stir, serve. Easy as pie. Except easier. Easier than pie. (Why is that even a saying? Pie isn’t all that easy to make.)

Anyway, see for yourself:

ImageBerry Fluff
Adapted from Becoming Betty

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bag frozen mixed berries (or two small bags)
  • 1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip Light
  • 1 (32 oz) container light french vanilla yogurt
  • 1 small box instant cheesecake pudding mix (sugar free, if you can find it)

Directions:
Set the berries out on the counter for 15 minutes, to let them start to soften and let some of the juices melt (hello pink color!). Then, dump the berries into a large bowl. Add the Cool Whip, then the yogurt. Mix in the pudding powder, and stir it all up real good.

You can eat it as soon as it’s mixed to your liking, but it usually gets better after a day or so, when the flavors have all melded together.

Enjoy!

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

20130709-194030.jpg

Whoa, it’s been a month since I last posted. To say this summer has been crazy so far would be the understatement of the year. Between traveling for work, traveling for fun, traveling for not-so-fun, and people traveling to me, I have not even had time to breathe, let alone blog.

But things are starting to slow down a little, and I can finally take a breath. Just the one. But that’s OK, I’ll take what I can get.

The good news is, I’ve still been photographing and making note of my favorite meals over the past few weeks, so I’ve got a nice archive going to create posts from! So for my first post back, I’m going for my favorite thing to cook: dessert.

Remember a couple months ago, when I said I needed to start watching what I was eating to lose some chub before our beach vacation? Well that didn’t last long. Just a couple weeks after that declaration, I desperately needed something sugary. Plus, we were on the brink of summertime, and these Pink Lemonade Cupcakes just screamed summer. So I caved. Lay off me, OK?

The good news is, they’re from Skinnytaste, and only about 120 calories each (that’s my rough guess including the frosting I added, at least). I could’ve done worse for my dietary collapse, right?

20130709-194959.jpg

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
Adapted from Skinnytaste

Ingredients:

  • 18.25 oz box confetti cake mix (I actually used white cake mix and just added sprinkles)
  • 2 1/2 tsp powdered sugar-free pink lemonade mix (like Crystal Light)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • lemon zest from half of a lemon
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 8oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a couple cupcake tins with 24 paper liners. I like to spray my liners lightly with nonstick spray, but that might not be necessary.

Stir the water and pink lemonade powder together. Combine the cake mix with the pink lemonade mixture, along with the applesauce, lemon zest, and oil in a mixer and mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add a few drops of food coloring until it’s pretty and pink (but not so many that it looks like you murdered something).

Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake tins, filling the cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

While the cupcakes are cooling, whip up your cream cheese frosting. Drop the softened cream cheese into a fresh mixing bowl, and whip it up real good, until it’s light and fluffy (do it better than I did in the picture above… You can see that it’s still a little thick. I was impatient!). Mix in the powdered sugar, then the vanilla.

Spread the frosting over your cooled cupcakes, and promptly devour one. Heck, have two if you want.

Chess Squares

20130502-195801.jpg
Prepare yourself. This is probably the last indulgent recipe I’ll share for a while.

*Gasp!*

Those who know me know that I loooove sweets, and I rarely bother trying to resist them. I’d much rather run an extra mile or two than deprive myself of something delicious. Unfortunately, I’ve been slacking on the “extra mile or two” part lately, and it’s resulted in an “extra pound or ten” on my thighs. And now, we’ve got two vacations booked this year, both of which will require swimsuits, and the first of which is less than two months away.

So, for the next few months, it’s no more delicious desserts, lots more miles on the pavement.

Luckily, when I made this resolution, I had already whipped up a big batch of these positively divine Chess Squares.

20130502-200327.jpg

Like, a big batch. And obviously I wasn’t going to let these ooey, gooey, buttery, creamy, delectable treats go to waste.

So the hubs and I devoured them all. I practically licked my plate clean after each one (and I’m not even exaggerating).

I used reduced-fat cream cheese, as always (I honestly don’t know why anyone ever uses the full-fat stuff), but otherwise followed the recipe.

Please make them. And enjoy them. And describe them to me. And maybe let me smell them.

…It’s going to be a long few months.

Easy Berry Cobbler

20130420-091137.jpg
Phew! It’s been a crazy few weeks at the Jones household. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and work trips galore. In fact, I’m quite looking forward to being home, in my own bed, for seven days in row this week–the first time that’s happened in over two months. I’m a borderline recluse, so that’s a big deal for me.

This week, I had a work trip, but I didn’t have a lot of time on Sunday to prep anything big for Dan. Luckily, thanks to my parents, our freezer is fully stocked with delicious burgers, chicken, steaks and other yummies from Omaha Steaks, so I knew he wouldn’t starve.

Still, I had to do something, so I figured I’d at least make him a dessert treat. I’d spotted this recipe for a “lightened up” Berry Cobbler from Weight Watchers, and thought that would be a better choice than my usual calorie-packed cookies and cakes.

I’ll admit, trying out a new cookie recipe, or whipping up one of the gazillion pies I’ve been wanting try, or even some good ol’ cupcakes would’ve been tastier, and probably more fun, but the truth is… This baking habit of mine is making us a little chubby. Or at least, making me chubby, and making my husband handsomer somehow, though he claims he’s getting chubby–how does that work, by the way?! Men and their high metabolisms suck.

Regardless, for a lower calorie dessert, this was truly tasty, and unbelievably easy! Dump some frozen berries, topped with cake mix, polished off with diet 7-up. Bake, and done. Plus, you get to top it with vanilla ice cream (Dreyer’s Slow-Churned, to be specific)–my ultimate favorite dessert–so that’s a bonus.

Give it a try next time you’re looking for a lowish-calorie treat!

Husband’s Birthday Food-Fest

The hubs turned 29 on Wednesday, and I wanted to make sure he got a good celebration out of it. The past two years, his birthday just kind of blew by. In 2011, we were getting married two weeks after his birthday, and I was a clinically insane person, so I think I probably wished him a quick “happy birthday” the morning of, and that was that. Then, in 2012, I was out of town for work on his actual birthday, and we were moving into our first new home a few weeks later, so we were on a strict spending ban. This year, I could tell he was getting a bit of a complex about it, so I wanted to make sure his day was fully acknowledged and celebrated.

And in my world, that means food. Lots of it. So he woke up to Birthday Cake Pancakes. Nothing like a diabetic coma to kick-off your birthday!

20130401-185845.jpg

They were so delicious, and totally worth the mound of dishes they left in my sink at 6 o’clock in the morning.

Then, for dinner, I made him Drunken Pork Chops with our favorite Mashed Potatoes. He loves pork chops (and beer, for that matter), but I’m not a huge fan, so this was a treat for him. See the sacrifices I make? Mine didn’t look nearly as good as the ones in Siggy Spice’s blog post, so I didn’t snap a pic, but they were pretty good. Dan approved, at least.

And finally, the pièce de résistance of my efforts… A four-tiered Vanilla Strawberry Cake.

20130401-190820.jpg

I gave Dan three choices for his birthday cake, and predictably, he chose this one. And oh my did he choose well. I hate to brag, but… This cake was amazing. It obviously didn’t turn out as pretty and perfect as the image from the blog (can anyone ever make anything look like the picture?!), but oh. em. gee. was it tasty. I’m drooling just thinking about it. The good news is, it was big enough to be a wedding cake, so I can just go grab a piece from fridge. For the next month, most likely.