Spooky Halloween Pops

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My daughter and I had a great time making these pops together! They seem like such an old school treat. I remember my mom making candy pops for my preschool class and it is something I’ve wanted to do for my daughter’s school. She had so much fun being creative with the colors and got a hoot out of the fact she was using “paint brushes” in candy!

There isn’t really a recipe here–more just a handful of supplies and a method. All of it is spelled out on the back of each bag of Wilton candy melts. I found everything we needed at Michael’s (which by the way is having a 70% off sale on all Halloween items right now) but I am sure you could find it all on Amazon or even easier just order straight from the Wilton Web site.

Spooky Halloween Pops

Supplies:

  • Wilton candy molds of your choice (we used pumpkins, Dracula teeth and eyeballs)
  • Wilton candy melts, any colors
  • Wilton candy brushes
  • Lollipop sticks
  • clear candy bags
  • curly ribbon

Method:

Place candy melts in microwave safe bowls. (One bowl for each color you are using.) Melt according to package directions. Mix well. Using candy brushes to paint your molds as you desire. Use a teaspoon to fill the remaining portion of the mold. Place a lollipop stick on each candy-filled mold and roll so that entire stick is immersed. Let harden over night or pop in the fridge until set.

Place each pop in a plastic candy bag and secure with a piece of ribbon.

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Peanut Butter Hug Cookies

We are so lucky that friends whom I have known since birth (our parents actually met in birthing classes) recently relocated nearby. Yesterday I hosted a little gathering of our families chock full of laughs, lots of reminiscing, and (of course) food.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to serve so I decided to consult the internet for some whimsical inspiration. Usually I just  scroll through my favorite food sites and blogs.  This time, however, I took a different approach. I asked the internet if there were any “holidays” on Saturday. (Lately it seems like there is a holiday for every food group. Perhaps I would strike gold with Italian Sub Day, Eggplant Parmesan Day, or maybe Hot Fudge Brownie Sunday Day!)  But Saturday was not a food holiday. It was better. It was National Hugging Day! January 21 was chosen as National Hugging Day because it is midway between Christmas and Valentine’s Day when people are at an emotional low. Individuals are awarded each year with the title Most Huggable!

What perfect inspiration for a gathering with people you love! I immediately decided on a meal that would feel like a big warm hug: Pulled pork on fresh rolls piled high with cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and corn bread.

The dessert choice was obvious: Hug cookies! This is a classic Hershey’s recipe. They were little tasty bites of peanut butter and chocolate love. I found the recipe here on my new favorite site Food.com. These are perfect Valentine’s Day cookies, as well.

Some of the hugs melted slightly and lost their "kiss" shape

 Peanut Butter Hug Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 tablespoons additional sugar
  • 48 Hershey’s Hugs (or Kisses)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In mixer, beat shortening and peanut butter until well blended; Blend in sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; Beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually mix in peanut butter mixture. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll in additional sugar. Place on cookie sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper and bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately place a Hershey’s Hug (or Kiss) on each cookie and press down slightly.

Adapted from Hershey’s Kiss Peanut Butter Cookies on Food.com.

 

Fancy Rice Krispie Treats

I wanted to make a Mother’s Day dessert that would really satisfy that unrefined sweet tooth that I sometimes find yelling for attention. (I know you all have one too…Yodels, anyone? How about a stack of IHOP pancakes with a whipped cream smiley face and blueberry syrup? No? Would you prefer a bag of gummy peach rings?  Swedish fish? How about some blue cotton candy? I digress…) I briefly considered ignoring that tooth and making a truly fancy dessert that does not require the word fancy in front of it (creme brule, flan, chocolate tart) however, the tooth won.  I decided to go for a basic and dress it up a bit!

There is something so primitively satisfying about thick, chewy Rice Krispie Treats.  And they are simple to make.  It turns out dressing them up is easy too!

Tips to delicious Rice Krispie Treats (fancy or not):

  • lots of butter (not enough butter = dry treats)
  • lots of marshmallows (not enough marshmallow = dry treats)
  • parchment paper (without parchment paper you might go crazy trying to press treats into pan. More treats will be stuck to your hands, spoon, and face than make it into the dish!)

Fancy Rice Krispie Treats:

  • 2 – 10.5 ounce bags mini marshmallows
  • 5.5 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1  – 4 ounce semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate bar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter baking chips
  • 10 Oreo cookies crumbled into a bowl
  • rainbow sprinkles in a bowl

Make the Treats

Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Set aside.

Melt butter and marshmallows in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir until evenly combined. Remove from heat.

Spray a wooden spoon with cooking spray. Use the wooden spoon to stir Rice Krispies into marshmallow/butter mixture.  Be certain all of the cereal is coated by the marshmallow mixture.

Use wooden spoon to turn cereal/marshmallow onto parchment paper in dish.

Cut another piece of parchment paper and place on top of the cereal/marshmallow mixture. Use the top piece of parchment to press the mixture evenly into the dish. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Once cool, measure 3.25 inch increments across the top of the pan and score treats with a pastry knife. Across the side of the pan, measure 3 inch increments and score with a pastry knife. Press pastry knife into treats to cut along the lines you scored. Use pastry knife to trim off uneven edges.

Dip the Treats

Fill a saucepan with two inches of water and bring to a low boil. Create a double boiler by placing a heat safe glass bowl on top of the saucepan. Snap pieces of chocolate bar into the glass bowl.  As it melts, use a wooden spoon to swirl chocolate together.

Dip one treat at a time into the melted chocolate and then into either the sprinkles or the Oreo cookie crumbs.

Once you have used half of the chocolate, return the double boiler to the heat and add the peanut butter chips. Swirl with a spoon until melted with the chocolate.

Dip the remaining treats into the peanut butter/chocolate mixture and then into either the sprinkles or the Oreo cookie crumbs.

Place each treat on a cooling rack and let sit until chocolate and peanut butter are completely dry. Enjoy!

Heath Bar Chocolate Cake

Wow–the days and weeks have gotten away from me! I came down with a nasty cold after Thanksgiving and I am not, what you might call, a quick “rebounder.”  I take some time to bounce back!  I am working on it, though.  With the help of some roasted garlic cloves I hope to be 100% soon!  Needless to say, I have not been cooking anything too snazzy in the kitchen as of late.  Roasted winter vegetables, simply grilled steaks, some pasta, sweet potatoes, and beans are pretty much it.  That said, I hope to get back on it and squeeze in some fun holiday treats before the season spirals away from me. 

I recently did some baking  for my wonderful co-worker, Jill, who is getting married in the Bahamas next month.  We had a surprise shower for her at work and I made this celebration cake for the gathering.  It is an adaptation of Annie’s Eats Cookies and Cream Cake, which won me our office bake-off.  This time, instead of crushed Oreos I used Heath Bar chocolate bits folded into the whipped cream filling. 

I must say I was quite pleased with the result.  The chocolate cake is rich and moist, the whipped cream filling is light and fluffy, yet not too sweet, and the Hershey’s chocolate frosting is fudgy and delicious.  I’d say this cake has mass appeal, which makes it perfect for an office occasion or a party where you might not know everyone’s tastes. 

Heath Bar Chocolate Cake:

For the cake:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

For the filling:

  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 1/8 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 bag of Heath Bar chocolate bits 

For the frosting:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans.

Stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks.  Cool completely.

 To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla.  Beat on low speed until all sugar is incorporated; increase speed to high and whisk until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in candy pieces with a rubber spatula.

 To make the frosting, melt the butter in a medium bowl.  Stir in the cocoa.  Alternately add confectioners’ sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.  Add small amount additional milk, if needed.  Stir in vanilla.

 To assemble the cake, slice two cakes in half cross-wise using a serrated knife.  Place one cake layer on a cardboard cake circle.  Pipe a ring of the chocolate frosting around the outside edge of the cake.  Fill the area inside the ring of frosting with a thick layer of the cookies and cream mixture.  Repeat with remaining layers. Place the last cake layer on top.  Frost the sides of the cake layers with chocolate frosting.  Pipe a decorative border of the chocolate frosting on top of the cake.  Fill the area inside this border with a thick layer of the cookies and cream mixture.  Garnish with extra candy pieces and chocolate frosting.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

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Did you know Reese’s now makes dark chocolate peanut butter cups?  I know! So exciting!!! When I first spotted the bags of orange and black foiled cups in my grocery store, I assumed it was just a Halloween gimmick (which actually would have been okay with me–I love holiday-colored candies).  However, when I looked closer I discovered it wasn’t a gimmick.  The orange are milk chocolate and the black are dark chocolate–how thrilling!  I decided to buy a bag and immediately make the cookies I had noticed in October’s issue of Real Simple magazine.   

The result? DELICIOUS.  Deadly delicious. 

Isn’t there just something so satisfying about a big thick chewy cookie chock full of melty peanut butter, milk and dark chocolate chunks?  Add a tall cold glass of milk for dunking and you have yourself a little piece of heaven.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies:

  •  1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temp
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 12-ounce package small peanut butter cups, roughly chopped (Obviously I used a mix of milk and dark chocolate peanut  butter cups!)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt.

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  (About 5 minutes.)

Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture until just incorporated.  (Do not over beat.)

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the peanut butter cups.

Pinch a tablespoon and a half of batter and quickly roll into a ball using your palms to make each cookie.  Place on parchment paper or silpat-lined baking sheets at least 2 inches apart.

Bake until light brown, about 12-16 minutes.  Use a metal spatula to transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

This recipe made about 16-18  large cookies.  (I can’t remember exactly!)

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Look at the beautiful peanut butter cups!  Yum, yum, yum…

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Recipe adapted from October issue of Real Simple magazine.

Kitchen Sink Cookies

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On Saturday I attended the Healthy Living Summit for Bloggers.  As part of the event, the planners organized a Team in Training bake sale silent auction where all proceeds benefitted the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  As my contribution to the bake sale I made Kitchen Sink Cookies.  (I also made a second batch for my sister-in-law’s 30th birthday!) 

They are called Kitchen Sink Cookies because in them is “everything but the kitchen sink.”  I used Martha Stewart’s recipe and found it to be nice and adaptable so go ahead and swap cookie condiments you like with those you don’t.  (Or just use whatever you have on hand!) 

I decided to use oatmeal, semi-sweet mini-chocolate chips, milk chocolate chunks, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, mini-M&Ms, and currants.   Martha called for coconut and walnuts, which I omitted.  If you are going to make these cookies on the smaller side of the cookie spectrum you may want to use mini-sized cookie condiments like mini-chocolate chips, mini-M&Ms and currants instead of raisins.  However if you are going to make monster cookies the full-size cookie condiments work well.  The idea is that each bite contains a little bit of each ingredient.  If you make small cookies using full size M&Ms, the entire cookie could end up with two big M&Ms and nothing else!    

I really enjoy foods that have lots of texture and “chunks” so these cookies were right up my alley!  (I may or may not have eaten more than one of these cookies before wrapping them…cookies go down so easily!)  I wrapped these in the same way I wrapped the Better than Brownie Cookie Peanut Butter Sandwiches.

Kitchen Sink Cookies:

  •  1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup mini M&Ms
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup currants

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper.

In a large bowl with a wooden spoon (or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) beat butter, sugar and brown sugar together until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually stir into butter mixture until well blended.  Remove bowl from mixer and add oats, chips, M&Ms, and currants.  Stir until well blended.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons onto silpat about 2 inches apart. Press tops down with the bottom of a glass to flatten cookies evenly. Bake until golden, about 16 to 18 minutes. Cool on pan for 2 minutes. Remove from pan, and finish cooling completely on wire rack.

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Adapted from recipe found here on Martha Stewart.com.

Carnival Cupcakes Galore

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As you know, I baked clown cakes for my nephew’s carnival-themed first birthday party.  Because I have never baked for such a large crowd, I worried that the cake would not be enough so I decided to also make some cupcakes.  Compared to the cakes these cupcakes were easy breezy!  I baked a batch of butter cake cupcakes and a batch of chocolate cupcakes and then decorated them with Hershey’s frosting, mini M&Ms, glitter icing, gummy bears, and sprinkles.  I think the monkey cupcakes and the lion cupcakes were especially cute!    

 Carnival Cupcakes:

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Insert cupcake liners into pans.

    Stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour batter into pans.

    Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks.  Cool completely before frosting.

    Hershey’s Frosting

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Melt the butter in a medium bowl.  Stir in the cocoa.  Alternately add confectioners’ sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.  Add small amount additional milk, if needed.  Stir in vanilla.

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