Archive for September, 2012


Boy, it’s been a crazy-busy family weekend. I loved it, but I’m tired!

Mixed Nut PieFriday night I went up to Leavenworth, KS to spend some time with my Karate Family. On the way home I stopped at the store to pick up ingredients for Saturday’s baking and made it home around 11:30 pm. Saturday morning it was up and at ’em! The oven was on, the mixer was going, and my house started filling up with the most wonderful scents.

I baked this Mixed Nut Pie (click for recipe), a Sweet Apple Pie, and Alex’s Cake – a pumpkin butterscotch fall treat for my favorite son-in-law. Then the pies and I were off to a Wiffle Ball Tournament hosted by Friends Who Are Family in Peculiar, MO. Sadly, my team lost again this year, but that’s OK because there was pulled pork and home made potato chips to console me. Even though my team went down in flames, it was still a great day!

After the fun, it was back home where I fired up the oven once again and baked a Pink (Strawberry) Cheesecake for Cutie Patootie #3’s first birthday celebration this afternoon in Liberty, MO.Mixed Nut Pie

Whew! Can you see why I say it’s been crazy-busy? I’ve been all over town, with a bunch of baking and shopping in between trips. Tonight I’m trying to unwind and prepare for the upcoming week by sitting in front of the TV. And blogging. I wanted to get at least one of the recipes up tonight; I’ll get the others up as I find time.

This pie is a lot like a pecan pie. The recipe calls for mixed nuts and I took that to mean a can of mixed nuts, but then I realized you really could use whatever combination of nuts you like. Personally, I like the combination in the mixed nuts can so I’d use them again.

This isn’t a hard pie to make. The most difficult step, I think, was boiling the syrup and sugar to make sure the sugar dissolves completely. I used a refrigerated pie crust, but you might have more patience than I do and choose to make your crust from scratch. If that’s the case, don’t pre-bake the crust, and don’t prick the crust with a fork before adding the filling! If you do, the filling will seep under the crust, stick to the pan, and make a mess.

The pan will be very full, so you may want to pour most of the filling in the crust, put the pie in the oven, then add the rest of the filling until the crust is full.

Nuts are a great addition to fall and holiday menus. I think you’ll enjoy the change – especially if you’re not particularly a pecan fan.

Fridays at the office start with bagels and donuts, provided by the company. Next, we had a team lunch at a local Chinese restaurant to enjoy the company of a writer in town from Cebu for training. And then, not even two hours after we finished lunch, it was time for Treats-A-Palooza!

Chocolate Mint Brownies

The Birthday Twins!

Treats-A-Palooza is our team’s monthly birthday celebration, and our celebrations include – you guessed it – FOOD! Annie and I were in charge of bringing treats for the two birthday girls. One likes rich, sweet desserts with combinations of flavors; the other prefers salty goodness. With a little investigation and planning, Annie and I decided on a “tacky tray of chips” for Christy that included vinegar and salt Pringles, chips and salsa, and jalapeno cheddar Cheetos, and a plate of Chocolate Mint Brownies for Stacy. Click for recipe.

Now I know it sounds like a weird combination, and it tasted much better than it sounds. Salty chips and sweet brownies; spicy snacks and cool mint. Somehow it worked!

I wasn’t so sure about the idea of mint brownies, but one taste convinced me they were a great idea! The layers complement each other nicely – chewy brownie, fluffy mint cream, and a smooth, buttery ganache topping that I could have eaten all by itself.

Chocolate Mint BrowniesI made tweaks to the original recipe based on pan size used. The original recipe called for a 9” square pan but used a brownie mix for a 9 x 13” pan. I used the same size brownie mix but baked them in the 9 x 13” pan. But in doing so, I had to double the filling and topping to make sure there was adequate coverage. You can use the 9” square pan if you want a smaller batch, and if you do so, make sure to use the smaller brownie mix and halve the filling and topping ingredients.

People have mixed reactions about the combination of mint and chocolate, so my advice is to not overdo the mint! It’s such a strong flavor that if you add too much extract, the mint will overpower the flavor of the dessert. Start with the smaller amount of extract and taste the filling. If it’s not strong enough, add more in 1/8 teaspoon increments. I think I used about 1/2 teaspoon extract for the 9 x 13″ pan, and I think it was just right.

Make sure to plan ahead and leave yourself enough time to make these – each layer needs to cool before the next is added. I made the brownies a day ahead, then added the filling and topping the next evening. If you’re not serving them immediately, store them in the frig. Take them out about an hour before you want to serve them, and cut them while they’re really cold for straight lines.

Chocolate Mint Brownies - RFP Team

It takes lots of food to keep an RFP Team going!

Here’s a picture of my team enjoying our treats at the end of another crazy week. Finding time for so many of us to sit and chat at the same time is rare – even in this picture we’re missing 5 people for various reasons. Team lunches and treats afternoons are fun for the food, but even more fun because of the conversations! I’ve learned over the years that having great co-workers is one of the best parts of a job, and this group is no exception. Who wouldn’t want to work with smart, funny, hard-working people?!

Serve these delish brownies to your co-workers at your next Treats-A-Palooza or take them to a holiday party. Once you taste them you’ll want more. In fact, I might have one for breakfast tomorrow – if the rest of my group doesn’t get to them first!

Oatmeal Whole Wheat CookiesHere’s a quickie cookie recipe for you to try. I adapted them from a healthy blogger and added chocolate chips so they wouldn’t be so shocking to my system!  🙂

As far as chocolate chip cookies go, there aren’t too many ingredients. They mix up quickly and make a somewhat small batch. I used a regular sized ice cream scoop to portion the cookies and got 11 big, soft cookies. You’ll get about that many — more or less — depending on how much fun stuff you add to the batter, such as chocolate chips, nuts, craisins, etc.

Like most oatmeal cookies, you can choose whichever add-ins and spices you enjoy to customize the flavor of the cookie. Oatmeal, raisins and cinnamon are a natural combination. Craisins, orange zest and extract plus dark or white chocolate chips is another good combination. Use what you like and try different combinations for variety. Click for recipe.

For this batch, I used craisins, orange zest, a splash of orange extract and another of vanilla extract, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Orange and cranberry are a great combo, and the chips add an extra flavor layer. I think dark chocolate chunks would be great in these. White chocolate would be tasty too, if you like white chocolate (it’s not my favorite, but I’d eat it in this combo).

And if you’re reading all the whole wheat recipes on my blog and worrying that my sugar addiction is waning and I’m eating too many healthy things, don’t worry. I’m still here and planning more indulgent desserts.  I have to admit, though, that I’m enjoying finding recipes that are a bit healthier but in a stealthy way. I feel just a pinch less guilty eating them. And if you don’t tell there is whole wheat flour in these, nobody will ever guess!

Renshi’s birthday was coming up and I was trying to get him to say what he wanted for his treats. He didn’t like any of my suggestions (chocolate cake roll with fruit and fresh cream, fruit trifle, cheesecake) and asked, “Why do you keep trying to put fruit in my dessert?”  Banzai Birthday Treats: Twix Brownies

I know he’s normally a chocolate guy, but hey- I was just trying to be supportive of his healthy eating of late. Obviously that wasn’t appreciated, and to be honest, I’d forgotten the rule that desserts on one’s birthday contain no calories.

Since Renshi couldn’t think of what he wanted, he spent some time on Pinterest (not kidding here) and sent me a couple of links. One was for these Twix Brownies from Jasey’s Crazy Daisy, which had been on my radar for a few weeks, and I was happy to have an excuse to make them. (Like I need an excuse to make something with chocolate and caramel in it, right? ) Click for recipe.

Banzai Birthday Treats: Renshi's Twix Brownies

Karate Chips guards Renshi’s Twix Brownies from all the hungry ninjas!

Anyhoo — these brownies are a 4-layer delight! Crunchy shortbread crust, fudgy brownie, sweet caramel, and a final layer of chocolate ganache sweetness. Oh yummy!

Easy to make? Well, yeah…sorta. There is nothing complicated about any of the layers, but there are four of them. Fast to make? No. You have to plan ahead with these because of the cooling time between a couple of the layers. Just something to keep in mind. But worth the time these take? Absolutely!

They’re delicious just the way they are (I actually followed the recipe – no tweaks!), but can’t help wondering what they’d be like with the addition of nuts. But then they wouldn’t be a Twix Brownie anymore because the nuts would turn them into Turtle Brownies. Not that I have a problem with that, because I think that’s one of the best flavor combos around. Hmm…I might give that a try next time.

If you like your desserts rich, rich, rich — this might become one of your favorite recipes! It’s one of the few times I don’t remember anyone going back for seconds. Which is good (or bad) for Renshi and his family, because our rule is the birthday ninja is responsible for consuming the leftovers – either by sharing with family or co-workers. I don’t care who eats them, as long as they don’t go home with me, the baker who has no willpower. OK, truth be told, I did take one home to eat later, for “testing” purposes of course, and it was still good 2 days later. And now it’s gone and I wish I had a couple more…