Category: Dessert!


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!

Banzai to Alex! We celebrated Alex’s birthday with these cinnamony Snickerdoodle Bars.

Banzai Birthday: Snickerdoodle Bars

Alex showing respect for Sensei (me!) who made his Banzai Birthday Treats! 😉

They have the flavors of a snickerdoodle cookie without all the effort and patience required to roll the dough into balls and then dip them in cinnamon sugar. (Have I ever mentioned I’m not the most patient person?) Once the bars are baked a simple sugar glaze tops them off.

This is one of the few recipes where I could just eat the batter off a spoon! I don’t say that often because I don’t like batter or raw dough, but there’s just something about these that I find irresistible! If you’re a cinnamon and vanilla fan, you need to try these! Click for recipe.

I found this recipe at Grin and Bake It awhile back and made a pan for The Pretty One to take back to school. He had to take them – – if I had kept them for myself, I would have eaten them all within a day! The Pretty One is a veteran snickerdoodle taster and raved about these, so I knew they were good. I even forgot to put on the glaze and neither of us missed it!

When I asked Alex what he wanted for treats, he told me he prefers vanilla over chocolate “if it comes to a cake-like creation” but didn’t specify anything other than that. Since these were so good the first time, I thought they’d be something the Karate Club would enjoy.

Snickerdoodle BarsThere’s not much to this recipe, and maybe that’s the key to it. The vanilla batter layered with the cinnamon sugar filling really work together for an enjoyable treat.

The most wonderful aroma will fill your kitchen when you bake these!

 

 

Snickerdoodle Bars

From Grin and Bake It

 

Stuff you need:

2 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cinnamon-sugar filling:

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Now what?
Heat oven to 350. Spray or grease the bottom only of a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine sugar and cinnamon for cinnamon-sugar filling in a small bowl and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat butter on high speed until creamy. Beat in sugars.

Gradually beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined. [Batter will be very thick and sticky.]

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar filling evenly over batter. Dollop teaspoons of remaining batter evenly over cinnamon-sugar filling. [You won’t be able to spread it!] Gaps are okay. The filling can peek through.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In a small bowl, stir glaze ingredients until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over bars.

These brownies are for Tom, one of my Cohorts in Chocolate, because neither he nor I care for the fudgy goop “brownies” that are all the rage these days. Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Tom is the artist who drew my “brain” that’s on the “A peek inside…” page of my blog. He and I were talking about food. We talk about food a lot. We both love good quality chocolate, and sometimes share our discoveries. Somehow we got on the subject of brownies, and Tom mentioned he thought the boxed brownie mixes had become “fudgier” than they used to be. I thought so too, and I haven’t made them lately because I’ve been disappointed by them. (Yes, I use boxed brownie mixes. Why reinvent the wheel? I usually add nuts or chips or something to the mix, but lately I don’t think they’re as good as they used to be.)

Tom and I both prefer a more cake-like brownie, something that has more of a “chew” to it that you can sink your teeth into. I like brownies when they get a bit stale, and used to attempt to let some sit in the pan and dry out a bit before I gobbled them up. I say “attempt” because most of the time I wasn’t successful!

Craggy-Topped Fudge BrowniesI’m still on a quest to find a brownie I can portion-control and freeze for craving times, and these came to mind. I liked the Chocolate Quinoa Brownies I made earlier this week, but they don’t have the texture I usually crave. It had been quite awhile since I made this recipe, but I remember them being really good. What I couldn’t remember was how fudgy or cake-like they were. That could easily be solved by whipping up a batch.

These were every bit as good as I remembered! They’ve got the perfect texture to them – a little bit of chew, without being too soft or too dry. They obviously take a little more effort than a boxed mix, but not much – and the result is definitely worth it!

Butter and sugar are melted on the stove, chocolate chips are stirred in, then a few more ingredients are added. Pour them into a pan, sprinkle on some nuts, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Try these by themselves or topped with praline ice cream, warm caramel sauce and toasted pecans. Doesn’t that sound good? I think you’ll find the extra effort these require produce a much better brownie than a boxed mix, and you won’t mind mixing these up when the brownie craving hits!

Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Stuff you need:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
3 eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Now what?
Heat sugar and butter in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until butter is melted.
Remove from heat.
Add 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips and stir until melted.
Stir in eggs.
Stir in flour, vanilla and baking soda until combined.
Spread into greased 9×13 inch baking pan.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts on top. Press down lightly.
Bake in preheated 350F oven for 18-22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky.
Cool and cut into bars.

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies!I have no idea how I came across this recipe, but I guess it doesn’t really matter! I bookmarked this recipe a while ago, and ran across it yesterday when I was looking for something to bake today. Who wouldn’t want to bake on the 4th of July? It’s only 99 degrees here, and cooler than it’s supposed to be the rest of the week. Perfect time to turn on the oven, right? My concession to the heat was to bake this morning, before it was too hot outside.

I cook with quinoa frequently and like its versatility. I can use it for sweet or savory dishes, and it goes with most anything. In this case, quinoa replaces flour to give substance to the brownies. I wasn’t sure how these would turn out, but the reviews were good so I thought they were worth the try. I’m glad I made them – they’re really quite good!! Click for recipe.

These are very moist, more similar to the texture of a flourless chocolate torte than a brownie. The rich, chocolate goodness satisfied my chocolate craving, and so far I’ve managed not to eat the whole pan. (I’m so proud!) With proper blending, the quinoa isn’t noticeable, so if you’re looking for a healthy sneak or need something flourless, this is a good choice. The only change I made to the recipe was to add ¼ cup of walnuts to the top before baking. I think nuts accent the chocolate flavor and I like the crunch factor. If you don’t like nuts, leave them off and sprinkle powdered sugar on top after they cool.Mixing up Chocolate Quinoa Brownies

If these were cut into squares, I think they’d be OK to handle and transport, but they’re very soft and will need some support. For some weird reason I don’t own square pans, so I used a 9” round pan. (My birthday’s coming up, so there’s a gift idea for someone!) Anyway, the wedges would be great for plating up with some fresh whipped cream and berries!

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies are really easy to make – you put everything in a food processor and turn it on until your mixture is smooth, then bake! But I think I burned out the motor in my processor making Nutter Butter Truffles awhile back, and even if I didn’t, it’s boxed up in the garage and I was too lazy to get it out. Instead, I tried to use my stick blender. That didn’t work well; I think the mixture might have been too thick/dry. So it was on to my blender, which is quite sturdy and has a “Puree” function. That worked splendidly, and after a couple of minutes of whirling blades, the brownies were ready to go into the oven.

I wrapped a brownie and threw it into the freezer to see how they hold up. Hopefully, they’ll freeze well and I’ll have a stash ready for one of those times when I “need” a brownie!

 Chocolate Quinoa Brownies - Out of the blender, into the oven!Note: The quinoa used in this recipe is cooked with more water than normal for a smoother texture. If you’re making a larger batch of quinoa and measuring out some to make the brownies, mine measured about 2 1/3 cups of cooked quinoa, but you might want to use a little less. If you’re using quinoa cooked with the normal amount of water, yours may be a bit crunchier. That’s probably OK – just something to be aware of!

We recently celebrated Sensei Phil’s birthday at Karate Club. You’d think with all the celebrating we do, we’d each weigh 800 pounds. But Renshi’s workouts burn 600-1000 calories in the 60-90 minutes we’re on the mat, so we don’t worry about it too much.

Phil asked for “Something fruity…but not fruitcake.”  Well, lucky me – that meant I got to choose something! I love it when that happens! Maple Apple Strudel Bars

I started digging through my recipes and various blogs and found several fruit-based recipes that I’d like to try. But I only needed one, and this is what I settled on.

Taking new recipes for celebrations sometimes makes me nervous. Not only do I not know if the recipe even turned out properly, but I also don’t know if the dessert is going to be any good! And if it isn’t, I’m afraid the celebration will be ruined. Luckily, that hasn’t been a problem so far, knock on wood.

These bars have a somewhat delicate crust that is more like a pie/short pastry crust instead of a cake. You can use any type of apple you like, mix up a variety, and even use pears if you like them. As with most fruit desserts, you can add nuts or leave them out. Click for recipe.

When it came time for the glaze, the recipe called for a basic powdered sugar glaze made with vanilla and milk. When I went to get vanilla from the pantry I noticed my  maple flavoring and thought that would be a good touch for the topping. I was right – the maple glaze was the right touch for the apples.

Colahan Martial Arts Choir Serenading Sensei PhilThe dessert was a hit! I loved it because it reminded me of the pastries we used to get in Chicago when I was growing up. It’s sweet enough without being overly sweet. I’m sure I’ll make this again, and I’m sure – as always – I’ll tweak the recipe. In fact, I wish I had some apples here now, so I could make another pan of those delicious treats!

Susana said I could make whatever I wanted for her Banzai Birthday treats. The desserts chosen most frequently for Karate Club contain chocolate and peanut butter. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE chocolate and peanut butter! But not everyone loves chocolate, and I was in the mood for something different. And since it was spring, something lighter sounded good.

Key Lime Cake

Banzai Birthday Treats for Susana

I looked through several recipes before settling on this one. The tartness, the creaminess, the general deliciousness appealed to me. It would be a refreshing dessert after a tough workout. And key lime is sassy, just like Susana — in a good way, of course!  😉

This is a key lime cake topped with a silky key lime cream. Click for recipe. In my opinion, the topping is definitely the best part! I could have skipped the cake and eaten just that!! In fact, one of these days I might.

The original recipe makes a 4-layer torte, but I knew that would be a travel disaster. Ditto for cupcakes, so I made it in a 9 x 13 pan. I mixed up the topping at home, but waited until I got to work to put it on the cake. Whipped cream would be tasty on this and would closely mirror authentic key lime pie, but it’s not necessary. This needs to be refrigerated, so keep that in mind when you make it.

Key Lime Cake - Banzai!

Happy Birthday, Susana!

I was really excited when Susana walked into class and I noticed what she was wearing. She was color-coordinated with her cake! White gi, green belt. White cake, green lime zest. Leave it to Susana to match her dessert, even without knowing what it was!  🙂

This is an easy, refreshing and very delicious cake that’s perfect for spring and summer! I also think the ingredients would make a delish trifle – layers of key lime cake, key lime cream, fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Yep, might have to give that one a try. Not only would it taste good, but the presentation would be spectacular and worthy of a celebration!

Banzai to Susana – and thanks for letting me choose your birthday treats!

 

Key Lime Cream CakeKey Lime Cream Cake

Adapted from Pillsbury Best of the Bake-Off Cookbook, 1996

Stuff you need:

CAKE

1 (1 lb. 2.25 oz.) box pudding-included butter recipe cake mix

3 Tablespoons key lime juice plus water to equal 1 cup [Buy key lime juice in the juice section or squeeze fresh key limes.]

1 Tablespoon lime zest [You can use dried lemon zest, but rub between hands when adding to mixture to release oils.]

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

3 eggs

KEY LIME CREAM

1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)

1/2 cup key lime juice

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

GARNISH

Additional whipped cream if desired

Lime slices or Key Lime Zest

Now what?

Heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 9×13 pan.

In large bowl, combine all cake ingredients at low speed until moistened; scrape down bowl and beat 2 minutes at high speed.

Pour batter in greased and floured pan.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool completely.

For topping, in small bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and 1/2 cup key lime juice; mix well and set aside while whipping cream.

In large bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form.

Fold condensed milk mixture into remaining whipped cream just until blended.

Spread key lime cream over cooled cake. Sprinkle lime zest over top, if using.

Refrigerate 2-3 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator.

Wow – it’s been too long since I posted any recipes! It’s not that I haven’t been baking, because I have. In fact, I’ve got my third cake for the week in the oven as I write this. I’ll get those recipes posted later. Raspberry Magic Bars & Peanut Butter Brownies

For now, since I’ve been such a slacker, here are two recipes I made recently to take to the dojo. I’m always hungry after a workout, especially after those two hour pre-black belt test workouts. And because I think every event needs treats (you know I do!), I made some goodies to help everyone replace the calories we’d just burned off. Both recipes are simple, and both travel well. Click for recipes.

Raspberry Magic BarsThe Raspberry Magic Bars are adapted from the classic Magic Bar recipe. Instead of using chocolate chips, these use jam or preserves for a fruity twist. I chose seedless raspberry preserves with almonds for the filling. The result was a very simple, but delicious treat which truly is magical! They are a very sweet bar, so if you prefer things a little less sweet, you can make some adjustments.

For me, the next time I make them, I’ll use a little less jam, substitute a stronger nut such as pecans or walnuts, and add some dark chocolate chunks or chips. I think the dark chocolate and raspberry will nicely complement each other. Mmmm… I can’t wait to try that combination! If you have a favorite preserve flavor or jam, use that instead of the raspberry.

 Peanut Butter BrowniesThe Peanut Butter Brownies were OK. I can’t say they were my favorite brownie recipe, but I’ll probably give them another try. They start with a brownie mix, so they’re fairly simple. Keep an eye on the baking time so they don’t dry out. While the recipe calls for creamy peanut butter, I think they’d be good with chunky peanut butter or with the addition of chopped peanuts or peanut butter chips.

There you go. Two sweets to help you get your sugar fix! 

Look what I’ve got!!!

Our karate club celebrates birthdays with awful singing and low-calorie (haha!) treats. When it’s my birthday, one of the guys makes my treats, which is fun for me. I’m all about the chocolate, and luckily that’s what they make. One year Will made French Silk pies, and one time Sean made Oreo Truffles for my birthday. I’d seen a post from Sean over the weekend that he and his daughter were making truffles, but had no idea they were for me! When I asked for the recipe, Sean also sent along a recipe for a chocolate mint version and these Nutter Butter Truffles. Click for recipe.

I love these!

I was amazed to find there were so few ingredients in them! How could that be? Surely something that tastes so good must have a long list of ingredients. The secret? Starting with Nutter Butter cookies.

Peterbilt anticipating the singing…

Last week we celebrated Peterbilt’s birthday after our karate workout. Peterbilt’s choice was these peanut butter treats. As much as I hate dipping things in chocolate, these are SO worth it! It’s been awhile since I made them, and  I forgot how much I like them. The creamy peanut butter filling is SO good! Sean said he’s even used the peanut butter mixture as cake filling or topping, which is something I will keep in mind.

I made these in the food processor. Actually, I think I killed my food processor with these, but that was only because it’s time for a new one. I’ve done these a couple of other times in my food processor without trouble, so don’t let that scare you off. In retrospect, I can’t remember when I bought it, so that tells me it was a long time ago. Now I’m in the market for a new one, so any future batches will be on hold until then.

Check out this simple, but delish recipe and see what you think!

Let’s see… Chocolate chips, pretzels and peanut butter chips all smooshed together in a bar cookie? Yep, I’ve gotta try it!

Easy to make and even easier to eat, these bars are basically a variation on a blondie. They’re not too sweet, so you can easily eat more than one. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, so you decide for yourself! For me, they were more of a subtle addiction than an immediate obsession.

You can easily kick up the chocolate chip quantity in this recipe, stir in some peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, or chopped nuts if you want to. The more stuff you add, the chubbier the hubby, I think! Someone suggested we should skip the Chubby Hubby name and call them Fat Boys instead. Try them and see which name works best for your household! Click for recipe.

These don’t take much time to throw together, and will travel well if you’re going on a road trip or to pot luck.

This is a favorite cookie from my childhood, one that I enjoy as much today as I did when Mom made them for our family. I love the peanut butter with the crunch of the corn flakes – it’s breakfast without the bowl and milk! 

I ate these as a kid and I’ve made them for my kids. They’re simple to make, don’t require baking, and they’re delish! I love introducing people to this cookie – without fail, they are quickly gobbled up and people want to know how to make them. Click for recipe.

These cookies travel well and hold up nicely in the heat, so they’ve become a “go-to” recipe when I need something to take along. I shared them with my team when we helped build a house in the 96 degree heat last summer, and while they got a bit warm, they didn’t melt or fall apart.

The Recipe Guardians

This recipe is a family classic, and so important to us that it’s kept on our frig and guarded by my guys — The Chunky Monkey and The Pretty One. You can see it’s a well-loved recipe by the peanut butter speckles on the recipe card! 

Normally I make these with regular corn flakes. The cheapest generic brand doesn’t hold up the best, so keep that in mind when buying your ingredients. I have friends who make them with Special K, and I used Honey Bunches of Oats this last time because I had a lot in the house. They were good, with the honey adding a slight sweetness and the bunches adding a bit of extra crunch. I liked them, but will probably use regular corn flakes in the next batch because they’re a little less sweet. You can use regular or crunchy peanut butter, whichever you have on hand.

I hope you enjoy these! If you make a variation of this cookie, I hope you’ll share how you do it.