autumn oatmeal cookie bars

Another squash recipe, but this time – a sweet version!

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I don’t know if it’s the cooler nights, seasonal flavors, or the fact that it’s no longer “swimsuit season” {LOL} but this time of year I start craving desserts. There’s something so special about sitting down at the end of the day, dinner cleaned up and dishes put away, and enjoying the perfectly sweet bite of dessert. For some people – ice cream {year round!}, others – cookies and cakes. I am not going to say no to any of those options, but boy…do I love me a good cookie.

This particular recipe was inspired by…as mentioned above…squash. I LOVE pumpkin, y’all! It’s a great ingredient to work with; packed with vitamins and minerals, full of flavor, and it serves as a great way to scale back on some of the typically not-so-good items that go into cookies. Paired with tangy Greek yogurt, the resulting cookie is perfectly moist and chewy, and loaded up with spices. A combination of rolled oats and all-purpose flour lends a hint of nutty flavor, which is beautiful with the pumpkin and brown sugar. The little nuggets of chocolate chips and raisins don’t hurt, either ; )

Once you bake up a batch of these, don’t expect them to last long. BUT! If you want to, portion of a section of the pan to freeze; your weeknight self craving something sweet, but not overly indulgent, will be glad you did.

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Autumn Oatmeal Cookie Bars {recipe adapted from Averie Cooks}

Traditional chocolate chip cookie meets pillowy pumpkin cookies. They taste every bit delicious as they look: perfectly fluffy, with crispy edges and bursting full of flavor and goodies. Ideal for any autumn get-together; I promise, they won’t last long. 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed {light or dark is fine}

1 large egg

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree {not pumpkin pie filling!}

1 Tbsp. molasses

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

pinch salt

3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour {I used a combination of 2 cups AP flour and 1-1/4 cups oats, just for extra texture and flavor}

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2-1 cup assorted dried fruits…cherries, apricots, cranberries, raisins, etc. *nuts of your choice can also be used

*optional: for a sweeter cookie, add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar 

**optional topping: 1/3 cup granulated sugar + 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, mixed together

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine plain Greek yogurt, brown sugar {optional granulated sugar to be added here, if using}, and beat on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes to cream ingredients together; stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the egg and vanilla, and beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy.

Add in the pumpkin, molasses, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, pinch of salt, and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Add in the flour {or combination of flour and oats} and baking soda, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips {and any add-ins you might like} by hand. Cover the mixing bowl and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 90 minutes {I only chilled for about 30 minutes because of time constraint}. Dough can be chilled for up to 4 days.

Prepare your 9″ x 13″ baking dish by coating liberally with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute the batter into the dish, making sure to spread it out evenly and ensuring that all corners are filled. Top with optional cinnamon/sugar mixture, and bake for 20-25 minutes {edges will be golden and set, and the top will have just set; they will continue to firm up as they cool}. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into bars.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to three months.

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cookies n’ cream cake

Oreo lovers, you’ve found your ::literal:: slice of heaven.

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We all know pretty well by now that I have a sweet tooth the size of the planet, but it’s not too often that I do a lot of baking. Don’t get me wrong, I love baking! – it’s a methodical, precise process; entirely different from the way most of my day-to-day cooking goes. But the art of baking requires concentration and focus; sometimes I need that in the kitchen. Which is why I always let the hubs choose as intricate a birthday dessert as he wants. It’s a win for the both of us – he gets an awesome dessert, and I get my focus fix {and yes, the entirety of the dessert is consumed solely by the two of us!}.

This year’s cake was a no brainer. I mentioned above that Oreo cookie lovers have found a slice of heaven. I kid you not, this cake is hands-down the embodiment of an Oreo cookie, crafted into a glorious 2-layer cake. Every inch, every crumb of this cake pays homage to the iconic cookie. We have crumbled Oreo wafers in the actual cake base. The creme filling finds its way into the frosting that is sandwiched between the two cakes. Whole Oreos have been pulverized into a fine powder, and folded into the buttercream frosting.

One  might think that such a cake will be cloyingly sweet. But I promise that it’s not! I tweaked the original recipe just a bit; eliminating a bit of the sugar, presenting alternate options for the oil and sour cream ingredients. It is a perfectly balanced dessert; sure, it’s indulgent, but worth every delicious bite.

 Have I described it well enough? Are you running to the kitchen to make this?

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Because you very well should be : )

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Oreo Cookies n’ Cream Cake {recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Oreo lovers will fall head over heels in love with this decadent creation. Full to bursting with both Oreo cookie crumbs and the oh-so-loved creme filling, it hits all the right notes. Finished with a fluffy buttercream frosting, this cake is sure to win a spot in your hearts – not to mention, bring back fond childhood memories of dunking Oreo cookies into a tall glass of milk! 

Ingredients: Chocolate Layer Cake

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder {not dutch process}

1 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 cups cake flour*

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup applesauce {you can also use vegetable or canola oil}

1 cup full fat sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup hot coffee or hot water

3/4 cup  Oreo cookie crumbs**

*if you don’t have cake flour, simply remove 3 Tbsp. of the all-purpose flour, the add in 3 Tbsp. of cornstarch. Sift the all-purpose flour and the cornstarch together before using

**scrape out the filling before pulsing the cookies, and set to the side for later use

Ingredients: Oreo Cream Filling

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

reserved Oreo creme filling {from the 3/4 cup of Oreo cookie crumbs}

2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbsp. milk or cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients: Vanilla Buttercream

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup milk or cream

10 additional Oreo cookies, pulsed into a fine crumb

To Prepare:

Position oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Generously spray two 9″ cake pans with nonstick spray, and set aside.

In a large bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cocoa powder, sugar, cake flour, baking soda, and salt together on low speed for 30 seconds. Add in the eggs, applesauce {or oil of choice}, sour cream {or Greek yogurt}, and vanilla. Mix on low speed for one minute.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the coffee and Oreo cookie crumbs; stir to combine. Some of the chocolate chips will melt as you stir. Avoid overmixing the batter!

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes come out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cakes cool, make the Oreo Cream Filling. 

In a large bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer fitting with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening {or just all butter}, and reserved Oreo creme filling on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, alternating with the milk/cream and vanilla. The filling will be thick, but you may add more milk/cream if you prefer. Set aside, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

While the cakes cool, make the Vanilla Buttercream. 

In a large bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla on low speed, then add in the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with the milk/cream. The buttercream will be thick. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the Oreo cookie crumbs. Set aside, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

Once the cake is cooled, assemble the cake.

Place one cooled layer on a cake stand or large plate. Using an offset spatula or knife, cover the top with a 1″ thick layer of the Oreo Creme Filling. Top with the second cake. Cover the tall layer cake with the Vanilla Buttercream.

Slice and serve! Leftover cake can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

make ahead tip: the cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. The frosting and filling can be prepared, then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the next day, when you are ready to serve. 

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that was the size of one slice <3

{secret ingredient} chocolate chip cookie bars

Sometimes, the most unusual of ingredients can be the most versatile. Enter: tofu…today’s secret ingredient!

I know what you all must be thinking – Alicia MUST be crazy!…tofu used in cookies? That can’t be right…

The exact same thought was running through my mind when I happened upon this recipe while in a futile search to use up a block of tofu before it reached the point of no return. You see, I cook pretty frequently with tofu: sauces, stirfrys, smoothies, often just plain. You name and I have more than likely tried it {or saved a recipe to try it, hah}. But I wanted to do something different, something unusual. So, when I saw this recipe, I knew it had to be done.

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I’ll admit, I had my doubts. My husband did too. After all, how can a soy by-product be transformed into a sweet and luscious dessert? It didn’t make sense. But boy oh boy, were we pleasantly surprised! These cookies come together in not time, and the batter is rich and thick; typical of any traditional cookie dough. The tofu {whether silken or firm} is simply a means of replacing the higher fat ingredients; butter, oil, and the like. By nature, tofu has a pretty mild, almost undetectable flavor, so when paired with the bold tastes of chocolate/peanut butter/oats, it blends in beautifully.

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You have to promise that you’ll give these a shot, ok? You won’t be sorry! {or miss the other ingredients!}

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{secret ingredient} Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars {recipe adapted from Food.com }

Want to fool even the pickiest of eaters? Look no further! These protein-packed cookies will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth, and won’t leave you feeling guilty. 

Ingredients:

1 package {12-1/3 ounces} tofu

heaping 1/3 cup natural style peanut butter, creamy style

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats

optional: chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, assorted nuts of your liking

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the tofu, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Slowly add in the flour, baking powder, and oats. Stir gently to combine with the wet ingredients.

If using, add in any additional optional ingredients.

Spread evenly into the baking sheet, and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

Cookies will be kept best in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for several days. They freeze beautifully, too; simply use a freezer-safe bag, and transfer to the fridge several hours before consumption. 

oreo truffles

Perhaps one of the easiest treats to throw together, especially for last-minute holiday guests, I have been SO excited to share this dessert with  y’all today!

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I think that it is rather safe to say this this tasty tidbit should come as no surprise to most of you – in my opinion, it’s a rather humble, tried-and-true recipe. Anyone who has ever whipped it up can attest to that fact. The thing that makes these truffles so fun, my dears, is WHAT you can do to make them your own!

Over the years, I’ve done them up countless ways: color coordinated for the celebrated holiday, football-shaped for tailgates, glitzed up for New Year’s Eve celebrations, the traditional method of dipping them in candy coating. And don’t get me wrong, each way is fabulous. Even as I sit here typing, I am drumming up more ways to make them unique.

My most recent culinary hurdle {and I used that term looooooosely} as of late was to come up with gluten-free treats for the Thanksgiving holiday. Never one to miss a challenge, especially when the kitchen is involved{!}, I readily said “yes” and let the menu planning begin.

A bit of humble brag – the dinner was a huge success, from the dressing to the bird to the dessert. But I think my favorite morsel was the reinvented Oreo Truffles I brought! Not only were they gluten-free, but significantly lower in fat and calories…and I thought even tastier than batches of years past!

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Oreo Truffles

Customizable in any particular way, shape or form…I chose to adapt these for a gluten-free family member. GF cookies were swapped out to replace the traditional cookie, and Greek-Yogurt cream cheese took the place of its full-fat counterpart. A simple roll in a mixture of vanilla sugar and cocoa powder was the final step. Pure perfection, and guaranteed to please even the pickiest of palates. 

Ingredients:

1 package of your favorite sandwich cookie, gluten-free if desired

1 eight-ounce container of Greek-yogurt cream cheese, slightly softened

1/2 to 3/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup vanilla sugar

To Prepare:

Crumble the sandwich cookies into large chunks, and place into the bowl of your food processor. Break the cream cheese into smaller pieces, and add in with the sandwich cookies.

Process until totally smooth; the mixture should eventually form a large ball in the bowl. Scrape down the sides and process one final time to ensure all chunks are eliminated. Place bowl in freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the mixtures to firm up slightly.

While the mixture is cooling, combine the cocoa powder and vanilla sugar into a wide-rimmed dish. Set aside.

Once the mixture is ready, scoop into small balls {I usually get about 14-18 per batch} and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drop each truffle into the cocoa-sugar mixture, and toss evenly to coat. Place them back on the sheet, and put in the freezer until ready for plating.

Let truffles come to room temperature, usually 15 minutes or so, before serving.

sneaky cookie dough dip

This fun little snack has long been on my list of “must try” recipes, so not long ago, I decided to give it a whirl!

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And y’all, I would be crazy if I didn’t say that it wasn’t amazing. Delicious, fantastic, stunning, and fabulous also came to mind. But I shouldn’t ramble…

I always find it so wonderful that you can transform the healthiest of ingredients into something that is totally opposite of its original inspiration. I mean, this “indulgent” dessert dip has a base of beans{!}. Is that not absolutely crazy? I mean, who would have thought of taking said ingredient and deciding to throw it in with traditional chocolate chip cookie dough materials?

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…if I could, I would like to give them a hug, or at least a high-five.

This dip is the perfect snack for anyone who has a sweet tooth and can’t say no to multiple spoon dips when making cookie dough, for the person who likes to munch on chocolate chips {I mean, who doesn’t do that?!}, or just anyone who like sweet treats. You will fool even the pickiest of eaters with this snack. And the best part is that you can indulge without feeling guilty! The beans are packed with fiber and vitamins, the nut butter adds in GOOD-FOR-YOU healthy fats, and there is minimal sugar. You could even swap out the chocolate chips for extra dark chocolate to get the antioxidant benefits.

But I won’t judge if you want to up the ante and use mini chocolate chip cookies for your dunkers. Just sayin’.

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Sneaky Cookie Dough Dip {recipe adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie}

The best way to indulge in all the goodness of cookie dough, but without the guilt! This dip will fool even the pickiest of eaters; they’ll be going back for seconds, and then thirds!

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups chickpeas or white beans, drained and rinsed very well

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup nut butter of choice {my homemade peanut butter works excellent here!}

up to 1/4 cup milk, only if needed

1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 to 3 Tbsp. oats

To Prepare:

Add all ingredients {except for chocolate chips” into the body of a good food processor, and process until very smooth. This will take anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes. If the mixture is too thick, drizzle in a tiny bit of milk until desired consistency is reached.

Fold in the chocolate chips and scoop into a dish. Garnish with graham crackers, sliced fruit, or cinnamon-sugar toast points. Enjoy!

peanut butter & chocolate banana bread

Let me introduce my new best {bread} friend.

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Nothing is more beautiful, or heartwarming, on a dreary morning than a slice of warm banana bread. To me, at least, that is the ideal. Curled up on my couch under a cozy blanket, cup of coffee in one hand and book in the other. That is just perfection.

This bread ranks high atop my list for breakfast comfort foods. As mentioned, I’ve always had a love of banana bread…for as far back as I can remember, my sisters and I would get so excited when our mom would pull out the tattered blue cookbook from our private school to make the always sought after banana bread. As amazing as it was on its own, it would be sent over the top {for me, at least} when she would add in a handful or two of walnuts or pecans, and maybe…just maybe…we’d totally win and get the chocolate chips in there too.

This is somewhat of a more “adult” twist on the classic banana bread. I stumbled across this recipe a few weeks back, making sure to bookmark it because it {obviously} looked delicious and I needed an excuse to make banana bread. We loaded up on bananas during our weekly grocery trip and I let them sit out nice and long to ensure that I got the most flavor out of them; we all know that the more spotty and brown the banana is, the better the final loaf of bread, no?

One of the reasons that I enjoy this bread so much is because the flavors all balance each other out so well. This is definitely less sweet than the banana bread of years past – hence why I lean towards calling it more of an “adult” version. We let the natural sweetness of the overly ripe bananas take center stage, and only add in a scant amount of brown sugar, leaving out white sugar completely.

Rich cocoa powder adds a complex, warm note to the bread. It also lets it take on a gorgeous, espresso color – you won’t see this with your regular banana bread! I also think that on the next go around I may add in a dash or two of espresso powder, just to take the flavor overboard. That is a winning combination in my book; coffee + chocolate = LOVE. And because I’m crazy, I swapped out the chocolate chips in the original recipe for peanut butter. Because….come on…you know that peanut butter, banana, and chocolate is a match made in heaven.

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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Banana Bread

{recipe, adapted slightly, from Smitten Kitchen}

Ingredients:

3 medium-to-large very ripe bananas

1/2 C unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup  brown sugar {light or dark brown will work just fine!}

1 large egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp table salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon {optional; I skip it}

1 C  all-purpose flour

1/2 C Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/2 to 1 C. natural, smooth or chunky, peanut butter – adjust to how “peanut buttery” you want your bread to taste {I find it helpful to have it warmed slightly, just so it’s easier to work with}

To Make:

Heat your oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or spray it with a nonstick baking spray.

Mash bananas in the bottom of a large bowl. (You’ll have a little over 1 cup mashed banana total.) Whisk in melted butter, then brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Place baking soda, salt, cinnamon (if using), flour and cocoa powder in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer and sift over wet ingredients {I couldn’t find my sifter, so I just made sure to incorporate very well}. Stir dry and wet ingredients with a spoon until just combined. Fold in the quantity and type of peanut butter you’d like to use.

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Pour into prepared pan and bake 55 to 65 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out batter-free.

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Cool in pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert it out onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The banana bread will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature. I keep mine wrapped in foil. If it lasts longer than that, which is highly doubtful, transfer to the refrigerator.

black bean brownies

Don’t let the title of this recipe fool you, dears. I promise, this is a winner.

I like to think of these particular brownies as the perfect balance between healthy and indulgent. There are times in life, certainly, when nothing beats a full on, calories-don’t-count kind of dessert, but there are also times when sometimes you want to be a little bit more mindful.

Enter these brownies. The rich cocoa powder brings depth of flavor, the maple syrup adds the perfect amount of sweetness…and then there’s the black beans! These little gems are what brings the “fudge factor”, if you will, into this recipe. Thick and creamy, they elevate a rather simple list of ingredients into something amazing. So rich, when you bite into these, you’ll think you are eating the most decadent and gooey brownie you’ve ever tasted.

The black beans also provide a great nutritional punch. A one cup serving sets you back only one gram(!) of fat. Low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium but high in fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese – let’s talk about a vitamin powerhouse! Not to mention the 15 grams of protein in there as well. You won’t need to cut a big slice from the pan in order to feel satisfied…but I won’t be upset if it does end up on the slightly larger side.

Before I forget, there is also the fact that this recipe is essentially a one-bowl wonder. That is a treat in itself, no? Because who wants to be doing dishes when there’s the alluring aroma of freshly baked brownies sitting on your counter…not this girl, that’s for sure.

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Black Bean Brownies {recipe modified from Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe}

I doubled the recipe so the amounts listed below reflect that – if you want to use the original size, simply halve everything

3 C. black beans, drained and rinsed very well (2 15-ounce cans)

4 tbsp. cocoa powder (I use a Dutch processed)

3 C. quick oats

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. freshly ground coffee (espresso powder would also work well)

2/3 C. pure maple syrup or honey (I went half and half)

4 tbsp. turbinado sugar (regular granulated sugar will work fine, if that’s what you have on hand)

1/2 C. peanut butter

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 C. peanut butter chips

1/2 C. chocolate chips (I prefer a semi-sweet variety)

To make the brownies:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Blend very, very well. A blender can work if you don’t have a food processor, but the texture is much better when a food processor is used. It results in a smoother, creamier batter.

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{Photo courtesy of Chocolate-Covered Katie}

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips, then push down slightly into the batter.

Cook in the center rack for 20 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. When tightly covered, these brownies will last several days in the refrigerator.

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{Photo courtesy of Chocolate-Covered Katie}

irish car bomb cupcakes

I couldn’t resist. One more St. Patrick’s Day post. I mean…the title is intriguing, no?

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Whether or not you participate in the traditional antics of good ol’ St. Patty’s Day (green beer, anyone? goofy “kiss me, I’m Irish!” t-shirts), please do me a favor and make these cupcakes. Whoever invented the controversial “car bomb” drink…a pint of Guiness with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson floating atop it, probably didn’t know what they were doing, but I for one sure am glad they did. And yes, I have been known to enjoy this unusual flavor combination more than once in my college days; maybe I still do?…

Want to know something funny? The first time I made this recipe wasn’t for St. Patty’s Day; heck, it wasn’t even for an Irish celebration! The hubs had requested something “different” for his birthday dinner…so upon copious digging through my recipe files, I stumbled upon this gem. I don’t think I had even finished reading him the title when he began eagerly nodding is head up and down. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he would have started shouting; as you all know, by now, we have a thing for anything “liquid libation”. After our first bite of these treats, we were sold. They’ve become a St. Patty’s day staple in our household ever since then.

But before I get too far off topic, let’s talk flavors, shall we?

A basic chocolate cake and buttercream frosting recipe has been elevated with the add-ins of this drink. Traditional chocolate has its flavor embellished with the addition of Guiness beer. I mean what I say, and this malty addition truly takes the cake to an entirely different level. It results in a rich, velvety crumb texture, with a chocolate taste unlike anything I’ve yet to match. A smooth, dreamy chocolate ganache is intensified with a healthy dose of Jameson’s Irish Whisky. Luscious buttercream becomes heavenly with Irish Cream liquor. I don’t know about y’all, but this has sent me into a foodie spiral. These cupcakes are, without a doubt, unlike anything other.

I urge…no, implore…you to make these cupcakes. Whether or not you make them to celebrate the “luck of the Irish”, I promise you that you’ll feel lucky to be indulging in something so delicious. Because no matter the time of year, everyone deserves a treat.

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Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes {adapted minimally from Smitten Kitchen}

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream (I prefer to use Daisy Light sour cream)

Ganache Filling
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional…omit if you are planning on sharing with non-drinkers)

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

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Make the filling: Fill a large pot with water and set it atop your burner, around medium heat. You want the water to be simmering, but not boil. Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl, and place atop the pot on the stove (we’re essentially creating a double boiler here). Pour the cream over the chocolate, stirring constantly until the chocolate and cream have created a smooth, luxurious sauce.Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

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Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Using a small paring knife (or a small apple corer), cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. *Save these little gems – we’ll talk about them them shortly* Fill the centers of each cupcake with the ganache.

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Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

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Frost the cupcakes, then store in an airtight container. After a day, be sure to refrigerate them, otherwise they will start to go stale. And be sure to share. Because I guarantee you, if these sit around your house, you will eat them all. I speak from experience.

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*because these cupcakes centers are so delicious, I decided to fold them into vanilla ice cream I made with the leftover heavy cream. The recipe I used can be found here. After preparing the ice cream according to your manufacturer’s directions, gently fold in the cupcake centers. Freeze in an airtight quart container. 

loaded oatmeal cookie bars

Soft and warm…so thick and moist, you can’t wait to sink your teeth into these as soon as they come out of the oven. My friends, we’re talking cookies today. And these aren’t your average joe, slice and bake cookies you find in the market – these are super loaded, an explosion of awesome dessert for your taste buds.

Photo 2014-01-26 08.50.36 PM   I’ve always had a soft spot for chocolate chip cookies. When I was a child, my mom would often make my sisters and I the classic Nestle Tollhouse cookies. Because there were three of us, it was a constant battle as to who would get the coveted beaters, and who got stuck with the meager amount of dough left in the bowl (she’s a professional scraper, my mom, never wasting a drop). Elbows were thrown, no holds back – if you wanted it, you had to fight for it!

These cookies are no different. But with just the hubs and I in our household (for now, at least), there’s no scrambling over who gets to lick what. In fact, we both enjoy the fruits of my labor with these cookies, enjoying the beaters, the bowl, and whatever else flew out of the bowl. We leave the kitchen smiling, and I’ll tell you what – the best part about this recipe, my dears, is that it is a one bowl wonder. Amen.

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Because I am never satisfied simply following a recipe, I had approach this recipe with fresh eyes. I am a HUGE oatmeal lover, so I decided that I would draw my inspiration from the traditional Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies. You can’t go wrong with an oatmeal cookie, amiright?? With the perfect balance of tender oats, sugars, sweet vanilla, and just a hint of salt, I knew I was on to something good.

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From here is where I started to get a little creative. Surprise, surprise! As I mentioned earlier, these were going to be a spin on my mom’s classic, so naturally a hefty dose of chocolate was in order. I am all about semi-sweet chocolate in my cookies. I find that milk chocolate is a tad to sweet for me, and I like the way semi-sweet balances out the sugar in most recipes. My vanilla sugar* replaced the standard granulated sugar, adding another layer of flavor. Greek yogurt** was subbed in for a substantial amount of the butter, which resulted in a fluffier cookie. And lastly, for even more texture, crushed bits of salted pretzel twists were folded in and lightly pressed into the top of the batter before going into the oven.

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In addition to coming together quickly and easily, these cookies also freeze beautifully. I like to cut them after they’ve cooled, wrap half of them individually in foil, and place them in the freezer. But…I’m just saying…if they don’t make it that long, I completely understand.

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Enjoy!

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Loaded Oatmeal Cookie Bars {adapted from Quaker Oats}

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. butter, softened

1 C. plain, non-fat Greek yogurt

3/4 C. firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 C. vanilla sugar (regular, granulated sugar works just as well here too, the infused sugar just adds another depth of flavor)

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1-1/2 C. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3 C. Quaker Oats

1 C. (heaping) of chocolate chips

several handfuls of plain, salted pretzels

To Make:

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, beat butter, Greek yogurt, and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Add oats and chocolate chips; mix well.  Crumble up about 1-1/2 C. of the pretzels, and fold in.

Press dough onto bottom of a greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

*to make vanilla sugar, I simply cut a vanilla bean in half from end to end and put it in a mason jar. Fill it up with sugar and store in a cool, dry place. Give it a turn every so often to fully incorporate the flavor.

**if you’re not a huge fan of Greek yogurt in baked goods, simply use the original amount of unsalted butter that the recipe calls for. In this particular recipe, you would use 1 stick + 6 tablespoons.