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

Fruit & Yogurt Popsicles

The hubs and I are preparing for a whirlwind of trips over the next couple weeks. Typical summer, I say. Lots of fun but…that means it’s time to clear out the fridge. We’ve been going through leftovers like you wouldn’t believe; frozen meals I prepared who knows how long ago, frozen produce {and fresh, of course – because I’m a crazy lady and buy it in droves every.single.week}, pantry items that are probably on their last leg…and then there was this yogurt. A large, unopened container of 2% Fage Greek yogurt. It had somehow ended up there, and thankfully I noticed it before it turned because if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting food! I know many of you agree with me on this : ) 

Standing there, with the door open and wasting precious energy, I began to contemplate what to do with it. I hardly ever buy the large containers, simply because we don’t go through them fast enough. Individual sizes are perfect for lunches, breakfast smoothies, or packing for a quick weekend hike. I knew I had to utilize it soon or it would meet the fate that I so hate. So when the thought of making a frozen dessert popped in my mind, I knew I had a winner. I didn’t have to worry about it going bad while we were gone, and BONUS! – fresh, delicious, healthy popsicles would be awaiting our return. Everyone wins!

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This recipe is extremely flexible to however you want it to be – I’ve simply outlined my method of preparation. Feel free to use whatever type of yogurt you prefer; the same goes for the fruit. I used a mixture of fresh and frozen, but anything will do. Let your imagination run wild! Your mouth will thank you on a particularly hot summer day, when cooling off needs to happen ASAP.

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Fruit & Yogurt Popsicles 

Perfect for those boiling hot summer nights, these frozen treats are sure to cool off even those whose temperature runs the hottest! Made with creamy Greek yogurt and exploding with fresh fruit, you won’t feel guilty about indulging in these any time. 

Ingredients:

2 cups plain Greek yogurt {I prefer 2% when making desserts/sweeter things}

1 bag {10 ounces} frozen fruit of your choice *but make sure that it’s thawed before blending*

1 additional cup of fresh fruit {I opted for blueberries}

up to 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, or to taste, for sweetening the mixture

up to 1/4 cup milk of choice, to thin out the mixture for pouring purposes

To Prepare:

Place all of the ingredients, expect for the milk and maple syrup, into the bowl of a large food processor. Pulse a few times to mix up. Taste and adjust the level of sweetness with the maple syrup.

Pulse again until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Slowly add in the milk until the texture reaches an easily pourable consistency.

Using a large Pyrex container {or any pitcher with a pouring mouth}, carefully fill up your popsicle molds until full. I have these ones and I LOVE them! Seal tightly and freeze overnight.

To serve, simply run the container until warm water for a few seconds. This will help loosen the popsicle from the container, making pulling out a breeze.

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Enjoy!

plum tarte tatin

Have you seen anything more beautiful?

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Fresh, juicy plums just begging to be transformed into a luscious dessert. Typically, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to fruit desserts {hello, apple pie} but with my parents in town…which just happened to be her birthday weekend…I knew I had to do something special.

I’ve seen the oh-s0-wonderful Ina Garten make tatins countless times; I’m a huge fan of her show, and while watching an episode not long ago, this plum tart tatin jumped out from the screen, just begging me to make it. After reading up on the recipe, I was sold – packed with fruit and little else, it was a simple dessert, but a total showstopper.

This particular recipe is practically a one-pot wonder. Aside from making a rich simple syrup, it is a no fuss, low maintenance dessert. Halved plums are packed into a buttered baking dish, then topped with the syrup. A light and fluffy batter is haphazardly dropped on top of the fruit. Once popped into the oven and baked off, you wait with bated breath until the cake has cooled slightly, and you can invert it onto your baking dish. You want the entire dessert to come out in one fell swoop, but fear not! – if a plum or two pops out during the turning out, you simply re-position it back into the cake. It will be out little secret.

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And y’all? The juice that is created from the fruit baking and marrying with the simple syrup….wow. Soak up every last bit of that heavenly liquid. You won’t be sorry.

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Plum Tarte Tatin {recipe adapted from Ina Garten}

Wonderfully simple and totally gorgeous, this cake will impress anyone. Served with a bit of sweetened whipped cream, it’s the perfect springtime dessert. I recommend enjoying it al fresco! 

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. unsalted butter {room temperature} + 3 tbsp. plain nonfat Greek yogurt

additional butter for greasing the dish

6-10 large plums, cut in half and pitted

3/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar, for separate uses

1/3 cup water

2 extra large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

optional: confectioners’ sugar, for serving 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9″ glass pie dish and arrange the plums in the dish, cut side down.

Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don’t stir. Pour evenly over the plums. Set aside.

Cream the 3 tbsp. butter, 3 tbsp. yogurt, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy {about 5 minutes}. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add in the 1/3 cup yogurt, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix until combined.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add it into the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.

Pour the batter evenly over the plums {you might have to use your spatula to spread it a bit; it’s ok if some of the tops of the plum peak out} and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes.

Invert caked onto a flat plate or serving stand. If a plum sticks, simply ease it out and replace it in the design on the top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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“snickerdoodle” cookie dough dip

I’m a woman obsessed. Obsessed with making and eating cookie dough.

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Many of you may remember way back to this post, when I finally put to the test the oh-so-popular “cookie dough” dip. I wasn’t really one to doubt the idea, as I am all about making indulgent treats healthier, but I knew that a certain someone in my household might not be so keen. After all, beans are the main ingredient! Am I crazy?!

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Well, fast forward about 15 minutes later, and both the hubs and I are going all at the batch of dip that I whipped up. It was a total, 100% success! Not that I had any reason to believe otherwise. heh.

It’s been quite some time since that day, and many a batch have been whipped up since then. I’ve experimented with a few different flavor combinations to see what else I could come up with, but none shone as bright as the one we’re making today. It’s snickerdoodle style, y’all. And wow, is it incredible. I have to thank the hubs for this one, because not only is this his favorite type of cookie, but it incorporates a childhood favorite as well; cinnamon toast cereal is acting as the “grain” of the cookie, resulting in the most glorious cinnamon-sugar flavor punch imaginable. It’s fantastic, delicious, and…well….delightful.

Of course, any brand of cinnamon-sugar cereal can be used, but I had those crazy squares on hand. You could use a gluten-free option, or go the more organic route, too! It comes together in a matter of minutes, and probably won’t last much longer than that.

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Sneaky Cookie Dough Dip {a twist on this recipe!}

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 of milk {I used my favorite sweet cream coffee creamer}, only if needed

1/2 cup cinnamon-sugar cereal, plus additional for garnish

To Prepare:

Add all ingredients into the body of a good food processor, and process until very smooth. This will take anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes. Add in the liquid, a tablespoon or so at a time, until your desired consistency is reached.

Scoop into a dish and sprinkle with additional cinnamon-toast cereal pieces. Garnish with graham crackers, sliced fruit, or cinnamon-sugar toast points. Enjoy!

apple cake with bourbon-vanilla buttercream

As a child, we had a tradition in my family. On your birthday, you got to pick whatever dish you wanted for dinner. No if’s, and’s or but’s, my mom was always up for the challenge. Most years, my sisters and I would pick our tried and true favorites – dishes that were easy to create but nonetheless special, because mom made them just for you on your birthday. Is it just me, or does food taste just a tad bit better when it’s like that?

The same went for desserts. Again, tried and true favorites were picked. Yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting was on regular rotation for my sisters, and sometimes evolved into a certain chocolate ganache cake that was so rich, only a mere sliver could be enjoyed. Cheesecakes would often sneak in, and ever so often a pie would appear.

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with today’s recipe.

Well, y’all, the tradition of special birthday meals has not been ignored every since I flew the coop and got hitched a couple years back. As long as the hubs and I have been together, I’ve enjoyed preparing dishes and desserts for him every year on his birthday. The only stipulation? It has to be something uncommon, and something we wouldn’t necessarily make at home. The same applies for dessert. We’ve had the cake version of my Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, trifles, and various twists on the classic chocolate cake. So this year, I challenged HIM. We had to select a dessert that had never passed our lips, but that would be delicious and sumptuous.

With fall just around the corner, the mental light bulb was quick to turn on. Almost simultaneously, after discussions of how amazing our wedding cake was, we thought “APPLES!”. It couldn’t be more perfect – the hubs love apple-based treats, and when I suggested a buttercream centered on his favorite libation {bourbon}, he was instantly sold.

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And I’m telling y’all, this is to.die.for. Like, seriously. It is perfectly moist and decadent, but not at all overly sweet or heavy. We use applesauce, not oil {!}, in the cake, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.It adds the perfect amount of sweetness to the cake, and creates the most beautiful crumb when you slice through it. One bite of this, topped with fluffy buttercream, and you’ll want this for your birthday.

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Apple Cake with Bourbon-Vanilla Buttercream {cake adapted from A Beautiful Bite, & frosting recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma}

Just because it’s not quite yet fall, doesn’t mean the desire for apples in baked goods isn’t here! This cake is full of apple flavor, and the bourbon buttercream takes it over the top. Supremely moist and full of flavor, this is sure to satisfy. 

Ingredients – Cake:

4 cups firm fleshed baking apples, cored and diced {I used a mixture of Fuji/Granny Smith/Red Delicious}

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup turbinado sugar {granulated will work fine; I think the turbinado offers a richer and more complex taste}

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla extract {homemade, if you have it!}

Ingredients – Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream:

6 cups confectioners’ sugar

16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3 tbsp. milk, plus more if needed

2 tsp. vanilla extract {again, if you have homemade, go for it!}

1 to 1-1/2 shots of bourbon {optional, but encouraged!}

pinch salt

To Prepare – Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (2) 9″ baking pans and set aside. As these cakes tend to bake a bit taller than usual, I would recommend greasing all the way up the sides of the pans, and the lips as well!

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In a large mixing bowl, combine flour/cinnamon/salt/baking soda. Mix well and set aside.

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Using a stand mixer or hand mixer set on medium speed, combine both sugars/eggs/applesauce/vanilla. Mix until incorporated.

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Slowly add in the flour mixture; mixing only until incorporated.

Stir in the apples by hand. Pour cake batter into the (2) pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Remove from oven and let cool, in pans, for at least 20 minutes. Flip out of pans and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Once cooled, cover with Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream.

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To Prepare – Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream:

Have all of the ingredients at room temperature for best result.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, milk, bourbon and vanilla and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixture and scrape down the sides. Increase the speed to medium and beat another 3 minutes. Stop and scrape the sides down again. Turn the mixture onto medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, another 3-5 minutes.

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Cake will stay, covered, on the countertop for up to 3 days. If it lasts that long, transfer to refrigerator.

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Let’s Discuss: do you and your family have any special birthday traditions? What is your favorite birthday treat, whether savory OR sweet?

summer popsicles

I have lots and lots of frozen fruit in my fridge from earlier this season, just waiting to be blended up and poured into adorable little molds.

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I promise y’all, it doesn’t get much simpler than this! If you’re looking for a way to use up {and healthfully, I might add!} and overload of summer produce, you have come to the right place.

For the past several summers, I’ve been a popsicle-making freak. Odd combinations of fruits and veggies are the least of my worries when it comes to these tasty treats – in fact, the fruit used will often mask any sort of veggie hint. So when you see cucumbers listed in the ingredients below, fear not! You know that I will never steer you wrong.

I promise. I mean, just look at these lovelies…how can you go wrong?!

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~~~

Summer Popsicles {makes 6 popsicles}

This is probably one of my favorite combinations to make – I love that the sweet berries are the star of this treat. The bright notes of cucumber simply amplify the taste of the berries, and provide just a teeny bit of flavor to make you question “what is that fresh taste in there as well?” Balanced out with a drizzle of honey, this dessert screams summer. And if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, or in the search of happy hour…place this popsicle in a bowl and let it sit with a shot {or two!} of good gin. It will be our little secret. 

Ingredients:

one 16 ounce bag of fresh strawberries {you can also use frozen}

1/2 of a large cucumber, cut into chunks

1/2 the juice of one fresh lime 2 tablespoons of honey

*special equipment: high powered blender, popsicle molds

To Prepare:

Place all the ingredients, except for the honey, into the barrel of your food processor. Process all ingredients until a very smooth, velvety consistency is reached.

Add in the honey {I used the above-mentioned 2 tablespoons, but depending on how sweet you like them, feel free to use more}, and puree for another minute or two, until all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour into popsicle molds of choice, and freeze until solid. Serve on a hot day with plenty of napkins – no one likes sticky wrists!

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Let’s discuss: did you like popsicles when you were a kid? What about ice cream? Is there one or the other you are partial to?

vanilla buttermilk ice cream

A generous scoop of ice cream, whether heaped atop a sugar cone or nestled tightly into a traditional cup, is perfection. Does this remind you of your childhood? For me, this image draws to mind countless summer nights standing in line at our local ice cream joint, tucked away in the downtown area. Being a single window service counter, the line would often times wrap around the perimeter of the building. Everyone was waiting to get their fix, myself and my family included.

Everyone has their flavors. For me, I’m a chocolate ice cream lover, through and through. Vanilla just never really did it for me. Aside from said ice cream joint, I’ve always found it to be just…normal, I suppose. I love the depth and intensity that a rich chocolate adds to the ice cream. Throw in some chunks and other varietals? It’s pure heaven.

That is, until I got my first ice cream maker a few years back. Reading and experimenting with recipes for it {like my Greek frozen yogurt I love to make} has ignited a newly found passion and appreciation for more and more things vanilla. The recipe I wanted to share with y’all today has quickly become a quick and easy go to in our household. Comprised of simple ingredients, it makes the perfect dessert for a hot summer night. Yes, we’re going vanilla!

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This ice cream is the perfect balance of creamy and slightly sweet, with a hint of tang from the buttermilk we’re going to add in. That’s right – buttermilk! Aside from the health benefits {does anyone else remember having a few sips of buttermilk to help settle your stomach?}, it’s a great way to balance sweet, both in cooking and baking. The resulting flavor when added into an ice cream base is astounding, if you ask me. And it comes together in a matter of minutes. Win.

I do hope you enjoy, dears.

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Vanilla Buttermilk Ice Cream {adapted, slightly, from MyRecipes}

makes about (9) 1/2-cup servings

Ingredients:

1 to 1-1/2 cups sugar

2 cups half & half

2 cups whole milk

2 cups fat-free buttermilk

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract {use my homemade version, if you’ve made it!}

To Prepare:

Combine sugar with half & half in a large bowl. Whisk heavily, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add in the whole milk, buttermilk, and vanilla.

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Pour mixture into the canister of your ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Mine usually takes anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes. 

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Once done with the churning cycle, spoon mixture into a freezer-safe container {you’ll need (2) two-quart containers, as this recipe makes a lot!}. Cover and freeze one hour until firm.

To serve: set ice cream out and let it come to room temperature, about 10-15 minutes. The ice cream itself will be easily scoopable, but leaving it out for a bit really helps it soften and get even more luscious. Serve with your favorite toppings!

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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.

browniebowl

{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.

black-bean-brownies

{Photo courtesy of Chocolate-Covered Katie}

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.