Friday, June 28, 2013

friday favorites

Can you believe that we've made it through the final week of June already? I'm sad to see June go as it's one of my favorite months. It's my birthday month, so I try to extend the celebration as much as possible. All this means is that I have more dessert than usual.

Each year June culminates with the celebration of my cousin's birthday in Ohio. We always have one cake to celebrate my birthday, one for his party, and a second for his birthday to be enjoyed by the family. Cake is serious business in my family. We typically order an ice cream cake for my cake, but this year we decided to try something different because my cousin requested not to have a Costco sheet cake for his party. This was a real curveball for my family because we (read: I) love Costco cake. To compensate for the lack of enormous sheet cake, we decided to switch things up and order a giant chocolate cake to commemorate my birthday. If you haven't already experienced Costco's All-American Cake, then pick one up for your next occasion. Or no occasion at all. I won't judge unnecessary cake consumption. It's a four layer chocolate cake with rich layers of ganache frosting and chocolate shavings to garnish. It was out of this world good.

Anyway, on to my favorite finds from around the internet this week (click on gray link for source)!

Favorite indulgence: S'mores Ice Ceam Pie. I grew up eating ice cream pies, but I've never had an ice cream pie like this delicious creation. Chocolate and coffee ice cream sandwich a rich layer of fudge over a buttery graham cracker crust and topped with marshmallow infused whipped cream. 

Favorite meal: Maple Bacon Beer Burgers. I've always been a proponent of eating my alcohol. 

Favorite concept: Coffee Bar. I don't drink coffee, but I love the idea of it and I think that this is such a cute and cool look for the kitchen.

Favorite snack: Guacamole Cheese Toast. I'm on a big guacamole kick lately. Such a simple way to combine two delicious foods.

Favorite DIY: Counter Over Front Loading Washer & Dryer. I'm all about organization, especially when it makes annoying tasks easier. 

Favorite sweet: Movie Theater Candy Bark. Somehow I found myself married to a movie buff. The poor guy rarely gets to go because I'm not a fan of going to the movie theater. Admittedly, I am a child when it comes to food, though, and their candy is an effective bribe to get me to see a movie on the big screen.

Favorite look: Festive Scarf. I love holidays, but I'm not one to dress up for a holiday. This cute scarf is a subtle and cute way to keep in the spirit of the Fourth of July holiday.

Favorite read: The Science of Positive Thinking. This is a wonderfully insightful article written by a psychology researcher at UNC. She discusses scientific evidence to explain how positive and negative thoughts affect your brain and how these thoughts relate to your success and happiness. I found the piece really interesting and encouraging. My favorite line of the article is "happiness is both the precursor to success and the result of it."

Favorite remix: Apple Pie Fries. Is it too early to be thinking of Thanksgiving?

Favorite pup: Pool PupI haven't made my way to the pool yet, but I'm glad this cutie is keeping cool this summer.

Favorite quote: Life is a Balancing Act

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

chewy chocolate chip cookies

Today I did something rather embarrassing. I wrote to my employer's catering company imploring them to give me their chocolate chip cookie recipe. 

I know, but you don't understand how good their cookies are! They are some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted and if you know me at all, then you know that I have tried a lot of cookies. I'm a self-proclaimed chocolate chip cookie connoisseur.  I am what I am.

Their cookies are thick, chewy, gooey in the middle with melted chocolate in every bite, but its structure is sturdy enough to not fall apart. They're simply the best, so I must obtain the recipe.

According to the cashiers in the cafeteria, there have been many requests for the recipe (all women, I'm sure), but each was denied. They actually laughed at me when I innocently inquired about their recipe. Clearly, they know they're on to something with these cookies. I refuse to accept the answer no, though, so I wrote the most compelling email I could possibly craft and sent it to the man behind the recipe. We'll see what happens!

Anyway, these cookies aren't quite at the level of awesomeness as the coveted cookies at work, but they're quite delicious nonetheless. I made them while I was visiting my family in Ohio over the weekend. I knew that they were a great recipe when my cousin, who has the pickiest palate everrrr, asked for seconds and thirds. He is a difficult one to please! Give them a shot my friends- you won't be disappointed.

Oh, and a big thanks to my wonderful aunt who let me play with her fancy DSLR camera and capture these pretty photos!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat over to 325 degrees
In bowl of standing mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy
While creaming sugars, whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl
Once butter and sugar is fully mixed, add eggs one at a time and beat until combined
Add in vanilla and beat until combined
Slowly add your dry ingredients and mix until just combined
Stir in chocolate chips
Roll a scant half cup of dough
Holding ball with finger tips of both hands, pull apart to equal halves, rotate 90 degrees, and with jagged sides facing up, place dough on prepared cookie sheets
Bake 11-14 minutes, or until edges become lightly browned (do not overbake)
Let cookies cool on cookie sheets before transferring to cooling rack


Source: Baking Illustrated
Linked up at: What's Cookin' Wednesday, Tuesday Talent Show

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

chocolate cake with vanilla frosting

Today is our second wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe that two years have passed since that beautiful day in Atlanta, but a lot has happened during that time. A big move, new jobs, a trip to Europe, and lots of cake. So let's get to the cake.

I baked this cake to commemorate two years of marriage to the greatest guy I know. I asked him for input on what he wanted me to make him, but in typical fashion, he said that he wanted to be surprised. So not helpful. This is his answer to almost all questions that require extra thought. I can't figure out if he really likes surprises, or if he just doesn't want to take the time to think of an answer.

This recipes comes from a very trusted blogger over at Kevin and Amanda. The cake is super moist and fudgy. Upon first bite, I almost thought I was devouring a brownie because it's so fudgy, but the texture is definitely that of a delicious chocolate cake. I loved the frosting too. It's made with shortening which yields a lighter frosting. It reminds me of the kind used on cakes from the grocery store. I know that some people are strongly against store bought cakes, but I really really love them, particularly for their frosting. Don't even get me started on Costco cakes. They are all that is right in the world. 

I'm a frosting fanatic. I'm always horrified when I see people scrape off the frosting from their cake. I mean really, what is cake without frosting?

Which side are you guys on? Frosting or no frosting?

P.S Happy 2nd anniversary to the light of my life!

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting

1 box of Devil's Food Cake mix
1 box chocolate instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups mini chocolate chips (1 bag)

1 cup shortening
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Prepare two eight inch pans with cooking spray
In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, oil, eggs, milk and vanilla until combined
Stir in chocolate chips
Evenly pour batter into prepared cake pans
Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting
While cakes cool, prepare your frosting
Beat shortening until light and fluffy
Slowly beat in powdered sugar one cup at a time until completely incorporated
Add in salt, vanilla, and whipping cream and beat until fluffy
Frost cooled cakes


Source Kevin and Amanda
Linked up at Time to Sparkle & Tuesday Talent Show

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

brownie peanut butter magic bars

I suffered from baking withdrawals while out of the country. I found myself inexplicably irritable at times when walking the streets of Italy and I attributed it to my sugar cravings. Of course I had gelato with lunch and dinner, but it didn't satiate my sweet tooth quite like baking does.

Naturally, as soon as our bags hit the floor upon our arrival home last week, I pulled out my standing mixer and made two batches of my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough. I couldn't decide! I was feeling super denied of my beloved chocolate chip cookies, so two kinds were definitely in order.

Cookie baking transpired every night for the remainder of the week to make up for lost time, but I was feeling particularly motivated on Saturday night to try a new recipe. That's where these babies come into the picture.

Here we have brownie peanut butter magic bars. A dense fudgy crust serves as the base for a layer of chocolate peanut butter magic. If you're not familiar with (un)necessarily gluttonous desserts, then you may not know that sweetened condensed milk is the "magic" that makes a rich layer of decadence.

These bars are so simple to whip up. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or use an electric mixer) beat together a box of brownie mix, 1 stick of butter, and 1 egg. Your dough will be very thick. Press it down into a 9x13 inch greased pan then sprinkle half a bag of peanut butter chips and half a bag of chocolate chips onto your crust. Pour a can of sweetened condensed milk over the chips. Pop your pan into the oven for 30 minutes and you're in for a magical treat (I know, lame, but go with it).

No sugar cravings after these. Well, maybe some.

Brownie Peanut Butter Magic Bars

1 box Brownie Mix
1 stick butter, softened
1 egg
8 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, chopped
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup chocolate chips
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (14 oz can)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Prepare 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray or parchment paper
Beat together Brownie Mix, butter, and egg until combined (dough will be very thick)
Evenly press dough into bottom of greased pan
Sprinkle peanut butter cups, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chips over dough
Pour sweetened condensed milk over candy in an even back and forth fashion*
Bake for 30 minutes
Let cool completely before cutting into bars


Source Crazy for Crust
Linked up at What's Cookin' Wednesday & Tuesday Talent Show

*Try not to concentrate the milk to the middle of the pan.