Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cookies


This past weekend we celebrated Mr. Vittles' cousin Devon's birthday.

Devon is awesome.  She's incredibly smart (a nurse practitioner), funny, charmingly OCD, and she has the nicest handwriting I've ever seen.

I wish I had a sample to show you.  Then again, maybe that's for the better, because you'd just be super jealous. (Trust me.)

For such a tiny thing though, she loooves food... and wine.  See Exhibit A:


I asked her mom, the hostess of the party, what we could contribute to the celebration- and apparently Devon requested I bake cookies.

Naturally, I was more than happy to comply.

Her mom hinted that she likes dark chocolate, so I knew it was the perfect time to test out these brownie cookies I bookmarked a while back.  I used dark chocolate morsels, threw in some peanut butter chips for good measure, and these bad boys did not disappoint.


They're really chocolaty and chewy like a brownie, but with the portability of a cookie.

Because let's face it - once birthday girls blow out their candles & eat their cake/pie, they need to make the rounds to their adoring fans!  They can't be bogged down with plates and napkins... it's all about the grab & go, baby.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cookies 

  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter, cut in 4 pieces
  • 4 1-oz. unsweetened chocolate baking squares, chopped
  • 1 10-oz. bag dark chocolate morsels, divided
  • 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C. peanut butter chips (I like Reese's brand)

Combine butter, unsweetened chocolate, and 1 1/2 cups of the dark chocolate morsels in a large heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter and chocolate melt; cool.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to  350° F.  Line baking sheet(s)* with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until combined; set aside.

In large bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, beating well.  Add melted chocolate mixture and beat well.  Stir in remaining dark chocolate morsels (about 1/3 C.) and all of the peanut butter chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 1 inch apart onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake 10 minutes in preheated oven. Cool slightly on baking sheets (2-3 minutes), then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

*Note: You can bake two sheets at once, just be sure to adjust your oven's racks to the top & bottom third and you switch the sheets halfway through baking (move the one on the bottom to the top & vice versa) so they bake evenly.

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living Best Loved Cookies, Oxmoor House 2009

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Red Velvet Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling


Sometimes... things just don't work out the way you want them to in the kitchen.

Especially when you're 26 weeks pregnant, and preggo brain is in full effect.

So this past Friday morning, my stepdad Chris married his beautiful girlfriend of 2 years, Janice.  (This may sound strange to anyone reading for the first time- so just to explain, a) my mom passed away a few years ago and b) I lived with my stepdad since I was about 5, he and I are very close).

Chris & Janice had a really nice, quaint ceremony with some close family & friends on the beach early in the morning, and then invited everyone back to their house for breakfast.

Naturally, I wanted to bring some type of food to share, and I settled on muffins.

I know that one of Janice's favorites is red velvet, so my first thought was red velvet muffins.

However, after a quick search online, I didn't find many recipe choices.  I toyed with the idea of making my own, but I was concerned that creating something totally new had too much potential to backfire on me.

So I eventually decided I better stick with a more traditional recipe, and settled on lemon poppy seed muffins.  Easy peasy, right?

Right.

That is.... until your muffins are busy baking and you realize, OMG I have no recollection of cracking or mixing eggs, and there were definitely supposed to be two in the recipe.

Yep.  Completely forgot the eggs.

The muffins were still edible, and honestly they weren't even that bad without eggs.  But still, I felt like this mistake could not be my only contribution to their celebratory breakfast.

I might have just made another batch of the same thing... if I hadn't used all my poppy seeds in the eggless muffins.

Ahh!

So to sum things up... I picked a tried & true recipe as the "safe bet," only to end up screwing it up and making the red velvet ones anyway.

I was definitely a little nervous putting the red velvet batch in the oven, because the batter is a little more moist than a traditional muffin batter.  I had also envisioned the cream cheese filling staying closer to the top, but I guess since it was heavier than the batter, it sunk to the middle.


But despite my concerns, all in all I would call these a success.  I did have to sacrifice one for Mr. Vittles and me to taste test, just to make sure I wasn't poisoning anyone.  But we enjoyed them, and the guests who tried them seemed to as well.

They're nowhere near as fun (or as sweet) as a cupcake, so don't get your hopes up - this is still breakfast, people!  But if you're looking for something different, these could fit the bill.

Also, don't worry if cream cheese isn't your thing - you can just omit the filling.  I made a few plain ones to see how they'd come out, and to me they tasted just as good.

More importantly... congratulations to Janice and Chris :)  Mr. V and I were so happy to be a part of their special day, and wish them many years of love and laughter together!


Red Velvet Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

Muffins:

  • 1 3/4 C. + 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C. canola oil
  • 1 C. buttermilk
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. red food coloring

Filling:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/4 t. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, or coat with non-stick spray; set aside.

Make filling: In medium bowl, add cream cheese, yolk, sugar, and vanilla.  On low speed, mix filling ingredients until well-combined and no lumps remain.  Set bowl aside.

Make muffins: In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to combine. In separate medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk eggs, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and food coloring until combined.

Make a well in the center of dry ingredients, and pour in liquid mixture. Fold ingredients in with rubber spatula until just combined - do not overmix.

Divide batter evently amongst prepared muffin cups. Place a rounded tablespoon of cream cheese filling in the middle of each cup.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until tops look lightly browned & no longer 'wet.'  Let sit in pans briefly until cool enough to handle, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Makes 12 muffins.

Original Recipe

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gooey S'mores Bars


Sooo... I know I've been MIA again lately and I'm sorry.

Mr. Vittles and I have been super busy.  I just feel like there are not enough hours in the day!

Bad news out of the way first - my grandmother has unfortunately been ill this week, so I've spent a most of my evenings with her and my aunt at the hospital.  Unfortunately they don't know what is causing her issues yet, but she's been a trooper!  Hopefully we will get a resolution to that soon, and she'll be feeling better.

On a lighter note, I finally got my act together and started checking out baby stuff for my registry.

Holy time-consuming.

I have been talking to moms & soon-to-be-moms, poring over websites, reading reviews, and adding & deleting items for hours on end.  

And I'm still... not... done.

Soooo different from doing my wedding registry!  That was incredibly easy.  Mr. V and I had lived together for a while and acquired a lot of stuff, so I was mostly concerned with one thing - what do I want?

This is totally different.  Now I need to think about what I need, what's good, and what's safe.  

Or more like find out what I need, what's good and what's safe because let's face it - I HAVE NO IDEA!  (So feel free to leave me any comments telling me things you couldn't live without with your kids/friends' kids/family member's kids/whatever - I welcome suggestions!)

Aside from that, we also went away for a long weekend to my mother & father in-laws' vacation home on the St. Lawrence River in Canada.  Their place is in the Thousand Islands, and you can only get to it by boat.  

They already had a full house of 8 guests (5 adults & 3 kids), but still welcomed us and two of our friends!  The house (while adorable) is not overly big, but it sleeps a lot of people - so it worked out great.  Never a boring moment, AND we all got a bed - best of both worlds!

I wish I had pictures, but you'll have to take my word for it - the area is just so beautiful and relaxing.  

And we had so much fun!  I was really reveling in the cool air, outside shower, fun conversation, and delicious foods.

One night we sat around a fire and made s'mores.  Well, actually the kids made s'mores, and the adults just mostly ate toasted marshmallows.  

Know why?  

Because as delicious as s'mores may be, they are also very messy.

Enter gooey s'mores bars.  These are actually a little messy too, but not nearly as bad as a real s'more.  Plus you don't need a fire, which is pretty convenient if you're not camping or at your in-laws' awesome river house.

I'll be honest though - Mr. Vittles didn't seem to be a fan of these bars.  He didn't say they were bad or anything, he just wasn't overly impressed.  

I disagree.  Although I'll admit, I thought it would be a good idea to add a layer of 1/2 cup of Nutella between the chocolate bars and fluff, but unfortunately you could barely taste it with everything else.  (This is not in the recipe below since, in my mind, it was not worth it - but feel free to try it for yourself.)

I did also get really worried at one point that I didn't have enough of the graham cracker dough left for the top, to hold the insides together.  But once it was all baked & cooled it was totally fine.  So if this happens to you too, have no fear.  I thought these were great, and I give the original recipe two thumbs up!  

Apparently my co-workers did too, because once I realized Mr. V wasn't eating them I brought a plate of these into work...

...and they were gone by noon.  

Now mind you, I get into work a half hour earlier than most people in my office and I just left the plate in the kitchen without saying a word to anyone.  So people didn't even know what they were or where they came from - and they still ate them all.

Although... not sure if that says a lot for the bars, or just not much for my coworkers?  

Maybe a combination of both :)

Gooey S'mores Bars
  • 1/2 C. butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 C. brown sugar
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 C. whole wheat flour (or you can use all-purpose flour instead)
  • 1 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C. graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s), trimmed to fit 8x8 pan
  • 1 7-oz jar marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, beat butter & brown sugar until light & fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until dough forms.

Press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough - cut or break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer. Then, using the back of a spatula sprayed with non-stick spray, spread marshmallow creme over chocolate bars. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (*see note below).  

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.  Makes 16 bars.

*Note: Easiest way to do this is to flatten pieces of the dough and shape into small rectangles, then lay them on top of marshmallow layer. Pinch the dough pieces together to make a solid top piece).

Recipe Adapted Slightly from Lovin' from the Oven, as seen on Wit & Whistle
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