My brother asked me the other day if I ever got tired of receiving cookbooks for Christmas. This year may have been a record: eight cookbooks. I guess he thought that was a little excessive, but I honestly never get tired of them.  I love reading through each and every page and finding recipes to try out. The best part is that you never grow out of a good cookbook. A great recipe 50 years ago is most likely a great recipe now (with the exception of recipes from the jello mold phase that my grandmother attempts to bring back from time to time). Cookbooks are timeless.

I've been wanting The Pioneer Woman Cooks for a long time now. I got it this Christmas, and I am already obsessed. There is nothing fancy about the cookbook, but it's good. In fact, it's great. I'm at the beach this week with family and friends, and there are 19 of us to feed. What better time to break out the new cookbooks? I started by making these breakfast puffs because there's a bakery in town that makes something very similar. They're called doughnut muffins at the bakery, but that doesn't matter because french breakfast puffs have now replaced doughnut muffins for all of us. These are not light and airy like the name "puff" might imply, but the incredible flavor works well with the dense centers. I would compare them to the consistency of a poundcake. The 19 people who ate these will all vouch that they are delicious.  The only issue I ran into was that there weren't enough to go around. That's not an issue at all, though. Batch number two is on the way!

French Breakfast Puffs
Recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup milk

1/2 pound (2 sticks butter)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
  • In a separate large bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening. 
  • Add the eggs and mix again.
  • Alternate adding one-third of the flour mixture and one-third of the milk to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.
  • Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Remove the muffins from the pan and set aside. 
  • To make the coating, melt the butter in a bowl or glass pan. In a separate container, combine the sugar and cinnamon.
  • Dip the warm muffins in the butter, coating thoroughly...
  • Then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Also: after cooling completely, puffs can be frozen in plastic bags and reheated later.

Red velvet is hands down my all time favorite cake. It is the perfect cake: rich, moist, vibrant, flavorful, elegant, filling, impressive...the list goes on. But then I read a funny quote in Virginia Will's Bon Appetit, Ya'll that said red velvet is "the Dolly Parton of cakes–she's a little bit tacky, but you love her." It made me laugh because as many times as I've eaten or made red velvet cake, I've never once thought of the red color as even slightly tacky. This is coming from someone who grew up eating key lime pie that was sea foam green, though. That's natural, right? But I'll give her that one, two whole containers of red food coloring definitely qualify this cake as tacky. Good thing we love it anyways.

I spend months trying to decide what I'll make for Christmas dessert. I probably have bookmarked at least 15 possible recipes by the time Christmas season actually arrives. This particular recipe appeared on Tastespotting in the beginning of December, and there was no question in my mind that it would be making an appearance at Christmas dinner. I made pumpkin spice cheesecake for Thanksgiving, so I wasn't going to choose another cheesecake. But cheesecake inside a cake is a different story. This cheesecake cake not only tops the list of my holiday dessert picks, but it is also one of my favorite cakes I have ever eaten period. If you are like me and try to add cream cheese to just about anything, this is the ultimate recipe for you. The cheesecake layer is cold and rich with a slight lemon tinge that gives it a different taste than the regular cream cheese frosting. The cake is perfect, too. It's a rich red color (I hate it when red velvet cakes are pink), and the flavor is strong enough not to be taken over by the cheesecake layer.

I've mentioned before that we eat a lot in my family. By the time dessert gets around it is expected that you will feel full to the point of bursting. I made this Christmas night, so as usual I ran into the problem of poor lighting for pictures. To solve this problem I tried to cut small pieces for my 16 person Christmas dinner so that I could have a piece to photograph the next day. Never in my life have I had so much opposition to the serving size. Everyone wanted seconds. Bookmark this recipe, and bring it out when you want to impress a crowd!

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake 
Recipe from Beantown Baker
(previously from Erin's Food Files, cake and frosting adapted from Apple A Day, originally adapted from Saveur cheesecake adapted from Martha Stewart)
Serves 12-16
Printable Recipe

1 1/4 pounds bar cream cheese (20 oz), room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest, plus 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp coarse salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

2 1/2 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp (1 oz.) red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white distilled vinegar

12 oz. cream cheese, softened
12 oz. butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cup confectioners' sugar

1 bar white or dark chocolate (Optional for decoration)

Make the cheesecake
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set a kettle of water to boil. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in lemon zest and juice, and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down side of bowl after each addition. Beat in sour cream.

Cut parchment paper in a circle and line the bottom of the cheesecake pan. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 45 minutes. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

Make the cake
Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.

Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide batter evenly between 2 greased and floured 9" round cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely, then level.

Make the Frosting
Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5–7 minutes.

Place bottom layer on cake stand. Remove cheesecake from freezer, unwrap, and remove from metal bottom, then peel off parchment paper. Place cheesecake layer on top of the bottom layer of the red velvet cake.

If the cheesecake is wider than the cake, and it is necessary to to trim it, wait approximately 10 minutes for the cheesecake to soften, then trim it with a knife. Place top layer of cake on top of the cheesecake, and coat with a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting to act as the crumb coat. Be careful not to get any red velvet crumbs in the bowl of frosting!

Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes, then frost with as much of the remaining frosting as necessary.

Top with shaved white chocolate and/or shaved dark chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (This cake doesn't have to stay in the fridge until IMMEDIATELY before serving, so don't worry if you have a 30 minute lapse between the refrigerator and serving.)

Had to take this one at night. Pardon the tacky wallpaper and bad lighting!

Regardless of how health-conscious I’ve been all semester once break hits it’s time to eat. It would be an understatement to say my family likes to do it big during the holidays. From when I came back home on December 20 until today, we have had some sort of large meal every day. Whether it’s a big Christmas party for all of our family friends or one of our four Christmas meals, there has been enough food around my house to feed a small army (which is good because when my whole family is together we literally have a small army to feed).

Christmas is when you just have to toss in the towel and say, to heck with it, I’m going to eat and I’m going to eat a lot. I will cook every waking hour for days straight and be more relaxed than I’ve been in months.  I guess entertaining is in my blood. There’s nothing better than seeing all the hard work pay off with a room full of happy people. One of these days I’ll start posting all of my cooking recipes to add to the sweets and baked goods. Despite the blog’s name I actually love to cook, I just haven’t quite figured out how to get the lighting right at night when most of the meals are served.

Ok, now I'll get to the recipes. I didn’t take pictures of everything I made, but I’ll post the ones I did. I knew I had to bake these oatmeal raisin pecan cookies after the review said they were some of the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever. That’s all I need to read to bookmark a recipe. It's way too hard to judge recipes without a review. I want someone to tell me what they thought when they made it. I loved these cookies. They may not have been the best oatmeal raisin cookies I’ve ever had, but they are definitely top three (and I’ve had a lot). I love the addition of pecans, and I also love that they’re nice and thick. They’re not the moistest cookies ever, but they’re chewy so I’m willing to let that slide. My whole family loved these, and I will most certainly be making them again soon!

Oatmeal Raisin Pecan Cookies 

Recipe from Jonesing for..

Based on the recipe from Ina Garten’s “Back to Basics
Ina always calls for extra-large eggs in her recipes which frankly, I never have. I read somewhere that an extra-large egg usually has 1-2 tsp. more weight than a large, so to make up the difference I’ll crack an extra egg, scramble it up, and add in the difference. Or you could, yknow, just buy extra-large eggs.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
  • 8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1½ cups raisins
  • 1½ cups pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1.) Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 3-4 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2.) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer with a large mixing bowl), beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer down to low and add the eggs one at a time, letting each one completely incorporate before adding the next. Stir in the vanilla extract.
3.) In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients a little at a time. Stir in the oats, raisins, and pecans at the end until just combined.
4.) Using a large cookie scoop, drop 3 Tbsp. sized mounds of dough onto sheet pans about 2 inches apart. Slightly wet your hand with cold water and press lightly down on cookies to flatten. Bake 14-16 minutes or until lightly browned. For chewier cookies, let cool completely on sheet pans. For crisper cookies, transfer cookies from sheet pan to cooling rack after about 5 minutes.

There wasn't a doubt in my mind I would love these cookies. After all, the only thing better than one delicious cookie is when it's doubled and you add filling to the equation. The recipe said they were similar to Do-si-dos, but the cookie part is much softer than the Girl Scout cookies. This is a definite plus in my book. The texture is more comparable to an oatmeal cream pie (and who doesn't love those?). I made these before exams and put them in little bags to bring to my family and friends. Well, I definitely should not have kept the bags in my room because apparently peanut butter sandwich cookies and studying are a great combination.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe from Rara Bakes

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal

3 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk

Cream together butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well.

Add baking soda, salt, baking powder, and flour. Stir. Fold in oatmeal.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Flatten balls with a fork. I suggest only cooking 9 at a time because these cookies spread quite a bit (they are meant to be thin).

Bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes or until edges lightly brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then move cookies to a cooling rack.

In a small bowl, cream together remaining butter and peanut butter. Add powdered sugar and stir until no lumps remain. Add in milk and stir until smooth.

Spread frosting inbetween two cookies and make sandwiches with them. Serve with a glass of milk! 

Banana bread is my weakness. I've mastered the skill of resisting cookies, cakes, candy and just about every other sweet (when I want to, that is), but banana bread I just can't seem to keep myself away from. I think this is because I can't figure out what category to place it in. Is it breakfast? Dessert?  Snack? 

I've decided banana bread fits in all of those categories, and that is my issue. I just eat it all day. I've been studying so much for finals recently that this is even worse because I have a tendency to find myself in the kitchen when I'm bored, and when is anyone ever not bored studying?

I made this banana bread a few days ago, and at first I was not happy with it at all. It required too many bowls for my liking, and the "room temperature" directions test my patience. But, then I tasted it. And then I made it again. And then again. I have made it three times since last week. Truthfully one time I had to run errands and left it in the oven for too long, but it should say something about it that I threw that one away and made a new one the next day. It's great. I should have known considering I've never doubted the incredible combination of chocolate and bananas. I think the best thing to do for this recipe is start with all of the measuring and separating things out into bowls FIRST. I realize normal people always do this, but I tend to do a recipe as I read it. Not surprisingly this has come back to bite me many of which was the first time I made this recipe when I poured all of the batter in before the chocolate. The pictures were taken round #1, but needless to say the swirling was much better round #2 and #3.

Chocolate Banana Marble Bread
Recipe from a 1/2 food blog
  • 2 large or 3 medium very ripe bananas, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (2ounces) sour cream, at room temperature – feel free to use cream or buttermilk!
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) unsifted unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) boiling water, plus more if needed
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened (65° to 68°F)
  • 3/4 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center.  Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or high-heat canola-oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the long edge of both sides of the pan.  Peel the bananas and place them in the bowl of the food processor.  Process to a smooth puree.  (Alternately, mash them in a bowl using a fork.)  Measure out 1 cup of the puree and transfer it to a medium bowl, discarding the rest of the puree or saving it for another use.  Add the sour cream and vanilla and whisk just until blended.  Set aside.
Use a fine-mesh strainer to sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder together into a medium bowl.  Whisk to blend well.  Set aside.  Place the cocoa powder in the small bowl.  Pour the boiling water over the cocoa and stir until it forms a smooth paste – it should run thickly off the spoon.  If it is too thick, add another tablespoon of boiling water and stir again.  Set aside.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until the butter is very light, almost white in color, 4 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl with a spatula.  Turn the mixer to medium speed and add the eggs, 1 tablespoon at a time, completely blending in each addition before adding the next.  About halfway through  the eggs, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with the spatula, then continue adding the rest of the eggs.  Scrape down the bowl again.
With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add one-third of the flour mixture.  Just as it is barely blended and you can still see a few patches of flour, add half the banana mixture.  Repeat with the remaining flour and banana mixtures ending with the flour.  Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand.
Transfer half of the batter to the second medium bowl. Add the cocoa paste and, using the rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly blend it into the batter.
Drop alternating spoonfuls of dark and light batters into the prepared pan, then marbleize by using a spoon to gently turn the batter over in 3 places down the length of the pan.
Bake the banana bread for 55 to 65 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.  When cool, remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and cut slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife.
Makes 1 Loaf

Twice, recently, I have baked and taken pictures of food that I have already posted at other times without realizing it. Not sure how this keeps happening–it's not like I have hundreds of posts on here. One time I even did it with my favorite cookie recipe. I make them all the time! How did I somehow convince myself that the most recent batch was different? I have no idea. I think I may be losing my mind.

My most recent repeat was with this delicious blueberry muffin recipe. I meant to separate the pizza puffs and the appetizer recipe below here with the blueberry muffins so that I could change up courses a bit. I took a set of new pictures and everything. But it's on here! I guess it's ok since at least that means you all can still make these muffins (they are single-handedly getting me through exams).

But, I guess I'll carry on with the appetizer trend. These pepperoni pizza puffs are awesome. They are also without a doubt the easiest thing I've made recently. I had a  big bag in the fridge that I just finished off for lunch today. Make sure to serve them warm with some marinara sauce on the side. You can whip these up in literally no time at all, and I guarantee they will be a crowd-pleaser!

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs
Recipe from The Family Kitchen 
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 1/4 cup Italian Cheese blend
  • 4 ounces Pepperoni Mini’s (or regularly-sized pepperoni, chopped)
  • 1 cup your favorite marinara for dipping
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, thyme, or italian parsely, chopped
Grease a mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients together, stirring until completely mixed.  Spoon into the prepared mini-muffin cups. Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs, and serve with warm marinara for dipping.

*I put a tablespoon of Italian seasoning in the batter so that I didn't have to go buy fresh herbs.
Maybe should use nicer marinara than Ragu next time?

Tailgate food. Can anyone ever get enough? I know I can't.  I could eat appetizers every meal for the rest of my life and be perfectly happy. I would also be 400 lbs..but still happy. Something about bite-sized foods always gets me. I'll sit there and eat 10 mini pigs in a blanket without ever thinking I've had 3 full hotdogs worth. Whoops.

This weekend was the Duke-UNC football game. I've mentioned before how my brother and I are UNC fans (he's a 2009 grad), and the rest of my family is full of Duke fans. This year the game happened to fall on Thanksgiving weekend, and it was at Duke. This meant I was forced to tailgate with the enemy since I was home for break anyways. Truthfully, I didn't mind because I have been bookmarking tailgate recipes all year just dying for a chance to make them. It's not that I couldn't come to a UNC tailgate with a batch of mini hotdogs in hand...but it is.

So, when my mom told me we were having a big tailgate I immediately started listing off the items I planned to make. I ended up limiting it to buffalo chicken dip (since I have never made anything that receives as amazing of a reaction as this always does), caramelized onion dip and mini homemade pretzels stuffed with ham and cheese. We of course brought many other things as well, but those were my addition. I'll stop rambling now and get to this recipe because these were GREAT! Simple, delicious and awesome for a tailgate. We served them with honey mustard which was especially good. And on top of everything, they have yeast...still conquering my fear of yeast one recipe at a time. I see a great friendship in our future.

Oh, and UNC won. Go heels!

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites
Yield: 48 bites
1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (or instant yeast)
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115˚F)
1 cup warm milk (110-115˚F)
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped ham (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used cheddar)
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-2 Tablespoons coarse salt
Combine the yeast, 1 tsp brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl. Set aside until foamy, 5-8 minutes.  (If using the instant yeast, you can skip this step and just add it to the flour.) In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.
Add 2 1/2 cups flour and milk mixture to the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Add the remaining flour as needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times, forming a smooth ball.
Brush the inside of a large clean bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft free area for about 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands and rolling pin with flour. Roll one of the four sections into a 12×4-inch rectangle. With the long side facing you, gently press 1/4 of the ham and cheese into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible, starting with the end that has the filling. Cut into 12 1-inch pieces and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining 3 portions of the dough.
Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Again, if using instant yeast you may choose to skip this step as it only requires one rise.) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400˚F.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Boil pretzels in batches, cooking about 20 seconds each, turning once. They should be slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them back to the baking sheets.
Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes.
Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

There's a little coffee shop on UNC's campus that I frequently stop in before a night of studying at the library. For as long as I can remember I have had an extreme aversion to the library, so I always reward myself for going with a frozen drink or cookie (or both). I avoided the library for the first two months of school, but then my class schedule caught up with me and doing work at my desk just wasn't cutting it. As you can imagine, this cookie/frappuccino habit is not so good when going multiple nights per week.

In the five days leading up to Thanksgiving break I worked on a group project a total of 30 hours. 30 hours! And that is on top of my full class schedule and all other homework. What in the world are these teachers thinking? Anyway, I became a frequent coffee shop visitor to get my cookie and caffeine fix before work time. I've seen the shop's buffalo chip cookie a few times, but had never actually tried it. I think theirs is pretty similar to this one: coconut, chocolate chips, pecans, oats. Lots of ingredients but so worth it. My week of studying left me wanting to make a batch of these at home (that didn't cost me $2 a cookie), so after some research this is the recipe I decided on.

I never read through entire recipes as much as I should. Therefore, when I started putting the ingredients into the bowl to make these cookies I had no idea the GIANT batch of dough it made. Not only did it deplete my ingredient stash, it also broke my spatula. It's a good thing they turned out so well. I do think there are probably great buffalo chip recipes that aren't so ingredient-heavy, but these are great. I just need to remember to cut the recipe in half next time, for my spatula's sake.

Buffalo Chip Cookies
Recipe from CD Kitchen

1 cup margarine or butter
1 cup shortening
1 box dark brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups white granulate sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups oatmeal
1 (6-ounce) package of chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecan or walnuts
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 cup coconut (optional) *I used it

In a very large bowl, cream butter and shortening. Add brown sugar, eggs, white sugar and vanilla. Sift and add flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add oatmeal, then stir in the chocolate chips, nuts, Rice Krispies and coconut. Use a large measuring spoon (approximately 1/4 cup) for batter per cookie. Put on an ungreased cookie sheet (9 cookies to 1 sheet). Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Let cool 3 minutes before removing from baking sheet.

At long last, I worked up the courage to try a recipe with yeast. Thank goodness because I don't know how I could have survived another day without these cinnamon rolls. I'm not sure what scared me off from yeast my whole life. Kneading, maybe? I now know my mixer handles that part. I honestly didn't even know what yeast looked like. How can you be terrified of something you've never even seen? I pictured something along the lines of baking soda or baking powder. That's a negative.

But the funny part about it is that some of my favorite things (read: carbs, carbs, carbs) require yeast. I don't know what I was thinking not at least attempting a recipe with it before now. I must admit I'm still a little scared of active yeast since it requires "warm" water.  The use of the word warm throws me off. Warm is subjective in my book. I'll just save that one for another day.

Back to the point: these rolls are incredible. They are light and fluffy with an incredible glaze over the top. They are also pretty easy to make. Most cinnamon rolls are thick and filling. I can't tell you how many times I've passed the IKEA cinnamon rolls or the Cinnabon stand and resisted because I just couldn't think of a justification for eating one. I can definitely justify these. They taste light, therefore they are light. Right? Whether you are conquering irrational yeast fears or not, these rolls are a must-make!

Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
Recipe From My Kitchen Cafe

*Note: to make these rolls ahead of time, once the rolls are formed and placed on the baking sheet, immediately cover them with lightly greased plastic wrap and refrigerate them; do not let them rise. Refrigerate overnight, up to 16 hours. Let the rolls sit at room temperature, covered, until they have doubled in size about 3-4 hours and then uncover and bake as directed. The rolls can also be frozen at the same point as mentioned above (cover with a layer of greased plastic wrap and a top layer of tin foil). They will need to sit at room temperature for 9-11 hours to defrost and rise before baking.

Makes 12 rolls
¾ cup buttermilk, warm (I pour the buttermilk in a glass liquid measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute on 50% power)
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
4 ¼ cups (21 ¼ ounces) flour
¼ cup (1 ¾ ounces) sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Glaze (or use the delicious cream cheese frosting from this recipe):
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) confectioners sugar
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons buttermilk or milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the dough, whisk the warmed buttermilk and butter together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 4 cups of flour, sugar, yeast and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with dough hook (or you can use a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or electric handheld mixer). With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and eggs and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Increase the mixer to medium speed and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (knead for 15-18 minutes by hand). If after 5 minutes of kneading, the dough is still overly sticky, add 1/4 cup flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but has a slight tacky feel when pressed between your fingertips. (See this tutorial for a visual.)
Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover the top tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, around 2 to 2 ½ hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
Meanwhile, lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish (if doubling the recipe, I’ve found using a large rimmed baking sheet, 11X17-inches, works great). In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together. Set aside.
When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter (I use my trusty roul’pat for this step) and press it into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle (if you have doubled the recipe, split the dough in half and roll out one half at a time). Gently brush the softened butter over the rectangle, using an offset spatula or rubber spatula. Sprinkle on the brown sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the top and bottom edges. Lightly use the palms of your hands to press the brown sugar mixture into the butter, adhering it to the dough.
Lift the longest edge closest to you and begin rolling the dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam closed and roll the log so it is seam side down. Gently stretch the log to be 18 inches in length with an even diameter all the way throughout and pat the ends to even them up.
Using a serrated knife, slice the log into 12 evenly sized rolls (or more if you like your rolls thinner). Arrange the rolls cut side down on the prepared baking pan and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes, until the rolls are lightly golden on top and cooked through but not overly browned.
While the rolls are baking, mix the softened cream cheese and buttermilk together until smooth. Add the vanilla and mix. Whisk in the confectioner’s sugar. Add additional milk or buttermilk one teaspoon at a time until desired glaze consistency is reached. It should be thick yet pourable. Drizzle the warm rolls with the glaze.

Well, I can officially say school has taken over my life. There is always a point in the year where you can stop hoping for any slight break in the chaos that might have existed before. That point is here. Whenever I call my mom to complain about all that I have to do, she likes to tell me I can get used to it because that's how life is. I guess there's only so many times I can tell her I've figured out my teachers' secret ploy to pick the same due dates for everything. Still, where's the optimism when I need it?

I kept on looking at the blog over the past few weeks and getting mad at myself for not having posted since the pumpkin cream cheese muffins. I was so excited they made #1 on Foodbuzz and how did I thank everyone who buzzed them...went on a three-week hiatus. My sincerest apologies, you can thank school for that one. This weekend I decided that since the workload showed no signs of slowing, I might as well just indulge in some chocolate therapy. After all, my blog isn't named that for nothing. So I spent Friday and Saturday baking things I had on my list of must-bakes.

To start, I made these chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake bars. Do I even need to tell you they were amazing? They come together relatively quickly despite having three parts. Everyone who tried these loved them–even the people who normally don't like cheesecake (weird that those people exist, I know).  Thankfully, I practiced excellent restraint and sent the majority of these over to my boyfriend's house where I doubt they will make it past tonight. It's a good thing I've got people like that around because I have a good feeling they wouldn't have lasted past tonight at my house either!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 Tbsp butter, melted
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Cookie Dough:
5 Tbsp butter, room temp.
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Cheesecake Filling:
10 oz. cream cheese, room temp.
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325.

For the crust:
Grease a 8x8 pan with butter, line pan with parchment paper and butter the paper, leaving enough to extend over the sides.

Crush graham crackers into crumbs to make 1 & 1/2 cups. Add to butter and stir until crumbs are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips.

Press crust mixture into bottom of pan. Bake for 6 minutes. Set pan on wire rack to cool.

For cookie dough:
Using mixer and the paddle attachment, mix butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract at medium speed until smooth. Adjust mixer speed to low and add flour. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.
For cheesecake:
Using mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating just until blended.

Pour batter into cooled, baked crust. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls over the top of the filling.

Bake about 30 minutes, or until set. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Place in the refrigerator to chill several hours.

It wasn't until freshman year of college that I realized what an amazing ingredient pumpkin is. I have never been a big fan of pumpkin pie, and I think this must have always scared me off from ever trying anything else with pumpkin. It's really a shame I went through so much of my life without it. Then came that fateful care package to my freshman year roommate with a freshly made loaf of pumpkin bread. This was one of those loaves with a perfectly cooked inside but a gooey sugary crust on top. It was all over from there. I went pumpkin crazy and haven't looked back since. It just goes to show that the best friendships start over food. She shared. I love pumpkin bread. We're now best friends. Wonderful how those things work out, isn't it?

Now to these muffins. I don't know where to begin. I'm a harsh critic of all of my baked goods. I rarely will say I love something, but the second I tried one of these I not only loved them, I was in love with them. So were all of my roommates. They are incredible. There's nothing I would change about this recipe. The muffin itself is amazing enough to evoke the "Oh my god" reaction. Then you get a bite with cream cheese and all that love is taken up a notch.  Helllloo fall. Best muffins ever.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Recipe from Annie's Eats
Yield: 24 muffins
For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
For the muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups vegetable oil
For the topping:
½ cup sugar
5 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter.  Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil.  Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.
To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil.  Mix on medium-low speed until blended.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend.  Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.
To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons).  Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces.  Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well.  Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely.  Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.  (It may be hard to resist immediate consumption, but the cream cheese filling gets very hot!)

What is it about peanut butter that gets me every time?  I actually am pretty moderate with the amount of peanut butter I put on sandwiches. I also have odd issues with eating peanut butter straight from the jar (after all, who wants peanut butter cookies made from peanut butter I've double-dipped in?). If I was making a peanut butter sandwich for anyone else, you better believe I'd slather on at least an inch of peanut butter. But for myself, I try to stay in the serving size. It's one of those things that when I take a step back and examine I wonder what on earth is going through my mind. I make wimpy little peanut butter sandwiches, and then turn right around and use a disgusting amount of peanut butter in baking. Must be one of those out of sight out of mind things. It's measured and in the batter...why bother thinking about anything but it's oh-so-delicious flavor after that point?

As if I hadn't made it clear enough how much I love pb&b sandwiches, and how much I love them in cupcake form, the peanut butter gods have come down and given me pbb&h cookies! The best part: they only use one overripe banana. That means no more disappointment because you have one or two overripe bananas and all banana breads call for three or more.  These cookies are easy, tasty and addictive.

Peanut Butter, Banana, and Honey Cookies
Recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large ripe banana, mashed (about 1 cup)
2 cups old fashioned oats
Peanut Butter Honey Glaze:
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon honey
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugars, mix until smooth. Add peanut butter, honey, vanilla extract, and egg. Combine until smooth. Next, add the banana and mix until combined.
3. Slowly add in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the oats.
4. Drop cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or Silcone baking mats.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.
5. To make the glaze-combine peanut butter, powdered sugar, milk, and honey in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. If it is too thick or thin, adjust by adding more milk or powdered sugar. Drizzle glaze over cooled cookies.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

One of these days, I'm going to figure out what grocery stores actually do with past-their-prime bananas instead of pondering it all the time. I kid you not, last night I was laying in bed thinking about this question. What is wrong with me? For now I'll pretend that's the first time it's ever crossed my mind.

I buy bananas all the time. My issue is that not only do I love them baked into just about anything, I also like them on sandwiches, plain, on cereal, in peanut butter, etc. So basically not only am I always buying bananas, I am also always running out of bananas to serve both these purposes.

I found this recipe the other day and decided it was worth saving some bananas to make. I think cream cheese enhances pretty much anything (anybody else a fan of cream cheese in their scrambled eggs?). I've found so many banana recipes I love that it's rare for me to find something new I want to try. This bread is extremely moist. It's not as flavorful as I was anticipating, but it was still delicious.  Also, if I could figure out a way to just bake a huge batch of this crust I would in a heartbeat. It is hands down the best part of this bread. The weird thing was that I couldn't really taste the cream cheese in the bread. I don't know why this would be considering there is a huge line of it smack dab in the center of the cake. It wasn't so bad because it still tasted great, but I might try to figure out some way to bring out that flavor a little more. This is a great way to change up the usual banana bread routine (or if you're like me, to change up the usual banana and peanut butter cupcake routine). Enjoy!

Banana Brunch Cake
Recipe from Lemons and Lavender, originally from Dining By Design: Stylish Recipes-Savory Settings
Yield: 12 to 16 servings

For the cake:
Nonstick cooking spray
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg, divided
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup chopped pecans

For the topping:
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 defrees F.  Coat a 10-inch tube or bundt pan with the cooking spray.

Combine the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon of the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the nutmeg in a medium bowl.  Beat until smooth.  Add 1 of the eggs, beating to mix.

Cream 1/2 cup softened butter in a large bowl, gradually adding 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Beat well.  Add the remaining 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Whisk the baking soda and hot water in a small measuring cup.  Mix into the butter mixture.

Combine the remaining 3 cups flour, the baking powder, salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl.  Mix, alternating with the orange juice, into the butter mixture.  Mix in the vanilla, bananas and pecans.

Spoon 1 1/2 to 2 cups of batter into the tube pan and make a slight well in the center.  Spread the cream cheese mixture over the banana batter.  Spoon the remaining banana batter over the cream cheese mixture.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 15 minutes in the pan.  Remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Brush with the melted butter.  Mix together 1 tablespoon sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Sprinkle over the cake.
Look at that crust! Mmm.

What does it say about me that I was excited to post this recipe so I could make more "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" references? I since have decided I don't need to go on about my love of the peanut butter jelly time song again, and I most certainly don't need to remind anyone of how much I love peanut butter. I mean, if you can't figure that out within one minute of looking at my blog I don't know what to tell you. Knowing myself and my massive peanut butter obsession, these cupcakes seemed right up alley.  I usually pick peanut butter and banana over peanut butter and jelly, but I don't discriminate. If jelly wants a turn, jelly can have a turn! And who wouldn't love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in cupcake form?

I'll be honest, these did not turn out how I'd hoped and it was a major let down. Usually if I don't love something I don't post it on the blog. I never understand why people do that. I get on Tastespotting, see something that looks amazing, then read the whole post only to find out they hated it. So now you're thinking, well, if you just posted this recipe you are doing the same thing. Here's where this is different: I had a few days where nothing I baked turned out well. Naturally I blamed it on the oven, but it could very well have been me.  I'll never admit to that completely, I'm just putting it out there as a possibility. Regardless, I don't think it is these cupcake's fault they turned out too dry. Considering how awesome the reviews were where I found this recipe I think it's worth giving the cupcakes the benefit of the doubt. I feel even stronger about this because this batter was to die for. I do realize a lot of the tasteless ingredients are what make the difference once the cupcakes are in the oven, but really, it was incredible.  I'd love if someone else would give this recipe a try and let me know how you like it! Please please prove me wrong.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes
-Recipe from Sing for Your Supper, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter (believe it or not, I used reduced fat and you totally CAN’T tell a difference!)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped peanuts
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup jam (your favorite flavor- I use plum)
Peanut Butter Frosting (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter, peanut butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
Reduce speed to low. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla, milk and peanuts. Add dry ingredients slowly. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.
Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 3 days. Makes approx. 18 cupcakes.
Peanut Butter Frosting
-adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream the butter, peanut butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Use immediately or refrigerate until needed.

To assemble:
When cupcakes are cooled, using a small paring knife, cut out a small hole in the top of each cupcake; discard crumbs. Fill a piping bag fitted with a round tip (I used a Wilton #12) with the jam. Insert the tip into the center of the cupcake and squeeze the jam inside (you’ll want to apply a decent amount of pressure) until the hole is filled. Repeat until all the cupcakes are filled. Pipe or spread the peanut butter frosting on each cupcake (I used a star tip). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cookies in there's a concept. When I first saw this recipe I was a little skeptical. I think Oreos have a really distinctive taste, and I was unsure whether that would work combined with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Nevertheless I trust every cookie recipe on Sugar Cooking, so I went out to the store to buy some Oreos.

Apparently Nabisco has been on its Oreo creating A game recently because there are a ton of new amazing Oreo products. I really meant to buy just plain double stuffed Oreos, but then I saw the new Oreos that are Golden Oreo on one side, Chocolate on the other and double stuffed in the middle. Were they reading my mind? I grabbed that package (even though I knew those wouldn't work for these cookies) and then I saw something even more amazing, Oreo Blizzard Oreos. Get out of my head Nabisco! Or, actually, please stay in it because I'm in heaven. This kind of goes along with the cookies in cookies concept. An Oreo blizzard has Oreos in it, so how can Oreos become Oreo blizzard flavored?  I swapped packages.

I don't know how they did it, but they did. And they were incredible. It wasn't until a few days later that I remembered I meant to make these cookies and had already eaten half of my blizzard Oreos. I really can't be trusted at the grocery store. So today I was driving back from lunch and pulled into a gas station to quickly buy a package of Oreos before I forgot again. I also knew the gas station, despite pricing Oreos at $5 a package, wouldn't have the tempting variety.

Now that I finally tried this recipe I know for sure that cookies in cookies really works. I thought they were great. My roommate liked them even more. They're soft and chewy but packed with Oreo pieces and chocolate chips. Definitely a winner. I think I would probably make plain chocolate chip cookies over these, but it never hurts to add a little pizzaz to the ordinary cookie recipe!

Oreo Cookie Cookies
Recipe - Makes 20 - 30 cookies*
Recipe from Sugar Cooking (Adapted from AllRecipes)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 20 oreos, crushed
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.
  4. Add in the crushed oreos. Beat on low speed for just a few seconds to break up the oreos in the dough.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.*
  6. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.**

As always, I pick my recipes largely based on the way they are described. So the "better than crack brownies" obviously caught my eye.  But really, who thinks up these names? I guess parents have an alternate name for these when serving them to their kids?

Anyways, basically after trying these brownies I came to the conclusion that not only are these brownies (supposedly) better than crack, I'm pretty sure they are so much better that these little suckers could put crack dealers out of business (for the sake of staying on this metaphor). Although I'm a peanut butter/chocolate maniac, I never include the nuts on any recipe. For this one I gave in and put the peanuts in. I also added some Reese's peanut butter chips. I just can't even describe how good these are. I'm at a loss for words. Maybe that's how whoever made up this recipe decided to name them better than crack brownies..these are so good they couldn't think of anything comparable? Not worth thinking about because all you should be thinking now is when can I get into the kitchen to make these.

Better-Than-Crack Brownies
1 batch brownies 
1/2 cup salted peanuts (if don’t have salted, add sea salt)
1 cup chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups
1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
Mix brownies according to directions, and bake for 20-25 minutes in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Remove and top with peanuts and peanut butter cups, and bake for 4-6 minutes more.
While they are finishing baking, melt chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter. Stir in cereal. Remove brownies from oven and evenly pour chocolate mixture over top.
Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

I know this is something most people have never given much thought to, but I personally have always had serious issues with key lime pie ice cream. I absolutely love key lime pie and every time I see it as a flavor somewhere I always get a sample (I've told you how I'm the sampling queen before, right?). Time after time I end up disappointed. For me, the best part about key lime pie is the tartness, and this is the part that most ice creams leave out. I know it's difficult to do "tart" in ice cream, why not just turn it into a sorbet? Sorbets are tart. Ice creams are creamy. I get it.

But, I don't want sorbet. I want rich, creamy ice cream that can somehow be tart at the same time. So demanding.

All I have to say now is, once again, I am so glad I follow the Sugar Cooking blog. She found the easiest and most amazing key lime pie ice cream in Cooking Light. Not sure how I missed this recipe since I read Cooking Light like it's my job, but I did. This ice cream tastes exactly like key lime pie. It also was by far the easiest ice cream recipe I have ever made...which means this recipe may have been a dangerous discovery. All you have to do is whisk together the ingredients, throw them in the ice cream maker and freeze them for an hour afterward. Why can't all ice cream be this easy? I'll stop myself here so I don't go on for too long about how amazing it is. Just make it and see for yourself!

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream
Recipe from Sugar Cooking (Adapted from Cooking Light)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup bottled Key lime juice (such as Nellie and Joe's)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free)
  • 6 graham crackers (1 1/2 cookie sheets), coarsely crushed, divided
  • Key lime wedges (optional)
Directions: Combine first 5 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Pour mixture into freezer can of an ice-cream freezer, and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Stir 1/3 cup graham crackers into ice cream. Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container, and cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. Sprinkle each serving with 1 teaspoon graham crackers. Garnish with lime wedges, if desired.

After over a month, my life has finally calmed down a bit. Hope at least a few of you didn't lose faith in me posting! To be honest, I've been baking up a storm recently. I just haven't had time to photograph anything. For rush I made sugar cookies in the shape of the Greek Alpha, Delta and Pi and decorated them with royal icing. That was my first time experimenting with royal icing and the test batch turned out amazing. The real batch, eh, not so much. Isn't that always the way it goes? But, of course, I picked out the better ones for the actual rounds and refused to bring over the rest. I also made my favorite cookie cake, which is actually on here, but I definitely need to post it again. It's my first or second post ever, and I tried to make it Halloween themed which was a big fail. I remember at the time wondering why Tastespotting turned me down. Ha! It's pretty embarrassing.

Today, I made truffle brownies. The name really says it all. These are so deliciously rich... almost to the extent that I would advise you not to make them for anyone who is not a chocoholic as they probably will be way too much. For those of you who could not possibly ever eat anything too chocolatey (like me), make these now! They are extremely easy, but because of cooling times do take a little longer than the average brownie. Luckily, when it comes to awesome desserts I manage to find the tiny shred of patience that fails to appear in traffic/while I'm on hold/during class lectures/etc. As always, I opted out of the nuts.

Truffle Brownies

Recipe from First Look, Then Cook

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped, divided
  • 11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving overhang. Spray foil with nonstick vegetable oil spray. Combine 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate and butter in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and cool chocolate mixture until lukewarm, 5 to 10 minutes.
Whisk sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl to blend. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Stir in flour, then chopped toasted walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared baking pan. Bake brownies until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 26 to 28 minutes. Transfer pan to cooling rack and let brownies cool completely.
Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add remaining 6 ounces chocolate to hot cream and let stand 5 minutes to soften, then whisk until melted and smooth. Pour chocolate ganache over brownie sheet in pan and spread to cover completely. Let stand at cool room temperature until topping is set, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.
Using foil as aid, lift brownie sheet from pan. Fold down foil edges. Using large sharp knife, cut brownie sheet into 25 squares, wiping knife with hot moist cloth after each cut. Arrange brownies on platter and serve.

Ok, ok, these sound exactly like a million things I've made before, don't they? Well, they kind of are. That doesn't mean they aren't delicious! The last time I tried banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting it was a completely different recipe, and as I remember it, a bit more complicated. These were so easy. I put half the batter in a mini muffin pan and made baby cupcakes. Who doesn't love a mini cupcake? All the flavor and less guilt, so who cares if you eat three or four?

Rush starts tomorrow, and I know I wont be able to post for a few days. It'll be about 12 hours at the sorority house tomorrow, and then Saturday I'm driving to Atlanta for the kickoff game. Go Heels! (We don't need to discuss anything in the news that is going on with our players.) Sunday it's back to rush. Oh boy.

Good news, though, after rush I've got a whole list of recipes to try out. For now....peanut butter and bananas. Nope, I'll never get tired of the combination.

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from First Look, Then Cook


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 very ripe large bananas, peeled
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk


  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 8-ounce package light cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)
  • Chopped lightly salted roasted peanuts (optional)



Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 12 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Mash bananas with fork in another medium bowl until smooth. Mix sour cream and vanilla into bananas.
Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and egg yolk and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with banana-sour cream mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until blended after each addition. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups (generous 1/4 cup for each).
Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to rack and let cool completely.


Sift powdered sugar into large bowl. Add cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until smooth. Spread frosting over top of cupcakes, dividing equally. Sprinkle lightly with chopped peanuts, if desired. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
Makes 12 cupcakes.

The end of summer is hands down the busiest time of the year for me. I always feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day to fit everything in (actually, I feel this way year-round). Between moving into my new house and sorority rush practice for hours on end every day, unfortunately baking had to take the backseat. But trust me, I would much rather be baking. I had to squeeze in a little time to bake some cookies the other day because I just couldn't stand not being able to grab something sweet on my way out the door. I think it's safe to say I am addicted to baked goods.

This post isn't for the cookies, though, because unfortunately my camera is dead and the two pictures of cookies that I managed to take before it died are still on there. I've talked about my issues with moving and losing things before, well, the camera charger is currently m.i.a. I had pictures on my computer from some pancakes I made a while back, so I figured I might as well post them.

These pancakes are nothing like regular pancakes. They are sweeter and have a completely different texture. I don't exactly know why they are called jelly roll pancakes, but if I had to guess I'd say it's because their texture allows them to roll up perfectly without breaking. This means you can put whatever goodies you'd like inside and roll them all up into pancake burrito. Yummm. I ate mine with honey and bananas, but I really wish I had some whipped cream and chocolate chips for them. These were good, but I definitely prefer regular pancakes. In my opinion you just can't beat a plain buttermilk pancake with syrup. The best thing I can compare these to would be a thicker version of a crepe.

Jelly Roll Pancakes
Recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything
4 eggs
3 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Beat eggs with a fork until well blended. Add milk and vanilla. Beat with a fork until well blended.

Keep beating as you add the flour, sugar, and salt. Try and get it as smooth as you can. Melt a little butter in a pan and cook the batter as you would regular pancakes. Serve with butter, powdered sugar, syrup, jam, or Nutella.