I have a confession to make. I've been slacking on posting in December because I keep making the same things over and over again. I bookmark new, exciting holiday recipes...and then I remember how easy some of my favorites are, and I opt to make those instead (ahem, saltine toffee). I'm not sure where everyone else finds the time to bake so much in December. It's a crazy month between work and holiday festivities. Thankfully I'll be taking all next week off to return back to NC, and I will therefore be baking up a storm for all of the holiday events back home. The challenge will be posting every red and green, holiday-themed recipe in the limited time before Christmas. Then we will all switch back to disliking the red and green color combination until November 2014.

Thankfully, my baking tendencies have rubbed off on Brooke (my roommate), who, for better or for worse, now bakes a good amount as well. She even introduced me to the peanut butter fudge I've been obsessed with this past month. I like to think it's a positive thing that she bakes now, but I'm sure she has mixed feelings about finding herself scanning baking blogs and coming home from the grocery store with bags of chocolate chips and butter instead of normal items.

Because I've been stuck in my rut of remaking all of my favorites this past month, I took some pictures of this delicious peppermint puppy chow Brooke made last night. She also made two batches of the saltine toffee. So, I guess I have no excuse not to make saltine toffee and something new. I love puppy chow, and it's a very easy thing to make a large batch to put in bowls at holiday parties and such. It's also incredibly addictive, but diets don't start until January, right? (Forewarning: I don't make New Year's resolutions, so I apologize in advance for ignoring all common courtesies around not posting unhealthy things in January.) The candy canes give the puppy chow an added crunch, and she used the red and green striped ones to jazz them up a bit---a perfect holiday dessert!


Peppermint Puppy Chow


6 cups Rice Chex cereal
2 cups white chocolate melts or white chocolate chips melted
1 1/2 cup crushed candy canes
1 cup powdered sugar
*Use something that is meant to be melted and used for candy, most white chocolate chips don't melt down thin enough.

1. Place Chex in a large bowl
2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (if in microwave, do it in 30 second intervals - white chocolate burns easily).
3. Once chocolate is melted, pour over cereal and carefully stir to blend.
4. Put chocolate covered Chex in a large plastic bag (I use a clean trash bag...if this doesn't bother you it works like a charm.)
5. Add confectioners sugar and crushed candy canes.
6. Shake bag, making sure to focus on breaking up any clumps you can feel. As you do this, the powered sugar will help pull the white chocolate away from the sides of the bag. The end goal is to have all pieces thoroughly covered.
7. Let cool and enjoy! 

Every year I try to jazz up our Thanksgiving menu in some way or another. It's not acceptable in my family to change too many things. The trick is to adapt just one or two recipes that we'd be having anyways. There are foods you can't do this with (the turkey, my grandmother's sweet potato casserole), and then there are things that you can sneak a few extras in without anyone really noticing unless it doesn't turn out well. I will warn you when doing this that you're around family, and family is perfectly comfortable sharing opinions on food, so change recipes at your own risk.

Last year I made this homemade green bean casserole. It was delicious, but not necessarily worth the work for a group who would be perfectly happy with the standard canned beans, cream of mushroom soup and french fried potatoes recipe. My grandmother also didn't understand why we served "uncooked" beans in our green bean casserole (see statement at the end of previous paragraph). We explained the difference between haricot verts and canned green beans to her, but it went in one ear and out the other.

This year I saw a recipe in Cooking Light for Green Beans with Sherried Mushroom Sauce. If you haven't experimented with adding sherry to recipes you are missing out. I didn't realize my love for it until I put two and two together and realized that's what gives She Crab soup part of its kick. Now I want to add sherry to everything.

Unfortunately one thing my family doesn't do on Thanksgiving is anything "light"...so we used a different recipe that had many of the same components and added sherry instead of white wine. This recipe also has all sorts of delicious, unhealthy things like cheese, a roux and heavy cream. I'm not claiming it's healthy, but it's delicious. We bought the big bags of green beans from Costco which made things much easier. You can find steamer bags in the fridge section of the grocery store. This recipe called for homemade french fried onions, but we bought French's instead. I'll pretend we did that to preserve tradition...but really it was just for an easy shortcut.


Sherried Mushroom Scratch Made Green Bean Casserole
Recipe adapted from Serendipity doo-dah

3 steamer bags green beans, blanched, drained and cut in thirds
1 pound mushrooms, sliced (your choice)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1/2 cup sherry
2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan and Asiago cheeses, mixed together

Make soup:
Sautee mushrooms, onions and thyme in cooking oil.
Season with salt and pepper. When lightly caramelized, deglaze pan with sherry. Once it evaporates, add chicken stock. Bring to boil.

To make the roux, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it begins to melt and turn frothy, stir in a tablespoon or so of the flour (it should slightly bubble). Whisk in remaining flour and continue whisking until the mixture thickens and turns the color of peanut butter.

Stir roux into mushroom mixture, a bit at a time until it turns into cream soup thickness. Take off heat, pour in cream, and stir.

Place drained beans in bowl, mix in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and Asiago cheese mixture, and soup. Pour into greased dish and refrigerate.

Assembly and baking: Sprinkle beans with remaining cheese, then top with onion straws. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until crispy and bubbling.

*And if you want to make your own french fried onions:

1 large white onion, sliced into paper thin rounds
2 cups flour
Oil for frying
Salt & pepper

Put oil in large heavy pot. Heat on medium until it comes up to 350 degrees. Dredge sliced onions in heavily seasoned flour and shake off excess. Fry in small batches until golden brown and crispy. Sprinkle with salt and drain on paper towels. 

*To blanch, shock the green beans in ice immediately after cooking to stop them from cooking more.

Sorry for the harsh lighting on these. There's only a limited amount of time to take pictures when you have a table full of hungry people waiting!

It seems strange to do a post the night of Thanksgiving for a dessert that’s not a Thanksgiving dessert, but I'm still recovering from my food coma and don't think I can handle posting the Thanksgiving recipes tonight. I'm also pretty obsessed with this saltine toffee.

One of the many wonderful things about the holidays is that you are always cooking for a crowd. That’s when you want desserts like this. It is SO easy and SO good. I made it last Saturday night, and we had finished all of it by Sunday night. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that the crowd I made it for wasn’t all that big, but after a few glasses of wine we weren’t counting how many pieces we were eating.

It’s an incredibly simple recipe with ingredients you might already have at home. I was skeptical about the Saltines, but the airy crunch mixed with the solid chocolate layer is perfect. I made another batch last night just to have as an option if we got tired of eating pumpkin desserts. There was really no need for another dessert around here, but 1) I’ve been missing it in my life for the past four days, 2) I enjoy baking significantly more when I’m back home because I don’t have to pay for ingredients and 3) who doesn’t like options?

Decorate it with anything you’d like – candy, sprinkles, toasted nuts of some sort. I chose M&Ms and sprinkles. I’ll probably change up the sprinkles to red and green once December hits (when yes, I will inevitably be making this again).  If you use candy I’d recommend crushing it up a bit like you can see I’ve done with the M&Ms. I stored the finished product in the fridge because I thought it was delicious cold, but storage is up to you!


Saltine Toffee
Recipe from Cooking Classy
  • 40 saltine crackers (I recommend using Nabisco Saltines with Sea Salt)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (whichever you prefer, milk, semi or bittersweet. I used half milk chocolate half semi-sweet)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted nuts of choice - pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts (optional)*
  • Sprinkles (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Align crackers side by side in a single layer along baking sheet, set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan combined butter and brown sugar. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once it reaches a boil stop stirring and allow to boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla bean paste then immediately and carefully pour mixture over crackers in an even layer (spread out as needed). Transfer to oven and bake 5 to 6 minutes until bubbly.
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle top evenly with chocolate chips. Let rest 5 minutes then spread chocolate into a smooth even layer. Sprinkle with nuts or sprinkles. Transfer to freezer and allow to chill 20 minutes or until chocolate has set. Remove from freezer and break or cut into pieces. Store in an airtight container.
  • *I just toasted the nuts in a skillet over medium heat several minutes until fragrant and toasted (while the crackers were baking). Toasting them is optional though.

I'm sorry to put up two peanut butter recipes in a row, but the proportion of peanut butter recipes I make to other recipes is so high that this sort of thing is inevitable...and these cookies are amazing, so you need them in your life sooner rather than later.

Back when my metabolism was still going strong, I used to love Lofthouse cookies. I realize I haven't really cut back on my cookie consumption since then, but somehow making homemade cookies instead of store bought helps me justify eating a cookie or two a day (I wish I was lying). The amazing thing about Lofthouse cookies is the incredible, inexplicably soft cookie paired with the overly sweet and amazing frosting. If you can't think of what they look like, here's the website for reference. If you've never them, go to your grocery store immediately and buy the ingredients for this recipe as well as a box of the real deal. It's not excessive. It's just necessary.

Anywho - I've never had a bad batch. They literally melt in your mouth. I'm not sure if it's some sort of preservative that we've never heard of, or just plain magic makes the cookies so soft, but I wouldn't want the Lofthouse elves (or equivalent) to change a thing.

Averie, being the queen of all things delicious, came up with this copycat recipe to try to achieve that same combination of soft (not underdone) cookie and sweet, creamy frosting. As she acknowledges, they aren't exactly like Lofthouse cookies, but they are still incredible. I prefer everything cooked no more than the amount of time called for in the recipe, and usually a little less depending on the recipe. Cooking time is essential with this recipe. Some people like crispy cookies. I get that. This is not the recipe to tweak to make them crispy. Because of the ingredients they will not get crispy. Instead they will just be dry, and no one wants that. I cooked mine about nine minutes for a full cookie sheet. I also love the idea to freeze this cookie dough for quick baking at a later date. Enjoy!

Lofthouse-Style Soft Peanut Butter Chip Sugar Cookies with Peanut Butter Frosting
Recipe from Averie Cooks 
Yield: about 13 medium cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: about 8 minutes
Total Time: 3+ hours, for dough chilling


1 large egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour (no substitutions)
2 teaspoons cornstach
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4  teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
one 10-ounce bag Reese's Peanut Butter Chips (about 1 2/3 cups)

Peanut Butter Frosting
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (use Peter Pan, Jif, Skippy, etc. -- Not homemade or natural PB because they'll separate and so will the frosting)
1/4 cup unsalted butter (half of 1 stick), softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
pinch salt, optional and to taste
splash cream or milk, if needed to achieve proper consistency
chocolate sprinkles, optional for garnishing

  1. For the Cookies - To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl and electric hand mixer), cream together the first 5 ingredients (through vanilla) on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the next 5 ingredients (through optional salt), and mix on low speed until just incorporated, about 1 minute; don't overmix.
  3. Add the peanut butter chips and mix until just incorporated. Dough will be on the sticky and tacky side.
  4. Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, form heaping two-tablespoon mounds (I made 13). Place mounds on a large plate, flatten mounds slightly, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Do not bake with warm dough because cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter.
  5. Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or spray with cooking spray. Place mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (I bake 8 cookies per sheet) and bake for about 8 to 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if slightly undercooked, pale and glossy in the center. Do not overbake because cookies will firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet  for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooking. Meanwhile, make the frosting.
  6. For the Peanut Butter Frosting - To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl and electric hand mixer), combine the peanut butter and butter, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  7. Slowly add the sugar, optional salt, and mix until frosting comes together.
  8. Add a splash of cream or milk as necessary to achieve desired consistency.
  9. Add a generous dollop (about 2 tablespoons) to each cookie, and smooth it as desired with a knife or spatula.
  10. Optionally garnish with sprinkles or chocolate chips. Serve immediately.
Note from Averie: Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. I'm okay with leaving buttercream frosting at room temperature for a couple days; if you aren't, refrigerate the cookies, knowing they'll dry out more. Unbaked cookie dough can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 4 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

I love it when someone else makes a dessert that I try and immediately know I need to make myself. It takes the guessing out of whether the final product is going to be good or bad, and if it's not great I can go ahead and save myself the time and money of making it. I have zero shame asking people for recipes, which I'll admit is sometimes awkward since people get very protective over these things. Thankfully my roommate and fellow peanut butter lover Brooke finds recipes in a lot of the same places I do, so getting this one wasn't an issue. Had I tried this fudge and not been able to get the recipe, I would've known forevermore that my peanut butter game was not up to par.

Brooke gave the majority of her batch of fudge away, and yet somehow we still were snacking on it for a week. I made another batch the same day that we finished the last piece of hers. So much for even pretending to eat healthy.

It'd be hard for this fudge to be any easier.  The only part about the recipe that's not ideal is getting to four cups of sifted powdered sugar...and really that's only because my patience with sifting usually goes out the window around two cups. The payoff is amazing, though. I think most people put considerably more effort into making fudge, and all of those other fudge recipes pale in comparison to this one. It's rich, creamy, delicious and the perfect consistency. We both used mini Reese's cups, which I highly recommend, but I plan on making this fudge often enough that I'll try other variations as well. Brooke and I have already decided on M&Ms for next time--maybe even peanut butter M&M's. I honestly might die of food bliss with that combination.

When cutting fudge, I like to use a hot knife so I can get a perfect line. Once the fudge is cold this is not a necessity, but I find it helps. Run a knife under hot water, quickly dry it off and start cutting. Once the knife cools down repeat this process. I suggest cutting small fudge squares, maybe an inch across. Keep the fudge in the refrigerator.

Side Note: If you count the optional ingredients it's six ingredient fudge instead of four ingredient fudge. Since you may or may not be adding the optional ingredients, I've labeled it 4 ingredient fudge anyways. It sounds better, don't you think?

4 Ingredient Fudge
Recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction

  • 1 cup (250g) creamy peanut butter*
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 230g) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 4 cups (460g) sifted confectioners' sugar*
  • 3/4 cup add-ins, such as chocolate chips, peanuts, or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (optional)

Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished fudge out.

Melt the peanut butter and butter together in a large bowl. I prefer to slice the butter to make melting easier. Stop the microwave and stir the mixture every minute until completely melted and smooth. Remove from the microwave and stir in the vanilla using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Add the salt if you prefer a salty/sweet fudge. Add the sifted confectioners' sugar and stir until completely combined. The mixture is very, very thick and resembles cookie dough. If using any add-ins, fold them into the fudge while it is still warm.

Press the fudge into prepared baking pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spatula or spoon. The top will be somewhat oily. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and chill for at least 4 hours or until firm. Cut into pieces.

Store fudge in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Fudge may be frozen for up to 2 months. To thaw, simply transfer to the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.

*Sally also mentions to use store-bought peanut butter. I am a peanut butter purist, so I never mess with the natural or homemade stuff, but for those who do, ditch that for this recipe. You also must, must, must sift the sugar. This is key to the smooth creaminess of the fudge.

Everyone has a few areas of their cooking they'd like to improve on. For me, it's yeast breads and candy. Since this post has nothing to do with yeast breads, I'll explain the candy issues. If I'm supposed to judge a candy by consistency alone (no thermometer), I'm in trouble. I always take the bubbling mixture off too soon or leave it for just a bit too long. I love pralines, and I've got the taste part down, but I've never quite been able to achieve the perfect mix of creamy and crunch. I tried, and failed, the other day to make two different varieties of pralines. The first didn't harden enough and the second burnt in the pan which was the most difficult dish I've ever had to clean. I had to soak it for five days. I would've thrown it out if it hadn't been one of my favorite pans.

To get my praline fix without having to mess with a very particular cooking time, I decided to turn to my trusty crockpot and just make cinnamon sugar pecans. I realize I'm posting two crockpot recipes in a row, but if you don't have one you really should invest. I use one that was $20 at the grocery store, and it's never let me down. These cinnamon sugar pecans are delicious and are PERFECT for the holidays. I bought a bag of pecans at Costco because nuts always strike me as ridiculously expensive. Other than that you will probably have all of the ingredients on hand.

Now, I know that stirring every 20 minutes seems like a hassle. I'd usually agree. However, I chose to sit in bed and catch up on scandal during the three hours of cooking. Every 20 minutes I'd press pause and go stir. A) It helped me justify three hours of Scandal ("I mean, I have to do something to occupy my time while the pecans are cooking.") B) It takes about 30 seconds total to get up and go give them a quick stir. Easy. As an added bonus, your house will smell amazing!

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Sugar Pecans
Recipe from The Recipe Critic
  • 1¼ C. Sugar
  • 1¼ C. Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. Cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp. Salt
  • 1 Egg White
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 Cups Pecans
  • ¼ C. Water
  1. Mix together in a large bowl sugars, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In another bowl with a whisk, mix together the egg white and vanilla until it is frothy. Add the pecans and coat thoroughly. This will help the mixture stick to the pecans during the cooking process.
  3. Prepare your slow cooker by spraying it with cooking spray. I used a 4 quart. Add the cinnamon pecan mixture to the pecans and turn it to low. Stir until the cinnamon sugar mixture is coated well on the almonds. Be prepared for your house to smell amazing!
  4. You want to cook for about 3-4 hours. Mine took about 3. Stirring every 20 minutes. In the very last hour, add ¼ cup water and stir well. This will ensure a crunchy coating and help the mixture to harden.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the pecans onto the sheet to cool. The pecans should be pretty sticky so be sure to seperate them the best that you can and let them cool!

 *These pictures don't really convey the deliciousness of these pecans, but it's because I was forced to sneakily take them in my office.

You know those times when you're lying awake at night thinking about something? Maybe you're thinking about something stressful happening the next day. Maybe it's thinking ahead to the weekend. Maybe you're putting together a mental to-do list (that's my usual). Well, the other night, this recipe was keeping me awake. I know most people don't think about buffalo chicken at 1am, but we've established I'm not normal.

Here was my thought process: the most popular recipe on my blog (crockpot chicken tacos) is such a hit because it's delicious and incredibly easy. The ingredients are chicken, a jar of salsa, and a packet of taco seasoning. The readers, being fantastic as you always are, have commented dozens of ways to make this recipe even better. One of these is adding a block of cream cheese at the end. My favorite dip recipe is this buffalo chicken dip. It knocks the socks off of every other buffalo chicken dip recipe out there. The ingredients are canned chicken, dry ranch, buffalo sauce, cream cheese and cheddar. So, since the powder to liquid ratios are all the same, I saw no reason that I couldn't make easy crockpot buffalo chicken. The raw chicken goes in with buffalo sauce and dry ranch for 4-6 hours and right before it's done you add in a block of cream cheese and stir in some sharp cheddar.

See? It's the kind of thing that will keep you up at night. I can only make crockpot recipes over the weekend because of work, so fast forward two weeks and I'm finally able to give this recipe a try. It was amazing. The creamy cheese flavor mixed with the tangy and slightly spicy buffalo sauce kick...perfect. 

I put the chicken into rolls and made little sliders. I tried using the take and bake rolls from the grocery store and King's Hawaiian slider rolls. I couldn't pick a favorite because I liked them both. I think it'd be good made into quesadillas as well. The key is to make sure it's hot and the rolls are heated too. Just like lukewarm dip isn't ideal, neither is lukewarm crockpot buffalo chicken. 


Crockpot Shredded Buffalo Chicken
Makes 15+ Sliders

3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (this is what I used)
8oz Buffalo Sauce*
1oz Package Dry Ranch Mix
4-6oz Cream Cheese*
2 cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Add first three ingredients to crockpot and toss to coat. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. 10 minutes before you are finished, shred chicken with two forks. Chicken should shred easily and this will incorporate the extra sauce into the chicken. You will think you have too much sauce before you do this, but as you shred it you'll notice the sauce begins to coat the chicken instead of sitting at the bottom of the pot. There should be no large pieces of chicken left. 
Add in block of cream cheese and stir to melt. Add in sharp cheddar cheese and stir gently. Serve hot. Make sure the slider rolls are also hot. 
If you are bringing them to a tailgate or something of that sort I'd suggest making the chicken and pre-assembling the sliders in a 13x9 pan. Cover the pan with foil and heat at 375 degrees until rolls are warmed as well.  Store leftovers in fridge or freeze to enjoy at a later date!

*You can adjust these up or down depending on how spicy or creamy you want the chicken.

As I've said before, I'm not ashamed to make a recipe that uses a boxed mix.  Sure, you can't call something truly homemade if there's a boxed mix or premade cookie dough in it, but sometimes a little shortcut can be a great thing. I especially love finding a good boxed mix recipe on days where I'm baking multiple things. Having one item that only takes a few minutes to assemble feels like a blessing when it's thrown in with more time consuming desserts. 

If you're one of those people who has never uttered the words "too sweet" this recipe is for you. It's sugar overload. I mean, just look at the ingredients. You know what you're getting yourself into when you make these. The best part is that they are ready to go in the oven in a matter of minutes. I also love that this recipe is extremely versatile. Just check out the Crazy for Crust blog and you'll see what I mean. She has made at least 10 variations of these. I've been drooling over these Caramel Apple Gooey Bars for the past week. It's probably next on my list. Next time you're pressed for time but feel a sweets craving coming on..this is your solution!

Funfetti Gooey Bars
Recipe from Crazy for Crust

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup sprinkles, divided
  • 1/2 cup (from a 14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9” pan with foil and spray liberally with cooking spray.
  2. Add cake mix, butter, and egg to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until a thick dough forms. Add 1/3 cup sprinkles and stir until incorporated.
  3. Press about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle with white chocolate chips and remaining 1/3 cup sprinkles. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the top. Separate remaining dough into small balls and evenly space over the top of the bars. Press down to flatten.
  4. Bake bars for about 30 minutes, or until they just begin to brown. Cool completely before slicing, otherwise the mixture will be too gooey to cut. Optional: eat straight from pan with a fork.

Homemade Rice Krispie Treats are probably one of the most well-known dessert recipes in America. They are on the back of every box of Rice Krispies and have been a staple at cookouts, potlucks and birthday parties since long before I was born (I was going to say 'since I can remember,' but truthfully that's not all that long). Yet, somehow even with three ingredients, Rice Krispie Treats seem to come in all shapes, sizes and textures. 

Not that I'm a connoisseur of these treats or anything, but I'm here to tell you there is a right way and a wrong way to make them. I myself was in the dark until last week when I realized my Rice Krispie Treats (which I always thought were delicious) were not reaching their full potential. The key is that no one likes a "krispie" Rice Krispie treat. They are supposed to be soft and chewy with just a slight crunch. Usually I love them for the first 12 hours after I make them, but they require finishing off quickly because they'll dry out in a heartbeat. I accepted that as a fact of life until last week. Now I know the trick: the marshmallows are added in two parts. 

Somehow this little alteration in process produces a gooey (gooey--not sticky), soft, flavorful, wonderful batch of Rice Krispie treats. I made two batches in three days because the first batch was gone so quickly. I only used one bag of marshmallows for the batch shown in the pictures. I adjusted the recipe slightly and used ~2 tablespoons of butter and only four cups of Rice Krispies. I think a 9x9 would be a great sized pan for thick treats, but you can use whatever you'd like. The ones in the pictures were made in a 13x9 that I sectioned off with foil to make it more like a 10x9 or or 11x9.


Perfectly Chewy Rice Krispie Treats


6 cups (1 1/2 – 10 oz. bags) mini marshmallows, divided
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
3 tbsp butter


Melt the butter in a large skillet, over medium-low heat
Once the butter is melted, add in 4 cups (1 – 10 oz. bag) of mini marshmallows
Melt the marshmallows over LOW heat, stirring frequently
Once the marshmallows are completely melted, add in the cereal 2 cups at a time, mixing well after each addition
Once the cereal and marshmallows are well combined, toss in the remaining 2 cups of mini marshmallows and fold them into the marshmallow cereal mixture
You can keep the heat on low or totally turn it off – it depends on if you want the mini marshmallows to melt a little bit or not (I usually keep the heat on for a bit while folding in the mini marshmallows)
Spray a 9×13″ baking dish (for thicker treats, just use a smaller dish) with nonstick spray (I use PAM for baking) and transfer the Rice Krispie treat mixture into the dish
Press the mixture down with your fingertips (it helps if you get a little of the nonstick spray on your fingers so they don’t stick to the marshmallow) or you could also use some wax paper to press it down firmly into the pan
Allow the mixture to cool before cutting into squares
  • 6 cups  (1 1/2 – 10 oz. bags) mini marshmallows, divided
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Melt the butter in a large skillet, over medium-low heat
  • Once the butter is melted, add in 4 cups (1 – 10 oz. bag) of mini marshmallows
  • Melt the marshmallows over LOW heat, stirring frequently
  • Once the marshmallows are completely melted, add in the cereal 2 cups at a time, mixing well after each addition
  • Once the cereal and marshmallows are well combined, toss in the remaining 2 cups of mini marshmallows and fold them into the marshmallow cereal mixture
    • You can keep the heat on low or totally turn it off – it depends on if you want the mini marshmallows to melt a little bit or not (I usually keep the heat on for a bit while folding in the mini marshmallows)
  • Spray a 9×13″ baking dish (for thicker treats, just use a smaller dish) with nonstick spray (I use PAM for baking) and transfer the Rice Krispie treat mixture into the dish
  • Press the mixture down with your fingertips (it helps if you get a little of the nonstick spray on your fingers so they don’t stick to the marshmallow) or you could also use some wax paper to press it down firmly into the pan
  • Allow the mixture to cool before cutting into squares
- See more at: http://deliciouslydeclassified.com/2013/07/02/how-to-make-perfect-rice-krispie-treats/#sthash.GQSAU4N4.dpuf

I know this seems like an unnecessary recipe..chocolate, pretzels, sprinkles. You can't get much simpler than that. Still, sometimes I feel like it's worth posting this sort of recipe just to remind people how easy so many delicious things are to make.

The salty and sweet combination is hard to beat. As long as you don't burn the chocolate while melting it you should have no problem creating perfect chocolate covered pretzels. I usually just melt regular chocolate chips in the microwave for these, but if you want to make this more foolproof I'd suggest using white melting chocolate. This is especially helpful if you are using white chocolate, which can be pretty finicky and burn easily. You can find melting chocolate near the chocolate chips in most major grocery stores now. You can cover the dipped pretzels with sprinkles, chocolate drizzle, candy cane pieces (the holidays will be here before we know it!), etc.


Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

1 12oz bag white chocolate chips (melts or squares work too)
1 15-ounce bag mini twist salted pretzles

Lay out one large baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals in a microwave safe bowl, stirring at each interval until smooth and melted. Be very careful not to keep burn the white chocolate, as this happens very quickly. You can also melt it in the top of a double boiler.

If you are making half-dipped pretzels, dip one half of each pretzel into melted chocolate, tapping lightly on the bowl to shake off excess chocolate. Set on baking sheet and add sprinkles before chocolate dries. To make fully dipped pretzels, it's the same process, but you dip the entire pretzel (as I'm sure you would've guessed). Shaking the excess off in this method is more important because it will give you the chocolate dipped pretzel look where you have a very clean coverage without the holes being half covered in chocolate. When you set the pretzel on the baking sheet, you will need to slightly smooth over the place where your finger was. Cover with sprinkles and you won't be able to tell there was an imperfect spot. You can also toss the pretzel in the chocolate and use a fork to dig it out so you avoid this, but as the chocolate starts to thicken this method may be more difficult.

Sometimes I also like to drizzle more melted white chocolate over the top of the pretzels if I'm not using sprinkles. Put the melted chocolate in a ziplock bag and cut off just a small bit of the corner. Then just drizzle the chocolate back and forth over the pretzels. This is an especially pretty tactic if you are decorating for something with a two color theme and you use the colored candy melts.

Place in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

I prefer to have any sort of mixed drink that involves fruit soaked in alcohol to be equal parts fruit and alcohol. For this reason, whenever I'm making a large batch of any fruity mixed drink I always slice fruit and let it soak a few hours in advance so it can be nice and saturated. This also adds flavor to whatever alcohol you are using, whether it's wine for sangria or, in the case of this recipe, Pimm's. I love fruit, so my goal after all of the liquid alcohol is gone is to be able to keep enjoying the drink via a fruit cocktail (literally). Who wouldn't want a delicious little snack at the end of their drink? 

Pimm's Cups are my new favorite boozy fruit drink. Pimm's is variety of gin, but it has much more flavor which makes it perfect when absorbed into fresh fruit. I think it tastes a bit like tea.  I don't like gin and I don't like tea, but I like Pimm's. Go figure.

Sadly, the days are numbered for delicious fresh fruit filling our farmer's markets and grocery stores. So, you're all going to need to make these cocktails as soon as possible. It's really a spring and summertime drink, but considering it's 90 degrees this week in DC I don't think fall is here quite yet. If you want to get aggressive with the amount of fruit you use (like I do) cut up any fresh, in-season fruit you can find. I like it with strawberries, plums, peaches, raspberries and apples. I always add limes and lemons as well. The goal is to use fresh, bright fruit. However, I'm going to give everyone the original recipe first so you can choose whether to keep it simple. If you want to take it up a notch, see my version of Pimm's Cups in the second recipe. I'm always serving a crowd, so I use the whole liter of Pimm's. The fruit soaks up a lot of the alcohol, so you don't end up with as much liquid as you would think. You may want to warn your guests of this when they are eating the boozy fruit. It packs a punch.


Original Pimm's Cups
1 part Pimm's No. 1
3 Parts Lemonade
Add some Mint, Cucumber, Orange and Strawberry

Mix and serve in a tall glass over ice.

Sarah's Pimm's Cups
Serves 8+
1 Liter Pimm's No. 1
Sliced Fresh Fruit (crisp apples, strawberries, plums, peaches/nectarines, lemons and limes)
Ginger Ale, Sparkling Lemonade or Lemon-Lime Spda

Toss all fruit together and place in one or two large pitchers. Pour entire liter of Pimm's into pitcher (or divide evenly between pitchers). Let soak for 3+ hours. Do not add mixers, as they will lose their carbonation during this time.

When ready to serve, pour Pimm's liquid into tall glasses filled with ice, keeping about a one part Pimm's to 3 parts mixer ratio in mind. Pour in mixer of choice -- ginger ale, sparkling lemonade or lemon-lime soda. Add in a scoop or two of the Pimm's soaked fruit. 

Always serve cold. The fruit will taste delicious, so a key part is eating the fruit as well. You'll have leftover fruit after all of the Pimm's is gone. Don't waste it! It's good for you, obviously.

I'm pretty sure in the south it's a sin to change your grandmother's pimento cheese recipe. This is especially true when your grandmother is like mine and incredibly particular about the way she makes pimento cheese. She uses Duke's Mayonnaise, Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheddar Cheese and diced pimentos. In her world, don't even think about subbing in Hellmann's or low-fat mayo. She also would never understand why someone would use another cheese when Cracker Barrel is so delicious.

So, it is with slight shame that I offer my sincerest apologies to my grandmother...I altered the family recipe. 

In an attempt to keep the most important elements of the recipe I still use the Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheddar, Duke's and pimentos. I see no reason to change that since I, too, seem to be very particular about my pimento cheese ingredients. I just enhanced the original recipe a bit by adding sharp white cheddar, cream cheese and a dash of cayenne pepper. Cream cheese adds a level of creaminess (shockingly) that makes it even more wonderful with crackers or grilled on sandwiches. You don't need too much since the mayo is also in there, but even a little bit makes a noticeable difference in flavor. I've used the plain and cracked pepper sharp white cheddar varieties. If you like pepper you will love the cracked pepper, but you can go ahead and omit the extra that is in the original recipe. The cayenne gives it an extra little kick to complement the creaminess of the cheeses. 

For those of you not from the south, you may think adding mayo to shredded cheese is disgusting. My brother and I don't like mayonnaise on its own, and my grandmother once compared that to not liking cheese (not at all comparable). I still don't like mayo by itself, but I do like mayo and cheese. How's that for compromise?

This is top notch pimento cheese. You will probably have to pry yourself away from it. I can't count the times that I've finished off a batch of pimento cheese with a few friends only to then have it sink in that there are two whole blocks of cheese in there. Whoops. I've also included this recipe in my Breakfast Sandwiches post, but I felt it deserved its own space here.


Homemade Pimento Cheese
Makes a full serving, feel free to cut this amount in half

2 8-ounce blocks Cracker Barrel Cheese, one Sharp White Cheddar, one Sharp Cheddar, grated
2 heaping tablespoons diced pimentos (not sliced!)
1 to 2 ounces cream cheese, softened*
1/2 cup Duke's mayo
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Grate the sharp white cheddar and sharp yellow cheddar cheeses together in a bowl. Do not buy pre-grated cheese, as these cheeses come with a waxy coating on the outside and will not melt as well (or taste as good). Throw remaining ingredients into bowl, and blend gently with a spatula, forks, spoons, or whatever you have on hand until completely incorporated. Store in the refrigerator, and remove at least 15 minutes before you are ready to serve. Pimento cheese is delicious on crackers, veggies, burgers, sandwiches, pretzels, etc. (yes, basically everything).

*Adjust amount of cream cheese and mayonnaise to suit your personal preference. If you prefer a creamier and tangier cheese use slighly less mayo and 2 ounces cream cheese.

Time for another English dessert! Banoffee pie. According to the internet, the inspiration for banoffee pie came from an American dessert, but the pie as we know it today was created in Sussex. Apparently when the US heard wind of this incredible pie, we began serving it in our restaurants and selling it in grocery stores, and we said it was an American pie. Hah! Silly, America. We lost that argument, but I can absolutely see why we'd want to take credit for this pie. It's delicious. If banana pudding was made into a pie and doused in caramel, I imagine it would taste something like banoffee pie. (banoffee=banana + toffee)

The recipe I used has a few ingredients that aren't so easy to find in American grocery stores. As I've mentioned, I'm still upset about our lack of "double cream" over here in the US, but heavy whipping cream will work instead. You can tell in the top picture how the double cream produces an almost meringue-like sheen. Amazing. If anyone knows where I can find this in the US please let me know.

Digestives are available at some US grocery stores, but if you can't find them, plain graham crackers will do. Digestives taste to me like a less flavorful mix between Biscoff cookies and graham crackers. I realize that doesn't sound appetizing, but I enjoy them. The use of store-bought dulce de leche instead of homemade will save you time and trouble. I have no idea why it is necessary to add more butter and brown sugar to the dulce de leche (aka caramel) in this recipe, but I don't ask questions when I know the results will be incredibly delicious. Is this pie good for you? No. Is it incredible and simple? Yes. Cheers to you and your delicious Banoffee Pie, Britain!

Banoffee Pie
Recipe from The Guardian (adapted slightly for substitutions)
225g (8oz) digestive biscuits
100g (3.5oz) pecans
125g (1 stick/8 tbs) salted butter, melted

125g (1 stick/8 tbs) salted butter, diced
100g soft brown sugar
400g dulce de leche or caramel
½ tsp salt

60g (2 oz) pecans*
15g (3tbs) icing sugar or confectioners sugar
4-5 ripe bananas
Squeeze of lemon juice
275ml (1 1/4 cups)  double cream or heavy whipping cream
¼ tsp coffee granules

*Note: I skipped the addition of candied pecans on top for lack of time, but I recommend adding them if you have a few minutes to spare. I think they'd make this recipe even more delicious.

Pulse the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor until finely crumbled. Stir together biscuit crumbs, roughly chopped pecans and melted butter until completely blended. Press the mixture into a 23cm (10-inch) loose-bottomed tart tin/springform pan to line the base and sides. Chill while you make the filling.

Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the dulce de leche and the salt and bring to the boil, stirring constantly until smooth. Pour over the base, and chill for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), line a baking tray and rinse and drain the pecans. Put into a bowl and sprinkle with the icing sugar, then spread out on to the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, shaking occasionally. Allow to cool. (The pie can be made up to this point up to 48 hours in advance.)
Thinly slice the bananas and toss with the lemon juice. Arrange on top of the cooled caramel in concentric circles.

Whip the cream and the coffee granules into soft peaks and spread on top of the bananas. Arrange the candied pecans on top and serve.

Every time I want to make an easy dessert for a fancy dinner I immediately think of some sort of meringue pavlova or trifle. I get excited because in my mind, it takes almost zero hands-on time to make meringues and throw some fruit on. But then every time, without fail, I realize I don’t have time to let the meringues dry out.

In the south where the humidity in the kitchen is often almost as bad as it is outside, I almost never attempt to make them outside of Winter. I usually buy them from the store. They’re still beautiful and impressive looking, and you don’t have to reserve your oven for hours on end.

Individual trifles or anything with meringues will fancy up any dessert tray. I made these while I was in England because they sell custard in the grocery stores. It’s probably a good thing US stores don’t sell pre-made custard because I honestly would eat it on everything. It’s deliciously rich on its own, and mixed with the cream cheese it gets a smooth cream cheese flavor as well. If you live in England and can buy pre-made custard, this recipe is a breeze. Not to fear for those everywhere else though, you can make homemade custard which is also delicious. If you're really pressed for time, you can sacrifice a bit of the flavor (though it will still be great) and make it with instant vanilla pudding.

The original recipe calls for raspberries and Cointreau. A true trifle is made with Cointreau, but if you want to leave it out that’s fine. You can also sub in sliced strawberries for the raspberries. I prefer raspberries, but the pictures show the strawberry ones I made. As for whether to use meringue nests, like I've shown in the pictures, or glasses with a more traditional trifle look, that's up to you. Individual glasses allows you to add more custard and it's likely the cheaper option. I think Nests are just as pretty and are easier to serve if you're short on glasses. I doubled the recipe both times I made these because I was feeding a crowd. I used glasses once and nests once.

At the end of the day, this is really me suggesting that you all give trifle-making a try when you want to impress people. I’ve had them with custard, ice cream, cool whip, homemade whipped cream, etc. The layering piece is up to you, but I strongly suggest this custard because it is heavenly!


Strawberry or Raspberry Meringue Trifle
Recipe slightly adapted from Taste AU

  • 1 3/4 cups-2 cups Raspberries (2 x 125g punnets raspberries)
  • 2 tbs Cointreau liqueur (optional)
  • 55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 8-ounces cream cheese (250g)at room temperature
  • 1 cup (250ml) bought vanilla custard* 
  • Meringues, coarsely crushed
* If you live in places, like the US, that do not sell custard in grocery stores, you can do one of two things. The ideal thing is to make homemade custard. I've included a recipe below. If you're not up for this, follow the direction on a box of Instant Vanilla pudding. Once pudding is ready and chilled, proceed to the cream cheese step.

  1. Combine the raspberries, Cointreau and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes to macerate.
  2. Step 2
    Meanwhile, use an electric beater to beat the cream cheese, custard and remaining sugar in a bowl until smooth.
  3. Step 3
    Divide three-quarters of the raspberry mixture among six 250ml (1-cup) capacity serving glasses. Top with the cream cheese mixture and meringue. Top with the remaining raspberry mixture. 
    If you are making meringue nests instead of trifles, fill each nest with a teaspoon of raspberry mixture (depending on the size of the nest). Next, add 2+ teaspoons custard mixture, making sure the custard incorporates into the raspberries. Think of it like making sure the ice cream gets to the bottom of an ice cream cone. Top each nest with another teaspoon or two of berries. Sprinkle crushed meringues on top for decoration.

Jamie Oliver's Proper English Custard
Recipe from Jamie Oliver (on My Kitchen from Scratch)

Ingredients (yields about 8 cups/2 L)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
  • 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scored lengthways
  • 8 large egg yolks
  1. Mix cream, milk, and four tablespoons of sugar in a pot under medium low heat.
  2. Scrap out all the seeds in the vanilla bean into the pot. Put the beans in the pot as well. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon until it boils and then turn off the heat. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the vanilla infuse with the cream and milk mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks with 2 tablespoons of sugar until pale yellow in colour.
  4. Remove the beans from the pot and slowly add one ladle of the cream mixture to the yolks while whisking them together. Keep whisking and slowly add a couple more ladles. This process is called tempering and this will ensure that the eggs won’t curdle when they come in contact with hot liquids.
  5. Pour the yolk mixture back to the pot with cream and milk and stir with a wooden spoon under medium heat. As the eggs cook, the custard will thicken in several minutes. It is thick enough if it coats the back of the wooden spoon. When it’s nice and shiny, remove from heat and pour into a serving cup. You can serve it hot or cold.

My sister-in-law took this picture of the trifle in glasses. All we had on hand for 12 people were wine glasses, so we made those work.