The other day I went strawberry picking for the first time in years. I purchased my carton and was determined to get as many strawberries as possible. They were everywhere -- ripe, juicy, perfect strawberries. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I moseyed along the fields adding and adding to my box until it was completely full of the most beautiful strawberries you've ever seen.

I ended up with 12lbs. I realized shortly after leaving that piling fresh strawberries on top of one another meant the bottom ones ended up bruised (rookie mistake).

I froze some for smoothies, used some for ice cream, made cupcakes and muffins, and then decided the rest needed to go into making strawberry margaritas.

I was at dinner a month or so ago and somehow the waitress and I got to talking about soaking strawberries in tequila. I'm a fan of all fruit/alcohol combinations, so this idea was right up my alley. If you soak them in tequila for long enough, you can strain the strawberries and have delicious homemade strawberry tequila. If you really love tequila I guess you could also eat the soaked berries plain, but I wasn't feeling up for that. I decided that I would use my fresh, bursting with flavor strawberries to make strawberry margaritas. I made a lot more strawberry tequila than I've posted in the recipe, but I had 12lbs of strawberries and 1.75 liters of tequila, so I saw no reason not to go all out. I froze the rest of the strawberry mixture that I didn't use for future margaritas.

I wanted the flavors to really blend together, but if you don't want to soak the strawberries, just skip that step and use fresh strawberries with tequila. That said, it's VERY easy to hull strawberries, pour tequila over them in the morning and leave them soaking all day to use that night. You can do it more in advance if you'd like.

Point is: you need to be making these margaritas. Channel your inner mixologist and ditch the pre-made margarita mix. It's full of sugar and not nearly as good as these. Feel free to adjust the recipe proportions to your liking. Basically anything with this strawberry tequila is going to be amazing.


Fresh Strawberry Margaritas

1 1/2 cup silver tequila
1 pint strawberries, hulled
4-6 limes, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
4 oz Triple Sec
4 oz simple syrup

Hull strawberries and place in pitcher. Pour 1/2 cups tequila into pitcher. Allow strawberries to soak in the tequila for 3+ hours.

When you're ready to make the drinks, pour the strawberry-tequila mixture into a blender and pulse until strawberries have blended into the mixture, but some strawberry pieces remain. If you completely pulverize the strawberries you lose the pieces of good tequila soaked strawberries that you so patiently waited for.  Alternately, you can muddle the strawberries into the tequila in the pitcher if you do not have a blender.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. To serve, add servings into cocktail shaker with ice, give it a good shake and pour into salt-rimmed glasses.

Any time I'm browsing food blogs and come across a recipe for cheesecake bars, I immediately bookmark it. The same thing goes for finding recipes that involve Butterfingers. Obviously the glorious merger of the two is something I had to try for myself.

These were everything you'd imagine them to be. The Nutter Butter crust was a new concept to me that I will absolutely be trying with other desserts in the future. Don't let the thought of three layers scare you away from making them. This is an easy and delicious recipe start to finish. It may be a diet-killer, but it's worth it.

Butterfinger Nutter Butter Cheesecake Bars
Recipe from Lauren's Latest

For the crust-
16 whole nutter butter cookies
1/4 cup melted butter

For the cheesecake filling-
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon all purpose flour
6 fun size Butterfinger chocolate bars

For the topping-
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9×9 square dish with foil or parchment and set aside. {If you are lining your pan with foil, lightly grease with non stick cooking spray.}

Grind nutter butter cookies in a food processor until the consistency of graham cracker crumbs. Pour in melted butter and pulse a few times to mix. Press into prepared dish and set aside.
 In a large bowl, whip cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Stir in egg, vanilla and flour. Finely chop butterfingers and fold into the cheesecake mixture. Pour over top nutter butter crust and bake for 18-22 minutes or until cheesecake has set. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled.

Pour chocolate chips and butter into a small bowl and microwave using the ‘melt chocolate’ function, stirring every 20-30 seconds. If your chocolate is almost melted, don’t put it back into the microwave! Just keep stirring- the residual heat will continue to melt the chocolate completely. {If your microwave doesn’t have this function, zap your chocolate at 50% power at 20 second intervals, stirring in between.} Spread melted chocolate overtop of the bars evenly and place back into the refrigerator 5-10 minutes to harden the chocolate. Remove from refrigerator and using the foil or parchment, remove the entire block of bars from the pan. Cut into bars and serve.

Recipes Notes: If you leave the bars in the refrigerator longer than 10 minutes after you’ve topped it with chocolate, cutting into the bars might be more difficult and the chocolate is more likely to crack.

Given that I'm on a never-ending quest to try every adaptation of pizza possible, I'm well acquainted with the concept of pizza paninis. For those who aren't, you take the cheese, pepperonis and sauce and throw it into sandwich form. It's foolproof. It's also cheap and easy, so I used to make pizza paninis all the time back in college.

Little did I know, my standard pizza panini was missing what now seems like a crucial addition: parmesan grilled into a perfect crust the outside of the bread. It's brilliant. Also, two cheeses is almost always better than one in my book. I'm actually a bit sad I've eaten so many of these paninis without adding parmesan to the outside of the bread. Never again.

I got the inspiration from Rachel over at Rachel Cooks. It seems she and I share a love of all things pizza and grilled cheese. She used wheat bread for these. I used sourdough. Any sort of thick bread will do. My picture doesn't do these sandwiches justice (read: I was hungry, so I rushed through making it and taking pictures), but it's what's on the inside that counts. In this case, it's pure, cheesy deliciousness. Rachel's pictures, on the other hand, absolutely do it justice. So, if you aren't convinced, head on over to her page for proof

Parmesan Crusted Pizza Panini
Makes Two Sandwiches

Four Slices Thick Bread
1 Tablespoon Butter (softened to the point it's spreadable)
12 Pepperonis
2 Tablespoons Pizza Sauce
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
3/4 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Heat up a panini maker or a skillet over medium heat. Spread butter evenly over one side of each piece of bread. On the unbuttered side of one piece, add 1 tablespoon of pizza sauce. Sprinkle 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese on top of the pizza sauce. Layer the mozzarella with pepperonis and another 1/4 of the cheese. Top sandwich with another piece of bread, unbuttered side facing down. Repeat this process with the remaining two slices of bread.

Spread half of the parmesan evenly one buttered side of each sandwich and press down gently. Flip the sandwiches into the pan or onto the panini maker and top the other side of each sandwich with the remaining cheese, again, pressing down gently to secure the cheese. You don't really need to worry about measuring here. Add the ingredients to your liking, increasing or decreasing each depending on your preference.

If you are using a panini maker, you will not need to flip the sandwich again. Just cook for 4-6 minutes and serve it up. If you are using a skillet, flip the sandwich after 2-3 minutes to brown the other side. Remove sandwich when you can see that the cheese on the inside is melted and the parmesan on the outside has a nice, lightly brown crisp to it.

Slice and enjoy!

I am fairly certain the day I first tried pudding cookies (and subsequently experienced the sheer bliss that comes from their consumption) falls under the category of a life-changing event for me. Most people save that category for major life milestones, but for me, discovering pudding cookies fits the bill.

Basically, I know I will be making variations of pudding cookies for the rest of my life. I've used the basic recipe a few times, and now these chocolate cookies took things to a whole new level. The cookie game has been changed forever.
Pros to pudding cookies:
  • People unanimously rave about them.
  • They are simple to throw together.
  • They seem to stay good much longer than your average dessert.
  • There are as many variations as there are types of pudding mix (and then countless more). 
  • You will make friends if you bring them anywhere.
  • Your confidence in your baking skills will immediately rise for having made such delicious cookies.
  • Etc.
My boyfriend put these in the freezer (why, I do not know) and somehow they were still chewy without being thawed at all. It was kind of like how the cookies on the outside of an ice cream sandwich always stay soft. Amazing. The chocolate variation that Averie came up with is top notch. It's a chocoholic's dream--not one, but FOUR types of chocolate. If you don't like chocolate, I guess these wouldn't be up your alley, but for all the normal people out there you will love these. Averie has made a lot of other variations as well, so if your interest has been piqued, make sure to check out her blog for pudding cookies galore.

Quadruple Chocolate Soft Fudgy Pudding Cookies
Recipe from Averie Cooks

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 packet instant chocolate pudding mix, about 3.7 to 3.9 ounces (not sugar-free and not 'cook & serve')
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (I used Trader Joe's 72% Pound Plus Bar)

  1. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large mixing bowl and electric mixer) combine the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the pudding mix, cocoa, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
  3. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, baking soda, optional salt, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
  4. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the chocolate chips, chopped chocolate, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.
  5. Using a large cookie scoop, 1/4-cup measure, or your hands, form approximately 17 equal-sized mounds of dough. Roll into balls, and flatten slightly.
  6. Place mounds on a large plate or tray, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 5 days. Do not bake with unchilled dough because cookies will bake thinner, flatter, and be more prone to spreading.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or spray with cooking spray. Place dough mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (Averie bakes 8 cookies per sheet) and bake for about 10 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just set, even if slightly undercooked and glossy in the center. Don't overbake which is easy to do with dark cookies. Cookies firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving. I let them cool on the baking sheet and don't use a rack.
  8. Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.