I will rarely buy a baked good (with the exception of when I am on vacation) and I do not use baking mixes.  I just love adding each ingredient too much and I like to know exactly what is going into my baked goods.  I know some people will argue that all of the butter, sugar and other yummy ingredients I use are just as bad for you as the chemicals in processed baked goods.  But I know you lovelies are not “those people”.

There is only one exception to this statement that I must confess.

These soft and chewy chocolate sandwich cookies are so spectacular and so popular when made that I can’t justify messing with perfection.  These cookies begin with store-bought devil’s food cake mix (GASP!).  I am well aware that I could very likely find a chocolate cookie recipe to replace the mix, but honestly, the chocolate cookies that you get with the devil’s food cake mix are so soft, chewy and flavorful that I just can’t find it in my heart to change such a good thing.  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  Maybe someday when my “To Bake” list is not so many miles long I will go on a quest to eliminate this one mix that I use.  But the other thing is, sometimes you need to bake something quick.  And there is no batter quicker than this one.  And the cream cheese frosting is so tangy and not too sweet so it is the perfect match for these sweet, chocolatey cookies.  Finally, you have creative freedom to color the frosting to your heart’s content so they are perfect for holiday baking and gift giving!

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 “Black” and orange=perfect for Halloween! 

This recipe linked to Tidy Mom I’m Lovin’ It Fridays

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Hi sweet teeth.  I hope you had a nice weekend.  Mine was lovely.  It was my best friend’s 30th birthday and we had a party for her.

 Me and my bestie Naomi

It’s funny how we go through different stages in our lives when it seems like all of our friends are going through the same thing.  A few years ago, I had a lot of weddings to attend as several of my friends got married within a couple of years of each other.  Now, its Baby Mania!  At the birthday party yesterday, in a group of about 25 adults, my husband and I were definitely in the minority not having a baby.  I love babies.  I could just hold a new baby and stare at it all day.  I also love returning the babies to their respectful owners when they squeak, smell or wiggle too much.  So although I am within a couple of years of a landmark birthday, I am not panicking about the ticking of that biological clock.  Someday I hope to have little sweet teeth, but for now, my cupcakes and cookies are my babies.

Speaking of cupcakes and now that you know my 5 year plan (:)) let’s get on to the sweet stuff.  Naturally I was thrilled and honored to be in charge of Naomi’s birthday cake.  Red velvet is one of her favorite flavors and I just happened to have a recipe I have been anxious to try to it worked out well for everyone!  I made the cupcakes quite large because if you remember my theory, the bigger the better with all baked goods.  After making the batter, I was a bit nervous.  It looked sticky almost like a biscuit dough.  But I was so pleased to see them turn perfectly glossy and red once they had baked for awhile. I really wish I could have one of those time lapse cameras that they have on cooking shows in my oven to record the wonderful process of a messy batter becoming a beautiful, perfect cupcake.  Anyway, the cream cheese frosting was possibly the best part of the cupcake as frosting often is.  It was thick, smooth and so creamy.  My ideal cupcake:frosting ratio is 2:1 so I wasn’t afraid to load it on.  The cupcakes were a hit and the birthday girl was happy.  What a great day.

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Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?

 Isn’t the color great?

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If you take me to a sporting event of any kind, I can pretend I am interested in the game for a solid 2 minutes.  Then I am distracted by the lights, the cheerleaders, the Kiss Cam (LOVE the Kiss Cam) and pretty much everything and anything other than the game I am supposed to be watching.  And as far as stadium snacks go, all I want is one of the giant soft pretzels (no salt) with about a cup of tangy yellow mustard.  Then, I’m happy as a clam and will not even try to distract you as you are cheering your heart out for your team.

My love for pretzels extends beyond stadiums and when I want a salty snack (which is rare, I am a sweet tooth after all) I usually grab a handful of pretzels.  So when I came across this cookie recipe, I was drawn right in.  I know what you are thinking.  Can’t this girl leave well enough alone?  Chocolate chip cookies are iconic.  Peanut butter cookies are so delicious.  But peanut butter, pretzel AND chocolate chip cookies???  Think about it though.  You love pretzels dipped in chocolate, right?  And personally, when I need a quick snack, nothing settles both my sweet and salty cravings as well as scooping some peanut butter with a pretzel.  And I mean peanut butter and chocolate together is an obvious no-brainer.  Hello, peanut butter cups?  So, before you are so quick to judge me, try these for yourself!  They are sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy perfection.

 

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Recipe inspired by Everyday with Rachael Ray

 

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I love spring rolls but for some reason I had always feared the sticky rice paper and been too scared to make them myself.  All that has changed thankfully.  A good friend and I recently attended a cooking class and spring rolls were on the list of dishes to make.  I have always recognized that the ingredients are simple, but I have had negative experiences with rice noodles in the past and I thought that getting that rice paper wet would leave me with a sloppy clump of frustration.  Much to my surprise, rice paper is relatively easy to work with and even if minor tears do occur, it all gets rolled up anyway!

So to make fresh spring rolls, you can basically just choose the vegetables (sprouts, lettuce, peppers, carrots, etc.), protein (tofu, shrimp, chicken, pork, etc.) herbs (basil, mint, cilantro) that you like and you could even stuff in some rice or rice noodles in if you would like.  The ingredients you choose need to be sliced very thin.

Let me tell you about rice paper in case it causes you anxiety like it did for me.  The rice paper may be kept in the produce section of your grocery stores by wonton wrappers and other specialty ingredients.  Each sheet is very thin and somewhat brittle.  To soften the rice paper, all you need to do is put some hot (not warm) water in a large shallow bowl and place one sheet of rice paper at a time into the bowl until it is soft and pliable (just a few seconds).

Once the paper is pliable lay it out on your work surface (I used a plastic cutting board).  Now let’s think of the rice paper as a clock face.  Line up your thinly sliced vegetables and protein at 6:00.  Then sprinkle your herbs around the rest of the clock.

Now for the folds.  First, fold 3:00 and 9:00 sides of the rice paper in toward each other.

Next, begin folding at 6:00 and roll up to meet 12:00.

That’s it!  Wasn’t that easy sweet teeth??  Now for a super simple and delish dipping sauce, mix soy sauce, sweet chili sauce and sriracha (or garlic chili paste).

Ok, so now you have a fabulous appetizer.  May I suggest this Shrimp Pad Thai for your entrée? (recipe from Bake Your Day)  It is the best Pad Thai I have made at home.  (In the photo below, I did not have rice noodles on hand, so I used whole wheat spaghetti which works great too.  And I prefer to double the sauce in the recipe).

 Get the Pad Thai recipe here

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Texture is a deal breaker or maker for me.  I know that oysters are a delicacy and I am supposed to think that they are glamorous and an aphrodisiac and all of the rest of it.  But anything that is slimy, rubbery and attempts to slide back up my throat as it is sliding down just sends chills down my spine.  Another example is caviar.  I can appreciate and recognize that it is “one of the finer things in life” but that little burst of liquid when those eggs are popped in my mouth is enough to make me lose my lunch.  A piece of gristle or fat in my chicken or steak or sand in my scallop and my meal is over.  I know it sounds extreme, but I am just very texture sensitive, what can I say?

On the other hand, if I want a snack, I need to determine if I want that snack to be salty or sweet, crunchy or soft, spicy or sour.  Otherwise, I will keep eating different things until I am satisfied.  Usually I am craving something crunchy.  That’s why when making these blondies, I couldn’t just leave well enough alone.  Blondies are tasty in their own rite, but I knew I wanted to add some crunch.  The crunch of macadamia nuts is one of my favorite textures and Heath bars added to anything only improves the situation.  And yes I am aware that you can buy the Heath pieces already broken up, but those just aren’t substantial enough for my crunchy craving.  So I prefer to break up the snack sized Heath bars (hello Halloween-sized candy bars!!) which leaves me with large toothsome chunks that Satisfy My Sweet Tooth.  These blondies are perfectly chewy and crunchy.

What’s the texture that you love or cannot tolerate?

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(Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

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