‘Snickers Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies…*
Yes, I know, Lent season has officially started. Most of my friends have given up sweets, soda, and swearing. Call me crazy, but I could NEVER give up sugar. EVER. I tried to give up chocolate last year, but failed miserably.  This year, I think my addiction for chocolate (and well, all things sweet) has gotten the best of me.

Now, when I’m standing in the checkout lane at the grocery store, the 99¢ candy bars start calling out to me.  Someway, somehow, they end up printed on my receipt and smeared on my face before I even make it home. Shameful, I know.

These cookies are the result of one of those ‘shameful’ moments. As we already know, soft, buttery, homemade chocolate chip cookies are phenomenal on their own; but when you stuff them ‘n’ top them with thick slices of chewy, caramely, nutty Snickers bars, they are transformed into a rich, gooey, flavor-packed treat. 
  
If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, try stuffing these cookies with Butterfingers, Fudge Brownies, or Peppermint Marshmallows. 
The Ingredients…*
Recipe by: Baker’s Royale
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
16 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Snickers, sliced (approximately 4 king size candy bars or one bag of mini size Snickers)
1 cup chocolate chips
The Instructions…*
Yields 24-30 cookies
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F and cut Snickers bars into 1/4 inch slices.
(2) Place flour and baking soda together in a bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
(3) Place 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking and using the handle of pan to swirl the butter around in the skillet. Swirl butter constantly until it becomes a dark golden brown in color and gives off a nutty aroma, about 1 to 3 minutes.
(4) Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 6 tablespoons of butter into hot butter until completely melted.
(5) Add sugars, salt, and vanilla to brown butter mixture and whisk until fully incorporated. Add eggs and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Rest mixture for 3 minutes, and then, whisk mixture for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.
(6) Using sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
(7) Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out dough and flatten it into a round disc. Next, place a Snickers slice on top. Fold edges over Snickers to seal it in. (*Optional and highly recommended: Press in chopped Snickers on top for added richness).
(8) Place cookies 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.
(9) Bake cookies 1 sheet at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, about 10 to 14 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool cookies...and enjoy before they disappear! :)
 
 
‘Be my Valentine’ Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes…*
Valentine’s Day is one of those celebrations that can be either cherished and memorable or bittersweet and disregarded. For me, it has always been a day filled with sugary treats and homemade crafts. As a little girl, I enjoyed filling my classmates’ homemade mailboxes (aka decorated shoeboxes) with candy conversation hearts and Looney Toons Valentines. As a teenager, I sent secret candy grahams to my best girlfriends and all of my little crushes (which by the way was the best idea ever).  

Now, as a young adult, I find that Valentine’s is a day filled with sharing and reflecting on everyone you have been blessed with in your life. You don’t need to be ‘in a relationship’ to cherish this day, for it is simply a day to celebrate those you love with words of affirmation and small acts of kindness. It’s not necessary to shower your loved ones with candies and cards, fancy dinners and flowers….although I was pleasantly surprised to find a dozen roses waiting at my doorstep...not mad about it…just saying ;)

Instead, send a handwritten card to your family or bake a special treat for your friends to show them just how much you really care. Here are some ideas from my sweet tooth to yours…
The Ingredients…*
‘One-Bowl’ Chocolate Cupcakes

Cupcake Recipe by: Martha Stewart
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons safflower oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache  
Ganache Recipe by: Martha Stewart
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Handwritten Messages
2 ounces white chocolate, melted
Pastry bag with fitted tip
The Instructions…*
First up, the Chocolate Cupcakes
Yields 18-20 cupcakes
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F.
(2) Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
(3) Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
(4) Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.
(5) Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed.
(6) Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
Next, prepare the Chocolate Ganache
(1) Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat.
(2) Place chocolate and corn syrup in a small bowl. 
(3) Pour hot cream over chocolate mixture, and stir until smooth. Use immediately. 
Finally, Dip, Dry, & Decorate the Cupcakes  
(1) Turn cupcakes upside down and dip into ganache until cupcake is completely covered.
(2) Invert cupcakes and allow 30 minutes for ganache to set.
(3) Melt white chocolate in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted.
(4) Transfer to pastry bag with fitted tip and write messages on top of ganache.
(5) Allow an additional 30 minutes for chocolate to set.
(*) Store cupcakes in airtight container for up to 3 days.
Other ideas to sweeten up this Valentine’s Day:
 
 
[mini] Vanilla Milk Chocolate Cupcakes…*
Proving that opposites do attract, this bold vanilla cupcake pairs oh-so-beautifully with an ultra-sweet chocolate frosting. Show your Valentine just how much they mean to you with these straight-from-the-heart cupcakes. These minis will appease all chocolate & vanilla lovers because they incorporate the best of both worlds. A moist vanilla bean cake is topped with a dollop of milk chocolate buttercream and garnished with a milk chocolate heart. Annnddd the best part of all is that they are bite size…which means you can eat more than 1 without feeling too guilty JHappy Valentine’s Day lovers, enjoy! 
The Ingredients…* 
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Vanilla Cupcakes by: Bake at 350
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract


Milk Chocolate Buttercream
Chocolate Buttercream adapted from: Brown Eyed Baker 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk chocolate chips, melted and cooled

The Instructions…* 
First up, the Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
(1) Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350° F. Line standard muffin pan with paper or foil liners
(2) Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.
(3) Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 to 24 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature before frosting.
Next, prepare the Milk Chocolate Buttercream
(1) Using the wire whisk attachment of an electric mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the bowl if needed.
(2) Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing well.
(3) Finally, add the melted chocolate and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, or until all of the chocolate is well incorporated.
How to make Chocolate Valentine Hearts
Use leftover chocolate chips to create quick & easy chocolate heart toppers! 
(1) Melt chocolate in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until all morsels are completed melted. 
(2) Pour chocolate into pastry bag with fitted tip (or Ziploc bag) and draw (or trace) hearts onto a wax-paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with edible glitter or sparkles and allow time to cool and harden. (I placed my baking pan directly in the freezer to harden the chocolate faster)
(3) Once hardened, peel back wax paper to reveal homemade chocolate heart toppers! See, how easy was that?! J
Finally, Frost & Garnish the Cupcakes
Frost cupcakes as desired and garnish with edible glitter or chocolate hearts <3

Share these mini treats with your Valentine….or not ;)
 
 
Sideline Sugar Cookies…*
The ‘Super Bowl’ is a term that should be associated with the annual football game that determines who the champion is of the NFL. More often than not, however, it is thought of as one of the top ‘at-home’ party weekends of the year.

Since I am not a huge fan of football, I use it more as an excuse to host (or attend) a party with all of my friends, surrounded with delicious appetizers and intoxicating beverages. Annnnnd I get to sick back and watch all of the new commercials that cost bajillions of dollars to air for 0.2 seconds. What. A. Waste. Of. Money.

Although this all sounds fun and pleasurable, there is only one thing missing: dessert—it is the most important part after all. 

After shoveling down mounds of taco dip, half a dozen buffalo wings, and spoonfuls of pasta salad, your guests won’t want to eat a heavy piece of cheesecake. Opt for something light and festive, like these Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies with a glazed royal icing. Shaped as footballs, jerseys and matching helmets, these cookies can be decorated to complement your favorite team. If you’re short on time, check out my Super (Duper) Cupcake Cake and Cocoa Krispie Footballs from last year. 

The Ingredients…* 
Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies
Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookie Recipe by: Bake at 350
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar 
2 sticks (salted) butter, cold
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Royal Icing 
Icing Recipe by: Joy of Baking
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted 
The Instructions…* 
Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookie Recipe by: Bake at 350
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F
(2) Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside.
(3) Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix. 
(4) Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, if needed. The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.
(5) Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheets (*if time allows, freeze the cut out shapes for 10 minutes before baking—it helps them keep their shape!)
(6) Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack. 
Next, prepare the royal icing… 
Icing Recipe by: Joy of Baking
(1) In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until combined. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth.
(2) Separate into small bowls and use gel food coloring to obtain desired icing colors. Using a piping bag, outline the cookies a thicker royal icing (see notes below). 
(3) Once outline is dry, go back and "flood" the cookies using a thinner icing (see notes below)
(4) Finalize cookies with details once the top coat has dried (about 2 hours)
Helpful Hints from Joy of Baking 
(*) The right consistency to cover or "flood" sugar cookies is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface for a few seconds before disappearing. Another test is to take a cookie and place a small amount of icing in the center of the cookie.


(*) Using a small knife, push the icing to the edge of the cookie. If the icing runs off the edge, thicken the icing by adding a little more confectioners’ sugar. Conversely, if the icing is too thick, add a little water. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air.  Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

(*)Check out the how-to video on Joy of Baking:  Royal Icing Tested Recipe & Video
Even though my cookies look like a 6 year old made them, I still think they’re kinda cute… right? I mean cut me a little slack, it was my first time using royal icing after all! I’ll do better next time...
Don’t forget to check out my Super Bowl dessert recipes from last year!! This football shapedpull-apart cake may look intimidating, but trust me, it is much easier to make than you think. Plus, I used a box cake mix and canned frosting to simplify it even more--I promise your guests will never know! 
These Cocoa Krispies are loaded with chocolate and peanut butter  and shaped like little footballs--perfect for passing ;)
 
 
Salty Caramel Oat Bars…*
Salty Caramel seems to be one of those flavor combos that everyone loves. It is a trendy new flavor that has recently made a debut on many restaurant menus and dessert. When Sprinkles brought back their seasonal ‘Salty Caramel’ Cupcake, I knew I was in trouble. Thank God we are only allotted one free cupcake a day, or else I might not be alive today to write this post.  All joking aside, salted caramel brownies, puddings, truffles, hot cocoas, and lattes are popping up all over the country to meet the demands of their caramel-crazed fans. 

Something about adding sea salt to an already delicious square of chewy caramel makes for a seductive, yet satisfying, taste that sings to your heart and dances on your buds. I wanted to explore this sweet/salty classic combination in yet another form so when I found this recipe for Salty Caramel Oat Bars, I knew I had met my match. They truly are sensational in every form of the word. I challenge you to find someone to disagree.
The Ingredients…*
Recipe by: Cookies & Cups
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour1 cups finely crushed pretzels
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups rolled oats
1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
1 (11 oz.) bag of caramel bits (As recommended, I just used a 14 oz. bag of wrapped caramels, minus 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped cashews
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat the oven to 350°
(2) Line a 15x10x1 inch pan with foil
(3) With your electric mixer beat butter and sugars together. Add eggs and vanilla until incorporated.
(4) On low speed add in your pretzels and flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly mix in your oats.
(5) Set aside 1 cup of your batter.
(6) Press remaining batter into prepared pan.
(7) In medium saucepan combine your caramels and sweetened condensed milk over medium heat until caramels are melted and mixture is smooth.
(8) Pour caramel on oat batter. Sprinkle the cashews, chocolate chips and remaining oat batter on top.
(9) Sprinkle your coarse sea salt evenly over top.
(10) Bake for 20-22 minutes until top starts to golden.
(11) Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.
(12) When cool lift bars from pan with foil and cut.
Sweet, chewy caramel sprinkled with that devilish sea salt will leave your mouth watering for more.
Throw a little milk chocolate and a handful of nuts into the mix and you might as well throw in the towel. 

Salty Caramel Oat Bars: 1

Me:  0
 

little shortcake...*