Red, White & Blueberry Sugar Cookie
Happy Memorial Day!

This is the first time I’ve had Memorial Day off since I started my career and you better believe I spent it baking! I wanted to make something simple, yet delicious and symbolic of the red, white and blue we celebrate on this special day.  


I was first introduced to the Fruit Pizza by my mother at a young age. We would buy the refrigerated sugar cookie dough and decorate it with cool whip and seasonal fruit slices. I took this simple craft to the next level by incorporating one of my favorite homemade sugar cookie recipes and decorating the ‘pizza’ as the American Flag.

Time crunch? Substitute the homemade dough for refrigerated, ready-to-bake, cookie dough from the store. Enjoy!
The Ingredients…*
For the Sugar Cookie
Recipe adapted from: SugarHero
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2  sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp. lemon zest
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp. cream
2 tsp. lemon extract


For the Toppings
1 pint of Blueberries

1 pint of Strawberries
1 pint of Raspberries
12 oz. tub of Cool Whip, Original
The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line an ungreased cookie pan with a Silpat (or parchment paper).
(2) In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
(3) Combine the butter, sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat them together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each; then add the cream and lemon extract.
(4) Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Roll out and evenly press the dough into prepared cookie pan. 
(5) Bake for 15-19 minutes, or until the cookie crust takes on a light golden color and is puffed and set in the middle. Let it cool completely at room temperature.
(6) Once cooled, evenly spread the (thawed) cool whip on the cookie crust and decorate with fruit, as desired.
(7) Serve immediately, or cover and store in refrigerator until ready to eat.
This would also make a great Fourth of July Recipe so make sure to bookmark it for later!
 
 
Mom’s Chex Mix
Zumba Queen, Soccer Mom, Jack of all Trades. Power Walker, Clearance Shopper, Popcorn Eating Champ.  My mother is motivated by challenge and always seeks to find a new adventure, learn a new skill, and master a new craft.  Over the years, she has mastered the science behind creating the perfect chex mix—a blend of salty and sweet, crunchy and melty, and of heaven and hell.

This chex mix will make you jump for joy, but I must warn you, it is impossible to put down. Is that such a bad thing though? It has cereal and dried fruit after all, which qualifies it in the “health food” category (at least in my books), so it’s actually acceptable to substitute this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, right? Right.

For Mother’s Day, I wanted to share this recipe for all to enjoy. What better way to celebrate than to pass along a special memory from one mother to another? Enjoy!
The Ingredients…*
Recipe by my mom, Sandy Ellis
9 cups Corn Chex
2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup cocktail peanuts
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups milk chocolate chips
The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 250° F. Lightly grease a large roasting pan (I used a 14x11x3 cake pan)
(2) In a large bowl, mix Corn Chex, coconut,  and peanuts. Pour into greased pan; set aside.
(3) In a medium-sized saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the brown sugar and corn syrup; stir to combine. Remove the mixture from the stovetop and add vanilla and baking soda; stir to combine. 
(4) Quickly pour the mixture over the Chex mixture and toss with spatula until all pieces are thoroughly coated.
(4) Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
(5) Remove pan from oven and let cool. (TIP: The best way to cool your Chex Mix is to pour it on top of wax paper and spread it out as best as you can with a spatula. Otherwise, the mix might all stick together in the roasting pan).

(6) Once cool, mix in the chocolate chips and raisins.
(7) Store in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks, or simply package in cellophane bags for gifts.
 
 
Chocolate Filled Churro Cupcakes…*
This year for Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to spice things up a little bit; and by a little, I mean like in a cinnamon-sugar-churro-converted-into-a-cupcake kind of way. Ya follow?

Cinco de Mayo is a special day devoted to celebrating Mexican heritage and although I am not Mexican (contrary to what most people think), I have a deep appreciation and love for the culture and food—particularly tamales, guacamole, and of my favorite, churros.


Since a homemade churro could never replace the real thing, I opted to infuse the cinnamon-sugary goodness into a more practical dessert: a cupcake. These copycat treats are stuffed with chocolate and topped with the creamiest cinnamon frosting you’ve ever tasted. The only thing missing from this fiesta is a margarita on the rocks.

Not crazy for churros?  Check out these other Cinco de Mayo inspired treats:
Feeling adventurous? Let's get baking!
The Ingredients…*
For the Cupcakes
Recipe by: The Novice Chef
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 (1 stick) cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk

For the Filling
1/3 cup Nutella

For the Frosting
Recipe adapted from: The Novice Chef
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
The Instructions…*
For the Cupcakes
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
(2) In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
(3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until just combined then stir in the vanilla and oil.
(4) Add 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and gently stir in until barely combined. Add half of the milk, mixing until just combined. Repeat these steps with the remaining flour mixture and milk, ending with the flour. Do not over mix.
(5) Fill each cupcake tin with 2 tablespoons of batter, or until it is filled halfway—do not overfill (or you will end up with a mess)!
(6) Bake the cupcakes for 14 to 16 minutes or until cake bounces back.
(7) Remove cupcakes from oven and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
(8) Cool cupcakes completely; in the meantime, prepare the icing.
For the Frosting
(1) Cream the butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl
(2) Add the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well between each addition. Stir in the cinnamon until thoroughly combined. Then add in the vanilla.
(3) Beat the mixture well, until light and fluffy.
Assembly
(1) Remove the center of each cupcake using a cupcake corer, apple corer, frosting tip, or any other tool you may have that has a round, hollow base. You can also pipe in the Nutella if you choose.
(2) Add a small scoop of Nutella to each cupcake; replace the middle piece.
(3)
Frost cupcakes as desired and lightly dust with cinnamon.
(4) Time to eat!
tres, dos, uno, ¡ya!
Me gusta :)
 
 
Picture
Ready, Set, Bake!
Happy Spring, everyone! ‘Tis the season for sunshine and sugar cones, flip flops and fro-yo. As you already know, I am back to baking and ready to share my first giveaway of the year! There’s no better way to welcome in the spring season and the start of another year on the blog than to win free stuff!
 

Without further ado, make sure to enter NOW for your chance to win:
Picture

This Spring Essentials Baking Set includes the following:
1.
Little Shortcake Custom Apron, One Size Fits All

2. Nordic Ware Spatula Set
3. Nordic Ware Baking Cups
4. Wilton Rainbow Chip Sprinkles

The perfect spring cupcake is dressed in a polka dot liner and sprinkled with rainbow chips…and obviously the pastry chef making it should be outfitted in pink! This set brings you the essential tools needed to craft the perfect springtime desserts.  To enter the giveaway, please follow the instructions below using the PunchTab entry form.

(NOTE:
There are lots of ways to enter, as described below. All entries MUST have a US mailing address. The winner will be announced here on Saturday, May 4th and will be contacted by email, but MUST respond within 48 hours to claim their prize. GOOD LUCK!)

HURRY—time is running out!

[Contest closes Friday, May 3 at midnight CST.]
 
 
Sittie’s Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins…*
For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I am overjoyed to have icing in my hair and cake batter splattered on my t-shirt. It feels wonderful to be back in the kitchen with my polka dot apron tied tight and my KitchenAid Mixer on high speed. It’s been a long and treacherous seven months since my last post and I am happy to announce that this little shortcake is back in business!

The real question is, where do I begin? Spring is in full bloom and Mother’s Day is right around the corner, so naturally, I decided on my Sittie’s Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins—the easiest, yet most delicious muffins I have ever made. Her recipe is foolproof and requires very few ingredients…just like her famous Sunday Morning Pancake recipe I revealed a few years back.

What is your favorite family recipe?
The Ingredients…*
For the Muffins
1 package yellow cake mix
1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the Lemon Icing
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
The Instructions…*
For the Muffins
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
(2) In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cake mix, water, eggs, and oil. Add the lemon juice and poppy seeds.
(3) Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners.
(4) Bake cupcakes 18-22 minutes or until cake bounces back.
(5) Cool cupcakes completely; in the meantime, prepare the icing.
For the Lemon Icing
(1) In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir until smooth.
(2) Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each muffin.
(3) Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours (…or dive right in, like me).
Oh, how I’ve missed this sweet life!

Printer Friendly Recipe:

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Best Ever Chocolate Cupcakes…*
My hair is curled. His shirt is ironed. Our friends are gathered. Drinks are mixed, shots are poured, music is pumpin’.  It’s PARTY TIME!  What better way to celebrate my boyfriend’s 25th birthday than to invite the coolest cats in town to our new downtown apartment and dish up the best ever chocolate cupcakes?

Coming up with the guest list was the easy part. Deciding on a recipe to top the Peanut Butter Layer Cake I made for him last year was the hard part. Surprisingly to all, these mean-muggin’, chocolate-lovin’ cupcakes were the star of the party. Topped with the same chocolate cream cheese frosting I used on the PB cake, these cupcakes are a must for all chocolate lovers. Cheers!

The Ingredients…*
For the Chocolate Cupcakes
Recipe from: Kevin and Amanda
1 box devil’s food cake mix
1 small package Jello instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups mini chocolate chips

For the Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting
Recipe from: Recipe by How Sweet it is
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 block cream cheese (8 ounces), softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons milk, if needed

The Instructions…*
For the Chocolate Cupcakes
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
(2) In a very large bowl, mix together everything except chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Stir in the chocolate chips. Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners.
(3) Bake cupcakes 18-22 minutes or until cake bounces back.
(4) Cool cupcakes completely; in the meantime, prepare the frosting.
For the Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting
(1) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese together until smooth; Add in vanilla.
(2) With the mixer on low speed, slowly add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and add cocoa powder, increasing the speed to mix.
(3) If the frosting it a bit too thick, add milk 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  If it is too thin, add additional sugar gradually.

Naked.
Dressed.
Devoured.

Happy Birthday Boy. Happy Baker.

The End. :)

 
 
Iced Banana Bread…* 
Bananas are ripe, sugar jar is down to a few sad spoonfuls, and the butter tray offers just a couple sticks you forgot to add to your cookie dough last week (oops). Now what? You could pout and whine that there's nothing to eat and beg your cute boyfriend to take you out, orrrrr you could be a savvy-Betty-Crocker-wannabe and whip up some of this delectable Iced Banana Bread.

I chose the latter of the two and for good reason. It's amazing what you can do with leftover ingredients and a little creativity. "Recycled baking," as my sister refers to it--meaning you don't have to feel guilty about neglecting the bananas you bought in an attempt to start eating healthy ...because now you can enjoy them baked into a delicious loaf of banana bread, loaded with sugar and smothered in butter. Ironic, isn't it? 
When I asked some of you on my fan page what it was about Banana Bread that makes us “weak in the knees,” the most popular response was the way it tastes when it's smeared with sweet cream--especially when you're lucky enough to get the heels (or what I call the 'buns') of the loaf! Now take all that goodness and add a layer of sweet icing on top. Yes, that's right, I went there, and you should too....starting now!
The Ingredients…* 
For the Banana Bread  
Recipe from: Food Network
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter , room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

For the Icing   
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar (more or less, depending on preference of consistency) 
The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.
(2) Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

(3) In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
(4) Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears. 
(5) Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
(*) Meanwhile, mix butter, milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar in a small bowl until desired icing consistency is reached. 
(6) Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.
(7) Drizzle bread with icing and enjoy.

Warm. Soft. Crumbly. Moist. Delicate.
Just how Banana Bread should be.
 
 
Chocolate Chip Studded Peanut Butter Bars…* 
Okay, I lied. I know I said I was back for good….but then I woke up the next day and realized it was already July 10. How that happened, I have no idea.

For those of you that are mad at me, I apologize. For those of you who lost a few pounds while I was away from the blog, I congratulate you. However, I must warn you, I am about to photo-bomb you with a series of recipes that will send you running to the nearest store to stock up on the essentials: butter, sugar, flour, chocolate chips, and a few jars of peanut butter.

Speaking of which, did you know that Jif introduced a new line of crack!? And by crack, I’m referring to the Chocolate Hazelnut & Mocha Cappuccino spreads that I found at Target the other day....

Sure, you can argue that they copied the world famous Nutella, but for only $2.99/jar, you’d be crazy not to at least give it a try. Who knows? Maybe after your affair, you’ll kiss your fancy pants Nutella goodbye and say hello to those new sassy shoes that you’ve had your eye on and can now afford. Okay, maybe that was stretchin’ it a little….and no, I do not work for Jif…but if I did, I would be the happiest employee in the world!

Okay, enough of that rant. Back to the bars. Chewy peanut butter cookies stuffed with milk chocolate chips would suffice, but then top ‘em with a thick layer of chocolate cream cheese frosting and you’re in for a treat. I knew I had to redeem myself somehow, so I hope these bars will do…for now J

The Ingredients…*
For the Peanut Butter Bars  
Recipe adapted from: Brown Eyed Baker
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk chocolate chips

For the Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting
(Recipe adapted from How Sweet it is
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 block cream cheese (4 ounces), softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
1 tablespoons milk, if needed
The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan; set aside.
(2) In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
(3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until creamy and light. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
(4) Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until the flour is just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate chips.
(5) Turn out the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until the center is set.
Now, for the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting….
(1) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese together until smooth; Add in vanilla
(2)
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and add cocoa powder, increasing the speed to mix
(3) If the frosting it a bit too thick, add milk 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  If it is too thin, add additional sugar gradually

(4) Once consistency is reached, spread frosting atop peanut butter layer on peanut butter bars and refrigerate for an hour, or until ready to serve
(5) Cut into bars and store at room temperature in an airtight container
This one is for me.
And this one is for you.  

 

Oops, sorry, I took a bite.

Please forgive me.

You can have the crumbs. :)


They are too good to share.   
 
 
Bailey’s Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies…*
I have a confession. I made these cookies exactly 67 days ago, and I am finally getting around to sharing them with you. Although mint chocolate happens to be my second favorite combination, next to peanut butter chocolate obviously, these cookies were made for the sole purpose of St. Patty’s Day Celebrations.

When I discovered Andes Crème De Menthe Baking Chips at my grocery store, I about freaked out and grabbed all of the bags. After realizing I probably shouldn’t spend my entire paycheck on baking chips, I only purchased two—one for the cookies, and one for, well, me J

These cookies are intense. The batter is thick. The flavor is prominent. The texture is crumbly. The result? Chocolate mint madness. Prepare  yourselves, you’re about to fall in love.
The Ingredients…*
Recipe adapted from: Tasty Kitchen
1 cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
½ cups Granulated Sugar
½ cups Brown Sugar
2 whole Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 cups All-purpose Flour
2-¼ cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
¼ cups Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoons Salt
½ cups Bailey's Irish Cream
1 cup Milk Chocolate Chips
2 cups Andes Crème De Menthe Baking Chips, plus more for dipping (*optional*)
The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
(2) In a large bowl, cream butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
(3) In a separate bowl, combine the flours, unsweetened cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
(4) Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with Bailey’s Irish Cream. 
Fold in  Chocolate Chips and Andes Baking Chips.
(5) Take 1 level teaspoon of the dough, roll into a ball, place on baking sheet and flatten with your fingers.
(6) Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
(*) If you have leftover chocolate chips, toss them in a microwave safe bowl, heat in intervals of 30 seconds, stirring in between, until all morsels are melted, and dip cookies in for an extra chocolatey taste :)
 
 
5 Minute Pita Chips…* 
It has been 81 days since my last blog post and I am astonished at how much my life has changed since February 23. Not only did I take on a completely new overwhelming, yet extremely rewarding job, but I moved into my dream condo downtown Chicago in the heart of ‘the loop.’ 

I’m happy to say I’m finally beginning to feel settled into both, and with a little spare time on my hands, I’m BACK IN BUSINESS! Wahooo! Time for a celebration, and by that I mean, a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies! :)
As most of you can relate, moving out of an old apartment (house or condo) and into a new one is very expensive and completely time consuming. Without any time or money on my side, my diet consisted of mini marshmallows, frozen meals, chocolate chips, pb&j, and the occasional splurge of fresh pita bread and hummus.

There were several times when I paced back and forth in the grocery store debating the items in my cart—99% of the time, these things went back on the shelf because I couldn’t justify stuffed chicken breasts, salted pita chips, and fresh squeezed orange juice over paint, packaging tape, and pillows.

It wasn’t long before I started to get creative in my cramped and empty kitchen. With a few spices on hand, a drizzle of olive oil, and a few slices of pita bread, I crafted homemade pita chips in less than 5 minutes. And to be completely honest, they taste better than the $5.99 16oz. bag of Stacy’s; but I’ll let you be the judge of that. Enjoy! 
The Ingredients…*
1 package pita bread (I used Kronos Honey Wheat)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon sea salt

The Instructions…* 
(1) Preheat oven to 400° F; Line cookie sheet with tin foil and spray lightly with cooking spray
(2) Cut each pita into 8 triangles or ‘wedges

(3) Arrange wedges on baking sheet, and brush with oil
(4) Sprinkle with garlic powder, pepper, garlic salt, and a dash of sea salt for texture
(5) Bake 8 to 12 minutes, or until toasted and golden, rotating pan halfway through 
(!!) Watch carefully for they burn easily
Serve immediately, or store in Ziploc bag for up to 2 days.
Dip 'em in hummus, tabouleh, or peanut butter...or just enjoy alone!
 

little shortcake...*