Girl Scout Cookie Bars

Samoa Girl Scout Cookie Bars

adapted from Baking Bites

These cookies are Girl Scout Cookies-gone to the bar. Hahaha. I crack myself up. I gave these to Mr. J as and I-owe-you at Christmas when I had lots of cooking before our holiday celebration with each family, and had plenty of holiday cookies around. I finally made ‘em and they were a baking success!
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Ingredients for Shortbread Base:

½ cup sugar
¾ cup butter, softened
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
¼ tsp salt

Directions for Shortbread Base:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray/flour/line with parchment a 9×13 baking pan.
Using a stand or hand mixer, cream sugar and butter together.
Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
Gradually add flour and salt, mixing until crumbly.
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Press doughy mixture into the pan and make a few holes with a fork.
Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. (Note: the base should be somewhat cooled before topping and topping cannot be prepped in advance to using it. Also note: I used a little pan but it was too thick.)
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Ingredients for the Topping:

3 cups shredded cocoanut
1 bag wrapped caramels (16 oz) unwrapped
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup milk
8 oz chocolate chips (or drizzle with chocolate sauce)

Directions for the Topping:

While shortbread base is cooking (or cooling if you prepped it in advance), put cocoanut onto a cookie sheet (with sides/edges) and spread into an even layer.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, or so, until evenly golden brown.
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While coconut is toasting, start unwrapping caramels.
Melt caramels over a double-boiler or in the microwave. Stir occasionally.
When partially melted, add milk and salt.
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Stir toasted coconut and caramels together.
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Spread coconut & caramel topping onto the shortbread base.
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Allow to cool somewhat before drizzling melted chocolate chips or chocolate syrup.
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These are not exactly as tricky as they might first seem. I’m not a baking connoisseur, so I’ve listed steps so you’re ready for the next one. I stuck to the recipe (I never deviate when baking) except that I used a 9×9 pan and the shortbread was wayyyy too thick. It didn’t seem like it until I baked it and it puffed a lot.

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The flavor was good and as bars, they were much less work than shaping cookies etc. These guys won’t exactly fool anyone into thinking they are sold by your local girl scout, but a 4-something a box, you could make a LOT of pans of these bars for that price.

Ice Cream Gift

The other day, I came home from work after being gone for 12 hours to find a surprise from one of my favorite people, Mrs. Z! I’m proud to be her friend and so impressed she found ice cream to send to me. She even themed it for my life and one of my favorite shows.

Mr. J and I are doing really well dealing with everything and trying to keep on, keepin’ on. It is just so nice to hear from all the people who want to offer condolences and encouragement (note: it doesn’t get old and is greatly appreciated).

That’s just how Mrs. Z rolls. She picks you up, thinks of exactly what you need, and serves it with a smile. She’s one of the kindest people I know and I appreciate her, all the time, but especially now. She just gets me and I know she’ll have a thoughtful response to whatever I throw at her. Her hubbie, Mr. B, is equally awesome (and he was a guest blogger woo hoo!). I only hope I get to meet baby Z allll the way in Houston sometime. I don’t get to see her nearly enough, but we’ve shared some big-time memories, unforgettable moments I’ll never forget.

She sent me eCreamery! I haven’t even heard of this!
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She named it after Parks & Rec
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It was delicious mint WITH brownie bits and oreo pieces. This is seriously good ice cream…and I know ice cream ;)
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I didn’t even know you could send ice cream. A snowy New England day needs ice cream, right?

(pssst. If you’d like to repay her with some kindness, support her on her crazy adventure!)

Cocoanuts Chocolate tasting

In the midst of everything else happening in my life, I was ever so grateful to spend a random Tuesday with Blog & Tweet Boston at Cocoanuts Boston  for a chocolate tasting. Just. What. the Dr. Ordered.

It was fun for a sweet treat and encouragement to go out in bitter winter. It was great to see Liz from Eating Places and Jessica from Little Miss Runshine there!

I joined some fellow bloggers from Blog and Tweet Boston for a fun night of chocolate samples, info, and champagne!
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The owners were truly an inspiration. These best friends decided it is never to late to do what you love. They left careers in advertising and real estate (did I get that right?) to open up a shop in the North End in Boston. I loved hearing how passionate they are about quality products and their focus on local and artisan treats.
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I liked seeing other goodies, like ice cream toppings, in addition to the many candies. I thought I could easily grab a gift for anyone, for any reason. Their items range in price big time. I felt like there was lots of options to a little something and they will also build huuuuge gift baskets.
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I swooned over the toffee from Little Bits Toffee. Toffee miiiight be my favorite sweet treat. That’s a bold statement, but I’m going there…
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We also got to meet Yes Chocolates. Sadly I devoured my sticky bun chocolate before snapping a photo. It was amazing, but I couldn’t believe this Walpole, MA candy maker hadn’t been to the town institution, Watson’s Candies, which has been in business continually since the 1930s. Tisk. Tisk. It is my alma mater/high school job. My loyalties will always reside with Watson’s.

That being said, Cocoanuts was super cute, classy and creative. I loved the inside and was thrilled they thought of the blogger community to introduce themselves.
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Are you drooling yet? They’re hosting a wine & chocolate tasting on Thursday Feb 7th 6-8pm. 

Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: I attended this complimentary event as part of the Blog and Tweet Boston group. The product samples were completely complimentary but my experience, thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I got some ice cream makers for Christmas. By some, I mean 2…how well does everyone know me?! (wait till I debut what the duplicate became!) I’ve been wanting to make ice cream for awhile. I knew exactly where to go. The gals at We Are Not Martha make it all the time. A) it looks amazing. B) the extent of unique flavors is endless.

I wasn’t sure how it’d go. I actually had a super frustrating experience when I attached an extra piece that wasn’t necessary for my mixer…it resulted in a crazy 20-minute detachment battle.
Kitchenaid: 1
Emily: 0
when the bowl defrosted, I was able to slip it off. I refroze the bowl and I dropped the extra piece into my miscellaneous drawer so I can discover it later and have no idea what it goes to.

The next night, when we both (the bowl & me) had calmed down, was take 2. It was easy peasy!
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PB Cup ice cream
(adapted from We Are Not Martha)

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
3/4 C sugar
2 C whipping cream
1 C milk
1/3 C smooth peanut butter
¾ cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:
Whisk two eggs in until light and frothy
Mix in the sugar a little at a time, while continuing to whisk until it’s all blended.
Pour the cream and the milk into the mixture and whisk until blended.
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Pour one cup of the mixture into a separate bowl and whisk peanut butter into that mixture until smooth.
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Then pour the peanut butter mixture back into the cream mixture. Whisk everything together.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your ice cream machine, but I recommend chilling cream mixture for 2-3 hours before processing.
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Pour into separate container and mix in chocolate chips by hand or for the last minute or two of the ice cream churning.
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freeze 5-6 hours, until hard.
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Makes a little more than a quart

I was pretty unsure about the cream mixture (with eggs) not being cooked at all. I figured it was safe since it would be frozen, but I don’t like to mess with egg safety. I live to tell you about it.

I loooved how much peanut butter flavor there was in this ice cream. And I loved that it was vanilla based. Chocolate based ice cream isn’t my favorite.

I’m psyched to make other kinds. The sky is the limit! Mr. J has requested grapenut…he loves that old-man flavor. I like lots of stuff in my ice cream. Like ripples, nuts, chunks or whatever.
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One time way back when, on vacation with the fam in Vermont, we discovered a convenience store that sold Ben & Jerry “rejects” for a discounted price. They were labeled like “not mixed enough” or “too many chunks” as if there is such a thing! It was like a gold mine! We ate some at our rental condo in wine glasses which seemed so magically fancy when I was 6 and may have been out of rental-outfitting-necessity looking back.

No Fail Fudge

I gave a few edible gifts again this year for the holidays. Sometimes there’s just so much stuff. I like a few gifts in there that can be consumed, used, and then gone. I haven’t gotten crazy with my packaging but maybe I’ll have my act together enough sometime.

This year I made my Dad some mocha fudge. He was telling me about some mocha fudge he had on a vacation he and my mom took so I nabbed that subtle hint and ran with it. Now let’s also set the stage: I don’t bake a lot. Making candy? Umm nope, never. My grandma used to make it and she wasn’t really a cook, so I figured if she could do it, I’d definitely give it a whirl.

I followed the instructions EXACTLY. Fluff’s no-fail fudge seemed simple enough and I did it! Woohoo! Spoiler alert: success!

I made a half batch and it was quite a lot of fudge. Plan on giving it away. It won’t help your New Year’s resolutions one bit. I swear. I’ll stop tempting you soon.

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Ingredients:

2 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 stick butter or margarine
1 5 oz. can evaporated milk (2/3 c.)
1 Jar (7 1/2oz) Marshmallow Fluff
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1 12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate pieces
espresso

Directions:

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. (I lined a pan with parchment paper instead.)
In large saucepan combine the first sugar, salt, butter/margarine, and evaporated milk.
mocha_fudge_sugar_590_390Add fluff and stir over low heat until blended.
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Increase heat to Medium and bring to a full-rolling boil being careful not to mistake escaping air bubbles for boiling. Boil slowly, stirring constantly for 5 minutes (use Soft-Ball test).
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Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, chocolate pieces, and espresso until chocolate is melted.
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Turn into greased pan and cool.
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The original recipe makes 2 1/2 pounds. That is a heck of a lot for one person. I used a 9×9 pan and really liked the thickness. I can’t imagine my fudge doubled in that same size pan. The half batch is borderline-too-much-for-one-person.

While it was hot, it didn’t seem very mocha flavored. I let it sit for a few hours then I thought the flavor came out big time. I gifted it in a holiday tin with wax paper. I didn’t cut it into bite sized pieces since it will get stale and hard faster.
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I was psyched it worked so well. I want to try my hand at chocolate peanut butter fudge next! I just need a willing recipient…

Apple Cider Cookies

I wanted to try out the pudding cookies that Flying on Jess Fuel made, butttt the necessary gingerbread pudding ingredient wasn’t for sale anywhere near me. The office cookie swap warranted something out of the ordinary for a holiday cookie swap. I’m not always 100% into mint so that narrows holiday cookie options.

I know, this goes against resolutions about 97% of of you out there have made, but they’re really good, and I made them during the holiday craziness and just didn’t get to share it with you till now. Just wait. There’s more to tempt you still to come…
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I took a personal day that would have expired by the end of the year and baked cookies at mom’s house. We made a few different kinds going and all were successful!

I pinned these sugar cookies made with hot apple cider mix and thought they sounded great. They seemed a bit fall-ish but I tweaked them and they were a hit for the holidays.

Apple Cider Cookies

adapted from Dreaming All Day

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
6 tbs sugar
1 individual serving size packet hot cider
2 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 tbs milk
1 ½ cups butterscotch or cinnamon chips
¼ cup sugar
3 tbs cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat butter, sugar, cider mix, vanilla, and salt.
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Add flour in and mix until well combined.
Mix in chips by hand.
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Roll cookie dough in 1 inch balls into mixed cinnamon and sugar.
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Bake 9 minutes and let cool on cooling racks.
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I loved these. I thought they were way more exciting than sugar cookies. I amped up the cider mix more than the original recipe called for and I added chips. It might be a weird ingredient to buy just for cookies, but I had some for a hot drink anyway.

Apple Cheesecake Dip

It is almost Thanksgiving and I have an easy 3 ingredient dip/dessert for you to have on hand if you’re worried about what you’ve planned to make. Or maybe you need one more thing to keep the masses fed.
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I saw this apple cheesecake dip on pinterest and thought it sounded awesome. It is one of those foods that just can’t LOOK as good as it tastes. I added it to a dinner of appetizers and it was awesome.

Apple Cheesecake Dip

Adapted from Cooking Classy

Ingredients:

8oz cream cheese
¼ cup caramel ice cream topping
¼ cup toffee pieces
apples for dipping

Directions:

Allow the cream cheese to soften slightly.
Beat cream cheese, caramel sauce, and toffee bits.
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Serve with sliced apples.

This has such great flavor for just a few ingredients. I liked the apple dippers but graham crackers would be good, or animal crackers.

The original recipe has the apples dipped into the cream cheese dip and then into crushed graham crackers. I added the toffee in the dip instead for a pop of crunch.
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This is a crowd pleaser and a super easy one to whip up. Something about it says fall to me, but apples are available all the time so I’m not sure where my season-ness is coming from. I definitely recommend this dip for an easy appetizer or light dessert. I love to be sure there are a few simple items when I’m hosting for an easy check mark on your list.

Tip: a few drips of lemon juice will help the apples not to brown. Prep the dip and refrigerate until you serve it. Slice the apples when you’re ready to eat!

(Plus, this one got Mr. J eating some fruit. Shhh! Don’t tell him!)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream

Something Pumpkin had a natural spot on on my fall list but I thought I needed to go beyond pumpkin muffins or pumpkin bread.

I made super easy pumpkin muffins but these Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream definitely step it up. Keep in mind, I’m not a big baker. I relied on a whoopie pie cookbook I fully recommend. I made oatmeal whoopie pies a while ago and they were amazing!

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Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

adapted from Whoopie Pies

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tbs ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350-degrees and line baking sheets with parchment or spray whoopie pan.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, giner, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.
In a stand mixer, mix brown sugar and butter on low.
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Add pumpkin, and egg, beating well.
Add vanilla and beat until combined.
Mix in flour mixture.
Scoop out equal patties and bake about 15 minutes each.
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These guys were a bit cake-y for my liking. The flavor was great and they were pretty easy. If you like cake-y (versus gooey) desserts, then this one will be perfect. The pumpkin adds a textural element which I love, but think it works better as muffins.

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Maple cream

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tbs milk
2 tbs maple syrup

Directions:

In a mixing bowl beat butter, add sugar, milk, and syrup.
Mix 5 minutes until well mixed.
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The maple cream was good but wasn’t as thick as it looks. Cream cheese frosting would be really good and might hold up to the pies better. Here’s to next time!

Oreo Dip

Awhile back I made a dip that was sooo easy it made me think kids would have fun making it. The original source on Pinterest was a blog that seems MIA or maybe they’re just under construction.
The Three Bite Rule - Oreo Dip

Ingredients:

1 box white chocolate pudding (I used instant)
2 cups milk
8 oz cool whip (aka frozen non-dairy whipped topping)
½ package Oreos (or about 25 oreos)
1 box chocolate graham crackers

Directions:

Mix pudding and milk until thickened (about 2 minutes)
The Three Bite Rule - Oreo DipAdd cool whip and crushed oreos mixing well.
The Three Bite Rule - Oreo Dip
Refrigerate for at least and hour before serving.
The Three Bite Rule - Oreo Dip

I liked this for a twist on a regular dip. It was an easy one that didn’t require any baking. Serve it with chocolate graham crackers.

Mr. J thought this was great. It made a ton so I took half to a small meeting and we enjoyed the other half at home. The photo above is half of what I made! This stayed good for a few days, after that, the oreos were a bit soggy. I thought it was a bit loose or soupy but the original post included mini marshmallows too so that would change the consistency.

I was thinking these would be great as chocolate graham cracker “ice cream” sandwiches. Maybe next time I’ll whip in some cream cheese to thicken it and I’ll freeze graham sandwiches filled with it.

Cost Breakdown:

1 pkg chocolate sandwich cookie: $2.75
1 pkg white chocolate pudding mix:  $1.00
1 pkg cool whip: $2.49
1 pkg chocolate graham crackers:  $3.49
total: $9.73/10 servings = $0.97 per person (with graham crackers and oreos leftover!)

I skimped on the cookies and bought the cheapest ones I could find, and went “high end” on the dippers but this whole thing could be made for even less.

Cheese Danish Squares

So you know that I’m not a great baker, right? I’m trying more often. I recently made lemon squares which came out pretty decent and now I made these Chess Squares or Gooey Butter Cake and it was 50% successful.

If I was only 50% successful then why are you still reading? I’m sure you want to know which half worked Well! Tricky, tricky, I split it into 2 pans and brought one to a weekend with the fam in Maine and left one home. Unfortunately I brought the over-done-one to Maine (not pictured) and Mr. J demolished the successful one at home (pictured below).
The Three Bite Rule - Cheese Danish Squares
It didn’t look like it was going to set so I baked one longer (as in too long) and they weren’t as gooey. I think that’s my baking problem. I deviate from the recipe. I need to follow the instructions exactly. I need to trust the system. They were totally edible though and definitely the easiest baked good ever.

Cheese Danish Squares

(Chess Squares by Kevin and Amanda, Gooey Butter Cake by Paula Deen, & anyone else who makes this)

Ingredients:

1 (18 1/4-ounce) box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 16-ounce box powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 and spray a 9×13 dish with cooking spray.
Mix cake mix, melted butter and one egg to a soft dough.
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Press into the bottom of the pan.
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Mix powdered sugar, softened cream cheese and remaining two eggs until smooth, about 1-2 mins.
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Pour on top of crust.
Bake at 300 for 40-50 minutes until top is golden brown.
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They reminded me of a cheese danish so I’m throwing one more name into the mix. I like them as a sweet brunch item but call it another name and you’ve got a dessert.
The Three Bite Rule - Cheese Danish Squares

They were suuuuper easy and would be great to throw together last minute…I mean. ehh. you totally planned ahead. and had everything you needed. and looked as organized as Martha Stewart. and didn’t arrive empty handed like Emily Post taught you.