Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell 2012

2012 has been quite a year! Has it gone as fast for you as it has for me? The first half of the year flew by, and the rest of the year after Labor Day always goes incredibly fast. I always thought my parents were crazy when they talked about how time flies, but now I really get it.

I made some really delicious recipes this year. A few of my favorites... 

I also ate a lot of great cookies. A few highlights from 2012...
Chicago Cookie Finds 1 and 2

I'm sure 2013 will be just as great! What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Delicate Mint Holiday Sandwich Cookies

I came across this recipe on Food Network's website for new ideas. Below is my adapted version. I happened to have 2 ounces of cream cheese in the refrigerator, so it was meant to be! These cute cookies are a great size for a holiday party. They are not too sweet either. The cookies themselves have nice buttery flavor and are slightly crispy. I didn't decorate mine with sugar, but it would have been a nice touch. I'll remember that for next year!
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
2 ounces cream cheese softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar 
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 

Mint Filling:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 
2 tablespoons butter softened
1 drop mint extract 
2 drops red or green food coloring 
1/2-1 teaspoons water

For the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the flour slowly, mixing on low, until incorporated. Scoop the dough into a ball using your hands and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until the dough has firmed slightly, about 30 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll the dough about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out as many rounds as possible with a small cookie cutter and transfer to ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between each cookie. Re-roll the dough scraps and repeat until all the dough is used.

Bake until golden around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

For the filling: Place the sugar, butter, mint extract, food coloring and 1/2 teaspoon of water in a medium bowl and beat on medium speed until well combined and fluffy. Spread a thin layer of mint filling on the cookies and form sandwiches.
Yields 18 sandwiches

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mint Chocolate Cookies

I know I go on and on about my chocolate and mint obsession. These cookies are slightly chewy, but not cakey. They are full of chocolate and mint chunks and were especially good warm from the oven. This treat will definitely warm up a cold winter afternoon!

3/4 cup packed brown sugar 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 eggs 
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
24 Andes Mint candies, unwrapped
1 cup mini chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
In large bowl, cream together brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, shortening, vanilla and eggs. Gradually mix in cocoa powder, flour, and baking soda. Stir in mints and the mini chocolate chips.
Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto cookies sheets..
Bake 11 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown slightly. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Yields 3 dozen

Monday, December 17, 2012

Peppermint Frosted Brownies

I cannot believe we are this far into December! This time since Thanksgiving has really flown by. If you're like me and need a holiday treat and are short on time, try this fast recipe. If you want to make your brownies from scratch, try this brownie recipe. I decorated my brownies with red decorating sugar. These have a slight peppermint flavor that is not too strong.

1 box of fudge brownie mix (sized for a 13x9 pan)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray.
Prepare brownies per the instructions on the box. Pour the batter into the prepare pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
While the brownies are baking, using a hand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Mix in peppermint extract. Gradually add in the powdered sugar. If necessary add milk to achieve desired consistency.
Spread a light layer of frosting over the brownies. Then slice and decorate.
Yields 36 bars

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dancing Deer Baking Company- Cookie Sampler

Are you looking for a holiday gift this season? Well, look no further! Since I had such a great experience with the shortbread assortment earlier this year, I purchased the Classic Cookie Sampler from Dancing Deer Baking Company. It arrived in a cute box with a green ribbon and was filled with nicely packaged cookie stacks. The cookie sampler includes eight of each of these cookies: molasses, triple chocolate chip, lime sugar, and cranberry orange. What a perfect assortment for this time of year! Here's the scoop:

Molasses- It's like taking a bite out of Christmas!
Triple Chocolate Chip- This was my favorite. Yum! I had a hard time limiting myself to two per day on these chewy treats. They had plenty of chocolate and white chocolate chips, too.
Lime Sugar- This slightly crispy cookie has a very strong lime flavor that is a little overpowering.
Cranberry Orange- What a perfect cookie for the holidays! This crispy orange, cranberry, and white chocolate cookie gave me a nice burst of afternoon energy.

The Classic Cookie Sampler was $39.99 plus shipping. To take a look at Dancing Deer Baking Company's online catalog, visit

Monday, December 10, 2012

Three Hearts Bakeshop & Cookies by Design

Cookies by Design
I had a wonderful birthday celebration a few weeks ago that included a surprise visit to pick up my very own cookie bouquet at Cookies by Design. What a fantastic treat! My fall-themed five cookie display (2 pumpkin shaped cookies, one sunflower, one scarecrow, and one leaf) was beautifully wrapped and easy to transport. The handmade decorations were perfectly done. The cookies themselves were thick sugar cookies that were soft, but not crumbly. The taste was just average, so you are definitely buying the bouquet for its beauty rather than taste.
Cookies by Design has about 60 locations throughout the country and also ships their beautiful displays (there are a lot of cute holiday-themed gifts!). Visit their website at for more information.

Three Hearts Bakeshop
A few weeks ago I came across some cookie sandwiches and Deli-licious in Costa Mesa. The sandwiches were individually wrapped and looked mighty delicious! I went with the chocolate chip with chocolate filling. Yum! What a find. The filling was a little too sweet, but the intense chocolate flavor made up for it. Luckily Three Hearts Bakeshop also ships across the country. Cookie sandwiches are $18-$20 per dozen and come in a variety of flavors. You can also order just cookies for the reasonable price of $30 per dozen. Definitely add them to your holiday shopping list:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Beverly Hills Brownie Company

Going into this store, I was pretty skeptical. The selection was amazing, but the $3.25 price tag seemed steep. Despite that, I tried the Red Velvet Brownie and the Classic Chocolate Walnut Brownie. Both were excellent! I'm wishing I bought more. Both kinds were rich and chewy. The red velvet even had a buttercream filling.

If you are in need of another sweet gift for the holidays, this is it. Brownies can be shipped anywhere in the continental United States or Canada or purchased at their store in Beverly Hills (315 N. Beverly Drive). Visit their website for more details:

Monday, December 3, 2012

One-Bowl Peppermint Patty Brownies

Here is another great recipe from Anna Ginsberg's The Daily Cookie- a wonderful holiday gift for the baker in your life. These brownies and chocolaty and chewy, and the peppermint patties are a nice surprise. If you don't like mint, this is a great brownie recipe on its own.
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs plus 2 tablespoons of lightly beaten egg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
12 small peppermint patties

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the center. Line an 8-inch metal pan with nonstick foil, or line it with regular foil and spray the flour with flour-added baking spray.
In a large, microwave-safe mixing bowl, microwave the butter on high for 30 seconds, or until melted. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth, then whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. When eggs are well mixed, whisk in the baking powder, salt, and flour. Reserve about 1 cup of batter. Spread the remaining batter in the prepared pan.
Arrange the peppermint patties about 1/2 inch apart in a single layer over the batter. Spread the reserve batter over the patties. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. It should come out with moist crumbs as opposed to batter. Let cool completely in the pan, then chill until cold. Grasp the foil, lift from the pan, set on a cutting board, and cut int sixteen squares.
Yields 16 servings.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mini Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Perfect for a holiday party, these mini mint chocolate whoopie pies are a hit. The chewy cookie sandwiches are the perfect combination of mint and chocolate. They can be made the night before, too. Just be sure to refrigerate them overnight and let them warm up for an hour or so.
Chocolate Whoopie Pies
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup of cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla 
Mint Filling
2 cups confectioners sugar sifted
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Green food coloring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla.
Gradually add in the flour mixture and buttermilk in stages, starting and ending with the flour.
Spoon tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets.
Bake 11-13 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the filling, cream together butter and confectioner sugar. Add milk until filling is at the desired consistency. Stir in peppermint extract. Add green food coloring until the desired color is achieved. Spoon one tablespoon of filling onto a cookie and press another cookie on top to form the whoopie pie.
Yields 24 mini whoopie pies.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! What a weekend! Thanksgiving through Christmas is my favorite time of year. I'm still in pumpkin mode, but soon it will be time for chocolate mint. Yum!
Here is another recipe from Anna Ginsberg's The Daily Cookie (add this cookbook to your holiday wish list!). The bars had a great flavor and were very chewy. The cream cheese frosting is a must since they are not very sweet otherwise. I omitted the pecans.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup toasted and chopped pecans

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center. Line a 9 by 13-inch metal pan with nonstick foil or just spray the pan with flour-added baking spray.
Make the base: Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, using a handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until well mixed. Add the vanilla and orange zest. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Stir in the pumpkin, followed by the pecans. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until set. Let cool completely in the pan. 
Make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl, using a handheld electric mixer. When smooth and creamy, beat in the vanilla and the orange zest. Add the confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl, until you get the consistency you like. Spread on the cooled bars. Using the foil (if you have lined the pan), lift the bars from the pan, set on a cutting board, and cut into 24 bars.
Yields 24 bars

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cheryl's Cookies

While I was in Chicago, we headed over to Oak Park (just a 40 minute train ride from downtown) to see some of the Frank Lloyd Wright architectural sites. I was so excited to discover a Cheryl's Cookies store. Until I went in, I didn't believe it really was a store with the amazing Cheryl's Cookies I have seen in catalogs. Cookie Heaven! With so many flavors, it was hard to decide what to try. Beautiful boxes were available for packaging gifts. Cookies were $1.60 each or 5 for $5. I tried 11 :) Take a look... 
Chocolate Chip- average, better off sticking with specialty cookies
Celebration Chocolate Chip- just like the chocolate chip cookie with pretty colorful chocolate candy pieces
Banana Split Cookie with Walnuts- expected more of this cookie- tasted just like banana cookies I make with chocolate frosting on top
Carmel Chocolate Pecan- fantastic chewy carmel with ground pecans mixed in
Buttercream Frosted Peanut Butter Candy Cookie- soft peanut butter cookie that's not grainy, great chocolate frosting, candies add a nice crunch
Salty Carmel Chocolate Chip- lots of chocolate and carmel without too much salt
Honey Roasted Chocolate Peanut Butter- messy with a strong peanut butter flavor and lots of chocolate chunks
Buttercream Frosted Cut Out- delicious buttercream over a soft cookie (equal parts buttercream and equal parts cookie!)
Buttercream Frosted Cinnamon Pumpkin- great fall cookie with strong cinnamon and pumpkin flavors
Buttercream Frosted Chocolate Peppermint- perfect for the holidays, wonderful peppermint frosting
Lemon Blueberry- fresh, light lemon flavor, but in need of more blueberries

Order cookies at www.cheryls.comHave a great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chicago Cookie Finds Part 2

More from Chicago! What is a trip to Chicago without deep dish pizza and catching a game at Wrigley Field? As if I weren't having enough fun already, I tried cookies at a couple of pizza places and at the Cubs game. Here's the scoop:

Lou Malnati's- Before I went, several people told me this was the best deep dish pizza in town. It certainly did not disappoint on the pizza side, but the deep dish cookie did. I guess their focus is on their pizza, since this tasted just like undercooked refrigerated cookie dough. It is $3.25 for an individual size and $6.25 for a larger cookie.

Pequod's Pizza- This was our favorite pizza of the trip. I wish they shipped to California! For $2.25, we tried their warm chocolate chip cookie. It was a large saucer-sized cookie with milk chocolate and dark chocolate chunks- a very nice way to end our meal.

Prairie City- The Official Cookie of the Chicago Cubs- As if I need one more thing to eat at a baseball game, I found a great cookie that I will have to have if I'm ever back at Wrigley Field. The soft cookie needed some more chocolate chips, but the brown sugar and vanilla undertones were pleasant. $3.25 per cookie is not bad for a baseball game.

Fannie Mae- Just an aside... Great chocolate here! Their carmash (carmel marshmallow covered in chocolate) is especially tasty. I purchased two of their cookies (chocolate with buttercream and toffee chocolate chip, $1.50 each), which tasted just like the Cheryl's Cookies I will review next week. The packaging was eerily similar, too.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

I think people either love or hate pumpkin. I'm one of those who loves it! I cannot get enough of the pumpkin flavored drinks, treat, soups, breads, etc at this time of year. My favorite is the pumpkin spice frappucino at Starbucks. I've also had pumpkin bread every day for breakfast the past two weeks... I guess there could be worse addictions. :)
1 box of fudge brownie mix (sized for a 13x9 pan)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray.
Prepare brownies per the instructions on the box. Pour the batter into the prepare pan.
Using a hand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and pumpkin. Add in the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well.
Spoon dollops of the pumpkin cream cheese mixture into the brownie batter. Using a knife, lightly swirl the pumpkin cream cheese through the brownie batter. Do not mix it in. Just lightly swirl.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.
Yields 36 bars

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

Fall is here! These bars are a great way to welcome the season. They made my whole house smell like pumpkin yesterday afternoon. This slightly modified Martha Stewart recipe was very easy and produced a bar that was a cross between pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookies (more on the bread side). The bars were not too rich or sweet, and the mini chocolate chips provided just the right amount of chocolate and added a nice texture. I will definitely be making these every fall.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
With a stand or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Add pumpkin puree and mix well. Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake bars for 30-35 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan.
Cool bars completely in pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Yields 24 bars

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chicago Cookie Finds

Earlier this fall, I took a great trip to Chicago. I had never been (except for changing planes in the airport). It is a great city with so much to do. We also got really lucky and had amazing weather throughout the week. Let me know if you have any favorite things to see, do, or eat in Chicago, and I'll add it to my list next time I go!

I HAD to try some cookies while I was there. I went a little crazy, so I will have a couple more posts to wrap things up. To get things started...

Adler Planetarium- What a neat planetarium! We had great view of Chicago from here, too. In their Galileo cafe, I had a surprisingly good and freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. This classic cookie was soft and had a good amount of chocolate. For $2.25, it's definitely worth it.

Ben & Jerry's at Navy Pier- Navy Pier was so fun to walk around and was the departure point for a fun boat cruise. Of course, everyone knows Ben & Jerry's ice cream, but this was the first time I had seen cookies being served there. I wish more of their ice cream parlors offered them since they were only $2 and super chewy with lots of chocolate chunks. They even offered to warm it up for me, which made it even better!

Hershey's- I almost didn't go in this store located off of Michigan Avenue, but I'm so glad I did. They had an amazing cookie/brownie/decadent treats selection. I tried the S'mores Brownie (indulgent chocolaty brownie with toasted marshmallows on top- a little marshmallow heavy, but still good, $3.25), Dark Chocolate Cookie (I must find a copycat recipe, $1.75), and a Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwich with chocolate buttercream (excellent, could not stop eating it $3.95). You must go here!

More to come soon about the rest of my Chicago Cookie Finds...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Snickers Cookie Bars

Last Halloween I saw a recipe in Woman's Day magazine for Snickers blondies. I finally got around to making my own twist. These bars are chewy and have plenty of gooey goodness from the Snickers. Plus they're easy and fast to make! You can substitute Milky Way, but the peanuts add a nice crunch. Be sure to let them cool completely before slicing.
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
10 fun-sized Snickers (about 1 1/2 cups), chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Cream together margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg. Gradually add in the flour mixture.  
Pour the dough into a 8x8 baking pan sprayed with cooking spray. Push the dough into all corners. Put the Snickers candies on top and push into the dough.
Bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely before slicing. 
Yields 16 bars.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Banana Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I promised myself I would stop at two! (Of course, while they were baking I ate six or seven peanut butter minis, so I had to control myself when they came out of the oven.) I think I stopped at five. The soft cookie with the combination of banana, peanut butter, and chocolate is one of my favorites.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium banana, mashed
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter cups, roughly chopped

Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, and mix well. Mix in banana. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and peanut butter cups.
Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Drop dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies until golden (about 12 minutes).
Yields 2 Dozen

Monday, October 22, 2012

Butterfinger Sugar Cookies

I love Halloween and Halloween parties, but last minute events are not always the most fun. I like to have time to plan and prepare when I need to bring something. I admit to not being the most spontaneous type... Boring, I know... Oh well! For most people a couple of days notice would be enough, but I like at least one week. 
These turned out OK, but the Butterfingers themselves were a little chewy. I recommend freezing them before wrapping them with dough. You can certainly swap out any other Halloween candy you have extra of.

1 tube of sugar cookie dough
20 miniature Butterfingers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Surround the Butterfinger with cookie dough (put one ball of dough on top and another ball of dough on the bottom and press around the cookie).
Refrigerate the cookies for 15 minutes.
Bake for 14 minutes. Cool completely.
Yields 20 cookies