Valentine’s Day Confession

A wise man once said “if I’m gonna tell it, then I gotta tell it all/damn near cried when I got that phone call/I’m so thrown and I don’t know what to do/But I gotta give you part two of my confessions”.  Truthfully, no one would call Usher Raymond a wise man. Especially for singing about the time Jermaine Dupri got his side chick pregnant. But America insisted on believing that Chili from TLC (the band, not the channel) dumped Usher becuase he was “having a baby by a woman that he barely even knew.” It’s a waaaaaaaaaay better story than the truth. The album Confessions sold millions of copies worldwide, so being business savvy is almost the same as being wise, right?

Anyway. I’m not nearly that interesting.

Everyone loves my chocolate chip cookies, including me. They are delightful. Who wouldn’t love a soft, gooey chocolate chip cookie? It’s perfect with a glass of milk or bowl of ice cream or even all by itself. These cookies are one of my most requested bakery items. I bake them with love but the secret ingredient is lies!

I only make my cookies using Nestle Toll House Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Dough. It’s in the refrigerated section at the grovery store and precut into 24 peices. In 10 minutes, I have the best no-muss no-fuss cookies. No one’s ever questioned the authenticity of these cookies (to my face).

A couple weeks ago, I saw a bag of Reese’s Pieces for baking and decided to make Reese’s Pieces cookies for my family. I grabbed a nearby bag of Nestle chocolate chips and was shocked at the recipe’s simplicity. In that moment I decided I could make my own heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies. If these were a success, I’d be making them for Valentine’s Day.

But I’m here to tell you the truth: My homemade cookies were garbage compared to the premade cookie dough. To be honest, they were fine. They tasted completely normal. Just like a typical run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookie. Nobody said “these cookies taste like you had an off day”. But I’m an overacheiver and need to be able to make chocolate chip cookies as good as the ones I’ve been faking.

I modified the original recipe for high altitude according to package directions. That might be where the problem started. Who knows, maybe the recipe is flawed to begin with. It definitely needs more butter. Probably more sugar. I’m convinced I should add orange peel.

How do you suggest  I change the recipe to make an honest woman of myself?

Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies (Makes 4 dozen)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour (for high altitude, add 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed (for high altitude, reduce to 2/3 cup)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (for high altitude, reduce to 2/3 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water (for high altitude only)
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate morsels

Special Tools

  • 2 tablespoon cookie scoop

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375* (for high altitude, preheat to 400*)
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl.
  3. Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy. Continue to beat, adding eggs one at a time.
  4. Continue to beat, slowly adding flour mix.
  5. Stir in chocolate morsels.
  6. Drop cookie dough scoops onto parchment lined cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Or drop cookie dough scoop into greased pan wells.
  7. Bake 9-11 minutes (for high altitude, 8-10 minutes)
  8. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. If using a baking pan, cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

 

Holiday Brownies

I work almost exclusively with engineers, and they’re a different lot. Please don’t mistake that for a knock. All I’m saying is that they process situations differently. Variety is the spice of life, right? I never knew how to explain that difference until a mechanical engineer summed it up.

As part of my Master’s program, I took an organizational behavior class. Think diversity in the workplace. Mech-E was presenting how she and her peers think … in 3D. She reads directions, looks at diagrams and her brain converts them into 3D schematics. This superpower allows them to foresee issues that won’t be realized until the future.  I’ll never forget her point: engineers aren’t obvious-problem solvers. Engineers invent problems to solve them.

With this in mind, backtrack to the most controversial recipe ever: Brownie Volcano Cookies.  It’s not necessary to read, but I highly suggest it for entertainment value. Bakers had a slight meltdown related to the fact that to make these cookies, a tray of brownies is needed, but you don’t use all the brownies.

Some were mystified what they should do with the leftover brownies. I’ve named them culinary engineers.  The vast majority of us, would probably conclude that we should eat the brownies or adjust the recipe for total consumption. But those Culinary-E’s looked at that recipe and instantly worried about 3/4 of a pan of brownies left to the birds. Waste not, want not is what my friend’s mother always said!

img_3368
My friend (who was NOT my Secret Santa) gave these to me. I told the entire office and all on social media this was the best gift and it wasn’t even the big gift day!

 

In a story that is neither here, nor there, about workplace Secret Santa gone awry, I received a spectacular gift that is the seasonal solution to those leftover brownies.

 

I present to you HOLIDAY BROWNIE* CHRISTMAS TREES!

 

 

Okay, so, I actually had to make brownies. I didn’t receive pre-made brownies as a gift. Because brownies as a Christmas gift is not a thing.

 

Easy Christmas Trees appeared in my Pinterest feed and the solution to the chocolate brownie chip volcano problem was apparent!

Notably, my brownies are rather plain. But I didn’t want to put anyone into a sugar induced coma by adding candy on top of a brownie filled with candy. If I had Culinary-E skills, I would’ve pulled the M&M’s out of the mix and used them to decorate my trees. In fact, all those “extras” made it difficult to get a clean cut and insert the pretzel. (I also had to take them out of my volcano cookies.) The great thing about this recipe is it can be used year round by substituting seasonal candy. You could use cookie cutters to create Valentine’s Day brownies, St Patrick’s Day Brownies, Easter Brownies. You get the idea.  Before you think I’m being wasteful, you can use the scraps for volcano cookies! What holiday do you plan on making these for?img_3450

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour (for high altitude baking, add an extra 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup M&M’s (or any candy coated chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate or White Chocolate Morsels
  • 1/2 cup Walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/4 cup Water (for high altitude baking, add an 2 Tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Green Frosting
  • Pretzel Rods

Special Tools

  • Brownie Spatula

Directions

Brownies

  1. Preheat oven to 350*. (for high altitude baking, heat to 375*)
  2. Combine all dry  ingredients together in a bowl. Stir in oil, eggs, water, and vanilla until well mixed.
  3. Grease a square or rectangular cake pan. (Lining with parchment paper is an alternative)
  4. Pour the brownie mix into the pan. Ensure it’s evenly distributed.
  5. Bake 35 minutes or until inserted pick comes out clean. (for high altitude baking, cook for 25 minutes)
  6.  Remove from oven and run a brownie spatula between the sides of the pan and brownie.
  7. Cool completely before cutting.

Christmas Trees

  1. Cut brownie into thirds. (Can be done while still in pan)
  2. Cut each third into triangles
  3. Insert pretzel rod to create a tree trunk.
  4. Frost each tree and decorate as your heart desires. Don’t forget a star at the top!
*My gift tag said Holiday Brownies. The original recipe is Batter Bowl Brownies by Pampered Chef.

 

Please Define “Gift”

During my eye brow wax my esthetician wondered aloud “since when did cookies and cakes become Christmas gifts?” I giggled and she theorized why diets start at the new year.  It’s not that January is a time for a fresh start, she mused, but it’s that we’ve been eating since Halloween. Candy quickly turns into a Thanksgiving feast followed by a barrage of baked goodies.  All that food made her sluggish. She didn’t want to be cliche as she resolved that her family is going to eat healthy. Right after they finish all the biscochitos her neighbor gave them (as a gift I presume).

I give my family a cookie basket every year. I don’t know if that counts as a gift though. In the strictest sense of the definition, sure. I think of it as sharing.

cookie-basket

This year’s basket was filled with love and

Not 10 minutes after my eyebrows were cleaned up, I heard officially that without a doubt, new gym memberships soar on January 2. New Year’s resolutions, ya know? Freakonomics pinpointed the exact day that gym attendance falls off. Based on my observation, it’s Presidents’ Day. By the end of the third week in January, my gym is back to normal. Are you ready for the official answer? Do you even want to know? Stop reading if you don’t. This is your last chance. The day people quit the gym is the first Thursday in February! Do you know what day people return to fast food chains in droves? The second Friday in February. I’m not sure if there’s a correlation between that week and Mardi Gras.

Do Christmas cookies count as a gift? What are your favorite items in a holiday basket?

Brownie Volcano Cookies

The comment section always has the potential to become a volcano. Words spill out of people’s minds and onto the Internet like hot gases escaping the inner chambers of Earth. Those first gassy comments are harbingers of destruction to come! People respond  with volcanic ash and before long, the thread is a stream of magma scorching everyone involved.

Pillsbury emailed me a new cookie recipe. It was so new there weren’t any reviews. When I made the cookies a week later, I saw it was rated 3.25 stars (out of 5). I wasn’t prepared to find turmoil. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive. Maybe I’m being overly dramatic. Maybe I simply underestimated my fellow bakers’ passion.

The key to 3-Ingredient Brownie Batter Cookies wrapping a brownie inside a chocolate chip cookie. Not sure why the recipe is called brownie batter because you need cooked brownies. Herein lies the source of conflict. An entire batch of brownies must be made but only 1/4 are needed.

Sharkcuterie innocuously said “I don’t know if I’d ever make a whole pan of brownies just to make these cookies, but I will totally keep this recipe handy to upgrade leftover brownies when they start to get dry.” Great idea! Chellybell13 was probably just being helpful in replying “Just buy another roll of the cookie dough and double the recipe.” This comment is perplexing. By my math, The Shark needs to quadruple the recipe. Anyhoo.

Crafter404 chimed in “… and personally with that much prep needed I would have enough cookie dough to do all the brownies.” When the recipe initially went up, it said 20 hours of prep time. Crafter’s subtext: get enough cookie dough to make 32 cookies, not 8.

In my opinion, Sweetthhth01’s thought was unnecessary. “The prep time on these cookie is 20 min. not 20 Hrs.” The very first comment and replies establish the prep time was changed. And that capital H … I felt like we all got reprimanded.

The last 2 comments are classic!

Grandmaknits10 gave the recipe 1 star because “Would have preferred a be able to make these cookies using the entire pan of brownie!  All this for ONLY 8 cookie? No deal!” To which Brutie responded “Just make more! It’s not rocket science” And you know what, Grandma has a point — haven’t decided if this recipe was a lot of work. I choked trying not to spit out my coffee when I read Brutie’s assessment of difficulty level.

Mnmsmom9498 finishes the thread with “What is the other purpose for the remaining brownies?” Pizzarolchick obviously had enough and snapped “How about to eat? Honestly, I’ve never seen such silly comments on a recipe thread.” (15 people found this helpful.) Brutie wasn’t about to let Pizza Chick have the last word and closed the conversation with “Ummm, eating?” Mic drop. Pillsbury members out.

Want to stir up drama in your kitchen with your very own brownie volcano cookies?31374085352_943a8b26da_o

Ingredients

  • Brownie Mix
  • 1 Ounce Cream Cheese (softened)
  • 1 Roll (16.5 oz) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Special Tools

  • 1-Tablespoon Cookie Scoop
  • Brownie Spatula

Directions

Brownies30679544494_a4bde8c5ca_z

  1. Make the brownies according to directions. [For high altitude baking, add 1/4 cup flour and 2 tablespoons water]
  2. Bake the brownies according to package directions. [For high altitude baking, bake at 325* for 15-20 minutes]
  3. Remove from oven and run a brownie spatula between the sides of the pan and brownie. You could also cut the brownies now.
  4. After 10 minutes, remove from pan and allow to cool completely.

Cookies

  1. Crumble 1/4 of the brownies into a mixing bowl. Add the cream cheese and use your hands to combine thoroughly.30711490083_dfb0c2c4a5_m
  2. Use cookie scoop to create 8 brownie balls.31482544396_fed9bdb01f_z
  3. Cut cookie dough roll into 16 slices. Flatten the slices slightly.31405142071_f1b4193bde_q
  4. Place brownie roll between 2 slices to create a cookie ball. Make sure the brownie is completely covered by cookie dough and all edges are sealed together.
  5. Repeat to create 8 cookies. Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.31482552516_547e097650_z
  6. Preheat oven to 350*.
  7. Chill cookies in freezer until oven is ready.
  8. Bake 17-20 minutes, or until cookies are golden. [For high altitude baking, bake 11-15 minutes].
  9. Cool on cookie sheet for 20 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

    30679889184_76dc25637d_z
    Don’t these look like volcanoes?

 

What is the best comment (good or bad) you’ve ever read online? Got any ideas how to make these cookies less controversial?

Gobble Gobble Cupcakes

Where has 2016 gone? I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is this week!

When the holidays roll around, I start filling my Pinterest boards with crafts and eats (and crafty treats) that I never look at again until next Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year. Please tell me that I’m not the only one who does this.08b0e868261f0b6debbe5452d18adde71

This year is different though. Recently I started baking every Sunday. There’s only so many boxes of brownies that I can make before that becomes just as mundane as cooking a nightly dinner.

Thankfully, my pins have inspired me to try new sweets.

I don’t have a whole lot of experience in whipping pins into real life, so I took turkeysone look at those turkeys on the right and thought since I’ve worked with candy faces before, I can easily recreate these without looking at the original recipe. (Post script: there’s not an “original recipe”)

Not too shabby for my first try, right? My co-workers were impressed and declared their children would love to eat these for Thanksgiving dinner. They are pretty simple to make and practice can only make them better.

Ingredients:

  • Nutter Butter Cookies or Chocolate Wafers
  • Candy Eyes
  • Yellow M&M’s (plain)
  • Decorating Icing
  • Cake Mix
  • Chocolate Frosting
  • Candy Corn

Special Tools

  • Kitchen Shears

Directions

Assemble the Face

  1. Lay cookies on a flat surface. (If using Oreo’s, frost one side)
  2. Cut the M&M’s in half, using kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
  3. Using icing, affix the eyes on each cookie. (No need for icing if you frosted the cookie)
  4. Using red icing, draw a snood*. Affix the beak to the snood using icing. (No need for icing if you frosted the cookie)
  5. Leave flat until icing hardens.

Assemble the Cupcakes

  1. Make the cupcakes according to package directions. [For high altitude baking, add 1/4 cup flour and 2 tablespoons water]
  2. Bake according to package directions. [For high altitude baking, bake at 325* for 15-20 minutes]
  3. Let cupcakes cool for 10 minutes before removing from cupcake tin.
  4. Let cupcakes cook completely before frosting.

Assemble the Turkeys

  1. Insert the Nutter Butter face into the cupcake, the closer to the “front” the better.(Lay the Oreo face on the cupcake, the closer to the “front” the better)
  2. Insert the candy corn in a semi-circle near the “back” of the cupcake to create the tail feathers.

turkey-collage

Here’s a few tips so that your turkeys are more Pinterest-worthy:

  • Use decorating icing. I used cookie icing, which dries much faster but is a lot messier.
  • The faces will look neater if you match the icing to the color item you’re using. White frosting for the eyes, and yellow for the beak.
  • Concerned about peanut allergies? Use another type of cookie.

Let me know what you think of these adorable little turkeys. Have you made them yourself? Would you make them for a gathering?

Happy Thanksgiving!

*I Googled "that red thing on a turkey". It's called a snood.