salty caramel pretzel brownies

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Sometimes managing a blog can be difficult.

I mean, aside from all the time spent shopping, prepping, cooking, photographing, and planning… all of that aside, the hardest thing by far is writing. Sometimes I just want to put up a picture and then put the recipe below and be done with it.

Writers block. It’s real, yo.

And it’s serious.

Sometimes I could talk about brownies for days (and sometimes I do)…  and then other times, like today, I’m all like, “How much can you really say about brownies?” 

Hi, I made brownies. Here is a picture to prove I made them. Here is another picture in case you’re still not convinced. And here is a recipe for said brownies. Yup. Looks like brownies.

>Brownies, brownies, brownies.

Then, a magical thing happened.

I realized I didn’t need to spend hours thinking about the brownies or how awesome their pretzelly crust was and how chewy and chocolatey they were and how delightful the little bits of caramel were or even how well the crunchy/salty pretzels accented them.

I didn’t have to ponder synonyms for “moist” (ew, right?) or different ways to describe the flavor of chocolate… in fact, I didn’t have to do any of that at all.

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I could, instead, talk about something completely different.  Like fortune cookies.  And how FH solidified for sure in his mind that we were meant to be (which is good, considering I’m wearing his ring on my finger and all. You think maybe he should have figured that out beforehand?)

Now you might be wondering what fortune cookies have to do with love, but let me get there.

FH and I tried a new Chinese joint last weekend. It was Saturday and I didn’t want to get out of my pajamas but FH wanted Chinese food, it was just our luck that someone left a menu on our doorstep for a new Chinese restaurant. I glanced through to see if they delivered (a lot of places don’t deliver when you live in the burbs – it’s the worst).

Luckily for us we were within their delivery area so we ordered it up and put a movie on – lucky for me O Brother Where Art Thou (which I recommend watching if you haven’t seen it yet) was playing on the movie channel so I got to watch my boy George while I waited for dinner to arrive.

The food came, and it was actually pretty good, which is neither here nor there… because the main star of this story, my friends, is this:

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Yeah, you’re eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. That’s two fortune cookies. One wrapper.

Two.

 “WE WERE MEANT TO BE! OUR FORTUNES CAME TOGETHER!

To this day we haven’t even OPENED the fortune cookies because FH said it was so rare, “like a unicorn,” and said we should save them in our memory book, which I reminded him would mostly likely result in crushed fortune cookies. So I think that tonight I will force him to crack open the cookies, read our fortunes, and hope it doesn’t say something ominous like, “Everyone dies alone” or “You’re about to make a grave mistake.”

Anyway, here’s the brownie recipe.

They’re good, I promise.

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salty caramel pretzel brownies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 20 to 30 brownies (or 1 giant brownie, depending on how you slice)

Ingredients

    Pretzel crust
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose
  • 1 cup crushed pretzels
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • Brownie layer
  • 7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (11-oz) package caramel bits; divided into 8 oz and 3 oz
  • For topping
  • 3 oz chocolate, melted
  • 3 oz caramel bits, melted
  • 1 c coarsely-chopped pretzels

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9x13 pan with foil and parchment
  2. For the crust
  3. Stir together flour, crushed pretzels, and brown sugar. Add melted butter and stir til combined. Press into bottom of lined pan.
  4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until crust is golden brown. Set aside to cool while you make the brownies.
  5. For the brownies
  6. Combine chocolate, espresso powder, water, and butter in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until butter and chocolate are melted, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once melted, transfer the chocolate mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly (if it is too warm, it will cook your eggs when you add them).
  8. Once cooled to luke-warm, add the sugar and brown sugar, beating with mixer at medium speed until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and continue beating about two minutes more.
  9. Stir in flour and salt until just combined, then stir in caramel bits, being careful not to over-mix.
  10. Bake for about 25 minutes until cooked through - a toothpick should come out mostly clean with a few crumbs sticking to it. With brownies, I always err on the side of under-baked vs over-baked.
  11. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes.
  12. For the topping:
  13. Crush pretzels and sprinkle over top of the brownies.
  14. Melt chocolate in microwave or double-boiler until smooth, drizzle over brownies.
  15. Melt caramel in microwave or double-boiler until smooth, drizzle over brownies.
  16. Allow brownies to cool completely and for chocolate to harden (you can speed this step up by placing brownies in the fridge).
  17. Once cooled, slice into bars and serve.
http://wee-eats.com/2014/02/17/salty-caramel-pretzel-brownies/

[ adapted from Bakers Royale ]

salty caramel pretzel brownie pin

 

samoa cookie bars

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Saturday morning a strange thing happened – someone knocked on the door.

This might not seem that strange to you, however, we live in a pretty quiet area and we know approximately zero people so we basically never get visitors. Like, ever.

And when we do, we follow a strict protocol involvng things like muting the TV and waiting for the person to leave.  This time, however, our front door was wide open and we were sitting in the living room (which is where the front door leads into) so I wasn’t confident that the whole “muting the TV” thing would work.

Unless we could also convince them that we were statues…

FH told me to “handle it” so I got up to assess the situation and there she was – standing no more than three feet tall, quite possibly the smallest Girl Scout I had ever seen.  Normally I am a firm believer of the “stranger danger” motto, but she was pretty small so I was pretty sure I could take her if things went south.

She mumbled something shyly about cookies and I assumed that in this case “handle it” meant to find any cash I had on hand and throw it at her in exchange for cookies, so I yelled for FH to get his wallet. If FH’s “handle it” meant for me to tell her to go away he was sadly mistaken, because who can say no to a little girl? No one.  Well maybe this guy could, but I don’t have any Knuckle Blasters so that’s not even an option.

Even if I could say “no” to a small child, I definitely couldn’t say no to cookies, especially since for the other 11 months out of the year I listen to FH go on and on about how much he loves samoas and how delicious they are. So I quickly purchased a box of Samoas from her and ran back inside, closing the door behind us to prevent any future incidents.

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FH hurried into the kitchen and ripped into them, took a bite, and… groaned?

It wasn’t the usual “these are so good” sound that you might hear when you eat your favorite cookie. It was a more whiny tone filled with dismay and dissatisfaction.

I asked him what was wrong, hoping for something cool like finding a finger or a dead bug or something like you hear about in those news stories. But, no. Nothing so exciting.

His “problem” was that just last week I made these samoa bars for him and apparently the flavor was still fresh in his mind and now he real samoa cookies, the ones that inspired the very bars that I made because he loved the cookies so much, are now “ruined” for him.

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Ruined.

His word, not mine.

I will admit that these bars are bit more “grown up” than their ancestors. Rather than just being a vessel to carry the caramel, this cookie layer is thicker than that of the original samoa with a bit more crunch and a more intense vanilla flavor. Meanwhile, the caramel layer is a bit more complex with a hint of saltiness, and the dark chocolate gives the perfect bit of bitter-sweet to compliment the sweet caramel and cookie.

Oh yes, and don’t let me forget the ground unicorns and cocaine, but those ingredients are optional.

So at the risk of ruining the legendary Girl Scout cookies for someone you love…

And at the risk of putting thousands of young girls out of business…

Give these bars a try.

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Ground unicorns and cocaine optional.

samoa bars

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: One 9-by-13 pan

Ingredients

    For the cookie layer
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • For the caramel layer
  • 3.5 cups shredded coconut
  • 2 11-oz packages caramel bits
  • 3 Tablespoons whole milk or cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • For the chocolate drizzle
  • 6 oz dark chocolate (I used the Ghiradelli melting wafers)

Instructions

    For the cookies:
  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract and milk. Add flour and mix on low until just incorporated. It will be on the dry side.
  3. Pour out onto parchment paper and form into general rectangle shape. Roll close to 9 x 13” and transfer into 9 x 13 baking pan. Press into bottom of pan until it reaches the edges, leaving a slight lip on the edges.
  4. Poke holes in shortbread with a fork and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden on top. Cool completely in pan before topping.
  5. For the coconut/caramel layer:
  6. Toast the coconut by placing on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baking at 300F for about 15 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning. Coconut is done when it is a golden-brown color. Set aside to cool.
  7. Melt the caramel bits with the milk and salt per package directions, until smooth. Once metled, stir in the vanilla extract and the coconut.
  8. Pour onto the cookie layer, spreading into an even layer with a spatula and pressing down with your hands.
  9. For the chocolate layer:
  10. Melt chocolate at 50% power in the microwave starting for 1 minute, then continuing in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Drizzle over coconut layer and allow to cool completely. Once hardened, cut the cookies into bars and store at room temperature in an airtight container.
http://wee-eats.com/2014/02/09/samoa-cookie-bars/

[ shorbread adapted from here]

samoapin

easy cereal treats

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July will be over in two days, and with it so too will be my no-bake recipe streak.  At least that’s the plan.

These weren’t even part of the plan.  These were the result of me actually having cereal for breakfast on Sunday morning, and realizing that I have far too many boxes of cereal… and that the only option (aside form throwing them away) was to eat my way out (much like the Pop Tart in that new commercial).

Clearly, throwing out boxes and boxes of perfectly good cereal is not an option.  So, I made a plan to eat my way out of my cereal problem… With math!

Everyone knows that marhsmallows + cereal = delicious.  See?  Math!  So, I found my last two bags of marshmallows, picked my most promising (and full) two  boxes of cereal… and then… this happened.

See?  Easy.

And the winners?  Well, those were easy to choose.

      

Oh yeah, did I forget to tell you that this was a double feature?  Two recipes, one post.

Well, two cereals, the recipe is pretty much the same, hence the one post.  Cookies & Cream, and Cinnamon Roll.  Yeah, I know I just made oreo krispy treats, but these are different.  You don’t have to add any cookies to them, because the cereal is already full of delicious cookie flavor.

Of course, a few Oreos never hurt anyone, did they?

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BF liked the cookies n cream better, I liked the cinnamon roll better.  You will have to make both and decide for yourself.

As an added bonus, you can easily modify the recipe to your liking with any cereal of your choosing.  Think: Trix, or Peanut Butter Crunch, even Kix!

And now, with 2 boxes down, I’ve only got 7 more to get through before I can start buying more cereal…. I’m totally not exaggerating.

Cookies & Cream Cereal Treats

Makes one 9-by-13-inch pan

Printable Recipe

  • 6 cups cereal
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag mini marshmallows
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup vanilla or white chocolate chips

1.  Melt butter in a large pot over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted.  Remove from heat and add cereal, stirring to coat.  Add chocolate and vanilla chips.

2.  Press mixture  into 9 by 13-inch pan.  Cool completely and then slice into desired-size bars.

 

Cinnamon Roll Cereal Treats

Makes one 9-by-13-inch pan

Printable Recipe 

  • 6 cups cereal
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag mini marshmallows
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup cinnamon chips

1.  Melt butter in a large pot over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted.  Remove from heat and add cereal, stirring to coat.  Add cinnamon chips.

2.  Press mixture  into 9 by 13-inch pan.  Cool completely and then slice into desired-size bars.

bringing the grocery store home – diy clif bars

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Recently, I’ve been accused of being a little snack-heavy, it’s true.   I was actually thinking the same thing myself, I mean, a person can only eat so much whipped cream and sugar, right?  Especially during bikini-season!  While not entirely “healthy” (or un-treat-like), these homemade “Clif” bars are a great snack to sneak a bit of nutrition into your child (or lover, or own)’s lunchbox.  I mean, they’re certainly less bad for you than, say, peanut butter pie.

We all know what “Clif” bars are, right?  Those individually-wrapped bars they sell at the store for us to eat as a healthy snack?  I’d heard that they weren’t hard to make at home, but never really had a reason to make them.  Well, not until I was on this whole “no-bake” kick that I’ve been on.

I made a big batch and then stuck them in the freezer.  I’ve been sneaking a couple into the BF’s bag before he goes to work, then they’re thawed and ready to eat by the time he needs a snack!  (Not to mention taking them to work and storing them in my desk for “’emergencies”)  I mean, this is a totally normal desk drawer, right?

They aren’t exact replicas of the Clif bars you find in stores, they’re a bit crunchier (which I actually liked) but I’m sure you could get the texture a bit closer if you reduce the crisp rice cereal (or increase the dates) a bit.  I also like that I could make these smaller than the bars you find in the store.  I can’t be the only one who thinks that they are a bit big (and calorie-dense) for a snack, but still too small to be a meal-replacement.  You can cut these into any size you like, and I find these bite-size squares to be the perfect size for snacking.

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I really wish that I had mini chocolate chips on hand, but I had apparently ran out, so i had to use regular size instead.  They’re definitely not as pretty.  Plus, with mini chips, the chocolate would be able to distribute more evenly throughout the bars.  I guess I could have whirled the mixture a bit more in the food processor to chop them  up a bit…

Another great thing about these bars is that they are infinitely adaptable, you could make combos like dark-chocolate-almond, peanut-butter-“jelly” (by adding other types of dried fruit), cashew-cherry, or even a berries-and-cream version with dried fruit and yogurt or white chocolate chips!  Of course, I’m sure that you will all be shocked to learn that I went with peanut butter & chocolate for my first batch.  What can I say, I’m addicted predictable.

A warning though… when I tried to switch back to the regular store-bought Clif bars, I got a text asking where the homemade ones were, and why didn’t I put those in the bag, was I hoarding them for myself?  So… yeah, if you are going to start making these, be ready to keep making them, because the regular ones just won’t do.

Of course, the reason these are here, you don’t even have to turn on the oven!

DIY Clif Bars

Makes 16 to 25 bars, or as many as you slice 😉

Printable Recipe

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1¼ cups crisp rice cereal
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used cashews)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ⅓ cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips; plus an extra tablespoon or two, separated

1. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with saran wrap and set aside.

2. Combine peanut butter and brown rice syrup in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on 50% power for one minute and stir until combined.  If you need to microwave longer, microwave in 30 second intervals until the peanut butter is melted.

3. Process pitted dates in a food process until pureed.  Add oats, flaxseed, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla and continue to puree.  Once uniform in texture, add rice cereal and process until combined.  Add peanut butter mixture and continue processing until incorporated, you will probably have to scrape down the sides.  Note: It will be very sticky.

4. Finally, add the nuts and process again until they are chopped to the desired size, then add chocolate chips and pulse just a few times to distribute them through the “dough”.  Once processed, scrape into 8-inch pan and press firmly to mold to the shape of the pan.  If desired, sprinkle the extra tablespoon or two on top and gently press into the date mixture.

5.  Chill bars in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, or until firm. Cut into bars, then wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to one week, or freeze up to a couple months. (I keep mine frozen and pop one or two into my bag before I head to work, by the time I need a snack they’re thawed and ready to eat!)

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[ Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker ]

 

cookies & cream krispies

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We are no strangers to rice krispy treats in this house, they are one of the BF’s favorite foods.  Especially when he gets to use cocoa krispies for them.

These bars were basically made for us, combining his love of rice krispy treats and my deep love of Oreos unite to create an amazing cookie-filled krispy treat.  BF made them all by himself (well, with the help of my owl apron), and they were delicious.

aaron cocoa krispy treats

I noticed that (possibly due to Oreo cookie magic?) they stay fresh way longer than regular krispy treats.  We kept eating them all week long.  After they were gone, I may or may not have sniffed the container.

They’re that good.

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Cookies & Cream Krispies

Printable Recipe

  • 1 (10.5 ounce) bag of mini marshmallows
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups Cocoa Krispies (could use regular crisp rice cereal, if desired)
  • 3 cups Oreos, coarsely chopped

1.  Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with saran wrap, then grease with butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2.  Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat.  Once melted, add the marshmallows and stir with a silicone spatula until melted.

*Alternatively, you can melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave, then add marshmallows and microwave until melted, stirring every 30 seconds or so.

3.  Add cocoa krispies and chopped cookies to marshmallow mixtures and stir until well-mixed.  You are going to need all of your arm muscles for this, so I hope you’ve been working out!

4.  Press mixture into prepared 9 x 13-inch pan and set aside to cool and firm up, about an hour or two.  (Or about 30 minutes in the fridge).  Once cooled, cut into bars and enjoy!  They will keep for about a week in an airtight container at room temperature.