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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (aka "Pan Chewies")

This is one of the first recipes my girls ever made on their own.  Quick and easy to throw together--just one bowl, no mixer...and the result is the perfect thick and chewy chocolate chip cookie bar.  Adapted one of a recipe swap recipe (Cyndi) and Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  The perfect last minute dessert that is quick to make and tastes great.


  • 12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 large egg yolk 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour 
  • 2 cups chocolate chips or chocolate chunks (any kind-- 1 1/2 cups semisweet and 1/2 cup butterscotch is our favorite)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position. 
  2. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with foil, letting the excess hang over the edges of the pan by about 1 inch so you can grab those edges and pull the brownies from the pan after they have baked. Spray the foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, salt and baking soda together until well combined. 
  4. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and whisk well. 
  5. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. 
  6. Add the flour. Using a large wooden spoon start folding the flour into the wet ingredients. 
  7. After a few stirs (with streaks of flour remaining), add the chocolate chips and mix until just combined--until no dry streaks remain.  Take care not to overmix.  The dough can get really thick, so sometimes it's easier to finish mixing by hand.  
  8. Press the batter evenly into the prepared pan, spreading into all the corners 
  9. Bake until the bars are light golden brown on the edges, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan, 24-28 minutes. 
  10. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the foil overhang and transfer them to a cutting board. Cut into squares and serve.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Hershey S'mores Cookies

These are a fabulous cookie with all the flavors of campfire s'mores.  From Mel's Kitchen Cafe.


  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 8 rectangular graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs, about 1 cup (4 ounces)--divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 large marshmallows cut in half (see note)--kitchen sheers work great
  • 24 Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped  (or you can use 24 squares broken off of a Hershey bar)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets.  (make sure you unwrapped the Hershey kisses and pre-cut the marshmallows)
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a mixer beat together the butter, sugar and 3/4 cup (3 ounces) of the graham cracker crumbs for 2-3 minutes, until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.
  4. Measure out about a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. Roll the cookie dough ball in the remaining graham cracker crumbs to coat lightly.
  5. Place the cookie dough on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for 8-10 minutes until the cookies are just starting to crack a bit. They should still be soft. Let them cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet.
  6. Preheat the broiler and make sure an oven rack is about 10-inches below the heating element (too close and the marshmallows will burn). Place a marshmallow half, cut side down, on the top of each cookie and broil the marshmallows, watching closely!, until they are golden brown and soft, 30 seconds or so. Remove from the oven and then working quickly, immediately push a Hershey’s Kiss gently into the center of each soft marshmallow.
  7. Repeat with the remaining cookie sheet.
  8. Let the cookies cool until the Hershey’s Kiss has set up again.


This is the recipe I usually use to make breadsticks.  We also like the one from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  We save the garlic butter sauce from when we order pizza from Papa John's and use that to brush on the breadsticks before baking.  

  • 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 4 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fine salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1⁄8-1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pinch dried oregano

Make the dough: Place 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a mixer; sprinkle in the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, butter, sugar, fine salt and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water; mix with the paddle attachment until a slightly sticky dough forms, 5 minutes.
Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until very smooth and soft, 3 minutes. Roll into a 2-foot-long log; cut into 16 1 1/2-inch pieces. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a 7-inch long breadstick; arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a cloth; let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the topping: Brush the breadsticks with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
Bake until slightly golden, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt with the garlic powder and oregano.

Brush the warm breadsticks with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with the flavored salt.

Blue Ribbon Chili

Tastiest and easiest chili ever!  This won our ward chili cook-off, from my friend Darcy who got it from allrecipes.

2 pounds ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 t black pepper
1/2 t garlic salt
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 (8oz) jar of salsa
4 T chili seasoning mix
1 (15oz) can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15oz) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.

1.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the ground beef and onion and sauce for 10 minutes or until the meat is browned and the onion is tender.  Drain grease.
2.  Add the pepper, garlic salt, tomato sauce, salsa, and chili seasoning.  Mix well.  Add the kidney beans.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour

Chocolate Fondue

Making this fondue has become a fun New Year's Eve tradition.  Serving it with cookie-dough balls is a must!

  • 12 ounces of high-quality chocolate chips or chopped from a block (Ghiradelli, Guittard, or trader-joe's pound plus bar...use any combination of dark and milk chocolate to your liking)
  • 8 ounces of heavy cream (or half cream, half milk in a pinch)
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of vanilla or almond extract, optional

  1. Warm cream over moderate heat until tiny bubbles show and it's just beginning to lightly boil in the fondue pot.  
  2. Add chocolate and stir until smooth and fully incorporated.
  3. Keep warm over low heat in fondue pot, stirring as needed.
  4. Serve with favorite dipppables such as strawberries, banana pieces, pineapple, dried apricots, marshmallows, donut holes, cookie dough balls, graham crackers, pretzel peanut butter bites, etc.

Cider-Cheese Fondue

We make fondue every New Year's Eve.  This is a great non-alcoholic cheese fondue.  The cider does make it it a little sweet.  If you want a more savory version you can use chicken stock instead and a squeeze of fresh lemon instead.  One time we didn't have swisse or gruyere cheese and had to sub white american cheese in a pinch and it made the fondue super creamy and my kids LOVED it even more.

3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded swiss cheese (or other cheese or your choice--my kids love white american for this)
1 T cornstarch
1/8 t pepper
dash of nutmeg
dash of paprika

In large saucepan or fondue pot bring cider to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low.  In a separate bowl toss cheese with cornstarch and pepper; stir into cider.  Cook while stirring often 3-4 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Keep warm on low heat, staring as needed.  Serve with crust bread cubes, apples, pears, blanched broccoli and carrots.

Quick Garlic Alfredo Sauce

This is a great quick alfredo sauce.  We love to serve this with pasta, kielbasa sausage and steamed or sautéed veggies.  Sometimes we also mix it with marinara to make a pink sauce.  Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.


2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into 6 pieces (see note)
1 cup milk (see note)
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste, if needed


In a medium pot or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly, taking care not to let the garlic burn.
Add the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. It will look curdled at first, but with constant whisking for 2-3 minutes, it should come together to form a smooth, creamy paste.
Add the milk gradually, about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking quickly and constantly until each addition is incorporated fully into the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is the desired consistency.
Cook for 2-3 minutes for a thicker sauce or remove right after the cheese is melted for a thinner sauce. Serve immediately over hot, cooked noodles.  Makes 2 cups of sauce.

1% milk in this sauce and it works great for our tastes. Also, you can use regular or low-fat cream cheese. The low-fat cream cheese gives it a slightly, very slightly grainy texture, the full-fat cream cheese offers a very creamy texture.

Mashed Potatoes

A simple recipe--but starting the potatoes in cold water, and adding warm milk while mashing are important to not getting goey starchy potatoes.

2 pounds russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks
3/4 t salt
6 T butter, softened
1 cup whole milk warm*

1.  Put potatoes in a large saucepan; add cold water to cover and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to boil and continue to cook over medium heat 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender when pieced with a paring knife.  
2.  Drain potatoes well and return to saucepan.  Mash over low heat with a potato masher, adding butter as you mash and stiring in the warm milk.
3.  Season with 1/4 salt and black pepper.  Serve immediately.

*You can sub 3/4 cup of 1%-2% milk plus 1/4 cup of sour cream mixed together to make 1 cup

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

This is my favorite sugar cookie recipe--a melt in your mouth slightly crispy and buttery cookie that tastes great with frosting.  It makes about 2-3 dozen cookies.   This egg-free version is great for when kids snitch a bit of dough.  We almost always make heart-shaped cookies with pink frosting for Valentine's Day. Adapted from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Sugar Cookie Dough

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar (or 1 cup of granulated sugar processed in a food processor for 30 seconds)
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) of butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and softened
2 tablespoons of cream cheese, softened*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, sugar, & salt together in a large bowl.  Beat the butter into the flour mixture one to two pieces at a time with a mixer on medium-low speed.  Continue to mix until the mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet 1-2 minutes.  Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla until the mixture forms a nice dough.  

Turn the dough onto a clean counter, divide in half.  (If the dough is too soft to work with, you can flatten it into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge for 30 minutes).  Roll each half of the dough between 2 sheets of parchment or waxed paper until 1/4 inch thick.  Put rolled dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate again until firm (at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours).

Preheat over to 375.  Working with one half of the dough at a time, cut out shapes using cookie cutters.  If the dough gets too soft, re-roll it and return to the fridge.  Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Bake until just barely turning a light golden brown 7-9 minutes (do not overbake).  Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely (at least 30 minutes before frosting).  

Sugar cookie frosting

2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2-3 T milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or you can do 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon almond)

Cream together 1 cup of sugar and butter until smooth.  Add milk and extract.  Gradually add the last cup of sugar while mixing until creamy and light, scraping down the sides as needed.  

*The egg version of this recipe uses 1 egg and 1 egg yolk (beaten) instead of 2 T cream cheese.  

Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

This is our go-to recipe for the most delicious cinnamon rolls.  They are tender and we love the maple cream-cheese frosting.  This recipe makes a lot (aka 24 HUGE cinnamon rolls).  Total time (including rising time) is 3 hours.  Slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen cafe (decreased butter and sugar a bit).  The dough can be made the night before and they freeze great too, see notes below. 


  • 4 cups milk (see note)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 tablespoons instant yeast (see note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 11-13 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract/flavoring
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5-6 cups powdered sugar
  • Cream or milk for consistency

  1. For the dough, heat the milk in a medium saucepan until the milk is scalded (which is basically heating it until right before it simmers – it will start steaming and little bubbles will form around the edge of the pan). Pour the milk into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or you can do this by hand with a large bowl, wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease).
  2. Add the butter, sugar and salt. Mix until the butter is melted and let the mixture cool until warm but not hot.
  3. Add the yeast and eggs and mix until combined.
  4. Gradually add the flour until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. The exact amount will depend on the temperature, humidity and how you measure flour. I usually end up adding just under 13 cups of flour. The dough should be soft and just slightly sticky without leaving a lot of residue on your fingers. Let it knead for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled.
  6. Divide the dough in half. Roll each portion of dough (it’s soft enough to be patted and stretched with your hands) into an 18-inch by 12-inch rectangle. Spread one stick of softened butter over each rectangle.
  7. Stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle half of it over each rectangle. Pat it in slightly with the palms of your hands. Starting with one long end, roll up the cinnamon rolls as tightly as possible, pinching the seam lightly to seal.
  8. Working with one long log of cinnamon roll at a time, using a serrated knife, cut it in half. Then cut each half in half again (forming four equal portions). Cut each of the four portions into three rolls – twelve cinnamon rolls total. Repeat this with the other roll – you’ll have 24 cinnamon rolls total.
  9. Place the rolls evenly spaced on a parchment-lined large, rimmed baking sheet about 11X17-inches (or 12X18-inches). I space the rolls 3 across, 4 down. If the ends have come free, carefully tuck them under the cinnamon roll.
  10. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and let the rolls rise until double (or put in the fridge to rise overnight--see notes below)
  11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  12. Bake the rolls for about 18-22 minutes until only very slightly golden on top. Let the rolls cool almost completely in the pan before frosting.
  13. For the frosting, in a large bowl, whip together the cream cheese and butter. Add the vanilla, maple and salt and mix until combined.
  14. Gradually add the powdered sugar (if you add it all at once, be prepared for a huge snowstorm in your kitchen) and mix until thick and creamy. Add cream or milk a tablespoon at a time until the frosting is smooth and spreadable to your liking.
  15. Spread the cinnamon rolls with frosting.

To make ahead of time:
A large, rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper and lightly greased with cooking spray, placing about 12 rolls per pan with enough space in between the rolls for rising.  2. COVER THE PAN WITH LIGHTLY GREASED PLASTIC WRAP AND IMMEDIATELY POP THEM IN THE REFRIGERATOR OVERNIGHT (up to 24 hours).  3.  TAKE THE ROLLS OUT IN TIME TO COME TO ROOM TEMPERATURE AND FULLY RISE BEFORE BAKING.  Plan on 2-3 hours after they come out of the refrigerator or until double in size.  Once they’re ready, remove the plastic wrap and bake them according to the recipe!

To freeze baked cinnamon rolls:
1. Once the cinnamon rolls are completely cooled, use a spatula to carefully transfer a single cinnamon roll to a quart-sized ziploc bag. 2.  Seal the bag with as little air inside as possible and freeze for up to a month. 3.  To reheat, remove the roll from the bag (it’s easier than it seems – it will pop right out!), put on a plate, then microwave for 60-90 seconds.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ice Cream Lasagna

This is a great make ahead dessert that feeds a crowd and is super yummy!  Basically you’re making the following layers:  
  • crushed oreos & butter, 
  • ice-cream
  • hot fudge and peanuts and/or more oreo crumbs, 
  • cool whip 
  • oreos crumbs on top

for a 8x8 pan (feeds about 8-12 people)
1/2 a package of oreos (about 16 oreos), crushed into crumbs
4 T butter, melted
8-10 oreos, chopped
1 quart of vanilla or cookies and cream ice-cream, softened on the counter about 20-30 minutes
hot fudge and/or caramel sauce
1 cup of peanuts
1/2 a container of cool whip (thawed enough to spread)

1. Spray an 8x8 pan with nonstick spray, set aside.  
2. Crush oreos in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin, add 2 T melted butter, stir to combine.  3. Chop or gently crush the remaining oreos and set aside for later.
4. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a glass 8x8 pan.  
5. Then add the ice-cream.  I like to put small scoops the softened ice-cream over the whole pan and then spread it gently with a spatula.  
6.  Next drizzle the ice-cream with hot fudge and/or caramel sauce.  It’s helpful to have these warmed up so they can just be poured on.  You need to work quickly though at this point because the ice-cream starts to melt a bit.
7.  Cover hot fudge with peanuts and/or more oreo* pieces (we like to put some oreos on the very top too).
8.  Spread cool whip over the nuts.
9.  Garnish with additional oreo crumbs and/or nuts
10.  Cover with saran wrap.  The add foil or a lid and freeze for at least an hour before serving.


The recipe easily doubles
for a 9x13 pan (feeds 16-20 people)
1 package of oreos (about 24), crushed into crumbs
4 T butter, melted
12-16 oreos, chopped
1 half gallon or 2 quarts of vanilla or cookies and cream ice-cream, softened on the counter about 20-30 minutes
hot fudge and/or caramel sauce
2 cups of peanuts
1 container of cool whip (thawed enough to spread)

Whitney recommended the following variations: mint oreos with mint chocolate chip ice-cream or golden oreos and birthday cake ice-cream.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cookies and Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

These have become a first day of school tradition.  Amazing cookies!  Malted milk powder, oreos, and milk chocolate chips are not pantry staples around here, so they definitely take a little forethought.  But sooooooo worth it!  From Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  Makes: 2-4 dozen cookies, depending on size, PREP TIME: 20 MINS COOK TIME: 11 MINS

1 cup (16 tablespoons, 8 ounces) butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups (15 ounces) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (5 ounces) malted milk powder or whole milk powder (do not substitute nonfat dry powdered milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
36 to 40 Oreo or other chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped--keep a few (like 1/4 cup in reserve)
2 cups (12 ounces) milk chocolate chips (can use semi-sweet, but for this recipe milk chocolate really is superb)

1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or silicone liners.
2 In a large bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter, cream cheese and brown sugar with the paddle attachment until well combined.
3 Add the vanilla and eggs and mix until the color lightens and the batter is fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
4 In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, malted milk powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.
5 Fold in the most of Oreos and chocolate chips.
6 Roll the dough into 1 1/2- 2 tablespoon size cookie dough balls.   Sprinkle a few of the chopped oreos on the top of each cookie.  Place them several inches apart on baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are golden but the centers are still soft.

Don’t get too eager crushing the Oreo cookies in preparation for the recipe. They should be coarsely chopped – not pulverized – so you can get a nice taste of real, live pieces of Oreo cookie inside the chocolate chip cookie. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

One of our favorite muffins...adapted from this recipe.

 1 cup granulated sugar
 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
 1 cup vegetable oil or (1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup half applesauce)
 3 large eggs
 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can use 1 cup white whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cup all-purpose)
 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
 1 teaspoon salt
 1 teaspoon baking soda
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 2 cups finely grated zucchini
 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin pan wells with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners. 

Grate zucchini fine with a box grater.  Put grated zucchini in a tea towel and wring out excess moisture.   Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the sugars, oil (applesauce), eggs, and vanilla until thoroughly combined.

In a seperate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in zucchini until it is evenly distributed into the batter. Stir in chocolate chips. Use a cookie scoop to distribute batter amongst the prepared muffin wells. If desired, sprinkle additional mini chocolate chips onto the top of each muffin.

 Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes for mini muffins, 18-22 minutes for full-size.

Notes: Muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, and they freeze well.