m&m cookies!

i found myself in a baking mood late last night.  the result?  m&m cookies!  this recipe has been in my recipe book for ages, and whenever i flip past it i always wonder how i obtained it.  there’s no author, no web url, nothing.  just ingredients and instructions written on a piece of college-lined notebook paper.

regardless of how and when i got it, i decided they would make the perfect labor day weekend treat.  rather simple, this recipe makes a bucketful of cookies that would be great for a crowd, the office, or even a college football tailgate (go dawgs!).

ingredients

1 cup shortening (like crisco shortening, not oil or butter)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/4 cups plain flour

1 bag of m&ms (12 ounces, anymore and you’ll have more candies than batter!)

instructions

cream together the shortening and sugars using an electric blender.

add the vanilla and the eggs and beat until mixed.

in a separate bowl, mix the salt, baking soda, and flour.  then, slowly incorporate into egg mixture with blender.

using a spoon (not the mixer!) fold in the m&ms and stand back at take a look at what a beautiful thing you’ve made.

the cheeriest cookie batter there ever was!

the cheeriest cookie batter there ever was!

dollop the cookie batter on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees fahrenheit.  let cool before storing.

then!  because you have extra batter and what to be a little cray on a friday night, make one giant cookie the size of your face!  🙂

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o-h-i-o, ohio!

this past thursday morning i boarded an md-88 with several coworkers to fly to columbus, ohio for our annual company meeting.  between team gatherings, putt-putt golf, and drinks at brazenhead, the event was quite the success in melding many offices together as a united front for the successful business years ahead for which we are striving.  go team!

most folks flew back to atlanta friday night, but i had the wonderful pleasure of staying the whole weekend.  as it would be, phillip has family only minutes from our dublin location – such a small world!  so, it was a no-brainer for phillip to take some time off work and join me.

once work things wrapped up friday afternoon, phillip picked me up and we checked into the local embassy suites.  we rested our feet for a little bit and then were in the car again.  where to?  well, seeing as how our stomachs were grumbling, it was a good thing we were headed to dinner with grandma lorraine and cousin tony at the local favorite the rusty bucket.  they were seated at a booth just inside the restaurant awaiting our arrival.  both greeted me warmly as we scooched into our seats and got to know one another.  conversation came easy among the group among local brews and delicious food.  i highly recommend the wedge salad to start and then the buffalo chicken sandwich – it was massive!  the chicken parmesan that grandma lorraine had was a generous serving also.  tony’s quesadilla and phillip’s philly cheesesteak didn’t disappoint either.  so much else on the menu looked so appealing that i guess we’ll just have to visit again!

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after paying the checks, grandma lorraine called it a night.  tony, phillip, and i, though, were in the mood for another drink, so tony led us to a local bar called the dub pub.  most certainly a favorite dive bar of those who live nearby, we grabbed a high-top and continued visiting while enjoying some whiskey-gingers and a few ipa’s from the columbus brewing company (referred to by ohioans simply as “cbc”).  soon tony’s friend sean joined us, and i think eventually we blended in with the regulars as we chatted, cheered on team usa during the olympics, and took in some preseason nfl games.

as our glasses emptied and the early evening grew into the later night, phillip and i were about ready to call it a day.  we bid tony and sean farewell and hopped in the rental.  as we cruised along to the hotel, phillip pointed out the grater’s right nearby and the convenient fact that they were open until eleven p.m.  it was only 10:30 at that point.  phillip swung the camry into the parking lot and we helped ourselves to the counter.

now, any of you who know phillip know that he has quite the sweet tooth.  i used to “blame” his mother because she is an ice cream lover, but now i know it is grandma lorraine who started it all.  she revealed that each night she either has an ice cream or a cookie with some milk before going to bed.  old habits die hard, i suppose!  😀

with many more choices at the store as opposed to just the grocery aisle, i did a bowl of strawberry cheesecake and mocha chocolate chip.  whoa, that stuff was unbelievably good.  the strawberry cheesecake was undoubtedly my favorite, and it was lucky i even got to try it since it is a limited summer flavor!  phillip considered his options for a while and then settled (to no one’s surprise) on a scoop of the buckeye and a scoop of the peanut butter chocolate chip.  i am telling you, this boy could eat only reese cups for the rest of his life and be satisfied.  i suppose it’s hard to deny a man his ice cream when it makes him this happy.

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it was finally after over-eating on quite possibly the best ice cream ever created on this beautiful earth that we hit the hay.  with two more days to go in ohio, we needed our beauty rest!

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vegan week day 5

okay, everyone, i know you all are just on the edge of your seats, waiting to hear how #veganweek wrapped up for phillip and me.  well, to quote barry manilow (and honor his beagle named bagel), i’ll just say that “it looks like we made it.”  somehow, some way, we made it through #veganweek.

did i like all the food we ate during #veganweek?  yes, and most of it i would absolutely make it again.  the hard part about it all is that i know how delicious some of my favorite foods are, and all week i was denying myself those tasty pleasures.  i wouldn’t say those cravings were overwhelming, but it became a mental game at some point.  just one more day, one more hour, one more moment!  that’s truly what it came down to.

so, friday night arrived and we met up with a bunch of friends at a local tavern called hobnob for dinner.  i’d already taken a look at the menu before we showed up, so i knew there would be a few options.  i started off with the allagash white beer and phillip treated himself to terrapin brewery’s peach brew of the summer season, which was appropriately sweet and refreshing for the hot night outside.

hooray beer!

hooray beer!

as we gabbed and caught up with one another, it was quite a test of will whether or not i would cave in or push through one more meal for #veganweek.  i tried not to let my eyes wander to the other tables that had steaming plates full of what looked like delectable pub food piled high.  by some miracle i stuck to my commitment and ordered the veggie burger while phillip tried the piedmont burger.  now, these burgers looked delicious as the wacky waitress placed them in front of us, but the taste was a different story entirely.  after taking just one bite of the falafel patty (which itself wasn’t too bad), every bite from there on out tasted like falafel.  seriously, it was like there was no distinction of flavor among the different ingredients.  i couldn’t even finish it, which i think says something about the dish but also about my waning excitement for #veganweek.  i wish i could say phillip’s experience was better, but unfortunately it was not.  as the first meal containing meat all week, it was very unsatisfying and underwhelming.  we both even had small stomach aches afterwards!  i guess i shouldn’t be too surprised, but it made it clear to me that this five-day challenge was plenty long.

after our disappointing dinner (everyone else very much liked what they had), we all headed back to kyle and kari’s apartment for a rooftop hangout.  they’re moving later this month to a house (ooh, how adult!), so we had to gather one last time at their place.  i mean, how are we not all going to miss this view?

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we grabbed some benches around the fire pit, got that thing going, and busted out the s’mores supplies.  although it may have been ninety-something degrees out, the classic summer treat s’mores sounded like such a good idea.  and boy were they, especially as the #veganweek ending reward!

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our final celebration for #veganweek came this morning when phillip and i had brunch at the original pancake house.  man, let me tell you, i ate half of the hash and pancake specialty in record time that i got done and didn’t even really remember eating it all!  the pancakes were so fluffy and buttery, and that corned beef hash was from heaven, i swear.  i took the last bite of over-easy egg with extra crispy bacon and said to phillip, “that was insanely good.”  it was the perfect end to an exciting and interesting week.

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so, now that we made it through #vegan week, what are our final thoughts?  well, first off, the thing about eating vegan is that you really have to plan it all out.  you can’t just swing by your local mcdonald’s for a ten pack of nugs.  and you can’t just run into starbucks for your favorite latte or frappuccino.  i think that’s one of the hardest parts.  you also really have to be thoughtful about bringing food with you in case you end up in a hungry situation and won’t have quick access to something that fits your diet.

would i say i felt a physical difference?  probably not, in all honesty.  i still consumed a similar amount of food, it’s just that what i was eating was generally better for me than what i usually have.  phillip said he definitely felt more active and alert, which is something i suppose we all would like during our regular day-to-day.

i think more than anything #veganweek opened my eyes up personally to the fact that if i do want to snack between larger meals, i can do so in a healthy way.  for example, i can enjoy a ripe peach rather than a bag of chips (but don’t expect me to put down the spicy nacho doritos any time soon).

would i try #veganweek again?  probably not.  however, i do have a better understanding of that dietary lifestyle and everything that comes with it.  to those of you who have followed along all week, thank you for tuning in!  i hope our journey was entertaining and inspiring, in some way.  🙂

chocolate sheet cake

chocolate cake

folks, this recipe comes to you straight from the pioneer woman.  i made this classic chocolate sheet cake this past weekend for mother’s day, and i think it’s safe to say that our mothers and everyone else partaking in the celebration very much enjoyed a slice.  this cake is decadent yet somehow not too sweet.  be warned, though, that a small piece will do you just fine, especially if you top it with some vanilla ice cream.  noms!

the sprinkles were a recommendation from milo, and someone even commented that the cake reminded them of those irresistible little debbie treats called cosmic brownies.  i think i can safely put them both in the ‘i only need one but will eat the whole box/pan’ category.

greensboro, nc – day 2

it was a sleeping in kind of morning on saturday, so there really was no rush to get going.  i think we rolled out of bed and downstairs around nine or so, still rockin’ the pj’s in true weekend spirit.  the coffee pot was fresh and full, so i fixed myself a mug as the sun poured in through the windows.  mary finished prepping the strada and popped it in the oven for some good breakfast eatin’.  just as the oven door shut, her hubby mike walked in from the garage, home depot bag in hand.  ah, yes!  the adventure of the garbage disposal continues, just as i promised!

we gathered in the living room around the fireplace, enjoying our savory breakfast before the manual labor began.  i’ve got the strada recipe over here for you, so if you need a new something to add to your book, enjoy!  it was rich and filling and reminded me a bit of biscuits and gravy, which we know should be a staple in every southern girl’s repertoire.

strata 1

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brookies

today we hosted our first cookie swap at the office, and oh my, what fun it was!  we all brought a couple dozen cookies and recipes to exchange and had the best time making ourselves nearly sick on chocolate and sweets.

i made brownie cookies, aka brookies.  i have no clue where i found this recipe originally, but i’ve had it for years and consider it one of my favorites.  they are brownie-textured but cookie-shaped and so divine and fairly easy.  i didn’t take any action shots for you, for i was a bit tired at midnight last night when i was whipping up these bad boys.  i do, though, have the recipe!

ingredients

1 Tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks (52-62% cacao)

2 large eggs

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

directions

preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

in a microwave-safe bowl, melt oil, butter, and one cup of the chocolate for 2.5-3 minutes, stirring at 1-minute intervals.  let cool.

in another bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla until combined.

fold melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.

whisk together the remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

combine the flour mixture with the chocolate mixture and then fold in the remaining chocolate chunks.

freeze the batter in a shallow pan (such as a pie plate) 6-8 minutes until it sets and hardens slightly.

line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  scoop about 10 Tablespoons of batter onto each sheet.

bake 11-12 minutes, until the tops look dry and cracked.  cool completely.

turtle pretzels

ladies and gentlemen, i present to you the easiest treat ever made by man:  turtle pretzels!  okay, i don’t think they’re really called turtle pretzels, but they’re something i made last thanksgiving with the family, and i never really got the name.  so!  turtle pretzels they will be!

this recipe is so stinkin’ easy that i am not even going to break it down into ingredients and directions.  you can literally read the instructions here and be good to go!

preheat your oven to 250 degrees fahrenheit.

grab a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper.  if you ran out of parchment paper like i did, use tin foil instead.  place those window pane pretzels on there, just a little spaced out.

pretzels

next, violently tear open a bag of rolos.  i use the word violently because when i cut and ripped mine open, i had rolos everywhere.  it was like an early rolo Christmas just for my tiny kitchen and me.  then, because you don’t want to look too much like a mess, place them all next to the bag nicely as if they had just come out that way.

rolo bag

unwrap those little candies and place one atop each pretzel.

pop the cookie sheet into the oven for two minutes.  only two minutes, kelsey?  doesn’t that seem a little short?  well, yes, in the grand scheme of things two minutes is not very long at all, and you don’t need a long time with these little guys.  they just need to warm enough so that we can smash them down, which we’ll do in just a moment, if you’ll be patient.

after those long and excruciating two minutes are up, pull the cookie sheet out and press a pecan half down on top of each rolo.  the reason you only need two minutes is because if you go any longer, all that caramel surprise inside the rolo will squirt right out, and that’s not what we want.

let the treats cool and harden and then store them in an airtight container.  then take them to your company holiday party and watch them get scarfed up by all your ravenous coworkers who cannot get enough of your baking.  happy holidays!

rum balls

i’ve known my coworker mark now since 2010, and years ago i brought in rum balls per his special request.  now, these things are not my cup of tea at all, but oh goodness, he could not get enough of them!  these strong little suckers are right up his alley, and he so kindly reminded me last week that i hadn’t made them in quite some time…

say no more, mark!  i grabbed my ingredients, made a quick stop at the liquor store for the good stuff, and got to work tonight.  these rum balls are quite easy to make, but i will warn you now that they are a bit messy.  rum balls don’t roll themselves, so be prepared to get your hands dirty.  the recipe is below, along with all kinds of fun pictures.  enjoy!

ingredients

1 cup milk chocolate chocolate chips

1/2 cup white sugar

3 Tablespoons corn syrup

1/3 cup choice rum (i used captain morgan’s white rum this time, but you could just as easily use a silver rum; you could also use bourbon if that’s more your style)

2 1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (about an 11-ounce box will do)

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

directions

if you were so fortunate to find a box of vanilla wafers already ground up, good for you!  if you were not so fortunate, crush those little guys up with a food processor.  it’ll take all of about two minutes, and opening up a brand new box of vanilla wafers is, le sigh, divine.  those things might be some of the best smelling crackers/cookies in the world.  just my opinion!

next, microwave the rum for about a minute and then add the white sugar to dissolve it.  i promise that doing so will make the mixture easier to incorporate in a minute.

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oh, and after you heat up that rum, it is going to smell strong.  just a warning.

place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat them in the microwave for one minute.  stir, and if necessary, return to the microwave and heat at 20-second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth.

add and blend the rum-sugar mixture and corn syrup with the silky chocolate.

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in a large bowl, stir together the crushed vanilla wafers, walnuts, and chocolate mixture until evenly distributed.

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okay, next comes the fun part.  use your hands to roll the “batter” into little balls, just a skosh smaller than a ping pong ball.  anything bigger is going to be overwhelming, take my word for it.

oh, also take my word for it that it is easiest to roll all of the balls first before we take them for a dip in the confectioner’s sugar.  and yes, your hands are going to get quite icky.  that’s why you have a little brother to take that picture for you, so no one misses any of the fun!

so, the final step is to roll each ball of chocolately-alcoholic goodness around in a bowl of confectioner’s sugar.  i use more like a 1/2 cup of sugar because i like to coat those things well.  after they’re all covered and white like winter snow, pop them in the refrigerator, cover them, and leave them for a week so that all the flavors can blend together.  once you finally do peel off that lid, the rum will be strong and taste even stronger which, if you’re anything like mark, is a glorious thing.

banana cream pie

i had some overly ripened bananas lying around the kitchen, and instead of going with banana bread this time, i wanted to try my hand at banana cream pie.  i couldn’t let those nanners go to waste, so i consulted my betty crocker cookbook like every good home cook would and found a recipe right there on page 133.

as i gathered all my ingredients and tools, i began to wonder, just who is this betty crocker that we have come to know and love over the past 90 years?  who is this american icon in our homes?  what is her history?  well, i’m so glad you asked.

as i read through and learned about betty crocker and all her fame, i couldn’t figure out a better way to share it all with you besides providing the link.  it’ll be a quick read and is quite interesting, so i highly encourage you to take a look!  as a self-proclaimed baker, it’s fun to learn about how something as simple as answering cooking questions has become tradition.  quite cool!

read on to find the recipe and all its details.  oh, also, i tried my hand at picture-taking while baking this time.  the shots aren’t terribly exciting, but there’s only so much i can do with these two hands at once!

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malted milk chocolate chip cookies

even though i’ve had no work today in observance of labor day, i’ve been quite productive.  i caught up on sleep, cleaned up the house, did laundry, ran to the grocery store, and wrote some wonderful posts for you lovely people.  i also got domestic and baked some homemade malted milk chocolate chip cookies.  they’re one of my favorites, and they’re even better when you dollop on a huge scoop of ice cream and freeze them for your own sandwiches.  quite delicious!

here’s the recipe for all you bakers out there:

ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup golden brown sugar

3/4 cups white sugar

2 whole eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup malted milk powder

12 ounces milk chocolate chips

directions

preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.

cream butter with electric mixer.

add both sugars and cream until fluffy.

add eggs and beat lightly.

add vanilla and beat until combined.

add malted milk powder and beat until combined.

sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.  add to butter mixture, beating gently until just combined.

add chocolate chips and stir in gently with spatula.

drop by tablespoon-fuls and bake 11-12 minutes.