Brownie Bite Surprise Recipe

One of my favorite things about December is the goodies! The baking, the exchanging and the eating of delicious holiday treats! I do a lot of baking during the holidays. Probably more than I do all year! I’m pretty sure I inherited this baking trait from my mom. She always had {and still has} a “buffet” of goodies during the holidays. I think she must make something just about every day of December. So yummy! 
I have some recipes that I make year after year. They are my favorites. Many are treats I grew up eating. Mom’s recipes. A few are recipes I’ve come across that have come to be a holiday favorite. And I always find a copule of new recipes that I try. 
This one, which I call Brownie Bite Surprise, is a new one. One that I came up with. Now listen up, I’m not sayin’ it’s never been done before, I’m sure it has and I’m sure there is a recipe for it somewhere out there. I’m just sayin’ that I didn’t find this recipe on Pinterest, or or in a magazine. I thought of it while at the grocery store one day. I wanted to make some chocolate treat with something inside. A surprise, but something different than the Reece’s or Snickers brownies I’ve made before. So as I was browsing the candy isle, I found the perfect stuffer! These little bites turned out gooey and fudgy. The center melts in your mouth but also has a little crunch. So delicious! Here’s the recipe. . . 
Very simple ingredients. And yes, I use boxed brownie mix. I’ve told you before, I do not make stuff like that from scratch. So you need a basic fudge brownie mix {make sure it’s the fudgey kind} and Hershey’s Nuggets {I like the toffee/almond kind}. 
Mix the brownies according to the directions on the box. 
Line a mini-muffin tin with miniature baking cups. {This is a very important step. The first time I made them I greased the pan rather than using baking cups. Big mistake. They were very hard to get out and ended up looking pretty ugly after I had to scoop them out with a spoon.}
Scoop a heaping teaspoon of batter into baking cups. 
Unwrap and cut the nuggets in half.
Place a half of the candy in each muffin cup and press down gently. 
Top with another heaping teaspoon of brownie batter and spread to cover candy. {I know, this doesn’t look pretty}!
Bake in a 350* oven {325* for dark, nonstick pan} for 15-20 minutes. Just watch for the tops to look bubbly and cracked like above. You don’t want to overcook these guys. Cool for at least fifteen minutes before carefully removing from the pan. If your tops have spilled over, you may need to use a knife to lift it from the pan.

These are a hit and everyone always asks, “What’s in the center?” Surprise! 

Grillin’ & Chillin’ Cake

Whew! It was a crazy busy weekend! Saturday I was busy garage saling and Sunday I was busy preparing for a shower for some friends getting married at the end of the month. It was a couples shower with the theme “Grillin’ and Chillin'” and we had a blast! We even had a surprise visitor. Our BFF Melly who lives in Chicago made a surprise appearance. It was an evening filled with good food, good friends and good times to celebrate an upcoming marriage! What I want to show you from this party was the cake. 
Isn’t it fabulous and adorable! I cannot take credit for this one. A friend graciously took the time to make it for us. Thanks Cristy! Take a closer look. . .
The layered chocolate cake was a grill with burger patties {rice cakes sprayed with red food coloring} and even burning charcoal inside {marshmallows covered in icing and sprinkles}.
The tray of mini sliders were white cupcakes with a slice of chocolate in the center, covered in yellow/orange icing. And my favorite was the corn on the cob cupcakes covered in jelly beans and a banana Laffy Taffy! Not only did this cake look awesome, but it tasted amazing! Thank you, thank Cristy! This was the hit of the party!

Strawberry Walnut Bread

Yesterday I showed you our annual strawberry pickin’ adventure. Not only is it  fun to take the boys to pick strawberries, but we get fresh, ripe, local berries to eat! YUM! However, since we pick at least two {usually more} times each spring, we end up with a lot of strawberries! I freeze several bags for our smoothies throughout the year. But we still have plenty leftover for snacking and plenty to use for recipe. I’ll be sharing these recipes with you over the next couple of weeks as we continue to pick! 
Today, get ready for Strawberry Walnut Bread: 
My version isn’t too terribly sinful. I substitute applesauce for some of the oil and use whole wheat flour. Healthy and delicious!
Just look at those big chunks of fresh, ripe strawberries in there! And a touch of cinnamon make this bread so yummy! As I told you yesterday, Little Man # 1 came down from his nap and asked, “Mommy, what are you cooking?”
Best part, it’s easy! Let me show you. Here is what you need:

  • 2 cups fresh sliced strawberries
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour {I use whole wheat}
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 1/2 cups white sugar** + more for sprinkling

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • **If your strawberries are not ripe {sweet} you may want to add more sugar

Place sliced strawberries in a bowl and lightly sprinkle with sugar. Let this mixture sit while you prepare the batter.
Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Add sugar to the bowl and mix. Add oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla and beat until blended. Fold in strawberries and walnuts.  

Pour into two, lightly greased, bread loaf pans. Bake in a 350* oven {325* for dark or nonstick pans} for 50-60 minutes or until set. Cool and remove from pans.


Argh Matey, Pirate Cupcakes

Aren’t these pirate cupcakes darling? 
I can’t take too much credit for these. I borrowed the idea from a friend. But they turned out so cute that I just had to share. 
Use any flavor for the cake and bake according to the package. My little guy picked chocolate. I found several different pirate theme liner cups (Hobby Lobby, Michael’s and Party City) but chose gold because it matched the gold coins and jewelry I used for party decor. 

I used a tub of white buttercream frosting and added just a couple spoonfuls of milk chocolate frosting to make a flesh-like color. I mixed it using a hand mixer.

Frost the cupcakes.
Pour chocolate sprinkles onto a small plate or shallow bowl.
Pressing lightly, roll 1/2 the iced cupcake in the sprinkles so that they cover the bottom and slightly up the sides of the cupcake.
There’s the scruffy beard! 

I used vanilla frosting in my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator for the whites of the eyes. 

Red icing is too hard to make, so I used a can of red cupcake icing for the bandanas then added white polka dots with the vanilla icing using the PC decorator.
You could use any small, round candy, but we chose chocolate chips for the eyeballs. Then used the red icing for the mouth.
Cute and yummy!

Happy Birthday John! (aka daddy, aka hubby)

You’re a Rock Star Daddy! 
Hubby plays the guitar and it was Jackson’s idea to make him a guitar rock star cake.  Nothing fancy, just a personalized cake that we can say 
Little man # 1 (Jackson) LOVES to help me in the kitchen
Check it out:
 Making daddy’s cake last year

Making Christmas cookies in 2008
Christmas cookies in 2009.                                           Christmas cookies in 2010.
This kid LOVES to bake!
Notice that Little Man #2, Parker Reese, isn’t in any of these photos. Baking? Not so much. Breaking? Yes!
But really I think he enjoys helping me so he can do this. . .
I mean really, who doesn’t like to like the bowl, spoon, etc?
To make this very simple double-layer guitar cake:

(plus a box of cake mix)

We used a box (Yes, a box. I don’t not bake cakes from scratch) of Betty Crocker Devil’s food. I used 2 round cake pans lined with foil for easy removal. 
After cooling the cakes (in the pans) on a wire rack, I lifted the cakes out by holding the foil. The foil will peel easily away from the cake. Again, store-bought icing. Place pieces of wax paper under the cake so the cake plate stays clean. Using my
Jackson and I spread chocolate frosting on the top of the first cake.  Place the second cake on top (you may need to trim cake to make it flat) and frost the top and sides and then remove the wax paper. 
Now you can decorate it however you like! We drew the guitar using canned cupcake icing and some tubes of icing I had in the cabinet. Jackson wanted to add sprinkles and of course the candles. I bought the #3 and #2 only Because both my boys can use them for their birthdays this year. Cool!

Happy birthday John! Hope you like your cake!

A Not So Successful Day in the Land of Baked Goods

Bummer. . .
 I hate it when a new recipe just doesn’t turn out the way I had hoped. They tasted great, but looked horrible! But don’t be discouraged and keep please keep reading. I solved the problem for the last dozen of the cookies that went into the oven.

Lately I’ve been craving chocolate and cherries. I had a really yummy cookie recently at our MOPS cookie exchange. Unfortunately at this cookie exchange we didn’t provide the recipes. So I looked through my cookie cookbooks, searched online for chocolate cherry cookies recipes and couldn’t really find what I was looking for. But I did find this recipe in my Southern Living Christmas Cookies cookbook. Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies. Sounded pretty good and I had the ingredients, so what the hay, I’ll try them.

Here’s the ingredients. Pretty much pantry basics except for the cherries.

Start out by draining a 10 oz jar of maraschino cherries, but be sure to reserve the juice. I do this by placing a glass measuring cup underneath a small strainer. The original recipe asks you to slice the cherries after draining them. I think next time I will leave them whole. They aren’t very big to begin with and I think I would have liked more cherry flavor in the cookie.

Beat 1 stick (1/2 cup) of softened butter and 1 cup sugar until creamy.
Add 1 egg,  1 1/2 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp (or more) of reserved cherry juice and mix well. Next time I think I will try 3 tsp of juice. I didn’t think the actual cookies had any cherry flavor from 2 tsp.

In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients (1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1/4 tsp each baking soda, baking powder and salt).
Gradually add to sugar and butter mixture, beating well after each addition. 


Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

 Using your thumb, make and indention in the center of each ball. Place a cherry in the indention.
My little man putting the cherries in the holes. He loved this job!

Here is where the recipe went downhill for me. . .

Cook 1/2 package (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan over low heat stirring occasionally until melted. Add 1 or more tsp of reserved cherry juice. Again, I think I’ll add a little more next time for more cherry flavor.

Spoon a teaspoon of chocolate over each cookie. Spoon over the cookie? I couldn’t spoon this chocolate over anything because it was more like the consistency of a tub of frosting then a glaze. So I put a dollop of the stuff on each cookie thinking maybe it would melt over the cookie once in the oven. 

NO! Didn’t happen. So I read a few reviews of the recipe and no one mentioned anything about the chocolate topping, so I thought maybe I did something wrong. I tried making it again. Same consistency. I didn’t want to waste everything, so I just blobbed the stuff on top of the second pan of cookies and threw them in the oven.

While they were baking, I decided to look at the other similar recipes I found online. Here is where I got an idea that finally made my 3rd and final pan turn out nicely.

I put the chocolate “stuff” into my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator (LOVE this thing and it’s only 20 bucks!) and swirled it on top of the cookies. 

Now let me assure you that all the cookies tasted really yummy, they just looked awful! And I don’t know about you, but I bake most of my holiday goodies to give away or serve at parties. NO WAY I would have let anyone see these! But I did get one good dozen out of the batch. I’ll save those for friends.
Here is the original recipe from Southern Living
And here is the recipe with photos from