A Little Facelift with a Side of French Toast Cupcakes

Ahem.  Notice anything a little...different around here?

Yes, LSM has been through a [HUGE] design overhaul.  Personally, it makes me feel like a new woman.

But how great does LSM look?!  Well at least I think so.  I'll be honest, when I decided that LSM needed a face lift, I started searching for blog designers with a fair amount of skepticism.  Between you and me, my old design didn't exactly come out like I had wished and the process was a tad painful.  It was completely my fault though, I wasn't sure what I wanted design wise, so there was nothing to really work with.  But this time around, I had a good idea of what I wanted LSM to look like.  It was just a matter of finding the right blog designer to pull it off.  And guys, Sharon pulled. It. Off.  I knew right away when I stumbled upon Redbud Designs that we were made for each other.

It'd be an understatement to say how utterly excited I am about this new design.  It's everything I was hoping for and more.  Cliche?  I know.  But it's the truth.  And I can't say enough how ridiculously simple the process was.  I shared a few blog designs and pictures of things that were 'me' and here we are.  My style replicated to perfection on LSM.  Sharon, I may ❤ you.

So in honor of LSM's lovely new design, I felt compelled to share with you one of the best cupcakes I have had to date.  I kid you not.  You can hate me for a millisecond for holding out on you guys, but I was saving these for this special moment.  And once you take one bite, you'll be too busy shoveling the rest of the cupcake into your pretty face to worry about me.  I promise.  I brought these into work a few weeks ago and one particular Assistant General Auditor has [un]subtly been suggesting that a second round of these cupcakes would be welcomed with open plates.  I guess I could easily be convinced if I suddenly noticed a slight increase in my bank account...

So what is it about these cupcakes that has undoubtedly left its mark on my office?  Let's begin with the [cup]cake: super soft and loaded with cinnamon goodness.  But the real kicker is a crunchy layer of cinnamon streusel nestled atop these dang good cupcakes.  Oh, and the luscious, rich maple buttercream doesn't hurt either.

Let's be real, that entire paragraph doesn't do these cupcake confections any justice whatsoever.  You'll just have to trust my word that these are ah-mazing.  Or better yet, whip up a batch for you and yourself.  And I say you and yourself, because you won't want to share  .

1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

3 c. all purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sour cream
4 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Maple Buttercream:
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
4 c. powdered sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. maple syrup
2 tbsp. heavy whipping cream

Powdered Sugar (optional)

  1. For the streusel, combine brown sugar, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.  Cut in butter by hand until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Cover and freeze until ready to use.
  2. Heat oven to 350°F.  Line a muffin pan with liners; set aside.
  3. For cupcakes, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla extract, and mix well until smooth.  Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle tops of batter with scant 1 tablespoon of streusel (make sure to completely cover the tops).  Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.  Let cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
  4. For buttercream, beat butter on high speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in sugar until combined.  Stir in vanilla extract, salt and maple syrup.  Add heavy whipping cream and beat on high for 4 minutes.  Frost cupcakes as desired and sprinkle with powdered sugar using a sifter.

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes


TWD Baking with Julia: Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

.  TWD?  Baking with Julia?  Did you miss something here?

No, no, nothing has slipped by you.  I've actually been waiting for over one year to make this announcement.  Over one year for this very post.

You all know that I'm part of a couple monthly challenges, both SRC and ICC [the Secret Recipe Club and the Improve Cooking Challenge, for you newbies].  But since the day I started blogging, one group was always out of my grasp.  Yes, the infamous Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) club.  For those of you who don't know of Dorie Greenspan, well, she's basically THE baker woman and a well known cookbook author.  So much so that there is an entire blog and following dedicated to honoring her work [obv the group I speak of now!].  You can read the entire TWD history for the full story, but the group is based around recreating recipes from Dorie's books or from books written by her and other authors.  The first book adventure, Baking: From My Home to Yours [by Dorie], began in 2008 and officially wrapped up in December 2011.  That's FOUR YEARS people!  Fortunately I started blogging when the group only had one year left [ha!], but here I am now.  An official TWD member!

So beginning in February 2012, the TWD club commenced, this time making recipes from Baking with Julia, written by Dorie and Julia Child.  There's basically only one major rule to the group: every month, two recipes are chosen from the book and members are encouraged to post about both of them, however, only one monthly post is required.  The actual recipes are posted on the blogs of the hosts for the month, where you can also find the links to other members' posts.  That's it!  Unfortunately, I wasn't accepted into the group until about a week or so before the first post, so I opted to skip that one [it was White Bread, in case you're curious!].

Consequently, I was left with Chocolate Truffle Tartlets.  Left?  Ha, that makes it sound like it was a chore.  Hmm?  No.  When you get something this dang good, it's anything but an obligation.  Dorie and Julia completely outdid themselves with this one.  And I can guarantee I will be saying that, oh, every TWD post ☺

So to be frank, these tartlets are pretty fancy pants.  They look fancy, taste fancy, and the name 'tartlets' just screams  fancy!

I will forewarn, these take a couple of steps, but I was quite caught off guard by how easy they were to make.  And the product?  Rich decadence.  Pure bliss.  I swear.

Let's start from the outside: a chocolate crust.  Uh, yum?  Yes sirree.  The crust itself is flakey and well, chocolatey.  Not an outrageous chocolate flavor though.  No, there's enough chocolatey-ness in the filling to complement this subtly sweet and buttery crust.  But I know you are all curious as to what make these tartlets so special.  And yes, you guessed it.  It's that filling!  Not only do you get to sink your chompers into a chocolate truffle middle, a seriously soft and creamy filling, but you'll also get to indulge in chunks of milk chocolate, white chocolate, and bits of biscotti.  Okay, kind of random combination if you ask me, but BOY [or girl], does it work!  How could all of that together not be good, anyway?  Answer?  It can't.

To be honest, I was a tad intimidated to attempt this recipe.  I'd never made tartlets before, so I had no clue what to expect.  But the directions were spot on and I can't really think of any hitches I experienced?  The only thing I can recall is that the crust can have a tendency to be crumbly, so just be patient with it.  Otherwise, you should be golden!

For my first TWD post, I think things went rather well!  I even sent 'sneak peak' pictures to my mom because I was so excited [and shocked!] that the tartlets turned out.  So head on over to Spike, Jaime, or Jessica's blog to find the recipe for Chocolate Truffle Tartlets and experience these heavenly rounds for yourself!  .


Secret Recipe Club: Oreo Cookie Brownies

.  SRC, SRC, SRC, oh how I love thee!

Ha, that rhymed and I didn't even even mean to...

Obviously my February SRC post has me completely giddy.  And I bet you can guess why by simply taking a glance at these photos, which do not do these bars of over-the-top goodness any justice.  I really need to work on my photographic and creativity skills.

For my fourth round of SRC, I was assigned to one of the most intriguing blogs to date: The Kitchen Witch by Rhonda.  However, it wasn't simply because of her wondrous recipes.  No, I'm mainly saying this because of the blog name!  The Kitchen Witch?  I mean, at face value it's not completely outrageous but what caught my attention was Rhonda's background section, which explained all about her and how the name 'Kitchen Witch' caught on.  To begin, Rhonda is basically a bad ass.  Excuse my French, but she is.  Rhonda describes herself as "a middle-aged blogger, above average home cook, and avid motorcycle rider." Wha, wha, what?!  Yea, like I said.  BA and I love it.  And as for the blog name, here's what Rhonda has to say about the history of the Kitchen Witch:

There is some debate over the exact country where the kitchen witch originated, some claiming Norway and others Germany, but consensus points to it stemming from older European customs.  The poppet is supposed to depict a “good” witch who inspires productivity and safety in a kitchen, but also counteracts any ill-will directed to the home.  It is considered good luck to give a kitchen witch to a friend or family member. So that those unfamiliar with the kitchen witch can understand its meaning, sometimes a note will be hung around the witch’s neck stating something similar to:

"The Legendary Secret of Goof-Proof Cooking: The Famous Kitchen Witch"

For centuries, Norwegians have hung this good witch in their kitchen. They believe she has the power to keep roasts from burning, pots from boiling over, and sauces from spilling.

No more baking flops?  Hmm, I think someone needs to give me a kitchen witch, dang it.  But aside from that, isn't that such an interesting tid bit of info?!  I had never heard of a Kitchen Witch before but I've absolutely fallen in love with the idea...and Rhonda's blog!

So to begin my search through the Kitchen Witch recipes, I knew I wanted to find a recipe that I could use for Valentine's Day.  I know, you've probably been overloaded with hearts and sappy stories, but this will be my last one for this holiday.  I [kind of] promise.  So I narrowed down my list of Rhonda's recipes to Maple Rum Pecan Cupcakes with Candied Bacon, Chocolate-covered Cherry Cookies, and Oreo Cookie Brownies.  Okay, the first two options sound delish, right?  But can you blame me for opting for the Oreo-filled bar?  I think not.

You can see from my picture illustration above that these brownies are anything but ordinary.  Let's see, where to begin?  We'll just start from the bottom up.  Rhonda's original recipe called for a boxed brownie mix and canned frosting, but if you know me, I try to make almost everything I can from scratch.  Don't get me wrong, boxed mixes are fabulous, quick, and easy, but when I have the time, I go the homemade route.  So I decided to use the brownie recipe from my Raspberry Truffle Brownies, because those are dang good.  Tender, super fudgy, rich brownie?  Check.  Next, we move onto what I now call the Oreo Crunch.  In Rhonda's recipe, her treat had an Oreo crust.  Now, I followed the directions just as Rhonda's listed them but I noticed that the crust tended to crumble a bit during handling.  So to mitigate this issue, I flipped the brownies upside down and the crust became the 'crunch'!  Finally, the brownie-crunch combo is topped with an outrageous homemade Vanilla Buttercream.  Robbie went as far to say that this was the best buttercream I had ever made.  And we've had our fair share of buttercreams!  So I'm sure you can imagine the decadence eminating from this dessert.  Brownies.  Oreos.  Buttercream.  WHEW!

Thanks again, Rhonda, for this wonderful dessert.  I will most definitely be making these again, as they were a hit at both my work and Robbie's!  Yes, I made them TWICE in two days!  Enough said  .

My Notes:
  • As you can see, I went Valentine's Day festive and cut out my brownies in the shapes of hearts.  Too cute, right?  Right.  But be mindful that you must be careful when cutting these suckers out and taking them from the cookie cutter, because the brownies are very soft and the crust can be a bit fragile when not completely cooled.
  • As you can see below, I included the directions that Rhonda lists on her blog, using boxed brownies and canned frosting.  But if you want to use exactly what I did, click on the links above to take you to the recipes.
  • To make the cookie crumbs, you can either use a food processor or place the Oreo's in a ziploc bag and roll over the cookies using a rolling pin until finely crushed.  Don't forget to take out the filling before you do either though!  Also, the entire package of Oreo's makes more crumbs than you need for the crust, so keep the remaining crumbs and sprinkle them over top the brownies once they're frosted.
From The Kitchen Witch

Oreo Crust [Crunch]:
2 c. cookie crumbs (from 1 package of Oreo's)
1/2 c. butter, melted

1 box brownie mix, including ingredients listed on box

1 container vanilla frosting
Reserved cookie crumbs (for sprinkling)
Mini Oreos (optional for decorating)

  1. Heat oven to 350F.  For the crust [crunch], mix the cookie crumbs and butter together in a small bowl.  Firmly press the mixture into the bottom of a 13x9-inch pan.  Bake 10 minutes and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare brownies according to package directions.  Pour the batter evenly over the crust.  Bake according to package directions.  Let brownies cool completely.
  3. Frost brownies as desired and sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.  Top with mini Oreo's as decorations.
Yield: 2 dozen bars


Pina Colada Dip

.  Hello all!  I hope everyone had a wonderfully romantic Valentine's Day.  Well, for those of you who wanted a romantic night, I guess.  My V-Day was actually much more exciting than I planned, but that's always a good thing!  So a week ago, I decided I needed to do something extra special for Robbie, I had to top last year's V-Day surprise.  Now, if you know Robbie, you know that he hates surprises.  He hates attention.  So guess what his wonderful girlfriend had to do?  Mmhmm, I had to completely embarrass him to show him just how much I love him.  That's logical, right?

So long story short, I showed up at Robbie's work [with a cheesy bear, caramel apple, and box of chocolates in hand] and took embarrassment to a brand new level.  Not only did we end up having the entire office staring at us, but I got the tomato-red face and nervous chuckles galore from Robbie.  It was utterly embarrassing for us both but it was easily one of the best moments of our relationship.  I'll never forget his adorable face as he smiled to the room in humiliation.  In the end, he admitted he was happy to see me [thank goodness], but tried to make me promise to never do it again.  I had my fingers crossed though.

So now that V-Day is over and I'm guessing many of you have had your fair share of chocolate candy [I know we have!], I figured this would be a good time to pass out a fruity recipe: Piña Colada Dip.  I hesitate to call it 'light' because let's be honest, it's not exactly healthy.  But the fruity-ness of the dish is outrageously refreshing and seriously addicting.  I could have easily eaten this dip entirely by myself but since I made this for our guests at our Mexi-themed Super Bowl gathering, I did leave a spoonful or two for everyone else.  I'm such a great host.  I served this dip with Vanilla Wafers and fresh strawberries, which I absolutely loved both.  But you can also serve this recipe with a variety of accompaniments, such as graham crackers, pineapple slices, angel food cake pieces, etc.  You get the point.  Have at 'er!  .

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow creme
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut

Various fruits, crackers, or cakes to serve

  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and marshmallow creme until fluffy.
  2. Fold in pineapple and coconut.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.


Valentine's Day 911

Hopefully the majority of you are not like me and didn't even realize Valentine's Day is tomorrow.  Not gonna lie, I definitely thought it was on Wednesday.  Not that Robbie and I have anything planned but I'm saying I didn't even know the right day.  Oops.

So for those of you still scrambling [remember to breathe], I've rounded up a few of my favorite chocolate recipes [for the most part] that would be perfect for your Valentine's Day sweetie.  I tried to include some dishes that would cover all facets of the day, whether you choose to surprise that special someone with breakfast in bed or finish a romantic dinner with some chocolatey treats.

But however little [or big] you choose to go for this love-birds holiday, remember that in the end it's the thought that counts.  And we should all be appreciative for any gesture thrown our way  .

Happy [early] Valentine's Day!!


Double Fudge Biscotti

Well all I know is that I would love to wake up to THAT on Valentine's Day.  Robbie, you better get bakin.'

Just kidding guys, I would never make Robbie do something for me, but if he wanted to out of the goodness of his heart and because I'm so special to him...well then, I guess I would't argue.  No pressure.

But I'm guessing many of you are like Robbie and I, and realizing the clock is quickly winding down to the big V-day [it almost sounds more of like a sentence than a holidy, huh?].  And what's that?  You haven't thought of a gift yet?!  Shame, shame on you.  Juuust kidding, again.  Robbie and I are the worst when it comes to Valentine's Day, it's definitely a holiday we both kind of blow off.  We treat each other like it's Valentine's Day everyday, right sweetie?  Gag.

Anywho, for those of you in a bit of bind, I would highly recommend you whip up a batch of these utterly beautiful treats for those special people in your life.  Not only are they crunchy chocolatey sticks of goodness, filled with hunks of semisweet and white chocolate, but they truly make a gorgeous gift.  I actually made these a couple of weeks ago for a friend of mine at work, wrapped them in some cellophane with a pretty white ribbon and voila!  I looked like good ol' Martha Stewart, if I do say so myself.

I can see myself now, sipping on my coffee come Valentine's Day morning, Double Fudge Biscotti in hand.  Pure bliss.  Oh, and for those of you who aren't coffee drinkers [we may need to have a chat...], these are wonderful by themselves.  They're very rich, so even though they're classified as a breakfast item, it wouldn't be too far of a stretch to call these dessert.  Yeah, you'll see what I mean once you make them.  So go make them!  .

Adapted from A Passion for Baking

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1-3/4 c. sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2-1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 c. white chocolate chips

4 oz. each semisweet and white chocolate, melted

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Line two small or one large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla extract and blend well.  Fold in cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour to make a thick batter.  Fold in semisweet and white chocolate chips.  Let dough stand for 15 minutes to thicken and firm up.
  3. Spread dough into two logs on prepared baking sheet(s).  Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until set and logs are firm to the touch.  Remove biscotti from oven and let cool 15 to 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.  Using a long serrated knife, slice logs on a diagonal into 1/2-inch thick pieces.  Return biscotti to baking sheet, standing upright, and bake 30 to 40 minutes to dry and crisp biscotti.  Let cool completely on baking sheets.
  4. To finish, melt semisweet and white chocolate and drizzle over each piece of biscotti.  Let harden before serving.
Yield: 3 dozen biscotti


Nutella Creme Sandwich Cookies

.  I caved.

I'm a bandwagoner.

I couldn't stop myself.

There, happy?  I admitted it.

But can you really blame me?  One gigantic spoonful little taste of Nutella and it's got ya.  Hook, line, and sinker.  If you don't believe me, do yourself a favor and buy some.  Then get back to me.

I know most, if not all, of you have heard the buzz surrounding the infamous Nutella.  That creamy, rich, chocolatey, hazelnutty, Nutella.  Mm. Mm. GoOOoOoOd.

So it probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, that these [rather large] sandwich cookies are deeelicious.  Robbie requested I whip a batch of these up for him to take into work last Saturday, but Omaha decided to seek revenge on our literally-no-snow-winter and dump about 9 inches of fresh snow at our doorstep.  Thus, no Saturday work for Robbie!  So aside from the five or six cookie sandwiches Robbie gobbled down on our snow day [no joke, he really did!], I served the 'leftovers' at our little Super Bowl gathering.  I tried to warn our friends, but Nutella got those suckers, too.  It was a happy Mexi-feast and Nutella filled night.

So what makes these sandwich cookies so special?  Well aside from the soft, chewy Nutella cookies and the Nutella/marshmallow creme filling...yeah, that's pretty much all that needs to be said.

Oh, well one more thing.  These wouldn't be a bad idea for a Valentine's Day treat.  Uh huh, V-day is right around the corner.  Sorry to remind you.  But a batch of these will surely make up for any 'forgotten' gifts ☺  .

My Notes:
  • Now, I do think bigger is better.  But, since these are cookie sandwiches (i.e., TWO cookies in one treat), I would probably make the cookies a little smaller next time around.  But I've given you the original directions below, just thought you'd like my input.

Nutella Cookies:
1-1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. Nutella
Sugar in the Raw (for sprinkling)

Nutella Creme Filling:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3/4 c. marshmallow creme
1/2 c. Nutella

  1. Heat oven to 375°F.  For the cookies, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and sugar.  Beat in egg until combined.  Add Nutella and beat until well mixed.  Stir in vanilla extract.  Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat until combined.
  3. Roll the dough into balls, one tablespoon at a time.  Place balls 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Press the tops of each ball gently with a fork in one direction.  Lightly sprinkle cookies with sugar.  Bake 10 minutes and allow to cool on wire rack before frosting.
  4. For filling, beat butter in a small bowl until smooth.  Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.  Stir in vanilla extract and salt.  Mix in marshmallow creme and Nutella and beat until light and fluffy (if the filling is too runny, add in powdered sugar to thicken).
  5. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling onto half of cookies and top with remaining cookies to create sandwiches.  
Yield: 1 dozen cookie sandwiches


Snickery Squares

Eeek!  Super Bowl weekend has finally arrived and uh, I have quite a bit to get done!  Why do things always seem to creep up on me like this?

At the request of a couple of our friends [cough, Hollyann/Brandon, cough], Robbie and I will be hosting a small, small Super Bowl get-together this Sunday, filled with lotsa food and [hopefully] one dang good football game.  We had some people over last year as well and apparently they had an okay time, because they wanted to do it again.  Honestly, I think Robbie and I are quite boring but I'm glad our friends don't think so :)

But now that I think about it, maybe it has nothing to do with Robbie and I?  Maybe it has to do with the fact that Hollyann and I [try to] pull out all of the stops for our friendly gatherings, conjuring up a spread for two weeks 24/7 of delicious foods that we don't normally get and making sure we tell each and every one of our potential guests what we'll be having.  Ha, talk about bribing our way into friendships.

We decided that we're going all out Mexi-themed this year.  Yes, Mexi.  Hollyann was all about it because she has some great homemade recipes from her mom that she's eager to share and I would never turn down an opporunity to gorge munch on anything related to Mexican cuisine.  I've been told by my parents more than once in my life that I'm a Mexican at heart.  So here's our spread:

Nacho Bar
Homemade Tamales
Homemade Refried Beans
Homemade Guacamole
Pina Colada Dip
Pie [TBD, any suggestions?!]
    Oh yeah, did I mention we're having a max of seven people over?  Looks like we're going to have some leftovers.  But can you blame us, Hollyann and I rarely have the opportunity to plan 'events' like this, so like I said, we go all out.  We love doing it and we just want to make sure the boys don't go hungry.  Yeah, that's our excuse.  The boys.

    But anywho, I realize many of you haven't been obsessing over a Super Bowl spread the last few weeks, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to share an All-American goodie for one of America's greatest past times: Snickey Squares!

    I made these little candy bar-esque goodie for Robbie to take into work last Saturday.  Uh huh, Saturday.  I think I mentioned this before, but Robbie is officially in 'busy' season and Saturday's are not off limits for work.  So ever since he started his job, I brought it upon myself to start a little tradition to make something for him to bring into the office every weekend.  Just a little sugary snack to brighten up those accountants' days.

    Now I must warn you, these are not straight up Snickers Bars as they do not contain any nougat (boo hoo).  Rather, the shortbread crust is topped with a filling of gooey dulce de leche and candied peanuts, and finished with a generous layer of chocolate and more candied peanuts.  I think a more accurate title would be 'The Cousin of Snickers' Squares.

    So for those of you still lacking a sweet in your Super Bowl Sunday meal, why not take a chance with these babies?  I mean, whoever went wrong with a Snickers? 

    Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, Robbie and I have much to do in preparation for the big game, so I'll see you all next week!  .

    My Notes:
    • I personally thought these are the absolute best straight out of the refrigerator.  Otherwise when they're room temperature, they had a tendency to kind of fall apart.

    1 c. all purpose flour
    3/4 c. sugar
    2 tbsp. powdered sugar
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/2 c. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
    1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

    1/3 c. sugar
    3 tbsp. water
    1 c. salted peanuts
    1 can dulce de leche

    7 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces

    1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Spray 8-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.
    2. For crust, put the flour, sugar, powdered sugar, and salt into food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  Add cold butter pieces and pulse until mixture looks like coarse meal.  Pour the yolk over the mixture and pulse until dough forms clumps and curds (stop before the dough comes together in a ball).
    3. Turn out the dough to the prepared pan and gently press evenly across the bottom.  Prick the dough all over with a fork.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust takes on just a little color around the edges.  Transfer pan to rack and cool to room temperature before filling.
    4. For filling, set aside a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook, without stirring, until it just starts to color.  Toss in the peanuts and immediately start stirring to coat the peanuts.  The sugar-covered peanuts will turn white and keep stirring until the sugar turns back to caramel.  Remove the pan from the heat and turn out the peanuts onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in a even layer.  Cool peanuts to room temperature.
    5. When cool, separate the peanuts into smaller pieces.  Divide the peanuts in half and finely chop one half of the peanuts for the topping.  Spread the dulce de leche over the crust and sprinkle with whole candied peanuts.  Gently press the peanuts into the filling.
    6. For topping, melt together the chocolate and butter in microwave.  Pour the chocolate over the filling, smoothing evenly with a spatula.  Sprinkle over finely chopped candied peanuts. Refrigerate the pan for 20 minutes to let topping set before cutting.
    Yield: 16 bars


    The Birthday Boy and Homemade Peanut Butter Pup Biscuits

    Say it [loudly] with me...

    Happy Birthday, Grahammy!

    That's right everybody, my little baby boy is turning 2 today!  Can you believe it?  Because I know Robbie and I can't.  How has it already been two years since that little angelic fluff ball came into our lives?  Geez, how time flies.


    In celebration of the Big Birthday Boy, I figured I would stop being selfish and use my baking skills to make something for the pups!  Honestly, with how much we pamper our 'children', I still can't believe I hadn't done this earlier.  Not only were they quick and super simple, I have to imagine the cost of homemade puppy treats is much less than store-bought.  I mean, logically that makes sense, right?

    So I ventured on over to my Pinterest board 'Lovin' My Pups' [you should follow me!] and took a gander at the treats I had previously pinned.  I didn't have too many options but I knew right away what I'd be making.  If I haven't mentioned this before, all of our pups are peanut butter obsessed [they obviously learned from their mama!], so this was a no brainer.  Homemade Peanut Butter Biscuits, it is.  And do they LOVE them!! 

    Now, I can't vouch for the taste of this treat but what I can say is that Graham's crazy eyes [above] speak a thousand words.  He tends to get like this when it's treat time.  And homemade treats send him to another level.

    All in all, my decision to make homemade puppy treats was a great one.  I know our pups agree.  As I said before and I'll say it again, the biscuits are seriously too easy to make, quick, healthy, and cheap [as if I spare expenses when it comes ot my babies!].  So if you haven't already, make something special for [wo]man's best friend.  Happy birthday, my little love bug  .

    My Notes:
    • Since we have three dogs, I chose to double the recipe [reflected below].  However, just cut all of the ingredients in half to get a single batch.

    Adapted from Pink Pistachio

    2 c. all purpose flour
    1/2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
    1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
    1 tbsp. baking powder
    1 c. creamy peanut butter
    1 c. milk
    2 tbsp. olive oil
    2 tbsp. applesauce
    1. Heat oven to 350F.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, coconut, and baking powder.  Add in peanut butter, milk, olive oil, and applesauce, and mix to combine.  With hands, knead into a well incorporated ball.  
    2. On a piece of wax paper, roll out dough ball to about 1/2-inch thick.  Using desired cookie cutters, cut out biscuits and place onto an ungreased baking sheet. 
    3. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. 
    Yield: about 50 biscuits
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