Dessert

cookies-n-cream-texas-sheet-cake

Another week down (almost), and another week where I’ve come home every day with both kids. Success! Such a good feeling. Each day I’m torn between wanting to take the boys out for fun activities and wanting to keep them corralled in my living room. Usually I opt to take them out, and there’s a solid 45 minutes where I am just running back and forth between the two, sweating, making sure no one runs away or gets kidnapped. They don’t quite follow instructions yet and no play area in Dallas seems to be enclosed. How do we feel about leashes? I’ve decided it’s not beneath me. It’s not.

Sometimes when I get back from a really stressful outing I like to bake something outrageous. Baking is an outlet for me. Actually not so much the act of baking, but the act of eating the batter or dough. It really makes me happy. Last week, I had sheet cake on my mind. I loooooove the Pioneer Woman’s recipe – so I made that but replaced the pecans with Oreos (duh), and the chocolate icing with a creamy vanilla icing. Unnecessarily rich and decadent, but it makes any stressful day a good one.

Recipe

  • Pioneer Woman Sheet Cake , minus the pecans and icing
  • 1.5 sticks butter, melted
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk
  • ~30 oreos, smashed

Bake the cake as instructed. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk (it should be a thinner frosting).  When cake comes out of the oven, immediately top with crushed oreos, then drizzle with frosting.

maple-chocolate-chip-cookies-2

I really love pancakes. So much so that I would add “being able to order the kids’ pancakes at brunch” as one of the best things about having kids. And what’s the best thing about pancakes? The syrup, of course.  My best friend, who lives in Wisconsin, has started making her own maple syrup and oh man. There are no words to describe how good it is. She sent me a jar when I was pregnant, and to this day I can’t really tell you what happened to it. Pancakes? Ice Cream? Oatmeal? Spoon? I don’t know. I finished it in about a week and it’s all one big maply blur.  (hint hint, Christa, I’m accepting more maple syrup).

So anyway, these cookies are like pancakes in a cookie. Not made with homemade maple syrup because that would be a waste, but made with pure maple syrup to give it that really delicious sweet amber flavor. I know amber isn’t really a flavor.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • ~1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg, then the vanilla, baking soda, corn starch, and salt. Slowly mix in the flour and then the maple syrup. Add the chocolate chips.  Cover cookie dough and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350.  Drop rounded balls onto baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

best-banana-cake-caramel-frosting

If you’re noticing an uptick in banana recipes lately, you’re not alone. I have too. I like to buy lots of bananas. Always have. And now that I have two babies and babies love bananas, the problem is spiraling out of control. And when those bananas turn brown, my mind just goes into overdrive brainstorming what I can bake with them. 8 times out of 10, I go with my trusty banana bread with chocolate chips.  I looooove waking up to fresh baked banana bread on Saturday mornings. This past weekend though I decided to pave a new path and try banana cake with a caramel frosting. So good. So banana-y. So caramel-y. 


Cake Recipe

  • 2 eggs, at room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9×11 in baking dish.  Beat the eggs in a large bowl with a standing mixer; add the sugars, vanilla, and bananas. Add in the baking powder, soda, salt and flour, stirring until combined.  Mix in the buttermilk and vegetable oil.  Pour into baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes.


Meanwhile, make the caramel frosting (PS – easiest caramel frosting in the world)


Frosting Recipe

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • ~1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Whisk in the brown sugar, and cook on low for 2 minutes. Stir in the milk, bring to a low boil and then turn off the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the powdered sugar (needs to be sifted if you don’t want it lumpy!).  When cake comes out of the oven, immediately pour the frosting over the cake.

Chocolate Banana Bread

chocolate-banana-bread
Nothing makes me think of home more than banana bread. Silly, I know, but it’s my favorite comfort food and I spent most of my life thinking my mom invented it (that and graham crackers).  When I was little, my mom and I would play board games and on special days she would give me a piece of freshly baked banana bread. That feeling of comfort and excitement has stuck with me through the years and now that I am a mom, it makes me think of all the little things our moms have done throughout our lives that have had such a lasting impact on us. My mom did a million different things every day that turned 4 little babies into 4 strong, happy, confident women.  It’s a feat that I don’t take lightly now that the challenge is upon me, and I only hope that I can live up to the same accomplishment.

And with Mother’s day approaching, it also made me reflect on her mother, my grandmother, who we lost this year at the grand old age of 97. She was a bright, fiery spirit that I admired my whole life. She was a strong, witty, outspoken and independent woman, who even in her final months very seriously claimed that ‘God must have forgotten about her.’ But nobody could have forgotten Georgia Carr; she was a woman who we all knew was special and we didn’t need her passing to remind us.

The truth is I always wanted to be as extraordinary as my grandma, but it looks like I’m not going to be. I know this because by the time she was my age, she had literally been involved in the prisoner liberation in Dachau, Germany at the end of World War II, when the concentration camps and POWs were released into the streets.  I giggle even as I type that because it’s so unbelievable – she was in her early 20s and accomplishing such big, worldly things.  She was a proud member of the Red Cross and served soldiers during WWII in Austria, Germany, and England. This was an extraordinary thing for a woman in that time, but she carried this passion and determination with her throughout her entire life.  She was the first person to swim all the way across the Detroit Lakes in Minnesota (at the age of 15). She took flying lessons because she wanted to learn to fly a plane. She graduated from college with a teaching degree in math and phy ed. Once her 5 children were born, she was a Scout leader, PTA president, UNICEF volunteer, and church leader. At her funeral, I was so touched by the clear impact she had on members of the church; her old pastor came back to give the sermon and so many women came to help with the lunch and talked about Georgia’s impact.

She also had a fun, competitive streak. As kids, we never once won a game of scrabble or checkers against her (why on earth would she let us win, she would ask my mom).  She was part of a bridge club that was far less about socializing and eating/drinking with other women, and much more about winning. My grandma had a spark, a determination about her; And as amazing as her time in the Red Cross was along with her other accomplishments of swimming, flying, and a college degree in the mid 1900s, it’s her lifelong activism that really inspires me. I feel like once she settled down, married my grandfather and had 5 kids of her own..she still managed to make an ordinary life extraordinary. Her leadership in her kids’ activities and schools, in the church, volunteering..and still finding time to have fun (sort of) with the bridge club. That’s what I find truly awe inspiring; to maintain that level of passion and activism with everything you do, quite literally from WWII to the PTA. She was one of a kind, truly. We could all be a little bit more like Georgia, and if her funeral taught me anything, it’s that I need to get moving.

So happy mother’s day to all the moms and grandmas out there. It’s a holiday that is truly deserved..and a time to feel proud of what we do and the little people that we are molding into big people – hopefully happy, content, and full of life.

And while my mom may not have invented banana bread, the fact that I thought she did for so many years really says it all. She was a supermom who made everything great; from games of Trouble to school lunches to our family dinners that I am now trying my best to replicate. The impact both my grandma and my mom had on me is clear; now fingers crossed I can do the same for my own children.

And on that note, onto the recipe. Banana bread, but with chocolate, so hopefully my boys will think I invented it.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 medium bananas
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a bread pan.  Cream the butter and sugar together in a standing mixer. Add the egg and vanilla.  Mix together the baking powder, soda, flour, and cocoa powder in one bowl, and mash the bananas and milk in another. Add a little of the flour mixture to the butter mix, then add a little of the banana, alternating until all is incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and bake for about 45 minutes.

chocolate-butterscotch-cookies

I’m going to invest a lot of my time and efforts into butterscotch this year. I started with this Butterscotch Pie, I made Butterscotch pudding last night (the Jell-O boxed version), I made these cookies last weekend, and I’m making a ton more butterscotch stuff going forward. I don’t know why we’ve all been turning a blind eye to butterscotch all these years, but it stops right here, right now.

That being said, if you DON’T like butterscotch, you will not like these cookies. Sub ’em for plain old chocolate chips then.

Recipe

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1.5 cups butterscotch chips

Cream the butter and sugars together.  Add the eggs and vanilla, then slowly mix in the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder.  Stir in the chips.  Form dough into balls, place in a ziploc and freeze for at least an hour (this is an important step to avoid flat cookies). Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Almond Sugar Cookie Bars

almond-sugar-cookie-bars

Did you guys study Dia de los Muertos in high school? Day of the dead. Loved that celebration. It was like Halloween but spookier and the traditional celebration food included a delicious little skull cake that was loaded with almond extract. That little skull – and I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called or what else was in it – but that little skull started my lifelong obsession with almond extract. Love, love LOVE almond extract. For a long time, before my baking exploration really took off, I would randomly taste almond extract in things and not be able to place what it was – but remember that it was in the skull cake and that I loved it. I can’t remember what enlightening event occurred that tipped me off to the extract, but I am forever thankful. Love that stuff.

So these bars are a dream if you like that flavor. It’s like a sugar cookie bar but almond-y. I made these on Saturday, and they were gone by Tuesday.  Someone needs to pop by my house every day to remind me that I’m going on a beach vacation next month.

Recipe

  • 2 sticks butter, room temp
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1.5 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cups slivered almonds, for topping

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream the butter and sugar; add in the eggs, vanilla, & almond.  Mix in the powder, soda, corn starch, salt, and flour. Press dough into a greased 9×11 inch pan, sprinkles with almonds, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Center should be not quite set for maximum chewy deliciousness.

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