Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Peppermint Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

I have probably the biggest sweet tooth ever (which in reality isn't a good thing). So every time my favorite candy and cookie brands release a new flavor, I like to get a package to try it out. For the seasonal flavors I can't always remember if I tried it or not. Such was the case for the Candy Cane Hershey's Kisses. While I still can't remember if I've tried it or not, I decided to bake with it. The perfect opportunity came when Auntie Vicki sent out an email about Christmas Day and I offered to bake these. They're basically like the Peanut Butter Blossom cookies with the regular kisses except instead of peanut butter the cookie is chocolate and brownie-like. The Hershey's website does have a recipe for these but I decided on one I found on Pinterest (I really need to cut down on my Pinterest use for baking).

Spice Cake Cookies

Every year for her birthday Nonni gets her favorite spice cake. To me this means she would like the cookie version (or any sweet with lots of spices). So a couple years ago I found a from-scratch cookie version and gave it to her in the form of a jar for her Christmas gift (you know what I'm talking about - the dry ingredients for a baked good are layered in a jar with the recipe attached and all you have to do is empty the jar, add the wet ingredients, and bake). Not sure it went over well. So this year I decided to make the cookies. I thought I had pinned a from-scratch recipe but all I could find was one with the spice cake mix. Which was perfect since that's what Auntie Vicki uses to make the cake. And it's just how I like to use box mixes nowadays.

Death by Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last year when I was picking out Kevin's girlfriend Helen's present all Kevin would tell me for her favorite flavors was that she liked chocolate (which I kinda already knew). In a way, it wasn't that helpful (as evidenced by how I picked Kevin's gift, I can be indecisive at times). Still, over the last year as I've come across super-chocolatey recipes on Pinterest, I've saved them. I ended up having quite a few chocolate recipes to choose from so I just picked one of the death-by-chocolate cookie recipes at random. I have many, many more years to use the dozen or so other recipes.

White Chocolate Coconut Cookies

As I've said before, one of few things my mom likes that almost no one else in our family does is coconut. So even when I don't have coconut in my pantry, I tend to focus on the coconut recipes on Pinterest when searching for Mom's presents. For Christmas I chose a white chocolate coconut cookies recipe from - believe it or not - Ebay (apparently they have a whole section on their site for recipes and how-to guides and such).

Beer Brownies

When picking out Kevin's beer-infused present, I just kind of randomly picked one that looked quick and easy (keep in mind I had about 7 separate baked goods to make. Quick and easy had to happen at some point). And what's quicker and easier than something that goes in a square pan? Well, these were a bit more complicated than that but I was still able to get them and another quick batch of cookies done by dinner.

Beer, Chocolate, Peanut, and Pretzel Cookies

I'm not much of an alcohol drinker. Beer, wine, mixed drinks - not my thing. I tried to make them my thing after I turned 21 but it just didn't happen. My dad and brothers, however, love beer. Dad and Kevin even have those apps where you can search for new breweries and kinds of beer. So last year I started looking for dessert with beer in it for Kevin's Christmas present. I ended up going with something else but over the past year I've come across a dessert with beer recipe every once in a while on Pinterest. For Dad, I chose cookies with beer and two kinds of M&Ms: peanut and pretzel. Basically this is a pub/bar cookie.

For what kind of beer I asked Mom what kind Dad and Kevin liked. She told me one they both liked but I couldn't find it anywhere. Come to find out it's no longer made. So Mom suggested I use a pale ale. Fortunately, Total Wine & More (which is near me) has individual bottles. So I grabbed one from the same brand Mom had said for the original kind and went home to bake.

Peppermint Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are probably one of the simplest and easiest things someone can bake. The recipe should be one of the first things used when learning to bake. It's also very versatile: you can replace the semi-sweet chocolate chips with pretty much anything similar: another flavor of chips (I like milk chocolate chips), chopped up candy bars, baking bits, M&Ms. Or Anthony's favorite this time of year: Andes Peppermint Chips. My mom has only been able to find these bags at one store (can't remember which one but I think it was Cost Plus World Market) so when she goes to that store she buys several bags. A while back she gave me a bag. And in an effort to get it out of my pantry, picking Anthony's present this year was a no-brainer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Double Chocolate Decadence Biscotti

About a year and a half ago Anthony and his now-wife Kati went to Italy for a couple weeks. When they came back (and possibly before they left. I can't remember and I can be horrible at noticing these things sometimes) Kati seemed to have a love and appreciation for all things Italian, specifically food. She even wanted as much Italian food and influence as possible for their wedding. So for her Christmas gift this year I decided to use a recipe from a biscotti cookbook I got during a recent trip to Portland. After looking at all the chocolate recipes and even trying to find a peanut butter one (since last year's white chocolate peanut butter fudge was successful. Maybe an internet search next year), I finally decided on Double Chocolate Decadence.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pretzel Rolls

I've been on a bit of a pretzel kick over the last, I don't know, 8 years maybe. I think it all started when I was working the 2nd of my two food service jobs (the concessions stand at a water park in Renton): one of many snacks served was soft pretzels so I would occasionally get one for a snack (or lunch). Been hooked ever since. Every time I'm at the mall or a baseball game, I often have to pull myself away from the stands that sell soft pretzels. Not sure what it is - a different taste maybe? Currently one of my snacks is a serving of SnackFactory's Pretzel Crisps. And back when I lived with my parents and joined my mom on her Costco runs, I would occasionally grab a bag of pretzel rolls instead of regular rolls to go with my Easy Mac. I have yet to find them at the regular grocery store.

Which brings me to these (somewhat flat) lovelies. When I ran out of the King's Hawaiian Rolls, I decided to try and make my own pretzel rolls. So I scoured my Pretzels board on Pinterest (yup, the love is that major) and finally decided on Pretzel Rolls from Tasty Kitchen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

French Macarons

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again"

As a stubborn person, this is one of my mottos. Granted, there have been times when I've given up after the first try (e.g. I switched majors after failing student teaching and I gave up on my writing dream before I even considered putting my short stories together for a publisher) but those were things that I knew I realistically couldn't succeed at.

French macarons, however, are another story: I've tried 6 times to make them, usually after baking a present and I have leftover eggs.

  1. May 2015: Batter was too thick; I can't even remember how. Probably because I used liquid egg whites instead of fresh egg whites.
  2. June 2015: I didn't whip the egg whites long enough nor did I let the shells rest before baking them. And I used liquid egg whites.
  3. February 2016: After a lot of research and a lesson from Mom (and the internet) on how to whip egg whites properly for meringue cookies, I still got the same result as in June 2015 because I didn't let the shells rest.
  4. June 2016: I whipped the egg whites correctly. I let the shells rest. But when I pulled the baked shells off the parchment paper, they came apart. I think this was because I didn't let the shells cool first, something the recipe left out.
  5. August 2016: I might've over-whipped the egg whites because when I was folding them into the dry ingredients, the batter became thicker and lumpier than it should have been. And it stayed that way.
  6. September 2016: Success? I think so!

(It's quite possible that I had at least one other attempt but I can't seem to remember it)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Caramel Apple Cookies

I don't know why but I keep forgetting that my cousin/bestie/fellow September Girl Chiara loves fall. The flavors, the fashion, the scenery outside - it's her favorite time of year. But it's one fact about her that I can't seem to remember. Fortunately, I do remember that she loves caramel apples. I even have the pictures to prove it:

Taken at the Washington State Fair in 2014
So when I decided I was going to bake her a present this year I immediately started keeping an eye out for caramel apple desserts on my Pinterest feed that were giftable. I decided on Caramel Apple Cookies from the blog House of Yumm.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Marshmallow Stuffed Cookies

Over the past few years my parents have had friends and family over for a Labor Day BBQ. This year my mom asked me to bake a dessert, something easy to grab like cookies. Since I had mini marshmallows leftover from some s'mores bars I made last month, I decided to look for recipes with them so I could try and use up the bag (didn't succeed; I still have about half the bag). I eventually found a recipe for Marshmallow Stuffed Cookies on Smart School House. Who doesn't like finding a surprise in their cookie?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

(Milk) Chocolate Cheesecake

My cousin Chiara is one of my favorite people. She's pretty much the closest thing I have to a sister. So when she graduated from the high school/running start program she's been part of the last few years, I volunteered to bake some treats for her graduation party. She wanted 2 things: 1) Chocolate Chip Cookies (simple) and 2) the chocolate cheesecake I'd made Matteo and Declan for their birthdays. I told her I'd make a chocolate cheesecake since I wanted to make a different recipe (although I did keep the original in mind just in case I couldn't find what I wanted). I did find a Bittersweet Chocolate Cheesecake in the Betty Crocker Best Desserts 2011 magazine. To change things up, I decided to switch the bittersweet chocolate out for milk chocolate (I've noticed that for the most part you can pretty much switch out one type of chocolate for another. Obviously there are some exceptions, like milk for unsweetened and vice versa).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Soda Cake

As much as I like sticking with the familiar, I like to try new things when it comes to baking. Like macarons (still working on perfecting those things. Almost got it though). So when my mom asked me to bake the dessert for her and Dad's night while in Chelan, I decided what better time to bake a soda cake than vacation?

Yup, that's right. A cake baked with soda.

I've seen them throughout the internet, specifically Pinterest. All you do is take a boxed cake mix and a 12-oz. can of soda in a complementary flavor (like chocolate mix and pretty much any dark-colored soda), mix the two together in a bowl, pour the batter in a pan, and bake. Simple, right?

Well, let's find out:

Saturday, June 18, 2016

King's Hawaiian Rolls

You know how some grocery store delis have meal options that include a 4-pack of King's Hawaiian rolls? Back when my brothers and I lived at home we'd occasionally get the chicken meals, complete with chicken tenders for me. Since there was 5 of us and I'm a bit of a white bread-aholic, I made sure to grab my roll ASAP and hoped that there was one left. Because those commercials aren't lying: these things are sweet and soft and delicious.

So I was delighted when I moved out and discovered that you can get these rolls in packs of 12. A sweet and soft side, even when frozen and defrosted? Yes please! Which is why when I ran out of the Butter Rolls I figured I'd make one of the many King's Hawaiian copycat recipes I've saved on Pinterest. I chose a simple one from La Petite Brioche.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Cookies

Kevin is definitely better at the internet than I am. He finds all kinds of articles and videos on Facebook or to post to Facebook and will tag the appropriate people if necessary. Like a food page's post of a recipe for chocolate chip cookies with graham cracker cookies that he tagged me in the comment section, asking me to try it. I asked him and he said for his birthday. So I did! (Coincidentally, I had just pinned the same recipe a few hours earlier, but he didn't need to know that nor would he have cared.)

Chocolate Cheesecake

A lot can happen in 3 years. Like your cousin deciding he does like chocolate but he doesn't like cake. So when I was assigned to make Matteo and Declan's birthday "cake" for our party for them and Kevin this year, I looked for a chocolate cheesecake (it was at their request anyway). Since I'm not entirely sure who likes what flavors that aren't chocolate, I decided to keep it simple. And super chocolatey. I mean, chocolate crust, chocolate filling, chocolate topping - that's not too much chocolate, right?

But before I get to the recipe, I give you: the birthday boys!

Matteo and Declan with their cheesecake

Kevin joins the fun

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Almond Biscotti

My parents have been to Italy 3 times. My mom is just in love with the place. She even took an Italian cooking class last fall through the community center. Which is why I decided on biscotti for her Mother's Day gift. Since I've only made biscotti once (Nonni or someone got a jar of dry ingredients for biscotti back when I was in junior high so she, Auntie Vicki, and Auntie Chauch showed me how) I decided on a simple recipe. I ended up also choosing a recipe from one of the magazines I've been typing up.

For those who don't know: biscotti are twice-baked cookies. You make the dough, form it into two logs, and bake the first time. They come out like a soft cookie. Then, you cut the logs into strips and lay the strips on a cookie sheet cut side up and bake them again. The end result is a crunchy cookie. Also, if your dough looks crumbly like this:

don't worry. I think that's how it's supposed to look since I put a handful of dough in my fist and got this:

It's almost like Play-doh. Kneading it in step 3 will help bring it together too.

Simple Neapolitan Cupcakes

Over the last few months I've been working on a bit of a project while waiting on the status of a job. You see, I've become a bit of a ... collector ... of those recipe magazines you can get from the magazine rack at stores. So I decided to create a searchable database of the recipes in these magazines that I would bake since there's not always an index and I have way more magazines than I do cookbooks.

I've also been watching a lot of Food Network lately (don't ask why the sudden change - it's a bit complicated, among other reasons). Especially after I noticed that the weekday morning Cupcake Wars episodes were ones I'd never seen before. Which just made me want to make cupcakes. And since I'm not sure how to store them just for me, I decided to make them for whatever Mom wanted to do for Mother's Day. Since I've been pinning a lot of neapolitan desserts lately, I specifically wanted to make neapolitan cupcakes. I ended up finding a recipe in my new database.

I did make one change: I replaced the strawberry with raspberry for the frosting since my dad doesn't like strawberries. I know it was for Mother's Day, but that wouldn't have stopped him from complaining that he couldn't have the dessert.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Triple Chocolate Scones

As usual, I gave up chocolate for Lent this year. It's actually kind of easy to give up but at the same time, hard. Over 40 days without my favorite flavor? Very possible (I do have alternatives) even though I still count down the days until Easter. So when I started looking for Sunday morning breakfast recipes (on Pinterest, as I've begun to completely forget my other resources), I focused on chocolate chip scones. Scones because I'd only ever made them twice (and once was with a mix) and chocolate chip because I still have leftover chocolate chips from holiday baking. I eventually found these Triple Chocolate Scones I had pinned. I think I screwed up while making them though.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Raspberry-Almond Shortbread Cookies

Back when I was in college and home on break, my mom and I went to Nonni's house to make raspberry jam. So far it's the only time I've made it but I really enjoyed it. My mom got the raspberries fresh from a friend of my parents who has raspberry trees on his property. Although that day had been my first time making jam, we had always had a jar in our fridge for years. I honestly can't remember when we started using homemade jam along with store bought jelly. I'm pretty sure Nonni has always had at least one jar of the stuff in her fridge. So I kept that in mind while I searched for a cookie that would allow me to also use up the bag of slivered almonds that sat in my pantry (when planning Christmas presents, Mom told me that almond is a flavor Nonni likes). While looking through my collection of magazines, I came across a recipe in one of the Better Homes & Gardens magazines for Raspberry-Almond Shortbread Cookies that I could easily alter to include the slivered almonds (which is as creative as I'm gonna get when baking).

Butter Rolls

I decided this year that I wasn't going to make New Year's resolutions. Over the last few years, any that I've made ended up being broken within a month. However, in the last couple weeks I kinda made one: make use of the recipes I've saved both online and in hard copy. I'd somewhat started back in November with breakfast (something that I hope to do again) with ... interesting results, but this time I was leaning more towards the rolls I sometimes have with dinner and the dessert I always have with dinner. For the rolls, I looked through the dozens of recipes I've saved to my Bread/Rolls board on Pinterest. I finally decided on some butter rolls that looked similar to the store bought cloverleaf ones some people get for a holiday dinner.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Root Beer Cookies

In the 15 years she's been around, there are a few things I've learned about my cousin Carly when it comes to food: she's allergic to peanuts, she'll eat almost everything non-Italian with ketchup, and her soda of choice is root beer. So when I was pinning all my bookmarked recipes I was reminded of a root beer float cookies recipe I made sure to remember for Carly's birthday. However, when I looked at the recipe, I realized that not only was it too simple but it required an ingredient that's mainly available online: root beer concentrate. Since I was looking up the recipe with not a whole lot of time to get the concentrate shipped, I started searching for a recipe that used actual root beer. I finally found these Root Beer Cookies on Simply Bakings.

Peanut Butter Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Back in December I decided to bake the gifts I gave my family (parents, brothers, brothers' SOs, grandmas). With my mom's help (because I suck at paying attention to and remembering people's eating habits), I started compiling a list of everyone's favorite flavors. Since baking gifts has been successful so far, I kept the list for future reference. Like Anthony's birthday. I decided to take a chance and use the flavors of his favorite candy bar Twix, even though caramel wasn't on my list of his favorite flavors. After searching through my Cookies Pinterest board, I finally decided on Peanut Butter Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies from Sugar & Soul. In a way it's like the cookie version of a Peanut Butter Twix so I couldn't go wrong.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

This year the Super Bowl coincidentally landed on the day after my dad's birthday. So when I asked my mom what she and Dad were doing for the game, she decided to invite friends over and asked me to contribute a birthday cake for my dad. I decided to focus on peanut butter and chocolate since Dad loves both flavors. And because I knew I'd be baking his cookies, I decided to look at the cake mix books I have in search of a chocolate or peanut butter cake I could dress up. I quickly found a Chocolate Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting in the first Cake Mix Doctor book.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Ever year on our way to Lake Chelan, everyone in the family has to stop at the Cle Elum bakery. They have these Italian cookies called torchetti that we all love as well as fresh doughnuts and other baked goods. My dad's favorite is Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies. When my mom and I stop, we always get a dozen just for Dad (we tend to go before him). So for his birthday I decided I'd try to make them myself. I decided to use a basic peanut butter cookie recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookie Book and just add chocolate chips.


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