Chocolate Krispy Treat Sandwiches

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My favorite human turns 30 years old today! I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love birthdays (my birthday! friends’ birthdays! strangers’ birthdays!). I also believe that birthdays should be celebrated for no less than a month, particularly if they are 30th birthdays! Alex doesn’t agree. He doesn’t like celebrations, particularly if they are celebrating him. He also doesn’t like cake, which I will never understand.

So, instead, we started celebrating last week, a whole three weeks shy of full birthday celebration. Per his request, we saw the anxiety-inducing Dunkirk on opening night at the Music Box. (Really, truly spectacular, if your heart can take it.) Tonight, we will have a nice dinner and some drinks. Tomorrow, we’re both taking off work and making a special trip to Werewolf Coffee Bar, and going to Sunset Pho Caffe for dinner with Alex’s dad. This weekend, we’ll probably make our way over to the Newberry Library’s Book Fair and celebrate with some friends. And, before the weekend is over, I suspect we’ll eat more than a few hot dogs. (Alex claims to never have food cravings, but this man has been talking about hot dogs, like, a lot.) For dessert, we will not have birthday cake.

Since cake was off the table, I tried to plan a celebratory dessert that captured the genius that is my wacky husband. Things I know about Alex are this: He is particularly fond of chocolate. A chocolate fiend, in fact. He’s been known to devour entire bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips. So, chocolate, sure, we’re getting somewhere.

The sandwich cookie is also a favorite. Alex’s love of cookies, particularly cookie sandwiches, knows zero bounds. His Instagram handle is @eatingcookies. No joke. (Don’t go looking for cookies there, though. He mostly takes pictures of garbage during our walks around the city.)

Finally, when I ask him about desserts he would like to try, they are almost never fancy. A while back, out of the blue, he mentioned he had read an article about an Australian snack called Chocolate Crackles. Essentially, this is a cupcake-shaped, chocolate Rice Krispies treat.

So, I combined the three, chocolate, cookie sandwiches, and Crackles, into a dessert truly fit for a 30-year-old man’s birthday.

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Chocolate Krispy Treat Sandwiches
Makes 24 rounds; 12 filled sandwiches. Slightly adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:
For krispy treats:
6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the cookie sheet
1/8 tsp salt
10 1/2 oz bag of marshmallows
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 cups rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)

For filling:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
5-6 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions:
For krispy treats:
Butter a 12″ x 18″ cookie sheet.

In a large saucepan, melt 6 tbsp of butter over low to medium heat.

Once melted, add the salt, marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate, and cocoa powder. Stir until combined and the marshmallows have completely melted. Remove from heat. Add the vanilla.

Add the rice cereal and stir until completely coated.

Immediately pour onto the buttered cookie sheet. Using your hands, or a spatula, press the mixture into the pan, filling to the edges. If you have a bit of leftover butter from the stick you used, you may find it helpful to cover your fingertips or the spatula with a bit of the butter while pressing to keep the mixture from sticking.

Once you have completely filled the pan with an even layer, refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Using a 2 1/2-in round cookie or biscuit cutter, punch out 24 circles and move to another cookie sheet or plate.

For filling:
In a small bowl, beat the peanut butter, salt, powdered sugar, and vanilla until completely combined and smooth. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. Add the heavy cream to the peanut butter mixture and fold together until combined.

Fill two rounds with peanut butter cream, press together, and enjoy!

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So, to recap–Rice Krispies Treats are good. Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats are better! Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats, filled with peanut butter cream are the best of all! Maybe they’re not the most grown-up dessert. No, they’re definitely not. But, being a grown-up is overrated anyway. Even as I was writing this last sentence, my brain was thinking, “You know what would be really good? Some peanut butter ice cream smooshed between two chocolate Rice Krispies Treats!” Omg brb gtg make some ice cream sandwiches!

Happy birthday, my love. Welcome to your 30’s!

Ashley and Her Mom’s Sugar Cookies

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I have known Ashley, since, geez, can either of us even remember? We went to grade, middle, and high school together. Ashley and I were both cheerleaders and I can absolutely say that one of the best parts of cheering at games was having Ashley’s mom cheering along with us in the stands. Her mother, Carol, was a huge personality and one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met.

Ashley lost her mother nine years ago to cancer. Ashley said that being happy and healthy is very important to her, in part because she watched both of her parents struggle with illnesses. Wanting to maintain her own healthy lifestyle, she was drawn toward a career helping others do the same.

After working in retail jobs, Ashley was introduced to massage therapy by an acquaintance. With a background in dance, sports, science, and health, she was interested in teaching her clients how to be more mindful of their own bodies to lead a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. After working for others in the massage business, she decided to strike out on her own.

Today, Ashley’s business, The Compassionate Touch, is steadily gaining clients and, in October, Ashley was named one of the 20 Best Massage Therapists in Louisville for 2016 by Expertise website.

Ashley still feels her mother’s influence through her own work today. I asked Ashley if she would share a recipe from her mother that was special to her. Ashley obliged, saying that, when she has free time, and gets a sweet tooth, she likes to make her mother’s sugar cookie recipe. She remembers that she and her mother used to dance together to the music of the 50s and 60s as they baked, and then enjoy the cookies together. Ashley told me that this recipe reminds her of her mother and the fun they had together.

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Sugar Cookie Recipe
Adapted from Phyllis Pellman Good’s Best of Amish Cooking

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks of margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp vinegar
1 c buttermilk
3 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and margarine together well.

Add eggs and beat well, until fully mixed.

In a measuring cup, add one tbsp of vinegar and then fill to one cup with milk. Add to sugar margarine and egg mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Drop by teaspoonful onto creased cookie sheet, or a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. Alternatively, for a more uniform shape, you can refrigerate the dough overnight and form into small balls before cooking.

Bake for 8-10 min. Immediately sprinkle a little sugar on top of each cookie.

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This recipe makes a ton of delicious, little cookies. You will have more than enough to share, which is perfect for the upcoming holidays. And, if you’re looking for a way to work off some of these little beauties, I suggest turning on some 50’s and 60’s music and dancing around your kitchen.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ashley!

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Anniversary Beet Poke Cake

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Five years ago today, Alex and I walked to the Cook County courthouse in drizzle and wind and then sat nervously in a dimly lit room with my mom and his dad and several other nervous couples, waiting for a judge with funny hair to pronounce us husband and wife. Yay! Five years seems so long ago, but it’s like no time has passed at all. One of the coolest things I can say about our marriage is that, though we are very different people than we were five years ago, we still have the same relationship. We are still sometimes stubborn and moody and sometimes yelling, but mostly we are still goofy, and kissy, and almost all the time laughing. Somehow we change and grow as people, but we like each other the same. Maybe even more! It makes me really smiley and warm inside to think about. Are you properly mushed-out yet? Good, because I’m getting a lump in my throat, because I’m a big baby.

Let’s talk about cake before I lose it!

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In the tradition of making cakes to celebrate weddings, I’m making one today to celebrate my own! First I’ll say that I did not necessarily intend to write a post about this cake. I fully planned on making an anniversary cake, but I realize that beets in cake might not be up everyone’s alley. Alex and I, though, are big beet fans. Years upon years ago, I was at a friend’s birthday dinner and he pointed out to me two of his friends who were dating and divvying up beets during dinner and said, “They love beets. Those two love beets more than any other couple I know.” The absurdity of that observation made me laugh hysterically at the time and I think about it every now and then. Mostly I think of it when Alex and I are ravenously eating beets, which we do. Often. We just love them! I imagine, now, if we were at a friend’s birthday dinner, that friend would lean over to someone and say, “Those two love beets more than any other couple I know.”

So, I’ve had the notion to make a beet cake for months. Seeing lots of recipes for chocolate beet cakes, I started turning over the idea of somehow making a vanilla beet cake. Earlier this year, I was making poke cake for a party and realized how pretty a vanilla cake would look with dark red swirls throughout. The idea for this beet poke cake was born.

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Anniversary Beet Poke Cake
Makes a 2 6×2 in. round cakes. If you want to make two 9 in. cakes, follow this recipe here.

Cake ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk (room temperature)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3 large egg whites (room temperature)
7 tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature, cubed)

Beet gelatin ingredients:
1/2 cup beet juice (I used Boitta brand)
1/2 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 packets of gelatin

Beet cake instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare two 6 x 2 in. cake pans by lining with parchment paper, spraying with cooking spray, and dusting with flour.

In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, egg whites, and both extracts. Beat together until well combined.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and beat on slow-to-medium speed until the mixture resembles very small pebbles.

Add half of the milk mixture to the bowl and continue to beat for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add in the remaining milk mixture on medium speed and beat until fully combined, less than a minute. Do not overmix.

Split the mixture between the two cake pans. Smooth the top of the batter flat.

Cook for 30-35 minutes. Halfway through cooking, switch the places of the pans in the oven. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing them from the pan and allowing them to cool completely on a cooling rack. Don’t forget to remove the parchment paper!

Allow the cakes to cool completely, at least 2 hours.

After cooling, place both cakes side by side on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Poke holes all over the cake with a large fork.

Pour half of the beet juice into a large bowl, and pour the gelatin over the top to soften, for 5 minutes. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 of the beet juice, the water, and the sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved and begins to boil. Remove from heat an pour the hot mixture over the softened gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved.

While the gelatin mixture is still very warm, spoon over the top, being sure to fill all of the fork holes.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Frost as desired.

Frosting ingredients:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp beet juice, optional

Frosting instructions:
Beat the whipping cream, slowly adding in the powdered sugar until it forms stiff peaks.

Whip in the beet juice for color.

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My cake frosting skills need a little work, yes. But even though it’s a little shaggy, but I am damn proud of this cake! Even Alex, who is usually pretty lukewarm on cake, gobbled up his serving. It tastes like beets, but in the best way! I made a tiny cake, but this could easily be made into two 9 inch cakes, or a sheet cake. Bring it to a party!

And happy anniversary to my sweet husband. The one who not only inspires me, but encourages me, to make weirdo cakes. And also allows me to be a weirdo in general. I love you, dude!

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Easy Chewy Chocolate Snickerdoodles

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I hope I don’t alienate the four people who read this blog by saying… cookies have just never really done it for me. Particularly cookies with fruit in them (with the exception of oatmeal raisin–I know, I know…), I can walk right by without batting an eye. And, even when I do eat cookies, I can usually resist eating more than one. The way I see some people eat cookies, it should be considered a superpower. There have been too many family get-togethers featuring dry, crumbly, flavorless cookies for me to really get into them.  Plus, I have the benefit of a resident chocolate chip cookie making expert in the form of a husband, so I never had to worry about it. I’ve always considered myself pretty inept at cookie making. I made chocolate chip cookies one time a hundred years ago and they were average at best, so I threw in the towel and went back to making cakes, my one true love. Then, a few Christmases ago, I had to make some cookies for an office holiday party. I gave chocolate crinkle cookies a try. A simple cookie. No big deal. Or so I thought! They. Were. AWESOME! And I ate so many of them. I finally understood compulsive cookie eating! And, even if my stomach hated me immediately, it was wonderful and completely worth it. I get it now. I get it.

I get it so much, in fact, that I actually couldn’t wait to start making holiday cookies. For my first cookie of the season, I chose a classic: the humble snickerdoodle. First, let me say that  this post is bringing my childhood flooding back. I chose the snickerdoodle not because I have special snickerdoodle memories from childhood, but instead, for James Whitcomb Riley. James Whitcomb Riley was born on October 7 (today!), 1849, in Indiana. He is known as the”Hoosier Poet,” for writing in Indiana dialect. I know him, though, as the writer of my absolute favorite poem as a child, Little Orphant Annie, which my mom read to me when I was little. It’s a slightly terrifying poem to read, even as an adult. It’s a bit of a moral lesson about saying your prayers and not making fun of people and helping the needy, otherwise you’ll be snatched away by the goblins! Yes, goblins! To be honest, I was a pretty weird little kid. I couldn’t wait for Halloween, I read every ghost story I could get my hands on, and I liked to listen to scary music just to freak myself out. This might better help you to understand my glee when my mom would pull her book of Riley’s poetry out of the bottom drawer of her dresser, sit me next to her on the edge of her bed all tucked up under her arm, and read this spooky little poem. For extra effect, she would even raise her voice and reach out to grab me at the scariest part of the poem, “And the goblins will get you, if you don’t watch out!” Perhaps questionable mothering of a child who was is still afraid of the dark, but I loved every second and I have the best memories of it, even now. It does still scare me though…

So today, I celebrate James Whitcomb Riley’s birthday with a snickerdoodle, which I learned, through a little research, was his favorite cookie. (Not only that, but yesterday was National Poetry Day. How fitting!)

Clearly, these are not traditional snickerdoodles, but they’re not too far off. Snickerdoodles are delicious, obviously, but you know what else is delicious? Chocolate. Yeah, so I tossed some chocolate into these puppies (just kidding, I carefully tested this recipe, but doesn’t that make baking sound more fun and free-spiritied?). Turns out, chocolate did its job and made an already-delicious cookie even more delicious. If you like snickerdoodles and you like chocolate, you’re going to want to try these. They are chewy and cinnamony and omg I ate like 4 immediately after taking them out of the oven, which I highly suggest. Then I had more later and found that they had only improved, with the cinnamon becoming more evident. Not surprisingly, chocolate and cinnamon are a match made in cookie heaven.

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Easy Chewy Chocolate Snickerdoodles

Cookie Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp instant espresso powder
4 tbsp sugar, for coating
4 tsp cinnamon, for coating

Cookie Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Mix 4 tbsp sugar with 4 tsp of cinnamon in a shallow bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, milk, butter and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, salt, cocoa and espresso powder.

Slowly begin mixing the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in batches, until there are no dry streaks left. The batter will not be wet, it will appear more like a thick frosting.

Begin scooping out the batter in small balls (I used the large scoop on my melon baller) and drop them into the sugar. Coat lightly with the sugar to make the ball easier to form into a ball. Then, drop the rolled ball back into the sugar to coat lightly again, before dropping onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. I was able to get about 11-12 balls on each cookie sheet.

Bake at 325 degrees for 11-12 minutes, turning the cookie sheet in the oven halfway through.

After baking, immediately move cookies to a cooling rack.

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One last note: I only recently heard about Dorie Greenspan’s #cookiesandkindness campaign, with a simple request for people to bake cookies and share them. That sounded like a challenge that I absolutely wanted to accept, so that’s what I did. I made cookies. I shared them, and now I’m sharing this recipe with you. What a wonderful idea! Thanks, Dorie!