Magic Bars : {7 Layer Bars}

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Growing up my mom always made the same few sweets for Christmas: Cinnamon Rolls, 7 layer bars, and butter cookies.  When I became an adult I took over the tradition.  But when I did I realized the so called “7 Layer Bars” don’t have 7 layers.  Thus the name needed to be changed.  A friend of mine saw the ingredients laying out one day and said “oh yum, magic bars.” …..so lets go with that name haha.  These are great bars to make as gifts…I usually do for christmas!

Ingredients: (Makes Bars..feel free to cut it in half!)

-12×18 Sheet cake pan

-2 Boxes of graham cracker crumbs

-3 Sticks of salted butter

-1 Bag of 24oz chocolate chips (you can add more if desired or other flavor chips)

-6 cups of walnuts (chopped/pieces)

-2 14oz bags of sweetened shredded coconut

-7 Cans of sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

IMG_3099Melt butter & combine with graham cracker crumbs.
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IMG_3103Pour graham into pan and spread and press into an even level with a rubber spatula.

IMG_3107IMG_3109Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk over graham cracker crumbs.IMG_3110Add chocolate chips, then pour 1 1/2 cans of sweetened condensed milk over the chips.IMG_3111Pour coconut next (I used a little less than the 2 bags).  IMG_3113Cover coconut with 1 1/2 cans of sweetened condensed milk.IMG_3115Then add the last layers: walnut pieces and then cover with 3 cans of sweetened condensed milk.  (You really want the walnuts to be completely coated).

IMG_3198Then bake for approx. 45 min. at 350.  Honestly sometimes I bake them for longer at 325 but just watch them.  You want the walnuts to look cooked and golden brown like above…once that happens the bars are done.

IMG_3204Let cool completely before cutting into bars. (I usually prepare mine in the evening and let them cool covered overnight).

Apple Cake w/Cinnamon Sugar Topping {Magnolia Bakery}

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When on maternity leave we had lots of visitors who brought us meals, one of them being my sweet Grandma.  When she brought us food she left this can of Duncan Hines Country Apple Pie Filling for dessert saying we could mix it/top it on almost anything!  I have never bought pre-mixed pie filling and thought it was a sweet “Grandma thing” to bring but didn’t know how to really use it….so I just put it in my cupboard and forgot about it.  But then when looking for fall recipes and flipping through my favorite Magnolia Bakery Cookbook I found this recipe and it called for canned apples.  I figured canned apples and canned apple pie filling weren’t that much different so I made the cake and it was delish and very moist!  The difference is that I didn’t add sugar to the batter because the pie filling already had sugar…but everything else is the same.  It’s a perfect cake to be sliced, served warm with coffee or tea for breakfast or dessert!  This is also a good loaf cake to give as a gift!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (canola is preferred)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (20 ounce) can sliced apples, drained and patted dry
  • Cinnamon Sugar Topping
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I skipped this since the canned pie filling had sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

*Tip:  If you want a really crispy cinnamon/sugar top then really load it on.  The amount called for in the recipe does not produce a super sweet crust but is still good.

Directions:

  • In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  • In a larger mixing bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, and eggs, using an electric mixer on medium speed; beat for about 3 minutes or until light and thick.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar/oil mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, beating after each addition until smooth.
  • In another bowl, toss the apples with half the cinnamon-sugar topping; then stir half the apples into the batter. (In my case I skipped this and just added the canned apple pie filling to the batter and a tsp of cinnamon.  I tried to leave as much of the jelly from the filling out of the batter.)
  • Pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 10-inch tube pan.
  • Drop the remaining apples on top of the batter and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar.
  • Bake in a 325 degree oven for 60-70 minutes or until a pick comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool in the pan for 1 hour.
  • Remove cake from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

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{Pumpkin} Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Fall is my favorite season by far!  So it’s time for the fall recipes and that means PUMPKIN!  I was making some Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies the other day and decided they needed to be pumpkin instead!  Last Fall I made pumpkin bread with chocolate chips as an experiment and my brother loved it!  So I had to combine those two ingredients again this year but in cookie form.  The result is a soft, fluffy pumpkin-y cookie that is delish and light!

Ingredients:  

{Follow the back of the Nestle Tollhouse Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips directions but add pumpkin and spice to butter/sugar mixture}

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin pureé
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice

IMG_2297IMG_2302IMG_2321The cookies come out puffier, softer, and more cake like than normal cookiesIMG_2318IMG_2324Dip and enjoy!

Apple Cake w/Cinnamon Sugar Topping {Magnolia Bakery}

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When on maternity leave we had lots of visitors who brought us meals, one of them being my sweet Grandma.  When she brought us food she left this can of Duncan Hines Country Apple Pie Filling for dessert saying we could mix it/top it on almost anything!  I have never bought pre-mixed pie filling and thought it was a sweet “Grandma thing” to bring but didn’t know how to really use it….so I just put it in my cupboard and forgot about it.  But then when looking for fall recipes and flipping through my favorite Magnolia Bakery Cookbook I found this recipe and it called for canned apples.  I figured canned apples and canned apple pie filling weren’t that much different so I made the cake and it was delish and very moist!  The difference is that I didn’t add sugar to the batter because the pie filling already had sugar…but everything else is the same.  It’s a perfect cake to be sliced, served warm with coffee or tea for breakfast or dessert!  This is also a good loaf cake to give as a gift!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (canola is preferred)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (20 ounce) can sliced apples, drained and patted dry
  • Cinnamon Sugar Topping
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I skipped this since the canned pie filling had sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

*Tip:  If you want a really crispy cinnamon/sugar top then really load it on.  The amount called for in the recipe does not produce a super sweet crust but is still good.

Directions:

  • In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  • In a larger mixing bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, and eggs, using an electric mixer on medium speed; beat for about 3 minutes or until light and thick.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar/oil mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, beating after each addition until smooth.
  • In another bowl, toss the apples with half the cinnamon-sugar topping; then stir half the apples into the batter. (In my case I skipped this and just added the canned apple pie filling to the batter and a tsp of cinnamon.  I tried to leave as much of the jelly from the filling out of the batter.)
  • Pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 10-inch tube pan.
  • Drop the remaining apples on top of the batter and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar.
  • Bake in a 325 degree oven for 60-70 minutes or until a pick comes out clean.
  • Let the cake cool in the pan for 1 hour.
  • Remove cake from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

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Easy Nutella “Crepes” : {Dessert Quesadilla}

IMG_0885I love crepes and my favorite dessert crepes are the ones with bananas, strawberries, and Nutella.  So the other night when I was craving something sweet and really didn’t have anything around the house but Nutella I decided to make a Nutella quesadilla hoping for the same effect.  And it was actually super delish so I had to share.

All I did was spread Nutella on the tortilla, stuff it with fruit, then cook it in an ungreased pan (on High), until it was warm!  You can add peanut butter or strawberries to mix it up, this is just what I had lying around.  I topped it off with more Nutella and powdered sugar…but I bet whipped cream would have been good too.

*Note: Don’t spread the Nutella all the way to the edges of the tortilla because when it heats up it will expand. IMG_0886IMG_0887IMG_0889 IMG_0890IMG_0937

Quick Vanilla Peach Jam : {Shower Favor}

IMG_1690My friend Heather called me a few weeks ago and asked, “Hey friend, do you want to make jam?” Umm YES! I love jam (Apricot and Boysenberry are my fave FYI)…hopefully this doesn’t sound weird but I love it not only because it is delish, but because it is so pretty! Anyway, she wanted to make it as a favor for our friends Karla & Jason’s Baby-Q Shower that she was throwing. What a great idea! Party favors can be so boring…it’s nice to get one you can actually use. (For the record at our wedding we had a boring favor (a C.D.). Yes I got married when they still made C.D.’s). Heather found this recipe on Pinterest for a Peach Freezer Jam.

The Good News: It takes a lot less time to make than normal jam.

The Bad News (Sorta): It stays fresh in the fridge for only about 3 weeks. (But you can keep it in the freezer for a year).

We followed the recipe and only changed it slightly. That’s what I like most about the recipe; You can change it! Add different fruit, different juice flavors, combine fruits, etc. It’s just great to have a jam recipe that doesn’t take long to make! Thanks Recipe Girl!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened white grape
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • One 1.75-ounce package no-sugar-needed fruit pectin (or 3 tablespoons from a jar)
  • 5 to 6 medium peaches, peeled, diced and coarsely pureed in the food processor (3 cups of puree)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Five 8-ounce freezer-safe glass jelly jars

Directions:

IMG_1467IMG_1463IMG_1468 IMG_1476Put peaches in a pot of boiling water until the skins loosen (about a minute). *NOTE: The longer you leave them in the water the less firm your peaches become and they could break down…..so keep an eye on them.IMG_1477IMG_1479Then transfer peaches to a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds.
IMG_1473IMG_1475Peel skin off the peaches (this is the fun part).
IMG_1484Chop peaches. IMG_1480Puree the peaches roughly. (You don’t want them completely smooth)
IMG_1486IMG_1490Bring grape juice and lemon juice to a boil. Then whisk in the pectin completely and let it boil for 1 minute.
IMG_1491Stir in 3 cups of peach puree, sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. IMG_1495Bring back to a boil and keep at a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.IMG_1498Divide the hot mixture between the jars (ours made more than 5 for some reason and we used tupperware which worked great too), leaving 1/2-inch room at the top of each jar . Place the tops on the jars and let them sit at room temperature until they are completely cooled off (12 to 24 hours). Then refrigerate or freeze!IMG_1504IMG_1911Attach a label or instructions to the jars for a cute favor!

Kronut : {A Croissant Donut}

IMG_1403Unless you have been living under a rock then you have definitely heard of the CRONUT by Dominique Ansel Bakery!  It’s the newest pastry that combines the light flaky layers of a croissant with the round fried deliciousness of a donut!  The creator of the Cronut has not released the recipe yet so there are lots of copycats out their trying to create this treat!….and I am one of them!   For my Kronut (spelled differently for copyright reasons), I basically just used a croissant recipe and made the rest up from watching Dominique Ansel make them on Jimmy Fallon….from what I am getting it’s a croissant and the only thing different is that it is fried (instead of baked) in a donut shape and topped or filled with a variety of glazes, etc.

The Good News:  They were delish!  They tasted best fresh, I preferred the Kronut holes, and the best combo by far was the strawberry & cream Kronut (pictured above).

The Bad News:  They take FOREVER to make (3 days!)  Worth it?  YES!

Want to make them but don’t have the time?  A cheat/faster way to make them is to use a can of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (of course the taste will be a bit different) and pick up the recipe at step 7.

Let’s get started……..

Ingredients:

{For the Dough} Thank you to finecooking.com for the Classic Croissant Recipe

  • 1 lb. 2 oz. (4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
  • 5 oz. (1/2cup plus 2 Tbs.) cold water
  • 5 oz. (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs.) cold whole milk
  • 2 oz. (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.) granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) soft unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. plus scant 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2-1/4 tsp. table salt
  • Oil (Ansel uses grape seed oil but I only had Veggie oil)

{For the Butter Layer}

  • 10 oz. (1-1/4 cups) cold unsalted butter

Directions:

Step 1:  {Make the Dough} Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured 10-inch dinner plate. Lightly flour the top of the dough and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.

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Step 2: {Make the Butter Layer} After making the dough, cut the cold butter lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Arrange the pieces on a piece of parchment or waxed paper to form a 5- to 6-inch square, cutting the butter crosswise as necessary to fit. Top with another piece of parchment or waxed paper. With a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. Pound the butter until it’s about 7-1/2 inches square and then trim the edges of the butter. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin, refrigerate.
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IMG_1126IMG_1145Step 3: {Combine butter & dough}  The next day, unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a 10-1/2-inch square. Brush excess flour off the dough. Remove the butter from the refrigerator, unwrap and place the butter on the dough so that the points of the butter square are centered along the sides of the dough. Fold the flaps of dough over the butter like an envelope, stretching lightly. Then press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough. (A complete seal ensures butter won’t escape.)IMG_1223IMG_1225 IMG_1227 Step 4: {Roll Out}  Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. With the rolling pin, firmly press the dough to elongate it slightly and then begin rolling instead of pressing, focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight.IMG_1236Roll the dough until it’s 8 by 24 inches. If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush any flour off the dough. Pick up one short end of the dough and fold it back over the dough, leaving one-third of the other end of dough exposed. Brush the flour off and then fold the exposed dough over the folded side. Put the dough on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 20 minutes to relax and chill the dough.IMG_1322

Step 5: {Creating those flaky layers} Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends until the dough is about 8 by 24 inches. Fold the dough in thirds again, brushing off excess flour and turning under any rounded edges or short ends with exposed or smeared layers. Cover and freeze for another 20 minutes.

Step 6:  {Repeat/last time} Give the dough a third rolling and folding. Put the dough on the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides. Refrigerate overnight.

Step 7: {The Next Morning}  Unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough.  Roll the dough out again until it is about 1/2″-3/4″ thick.  Cut them into donut shapes. *Tip: Cutter should not be dull or it can smoosh the layers together too much and they won’t pop up correctly when frying.  IMG_1324 IMG_1325 IMG_1326Step 8: {Fry em up!}  Heat oil (I used a fryer but a pan is fine) to 350 degrees and fry approx. 2-3 minutes per side.  Once done, put on paper towels to absorb excess oil and cool.  IMG_1336 IMG_1343 IMG_1353 IMG_1354Step 9: {Decorate}  Now the fun part!  You can fill these, cut them in half and stuff, roll them, or glaze them!  I made a lemon glaze, orange glaze, raspberry glaze, chocolate glaze (semi-sweet), and plain glaze.  I also rolled some in sugar, and some in a cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Half of them I injected crème pâtissière (a vanilla custard) because Ansel injects his with something so I though I would try it.  But hands down MY FAVORITE was cutting them in half, rolling them in sugar, and stuffing with piped fresh whipped cream and berries.

Step 10: {Glaze Recipes} The glazes I made are simple and fresh…but of course you can play with them if you want a different flavor.  I combine the ingredients until it is the desired consistency:

  • Lemon Glaze: Fresh lemon juice mixed with powdered sugar.
  • Orange Glaze: Orange juice mixed, orange zest, mixed with powdered sugar (This isn’t a very “orangey” flavor so if you want to increase it you can add orange liquor or orange juice from concentrate).
  • Berry Glaze:  (I used raspberries but this will work for any berry)  Purée berries (I used my baby food maker), you may need to add a little water, then mix purée with powdered sugar.
  • Plain Glaze:  Powdered sugar, cold water, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Chocolate Glaze: I used Martha’s recipe but it is simple as well (chocolate chips and heavy cream)
  • Whipped Cream Recipe:  I used this recipe and trust me fresh whipped cream is SO much better than canned!
  • Crème Pâtissière:  I used this recipe but I don’t feel like injecting the Kronuts with this really added anything…I should have injected whipped cream if anything.

Good luck creating your own fun and tasty toppings and KRONUTS!

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Toaster Treats {Low-Cal Salty S’more Bites}

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Here at the Johnston house one of our favorite quick desserts to make are Toaster Treats. If you like Salty & Sweet desserts and s’mores, then you will love these! The great thing is you don’t need a fire pit to make these, they take less than 3 minutes to prep and cook, and if you use reduced fat Ritz Crackers they are under 55 calories each!….and believe me you don’t need a ton of these to satisfy that sweet tooth.

*TIP: Save the broken Ritz Crackers for a Ritz Cracker baked chicken recipe coming tomorrow!

“The OG” Toaster Treat:

-1/2 a Marshmallow

-1 Square of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar

-1 Ritz Cracker

Feel free to try a variety of chocolates and spreads like we did below. I even made one with Nutella and a banana slice and it was SO DELISH!…and a bit healthier.

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IMG_0312Try a spread on the cracker prior to adding chocolate. Or skip the chocolate and just use the spread and a marshmallow.

*Cooking Note: Chunky Peanut Putter works the best and it works better if you place a dollop in the center of the cracker instead of spreading it evenly across since it will naturally spread during cooking.IMG_0307Baby E was most excited about the Seal Salt Dark Chocolate!

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IMG_0313Place the crackers on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

IMG_0318If trying multiple flavors be sure to label your parchment!

IMG_0322This was hands down MY FAVORITE Toaster Treat! (Chunky Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate)

IMG_0323Cut the mallows in half.

IMG_0324Place the mallows (or banana) on top of the chocolate or spread.

IMG_0327Broil from 1 minute to 1 1/2 Minutes depending on how “roasted” you want your mallow. (KEEP AN EYE ON THEM!)

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IMG_0347Destroyed!

Salted Caramel Brownie Bites

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Hands down my favorite dessert is Ghirardelli Double Chocolate brownies, topped with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge.  But a close second is Haagen Daz Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.
So when it was time to plan my dessert dish for the wine party I started googling salted caramel brownies to combine my two sweet loves!  I came across a salted caramel brownie bites recipe and was inspired!  I made just a few changes to the recipe and they came out exactly how I wanted…and yes I have some left over from the party in the fridge and can’t stop snacking on them.
I have included the recipe with my changes, enjoy!
*Makes approximately 4 dozen brownie bites
Ingredients: 

Brownies:

  • 2 boxes of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix
  • A dime size piece of soft caramel for each brownie bite  (You will most likely have to cut your caramels)

*Feel free to add white chocolate chips (Which I did) or nuts if you want to add a different flavor
Frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 20 caramels
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • 
2 c. powdered sugar (Have some extra just incase you need to adjust the consistency)
  • Kosher sea salt
  • One Box of Cream Cheese

Directions:

Brownies:
  • Preheat oven to 325. Mix brownie batter as directed and add in any extra ingredients you desire.
  • Grease mini-cupcake pan, and fill cups 1/3 full with batter. Place a caramel in each, and fill the rest of the way with batter. Be sure to cover caramel but dont push caramel to the bottom of the pan or it will stick when cooking.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, let cool, and gently remove from pan. (THIS IS KEY! Do not cook longer or they get very hard after cooling, and be VERY careful when removing from the pan and make sure they are cool.  Sometimes the caramel cooks to the bottom and sticks. This makes it  hard to get them out.  I have found twisting them as I pull them out of the pan helps release the caramel.)

Frosting:

  • Melt the caramel with the heavy cream by microwaving for 30 seconds increments and stirring in between.  When you take it out of the microwave, the cream and caramel will be separated in the bow.  You just  need to vigorously mix it until it is combined and smooth.   Then allow it to cool in the fridge for about 25 minutes.
  • Whip the butter  and cream cheese for about 30 seconds on med-high speed, until fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar and then the melted caramel, reserving just a little to top the brownies. Beat until fluffy.  (You may need to add more powdered sugar if the consistency isn’t quite right for piping.
  • Add  the salt, a 1/4 to a 1/2 t. at a time, mixing and then tasting after each addition to make sure you don’t add too much.
  • Use a pastry bag to pipe a little of the frosting in a swirl on top of each cooled brownie. Top with a hint of a drizzle of the reserved caramel, and another little dash of sea salt. Of course I had to add gold sugar crystals.   (If you need to make more caramel drizzle for the brownies the cream is key!  If you do not add cream the caramel will be too chewy when eating).

*You can make these ahead of time and store in the refrigerator  just make sure to give them about an hour to defrost before serving to ensure the caramel inside the brownie is not too chewy or hard from cooling.

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(Originally inspired by freshlyminted.com)