Monday, November 30, 2015

Grab and Go Breakfast Bars

I eat granola bars for breakfast almost every day. It’s my go to morning meal when I’m in a hurry or when I’m traveling and need an easy on-the-go treat. So when I teamed up with The Quaker Oats Company to share a recipe that makes my morning easier, I couldn’t wait to make these Cherry Almond Grab and Go Granola Bars for you guys.

Of course, we’re starting off with Quaker Standard Oats. They’re 100% whole grains and the star of these breakfast bars.

And I’m including other goodies, too. Sliced almonds, rice cereal, dried cherries, peanut butter, honey, chocolate chips, vanilla, and maple syrup.

And oh honey… these are going to be good!

Warm the peanut butter, honey, maple syrup and vanilla and mix together so you can easily pour it on the dry ingredients.

Oh my! Now mix all the ingredients together until everything is completely coated.

Once coated, transfer the granola mixture to an 8 X 8 inch dish lined with parchment paper and press all the ingredients down as flat as you can.

I used a 6-inch round cake pan to do the work for me so my hands didn’t have to get sticky.

Sprinkle a few mini chocolate chips on top and press down gently.

Now just bake the bars for about 20-25 minutes and then cool completely.

I let these cool for about an hour and a half on the counter and then I transferred them to the fridge for about an hour. They’re easier to work with when chilled.

Once cold, cut them into 12 equal bars while they were still in the dish.

I wanted to nibble on these right away, but I needed to wait so I could get them all dressed and ready for the week ahead.

With the bars still cold, wrap them in strips of parchment paper and tie each with string.

Then just slip them into treat bags and tape them shut.

Cherry Almond Grab and Go Granola Bars

1 1/2 cups Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
3/4 cup slivered almonds
2/3 cup rice cereal
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line an 8 X 8 inch baking dish with parchment paper overlapping on opposite sides so you you can easily lift bars from the dish when finished.
  • Toast almonds. Spread them in an even layer on a large baking sheet and place in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Watch closely so they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and reduce temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place oats and toasted almonds in a food processor and give it several pulses to break the shapes up into smaller pieces. This will make the ingredients press together more compactly in the baking dish.
  • Place all the oats, almonds, rice cereal, dried cherries and chocolate chips in a large bowl and mix together until evenly distributed. Reserve about a tablespoon of the chips to sprinkle on top at the end.
  • In a medium bowl, microwave the peanut butter, honey, syrup and vanilla for about 10-20 seconds so you can easily stir it together. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir until completely combined and all the dry ingredients are coated.
  • Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and press down as flat, even, and compact as possible. You can use a smaller baking dish to help or press using your hands coated with vegetable oil. Once the mixture is as flat as you can make it, sprinkle any reserved chocolate chips and gently press them on top.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove and cool completely for at least 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for another hour. Remove and cut into 12 equal bars using a thin serrated knife while still in the baking dish. Lift the bars from the dish holding the parchment paper.
  • Makes 12 bars. Bars will be good for several days at room temperature or for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.
  • To prepare them for the week ahead: Working with chilled bars, wrap each one in a strip of parchment paper and tie with a string. Place in a plastic treat bag to travel with. You can also dip the bottoms in a little melted chocolate or candy coating and let dry before packaging.

Adorable! Now you have individually wrapped and ready breakfast bars handy and a yummy way to brighten the beginning of your day. Just grab one and go.


This post is in collaboration with The Quaker Oats Company #OffYouGo! For more tips to make mornings easier, visit:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Candy Crush Brownies

So it turns out that I way overbought on Halloween candy this year. I even used a bunch candy bars a couple of weeks ago to make these Cheesecake Bars. Well I finally just had to stop eating them since Thanksgiving is almost here, so I decided to make these Candy Crush Brownies to share.

I call them Candy Crush because these are all my fave kinds of chocolate candy.

I love Reese’s, Butterfingers, Kit Kats, Twix, M&M’s and Peanut Butter Snickers Bars.

And I love brownies. Brownies are like my comfort dessert. They always seem to make me feel better.

These brownies are no fuss when it comes to decorating, too. Just evenly distribute the chopped candy bars throughout the batter.

Then layer on more batter.

And then top it all off with a final assortment of candy before baking.

I feel good already.

And I feel even better now.

Brownies to the rescue. Never fail.

Candy Crush Brownies

14 tbsp unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup all purpose flour
12-14 assorted fun size candy bars, cut into small pieces

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Line an 8 X 8 inch baking dish with parchment paper allowing it to overhang on each side. (Note: I used a 6 X 9 inch dish, but either works.)
  • In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Mix in sugar, vanilla and cocoa until combined. Remove from heat and let cool before adding eggs.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla, whisking vigorously until completely combined. Stir in flour until just combined.
  • Pour a layer of batter in prepared pan and lay on candy pieces. Repeat two more times arranging the final candy pieces nicely on top.
  • Bake for 35 minutes. Cool and then lift brownies from pan with parchment paper and cut into squares.

Note: You can also just use one kind of candy with these if you’ve already depleted leftover Halloween stash.



Monday, November 16, 2015

Shipping Sweets and Traveling Treats

The holiday season is such a happy time to bake and share sweets with friends and family. And cake pops are one of my favorite treats to gift. But they are also easy to ship and send to your favorite people. I’m often asked what’s the best way to package them so they make it safely to their destination. So, when the opportunity to work with Scotch® Brand came about, I thought I’d share with you exactly how I’ve shipped them in the past.

But, before we can ship, we need some cake pops to dip. Super cute candy-themed cake pops, that is.

Here are my basic instructions for making cake pops in case you haven’t given them a go before.

Because the cake is mixed with frosting and completely enrobed in candy coating, they will stay fresh and tasty for several days.

To make simple round cake pops look like hard candy, just draw swirls and pinwheel designs on the coating using edible-ink writing pens. I filled in the color just a bit so you can see where I’m going, but basically, drawing on the pops helps tremendously with the next step.

Use a small brush to paint a thin layer of corn syrup over the drawn shape and then sprinkle colored sanding sugar right on top and it will attach like glue. You can also easily use a toothpick to coerce the sanding sugar in position if it breaks out of the drawn lines. I love the sanding sugar effect because it makes the pops look sparkly and sugary.

So cool! You can also apply candy coating using a toothpick over the drawn shape and then add the sanding sugar, but this can add a little extra bulk and I like it when this design looks a bit flatter.

When you’re applying the sanding sugar, make sure you do it over a bowl so you can catch and reuse any that doesn’t attach.

And voila! The cutest candy cake pops. Oh, wait… not the cutest yet.

Instead of using treat bags as they’re intended, fold the bag in half and snip a tiny opening out of the center/side of the bag. Insert the pop, stick first, into the bag and then through the opening. Then use twist ties (cut into 1 1/2-inch sections) to secure the cake pop on each side.

Okay, now they’re the cutest. Using sweet little treat bags really seals the deal and makes you think of these cake pops as candy.

And this is how I package them. There may be better ways, but this has worked for me every time I’ve mailed them in the past.

Tucked in and ready to go. I use 1 lb. candy boxes (they’re roughly 7” X 3.25″ X 1.75″) and cake pops using 6-inch sticks. Place a small section of tissue paper in the bottom of the box and lay pops (always in treat bags) in alternating directions. Depending on the size, I can get 3-4 in each box. When you close the box, the tissue they’re wrapped in will keep them secure. You just don’t want them moving around in the box.

So now let’s spruce the boxes up a bit so they can brighten someone’s day.

This Scotch® Expressions Glitter Tape reminds me of the sanding sugar so I thought it would be fun to carry through the colors when packing them up safe, sound and super cute.

To make a sweet garland banner, fold tape over twine and then snip off the ends or cut into pennant shapes.


The next step is taping them up securely in bubble wrap.

Then place them in a larger box filled with more packing material around the bottom, top and sides.

Depending on how much extra room you have… use more bubble wrap, paper packing, peanuts or tissue paper like above.

When all taped up and secure, you should not feel or hear the contents inside move around.

Then your sweets are ready to ship out overnight. You can also ship 2-day, but I wouldn’t wait longer than that.

Other small sweets perfect for shipping are: fudge, cereal treats, marshmallows, caramels, sugar cookies and caramel corn. And, if you want to send something by regular mail, then fudge would be perfect.

Wait … Going home for the holidays? Want a tip for traveling with your treats?

I’ve had to fly with cake pops several times and this is my go to carrying case. Yep. A cooler. This one is a 9-quart size (roughly 13” X 9” X 9”) and it will hold nine of these candy boxes with a little room left over.  I can get at least 36 cake pops inside. And using tape to decorate the boxes works perfectly because it’s flat and won’t get damaged in transportation. The perks? The sides of the cooler take the brunt of any accidental knocks, it fits nicely under the airline seat in front of me, it has a handle, and people tend to step aside when they see me carrying a small red cooler. Perfect!

Anyway, I hope this helps you a bit if you’re thinking of shipping or carrying your delicious treats this holiday season!

So that’s how I ship, but that’s not all… Scotch® Brand is having a fun contest to see how great you can wrap.


Enter the Scotch® Most Gifted Wrapper™ Contest for the opportunity to win $10,000!
Enter at: between November 2nd and December 9th.
LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE U.S. and D.C. (excluding AZ, CO, NE, MD, NJ, ND, TN and VT), who are 18 (19 in AL and 21 in MS) and older. Ends 12/9/15. To enter and for Official Rules (including prize descriptions), visit Void where prohibited.

This post is in partnership with Scotch® Brand.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Peanut Butter Snickers Cheesecake Bars

I made something sweet to sink your teeth into. Peanut Butter Snickers Cheesecake Bars. They make me want to go grab one right now. Yum!

Okay Snickers fans, have you had the peanut butter version? Yeah, well these little peanut butter temptresses almost make me forget about Reese’s peanut butter cups… my comfort candy of choice. I like these a lot better than the original Snickers, so I thought I’d throw them in some cheesecake batter and make some decadent little bars.

First up, the crust. I used chocolate graham crackers to mix with butter, but feel free to use good old golden grahams, too.

These bake in an 8 X 8 dish. Use a flat bottom utensil to help pack all the crumbs down flat.

Hey you. I’m sorry I have to cut you into tiny pieces, but it’s for a yummy cause.

Use a sharp non-serrated knife for smoother cuts.

And then, into the cheesecake bath you go. Once baked and cooled, these babies get covered with a blanket of chocolate ganache to keep them cozy … and to cover up the crack that opened in the middle, too. But you’ll never know now. When the ganache sets and then after the cheesecake has chilled in the refrigerator, cut into small squares.

You can totally serve them simple just like this.

But I thought I’d dress them up for a party scenario.

Pipe some peanut butter buttercream frosting on the center of each bar and then place a cut candy bar piece in the middle to jazz them up for guests.


Peanut Butter Snickers Cheesecake Bars

18 Chocolate graham cracker squares (1 wrapped package), crushed into crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted

12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 egg, plus 1 yolk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 fun size Peanut Butter Snickers (8 cut into small pieces for the cheesecake batter and four cut into slices reserved for decoration.)

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • To make the crust, stir graham cracker crumbs and sugar together in a medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir until completely combined.
  • Using the bottom of a glass or measuring cup, firmly press mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool.
  • To make the cheesecake filling, add cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar and flour to a large bowl. Using a mixer on medium-high speed, beat mixture until creamy and combined.
  • Turn mixer to low and add egg and yolk, mixing until combined. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Gently stir in Snickers candy bar pieces and pour batter in prepared baking dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes, then remove and let cool completely.
  • To make the ganache, place chocolate morsels in a large heat-proof bowl and set aside. Add cream and butter to a saucepan and heat on stove at medium high. Remove just before boiling and pour over morsels. Let sit for a minute and then stir until completely combined. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over cooled cheesecake. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  • Cut into 20-25 bars and decorate with frosting to serve if desired.
  • For Peanut Butter Buttercream, beat butter and peanut butter until completely smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Add confectioners’ sugar on low and then increase speed and beat until combined. Pipe buttercream swirls on top of each cheesecake bar and then insert a sliced Snickers candy bar piece for decoration.
  • Store cheesecake bars in refrigerator.
Note: You can also make these with a straight up cheesecake flavor and omit the peanut butter in the batter.



Monday, October 26, 2015

Haunted Halloween Party

I went to the most amazing Halloween Party last weekend. Do you guys remember my friend Cupcake Julie’s Holiday parties? This one and this one? Well she haunts as good as she spreads holiday cheer. From statues to spiders, flickering lights to floating fog, the night was full of all kinds of frightfully fun sights and spooky sweets, too.

I made some of my eyeball cake pops to bring to the party. But this time, I dipped them using silver plastic forks instead of lollipop sticks. So much more fun and kinda gruesome. Click here for directions on how to make the original version.

To stand them up for serving, dip them in melted red candy coating and place on wax paper to dry. You can also use a toothpick to apply more red candy coating around the prongs of the fork. Bleeding eyeballs you know.

We also had scary red velvet cake skulls, skeleton brownies, chocolate mice, cookie bones, s’mores trifles, butterscotch puddings, mini pies and more. So much sweet fun.

But not as much fun as her Halloween decorations. Check out this larger than life-size Count Dracula.

And this little vampire statuette.

On piano… we have skeleton fingers.

A serving tray of body parts anyone?

A big book of spells.

Chains, ghouls, spiders and skulls. Spooky decorations were everywhere.

There were animatronic fortune tellers and floor crawling zombies, too.

Ummm… drinks anyone? The crazy chemist had some fun concoctions for us.

And this guy. He was hanging around outside to greet arriving guests.

Me? I went as a spider. But I was completely outdone by their front entrance.

And, I hate spiders, but somehow I wanted to hug this one.

Julie’s husband had the most amazing giant Grim Reaper costume.

And when I say giant, I mean towering. He was walking around on drywall stilts in creepy slow motion. Needless to say, we all wanted a photo with him.

Oh my gosh. This is awesome and probably my favorite part. When you went in the bathroom and leaned in to wash your hands, a ghost in the vanity mirror screams and scares the daylights out of you. So creepy. So fun.

There was a cemetery, too! Julie handmade all of these tombstones. And the lettering. Yeah… crazy!!! She used a drimmel to carve out all the words so the letters would look like they were etched out of stone. True dedication!

Oh … I can’t forget the creeping fog. It definitely set the mood for the night.

P.S. … That’s a wig I bought, but now I kinda want silver hair. What do you think?

Hope this Halloween is haunted and happy for you … and of course filled with the cutest spooky treats.

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