Please, sir, have s’more


Ever feel like you want the campfire experience … without having to, you know, build a campfire?

A friend recently found this take on s’mores bars — a family-friendly bar dessert that is simple to pull together, cuts cleanly, and pleases a crowd. Made similarly to Rice Krispie Treats, these are a sticky winner perfect for summertime get-togethers (socially-distant, of course … #2020).

I added rainbow sprinkles while mixing in the Golden Grahams. No one really needs a reason for sprinkles, but let’s get serious: this has been a very stressful six months. I need any touch of whimsy I can find.


S’mores Bars

3 tbsp butter, plus more for pan
1 (12-oz.) package mini marshmallows
7 cups Golden Grahams cereal
3 Hershey’s milk chocolate bars, broken into pieces

Grease a 9″-x-13″ pan with butter. Melt 3 tbsp of butter in a large pot/dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add all but 1 cup of mini marshmallows, then stir until melted and smooth.

Remove from heat and quickly stir in Golden Grahams, making sure the cereal is evenly coated. Press into pan and top with chocolate pieces and remaining cup of mini marshmallows.

Heat broiler and bake until marshmallows are toasted, about 2 minutes.

Allow to set at least 30 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Recipe from Delish


Not clean eating: Peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough balls


I know, I know — it’s the New Year and everyone is like, “Let’s join a gym! Let’s get back on Weight Watchers! Let’s start eating clean!”

And I’m like . . . here are some fake cookie dough balls. Enjoy?

I say “fake” because they contain no egg, so it’s safe to eat them straight out of the fridge. Or the mixing bowl. They really do taste like cookie dough, but with none of the residual guilt/rebellion I usually feel from eating the real stuff against medical orders.

If you also enjoy eating your feelings, these are portable and very pop-able. With the kids and I dealing with back-to-back illnesses since November, I definitely need sugar therapy.

And so, behold: peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough balls from Mary Younkin of Barefeet in the Kitchen, who is my recipe guru. I live by her cookbooks, which are the basis for my weekly meal plans. Seriously: Mary is it.

This has been adapted just slightly to add peanut butter chips, because … why not?

Also: hi! Miss you guys. Think about you often. Try to scrape together energy to blog again and usually come up empty, but always plan to return.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
Cookie Dough Balls

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup quick oats
2 tbsp milk, as needed (I used half and half)
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

In a bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Add the baking soda, flour, and oats. Stir to combine. If the mixture is too dry to roll into balls, add the milk. Stir in chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.

Scoop out the dough and roll with hands into 1-inch balls. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Will keep three days in the fridge, or up to two months in the freezer.



Cookie butter mug cake


It poured yesterday. The rain fell in heavy sheets, flooding the streets and parking lots and mailboxes left accidentally ajar. I watched it all from my office with damp shoes, damp hair, damp slacks . . . and by the time I got home to an empty house, I knew I needed dessert.

Spencer gets home from a business trip tonight — which means my solitude in the new house will finally end! I’ve been alone before, of course, given I’m 29 years old and not physically sewn to loved ones. Solitude is inevitable. But the last few days have been my first time by myself in our new place, and I had to really psych myself to fall asleep alone in a (somewhat) unfamiliar house with its creaks and groans.

But I did. It wasn’t awful. And I didn’t have any panic attacks, unlike the last time my husband went out of town . . . so: progress.

Left on my own for dinner last night, I was somewhat tempted to just gorge myself on sweets or wimp out and make a PB&J . . . but then I got a weird hankering for Brussels sprouts, and I don’t fight the greens. After a quick dinner of Old Bay sausage and vegetables, I geared up for a mug cake.

Rainy Tuesdays definitely call for mug cakes.

These popular desserts have been on my radar for a while — but sort of in a perplexing way. How does mixing and microwaving a few ingredients lead to a tasty dessert? The science was confusing to me. But when I saw Pumpkin ‘n Spice’s Cinnamon Cookie Butter Mug Cake recipe, I knew I had to experiment.

Cookie butter

What is cookie butter, you may ask? Everything you think it might be and more. When I started doing a little research on the goodie, I learned it’s popular at Trader Joe’s — and the closest store to me is nearly an hour away. But just as I was Googling around, a friend happened to mention her sister was going up to the Annapolis store that very weekend.

If that isn’t fate, what is?

After delivering my jar the following week, I offered Sandy a taste as a thanks — and she just described it was “the single most delicious thing [she’s] ever put in her mouth.”

She’s not overselling it.

In the last few weeks, Spencer and I have struggled to just not eat it by the spoonful . . . which is my gut instinct, honestly. A mug cake seemed like a good way to enjoy it that would, um, help me keep my addiction manageable.

As if that’s possible.

What’s cool about mug cakes? They work. I couldn’t believe how fast my dessert puffed up; I was actually scared it was going to overflow. Though the texture of this mug cake is far more dense than a traditionally-baked treat, it was tasty — and hit the spot for me, a drenched woman watching tons of coverage on the late Robin Williams.

For one evening, I ate my feelings.

They tasted like cookie butter, and the sad was a little less sad.

Cinnamon Cookie Butter Mug Cake

Recipe from Pumpkin ‘n Spice

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
Dash of salt
1 egg
4 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted (I used vegetable oil instead)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cookie butter


Spray a standard-sized coffee mug with non-stick cooking spray.

Into the mug, pour the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Stir briefly to combine.

Add in the egg, milk, coconut oil, cinnamon, and cookie butter. Mix well so that everything Is combined.

Microwave for approximately 2 minutes 30 seconds (2:30) or until cake is firm but the edges are still wet.

Remove from the microwave and let cook for 2 minutes.

Run a knife along the edges of cake. Top with whipped cream, if desired. (Trust me: you desire it.)


My own little pots of ‘creme’

I’m an “eat dessert first” sort of person.

Not that I actually do it. I guess I mean I’m the type to check out the dessert menu at dinner before perusing the actual entrees. Like any self-respecting 3-year-old, I would much rather sink into a bowl of ice cream than eat a piece of chicken — and if it comes down to choosing a “light” meal over a heavier one so I can have a slice of cake afterward, you know I’m going to do it.

Or, you know. I’ll eat the heavy meal and the cake. I’m still a work in progress.

My boyfriend and I were out Wednesday night to celebrate our second anniversary. It’s hard to believe we’ve only known each other two years and very hard to believe we’ve known each other two years. Our relationship has been one long conversation — the highs and lows; the dips and turns — and I don’t feel we’ve ever really stopped talking.

How is it, then, that I’m still learning so many new things about him? New and funny things? Cute and silly things? After 730 days together, we still have “getting to know you” conversations. They’re deeper than they were at first — more comfortable, easier — but still there. That flutter of excitement at learning a new “secret.”

It makes me think about how well we know other people. The sides and shades we see; the moments we choose to share. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll reach a point when I can look at Spencer, shrug and say, “Well, you know all my stories.” And actually mean it.

I hope not.

But back to dessert. The place we chose is a local haunt known more for its bar than dinners, but I hadn’t been in years — and remembered they had an excellent creme brûlée. The memory of that luscious vanilla creme, tart blackberry and crusty crystallized sugar has never left me — and I was determined that, if we were going, I would reunite with that dessert again.

There was a moment of panic when I didn’t immediately spot the creme brûlée on the menu. I flicked through the pages, scanning each item with disinterest. Without the promise of that memorable dessert, nothing captured my attention. It wouldn’t be the heart-stopping meal I craved.

But then I saw it: not just a creme brûlée but a sampler, complete with vanilla, raspberry and chocolate versions. Top of the menu (right in front of my face, of course). Dinner was good, but I was desperate to move on to the next course.

It didn’t disappoint.

We talked over the creme brûlée, sharing little bites as I sampled Spencer’s bread pudding. Walking back to the house hand in hand, we laughed about how I saw something about a “dessert flight” online — a sampler of every dessert a restaurant offers — and how I would take that over a “beer flight” any day.

I’m not much of a drinker, but I can roll with some whipped cream and cake.

And he indulges me. I’m a lucky girl.

Orange angel food cupcakes

When the going gets tough, the tough get . . . baking.

I’m a stress baker. (And stress shopper, but that’s an entirely different post.) Last Sunday I was wandering around with my head in a fog, anxious and upset and struggling to make sense of things that make no sense. In one of my circuits around the kitchen, I spotted my trusty cupcake carrier. And for a half hour, the chorus of worry in my head was quiet.

There’s something so Zen about baking. As I get more adventurous, I feel comfortable crafting unusual recipes and sliding away from always using recipes. In fact, I didn’t use a recipe for this one at all . . . which, as you’ll see, was no big deal. Because it’s not really a recipe. More of a culinary suggestion, if you will.

Everyone likes angel food cake, right? It’s light, fluffy — and for all you New Year’s resolutioners, fat-free. (Yes!) When I raided the cabinets for something to bake last weekend, I came across a box of angel food cake mix and tried to think of how I could use it.

Angel food is delicious, yes, but not very . . . sexy. Or interesting. It’s just sort of, “Hi, I’m here — your regular old angel food cake.” At the suggestion of my sister, I jazzed it up. And since I’m obsessed with extracts (rum! coconut! almond!), I fumbled around until I found my orange bottle. And I added some.

Combined with a tub of orange frosting left over from last Halloween (it was fresh and unopened, I swear!), we crafted a batch of fluffy, chewy and delicious orange angel food cupcakes that were consumed with a day or two. I might have had two (or three . . .) as soon as they cooled.

Here’s what I did — but remember, it’s simple. Like, really simple. Almost as simple as this “recipe” I created.

But sometimes the easiest things are the most delicious.

Orange Angel Food Cupcakes

1 box angel food cake mix
Water, as called for on box
2 tsp orange extract
Colored frosting, as desired
Sprinkles, as desired

Prepare angel food cupcakes as directed on package, adding 2 tsp orange extract to batter. Bake as directed, or until tops of cupcakes are brown and dry. Cool in pan, then move to cooling rack. Frost and decorate as desired, or enjoy as-is! Yields 24-28 cupcakes.

Homemade pumpkin pie — from a real pumpkin

My boyfriend is big on culinary adventures. When other people go to make a pumpkin pie, they might do something like — oh, I don’t know — buy canned pumpkin. It’s quick, easy and ready to go. It’s convenient. And portable.

But Spencer enjoys a challenge. When we went to pick pumpkins to carve for Halloween, an annual tradition, he asked the woman at the farmer’s stand which gourd would be best for pie making. She recommended a sugar pumpkin — smaller and more flavorful than the bigger jack-o-lantern varieties — and off we went.

After hanging out at a fall festival last weekend, we decided to give the pie making a go. I was skeptical, to be honest; how were we going to take a big, fleshy and seed-filled orange thing and turn it into a pie? But in the end, it really wasn’t too tough. Especially when we found plenty of tutorials online.

So here’s how to make your own pumpkin puree for pie-making — or other recipes. If I’m being perfectly honest (and don’t punch me), I didn’t taste a huge difference between fresh pumpkin and its canned counterpart. If you’re short on time or just don’t want to be bothered, the traditional from-a-can method works just fine. But if you’re ready for something different or want to use up the pesky half-carved toothy gourds you have lingering around? This might be a good way to waste not, want not.

Two cups of the pumpkin puree we made amounted to about one 15 oz. can of pumpkin, which most pie recipes call for. And with about a million pumpkin pie recipes floating around the ether, how can you settle on one? We chose a recipe that worked based on the ingredients we had on hand, which happened to be this one. It was sweet without being cloying, and stood up very well!

Though nothing stands up to the pumpkin lovers in my house. It was gone in a day.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

A holiday I can appreciate


I don’t know how I’ve failed to ever celebrate this holiday in the past, but today — May 15 — is National Chocolate Chip Day! And why shouldn’t we have a day devoted to all things chocolate chip — presumably white, dark, milk and mint? It’ll certain soothe what ails you. And if you add the beloved chips to any variety of desserts, you have the recipe for happiness (pun intended!).

Hope you all celebrate this momentous occasion in the way you see best fit! As for me? I’m off to find a cookie.