Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Bars & Cookies’ Category

Within minutes of cracking my eyes open and my feet hitting the chilly carpet, the morning sunshine was overshadowed by gloomy sadness—it’s the same tinge of grief that creeps in every September 18, the anniversary of my best friend’s unspeakable death.

Since 22 years of heartbreak can’t be mended with a bottle of Patrón and Duct tape, the next best thing for me is baking. So after I got off the phone with Darya’s dad, Darryl, I wiped my tears with a lotion-y Kleenex and cranked the oven to 350°.

6 and a half layer bars

I recalled a story her mom, Carmen, told me recently. One time, Carmen put a pan of 7-layer bars in the oven and had to leave the house so she asked Darya to turn the oven off when the timer was done. Well, Darya did just that. She turned the oven off but she didn’t take the bars out of the oven. The bars continued to bake and caramelize and as Carmen puts it, “…best bars we ever had and we can’t seem to duplicate that.”

In sweet memory of my friend, I tried to recreate what she had done so many years ago. I changed up the recipe a little because I thought adding caramel, milk chocolate toffee bits, and salty pretzel crumbs could only make the bars better. I was right.

Just remember to turn the oven off and let them sit in there for a while.

6 and a half layer bars

What makes these eight-and-a-half layer bars? I swapped (pretzels for nuts) and added a few ingredients (caramel and toffee bits) from traditional 7-layer bars and, because I’m not a raging fan of coconut, I only use half the coconut most recipes call for. A sprinkling really.

Eight-and-a-half layer bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup pretzel crumbs

11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) butter, melted

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate toffee bits

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping (such as Mrs. Richardson’s butterscotch caramel)

1/2 cup (or your desired amount) shredded coconut

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together cracker and pretzel crumbs with melted butter. (I use a blender to make the crumbs and then add the butter.)
  3. Dump and firmly press the crumb mix into pan.
  4. Evenly scatter butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and toffee bits onto crust.
  5. Drizzle on about 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping.
  6. Sprinkle with coconut, reserving a tablespoon or two.
  7. Pour condensed milk over coconut. Sprinkle with last bit of coconut.
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn off oven. Leave bars in oven for about 15 minutes before transferring pan to a cooling rack.
  9. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in airtight container.

With sweet memories of my BFF,

Staci

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Heavier than a newborn but lighter than a case of beer, two pans of bumpy black and yellow caramel brownies sank my rusty scale to 10.5 pounds.

black and yellow caramel brownies

It was hard not to sneak one before I delivered the hefty box of serve-with-a-glass-of-milk bars to one of my favorite customers. So I did what any self-respecting baker would do. I made another batch to share with my family.

black and yellow caramel brownies

This recipe is a mash-up between two of my easy, go-to bar recipes—Yes! Yes! Brownies and Yellow Bars. Too much of a good thing doesn’t pertain to brownies.

Black and yellow caramel brownies

Brownie & caramel layers:

1 package (approximately 15.25 ounce) dry chocolate cake mix, any flavor – milk chocolate, chocolate fudge, german chocolate, etc.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

5-ounce can evaporated milk, divided into two portions 1/3 cup each

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 bag individually wrapped caramels (about 50 caramels)

Yellow & milk chocolate layers:

1 package (approximately 15.25 ounce) dry yellow cake mix

1 large egg

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very soft

12-ounce package milk chocolate chips

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon butter

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13×9 pan or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together chocolate cake mix, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, 3/4 cup melted butter.
  3. Reserve approximately 1/4 cup of chocolate batter. Spread the rest in pan and bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  4. Scatter 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips onto cake batter.
  5. Unwrap caramels and melt over low heat (stove top or microwave) with 1/3 cup evaporated milk until creamy.
  6. Pour caramel over chocolate chips.
  7. Stir together yellow cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick very soft butter.
  8. Set half the yellow dough aside.
  9. Using half of the yellow dough, roll and flatten small portions in your hand. Lay flat pieces on the chocolate chips.
  10. Bake 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  11. In a medium saucepan or in the microwave, melt milk chocolate chips, 1 tablespoon butter, and sweetened condensed milk together until smooth.
  12. Pour chocolate over yellow cake pieces.
  13. Flatten remaining yellow cake dough into pieces and lay onto milk chocolate. (It won’t cover the whole pan.)
  14. Flatten remaining chocolate cake dough into pieces and sprinkle in places not covered by yellow dough.
  15. Using a small spreader or knife, gently spread doughs but leaving bumps.
  16. Bake 30 minutes or just until yellow parts start to turn golden.
  17. Remove from oven. Cut when cooled completely. Store in airtight container.

Sweet mashed wishes,

Staci

Read Full Post »

If my best friend Darya hadn’t been killed by her husband when she was 22, we would have celebrated her 44th birthday last month. She was Lutheran. My Grandpa Elroy died quite a few years ago. He was Baptist. My sisters and I grew up with the teachings and influence of a Protestant church. They both belong to different churches now.

monster cookie bars

 

I’ve spent the past 14 years attending Mass and holy celebrations with Jason and his family. Last fall I decided to convert. This Easter I will be baptized into the Catholic Christian church. As I’ve been attending Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes, I’ve been thinking about what happens to us when we die. Of course, I want to spend my eternal life in heaven with my family and friends, no matter their Christian religion. I want to be in the presence of Darya’s spirit again. I want to eat hard butterscotch candy with my grandpa. I want to hang out with my kids and my sisters. If we get to kiss in heaven, I want to kiss Jason each heavenly morning. So however we need to live our lives on earth to get to heaven, let’s be there together.

monster cookie bars

What does that have to do with a big batch of monster cookie bars? It was my turn for treat night at RCIA the week of Darya’s birthday. People loved these, especially Father Andrew. I gave him an extra one to take home. It was a compliment that people came back for seconds.

Cookie dough balls ready for freezer

Read about how I got this recipe and how I freeze cookie dough balls in Your IT guy knows how to make monster cookie bars and strips.

Monster cookies and bars

2 sticks softened butter

2-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

2 cups white sugar

2 cups brown sugar

4 teaspoons baking soda

6 eggs

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla

9 cups quick-cooking oats

2-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3 cups plain M&M’s

Heat oven to 350°. Prepare pans. If you want to use all your cookie dough at once, you can make one 13×9 pan of bars (baking time takes about 20-25 minutes) and at least two dozen large cookies (baking time takes about 12-16 minutes). Or, you can make two 13×9 pans of bars. Or if you only want cookies, you can make at least six dozen enormous cookies, a few more dozen if you make smaller cookies.

  1. In large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream softened butter and peanut butter together.
  2. Add white sugar and brown sugar, beating until well combined.
  3. Add baking soda.
  4. Add eggs and beat well.
  5. Pour in corn syrup and vanilla. Continue mixing until everything is incorporated well.
  6. At this point, you should be able to add at least a few cups of the oats and still use your mixer. But once the dough gets too heavy, stop using the mixer and continue adding oats stirring the batter with a wooden spoon. Use your sexy arm muscles.
  7. Stir in the M&M’s and chocolate chips.

If you are making bars, spread half of the dough into a 13×9-inch pan. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until nice and golden brown. If you take the pan out before they turn golden brown, the middle will not be done.

For cookies, baking time depends on how large you make them. Place on cookie sheet. Using the back of a spoon, gently push down the dough a little bit so that they spread out instead of baking in one mound. Bake at 350° for 12-16 minutes, or until golden brown. I like to sprinkle just a tiny bit of pink Himalayan salt or sea salt on mine when they come out of the oven.

Sweet heavenly wishes,

Staci

Read Full Post »

Why didn’t it even cross my mind? All hockey season long I see signs posted on entrance doors of rinks everywhere: “No outside food or drinks allowed.” My hockey mom mojo was out the window as Sunday I was just a cheer aunt with peanut butter cream cheese brownies and chewy cocoa peanut butter chip cookies to share with my family.

Cocoa Peanut Butter Chip Cookies | Random Sweetness Baking

When we stopped at the arena doors so the security guards could check our bags, I thought they were checking for guns and knives.

Katera Wildfire Cheer

But as soon as she spotted the unconcealed plastic bottle of water in the side pocket of my camera bag, the guard informed me that no outside food or drinks were allowed in the arena. I thought she was talking about my overstuffed canvas bag of chocolate and peanut butter treats but she didn’t even notice. She kept her eyes on me until I ditched my water but I made it through with the bag full of cookies and brownies to share with my family.

Hailee

But I was mortified when I was driving home. I took a bite of cookie and the sugar consistency was like gasping in a mouthful of sand after too many cocktails on the beach during spring break. I’ve made these cookies a lot since the time they disappeared before Christmas supper in 2013 and they’ve never been like that.

cream cheese peanut butter brownies

I went to bed thinking about it and woke up in the morning knowing exactly what went wrong. The recipe calls for 1¼ cups of softened butter and for some reason I forgot one whole stick of butter! I guess that’s what I get for unintentionally smuggling goodies into the cheer competition.

Chewy Cocoa Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

2 cups sugar

1-1/4 cups butter (2 and a half sticks), softened

2 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

10-ounce package (1-2/3 cups) peanut butter chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat sugar and softened butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir together and then gradually add to butter mixture; beating until well combined. Stir in peanut butter chips until distributed evenly into the cookie dough.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9 to 10 minutes. Do not over-bake. The cookies will not look like they are done but they will puff up a little when baking and then they’ll drop when they are cooling. They are soft with a little crunch around the edges.

Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes and then move them to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container. Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Sweet buttery wishes,

Staci

Read Full Post »

I like fudge. I eat fudge once in a while. One time, I ate too much fudge from a fudge shop in Hawaii or Nisswa, Minnesota—I don’t remember which—and I got sick. My favorite flavor is amaretto. I don’t recall the last time I made fudge (or if I ever have).three chocoate fudge recipe

But this Christmas I saw a three-chocolate fudge recipe in Jason’s mom’s Taste of Home magazine and I was randomly inspired to make a pan.

three chocolate fudge

View three-chocolate fudge recipe on Taste of Home. I like this recipe because you don’t need a candy thermometer. Just follow the instructions carefully by bringing the sugar, butter, and evaporated milk to a boil and then continue cooking it for five minutes. As just a personal preference, I reduced the pecans to 1 cup instead of 2 cups and I used pecan cookie pieces. It makes a lot of fudge so be ready to share.

If you are ever in Brookings, South Dakota you should definitely eat fudge at Choco Latte. Where’s your favorite place to get fudge?

Sweet square wishes,

Staci

Read Full Post »

It’s not like chocolate and mint don’t go together when the skies are sunny and blue and the grass is tall and green, but there’s something festive about a platter of cocoa mint cookies reflecting the dancing lights of a Christmas tree surrounded by family and friends.chewy cocoa mint marshmallow cookies

If you’re from the Midwest, you can see how these chewy cookies resemble a Minnesota snow pile—our snow gets plowed into towering mounds of snow which melt into piles of dirt and muck (the cookie), school gets called off and kids build frolicking snowmen out of sticky snowballs (teensy marshmallow bits), and then a fresh blanket of snow falls, turning everything into a sparkling winter wonderland (dusting of powdered sugar).

marshmallow mint cookie ingredients

You’ll want to check your grocery store soon for the HERSHEY’s mint chocolate chips because I can only find them during the Christmas season. (If you live in my neck of the woods, I buy them at Hy-Vee. I can’t find them at Wal-Mart.) You can use any mint chocolate chips you want, I just like that these are actually semi-sweet chocolate chips. The Mallow Bits are usually in the hot chocolate aisle. But my local grocery store thinks they are seasonal so I couldn’t buy them there last summer. Small town, one grocery store problems…

chewy cocoa mint marshmallow cookies

I found that if you leave the cookies sitting out, the teensy marshmallows on top get crunchy – just like I like them! You can store the cookies in an airtight container but the marshmallows will get soft. (Only leave the cookies sitting out a day or two or they won’t be chewy anymore.)

Chewy cocoa mint marshmallow cookies

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

2 cups sugar

1-1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

¾ cup Andes Crème De Menthe Baking Chips

1 cup mint chocolate chips such as HERSHEY’S semi-sweet mint chocolate chips

2 (3 oz. each) bottles tiny marshmallow bits, divided

powdered sugar for dusting

Make the cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl beat sugar and softened butter until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir together and then gradually add to butter mixture; beating on low just until combined.
  4. Stir in Andes baking chips, mint chocolate chips, and 1 cup marshmallow bits until distributed into dough evenly.
  5. Roll dough into balls. Flatten balls lightly and press into bowl of marshmallow bits, pressing bits gently into dough so they stick when baked.
  6. Place marshmallow side up on ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake 9 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. The cookies will not look like they are done but they will puff up a little when baking and then they’ll drop when they are cooling. They are soft with a little crunch around the edges.
  8. Cool 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack. When cookies are completely cool, dust with powdered sugar.
  9. If eating within a day or two, keep uncovered – this allows the marshmallows on top to get a little crunchy. If you like the marshmallows soft, store in airtight container.

Sweet minty wishes,

Staci

Read Full Post »

He works hard, puts on more miles than a NASCAR driver, and since the end of summer Jason has been spending time with his dad in the hospital and working on a project that has taken him from home all but a couple of days each week. And after more than 13 years years together, I still miss him when he’s gone and I pray for his quick and safe return. When he does make it home, I like to have a homemade meal ready—like Once a Month Beer Chili Spaghetti or Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes and Hamburger and sometimes even dessert like Key Lime Cheesecake or Cherry Crunchobblerumble. But the next morning when he fills two thermoses and two travel mugs with coffee and heads for the door, I like to surprise him with a bag of soft peanut butter cookies.

soft chewy peanut butter cookies

I don’t know if the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but something keeps him coming home.

Jason and Staci

See this recipe on food.com.

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup plus a couple spoonfuls creamy peanut butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2-1/2 cups flour

turbinado sugar or regular granulated sugar for cookie tops

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream softened butter for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sugars. Cream with butter on medium-high speed for 4 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  4. Add peanut butter and beat on medium until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  5. Beat in eggs. Pour in vanilla.
  6. In a separate bowl, stir together baking powder, baking soda, and flour. With the mixer on low, dump in about 1/2 a cup of the flour mixture (to the dough) and mix just until combined. Then stir in the remaining flour mixture in two batches, stirring just until combined.
  7. Roll into balls and roll in sugar. Flatten the balls on the cookie sheet and make a crisscross pattern with a fork. Sprinkle on a little more sugar.
  8. Bake 7-9 minutes or just until the edges start to turn light golden brown and the cookies begin to crack. They might not look completely done but if you leave them in the oven until they brown completely, they won’t be soft. I actually like to make large cookies – 6 to a cookie sheet – and they need to bake for about 10-11 minutes.
  9. Cool on rack.

My routine for these cookies goes something like this: the day before I want fresh cookies I make the dough and put it in the refrigerator. The next day, I let the dough sit out for about half an hour and then I follow steps 7-9. In addition to the cookies for Jason, I like to give a few to my sisters and keep a few in the freezer for emergencies. (Remember we live in the country and can be snowed in for days.)

Sweet wishes for the road,

Staci

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: