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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

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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

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There’s a border battle between two Minnesota housewives and for that reason, I am sworn to secrecy and cannot share my sister’s super-secret-better-than-everyone-else’s Special K bar recipe.

For years, Heidi has been knocking the socks off family and friends with her secret Special K bars. But there’s this one housewife [Lincoln County Housewife] who is unkind (like cyber-bullying unkind) to my sister but that lady’s husband and sons (who are nice and friends of the family) love Heidi’s bars. So she bakes them for the guys but won’t share the recipe with anyone but her sisters. Ah, sweet revenge.

Special K bars

When I told Heidi I was writing this post and assured her that I would not share her secret recipe, she told me a few interesting facts about what happens when she makes a pan (or two) of her famous Special K Bars. [I didn’t use the guys’ names.]

Heidi: When I make these for them, there are rules. They are rationed between each other.

Me: LOL, what? Between Lincoln County Husband and Sons?

Heidi: I don’t really know, but it is wild hog code of rules about who gets bars, when they get bars, what size bars each get. I stay clear!

Me: Oh it’s wild hog rules amongst themselves – they’re not your rules? Is that more than just Lincoln Co. Husband and his boys? Or is it Pipestone Co. Husband and the other guys too? You just toss them a pan and run??

Heidi: Yes. It’s (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male) and (Male).

And the chivalrous “ladies first” rule does not apply.

It gets even better. 

Here’s an excerpt from a message from Lincoln Co. Housewife to my sister:

“Made my husband more bars, huh…I’d like to know what obsession you have about making bars for my men in my family…” blah, blah, blah something about the “fatning” bars… (her spelling not mine) “[Lincoln Co. Husband] told me today that he told you to stop making him bars…you better listen to him…”

Me to Heidi: Did he tell you to stop?

Heidi: Hell no!

Who knew a pan of bars could create such turmoil? We will forever refer to her secret recipe as Special K-iss My Ass Bars.

Special K Bars

(A standard, non revolution provoking recipe)

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup white sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

6 cups Special K cereal (or corn flake cereal)

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips

In a large saucepan over medium heat bring corn syrup and sugar to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth. Fold in cereal. Press into a buttered or parchment paper-lined 8 x 11½ or 9×13 cake pan.

In a small saucepan melt chocolate and butterscotch chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Once smooth, pour over bars and spread evenly. Cool completely before cutting.

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Come back later this week for: 3 piggies in a breakfast pie.

Super secret sweet wishes,

Staci

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How many times have you done this? You make a dish without a recipe and it turns out to be something you can’t wait to make again. The problem is, the next time you want to make it you can’t remember how you made it or where you wrote it down. Hoping I’ve learned my lesson, publishing this recipe means we can always make piping hot cheesy scalloped potatoes with hamburger.

Cheesy scalloped potatoes and hamburger

I hadn’t lost the recipe for this fresh potato dish. But I lost my recipe for scalloped potatoes and ham and haven’t been able to find it for almost two years. Not only did I want to find it again but my (someday) mother-in-law asked me for it. Lo and behold I accidentally found it on Sunday, on my blog, in a draft page. So I adapted it to make a smaller meal with hamburger since I didn’t have any ham. It’s basically the cheesy potatoes and ham recipe halved but without the onion and garlic, although they would be fantastic in here too. (Marie, I can finally give you the recipe!)

That wasn’t the only recipe I’ve written down and wound up in a desperate hunt for—somewhere hiding in my house is a jotted-down recipe for s’mores cookies that I want to find before we take a trip to the lake next week. Who knows what other random Post-It note recipes I’ll find in my search. Wish me luck because from what I remember, you’ll want the recipe too.

Cheesy scalloped potatoes and hamburger

4 large or 5 medium Russet or Gold potatoes, thinly sliced

1 pound ground sirloin or ground beef

1/2 teaspoon onion salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup butter

4 cups milk

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, or your cheese of choice

  1. Fry the hamburger in a large pan with onion salt and garlic powder until cooked thoroughly. (Fry with onion and garlic if desired.) Drain if needed and set aside in a separate bowl.
  2. In the same pan over medium-high heat, add the butter, milk, flour, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Whisk until thickened, about 10 minutes. It will be more like a bean soup consistency.
  3. Grease a 9×13 pan with spray or butter.
  4. Spread half of the potatoes in the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the hamburger. Pour half of the milk mixture over the hamburger and top with half of the cheese. Repeat the layers.
  5. Cover with foil and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender, the entire pan is bubbling, and the cheese begins to brown. Refrigerate any leftovers and warm in a frying pan the next day.

Cheesy wishes,

Staci

 

 

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It’s a question we ask before almost every family get-together. Between my sisters, my mom, and me, one of us makes an abundant batch (with the hopes of leftovers) of our family’s thick and velvety taco dip.

Remember to grab a couple of bags of your favorite tortilla chips.

Taco dip | Random Sweetness Baking

Taco Dip

2 pounds (32-ounce box) Velveeta

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

2 (10-ounces each) cans chili with no beans

1-1/2 to 2 lbs. ground beef, browned with diced onion or onion flakes

Into a large saucepan over low heat, cut the Velveeta and cream cheese into cubes and melt together. Stir in the chili until thoroughly mixed and melty. Briskly fold in the browned hamburger. Serve hot with tortilla chips. Place in a crockpot if not serving immediately.

Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

You can melt this dip in the microwave but I’ve found it’s creamier, without white chunks of cream cheese, if I melt it low and slow on the stove top.

For a smaller batch of taco dip:

1 pound Velveeta

4 ounces cream cheese

1 10-ounce can chili with no beans

1 pound ground beef, browned with diced onion or onion flakes

Follow directions above.

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It’s time for us to try another family’s favorite recipe. It might mean stepping out of our chocolate cake comfort zone because if you’re like me, you have your own favorite way of making chocolate cake and cupcakes. And your favorite frosting.

moist chocolate cake with lots of fudge frosting

Since I’m not much of a cake eater anyway, the only one I make is heavenly chocolate cake with snow frosting. It has Miracle Whip in it which keeps the cake nice and moist. My favorite frosting is the white, sticky, marshmallow-like frosting that we call snow frosting (you may know it as 7-minute frosting). But last fall at the Minnesota Blogger Conference, my friend Michelle shared with me her recipe for margarita cupcakes and we got to talking about chocolate cake. She told me that her family’s favorite is a chocolate cake that she makes with sour cream. The dense, fudgy frosting is her favorite part.

In the picture below, I baked a dozen in my tiny tart pan and piled three into a cupcake tower topped with shaved white chocolate and mini chocolate chips.

chocolate cake made in tiny tart pans

I was skeptical. Everyone thinks their chocolate cake is the moistest — kind of like how every fisherman thinks he guts and debones a fish better than anyone and that there are “no bones in fish that he cooks” but there are always bones. (My dislike for bones is reflected in Buffalo chicken dip for people who don’t like bones or blue cheese.)

The cupcakes were a hit! I brought them along on our Easter weekend to Minneapolis and the kids (and moms) ate them up. I actually liked the frosting better the second day so it was a perfect treat to bake and frost the day before we left. Thank you, Michelle Hals, for sharing your family favorite with us.

Cupcakes in the city

Chocolate cake with fudge frosting

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (4 one-ounce squares)
1/4 cup butter
1-2/3 cups boiling water
2-1/3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a small saucepan over low heat melt chocolate, butter, and boiling water. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk and then whisk in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth.

Slowly add the melted chocolate mixture to the dry ingredient mixture. Stir until combined.

Now add the egg mixture to the cake batter and stir until silky smooth.

Pour into a 9×13-inch cake pan and bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes. You can also make two round cakes (bake for 35-40 minutes) or approximately 2-1/2 dozen regular cupcakes (bake 25 minutes).

The frosting is extremely generous so go crazy especially on the cupcakes!

FROSTING
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
1 (12-oz.) package semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
2-3 tablespoons milk

Over low heat, melt the chocolate chips. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat shortening and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla. One cup at a time, add the powdered sugar. Once the chocolate is cooled a little (just make sure it’s not hot), pour into the frosting mixture. Add milk as needed to get to your desired spreading consistency. Frost the completely cooled cakes or cupcakes.

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He’s been holding out on you. No, it’s not about monster (strip) bars, your IT guy knows how to bake! His secret is out – and from one big, bad batch, you can make a 10-pound pan of golden brown monster bars and at least two dozen Monster cookies easily mistaken for small pizzas jammed with M&M’s, oatmeal, peanut butter, and chocolate chips.

Monster cookie bar strips | Random Sweetness Baking

For the sake of privacy, we’ll call him Rich. Ok, maybe it wasn’t his idea to cut the bars into strips and triangles, but Rich was the one who brought these to work in 2007. And I’ve only used his monster cookie recipe since.

Monster cookie triangles | Random Sweetness Baking

I recommend you use a sturdy, wooden spoon toward the end of the mixing process in this recipe. If you try to whip these up with nothing but your electric mixer, it’ll start smoking like a hot summer night’s fire pit.

Monster cookies | Random Sweetness Baking

I like to make a pan of bars and roll the rest of the dough into big cookie balls and put them in the freezer to bake another day. (Use a cookie scoop so you are making similar sizes.) Line the balls of dough on a large cookie sheet(s) and put them in the freezer. Don’t let the cookies touch each other. Once they are frozen, you can put the cookie balls in plastic containers or plastic freezer bags. When you want fresh-baked Monster Cookies, grab how many ever you want from the freezer and thaw. Then bake as usual at 350° for approximately 12-16 minutes, depending on how large they are.

Cookie dough balls ready for freezer

Monster Cookies, Bars and Strips

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

3-1/4 cups plain M&M’s

Preheat 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 large cookies or even a few more dozen if you make them smaller.

  1. In a 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 the 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.

That’s it! Now you’ve got enough monster cookies, bars, and strips to share with your favorite IT guys. And gals.

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