Birthday Brownie Marshmallow Crisp Bars

Happy Birthday to me! To celebrate the step into my late twenties, ahhh, I wanted to bring a b-day treat into the office. Having a summer birthday I never had a chance to bring in birthday treats for my classmates, so now my co-workers can reap the benefits of my over-compensating for long lost birthdays. A couple of weekends ago my Aunt Judy made a most delicious treat for my cousin's graduation party and I have been itchin' to re-create it. And one of the best parts about this brownie bar was that I didn't even have to go to the grocery store. I have finally hit a tipping point in my venture where I just happen to have a healthy stock of ingredients.

Brownie Layer:
-1/2 (1 stick) room temperature butter
-3/4 C Sugar
-1 teaspoon Vanilla
-2 Eggs
-3/4 C Flour
-2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
-pinch of salt

Marshmallow Layer:
-2 Cups mini-marshmallows

Chocolate Crunch Layer:
-1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (don't be afraid to overfill the measuring cup a bit)
-1 Cup Peanut Butter
-2 Cups Crispy Rice Cereal (once again, I'm diggin' the store brand cereal)
1. Beat together butter and sugar
2. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time.
3. mix together dry ingredients and then mix into the egg mixture until combined.
4. Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes.
5. Sprinkle marshmallows over top of brownies and bake an additional 3 minutes.
6. Lightly spread the marshmallows with a butter knife and let cool.
7. In a double boiler melt chocolate chips and peanut butter over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in cereal.
8. Gently spread chocolate peanut butter mixture over marshmallow layer and cool in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before cutting into bars.

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Birthday Baker's Edge!

I came home today to a fabulous birthday surprise from Bridget and Bethaney, The Baker's Edge! If you love brownies, and love the edge pieces, this is the pan for you. It has raised pieces to make a maze like pattern to create pieces that all have at least 2 edges. There was a very memorable moment in our household this past year when we did not allow a guest to have a corner piece of our brownies after they had a few adult beverages because we didn't think they could appreciate it at the time. Now we can be gracious hostesses and not ration our edge pieces.....however, i may still be stingy with the two coveted 3 edge pieces this ingenious pan allows for. I'm also a real sucker for the random crap included with these novelty items so you can imagine my excitement when the box included a mini spatula and a few recipes. I can not thank my lovely roommates enough for the perfect b-day gift! I will be putting this baby to work in no time. Oh, and this also may be the first installment of noting random kitchen stuff that I should probably not own in my 20's considering I'm not married.....basically meaning that I have used up precious holidays getting these things for gifts or using my own money because there has not been an occasion to register for any of it. Nonetheless, I love it all!

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Chocolate Haystack Surprises

I have recently tread into the dangerous waters of co-workers expecting treats. I do love to bake and am happy to share with my work peeps, but I'm not quite sure how I feel about the random visits that are purely to check out if I'm harboring a baked good.....for now I'll just be flattered that people like my treats and keep my fingers crossed that they don't get angry when their blood sugar gets too low. I decided to whip up these chocolate haystacks last Friday to satisfy the sweet tooth's in my office and start everyone's weekends off right. There are a lot of things to choose from for the 'surprise' in the haystack, but this time I went for marshmallow's.....not only did I have some left over from the 'Disaster Bars', but I LOVE marshmallows! This is also a great summertime recipe since you don't have to turn on the oven. You will need some refrigerator space to cool the chocolate and 'set' the haystacks. I hope you enjoy my super technical 3 step recipe!

-1- 12oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

-1/4 C butterscotch chips

- 1 C mini marshmallows

-7 C chow mein noodles

1. In a double boiler melt the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips over low heat.
2. Pour over chow mein noodles and marshmallows.
3. Scoop stacks onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets and cool.

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Bethaney's Butterscotch Thins

Bridget and Bethaney are headed up to camp for the summer (as camp nurses, not campers) so I decided to give them a delicious send off. To start I made a caprese salad and cheated with a pre-made caesar salad. I did get a little fancy and made a chicken pesto pizza for the main course. Since no send off dinner is complete without dessert, I made Bethaney's favorite cookies from Baking Bites- butterscotch thins. The first time I made these it was almost a complete loss. Although the dough was delicious, they stuck to the wax paper I used and there seemed to be such a short window where they were the perfect consistency for transport to wire racks before sticking to the paper. I had to try this again since I have never seen Bethaney as upset as when she found out I threw out the cookie casualties that I couldn't get off the paper. I didn't change much this time around aside from using parchment paper instead of wax paper and that helped tremendously. Who knew they were so different? obviously not me. Lesson learned. As you can see from the photo, I still ended up with a lot of misshapen, not so pretty cookies, I can't help but wonder what the secret is to getting these to look as good as they taste. I tried baking them longer, letting them sit longer before transporting, using larger scoops of dough thinking if they were thicker maybe they wouldn't be so delicate, but none of those seem to be the trick. I think the next time I try to make them I might add a bit more flour. I don't think I'm selling these cookies all that well, but Bethaney has claimed that these cookies are her favorite dessert she has ever had and I have to agree that there is something so unexpectedly delicious about them. So, give 'em a try, and PLEASE let me know if you have any luck with creating pretty butterscotch thins.

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Disaster (Waiting to Happen) Bars

I have been putting a lot of thought into the next mail order treat that I was going to make, and since I can't afford to send things overnight, I have to come up with things that will ship well and stay delicious for 3-5 days. I thought these layer cookie bars may be the answer.......with the only dry ingredients being crushed up nilla wafers and cocoa and everything soaked in sweetened condensed milk, these may be a bit over board (I am trying to avoid using the word moist, because I hate it, but the more I bake the more I realize I may have to come to terms with the word. If anyone has a good synonym please let me know). I have named them 'Disaster Waiting to Happen Bars' because I figure one of three things will happen.

1. They will arrive in perfect condition and be delicious

2. They will meld into giant bars that will still be delicious but only edible by eating out of the container with a fork.

3. A goopy disaster will arrive that could only be served as perhaps an ice cream topping at your own risk.

After getting rave reviews on my 'skilz' from the Bike and Build crew I am slightly nervous to send such a questionable goodie, but it's really the thought that counts, And how picky can people be that are biking 90 miles a day and building houses on their days off?

I will have to update you all on how these bars arrive. However, if I wasn't shipping them I would just rate them as a darn right tasty treat.

-3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
-1-3/4 cups nilla wafer crumbs
-6 tablespoons cocoa
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
-1 cup dark chocolate chips
-3/4 cup toffee bits
-1 cup mini marshmallows

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in 13x9x2-inch baking pan in oven. Combine crumbs, cocoa and sugar; sprinkle over butter.
2. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly on top of crumb mixture. Top with chocolate chips and toffee bits; press down firmly.
3. Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows on top, Bake additional 5-6 minutes. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

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butterscotch, toffee, name for favorite add-in, oatmeal cookies

I'm starting to get really excited any time I have an actual event to bake for. I think the initial appeal of having a baker around is wearing on my roommates and co-workers....we do have waistlines to watch afterall. Last night I went to see the Gipsy Kings with a group of friends/co-workers at Ravinia, so I of course offered to bring a dessert to share, along with the veggies and hummus, but I got too lazy to make home-made hummus, so nothing to blog about there. Oatmeal butterscotch cookies always tend to be a crowd pleaser, so I decided to make half the batch with butterscotch and then mix it up at make the other half with toffee chips. The butterscotch were the clear winner. I think I can improve upon the toffee by mixing in some chocolate chips too, they were good, not great and I just can't be going around passing out less than great baked goods. I find the recipe on the inside cover of quaker oats oatmeal to be the best, however, these cookies tend to spread a little too much for my liking so I might think of decreasing the butter by a bit the next time I make them.

-1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
-1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-2 eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-3 cups oats
-1 cup butterscotch, toffee, chocolate chips, raisins (whatever you think would be delicous)

1. Heat oven to 350°F
2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy
3. Add eggs and vanilla
4. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well
5. Stir in oats and butterscotch until well combined
6. Drop rounded tablespoon fulls on ungreased cookie sheets
7. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown
8. Cool 1-2 minutes on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack

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Oreo Cream Cheese Brownies

This was quite an experiment for me, since I have never made regular brownies from scratch, let alone fancy'in it up with cream cheese and oreos, but I think I did a pretty swell job. I found this recipe on visions of sugar plum and the combination of dark cocoa and cream cheese made it a must try for me. Brownies from scratch is like anything else I have tried to make from scratch; just a couple extra ingredients and a couple extra steps, but a whole lot better than store bought. So that equals totally worth it for me! Hopefully my co-workers enjoy them, and the 2 that have wedding dresses to fit into this winter won't be too upset with me for bringing in yet another treat. I did substitute some of the full fat items for reduced fat and they still taste extremely rich and delicious, but I would still rather not know the nutrition facts of these!

Natalie about to enjoy brownie # ?, she does not have a wedding dress to fit into.

-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened (i used 1/3 less fat version and it seemed to work well)
-3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1 cup all purpose flour
-1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 large eggs
-1 1/3 cups coarsely chopped Oreo cookies (i used the reduced fat oreos and I can't tell a difference)

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8-inch square baking dish with foil; coat foil with cooking spray.
2.Melt the butter in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Whisk in sugar and bring to a boil, whisking frequently; boil 1 minute. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
3.In a small mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract, until well combined, about 1 minute.
4.In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder and salt; whisk until combined.
5.In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, until combined. Whisk in melted butter-sugar mixture until well combined.
6.Stir in flour mixture until just combined, followed by Oreo cookies.
7.Spread half of brownie batter into baking dish, followed by cream cheese layer; dot the top with remaining brownie batter, and spread evenly, as best as you can. Run a knife through batter to make "swirls".
8.Bake at 350 degrees F, for 25 minutes.Cool on a wire rack to room temperature before slicing. Lift foil out of baking dish, and slice. For easier slicing, try freezing the brownies for 30-60 minutes.

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Andes Candy Mint Chocolate Cookies

My good friend Claire is biking across the country this summer (http://www.bikeandbuild.org/) and before she left I promised I would send many goodies to keep her going for over 4,000 miles. Her first mail pick up is tomorrow, so I made some of my favorite cookies to send her way. The first time I was graced with these cookies was from my freshman year college roommate's mom, but it was just this year that I decided to make them on my own. I love these pieces of heaven because there are not many ingredients, they taste delicious, this recipe makes a ton, and I think people think they are a lot of work even though they are so easy! This is my first experience shipping any sort of home made goodie, so I hope they make it, and the bikers can enjoy a sweet treat (or just Claire, but I sent over 40, so I hope she shares)!

-2 packages Andes Mints (28 mints in each)
-¾ cup butter
-½ cup of brown sugar
-2 tablespoons water
-1 package (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
-2 large eggs
-2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
-1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

1. Unwrap mints & set aside. In a saucepan, heat & mix together the butter,sugar & water. Add the chocolate chips and stir to partially melt. Remove from the heat andcontinue to stir until melted.
2. Pour into a bowl, let cool for 10 minutes. Beat in the eggs @ high speed. Add the remaining ingredients & beat to blend.
3. Chill the dough for 1 hour (at least). Line baking sheets with foil. Roll the dough into small balls(about 1” diameter). Bake @350° F for 10-12 minutes. Place a mint on each cookie as you remove them from the oven. Once candies have melted, spread with the back of a spoon.
4. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet.
5. Unless you have a ton of counter space, I suggest placing the cookies in the freezer for a few minutes to set the chocolate so you can store them.

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