Monday, September 24, 2012

Hot Cocoa

I'm a little sad to admit that it might be time to put away the flip-flops. But on the bright side, it's time to take the hoodies out from the back of the closet! It was in the 40's this morning when I took my daughter to the bus stop, and there was a nice chill to the air. If I haven't mentioned it before, I love Fall. The smells, the colors, the clothes, the food, the drinks... Speaking of drinks, I decided to make some hot cocoa as a special treat after dinner tonight. I picked up a container of Espresso Powder while out shopping yesterday, so I needed an excuse to break it open and try it out! I was not disappointed at all, it definitely added a nice kick to my drink. If you don't like the taste of coffee, don't worry, it doesn't have an overpowering coffee flavor. It does help to bring out the chocolate flavor a little more though. I've put the recipe at the bottom of this post, so feel free to try it for yourself...   :0)

 Here we start with some of the finest ingredients in my kitchen ;)
Sugar, Cocoa, Espresso Powder, and Vanilla.

 Whisk all the dry ingredients together to combine and get out any lumps.

In a separate container, heat up your milk. 

 Add just enough hot milk to the cocoa mix to combine.

 Once it is all smooth, add the rest of the milk.

Mix it all together!

 Ahhh, vanilla. I add it to just about anything sweet. 

And there you go- Hot Cocoa! It would be totally fine to drink it like this, but why not make it a little more special.....

 Whipped cream. Homemade. It's really not hard, and so worth it!

 Scoop some fresh whipped cream on top, and sprinkle with some cinnamon-sugar. 

Hot Cocoa
*2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
*2 Tablespoons sugar
*1 Tablespoon espresso powder
*1 1/3 cups milk
*1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix dry ingredients. Heat milk in microwave for 2 1/2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add hot milk to cocoa mix and stir until smooth and well combined. Add vanilla. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon, if desired... If you use a large mug, this would be one serving, or you could split it into two smaller cups.

Whipped Cream
*1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
*1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
*1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients in chilled bowl. Using a chilled whisk, mix until set. 


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

One of my favorite baking combinations would have to be chocolate and peanut butter. Put them together and you can't go wrong. It's the comfort food of the baking world! When I was looking around the internet today for some new recipes to try I kept clicking on ones that all seemed to feature peanut butter. So peanut butter it is! I can't deny my needs. Plus, peanut butter is basically a health food, right?! It has protein! I'm looking at the back of the container, and it contains 7 whole grams of protein per serving. Each serving size is only 2 tablespoons, so since I used 3/4 cup, I should be totally set on my protein intake for the next week or so. ;)

When I was looking for tonight's perfect recipe, I went to one of my favorite blogs- This was one of the very first blogs I discovered when I stumbled upon this whole world of baking on the internet many, many moons ago. I have tried a bunch of her recipes, and have never been disappointed. Even better, she's a fellow Steelers fan. :) Click on over to her website for the full recipe:

 Here we have the dry ingredients, with my favorite small whisk. 

 A beautiful combination: butter, sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter!

 All creamy and ready for the egg and vanilla!

 Combine the wet and dry ingredients.

 Chocolate, meet peanut butter. I think you guys would be perfect for eachother!

 Oh, yeah.... :0)

 Now that peanut butter and chocolate have gotten a chance to meet and mix about, they get to spend some quality time in the sauna; aka- the oven. ;)

 Waiting for this to cool completely before cutting into it is like pure torture!! 

The finished product. Yummy!!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Banana Bread, a Fall favorite...

In honor of Grandparent's Day, I decided to make banana bread- "Papa's" favorite. Banana bread is delicious, and for the most part- healthy! Double win! It makes a breakfast, snack, or treat. Heat it up and spread a little butter on top, and it becomes a perfect addition to the cooling Fall days ahead of us.

I do happen to be a little crazy about organizing, but it really helps. Don't mind me... ;)

 Here we have one of my favorite spice combinations: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and a pinch of Salt. Heaven in a little bowl!

 Dry ingredients, all mixed together and fluffy.

 It's always nice to take out a little frustration with my banana masher. I think this tool was originally called a potato masher, though I don't think it has seen an actual potato since my mom handed it down to me.

 All set and ready to go in the oven! Who needs candles or air freshener when you have amazing spices baking away in the oven?!?

 Hello there banana bread. How lovely it is to eat you! Oops, I mean meet you! ;)

All wrapped up and ready to go! I hope Nana and Papa enjoy it!!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to school.....

Today was my daughter's first day of 4th grade. Her old school only went up to 3rd grade, so this meant a new school. Now she is sharing the halls with 5th and 6th graders! Add to that- her classroom in on the second floor. My mommy anxiety is in full effect now. The rain was pouring at the bus stop this morning, so at least that helped to mask my tears. I'm going to miss my girl something fierce.... She, on the other hand, was so excited to go back to school! She absolutely loves school, which is great. I can't wait for her to come home and hear all about her day. 'Til then, this mom anxiously awaits her girl's return with one of her favorite snacks on hand- mini chocolate chip muffins.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I love cupcakes. They are portion controlled. Good frosting/cake ratio. And there are so many different ways to customize them. Here are a few of my favorites that I have made:

Dark chocolate cupcake with peanut butter buttercream frosting.

Easter basket cupcakes. 

Chocolate cupcakes filled, and topped, with a generous amount of ganache.

Red Velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, then dipped in chocolate.

A variety of cupcakes that I made for my sister's baby shower.

Rainbow cupcakes with pink & purple swirled vanilla buttercream.

White chocolate cupcakes, topped with white chocolate buttercream.



Well, here goes.... For someone who is not big on change, there sure are a lot of changes going on in my crazy life right about now. My baby girl is starting 4th grade at a new school tomorrow. How the heck did that happen?!? My husband just started a new job. And I'm just trying not to let my OCD tendencies get the best of me... Yikes! On that note, I'm trying to step out of my comfort zone. A little bit. Maybe. I'll try! ;)

Step 1: Starting this here web page.... Complete! (This is reminding me of how when I make a list of things to get done for the day, I make sure to put "get out of bed!" so that I have something to check off right away.)

I leave you today with a picture of a recent batch of cookies that I made...