Friday, December 28, 2012

Peppermint Mocha Blossoms

I know that a lot of people associate the flavor combination of chocolate and peppermint with Christmas. And I know that Christmas was three days ago. But you still should make these cookies. It's not too late, I promise!!

I made a batch of these cookies before Christmas. And I made a second batch after Christmas. After the first round, I couldn't stop thinking about them and knew I wanted to make them again! 

These cookies use Hershey's Kisses candy cane flavored kisses, which tend to only be in the stores around the holidays. They're likely still available to buy in the stores, so you should probably go get yourself some ASAP! And since it's after Christmas, they might even be on sale?! Next time you head to the grocery store (you know, after you finish reading this post), you might want to look for these candy cane kisses!

This wonderful recipe is from Damn Delicious. The only change I made was substituting instant coffee for the instant espresso powder that's in the original recipe. I couldn't find the espresso powder anywhere! The coffee worked great though; it still imparted a nice coffee flavor.


-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
-1 and 3/4 cups sugar, divided
-2 Tbsp. instant coffee
-2 large eggs
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 tsp. peppermint extract
-34 Hershey's candy cane kisses, unwrapped


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, 1 and 1/4 cups of the sugar (set remaining 1/2 cup sugar aside), and espresso powder or instant coffee until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Beat in vanilla and peppermint extract until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture at low speed, beating until just incorporated.

Roll tablespoons of dough into 1-inch balls and coat in remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Place onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake until outside is crackly, but center is still moist, about 9 to 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool 2 to 3 minutes before topping with a Hershey's candy cane kiss in the center of each cookie. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Crackly tops!

The flavor of these cookies is wonderful - chocolatey with a hint of coffee. And of course, there's also a noticeable peppermint flavor going on too. :)

You may be able to tell in these photos, but I didn't roll these cookies in regular granulated sugar. Instead, I used the same King Arthur Flour sparkling white sugar that I used in my Bailey's Balls recipe.

I think it adds such a fun, wintery touch, don't you??


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bailey's Balls (No Bake)

Happy weekend before Christmas! I've been busy doing some holiday baking lately, and this morning I made these Bailey's balls, which are the perfect sweet treat for the holidays! I thought I'd write this post sooner than later, in case you're searching for a last-minute treat to make for Christmas or New Year's!

The original recipe I followed was for Kahlua Balls from Sugarcrafter. I changed a few things though... The original recipe called for dark cocoa powder, but I didn't have that so I just used regular unsweetened cocoa powder. Also, the recipe called for finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate, but I used a mixture of chopped semi-sweet and milk chocolate. Also, instead of agave, I used honey. And obviously, I used Bailey's, not Kahlua! We just didn't have Kahlua on hand, which is why I used Bailey's instead. I would definitely like to try this recipe with Kahlua as well!


-3 cups finely crushed graham crackers
-3/4 cup powdered sugar
-1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 and 1/2 cups finely chopped chocolate (I used a mixture of semi-sweet and milk)
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-3 Tbsp. honey
-1/3 cup Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur
-3 Tbsp. brewed coffee
-1/2 cup granulated sugar, for rolling


In a large bowl, whisk together the crushed graham crackers, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and chopped chocolate. Stir in the vanilla, honey, Bailey's, and coffee until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. This recipe made 26 balls for me.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days to develop the flavor. And continue to store in the fridge until they're gone...which may not take too long. ;)

If you noticed in my pictures, the sugar on the outside of these balls does not look like regular granulated sugar. That's because I used this sparkling white sugar from King Arthur Flour. It felt like a fun, more festive option to me. It's somewhat like snow, right?! :)

As I mentioned earlier, I used a mixture of semi-sweet and milk chocolate. I did this simply because I wanted to use up a few types of chocolate I had on hand. So in the end, my 1 and 1/2 cups of chocolate included some mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, some chopped Hershey's bars, and regular semi-sweet chocolate chips. To save yourself the time of having to chop chocolate, I might actually recommend just using all mini chocolate chips. That would be the easiest, I think! And I bet that any type of chocolate - semi-sweet, milk, or dark - would be wonderful additions to this recipe.

Another tip is to crush your graham crackers in a food processor. That saved me a lot of time and effort! To make 3 cups of crushed graham crackers, I used about 2 and 1/2 sleeves of crackers.

The star of the show, Bailey's!

Aren't these great Christmas stockings?! My parents gave them to us. I thought they'd make a nice backdrop for a few photos. :)

It was nice to actually be in the kitchen during the daylight hours so I could take a few photos in the natural light. Lately I've only been taking pictures at night in the kitchen, and our lighting is horrible for food photos. I know my pictures are never that great compared to most food blogs, but I at least know that they're better when I have the opportunity for natural light. :)

The Bailey's flavor in these balls definitely comes through, as does the coffee flavor. The balls are dense but not too heavy. And they're small enough that if you eat one...or won't feel too guilty. Everything in moderation, right?! ;)

If you need one more recipe to make for your family or friends this holiday season, these Bailey's balls might just be for you!

Have a wonderful weekend, all!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Boston Cookie Swap for a Cause!

 Happy almost weekend, friends! I can't believe Christmas is almost here!!

This time of year is all about family and friends...
...and food. :) 

This past weekend, I participated in a very cool event in Boston, Cookie Swap for a Cause. The event was hosted by Boston Food Swap, sponsored by Glad to Give campaign, and benefitted Cookies for Kids' Cancer. Phew! I'm tired just writing all that. 

What a great cause though, right?

For the event, I baked about 5 dozen cookies of two varieties - my pecan, cranberry, cinnamon chip cookies (always a huge hit!) and my maple snickerdoodles (a crowd favorite as well!).

At the event, tons of bakers brought their own homemade cookies, and Glad donated $1 for every cookie that was there! How cool is that?! And in all, the Boston Cookies Swap for a Cause raised over $4,200! So great. :)

Somehow I forgot to take many more picture of all the other cookies! A few of my friends also participated in the event, so we were chatting away pretty much the whole time, so I think I was just having too much fun catching up with them to take pics. Whoops!

There were several vendors at the event, giving out free samples of their products. Polar and Pretzel Crisps were two of them (I ate my fair share of Pretzel Crisps, I'll tell you that. ;) The everything flavor was my fav!). Check out these holiday flavors of Polar Seltzer... Mint Chocolate and Eggnog?! So fun! I only ended up trying the eggnog flavor, and boy, was it good! Surprisingly good. I know that an eggnog-flavored seltzer water sounds bizarre, but trust me on this one.

K, back to talking about cookies.

All attendees were able to take home a ton of cookies, and I had two Gladware containers (this size) of delicious treats! 

Not a bad haul.

All in all, this was a really fun, great event, and I would definitely do it again next year. Thanks to all the awesome folks who organized it!

You can view more pictures of the event here and here too, if you'd like.

Happy weekend before Christmas to you all! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Homemade Pea Soup with Crumbled Bacon

To me, one of the most comforting foods out there is a delicious, hot bowl of homemade soup.

I'm sure many of you are experiencing the same thing, but I still just can't wrap my head around the tragedy in Newtown, CT. If this is the case for you too, you may want to make this soup. I think it will help you feel better. At least for a little while.

I adapted this recipe from 101 Cookbook's Vegetarian Split Pea Soup recipe. It is incredibly easy and a great option for those busy weeknights when time is not on your side. I made a few changes from the original recipe, and I mention those below. The ingredients listed here are what I actually used when I made this.


-1 Tbsp. olive oil
-2 large onions, chopped
-1 garlic clove, minced
-2 cups dried split green peas, picked over and rinsed
-3 cups chicken broth (can use vegetable)
-2 cups water
-salt and pepper, to taste
-crumbled bacon, if desired
-shredded cheese, if desired


If you are going to crumble bacon on top of your soup, cook your bacon (using your favorite method - mine is to bake it).

Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and cook until the onions start to soften (just a couple minutes). Add the split peas, 3 cups of broth, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so that the soup simmers. Cook for about 20 minutes or so at a simmer, or until the peas are cooked but slightly al dente.

Next, puree the soup using one of two methods - an immersion blender or a stand blender. If you use the latter, transfer the soup in batches to the blender to puree it. If necessary, add more water to the soup if it's too thick (I ended up needing to add about 1 more cup of water at this stage).

Add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary. Top your soup with the crumbled bacon and shredded cheese, if you're so inclined, and enjoy a bowl of comfort!

The original recipe is completely vegetarian, and obviously with my additions of chicken broth and bacon, this soup was no longer vegetarian friendly. But it's so easy to make it completely meatless. You could also easily add other veggies to this soup... Maybe some spinach? Carrots?

The original recipe calls for only water, not broth. It also calls for the addition of 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Because I chose to add broth to my version, I didn't add any extra salt. And it definitely wasn't needed either! And finally, the addition of the garlic was my own as well; you certainly don't need to add it.

Mike and I both really enjoyed this soup. It's definitely a keeper of a recipe. :)

Be back later in the week with a recap of the Cookie Swap for a Cause!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Be a Helper in this World

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." - Mister Rogers

In the wake of the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, it is so hard to think about posting a recipe on the blog. Many bloggers have honored the victims today with a "Blog Day of Silence." Although I 100% agree that this is a wonderful idea, I thought I would post this quote from Mister Rogers to share with you all. I find his words very comforting, and I hope you do too. My heart has been aching these past few days as I think about the terrible events that took place this past Friday, December 14th. I have been praying for the families and community members of Newtown, and I hope they can feel how much love and support the rest of our nation is sending their way.

One of the Boston area radio stations posted this link on their facebook page today. It is a list of ways in which you can help begin the healing process and show your respect and support for everyone who has been affected. I am sure that many more ways to help will surface in the coming weeks, but this is a start. And as so many people have already been saying, let us use these tragic events as a reminder in our own lives to tell our friends and family members how much we love them each and every day. Always appreciate each other. And always remember to do good and be kind to others. As Mister Rogers would say, be a helper in this world.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My First Attempt at Cake Pops! Vanilla Cake Pops & Babycakes Cake Pop Maker


Cake pops! They're all the rage, and I finally jumped on the bandwagon. As a shower gift, I received this fun Babycakes Cake Pop Maker, and I finally got around to using it recently! I made some vanilla cake pops for a coworker's birthday last week, and they were a great hit with everyone!

This cake pop maker works very similarly to a waffle maker. Although, the "original" way to make cake pops is to bake a cake, crumble it up, and mix the cake with frosting. Then you roll that mixture into balls and dip them in melted chocolate/candy coating/glaze. If you want some amazing cake pop inspiration, you have to check out Bakerella. I seriously do not understand how she does what she does with her cake pops!!

The beauty of this cake pop maker is that it saves you a couple steps! You simply need to make the cake batter, "bake" it in the cake pop maker, and coat the balls with melted chocolate. It saves you from baking an actual cake and making frosting. 

Cake recipes were included in the instructions booklet that came with the cake pops maker. I wasn't sure if a normal cake recipe that I have would work with the maker, so I decided that for my first attempt with cake pops, it was probably best to follow a recipe from the booklet. So, that's what I did! I've included it here below. I'm guessing this would also bake like a regular cake, but honestly, I'm not sure. I still need to figure out if it's strictly a recipe for the cake pops maker, and I also need to figure out if it's possible to use some of my own favorite traditional cake recipes with this appliance. Does anyone out there know?!?


-1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp. baking powder
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup butter, softened
-1 cup sugar
-2 eggs
-2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
-glaze or coating of your choice


Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Alternately blend in flour mixture and milk into butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Fill each cooking reservoir of your cake pop maker with about 1 tablespoon of batter. Bake 4 to 5 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into a cake ball comes out clean. Allow to cool and glaze or coat, as desired.

A few pointers for the novice cake pop maker (like me!)...

It's much easier to coat the cake balls if you freeze them for 15 or 20 minutes first (after they're already completely cooled).

If you don't have handy dandy holders like those that came with my cake pop maker, buy craft foam at a craft store to stick your cake pops in while your candy coating hardens. You can also buy the cake pop sticks at craft stores.

Dip the end of the stick slightly in the candy coating before putting the cake ball on the stick. This will help the ball stay on.

Have fun with it! Try not to get frustrated (like I did, as I explain below).


To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first about whether this cute looking appliance would work, but it did! It worked great actually. Each batch made 12 cake balls, and each batch only took about 4 minutes! Easy peasy. And the vanilla cake recipe was delicious too!

(As you can see in the top left of the photo above, I overfilled the reservoir; not to worry though, it was easy to cut the excess off of the cake ball).

I think this would be super fun to use with kids! And depending on their age, adult supervision may be necessary, of course. ;)

One batch of the batter made about 4 dozen pops for me!

So. Many. Cake. Pops.

Now, the less fun part of this whole cake pop process, for me anyway, was the coating step. I had a rather challenging time with the coating!

For the cake pops I coated in white, I used these vanilla candy wafers. We use these for Willy Wonka day each year, and they work great. However, I had a difficult time melting them to the right consistency for dipping. I melted them in the microwave instead of using a double boiler; maybe that was the problem?! Not sure. Either way, the melted candy was a bit too thick to dip the cake balls easily. I tried adding a touch of vegetable oil to thin it out, but that didn't really help. I managed eventually, but it was a bit more of a process than I anticipated!

And the cake balls dipped in chocolate were a different story... I didn't use the dark chocolate candy wafers pictured above, but instead, I attempted to melt milk chocolate chips. Well, I actually didn't have enough milk chocolate chips, so I mixed some semi-sweet chips in with them. I think this was a big error. My guess is maybe these two chocolates have different melting points or something? I am not really sure, but the two types of chocolates did not come together very well to melt smoothly. Again, the coating was too thick, and this mixture was also a bit lumpy. But, I also managed to dip some of the cake balls in the chocolate coating, and in the end they looked okay. I ended up needing to use the assistance of a spoon to smooth the edges of the pops. They didn't look great, but they were okay. The sprinkles really help to hide any errors. ;)

Dipping the balls was definitely the most time consuming part of the cake pops process. Mike can verify that I was getting a tad frustrated when making these! But in the end, I have to say that it was worth the time and effort. Everyone really loved them!

Sprinkles make all the difference in how fun and festive these are, don't they?!

I hope I'm not discouraging you from trying to make cake pops by sharing my less than ideal experiences. If you have a little extra time to spend in the kitchen, they're definitely worth it! Kids and adults alike will both love them.
I promise!

Whether you use a cake pops maker like I did, or whether you make them the "authentic" way, you'll be glad you gave them a try!

As you can see, I also mixed some sprinkles right into the cake batter! :)

I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the cake pop pictures, all from Bakerella.
Sooo impressive and adorable!!!

Are you kidding me? How does one do this?!? I'm amazed.

TGIF and happy weekend to you all! :)