City Tap House Wins Elixir of Love Cocktail Competition

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City Tap House‘s Jo Jo Valenzuela created the winning cocktail at last week’s Elixir of Love Cocktail Competition held in the Embassy of Italy.

Valenzuela’s cocktail was the “Quanto e bella, quanto e cara,” or “How beautiful she is, how dear she is.” The drink consisted of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Ginger Lemon Syrup, and Passion Fruit. Not overly-complicated, totally delicious, and not just the crowd favorite, but my favorite too. Not too sweet, still refreshing. I went back for seconds of this one. Definitely in agreement with the collective winner decision; this cocktail was truly the best of the best.

Jo Jo Valenzuela - City Tap House - Quanto e bella, quanto e cara (2)

The mixologists were tasked with creating a cocktail to represent The Elixir of Love, a romantic comedy Opera, being performed here in DC on March 25.  As the winner, Jo Jo’s cocktail will be featured during the intermission of the Opera that day. The Competition was presented by the Washington National Opera, Washington City Paper, and BrankLink DC.

There were certainly other strong competitors. Like Frankie Jones from The Gibson. If you’ve never been to the Gibson, go. If you’ve already been before, go back. It is a wonderful speakeasy on U Street. It’s unique, and the drinks are incredible.  For this competition, Mr. Jones created the Algernon, a cocktail with Gin, Duplin Blanc, St. Germain, and Orange Flower. It, too, was quite tasty.

Frankie Jones - The Gibson - Algernon (4)

Other highlights:

Luca Giovannini and Daniel Munoz from Fiola Mare. They created the Lacrima Rosa, a combination of Vodka, Lemon, Simple Syrup, Rose Champagne granita, and cherry liqueur. This one definitely would win best presentation, in my opinion.

Luca Giovannini and Daniel Munoz - Fiola Mare - Lacrima Rosa (3)

Jochern Zijp of Osteria Morini created Gray Ghost’s Last Stand. It’s a play on the cocktail called the New York Sour. As a huge whiskey sour fan, I was stoked to try this one. It was made with Catoctin Creek Spirit (essentially moonshine). The red wine drizzle on top was super cute; I enjoyed it. The drink was delicious! If you like anything-sour drinks, you’d like this one.

Jochern Zijp - Osteria Morini - Gray Ghost's Last Stand (3)

Up next, Russell Thrall, Farmers Fishers Bakers, created “A Madness Most Discrete.” This one was probably the most thought out; Russell had a whole spiel about how he came up with the cocktail and the meaningful significance of each ingredient. It was made with Gin, Angostura Bitters, Aperol, Cocchi Americano, Carpano Antica. If I learned one thing at this event, it was that I really like Gin!

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W Hotel’s Joseph Ambrose with Trevor’s Love Potion: Gin Campari, Raspberry, Lemon, and Love. This one was a pretty pink color, and I felt like I could drink it all night.

Joseph Ambrose - W Hotel - Trevor's Love Potion (2)

WOO, delish.

There were definitely others, but these were my highlights. Gotta make it to City Tap House if you haven’t already!

Cheers,

Me and Claire

Guests (2)

me and drinksThe. Best.

Red Wine Brownies with Chocolate Red Wine Ganache Swirl!

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Cravin’ a Chocolaty treat??

THESE are the last thing I made before lent started. Oh yeah, I gave up chocolate. Not even a week in and it feels like forever. I’ll be making some new non-chocolaty treats soon….stay tuned.

Anyway, back to the chocolate & vino!! It’s a longstanding fact that wine and chocolate go together. This recipe REALLY puts them together. A deep intense chocolate combined with a boozy wine twist.

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Somehow I didn’t actually take any pictures of the brownies after I sliced them. They are a little but crumbly, but in a good way…not a dry way. You’ll see when you make them. If you let them cool all the way, they’ll slice better, I just didn’t have the time/patience to wait :)

You can use basically any red wine, I always just use whatever I have open. Trader Joes “2 buck chuck” will do just fine as well!

Are you ready now? Chocolate-wine-a-go-go?

Chocolate Red Wine Brownies with Chocolate Red Wine Ganache
Makes one 13×9 inch pan.

Ingredients:
Brownies:
2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder

Ganache:
3/4 chocolate chips (semi-sweet, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or a combination)
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons red wine

Directions:
(1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13×9 inch pan with foil. Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray.
(2) In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
(3) In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and the sugar. Add in the eggs and vanilla, beating very well so the mixture is thoroughly combined.
(4) Switch to a rubber spatula. Add in the flour mixture, gently folding it in until no more flour streaks remain.
(5) Spread about 2/3 of the batter into the pan.
(6) Make the ganache: In a medium-sized bowl, heat the 3/4 cup of chocolate chips and the 3 Tablespoons of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat until the chocolate chips are completely melted. Whisk in the red wine. You’ll have a silky ganache.
(7) Spread the ganache on top of the 2/3 of the batter in the pan. Once it’s evenly spread out, top with the remaining brownies batter. Then, take a knife and swirl it through the batter to swirl the ganache and brownie batter together.
(8) Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the batter is set.

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See the swirl? mmmmmmmmmmmmm……….

Cool the brownies in the pan completely on a wire cooling rack.  Even though they might be a little crumbly when they’re warm…still cut one to try warm :) Always always the best.

Enjoy alongside a glass of red wine for an extra wine kick.

Cheers.

Tuscan Chicken w/ Mushrooms & Sundried Tomatoes!

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Lookin’ for a tasty, easy, healthy, & delicious dinner recipe?!

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for recipes like that.

My best friend from college was coming over Friday for dinner, which gave me the extra omph to find something new to make.

I knew I wanted it to be healthy, but flavorful. And I wanted it to have chicken as the main protein (because I had just bought chicken breasts). Contrary to popular belief, chicken CAN be exciting & impressive!

After looking through various cookbooks, blogs, and web sites, I came across a Tuscan Chicken Skillet recipe on Anetta’s The Wanderlust Kitchen web site. I LOVE her blog– full of delicious & healthy recipes.

5 Reasons I Love this Recipe:

1) The ingredient list isn’t too long (something that instinctively makes me disregard recipes)

2) It only required 2 pans (easy clean up) (You also could do the mushrooms in the cast-iron skillet too. Then you’d only need 1 pan!)

3) There is very little prep work (buy julienne cut sundried tomatoes and pre-sliced mushrooms)

4) The starch of the meal is the beans! I love that. I don’t eat a whole lot of pasta/rice/bread anymore.

5) All the ingredients are healthy!!

You can do this, I promise.

I used a cast-iron skillet. If you don’t have one, just use a regular skillet.

My version of the recipe is slightly different from Anetta’s. Check out her site for the original!

And now, let’s cook!

Tuscan Chicken Skillet!
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into strips
20 oz sliced mushrooms
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 3oz bag sundried tomatoes, Julienne cut (I got mine from Trader Joe’s)
1 tsp Oregano (dried)
1/2 tsp thyme (dried)
5 cloves garlic
1 can white kidney beans, 15oz, drained and rinsed
2 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, 15oz each
Parsley, dried
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1) Spray a 12 inch cast-iron skillet with olive oil cooking spray. Cook the strips of chicken in the pan until all the sides are browned, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate. Set aside.

2) Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms in a large pan on medium-high heat until they’ve released their liquid and most of it has evaporated. This will take about 10 minutes total.

3) Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in the cast-iron skillet (the same pan that you cooked the chicken in) Add in the diced onion and saute for about 4 minutes. Add in the sundried tomatoes and garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Then add in the oregano, thyme, kidney beans, and fire roasted tomatoes. Stir all together.

4) Add the chicken back into the pan, along with the mushrooms. Stir everything together, and then cover the pan with a lid. Simmer on a low-medium heat until the chicken is fully cooked. This will take about 10 minutes.

5) Remove the lid, give it a stir, season with salt & pepper, sprinkle with parsley, and serve!

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This skillet is a healthy, satisfying, and delicious meal! I served it along with some red vino :)

What’s cookin’ in your kitchen?!

Chocolate Baileys Cupcakes w/ Baileys Cream Cheese Frosting (for Valentine’s Day!)

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I love chocolate. I love Baileys. I love dessert.

And, I love my amazing friends.

Enter, Valentine’s Day Cupcakes!

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Moist chocolaty-Baileys cupcakes with a velvety cream cheese Baileys frosting; topped with red and pink sprinkles; and packaged individually to give to the people I love in my life. Yum :)

The chocolate cupcakes are my go-to chocolate cake recipe, but I replaced the milk in the recipe with my homemade Baileys. I love this recipe because there is no electric mixer needed for the cake, just need it for the frosting. It helps to whip up the cake nice and quick!

So, let’s get to it!

Chocolate Baileys Cupcakes with Baileys Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 28 cupcakes.

Ingredients:
Cupcakes:
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup Baileys (homemade or from the liquor store)
1/2 cup canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Frosting:
2 8-oz bricks of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, unsalted, room temperature
7-8 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup Baileys (homemade or store-bought)

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners (I typically pick foil liners, but I used these paper ones to go with my Valentine’s Day theme.) The recipe will make about 28-30 cupcakes, so if you have that many cupcake pans, go ahead and line them all. If you don’t, you’ll have to bake in batches, which works fine!

2) In a large bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients. Then, add in the eggs, Baileys, oil, and vanilla. Stir gently until there are no more streaks of flour. Add in the boiling water and stir/fold in until the batter all looks the same. It will be very thin. Pour the batter into the lined cupcake pans, filling each cupcake cavity to be about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the center slightly springs back when touched.

3) Allow the cupcakes to cool for a few minutes in the cupcake pan. Then remove them from the pan and cool them completely on wire cooling racks.

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4) Now, for the frosting! I did this in two batches. First, in a large bowl, beat together 1/2 stick of butter and 1 brick of cream cheese on a high speed until fluffy and combined. Then, slowly add in about 3 1/2 cups of sifted powdered and 1/4 cup of Baileys. Beat on a low speed until the powdered sugar incorporates. Then switch to a higher speed and keep beating everything for about 3 minutes. You should have a creamy frosting!

5) Now, cut a hole in the corner of a plastic bag. Then put in a large star baking tip. I like to then secure it with some painters tape. The tape should never touch the frosting of course, just on the outside of the bag.

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6) Put the bag, baking tip down, in a large cup, like this:

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7) Back to the cupcakes. Once they’re completely cooled, take 9-oz plastic cups (I bought these from amazon) and place a cupcake in each cup, like this:

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8) Scoop the frosting with a spatula into the bag in the cup. Fill ‘er up!

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9) Lift the frosting bag out of the cup. Twist the top. Squeeze around the frosting in the bag to get rid of any air bubbles. Using two hands, frost the cupcakes. Hold the bag with one hand at the very top, pushing the frosting down, and the other hand by the baking tip, just helping to guide the frosting. I make mine to look like this!

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10) Decorate! I sprinkled each one with red and pink sprinkles.

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11) Time to wrap them up. You know those “fold-over” sandwich bags that you accidentally bought one time, not realizing that they didnt have a zip-loc closure on them? And now you don’t know what to do with them, because you can’t really store anything in them? Well, here’s how you use them! Take each cup and put it into the sandwich bag. Bunch the top of the bag together and tie it closed with red ribbon.

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Ta-Dah! The perfect cupcake Valentines to give to all your loved ones.

Naturally, I made these the day before Valentine’s Day, with the intention of passing them out, mostly at work, on Valentine’s Day. Enter: “Snow Storm” in DC. The result? A very empty office on V-day! So, I’ll actually be giving the majority of them out tomorrow….A little belated Valentine’s Day treat!

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Did you bake for Valentine’s Day?! What did you make? 

Peace, love, baking <3

Enjoy!

OH and P.S. You will likely have quite a bit of extra frosting. Know what to do with it?

Buy some of these:

cat cookies chocolate Cats Cookies

And guess what you now have?? Dunkaroos!!! Seriously, delicious, addicting, sooooooo good!

You will love it, try it. :)

Baileys Espresso Brownies with Black & White Oreos!

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Brownies are my favorite dessert out there. Period. Don’t get me wrong– I love a good cookie, or pie, or other dessert. But if you asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday, I’d say a brownie cake :)

As you may have noticed, I’m on a Baileys kick. Why not? It’s so tasty! And makes everything a little better…and a little fancy-shmancy

Ya know what goes real well with some Baileys? Some chocolate. Mmmmmmmhmmmmmmmm delish. Toss in some espresso and some Oreos, and end up with there!

brownies

Ooey Gooey Baileys Espresso Brownies with Black & White Oreos!

They are super-chocolaty, gooey (but not tooooo gooey), and, well, addicting!

I like the extra texture that the Oreos add too. Oreos make everything better…

Let’s make ‘em!

First, preheat your oven to 320 degrees F. I know, it’s not a “normal” temperature to use, but it’s what I’ve found to work best with these brownies. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil. Then spray it with non-stick cooking spray.

Crush up about 2o regular Oreos and 20 Golden Oreos (full disclosure, I use Giant-brand Oreos, not the name-brand. Really, it’s the same thing, just a better value!) Set these aside for now.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp salt.

flour mixture

Set it aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, place 1 1/2 sticks butter and 1 12-oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips. Place in the microwave and microwave for 1 minute.

melted chocolate and butter

Take the bowl out of the microwave, stir with rubber spatula, and then place back into the microwave. Continue to heat, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is completely melted. This usually takes about 2 minutes total. Set this aside.

Now in the bowl of your kitchenaid mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat together 6 eggs…

6 eggs

…plus 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, and 2 tsps instant espresso powder.

Eggs sugars vanilla

I use this type of espresso powder:

Instant Espresso Powder

Beat on medium-high speed for about 8 minutes, until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.

whip it - eggs

Add in 2 tsps of vanilla extract….

vanilla

And 1/4 + 1/8 cup Baileys (homemade or store-bought) . Mix on medium speed for about 2 more minutes.

Now, add in the melted chocolate and butter mixture.

mix in chocolate mixture

Mix on a medium speed until the chocolate is fully incorporated– turning the whole mixture a light chocolate color.

Now, add your dry ingredients! Slowly incorporate the flour mixture, pour it into the mixing bowl while it is mixing on a very low speed. This prevents the big POOF of flour that would occur if you tried to mix in all the flour at once while on a high speed.

As the flour starts to incorporate, you can turn the speed up a little bit. Once only a few streaks remain, add in about 3/4 of the Oreo pieces.

combining everything

You can see there are still some flour streaks in there.

Now, turn the mixer off and remove the bowl from the Kitchenaid machine. Using your rubber spatula, finish gently mixing in the flour and the Oreo pieces until no more streaks remains.

Brownies batter

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….brownie batter….

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining Oreo pieces on top.

Raw

Now, ready to bake! Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour, or until the edges just begin to turn a light brown color.

As the brownies cook, the batter will puff up all the way to the top of the pan. It almost looks like it’ll overflow, but it doesn’t just gets nice and high.

in oven

You can see there how they rose to the top of the pan.

Once the brownies are finished baking, cool them completely on a wire cooling rack. As they cool, the brownies will sink back down a bit. Don’t be alarmed, that’s supposed to happen. Also, the baking soda forms that crunchy shell-like topping on the brownies. You’ll see what I mean…

Baked Brownies

You know me– I always recommend trying your treats warm from the oven!! Let these cool for about 20-30 minutes before digging in for that. They’ll still be warm, promise.

When they’re cooled completed, cut them into squares.

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Serve immediately, or store them in an airtight container for about a week. These also freeze well, and even taste great frozen too. They’re fudgy enough to be able to bite into even when frozen. Might sound weird..but…try it. You’ll like it.

YUMMO!  I brought these to a work lunch– huge hit! And I still have a few in the freezer for me…:)

I hope you enjoy!!

If you had to pick, which do you prefer: cake or brownie??

Keep scrolling for a more concise version of the recipe.

Baileys Espresso Brownies!
Makes one 13 x 9 inch pan.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 tsp instant espresso powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 1/8 cup Baileys (homemade– recipe below– or store-bought)
20 regular Oreos
20 Golden Oreos

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 320 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil. Spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
2) Crush about 20 regular Oreos and 20 Golden Oreos into pieces. Use your hands, or a food processor. Set aside.
3) In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4) In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter and the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Melt in the microwave. Heat for 1 minutes. Stir. Heat for 30 seconds, stir again. Continue heating at 30 second intervals until completely melted. This should take about 2 minutes total. Set aside.
5) In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl for use with an electric mixer), beat together the eggs, sugars, and espresso powder. Beat on high for about 8 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and Baileys, beating for a couple more minutes.
6) Now, add in the chocolate-butter mixture, mixing on medium speed until fully incorporated. The whole mixture will turn a light-chocolate color.
7)Then, slowly add in the flour mixture while the mixer is on a low speed. As the flour incorporates, turn the mixer up just a little bit. When just a few flour streaks remain, add in about 3/4 of the crushed up Oreos. Mix a little bit longer– some flour streaks will probably still remain.
8) Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Finish gently folding everything together with a rubber spatula.
9) Spread the batter into the prepared pan, and top with remaining Oreo pieces. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour, or until the edges are a light golden brown.
10) Cool completely on a wire cooling rack. I recommend tasting ‘em warm, about 20 minutes after cooling.
11) Once they’re completely cool, cut into squares. Serve them immediately or store them in an airtight container for about a week. Alternatively, you can freeze them!

brownies

Homemade Baileys:
Makes about 1 quart.

Ingredients:
1⅔ cups Jameson Irish whiskey
1 cup half & half or heavy cream
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee

Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree on high speed for 30 seconds.
2. Transfer mixture to an airtight container or glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Shake well before using.

ENJOY it all!!! Something sweet to make you, and the people around you smile :o)

7 Layer Bars: Birthday Edition!

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Is it a cookie? Is it a candy? Who knows! But they’re delicious:

1) Graham Cracker Crust

2) Dark Chocolate Chips

3) Golden Oreo pieces & regular Oreo pieces

4) White Chocolate Chips

5) M&Ms

6) Coconut

7) Sweetened Condensed Milk

BONUS: Rainbow sprinkles

= Birthday 7 layer bars!!

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They’re gooey, they’re tasty, and they’re easy to make!

First, set your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Set that aside while you make the crust.

Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter. Then, in a food processor, pulverize 1 sleeve of graham crackers (it’ll make about 1 1/2 cups of crumbs). Pour the butter into the food processor and pulse until the butter is even distributed throughout. Dumb the crumb-butter mixture into the 19 x 9 inch pan and press the crumbs out evenly onto the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon or a spatula.

Now, time to add the fun stuff! Really you can throw in whatever you want that you think would taste good! First I used about 1 cup dark chocolate chips. Then I sprinkled probably about 1 1/2 cups-worth of golden Oreos and regular Oreos (full disclosure, I used Giant brand, so not technically oreos). Then sprinkled on the white chocolate chips and the M&Ms. Top all of that with 1 – 1 1/2 cups coconut. Finally, drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over the whole thing. You’ll end up being able to cover the whole top with the sweetened condensed milk. Then I sprinkled on the sprinkles!

Bake the whole thing in the oven for about 30 minutes (start checking after 25 minutes). The top will be a light golden brown in spots.

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See? Just like that!

The recipe is pretty forgiving, hence my guesstimates on quantities/amounts of ingredients. The one thing to always use is the sweetened condensed milk, and I’d recommend always using coconut. Other ingredients to try: peanut butter cups, any type of M&M, caramel bits, toffee, butterfinger pieces, honey roasted peanuts, walnuts, chocolate covered almonds, chocolate covered espresso beans….

The possibilities are endless!

I made these for one of my friend’s birthdays. She lives in Texas, so I needed a treat that would travel well. This is a great option for that!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY KELLY! :)

What combinations are y’all going to try?!

Baileys Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies? Really, they’re delicious.

Want to kick ‘em up a notch?

Just add….

Homemade Baileys!

Baileys!! Here you see my homemade version. I highly recommend making it– tastes great! Though the store-bought stuff is will work perfectly deliciously also.

There are just a few tablespoons of the Baileys in the cookies. It gives the cookies a hint of Baileys, Baileys’ Kissed, subtle Baileys flavor.

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Using part butter and part shortening makes the cookies spread a little, but not too much (butter spreads, shortening holds it’s shape) creating the perfect texture, sized, and shape cookie!

I brought these into work last week. Definitely well received.

You should try– here’s the recipe!

Baileys Chocolate Chip Cookies!
Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup butter-flavored shortening
3/4 cup butter
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar
6 Tablespoons Baileys
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups chocolate chips (I actually used 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chunks from Trader Joe’s + 1 cup milk chocolate chips)

Directions:
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats. Set aside.
2) In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
3) In a different large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, whip together the butter, shortening, and sugar. Beat the mixture really well, until fully combined and fluffy.
4) Add in the Baileys, vanilla, and eggs. Mix on medium speed until fully incorporated.
5) Now, slowly incorporate the flour mixture. Make sure to mix on a low speed and gradually add in the flour. You may have to stop the mixer and scrap down the sides with a rubber spatula.
6) Add in the chocolate chips/chunks. Mix again until the chocolate is evening distributed throughout the dough.
7) Using a small-sized cookie scoop, scoop the dough out onto the cookie sheets. Leave about an inch between each cookie.
8) Bake them in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until the edge just start to brown. Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes, then remove them to a wire cooling rack.
9) Continue until you’ve used all of the dough.
10) YUM try a cookie!!! Yes, as always, I recommend trying ‘em warm from the oven. Really the best way to enjoy a cookie…or any baked treat!

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Whatcha think?! A nice adult-chocolate chip cookie, eh?

:)

Cheers!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn!

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I LOVE popcorn. There is no better snack.

Ya know what else I love? Chocolate & peanut butter. Combine all that to come up with this tastiness:

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn!!

I threw in some pretzels, Oreos, and m&ms too. You can use whatever you have! Peanuts, rolos, reese pieces, even potato chips would taste good in here.

I started with air-popped popcorn. Bought myself a popcorn machine in college and now I use it almost every day. The fresh, ait-popped popcorn tastes way better that the microwavable stuff. It’s fluffier, fresher, and has a better, crisper crunch. Highly recommend.

So, you pop your corn.

Then, you melt together light corn syrup, light brown sugar, salt, and butter (I actually used Brummel & Brown yogurt buttery spread). Once that comes to a boil, you add in your peanut butter and vanilla extract.

Drizzle that over your popcorn (and pretzels if you’re using them), and then bake it in the oven for about an hour, maybe a little less. Yep, low ‘n’ slow.

Once out of the oven, mix it with chocolate chips and whatever other candy-like mix-ins you’re using (i.e. m&ms, Reese’s pieces, Hershey’s kisses, etc, Butterfingers, etc)

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YUMMMM! Really, it’s one of my favorite munchies. Snack? Dessert? Movie-watching essential? Super bowl munchy? The answer…is yes.

Make it! Here are the specifics:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn:
Makes about 12 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 cup popcorn kernels, air-popped
1 cup pretzels (or other crunchy mix-in, such as potato chips) (optional)
1 cup crushed Oreos (optional)
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 Tablespoons butter (I used Brummel & Brown’s buttery yogurt spread)
1/2 cup peanut butter (I always add in an extra dollop)
1 tsp vanilla extract
About 2 cups chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips this time. I’ve also used 1/2 dark chocolate 1/2 milk chocolate)
Additional candy mix-ins (M&Ms, Reese’s pieces, rolos, etc) (optional)

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
2) Pop the popcorn into a large bowl. Add the pretzels and Oreos into that bowl. Set aside.
3) In a heavy-bottomed saucepan on the stove, melt together the light corn syrup, light brown sugar, salt, and butter. Whisk constantly and continuing heating until the mixture boils. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add in the peanut butter and the vanilla. Whisk until the peanut butter is fully melted.
4). Drizzle the peanut butter mixture over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to stir everything together. Once the popcorn is all evenly coated, spread it onto the two lined baking sheets.
5) Bake the popcorn in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir it every 15 minutes. I usually find it’s ready to come out after 45 minutes. That said, the longer you bake it, the more crunchy/crispy it will be. I like it when some of the pieces are a tad less-crunchy, so that’s probably why I like it cooked a little less than the full hour.
6) While the popcorn is baking, pour half of the chocolate chips into that same large bowl that you used for stirring together the popcorn and peanut butter mixture.
7) When the popcorn is done baking, remove it from the oven and carefully scoop it all back into that large bowl with the chocolate chips. Pour the remaining chocolate chips into the popcorn, along with any other candy you are adding. Use the rubber spatula to stir everything together. The chocolate should get melty.
8) Now, dump the mixture back onto those baking sheets that you were using. Allow the popcorn to cool completely. Then, either store in an air-tight container, or serve!
9) Pssst. Per usual, I suggest snagging a bite while it’s still warm. Deliciously gooey chocolaty peanut buttery…mmmm.

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It’s really one of my favorite salty-sweet snacks, if not my absolute favorite!

Let me know what you try mixing in!

ENJOY! :)

Baileys Espresso Cheesecake Bars with Oreo Crust!

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Oh my yum.

Oreos, Baileys, espresso, cheesecake….what’s not to love?! Creamy, chocolatey/mocha, smooth cheesecake, and fairly easy too!

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You can see the layers a little bit in the picture above. It starts with an oreo crust– simple combination of oreo crumbs and melted butter.

Then, there is a layer of espresso cheesecake batter, a layer of Baileys cheesecake batter, another layer of espresso cheesecake batter, and then the last of the Baileys cheesecake batter. Top is all with some crushed up Oreo crumbs and boom! Easy, fancy-tasting cheesecake. OH and the secret ingredient– mascarpone cheese! Adds a little complexity to the flavor with the cream cheese. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm……….

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I cut mine into bars and put them each in a paper muffin cup liner. Ya know, those paper liners that are between every foil liner? Some people just toss them out. Don’t do it! They’re great for holding treats. Or really, I often just use them for cupcakes/muffins anyway and don’t have a problem.

Anywho, time to get baking!

Baileys Espresso Cheesecake Bars with Oreo Crust!
Makes 1 13 x 9 inch pan of bars. ~40 bars depending on the size you cut them.

Ingredients:
1 15.5 oz package Oreo cookies, divided and pulverized
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 8oz bricks cream cheese, room temperature
1 8oz container mascarpone cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 Tablespoon hot water
1/2 cup Baileys (Homemade baileys here! Or store-bought will work just fine)

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with foil, making sure the foil is long enough so that you have overhang on both ends of the pan. You’ll use these as handles to lift the bars out of the pan later.
2) Using a food processor, pulverize 30 of the Oreo cookies. Then add in the melted butter. Blend in the food processor until the butter is evenly distributed. Dump the mixer from the food processor into the foil-lined pan. Press the Oreo mixture evenly into the pan using a wooden spoon (or your hands). Set the pan aside.
3) In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix together the cream cheese and the mascarpone cheese. Once that is all well combined, add in the sugar and mix on a medium/high speed until really well whipped. Then add in the eggs, vanilla, and salt. Mix again until the eggs are fully incorporated.
4) Scoop half of the batter into a different bowl. Into one half, add the Baileys, using electric mixer to fully combined. For the other half, first combine the espresso powder and hot water in a small bowl. Then add the espresso to that other half of cheesecake batter. Now you’re ready to layer!
5) Pour half of the espresso cheesecake batter over the Oreo crust and spread it evenly with a rubber spatula. Then spread half of the Baileys batter evenly on top of that, followed by the rest of the espresso batter, and then the remainder of the Baileys batter.
6) Now, take a knife and run it through the batter, without letting the knife touch the bottom of the pan of the crust, to swirl the batters together. To garnish, pulverize some more Oreos (if you bought a regular-sized package of Oreos, I would say just use the rest of ‘em) and sprinkle the crumbs over the top. Press them into the batter lightly using the spatula.
7) Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, on until the middle is just set.
8) Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely on a wire cooling rack. Once it’s completely cool, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
9) When you’re ready to cut them, use the foil handles to lift the bars out of the pan. Then, cut the bars to your desired size using a knife. Make sure to clean the knife off every few slices so that there are clean lines. (BONUS: eating the excess that you clean off the knife….there’s really nothing to do with it other than enjoy it :))
10) If you aren’t serving them right away, put the bars back in the fridge until you’re ready to serve them. They can be stored in the fridge for about a week.
11) YUM time to try!

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Be careful, they’re quite addicting. I’m bringing mine into the office tomorrow. A little almost-Friday treat for my co-workers :)

What’s your favorite Bailey’s recipe?! Share below!

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes with Baileys Frosting!

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Looking for a tasty, unique treat? Try these out!

Chocolate? Check. Mocha? Check. Booze? Check!

Chocolate espresso cupcakes with homemade Irish cream frosting, topped with a chocolate covered espresso bean!!

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I made these for my friend’s birthday. They were definitely a celebratory hit!

I made the Irish cream for the frosting, which is a cheap and even more delicious way to enjoy the popular liquor Baileys. You can find that recipe is here.

This recipe calls for cake flour. Typically, I would just use all-purpose flour because I don’t like having to buy that many different types of flour. BUT, I figured, what the hell. Might as well try it. The result? Honestly? I really don’t notice a difference between the texture of these cupcakes and all the cupcakes I’ve made in the past with all-purpose flour. That said, they’re delicious, so certainly didn’t hurt!!

I use instant espresso power for the coffee part. I bought it for a recipe awhile ago, and I’ve actually found that there are quite a few recipes to use it in! (Coming up next: espresso baileys cheesecake bars with oreo crust).

The recipe makes 2 dozen regular-sized cupcakes + about a dozen minis. I like having the minis around for whenever you want just a small sweet sugar fix.

As a garnish, half of these have dark chocolate covered espresso beans on top. I didn’t have enough of those left, so the others have big truffles on top. Kind of a large garnish, but really tasty!

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Ready to try them out? Here we go:

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes with Baileys Frosting
2 dozen regular-sized cupcakes + 1 dozen mini cupcakes.

Ingredients:
Cupcakes:
2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Tablespoon (1 1/2 tsp) baking soda
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 Tablespoon white vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup)
3/4 cup warm water
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder

Frosting:
1 8oz brick cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup Baileys
Chocolate covered espresso beans, optional

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with foil cupcake liners for 2 dozen cupcakes, + 1 mini dozen cupcake pan. Set aside.
2) In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3) In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and the vanilla, mixing until all well blended.
4) Now, switch to a rubber spatula. Fold in the flour mixture and the buttermilk, alternatively adding 1/2 of each at a time.
5) Dissolve the instant espresso powder into the warm water. Add the mixture to the cake batter, folding in until fully incorporated.
6) Using a large cookie scoop (like this one), fill each muffin cup with batter. They should be about 2/3 full. Place both pans into the oven on seperate racks spaced evenly in the oven.
7) Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the spring back lightly when touched.
8) Cool for about 2 minutes in the pan. Then remove each cupcake onto a wire cooling rack. Cool completely. Time to frost!!
9) Frosting: In a large bowl, sift the powdered sugar. Set aside.
10) In a different large bowl using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and the butter. Slowly add in the powdered sugar and the homemade Baileys. Beat well until you have the desired consistency of frosting that you’d like. To frost, I used a Wilton pipping tip. If you’re going to do that too, put the frosting into the piping bag (or plastic bag, which is what I use). And frost away!! You could of course just spread the frosting on with a knife too!
11) Top each with a chocolate covered espresso bean.

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Voila!! You have deeeeeeelicious, I’d dare even say sophisticated, cupcakes.

Enjoy!!

What’s your favorite cupcake?