Fudge Filled Peanut Butter Bars

One of Radar’s favorite treats from childhood is this decadent, rich, gooey concoction.  I asked his mom for the recipe, which she sent to me happily (it was actually from a box of cake mix), but apparently he hasn’t asked for them since he was a kid, because they don’t even make one of the ingredients any more!  Luckily, I was able to find a copycat recipe, distributed by Pillsbury when they discontinued the product, and Radar said they were just like he remembered them as a kid!

Fair warning, do not make a double batch of these – they are far too rich to have that many in the house!  I made 2 batches to send to him for the flights home from Japan, and in 2 8-hour legs with 15 chocolate and peanut butter lovers on the plane, there were leftovers!

Ingredients for crust:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Combine crust ingredients, stirring by hand until dough holds together.  Press 2/3 of dough into bottom of ungreased 9×13 baking pan.  Prepare filling by combining chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, and butter in a saucepan and melting over low heat until smooth; remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.  Spread filling over dough in pan, and top with remaining crust (crumble it with your hands over the filling).  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, and cool before cutting into 36 bars.

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Yum!!

Since I mailed them to him, I actually just cut the contents of the baking dish in half and sent them as slabs so they wouldn’t be all crumbs when they got to Japan.  They will also keep in the freezer (which is where Radar kept them for a month), so if you find you just can’t finish them, pop them in there for a month or two until they’re all gone.

This treat will satisfy any peanut butter and chocolate lover’s sweet tooth!

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Grinch Cookies

It’s that time of year again – Christmas cookie baking season!  One of my all-time favorite flavor combos is mint and chocolate… I mean, what’s not to love?  Cool, refreshing mint with sweet, rich chocolate.  Yum!

I discovered this super easy recipe for mint chocolate chip cookies last year, and I don’t even know how many batches I’ve made.  They’re incredible!  I haven’t made many changes to the recipe, but I did kick the mint up a little!  So do yourself a favor, and make these cookies!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pouch Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp mint extract
  • 12 drops green food color
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package mint and chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, mix butter, egg, mint extract, food color, and cookie mix until a soft dough forms.  Stir in the mint and chocolate chips.  Use two tablespoons to drop dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 17-20 minutes or until they start to brown.  Serve warm or cool completely; store in a tightly covered container at room temperature.

I made two batches of these the other night to send to Radar’s crew with their skull caps (tutorial to come).  I know they’ll love them, and it will start to get them into the Christmas spirit even though they’re halfway around the world.

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It was really hard to not eat the cookies myself!

Halloween

Last year, Peach was only 2 months old for Halloween, so I dyed a onesie peach-colored, made a headband with a stem and leaves, and she “trick-or-treated” as, well, a peach!  My dinosaur-obsessed Monster wore a dinosaur costume, inspired by this Etsy product (you can’t see in the photo below, but there’s a triangle tail that the spikes continue down).

Halloween 2013

Trick or treating was hard work for Peach! Monster’s hoodie was made of fleece, so I cut the sleeves off for our Florida October weather.

I didn’t dress up because, frankly, with a 2-month-old and a 19-month-old, just getting out of the house within an hour of what we planned was a big accomplishment!

This year, however, I will not be slacking.  Peach, in keeping with the peach theme, is going to be Princess Peach!  Monster will be Mario (I know it’s a cop-out, since every American boy is required by law to own the blue overalls, but it goes with the theme!), and I’m going to be Bowser.  Yes, you read that right.  Back in May, before Radar left, the wardroom held a Nintendo 64-themed party, and rather than go as something simple, he constructed a Bowser costume!  It didn’t occur to me to take tutorial photos of the construction of “Bowser,” but I can describe the parts:

Shell – The basis was a throw-away turkey roasting pan.  Radar used stuffing and hot glue to create the shell, then spray-painted it green.  The spikes were made from party hats spray-painted white and hot glued on.

Chest – I had some canvas from another project left over, and he just cut the oval out and drew lines across it with a Sharpie.  The shell is on the heavier side, so we use safety pins to attach it to the fabric at the front of the fly on our shorts and keep it from slipping.

Head – This was the piece de resistance!  I didn’t see exactly how Radar put it together (because, you know, I was keeping the kids alive), but I know he started with a baseball cap, sewed the jaw and stuffed it, and hot glued most of the features on, using pipe cleaners to give some shape to the horns and a few of the red spikes.

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There’s a photo below to show a front view of the head on me

Princess Peach was pretty simple.  I bought a little pink dress and found a teal decoration at Joann’s.  I just safety pinned the decoration on so that Peach could still wear the dress after Halloween – it’s so cute!  I also found an adorable crown headband on Amazon that is perfect for my little baldy.  And that’s about it!  She won’t put up with much accessorizing, so I tried to keep the costume simple.

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Cute and easy!

Mario was also relatively easy to put together.  I got a red cap and used white puffy paints to add the trademark “M.”  Then I used his blue overalls (he has long ones, but the kid HATES to wear pants, so I went for Florida Mario) with a red shirt underneath.  And don’t judge, but a 2-year-old won’t keep a stick-on mustache on for an evening, and face paint will smear…. so I plan to use Crayola washable marker!  He might have a mustache residue for a couple of days, but he’s looked worse/crazier before haha!  I opted out of the white gloves because it’s still 80 degrees out, and Monster is really sensitive with that sort of thing (see the pants comment about 4 lines up).

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Please ignore the fish on the chest!

It’s an annual tradition for the squadrons on base to host a “haunted hangar,” where they decorate the hallway and the offices for the kids to go through, get the tar scared out of them (for the bigger kids), and trick-or-treat.  It’s a blast, and we look forward to it every year!  Downstairs in the actual hangar, they use the large open space for bounce houses and socializing – and dessert, in case we haven’t been sugared up enough.  Participants are asked to bring a treat to share, and I found this darling idea on Pinterest last year for pretzel ghosts.  I know it’s lame, but they were such a hit that I’m using it again!  The combo of salty and sweet, plus easy portion control and clean-up make this treat the perfect goodie to bring to a party.

Supplies:

  • Large pretzel rods
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • Handful of mini milk chocolate chips
  • Solo cup
  • 2 tbsp butter (optional, if chocolate is too thick)

Pour the white chocolate chips into the Solo cup, and microwave until just melted – 10 seconds at a time, don’t overheat or it will seize.  If your chocolate is too thick, add the butter to loosen it a little.  Dip a pretzel rod in the chocolate, and lay on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Then, use 3 mini chocolate chips to create eyes and a mouth on your ghosts.  Repeat as many times as you want – a bag of white chocolate goes a long way!  I usually run out of cookie tray space before I run low on chocolate.  As the chocolate gets lower in the cup, tip it to coat further down the pretzel sticks.  When you’ve filled your cookie tray, pop it in the fridge for about 15 minutes, or until the chocolate is hard.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Don’t be like me – melt the chocolate just enough! I went way too far today, and had to add butter and milk to loosen it up – the results were not pretty, but still delicious!

So after all this prep, we were ready to enjoy our evening as a family!  We had a great time, as always, and it’s super fun to make family-themed costumes while the kids are still too little to protest!  (You’ll note that Monster isn’t wearing anything from his costume but the shirt – he decided to dress up as a stubborn two-year-old tonight.  I’m hoping he’ll be Mario on Friday for trick-or-treating!)

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Monster was just not having it this evening. Peach was super happy with all the activity, though!

And of course, I had to send Radar a grown-up Halloween care package, stuffed with Trader Joe’s goodies (they just opened up here in Jacksonville) and other adult treats.

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I used Halloween memes to decorate the box!

Happy Halloween!

Going Back to My Roots

I have been delinquent in posting because I have been traveling!  Radar will be leaving on deployment (too) soon, so he enjoyed a week of POM (pre-overseas movement) leave this past week.  We went up to Canada (spoiler alert: anyone who doesn’t know me in person, I’m actually from Canada!) to visit my dad’s parents and family for the week.  The weather was perfect, the kids loved being spoiled by their great-grandparents, and we had a nice, relaxing time.

But I’m not just going to leave my readers hanging, so after I bore you with a few pictures from my stroll down memory lane, I’ll share a recipe for the famous Grandma B’s Chocolate Cake (created by Grandma Beamish, who was my Grandma’s grandma!).

First off, I feel the urge to share a picture of the machine that I learned 90% of what I know today on.  My Grandma got it soon after she and Grandpa married in 1949 (I hear you doing the math, so I’ll make it easy for you – 2 weeks ago they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary!  Wow!!).  I haven’t asked for much when Grandma leaves us, but this machine means so much to me.  We spent countless hours hunched over this machine making dresses, doll’s clothes, and whatever else struck our fancy.

IMG_2464I also have to share some shots of her sewing room.  It’s a sort of organized chaos, where only Grandma knows where to find things!  I dream of having a room this large for all my sewing and crafting stuff.

Sewing Room

Don’t you love all the natural light?? The bottom left picture is ingenious – she put sound insulating material on the wall, then pinned a table cloth fuzzy side out onto it so she can pin papers and let fabric cling for ideas and putting quilts together. The bottom right picture is about a THIRD of her sewing books!

I know it’s taken her decades to build up her “stash,” but I just sigh lustily when I look through what she has… for instance, this is a shot of 4 drawers of her 10-drawer thread holder!

IMG_2468 And here’s a picture of me with my awesome grandparents 🙂

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It’s like we all decided to wear only blue! Grandma and Grandpa will both be 91 by the end of the year!

OK, your patience will now be rewarded!  Time for the recipe I promised.

Grandma B’s Chocolate Cake with Fluffy White Icing

For the cake,

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cocoa, dissolved in a bit of boiling water to make a paste
  • 1 cup sour milk (1 cup milk with 1 tbsp vinegar added)

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine wet ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs yolk, vanilla, cocoa paste, and milk) in a large mixing bowl.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda, adding to wet mixture half at a time and mixing until just combined.  Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans, and split batter between them.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from pans while still warm and cool on racks.

and for the icing,

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Put sugar and water in a pot and cover until boiling (use medium heat so it doesn’t boil too quickly).  Once boiling, remove lid and stir regularly until the syrup spins 6-8″ threads (about 15 minutes).  When the sugar mixture is almost ready, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until they hold stiff peaks, then slowly add the syrup in a very thin stream.  Add vanilla.

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This is the sort of thread you’re looking for. Click the picture to enlarge. By the way, that pot is as old as it looks – it was a wedding gift my Grandma got!

And here’s a picture of what Grandma’s cake looked like before we devoured it last week.

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Don’t ice your cake until it’s cooled, or it gets a little goopy – but still tastes delicious!

I hope you enjoy this family favorite of ours!