Category Archives: Baked Goods and Desserts

How to Host Your Own Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich + Sundae Bar

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #StartSummer and #CollectiveBias

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Last Wednesday, I did a wonderful thing. I did a wonderful, very cool thing. I did a wonderful, very cool, crazy thing that has revolutionized the way I think about summer. Can I get a Josh Gad/Olaf solo about summer in here? No? Well bully that, here it is anyway….

I hosted my very own ice cream cookie sandwich + sundae bar!

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The only thing better than getting together to celebrate the arrival of summer with friends in late April is getting together to celebrate the arrival of summer with friends AND homemade ice cream AND homemade cookies AND homemade toppings. I stopped by Walmart the weekend before to grab some dessert-making essentials, like Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Cream Bars for my cookies ‘n’ cream cookies, a big bag of M&Ms for my loaded Kitchen Sink cookies, and the hit of the party: my homemade no-churn Twix ice cream, which I’m sharing here today–scroll to the bottom for the stellar (and simple) recipe!

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Hosting parties for no official designated holiday makes me one seriously happy crazy person. The night before the big get-together, I cranked up the TSwift, pulled out every pot and bowl I own, whipped up an insane amount of ice cream, and belted out the lyrics to “Blank Space” straight into my ice cream scoop while I was doing the dishes like a responsible adult-like human being thingy.

If you’ve ever experienced this feeling and love it, take my advice and throw the party. You’ll thank me for it, I promise!

If you’ve never experienced this feeling before: THROW THE DANG PARTY NOW. TRUST ME. It’s been a full week and my friends are still raving about the sweet idea!… Read more

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Filed under Cookies, Frozen Desserts

No-Bake Cookie Butter Bars for #SundaySupper

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It’s hard to believe, but change is beginning to settle in the thick, smoggy air. The days are getting longer, the cotton material of my shirt is sticking to my armpit to an increasingly embarrassing degree, and these days I can go until nearly 7:45 PM before the sun starts setting and I actually begin to feel guilty about all the work I haven’t done for the day.

In other words: summer is coming!

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It’s hard to believe we spent the last two perfect weekends outdoors at two of the West Coast’s biggest book festivals–the Young Adult literature festival last weekend, followed by the city’s annual book festival this weekend–surrounded by some of the best, most delightful names in the world of publishing. (For example, yesterday afternoon I met Mac Barnett, one of the friendliest children’s book authors out there, a veritable genius, and a client of one of the lit agents I had worked for years before!)

I spent the first weekend volunteering at the book festival, meeting a variety of YA authors but also getting to interact with thousands of wonderful, vibrant fans (over 6,500 of them turned up!). Last Saturday was brutally sunny, and some of these folks waited in line for over 2 hours just to nab a signed book copy–not to mention the opportunity to exchange a coveted “hello” with their favorite authors. I ended up monitoring the author signing queues, turning away over 200 people in the course of 3 hours because there was simply no way to accommodate every single autograph request.

It was a thankless task at best, but even I was stunned by just how gracious most of the fans were! Most were disappointed, of course, but several of them thanked me for doing my job and for treating that crazy afternoon with a cheerful smile.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars

Chocolate Rum Bundt Cake with Chocolate Syrup {churned by Willy Wonka’s chocolate waterfall}

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Exactly 7 days ago, our school hosted its annual Edible Book festival! And you bet your chocolatey pants that I entered.

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After last year’s Calvin and Hobbes success, I gave myself exactly two days before I started brewing up ideas for this year’s festival. The idea behind the Edible Book Festival is simple: pick a book, create a food display inspired by the book, and show it off to a happy, hungry public. Perfecto, no?

Now is a self-proclaimed amateur connoisseur of both children’s literature and baked goods, you can imagine the sort of schoolgirl high I get every time the end of March rolls around. I mean, edible books? You might as well slap my name all over the marketing flyers and call it a day.

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This year I decided to go the literal route and use the book that’s chock filled with edible references. Growing up, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t on my list of favorite books–it wasn’t even on my radar until the seventh grade, and by then I wanted nothing to do with the grotesque author who had written abominably disturbing works such as The Witches. (I mean, have you read that book? Yeesh!)

In fact, it wasn’t until I began teaching children’s literature at the university level that I read the novel in its entirety – once, then twice, then five times and ten. I couldn’t get over all the zany demises of Charlie’s rivals, or the wonderfully awful Quentin Blake illustrations accompanying these descriptions – and let’s face it: a book all about chocolate? Twelve-year-old self, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???

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Once the cogs started turning, there was no chance in holy fudge tarnations that they were going to stop. I knew I wanted to do a display inspired by my favorite part of the books: the tragic disappearances of each of the four naughty children who enter Willy Wonka’s factory.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Brownies & Chocolates, Cakes & Cupcakes

Cheez-It Spicy Snack Mix

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MVCheezIt #CollectiveBias

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I didn’t watch much of college anything until grad school. Never one to paint my face blue and gold on Game Day, I was about as exciting as the white petunias sitting in your neighbor’s drought-ridden window garden.

Then basketball season came one year and suddenly I began noticing things. No, not the cute guy wearing a school jersey. (Okay, maybe a little–who doesn’t look cuter dressed from head to foot in school spirit?). I was staring at the long line behind him, filled with hardcore fans and team gear and an excited babble that refused to die down. And that’s when I started to think…huh!

Throw in a bowl of homemade snack mix and you can count me in for the fun :)

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Last week we were visiting Seattle and happened to arrive at the arena just as a bunch of fans congregated for the latest championship game. We didn’t end up buying last-minute tickets since we had a flight to catch (though trust me–he was sorely tempted!), but we did linger around watching all the buzz and excitement around the upcoming face-off, nibbling at our donuts and secretly wishing for a TV and bowl of snack mix to reward our vigilant abstention.

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In fact, I am eternally grateful to basketball and all the snacky cravings it’s inspired in me this month, because that’s how this Cheez-It spicy snack mix was born. As of earlier this year, I became equally obsessed with the game and this perfect game day food.

If somebody told me that chucking my last bag of snack mix at our school mascot would guarantee a victory on the court, I’d have one heck of a time deciding which one I’d rather keep.… Read more

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Filed under Snacks

Pumpkin Banana Breakfast Cookies

Whether we’re out searching for our ideal partner, building relationships with friends, or already happily settled in a 50-year marriage, it’s no surprise that we spend the better of our lives seeking affirmation from the people around us. On a recent trip to Seattle, we gave ourselves plenty of “nothing” time–time to really back away from our busy day-to-day lives and think about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, where our lives our headed. Every night at the hotel, Richard would look over and grin when he saw me just sitting on the bed and hugging my pillow, thinking.

He called it pondering time, and (apart from the donuts, and the reunions with friends, and okay maybe the pizza) it was probably the part of the day I looked forward to most.

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Between blogging and baking and schoolwork and teaching and working, I hardly give myself much down time to think any more, so it quickly became apparent that I had a lot of catching up to do. For starters, I had no idea I had so many thoughts about friends and life relationships to sort out–and visiting all these new places and seeing so many old faces gave me plenty to think about.

One way I like to gauge my development is to periodically play a game we called Three Attributes. You start by listing the top three traits you looked for in an S.O., and each one is supposed to reveal something about not only your ideal mate, but yourself as well. If you’re interested in playing, I’ll give you the breakdown so you can try it for yourself before I do the big spoilers:

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So you start by picking your top three traits for a significant other–this can be either your ideal potential one or the one you already have.… Read more

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Filed under Breakfast & Brunch, Cookies, Healthy

5-Minute Microwave Caramel Sauce { & 55 things you can do in 5 minutes }

As a challenge to both myself and you, I’m pairing this awesome 5-minute microwave caramel sauce recipe (from the phenomenal Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake) with 55 fun things you can do in 5 minutes or less a day.

Ready? Let’s begin.

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  1. Meditate somewhere in the quiet outdoors, and dressed as an all-natural owl
  2. Listen to this incredible video of Harrison Craig from The Voice Australia 2014 singing “You Raise Me Up”
  3. Eat an entire caramel apple by yourself
  4. Write a thank-you card telling someone you appreciate them
  5. Hug a dog/cat (or a stuffed animal if a live one is in short supply)
  6. Make a 15-second silly video of yourself doing Gangham Style and post it on Instagram
  7. Reread your favorite picture book
  8. Dance around your room belting out your current favorite song into a dilapidated hairbrush
  9. Make yourself a cup of hot tea to enjoy
  10. Send a text message saying “hello!” to ten friends you haven’t seen in a long time
  11. Watch this hilarious Bad Lip Reading of The Hunger Games
  12. Catch up on at least two BBC World News videos
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  14. Do one of these super-random five-minute crafts, like tattooing a banana
  15. Find out which Pixar movie you are
  16. Hold a lively discussion about goldfish safety with your imaginary friend, Bob Gutterson
  17. Try to discover the meaning of life (may require additional 5-minute sessions)
  18. Make your own list of 5-minute activities and commit to finishing one per day for fun
  19.  Look up 5 local restaurants you have never tried and save them for your next outing
  20. Write a haiku about cheese, or your mother-in-law, or both
  21. Create a to-do list of all the things you will need to accomplish when you become World Conquerer
  22. Find a cute new wallpaper for your desktop background
  23. Write down 5 things that made you really happy this week
  24. Create a pyramid-tower out of leftover toiler paper rolls
  25. Waste your insanely valuable time on this Impossible QuizMicrowaveCaramelSaucegif2
  26. Draw a map of what the world would look like if it was filled only with unicorns, rainbows, and sprinkles, in that order
  27. Speak in a heavy English accent to the next person you meet, and keep it up for the entire conversation until they ask you where you’re from.
Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Dips/Spreads, Homemade/DIY

Frosty Chocolate Dream Bites for #SundaySupper

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The last few weeks have been some of the craziest imaginable. Aside from finally scheduling my big dissertation proposal exam (this June! eep!!) and rewriting one of my articles from scratch for re-submission to a journal, I have finally registered with the school for medical wrist treatment so I can hopefully type with all of you again soon–write replies, comment on your blogs, and everything else I miss.

I’ll be back in the game again soon, so don’t lose hope in me!

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Somehow, in the midst of all this craziness, I still have stories. There’s something about storytelling that makes a girl put on Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and want to dance around the room singing into a stalk of celery. Loudly. And very badly.

Last night, a bunch of us in the swim club trekked out to the beach for a bonfire. The evening air was cool but mild: even in March, all we wore were light jackets over our tank tops (sorry, East Coast friends!) and flip-flops as we watched the sun set over the shimmering ocean horizon.

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It was the quintessential college experience. By the time we arrived, all of the fire pits had been taken, so a group of us (and by “us,” I mean definitively not me) used our bare hands to dig out a 2-foot deep pit before jamming in firewood, lighter fluid, a lighter, and as many marshmallows-on-sticks as we could manage to flambe at once.

Empty pizza boxes to keep the fire from flying away.

Open bags of chips and salsa scattered across the sand, being picked through by oh-so-many dirt-packed fingers.

Rolled-up skinny jeans and late night ocean dashes.

Sand in everything.

My parents–for whom the closest we have ever got to rugged improvisation was reserving one of those tent-style camping cabins instead of the room in the lodge with indoor plumbing–would have been positively scandalized.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Frozen Desserts

The BEST Bread Pudding for #OXOCookware

Disclaimer: I was selected to be part of OXO’s Blogger Outreach program, for which I received an OXO Stainless Steel Pro 5 Qt. Casserole Dish + Cover. All opinions in this post are 100% my own.

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So my latest trip to Disneyland proved that I am the queen of not being able to spot celebrities, ever. Period. Even when I pass by them so close I actually have to maneuver to avoid hitting them in the ribs with my elbow.

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Two nights ago, we paid the Happiest Place on Earth a fond visit to celebrate–along with other annual passholders–the 20th anniversary of the Indiana Jones ride. Twenty years. Geesh! I still remember when the attraction first opened and they still handed out those little flimsy AWESOME decoder cards where you could read the ancient runes on the walls while you waited.

Wow, I just dated myself, didn’t I?

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Anyway, one of my friends hadn’t eaten anything the entire day. It was past 9 PM when we arrived at the park, so I decided to go with her to grab a bread bowl from New Orleans Square. Of course, she was so hungry at this point that I could barely do more than dodge through the crowds and keep her bobbing head in sight through all the moving bodies. At one point she screeched to a grinding halt and ducked behind a group of folks taking pictures–naturally, I sped up, swerving dangerously close to the subjects of the photo on my right as they arranged themselves. It wasn’t until I had already hopped between them and the camera that my friend grabbed me by the arm, yanked me around, and pointed to the guy in a black and white checkered shirt whom I had nearly decapitated with my elbow a second earlier.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Breakfast & Brunch

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies for #SundaySupper

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When I was 5, my mom told me I was allergic to chocolate.

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Now, you’d think that a future 20-year product of the public education system would have smelled something fishy, but I smelled nothing but the tantalizing, forbidden scent of chocolate.

Believe it or not, the ruse lasted until age 10, when we were selling Hershey’s bars for a school fundraiser and I sank my teeth into a gorgeous, silky chunk of chocolate heaven.

Half a decade of my life. Irretrievable. Lost. Goner than a koala chucked into a black hole.

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Aside from those five years of chocolate-less existence–and opting out of meat–and okay, my insanely picky palate–I’ve never had eating restrictions, really. At least not the kind of allergy that will debilitate you and close your throat and send you to the hospital with an EpiPen sticking out of your arm. Thank goodness.

I’m lucky in that respect, but it really wasn’t until grad school that I met friends who really did have food allergies. One of my closest classmates is allergic to a whole score of things, including nuts, dairy, and soy. I’ve told you about my recent student who has all of those allergies, plus corn, bean, fruit, and gluten allergies. Another guy in my office has Celiac, meaning gluten is a no-go for him, either. And this one’s not just a fad diet or a “gluten sensitivity,” I’ll tell you that much.

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That’s why you may have noticed a lot more “allergy-friendly” recipes around the blog lately. Have you checked out last week’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble Peanut Butter Mousse Parfait Cups? Seriously though–gluten-free doesn’t need to mean un-tasty. In fact, I’ve had so much fun baking GF lately, my friends with gluten allergies have started asking whether the latest batch of treats is gluten-free–and it’s so nice when you can make someone who usually can’t participate feel included in something as simple as dessert.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Brownies & Chocolates, Healthy

Easy English Toffee

Spoiler: majorly embarrassing stories ahead……

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Yesterday, over lunch, my friends and I were sharing our best embarrassing stories. You know, the ones that made you blush so hard you thought your face was actually going to combust into a bunch of fiery napalm and set ablaze everyone within 15 square yards of you. We’re not talking the kind of mild embarrassment that happens when you walk in late on the first day of class and get called out by the teacher.

We’re talking stress-dreams-of-getting-caught-stark-naked-in-a-Costco-parking-lot-on-a-Sunday-afternoon kind of embarrassment.

Unfortunately, I’m terrible at calling up examples while they are still relevant (i.e. during conversation), so I didn’t contribute much to our lunch sharing session. I did enjoy a very nice Afghani spinach flatbread, though.

But as it turns out, this is very lucky for you guys, since I’ve decided to spend this Friday sharing a few of my favorites with you! None of which involve unwanted nudity, thank goodness. So without further ado….

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Quite a few years ago at Disneyland, I was waiting in line for the bathroom next to Adventureland. There I was, fiddling with my gray Tigger jacket sleeve, minding my own business, when I suddenly look up and notice an Asian man with short-cropped hair, spectacles, and a rather square jaw standing in front of me.

Of course, I immediately feel embarrassed for the poor man. Can he read English? His unfashionable red sweater and khaki pants tell me he might be a tourist (thank you, vast over-stereotyping), and as we get closer and closer to the front of the line, I start fidgeting. Finally, when I see the “Women’s Restroom” sign passing us by the restroom entrance, I decide I can’t let him go through the agonizing embarrassment of walking into the Women’s restroom by mistake. So I do the worst thing I could possibly do in such a situation: I tap him on the arm.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars, Brownies & Chocolates, Snacks, Snacks