Peanut Butter Meringue Brownies

Peanut Butter Meringue Brownie

Can we all agree that Costco has the best/most unnecessary stuff ever? I mean, yes, there are tons of necessary things like screaming deals on bulk butter, nuts, and even lobster. But they also have things that you don’t really need, but REALLY want once you see them. Take for example the 3 lb tub of Reese’s Pieces I recently bought. Did I technically need 3 lbs worth of peanut butter goodness?? Probably not. Did buying it totally make my day and maybe even life infinitely better?? That’s debatable, but I’m leaning towards yes.

So now you’re probably wondering, “What do you do with 3 lbs worth of Reese’s?” Well, I’m glad you asked. First, you eat it….like a lot of it. Then you hide it from your husband cause he’s eating it faster than you and you’ll be damned if he gets to eat more of it than you (I have candy sharing issues). Then you realize you still have an insane amount of Reese’s Pieces left and should probably figure out a way to use it up. That’s where this recipe comes in.

Lately, I’ve been drooling over all the meringue topped brownies on Instagram and have been wanting to create my own version. Thankfully, my crazy amount of Reese’s Pieces gave me the perfect excuse to do so. Since chocolate and peanut butter is one of the greatest combos of all time, I decided to make a dark chocolate brownie with Reese’s Pieces folded in. And to take the peanut butter flavor up a bit and take the brownies up a notch, I topped them with a peanut butter Swiss meringue.

You guys, I’m not kidding when I say this meringue is legit. It’s the fluffiest, silkiest, most delicious meringue ever. It’s so good that I ate an embarrassing amount straight out of the bowl. And it’s also super easy to make and super stable – which were the two most important things to me when developing the recipe.

So if you have any leftover Reese’s Pieces hanging around after Halloween…..or just need a good excuse to buy that giant 3 lb tub of Reese’s from Costco then this is the recipe for you!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars

A quick update on one of the first recipes I ever posted. These Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars come together super fast (even faster than the original cookie recipe), but look way more impressive. I upped the chocolate in them and used oats that I lightly toasted in the oven. Toasting them is an optional step, but one that I highly recommend. It adds more flavor to the oats and gives the bars a really nice base for the chocolate and peanut butter to play off.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars
Makes 16 bars

½ cup milk (any percentage will work)

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

¼ cup Dutch processed cocoa powder

½ cup unsalted butter

2 teaspoons non-fat dry milk powder

¼ cup dark chocolate chips

1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using regular salt – cut back to ½ teaspoon)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chunky peanut butter

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats, lightly toasted

Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.

In a large heavy saucepan, place the milk, sugar, cocoa powder, non-fat milk powder, and butter. Over medium heat, stir the mixture together until the butter is melted and sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it is at a boil, stop stirring and let boil for a full 90 seconds.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate chips. When the chocolate is completely melted, stir in the kosher salt and vanilla. Then add in the peanut butter and mix until it is completely incorporated. Finally, fold in the oats.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and spread into a relatively even layer. Let the bars cool and set up for at least one hour. You can do this either on your counter top or in the fridge. Once the bars have set, cut into 16 pieces. If you want to add a little extra flair, drizzle the bars with some melted dark chocolate and top with coarsely chopped salted peanuts!

Blueberry Cheesecake Trifles

Blueberry Cheesecake Trifle

There’s a running joke on the husband’s side of the family that I can be a bit of a “purist” when it comes to food in the sense that I want to make EVERYTHING from scratch. And, I hate to admit, they’re not exactly wrong. But it’s not my fault!

Okay…..it’s kind of my fault, but it goes back to when I was a kid. My Dad is an insane chef and baker. He makes the most incredible pizzas, cinnamon rolls, pies, bread and pretty much everything. Growing up, he wasn’t stoked on me using boxed mixes to bake. His argument was it’s not that much harder to just make it yourself. Which is true! So that meant if I wanted something sweet (which was all the time) I had to make it myself…..from scratch.

These days, this make it from scratch philosophy has kind of taken on a life of itself. My Dad may have even created a bit of a monster……like I wouldn’t let him buy pre-shredded parmesan once because I said it’s better to shred your own. When he complained I told him, “This is your fault! You created this!” It might have been an over the top reaction to have in a grocery store, but I’m cool with it.

The recipe I’m sharing today originally comes from my husband’s Grandma. It’s a dessert so legendary in their family that it’s simply referred to as The Blueberry Dessert. I had been hearing about this icon of treat for a while and was so excited when I finally got try some. And, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. It’s crazy delicious and addicting. My Mother-in-law was kind enough to share the recipe with me a few years back and, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to change it up a bit.

The original recipe calls for Cool Whip and canned blueberry pie filing, but since I feel the burning desire to make everything from scratch I swapped both of those out for homemade versions. A bright and jammy blueberry sauce took the place of the canned stuff and a stabilized whipped cream was an easy replacement for Cool Whip. And since I was already changing up the recipe, I decided to make it as a layered trifle instead of in a 9 x 13 pan.

While my version of the dessert is slightly more complicated than the original, the intent and spirit behind it remains the same. This is the dessert I make for the husband on his birthday or when his family comes to visit and will even be on our Thanksgiving table this year. It’s a dessert that reminds him of home and makes me feel more closely connected to his family. Being able to put my own spin on a dessert so rich in their family’s history feels like a melding of our two pasts. Me and my make it from scratch mentality passed down from my Dad and their beautiful family dessert steeped in lots of love. It’s one hell of a combo!

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S’mores Cookie Cups

S'mores Cookie Cup

So I might be way too excited to share this post. How excited, you ask. Well, so excited that I’m legit typing this on my phone while camping. Thank goodness for 4Gs and awesome cell service….because you guys NEED these for your Labor Day weekend.

Every once in a while I come up with a seriously over the top idea. Something so decadent and indulgent that it makes even me pause….and that’s saying a lot. These S’mores Cookie Cups are one of those recipes. The general idea come about in a rather simple way. I love cookie cups (anyone else remember getting the frosted ones from Mrs. Field’s at the mall??) and wanted to create a summery twist on them. And, to me, nothing says summer more than s’mores.

Orginally these were just going to be chocolate chip cookie cups topped with a torched marshmallow and Ghirardelli caramel filled chocolate square. But then I thought, why stop there?? I needed some kind of graham cracker component and also wanted to incorporate more chocolate into the recipe (cause more chocolate is always a good thing). That’s when the over the top idea hit me – what if I made a graham cracker infused milk chocolate truffle and stuffed it INSIDE the cookie cups?! I immediately got to work on this idea and it was exactly what the cookie cups needed.

This recipe takes a little bit of time to make, but you can break it up and make and freeze the truffles ahead of time. You’ll also have some cookie dough and truffles leftover as well….which is never a bad thing. So trust me when I say you need to make these. Everyone who has tried them has flipped when they bite in and discover the surprise hidden chocolate truffle. They just can’t enough! There’s something about the combo of the chocolate stuffed cookie cup, the faint smokiness of the torched marshmallow, and the salty/sweet Ghirardelli caramel filled chocolate square that people can’t get enough of.

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Salted Oatmeal Tahini Cookies with Boozy Cherries and White Chocolate

Tahini Oatmeal Cookies

Okay, since I promised to have this recipe up last week and then totally dropped the ball (I’m the worst…..I know) – I’m going to keep today’s post short and simple. These Salted Oatmeal Tahini Cookies are quite possibly my new favorite cookie. First of all, they help fuel my out of control tahini addiction (I seriously cannot get enough of it!) and second of all, the flavor combo is AMAZING. There’s just something magical about the combination of tahini and cherries. They play off each other beautifully with the tart, sweetness of the cherries being the perfect balance to the nuttiness and earthiness of the tahini. And the white chocolate just adds a little extra sweetness to bring everything together.

There are a couple keys to this recipe. One is the bourbon soaked cherries. It takes a little extra forethought to soak them ahead of time, but trust me – it is sooooo worth it. It plumps up the cherries and adds a nice depth to the cookie. And you’re left over with some cherry infused bourbon, which is never a bad thing! The second key is using the best tahini you can find. It’s the star and base ingredient in this recipe, so please do not skimp. I’m partial to Soom and highly recommend seeking a jar out. It’s by far the best tahini I’ve ever had and is like 99.99% responsible for my newfound tahini addiction…..most of the time you can find me eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon (don’t judge me til you’ve tried it).

Alright, I promised a short post – so let’s get on to the recipe. Make them, love them, and PLEASE tell me all about it so I can eat vicariously through you…..cause I can’t have sugar or barley for another week and that makes me sad.

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Mango Key Lime Pie Bars

Mango Key Lime Pie Bar

Summer is finally in full swing here in Montana and these long, hot days have me craving tart, refreshing desserts. And these Mango Key Lime Pie Bars are my essential summer dessert. Like if I don’t make them at least three times a summer, something is seriously wrong.

There are a few things that make these my go-to option: 1. I grew up in Miami and am therefore required to love all things Key Lime 2. They take barely any time to make and 3. They freeze beautifully and are absolute perfection eaten straight out of the freezer on a hot, sunny day…..which is what I tend to do during the hottest parts of the year. Because let me tell you, there is NOTHING better than hanging out on the patio, eating a refreshingly cold Mango Key Lime Pie Bar and letting the heat from the sunshine beat down on you. Throw in a hazy IPA to drink and you’ve pretty much found my happy place.

These bars are an adaption of my Pop’s Key Lime Pie recipe that I’ve posted on here before (go back, way back on the blog to find that recipe….and don’t mind the old, not so great pics). While pie is nice and all, I tend to prefer these in bar shape. They’re easier to eat (aka no one judges you when you eat it with your hands and no plate) and they feel less stuffy…..which is a plus for summer desserts. If you can’t find mangoes or if you don’t like them (and if you don’t, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!), you can easily make these straight up Key Lime Pie Bars. Just omit the mango puree and up the key lime juice to 2/3 cup.

So what are you waiting for? Make a batch of these, stash them in your freezer, break one out on the next 90° day and let me know how much you love them!

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Salted Tahini Caramel Brownies

Tahini Caramel Brownies

Sometimes when you’re developing a recipe, you have a very specific image in your head of how you want the finished product to look. This was the case five years ago when I came up with my original Salted Caramel Brownie recipe. I had the most insanely, frustratingly specific idea of how I wanted them to look. I wanted two fudgy, dark chocolate brownie layers with a layer of thick salted caramel in the middle. It couldn’t be pockets of caramel or a faint ribbon of caramel – it had to be a distinct, gorgeous, continuous copper layer of caramel.

No joke, I drove myself crazy trying to accomplish this. Every time I pulled the brownies out of the oven, I’d get my hopes up thinking maybe this adjustment fixed it. But, more often than not, the caramel layer would bake into the brownies and all I’d be left with is the faintest caramel remnant. I was just about to give up, when a seemingly crazy idea popped into my head. What if I created a frozen layer of salted caramel??? This would give the brownies enough time to bake and because the caramel was frozen it wouldn’t immediately dissolve into the brownie layers.

It was my only idea left, so I gave it a shot. I made my salted caramel, carefully poured it onto a small sheet pan, spread it into a thin, even rectangle…….and then shoved it in the freezer and hoped for the best. When it came time to make the brownies, I poured half the brownie batter in the pan then placed the frozen caramel layer on top and then carefully spread the remaining brownie batter on top of  that.  The baked brownies didn’t look that much different from the outside, so I didn’t know if my idea had worked. But when I cut into them, there it was…….a gorgeous layer of caramel smack dab between the two brownie layers.  It was perfect.

Salted Caramel Brownie

The OG Salted Caramel Brownies

These Salted Tahini Caramel Brownies are a fresh update on my original recipe. It’s the same brownie base, but with Salted Tahini Caramel in the middle and some halvah folded in for good measure. I’m on a massive tahini kick lately (not even kidding……I’ve got another tahini recipe coming your way soon) and this seemed like a natural way to give one of my old recipes a more modern taste. These brownies are crazy rich and decadent, so a little goes a long way. And they definitely require a little more forethought than your average brownie since you have to make the caramel layer and freeze it ahead of time. Buuuut they are totally worth it!

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Meyer Lemon Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Lemon Cream Pie

Winter here this year was ROUGH. I’ve been referring to it as the never ending, relentless winter, because that’s how it felt to me. So many storms, so much snow, so much ice…….just so much winter. Those who follow me on Instagram know I’ve been training for a marathon and I’m not kidding when I say – I picked the wrong year to train. Even though I love running and racing, I’ve always been a bit of a fair weather runner…….especially when it comes to winter conditions. Typically, I take December through February off and try to get in more cross country skiing (aka my ONLY winter sport). But I’ve always wanted to run the Colorado Marathon which is in May every year……which meant I HAD to train this winter.

Needless to say, it was an adjustment. Like a BIG adjustment – especially mentally. This winter I had to suck it up and run no matter what the conditions were. And they weren’t the best. We’re talking roads that were sheets of ice and temps so cold that my quads and butt went numb. I bundled up like crazy for each run (I’m the chick who’s always cold and rocks a down coat in the office every day) and bought running shoes with cleats on them, so my klutzy self wouldn’t slip and die on the ice. I got mad at the weather and would curse out loud at the snow and wind. Which I’m sure made me look a little crazy…….nothing like running through a neighborhood muttering, “Eff you wind!” It was an experience to say the least. But at the end of the day, it made me a better runner and forced me to develop some extra grit that I know will help me in my race. Plus I feel like at total bad ass running in crazy weather.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about running instead of baking……but I have a point, I swear. One of the things I love most about baking is how adaptable certain recipes are. You can make a few adjustments and come out with a whole new dessert. It’s the perfect way to change up recipes for different seasons. The new dessert will have the same basic core of the original, but with a different vibe or feel. Which is kind of like us when we have to make adjustments in our life and adapt to changing conditions (uggghhh…….I sound like a cheesy motivational speaker – please forget I said that….but you have to admit I totally connected everything to an overall theme here).

This Meyer Lemon Coconut Cream Pie is essentially a riff on my Key Lime Pie. While the key lime version is perfect for summer, this coconut lemon one feels like the quintessential spring dessert to me. It has a coconut graham cracker crust, a lightly tart lemon filling and is topped with the dreamiest, fluffiest coconut whipped cream. And, like my Key Lime Pie, it’s relatively quick and easy to put together. So now that the never ending, relentless winter is (hopefully) over and spring is here, it’s time to get in the kitchen and whip up something bright and sunny like this pie!

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Cowboy Cookies with Bourbon and Smoked Sea Salt

Cowboy Cookie with Bourbon and Smoked Sea Salt

Sharing is caring or at least that’s what they say. In most cases, I’m all about sharing – especially when it comes to food I’ve made. However, there are a couple areas in my life where sharing is a little harder. The first is french fries (there’s never enough!)…..and the second is recipes. Let’s be honest here, every baker or chef has at least one recipe they don’t want to share. That one recipe they’ll protect fiercely and keep to themselves. The recipe they’re most proud of and the thought of sharing it physically pains them. This one is mine……..

Ohhhhhh Cowboy Cookies. This cookie is my baby…..no joke. I developed it four years ago and it took me FOREVER. I’m talking dozens of different iterations and me eating a LOT of cookies to get them exactly how I wanted. It quickly became one of my best-selling items at the farmer’s market and has inspired a very loyal following of Cowboy Cookie crazed fans.

It started with a simple enough idea. I found an incredible hickory smoked sea salt that smelled just like a campfire and I wanted to create a cookie to use it in. The smoky fire smell of the salt conjured up images of cowboys sitting around a campfire at night telling stories and staring up at the stars (I have no idea if cowboys actually do this – but in my head they totally do). I wanted a tough cookie to go with this idea. A cookie that a bad ass cowboy/cowgirl could proudly eat. Basically, I wanted a cookie that would kick every other cookie’s ass.

I tried to think of ingredients that would compliment the smokiness of the salt. Brown butter was an obvious choice. As was bourbon…..because who doesn’t love a little booze in their baked goods?? Chocolate came into the mix, but not as just one chocolate BUT three different types (milk, dark, and semi-sweet). And since I love a little extra crunch and texture in my cookies – I figured why not throw some toasted almonds in there. I had all the components, but for some reason it just wasn’t doing it for me. The cookies were missing something and I couldn’t figure out what it was.

One day, I was drinking espresso and intensely staring down at the latest batch of cookies wondering, “Why won’t you work?!” and then it hit me…..I had an idea. To see if my hunch was right, I took a sip of my espresso and then a bite of a cookie. It was perfect. All the cookies needed was a little bit of instant espresso powder. They had been missing that backbone and one ingredient that melds everything together, which is exactly what espresso powder does. It’s kind of a magical ingredient. When added to recipes, you don’t necessarily taste the espresso. It just enhances all the other flavors and ties them together. With my missing piece in place, the cookies were finally everything I had hoped for.

Okay…..so now you know how long it took me to develop the recipe……and the slight internal struggle I had when deciding whether or not to share it. I seriously hope you love the cookies as much as I do!

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Homemade Samoas

Homamade Samoas

We all have our favorite Girl Scout cookie. That one cookie we dream about all year long until cookie season finally arrives. For some it’s Thin Mints. For others it’s Tagalongs or Do-si-dos. But for me, it will always be Samoas. There’s just something about their caramelly, coconutty, chocolatey goodness that I can’t get enough of and I don’t know why. Now I’m sure there’s some sort of article or quiz that can tell me “What Your Favorite Girl Scout Cookie Says About You!”….and, actually, if there is one – can someone please send it to me?? Cause I legit want to know. Like is one cookie personality better than the other? And what does it mean if you’re Team Samoas and your husband is Team Thin Mints??? Oh man, this is going down a seriously strange tangent. I should probably get back on track……and obviously Google all these things later.

The biggest downside to Girl Scout cookies is that they’re only available a few months out of the year…..which is almost cruel. I mean they give us these delicious, irresistible cookies and then rip them away from us. Why would they do that?! Which means if you want to get your Samoas fix all year long – you only have two options: 1. Be that person who buys like 50 boxes and freezes them (which only works if you have insane self-control and don’t eat them all in the first month) or 2. Make your own at home. I’m a big proponent for option two. It might take more work, but let’s face it – homemade is always better. Which is why you’re here.

This recipe might look long and it does have a few steps, but it’s surprisingly easy. Especially if you break it up and make the cookies ahead of time. Like the originals, these Samoas have three basic components: a cookie base, a coconut caramel toppping, and a chocolate coating. The cookie base is a simple sugar cookie that’s rolled out and cut into 2-inch circles. You could go super traditional and cut out a hole in the middle of each cookie to create the “classic” Samoas shape, but it’s really not necessary. And no hole in the middle means there’s that much more room for the coconut caramel topping AKA the best part.

Thankfully, the coconut caramel topping is fast and easy to make. It’s just dulce de leche thinned out with a bit of heavy cream and with toasted coconut folded in. Either homemade or store bought dulce de leche is fine…..and yes, I know I said homemade is always better – but you’re making homemade Samoas so you get a pass on this one.

The part that takes the longest is assembling the cookies. It takes a little bit of patience to top each cookie with the coconut caramel and then coat the bottom of each one in chocolate……and then drizzle more chocolate on top. But it’s sooooooo worth it. Plus this recipe makes close to 36 cookies, so that should last you at least a couple days……right???

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