Hot Cocoa Cookies

Oh my chocolate! If you are a chocolate lover, and I mean serious chocolate lover, then you will adore these cookies! They are chocolately to the extreme and topped with a fluffy, somewhat melted, marshmallow. These are amazing straight out of the oven and just as good at room temperature the next day. Eat them solo if you dare, but I recommend that you have a glass of milk nearby!

I made these scrumptious treats for a Super Bowl party we attended. I know they don’t scream football or Super Bowl party food, but I just couldn’t get them off my mind and HAD to make them! If I wasn’t on maternity leave at the time, I would have given half of them to my chocolate-obsessed boss. Sadly she didn’t even get a taste so I’m thinking I will have to make them again once I return to work.

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Hot Cocoa Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter

12 oz. chopped semisweet chocolate (I used the Baker’s bars)

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cups light brown suger

3 eggs, room temperature (important!)

1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Melt the unsalted butter and 12 oz. semisweet chocolate together over medium heat in a saucepan. Stir frequently until smooth. Let cool for 15 minutes.In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed until smooth, about two minutes. Mix in the cooled chocolate mixture until just blended. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, mixing on low speed until just combined. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or using a baking mat (I love Silpat – nothing compares!). Using a tablespoon or cookie scoop, scoop the dough and roll between your palms to form one-inch balls. Arrange about 16 balls two inches apart on each cookie sheet, flattening slightly. Bake until the tops of the cookies crack, about 12 minutes.

While the cookies are baking, cut 7.5 ounces of semisweet chocolate (bars) into half-inch squares (or smaller if you prefer). Snip eight marshmallows in half crosswise and stick one square of chocolate onto each of the cut sides.

Immediately after removing the cookies from the oven, gently press a marshmallow half, chocolate side down, into each cookie. Bake until the marshmallows are just softened, about four minutes. Grate 5 ounces of semisweet chocolate over the hot cookies. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to racks and let cool.

Recipe adapted from Pip and Ebby.

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Creamy Chia Oatmeal

On mornings that I don’t feel like slicing a banana for Whipped Banana Oatmeal or know that I will need a few extra minutes while breakfast is cooking, I opt for this delicious Creamy Chia Oatmeal. It is seriously one of my favorite ways to start the day and has been my go-to breakfast for the past few weeks. To add a little sweetness, I have swapped out brown sugar for maple syrup and it is equally as good. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Creamy Chia Oatmeal

Creamy Chia Oatmeal
1 2/3 cup water
Pinch of salt (I like using Kosher salt)
3/4 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
2-3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (or other sweetener)

1 Tbsp. peanut butter (optional, but I always include it!)

Combine water, salt, oats and chia seeds over low heat. Cook for six to eight minutes or until oats and chia seeds are puffed up and the oats just begin to bubble. Add in the milk, cinnamon and sweetener. Cook for two to three minutes, until the oats have absorbed the milk and the mixture is creamy. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and top with peanut butter.

Original recipe from Espresso and Cream.

Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last week I posted about these delicious cookies that I made and I think I’ve left you waiting for the recipe for long enough! These cookies are so delicious. The vanilla pudding does something magical in them and I’m positive that you’ll love them as much as we do! Like most people, I’m a big fan of chocolate chip cookie dough, and this one doesn’t disappoint! In fact, I think it’s extra good. Try these and let me know what you think!

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Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3.4 oz. package vanilla instant pudding mix
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

Using a mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Add in pudding mix, eggs and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in several batches and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet.  Using a cookie scoop works best for me and ensures even-sized cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slightly golden. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Recipe from Two Peas and their Pod

Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas with Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Each week I try to make one or two new recipes for dinner. Some attempts are much more successful than others and this recipe was a huge success! Van and I both loved it and found the homemade enchilada sauce to be especially delicious. No crazy ingredients and minimal chopping results in dinner coming together pretty quickly! We have had this twice now and it has become a new favorite. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas with an Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce

For the sauce:

3 cups vegetable broth (I used low sodium, but either works)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. chili powder
Salt/pepper

For the enchiladas:

2Tbsp. olive oil
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups corn (canned or frozen, thaw if using frozen)
6 oz. fresh baby spinach
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tsp. cumin
3 cups shredded cheese (three or four cheese blend)
8 whole wheat or flour tortillas

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the tomato paste, flour, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder. Cook 1 minute while whisking. Whisk in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Lightly salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

Saute the spinach in olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until slightly wilted. It doesn’t need to be completely cooked as it will continue to do so in the oven. In a large bowl, combine beans, 2 cups of cheese, spinach, corn, green onions, cumin and cilantro. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly spray a 9×13 inch baking dish, and pour in a small amount of the sauce to coat the bottom. Generously fill tortillas with the mixture. Roll up tightly with ends tucked in, and place seam side down in dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, coating evenly. Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes and garnish with cilantro and/or green onions (optional).

Recipe adapted from The Garden Grazer.

Whipped Banana Oatmeal

Days are much longer lately and I need as much fuel as I can get to keep me going for as long as possible! Eating breakfast and then getting hungry again an hour later can be very annoying so I’ve been looking for filling and energy-packed foods to start the day. One of my very favorites has become Whipped Banana Oatmeal. Whipping the bananas helps create a think, creamy consistency. The bananas also act as a natural sweetener so there’s no need to add sugar of any kind. I also like the addition of chia seeds, which puff up and help keep you fuller longer. You can buy them at pretty much any store that has food in bulk bins like Whole Foods or Earth Fare. I think I have seen them packaged at grocery stores like Harris Teeter too.

Whipped Banana Oatmeal

Whipped Banana Oatmeal

1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water
1 banana, thinly sliced
1/2 Tbsp. chia seeds
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Combine the oats, chia seeds, salt, water and milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Slice a banana into thin pieces and add it to the oatmeal. Allow the mixture to heat and once it begins to steam or bubble, stir vigorously to whip the banana into the oats. Stir until the pieces of banana are incorporated into the oatmeal. Cook for about five minutes and remove from heat once it reaches your desired consistency. Incorporate the vanilla and then pour the oatmeal into a bowl. You can add any toppings you’d like – peanut butter, nuts, granola, dried fruit, etc. Anything is good, but a tablespoon of peanut butter is my favorite! Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Kath Eats.

Cupcake Tasting Party – Success!

I don’t believe I ever shared photos from the Cupcake Tasting Party I had in September. It was a delicious success! We had 5 different cupcakes to sample and they were all so unique! I made Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes that were filled with cookie dough – oh yum! We also had Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Homemade Maple Sprinkles (go Jamie!!), Key Lime Cupcakes with real lime garnishes and Drumstick Cupcakes, complete with cones!

Drumstick Cupcakes

Friends from several circles came, which was so cool! There were friends from High School, College, Church and Work! We were in sugar comas within 30 minutes and began to think that naps should have been made a part of the party! I’m already looking forward to the next party, which will be at the new house!!!

Thanks to everyone who came and enjoyed tasting cupcakes with me!!! (And thanks to Jess for taking pictures!)

Cupcake Break

We had a quick lunch at work on Friday and decided to visit a Cupcake shop for the rest of our lunch! We went to Tizzerts on Park Road and were overjoyed from the minute we left the office. There were all sorts of yummy flavors available and they all looked amazing! For their filled cupcakes, they use cute wrappers that kind of look like a little tutu.

I got a Coconut Cloud – Soft yellow cake with coconut filling and topped with vanilla buttercream and a sprinkle of toasted coconut. It was delicious!! I also brought a chocolate one back for a friend who had other lunch plans. It also looked really good!

Next time I think I will try the Hot Chocolate Cupcake – Devils food chocolate cupcake, filled with chocolate pastry cream and iced with vanilla buttercream and mini marshmallows. The final touch is a decadent chocolate ganache drizzle. There were so many great options that we will definitely return!

Tour de Cupcakes Round 1!

On Saturday Jamie and I embarked on our highly anticipated Tour de Cupcakes! We had been dreaming of this event for months and it finally came to fruition!! Jamie was our event organizer and graciously mapped out our tour. Though there are many tempting options in the area, we decided to stick to three Charlotte hot spots for Round 1. No need to over-do it the first go around!

We started our adventure by having a light lunch at Extreme Pita in Ballantyne. While the staff was a little slow and confused, our food was delicious and just what we needed. An all around good decision!

Luckily our first stop on the tour was just a few doors down at The Blushing Bakeshop.

I had high hopes for this place after seeing their website with super cute cupcakes. I actually shared some of their photos here on the blog last year. Unfortunately, none of the cupcakes they were selling in the shop looked like that! I guess those are only for specialty orders.

Jamie made the perfect scoring sheet that we took to each shop and we judged them on 1) Presentation 2) Flavor 3) Icing 4) Ambiance & Atmosphere 5) Selection. We got a little excited at this first stop and each ordered two cupcakes. They had many options, but I chose Lola (chocolate cake topped with a light chocolate buttercream) and Savannah (red velvet cake topped with a cream cheese frosting).

Jamie went for the Matt (chocolate cake filled with a peanut butter, chocolate ganache and topped with a peanut butter buttercream) and Kayla (vanilla cake filled with a homemade key lime curd and topped with a lime infused cream cheese frosting).

After our purchase, we realized that I played it safe while Jamie was a little more adventerous.

My ratings

Presentation: Organized, yet predictable

Flavor: Good, but not out of this world (this could be due to the fact that I didn’t order anything out of the ordinary, but they said that the red velvet had won awards in DC)

Icing: Fluffy and moist

Ambience & Atmosphere: Cutely decorated and very classy, but needed seating

Selection: Something for everyone. Mango was the only surprising option.

Jamie’s Ratings

Presentation: So-so

Flavor: Surpsing and refreshing

Icing: Light, but ordinary

Ambiance & Atmosphere: Loved the decor and the damask walls, but needed music and seating

Selection: Liked names as they added character

Overall, we enjoyed The Blushing Bakeshop and think it would be a great place to place a special order at. While we were enjoying our cupcakes on a bench outside (due to the lack of seating inside the shop), we saw a really cute cupcake bouquet come out. I’d be happy if someone were to order me a cupcake bouquet (hint, hint)!! We also enjoyed the fact that the cupcakes were the main attraction. No retail distractions here!

Onto our next stop, SAS Cupcakes on Rea Road. The pictures we had seen online from this place looked amazing so we were really excited. The only unfortunate thing about this place was that it wasn’t all that far from our first stop. Translation: round one hadn’t quite yet digested by the time we got to round two! But we excitedly and fearlessly stepped right up and were immediately wowed! Decisions, decisions!

There was quite a lot to take in as soon as you stepped through the doors. They have quite the reatil shop and even a sprinkle bar to jazz up your cupcake! They don’t skimp on the icing either!

This was only a tiny corner!!

Two sides of options to satisfy anyone’s sprinkle preferences!

We decided to eat our treats in Jamie’s car since there was so much going on in the shop and the seating was limited. I opted for the Margarita (tangy margarita cake with a tequila infused lemon-lime buttercream).

Jamie went more traditional this time around with the Chocolate Chip cupcake (buttery vanilla chocolate chip cake topped with sweet vanilla buttercream, sprinkled with chocolate chips).

My Rating

Presentation: Very tempting

Flavor: Sweet and very flavorful

Icing: Lots! Nicely decorated and loved the little candy addition in mine

Ambiance & Atmosphere: Lots of bright colors. Looked like a candy store

Seleciton: Ample variety

Jamie’s Rating

Presentation: A lot of sass (haha), over the top

Flavor: Moist, sugary, just enough chips

Icing: Mountainous and super sweet

Ambiance & Atmosphere: Distracting and not enough seating

Selection: Liked the sprinkle bar, nice variety

Due to the large amount of icing on our cupcakes, we found them slightly difficult to eat. The icing was everywhere! Thankfully, it was delicious, albeit quite sweet. We thoroughly enjoyed our selections at SAS, however the sugar coma had set in and we were only able to eat half of our cupcakes!! Pathetic! I have never felt that way after eating sugar. It was quite interesting!! We wrapped up our treats and headed on to our third and final destination that was thankfully a little farther away!

Round three brought us to Polka Dot Bake Shop on Woodlawn Road.

With the name, we were expecting quite a bit of cuteness to greet us inside. Sadly, this wasn’t quite the case. They did have great seating though, which was a definite plus for our tired selves. Sadly, we didn’t take any photos of the inside because really, it wasn’t all that impressive. Just a boring little display case like you would see at an ordinary bakery. Despite the fact that some of the options sounded wonderful, we were both looking for something a little on the lighter side aka no chocolate! I opted for Honey Almond…

And Jamie had Lemon Creme…

My Rating

Presenation: Nicely decorated

Flavor: Slightly dry cupcake, but with good flavor

Icing: Delicious! Enjoyed the toasted almonds and candy on top

Ambiance & Atmosphere: Good seating and music, but needed more character in the decor

Selection: Good. Would like to try Sticky Butterfinger with more of an appetite

Jamie’s Rating

Presentation: Not front and center

Flavor: Dry cake, angel food-ish

Icing: Nice flavor, but not enough (especially compared to SAS where it was everywhere!)

Ambiance & Atmosphere: Good seating and music, but lacked ambiance

Selection: Adequate

Jamie and I would both agree that we had reached our limit by the time we made it to round three. Despite this, we still weren’t all that impressed with this location, especially compared to the other two. We thought the flavor was good, but we left wanting more of the tasty icing!

So we came to the conclusion that The Blushing Bakeshop and SAS tied! We really enjoyed the presentation, icing and selction at SAS. But the flavor and ambiance/atmosphere at Blushing were top notch. What a fun Saturday activity!! Stay tuned for Tour de Cupcakes Round 2 coming as soon as we recover from Round 1!!

Newest Obsession: Decorated Cookies!

Ok so I haven’t actually attempted to decorate any cookies yet, but I am so in love with the photos I’ve seen! With practice, I think I can definitely do it. Check out some of these adorable creations!

Valentines Cookies from Sweet Sugarbelle

Strawberry Cookies from Bake at 350

Baby Cookies from Mel’s Sweet Treats (just need a friend to have a baby!!)

And these cupcakes from The Cookie Jar? Oh my. I believe those cookies are the definition of adorable.

I promise to share any cookie decorating attempts! This may have to wait until after the wedding, but I WILL try this!

Weekend in Review

This weekend started off with a few softball games for Van on Friday night…one loss, one victory. Ma & Pa Lambert came too per usual and we had fun enjoying some concession stand delicacies. For me there was a snow cone, for Papa Lambert a slice of pound cake, for Mama Lambert some popcorn, and for Van some bubble gum. Other treats were had as well, but those are just a few of the highlights! Oh and there was a lot of fabulous people watching at these games. It was even more out in the country so I got to listen to all kinds of entertaining people. Loved it.

After Van worked on his car for a bit on Saturday morning, we headed to Concord Mills in search of a business suit for my upcoming interview on Wednesday! Trying on suits on a sweltering hot day is not something I will be doing again anytime soon. Luckily I liked the first one I tried on and we were sold! I got a fuchsia top to wear underneath and there were some ADORABLE fuchsia flats with a little ruffle at the toe that matched perfectly. We all agreed (Van included) that they wouldn’t be very professional for my interview. But the sales lady did tell me that if I get the job, I can come back and get them! Oh and Van was super sweet when I came out of the dressing room for the first time in my suit. He said some really nice things and then later told me that he almost cried when he first saw me because he was so proud. Wow I love him!

A nap was surely needed after that adventure and we ended up sleeping for over 2 hours. It’s a good thing we had plans to see Inception with friends or we might not have gotten up! The movie was really good as was dinner afterward at Hickory Tavern.

Church on Sunday morning was great with the new series on The Good Life. Please see 10 on…Thursday for the excitement that happened after church. Oops. After going back to Concord to have lunch with Van’s family I returned home where Heidi was waiting for me! We made Zwetschgendatschi aka German Plum Cake! Say that five times fast…or even just once and you have a mouthful! We were a little skeptical of the directions since they were in a German cookbook that had been translated into English, but it turned out so well! We spent the afternoon making all kinds of silly plum jokes. Oh how I love time with this sweet, sweet friend!