Chocolate Sheet Cake Brownies

These should come with a warning: make at your own risk. If you don’t make these for a large group or party, you will eat them all.

This recipe makes so many that I took a big towering plate of brownies to work – and still had some leftover to snack on for the next few hours (days….I mean days!).

Just the frosting alone is addicting! The chocolate chips (and butter) give it the perfect sweet light chocolate flavor. For example, right after talking about our plan for the gym in the morning, Ryan and I stood in the kitchen scraping every last drop out of the frosting pan. Soo about that treadmill, am I right?

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For years, I only knew these brownies as “Sue’s Brownies.” She was a friend of my mom’s when we were stationed in Newport, Rhode Island while I was in elementary school. She was from Nebraska and always shared amazing family recipes! We didn’t live there long, but my mom has continued making Sue’s “famous” brownies since. And when I started craving these the other day, I knew no boxed brownie mix could compare!

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PS These brownies are even better when mixed with vanilla frozen yogurt and mini M&M’s… just a guess?

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Chocolate Sheet Cake Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 lb butter, softened
  • 1 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 can chocolate syrup (or pour 16 oz from the bottle of chocolate syrup)
  • 1 C + 1 T flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350* and prepare an 11 x 15 in. pan (a jelly roll/sheet cake pan is best) or two 9 x 9 in. pans. First, beat the sugar and butter together. Add the eggs, vanilla and chocolate syrup and mix. Next, add the flour and baking powder and stir until combined. Pour in the pan(s) and bake for roughly 30 minutes.

For the frosting:

  • 6 T butter
  • 6 T milk
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C chocolate chips

Start with the butter, milk and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 30 seconds. Then, take it off the heat and add the chocolate chips.  Beat with a whisk until thickened.  Pour over slightly cooled brownies. Let frosting set completely before cutting (overnight, or stick in the fridge to speed up the process).  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Weekly Menu August 25

“If my life had a flavor, it would be coffee.”

I found this quote on Pinterest the other day, and it perfectly describes how I’m feeling on this cool Monday morning! Getting up early for the gym was a struggle, and the crisp air foreshadowing fall didn’t make it any better (summer, I already want you back!).

So, coffee helped. And so did this list from Joy the Baker: 11 Little Ways to Get Through This Monday. I especially love this: “…an after work situation is a lovely carrot to dangle in front of your face.” With that idea in mind, I’m looking forward to yoga, and then steak and a glass of wine this evening!

Plus, I just discovered what I’m going to do with all of the bananas in my freezer this week.

Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Weekly Menu August 25

Monday: Grilled Steak with Summer Nectarine Salad

Tuesday: Thai Chicken Quinoa Bowl

Wednesday: Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Thursday: Chipotle Cheddar Turkey Burgers with fresh corn

Friday: Susie’s French Chicken with Goat Cheese & Arugula Pasta Salad

Reese’s Cookie Cake

You know when people ask silly questions like “If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

Which – sidenote – doesn’t even make sense, because if there was only one food item left in the world, you probably wouldn’t be able to choose what it is. I’m guessing it would be something like Spam. Or raw onions. Not, let’s say, a REESE’S COOKIE CAKE. But, if the world was fair, and I had a say in it, it would be this cake.

Of course, that brings up a whole different set of problems. Like, who would be baking it? And where would the ingredients come from if… ugh, nevermind. Regardless, I’d eat this chocolate peanut butter cookie cake every day forever and ever. And I think that’s the most serious commitment I’ve ever made!

When I’m asked to do something really major like decide what type of birthday cake I want, I usually can’t. There are just far too many cakes and cookies and ice creams and pies in the world to pick favorites. So, I typically strategize on how to maximize the opportunity. For instance, my cake this year was made of cookies AND candy, too. All in one. Three for one? I win.

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I was lucky enough to have my mom, brother and sisters all pitch in to make this amazing cake for my birthday. It was so much fun celebrating with Ryan and my family in Arizona. Lots of swimming, shopping, and of course, eating.

We all gave this cake two thumbs up! The dough seems like a funny consistency when you’re baking at first, but it’s just because it’s more of a peanut butter cookie base and is a little lumpier. My mom used this recipe for the cookie cake, and this recipe for the peanut butter frosting. Then, they drizzled chocolate sauce and chopped Reese’s on top. It was my best birthday cake yet!

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Strawberry Peach Smoothie

We all know moderation is key.

I talk a lot about butter and sugar here, but realistically those aren’t staples in my every day life. At least, not always! I try to balance my crazy sweet tooth with healthier foods and workouts.

I’ve always been a gym girl and love indoor classes like spin and yoga, but lately I’ve been trying to make myself actually run outside more often (thanks for running s.l.o.w.l.y by my side, Ryan!). And, I’ve been experimenting with different weights and programs, too. The following are a few great resources I’ve found for anyone looking to expand their workouts.

Of course, another aspect of a healthy lifestyle is food. This strawberry peach smoothie is the best breakfast or lunch on the go! The Greek yogurt adds protein, and it’s super easy to make – especially since peaches are everywhere right now.

In fact, we were lucky enough to have a big box of peaches delivered to our office the other day. I brought so many home that I ended up having to cut some up and freeze them! Then, when my freezer was overflowing with frozen bananas, berries and peaches, I decided to start making smoothies. I made this one several times last week.

PS: As if you needed one more reason to make this, August is National Peach Month. Drink up!

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Strawberry Peach Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 peach
  • 3-6 strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup 0% Greek yogurt
  • Ice + honey to taste

Directions

Place all ingredients in the blender and mix. I typically use frozen fruit, but you can use fresh (you’ll just need to add more ice for texture).

 

Weekly Menu August 18

I know, I know! It’s a little late for a dinner recipe tonight, right? I definitely dropped the ball on this one (a sports reference? who am I?). Consider these five recipes a mix-and-match type of game for the week… and then one can roll over for another day!

This past weekend ended up being much more crazy than anticipated, and we got home late from a wedding Sunday night. It was a beautiful celebration up north, but sadly we couldn’t stay too long because of the drive back. I was scrambling all day today to get organized at work despite my lack of sleep.

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Anyway, I’ve had this end of summer herby chicken chili pot in my head for a week now. I mean, can you blame me?

I’m not quite as excited about the “end of summer” part of the recipe name, however. I want to hang on to this perfect (read: hot) weather as long as possible! I do love fall, just not what comes after it in Colorado. Right now the only bright side to those impending freezing temperatures will be lots of new soup recipes.

End of Summer Herby Chicken Chili Pot

Weekly Menu August 18

Monday: Chipotle Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Tuesday: Avocado Pasta

Wednesday: Crockpot Smoky Brisket Tacos

Thursday: End of Summer Herby Chicken Chili Pot

Friday: Cheddar Jalapeno Chicken Burgers with Guacamole

Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps

True life: I’m a messy eater.

Not messy in a cute “are you saving that for later?” way. Messy in a full-on spilling salad dressing and flinging veggies way.

And, if the food is spicy? Even worse! On top of the ketchup on my dress, I’ll have a red, sweaty face. For the longest time, I didn’t enjoy spicy food at all because of this. I couldn’t handle it, and would spend the whole meal alternating taking bites and chugging water.

Then, somehow, I turned a corner. Gradually, I began to want spicier foods. My tolerance still isn’t that high, but I love the taste. And, I happen to cook for someone who is a spicy-fiend. Nothing is too hot for him. So, it’s always a challenge finding a happy medium!

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Both Ryan and I love Kung Pao Chicken. Since I usually fill up on rice too quickly if we go out or order delivery, I wanted to find a healthier (and more cost-efficient) alternative to our favorite Asian dish. I adapted this recipe from Budget Bytes.

I’ve made this more than three times in the past three weeks. Safe to say it’s a keeper! It’s so good, and fairly quick to throw together. If you want it even spicier, add another tablespoon of the sambal sauce.

Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps

 

Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, diced
  • 3 T vegetable oil (divided)
  • 3 T soy sauce (divided)
  • 1 1/2 T rice vinegar (divided)
  • 2 T corn starch (divided)
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 T sambal chili garlic sauce
  • 2 t minced garlic
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup edamame
  • 1/4 cup water chestnuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup peanuts
  • 1 head of lettuce (or prepackaged lettuce wrap leaves)

Directions

To prepare the marinade for the chicken, dissolve 1 T of corn starch in 1 T of water in a medium bowl. Then, add 1 T of vegetable oil, 1 T of soy sauce, 1 T of rice wine, and 2 t of minced garlic. Stir to combine.

Cut the chicken breasts into cubes and place them in the above bowl. Then, pour it all into a large pan over medium-high heat. Stir every few minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. It’s similar to the marinade but with a couple additions. Again, start by dissolving 1 T of corn starch in 1 T of water. Then add 2 T soy sauce, 2 T rice wine, 1 T sambal, 2 T brown sugar, and 1 t sesame oil. Stir to combine, then set the sauce aside.

Next, prepare the bell pepper, carrots, edamame and water chestnuts.

Once the chicken is cooked through, add the vegetables and sauce to the pan. Cook until the sauce has thickened a little – just a few minutes.

Then, pile the chicken and veggie mixture into lettuce wraps and garnish with the peanuts. Enjoy!

Weekly Menu August 11

Have you ever walked through the airport carrying a big box of doughnuts?

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It’s amazing how many people commented as we carried our bright pink Voodoo doughnut box on the plane this past weekend. They are crazy good and it was definitely worth it to bring them to family. And, it made for such a funny traveling experience.

A long weekend always makes Mondays a little easier AND a little more difficult. It was so nice being home, but now it’s back to the grind. And back to the gym… and away from the doughnuts (at least for this week). Healthy, homemade dinners help with this transition!

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Weekly Menu August 11

Monday: Pineapple Chicken Teriyaki

Tuesday: White Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Wednesday: Spinach and Bell Pepper Turkey Burgers with grilled corn

Thursday: Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps (recipe coming later this week!)

Friday: Ginger Garlic Steak Tacos with Pineapple Pico de Gallo

My Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are in my blood.

I mean it: I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s butter and sugar running through my veins. I didn’t take many science classes in college, though, so I can’t confirm if that’s actually possible or not (ugh). But, you get the idea.

I grew up making cinnamon rolls with my Grandma. She’s famous for them! And I’m lucky to be able to learn her ways. When I was younger, I rarely paid attention to the technical aspects of it. I just waited for my turn to spread butter and sprinkle cinnamon and roll!  Now, I’m practicing my cinnamon roll baking skills like crazy.

My Grandma always brings pans of cinnamon rolls whenever she visits. She brings them on family vacations, or to people’s houses in times of need (like when the neighbors had twins, AGAIN).  You just can’t go wrong with classic cinnamon rolls. They’d make the perfect homemade housewarming or holiday gift: pair the rolls with a little basket of mugs, coffee beans or tea and dish towels.

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They also freeze really well. So, make a big batch, and then transfer over the rolls you want to freeze into a different pan (like a tin or tupperware, something you won’t miss for a while). When you’re ready to eat them, they defrost the best slowly at room temperature. Just leave them out on the counter overnight. And, while they’re frosted before you freeze them, you can always add another layer after!

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Classic Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 2-3 pans

Sweet Roll Dough:

  • 2 T yeast dissolved in l/2 cup of warm water (let stand 10 min. then add along with milk)
  • 3 eggs
  • l cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1  1/2 cups hot water
  • 3/4 T salt
  • 6 to 8 cups flour

Filling:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • Lots of cinnamon – sprinkled evenly throughout

Frosting:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 t milk
  • 3-5 cups of powdered sugar

To make the dough, mix in the ingredients in the order listed.  The key is to not make the dough too stiff, so add flour until it just begins to not be sticky.  It should feel light when you work with it. Then, pat down the dough in the bowl. Lightly spray it with cooking spray and cover with a kitchen towel. Let it stand until doubled in size (usually within an hour it is to the top of the bowl).

Next, preheat the oven to 350. Divide the dough in half and roll it out into a long rectangle shape. Spread the first half with an even layer of butter and brown sugar, and then sprinkle cinnamon all over the top. Roll it up into a long log, then cut to your desired thickness. Place the rolls into a greased cake pan or pie plate. Repeat these steps with the other half of your dough.

While the rolls are baking, whip up the frosting. This recipe is an approximation, but I always start with 1 stick of butter and vanilla and milk. Then, add powdered sugar until you get the desired thickness. In this case, you want the frosting to be a little more fluid so that it ices over the rolls.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Menu August 4

How perfect does this summer pizza look?

I want to make it every night this week… while drinking this Green Tea Peach Bellini. And then, I want to make this Ginger Peach Galette with Almond Crust.

It took so much restraint to keep from buying a giant carton of peaches at the farmer’s market yesterday. But, we’re going out of town this weekend and I couldn’t bare the thought of wasting any. So instead I just got a few (while huffing and dreaming of all of the peachy possibilities) and am saving the 5+ pounds purchase for next week. After I’m 25 (eek!).

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Weekly Menu August 4

Monday: Tex-mex Chicken Tenders with Garlic Avocado Dipping Sauce and Baked Sweet Potato “Fries”

Tuesday: Crock Pot Beef Carnitas Tacos 

Wednesday: Grilled Chicken with Ina Garten’s Panzanella Salad

Thursday: Spicy Shrimp and Veggie Skillet

Friday: Summer Pizza: Grilled Chicken, Peach, Blackberry + Basil

White Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies

When someone says the word “chocolate,” does white, milk or dark chocolate come to mind first?

As you can see, I am all about asking the tough questions today. It’s pressing matters like these that are constantly circling my train of thought and need addressing. Because who can focus on work when there are so many types of chocolate to be examined!

I, for one, rarely think about white chocolate. I have just never been a fan, unless it’s paired with lots of other delicious items like coconut and candy and nuts.

And apparently, I’m not alone! I did a little digging and discovered that in an EatingWell poll, only 6% of people said that white chocolate is their favorite. Dark chocolate won, with 64% of the votes, and milk chocolate gathered 28%. Of course that isn’t exactly the most scientific poll, but still interesting to consider.

I also found a fun article on Kitchen Daily: “What Your Favorite Type of Chocolate Says About You.” I couldn’t decide on my favorite, since peanut butter chocolate wasn’t an option, so I’m somewhere between dark chocolate and chocolate caramel.

The description for a chocolate caramel lover is: “People who prefer caramel-filled chocolate are happy and impulsive. They typically have high self-esteem and are considered thrill-seekers. Caramel chocolate lovers good-natured and easily satisfied.”

Find your description here.

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And then, go make these delicious white chocolate chip coconut cookies! I knew that if I – someone who isn’t even a big fan of white chocolate – loved this recipe, then it had to be shared.

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White Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies

Via Babble

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup coconut oil, or 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter or coconut oil with the white and brown sugars. Stir until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix.

Next, add in the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and salt. Then mix in the white chocolate chips and coconut. Drop by the tablespoon on a cookie sheet and bake for (approximately) 10 minutes.