Author Archives: Jen

Caramel Marshmallow Cookies

caramel-marshmallow-cookiesDo you ever wonder what cookie I dream about?

Well, I’ll tell you. Lately, it’s been this Brown Sugar Cookie. It’s such a deceptively simple cookie with amazing brown butter flavor. If you wanted a cookie to taste like caramel, this is what you would make.

It’s perfect.

When my nephew, Happy Man, asked for caramel and marshmallow in his birthday cookies, I immediately thought of the Brown Sugar Cookies.

I actually went hunting for caramels to stuff in them, but Robb suggested I use Rolo’s. He was totally right about that. It was a perfect choice.

caramel-marshmallow-cookies

Since I was also stuffing the cookies with marshmallows, I decided on the Rolo minis. They were still plenty big for stuffing inside a cookie, and there were no wrappers to deal with.

Hallelujah.

I also used mini marshmallows because who wants to cut up the big ones?

Why yes, laziness IS the motivating factor in my kitchen.

caramel-marshmallow-cookies-recipe caramel-cookie-recipe

In the end, I’m happy if Happy Man is happy. And Happy Man was thrilled to get his very own box of custom birthday cookies, so I guess that is a good sign.

And I have half a bag of Rolo minis leftover. Now, what to do with those?

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Caramel Marshmallow Cookies

A brown butter and brown sugar cookie stuffed with marshmallows and Rolo candy.

Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 14 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • Rolo minis
  • miniature marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons each sugar and brown sugar for rolling

Instructions

  1. Place 10 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until butter turns brown.

  2. Cut remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into chunks and place in the mixing bowl. Pour hot brown butter over the top, and let sit a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Once all the butter is melted, add brown sugar and mix well.

  3. Add egg and yolk, and vanilla, and mix well. Add salt, baking powder, and flour, and mix until combined.

  4. In a small dish, combine sugar and brown sugar for rolling. Take a large piece of dough and flatten the center. Press two mini marshmallows and one mini Rolo in the center, and wrap dough around and seal tightly. (It should make a large 2-inch cookie.) Roll cookie in sugar mixture and place on a lined baking sheet.

  5. Bake at 350F for 14-16 minutes. Let cool for 1-2 minutes on the pan before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

Cookie Dough Brownies Recipe

This cookie dough brownies recipe is so easy to make! Use egg-free cookie dough instead of frosting for an interesting and tasty treat!

cookie-dough-brownies Nothing brings the family together like a batch of brownies.

Unless it’s cookie dough.  I don’t think we’ve ever stood as close to one another as when we are all reaching into the bowl of cookie dough at once.  No one wants to be left out of that!

Which is why brownies with cookie dough on them was one of the more brilliant ideas I’ve ever come across.

The kids thought so too. They asked me about 20 times if they could eat the cookie dough brownies, and I had to keep telling them no, because they weren’t quite chilled enough to photograph.

Which didn’t stop me from sneaking pieces of the crust when the kids weren’t looking.

Don’t tell them.

(See related post: One Bowl Brownies)

cookie-dough-brownies-recipe

Pin this to your Desserts board on Pinterest!

I’m always sort of surprised at those people who don’t like frosting. I mean, I get that some kinds of frosting are really not that great, and more for show than for flavor, but as a general rule, you can’t go wrong with butter and sugar.

If you’re one of those anti-frosting people, this recipe should appeal to you. There’s no need to frost these. Just consider the cookie dough to be the frosting.

The best dang frosting you ever had. Because it tastes just like cookie dough.

cookie-dough-brownies-recipe

And if you are a pro-frosting person, you can even bump these up a notch by adding a layer of chocolate ganache on top.

And sprinkles.

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Cookie Dough Brownies Recipe

Rich chocolate brownies topped with egg-free cookie dough.

Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 16 servings

Ingredients

BROWNIES:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate roughly chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour

COOKIE DOUGH TOPPING:

  • 4 tablespoons butter softened
  • 4 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

BROWNIES:

  1. Place butter and chocolate in a mixing bowl, and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth.

  2. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and mix well. Add flour and mix until combined.

  3. Pour brownie batter into a greased or lined 9x9 pan. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, until edges are dry and start to pull away from the pan slightly. Let cool.

COOKIE DOUGH:

  1. Cream butter, cream cheese, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Add salt and flour and mix until combined. 

  2. Spread cookie dough evenly over brownies. Let chill for an hour or more in the fridge.

  3. Cut into 9 large or 16 small brownies. For best results, keep refrigerated, and serve cold.

 

Onion Dill Potato Chips

onion-dill-cihps (3 of 3)I’m such a sucker for potato chips. I definitely fit into the category of people that can’t eat just one.

Have you seen all the crazy chip flavors that are coming out these days? Most of them are not something I would ever try, though I have found one or two good ones.  If you like the crazy flavors, feel free to drop me a recommendation in the comments below, and I’ll give them a shot.

One thing I have not seen at the grocery store is chips with dill. I don’t know why not, either, because dill is so fantastic.

I love putting dill in my tuna sandwiches. And dill dip for vegetables? Fuggedaboutit.

onion-dill-chips-1

One of the great things about making homemade chips is that you can flavor them any way you like. If you don’t love onion and dill, maybe you’d prefer barbeque? Or salt & vinagar? Or cheddar cheese?

Another benefit is that you can make as much as want. Feeding a crowd? Slice 3 or 4 potatoes. Just want chips for one? 1 potato is plenty.

And let’s not forget the superior taste of homemade chips. They don’t keep, so you have to eat them or throw them out, but trust me, you’re going to want to eat them.

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Whatever you decide to put on your chips, try them homemade. You might never go back!

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Onion Dill Potato Chips

Homemade potato chips sprinkled with onion and dill.

Author Jen @ Jen's Favorite Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 medium potato
  • cooking oil (vegetable, canola, or grapeseed)
  • onion salt
  • dried dill weed

Instructions

  1. Use a mandoline (or a very sharp knife) slice potato into ⅛-inch slices.

  2. Place slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit in water for 30 minutes. Drain water, and lay slices out on a paper towel and pat dry.

  3. Fill a fry pan about ¼-inch deep with oil. Bring oil to a temperature of 325F.

  4. Place a few dry potato slices in the hot oil at a time, letting them get slightly brown (about 2 minutes) and then turning and cooking to let the other side brown.

  5. Remove cooked chips and place on a tray lined with brown paper to drain. Immediately sprinkle chips with onion salt and dill weed.

  6. Continue process with remaining potato slices. Serve immediately.

 

No-Bake Cookies Recipe

This no bake cookies recipe is a classic your family will love! Easy enough that kids can make it, everyone will appreciate a no-bake cookie that is ready to eat in just minutes!

no-bake-cookies-recipeI recently started a new job, which has really wrecked my schedule. Being in the office all day is far different from being at home all day, and I find myself sort of missing the solitude of my quiet home-alone hours.

I also find myself missing the desire to make dinner. Or make anything, really. I would just prefer someone serve it to me on a silver platter.

I’ve been racking my brain for meals and desserts that are even faster, even cheaper, and even easier than what I’ve done in the past.

And, with summer right around the corner, I am returning to my no-bake roots. Because some days, NOT turning on the oven is my favorite thing.

It’s right behind NOT listening to the radio. Silence is often my favorite station.

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When I was a kid, we used to make this no-bake cookies recipe all the time. It was a staple. We practically had the recipe memorized, that’s how often we made it.

Can you blame us? We wanted a treat, and we wanted it quickly, and we didn’t want mom to yell at us about cleaning up a bunch of dishes.

Not to mention, we were usually making these during commercial breaks. *ahem*

My kids know nothing about doing things during commercial breaks. I don’t think they’ve watched a live television program ever in their lives. And don’t even get me started about telephone books, and rotary telephones, and encyclopedias, and hand-cranked pencil sharpeners.

They know nothing about any of these things.

But you know what they do know? They know all about no-bake cookies. What can I say? Some things are just timeless.

no-bake-cookies-recipe

Allow me to share a few notes on no-bakes I have learned over the years.

First, it is easy to adjust the texture of these cookies by adding more oats or coconut. (Chopped walnuts also work well.) But taking oats away is a different issue, so tread carefully. This batch turned out a touch dry, which frankly doesn’t bother me one bit, but I know some people prefer a chewy treat.

Second, I used to always drop these on wax paper, and inevitably I would find myself eating a cookie with a little wax paper glued to the bottom, that wouldn’t come off until the cookie warmed up a bit. So, if you’re not into eating wax paper, may I suggest using parchment paper? A silicone mat also works.

My favorite way is actually to take the non-stick spray to a mini muffin pan, and drop my spoonfuls in there. The cookies don’t come out with that classic mounded shape, but I’ve never heard one complaint about that.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, prepare for this to disappear in record time. I have literally never in my life seen a no-bake cookie last more than 24 hours. Or even close to 24 hours. If you’ve got a houseful to feed, be sure to make them small!

Then I suggest making your kids make the cookies, and tell them to bring you a couple on a silver platter while you take your shoes off and relax!

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No-Bake Cookies

A simple stovetop cookie recipe, requiring no baking.

Servings 2 dozen
Author Jen @ Jen's Favorite Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Instructions

  1. In a sauce pan, melt butter. Add sugar, cocoa powder, and milk, and mix to combine. Bring to a boil, and boil 1-2 minutes.

  2. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Stir in oats and coconut, mixing until well combined.

  3. Drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Recipe Notes

Yields will vary widely depending on how large you make your cookies. If I do small-ish spoonfuls, I can get about 2 dozen cookies.

 

Easy Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

This easy chocolate cupcake recipe uses a basic box mix, but doctors it up with buttermilk. You’ll love how easy this chocolate cupcake is to make, and how delicious the flavor is!

easy-chocolate-cupcake-recipeIt’s not uncommon for me to get comments and questions from readers, which indicate that they are new to baking, or want a recipe that will be, for lack of a more interesting word, easy.

Easy. Easy. Easy.

And let me testify to the fact that you don’t have to be new to baking to want that.  I want it All. The. Time.

You know what else I want all the time?  Chocolate. Which obviously makes this one of the best recipes ever. I could eat chocolate every day. It never gets old. There’s no time of year that’s not chocolate time of year.

Who’s with me?

easy-chocolate-cupcake-recipe

I don’t make cupcakes very often, and let me tell you why.  It’s partly because I would way rather have a cookie or brownie than a cupcake, but it’s mostly because of the frosting.

There are lots of bloggers out there creating these gorgeous cupcakes with perfectly swirled mounds of frosting on them, and I’m not going to lie, I’m a little jealous of their skills.  I can’t frost a cupcake to save my soul. (My friend Diane makes these beautiful frosting roses, if you’re interested.)

It’s the reason I prefer frosting like this, the kind you just smear on with a knife and doesn’t require a piping bag or any skills at all. EASY.

easy-chocolate-cupcake-recipeeasy-chocolate-cupcakes

You might be wondering what makes this cake so easy, and I will confess that I used a cake mix. But regular old cake mix cake is just sort of boring and not that fantastic, so I doctored it up with buttermilk and sour cream. It gives the cupcakes an awesome flavor, and makes them super simple to throw together.

My easy recipe friends, this one is totally for you.

(If you are looking for a recipe that is from scratch, check this awesome Devil’s Food Cake from Chocolate Moosey, and this Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from Barefeet in the Kitchen.)

 

Want more? Try these fun cupcakes!

white cake recipegingerbread-cupcakes-with-cream-cheesefunfetti

 

 

Easy Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
 
Cook time
Total time
 
A simple chocolate cupcake recipe using cake mix and buttermilk.
Author:
Recipe type: Cake
Serves: 18
Ingredients
CAKE:
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
FROSTING:
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
Instructions
  1. For cake, place all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and mix until combined.
  2. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners, and fill each cup about half full. Bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  3. Let cupcakes cool completely.
  4. For frosting, combine all ingredients in a small bowl, until smooth. Lightly frost cooled cupcakes.

 

Seven Layer Greek Dip Recipe

This seven layer dip recipe uses Greek flavors for a fun twist! You’ll love serving this Greek seven layer dip with crackers or pita chips. Recipe for homemade tzatziki sauce included.

seven-layer-dip-recipeToday, I’ve invited my sister to wax eloquent about all things Greek. I discovered my love of Greek food back when a college boyfriend introduced me to gyros, and I’ve been hooked ever since! I’m turning my blog over to Em now, to share this amazing dip with you.

 *****

Okay, I’ve eaten an entire container of Greek yogurt and John Stamos still hasn’t shown up to take his shirt off yet so this is total bull crap.

I’m always weirded out by people who self-identify their nationality without being asked.  “Oh cool, you’re from Greece huh?  Congratulations on your collapsing economy and bad pizza.”

Okay, I know the Greeks haven’t gotten everything wrong, they invented Democracy (before YouTube comments, obviously), and they give us all kinds of fun and useful mythological references (although trying to differentiate between Greek and Roman mythology is basically my Achilles heel), but how can we really trust a country that is so caught up in itself that it’s national anthem has 158 versus?

Weird.

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What the Greeks do have going for them though is a stellar cuisine.  Being a vegetable-lover, I adore all Mediterranean cuisine.  It’s simple, bright, versatile, and totally delicious.

Like all my recipes, this is pretty customizable.  You can add green onions, cream cheese (with dill and lemon juice mixed in), chives, etc. or make a different variety of hummus or tzaziki.

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If you don’t know what tzaziki is, don’t feel stupid, nobody knows it by it’s real name.  Basically, it’s a simple cucumber sauce made with Greek yogurt and dill (recipe is below).  If you’ve eaten a gyro, you’ve eaten tzaziki.  If you haven’t eaten a gyro, then may God have mercy on your soul because you are REALLY missing out on a wonderful part of life.

This little plate of wonders is fantastic for parties and entertaining.  Serve with vegetables or pita chips.

 

Want more? Try these party pleasers!

mustard dipkey lime dip sweet-tangy-meatball-dip

 

7-Layer Greek Dip
 
A simple layered dip with Mediterranean flavors.
Author:
Recipe type: Dips
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ Cup hummus
  • 1 Cup tzaziki
  • 1 Cup cucumbers, seeded and diced
  • 1 Cup tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • ½ Cup Kalamata olives, chopped
  • ½ Cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • ⅛ – ¼ Cup parsley, minced
Instructions
  1. Spread the hummus in the bottom of a pie plate or small, shallow baking dish.
  2. Spread tzaziki in a layer, then create layers by sprinkling the cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta, and parsley.
  3. Cover and chill at least two hours.

Tzatziki Sauce
 
A simple cucumber sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Dips
Ingredients
  • ½ Cup cucumber, chopped
  • 2 Cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 small bunch of dill leaves, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of mint leaves, chopped
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth.

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies

peanut-butter-ice-cream-sandwiches

I’m always looking for new and interesting cookie ideas to share with you.  I’m like a hunter at the grocery store… hunting down fruits, nuts, chocolates, candies, basically anything that might work in a cookie recipe.

It’s a little weird, I know, but that’s my life.

The thing is, though, when the kids and I want to make cookies just for fun, you know what we always make?  Chocolate chip or peanut butter.  The classics.

Maybe that’s why I decided that this month’s Cookie of the Month needed to involve peanut butter.  You can never go wrong with a peanut butter cookie.

chocolate-peanut-butter-ice-cream-sandwiches

Of course, I also have trouble leaving well enough alone, so I took my plain jane peanut butter cookies and sandwiched them with chocolate ice cream.

Actually I used this chocolate ice cream with a ripple of peanut butter in it, because that’s how I am.  I love chocolate ice cream, but chocolate peanut butter ice cream is even better.

ice-cream-sandwich-cookiescookie-ice-cream-sandwiches

Since this is the Cookie of the Month, there are lots of people sharing peanut butter cookies with you today!  Check out this variety:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches from Jen’s Favorite Cookies
Peanut Butter Cut Out Cookies from Tastes of Lizzy T
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies from Bake or Break
Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies from The Cooking Actress
Rolo Peanut Butter Blossoms from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints from Crumb: A Food Blog
Peanut Butter and Syrup Cookies from Kelli’s Kitchen
Peanut Butter Compost Cookies from Gotta Get Baked
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookie Cups from 365 Days of Baking and More
Peanut Butter Cup Sandwiches from Posed Perfection

 

Want more?  Try these peanut butter cookies!

butter-peanut-cookiespeanut-butter-cookieschocolate-peanut-butter-bars

 

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches
 
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Total time
 
Peanut butter cookies sandwiched with chocolate ice cream.
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 8-10 sandwiches
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¾ cup flour
  • chocolate ice cream
Instructions
  1. Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
  2. Add salt, soda, and flour, and mix until combined.
  3. Form dough into large 2-inch balls, and place on a baking sheet. Use a fork to flatten cookies. Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes.
  4. Let ice cream soften slightly. Place a generous amount of ice cream between two cookies. Place sandwiches in the freezer for 20-30 minutes before serving.

 

Easy Pineapple Cheesecake Recipe

This easy pineapple cheesecake recipe is fast to put together and delicious! You’ll love how tasty this tropical pineapple cheesecake recipe is.

pineapple-cheesecakeI feel it’s time I came clean about something. Something already obvious, but previously unstated. It’s time I stated it loud and clear.

There is a big push out there in the food world for more foods that are fresh, homemade, organic, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh, organic, homemade foods, but there are plenty of people who either can’t afford it, don’t have access to it, or just plain don’t want to eat that way.

There is a trend toward food that are gourmet, with exotic produce and fascinating flavor combinations. Once again, I adore eating this way, but do I want to cook this way? Not so much. I suspect there are plenty of you who agree with me.

The reality is that there are a lot of working moms out there. Busy moms who are doing all they can to hold it together, and who desperately want to care for their families with fun desserts, homemade cookies for lunch boxes, and weekend snacks. This blog is literally created for those people. The people who want cookies and want them quick and easy. The people who don’t have the patience to make something complicated that requires 25 ingredients and 12 specialty tools they don’t own. The people who don’t have time to bake a cheesecake for 2 hours.

I got your back, busy moms. We’re in this together.

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This easy pineapple cheesecake is just one example of what I’m talking about. I bought a prepared graham cracker crust. Can I make my own crust? Sure. Do I want to? Not remotely. Store bought crusts are cheap, tend to be good quality, and will save you at least 20 minutes. Probably more, if you’re like me.

I used frozen whipped topping (a.k.a. Cool Whip) too. Do I prefer to eat real whipped cream? Yes I do. I really really really do. But a carton of the frozen stuff will save me a good 10 minutes of whipping.

I added some lemon jello mix. I was hoping the gelatin would give this pineapple cheesecake recipe at little substance, and help it hold it’s shape.  Also, the added flavor complements the pineapple, and gives color without my having to add food coloring.

The pineapple too, was designed to make this recipe an easy one. Fresh pineapple is delicious and I love it. It’s also a royal pain in the neck to slice, and you certainly cannot purchase just half of a fresh pineapple, and fresh pineapple just doesn’t keep.  I used the canned stuff. You can get it in bulk during the case lot sales at the grocery store, keep it on your shelf, and that way you can still eat well during the weeks that are a little lean.

pineapple-cheesecake-recipeeasy-pineapple-cheesecake

I should have timed myself making this easy cheesecake. I didn’t, partly because I was stopping to take photos of the process, but mostly because I flat out forgot about it.

Welcome to my life.

Here was my process: The night before, I took the whipped topping out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. I took the cream cheese out of the fridge and put it on the counter. The next morning, I got out the hand beaters and a large bowl, dropped the pineapple in a sieve to drain it, and started mixing. (And truthfully? I only used the sieve to make it look super cute in photos. I usually drain fruit by opening the lid, then pressing the lid into the can really hard, while letting juice pour out into the sink.) I plopped the whole mixture in the crust, covered it with the plastic cover that comes with the crust, and put in the fridge.

Clean up included 1 bowl, 1 large spoon, beaters, and measuring cup. And a sieve and small bowl, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Easy. Peasy.

easy-pineapple-cheesecake

I let mine chill for a couple hours. Could you eat it right away if you were in a hurry?  Yeah, you could.

Could you make individual servings to help them chill faster? Absolutely. Skip the prepared crust, and drop some graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of each of 6 serving dishes, then add a big old spoonful of the cheesecake to each dish.  For this, I would buy extra whipped topping, so that you can also top each one with a spoonful of it. You can even garnish with extra crumbs, if you want. Or a cherry. Or my favorite garnish… nothing.

I’m so boring.

But guess what?  With just 6 ingredients, and less than 10 minutes, you have a dessert that you can give your family after dinner. It might buy you 5 more minutes of face time with your kids. It might be a way to turn a boring night into something a little more special or fun. It might be a good bribe to get the dishes done. It might even be a midnight treat for after the kids are in bed.

There are a thousand ways for easy food to suit your life. I would much rather spend my time talking with my family rather than cooking for them, so unless your family is in the kitchen cooking with you, don’t feel bad about making that time as quick and efficient as possible.

So yes, I’m going to use cake mixes. And pudding mixes. And Cool Whip. I’m going to choose a no-bake cheesecake over a baked one. I’m going to choose a drop cookie over a cut-out. And I’m going to share all of them with you.

pineapple-cheesecake-recipe

If you’re agreeing with me, you’re in the right place.  There are lots of great easy dessert recipes here already. My recipe index sections are at the top of the page if you want to start sifting through them now. If you want to get more easy dessert and snack recipes like this in your inbox, you can sign up for this email list, and each and every new recipe will show up in your inbox as they are published.  If that’s too much for you, this email list is where I share a very short list of 2-3 good recipes, from me and other awesome sources, every Monday.  I mean, most Mondays. The Mondays I don’t forget.  Because that happens.

Leave me a comment below with your thoughts, and then go eat some cheesecake!

 

Want more cheesecake recipes?  Try these!

best-cheesecake-recipescheesecake-candytwix-cheesecake

Easy Pineapple Cheesecake Recipe
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A simple no-bake cheesecake with pineapple.
Author:
Recipe type: No-Bake Dessert
Serves: 6 slices
Ingredients
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened *(see notes)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 8 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 small (3 oz) box lemon flavored gelatin mix (unprepared)
  • 2 cans (8 oz each) crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 1 prepared 9-inch graham cracker crust
Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl, whip cream cheese, sugar, and whipped topping until creamy and smooth.
  2. Add in dry jello and mix well. Add in drained pineapple and mix well.
  3. Pour mixture into graham cracker crust. Chill for 2 hours or more before serving. Cut into 6 slices.
Notes
*Only use regular full-fat cream cheese in a brick. Low fat, fat free, or whipped cream cheese products have a higher water content which may have a drastic effect on this recipe.

March 2015 Wrap-Up

march-15-wrap-up-1March cruised by, just like every month.  Here in Salt Lake the exceptionally warm weather this year has me ready for spring even earlier than usual, and I’ve been dreaming of lemon bars and Easter treats.

Before I get too carried away, though, I want to take a minute to revisit March and all the recipes I created for you.

My favorite recipe of the month was a toss up between the Crispy Kit Kat Blondies and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars.  If I’m really forced to choose, I would say the magic bars, but know that they are in a statistical dead heat.

The Mint Crinkles appeared to by your favorite recipe this month.  I had a lot of good feedback on these cookies, since they are so easy to make and fun for St. Patrick’s Day.

mint-crinkles (4 of 4) Mint Crinkles

The Cookie of the Month for March, these simple cake mix
cookies are flavored with mint and rolled in powdered sugar.

seo-tips-3 5 SEO Tips & Tricks for Food Bloggers

A departure from my normal dessert recipes, this post is for
my food-blogging friends, who might benefit from a little
knowledge.

skittles-soda (11 of 11) Skittles Soda

This might be the easiest recipe I have ever made.  And one
of the most fun!  My kids loved making their sodas different
colors and flavors!

lemon-thumbprints (3 of 5) Lemon Thumbprints

These lemon cookies gave me a very good excuse to make a
delicious jar of lemon curd!

carrot-cookies-3 Carrot Cake Cookies

These babies are filled with the Carrot Cake flavor M&M’s!
They are a fun choice for the Easter season.

blood-orange-scones-2 Blood Orange Scones

When blood oranges are in season, one must bake with them.
These buttermilk scones really hit the spot!

crispy-kit-kat-blondies-5 Crispy Kit Kat Blondies

Chocolate chips and Kit Kat bars are not the only things that
give these bars their interest.  They are also made crispy with
the help of some crisp rice cereal.

chocolate-peanut-butter-magic-bars-2 Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars

Chocolate Peanut Butter Day was really fun to celebrate with
these easy to make, soft and gooey bars!

sparkling-blackberry-limeade (4 of 6) Sparkling Blackberry Limeade

When regular old limeade isn’t good enough, throw some
blackberries in that baby!

Curious to know what’s coming up in April?  Cheesecake.  The easy kind.  And more recipes using sweetened condensed milk. And a new Cookie of the Month. And a few other fun surprises.

I mean, I can’t give everything away, can I?

And have we connected on Pinterest yet?  Because we totally should.

march-COM-winner

The winner of the March Cookie of the Month giveaway is Allison S!  Thanks for sharing these on my Facebook page, Allison!  Allison said this about the cookies…  “We loved these cookies! I made them because they were easy and I had all of the ingredients, but I think they’ll be a staple around here. My 7 year old said, “I think these are my favorite cookies ever!”

See you in April, folks!

Sparkling Blackberry Limeade

This limeade recipe includes blackberries.  A sparkling blackberry limeade recipe that is so refreshing for summer!

sparkling-blackberry-limeade (4 of 6)You know how much I love blackberries, right?  If there was any question, you can see a few more blackberry recipes here.

The idea of adding blackberry to my limeade just seemed perfect.

I prefer limeade over lemonade, personally.  I actually asked my readers about it.  You can weigh in, too, if you want.

I recently learned that my sister, at her new house, has blackberry bushes that are taking over the yard. Robb and I are super jealous.  He’s been wanting to plant blackberries, since they are our favorite berry by far.  Then we can freeze them and have them all year, in smoothies, and cobblers, and drinks like this one.

(See related post:  Sparkling Peach Limeade)

sparkling-blackberry-limeade-1

I’m one of these people that thinks you can always make things just a little bit better.  Robb, who hates veggies and won’t let a piece of lettuce anywhere near his face, gets mad at me for this stuff.  I’m always wanting to add onions or garlic or some kind of sauce to his food, and he is always begging me to remove things from the recipes.

He never complains when I add blackberries to the limeade though.  Go figure.

sparkling-blackberry-limeade-2sparkling-blackberry-limeade-3

Since these are made as individual servings, you can make each glass with more or less berries, or leave them out altogether if you want.

sparkling-blackberry-limeade (6 of 6)

I don’t know why you would leave them out, though. Blackberries are one of the best reasons for living!

 

Want more?  Try these refreshing drinks!

non-alcoholic-drinks-recipesmake-virgin-mojiotshomemade-lemonade-recipe

 

Sparkling Blackberry Limeade
 
A simple limeade with fresh blackberries.
Author:
Recipe type: Beverages
Ingredients
  • 1 can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed in the refrigerator
  • 2 quarts lemon lime soda (or more)
  • fresh blackberries
Instructions
  1. For each glass, place 2-3 berries in a small dish and smash them with a fork. (Be careful! This can be a little messy.) I used 2 berries for an 8 oz. glass, and 3 berries for a 12 oz. glass. Place the smashed berries in an empty glass.
  2. Put limeade concentrate in a pitcher, and fill to 2 quarts with lemon lime soda. Lightly stir if necessary.
  3. Pour limeade into glasses.
Notes
* For a less sweet drink, use diet soda.
** If you don't mind a slightly weaker flavor, fill 2 or 3 glasses, then fill up the pitcher with more lemon lime soda.

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars

These chocolate peanut butter bars are simple to make and sprinkled with lots of great stuff!  Try these chocolate peanut butter magic bars when you want to impress someone.

March 25 is Chocolate Peanut Butter Day!  This fun, 2nd annual event is hosted by Carla from Chocolate Moosey and Miriam from Overtime Cook.  Look for links to more chocolate peanut butter recipes at the bottom of this post.

chocolate-peanut-butter-barsWe’re now at the point in our lives where the kids weekend get togethers with friends sometimes include friends of the opposite sex.

It always adds a fun wrinkle to the weekends.

It also is the single thing on this planet I have found which motivates The Fruitarian to clean his bedroom.  It also motivates him to hound me about making treats for date night.  Apparently he’s told his friends about the blog, and now everyone is demanding amazing sweets.

I recently made a different batch of magic bars (this one with raspberry!) and they turned out SO delicious, but alas, too ugly for my high blogging standards.  It’s actually sort of funny that I just said that, because, let’s face it, my standards are not that high.

BUT, it did make me want to try again to make a magic bar that was not too ugly to photograph.

chocolate-peanut-butter-bars

I do kind of love how these turned out.  They don’t have that perfectly gorgeous, not-one-peanut-out-of-place feel, but they do make me want to dive in face first nonetheless.

It’s exactly what I did, by the way.  Face first.  No lie.

I’m sure The Fruitarian’s friends thought I was nuts that I had to photograph these bars before I served them.  But they were patient enough.  It’s worth it for chocolate and peanut butter.

chocolate-peanut-butter-magic-bars

Just about anything is worth it for chocolate and peanut butter.  And you know who agrees with me?  These bloggers!  They made amazing chocolate peanut butter treats for you too!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites by Carla from Chocolate Moosey
Peanut Butter Cup Cookies by Miriam from Overtime Cook
Chocolate Peanut Butter Twix Cake by Susan from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
{Healthy} Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oat Bars by Kayle from The Cooking Actress
Chocolate Drizzled Peanut Butter Tiger Paws by Renee from Kudos Kitchen by Renee
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Dip by Becca from It’s Yummi
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake by Erin from The Spiffy Cookie
No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie by Lisa from Snappy Gourmet
Espresso Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and a Rum Drizzle by Barb from Creative Culinary
Chocolate Peanut Butter Tandy Cake by Cindy from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Chocolate-Glazed Peanut Butter-Stuffed Doughnuts by Coleen from The Redhead Baker
4 Ingredient Chocolate & Peanut Butter Candy by Colleen from Souffle Bombay
Ganache-Stuffed Peanut Butter Bars by Karen from The Food Charlatan
Microwave Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes by Taylor from Food Faith Fitness
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Icing by Shashi from Runnin Srilankan
Chocolate Filled Peanut Butter Cookie Cups by Stacy from Food Lust People Love
Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Lava Cakes by Anita from Hungry Couple
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream by Renee from Magnolia Days
Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites by Lauren from Healthy Delicious
Tagalong Dip by Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake Nancy from gotta get baked
Small Batch Chocolate Peanut Butter Doughnuts by Sarah from What Smells So Good?
Funky Monkey Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls by Brianne from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies by Diane from Created by Diane
Chocolate, Peanut Butter, & Roasted Banana Shake by Jennie from The Messy Baker
Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars by Jen from Jen’s Favorite Cookies
Chocolate Doughnuts with Peanut Butter Glaze by Lauren from Lauren Kelly Nutrition

Have fun sifting through this list.  I know I will!

 

Want more?  Try these chocolate peanut butter treats!

peanut-butter-chocolate-cakepeanut-butter-cookiesnutella dessert recipes

 

4.5 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars
 
Cook time
Total time
 
An easy and rich chocolate and peanut butter bar.
Author:
Recipe type: Bars
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 14 oz.
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup peanuts (I used the lightly salted kind)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup peanut butter chips
  • ½ cup crisp rice cereal
Instructions
  1. Place cake mix and melted butter in a mixing bowl, and mix until mixture is wet and a little crumbly. Press into a greased or lined 9x13 pan.
  2. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the chocolate mixture, spreading if necessary to reach to the edges.
  3. Place peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, to melt. Pour peanut butter over the sweetened condensed milk.
  4. Sprinkle with peanuts, chips, and cereal, pressing down if necessary. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into 12 large or 20 small bars. (Bars may be a bit soft and gooey.)

 

Crispy Kit Kat Blondies

This recipe for blondies will knock your socks off, with Kit Kats and crisp rice cereal!  Blondies cookies bars with chocolate chips.

blondies-cookiesRecently, two nieces had birthdays.  I love letting my nieces and nephews come up with a custom cookie for their birthdays.  Not only does it let me makes something super fun that’s just for them, but it pushes my own creativity.

Usually I ask them to choose some flavors they like, and I find a way to combine them into a cookie.  One niece chose raspberry and chocolate, and the other, Blue Skies chose “Kit Kat.”

Her mom confessed that she wasn’t at all sure what I could do with a flavor request like that, but I think I won her over with this recipe.

I’ll tell you that the day I made these, I was baking up a storm. With at least 4 different baked good sitting on my counter, these blondies were the thing everyone wanted to pick at.

Myself included.

(See the flavors Blue Skies chose last year!)

recipe-for-blondies

Add these to your Cookies and Bars board on Pinterest!

I started with my fantastic basic blondie recipe, the one I used for these super popular bars.

I think my brilliant plan of adding crisp rice cereal to these blondies worked perfectly.  It gave the bars that crispy, wafery, Kit-Kat feel to them, and sets them apart.  In a good way.

Blue Skies agreed.

recipe-for-blondiesblondies-cookies

If you’ve got some candy bar-loving people in your life, or you want to surprise someone with a bar that stands just a little taller than it’s peers, this bar is your winner.

Does anyone want to make these for me on my birthday?

 

Want more?  Try these fabulous bars!

how-to-make-blondiesTwix-Cheesecake-Bars-fbnutella dessert recipes

 

Crispy Kit Kat Blondies
 
Cook time
Total time
 
A crispy blondie bar with pieces of Kit Kat candy.
Author:
Recipe type: Bars
Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • i teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup crisp rice cereal
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 regular Kit-Kat bars
Instructions
  1. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  2. Add baking powder and flour and mix until combined. Add cereal and chocolate chips and mix until combined.
  3. Break Kit Kat bars into pieces. (I broke each of the 4 sticks into about 6 pieces, for 24 pieces total for each Kit Kat.) Add pieces to the dough, and stir just until combined.
  4. Place dough in a 9x13 pan, and spread evenly. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes. Bars should be quite brown on top when done. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. (They may look a bit gooey when they come out of the oven, but should solidify as they cool.)
  5. Cut into 15 large or 20 small bars.

 

Blood Orange Scones

If you like blood orange recipes, you’ll love these scones! Learn how to bake scones with buttermilk and blood oranges.

how-to-bake-sconesI have been wanting to make some blood orange recipes for a while now, if for no other reason than that blood oranges are so beautiful!

I mean, really, when you cut it open and see that deep blood red color, how can you not fall in love?

Scones have been a favorite at our house ever since I introduced my kids to the White Chocolate Coconut Buttermilk Scones.  I’m starting to feel nervous about making that recipe again, since the memory of it has reached such epic proportions I’m not certain the reality can match up.

Wait a minute, what am I saying?  There’s buttermilk in them.  Which makes them impervious to haters and picky eaters.  Not unlike this blood orange version.

Crisis averted.

blood-orange-recipes

Add this to your breakfast recipes board on Pinterest!

You can actually bake scones in separate pieces, like these, but I really prefer to bake them in one big mass, and cut them up afterward.  I think it’s because I like my scones to be a triangle.

Is there any real reason for that?  No there’s not.

how-to-bake-sconesblood-orange-recipes

While you can certainly serve them plain, I will confess that I prefer these scones with a glaze on them, to really help that blood orange flavor shine through.

The gorgeous pink color ain’t half bad either!

 

Want more?  Try these scone recipes!

choc-chip-scones-4sconessavory scones

 

Blood Orange Scones
 
Cook time
Total time
 
A flavorful buttermilk scone made with blood orange.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 blood orange
  • ½ cup buttermilk
FOR GLAZE:
  • 1 tablespoon blood orange juice
  • ⅔ cup powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add butter. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut butter into the flour mixture, until slightly crumbly. (It's okay if it is still mostly powdery and the butter pieces are somewhat large.)
  2. Add the zest and juice of one blood orange, (about 3 tablespoons of juice) and buttermilk, and mix until dough forms a ball.
  3. Form dough into a flat disc, about 8 inches in diameter, and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven, and slice into 8 triangles. Separate pieces so there is a little space between them, and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes, until edges are sightly brown.
  4. For glaze, combine juice and powdered sugar, mixing until smooth. Spread a small amount of glaze on each scone. Serve while warm.

 

Carrot Cake Cookies

This carrot cake cookies recipe uses fresh carrots, white chocolate, and M&M’s for a fun springtime treat!

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

carrot-cake-cookies-recipe

My sister recently berated me for not having a carrot cake recipe on my site, and then she proceeded to give me one.  Did you see it?

After that humiliation, I decided it was time to right that wrong and have more carrot-themed desserts available for you, my dear readers.

I guess it was perfect timing then, that I stumbled across this package of M&M’s® Carrot Cake flavor at Walmart.  I’ll be honest, I was a little leery about trying this flavor.  It sounded a touch unusual.  But the white chocolate put me over the edge, and I bought a package to try.

I was glad I did.  I was surprised how much I liked them, since I’m kind of an M&M’s® purist.  I think it’s tough to beat the good old original plain M&M’s®.

(See related post: Monster Cookies)

carrot-cake-cookies-recipe

Pin this to your Easter Celebration board on Pinterest!

I pulled a couple carrots out of the fridge and put together these fun and easy cookies.  I was far too lazy to make cream cheese frosting for them, so I mixed in some white chocolate chips instead.

Scratch that.  What I meant to say is, these cookies are so simple, they don’t need cream cheese frosting.  Yeah, that’s it.  *ahem*

But they do need white chocolate chips.  They kind of give a nod to the frosting, without actually having to frost anything.

carrot-cake-cookies-recipecarrot-cake-cookies-recipe

The kids were surprised at how delicious these cookies were.  Which always irritates me.  I think the presence of carrots made them suspicious.

The Fruitarian called them “surprisingly delicious.”

mms-walmart-5

If you’re up for a nice surprise too, you can look for a display like this in the Easter candy section at your local Walmart.  And don’t forget to grab a couple carrots!

 

Want more?  Try these fun flavors!

easy-hummingbird-cakecarrot-cake-recipechocolate chip banana bread cookies

 

Carrot Cake Cookies
 
Cook time
Total time
 
A carrot cake cookie with white chocolate chips and Carrot Cake M&M's.
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 3 dozen
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated fresh carrots (about 2-3 carrots)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • dash cloves
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips
  • ½ cup M&M's® Carrot Cake flavor
Instructions
  1. Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and grated carrots and mix well.
  2. Add vanilla, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and quick oats, and mix well. Add flour and mix just until combined. Fold in white chips and M&M's.
  3. Drop small spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

Lemon Thumbprints

These chewy lemon cookies are packed with flavor!  Try this recipe for lemon cookies when you want something summery with lots of lemon flavor.

chewy-lemon-cookiesMy oldest niece just turned 18.  Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that it means my oldest son is only months behind her.

I’m not freaking out. I’m not freaking out. I’m not freaking out.  If I keep saying it, it’s bound to be true, right?

It’s weird for me to think that in just a few more months, she will be off on her own, attending the same junior college I attended at her age, having the same kinds of good times, learning the same kinds of life lessons, and perhaps even making fun of the same professors.  I’m seriously not ready for this time of my life.

Not that my life cares whether I am ready or not.

(See related post: Lemon Sugar Cookies)

chewy-lemon-cookies

Add this to your Cookie Recipes board on Pinterest!

Miss Rags requested something fruity for her birthday cookie.  Actually, she said, “I don’t know,” and I pressed her and pressed her until she mentioned fruit.  That’s the kind of aunt I am.

Then I went through a nightmare of finding a cookie that I could give her without hanging my head in shame.  I had cookie failure after cookie failure until the magical day when I met my first batch of lemon curd.  This lemon curd, to be exact.

I don’t know why I’ve never made it before.  I guess I just didn’t grow up eating it, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it.  But now that I have a jar of it in my fridge, I want to make toast, or homemade English Muffins, just to have something to smear with lemon curd.

recipe-for-lemon-cookiesrecipe-for-lemon-cookies

For the cookie part of this cookie, I used this Lemon Sugar Cookie recipe, and punched it up with some lemon zest.  If you prefer a lighter flavor, you can certainly leave the zest out, and just use the juice.

Maybe these cookies will introduce Miss Rags to the wonders of lemon curd, and she and her roommates can have a wonderful, lemony freshman year!

 

Want more?  Try these lemon cookies!

strawberry lemonadericotta cookiesbuttery shortbread recipe

 

Lemon Thumbprints
 
Cook time
Total time
 
A lemon cookie with lemon curd filling.
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 3 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups flour
  • lemon curd *(see notes)
Instructions
  1. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and mix well.
  2. Add the zest and juice of one lemon. (About 3 tablespoons of juice) Mix well.
  3. Add salt, baking powder, and flour, and mix just until combined.
  4. Place small spoonfuls of dough on a baking sheet, and form a well in the center of each. Fill each well with lemon curd.
  5. Bake at 325F for 11-14 minutes. Let sit on the baking sheet for 1-2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Notes
I used THIS RECIPE to make a batch of lemon curd ahead of time. I had some lemon curd leftover after making the cookies.

 

Skittles Soda

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

Skittes flavors make this drink fun!  It’s an easy easy drink made with skittles candy candy.

Skittles Soda from JensFavoriteCookies - one of the easiest and funnest drinks ever!  Non-alcoholic and kid friendly.I recently attended a little family get-together where a basketball game from earlier in the day was the hot topic of conversation.

Being the non-sports family that we are, we just watched the conversation with curiosity.

As a kid, I used to really enjoy watching basketball, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been less and less interested in it.  Unless someone I know is on the team.

If I’m ever invited to any sort of game day gathering, I’m always way more interested the food and drinks that will be served than I am in the actual game.

It’s just one of the fun little perks of being me.

skittles-flavors

Pin this to your Drink Recipes board on Pinterest!

This family basketball discussion inspired me to make this fun drink with Skittles.  This is so The Lizard, our son, and the only member of the family interested in watching televised sports, can have some friends over to watch the game and have a fun drink.

I’m totally in love with how easy these are.  It’s not really even a recipe.  Just Skittles and lemon-lime soda.

skittles-flavors

These are so fun to make with kids, because as soon as the candies hit the soda, they start to fizz and the color leaches out.  Kids can make their favorite flavor / color drink, or even have fun mixing candies to create new color combinations!  Kids can still eat the candies after the drink is gone, too.

It could be a fun way to celebrate team colors as well.  Make your drinks in your favorite team’s color, or make drinks in two different colors for the rival teams!  Here in Utah, the college team rivalry is pretty intense, so people would for sure choose the drink of their team color.

(See related post: Flavored Syrups for Drinks)

skittles-flavorsskittles-candy-candy

This is also a great drink for baby showers!  If you want a lighter or more subtle color, use fewer candies.  Since Skittles come it lots of different flavors and colors, you can practically customize it to your favorite party shades.

skittles-flavors

By the way, don’t you love this giant bag of Skittles?  I found this 54 oz. size at Sam’s Club.  It’s the perfect thing to have around for a big tournament-watching party!  You can also connect with other Skittles lovers on the Skittles Facebook page, and follow the Skittles Tourney!

skittles-candy-candy

The real bonus for me, not being tied to any one team, is that I can drink any color or flavor of Skittles Soda I want!  And I kind of want one of each.

How about you?  What’s your favorite Skittles flavor?  Leave us a comment below!

 

Want more?  Try these fun and easy drinks!

flavored-syrups (5 of 1)bItalian cream sodapunch-christmas-recipes

 

4.8 from 4 reviews
Skittles Soda
 
An easy colorful drink made with Skittles candy.
Author:
Recipe type: Beverages
Ingredients
  • Skittles candy
  • Lemon-lime soda
Instructions
  1. Separate Skittles into different colors.
  2. For each serving, place Skittles in the glass, then cover with lemon-lime soda. I used about 10 pieces of candy for an 8 oz. glass, and about 15 pieces for a 12 oz. glass. You can use fewer candies for a lighter color.
  3. Serve immediately.

 

5 SEO Tips for Food Bloggers

Apologies to my regular readers.  I promise more calorie -laden treats will be coming your way in my next post, but this one is geared toward my food-blogging buddies around the interwebs.

seo-tips-3SEO (Search Engine Optimization) just sounds hard, doesn’t it?  I’ve been totally intimidated by it for years.

I finally decided one day to buckle down, and just learn it.  I told myself, this is my craft.  This is my job.  And it’s ridiculous for me to NOT know what I am doing.

I started by studying and studying and studying.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  (There’s TONS of free info online.)  I started experimenting and using my tracking tools.

I purchased programs, got a coach, and even got some specific advice tailored towards me.  Am I now an SEO expert?  FAR from it.  But I have at least learned not to be intimidated by it.

I will tell you that although I get a lot of traffic from Pinterest, my very most popular post gets more than double the traffic of my second most popular post, and about 75% of the traffic to that post is organic traffic from Google searches.

For all you food bloggers out there, here a few general things I have learned that have helped me gain some confidence and some traffic.

1. Keyword Research – you get what you pay for.

There are no good keyword research tools that are free.  There just aren’t.  If you want good keywords, phrases people will actually be searching for, you need to pay for it.  A good tool will tell you three things… 1) What the keyword phrases are.  2) Number of monthly searches for that keyword phrase.  3) How much competition there is for that keyword phrase.

Here’s another related truth… the AdWords Keyword Research tool is not really a keyword research tool.  It doesn’t tell you what competition there is for a given keyword, only what competition there is for BIDDING on a keyword phrase for ad space.  This is all about advertising.  It might be fun to use it to discover new keywords, but it will never reliably tell you how much competition is out there, and that’s a fact you need to know.

The tool I use is WordTracker.  You can purchase a monthly subscription HERE, or do like me and use BizXpress Tools HERE.  It’s cheaper this way, and I like the way the tool works inside BizXpress better.  You will have to pay an annual fee to use Biz Express, plus purchase the WordTracker credits, but they last a long time, and they are worth the price.

If you want to start with some free tactics, you might check out this video which will give you some ideas about how to do some keyword research for free.

2. Think like a search engine user.

No one is searching for “Aunt Betty’s Famous Apple Pie,” or “My Husband’s Favorite Meal.”  If you want to take advantage of SEO, think like someone who is on a search engine, searching for something.  Titles should clearly reflect what is in the food, without being 12-word-long specific.

For example, let’s say you made a gorgeous apple pecan pie with a pecan and brown sugar crumb topping and a warm caramel sauce.  You could title the post “Apple Pie with Pecan Brown Sugar Crumb Topping and Warm Caramel Sauce Drizzle” but that would be a bit intense.  And annoying.  You lost your readers halfway through the title and they haven’t even started the post yet.  Plus, no one is searching for that.

You could call it “Aunt Betty’s Famous Apple Pecan Pie” but that isn’t specific enough, and no one cares about your Aunt Betty.

No offense to Aunt Betty.  I’m sure she is a lovely person.

You could just go with “Apple Pie” but it is SUCH a broad phrase, and there are already approximately 100 million apple pie recipes online, it is way too much to compete with.

The goal is to find the happy medium.  Something that tells you enough without smacking you over the head with it.  This is where the keyword research can really come in handy.  I would probably prefer something like  “Apple Pie with Pecan Crumble” or “Pecan Topped Apple Pie” to make it clear and intriguing.

Just for laughs, I punched the words “apple pie” into my keyword tool, and I found some interesting results.  The phrase “baked apple pie” has an average of 421 searches a month, and there are 519 pages optimized for this term.  Do I want to compete with 519 pages?  No I don’t.  On the other hand, “crumble top apple pie” has 330 searches a month and just 1 page optimized for the term.  Compete with ONE page?  This is much better.  I want as many of those 330 searches a month as I can get.

Therefore, I’m guessing my number one title choice would be “Pecan Crumble Top Apple Pie.”  It’s clear, it’s concise, and it will bring me some good organic traffic.

And don’t forget to check on how your titles and keywords are performing by checking Google’s Webmaster Tools.  It only shows info for the past 90 days, but it’s good useful info.

seo-tips-2

3. Backlinks are your friends.

Having other websites, especially good ones, link to your content is a very very good thing for you.  This tells search engines that other people think your content is worthy of sharing with their audiences.

As a food blogger, one of the best and easiest ways I have found of creating backlinks to is get your stuff into round ups on other blogs.  I belong to this Facebook group that makes this process super duper easy.  People in the group can ask for certain types of recipes for round ups, and bloggers can drop links to their content in there.  It is no guarantee that someone will use your recipe, but it does make it more likely.  Otherwise, we are left to search Pinterest or FoodGawker for good stuff.  (You can follow the link and ask to join, but we aware that the admins are a little fussy about who is accepted.  No spammers allowed!)

And speaking of FoodGawker… food photo submission sites also provide some backlinks, and some traffic.  Even if the traffic is not that amazing, I recommend that you still submit content to these sites just to get some links.  Some of my favorites, besides FoodGawker are: Tastespotting, Tasteologie, YumGoggle, DessertStalking, DishFolio, Food Foto Gallery and Cookie Hound.  One link on these sites is not that useful, but many links is, so keep on submitting.

4. Don’t forget social.

Social networks can be great for driving traffic, but remember that social validation looks good to the search engines too.  They figure that 100,000 Pinterest or Facebook fans can’t be wrong.

Make it easy for your readers to share your content on their social channel of choice, and encourage them to do so.  Find ways to make social a real and relevant way for people to find you.  Pins, likes, +1’s, stumbles, and shares are all signals that your content is quality, useful, and something people want to see.

Love this article?  Share it on Pinterest!

5. Get a coach and keep learning.

One thing we know about the digital world we live in is that it is constantly changing.  The search engines, social media networks, and audience all make changes every week.  The tips I shared here today will most likely not be relevant a few years from now.  It is important to keep learning and growing and being open to change.

I’ll be honest with you.  SEO is one of those things I have had a hard time understanding.  It took me a LOT of studying to get the hang of it, and I am still working to understand it better.  The most useful tool I have come across is this 21-Day SEO Challenge from Blogging Concentrated.

In fact, almost everything on Blogging Concentrated has been amazingly useful to me.  There is a course about Keyword Mapping that I love, and if you join the BC Prime Membership program, you will get tons of new content all the time, including traffic tips, a program about making video, business book reviews, CEO insights, social media tips, and so forth.

I’ve also found lots of useful information on sites like Backlinko and ProBlogger.  It’s good to keep reading and learning.

Bonus Tip: don’t optimize everything

Not every post on your site needs to be optimized for search engines.  Some are just easier to get to once people have already found you.  Focus on the best stuff, and link to everything else in a way that makes sense.

And don’t be intimidated by SEO.  You can do this.  I believe in you!

 

Want more?  Check out these other thoughts on food blogging!

start a food blogcooking disasters

Mint Crinkles

Mint Crinkles from JensFavoriteCookies - a fun and easy way to customize your cake mix cookies!

The Lizard (our oldest son) recently broke his face.

Yep. You heard me right.

In a brave but disastrous backflip-into-a-foam-pit attempt, he took a very hard knee to the face resulting in an orbital fracture around one eye, with accompanying black eye and swollen cheek.  It was adorable.  And extremely painful.

I didn’t get medical attention for him right away, because, what are they going to do?  Put a cast on his face?  But after a few days, I thought better of it and took him to the doctor.  The doctor, naturally, ordered a scan, and upon seeing the results of the scan, freaked out and sent us directly to the emergency room.

Where we were told that there is nothing they can do.

And then charged me hundreds of dollars for this.  *sigh*

(See related post:  Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles)

Mint Crinkles from JensFavoriteCookies - a fun and easy way to customize your cake mix cookies!

Add this to your Cookie Recipes board on Pinterest!

As irritated as I was about the whole situation, by the time we returned home, I just needed something to be easy and reliable.

This is when I decided that making cake mix cookies was a brilliant idea.  They are always easy and reliable, they are easy to customize, and they are just plain tasty.

I customized this batch by adding peppermint extract and green food coloring, and rolling them in powdered sugar.  In stark contrast to my decision to go to the emergency room, the decision to make these cake mix cookies made me feel quite happy.

Mint Crinkles from JensFavoriteCookies - a fun and easy way to customize your cake mix cookies!Mint Crinkles from JensFavoriteCookies - a fun and easy way to customize your cake mix cookies!

In case you haven’t guessed it already, this cookie is the Cookie of the Month for March!

This means I’ll be giving away a set of these awesome silicone mats from Kitchen Executive Chef to one lucky winner!  Kitchen Executive Chef has also agreed to let Jen’s Favorite Cookies readers have a 25% discount on the purchase of silicone mats.  Just click here and use the promo code:  JFCOOKIES    at checkout to get the discount.

In order to win your own set, all you have to do is make these cookies, and send me a photo of them!  There are three ways to enter:

1. Tag me on Instagram  @jensfavoritecookies
2. Drop your photo on my Facebook page  (Don’t just tag me, Facebook is not very reliable with letting me see tags.)
3. Email the photo to me at:  jen@jensfavoritecookies.com

You know what else you get with this Cookie of the Month?  Lots more cookies involving MINT!  Check out what my cookie-loving friends made this month!

Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies from Bake or Break
White Chocolate Grasshopper Cookies from Crumb: A Food Blog
Peppermint Patty Stuffed Chocolate Cookies from Tastes of Lizzy T
Melt in Your Mouth Mint Meringues from Kelli’s Kitchen
Mint Milano Cookies from Posed Perfection
Mint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from 365 Day of Baking and More
Mint Crinkles from Jen’s Favorite Cookies

 

Want more?  Try these minty favorites!

green-mint-cakedipped-cream-cheese-mints-8crinkle-cookies-chocolate

 

Mint Crinkles
 
Cook time
Total time
 
A simple, mint flavored cake mix cookie.
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 2 dozen
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • ½ cup powdered sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • green food coloring *(see notes)
Instructions
  1. Combine butter, eggs and cake mix, mixing until well combined.
  2. Add ¼ cup powdered sugar, peppermint extract, and food coloring. Mix well.
  3. Place remaining ¼ cup powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls, roll in the powdered sugar to coat, and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes.
  4. Let cool before serving.
Notes
I use gel food coloring, which is very difficult to measure. You can use as much as you want to get the color you desire. If you use the liquid drops, you can expect a bit lighter cookie color.

 

February Wrap-Up

feb-2015-wrap-up-1February literally felt crazy to me.  And while it’s been outrageously cold in some parts of the country, it has been unbelievably warm here in Utah.  I can’t even believe it’s winter.

The warm weather keeps tricking me into thinking it’s March instead of February.  I actually sent a friend a Happy Birthday text message A MONTH EARLY the other day.  This has literally never happened before.

I had a really great collection of recipes this month, and it was tough to choose a favorite.  I’m going with the Coconut Buttermilk Skillet Cake though.  Because it was so dang freaking delicious.  And you can make it right in the skillet, so there’s no mixing bowl to wash.  Double bonus.

The most popular recipe this month has been the Cookie of the Month… the Chocolate Lava Cookies!  After a feature on BuzzFeed, this little cookie got some big and well-deserved attention.  If you haven’t checked them out yet, now is your chance.

 

chocolate-lava-cookies (4 of 2) Chocolate Lava Cookies

These chocolate cookies boast a gooey fudge center.  All the fun of
a lava cake, in a cookie!

orange-slow-cooker-rice-pudding-5 Orange Rice Pudding

This easy dessert is made in the slow cooker.  It’s perfect for days
when you want to have dessert waiting for you, but don’t want to bake.

red-velvet-rockslide-brownies (4 of 4) Red Velvet Rockslide Brownies

From the new Red Velvet Lovers Cookbook, this beautiful brownie
tastes as good as it looks.  My kids’ eyes nearly popped out of their
heads when they saw it!

cookie-dough-truffles (5 of 1) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffes

It’s really just an excuse to eat cookie dough!  I tried out several
different coatings, and you can read about the pros and cons here.

cheesecake-cookies (13 of 7) Cheesecake Cookies

I made graham cracker cookies with cheesecake filling, and they
taste just like little pieces of cheesecake!  Awesome topped with
fresh berries too.

Coconut-buttermilk-cake-2b Coconut Buttermilk Skillet Cake

You can mix and bake the cake all in this skillet – the ultimate
one-dish dessert!  No frosting required either.

black-and-white-bark-5 Black & White Bark

For those I-need-chocolate-and-I-need-it-now days, this easy to
make bark uses dark and white chocolate and pieces of Oreo cookies.

lemon-sour-cream-muffins-7 Lemon Sour Cream Muffins

These are creamy, light, and flavorful.  The remind me of spring!
Fabulous with or without poppy seeds.

carrot-cake-lemon-ginger-frosting-5 Carrot Cake with Lemon Ginger Frosting

This cake is Em’s contribution to the blog this month.  She was
appalled that I hadn’t posted a carrot cake recipe already, so
she did it for me!

Coming up next month:  Mint.  And green.  And potatoes.  And peanut butter.  More cookies.  More brownies.  More cheesecake.  That’s how we roll around here.

Got comments or suggestions for me?  Please comment below or email me at jen@jensfavoritecookies.com.

Carrot Cake with Lemon Ginger Frosting

 This original carrot cake recipe uses fresh carrots and cream cheese frosting.

Carrot Cake with Lemon Ginger Cream Cheese FrostingOne difference I have noticed between my beloved sister and myself, is that when we are baking, I really prefer to make cookies and bars, while Em tends to bake a lot of cakes.

The real problem with this is that she and I live in different states, so if I want a sample, I have to make it myself.  I’m turning it over to Em now, to tell you about her latest genius cake creation.

 

Whenever I’m thinking about recipes that I could underwrite to this blog, I have to do my homework to make sure I’m not repeating something Jen has already done.

This week I decided to make a carrot cake as a homecoming surprise for my sister-in-law who has been out of town caring for her 94-year-old grandmother for two weeks because, let’s be honest, she’s kind of a saint.  My husband requested carrot cake.

I figured, of course Jen has already done a carrot cake recipe, but then I checked, and then I double-checked.  Then I triple-checked only to find that no such recipe existed on that pages of Jen’s Favorite Cookies.  Upon a little introspection, I’ve decided both to right this wrong and disown my sister for having a baking blog without this obvious and amazing staple.

(See related post: Hummingbird Cake)

Carrot Cake with Lemon Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting from JensFavoriteCookies.com

Add this to your Cake Recipes board on Pinterest!

I discovered not too long ago that people either love or loathe carrot cake, which I find surprising since carrot is one of the few cakes that I actually enjoy.  Having said that, I ordered a slice of carrot cake from a bakery once and I learned that day how painful and cruel life can sometimes be because I bit into it and found a raisin.

Maybe people who dislike carrot cake have only tasted the ones riddled with superfluous garbage like raisins and walnuts.  “Yuck!” said the woman who is posting a recipe with ginger and lemon zest in a cream cheese frosting.

Carrot Cake with Lemon Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting from JensFavoriteCookies.comCarrot Cake with Lemon Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting from JensFavoriteCookies.com

I guess I get it though, putting vegetables in cake sounds a little off-putting, albeit markedly less offensive than the time my Mom put vegetables in Jell-O (true story).

Another possibility is that none of these carrot cake haters has had a carrot cake made specifically for them…a really fun gesture when you’re not trying to take photos of your creation afterword to make it look like you know what you’re doing, which I never do.

So, you know, ignore the smears of orange frosting where there used to be lettering because the welcome home gesture was both hilarious and well-deserved.

 

Want more?  Try these made-from-scratch cakes!

easy-hummingbird-cakeeasy-caramel-cake-recipeschocolate-frosting-cake

 

Carrot Cake with Lemon Ginger Frosting
 
Cook time
Total time
 
A fresh carrot cake from scratch with lemon ginger cream cheese frosting.
Author:
Recipe type: Cake
Ingredients
CAKE:
  • 1½ Cups flour
  • ½ Cup sugar
  • ½ Cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ Cup vegetable oil
  • 1½ Cup grated carrots
  • drizzle of honey
FROSTING:
  • 1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • ¼ powdered sugar
  • ¼ milk
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated finely
  • zest of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. For the cake: . Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan; line bottom of pan with parchment paper (trust me).
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add eggs and vegetable oil until well mixed. Add carrots and mix.
  3. Pour into pan. Drizzle with honey. Bake for approximately 40 minutes (or until a cake test comes out clean). Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  4. For frosting: In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until smooth.
  5. Add more powdered sugar and/or milk to get a consistency you like.