Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Caramel Brownies...kicked up a notch.

double chocolate caramel brownies with marcona almonds and sea salt from @bakeat350
Oh. My. Waistline.

Y'all.  I almost have no words for these.  Caramel Brownies, sometimes called Knock You Naked  Brownies *ahem*, might be my very favorite dessert.  If not my very favorite, it's definitely in the top 3.

double chocolate caramel brownies with marcona almonds and sea salt from @bakeat350
Caramel Brownies are traditionally made with a German Chocolate cake mix (if cake mix offends you, please stop reading now), caramels, chocolate chips, and pecans.  But, when I bought these caramel-filled chocolate chips, I couldn't help but wonder if they'd work.
caramel-filled chocolate chips!!!

I also switched out the pecans for this version and added Marcona almonds.  If you've never had Marcona almonds, they are buttery and rich and so addictive.  They can also be REALLY pricey.  I find that the best ones (and the most expensive ones) are in the deli section of my grocery store, near the cheeses.  I've also found pre-packaged ones that are not as pricey, but still do the trick.  I used those here.  Feel free to use regular almonds.
double chocolate caramel brownies with marcona almonds and sea salt from @bakeat350
Oh, and I added a few pinches of sea salt.  You can't go wrong with sea salt and chocolate.

double chocolate caramel brownies with marcona almonds and sea salt from @bakeat350
When I took these out of the oven yesterday, I was a little worried that they wouldn't live up to the original.  I let them cool, and then (before I ate lunch, big mistake), I cut off a little square.  And then another.  And then another.  The next thing you know, my "lunch" consisted solely of this new rendition of caramel brownies.  This is called: winning. 

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Double Chocolate Caramel Brownies with Marcona Almonds & Sea Salt

{makes on 9x13" pan}

2 (9-ounce) packages caramel-filled chocolate chips
2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
1 box Devil's Food cake mix
3/4 cup salted butter, melted
1/3 cup chopped Marcona almonds
fleur de sel or other fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350.  

Over low heat, melt one package PLUS 1/2 cup of the caramel-filled chocolate chips with 1/3 cup evaporated milk.  Set aside.

In a bowl, stir together the cake mix, remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and melted butter.  Use an offset spatula to spread 1/2 of the batter in an ungreased 9x13" pan.  Bake for 6 minutes.

Take the pan out of the oven and pour the melted chocolate caramel mixture evenly over the top.  Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips, then with the almonds.
double chocolate caramel brownies with marcona almonds and sea salt from @bakeat350

Dollop the remaining batter over the top, it will not cover the entire top.  You'll see some of the caramel peeking through.  Add a few pinches of sea salt over the top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes more, until done.  Do not overbake, caramel brownies are meant to be a little gooey. :)

Cool on a wire rack before cutting.

double chocolate caramel brownies with marcona almonds and sea salt from @bakeat350
If you called these Knock You Naked Brownies before...these are going to knock you naked-er.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sweet on Trader Joe's Saturday: Pumpkin Macarons

I snapped this picture in Trader Joe's yesterday:
pumpkin season at Trader Joe's
It is OFFICIALLY pumpkin season!  Yay!!!

Today, we review Trader Joe's Pumpkin Macarons. 

trader joe's pumpkin macarons review

trader joe's pumpkin macarons review
You'll find these in the freezer section, but don't worry, they only take 30 minutes to defrost.  Trader Joe's description of these is "light and delicate, yet abundant with the smooth, warming flavor of pumpkin and traditional pumpkin pie spices..." A box of 12 macarons costs $4.99.

trader joe's pumpkin macarons review
A mom's (my) take: Trader Joe's does macarons right.  A delicate, crisp shell, a chewy interior, perfect little feet, and a flavorful but not overpowering filling.  The pumpkin flavor is just right...you can taste both the pumpkin and the spices, really reminiscent of pumpkin pie.  My only complaint, as it is with all macarons...it's way too easy to eat 6 of them and still want more. ;)
Overall rating: 5 of 5 stars

A teenager's (kiddo's) take: These are the best store-bought macarons I've ever had. The light, airy shell is perfectly balanced by the chewy, sweet interior. The pumpkin flavor is not too strong but still enough to taste it. I could also eat several boxes of these.
Overall rating: 6 out of 5 stars :)
trader joe's pumpkin macarons review
Trader Joe's Pumpkin Macarons: it's pumpkin season, y'all.

To read more of our Trader Joe's dessert reviews, click here.  
 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Xanadu, your neon lights will shine...

Birthdays...when we were growing up, my parents instituted a "birthday party rule."  Birthday PARTIES were every other year...on the "off years," we could invite a friend or two to dinner, or to the movies, and over for cake.  I have no idea where they came up with this idea, but we decided to carry on the tradition with kiddo, too.

xanadu decorated cookies + a recipe for vanilla-clementine cut-out cookies
I had been thinking about one of my teenage birthdays...I think I was 12 or 13.  One of the movie theaters in "the city" was having a special showing of Xanadu.  I think the movie came out a couple of years earlier and I already had my white roller skates and knew all of the songs by heart.  My parents took a few of us down for the movie.  I can't remember much else from that birthday...just Xanadu.

xanadu!
{photo credit olivia-newtonjohn.com}
Please tell me you're a Xanadu fan, too!  I loved all things Olivia Newton-John.  Her voice, her face, her accent, her perfect hair!!!  Remember those thin hair ribbons?  And, that off the shoulder white top?  Oh!  And, that cowgirl outfit?  And Gene Kelly?!?  Oh my gosh...yeah.  I loved Xanadu.

xanadu decorated cookies + a recipe for vanilla-clementine cut-out cookies
In my mind, I was ONJ as Kira....in reality, I was a frizzy-haired girl with braces who was a little (a lot) wobbly on those skates, but man, it was fun to pretend.

decorated cookies: olivia newton-john in Xanadu + a recipe for vanilla-clementine cut-out cookies
The week I was thinking about those birthday memories, I got an email from McCormick.  They're celebrating their 125th (!) birthday this month. Did you know September is the most popular month for birthdays?  I didn't, either!

xanadu decorated cookies + a recipe for vanilla-clementine cut-out cookies
To celebrate, McCormick is igniting a conversation about birthdays and asking people all over the globe to share their favorite birthday flavor story.  For every story shared on McCormick's website or social media channels, McCormick will donate $1 to United Way to feed those in need.

In honor of birthday month, they released a new vanilla extract: Extra Rich Pure Vanilla Extract.
It's luscious and rich...25% stronger than the classic vanilla and the perfect balance between sweet caramel and bourbon-rummy flavors.  It is PERFECT in baked goods...and also to dab a little behind your ears. ♥
McCormick Extra Rich Pure Vanilla Extract + a recipe for vanilla-clementine cut-out cookies

I used it to make Vanilla-Clementine Cut-Outs for the Xanadu-inspired cookies.  The strong vanilla flavor combined with the sweet and fresh clementine is just swoon-worthy.  The cookies also have a little kick of salt that balances out the flavors so well.  I love them almost as much as I love Xanadu. ;)


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Vanilla-Clementine Cut-Out Cookies
{makes about 12 cookies, depending on cutter size}

2 & 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons McCormick Extra Rich Pure Vanilla Extract
zest of one clementine
1 teaspoon clementine juice

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg, vanilla, zest, and juice.  Beat until well combined.  Add in the flour mixture on low speed, mixing until just combined.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Once chilled, roll to 1/4" thick on a surface dusted with flour, and cut with cookie cutters.  If the dough becomes sticky, refrigerate.  Place shapes onto parchment-lined cookies sheets.  Freeze the shapes for 5-10 minutes before baking to help retain the shape.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until done.  Cool completely on wire cooling racks before decorating.  Use royal icing to decorate.
xanadu cookies decorating tutorial

What's one of your favorite birthday memories?  Does it involve Xanadu?

xanadu and olivia newton-john decorate cookies + a recipe for vanilla-clementine cut-out cookies



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