Sugar Cookie Snickerdoodles

Easy things make me happy. Challenges are overrated.

Like when it comes to challenging myself in math class–uh, I’d rather not. Algebra already sucks a fat one, and adding in extra variables and numbers just to make it “challenging”… no thanks. Or physical challenges, like at the gym. I would love to push myself to do those fifty extra crunches or run that extra mile. But I’d rather not.

This may come across as lazy, but rest assured, I’m no lazybones. I am a busy-bee, doing things quickly but of quality. I don’t like to half-ass, and there is a difference between taking the easy way out and being lazy.

Obviously. I would think of examples, but now I’m just being lazy.

But one example in particular has nothing to do with exercising and math problems. Actually, maybe it does. I guess if you know how to bake, you know how to add ingredients. And if you know how to eat, you know there are calories involved, and everyone knows calories need to be burned. Or at least that’s what they tell me. But because I don’t like math OR working out, we’ll just pretend for your sake (and because this is my blog and my recipe, therefore, I make all the rules) that this recipe involves NO math and NO calories. Easy peasy. And trust me, you’ll take the easy way out making them so the rest of the day, you’ll have an excuse to be lazy. Perfect.

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s ‘Holiday Snickerdoodles’ recipe.

Sugar Cookie Snickerdoodles

1 pkg sugar cookie mix
1/3 c melted butter
1 egg
2 T all-purpose flour
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 c powdered sugar
2 T milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease and blot two cookie sheets. In a large bowl, mix together sugar cookie mix, flour, melted butter, egg, and 1/4 tsp of the cinnamon until a soft dough forms and everything is thoroughly mixed. In another small bowl, mix together the 1 cup of sugar and remaining cinnamon until a cinnamon-sugar mixture comes together. Roll balls in cinnamon sugar blend, then place 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar mixture. If you have even more mixture left over, save it to sprinkle on after baking as well. Bake approximately 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly golden. Do not overbake.
2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until a medium-thickness glaze is achieved. Drizzle over cooled cookies and allow glaze to harden.

See? Taking the easy way out has it’s benefits. There is no crazy math problems. No additional crunches. And no unnecessary steps to take to make a delicious (and easy) snickerdoodle cookie. You can thank me later.

Happy Thursday!

xo, Hayley

Peanut M&M Cupcakes

I really miss being a kid.

In retrospect, being a kid was awesome. Even though I spent the last part of my kid-life wishing I were older so I could wear makeup and drive my car anywhere and everywhere and would have a grown-up boyfriend and a cool job. Yeaaaah, all of that is overrated compared to being a kid. Hear that, kids? I’m about to crush your dreams.

Being an adult is pretty lame, actually. We have more responsibilities since we’re adults, which apparently makes us more responsible (well, some of us, anyway). Regardless, it makes us more stressed out. There’s college and the unusual amount of reading and work it requires, along with a lot of analyzing. I consider myself a smartypants, but come on. Analyzing the meaning behind ancient American literature? Who really cares? Spending 4 hours attempting to understand polynomials? I don’t really think anyone uses those. And everyone thinks college is exactly like the movies portray. Like everyone traipses around campus in cute clothes and everyone gets along because it’s sooo different than high school. Pardon my French, but that’s shit. College is like high school round two. Same stupid cliques, same stupid people, just with a lot more pressure–and money–involved. And definitely no cute clothes. Everyone wears pajamas. It’s sickening, actually.

And then there’s work. Despite whatever job you may have, work stinks. I used to think as a kid having a job would be so much fun. I also think I thought “having a job” meant doing what I wanted at that job–not actually doing that verb called “working.” Don’t get me wrong, I love my job at the cupcake factory. But work is still work, and it gets hectic sometimes (think: Valentine’s Day and cupcakes. Doesn’t seem like a compatible duo, but tell that to the thousands of people I served last Monday).

And of course, then there’s the just being an adult part of being an adult. Like paying bills. And having things more expensive than you remember as a kid. And having to buy your own stuff, which, as a kid I always thought would be cool. But let me inform you, it isn’t that great. Because I really hate spending my money on socks and I really wish my mom would just buy my socks again. Because spending money on socks? It’s so uncool. I’d rather spend my money on frivolous things, like magazines and costume jewelry, not socks. Ugh. Being an adult stinks–literally, and metaphorically. You know, cos I haven’t bought socks in awhile.

I remember the good ol’ days as a kid, especially during the summer. Living in the swimming pool, only stepping out to eat pepperoni pizza or McDonald’s Happy Meals and snacking on dripping Popsicles and creamy milkshakes. Walking up to the local grocery store to stock up on candy for munching when watching Scooby Doo, Where Are You? during lunch-break. One of my favorite candies was peanut M&Ms. I mean, regular M&Ms are a classic, but peanut M&Ms were the bees knees. I always liked nibbling away the chocolate shell first, then eating the peanut last. (Disclaimer: I know this eating practice is weird, but you should hear about my other eating habits. I am far from normal).

So when I concocted the idea of perhaps putting peanut M&Ms into some cupcakes, I was excited to try it out. And guess what? It worked. Also, guess what? I felt, for that brief second of chowing down, like a kid again. And that made it more awesome since kids don’t think about calories and therefore I had like, three of them in a row. You should, too, I highly encourage it.

Peanut M&M Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

1 box yellow cake mix (I love Duncan Hines)
1/3 c oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 c low-fat buttermilk
1 box sugar free, fat free vanilla pudding mix
1/2 c flour
1 c peanut M&Ms, plus extra for garnish
1 can vanilla frosting
1/4 c creamy peanut butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, blend together cake mix, oil, eggs, and buttermilk until smooth. Stir in pudding mix. Stir in flour and peanut M&Ms until well-blended. Evenly distribute batter into muffin tins. Bake approximately 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out (mostly) clean. Cool cupcakes completely.
2. In a medium bowl, spoon out vanilla frosting and add the peanut butter. Blend or mix together until thoroughly combined. Frost cooled cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, and garnish with sprinkles, sequins or remaining peanut M&Ms.

*Note: frosting is on the thicker side. If you wanted to thin it out slightly, you could add a small teaspoon of milk and increase the amount of milk until it’s thinned out. However, the frosting was yummy as is, so do this at your own discretion.

But you know, now that I think about it, being an adult has its perks: Impromptu road trips to San Francisco; shopping sprees (with your own money so you can buy what you want and Mom has no say in it); staying out late; and eating these cupcakes whenever you want (even before dinner, if you wish) because you can. Oh yeah.

Happy Tuesday!

xo, Hayley

Peanut Butter & Oat Brownies

I’m one of those people who, when you tell me you like when I do something, I do it over and over and over again.

I guess you could say I would make a great dog. I respond well to positive feedback. Negative… not so much.

I have never been good at receiving negative feedback. It always sounds so… mean. Even if it isn’t. Even if the person is smiling, a sincere smile, and consoling and nice and everything else that should make it feel good but it isn’t. I’ll bet if they even softened the blow with some flowers or a gift card to Nordstrom I would probably still feel super agitated I did something wrong. Well, maybe not. I really do like Gerbera daisies and gift cards to Nordstrom, but that’s besides the point.

I’m trying to think of super specific examples of me getting positive feedback, but I can’t. So now it just sounds like I’m rambling about nothing. It happens, just nod and say ‘yes’.

Well, there is one instance when I received good feedback, and it was every time I made these brownies for people, specifically, my brother’s journalism teacher. She loves them, and she always tells my brother to say glowing things about them. Thus, I make them whenever he asks to bring something to journalism class because, well, I can’t stop getting that good feelin’ from her good feedback.

And rightfully so. These brownies are legit. Think if an oatmeal cookie and Reese’s peanut butter cups had a baby. It would be delicious, and once you made it, you would get the same positive feedback I do.

I changed some things, but mostly adapted from Sunset magazine’s “Best-Ever Cookies.”

Peanut Butter & Oat Brownies

1 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 c all purpose flour
2 c regular rolled oats
1 1/3 c chunky peanut butter
2/3 c sweetened, shredded & dried coconut
1/2 c chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl, mix butter and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the flour, oats, and coconut until fully incorporated.
2. Press dough evenly into a lightly greased 13×9 inch baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree F oven approximately 20-25 minutes for chewier bars, or until lightly browned. Spread with peanut butter. Let cool about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let sit for a few minutes, until chocolate chips begin to soften and melt. Using a butter knife tip, lightly swirl the chocolate into the peanut butter, creating a marbled pattern. Careful not to over-swirl. Let cool for 15 minutes. Lastly, chill for about 20 minutes. You can also accelerate the process by popping the pan in the fridge. Once cooled, cut into bars.

These brownies are a delicious hybrid and, when given to journalism teachers, get great reviews. And everyone knows it’s probably a good idea to impress a journalism teacher–after all, you never know who she’ll tell (but hopefully they’ll tell me–I thrive on this stuff).

xo, Hayley

Blueberry Streusel Cookies

I love the rain. Let’s just be honest.

I’m not and have never been one of those people who bitches and moans when it starts raining. I love the rain. It’s so serene and calming and refreshing, especially compared to hot, sweaty summer days–those of which I bitch and moan over.

I know, I totally need to move somewhere perpetually rainy and cold, like Seattle or San Francisco, where there’s a sunny day here and there and the rest of the year I can acceptably wear peacoats and tights and boots and look adorably chic and not sweaty and disgusting in cut-offs and a wife-beater, complaining about how my denim shorts have suddenly materialized with the skin on my thighs. Yeah, this really does happen in the dead-summer in Sacramento. It’s miserable.

And then when people complain about the weather acting as it should in the appropriate season, I really don’t understand. It’s February. It rains in February, seeing as it IS STILL WINTER. Of course I enjoy the sunshine-y days where you can get away with a light cardigan, but come on. Did you really think it was going to last forever? No. And the rain is a nice reminder that summer is still awhile away. I’m enjoying every dripping-wet second of the rain before–I don’t even want to think about it.

I’m sure this post sounds like a giant whine to anyone who doesn’t live in California and who only experiences a thick snowstorm during times like this. Let me humor you real quick: I don’t even really know what snow is like. But I digress.

Anyways, seeing as I’ve been bitching about weather and people bitching about weather, it’s pretty obvious the weather isn’t in top shape for Sacramentans. It’s been pouring nonstop for two days now, and it has people in quite the tizzy. Personally, rainy days are perfect excuses for lazy days. It’s too hard and unsafe to drive anywhere, it’s too cold to do chores, so the only real thing to do is sit around like a lazy-ass and watch bad TV while eating handfuls of cookies. It’s precisely what I did today, and I needed the perfect cookie to match.

I had a box of fat-free blueberry muffin mix sitting in my pantry for awhile that needed a use besides the standard, typical progression into a blueberry muffin. So with a little research (and ample taste-testing) I crafted my own blueberry streusel cookie that is positively perfect for shoveling into your mouth on a lazy day like today. It’s soft and chewy and tastes just like a muffin, but in cookie form. Oh, and the lemon-butter glaze realllllly elevates this cookie from delicious to highly addicting. TRY NOW.

Blueberry Streusel Cookies

1 box fat-free blueberry muffin mix (I used Krusteaz)
3/4 c quick-cooking oats
1/3 c, plus 2T oil
1/4 c brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 T milk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease two cookie sheets and blot excess spray with a paper towel.
2. In a large bowl, mix together muffin mix (not the blueberries), oats, oil, brown sugar, egg and milk until well combined. Dough will be soft but crumbly. Carefully fold in drained and rinsed blueberries, combining. Using a cookie-scoop, portion out dough onto baking sheets, evenly spacing dough-balls. Bake, approximately 8-10 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking time. Cookies will be soft but lightly golden when done. Do not overbake. Let cool on wire racks completely.

Lemon-Butter Glaze

1 1/2 c powdered sugar
2 T melted butter
1/2 tsp lemon peel
2 tsp lemon juice
1-2 T milk

1. In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients until a glaze forms. The consistency I liked was thick but still–ready for a new word?–drizzleable. You can adjust the thickness or thinness by adding more or less lemon juice or milk, depending on your liking. Drizzle glaze over cooled cookies and let sit to allow glaze to slightly stiffen.

These cookies taste just like a blueberry streusel coffee cake…or I suppose how I’d imagine that to taste. But you know, it sounded believable. You MUST try them–so easy to prepare and to diiiie for. And I’d like to think healthier too, but it’s to be debated, since more than likely you’ll eat like, seven. I did.

xo, Hayley

Valentine Crispy Bark

So without divulging ALL the dirty details of my personal life, I will say I’m going through a helluva time right now. February has NOT been kind to me, to say the least!

And when Hayley is having a bad day (or week) (or month) = LOTS of baking. Like, a super surplus.

Usually this is a good thing, and no one questions the excess in baked goods. When they begin to tell me to stop, it’ll be a miserable day in HayleyLand.

But so far, we’re good. Which is great news, because I keep cooking more and more stuff.

Sometimes I wonder if I should channel my stress into other outlets, like cleaning my stockpile of clothes off my floor or scrub the bathroom sink or maybe, just maybe start exercising to relieve my stress.

Exercising? Yeah right.

So instead I bake, and rarely eat any of it since I weirdly have no sweet tooth and would prefer a jar of pickles to a bag of cookies. Weird? Yeah, but what’s new.

Considering Valentine’s day is around the corner, and I hath no Valentine, I’m a little bummed. Yeah, I have some problems with the holiday, but in the end, I’m a girl which means I have the natural, instinctual love for Valentine’s day and all things sparkly, pink and floral-related (preferably Gerbera daisies, but I’m not picky).

So let’s do a little math. Lots of stress + lack of Valentine + bummed-out-ness from lack of Valentine = BAKING UP THE WAZOO. Yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous.

That said, you’d think I’d be baking voodoo cookie men and sticking knives in their hearts or something, but I keep my hopes up that someday, sometime, I’ll have a super-sweet Valentine of my own. So until then, I keep it cheerful. No voodoo people yet. Notice I said ‘yet’, not never. We’ll see what next Valentine’s day brings.

But until then, it was time to branch out from the realm of cupcakes. I found this super amazing recipe on Bake at 350’s blog for Valentine Chocolate Bark and knew I had to make it. After all, they always say “If you find yourself Valentinesless, eat a bunch of sweets.” Well, I say that. But don’t question it.

[Recipe from Bake at 350]

Valentine Crispy Bark

2 c rice puffed cereal
2 bags white chocolate chips
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sprinkles and conversation hearts

1. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with wax paper; set aside.
2. In a large microwavable bowl, melt one bag of white chocolate chips for one minute, stirring at 20-second intervals until chocolate is completely melted. Careful not to burn! Immediately stir in second bag of white chocolate chips and stir until all of the second bag is melted as well. Stir in rice cereal until fully combined. Quickly spread onto a thin, flat layer onto baking sheet.
3. Meanwhile, microwave one bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a large microwavable bowl approximately 1 to 1:30 minutes. Careful, again, not to burn. Stir in second bag of chocolate chips until those are fully melted as well. Quickly spread on top of bark.
4. Immediately after spreading chocolate, sprinkle with rainbow jimmies and conversation hearts, if desired. Let stand until hardened and cooled. Pop in fridge to accelerate this process, like I did.

And voila. Crispity, crunchity, sweeeeeeeet bark for you, or your Valentine. I don’t judge :)

xo, Hayley

Red Hot Cinnamon Cupcakes

They say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Eh, I don’t agree.

My whole life I’ve had a problem with people trying to “imitate” me. I know, it sounds totally narrow-minded and conceited: People are like, totally trying to be me! How annoying. I’m aware I sound kind of delusional, but hear me out.

I’ve always been the girl who was never afraid to be myself or speak my mind. I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum (or iPod, you know, with modern times) and have done my own thing. This meant wearing costumes to school, dyeing my hair THE craziest colors, and always being myself and radiating this crazy personality of mine.

Yeah, I know you’re thinking, “there are about a million other girls just. like you.” But where I came from, we were a dime a dozen.

I know it’ll sound totally lame, but the crazy colored hair was my thing. Everyone knew it, too. Once every few months, I’d return to school with a new color or crazy combination of colors and everyone loved it. Even if people didn’t know me, they knew me as “that girl with the crazy hair.” Among other nicknames, I’m sure.

Though I don’t really want to know.

And whenever I’d see some shy little girl come to school with her head dyed pink, I’d feel kind of bad. Defensive almost. Yeah, I wasn’t the first girl to ever dye her hair crazy colors and no, I definitely wasn’t the only one at school with it. But at the same time, it was my thing. I actually got kind of mad. I know, I clearly had my priorities straight.

Regardless, people would tell me all the time that these girls were just trying to be like me and I should be flattered. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” they’d say. But I never understood it until I got older (and until my priorities were a little less juvenile, of course). Now I totally understand that, there can be an original (or someone who thinks they’re the original), and wherever they are, there will always be other people who are inspired to imitate or recreate that same look or style. It doesn’t mean they’re unoriginal, it doesn’t mean they’re trying to be a complete stalker-copy-cat. It just means they like what they see, and by trying to be like you, they’re actually paying you a compliment.

Or something. I guess.

Kinda how I got the inspiration for this cupcake, actually. At the cupcake factory where I work, we released a Red Hot Cinnamon cupcake for the month of February. But because the cupcake factory’s cupcakes aren’t necessarily figure-friendly (and because I have a psychopathic love for all things spicy and cinnamon) I had to recreate it. Doesn’t mean I’m stealing their ideas. Doesn’t mean I’m unoriginal. Just means I can’t justify that many calories in a cupcake when I could test myself to make a healthier identical twin. So I did. And guess what? I bet when they find out, they’ll be flattered.

Red Hot Cinnamon Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
3 egg whites
1 1/4 c water
1/3 c unsweetened applesauce
1 small box sugar free/fat free vanilla pudding mix
2 tsp cinnamon extract
3/4 c crushed and whole (mixed) pieces Red Hot candies, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, blend together cake mix, egg whites, water, applesauce, and cinnamon extract until well combined. Mix in the pudding mix until incorporated. Lastly, gently fold in 1/2 c of the candies until well-blended.
2. Evenly portion out batter into muffin cups and bake, approximately 17-19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

For Cinnamon Frosting

2 cans vanilla frosting
2 tsp cinnamon extract
Pink food coloring
Remaining 1/4 c crushed candies (pick out whole ones; they’ll clog your tip when piping)

1. Spoon out all the frosting into a medium-sized bowl. Add the cinnamon extract and pink food coloring and mix until desired shade is reached and the cinnamon extract is thoroughly combined. Gently stir in the candies until fully mixed. Spoon into your piping bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

I garnished my cupcakes with adorable black heart sprinkles I got at Target last Valentine’s, but edible pink glitter or other heart-shaped sprinkles would look cute, too!

Lessons for today: Red hots in cupcakes rock, and, don’t be afraid to try new things and pick up inspiration wherever it may come from. Just give credit where credit is due, ’cause no one likes a faker or a thief.

Happy Saturday!

xo, Hayley

Strawberries ‘n Cream Cupcakes

Despite any “that’s what she said” or sexual double entendres this may create, I don’t really like cream filling.

Haha, see, even I am laughing at my own immature jokes. It works, so I keep doing it which subsequently encourages more lame jokes.

BUT BACK TO THE SUBJECT MATTER AT HAND, cream filling is just kind of… weird.

It’s gooey and blobby and no matter what, you’re never prepared for it. And even if you are, you aren’t. It’s just odd.

This should clear some things up: No, I don’t like Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs or the like. It’s the cream filling. I don’t like Oreos because of the filling. Are you seeing a trend? It’s just not my thing. Like flip-flops. Or liking Justin Bieber. Or being normal. But you catch my drift.

And no, I’m no amateur baker. I’ve done this rodeo a few times before and know my way around the kitchen pretty decently for being a twenty-year-old, self-taught baker/cook. But still, the idea of cream-filled cupcakes is so… daunting. Scary even. That would mean I would have to touch that gooey, blobby stuff, right?

You could say I have a way with words, calling things I make “gooey” and “blobby.” Gee, how appetizing.

But since I was home today and feeling rather adventurous, I decided to take on the ever-so-daunting task of making cream-filled cupcakes. I somehow managed to concoct a non-goopy, non-blobby cream-filling mixture I am happy with, and for once, it was easier done than said.

Whuuuut? Forreal? Yep. And when you feel like being master-baker (really, Hayley?) you can give these easy but delicious cupcakes a try.

Strawberries ‘n Cream Cupcakes

1 box strawberry cake mix
4 eggs, divided
1/3 c unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c sugar-free strawberry syrup, mixed with 1 c water
1 box strawberry creme pudding mix
1 8-ounce package light cream cheese, softened
2 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 can each strawberry and vanilla frosting
Conversation hearts, if you want the decoration

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans (24) with paper liners. In a large mixing bowl, blend together the cake mix, 3 eggs, the unsweetened applesauce, and the strawberry syrup/water mixture. Blend until combined. Stir in pudding mixture. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, blend together softened cream cheese, the powdered sugar, the vanilla, and the egg until mixture is thoroughly combined. Portion the batter into the muffin cups, only covering the bottom of each cup (I always use the mini ice cream scoops which are perfect for this use especially). With a small cereal spoon or teaspoon, place a spoonful of cream on top of strawberry batter. Top the cream filling with remaining strawberry batter, ensuring batter covers the filling.
3. Bake approximately 16-19 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool completely.
4. Meanwhile, in a piping bag, evenly spoon strawberry and vanilla frostings side by side until bag is full. (I fitted my bag with a Wilton 4B tip). Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles, jimmies or conversation hearts.

And promptly realize, whether or not you liked cream filling to begin with, that you like it even more now. See, told you so.

And if you’re like me and have a little extra batter, you can make cutie patootie baby cupcakes like these. Because eating 5 of them equals one cupcake, right? Right? Justify this please.

Have a great rest of your week!

xo, Hayley

Sweet ‘n Salty Cracker Pies

I don’t know anything about football. Well, that’s not completely true.

I know some things: like what the linebacker’s job is, and that a touchdown is a good thing, and a penalty is a bad thing. Clearly, important stuff you need to know when watching America’s favorite sport.

You see, even though I was raised in a football-loving family, my dad is all crazy about wrestling. You know, the super sweaty sport where guys (or girls, they don’t discriminate) roll around and pin each other to the mat? And wear Spandex? Just to clarify, wrestling is NOT the same thing as the crap they show on TV where the overly-roided guys with mullets throw folding chairs at each other. That’s just redneck entertainment.

And because pops was super wrestler guy, and a high school coach, I followed in his footsteps (so to speak) and did the stats for all the wrestling tournaments and duals all four years of my glory days. That meant waking up at oh, 4 in the morning on Saturdays to travel to nearby schools and watch a bunch of high school boys wrestle and take their score. Needless to say, it had its pros and cons.

Pros being: sometimes cute guys (in Spandex, a plus); meeting said cute guys (in Spandex); and finally knowing about a sport in its entirety. Somehow, I guess, that’s a pro.

Cons being: spending my Saturdays in sweaty high school gyms; gross boys (in Spandex); being hit on by gross boys (in Spandex).

Even though my brother (and past boyfriends) played football, I never quite understood it. I mean, it isn’t brain surgery; you can get the gist of what’s happening while watching it. And the whole Superbowl experience isn’t necessarily just about the game. It’s about the company, the competitiveness, and of course, the food. Or if you’re supremely dorky like me, it’s all about Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet.

Between the beer, wings, seven-layer-dip and pizza, there needs to be some sweetness in there somewhere. However, it’s hard to perfectly pair a Bud Light with a cupcake, so I needed to switch things up for game day. Salty crackers got a sweet makeover with a peanut butter and marshmallow filling, and then got dunked in semi-sweet chocolate and sprinkled with chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups. The salty and sweet combination is something everyone can understand, and the competition may be turned from the Steelers v Packers to who gets the last cracker pie.

Sweet ‘n Salty Cracker Pies

1 box Ritz crackers (I used about two and a half sleeves)
1 7 ounce jar marshmallow creme
2/3 c creamy peanut butter
6 squares Baker’s Semi-Sweet chocolate
8 Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped small

1. In a large bowl, mix together peanut butter and marshmallow creme. Microwave for approximately 15-20 seconds to soften, then stir to combine completely. Carefully spoon into a baggy and seal out the air. Snip the corner of the baggy and gently pipe a blob of frosting into the underside of one cracker. Gently press second cracker to adhere to the filling, creating a “sandwich.” Once all cracker pies have been made, refrigerate until firm, about 10-20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, microwave chocolate squares following package directions. Once cracker pies are firmed up, carefully dunk one side of the pie in the melted chocolate and liberally sprinkle with chopped Reese’s. Place cracker pies on a wax-paper lined baking sheet. Once all the cracker pies have been dipped and sprinkled, refrigerate until completely firmed and chocolate is hardened, about 20-30 minutes.

Save a few for yourself, then let the men fight over them. You don’t want to get involved should actual folding-chair throwing occurs.

Happy Footballing!

xo, Hayley

Cap’n Crunch Cupcakes w/PB ‘Mallow Frosting

I have a small confession to make. Really, really small.

I have a girl crush.

It’s nothing of any concerning alarm, so no one needs to get all worked into a tizzy. As if anyone was, but still. The disclaimer’s there.

Her name is Kristan, and she’s the mastermind behind my favoritest ever blog, Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. Seriously, I am obsessed with her stuff. She’s so funny and quirky and cheeky and cute, and the stuff she makes is EXACTLY the same kinda stuff I make: semi-homemade but completely delicious. So naturally, a girl crush ensued after spending hours reading her posts from beginning to end.

I know that sounds creepy, but it is totally innocent. I swear.

I’ve only had a few girl crushes in my whole life, and they’ve all been super-cool women who each have qualities I’d love to have. Like one of my best friends, Lindsey, who is totally smart and could kick your ass verbally. Though I would never disagree I have a serious mouth on me, Lindsey is like, ten times cooler and, uh, mouthier.

Or Christina Aguilera. Yeah, it sounds dorky, but the lady can sing like no one’s business, and she is damn pretty. I only wish that when I sang, magical things happened with my vocal chords. Instead, it sounds like I’m simultaneously being bludgeoned and strangled. In other words, it’s totally harmonious.

And then there’s Kristan, the bubbly, stay-at-home mom from Arkansas and her kick-ass blog, along with these kick-ass cupcakes. Since I can’t sing like Christina or have Lindsey telepathically feed me awesome and witty comebacks, I can recreate Kristan’s killer Cap’n Crunch cupcakes, and I did just that. And let me just say, baking really does make the heart grow fonder.

Cap’n Crunch Cupcakes with PB ‘Mallow Frosting–adapted by Confession’s of a Cookbook Queen’s recipe

For Cupcakes:

1 box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1 c buttermilk (I used low-fat)
1/3 c oil
4 cups crushed Cap’n Crunch cereal, plus more cereal pieces (not crushed) for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin pans with paper liners.  In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, 2 cups of cereal crumbs, oil, eggs and buttermilk and blend on medium speed approximately 2 minutes or until well combined.  Gently fold in remaining cereal crumbs. *Crumbs should be of a cornmeal consistency.
2. Portion the batter out and bake, approximately 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool completely.

For Frosting:

2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 c creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c milk
4 c powdered sugar
1 7 ounce jar marshmallow creme

1. In a large stand mixer or bowl, beat together butter, peanut butter, milk and vanilla on medium-low until well combined.
2. Slowly add in sugar, beating on low. Increase speed to medium for about 2 minutes or until frosting is light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is still too goopy, as mine was. Lastly, fold in marshmallow creme. Per Kristan’s (soooo correct) advice, the peanut butter frosting should have a swirl of marshmallow creme, so don’t blend the two together all the way.
3. Frost your cooled cupcakes with the PB mallow frosting, and garnish with Cap’n Crunch cereal pieces.

A glass of milk totally optional, by the way.

And since this is cereal, doesn’t it count as breakfast? Breakfast cupcakes. I love it.

For the complete recipe, and to begin your own girl-crush on Kristan, visit confessionsofacookbookqueen.blogspot.com. Thanks Kristan!

Happy Superbowling!

xo, Hayley

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