Lucky Rainbow Bark

Lucky Rainbow BarkYeah, I am totally guilty of trashing the living daylights outta that white chocolate. Sue me.

As a kid, I had this neighbor – we’ll call her Meow, since I remember her meowing on occasion, and I slept over at her house pretty frequently. She had anything a girl could ask for – her own pony, a really fluffy dog, a HUGE Barbie mansion, and the works. I remember being infinitely jealous of her Barbie collection since I was super obsessed with all things Barbie.

ANYWHO. On one particular evening sleepover, Meow and I were tucked in our sleeping bags and watching cartoons. The show ended and Leprechaun came on. Meow was kinda scared, but I begged her to keep it on since I was a morbid child who was admittedly frightened of this scary movie concept but also could not look away. This is similar to when I was freaking terrified of Forensic Files and would involuntarily shudder every time I heard Peter Thomas begin a sordid tale of murder, yet I would hide in the hallway and watch it without my parents knowing.

So we began watching Leprechaun and it proceeded to give me terrors over miniature mythical men wearing green suits and hiding in a box of Lucky Charms. Thankfully we didn’t regularly buy Lucky Charms and I never had to encounter any frightening creatures.

Fast forward a good fifteen or so years, and I’m now an adult and working a terrible job. I spotted a coworker snacking on Lucky Charms and it instantly made me crave fistfuls of that magical cereal. The next day, I went out and bought a box of it – and it soon became my go-to snack on the job. I never did find any leprechauns, FYI.

DSC_0407AWith St. Patrick’s Day coming up (it’s still awhile away, I know, but I’m a dork and get overly excited about holidays) I was brainstorming fun ideas with Lucky Charms and this bark came to mind. It’s not even a recipe – it’s just kind of a conglomerate of random, rainbow, sprinkly things held together by a huge plane of white chocolate. Yet all of those components create a totally delicious, outrageously SWEET bark that everyone is sure to love.

DSC_0419ANo meowing friends, terrified children, or Forensic Files-watching required.

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Lucky Rainbow Bark
Author: 
Recipe type: Bark, Candy
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
 
Filled with a ton of rainbow, sprinkly goodies, this fun bark is perfect for St. Patrick's Day or any other time you're craving something super sweet and festive.
Ingredients
  • 1 pkg. vanilla CandiQuik, or another white chocolate almond bark
  • 1 pkg Circus Animal Cookies (my favorite!)
  • About 2-3 cups Lucky Charms Cereal (depending on as much as you'd like)
  • About 1 cup M&M's candies
  • Sprinkles
Instructions
  1. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil. Set aside.
  2. Melt the vanilla CandiQuik according to package directions or until smooth and melted. Spread the vanilla CandiQuik in an even layer onto the foil. You don't want it to be super thick, but don't make it super thin, either.
  3. Immediately top evenly with broken up Circus cookies, Lucky Charms, M&M's and sprinkles. Likewise, you could add dried fruits, nuts, or other candies if you'd like.
  4. Allow the bark to set up before breaking into pieces.

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DSC_0430AThis bark is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth since it’s packed with the delightful crunch of Circus Animal Cookies, a bite from the chocolate M&M’s, and the melt-in-your-mouth sweetness from the Lucky Charms! Don’t like an ingredient? Feel free to swap out the Circus Animal Cookies for another favorite, or try using Chocolate CandiQuik for a different flavor.

Lucky Rainbow BarkHope you have a sweet weekend!

xo, Hayley

 

Avalanche Cookie Clusters

Avalanche Cookie ClustersWhen I was in high school, one of the coolest things to do was to visit Downtown Sacramento.

Now mind you, I am a kid from the suburbs, about 20 minutes away from Downtown. But seeing as the most exciting thing in my town was the halfway abandoned Yogurt Delite, Downtown seemed so cool and exotic and hip and different to a 15-year old.

For one, Downtown had a mall which was just as crappy as our mall, but better because it was Downtown. And it had a gargantuan Forever 21 in it which was sofreakinawesome because ours only had a Wet Seal and everyone knows Forever 21 > Wet Seal, amirite?

Second, Downtown was connected to Old Town, which is exactly what you think of when you think of a once-small mining town. Cute, quaint old buildings and cobblestone streets with wooden sidewalks and horse-drawn carriages clopping around. Old Town had some quirky shops that my friends and I loved to explore in, but mostly, we enjoyed hitting up the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory down there.

My mom would send me on my day-long jaunt to Downtown with $20 to spend on lunch, but little did she know that most of that money went to things at Forever 21 and of course, chocolates from Rocky Mountain. If you’ve never been to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory before, it’s pretty much the most heavenly place on earth, with floor-to-ceiling displays of chocolate truffles, candies, confections and more, and more often than not, they’re stirring up a fresh batch of caramel and dipping everything under the sun right in front of your wee beady eyes.

In other words, a hungry teenager’s dream come true.

One of my favorite things to get were the caramel apples (hello, best treat evah) and their Avalanche Bars. The Avalanche Bars are probably what Rocky Mountain’s most known for, and for good reason. If ya don’t know, Avalanche Bars are basically white chocolate and peanut butter mixed together with rice krispy cereal and marshmallows, then studded with chocolate chips. Prettttttty genius, with the whole sweet-salty-crunchy-gooey factors happening at once. And did I mention it was a hungry teenager’s dream come true?

But since my days of dwelling Downtown are long over (and since I’ve grown up and realized Downtown isn’t that cool after all, parking sucks, and is that homeless person flashing everyone?), it’s been quite some time since I’ve had an Avalanche Bar. But since I saw Shelly post her version of Avalanche Cookies, I knew I had to recreate this childhood treat at home… with my rebellious spin, duh.

DSC_0402AEnter pie crust. Yeah, pie crust. Homie play. Homie play like that. Pie crust offers a delightful, unexpected crunch to these clusters and a bit of a doughy, cookie feel. It’s hard to explain but easy to eat 10 of these incredible cookie clusters, also inspired by the mil-dollar Pillsbury Bake-Off winner’s recipe which includes bits of baked pie crust in her cookies, too.

Genius? Hell yes it is. And ohmigawd, did I mention a DREAM COME TRUE?!

DSC_0405ASeriously. Can’t stop, won’t stop — and you shouldn’t either. Make these NOW! Live the dream!!

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5.0 from 3 reviews
Avalanche Cookie Clusters
Author: 
Recipe type: Cookies, Treats
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Irresistible, incredible and outrageously delicious, these addictive Avalanche Cookie Clusters are inspired by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's delectable Avalanche Bars! You and your family will love the unexpected twist of pie crust bits in these fabulous cluster cookies!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1 & ½ cups miniature marshmallows
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 pkg Vanilla CandiQuik
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
Instructions
  1. First, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or with parchment paper. Mist parchment (if using) with cooking spray. Place the pie crust on the baking sheet and, using a sharp knife or a pizza wheel, cut the pie crust into thin strips, then cut crosswise to make small, bite-sized squares. Separate the squares so that they don't touch as much, and bake for approx. 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.
  2. In a large bowl, melt the CandiQuik according to package directions or until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter until blended. Working quickly, add in the cereal, marshmallows and pie crust pieces and toss gently to coat completely.
  3. Working fast, drop heaping ¼ cup-sized clusters of the mixture onto foil-or silicone-lined baking sheets. Because of the CandiQuik, the mixture could harden so it's key to work as fast as possible! Allow the clusters to set before serving. Store leftovers airtight, at room temperature, for up to a week.

DSC_0408AButtery, creamy, crunchy, gooey, crispy, salty and oh-so-decadent, these are THE BOMB. Easily my new favorite cookie-candy hybrid and I guarantee they’ll be yours, too!

*Tip: for chocolate-lovers, feel free to sprinkle each cluster with some miniature chocolate chips before they set for a little chocolate kick!*

Have a fabulous day!!

xo, Hayley

Peanut Brittle Cupcakes

Peanut Brittle CupcakesPeanut brittle is one of those candies that I totally love but often overlook. One, because it isn’t sold in many stores, and two, because it isn’t as common as your average M&M’s or Skittles.

But when I am around it? Lawd have mercy, homedog. I’m scarfing it down like it’s my day job. It’s just so addictive!

Since I still have an enormous fear of candy thermometers (seriously, I do not have time for high-maintenance candy!) I haven’t actually made my own peanut brittle at home. If we’re being honest, I find it easier to just stock up at See’s Candies and get it for $6/box than stress over a pot of boiling caramel. Not my idea of a good time. Eating the peanut brittle, however, is a great time.

So while I haven’t mastered the brittle itself, I have mastered these scrumptious cupcakes! I have to admit, the peanut brittle flavor is spot-on. If you could somehow bottle it up and drink that delectable peanut butter caramel flavor, it would be the best beverage evah. But for now, you’ll have to settle with eating your cupcake and your peanut brittle, too. These are the best!

DSC_0316ASkip the candy thermom mama drama and buy yourself a box of brittle… and the ingredients for these cupcakes. You’ll be glad you did!

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Peanut Brittle Cupcakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Cakes/Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
 
Peanutty and caramel, these Peanut Brittle Cupcakes taste like the addictive candy without the fuss of making it. Top with your favorite homemade or store-bought brittle for the perfect, tasty garnish.
Ingredients
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅓ cup caramel flavored syrup (NOT sundae sauce, but the kind you can use to flavor your coffee, like by Torani)
  • ¾ cup creamy peanut butter (I like Jif!)
  • FOR FROSTING:
  • 1 & ½ sticks butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup caramel flavored syrup
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk, if needed
  • About 4 cups powdered sugar
  • Peanut Brittle, prepared or your favorite homemade recipe, broken into shards
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two standard muffin tins with about 16 paper liners; set aside. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, oil, eggs, water, caramel syrup and peanut butter together with a handheld electric mixer for about 2 minutes or until blended. Distribute batter evenly among the cupcake tins, filling about ¾" full.
  2. Bake for approximately 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with light crumbs. Cool the cupcakes completely while you prepare the frosting.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter, vanilla and caramel syrup with the paddle attachment until creamy and blended. Gradually add the powdered sugar, about one cup at a time, until frosting is light and fluffy. Add the milk if frosting is too thick.
  4. Spoon the frosting into a disposable piping bag attached with a large open star tip. Pipe the frosting high onto the cooled cupcakes, then garnish with a couple of shards of peanut brittle. Top with caramel sundae syrup if you'd like! Serve immediately.

DSC_0324AThese are FABULOUS! They’re a must-try. If you haven’t had caramel + peanut butter before, you must give this insanely-delicious combination a go. It’s a total winner and is what makes the flavor in these delectable Peanut Brittle Cupcakes so spot-on!

Have a fantastic day!

xo, Hayley

Chocolate Cherry Seven Layer Bars

ChocolateCherryI will never understand super touchy people. You know the ones who always feel the need to touch you, hold you, hug you, pick at you… whether they know you or not?

As a teenager with Day-Glo colored neon hair, I was constantly being touched by random strangers. Picking out apples in the grocery store, I suddenly felt hands on my hair and turned to see a woman inspecting my hair to see if it was real or a wig. Um, excuse me? Or just the random people who seemingly couldn’t believe that real hair could exist in colors like that, so they’d just reach out and pet me like some kind of rare zoo animal.

And while I’ve never been pregnant, I have heard horror stories of mothers-to-be mentioning random people rubbing their bellies in public places as if the mother was some kind of magical Buddha. This ain’t no Chinese restaurant, and your fortune says to kindly eff off. Don’t touch my belly!

…I certainly don’t want anyone touching my muffin top and mistaking it for a child. I don’t know what would be more mortifying.

But yesterday I was in ULTA waiting in a mile-long line when I felt something on my head. I must preface this by saying that I loathe long hair on me. Like, super-duper hate it. One, because I am really low-maintenance with my hair. Like, I don’t even own a hair dryer and I wash it about twice a week. And two, because of my major-lax attitude about my hair, I don’t brush it. Say what you will, cringe if you please, but I loathe brushing it. And YES, I do have an appointment to get it cut, thankyouverymuch. I’m kinda-sorta counting down the minutes if we’re being honest, and I’ve come thisclose to shaving it off myself.

SO. That being said, I was minding my own damn jolly business when I felt something on my head. I quickly reached up to touch the back of my hair and was greeted with a hand. A HAND ON MY HEAD. I spun around and the woman behind me looked at me sheepishly and said, “you know you have a knot in your hair, so I was trying to get it out for you.”

So here I was, standing in line with arms full of beauty products, listening to Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You for the 876th time, while a strange woman picked out the rat’s nest in the back of my head. It was both humiliating and irksome at the same time, which is a delightful combination of emotions if you weren’t sure. I had to politely tell the lady to PLEASE stop picking apart my dreadlocks because A) we are not apes picking bugs out of one another’s fur, and B) because really? There’s polite, and then there’s psychotic… and she surely wasn’t being the former.

And it was with that that I came home with my dreadlock and held it close. We may have our differences, but I’ll be damned if someone assault’s my dreadlocks in an ULTA line.

DSC_0087AAnywho. Let’s talk food, specifically these outrageous seven layer bars. You guys know me and my seven layer/magic bars. I love them. There’s something so irresistible about seven layers of glorious goodness within each bite, and I love coming up with brand new flavor combinations… including this one! I’m a big chocolate + cherry fan, and these bars are for all those chocoholic cherry lovers out there. Packed with multiple layers of bright, sweet cherries and rich, creamy chocolate, they’re the epitome of decadence in one gooey, bite-sized bar!

This is one instance where it’s totally okay to get touchy-feely. Pick away!!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate Cherry Seven Layer Bars
Author: 
Recipe type: Bars
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15
 
Rich and gooey, these Chocolate Cherry Seven Layer Bars have bursts of bright, sweet cherry flavor throughout!
Ingredients
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 pkg Nestle Tollhouse Cherry Delight-Fulls Morsels
  • 1 cup cherry morsels (by LogHouse Foods)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 pkg Andes Chocolate Cherry candies, chopped
  • 1 & ½ cups Hershey's Cherry Cordial Kisses, chopped
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • Maraschino cherries, for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9" baking pan with foil, extending the sides of the foil over the edges of the pan. Mist the foil with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, egg, and oil until a soft dough has formed. Press the dough evenly into the prepared baking pan and bake for approx. 12 minutes. Remove from the oven but keep the oven on. Evenly top with the assorted chips and chopped candies; drizzle evenly with the sweetened condensed milk.
  3. Return to the oven and continue baking for an additional 18-20 minutes or until the bars are bubbly and the center appears to be just about set. It may wiggle slightly; that's okay -- it will continue to set up as it cools.
  4. Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting into squares. I recommend cooling them overnight for extra time to set up. You can also pop in the fridge to speed up cooling time, but allow to come to room temperature to cut. Store leftovers airtight at room temperature, and garnish slices with chocolate sauce and cherries if you'd like.

DSC_0101ADuuuuuuuuuuude. These are rockin’!

FYI – cherry morsels, cherry cordial Hershey’s Kisses and Andes Cherry Cordial Candies can typically be found during the Christmas season and sometimes Valentine’s Day. If you like these candies, stock up now since they tend to be seasonal. Nestle TollHouse Delight-Fulls are available yearround in the baking aisle next to the other chocolate chips.

Have a sweet day!!

xo, Hayley

 

 

Super Simple 2-Ingredient Turtles

2 Ingredient TurtlesYou guuuuyyyyyysssss. These turtles. I can’t even.

Most recipes on the interwebs feature three or four-ingredient turtles, and that’s totally cool. But if you’re like me, you kinda sorta get a little pissy whenever you have to rinse out a sticky caramel pot or when you have to pry hardened chocolate off of a spoon. Like seriously, I would love to have a live-in permanent dishwasher. It would be AWESOME, and I would pay them entirely in treats.

But since I haven’t made it yet (at least to the caliber of hiring staff), I’ll have to settle with cutting out the middle man by using Rolo candies instead of your traditional caramel squares and melting chocolate. Rolos take the guess-work and fuss out of making homemade candy since you simply upwrap them and melt them for a delightful treat! No sticky bowls, no frustrated dishwashers. Easy-peasy, yo.

DSC_0143AAnd if you’re feeling extra fancy, you can always roll these poppable, addictive treats in sprinkles like I did for a festive touch. These really could not be simpler to make and hellooooo, no dishes equals a happy Hayley.

(Oh, and if you’re lookin’ for work, I *do* have a sink full of dishes at the moment soo… inquire within) :)

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Super Simple 2-Ingredient Turtles
Author: 
Recipe type: Candy
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
These two-ingredient turtles are the EASIEST candies you'll ever make! Roll the melted chocolate edges in sprinkles for a festive touch that looks great any time of year.
Ingredients
  • Rolos, unwrapped
  • Pecan Halves (I like using Diamond of California Shelled Pecans)
  • Sprinkles, if desired
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Place a pecan half down on the prepared baking sheet and very gently top it with an unwrapped Rolo candy. The pecan halves can be a little teeter-tottery, but try to balance them or choose flatter pecans as best as you can. There's no right or wrong way!
  2. Once the pecans have been topped with the Rolos, very carefully place the pan in the oven for about 2-3 minutes or until the Rolo candies are shiny but not melted. Remove from the oven and gently press another pecan half on top of each Rolo, sandwiching them slightly. Allow the turtles to cool for about 10 minutes before rolling the sides in sprinkles if you'd like. Otherwise, allow the turtles to set completely before serving or packaging. This recipe can make as many or as few turtles as you'd like.

DSC_0139AI love the spirited touch of the Christmas-colored sprinkles rolled around each candy; it makes them look more special and like you spent all day making these fabulous turtle candies! No one will guess they are just two simple, everyday ingredients and these make fantastic gifts for friends and family!

Have a delicious day!!

xo, Hayley

 

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Cups

GingerbreadCookieDoughCupsTo me, there are three flavors synonymous with the holidays: eggnog, peppermint, and gingerbread.

While I’ve always had an affinity with peppermint, eggnog and gingerbread took awhile to get used to. As a kid, I wanted to like them so badly. Eggnog just seemed so cool – like something suave businesswomen in turtleneck pantsuits would drink (it was the 90s) but I just couldn’t stomach it; it reminded me of melted ice cream but not in a good way. And gingerbread, of course, for all the gingerbread home construction that I’d build during this magical time of year. But demolishing said house? I went for the candy and abandoned the stale frame behind.

But as an adult, I realized I actually enjoy all of these flavors (and none of the turtleneck pantsuits). Eggnog is best enjoyed, in my opinion, in moderation, such as a glaze on a cake or a sip here and there (spiked because hello, it’s the holidays and how else am I supposed to be so jolly?). And gingerbread, because I finally left those terrible, crumbly gingerbread cookie homes behind and had real-deal, chewy, perfectly spiced gingerbread cookies that totally assuaged my stale-cookie nightmares.

And now, gingerbread is a must during the holidays. Whether you prefer your cookies soft and chewy, or thinner and crispy, I think everyone can agree that one of the best parts of this Christmastime classic is the cookie dough. But then again, isn’t that the case with all cookies? :)

DSC_0203ACookie dough is one of my favorite treats and I combined my love for the sweet, uncooked batter with my newfound love for gingerbread to create these fabulous, sweet-and-spicy Gingerbread Cookie Dough Cups. Kinda like peanut butter cups, but surrounded by smooth white chocolate and filled with a decadent, perfectly spiced gingerbread cookie dough. These sweet, poppable cups are then topped with a small sprinkling of dried ginger which offers an irresistible pop of flavor atop these festive treats.

Both my cookie dough and the dried ginger garnish come from Gourmet Garden, the folks behind those oh-so convenient squeezable tubes of fresh herbs and spices. Gourmet Garden knows that not everyone has time or money to buy a fresh bunch of herbs for a single recipe. More than likely, the herbs will spoil before you have a chance to use them! But Gourmet Garden has created these convenient squeeze tubes filled with your favorite herbs and spices to make cooking and baking a breeze — and no more dreaded garlic fingers! Simply squeeze the amount of herbs or spices needed into your recipe and voila! No mess, no waste. It’s that simple — and the fresh pop of color and flavor added to the dishes is outstanding.

DSC_0206AGourmet Garden just released their new line of Lightly Dried Spices for your cooking needs. The Lightly Dried Line is the closest thing to fresh you’ll get in appearance, flavor, and aroma and they stay fresh for 4 weeks after opening. From cilantro to ginger, parsley to chili pepper and basil, Gourmet Garden has your herbs and spices covered to ensure a perfectly flavorful dish in no time.

…And speaking of flavorful… just look at these cups! They’re just bursting with that sweet gingerbread dough and smooth white chocolate. If this doesn’t scream “Christmas” I don’t know what does!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Gingerbread Cookie Dough Cups
Author: 
Recipe type: Treats
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 30
 
Perfectly spiced gingerbread cookie dough is enrobed around sweet white chocolate and topped with dried ginger for these refined yet utterly delicious candy cups!
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp Gourmet Garden Ginger Stir-In Paste
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 & ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 pkg Vanilla CandiQuik or white chocolate candy coating
  • Approx. 5 Tbsp Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried Ginger, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Line a miniature muffin pan with approx. 30 miniature paper liners. Set aside. Meanwhile, melt HALF of the white chocolate coating according to package directions or until smooth and melted.
  2. Drop heaping teaspoons or so of melted white chocolate into the bottom of each muffin liner. Using the spoon, gently brush the white chocolate along the sides of the muffin cup about halfway. Allow the chocolate to set.
  3. To make your cookie dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, brown sugar and molasses until combined. Beat in vanilla, milk and ginger paste. Lastly, beat in the spices and flour until a soft dough has formed.
  4. Roll scant teaspoon-sized balls of dough with your fingers and place them, slightly flattened, into the white chocolate cups. Once the cups are filled with all of the cookie dough, melt the remaining white chocolate. Drop heaping Tablespoons of white chocolate on top of each cookie dough ball, ensuring the balls are covered completely by the white chocolate on the top and sides. Sprinkle the tops of the cups with the dried ginger, and allow to set before serving.

DSC_0215AI love the spicy, aromatic flavor ginger lends to this recipe. Both the Ginger Paste and the Lightly Dried Ginger add such a tremendous amount of freshness and warmth to these unique and festive cookie cups! If you’d like, you could also top the cookie dough cups with a sprinkling of festive holiday sprinkles or jimmies as well.

Gourmet Garden brandmarkBe sure to connect with Gourmet Garden to learn more about their company, product line, news, and more! You can follow them on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST & INSTAGRAM for more delicious recipes, tips and more, including great Holiday Baking inspiration like this!

And be sure to check out other amazing Holiday Baking Recipes from friends featuring Gourmet Garden!!

Hope you have a fantastical day!!

xo, Hayley

In the interest of full disclosure, I was generously provided with samples of Gourmet Garden’s Products to review and develop a recipe. All opinions are, and always will be, my own. 

Twinkie Trees & Ding Dong Ornaments (& A #HostessHoliday Sweeps!)

“This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Hostess blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.”

TwinkieTreesSo let’s get one thing straight, shall we? I love me some Hostess! Growing up, I was pretty much on a strict Twinkie-a-day diet… and they’re still one of my absolute favorite guilty-pleasure foods!

And if there’s one thing I love more than Hostess Snacks, it’s transforming these classic cakes into fantastic, delicious desserts that use Hostess products as the base. I’ve made Tiramisu and Truffles using Twinkies, and now I’m making Christmas trees and ornaments! (And between you and me, these may be my favorite Twinkie and Ding Dong treats yet!)

If there’s one memory from the holidays that I love, it’s the times I would decorate cookies and gingerbread houses with my family. We’d play Elvis Christmas music and sprinkle, frost, dip and eat to our heart’s content. Decorating these Hostess Snacks brought me back to my childhood and instantly reminded me of the fun I had decorating, and the best part: eating my masterpiece after it was all said & done :) But whether or not you eat these immediately or keep them around a little bit as a gorgeous, unexpected (edible) centerpiece or star of the dessert table is totally up to you!

First up, let’s talk Twinkie Trees. Aren’t they adorable?!

Twinkie1For these, simply slide a cake pop or lollipop stick into an unwrapped Twinkie. The Twinkie is the perfect vertical vessel for these picture-perfect chocolate trees. Freeze the Twinkies while you make your trees using green candy coating, sprinkles and other assorted candies — this is the most fun part for the kids! You could make your trees bright and colorful like I did, or use simpler colors like sparkling silver or gold, for something more classic and refined. Then simply squiggle on some leftover candy melts directly onto the Twinkie, attach the tree, and voila! Easy as pie.. er, as Twinkie. :)

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DingDong1As for the Ding Dong Ornaments? Simple!

DSC_1582APop some unwrapped Ding Dongs into the freezer to harden a bit. Once they’re nice and solid, melt some white candy coating and give the Ding Dongs a nice, hot bath in the white chocolate coating. Lift them out to allow excess coating to drip off, then return them to a baking sheet to decorate! Attach a Rolo candy for the top of the ornament, then use candies and sprinkles to create magical, one-of-a-kind ornaments that you can eat! 

Are you hungry yet?!

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4.9 from 7 reviews
Twinkie Trees & Ding Dong Ornaments (& A #HostessHoliday Sweeps!)
Author: 
Recipe type: Treats
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
These adorable Twinkie Trees and Ding Dong Ornaments are simple to make and taste fabulous! Wow your guests with these impressive treats that are a blast to make with the kids!
Ingredients
  • FOR TWINKIE TREES:
  • Hostess Twinkies
  • Green Candy Coating/Candy Melts
  • Assorted Sprinkles and Candies (like Mini M&M's)
  • Lollipop Sticks
  • FOR DING DONG ORNAMENTS:
  • Hostess Ding Dongs
  • White Candy Coating (like CandiQuik)
  • Assorted Sprinkles and Candies (like Mini M&M's)
  • Rolo Candies
Instructions
  1. FOR TWINKIE TREES:
  2. Gently slide a lollipop stick into the bottom of an unwrapped Twinkie about ½ way through. Place the Twinkie pops onto a foil-lined baking sheet and place them in the freezer until firm, about 1-2 hours.
  3. While the Twinkies firm up, make your trees. Melt the green candy coating according to package directions, until smooth & melted. Place the melted green candy into a piping bag attached with a small circular tip, or in a squeeze bottle (recommended). Pipe Christmas-tree shapes onto a piece of wax paper, then fill them in with the green candy coating. Use a toothpick to smooth out the trees or add more definition and texture. Immediately top with candies, sprinkles, etc. to decorate the trees. Allow the trees to harden, then gently peel off from the wax paper. *Note: you could trace tree shapes onto the wax paper prior to piping to help with a uniform shape. Consider using a tree-shaped cookie cutter to help act as a template.
  4. Once Twinkies are firm, pipe the remaining green candy coating on top of the Twinkie lengthwise. Gently attach the Christmas tree to the Twinkie and allow it to set.
  5. FOR DING DONG ORNAMENTS:
  6. Place unwrapped Ding Dongs onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Place in freezer to briefly firm up the Ding Dongs, about 1 hour.
  7. Melt the white chocolate candy coating according to package directions, or until smooth and melted. Dunk the Ding Dongs completely into the melted white chocolate, then lift up the Ding Dongs with a fork and allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place on the baking sheet. Attach a Rolo to the top of the ornament, and use candies and sprinkles to decorate the ornament to your liking. Allow the chocolate to set before serving.

hostess

If you thought eating these adorable creations was the best part, you’re in for an extra-sweet treat! Hostess is hosting a #HostessHolidaySweeps Pinterest Sweepstakes! All you have to do is enter Hostess’ fabulous Pinterest Sweepstakes HERE to win fantastic prizes, including Hostess Products and up to $1,000! (Hint: $1,000 can buy a lot of Zingers…) Be sure to follow Hostess on PINTEREST to see beautiful tablescape, decorating and baking ideas for the holidays & more!

And you can also enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win $100 to Walmart, where I found all of my Hostess products and whom I think has the largest selection of Hostess Snacks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Stay Connected with Hostess

You can also follow them on TWITTER, PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, TUMBLR, & YOUTUBE for more great ideas, recipes, news & more!

Have a super sweet day!!

xo, Hayley

 

Peppermint Crunch Pretzels

Peppermint Crunch PretzelsYou guys.

These pretzels are everything. And I know I throw around “everything” a lot, but duuude. These are forrealsies ev.er.y.thing.

DSC_1559AI, for one, am a huuuuuge peppermint fiend. The second Target breaks out the Peppermint Kisses, I’m buying five bags and polishing them off like it’s my day job.

And while cleaning out all the peppermint goodies at Target, I happened upon a bag of peppermint pretzels. But unfortunately, those pretzels are a huuuuuge letdown, much like glitter nail polish and this season of American Horror Story. They claim they’re peppermint pretzels, but there only minimally dusted with a vaguely-minty peppermint powder. Low blow, bro. Where’s my peppermint?!

DSC_1557AThese pretzels, however, are not chintzy with the peppermint. They’re loaded with the stuff: both peppermint chips and crushed candy canes. And they’re double-coated in chocolate for an extra special treat. Plus, the sweet-and-salty flavor combo is just out of control, people. Just don’t be mad at me when you polish off an entire batch before the opening credits begin rolling for the latest Freak Show episode [which, by the way, I’m still so bitter that Twisty’s gone!]

Now who’s ready for the best snack ever?!

DSC_1562A

5.0 from 1 reviews
Peppermint Crunch Pretzels
Author: 
Recipe type: Treats
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Sweet and salty, these Peppermint Crunch Pretzels are heavy on the peppermint and deliciousness! Topped with peppermint chips and crushed candy cane, and coated in two types of chocolate, they are as addictive as they are scrumptious!
Ingredients
  • 1 bag Pretzel Thins (regular flavor)
  • 1 pkg Chocolate CandiQuik
  • ¼ pkg Vanilla CandiQuik
  • 1 & ½ cups Andes Peppermint Chips
  • 1 cup crushed candy cane pieces
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone liner and set aside. Melt the Chocolate CandiQuik according to package directions, or until smooth & melted.
  2. Dip each pretzel thin into the chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Return the pretzel to the baking sheet and repeat with remaining pretzels. Allow the chocolate to set.
  3. Once the chocolate shell has set, melt the Vanilla CandiQuik according to package directions, or until smooth & melted. Once melted, pour the mixture into a squeeze bottle or a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped off. Pipe the white chocolate liberally all over the pretzels. Immediately sprinkle with the peppermint chips and crushed candy canes.
  4. Allow the pretzels to set before breaking apart (if needed) and serving. Store leftovers airtight.

DSC_1564AIf you’re more of a creme de menthe fan, these would be equally badass with regular Andes Mint Chips and a melty green drizzle instead… but I just love the red pop of color and the buttery, minty flavor of peppermint with the pretzels. So divine!

Have a sweet Sunday!

xo, Hayley

Love Peppermint? Check out these other super-fresh recipes! 

PeppermintBarkCupsPeppermint Bark Cheesecake Cookie Cups

peppermint7layer Peppermint Seven Layer Bars

whitechocpeppermintWhite Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Peppermint Bark Cheesecake Cookie Cups

PeppermintBarkCupsPeppermint is probably one of my favorite dessert flavors, besides bubblegum of course.

Around this time, I think my happiness level peaks to an all-time high. Christmas music, peppermint-candy-everything, sparkly trees and ornaments, and the irresistible urge to purchase everything in sight to positively spoil my family and friends.

Yep, I’m a true winter girl alright!

These cookie cups came to me after a Cheesecake Factory FAIL. After a day of shopping until my arms fell off, I decided to reward my job well done with a thick, fat slice of Peppermint Cheesecake from the eponymous restaurant. After all, they’re a factory of friggin’ cheesecake… only to be terribly informed that they don’t have peppermint cheesecake until after Thanksgiving.

What kind of injustice is this? How can we as a society accept this nonsense? Peppermint comes after Thanksgiving? Oh HELL NAH.

So I was like “I’ll show you!” and got all sassy and drove to Target to pick up my ingredients in a huff. Target, meanwhile, had just received the peppermint memo and hadn’t even finished unloading their candy when I was all up in their faces digging through boxes of Peppermint Hershey Kisses. I’m sure they love obnoxious people like me.

But alas, these Peppermint Bark Cheesecake Cookie Cups were born and ohmahgawwwd, y’all, they’ll rule your face now until January 1st, where peppermint goes to die in our cruel, peppermint-judgmental society. So EAT UP!!

DSC_1220A*slightly adapted from my Chocolate Cookie Cups with Peanut Butter Cheesecake Frosting Recipe

5.0 from 1 reviews
Peppermint Bark Cheesecake Cookie Cups
Author: 
Recipe type: Cookies, Cheesecake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Frosty-cold peppermint cheesecake sits atop a chocolate cookie cup with a hidden peppermint bark surprise inside. These are positively irresistible!
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 & ¼ cups chocolate cake mix
  • 1 & ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 24 Hershey's Peppermint Kisses, unwrapped
  • FOR CHEESECAKE FROSTING:
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½-1 tsp peppermint extract (to suit your tastes)
  • About 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Crushed candy canes, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally grease a 24-cavity miniature muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until creamy. Stir in egg and vanilla. Lastly, beat in the dry cake mix, flour, baking soda and salt until a soft dough comes together.
  2. Drop heaping Tablespoonfuls of dough into each muffin cavity using a cookie dough scoop. Flatten the dough slightly with your fingers. Bake for approx. 12-15 minutes or until the tops appear set and are slightly sunken in. Immediately upon removing from the oven, nestle a peppermint kiss candy in the center of each cup. Cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then gently release them by running a knife along the outer edge and popping them out. If they resist at the 15 minute mark, allow them to cool a little longer in the pan. Cool the cups on a wire rack completely.
  3. Clean out your stand mixer bowl and paddle attachment. To make your cheesecake frosting, beat together the butter, cream cheese, vanilla and peppermint extract until combined. Add in powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until frosting is thick but fluffy. If the cheesecake frosting it too thick, stream in a little bit of milk to help thin it out some.
  4. Pipe the cheesecake frosting onto the cookie cups, then immediately garnish with crushed candy cane pieces. Serve immediately, or store leftovers covered in the fridge.

DSC_1222ACool, refreshing and piled high with a luscious, creamy peppermint cheesecake, these fantastic cups scream wintertime! I love the secret gooey peppermint bark surprise nestled within each soft and buttery chocolate cookie cup, and I know you will too! For an added festive touch, consider garnishing each cookie cup with a sliver of a peppermint bark piece, or top with chopped peppermint marshmallows for a hot-cocoa-inspired twist!

Have a fantastical day!

xo, Hayley

Turtle Seven Layer Bars

turtlemagicbarsTurtles are easily the most underrated candy ever.

Like, for the longest time I thought turtles were those candies only grandmas liked, along with those horrid strawberry hard candies or butterscotch discs that collect lint at the bottom of their purses.

But then I realized turtles are actually awesome and have no place at the bottom of an old lady purse next to those vile strawberry things. (Seriously, who actually eats those? I know a couple of you will come forward in shame but dude. I kind of want to set them all ablaze for making strawberries taste so terrible).

If you, like me, were misinformed about the magic of turtle candies, or if you live within a gargantuan old lady purse among butterscotch discs, let me enlighten you: turtles are basically candies made of pecans, caramel, and chocolate. That’s it, yo. Sometimes with a hefty sprinkling of sea salt on top if you’re feeling fancy, or sometimes people will get all feisty on ya and throw in some almonds or walnuts or white chocolate because they like to live life on the edge. I love those edgy turtles, too. But the favorite’s a fave for a reason: who could resist buttery caramel topped with smooth, rich milk chocolate sitting atop a bed of crunchy, salty pecans? Not I.

(Well, maybe grandma can, what with the whole apocalyptic stash of dinner mints but I digress).

DSC_1001AAnywho. You guys know I love my seven layer/magic bars, so these Turtle Magic Bars were bound to happen. Plus, as a huge fan of Diamond Nuts of California, I of course had to use Diamond of California Chopped Pecans in these bars. Pre-prepped chopped pecans, y’all. It’s a lifesaver, and they don’t get any fresher or tastier than Diamond!

diamondI also spotted Nestle’s newest creation, their Delightfulls Morsels. Have you seen them yet?! They’re chocolate chip morsels that are filled with goodness like caramel, mint, cherry or peanut butter! Since it’s turtle day, I’m obviously using the caramel-filled ones… but I cannot wait to bake with the other flavors!

turtleOkay, so chocolate — check. Caramel — check. Pecans — check. Your mouth — are you ready? Open wide!

DSC_0984A

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Turtle Seven Layer Bars
Author: 
Recipe type: Bars
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Seven layer bars are my fave, and these Turtle ones easily top the list! Jam-packed with gooey, buttery caramel, smooth & rich milk chocolate and salty, crunchy pecans, these will be your new fave, too!
Ingredients
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 pkg Rolos Minis
  • ½ cup Kraft Caramel Bits
  • 1 pkg Nestle Tollhouse Delightfulls Caramel Morsels
  • About 20 Chips Ahoy Caramel-Filled Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup Diamond of California Chopped Pecans
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9" pan with foil, extending the sides of the foil over the edges of the pan. Spray the foil liberally with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, egg and oil with a rubber spatula until a soft dough has formed. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 12 minutes.
  3. Immediately remove the pan from the oven and top evenly with the Rolos, caramel bits, caramel-filled morsels, chopped cookies and pecans. Drizzle evenly with the sc milk. Return the pan to the oven and continue to bake for another 18-20 minutes or until the center appears set and the top is golden.
  4. Cool the bars completely in the pan, then gently lift them out using the foil sides and cut into squares. Serve!

DSC_1000A

DSC_1005AI truly love the flavor of turtles – they’re so irresistibly delicious, combining all those different flavors and textures. Alone as a candy, they’re phenom – but these magic bars are simply mind-blowing! Bursting with buttery caramel, topped with sweetened, crunchy pecans and those pockets of heavenly chocolate just melt in your mouth! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! :)

Can’t get enough turtle?! Check out these other tasty turtle treats!

turtlecapookieTurtle Capookie

turtlestickybunsTurtle Sticky Buns

Have a delicious day!

xo, Hayley

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