Toffee Tiramisu Brookies

toffeetiramisuSo, remember when I told you about OkCupid?  Yeah, it got worse.

And remember when I told you about my hatred of monkeys?  Well, in case you didn’t know (or don’t remember all my weird idiosyncrasies) I hate monkeys.  I positively loathe them.  I think they’re hideous, I think they’re evil, I think they’re gross and I just absolutely HATE them.  Always have.  It’s in my DNA or something, like having detached earlobes and liking Led Zeppelin.  I am unable to shake my inexplicable hatred of monkeys.

Over the years, people usually find this funny and sometimes ask questions like, “well what about baby monkeys?” or “what about spider monkeys?” or “what about the fact that we could have come from monkeys?” and I just rebuff them all with the same statement over and over: I just freakin’ hate them.  And am wishing for a monkey genocide.  That is all, plain and simple.

So when making my OkCupid profile, I gave a small list of random things I like.  Some things included: iced black tea, baking, going on long walks, Gerbera daisies and “all animals except monkeys.”  I wrote it because it’s true, and why not?  It’s just as random of fact as saying I like iced black tea.  I paid no mind to what I’d written.

And then, the influx of emails came.  And the word ‘influx’ doesn’t even accurately describe the obscene amount of emails I received.  Imagine what it’d be like if President Obama gave everyone his personal email and said, “tell me what you REALLY feel.”  It’d be like that times a billion.

Guys from around the Sacramento area saw my profile, my cute pictures, my fun facts about liking tea and daisies and bombarded me with emails about — my hatred of monkeys.  Not. Even. Joking.  Of the 100 or so emails I received in that weekend, about 90 of them consisted of SOME question regarding monkeys and why I hated them.  When I would reply, “I just think they’re evil and gross and I hate them” thinking that this answer should shut most people up, I was greeted with another email continuing to question my answer.

“Well, why do you hate them?  You must have had a terrible personal experience.”
“Oh man, did one fling poop at you at the zoo?”
“It sounds like you were traumatized by a monkey before.”
“Monkeys are funny, though!  They fling poo!  Why do you hate them?”

Soon, the entire male population on OkCupid in the greater Sacramento region morphed into less-intelligent versions of Sherlock Holmes, trying to crack the Great-Hayley-Monkey-Hatred Case of 2014.  Some would eventually back off.  Others continued to pester until I deleted our conversation and refused to acknowledge them.  Some would change the subject, I’d realize they were okay, I would give them my number, and then they’d keep talking about monkeys.  This particular incident involved me shouting (out loud) at my phone while on the treadmill at the gym “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!” before angrily typing some expletives and not-so-nice words to the poor Lothario on the other end.

Is Sacramento some kind of monkey-loving city and I’m this weird outcast?  Is hating monkeys a criminal offense punishable by heinous amounts of inquiring emails?  I didn’t realize that casually mentioning that I hated monkeys was somewhere near cannibalism and burning kittens on the “Awful Human Scale.”  Jeeeeeeeeez.

I mean, I would definitely not badger some random stranger if they happened to mention they hated spiders.  WELL, WHY DO YOU HATE SPIDERS, HM? DID ONE CRAWL ON YOU? FALL ON YOUR HEAD WHILE YOU SLEPT? DID YOU SEE THE MOVIE ‘ARACHNOPHOBIA’ AND THAT’S WHY YOU’RE SCARED? IS IT BECAUSE THEY EAT BUGS? BECAUSE THEY HAVE EIGHT LEGS? BECAUSE THEY’RE FURRY? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHYYYYYY?

So, needless to say, I deleted that tidbit about the monkeys off of my profile as I strongly considered becoming a nun since this whole online dating thing seems to be filled with creepy internet trolls, anyway.

DSC_0626ASomewhat related but mostly not, I used to adamantly say I disliked tiramisu only because I wasn’t a huge chocolate fan and hello, it’s a chocolate dessert.  It wasn’t until I tried it recently that I realized it. is. phenomenal.  And lately, brookies have been sweeping through the interwebs (Aimee’s is a classic and I love Julianne’s minty twist!) so I decided to combine these two very different desserts to create a fun and unique treat that is sure to please everyone, even non-chocoholics like myself :)

Time to eat up, my little animals!

DSC_0629A

5.0 from 3 reviews
Toffee Tiramisu Brookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Bars
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
A classic tiramisu is transformed into this fun brookie recipe -- a bar dessert that combines cookies with brownies.
Ingredients
  • 1 tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough, softened to room temperature
  • 1 pkg brownie mix
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup oil
  • ⅓ cup strongly brewed coffee, chilled
  • 1 cup toffee bits
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9" baking pan with foil, extending sides of the foil over the edges of the pan. Spray the foil liberally with cooking spray.
  2. Unroll the sugar cookie dough onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish in an even layer; set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the brownie mix in a large bowl by mixing together the brownie mix, eggs, oil and brewed coffee until smooth and no lumps remain. Pour the mixture evenly on top of the cookie layer. Sprinkle liberally with the toffee bits.
  4. Bake for approx. 35-40 minutes or until the center is mostly set (a little jiggly is okay as it will continue to set up as it cools). Do not over-bake. Allow the pan to cool completely before cutting into bars.
  5. Consider topping these bars with a huge scoop of mocha almond fudge ice cream, hot fudge and more toffee pieces!

DSC_0619AI love this unique take on tiramisu!  The sugar cookies act as the Ladyfingers but they’re infinitely awesomer because they’re sugar cookies, duh.  And if you’ve never tried mocha brownies before (a basic, but so so good!) you must!  Adding the brewed coffee to the mix instead of the water totally elevates the chocolate fudge flavor of the brownies and makes them sensational.  It also makes it impossible to tell if this dish was made entirely from scratch since it lends that homemade feel to a basic boxed brownie.  And I love the fun addition of the crunchy, buttery toffee bits!  So fun and SO delicious!

Have a fantastical day!!

xo, Hayley

Bailey’s Twinkie Tiramisu

baileystiramisuSo I recently joined OkCupid and I have to say, what am I doing?

First of all, within the first 24 hours of signing up I was so bombarded with emails from prospective Lotharios that I had to shut my computer and phone off because I’d get a new message ping every second or so.  Needless to say, I’ve never felt like a pimp more in my life [it was kind of awesome, even if 99% of the people messaging me were not so awesome].

Second of all, after perusing my options in my inbox alone, I have to say, what are people doing?  Because their idea of a first impression is clearly a very awful one.  Take for example profile pictures.  Of all the picture opportunities one has, you post that picture?  The blurry one where I can barely distinguish human-like features?  Or the over-exposed one where you just have scary eyeballs boring into my soul?  Or the one of you standing on top of a mountain and you look like the size of an eyelash on my screen?  Or my personal favorite, the dude-bathroom selfie where you’re half naked & flexing in your dirty bathroom; bonus points if you have some ridiculous tribal tattoo going down the length of your bicep.  Yeah, I’m not asking you post a professional headshot, but maybe don’t show me your boobs on the first impression?  Or make me wonder if the lighting ate the bottom half of your face?  Thanks.

Thirdly, the messages they send are redokulous, people.  I can’t fathom saying some of those things to someone because the cheesiness level is out of this world and onto a scary, creepy planet in outer space where I can only imagine Justin Beiber’s weird mustache and where Robin Thicke came from.

Like the guy who said he wanted to serenade me in an Amazon rain forest where we could dance with monkeys.  Not. Even. Kidding.

Or the guy who seemed super normal until I asked what his hobbies were and he responded, ‘I’m a bad boy.’ Uhhhhhhh delete.

Orrrr the guy who told me his life story and weirded me out so bad I didn’t log on for the rest of the day: “I’m 23 years young, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve learned from them, I’ve been in love, I’ve had my heart broken.  I’ve broken bones, I’ve met celebrities.  I’ve traveled the world.  I’ve seen the deserts of Egypt and the beaches of the Caribbean.  I’ve skydived, I’ve built homes in Mexico, I’ve had triumphs and successes but also great failures.  Yet even having had made all of these experiences, it still doesn’t matter because I haven’t yet met you.”

So yeah, needless to say I’m kind of over it already and it hasn’t even been a week.

HOWEVER, givin’ credit where it’s due, there are some nice, funny and awesome guys I have met on there… so far.  How many people they’ve killed or how much they love the Disney Channel has yet to be determined, but it looks like they could be promising in a non-creepy way.  Yay!

And as long as the body count is under five, I suppose I’m okay with that.  KIDDING.

Anyways, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up if you haven’t realized!  Six days and counting, people — do you have any fun plans?  Usually, I’ll make something somewhat Irish-y and we’ll drink beer.  But this year I am FOR SURE making this amazing Bailey’s Twinkie Tiramisu because it is out of controoollllll goooooood.

DSC_0595AI first tried tiramisu while at Disneyland with Elizabeth in January and was in love.  It was so fluffy and soft and had a pleasing texture I could handle [I’m a major texture person and sometimes even pudding is too much for me!].  Plus, I loved the hint of rich coffee which brought out the sweetness of the chocolate.  I was in heaven!  I knew when I got home I wanted to recreate that dreamy creamy tiramisu but with ingredients I could easily find and with a fun twist.  So I immediately thought of using Twinkies instead of the classic Ladyfingers, and Bailey’s Irish Creamer in the filling for a nice, spiked twist.  If you’re making this for kids, feel free to use the Bailey’s Coffee Creamer for the same taste sans the alcohol.

Otherwise, EAT UP!!

DSC_0611A*recipe adapted from Kristan’s version 

4.7 from 3 reviews
Bailey's Twinkie Tiramisu
Author: 
Recipe type: Treats
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9
 
If you love tiramisu, you'll fall for this dreamy spin on the classic made with Twinkies and Bailey's Irish Cream for a fun & festive St. Patty's Day kick. But don't save it only for the 17th of March-- you must make it yearround!
Ingredients
  • 10 Twinkies, split in half lengthwise (vertically) -- point the Twinkie upwards toward yourself and gently slice it in half lengthwise
  • 1 (12 oz) tub Whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp Bailey's liqueur OR 3 Tbsp Bailey's Irish Coffee Creamer
  • 1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip, thawed
  • ¼ cup strongly brewed black coffee, cooled
  • Chocolate Syrup (the sundae/chocolate milk kind, about ½ cup or so)
  • Cocoa powder & cinnamon for dusting
Instructions
  1. Line an 8x8" baking pan with foil, extending the sides of the foil over the edges of the pan. Spray the pan lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the whipped cream cheese, sugar, Bailey's creamer or liqeuer, and vanilla with an electric mixer until creamy and combined. Gently fold in the Cool Whip until combined; set aside. Meanwhile, whisk the chocolate syrup into the cup of brewed coffee until combined.
  3. Lay 5 Twinkies cream-side up in the pan (this will equal to 10 Twinkie halves)-- should be two rows of five. Drizzle half of the chocolate/coffee mixture on top of the Twinkies. Spread half of the cream cheese mixture evenly on top of the Twinkie layer.
  4. Layer the other half of the Twinkies cream-side up; drizzle with the remaining coffee/chocolate mixture and the remaining cream cheese mixture in an even layer.
  5. In a sifter, sift together a generous scoop of cocoa powder and about a teaspoon or so of cinnamon (more to taste). Sift evenly over the top of the tiramisu. Allow the tiramisu to set in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight before cutting into squares to serve.

DSC_0600AI love the fun kick of the Bailey’s in the whipped cream cheese mixture!  It adds a unique flavor to the tiramisu that I know you’ll enjoy!  The real star here?  The Twinkies!  I love that they’re used in place of Ladyfingers which are typically dry and lacking flavor.  The Twinkies are plush, creamy and absorb all of that luscious chocolate/coffee mixture.  I think you’ll fall in love with this!!

Have a fantastical day!!

xo, Hayley

Coffee Caramel Buzz Donuts [Ben & Jerry’s Week!]

coffeecaramelbuzz

BenandJerryBanner

I have a bone to pick with adults.

I know I’m an adult, but seeing as I consider buying heels with American flags on them as a crucial investment, I’m not the most adult-y adult in the world. I’m talking about those tried-and-true adults. You have a house, a car, probably a family, a 401K, and are in the over-40 bracket. YOU guys.

So first of all, you guys are great. You’ve long made up for your dorky teenage ways, you’ve successfully navigated through the murky, awkward waters of your 20s, you hopefully lived up your 30s since I have heard rumors that your 30s rock, and are now coasting away from the fast lane toward the comfy middle zone of your 40s. Or maybe you’re in your 50s, or maybe just retired (in which case I am unapologetically jealous). Keep up the good adult-y work.

But like, I’m thinking that when you do reach that over 40-age, you guys get it in your head that playing the Age Game is appropriate again, and I have to wholeheartedly disagree.

You know when you were a kid and you had no filter and said silly things, like that time you went to pick your obviously-overweight aunt up from the airport and she said “come and gimme a hug!” and you shouted in your childish candor, “No! You’re fat!”

Or when you are curious about the ages of those around you and ask everyone how old they are and adults usually make a face and say ‘it isn’t nice to ask people their age’ and then they drop the subject for eternity? EXCEPT NOT, because they’ll end up asking you when they’re over 40 and you’ll be in THEEEE MOST awkward spot ever.

I don’t know if I have a giant sign on my forehead that says “Flattering Age Guesser” or not, but apparently I have been the person to ask about a stranger’s age. I was minding my own damn business getting groceries a few days ago when the chip distributor began chatting me up. He had asked how old I was and I didn’t bat an eye when I said “22.” I didn’t bother asking him how old he was because I figured this age question was a double-edged sword and also because I didn’t really care. But then he said, “How old do you think I am?!” and looked at me like I held the secrets to the universe in my hot pink head.

And it was then that I began crawling in a dark recess of my mind wondering HOW in the world I could appropriately answer this question without being A) an obvious liar by choosing an age too low, or B) a complete jerk for selecting an age too high.

So I chuckled and said, “it doesn’t matter — you look great!” but my flattering comeback did not satisfy the chip distributor and he grilled me again, “No, I wanna know–how old do you think I am?!” I tred to explain I was never very good at math and I grew up under a rock and didn’t know how to count over 22, so unfortunately I couldn’t even fathom a guess to his age, but he kept pestering me until I finally blurted, “35.”

35 seemed to satisfy the chip distributor, because he basically acted like I had given him a million dollars and began smiling like crazy before admitting he was turning 51 in September. Thinking I had escaped the crazy age game, later that day I went to get frozen yogurt when the yogurt shop lady insisted I guess her age, too. I wondered briefly if the universe was playing a cruel joke on me to test my graciousness, and so I blurted, “35.” The yogurt shop lady gave me three extra punches in my frequent-buyer card and replied, “I’m turning 49 this year.”

So the moral of the story is, tell people 40 and older that they look 35. It seems to shut them up just fine. Just make sure you don’t tell people 35 and younger that they look 35, or else you’ll kind of seem like a jerk. And that’s only okay to be a jerk when you’re a kid and calling out your aunt for being fat.

DSC_1025A

Anyway, adults seem to like adult-y things, namely coffee. And donuts. So for Ben & Jerry’s Week, I wanted to celebrate the 35 and under adult in all of us by making some coffee-flavored donuts based off Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Buzz ice cream flavor!

Eat up!

DSC_1027ACoffee Caramel Buzz Donuts *donut base recipe adapted from Jocelyn’s Vanilla Chai Donuts recipe 

Coffee Caramel Buzz Donuts [Ben & Jerry's Week!]
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
The perfect accompaniment to a big cup of coffee -- or this iconic Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • ⅔ cup vanilla yogurt (can use plain)
  • ⅓ cup strong-brewed coffee
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp malt powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Caramel Glaze
  • Toffee bits (approx. 1 cup)
  • CARAMEL GLAZE:
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • About 2 cups powdered sugar*
Instructions
  1. FOR DONUTS:
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Liberally grease a 4-cavity long john donut pan or a 6-cavity regular donut pan; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the baking soda, baking powder, malt powder, salt and flour. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and honey; beat together with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg, yogurt, coffee, and extract and carefully beat to combine. Gradually add the wet mixture to the flour mixture until a dough forms.
  4. Pour the batter into a gallon-sized Ziploc baggy; seal out the air. Snip off a corner of the baggy and carefully pipe the batter into the greased donut cavities, about ⅔ full. Bake the donuts for approx. 10 minutes (in the long john pan) and approx. 11-12 minutes (in the regular donut pan). Allow the donuts to cool slightly in the pans, about 5 minutes, before carefully inverting them to a wire rack to cool completely. Bake any additional donut batter, if needed. Once donuts are baked & cooled, prepare your glaze.
  5. FOR CARAMEL GLAZE:
  6. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and vanilla together, stirring continuously. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil, constantly stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until darker in color. Remove from the heat and stir in the powdered sugar, about ½ cup at a time. Add more powdered sugar to thicken the glaze if need be*. The glaze shouldn't be too runny but shouldn't be as thick as icing, either.
  7. Dip the tops of the donuts into the glaze, allowing excess to drip off. Repeat the dunk process one more time. Return the donuts to the wire rack and sprinkle immediately with toffee bits. Allow the glaze to set, about 10-15 minutes, before serving. These make about 6 long john donuts or about 8-10 regular donuts, and can be kept at room temperature for a couple days, stored airtight.

 

DSC_1032AThese donuts have a subtle, warm coffee aroma to their tender, moist crumb. The malt powder adds that unique flavor to the coffee which is strikingly similar to the ice cream! And can I just say I’m obsessed with the caramel glaze? Sinfully delicious! Perfect for any adult of any age :)

Stick around! I have some more awesome Ben & Jerry’s Week Recipes still to come!

Happy Eating,

xo, Hayley

 

Cinnamon Caramel-Filled Mocha Cookies & A SILPAT GIVEAWAY! (Giveaway Closed!)

I wouldn’t say I’m “new” to the baking world, but in a way, I am.

There’s so much more I have yet to make, taste and explore in this wonderful realm of pastry.

Well… I use the term “pastry” loosely since we know how some people feel about my cooking being compared to the “gourmet pastry.”

I know my stuff isn’t typically the fare seen in glossy cooking magazines, and my techniques aren’t culinary school grad-quality, but I learn quickly by trial, error and lots of experimentation. There’s been plenty of cookie casualties and bludgeoned brownies.

But with a few of my tips & tricks and some favorite products, I get failproof results now. I don’t need a degree or years of experience or anything. Just stuff I know and love to get the cupcakes, cookies and confections you’ve come to know and love!

One of my favorite products to use is my SilPat Baking Mat. I’ve only recently come to know & love this product after years of dealing with cookies sticking stubbornly to the bottom of my supposedly nonstick baking pans. I was sick of chiseling them off and getting weird floppy disks for my chocolate chip cookies. Not photogenic and not tasty–just no bueno. So I asked for one of these for Christmas and the results speak for themselves.

Puffy, gourmet, beautiful-looking and tasting cookies that are crispy on the bottom yet soft and chewy in the middle–my favorite kind of homebaked cookie! They spread effortlessly and slide off the sheet so there’s no stuck-on mess which is great since cookies are intended to be eaten, not scraped off bit by bit.

You can also freeze them, so it’s great for lining pans when you’ll be working with melting chocolate (like dipping truffles) or using stickier stuff like caramel.

I seriously love my SilPat and use it for all my cookie baking. I know you’ll love one, too–that’s why SilPat has graciously offered to send one of you lucky duck readers a Half-Pint Size which is the perfect size for baking up a batch of these Cinnamon Caramel-Filled Mocha Cookies I made.

GIVEAWAY CLOSED! The winner has been selected and notified via email. 

 

THANK YOU to everyone who participated and entered this giveaway! You rock! And thank you SilPat for hosting this giveaway!

 

To Enter, all you have to do is leave me a comment telling me what kind of cookies you’re excited to bake on your possible new SilPat Baking Mat. Chocolate chip? These Mexican-mocha inspired ones? My personal favorite: oatmeal? Tell me, and be sure to leave a valid email address with your comment.

For extra entries, be sure to leave separate comments for the following:
LIKE SilPat on Facebook
LIKE The Domestic Rebel on Facebook
FOLLOW SilPat on Twitter
FOLLOW The Domestic Rebel on Twitter
FOLLOW SilPat on Pinterest
FOLLOW The Domestic Rebel on Pinterest
SUBSCRIBE to SilPat on YouTube
SUBSCRIBE to The Domestic Rebel on YouTube

This giveaway is open to US residents only and will run until Monday 7/30. A winner will be chosen around 6PM PST on 7/30 and will be chosen via Random.org. A winner will be notified shortly thereafter from the provided email along with entry and SilPat will ship the item to the winner’s home. If a winner does not respond within 48 hours a new winner will be selected.

There are SO many ways to enter this giveaway, so GOOD LUCK!! I’m stoked for you!

And now, onto these cookies… Rich, creamy, salty & sweet, they’re reminiscent of those salted caramel mochas at Starbucks. I am obsessed with chocolate + cinnamon and these cookies pack that spicy, cocoa-y punch. They’re awesome. And even better when they bake as beautifully as they did…

Cinnamon Caramel-Filled Mocha Cookies

1 box chocolate fudge cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
About 28 Rolos, unwrapped
Sea salt (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with SilPat liners or mist lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, oil, cinnamon and instant coffee granules with a rubber spatula until a soft yet thick dough forms. Using a cookie dough scoop, scoop the dough into a ball and place in the palm of your hand. Gently press a Rolo candy in the center of the dough ball and work the dough around the Rolo to cover it completely. Place the rolled dough balls onto your prepared pans.
3. Sprinkle the dough balls lightly with sea salt, if desired. Bake for approx. 8-10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Allow the cookies to cool about 5 minutes on the pans before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Store cookies airtight for 2-3 days at room temperature. These make excellent “sprinkles” on top of a mocha almond fudge sundae–just sayin’.

Good luck with the contest!! Hope you win!!

xo, Hayley

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a SilPat Half-Pint Baking Mat for review at no cost to me. SilPat is generously sponsoring this giveaway to a lucky reader. Thank you SilPat!!

Lightened-Up Mocha Almond Fudge Parfaits & A Giveaway!

So I’m trying to be better with eating well.

I understand a lot of my recipes aren’t necessarily the healthiest (hello, I can go a little crazy with my recipes!), but ultimately, my personal belief is that everything food-wise should be enjoyed in moderation.

However, I also know there are some people (like myself and uh, some of my family members) who have a hard time with self-control and would rather just avoid the temptation completely than trust themselves with a big batch of cookies. I get it! Sometimes, I can’t even trust myself to just have one or keep my portions in check (I’m looking at your after-lunch and after-dinner and after-dessert desserts).

So I try to make some healthy alternatives for people who would rather go cupcake crazy with lighter recipes they can feel less guilty over. It also makes me happy since I love being as crazy as I can around virtually guilt-free fare.

After SlimKicker contacted me about doing a giveaway, I looked around on their site and became inspired. SlimKicker is a calorie counter that allows you to track your diet and fitness goals into a level-up game with points, challenges and rewards. It’s easy to level-up by tracking your healthy eating habits or exercises, or completing challenges, like quitting soda for a week. They even have a recipe section that caters to diets like Weight Watchers and Medifast.

So really, it’s full of awesome stuff to love. And even better, they’re generously giving away this awesome Heart Rate Monitor Watch so you can track your progress any time of day.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment with a fun or unique suggestion for a fitness or diet challenge. What would you like to do? Eliminate sugar? Run a mile a day? Do jumping jacks during commercial breaks of Pretty Little Liars?

SlimKicker will choose a winner on 7/14/12 and notify the winner shortly thereafter. This giveaway is limited to US residents only.

So. Parfaits.

I love brownies but sometimes find it hard to portion them out. Parfaits are a great solution! Just crumble them up, layer them between light mocha cream, toasted almond slivers and whipped cream, and you have a light and yummy treat for hot summer nights or days when your chocolate craving is through the roof.

Like, uh, everyday.

For these, I used Trader Joe’s Guilt-Free Reduced Fat Brownie Mix which uses non-fat vanilla yogurt to create the soft, fudgy brownies. You can certainly use whatever brownie mix you have on hand; I just happened to have a box of this and thought it’d be perfect!

Lightened-Up Mocha Almond Fudge Parfaits

About 6 low-fat brownies, cooked and cooled (about 1-2″ square-size)
1 cup low-fat mocha yogurt
1 tub fat-free Cool Whip, thawed
1 cup toasted almond slivers
Mini chocolate chips, optional

1. In a medium bowl, gently fold one cup of the Cool Whip into the mocha yogurt until combined. Set aside.
2. Among two mason jars (I used a larger size), crumble one brownie at the bottom of each jar. Top with a heaping Tablespoon or two of the mocha cream, followed by a sprinkling of toasted almonds and a dollop of Cool Whip.
3. Repeat layers 2 times. Top with remaining Cool Whip and mini chips, if desired.
4. Eat immediately, or cover tightly with the lid and store in the fridge for 1-2 days.

 

So so so easy and perfectly fudgy. Fudgy brownies, rich mocha cream and a parfait that’s guilt-free? Me likey.

Good luck with the contest, & have a great weekend!! And thank you, SlimKicker, for hosting this great giveaway!

xo, Hayley

In the interest of full-disclosure, SlimKicker is generously providing this prize to one of you. All opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own.

Mexican Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Frosting

So Cinco de Mayo is coming up–next week, yay!

I don’t know about you, but I’m stoked.

Little known secret: I should totally be Mexican. Like, not even kidding you. I live & breathe Mexican food.

But let’s get one thing straight–I live & breathe REAL Mexican food.

Taco Bell dollar menu is not real Mexican food. Nor is Del Tac. Anything that has a drive-thru open until midnight or later is not real Mexican food. And probably not real food.

That’s not to say I dislike the ‘Bell, because it has its time and place and surrrriously, I love their Fresco bean burritos (okay, and I should preface that when I eat said burritos, I like taking a small bite from the tortilla, literally sucking the entire insides out, and then eating the tortilla. Like a Mexican food vampire or something. I also eat all the toppings off my pizza, then the crust, and eat all the sammich innards first, then the bread. I rule at eating, obvi) but it isn’t real Mexican food.

Real Mexican food is the stuff you can order in a Spanish accent and they get it. They know you. You’re ordering CAAAARNEEETAHS and GOOHUACAMOLAY and doing it with a Spanish flair.

And FYI, I am throwing Chipotle into the semi-real Mexican category because Jessie and I have a Chipotle blood-type (thanks to eating there like, twice a week) and I LOVE their guac in my chicken burrito bowls. Plus, the corn salsa is ahhmaaazing. End Chipotle rant.

Anywho, I used to (stupidly) dislike Mexican food, mostly because what we ate consisted of drive-thru and tacos, which my mom SUPERREGULARLY rotated throughout our dinners each week that I became nasty-sick of them. Like, even smelling tortilla shells frying was enough to make me bury my face into a box of Kraft mac n cheese and swear off any Mexican food fo’ lyfe.

But I turned a new leaf and discovered the real deal stuff. We went to a real deal restaurant and I got freshly made tortillas and creamy refried beans and enchiladas that didn’t taste like the ones I had at home. And the sopapillas! OMG. I think sopapillas were my gateway back into the mariachi band.

Plus, despite being the whitest people EVER, my family and I celebrate Mexican holidays like no one’s business. Okay, so we celebrate Dia de los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo because they’re excellent excuses to eat copious amounts of good food and drink margaritas and coronas. Plus, sugar skulls rock and I totally want a tattoo of one.

You know, since I SHOULD be Mexican.

But there was always one thing about Mexican food (besides the whole tripe thing) that irked me, and that was chiles in chocolate.

AHWHATNOW?

I could never fathom the concept of sticking a spicy chipotle into creamy chocolate. Why would you ruin a great thing? It’s almost as miserable sounding as the idea that Heidi and Seal broke up. I mean, I’m sooooo confused.

But after I made THESE cookies that catapulted my taste buds to heaven’s gates, I amended my outlook on spice and chocolate a little bit. Granted, neither the cookies nor these amazing Mexican Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Frosting are made with spicy chiles, but they are both sprinkled with a healthy heap of cinnamon, which lends such a warm and spiced flavor to these rich, chocolate cupcakes.

If you’ve never had chocolate with cinnamon, that’s like saying you’ve never had anything but Taco Bell in my book. Just…. no.

Stuff your faces with guac and carnitas, then fill up your bellehs reeealll good-like with these cupcakes. Please? Your tummy and taste buds will thank me when they return to earth.

Mexican Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Frosting *inspired by my cookie recipe 

1 box German chocolate cake mix (yeah, we’re mixing cultures)
1 cup strongly brewed black coffee
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 small box sugar free/fat free instant chocolate pudding mix
Kahlua Frosting (recipe & ingredients follow)
Chocolate Skulls (info follows)
Gold sprinkles

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin tins with about 18 paper liners and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, coffee, water, oil, eggs and cinnamon until blended. Stir in the dry pudding mix to combine. Portion the batter evenly among the muffin cups and bake for approx. 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Kahlua Frosting

2/3 cup butter, softened
5 Tbsp Kahlua coffee liqueur
Splash of vanilla extract
About 5 cups powdered sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, Kahlua and vanilla until blended and smooth, about a minute. Gradually add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until frosting is light and fluffy.
2. Pipe the frosting onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish with gold sprinkles and chocolate skulls.
**Note: I found my skull mold at Halloweentime by Martha Stewart at Michael’s craft store. Seeing as Halloween is months away, I found a similar product here. You could also try local craft and candy making stores to find similar molds. Or, omit the skulls and use chocolate covered coffee beans, mini chocolate chips, or chocolate sprinkles.**

Here’s what you should have learned today:

1. I should be part Mexican.
2. I justify the above statement because I eat Chipotle regularly and am obsessed with sugar skulls.
3. I think that’s justification enough. Don’t tell me otherwise.
4. Chocolate and cinnamon are BFFs. Accept it!

Have a great day!

xo, Hayley

Mexican Mocha Cookies with Kahlua Icing

Yesterday was Halloween, and I did the unthinkable.

No, I didn’t put on a leather mask and attempt to kill my younger sister while she was babysitting in her bell bottoms. I also didn’t haunt a bunch of horny teenagers at summer camp and torture them. And sadly, I did not stalk and torment Neve Campbell with my BFF in creepy capes and glow-in-the-dark masks.

I trick-or-treated!

…Why no, I’m not too old, why do you ask?…..

I thought, why the hell shouldn’t I trick or treat? It’s a tradition mainly for children, yes, but who says adults cannot participate? Especially if said adults happen to have put off a few wrinkles thus far and kinda-sorta still look like teenagers?

So me and my ragingly hot boyfriend, Jessie, decided to go trick or treating with my thirteen year old sister (dressed as Minnie Mouse) and my nearing-eighteen year old brother, dressed as Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation (he’s sorta obsessed).

Meanwhile, Jessie had to hide the two giveaways of definitely being too old to participate in such an activity: his arm tattoos, and his mustache and beard, which I’m pretty sure children under the age of fifteen do not have.

Jessie went as a paintball player, cleverly using a mask to hide his facial features and a paintball shirt that covered his ink. I went as a ballerina, wearing a tutu I have for recreational wear (yep, I’ve rocked it at school; what’s your problem?), some leggings, a black shirt and pink ballet flats. I thought briefly about going Black Swan-ish but I realized I’m not crazy enough (surprisingly). So off we went.

In our older neighborhood, my siblings and I wouldn’t get a whole lotta candy–mostly because hardly anyone participated, and also because we lived in a scary neighborhood with convicts and people who probably drugged our M&M’s.

However, after moving to a nicer area in a new town, we are blessed with the advantage of having mansions just down the road. We trekked to the sprawling fortresses and knocked on their doors, mostly anticipating parents to give us weird, condescending looks and question our age, but instead, receiving smiles and full-sized candy bars.

Mansion people ROCK.

I was purely TorT’ing for baking supplies. Free candy always results in major poundage, but also in genius dessert baking. (What did YOU do with all your/your kids’ candy?! Use it to make my Trick or Treat Candy Bark, or throw it all into brownie batter and bake it up for some yummy candy bar brownies. Or just, you know, eat it. BUT save the Butterfingers for a yummy recipe coming later this week!!!)

Anyway, now that Halloween is over with, it immediately means the holidays are here. Thanksgiving’s in a couple weeks, and before you know it, you’ll be up at 2 am on Christmas morning ripping open presents like a rabid monkey child…wait, your family doesn’t do that? Weird.

That means I’m starting all my holiday baking early so I know exactly what to stuff treat baskets with to give to my teachers, coworkers, family and friends. Close to Christmas, I always bake up several kinds of cookies, some fudge, and other treats to wrap up nice and pretty and hand out as small gifts. It’s a genius, inexpensive and sweet gift idea–so consider this research for a later date.

I tried these cookies at my friend Katie’s Halloween party over the weekend and my life changed forever. They’re sweet, spicy, and absolutely, downright amazing and I think I should forever be Katie’s friend so she can continue to introduce me to wonderful things my life has been missing for far too long.

These cookies also have a secret ingredient: cinnamon. It makes the cookies warm and spicy, which I LOVE. Then again, I love using cinnamon in e-ver-y-thing: oatmeal, plain cookies, yogurt, apples… you name it, cinnamon goes on it. YUM.

The recipe originally comes from a grocery store exclusive to the Northern California area, but I tweaked it a little to suit my tastes.

Mexican Mocha Cookies with Kahlua Icing *adapted by Raley’s Mexican Mocha Cookies recipe 

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (I used light)
2 eggs
1 Tbsp instant espresso powder (I spotted this on the coffee aisle, but in a pinch, you could probably use instant coffee granules if needed)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk chocolate chips (I only had mini on hand which is fine by me, but either regular or mini-sized works)
Kahlua Icing (recipe and ingredients follow)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with cooking spray and blot excess with a napkin. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until blended. Then add eggs, the espresso powder and the cinnamon until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture into the wet mixture, about 1 cup at a time, until a nice, soft dough is achieved; stir in chocolate chips.
3. Portion dough into Tablespoon-sized balls onto your greased cookie sheets, about 1-2″ apart, and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking time to ensure an even baking. Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Now prepare your frosting!

Kahlua Icing (this should be illegal)

1/2 cup softened butter
5 Tbsp kahlua OR coffee liqueur
About 3 cups powdered sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the softened butter and the coffee liqueur until blended, about 1 minute. Gradually add powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time, or until a soft frosting is reached.
2. Spread or pipe frosting onto cooled cookies in an even layer. Store frosted (or unfrosted) cookies in an airtight container.

What did I tell you? I did do something unthinkable. I made these cookies, and maybe ate a couple–or many–more or less, numbers don’t matter, just like age and trick or treating doesn’t matter. Duh.

Oh, and if you have any leftover Almond Joys in your candy bag, can you save ‘em for me? Sadly, the Almond Joy bandit who cannot possibly be me ate them in the morning right before breakfast so I don’t have anymore. It’s a travesty, really.

Stay tuned for some more yummy recipes this week, as well as a tasty way to use up some leftover Butterfinger candy bars! Ta-ta!

xo, Hayley

Mocha Almond Fudge Brownies

 

Being unemployed isn’t as cool as I thought it’d be.

(Not that I thought having zero income, fighting EDD for a sad $54 a week, and gaining weight would be cool. Spoiler alert: it’s not.)

Yeah, I was kind of kind of looking forward to having some time to laze around and bake goodies and not have to get dressed to be bossed around… and that made me happy for about, oh, ONE DAY.

Being a housewife isn’t fun unless you’re: a) an actual WIFE with an actual HUSBAND who makes actual MONEY to support you being an actual HOUSEWIFE; b) on the TV show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, because everyone knows those ladies aren’t really housewives…and their husbands may not make as much as they do…but jeez, at least they’re getting paid to pretend to be a housewife. The only “payment” I’m receiving is a couple more pounds around my waistline and a couple hundred calories burned by vacuuming my house like a mad-woman; and c) you have lots of money to spend on frivolous things like costume jewelry from Forever 21, cookie cutters at Crate & Barrel and expensive Christmas presents for your super-hot boyfriend.

SO. NOT. THE CASE.

Instead, I’m at home, pretending I am pretending I’m a housewife on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills watching them spend more money on a simple dinner out than I received in a two-week check when I was working. I’m also frantically looking for jobs, impressing potential employers with my dazzling personality, interview-ready answers and adorable disposition when given the chance… which sadly, isn’t as frequently as I’d like.

So in these “bummer times” as I like to call them, I’ve learned some small tricks that are helping me (slightly) stay sane and happy amid the current storm-front of crap.

It’s OK to spend $10 on a nail polish you really like, then find out Hard Candy makes it for cheaper. It was really saddening to see I could have saved $5, but who knows–maybe the designer nail polish has magical powers built into the varnish that will make me a queen or something.

It’s OK to judge people being interviewed who show up in flip flops. While waiting for my interviewer, I spotted a girl leaving her interview wearing FLIP FLOPS. Keep in mind we were NOT applying for jobs at the community pool as life-guards or as pretend California models at Hollister. It was for a restaurant. And she was wearing flip flops. And now you know why I hate people.

It’s OK to think that perpetually cleaning your house is burning more calories than it probably is. Simple math: Eat an entire bag of tortilla chips+spend 25 minutes vacuuming the thick, shag carpet of dog hair around my house =burning 5,247 calories. Right?

It’s OK to have lazy days… after all, you aren’t unemployed to not enjoy one. I know, I know. But between being a full-time student neglecting her math homework to looking for work to being a full-fledged baking superstar, I find it justifiable to spend a day off or two walking around in yoga pants, talking in a British accent and doing nothing but watch Jerry Springer is perfectly okay. It balances the sanity, people.

It’s OK to be slightly delusional, if not a lot hopeful, your one single baking video will someone make it into the hands of Food Network within the next 5 minutes and you’ll become rich and famous instantaneously. YouTube is huge, as if you didn’t know. And who knows? Maybe Susie Fogelson and Bobby Flay are trolling the likes of YouTube and happen upon my cooking video and are like, “oh my god, who’s that girl? She’s positively scrumptious. Let’s sign her on a five million dollar contract to do cooking demos. And we’ll buy her a hot pink Kitchenaid mixer just cause we’re feeling generous.” Never say never!

I just hope I can fit them into my busy schedule of watching Jerry (and being thankful for all my teeth, all my dignity and, really, all my money) and making these delectable brownies.

I came up with the idea of making mocha almond fudge brownies after I bought a half pint of mocha almond fudge ice cream at the store a few weeks ago. I loooove the ice cream–so rich, decadent and yummy, and these brownies are no exception! Positively scrumptious, I may add.

I need to put a disclaimer on these, simply because while they’re easy to make, it is IMPOSSIBLY HARD to resist eating the damn bowl of coffee frosting and keeping your fingers away from the toasted almonds. I don’t even like coffee all too much, yet I was shoveling this frosting back like someone was paying me to do it (and YES, I will HAPPILY do this for money, if anyone’s wondering…)

Mocha Almond Fudge Brownies

1 box fudge-brownie mix, plus ingredients on back of box
2 Tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules, divided
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
About 4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup almonds, toasted (I had slivered on hand, but chopped or diced would work–just not whole)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 8×8 inch pan with cooking spray; set aside.
2. Prepare brownie batter according to package directions. Stir in ONE teaspoon of instant coffee granules and stir to combine. Pour into prepared pan and bake according to the box, about 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. Once cooled, cut brownies into squares and set onto a platter or plate while you prepare your frosting. This makes them easier to frost rather than while they’re in the pan.
3. Pour the 1/4 cup of milk into a glass measuring cup and microwave for about 40 seconds or until hot and boiling. Immediately stir in the remaining 2 Tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of instant coffee granules until they dissolve. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat together your softened butter and the 1/2 tsp of almond extract until creamy, about 2 minutes. Pour in HALF of the milk mixture and beat to combine. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, up to 2 cups. Add the remaining milk mixture and beat to combine. Continue gradually adding the remaining powdered sugar until a nice frosting consistency is reached.
5. Pipe frosting onto cooled brownie squares, just as you’d do a cupcake. Top with toasted almonds and store covered in the fridge…if they’ll make it that long.

Holy Jamoca, these are good. They remind me of a chewier, gooier, and richer version of its addictive ice cream counterpart (though no less addictive).

Needless to say, I think I’m a genius. And I think I should be getting a call from someone rich and famous anytime now to offer me a position as a full-time genius by rewarding me with lots of cash, lots of fancy cars, and that glorious (sexy, may I say) hot pink Kitchenaid mixer.

This week will be FULL of awesome posts, so keep your eyes peeled for those and the new video which we begin filming tomorrow! So excited.

Happy Tuesday!

xo, Hayley

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