Chocolate Chip Espresso Bars

It is hard to believe what one can accomplish in between working a full time job and going out of town for a wedding in just two short months. I have never had a real interest in interior design but I suppose all you had to do was give me a house that is MINE (well, the banks’ for now) and someone better put a hold on my bank account stat because all my prior ridiculous frugality has gone out the window of the last rental home we will hopefully ever need.

I have certainly painted before so hooking up the family room, and first guest bedroom were easy as pie.  We saved the smallest room for last and just thought that the asinine black molding the room had would magically turn white if we painted it hard enough.  No such luck, and we weren’t feeling the whole sanding thing for hours on end.  Goodbye black molding (next will be that fan and the popcorn ceiling).

So I had to tell you all of this just to say that I needed a baking break on Sunday and made Espresso Bars.  They were a long time coming and a nice change from the typical chocolate chip cookie (though why we’d need a change from those I wouldn’t know).  I got the recipe from this website but I ignored the instant coffee part (who has instant coffee around?) and actually made a short espresso.  I knew it would create a more liquid batter and I was okay with that.  These are very buttery and moist and the ends were more of a shortbread texture (no eggs make it nice and crumbly).  I liked them, but if I ever make these again, I think I’ll subtract just a tablespoon of butter to make up for the extra liquid (this recipe could stand to have less fat, the cookie is a touch greasy).  Also, totally use these instead of chips:

And all of the sudden I feel like a pastry chef.  But I am giving you the recipe how it is because I haven’t tested it with my adaptation ideas (other than the actual espresso).  If you are looking for something that resembles a moist chocolate chip cookie bar, use the espresso, or else it’ll be more dry and crumbly.  Your choice.

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I made Cookie Dough Cheesecake.

I feel fonder than I expected of my new kitchen.  While it’s smaller in square footage than my old kitchen and not as cool and trendy, it has AT LEAST twice the storage and many efficient drawers and pull out fixtures that help keep me organized and me being organized = happy and emotionally stable Raychel.

The white appliances don’t even bother me; they’re actually better than my rental’s bottom of the line GE stainless steel crap.  The new fridge we were forced to buy doesn’t hurt either- sometimes I open it just to stare into the sparkling clean 25 cubic foot abyss.

It has been too long since I made magic with an oven.   So I decided to pick an outrageous recipe to make for my LifeGroup meeting tonight (there are many foodies that will eat everything and conveniently prevent me from consuming every crumb before it is even cut).  I made a fantastic decision.

New photo background because I am still in awe of the fact that I have a pool.  I KNOW that you want this recipe, so here it is.  Make it for someone you need to cheer up, fatten up, impress, entertain, or for JUST YOURSELF this weekend.

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A Sweet for this Week

I haven’t baked in awhile, and while my waistline certainly does NOT reflect my lack of in-home sweet consumption, I caught the bug bad this past weekend.  I closed my eyes and picked from my “baking” folder on my bookmarks bar and went to town on Pinch Of Yum‘s Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of it at first, but I was pleased with the fact that we had ALL of the ingredients in the house which would not add on to our already limited grocery bill.  Game on.

This is a dense vanilla cake with a thin cheesecake layer topped with streusel, making it feel breakfast-y and appropriate for any hour of the day as seen below.

I will neither confirm nor deny that this was our pan only 17 hours after this cake came out of the oven.  I suggest you hold off on making this until you have house guests or any situation that would include multiple people consuming the entirety of it in one night so that one is limited to one or two pieces only 🙂

One disclosure I’d like to include is that when I made this I only had a half a block of cream cheese (4 oz vs. the 8 oz the recipe calls for) so I just added all I had left and this is reflected in the nutrition facts beneath the recipe.  I also used light sour cream.  If you’re not worried about extra calories and only want more deliciousness, use the full 8oz of cream cheese you will have a thicker cheesecake type layer and it will surely be delightful.  Also, pay attention to the “serving size” which is only 1/12th of the cake.   Take a look at that pan and tell me if you would only want 1/12th of that.

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The last thing I made in 2012

Peppermint Bark Brownies!  All of the fine chocolate that was required took this off my holiday baking list because I am as cheap as they come; however when my mom asked me to make a dessert for a family gathering, I was all over this with her debit card.  You can find the recipe and much more appetizing photos over at Love & Olive Oil.  Ghiardelli chocolate was used for every component, however  the white chocolate was tricky.  I bought chips for this part, and maybe that was the problem, but the white chocolate was acting like it was scorched even before it melted.  I omitted the shortening (because I never use shortening in anything) and used canola oil to thin out the white chocolate “bark” topping.  It still hardened in the refrigerator and it came out as the recipe intended.  I would have also added more peppermint extract to the brownie batter, but it’s all a matter of preference because many were complimenting me on how they liked that the brownies did not overwhelm their taste buds with peppermint flavor.

New Year’s Eve day was spent on the road to Charleston without incident (thank goodness)!  We had excellent wings downtown and brought in the new year over disgusting free champagne and a live band with college friends.  It was fun and I have no photos to offer since I don’t blog or anything.

I NEVER make resolutions, however I broke that by thinking of a few things I’d like to change that just happened to coincide with the dawning of a new year.

  1. Sign up for a mother freaking race.  I do want to run a half marathon, but since I’m so intimidated to do that, why not start with a 5k?  I need to do a 5k this winter for sure or else I’ll never sign up for a half marathon.
  2. Spend a little more money.  We save over our minimum 10% of our income every month.  Stop freaking out over every single penny and enjoy life a little bit.
  3. Put as much love into my house as I do into my food.  I complain that it’s not “cozy” and it’s nobody’s fault but my own.  I already have plenty of cheap ideas to make it feel more homey that I’m going to work on next month.

My only plans so far this year is Colorado Springs for my brother in law’s wedding in June.  2012 was seriously a whirlwind that started on a high note and got progressively worse until November when it mellowed out.  I did chose to be happy throughout it all and see the humor in everything, which I do think is the key to surviving life.

I’m definitely glad to be back in Florida.  I don’t know how I became such a southerner but while the below is pretty to look at, I got sick of it after 1 day.  It also burned my lungs for 12 hours after running in it.  No bueno.  All done.  Warmth forever please.

Road trip noms

I remember having a privileged childhood and flying back and forth from JFK to Tampa and Orlando airport at least twice a year to go to Disney, stay on my grandparents condominium on the beach, or get onto cruise ships for a week at sea.  The year my parents told me we were driving to Florida, I had a spoiled brat freak out session.  It wasn’t pretty and I don’t know why my parents didn’t give me away during that horrible pre-teen period of my life. But EIGHTEEN HOURS IN A CAR WITH FAMILY?  I couldn’t handle the idea of it.  My dad had lost his job after the 9/11 attacks and while we could still have family vacations, we had to forgo the $300 round trip per person flights.  Fortunately I lived through it, and many, many more drives after once my parents realized how much easier and cheaper it was to travel at your own pace by car.

What I did come to find that road trips are an awesome excuse to eat fast food since I was never allowed and (from my dad) have a baking extravaganza beforehand for ample snacks to last far longer than 18 hours.

If you think you are here to read a list of healthy alternatives to travelling junk food, you are in the WRONG PLACE MY FRIEND.  It is the holidays and you have been a fantastically hard worker all year and I am proud of you.  So I experimented with this new and different recipe that I think you should try.

this may or may not have been my breakfast plate for this morning.

That, is an EGGNOG LOAF!  Pretty good idea if you ask me.  I like this because it isn’t TOO sweet (you can even omit the glaze, though that would take some of the moisture from the loaf) or TOO eggnoggy.  As Jessica said in her post, even if you don’t like Eggnog, you will probably like this loaf.  It’s a nice alternative to pumpkin bread since you are all pumpkin-ed out from Thanksgiving.  & a PERFECT road trip snack!

You can view the recipe at How Sweet Eats (one of my FAVORITE food blogs).  I didn’t want to buy whole wheat pastry flour so I used unbleached all purpose and it still came out perfect.

Anyone taking a road trip for the holidays?  Love or hate?

Are there components of your childhood you surely took for granted before you knew any better?

I can’t BELIEVE how many vacations we took when I was younger.  My mom would get yelled at from my school teachers and she (as a former teacher herself) would completely disregard absence rules and whisk us away.  We turned out pretty smart anyway.  I’m convinced my childhood is what shaped travelling as my top priority in life.  Fine with me.