dessert party

 

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My daughter graduated from high school in June. (YAHOO! YIPPEE! WAHOO!) On that Sunday we had a dessert party to celebrate her graduation. She and I love to bake, so instead of typical luncheon foods and/or party snacks, it made sense to serve only desserts. A graduation open house dessert party!

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In order to not have too much to do the day of the party, we started a few days prior. Here is the rundown of what we did:

Two days prior to the party my daughter baked the cupcakes, both cinnamon chocolate and vanilla bean. We kept them in the basement fridge until Sunday morning, when she made the corresponding frostings, and she then frosted all the cupcakes about one hour prior to the party.

 

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With some of the cream cheese frosting, my daughter piped it onto the edge of oreos, then rolled them into color sugar. She did this right after frosting the cupcakes. It took longer than expected, and required a steady hand, but they were worth it! Cute and delicious!

foodwithpictures frosted oreo cookies

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Three days prior to the party I made the cookie dough for the chocolate kiss cookies, rolled each teaspoon of dough into blue sugar (her school color), then put the balls into silicone ice cube trays so that they wouldn’t form one large ball by sticking together, then those trays were put into a large plastic zipper baggie. This was stored in the freezer until the morning of the party. On party day it sat out for about an hour, then the cookies were placed on parchment lined cookie sheets into the preheated oven. Cooking time was about 1-2 minutes longer than usual. These were baked about two hours before the start of the party.

 

foodwithpictures chocolate kiss cookies

 

 

foodwithpictures kiss cookies with blue sugar

 

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The other cookies made ahead of time were the m&m cookies. I used the dough from our favorite chocolate chip cookies, but used a large bag of m&m’s instead of chocolate chips. Each teaspoon of dough was rolled into a ball, then placed into a mini-muffin paper liner, and then stored in the freezer in a covered 9×13 pan. The cookies also had an additional minute or two added to the baking time, but one batch came out a little too brown, so in the future, if baking from frozen dough, I would only add 1 minute to the baking time, not 2 minutes.

foodwithpictures m&m cookies

 

 

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The night before the party I melted semi-sweet chocolate and in a separate container I melted milk chocolate.  I dipped some pretzel rods into each of these (not both chocolates on the same rod), then placed them on wax paper. Once on the wax paper, I quickly sprinkled a bit of sea salt on them. These were stored in airtight containers until just before the party was to start.

 

foodwithpictures pretzel rods dipped in chocolate

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When I had the melted milk chocolate, I pierced marshmallows with decorative toothpicks (either one regular size marshmallow or 3 minis on each stick), dipped them in the melted chocolate, then rolled them in crushed graham crackers to create Smores-on-a-Stick. (These were very cute … but in my opinion almost too sweet!)

foodwithpictures smores on a stick

 

 

foodwithpictures smores on a stick

 

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Shortly before the party started I washed strawberries, then cut a store-made pound cake into one-inch cubes. These were put onto wooden skewers, placed on a serving tray, then drizzled with chocolate sauce.

foodwithpictures pound cake and strawberries

foodwithpictures strawberries and pound cake

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For my party guests who are gluten-free we purchased gluten-free pretzels and dipped half of the pretzels into melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, and the other half were dipped into melted milk chocolate. We also dipped marshmallows into the melted chocolate, such as for the Smores-on-a-Stick, but without the graham crackers. Also, strawberries and grapes were put on wooden skewers and served on another tray. And we made hot air popcorn, added butter and salt, and put that into individual paper cups.

foodwithpictures gluten free

foodwithpictures popcorn

 

 

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In addition to the desserts, we had individual milk boxes (chocolate milk and white milk), juice boxes, water, iced tea, and lemonade. I meant to make a pot of coffee, but completely forgot! I also had some wine, sangria, and beer, for those that wished to drink that kind of beverage.

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Can’t forget the decorations! I wanted the kitchen to look festive, colorful, and whimsical, but didn’t want to spend a lot of cash making it so. I purchased two rolls of crepe paper, and two packages of inexpensive paper lanterns.

foodwithpictures decorations 2

foodwithpictures decorations 1

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For the paper products, I have been keeping a keen eye on the clearance section of Target for the past year and as I found bargains I purchased a few packages of plates and colorful napkins. I was also lucky to acquire some plates, paper straws, and bowls from a friend who had extras after purchasing too many for a large school party she planned. The dollar store was my final stop for the plates that said “Congrats 2014 Grad”.  Total cost for all the paper products was less than $10.

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The party was fun. And sweet! The vanilla bean cupcakes were the first to go, and the m&m cookies and the cups of popcorn were also scooped up quickly.

Prior to the party I had plans to make whoopie pies, and made the cake part two days ahead, but I made the mistake of using a new recipe and they didn’t turn out as expected. They were very tasty, but LARGE. More like cupcakes rather than easy to hold and eat whoopie pies. After the party I sliced each one in half, then put in the filling, and my kids enjoyed them very much.  Here is a pic of those.

foodwithpictures whoopie pies 1

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foodwithpictures plate

birthday cake

triple chocolate squares with mint

My oldest turns 21 in just days. And he’s away at college on his birthday, so I’m sending him treats to enjoy while studying. When he returns home for the Thanksgiving break, I’ll make him his favorite birthday cake, brownie ice cream cake.

I wanted to give him a full week of goodies to eat, so earlier this week I sent double chocolate cookies, and today a package of banana muffins (his favorite), and triple chocolate cake squares. For the triple chocolate cake squares, instead of using semi-sweet chocolate chips, I used a bag of Nestle dark chocolate and mint morsels for the topping. So good!!!!! Since he’s a fan of chocolate and mint, he’s sure to love these!

brownie ice cream cake

For years now my oldest son has requested an ice cream brownie cake (or brownie “pie”) as his birthday cake. The first year I made one it was a disaster in terms of appearance, but tasted oh so good. Over the years I’ve mastered the technique in making it look as good as it tastes. He turned 20 this month, so when he returned from college for the Thanksgiving holiday, I had this waiting for him. Food is love.

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Brownie Ice Cream Cake

Step #1:

Use your favorite brownie recipe, or prepare a boxed brownie mix, according to package directions. Instead of using the batter in a 9×13-inch pan, put 2/3 of the batter into a deep baking pan (I used a disposable foil pan), and the remaining 1/3 into a similar sized square pan. Bake for about 2/3 of the time listed on the package (since they are thinner they will take less time to bake).

Note: For the one baked in the square pan, I used a baking liner which makes transferring it to the top much easier. But we’ll get to that later on.

IMPORTANT: Make sure the pan for the base is deep enough to hold all the ice cream that will go in later on! This one is about 2 1/2 inches deep.

Step #2:

When they are done baking and have been removed from the oven, allow to cool for a little while.

Do not remove the brownie from the deep pan, but do remove the thinner one from the square pan (when it’s cool enough to handle, of course!).

Allow to cool completely before starting the next step.

Now is a good time to take your favorite flavor of ice cream out of the freezer, so that it can get soft (but not melted).

Step #3:

On top of the brownie base in the deep pan, drizzle a decent amount of chocolate syrup (optional), then scoop the softened ice cream onto that.

My youngest child can’t have mint chocolate chip ice cream, which is the flavor the birthday boy requested, so a portion of the cake was made to be solid chocolate (I used a permanent marker to mark on the outside of the foil pan which section had the chocolate ice cream … makes cutting into it much less of a guessing game!)

Step #4:

Drizzle more chocolate syrup on top of the ice cream. Again, this step is optional. If you have a young child helping you, as I did, they may not agree with you that it is optional. You have been warned.

Step #5:

Carefully flip over the thinner layer of brownie, placing it on top of the ice cream, and remove the baking liner. (See how easy that was!)

Gently push the top brownie to compress the ice cream just a bit. Not too much… just enough to get out any excess air.

Step #5:

Drizzle more chocolate syrup over the top layer of brownie. You think I’m going to tell you this is optional, right? Well, no! You must drizzle the chocolate on top. You must! Not optional.

Cover and freeze.

Step #6:

When ready to serve, remove from freezer about 5 or 10 minutes before you want to cut it.

Note: Once you cut it in the foil pan, you may end up cutting through the foil. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyhoo, after cutting pieces for everyone I transferred the remaining cake to a freezer safe container, and back in the freezer it went. Until the next morning. Yes, when you’re 20 and home from college for a few precious days, you may have brownie ice cream cake for breakfast.

fudgey brownies

Okay, here’s the thing: When I’m having a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad month, chocolate makes me feel better. It does. Today I really, really, really needed chocolate, and when my daughter offered to make brownies, well, that was the answer to a prayer if you ask me.

I’m a brownie fan, but not just any brownie will do. For me, a brownie must be gooey and have a crispy “crust”. This recipe was a new one for us, and it may be my new favorite. Wonderfully soft and gooey on the inside, with the perfect amount of flaky exterior.

(*Note: I cut this recipe out of a magazine years ago, added it to my recipe binder, and that’s where it sat until today. After doing some research I found it came from Hershey’s.)

The brownie in the above photo measured 3×4-inches, and though I would have enjoyed every bite of it, I did not eat the whole thing. A few bites of this delicious brownie were enough to satisfy my chocolate craving, and to remind me that even when things seem to be going wrong at every turn, there are some good things in life, such as daughters who enjoy baking, and chocolate.

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Fudgey Brownies

3/4 cup cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2/3 cup butter, melted and divided

1/2 cup boiling water

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 1/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (*we used semi-sweet)

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Heat oven to 350F.

Grease a 9×13-inch pan (or use a silicone liner or parchment paper on the bottom).

Stir together the cocoa and baking soda in large mixer bowl.

Stir in half of the butter.

Add boiling water an stir slowly until mixture thickens.

Stir in sugar and the eggs, and then the remaining half of the butter. Stir until smooth.

Add flour, vanilla and salt. Blend completely.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes (*we needed the full 40 minutes). The brownies will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

caramel brownies

I haven’t made caramel brownies in years. Don’t know why. They’re a favorite of mine and my husband loves them as well (he remembers when I made them when we were first married). And my oldest children love brownies and they love caramel, yet I haven’t made these brownies for them. I can not explain why I’ve put off making these for so many years. I am a mystery unto myself.

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I first made these when I was young and single … way back when. My housemates and girlfriends would often go to outdoor concerts together. Instead of the typical wine, cheese and crackers, and fruit, we’d bring hard liquor and caramel brownies. One of my girlfriends told me it was a Southern thing. I think it was more a hard liquor and brownie-loving thing, and not specific to any area of the country. When I met my husband-to-be shortly thereafter, I made these brownies for him, since he has a huge sweet tooth. It was love at first bite.

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Today we made the brownies in muffin tins. That way I could make a few without caramel, for my youngest son, and because I am the proud owner of thousands of paper muffin liners. Problem is they are hard to take out of the paper liners when warm, and I love eating warm brownies, so we end up with messing looking, but delicious tasting, brownies (see bottom photo). If appearance matters to you, I’d suggest making them in a 9×13 pan, but please wait until they are cool to cut them, or you’ll end up with the same problem I had.

My brownie recipe is from Hershey’s (it’s been my go-to recipe for delicious homemade brownies for years), but you could use your favorite brownie recipe or a boxed brownie mix.

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P. S. A huge thank you to a blogging friend for the inspiration to make these brownies. She sent me a package two weeks ago and in the box was a bag of caramels. The second I saw them I was reminded of those caramel brownies from years ago, and immediately put “make caramel brownies” on my to-do list. Thanks blogging friend!

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Caramel Brownies

2 dozen caramels

2 sticks butter

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs

3/4 cup cocoa

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

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Heat oven to 350F.

Remove wrappers from caramels and cut each one into fourths.

Fill muffin pans with paper liners, or grease a 9×13 baking pan.

In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter on high until melted.

Put melted butter into a mixer and slowly mix in the sugar and vanilla.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add cocoa and mix until well blended.

Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well.

Distribute batter into prepared muffin tins or pan.

Place 4 – 6 pieces of caramel on each brownie, or if using the 9×13 pan just distribute the pieces evenly over all.

If, when making them in muffin tins, you end up with extra batter (as we did today) put a small amount on top of each brownie, covering up the caramels. (*Note: It doesn’t matter if the caramel pieces are exposed or covered up. The brownies will taste delicious either way.)

Bake 20-24 minutes if using the muffin tins, or 30-35 minutes if using the 9×13 pan.

Cool. (*Note: This is the hardest part.)

*Note: The original instructions for this brownie recipe were to stir with a spoon, and not to use an electric mixer. We use the electric mixer, but use a low speed to mix the ingredients.

*Final note: Next time I will make these in the 9×13 pan. Getting them out of the paper liners was a bother, even after they were cool.

blondies

My past few posts have been sweets, so I know what you’re thinking: Where’s the real food???? And, Has her family been surviving on whoopie pies and chocolate cake for two weeks?????

To answer your questions, my family has been overjoyed to have so many sweets in the house, yes, but they’ve also been eating real food, such as vegetable soup, pork with applesauce, vegetables, taco stew, chickenoven roasted potatoes, and others that I’ve previously posted. I just haven’t tried any new main dish recipes to post lately, mainly because it’s been a crazy hectic month.When life goes by at 100 MPH, it’s easier for me to depend on my tried and true standards.

But when it comes to desserts, well, that’s another story. Therefore, today I’ve got another sweet recipe for ya!

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I have a small “job” where I make dinner and dessert twice a week for a busy mom of three (everyone say hi to Becci!) and I strive to come up with new recipes when deciding what desserts to send over. That’s why I’ve posted more sweets lately. Making extra desserts twice a week has given me the opportunity to have fun and try things I wouldn’t make otherwise. It’s a win-win situation: Becci’s kids are happy, and my family is delighted to have lots of desserts in the house! (Plus, my daughter loves to bake, and when time allows she’ll bake the dessert for Becci.)

Today I was once again short on time, and my youngest son suggested I make brownies for Becci’s family. Great idea, because brownies are simple and quick and delicious. But… Becci’s kids aren’t fans. Hmmmm… my old brain remembered that just recently I had read another food blog with a recipe for blondies. These may be different enough that the kids will like them (crossing fingers). And they are quick to make. Perfect!

For Becci’s family I made them with mini M&Ms. My son can’t eat M&Ms due to the possible cross contamination with peanuts (darn you food allergies), so I made a second batch using nut-free mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. How easy were these to make? Well, it took longer to clean up than it did to get them ready for the oven. Right now they’re cooling. I can’t wait to cut them and try them later this afternoon! And I can’t wait to find out if Becci’s kids are happy with tonight’s dessert!

*Update: After cutting them and taking the above photo, I tried one. They’re delicious!

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*Please note: This recipe was found on hookedontaste, and in her post it states she got it from Smitten Kitchen, and they state it came from a cookbook, How to Cook Everything. This is a well-traveled recipe!

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Blondies

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

a pinch of salt

1 cup flour

1/2 cup mini M&Ms or mini chocolate chips (or regular sized M&Ms or chocolate chips)

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Heat oven to 350F.

Grease an 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch pan (or use silicone liners or parchment paper). *Note: Recipe calls for an 8×8-inch pan, but I used 9×9-inch pans. The result is a thinner blondie, but still very tasty! Next time, because I’d like to try them thicker, I’ll double the recipe and use a 9×13-inch pan.

In a mixer combine the butter and sugar until smooth.

Add the egg and then the vanilla.

Mix in the salt and flour until well combined.

Stir in the candy or chips.

Pour into prepared pan.

If desired, distribute an additional 1/4 cup M&Ms or chocolate chips on top. (*Note: I did this with the candy, but not on the batch made with chips.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until middle has set.

Cool completely. Then cut and serve.