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

mini cheesecakes with chocolate cookie base

cheesecake with cookie base

Last month, when it was time to make cookies to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve, my insistent soon-to-be 8 year old decided we needed a chocolate cookie instead of the butter cookies we had made the day before. I searched my recipes, but nothing jumped out at me as the perfect chocolate cookie for Santa, so I did the logical next step by going to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. There I found her White Chipper Chocolate Cookies. Perfect! We made a batch on Christmas Eve and we all loved them, as I’m sure Santa did as well, based on the empty plate we found the next morning.

One thing about this recipe: It makes a lot of cookies. At least 4 dozen. Which got us wondering what we could do in addition to regular cookies because even though we’re cookie lovers, even the most delicious cookie can seem boring when you have over 4 dozen of them to eat. My soon-to-be college freshman daughter immediately thinks of cheesecake when we’re brainstorming things to bake. I remembered the other mini cheesecakes she made, the ones with an Oreo as the base. I thought, why not use one of these delicious white chipper chocolate cookies as the base? We were drooling just imagining how yummy it would taste!

So that’s what we did last week. We made the cookies as per Mel’s recipe, and made two dozen as regular cookies.

white chipper chocolate cookies (2)

The remaining cookie dough was put into muffin tins lined with paper liners. We put in one rounded tablespoon of dough into each paper liner. These in the muffin tins we took out of the oven on the lower end of the baking time — just before the 9 minutes were up. (We used 2 pans, for a total of 24 mini cheesecakes.)

cookies in muffin tins

After they were baked and cooled, my daughter made the cheese cake using the basic Philadelphia cream cheese recipe, but halved the ingredients, which ends up being:

  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs

Once those ingredients were blended together, she put a large scoop of this cream cheese mixture onto each of the cookies in the paper liners in the muffin tins, filling them about 1/2 – 2/3 full.

cookie base with cheesecake

These little goodies were baked at 325F for 20 minutes. Once cooled, they needed to be refrigerated for a couple hours before serving.

cheesecake with cookie base (2)

Good news: They were as delicious as I expected they would be! And I think next Christmas Eve we may surprise Santa with one of these mini cheesecakes instead of just cookies. We’ll be the favorite house on his route!

candy cane kiss cookies

candy cane kiss cookies (1)

Today I made a large batch of chocolate kiss cookies, but used the Hershey’s Candy Cane kisses instead of chocolate ones. Usually I make a batch of each to give as gifts, but this year we ate all the plain chocolate kisses before I had a chance to make the cookies!

These are very festive and colorful and cheery…. A perfect cookie for the holiday season!

The recipe is the same as for the chocolate kiss cookies — just the flavor of kisses is different — so I’m not reposting that recipe (you can click the link above to go directly there). Instead I’ll offer you the photos from the photo shoot I did this afternoon. Those cookies are so photogenic!

candy cane kiss cookies (7)

candy cane kiss cookies (6)

candy cane kiss cookies (5)

candy cane kiss cookies (4)

candy cane kiss cookies (3)

candy cane kiss cookies (2)

Christmas cookies

It’s that special, magical, yummy time of the year…. Christmas cookie time!  

As Christmas approaches I’m getting my recipes in order and stocking up on flour and chocolate and eggs. During this time of year I like to make lots of cookies and put a few of each on festive trays to distribute to neighbors and friends and teachers.

I don’t make all the cookies on the same day. Instead I freeze some, such as the gingersnaps and butter cookies, as described here.

frozen balls of cookie dough

These are the cookies I’m planning on making for this cookie-giving season:

cocoa cookies

cocoa cookies 6

butter cookies

butter cookies (4)

shortbread cookies

shortbread cookies

chocolate kiss cookies

kiss cookies (6)

hidden kiss cookies

cookie close up

gingersnaps 

gingersnaps

And a non-cookie as well:

candy cane bark

candy cane bark

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Okay, your turn…. What kind of cookies are you planning on making this holiday season? What’s your favorite cookie?

gingersnaps

Other than the turkey leftovers and a few slices of pie, Thanksgiving is over. This means it’s Christmas cookie season now! Yesterday we made these gingersnaps — my favorite!

food with pictures

gingersnaps

Okay, here’s a fact: I could give up sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies, and any other cookie, but not gingersnaps. I’m sure no one has ever asked me this question, but if they did, gingersnaps would be the one cookie I took with me to a deserted island, if I could only pick one kind. They are that good.

Yet, I forget about them. During the Christmas season I make them and enjoy them, but then the holidays come and go and spring arrives and I don’t make them again for months and months. Why? I have no idea.

It is now Christmastime, and today was a “make cookies” day and I made both butter cookies and these gingersnaps. I am a happy girl right now, with two containers of yummy cookies to enjoy with my evening cup of tea.

*Note: I’ve had this recipe for at least a…

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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!

my favorite chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookies 2

I posted this recipe a long time ago, but am posting it again because they’re so good. I think it’s safe to say this is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Tonight I made these so that my daughter could have a few to use as the base for a cheesecake parfait (that recipe will be posted soon). It was also one of those days where you realize life is short, so I decided chocolate chip cookies for dinner was a good decision. Everyone agreed (no surprise there).

*Note: This recipe comes from the cookbook Cook This Not That! I made a few very slight changes to their recipe.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips OR 1 cup semi-sweet (regular or mini) chocolate chips (*I prefer the mini ones)

sea salt, optional (*we sometimes add this, and sometimes we don’t)

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Heat oven to 375F.

In mixer bowl, thoroughly mix butter and sugars until creamy.

Mix in eggs and vanilla.

Add baking soda, salt, and flour. Mix until dough comes together. Be careful not to overmix.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto cookies sheets. (*I put parchment paper down on the cookie sheets.) Leave space between each cookie.

Bake until edges are golden and until the middles are just barely set. (*The book does not list a time. We set our timer for 8 minutes, and check the cookies at that point…. so I’d say 8-10 minutes.)

Remove from the cookie sheets (having them on parchment paper makes this step in the process so easy … simply slide the paper off the cookie sheet, onto a counter). If desired, sprinkle with a bit of the sea salt. Cool.

*Note: Depending on how the planets are aligned, I get between 2 and 3 dozen cookies. The original recipe calls for larger cookies, and therefore makes only one dozen.

chocolate chip cookies