Gooey Carmelitas

Gooey Carmelitas

Recipe by: Adapted from Our Best Bites
Yield: 20 carmelitas

These are gooey, chocolatey, caramelly, and amazing! They’re quick and simple to make, and served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, they’re to die for.

1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (or you can use all light)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 Ghirardelli dark chocolate bar (I used 86%)
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)
store-bought caramel sauce, warmed according to package directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang that will help you to pull the bars out later. Spray the paper a little with cooking spray.

Beat butter in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Add brown sugars and cream until fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, vanilla extract, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour slowly, mixing until just combined, and then stir in the oats. Press about 2/3 of the dough into your prepared pan, covering the bottom. Sprinkle chocolate chips, pieces of the chocolate bar, and nuts (if using) over the top. Pour caramel sauce over top just until the bars are all nice and drizzles (you probably won’t use the whole jar).

Take pinches of the rest of your oat mixture and flatten them into “shingles” in your hands, laying them over top of your chocolate and caramel filling until it’s roughly covered. Bake the bars for 22-25 minutes or until top is light brown. Don’t overbake them. Let the bars cool in the dish until they are room temperature. Lift them out and onto a cutting board and slice (I like to drizzle them with melted chocolate at this point). You can store them in an airtight container until you’re ready to serve them — and at that point, I recommend heating them up and adding a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!

Strawberry Lemonade Cheesecake Bars with a Shortbread Crust

Strawberry Lemonade Cheesecake Bars with a Shortbread Crust

Recipe by: Adapted from King Arthur Flour (crust) and Shared Sugar (cheesecake)
Yields: about 18 bars

These cheesecake bars are the perfect summer treat: sweet, creamy, tangy, buttery, and easy to prepare!

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Cheesecake Layer Ingredients:
32 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs
5-6 tablespoons lemon juice, depending on how tart you usually like your lemonade!
lemon zest from one lemon (reserve a little to sprinkle on top)
1 cup sugar
strawberries, quartered*
powdered sugar for topping
*Note: I probably bought 2 pints of strawberries but didn’t quite use them all. I didn’t quarter mine because I thought they’d be pretty whole, but they were a bit hard to eat and I’ll quarter them next time I make this recipe!

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 13 in. baking dish with a parchment paper sling. Cut the butter into the flour and confectioners’ sugar and press into the baking dish (I used a food processor to cut the fat into the flour, and then the bottom of a dish to press the mixture into the pan). Bake 20 minutes or until light brown. Let cool on wire rack.

In a bowl with an electric mixer, add the cream cheese, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and sugar. Mix until the ingredients are creamy and the cream cheese is fully incorporated. Pour into the pan with the cooled crust. Then evenly distribute the strawberries.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until filling is set. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Then refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Remove the cheesecake from the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into bars and sprinkle with powdered sugar and/or lemon zest.

Cherry Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

Cherry Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 20-25 cookies

These are tender, buttery shortbread cookies replete with cherries, tangy lemon, and rosemary. Enjoy them hot from the oven and freeze some for baking in a pinch.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves, chopped finely
3/8 cup powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (about the zest from one lemon)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
about 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and dried rosemary. In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter, lemon zest, and powdered sugar 2-3 minutes or until pale, light, and fluffy. Mix in the lemon juice. Beat in the flour mixture and then stir in the cherries by hand to be sure everything is combined.

Use a sheet of wax paper to roll the dough into a 1 1/2-inch wide log (if you’re having trouble, chill the dough for a bit in the fridge before rolling it). Wrap plastic wrap or foil around the logs and freeze them until firm (you can also double-wrap them and leave them frozen for up to 3 weeks at this point. When you’re ready to bake, just use a serrated knife to cut the cookies and bake as usual. It make take a few minutes longer since they’ll be baking from frozen, but just keep an eye on them.) While they cookies are freezing, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the rack in the center. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Use a serrated knife to slice each log into 1/4-inch slices and place these about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 8-10 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool for a couple of minutes on the pan before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely. In the meantime, melt white chocolate according to package instructions (usually half-power, in small increments, stirring often) and spoon it into a plastic zip-top bag with a tiny corner cut off. Set cookies on wax or parchment paper and squeeze the melted chocolate from the zip-top bag over them in a zig zag design. Let them dry. Store them in an airtight container separated by leaves of parchment or wax paper for up to a week.

Cookie Butter Cookies (with Coffee Butter and Salted Caramel Butter) and a Biscoff Spread Giveaway!

Cookie Butter Cookies

Recipe by: Adapted from Housewife Eclectic
Yield: 24 cookies

These warm cookie butter cookies are delicious right out of the oven, or schmeared with coffee butter, salted caramel butter, or even a little extra cookie butter!

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for rolling
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup crunchy cookie butter (Trader Joe’s Speculoos Spread or Biscoff Spread)
1 egg
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and two sugars until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the cookie butter and egg and combine. Add in the flour, baking sodar, and baking powder, and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently remove from the pan to a cooling rack so the bottoms don’t get too brown. Cool completely and spread with coffee butter, salted caramel butter, or more cookie butter!

Rosemary Thumbprints with Clementine Curd and The Day I Went to Ina Garten’s Cookie Swap (What?!)

Um. I may or may not have gone to a Cookie Swap at Ina Garten’s House.

And photos and recipes from this cookie swap may or may not have just been published in Ladies’ Home Journal.

This totally happened.

It may or may not have been one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me (it was.)

Enough fangirling, though. I know what you really want to know — the nitty gritty details! For the gorgeous photos and recipes, you need the magazine itself (look for Ina on the cover — it’s on newstands now), but I’ll be your go-to source for those gossipy behind-the-scenes details. Such as:

1. No really, Ina Garten is one of the sweetest, most hospitable people on the planet. She wasn’t a diva in any sense; rather, she made us all feel very welcome and appreciated. When she took a bite of my cookie, I admitted that I was totally starstruck, saying, “This is a life moment.” She laughed and told me about one of her life moments: when Meryl Streep tasted one of her dishes. She’s so down-to-earth, y’all.

2. No, we didn’t see Jeffrey — I so wanted him to come in and give Ina a big smooch like he does on Barefoot Contessa.

3. Ina’s breakfast indulgence? Oatmeal. Seriously! She says people are always disappointed to learn that that’s her biggest vice.

4. I found this out while eating breakfast with her before the cookie swap at her favorite restaurant, The 1770 House, which kind of blows my mind. Is this my life? Did that actually happen?!

5. Her yard is just as beautiful as it is on the show — and her garden is a sight to behold! As we were walking through it, the photographer pinched off a plump strawberry and ate it.

6. Speaking of our fancy schmancy photog, Quentin Bacon, we had a great conversation about celebrity chefs and pavlova (he’s an Aussie) on the bus to the Hamptons. He got a text message from Curtis Stone en route inviting him to a party. No biggie. I offered to attend in his stead, which for some reason was only met with laughter.

7. His last name’s BACON. Of course he gets invited to celebrity parties.

8. Joy the Baker and I caught a pedicab in NYC to a restaurant and couldn’t decide if we were having a load of fun or about to die. It was like a roller coaster that twisted in and out of oncoming traffic. Then we were way overcharged. Call it a bonding experience.

9. I took random photos of people kissing in Central Park. I hope they didn’t notice.

10. Ina Garten’s hair stylist has been doing her hair since before she was the Barefoot Contessa. I asked her if she ever felt starstruck and she shrugged and said, “She’s always been Ina to me.” How must that feel?!

11. The folks of Ladies’ Home Journal are a seriously fun bunch to be around. Our conversations ranged from food blogs to sex to religion and everywhere in between on our ride to the Hamptons.

12. The bus driver became my good buddy and NYC tour guide when I got carsick and moved to sit up front with him. Shout out to Alex!

13. Ina is even more beautiful in person — those freckles! She’s also petite — we took off our shoes for pictures with her.

14. Yes, of course I peeked in her pantry. It’s just what you’d expect: nice local products, a few items from her own product line, and tons of gorgeous dishes, all neatly arranged. We may or may not have also peeked in the freezer. Yes, she really does keep chicken stock in there! We lusted a bit after her beautiful kitchen.

As an aside, perhaps I don’t get invited to more celebrity parties because I peek in people’s pantries. Just a thought.

15. Cookie swaps that include Chandon Rosé and festive boxes spread across a gorgeous table dressed for winter are the best sort of cookie swaps.

16. You should buy Ina’s latest cookbook, Foolproof, which I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of. While it’s full of new recipes (including a mustard flank steak I already promised to make for Mike), it’s typical Barefoot Contessa: classic, elegant, and simple. You’ll love it. I read it like a novel before bed!

17. While I’m spendin’ your money, please pick up a copy of Ladies’ Home Journal — I really want them to feel how much we love reading about blogs and bloggers, and companies feel the love through sales! I’ve already bought several copies myself. LHJ is one of the few magazines really embracing food blogs and pioneering how they can work together with print media. Love that!

18. Want to see more of the article now? Here is the interview with Ina and here are all the fantastic cookie recipes! My cookies are Rosemary Thumbprints with Clementine Curd, and they’re seriously delicious.

19. I had the privilege of attending the cookie swap with some other lovely bloggers including Deb from Smitten Kitchen, Lisa from Homesick Texan, Clara from Channeling Contessa, Joy from Joy the Baker, and Zoë from Zoë Bakes. These ladies are amazing and so much fun.

20. Finally, I want you to get a chance to have the same wonderful experience with Ina that I had. LHJ is currently holding a contest called the World’s Biggest Cookie Swap. You can get details to enter and hopefully win a chance to have lunch with Ina here.

Thank you to Ina for your hospitality, and to Ladies’ Home Journal for the experience!

(Photos by Quentin Bacon. Used with permission.)

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