1-2-3 Lemon Cookies

My mother is a baker; the kitchen barstools, something of a counseling couch in my childhood home.

This isn’t breaking news to anyone who befriended any of our family in the last 1-to-30 years, plus is likely 100% responsible for my personal sweet tooth and affinity for knowing my way around a spatula. I spent hours of adolescence sitting at the counter watching my mother bake, talking, and consciously or not, committing her motions to memory. A love of baking for me is as much about the sugar as it is about the bond it gives us.

In no small part due to our regular kitchen-counter counseling sessions, there are parts of baking & cooking that come as naturally to me as laughing. I don’t remember exactly when or where I actually learned some of it all. In the same way, there are “recipes” that I just know. One of them is this 1-2-3 Cake Mix Cookie -a lifesaver on a day I want to bake, but not really really bake, you feel me?

God bless you, Betty Crocker & Sandy Mosier for the gift of these cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 boxed cake mix of choice (in the summer for me, it’s always lemon. Give me lemon EVERYTHING in the summer.)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil

Today, I added a good squeeze of 1/2 a lemon because I had one, and I wanted to for a boost of lemon flavor (non-essential, obviously).

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Mix up all of the ingredients. The dough will be a bit sticky-looking.
  • Drop about a teaspoon size onto your greased cookie sheet, or in my case, my pizza stone that I cook everything on (ungreased).
  • Bake for about 9 minutes! Brown the little cookie bottoms, and expect them to be delightfully chewy.
  • I sprinkled the tops with powdered sugar today as they cooled, because I’m nothing if not vain about cookie presentation, #priorities.

(Dough to Done for reference.)

4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

PB Cookies-1Few linguistic pairings catch the eye of a sugar-holic on a shoestring budget quicker than  4-Ingredient + Cookie.

No sooner was I on my 249-thousandth mindless Facebook thumb-scroll of the weekend than Southern Living’s 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie video caught my cookie-craving eye, and my apron strings were tied.

“4? That’s it? We’ll see.” My ever-the-inner-skeptic questioned. “To waste or not to waste the cup of peanut butter on this experiment, though?” My more recent proclivity for penny-pinching battled.

My curiosity (sweet tooth) won out, and judging by the three cookies left in <12 hours, we kind of liked them in my house.

Well duh, I hear you thinking. Like who am I, Robin Karber, to question Southern Living?PB Cookies-3

Not-So-Pro-Tip: praise the Lord for the mother of invention, or in this case, peanuts. Wedded to a devote Team Crunchy disciple, crunchy peanut butter is all I had on hand, but otherwise would have probably opted Team Creamy. Because I’m extra boring like that sometimes.

However, IMHO, the extra peanuts may have kicked these babies up from “a pretty good experiment” to “on the regular baking rotation.” PB Cookies-2

Rolling dough balls approximately yay-big and fork criss-crossing like my southern mama taught me:

From approximately yay-amount of dough:  I baked approximately a baker’s dozen in the end? I forgot to count before my husband began to vacuum-inhale these heavenly morsels down. Not enough to host an all out bash, but just the right amount for a small family of two to stuff themselves shamelessly onto the brink of a sugar coma.

A successful experiment from the Karber Kitchen, in my cookbook.

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Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake Brownies

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Can we agree that Bailey’s Irish Cream is a little slice of heaven on earth?

If you’re unfamiliar, this sweet, creamy whiskey based liqueur is divine for sipping on the rocks -or my personal favorite- mixing into a freshly brewed cup of joe for what we refer to as “happy coffee” in the Karber house.

I’ve been obsessed since turning 21, and darn near lost my mind when I found this recipe for Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake Brownies. If you’re throwing any St. Patty’s celebrations this weekend, you’ll want to add these to the menu.

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Fudgey, flaky homemade brownie layers, creamy cheesecake in between, and the perfect amount of Bailey’s to make these an indulgence worth every last calorie.

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INGREDIENTS 
Serves: 24 (1 9×13-inch pan)

Brownie Layers:

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur

Cheesecake Layer:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 large egg plus 1 yolk
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and set to the side.
  3. Melt butter and chocolate, careful not to scorch, stirring gently until smooth and shiny. Cool slightly.
  4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  5. Whisk together eggs, sugar and Irish cream in a larger mixing bowl until combined.
  6. Pour in chocolate/butter mixture and continue to whisk until combined.
  7. Fold in flour mixture with spatula, until just combined. Set aside.
  8. Make cheesecake layer: With a mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Add Irish cream liqueur, egg, and yolk; beat until well combined.
  9. Pour half the brownie batter into prepared pan. Spread cheesecake filling evenly across batter then top with remaining batter, smoothing out the top.
  10. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the pan.

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Does it get more Irish than this? St. Patrick’s Day has a fighting chance as a top holiday, yet.

Have you ever baked with Bailey’s, or have a St. Patrick’s Day dessert I should try? Comment below or with the little talking bubble near the title!

Valentine’s Treat: Low-Cal Strawberry Cheesecake Bites

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Just when I feel myself bouncing back from the comfort food marathon of the holidays (or rather finally not bouncing every time I take a step anymore), Cupid stocks the grocery aisles with irresistible Little Debbie heart cakes and masses of chocolate. For a holiday that pulls so much focus on looking glamorous for the big date night, there sure are a whole lot of calories surrounding it. Talk about unfair. 

If you’ve known me for ten minutes, you know my sweet tooth has its own zip code that made my childhood dentist a very rich man. I love sugar and every holiday that provides a reason to indulge in any of its likenesses. Conversation Candy Hearts? Send them over. Chocolate Bunnies? Save me one. Halloween is a real gem.

Rather than really indulge in Valentine’s snacking this year, I found a recipe that still totally satisfied this sugar-aholic’s sweet craving, was much more waistline-friendly, and still totally February 14 cute (especially if you’re a Classroom Parent in charge of party snacks, or if you’re setting a Galentine’s Day menu!) 

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I tweaked my favorite version of this fairly trendy recipe idea from this precious blog, who promised they’re only 35 calories per little slice of heaven. Mine are probably only ever so slightly more because, well, chocolate. Don’t ask me to do February 14 without chocolate. Don’t ask me to do life without chocolate.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries (about 16-18 strawberries of varying sizes.)
  • 4 oz 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 full low-fat graham crackers, crushed
  • About 4oz Ghirardelli Chocolate Dark Melting Wafers (or baking/melting chocolate of choice.)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut the tops off each strawberry, and use a paring knife to hollow out each strawberry, removing the white interior. (I’ve never hollowed a strawberry before, and found this to be a little tricky, but I got the hang of it by the second or third strawberry. If this is you, hang in there! This is as hard as it gets!)
  2. Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined and creamy.
  3. Using a small spoon, fill the hollows of each berry.
  4. Dip each strawberry, cheesecake side down, into the graham cracker crumbs, coating their little tops.
  5. Carefully melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, dip the points of each berry about midway, and lay to set on a sheet of wax paper.
  6. mmm, enjoy!

Note: The inspiration post mentions these are best if made same day, and I agree. If you plan to serve later, simply prepare all of the components ahead of time and store in the refrigerator! This ensures they are perfectly fresh for you or your guests. Plus, assembly is an absolute breeze.

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Do you have a lower-calorie Valentine treat I should try out? Comment below or with the talking bubble near the title!

One of the best cookies I’ve ever made ever.

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Thanksgiving a few weeks out, I was poking around looking for something sweet to try and found one of those “oh my goodness that might be one of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten in my life” kind of cookie recipes:  Salted Caramel Coconut Thumb Print Cookies.

(Did your mouth water a little reading that? It should have –mine just did a little.)

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The classic shortbread. The toasted coconut. The smooth caramel. The gritty sea salt. Heaven.

When my timer rang, I was too anxious to wait for them to cool before immediately taste testing to see how they turned out. My first thought was oh wow, should I even add topping? That cookie could stand on its own…

But then while waiting for them to cool, I took a piece of one that had crumbled apart in the oven and dunked it in a little caramel drizzle just to see and oh my goodness, that seriously kicked it up a notch…

And then they actually all cooled, and I topped them with caramel and a little sprinkle of sea salt and BAM– there it was, these cookies were on a whole new level. Thank you Pinterest, thank you Mom for the baking genes, thank you whoever realized salt and caramel belong together, and thank you Martha Stewart for your genius recipe. 

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Now mine aren’t quite as pretty as Martha’s (and let’s be honest, probably not as delicious either), but these cookies are pretty darn delicious –and I had a pretty great time making them.

Are they involved? Yes. If you exclusively bake with break and bake dough then these might feel like an undertaking, but they’re nothing crazy. This is the kind of recipe that really lets you work with your hands, be inside your head for a little bit, and feel like you’ve truly made something –right before scarfing down a whole heaping plateful with a glass of milk.

I’ll give you Martha’s recipe, then a few notes of my own.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Table salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • 44 small soft caramel candies (12 ounces)
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Large, flaky sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour and 1/2 teaspoon table salt, and beat to combine. Press dough together in plastic wrap, then roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Dip each ball in beaten egg, and roll in coconut. Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets, and press an indentation into each with your thumb. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove sheets from oven, and re-press indentations. Bake cookies until golden, 9 to 10 minutes more. Let cool on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.

  2. Place caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the caramels are melted and mixture is smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Spoon into indentations in cookies, and sprinkle with sea salt. Rewarm caramel if it hardens before all cookies are filled.

ROBIN’S NOTES

  • I actually didn’t do the whole melt the candies and mix with cream thing, but I wish I would have. For the sake of shortcuts and not being able to find caramel candies at my Kroger, these are topped with caramel sauce out of a jar. It’s a bit runny, and of course didn’t set like the melted candies would have. I think it could have totally helped my presentation to do it the right way. (But they are mmm mmm good.)
  • I also didn’t press my dough in plastic wrap, which again could have aided the presentation, but I probably will always skip this step for no other reason than because I don’t want to. I did find the cookies I made in the first round that went in the oven turned out best. I definitely spent the most time packing and rolling those little dough balls tightly and got a little sloppy toward the end, and as I mentioned above some of those fell apart in the oven. (If you have a husband, he’ll eat up the little broken pieces gladly while he waits for you to let him touch the others –experience speaking.)
  • Wow, did I get a little crazy with the coconut? I thought I sort of nailed it until I compared photos and realized I may have gone a little coc-o-nuts (Ha! Aren’t I hilarious?) And I’ll  probably always do it like this because I really like coconut.
  • When cookie-recipe-makers say something like roll dough into 1” spheres…I don’t really know what that means. I feel like it’s something similar to telling your hairdresser you want to take an inch off –an inch means thirty different things to thirty different people. I usually just make what I feel like is a good sized cookie dough ball and go from there. I decided I thought mine might be a little big, and added about 1-2 minutes of cooking time because they weren’t quite done after the 20 minutes. Doing this, this recipe still yields about 30 cookies (and a couple little crumble snacks.)

For gifting, for feasting, or for personally pigging out in front of Netflix from under a cozy blanket, this is the best time of year for trying out fun, new food. Let me know what you think if you’ve tried this recipe or plan to, comment below or using the little talking-bubble-thing near the title!