Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars


Or squares. Whatever you want to call them. These are SOOOO good. Obviously. Peanut butter and chocolate is the best and is my husbands favorite. Every time I ask him what he wants me to bake next, his response is “something with peanut butter.” Ok, honey. You have spoken and I delivered.

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I had to do SOMETHING for him. We just celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary and he had flowers delivered to me (pictured in the background). So romantic! He doesn’t do that too often so when he does, I get so surprised. Good job, babe, good job ❤

I feel like this is a great bake for fall and even for Christmas. If you do a cookie exchange, definitely bake up a batch of these and add them to your dish! Yes, I’m already talking about Christmas and it’s not even Halloween yet, but us bakers like to plan, am I right?!

So… here we go. Your go to bake/dessert for the next 2.5 months 😉

What you will need:

13 x 9 pan, greased

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Dash of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat butter and both sugars until smooth and creamy. Add in peanut butter and beat until combined and creamy. Add in vanilla and egg and beat until combined. Beat in flour mixture slowly until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into your prepared pan and even out the top and edges. Bake for about 20 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. Enjoy!

Store covered at room temp or in the fridge.

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Simple Shortbread Cookies

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I can’t believe I don’t have a shortbread recipe on this blog yet! I seriously thought I did because I’ve made these a few times and they are so good! These are so simple to make and a great cookie to be creative with! Get the kids involved! Make different shapes! Use different toppings!

I have another shortbread cookie recipe that I will post another time. They have a more “Christmas” flavor if you know what I mean. Also, with this recipe, feel free to substitute a tablespoon of milk for lemon juice for a more lemony flavor. Or orange zest! Oh man! Now I want to make these again…. But that’s what I love about simple recipes like this one. You can add whatever you want to make it your own and change it up.

For now, this is the recipe I used. Have fun!

What you will need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
Different toppings or sprinkles. I used Wilton candy melts in chocolate (brown) and red.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together sugar and butter until creamy and smooth. Add in vanilla and milk until just combined. Slowly beat in flour mixture until dough is formed. Separate dough into 2 equal rounds and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take out one ball of dough and roll it out on a floured surface until just over an 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out desired shapes and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until just browned on the edges. Continue until you use up all the dough. Allow to cool on a wire rack before decorating.

Enjoy!

 

Pumpkin Maple Scones

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Happy summer! I mean… fall! Seriously, this 90 degree September weather in Chicago is really weird. I want the cool nights and brisk mornings! Not hot and muggy, need the air conditioning on! But, I’ll take it. Leaves have started to change and fall off trees and Halloween stuff is out in all the stores, and of course, pumpkin everything!

I love baking with pumpkin. The result is always delicious and it’s just so warm and inviting. I found a similar recipe on Pinterest for pumpkin scones but I changed it up a little. Also, pouring out 10 teaspoons of milk seems like a lot. I tried to convert to tablespoons but it was getting too complicated. So, here we go! Our first recipe of the fall season…

What you will need:

Baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with a non-stick spray

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons (+1 teaspoon) maple syrup
10 teaspoons (+ 1 teaspoon) milk

For the glaze:

1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1-2 teaspoons milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter in until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in pumpkin, 3 tablespoons maple syrup and 10 teaspoons milk until just incorporated.

Divide the dough into 8 equal balls and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and milk and brush over the tops. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly golden on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, combine all ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl. Stir until you get desired consistency. Drizzle over the cooled scones. Enjoy!

Store in an airtight container at room temp. Serve warm.


Road Trip to Michigan

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Wow, where do I begin? 6 days in Michigan with my husband and 4 (soon to be 5) year old son. I love reading blogs about other people’s travel experiences so I’m sharing our story and adventure! This was the other side of Lake Michigan for us, the west side of the state. We live in Chicago and go to the beach, see Lake Michigan all the time… but not like this. Honestly, I need to pinch myself because it all seemed like a dream….

We did so many fun things and we all had a blast!  Looking back at pictures, it seriously doesn’t seem real or like we were somewhere else…. more than just a 5 hour drive from home. Let me begin by saying I LOVE to travel and see other parts of the country and world and to do it now, in my 30’s with a son is the best ever. As a child, we went on a lot of vacations. I was fortunate to experience many airplane rides because my dad was a US Air mechanic and we spent a lot of hours in airports. I loved it. It’s what I knew. We also drove to places as well. It’s fun! And I’m fortunate now to have a kid who is SO GOOD in the car (thank the Lord!)! Seriously, when his time is up on his tablet he’ll either sleep or just sit there and look out the window.

I’m not trying to brag. I’m really not. Kids, and people in general, do not need much. I’m such a minimalist and realized at a young age how little we need to survive. And I think that’s why I enjoy traveling so much. Even just going to the beach. We need a towel, a few toys, water, snacks. Done. No need to bring your entire garage. Half the time your kids won’t play with what you brought. Chairs? You sit in a chair every day. Sit in the sand! The same goes with taking a vacation. If you forget something, who cares! Chances are you don’t really need it, or you can find a store and buy it when you get to your destination.

Ok, enough chit chat. Let me begin our Michigan adventure. Here we are, car packed ready to go!

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We even brought our bikes! Our first stop was Traverse City. We rented a little cottage through Airbnb for 3 nights. For us, this was a 5 hour drive. We stopped once to eat lunch at a Burger King.

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Island View Cottages is where we stayed and I highly recommend if you are ever in TC. We had a kitchen, our own room, Liam slept in a pull-out couch and the property has it’s own private beach! Literally, our cottage was 15 steps to the beach. I was in love!!

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Beautiful, clear water. Nothing can beat it.

The first day we were here we did a 2 hour canoe ride at Riverside Canoe Trips. The night before we went to Meijer and got breakfast and lunch food. We brought a picnic lunch and had a great time!

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After our canoe trip we drove to Glen Arbor with our bikes. Here, we did an 18 mile, HILLY bike ride. I was so mad at Ferro (my husband) for picking the route. I swore at him  a few times which is very unlike me. But when we got back to our car, I was glad! It was hard, yes, and we kept going and saw some beautiful sights that not everyone gets to experience.

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And let me say this now. None of these pictures do this trip justice. These are all taken with my iPhone 7 and this hill just above… holy cow! The hills up were SO hard and the hills down, I thought my brakes were going to go out! But it was fun and I thank my husband for being the biker in this relationship and making me do it 🙂

The next day we kept open to relax…. well, relax for us. We visited the Traverse City Commons and went on a little hike.

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Ferro took some really good family pictures with his DSLR and we got to enjoy some nature. We then had lunch at Spanglish, a restaurant I recommend if you like tacos (I mean, who doesn’t?!).

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It’s right next door to Barefoot Charlie Winery. Oh, come on, you didn’t think I’d go to Michigan and not go to a wine tasting, did you? And yes, Liam was with us the entire time. They even gave him a juice box and crayons and a page to color. Bring the kids! They will accommodate you.

When we got back to the cottage we ate leftovers for dinner and made s’mores on the beach. Definitely my favorite night of the entire trip.

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I mean, a glass of wine in hand, fire blazing, toes in the sand? There is nothing else I want in life. Besides world peace.

The next day we had to pack up our stuff and hit the road to our next destination- Charlevoix. But first… let’s check out the Sleeping Bear Dunes. It’s about a 45 minute drive from TC and $15 for the pass that you need to display in your car. Done.

And… leave it to us to pack a lunch, climb down the dunes, eat, and climb back up, disreguarding the warning signs posted at the top saying that it may take you 2 hours to get back up. Well… We did it in 25 minutes! That’s right, all 3 of us, Liam too and he didn’t cry or whine! Hallelujah!

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But that view? Come on! How can you not go down there?! Side note: We are a very fit and physical family. They have the signs for a reason so please be careful! However, if you do decide to climb the dunes, I recommend going barefoot and using your legs and not doing the zombie crawl like you will see most people doing.

After that, we hit the road again to our next Airbnb in Boyne City, just outside of Charlevoix. Here, we really only had 1 full day. We drove and took a ferry to a place called Castle Farms. It’s a beautiful place where you can walk the grounds yourself. We fed ducks and fish and had a picnic lunch. They have an awesome train set up that of course Liam loved! It was very neat and we all enjoyed ourselves.img_7693

After we explored Castle Farms for a couple hours, we drove to Michigan Beach. It was a bit too chilly for us to go in the water but it was still a beautiful day to swing on the swings, go down the slide and see the lighthouse!

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We then drove back to Boyne City and the boys fished (with no luck) and we enjoyed our last evening relaxing, by the water, having dinner and getting ice cream!

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On our drive home, we stopped at a Jimmy Johns in Grand Rapids. Another awesome city to drive through and stop quick if you are ever near there. And then we made it home! Seriously, the worst part of travel is packing, then unpacking and having to do 3 loads of laundry. But who cares! Obviously it’s totally worth it.

So I hope you enjoyed reading about our Michigan journey 🙂 Please leave comments about your experiences or questions if you are planning on a trip there yourself!

Take care, and enjoy life!

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Icebox Cake

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Or Zebra Cake as my son and I call it. I got a recipe card for this in our last Hello Fresh delivery and of course I had to try it. Only 2 ingredients?! Come on! So easy, and a no bake dessert at that. Awesome!

Oh and Hello Fresh is a food delivery service just like Blue Apron (which we also use). They send you pre-portioned ingredients for 3 meals for you + 1 or 3 depending on family size. It’s great! Definitely check them out 🙂

Back to this cake… it really is so delicious and so easy to make but also very filling! I made my own whipped cream which is way better than Cool Whip in my opinion. And that’s also so easy. I will share the recipe in this blog post. So, before going in there are 2 things you need to know: first is that it needs to be refrigerated for at least 8 hours or overnight before serving. A great dessert to make the day before. Second is that you need a springform pan. So before attempting this recipe, make sure you have time and the correct pan.

Let’s get to it…

What you will need:

8 or 9 inch springform pan

3 cups cold heavy cream
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
(2) 9 oz packages of chocolate wafter cookies

I used these

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To make your own whipped cream, in a cold metal (or glass) bowl, whisk all first 3 ingredients until stiff peaks form. It took me literally 5 or 6 minutes, my arm was hurting! It takes a while but it’s so worth it.

Once your whipped cream is made, evenly spread 1/2 cup on the bottom of the pan. Next, evenly place the wafer cookies on top of the whipped cream layer. Continue making layers like this making sure you end with whipped cream. I did 4 layers of cookies but could have probably done another one. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Tip: Feel free to break cookies the fill in any gaps.

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When ready to serve, carefully remove sides of pan. Use a warm knife to cut and rinse off after every slice for smooth edges. Enjoy!

Store covered, in the fridge.

Fresh Cherry Cobbler

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Summer is the season for farmers markets here in Chicago and my oh my! I’m in love! I was surprisingly a market virgin (gasp!) until this year. Can you believe it? There are literally 3 walking distance from my house so now I’m obsessed! Yes, the items/products are more expensive, but you get it straight from the source and meet some really cool people all at the same time. When the farmers tell you their crops were picked just 2 hours ago, how can you say no? So, here I am with my market cherry popped with a fantastic cherry recipe 😉

I made a tiny cherry cobbler because I only had 2 cups of cherries. If you have more, you can easily double the recipe. The recipe I have given here is double what I actually made. So, this is for an 8 x 8 inch pan but you can double it to make a  9 x 13.

Oh and just a quick tip; investing in a cherry pitter would be a smart thing to do. I do not have one and holy mess! Just look below…

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I felt like I was committing murder, Dexter style. But, all is good, cherry juice is delicious and doesn’t stain. So…

Let’s get this cherry party started!

What you will need:

8 x 8 inch square bake dish

For the filling:

3 cups fresh cherries, washed and pitted
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 cup cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 TBSP butter, cold and sliced
1/4 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. In a pot, stir all the ingredients for the filling. Over medium-high heat on the stove, stir until it simmers. Once simmering, stir for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and pour into bake dish.

Start the topping. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, both sugars, baking powder and cinnamon until combined. Cut the butter into the mixture either using your fingers, or with a pastry cutter until it resembles wet sand. Add the boiling water and mix with a spoon until well combined.

Drop the topping over the cherry filling until it is completely covered. Bake for about 15-22 minutes, depending on pan size. Topping will be lightly browned and filling hot and bubbly.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes before digging in! Enjoy 🙂 Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Store covered in the fridge.

Banana Bread Muffins with Crumb Topping


I love me some crumb topping and I always have bananas in my freezer so… the perfect recipe is here! These are SO good! The perfect breakfast or snack packed with flavor, carbs and sugar! 

I needed a recipe not only to use up the bananas in my freezer, but one that I could use a jumbo size egg. Why they even sell those at the store RIGHT NEXT to the large ones is beyond me. But yes, I accidentally bought jumbo eggs. They are perfect for scrambling eggs for breakfast. Baking with them is another story. 2 jumbo eggs is more like 3 large ones. I used 1 jumbo in this recipe and it was perfect! Now that doesn’t mean you have to run to the store and get jumbo eggs. You might just need to use the whites of an additional egg for this recipe.

Ok… enough about jumbo eggs, let’s get to baking!

What you will need:

Cupcake tin lined with liners

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Egg
3 bananas, mashed

For the Crumb Topping:

2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. In another bowl, beat melted butter and sugar. Beat in egg until combined. Beat in mashed bananas until everything is nice and smooth and blended. Slowly beat in flour mixture until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, just above halfway full. Then, make the topping. In a bowl, mix all ingredients with your fingers until it resembles sand or coarse crumbs, pinching the butter with your fingertips. Evenly distribute on the tops of the cupcakes. Bake for 14-15 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack before digging in.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Makes 10 muffins

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