Thursday, December 8, 2016

Reindeer Brownies

I love holiday themed treats more than anything. Any holiday – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween… I just think making holiday treats is so fun. And there’s just something so special about Christmas treats.

Last year, you may remember that I made Christmas tree brownies for National Brownie Day, which is December 8. They were a total crowd pleaser! Everyone wanted one!

This year I wanted to do the same concept except with reindeer instead of Christmas trees! 

The first step in making the treat is of course preparing the brownies! It is very rare that I use a box mix for anything, but in this case you should definitely use a box mix. The reason being is that you’re already going to decorate these brownies so why create even more work for yourself? 

This Ghirardelli mix is my absolute favorite. But I always doctor it up by substituting the water for milk and the oil for Challenge butter.  The brownies will taste so much richer! 

Also, to create the triangle shape of the reindeer, I recommend baking the brownies in a round cake pan. The cake pan I used is 9 inches in diameter. If you do not have a round cake pan, you can certainly use the pan with which you normally bake brownies. You just may have some scraps leftover after cutting the triangles.

Now, let’s talk about decorating the reindeer. For the antlers I used big twist pretzels, snapped in half. The eyes are brown M&Ms, and the nose is a mini vanilla wafer with a red M&M on top.

The “glue” that keeps everything in place is vanilla buttercream frosting.  This was the only way I could think of to adhere the reindeers’ facial features. If you find an easier way, go for it! Also, keep in mind, vanilla buttercream is delicious and you can use leftovers to spread on graham crackers.

So there you have it! That’s all it takes to make the most adorable holiday brownies ever!

Also, remember this month Challenge Dairy has partnered with UNICEF to fight the childhood malnutrition crisis with their campaign called “Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child." Through December 31, 2016, if you pin a recipe from the “2016 Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child” Pinterest board, Challenge will donate a meal to UNICEF for a child in need.

Reindeer Brownies
Yield: Makes 8 brownies
For the brownies
  • 1 (18 ounce) box of brownie mix
  • 1/3 cup Challenge butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
For the buttercream frosting
  • 1/2 cup Challenge butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the decorations
  • Large pretzel twists
  • Brown M&Ms (or chocolate chips)
  • Vanilla wafers
  • Red M&Ms
For the brownies
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Line 9-inch cake pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick baking spray; set aside.
  3. Mix the milk, butter, and egg in bowl. Add the brownie mix and stir until well blended.
  4. Spread mix into cake pan and bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  6. Once cooled, lift aluminum foil out of pan and cut into 8 triangles. 
For the buttercream frosting
  1. Beat softened butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add powdered sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and salt and mix until combined
  3. Increase mixer to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes.
  4. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if frosting is too thick.
  5. Decorate brownies by using frosting to adhere the eyes and nose to the brownie. Stick 1/2 pretzel twist into each side of brownie for antlers

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hot Cocoa Cookies

One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is bake cookies with my mom to share with all of our neighbors and family. Seeing as today is National Cookie Day, I wanted to share a unique cookie recipe that I’m serving up to my friends this season!

Hot cocoa and Christmastime go together like peanut butter and jelly. So I transformed the decadent drink into a rich, chocolatey cookie. This past summer I made s’mores cookies in which I stuck half a marshmallow on top of a cookie and toasted it in the oven. I decided to use the same concept with these hot cocoa cookies! And for an extra-chocolatey surprise I stuck a piece of chocolate under each marshmallow.

Hot Cocoa Cookies
Yield: Makes about 24 cookies
  • 1 (15.25 ounce) box of milk chocolate cake mix
  • 8 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 4 ounces Challenge cream cheese,
  • 1/2 cup chocolate morsels
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 large marshmallows, cut in half
  1. In a large bowl, combine dry cake mix, melted butter, and egg.
  2. Add cream cheese and beat until completely incorporated.
  3. Stir in chocolate morsels.
  4. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes so it’s easier to shape into a ball.
  5. Once dough has been chilled for a half hour, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Form dough into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes.
  7. Remove baking sheet from oven, add 1 piece chocolate to center of each cookie.
  8. Place one marshmallow half on top of each piece of chocolate on each cookie, pushing down slightly so the marshmallow adheres.
  9. Return baking sheet to oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or just until marshmallows have puffed.
  10. Remove cookies from oven and allow them to cool on baking sheet.
  11. Store cookies in airtight container for up to one week.

Idea for recipe adapted from Averie Cooks

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Easy and Inexpensive Edible Gifts for the Holidays

‘Tis the season of giving. And depending on your situation, all of the giving can really add up. It can become pretty pricey once you start to buy gifts for teachers, co-workers, friends, etc. That's why I recommend making edible treats for your family and friends. Not only will they be impressed but you'll actually save some money.

I understand why you may be hesitant to go that route. It may seem like too much work or you may be worried that everyone is already drowning in too many sweets. But the treats I want to show you are incredibly easy and quick, plus they have a long shelf life and that's important because everyone likes to indulge at a different pace.

And while you're in the giving spirit, you should help Challenge Dairy provide meals to children in need through UNICEF. Challenge has partnered with UNICEF to fight the childhood malnutrition crisis with their campaign called “Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child" check it out now! Through December 31, 2016, if you pin a recipe from the “2016 Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child” Pinterest board, Challenge will donate a meal to UNICEF for a child in need.

One of my favorite favorite favorite gifts to give is cinnamon candied pecans! First of all, I NEED to give them all away right away because they are so addictive that if I don't I eat them all myself. In general, I think nuts are a great gift idea because they do provide some nutritional value and they are a little more on the pricey side so they provide an element of "luxury." Your house will smell so good after making these pecans! It's just like those stands at malls during the holidays, only without the crowds and all of the judgy teenagers walking around.

Cinnamon Candied Pecans
Yield: Makes 4 cups
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces (about 4 cups) unsalted pecans halves
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In medium bowl, add sugars, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk until combined. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, whisk egg white and vanilla together until frothy. Add pecans and gently toss until they're well-coated. Add cinnamon sugar mixture and toss until pecans are covered.
  4. Spread pecans out in single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes. 
  5. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet. When completely cool, store in airtight container.

    In addition to pecans, I really love these Mexican Hot Chocolate Coated Almonds! I bet you'll be the first person to give this give. They're unique and delicious. They satisfy a chocolate craving while sill providing some protein. Also, you don't even have to bake them, and they come together in just a few minutes! In case you're curious, they're called "Mexican Hot Chocolate" almonds because I've added a little cinnamon and a dash of cayenne to the recipe--just like Mexican Hot Chocolate! I think they add a nice kick to the treat! But if it makes you too nervous to add the spices, you can just omit them. 

    Mexican Hot Chocolate Coated Almonds 
    Yield: Makes 2 cups 
    • 2 cups almonds
    • 1 Tablespoon Challenge butter
    • 2 ounces chocolate (milk or dark)
    • 4 Tablespoons cocoa powder + 1 Tablespoon for dusting
    • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
    1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan on low heat. Add chocolate and stir frequently until just melted.
    2. Add almonds and stir to coat evenly; remove from heat.
    3. Combine cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne in bowl.
    4. Dump almonds and powder mixture into container with lid. Vigorously shake until almonds are coated with powder.
    5. Pour almonds onto baking sheet and sprinkle with cocoa powder to ensure all almonds are evenly coated.
    6. Let cool and then store in airtight container. 
    Recipe adapted from Physical Kitchness

    Speaking of hot chocolate, I love these little hot chocolates on a stick. Melted chocolate is so much richer in taste than the powdery mixes. My dad actually said "Wow!" after trying one. Once again, it's a very unique treat that's easy to make. Just melt good quality chocolate and add a little powdered sugar and cocoa powder to make it more soluble in liquid. I used a silicone mini muffin mold to make these and it worked out really well. But if you don't have a silicone mold, you can put the melted chocolate mixture into a regular mini muffin pan with liners or spoon it into mini disposable cups. Just make sure to peel away the liner or cup before gifting! 

    Hot Chocolate on a Stick 
    Yield: Makes about 12 servings
    • 16 ounces good quality milk or dark chocolate
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • Mini marshmallows
    1. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate in 30-second intervals.
    2. Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.
    3. Spoon mixture into silicone baking cups and top with mini marshmallows
    4. Press plastic spoon into center of each cup and let set for several hours.
    5. Serve by heating up 8 ounces of milk and letting hot chocolate stick sit in milk for several minutes before serving.
    Recipe adapted from In Katrina's Kitchen

    Another one of my favorite gifts that I know I love to receive is caramel corn! Lots of people buy popcorn gift baskets for the holidays, but those are really pricey--especially when you're gifting it to several people! It is significantly cheaper to make it at home. And, even better, you can make it in the microwave! 

    Microwave Caramel Corn 
    Yield: Makes about 8 servings 
    • 16 cups popped popcorn (microwave, stove-popped or store-bought)
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup Challenge butter
    • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    1. Place popped popcorn in large microwave-safe bowl.
    2. Combine brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup in microwave-safe bowl and microwave-covered bowl on high for 2 minutes.
    3. Remove from microwave and stir for 30 seconds
    4. Put covered container back in microwave and cook for an additional 3 minutes
    5. Remove from microwave, add baking soda and stir for 30 seconds. Mixture will thicken.
    6. Pour mixture over popped popcorn and shake bowl of popcorn.
    7. Put bowl of popcorn in microwave for 1 minute; remove bowl and shake.
    8. Put bowl of popcorn back in microwave and heat for an additional 45 seconds; remove bowl and shake.
    9. Put bowl of popcorn back in microwave and heat for an additional 30 seconds; remove bowl and shake.
    10. Pour popcorn on baking sheet covered in wax paper to cool for half hour. Store in airtight container.

    Salty and sweet make the perfect treat! And that's exactly what you'll get with these cute little M&M Pretzel Hugs Bites! Everyone loves these, and if you know how to turn on an oven, you can make them. The beauty of these treats is their simplicity, and I have yet to meet anyone who dislikes them. 

    M&M Pretzel Hugs Bites 
    • 1 bag of waffle pretzels
    • 1 (12 ounce) bag of Hershey's Hugs
    • 1 (9.9 ounce) bag of M&Ms 
    1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
    3. Align pretzels on baking sheet.
    4. Place a Hershey candy on each of the pretzels.
    5. Put baking sheet in oven for 4 minutes or until candies just start to melt.
    6. Remove baking sheet from oven.
    7. Carefully place a candy in the center of each soft Hershey and press down to spread the chocolate
    8. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator until the chocolate has set (about 15 minutes).
    9. Store in an airtight container.
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