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My trips to Minnesota to visit one of my closest friends can be summed by a number of words: whirlwind, cute little boys, church life and girl time – think dinners out (hello Melting Pot, nice to meet you!), movie nights, pedicures, baseball games and baking.

Another girl who loves Jesus, Pinterest, baking, country music and sports? I always knew that this would work out. Last time we were together we made Samoa cupcakes, which I think caused my sugar overdose, so this time we decided to tone things down a bit and make these peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate cheesecake frosting. Because that’s toning things down…

I have to admit that these cupcakes were a bit weird because they never seemed to be cooked, which then led to me over baking them. Because of course that’s what would happen. Regardless they were still good and my love for all things chocolate and peanut butter continues to grow.

Did I mention that I’m super excited because she’s coming to Vancouver for the first time next weekend? Aka bring on more baking!

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

Cupcakes

1/4 cup butter                        1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup sugar                            2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla                            1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder          1/3 cup milk

3/4 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter and peanut butter together in a bowl until smooth and creamy.

Add sugar and eggs and beat together until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix for another minute or so.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.

Add half of the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the milk. Once mixed, add remaining dry ingredients. Fold in peanut butter morsels.

Pour into cupcake tins and fill 2/3 of the way full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Let cool.

Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting

1/2 cup butter                  1 block cream cheese (8 ounces), softened

1 tbsp vanilla                    4 cups icing sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder       1-2 tbsp milk, if needed

Beat butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add in vanilla.

Slowly add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and add cocoa powder, increasing the speed to mix.

If the frosting it a bit too thick, add milk 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  If it is too thin, add additional sugar gradually.

Frost cupcakes once cooled.

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What to bake when the weather decides that it is no longer summer and suddenly dives into fall and does a complete 180? Pumpkin things? It should happen. Warm soups? I’m still not on the band wagon. Apple treats? Definitely fall like.

What do I opt for? Strawberries. Just trying to bring back the warm weather and the excitement that last June brought. You’re all welcome/could I be any more backwards?

Quite a while ago, a friend on my soccer team brought homemade banana bread to one of our games to share post-victory (best teammate ever award goes to Carla).

Side-note, banana bread pairs much better with soccer than the typical half time oranges that I never was a fan of. Good thing my mother was my childhood team’s “orange lady” and decided that hot chocolate was a good idea for half time too. Thanks mom for encouraging my fat years.

Back to the banana bread. It was amazing, I wanted the recipe, I got the recipe, I altered the recipe, I devoured the entire loaf to myself. What else is a girl to do when she’s home alone for a month!? This loaf would be delicious no matter what you throw in, I decided to get creative (a rarity) and opted for strawberries AND chocolate chips alongside the banana, but do what works for you.

Would these be good as muffins? Obviously. Breakfast? When else do you eat muffins? Post-work out? Tested and approved. Lunch? Snack? Dessert? Yes, yes and yes. Just not for dinner. Come on, we need at least a little bit of balanced eating in there somewhere.

 

Vegan Banana Bread

3-4 very ripe bananas    1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla                   2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder       1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon              1/4 cup milk mixed with 1 tsp vinegar

1/2 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a small loaf pan (8 X 4).

In a medium bowl mash bananas with sugar and vanilla until combined and creamy.  Add in the milk and applesauce.

In a large bowl combine the flour, soda, powder and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (At this point feel free to add chocolate chips or any other desired ingredients).

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and for 55-65 minutes.

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here. Travels around Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and the Philippines have ended, another school year has begun, Thanksgiving has already passed and before I know it, it will be Christmas.

I feel like time isn’t my friend. I feel like I’m constantly looking ahead to the next exciting thing, or looking back to some other time that was more exciting than now. Maybe this is because a number of my favourite people don’t live where I live. Is it really too much to ask that all of my favourite people become my neighbours so that I can see them whenever I want? And maybe we could all live in Vancouver? Because you know, it’s kind of beautiful here.

 

Maybe this is why I love reunions so much. What’s even better than a reunion with some of my favourite people is a potluck reunion. Yes I call dibs on bringing dessert, why do people even bother asking?

 

So I made these for our mini education reunion. And they were delicious. And everyone loved them. Some people definitely had seconds, while others mentally ate at least 5 I’m sure. Soft and chewy brownie cookies that had the most amazing peanut butter icing sandwiched in-between them.

Make these. Because amazing people deserve amazing dessert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brownie Cookies with Peanut Butter Frosting

Adapted from Bakers Royale

Brownie Cookies

5 oz. cocoa powder

3 oz. chocolate, chopped

3 tbsp butter      2 eggs

⅔ cup sugar       1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup flour        ¼ tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place 5 oz. cocoa powder, 1 oz. chocolate and the butter in a saucepan over low heat and gently stir until melted and smooth. Set aside.

Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until pale and creamy.

Add in flour, baking powder, melted chocolate mixture, remaining 2 oz. of chocolate and mix to combine.

Set aside for 10 minutes.

Spoon tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto parchment lined bake sheet.

Bake for about 8–10 minutes or until puffed and cracked.

Allow to cool completely on trays.

Make the Peanut Butter Frosting

Once cookies are cooled, spread the icing onto the cookies and assemble.

What do you do when in a foreign country with 13 teenagers who don’t speak very much English? You bake with them. This couldn’t be any more of a win-win situation: the kids get to have fun in the kitchen doing something different, and I get to, along with them of course, eat something hopefully baked correctly and delicious that I miss from back home.

In steps the best friend who likes to be healthy and suggests that we make vegan brownies using weird ingredients that I’ve never heard of before but decide to give a try. I mean really, what the heck is okara and who in their right mind makes peanut butter from scratch in a blender (only peanuts, nothing else added), I don’t get it. But she had all of the ingredients and I was willing to be adventurous. After all, I am in Thailand.

The baking process itself went well, no lost limbs, no fires, no language mistranslations, we even got to play hangman post clean-up while waiting for the brownies to bake. However, if you ask the students the end result was less than satisfactory. Apparently Thai people don’t get the chocolate/peanut butter combination that the rest of the world obsesses about. Too much peanut butter they complained about, too gooey, too rich. Are these real teenagers? I don’t understand. (However they are super precious and do love frozen yogurt, proof provided in these pictures, so we get along just great!)

Further proof that the brownies weren’t the biggest hit? While playing speak only English Uno (very educational!) after lunch, the students decided to raise the stakes and make the loser of each game eat a brownie. Everyone was in fits of laughter and on the edge of their seats hoping to not be the unfortunate loser who had to eat a brownie. Because there isn’t anything worse in life than eating a brownie…

I thought the brownies were great. Obviously. They are different than normal but so they should be considering that they are vegan and super healthy. And as if I was going to complain about getting to eat all of the left overs that my students didn’t want!

 

 

 

Vegan Brownies

1 1/2 cups sugar         2/3 cups cocoa powder

1 cup peanut butter     1 cup soy milk

2 tsp vanilla                 1 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder     1/4 tsp salt

1 cup okara

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with wax paper.

In a large bowl mix together the sugar, cocoa powder and peanut butter.

Stir in the milk and vanilla.

Add the okara and mix until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Allow to cool before cutting since the brownies will be quite moist/mushy otherwise.

Have you ever thought about what you would want your last meal to be?

Clearly I have. Numerous times.

I’ve narrowed it down to a few options. I’m thinking that a full Thanksgiving dinner might suffice. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and sausage, yam and apple bake, mashed potatoes and throw in a few peas for some colour. Finish it all off with pumpkin pie and whipping cream. Obvs. (ps. this all has to be made by my mother, I’m for sure not settling for anything less than her best).

Or maybe I could do a southern meal. Say pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw and plenty of bbq sauce, or bbq ribs with corn bread and corn, for the sake of having a vegetable. Wash it all down with sweet tea and let’s have pecan pie too? After all, this is probably the only time in my life that I’ll be able to go big AND go home (literally)!

I had a sort of last meal a few weeks ago, nothing morbid at all, simply the last meal that I had at home before heading to south east Asia for over a month and a half. This strawberry pie was what I finished that last meal with.

Thailand is great, but now I’m missing fresh summer berries. This pie uses exactly that. Fresh strawberries picked by my mom and I, then glazed, thrown into a baked pie shell and topped with whipping cream. So summer appropriate and fresh. And fricking delicious. For real. And now exactly what I want as I sit here eating my bazillionth bowl of rice.

Maybe I’m going to have to reconsider my last dessert. Or maybe my last meal will be ALL desserts. I might be on to something there…

Strawberry Glaze Pie

1 baked pie shell                         1 cup strawberry juice
2 cups or more strawberries        3 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt                                3/4 cup sugar

Prepare, bake and cool the pie shell.

Wash and hull the full berries.  Place in pie shell.

Make strawberry juice by crushing 1 extra cup of strawberries and adding water to make 1 cup in all.

Simmer for 3 minutes, strain; add water to make 1 cup juice.

Cook the juice on medium heat with cornstarch, sugar and salt stirring constantly until thick.

Cool slightly.  Pour over berries in shell glazing them.  Chill 2-3 hours.

Serve with whipped cream.

Ps. This recipe works just as well for raspberries too!

Amongst other things, the men in my life have been blessed/cursed with a sweet tooth. Fortunately this works out very well for me, who enjoys baking things, and them, who enjoy consuming copious amounts of sugar.

What to do for Father’s Day and the boyfriend’s birthday? Easy. Chocolate. And peanut butter. Aka the way to any (especially my) man’s heart.

So remember the Sex in a Pan? Believe it or not this is even better. I know, who would have thought that something could be better than Sex in a Pan…but it is.

Rather than a plain crust, brownies were used as the base. Then a peanut butter cream cheese layer, followed by chocolate pudding and whipping cream. Did I mention that this is two layers so now repeat all of those layers? Yes this is big, yes this is delicious, yes this is going to take us a week to eat through, no I am not complaining.

Happy belated Father’s Day to all of the father’s out there. Sorry to inform you that I have the best one ever and I love him a lot. Be jealous. Seriously.

 

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie Trifle

Adapted from The Enchanted Mommy

Brownies layer. . . I used this

Bake your brownies the day before and let them cool completely.

Cut the brownies into cubes and put half of them along the bottom of a trifle dish or large bowl.

Chocolate Pudding Layer

1 large package chocolate pudding    2 cups milk

Combine the ingredients and beat for 2 minutes. Allow the pudding to thicken in the fridge.

Whipping Cream Layer

2 cups Heavy Cream
3-4 tbsp sugar     1 tbsp vanilla

Beat cream on high speed until soft peaks form.

Add the sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Stick the bowl in the fridge until needed.

Peanut Butter Layer

1 cup creamy peanut butter       1 cup cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar                        2 tbsp milk

Beat peanut butter and cream cheese together until creamy.

Add icing sugar and mix well.  Add 2 tbsp milk and combine.

Take 1 cup of the whipping cream mixture from the fridge and fold it into the peanut butter mixture until just combined.

Layering

Once everything has been prepared you are ready for layering. This can be done in any order. I went with brownies, peanut butter cream cheese, chocolate pudding, whipping cream and repeat. Then top with sliced Mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.

I know this seems boring, I know this seems simple, but a) sometimes the simple things in life are the best (that’s the saying right?) and b) sometimes a lot of simple things added together make something crazy amazing.

These are brownies. Simple brownies. Seriously amazing brownies. Like bake them and your entire house will smell amazing for a day, you will be tempted to devour the whole pan in one sitting, and the neighbours and their kids will show up prepared with milk, kind of brownies.

Can we just talk about brownies for a second please? Brownies are so diverse it’s amazing. I mean think about it: cakey brownies, brownies with icing, chewy brownies, brownies with nuts, blonde brownies, fudgy brownies, thin brownies, thick brownies, boxed brownies (because sometimes they are really good) and don’t even get me started on those two bite brownies from a bag that can instantly turn a bad day into the best day. I think I’ve found a new life goal…to find the best brownies out there…

These brownies might come close since they fall into the chewy and fudgy and thin categories. They are also delicious on their own, crazy good served with ice cream and probably one of the best things that I have ever consumed when combined with a few other ingredients, more on that later though…

 

Best Cocoa Brownies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

10 tbsp butter          1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt               1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs                      1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.

Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is slightly.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.

When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes.

Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.