Raspberry Oreo Brownies

It has been a long time since I have had brownies.  Considering the amount of sweets I have had in the past week (between birthdays and Easter) and taking into consideration the amount of candy I have left stashed in my cupboards, I really did not NEED to make brownies this afternoon...or did I?

I was inspired by the Brownies with Oreos I saw on Vanilla Sugar and set into action by my pregnancy cravings (I really don't know what I will do when I can't use that as an excuse anymore).  The result?  Yum!

I used a box of "family size" brownie mix, following the directions as they were on the box.

Chopped up about 10 Oreo cookies (had a sampling of one with Moira).

Stirred the chopped cookies in to the batter.

Thawed and mashed about 1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries.

Poured the batter in the pan and swirled the raspberries through it.  Baked for about 10 minutes longer than the instructions on the box recommended (about 38-40 minutes for a 9x13 pan).

In the words of Moira, "Ta-ta-da" (she likes to add syllables into her words lately...funny).

I like mine warm with a scoop of (less-fat slow-churned) vanilla ice cream.



A Keeper!

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you on behalf of Joy the Baker's Big Berry Birthday Cake and to give a shining recommendation for this home-baked treat.

I first heard of the Big Berry Birthday Cake while I was searching for a perfect scratch cake to make for my mother's birthday.  The requirements I had for the position were that it had fruit and it was from scratch.  After stumbling across this Cake, I knew it would be perfect for the job.  I completely underestimated the Cake's ability to execute the task it was chosen for.  Not only was it a breeze to make (no more difficult than a "box-cake" as we say in my household), the Cake had a perfect dense texture and wonderful vanilla flavor.

After reading other recommendations regarding the Cake, I decided I could not pass up the chance to also recruit its companion, Vanilla Whipped Buttercream Frosting with Rose Water, for the task at hand.  Again, I was not disappointed.  This Frosting proved to be so smooth, sweet but not-to-sugary, and had such a unique flavor of vanilla and rose water that no other candidate would have been able to live up to the job.

In conclusion, it is with great satisfaction and confidence that I recommend Big Berry Birthday Cake for any of your occasions in which an exceptional cake is desired.


Other praise for Big Berry Birthday Cake:

"This is probably the best cake I've ever had."
-Justin, The Sister's Boyfriend

"I woke up thinking about this cake."
-Donna, The Birthday Girl

"It has a very complex flavor...It was a delicate dance of flavors on my tastebuds."
-Steve, The Husband

-Stephanie, The Sister


2 Pounds of Butter in 2 Days

I can go days, weeks, without baking.  All of a sudden something will come up and I am baking like a crazy lady.  This week:  Easter; my mother's birthday; my father's birthday; and an 'early' Easter at my in-laws (really, a 'look what the Easter Bunny brought for Moira' dinner...too cute).  What I did the past two days is absolutely crazy, considering I am 32 weeks pregnant. (I am feeling the aftermath of my craziness today...ouch!)  Besides my aching back and feet, the end result was 4 wonderful treats, ready for the celebrations and lots of butter.  Mmmmm, treats.  Mmmmm, butter.

I saw these Raspberry Lemonade Bars from Handle the Heat over at Pinterest and could not resist the urge to try them out. It just sounded like summer, and God knows we could use some summer in Buffalo, NY right now.  They are super-tangy and sweet, and chewy.  Different...but I can't stop sneaking a bite or crumb here and there, so we will say addicting in their own little way.

My father's birthday was earlier this week.  I made him peanut butter cookies, to be delivered during our visit.Nothing fancy, just classic, wonderful peanut butter crisscross cookies.  I used the recipe from a Chow Life which is pretty much the recipe I remember from my youth...lots of peanut butter, lots of butter, lots of sugar!  Who doesn't love dozens of cookies, all to themselves?

My mother is celebrating a big one this year (I won't disclose that information Mom, I promise).  I really wanted to make something wonderfully special but to my mother's taste.  She asked for something with fruit in it.  (PERFECT!!!  I have been craving fresh berries lately!)  I love reading Joy the Baker's blog and found her recipe for a Big Berry Birthday Cake with Vanilla Whipped Buttercream Frosting with Rose Water.    OH MY GOD!!!  The crumb of the cake I have tasted so far is amazing.  I am waiting to frost the cake until celebration day tomorrow, so I will have to share the fabulousness of the dessert after that.  Stay tuned!

Moira and I made the sugar cookie cut-outs for Easter.  She loves baking cookies and is super proud when she gets to tell people that she made the treats they are eating.  This sugar cookie is THE sugar cookie recipe I have been using for all of my holidays, specifically Christmas, for years.  I love it!  However, I have been on the search for a frosting that satisfies me.  I have settled for the past couple of years on a sugar frosting with just confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and milk....until yesterday when I decided for a change to try a plain old buttercream recipe.  The verdict?  This is it for us!

Here is our favorite Sugar-Cookie Cut-Out recipe.  I added some lemon zest and lemon extract for the spring occasion.

1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour

Beat butter and shortening in a medium mixing bowl on medium speed until creamed.  Add sugar, baking powder and a dash of salt.  Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined (I added 1 teaspoon lemon extract and 1 tablespoon lemon zest here).  Add the flour and mix until fully combined, using a wooden spoon if needed.  Cover dough and chill at least one hour until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375.  Roll one portion of the dough out at a time on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut out your shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until edges are firm.  Cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute then remove to a wire rack to cool.

Buttercream Frosting

1/3 cup butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
(I also used 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract)
4 Tablespoons milk

Beat butter in a medium bowl with hand mixer until creamed.  Add sugar and mix.  Add vanilla (and lemon).  Gradually add milk until desired consistency is reached.

Frost your cookies and let them set for a couple of hours before stacking.  And, although it is tempting, try not to eat the frosting out of the bowl!



Maternity Shirt...sort of

 Last week was a busy one at the Circus Berry household, with hubby away on business then a visit from my mom (filled with lots of DIY talk and food).  I did manage to do some refashions during Moira's bedtime...a little here and a little there.  Here is one of the results...

A little background first...couple of weeks ago I went through my wardrobe to get rid of some stuff and ended up with the crazy idea to refashion some things instead of giving them to Goodwill.  The refashions have been going on since then, giving me 2 'new' articles of clothing so far (well, 3 but one is not included in this post).  These are what I will call my (enter air quotes) "maternity shirts".  I do intend on wearing them after baby arrives, hence the air quotes.

They are simply made from a top of one shirt, a bottom of another shirt (or nightgown, in the case of the other shirt I made in the same fashion...not pictured here).  Here is what I did:

Tried on my "top" and marked where I wanted it to end and cut across there.  (I also ended up cutting of  the sleeves and shaped the neckline a little differently).  I cut the "bottom" right under the arms (maternity here people...I need that extra fabric to cover up the ever-growing bump).

Sewed a basting stitch around the top of the "bottom" fabric.

Gathered the top of the "bottom".

With the right sides together, pinned the top to the bottom

Adjusted my gathers so the bottom side seam lined up with the top side seams and stitched the two together, 1/2 inch from the edge, using a zig-zag stitch.

Tore out my basting/gathering stitch.

 Suppose I could have stopped here, but noooooo.....

 Took the bottom remaining fabric of my "top".

Pinned the remaining fabric to my shirt, to cover up the seam and gathered/scrunched it up a bit.

 Hand-stitched some of the gathers in place a the side seams.

 Gotta keep those scrunches in place (very technical, I know)...

 And here I have a finished shirt...but wait...

Gathered the shoulders a bit...I love gathers.

 Took some strips of the "bottom" fabric (not the sleeves though...saving those for another day).

Stitched the ends together to make long strips.

Made some rosettes.  I also love rosettes. (GREAT rosette tutorial at Little Birdie Secrets if you are not sure how to make these cutsies).

Stitched the rosettes along the neckline...DONE!

Thank you Momma for the photography! And for not making me stand and pose for too long!



Bunny Pretzel Pops

Happy Monday.  It finally feels like Spring these past couple of days and even though I am exhausted, it puts a little bit of pep into my step.  It is a windy day today (I am reminded of "Pooh's Blustery Day"...we have seen that movie quite often), but we still went outside, walked a couple of blocks, and played on the slide.  It was just good to be out of the house.  

Also made these today with Moira.  Salty & sweet...mmmm

And they are covered in coconut...double mmmm

Here is what you need:

We used mini chocolate chips, white chips, pretzel rods, 'regular-sized' marshmallows, and flaked coconut.  Most of it probably looks self-explanatory, but here is what to do:

Get your little work station set up...white chocolate chips melted; mini-chips ready; coconut in a shallow dish; marshmallow ears (by the way, the marshmallows were cut down the long way, then each 'slice' was cut in the middle to make 2 half-circles); pretzel rods; and wax paper for the finished product.

Dip the pretzel rod in the melted white chocolate chips.

Immediately roll it in the coconut.

Put the mini-chip eyes and nose on.  Use some of the melted chocolate as glue if needed.
(Moira is in the, "NO, I do it" phase so things got a little messy.)

Use some of the melted chocolate to put on the bunny ears.

Sneak a pretzel rod, and when someone asks you what you are doing, tell them "I'm eating a pretzel!" in your best matter-of-fact voice.

Enjoy your treat (after you eat your dinner, of course!)

And if you have left-over marshmallows and melted chocolate, make these little fellas...roll your marshmallow in melted white chocolate chips, roll it in coconut, and add some bunny, eyes, and nose (using some of that melted stuff for your glue).




Easter Hand-Print Painting

If I had to pick one of Moira's MOST favorite things to do, it would be painting.  I say, "We are going to paint a picture" and she practically starts spinning in circles with excitement.

Today we made a hand-print painting of an Easter egg hunt.

With a little bit of green paint, a blank sheet of paper, and...wait, it gets better...glitter egg stickers...we have a real masterpiece.

Moira's hand-prints made the grass.

We have done finger paints before, but...

we are still a little unsure about the feeling of cold, slimy, green paint on the hands at first...

Oh boy.

Now we're getting it...

Oooo, green paint on the hands...

Of course we did a couple of extra pages of fun!

Once dry, we added the stickers.

And the SLP mommy could not resist the urge to enter some concept instruction in there.

On top of the grass, on the bottom of the grass...

Big egg, little egg...

Blue, pink, get the idea.

And the best part...showing Daddy her art when he got home.  If only I had the camera ready to capture the pride on this little girl's face at that very moment.  Priceless.


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