by Melanie

Decadent Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies

March 5, 2015 in Kitchen by Melanie

My girls have been asking for chocolate even more than usual lately, and Joy’s latest favorite thing to do is make cookies. So naturally I decided it was time to find a new chocolate cookie recipe.

Pinterest to the rescue! I love finding the perfect Pinspiration.

I found two versions of a chocolate swirl cookie that got me really excited. I shared the chocolate chip cookie version on Made From Pinterest today.

Those Brownie Swirl Chocolate Chip Cookies are absolutely delicious, but peanut butter is my true love. So when I found these cookies at Sally’s Baking Addiction, I just knew I had found a new favorite.


And I couldn’t have been more right. Oh. my. goodness. These are to die for.

I was a little nervous about how much cocoa the recipe calls for. I don’t like dark chocolate, so I didn’t want them to be too dark. I started with a little less cocoa but ended up adding it all, and it turned out all my worries were for nothing. The chocolate isn’t dark and bitter, it is rich and decadent.

The peanut butter cookie calls for more peanut butter than a typical recipe, and oh my, it makes the peanut butter flavor even more intense. The combination of the rich chocolate with the intense peanut butter is pure heaven.

I’m not even going to admit how many cookies I have eaten today in the name of “testing” the recipe. I think we can safely say these passed the test with an A++.


Decadent Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies

Chocolate Cookie Dough:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons milk

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Start with the chocolate cookie dough. Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt) and sift them together with a whisk. Add them gradually to the butter and sugar mixture until everything is combined. It will be very thick. Then add the milk, mix it in, and put the dough in the fridge to chill.

Now it’s time to move on to to the peanut butter cookie dough. It starts just the same. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, and then add the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt and sift together with a whisk.

Gradually mix the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture and mix until completely combined. Chill the dough in the fridge. It needs at least 2 hours, but I let mine chill overnight and it was great to work with the next day.

When the dough has been thoroughly chilled, it’s time to make the cookies. Preheat the oven to 350. I use a cookie scoop that measures about 1 tablespoon to make my cookies.

Scoop 12 chocolate dough balls onto a baking sheet, then scoop 12 peanut butter balls. Taking one chocolate and one peanut butter dough ball, press them together forming a ball. Repeat with all 12 cookies. The chocolate dough can be a mess, but chilling it really makes it easier to work with. Also, you can spray your hands with cooking spray if it’s proving to be a bit too messy.

Bake the cookies for 10-14 minutes. They will look like they’re not quite done, but you don’t want to bake them too long. Remove them from the oven and let them rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes to keep cooking before you transfer them to a cooling rack.

I found they worked a lot better when I pressed down the dough balls, flattening them a bit before putting them in the oven.

These cookies are soft and delicious, and if you’re anything like me you may have a problem stopping at just one… or two… or four…

These Decadent Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies are the perfect answer to all of the chocolate cravings that happen often in a house full of girls. They are definitely a new favorite.

How do you satisfy a chocolate craving?

by Melanie

Crazy Good Caramel Popcorn

February 7, 2015 in Kitchen by Melanie

When it comes to caramel popcorn, I believe there are two camps: those who like it crunchy like Cracker Jacks and those who like it chewy – like heaven. If you love caramel popcorn the right way, this will be your new favorite recipe. It’s so good, so simple, so quick, and crazy good.


 Crazy Good Caramel Popcorn

  • 1/2 cup (1 cube) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
  • popcorn

Start by popping the popcorn. I use 2 big bowls so I have enough room to stir the caramel over the corn. In fact, my favorite bowls for this are some big, red, plastic bowls I found at Walmart for $1.50.

To get the perfect amount of caramel to popcorn ratio, I use a little more than 3/4 cup but not a full cup of popcorn kernels. It’s a good idea to pull out the unpopped and half-popped kernels that can end up in your bowl. It’s no fun to bite into what should be a bite of chewy goodness and end up with a hard, tooth-breaking chunk instead.


While the popcorn is popping, it’s time to make the caramel. Start by melting the butter in a large saucepan. When the butter is melted, add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt, and bring it to a boil. If you’re using salted popcorn, leave the salt out of the caramel.

Let it boil for 2-3 minutes, then take it off the heat and add the vanilla and half can of sweetened condensed milk. A can of sweetened condensed milk is 14 oz, so you will use a little less than 1 cup.

Put it back on the heat just long enough to heat it through. When it just barely starts to boil and you see little bubbles, take it off the heat for good because it’s done!

Immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir with a long wooden spoon until the gooey caramel coats every piece of popcorn. When I’m done stirring, I combine it all into one big bowl and try to restrain myself from eating the entire thing myself.  That’s all there is to it!


This recipe leaves you with an extra half of a can of sweetened condensed milk. You can make something fun like Brazilian lemonade or another great treat, but I usually use that half can as a perfect excuse to make another batch of caramel popcorn. Yum!

Tomorrow on Made From Pinterest, I’m sharing how I kicked this caramel popcorn up another notch by turning it into a fabulous Valentine’s Day treat, including free printables and a microwave popcorn Valentine, too! Click HERE or on the image below to find that post at Made From Pinterest.


When it comes to caramel popcorn, which camp are you in? Crunchy or chewy little bites of heaven?

by Melanie

Toffee Cheesecake Bars

November 28, 2014 in Kitchen by Melanie

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to think about Christmas treats! But before we get started let me remind you about The 12 Days of Christmas Wish Lists to help you find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. Find the first day’s wish list HERE and follow the links to find the rest. I love finding the perfect gift for everyone I love.

Now on to the treats. Every Christmas when I was a kid, we would put together plates of treats to give the neighbors. I have fond memories of piling everyone into the car with our hands full of plates, running up to doors and delivering our favorite holiday treats.


As soon as Steve and I had a family of our own, it seemed only right to carry on the tradition, but of course I couldn’t just fill the plates with the same things year after year. It’s too much fun to try new things and find new family favorites.

Toffee has been and always will be my favorite holiday treat. My dad makes it just like my grandma, and it’s a true labor of love as he singes his eyebrows getting it just right. After the almond-filled toffee sets up, he melts a huge Hershey bar over each side and sprinkles chopped almonds over the whole thing to finish it off. Mm, mmm. My absolute fave.

I always have to have some toffee at Christmas. I don’t live close enough to get some from my dad every Christmas, so on the years I decide to keep my eyebrows and don’t make my own I need another toffee fix. These Toffee Cheesecake bars are just the thing. Not only do I get my toffee fix, but… cheesecake.

Mmm, cheesecake.


Toffee Cheesecake Bars


  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 c butter


  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) toffee bits, divided

Start with the crust. Combine the flour, powdered sugar, cocoa and baking soda. Cut in the butter until it gets crumbly. Press into a 9×13 baking pan. You don’t need to worry about greasing the pan because 3/4 c butter. Seriously. Toss that in the oven and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

While your crust is cooking, it’s time to make the filling. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until it’s fluffy. Then add the milk, eggs, and vanilla. Beat that all together until it’s smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the toffee bits and pour it all over the hot crust. Toss it back in the oven and bake for another 25 minutes, still at 350, until it’s set and the edges just begin to brown.

It’s starting to look amazing, right? Pull it out of the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Then sprinkle the rest of the toffee bits (1/2 c) evenly over the top. Let it cool completely and toss it in the fridge for a few hours until it’s cold. Then serve it up or slice it up for your neighbor treat plates.

This is a great treat to make ahead for parties since you can just keep it cold in the fridge and pull it out when you’re ready to wow your guests. And really, what could be better than cheesecake and toffee?? Yum!

What is your favorite Christmas treat? If you’re looking for some new ones to try, I have joined with some fabulous bloggers to share some Christmas goodness today. I see a few I definitely need to try this year. If you find a new favorite, let me know!

by Melanie

Egg Nog Smoothies

November 3, 2014 in Kitchen by Melanie

We are HUGE smoothie fans around here. In fact, when I won my Blendtec blender a few weeks ago and brought it home, my kids were more excited to see it come through the door than they were to see me. It was given a prominent spot on the counter, plenty of love, and even a name befitting the newest member of our family: Lola.


Seriously huge smoothie fans. So when Williams-Sonoma invited me to help them kick off Smoothie Week, I jumped at the chance!

This week’s mission is “Not Your Average Smoothie.” Fun!

Honestly, we usually stick to the same kind of smoothies. We have our favorites and we make them over and over… and over some more. But I really do love to mix things up, so I loved the challenge to do something wild and crazy.

My first thought was Mexican. I’m sure Lola would love that for a change. Throw a little cilantro and some beans in there, avocado, onion, tomatoes… then it started sounding more like a burrito than a smoothie.

As soon as we put away the Halloween costumes, my brain switched right into holiday mode. We spent this morning dancing in the kitchen to our well-worn Charlie Brown Christmas CD. And that’s when it hit me. Two simple words: Egg Nog.

I loved, loved, loved egg nog as a kid. We had a simple homemade recipe and made it all the time. So I thought, how fun would it be to play around with the egg nog I loved as a kid and make it a smoothie my kids will adore, too???

Lola and I spent the morning making the perfect blend of smoothie goodness, and now I get to share it with you.

So let’s get started with the egg nog. Only a handful of ingredients and a few seconds in the blender is all you need to whip up this family favorite.


Egg Nog

  • 1 c milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Dash cinnamon
  • Dash nutmeg
  • Dash salt (optional)

Toss everything in the blender and blend until combined.

I can’t even remember the last time I had this egg nog, so naturally I had to whip up a batch first to make sure my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me. It tastes just like it did when I was a kid. Simple, sweet, delicious.

Then it was time to play. mwahahaha


Orange-strawberry-banana sounded like the perfect flavor combination, and oh boy, was it ever. This makes a ridiculously creamy smoothie with a flavor that is subtle and delicious. It tastes great at first, but then that hint of vanilla and banana hit you and it tastes even better, so rich and creamy!

I can’t wait for the girls to get home so I can share this new and improved version of a little taste of my childhood with them.

Egg Nog Smoothie

  • 1 c milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Dash cinnamon
  • Dash nutmeg
  • Dash salt (optional)
  • 2-3 Tb frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 2 frozen strawberries

Toss everything in the blender and mix until it’s combined.

There’s just something about tossing an egg in the blender and drinking it that makes me feel like Rocky Balboa.


Yo, Adrian!

I gave the first taste to Steve, who proceeded to drink the entire thing. So I made up another batch and added a bit too much strawberry this time. It tasted like dessert. Still delicious, but I liked it better when strawberry wasn’t the predominant flavor.


I am seriously in love with Lola. I could NOT believe it when my name was called in the drawing where I won her. I’ve had dreams of free Blendtec blenders, but I never thought that dream would come true. If you’re still deciding which blender to dream about, check out the fabulous blenders at Williams-Sonoma.

I can already tell this Egg Nog Smoothie is going to become a fast family favorite. Adding eggs to my smoothies? I’ll be catching chickens, scaling huge staircases, and beating Apollo and Mr. T in no time. Yo, Adrian!

Are you stuck in a smoothie rut? Make it your mission to do something better than average with your blender. We’ll be sensational smoothie creators before you know it!

In the meantime, celebrate Smoothie Week with Williams-Sonoma and this Strawberry • Orange • Banana Egg Nog Smoothie. It’s my new fave!

What is your favorite smoothie concoction? Or one you’re dying to try?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I will receive a small percentage if you purchase a product through one of the links. All content and opinions expressed are my own.

by Melanie

Food Storage Your Family Will Actually Eat

September 17, 2014 in Kitchen by Melanie


You know you should be storing food for an emergency, and you even think it’s a great idea, but when it comes to getting started you’re completely lost. Sound familiar? Or maybe it’s just me…

We’ve all seen the lists: buckets and buckets of wheat, pound after pound of rice, so many cans of tomato sauce. And then there’s the cookbooks full of recipes for meals you can make with your food storage. But does any of it actually taste good?

I remember a church activity a few years back where the pot luck was made up of dishes made from food storage. The only thing I knew how to make with my limited food storage was bread, so I brought a loaf of my favorite homemade wheat bread (which was quickly devoured because it’s amazing). As we sampled the variety of food storage dishes, over and over again I kept hearing, “This isn’t too bad for food storage.”

Maybe I’m just a food snob, but that didn’t sound like a glowing recommendation to me. What if I want my food storage to be full of food my family actually enjoys eating? What if my standard of what tastes good doesn’t adjust according to how long it lasts on a shelf?

That was the beginning of my search for a better way to do food storage. My goal was simple: stock my shelves with food that has a good shelf life and we can eat without gritting our teeth and holding our noses.

Noah 1

This is the #1 key that I have learned:

If you want your food storage to be full of food your family will enjoy, stock up on the food your family eats!

Simple, right? Absolutely!


So what does that look like in practice? There are 3 simple, basic steps.

  1. Do your meal planning as usual
  2. Buy a little extra to store
  3. “Shop” from your food storage first to rotate your food

Start with your regular meal planning. After you have planned your menu, look it over to find what would store well. When you make your grocery list, indicate where you will buy a few extra of something. Bring it home, write the date on it, and add it to your food storage.

The next week make your menu and grocery list like usual, but before you go the store, shop in your food storage first. Anything on your list that you have in storage, move to the kitchen pantry to be eaten. The new food you buy goes straight to food storage to replace what you took. Always be sure to take the oldest food off the storage shelf. This will help you rotate your food storage so it doesn’t go bad sitting too long on the shelf.

For example,  my family is having spaghetti this week. That stores great, so I am going to buy a few extra packages of noodles and jars of sauce and add them to my food storage. Since I already have spaghetti sauce on my storage shelf, I will use that old sauce for dinner this week and add the new sauce to my storage shelf. That’s it!

How much extra you buy will depend entirely on your budget and storage space. It’s completely up to you. If you don’t eat a lot of canned/non-perishable food, you may have to adapt this to your lifestyle a little more.

Here are a few more ideas of simple ways to put this into practice:

• chili is on the menu, so buy a case instead of a can

• your kids love chicken noodle soup for lunch, so buy enough soup for a week instead of a day

• try out some “dump” recipes – recipes that call for a few cans of something to be dumped together in a pan and heated. That kind of meal is perfect for food storage!


Buying extra of what you are already eating and storing it away for an emergency gives you an entire food storage full of food you family loves to eat.

Do you have any food storage tips for me? I am always looking for a little extra help when it comes to food storage! 🙂

If you want a little extra help with your emergency preparedness (and really, who doesn’t???), you are going to love the giveaway I have for you today. Kristina from Mother’s Niche put this one together, too, and I would be so excited to win these prizes!

First let me tell you a little about the generous company who is providing the prizes: Honeyville. Since 1951 Honeyville has grown from a specialty grain mill into a national food supplier leader specializing in storable foods, quality baking ingredients, and kitchen appliances. They strive to offer excellent quality foods at competitive prices to all of their customers no matter what your volume requirement is. Honeyville’s diverse line of products includes freeze dried and dehydrated foods, whole grains, flours, baking ingredients, canned foods, corn products, and much, much more.

I am so impressed with Honeyville’s amazing products to help us prepare for an emergency. Look at these amazing prizes you could win!

survival backpack5-Day Survival Backpack: This includes food for 5 days (38 entrees), a portable stove and 24 fuel tablets, stainless steel cup, squeeze flashlight, 5-in-1 survival whistle, waterproof matches, mylar blanket, emergency poncho, playing cards, 47-piece first aid and hygiene kit (including 37 piece bandage kit, N95 dust mask, pocket tissues, 3 wet naps, and waste bag). The backpack is light weight with plenty of extra room for clothes and other personal items you may want to add.

lifestrawLifeStraw: This is a portable, personal water filter that fits in your back pocket and cleans enough drinking water for one person for one full year! That’s a minimum of 264 gallons. This amazing little straw only weighs 2 ounces, is made of durable plastic, is chemical free, and does not require batteries or power of any kind.

water brick2 Water Bricks: A water storage system that can hold water, food, or other items you would want to keep dry and safe. One large brick can hold up to 3.5 gallons of water, and the small brick holds up to 1.6 gallons of water. These can be stacked up to 4 feet high without toppling over. They have a long shelf life and can last indefinitely when used properly.

In addition to this giveaway, Honeyville is also offering a special sale just for you! Use code READY10 to get 10% off your purchase. So if you just can’t wait to see if you’re the winner, happy shopping! Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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