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Have a Special Easter Sunday

Happy Easter ! I hope you’re all having having a wonderful day with your families. Since this is the first Easter I’ve ever spent away from my family, I went to bed vowing to wake up and only do things that make me happy today in order to keep my spirits up.

First up, I baked these adorable M&M inspired Birds Nest Cookies:
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Next, I’m heading out to grab a latte and walk on the beach.
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If I can’t be with my family today, I at least need to do things that make me smile, right?
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What are your Easter plans? Please share!

P.S.
In case you’re in need of a last minute Easter treat, here’s the cookie recipe…I had a blast making these, and I think they’d be adorable on any Easter table! This recipe is on the back of the
“Spec-tacular Eggs M&M Milk Chocolates” bag, which they don’t have in Australia, so I owe my girl Sarah for sending me these. Love you Sar!

Birds Nest Cookies
Inspired by the Spec-tacular eggs M&M Milk Chocolates bag
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Ingredients
1/2 bag M&M speckled milk chocolate m&ms (or any variety!)
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 and 1/3 cups flaked coconut

Directions
1) Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread coconut on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet, and bake in the oven for about 20-minutes, until golden brown. (p.s. the aroma from the toasting coconut is AMAZING!) Once this is done, remove it and set aside in a bowl.
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2) Turn up your oven to 350 degrees, and in a large bowl, add your softened butter and sugar, whipping with a hand or stand mixer until it’s light and fluffy. (I used a hand-mixer). Then beat-in your egg and vanilla.
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3) Combine the flour and pinch of salt in a medium mixing bowl, and then blend it into your creamed mixture.
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4) Roll the dough into balls (each about 1 inch in size), and then roll them each in the baked coconut.
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5) Place them on parchment-paper lined baking sheets, and put a thumb indentation in the center of each cookie. Then cook for about 12-15 minutes, until the coconut is browned.
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6) Let them cool completely, and then fill your pastel-colored m&m’s into each indentation. Voila, you have birds nest cookies!
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I’m taking a couple of these along as my treat of the morning to enjoy with my latte down by the beach. Have a special Easter Sunday!
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St. Patrick’s Day Sweets: Mint Muddy Buddies Mix

Hi there and happy weekend! Is anyone else celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday? I was super surprised when I was told that the holiday of the Irish is technically not celebrated here in Australia, especially after living in Boston for the last 4 years. St. Patrick’s day is just about one of the biggest  holidays of the year there in terms of parties and celebrations! However, since we’re American and both Brandon and I are a little-bit Irish, we are definitely celebrating, regardless of whether or not it’s celebrated here. And by celebrating, I mean I’ll do the baking and he’ll do the beer/wine drinking! Case in point:
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Thanks for the help, love! NOT!

Continuing on with my “no-bake” theme of the weekend, I searched Pinterest for St. Patrick’s Day- inspired recipes this morning, and when I found a “Thin-Mint Puppy Chow” recipe, I chose that as the base of my recipe inspiration. When I say I’m obsessed with puppy chow/muddy buddies, I whole-heartedly mean it. My Mom used to make these quite frequently for my sisters and me growing up, and they still remain a family favorite today. Today’s recipe is a bit different, as it swaps out your typical peanut butter and chocolate flavors for chocolate, white chocolate, and mint flavors. Plus, thanks to the lack of Chex cereal in Australia (seriously, I could not find one box!), I used a “Coco Pops Chex” cereal, that actually ended up being a stellar replacement. Just follow these steps and you’ll have a sweet treat to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in less than 20 minutes!

St. Patrick’s Day Mint Muddy Buddies Mix
Adapted from Your Cup of Cake
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Ingredients
For the chocolate portion:
5 cups Coco Pops Chocolate Chex (or any Chex-like cereal)
1.5 cups milk-chocolate chips/melts
1/4 cup powered sugar (called baking icing in Australia)
1/2 tsp. of mint extract

For the white-chocolate portion:
5 cups Coco Pops Chocolate Chex (or any Chex-like cereal)
1.5 cups white-chocolate chips/melts
3/4 cup powered sugar (called baking icing in Australia)
1 tsp. of mint extract
1/2 tsp. of green food coloring (or more depending on the level of “green” you’d like)

Optional:
Green chocolate candies (such as M&M’s or Cadbury drops)
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Directions:
1) Place 5 cups of Chex mix in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Then portion out your chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave them until melted, about 1.5-2 minutes (stir about halfway through), stirring until they are smooth. Add in the mint extract, and mix well.
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2) Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal and mix until the pieces are coated well. Then mix in the powered sugar until combined. (You can also do this in a large Ziploc bag if you prefer to shake rather than stir.)
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3) Next, dump the mixture on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in order to cool.
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4) Now, for the white-chocolate mixture,  place another 5 cups of Chex mix in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Then portion out your white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave them until melted, about 1.5-2 minutes (stir about halfway through), stirring until they are smooth. Add in the mint extract and green food coloring to the white melted chocolate, and stir well.
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5) Pour the melted white chocolate over the cereal, and stir until the pieces are coated. Then mix in the powered sugar until it’s combined. (Again, you can also do this in a large Ziploc bag if you prefer to shake rather than stir!)
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6) Dump this mixture onto another parchment paper-lined baking sheet in order to cool.
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7) Once both mixes are cooled, combine them in a large Ziploc bag or a large bowl if you are serving them immediately. If you have green candies, add these to the mixture and stir.

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Festive muddy buddies=complete!

Instead of using a large bowl, I portioned my mixture into cupcake liners. Not only does this help me stick to a portion-or-two of the treat, I also think it’s a super-cute way to serve these at a party or gathering.
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A festive, tasty, simple treat with no-baking required is a serious winner in my book! Just look how big the batch is:
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We will be eating these all week…if they last that long! Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day : – )

Cocoa, Peanut Butter & Oat No-Bake Treats

Hey there, happy almost-weekend to all! I have the day off from class today, so I am psyched. I love having Friday as my study day. This way, I can do less studying come Saturday and Sunday, when it is the last thing I want to do. This morning I opted to sleep for a few extra hours and take a 9:00 a.m. rpm(spinning) class rather than attend 5:30 a.m. boot-camp, and it felt great to get some extra shut-eye. It also felt great to sweat…but when doesn’t it? I’m loving my new Australia work-out gear (the brand is Lorna Jane and it’s really similar to Lulu Lemon back home). Brandon gave it to me for Christmas, and I adore the thick waist band of the spandex capris, the bright colors, and the length of the tank. Basically, Lorna Jane rules!
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Like our American flag in the background?  It is safe to say we are missing home!

Anyway,  this weekend, I plan on doing some baking, or should I say no-baking, in the form of cocoa, peanut butter, and oat no-bake treats. I made these a few weeks ago when we had a friend over for a barbeque, and it was extremely humid that night. It was definitely WAY to humid to bake, but of course I was craving dessert.  I’m pretty sure the guys both thought I was crazy, but I was determined to produce some-sort of chocolate treat without turning on the oven. Then I remembered a dessert I used to make with my Mom when I was younger: no-bake cookies. Voila, I knew what I was making! These are in no way healthy, but they sure are delicious, and they produce a lot of cookies with minimal effort. I don’t recommend making the mistake I made of leaving “extra” dough in a container. Me+cookie dough=disaster. I was in there with a spoon on a daily basis!
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Cocoa, Peanut Butter & Oat No-Bake Treats
Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp. cocoa powder (unsweetened)
3 cups oats (I used whole oats, but quick oats will work too)
1/2 cup reduced fat creamy peanut butter (Any peanut-butter would work)
1 tsp vanilla extract
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Directions
1)Lay out a large sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet. Set aside.  Combine the sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa in a large saucepan on the stove and bring it to a boil for about 1 minute.
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2) Remove this from the heat and add in the remaining ingredients (oats, peanut butter, and vanilla). Stir the mixture and mix well.
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3) Drop the mixture by teaspoons onto your wax paper. (I prefer to use a scooper to make them as round as possible, but I unfortunately don’t have one here!) Then place them in the fridge for about 30 minutes, until cooled.

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These may not look very pretty, but they are truly delicious. Plus, with the inclusion of oats and peanut-butter, they are super filling, so you’ll  satisfy your sweet tooth with one or two.

Do you have a favorite no-bake dessert? Please share!

There’s no place like home

My two weeks home in America has come and gone…insert sad face here. As much as I didn’t want to leave my family and friends, the one thing I didn’t mind leaving was the snow.  After just two months in this tropical climate, my body did not have the easiest time adjusting to the cold weather. After two snow storms in two weeks, by the time we boarded our flight home I was more than ready for warm weather!

Weather aside, I’ve quickly  learned that the hardest part about going home is going to be leaving. Really, what’s better than home? Familiar faces, places, people, smells, stories, and best of all…family. Here’s some pictures from our special Christmas:

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Best cupcakes ever

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035My twin and me <3

 

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059Nana
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068 In Boston with my best girls <3

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Of course, while I was home, I also baked…. a lot. Although most of it went undocumented, I did snap a few pictures of my personal favorite baked good over the holiday: Peppermint Oreo Truffles. I found this recipe through Pinterest, and immediately bookmarked it as a MUST-make! I blogged about regular Oreo Truffles last Christmas, which are always a hit recipe in our family, but these added a “Christmas” feel to the simple treat. Plus, if you’re like me and love anything with a mint flavor, you will love these!

Peppermint Oreo Truffles (Recipe from Kraft)

  • 36 reduced-fat Oreos
  • 1 (8 oz) pkg reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 2-3 crushed candy canes or peppermint candies (for decorating)

Directions

  • Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and set aside. Place the Oreos in a food processor and blend until finely crushed.  In a mixing bowl, blend together cream cheese and peppermint extract. Add about 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture to the crushed Oreos in the food processor, blend, and then continue to add in the cream cheese until the cream cheese and Oreos are thoroughly combined, so it looks like the picture below.

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  • Now, scoop the mixture out with a spoon (or your hands) and form into 1 inch balls. I lined my hands with plastic sandwich bags to do this, because the mixture is a bit sticky!  Place the truffles on the prepared cookie sheet, and put them in freezer for 10-15 minutes.

 

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  • Crush your candy canes at this point, and set aside. Then melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler while the truffles are hardening in the freezer. Once melted, remove the truffles from the freezer and dip them in the melted chocolate, evenly coating them. You’ll have to do this pretty quickly, because the chocolate hardens in minutes! To do this,  I used a toothpick to pick up each truffle and roll it in the chocolate. Return the truffles to the baking sheet and immediately sprinkle the tops with crushed candy canes. I dipped about 3 truffles at a time, and then sprinkled each with the candy canes, so that the candy would stick to the chocolate! Once you’ve completed this process, store your truffles in the refrigerator.

 

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These looked adorable on the dessert table and tasted delicious, too. Now I miss Christmas…What was your favorite holiday recipe this year?

Winter white chocolate and pretzel holiday bark

Well, it’s official. ‘Tis the season of sweets is here! Yippee!Although it certainly doesn’t feel like the normal December that I’m used to (we’re in the midst of 90 degree temperatures in Australia, instead of freezing 5 degree New England temperatures), I’m not letting that stop me from taking part in my normal December holiday baking activities. Really, any excuse to bake is a great excuse to me, and since we had a holiday party to attend this past Saturday night, I felt it was an opportune time for me to try out a new-to-me holiday recipe.  I’ve made various versions of“holiday bark” in the past, including peppermint, cake batter, oreo, and more, and these recipes always appeal to me due to their simplicity and because of my love of any type of chocolate.  However, this recipe really stood out to me because instead of just including chocolate or candy like a traditional “bark”, it includes pretzels too. A sweet and salty combination? Sold. All you’ll need is a cookie sheet, tin-foil, and the following 4 ingredients. It’s fast, festive, and fantastic. Ready, set, go!

Winter White Chocolate and Pretzel Holiday Bark

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups white chocolate chips (you’ll need about 2 (12-ounce) bags of chips)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk ( I used the light 97% fat free version and it worked well)
  • 1/2 (15-ounce) bag pretzels, broken (I crushed mine in a bag by hand)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
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Directions:

1) First up, crush your pretzels. I simply placed them in a Ziploc bag, crushed them with my fist, and set them aside.
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2) In a large saucepan, melt white chocolate chips with the condensed milk over medium heat on the stove until smooth, stirring frequently. Once melted, add the pretzels, stirring them in to coat with chocolate mixture.
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3) Then, immediately spread mixture  evenly onto your  foil-lined 10×15-inch pan or cookie sheet. Sprinkle  dried cranberries on top and press them down lightly with the back of a spoon, into the bark.  Place your tray into the fridge and chill until set (I chilled mine for a few hours. You can place them into the freezer if you need them more quickly). Then, break into chunks and serve.
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I’ll admit, I taste-tested a good portion of these before bringing them to the party. I really couldn’t help myself. The sweet-and-salty combination is spot-on, and the addition of dried cranberries really makes these a festive, holiday stand-out on a dessert table. Hope you’ll  include these in your holiday baking line-up this year, too!

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Easter Egg Cookie Cups

Easter ranks a VERY close second to Christmas as my favorite holiday of each year.  When I was younger, it was because my sisters and I always woke up to stuffed bunny rabbits at the foot of our beds. Now, it’s all because of  one thing: Cadbury eggs.  Sad, but true. The second these babies are on the shelves at CVS, I lose all self control and buy them immediately.  This year was no exception, and just when I finished my first bag, my darling mother sent me another! I absolutely needed to get these out of my house, so….I baked with them!

Here’s a spin on my favorite homemade cookie-dough recipe, filled with Cadbury eggs.

Easter Egg Cookie Cups

Ingredients
1 stick butter
¾ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
2 ¼ cups white flour
1 cup (or as many as desired) Cadbury milk chocolate eggs
1 cup heath-bar bits(optional)
cooking spray

Directions

1)Preheat oven to 350, and prepare cupcake liners in muffin tins. Spray them with butter spray.
2) Soften butter in the microwave on low power—do not melt.
3) Once the butter is softened, mix in sugars with a spatula.
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4) Once mixed, add in both eggs and vanilla.  Stir until mixed.
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5) Add baking soda, and gradually add the flour.

6) Once mixed, add heath bar and Cadbury eggs.

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7) Scoop cookie dough into cupcake liners. Top each cupcake with Cadbury egg.
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8) Bake at 350 for 14-16 minutes, or until browned. (I like mine slightly undercooked).

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These are super festive and super easy. I’m bringing these into work as a pre-Easter treat. I have NO willpower if they stay in my house! Enjoy J
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Valentine Oreo Truffles

Baking is easily my favorite part of any holiday…but the worst part about a holiday happening in the middle of the workweek is that I really don’t have much, if any, spare time to bake. So for my valentine, I made a quick, easy, festive, DELICIOUS treat…Oreo truffles! For the basics, you only need two ingredients: Oreos and 1 block of cream cheese, that’s it! To decorate, you’ll need chocolate chips and any decorations of your choice for the truffles.

It may be hard for you to believe that such simple ingredients create a decadent treat. But if you don’t believe me…taste the batter. You’ll be sold! I’ve made these for the last 2 years at Christmas, and now they are a frequently requested dessert in the Rowden household. I really like customizing them for birthdays, holidays, or really any day of the year. Try it, they’re a guaranteed hit!

Oreo Truffles
Ingredients
1 package Oreos (I used reduced fat)
1-8oz block of reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 package milk chocolate chips (or chocolate of your choice)
Valentine sprinkles 

Directions
1)In a food processor(or blender), mix Oreos until they become crumbs. Add cream cheese in small pieces, and blend until you have a dough form.
2) Roll dough into balls and place them on a baking sheet. (I lined mine with parchment paper). Set them in the freezer or refrigerator to harden for approximately 1 hour.
3) Once the dough is set, dip in melted chocolate – milk, dark, or white chocolate will do. Add any decoration on top. Store in the freezer and serve cold.

Oreo Truffles in pink :)

<3 trufflessweets for my sweetie :)