Rocky Road Bar

Rocky Road Bars

I don’t know why I didn’t try these bar cookies sooner. The recipe has been sitting in my saved recipes to try for eons and is super easy. In addition, it is truly a crowd pleaser.  Perhaps I always passed it by, since it was published in a December magazine addition and it never won out against all the other “have-to-make” cookies at Christmas time.  Thanks to this quarantine I don’t have all the ingredients to try a new cake, nor do I want to use too many eggs on one recipe as my stash is running low. These Rocky Road Bars came to the rescue.

Now these bars will be an anytime cookie. Take for instance, this first batch.  I gave them a festive, Easter look with some leftover sprinkles, but I can see them being a staple on a camping trip or used to celebrate any other holiday with color coordinated decoration.

The recipe as it was originally found in Family Circle (did you realize that Family Circle stopped production at the end of 2019? I didn’t until I went to search for a link to the recipe) made a LARGE batch; I cut it down to a third and added extra chocolate to account for the fact that I only had plain graham crackers.  My modified recipe is what is written below.

Rocky Road Bars

  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • 2 whole graham crackers, broken into bite-size pieces

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray. Gently melt the chocolate, then stir in the marshmallows, peanuts, and graham cracker pieces to coat.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Place the pan in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or unto the bars are completely cooled.  Remove the foil from the pan, peel off the foil and cut into 9 bars.


Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries

Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries

Impressive desserts don’t have to be complicated.  Take these chocolate covered stuffed raspberries for example.  They look elegant, yet are really easy to put together.  I chose to create a lemon-mascarpone filling, but a variety of other flavors or creams would do.  A few minutes in the freezer is all they need to be cold enough for the magic shell sauce to harden, resulting in a decadent dessert fit for any occasion. Just how easy these Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries are will be our secret.

Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries

Chocolate Covered Stuffed Raspberries

2 pints fresh raspberries
Mascarpone filling (see below)
Magic shell sauce, chocolate

Place the filling in a squeeze bottle and gently fill each raspberry with mascarpone filling, laying them on a shallow pan or plate when filled. Reserve the remaining filling for another use. Place the plate in the freezer for ten minutes to chill the raspberries.  Shake the magic shell sauce, then pour over the raspberries to coat.  Once the coating has set, serve or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Mascarpone Filling

4 ounces mascarpone cheese
¼ cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Mix together the mascarpone, sugar, and lemon juice. Notes: you will have mascarpone filling left over.  I enjoy mine as a topping to pancakes, just as one example.


gluten free brownies

High Altitude Gluten-Free Brownies

Hitting a milestone birthday is a big deal for many.  Some splurge on cars, and others have a right-of-passage party. Not my husband. He requested a guitar cake.  That’s right he picked a themed cake over a Lamborghini. Well, not really, but he knew I wasn’t going to get him a car so he settled for the next best thing.

A few years ago I made my son a guitar cake which actually was a lot of work and looked, well, mediocre.  I opted for a compromise: make a batch of homemade, fudgy, gluten-free brownies, cut them out in shapes of guitars, and decorate them in a pattern that replicates a famous 80’s rock band guitar.

gluten free brownies

First, let’s discuss the brownies.  As I have mentioned in other posts, high altitude baking has been a huge frustration.  There are a variety of things to tweak and it takes a while to find the best modification.  Add to that the concept of gluten-free baking and you have yourself a challenge.  I did a bit of research and decided to blend this recipe from King Arthur’s flour with this high altitude recipe from Allrecipes. The two modifications important for high altitude baking were:

  • Extra flour: I added two extra tablespoons of flour (for a total of 7/8 cup rather than ¾ cup of flour)
  • Less leavening agent: I decreased the baking powder to 1/2 teaspoon (instead of 1 teaspoon)

With these two simple changes I solved my problem of soggy brownies, AND I had gluten-free brownies that tasted amazing.

With my brownies done it was time to attempt the guitar shape.  I used a 5-inch long electric guitar cookie cutter and carefully cut out shapes. I placed the shapes on wax paper and then melted candy melts to coat my brownies.  I started with red and poured it over the brownie to coat it entirely.  Next I melted a bit of black and white candy melts to sprinkle over the top.  Finally I trimmed away the excess candy melt and admired my handiwork.  The brownie did in fact mirror the pattern of the famous guitar, as shown by the guitar pics that are decorated in the same pattern.

gluten free brownies

While decorated brownies are only for special occasions in my house, this high altitude gluten-free brownies recipe is my new standard.

High Altitude Gluten-Free Brownies

1 1/2 cups white sugar
¾  cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
7/8 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8 baking pan.

Place the sugar, butter, and salt in a medium sized saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring with a heatproof spatula until the butter melts and the mixture lightens in color.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the vanilla and cocoa, and then add the eggs and mix until incorporated.

Carefully stir in the flour and the baking powder until well mixed, and then stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges. Bake the brownies for 40-45 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or nearly so.

Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting. Once the brownies are cool, cover tightly with plastic.



S’more Baked Alaska

I don’t know anyone who can resist a s’more. The combo of chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallow is hard to beat.  As a way to combat this unusually early heat spell I was all about making a version of the treat that involved ice cream.  Why not try a super easy version of a baked Alaska?  A baked Alaska is typically a cake covered with a mound of ice cream that has a meringue crust.  For my s’more version I substituted a pre-made graham cracker crust for the cake and marshmallow creme for the meringue.

This meant that the prep was very simple, and I was able to use a crème brulee torch (whoo hoo! Another use for this obscure kitchen item!) to caramelize the fluff rather than messing around with meringue and turning on the oven.

Smore Baked Alaska

To get a rich, chocolate flavor I used a fudge swirl chocolate ice cream, though you can use your favorite chocolate ice cream.

Smore Baked Alaska

I made this in both a 9-inch crust as well as the mini 3-inch crusts with ease.  Only the minis are shown in the photos since we devoured the full pie version before I could get photos in.  My guests and family all enjoyed the treat – I hope yours does too!

Smore Baked Alaska

Update: I managed to snag a photo of a slice from a 9-inch pie version before it was gone!

S'more Baked Alaska

S’more Baked Alaska

2 cups chocolate ice cream
9-inch premade graham cracker crust or 6 mini (~3-inch) graham cracker crusts
7 ounce jar of marshmallow crème

Thaw ice cream for 10-15 minutes or until easy to scoop. Add the ice cream to the graham cracker crust (or evenly divide between the 6 mini crusts) and refreeze, at least 30 minutes.  Pour the marshmallow creme evenly over the top(s) of the ice cream.  Use a crème brulee torch and caramelize the top of the marshmallow fluff. Cut the large s’more baked Alaska into wedges and serve (each mini baked Alaska makes one serving).


Raspberry-Rhubarb Sauce over Chocolate Chip French Toast

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to come up with a special breakfast that wouldn’t be too hard to make, even if you were making it for a crowd. I started with a springtime favorite – rhubarb – and built a recipe around it.  The result: Raspberry-Rhubarb Sauce over Chocolate Chip French Toast. Hungry yet?

Raspberry Rhubarb Sauce

The Raspberry-Rhubarb Sauce can be made ahead of time, simplifying prep on Mother’s Day.  Simply bring frozen rhubarb, raspberries, sugar, and water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes longer or until the fruit has reduced to a thick syrup. Once it is cooled, a bit of maple extract is stirred in, creating the perfect French toast topper.

Raspberry Rhubarb Sauce2

I decided to serve it over not just any French toast, but chocolate chip French toast.  I simply couldn’t pass up this chocolate chip brioche, which once dunked into a simple custard, fried up to a delectable French toast.  Topped with the raspberry-rhubarb sauce, the French toast turned into a dish any mom would be happy to be served as a celebratory breakfast (or brunch), and it certainly is a hit with the kiddos!

Raspberry Rhubarb Sauce3

Raspberry Rhubarb Sauce

6 ounces  frozen, sliced rhubarb
6 ounces frozen raspberries
3/4 cups white sugar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon maple extract

Add the frozen rhubarb, raspberries, sugar, and water to a large sauce pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes longer or until the fruit has reduced to a thick syrup. Once it is cooled, stir in the maple extract.  Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Chocolate Chip French Toast

4 large eggs
1 cup half and half
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
8 slices chocolate chip brioche, ~ 1-inch thick each

In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, half and half, and salt and pour into a shall dish such as an 8×8 casserole dish. Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet, then dip two of the brioche slices, evenly coating both sides,  into the egg custard and then add to the skillet.  Fry bread for 1.5 – 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and keep warm, and repeat with the remaining slices of brioche.  Serve warm with the raspberry-rhubarb sauce.


Samoa Granola Bars

Samoa Granola Bars

So far I have resisted the tempting display of Girl Scout cookies at the entry of the grocery store.  Growing up, my mom always bought thin mints and tag-a-longs so it wasn’t until I was an adult that I really got to appreciate the perfect flavor combination of the Samoa cookie – a buttery wafer coated in caramel, coconut, and chocolate. YUM.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love the thin mints too, I just have two favorite Girl Scout cookies now.

While I may have made it past the stocked tables brimming with colorful cookie boxes, it only resulted in my need to whip up my own version of the treat – a Samoa Granola Bar.  Since I prefer my granola bars chewy, I used the oven only to roast the oats to combat their raw flavor and to toast the coconut. The remainder of the prep was simply mixing and pressing into a greased 8-inch x 8-inch dish and letting the bars chill overnight to firm up. I do recommend chilling them overnight, as only a few hours of chilling results in more crumbling.

Samoa Granola Bars

The Samoa granola bars turned out every bit as chewy as I had hoped, and taste like their cookie inspiration. I also barely swatted my husband away to grab photos of the finished dish. Thankfully I managed to take a few pictures of the Samoa Granola Bars before they were declared “awesome” and devoured. While they are a bit more decadent and gooey than I would typically make for a hike or snack, they are a great way to make a gluten-free treat that will satisfy your sweet tooth and your hankering for a Girl Scout cookie.

Samoa Granola Bars

Samoa Granola Bars

Samoa Granola Bars

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
½ cup honey
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup caramel bits
½ cup dark chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line an 8-inch x 8-inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray and set aside.  Spread the oats on a large rimmed baking sheet and the coconut flakes on a second rimmed baking sheet.  Put both sheets in the oven, baking the oats for 15 minutes and the coconut  for 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring both twice during baking. Remove the oats and toasted coconut from the oven and add to a large bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the honey, butter, salt, and vanilla extract.  Pour the honey mixture over the oats and coconut and stir to coat.  Add in the caramel bits and chocolate chips and stir until combined. Press the granola mixture into the foil-lined pan and chill in the refrigerator overnight.  Lift the bars from told the dish using the foil and cut into 8 bars; serve or store in refrigerator until ready to eat.

Note: I used old fashioned rolled oats which did result in some crumbling.  Jenn from suggests using quick cook oats to reduce crumbling.


Valentine Brandy Ball Cookies

Valentine Brandy Ball Cookies

If you like to add a bit of extra flair to your Valentine’s Day meal, these Valentine Brandy Ball Cookies are right up your alley.  Much like the Christmastime favorite rum balls, these cookies are a no-bake option that are easy to whip up. Simply crush some vanilla wafers, add a few mix-ins, use brandy and corn syrup as binders and roll in powdered sugar – done! You’ll have made a special treat AND have time to spare to spend with your loved ones.

Valentine Brandy Ball Cookies

 To make these Valentine Brandy Ball Cookies I started with a classic Rum Balls recipe (I chose Emeril’s) and then tweaked it. More specifically, to make these cookies fit for the heart-filled holiday I did two things: (1) made them a pretty shade of pink and (2) incorporated chocolate and figs, which are considered to be aphrodisiacs (it can’t hurt, right? Plus they added great texture). I also swapped the brandy for rum, giving the cookies a flavor similar to a really good fruit cake (and yes there ARE good fruit cakes – I will have to share mine next Christmas).

 The Valentine Brandy Balls got a nod of approval from my hubby (note: these do pack a fair amount of brandy per cookie and should be considered adults-only) and quickly disappeared from the plate. That means they make the cut for our at-home celebration next week, which will include my Lobster Bisque. With our meal planned, perhaps I should move on to choosing a gift for my love!

Valentine Brandy Ball Cookies

Valentine Brandy Ball Cookies (a.k.a. Love Potion Bites)

2 ½ cups vanilla wafers, crushed to fine powder (10 ounces)
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup diced dried Turkish figs
½ teaspoon allspice
1 ½ cups confectioner sugar, divided
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ cup brandy
10 drops red food coloring

 In a large bowl, mix together the crushed vanilla wafers, chocolate chips, fig pieces, allspice, and one cup of confectioners’ sugar.  Pour in the corn syrup and brandy and stir until well mixed.  Add the drops of food coloring and mix until the dough turns light pink.  Refrigerate dough for at least three hours.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl or dish.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out portions of the cookie mixture and press into 1-inch balls. Roll the cookie balls in the confectioner sugar and place in an air tight container, separating layers of the cookies with wax paper.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat; makes 24 cookies.



Dark Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon

When Santa visits our house, he likes to drink a warm mug of hot cocoa. Not just any cocoa, mind you, but a dark chocolate variety, which happens to be his favorite kind of chocolate. He also likes the hint of Saigon cinnamon, which keeps him guessing what makes the cup of hot cocoa so special.  My Dark Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon is rich and not overly sweet, and can be made with either almond milk (Santa’s dairy free favorite) or your preferred milk beverage. While making hot chocolate from scratch is probably more work that you are used to doing for the velvety drink, I promise the taste of homemade hot chocolate is far better than the pre-packaged variety.

Dark Hot Cocoa

This year Santa will be treated to Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles which complement his Dark Hot Chocolate, served in our vintage santa mugs (what a perfect use for the mugs, don’t you think?). I just hope he doesn’t end up with too much residual chocolate in his beard, since my kids were sporting epic chocolate mustaches after trying this Dark Hot Chocolate.

Dark Hot Cocoa

Santa’s favorite cookies and beverage of choice often varies from house to house.  I’d love to hear about your traditional “welcome Santa” spread – just leave a comment below!

Dark Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon

¼ cup Special Dark, Hersey’s 100% cocoa
½ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups regular almond milk
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
Marshmallows or whipped cream (optional)

Place the cocoa, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small saucepan and add ½ cup milk. Place over medium heat and stir until well mixed and sugar is dissolved. Add the remaining milk and heat until it reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and divide between two mugs. Top with marshmallows or whipped cream, if desired, and serve.


Maple Hazelnut Fudge

In my opinion, it is never too early to start experimenting with recipes for holiday treats and goodies.  When time allows, I like to prepare a spread of cookies and invite all my friends over for a cookie & tea party a few weeks before Christmas.  With two little ones I haven’t been able to throw my party the last few years, but maybe if I start now with ideas and freezer cookies I can pull it off this year.

This week I decided to tinker with my rum raisin fudge, switching out the rum extract for maple and the raisins for toasted hazelnuts to make this Maple Hazelnut Fudge.  It is just as simple, and absolutely decadent.

Maple Hazelnut Fudge

In fact, cutting the fudge into 1 1/2 inch squares is more than enough to get a heavy dose of chocolate.

Maple Hazelnut Fudge

The flavor combo in the Maple Hazelnut Fudge is perfect for fall, and pairs perfectly with my favorite spice tea.  This batch most certainly won’t make it to my party, but the recipe will make the list!

Maple Hazelnut Fudge



Maple Hazelnut Fudge

1 cup hazelnuts
¼ cup butter
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon maple flavoring


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until skins are blistered and nuts are fragrant. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and rub nuts in towel to partially remove loose skins; set aside.

Place butter in a microwave safe bowl. Place in microwave on high for 30-60 seconds until just melted. Stir in the chocolate and sweetened condensed milk. Place back in microwave and heat on high for 1-2 minutes longer, stirring every 30 seconds. Once chocolate is smooth, remove from the microwave and stir in toasted hazelnuts and maple flavoring, then pour into a parchment paper lined 8-inch by 8-inch dish.

Refrigerate until set, then cut into squares. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.


Chocolate Turtle Icebox Cake

Icebox cakes are a great dessert showpiece, with often little to no baking or cooking. What they do require is time – time to let the layers meld together, for an ooey-gooey layered cake affect.

Turtle Icebox Cake

For a Labor Day picnic, I decided to whip up this Chocolate Turtle Icebox Cake. My sweet-tooth demanded that I bring a dessert, but both work and moving have been keeping me busy, leaving little time for more complicated recipes. I had all the ingredients I needed to make a decadent icebox cake – vanilla wafers, caramel sauce, and the necessary fixings for a quick chocolate pudding.

Did you know that whipping up homemade pudding is just as simple and quick as the boxed kind? I highly recommend that you try making the chocolate pudding from scratch, but you can use an instant pudding package if you prefer. Once the pudding is made, vanilla wafers, caramel sauce, pecans, pudding, and chocolate hardening sauce are poured in alternating layers into a springform pan.  The icebox cake does all the work sitting in the refrigerator overnight – the cookies soak up moisture and become cake-like, and syrupy layers become more dense.

Turtle Icebox Cake

When I unveiled the cake at the picnic the other guests swarmed. Their content smiles told me that the Chocolate Turtle Icebox Cake was a hit. What a perfect treat for a picnic!

Turtle Icebox Cake

Chocolate Turtle Icebox Cake

½ cup white sugar
¼ cup baking cocoa
1/8 cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups almond milk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
14 ounce package of vanilla wafers
6 ounces caramel sauce (i.e. ice cream topping)
8 ounce container of “Magic shell” or 1 recipe of homemade hardening shell
2 ounces pecan bits

First make the chocolate pudding. In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil and stir for 2 minutes, or until it thickens. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and chill in the refrigerator. Once the chocolate pudding is cooled, prepare the cake. Lay 1/3 or the bag of vanilla wafers on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, then pour over ½ of the chocolate pudding to coat the cookies and evenly pour 1/3 of the caramel over pudding. Sprinkle with 1 ounce of the pecans, then repeat another layer of vanilla wafers, pudding, caramel, and pecans, in that order. Finally cover the top with the remainder of the vanilla wafers and then pour the hardening shell over the top. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

note: one 3.4 ounce package of instant pudding and 2 cups of milk can be used to substitute the first 6 ingredients.  Follow package instructions to make the pudding.


Chocolate-Banana Trifle (a.k.a. Banana Swirl)

Last week my daughter proclaimed that we should have Banana Swirl for dessert. Typical of most preschooler conversations, I asked her what was in that dish. She then mentioned it was bananas and bread mixed together. Hmmm. It sounds like she just came up with another installment of what I’m going to call kid-inspired recipes.

Much like my Pretzel Soup recipe, I decided to take this as more of a suggestion/starting point. Instead of bread I used a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin to create a Chocolate-Banana Trifle or “Banana Swirl”. bananaSwirl2b

I layered muffin pieces with vanilla flavored Greek yogurt (I opted for a healthier layer rather than a more typical custard or whipped cream layer, though this dish still qualifies as an extra-special, sugar loaded treat), a bit of caramel topping, and slices of fresh banana.


The result was an enticing trifle which in my mind straddles the breakfast and dessert categories.  I know, I know, caramel for breakfast? Nonetheless, I’m still going to let you decide when you want to eat it!



Chocolate-Banana Trifle (a.k.a. Banana Swirl)

1 large chocolate-chocolate chip muffin

½ cup vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt, divided

1 banana, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons caramel topping, divided

Tear the muffin into chunks and place half at the bottom of a parfait glass or an 8 ounce juice glass. Add half of the yogurt, half of the banana slices, and then half of the caramel topping. Repeat layers with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 1 serving.


Chocolate Cherry Cannoli Cups

The dessert my husband always makes room for is the cannoli. If he just hears the word his eyes light up in anticipation of one of his most favorite treats. The chocolate cherry cannoli cups I made as a just-because dessert have now earned an equal space in his heart as compared to the traditional version.


The first time I made the filling I didn’t have time to make the typical forms, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying them free-form.  A generous bowl in hand, our children thought he was eating yogurt and followed suit with their own miniature bowls. Clearly this family loves their cannoli! It was my husband’s idea to put the filling in chocolate cups, which I have to admit is my favorite way to eat this cannoli filling. Not only do you get a perfectly sized bite of cannoli, it lends itself to a pretty presentation. I don’t think I can get out of having these at all holiday functions from now on.



Post Update:

As soon as my in-laws saw this post, they begged me to make some for dessert since they happened to be visiting.  I didn’t have time to make more cups, but I did manage to find to good pre-made Belgian chocolate thins and pre-made cups at Cost Plus World Market.

The result was just as tempting as the home-made cups!




Chocolate Cherry Cannoli Cups

2 cups ricotta
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ tablespoon cherry extract
½ cup shelled, whole pistachios
½ cup mini chocolate chips
36 maraschino cherries, divided
24 chocolate cups*

Place the ricotta cheeses and powdered sugar in a large bowl and stir together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cherry extract, pistachios, and mini chocolate chips to the bowl. Remove the stem from twelve of the cherries and dice the cherries and add them to the bowl. Stir the ricotta mixture until all of the ingredients are evenly mixed. Refrigerate the filling until just before you are ready to serve the cannoli cups. Just before serving, divide the cannoli filling evenly between the 24 chocolate cups and then place one cherry on top of each cannoli cup. Refrigerate any leftovers.
* Chocolate cups can be purchased pre-made, or you can make your own with Wilton’s melting chips and forms. I used only the bottom portion of a 3-D cupcake container mold to make my cups. Following the directions on the mold, I needed 16 oz. of dark cocoa candy melts (about 1 1/3 packages) to make 2 dozen cups.