The Most Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies are classic, something we all grew up eating and my family was no exception. They’re the cookie my mom would whip up for bake sales and make as a “cake” for my birthday parties with frosting. There was even a year in junior high when all I ate for lunch each day was a chocolate chip cookie and carton of chocolate milk (sorry, mom, that’s what I was really doing with my lunch money).

And don’t even get me started on chocolate chip cookie dough! I’d eat the individually frozen dough balls from Market Days right out of the freezer as an after school snack, and in high school my friends and I would share a roll of store-bought chocolate chip cookie dough and eat it with spoons.

While ubiquitous, to me chocolate chip cookies are also conventional. And although I wouldn’t call myself cutting edge in pretty much anything (I mean, come on, look at my shoes), I don’t usually make this cookie because there’s no challenge to it.

This takes me to a few years back when a recipe from The New York Times was making the rounds in the blogosphere. I wasn’t interested. After all, they’re just chocolate chip cookies, right?

Luckily, my friend Jenn paid attention and began making these cookies, which turned out to be absolutely freaking delicious. I’d even go so far as to call them a game-changer.

Whenever we’d talk about these cookies – and, oddly enough, they came up in conversation quite often – I always referred to this recipe as “aged chocolate chip cookies,” because that was really the trick, letting the batter rest (or age) in the fridge for 24 to 72 hours. But I never made them myself. They were her thing, not to mention waiting for the dough to age required patience and planning, two things that don’t really suit me.

I finally had a wake up call a few weeks ago after visiting Jenn in San Francisco. The first thing she gave me when I got off the BART was one of her aged chocolate chip cookies. It had been a while since I’d had one and I forgot just how freaking good these cookies were. That’s when I made the decision: I need to start making these myself – they’re just too good not to have on a regular basis. Or semi-regular basis, given this is the time of year for fruitless resolutions.

And did I mention these cookies are huge? But don’t try to make them smaller – it’s part of their charm. Also, the ingredients are kind of specific but once you have them, just think of all the cookies you can make!

So here’s my advice: make a batch. Freeze them for portion control. And then eat them whenever you need a delicious bite of comfort food or as a reward for making it through spin class. That’s my plan, anyways.

Happy New Year!

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Bourbon Caramel Popcorn

Even if your favorite team isn’t in the Super Bowl this year (that’s right, Bears, I’m talking about you), it’s still fun to get together with friends to watch the big game – and the big commercials!

Always a great calorie fest with everything from guacamole to Lou Malnati’s pizzas, I try to have some fun with what I bring to the Super Bowl table. Last year it was these delicious Savory French Toast Bites and the year before it was the Homemade Hostess Cupcakes, which are always a huge hit. This year it’s Bourbon Caramel Popcorn, which I first made just over a month ago for a New Years Eve party and knew instantly it would need to make a game day reappearance.

The recipe is actually quite simple, it just takes a few steps to make individual parts before it all comes together. But in the end, you have a crunchy, sweet and salty treat with the subtle flavor of bourbon. Try it and you’ll see how addicting this popcorn is!

Tell me what you made for your game day celebration or your favorite snack to enjoy as you watch the new commercials!

Here’s the recipe for Bourbon Caramel Popcorn:

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Cake Balls Just Keep Flying!

It twas the season of cake balls, and all through the festivities, not another dessert was to be found, not even cupcakes or small candy mounds.

Ahhhh, cake balls, which my sister and I recently dubbed the cupcake of 2011 as it’s become my most requested dessert and recipe. Friends and family are making them like crazy – they’re putting them on sticks and making pretty displays, and experimenting with fun new flavors and recipes.

This season alone they were highlights of Thanksgiving dinner, our Hanukkah celebration, Festivus and even New Years Eve. I blogged a while ago about the method, but thought now was a good time to revisit it along with two of my favorite cake recipes.

Just remember, cake balls are really all about the method so use your favorite cake and have fun being creative with the decorations and presentation!

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Mint Chocolate Brownies

Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in the Chicago Food Blogger Bake Sale. It was a terrific event filled with fun people, great treats, and an AMAZING location. Our group raised more than $885 for Share Our Strength! Check out Maris’s recap and Smash Cake Bakery, which will be reopened by the sweetest family on May 1. It’s seriously adorable AND available for private events. Hint, hint…

Aren't these cookies from Kudos Kookies amazing?

The week leading up to the bake sale was a tough one. I was busy with so many things and was experiencing a terrible case of baker’s block. I knew I wanted to make my Marshmallow Mish Mash squares because who doesn’t like chocolate and homemade marshmallows? But what else to go with it that wasn’t too complicated (again, short on time).

Of all people, my non-chocolate loving sister came to the rescue with the suggestion of mint chocolate brownies. That was something I’d always wanted to try – a brownie topped with a layer of mint, then another layer of chocolate, sort of like those mints hotels used to leave on pillows.

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Why don’t they do that anymore, anyways?

So, brownies. I found a recipe on from Bon Appetit that looked promising. It was very late on Friday night at this point (and the bake sale was Saturday morning), so I didn’t make any changes to the recipe other than increase the amount of unsweetened chocolate in the brownie batter. The result was a very deep chocolate and minty brownie. While delicious, it could be a little strong for some people. And you definitely have to be a mint fan.

Here’s the recipe for Mint Chocolate Brownies:

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Marshmallow Mish Mash

Way back when – okay, this past New Years – I made Marshmallows Treats coated in peanut butter and chocolate and they were a smashing hit. At the time, I told my dad about the marshmallows and he asked me to save him some. Considering I wasn’t going to see him for another month, I told him no. By then any leftover marshmallows would be stale and, quite frankly, I didn’t like the idea of serving something I bragged about and not have it live up to expectations.

The solution: I promised to make him marshmallows for his birthday, which just so happened to be this weekend. I know, two Pisces in a family, what a mess!

But my family being my family, they’re always a little particular. I’d already decided to mix the fresh marshmallows with chocolate and cut them into squares, something I’d seen done not very well when I was in Florida last month but took note of anyways.

I pushed for adding peanut butter or salted caramel, nuts or pretzels – anything to add a salty crunch to the SO sweet milk chocolate. But my dad was adamant that his birthday dessert only consist of chocolate and marshmallows.

Realizing I was fighting a losing battle, I made the Marshmallow Mish Mash two ways by adding crushed pretzels to just half the mixture. That half will me known as “my half.” The family can eat the other half, which is still delicious but very sweet. I also drizzled¬† leftover mocha ganache over the top for even more richness.

The best part of the Marshmallow Mish Mash is that you get the same ooey, gooey texture and flavors as the dipped version but in half the time. And there are so many ways to experiment. Next time I might try adding salted caramel and crushed pecans to the mix instead of pretzels.

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