Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Peanut Butter Bars with Chocolate Frosting

I just completed my four week photography class at the University of Texas- they offer affordable "informal classes" to the general public. It was really a fun class and I learned a ton! Hopefully you see some improvement in my photos (albeit slowly). I really just loved learning more about my camera and hanging out with other wannabe photographers!

The first night of class we went around and introduced ourselves and talked about what things we like to photograph. Of course, I mentioned that I have a food blog and like to take photos of food! Our instructor asked for me to bring a treat for class and of course, I can never pass up a willing audience!

Since my class was around 30 people and I prefer to only make one batch of things I turned to my "bars" board on pinterest. Whenever I need a dessert for a large group, I love things I can make in a half size sheet pan (11 x 17) because it only takes one batch and it always gets the job done! I get my sheet pans at Sam's Club and there are 2 for only $11.This recipe was perfect! It is interesting with sweet and salty flavors but still comforting with its chocolate and peanut butter flavors. (In fact, the original writer called these "Lunch lady bars" because apparently lots of people grew up getting these in schools.)

These bars have 3 parts but while the cookie layer is baking, you can whip the peanut butter and make the frosting. And believe me, every layer of this recipe counts! The soft cookie, the creamy peanut butter and the sweet chocolate frosting. I'm sure your friends and family will devour these as fast as my class (and my husband) did!


Peanut Butter Bars with Chocolate Frosting
recipe slightly adapted from Tried and True Again


1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar (packed)
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (split)
2 eggs
1 ½ cups quick oats

½ C butter (1 stick)
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugars, 3/4 C peanut butter, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add dry ingredients, just until incorporated. Then, stir in the oats. Spread onto a greased 11 x 15 half sheet pan. (I greased my pan and found that my bars were greasy on the bottom but did come out of the pan so if anyone doesn't grease teh pan and can get them out, let me know!) I always err on the side of caution and grease the pan, but there should be enough oil in the butter and penaut butter to keep it from sticking.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown (they will appear under done but will harden once cooled). Cool for 10 minutes.

The frosting is a two step process. First, whip the remaining ¾ cup peanut butter until it becomes lighter colored and fluffy (of course I forgot to take a picture of this step). This will make the peanut butter lighter and easier to spread, more like a peanut butter frosting. Carefully spread the whipped peanut butter over the pan cookie.

Then, in a small sauce pan melt the butter over low heat. Add the milk and cocoa and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Heat just until boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Then, gradually add the powdered sugar. Stir until thickened. Pour over the peanut butter and gently spread over the cookie. Cool completely, and slice into bar cookies.

Enjoy with a big glass of milk!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Insta-Yum December

Time is flying by already this year! Here is my final month of food from 2012. I hope you have been enjoying seeing what I have been eating and where I have been going. I always love seeing people's food photos and where they recommend.

Thanks for sticking with me on this food journey I like to call Life!

The fanciest BLT I have ever had from TRIO at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. 
I think it was coated in butter but it was o so delicious.

Bad pictures but really good fried pickles from Flix Brewhouse
Of course, it didn't hurt that I was watching Twilight while eating these.

Another delicious burger from HopDoddy. And those fries. And that yummy soda. Need I say more?

Chicken pot pie soup from Jason's Deli. This is the most comforting soup. I love it. 
It's like slurping the filling from a pot pie and they even give you that yummy pastry on top.

Chicken tacos with rice and beans from Chuy's
Drizzled with their special jalapeno ranch I can eat anything from there.

Chicken salad sandwich and sides from Texas French Bread. Honestly, I was unimpressed (sorry!). I'm wondering if their dinners are better?

Strangely enough, two days later I was at Chuy's again. This time with my handsome brother in town. We had the loaded queso and it was the bomb. I can't remember what entree I had..I think Jason and I split fajitas with my husband but I was too busy enjoying time with my favorite brother to remember. 

Chocolate torte with raspberry sauce from Main Street Grill in Round Rock.
 I also had the steak and shrimp dinner and it was delectable. 
A pricey restaurant btu worth it for special occasions and visitors.

More amazing tacos from Torchy's Tacos. Had to bring my dad here while he was in town. 
He was converted! I love the Crossroads and Trailer Trash.

 A great cheeseburger from Crown Burger in Salt Lake City. 
Rated the  best burger in Salt Lake in 2011 and I agree!

 These yummy cheeses are from my house but they made me very happy so I wanted to share with you! We had several dinners of crackers, cheese, fruit and summer sausage. Reminds me of the holidays and a great weekend with my dad. 

 The best Mexican food in Pocatello, Idaho- a flauta and a sopito from El Herradero.

 A great waffle from Elmer's in Pocatello.
This is a chain so look for one near you!

 Twisted potato chips with white queso topped with fresh pico de gallo from Applebee's. I was skeptical of those kind of chips with queso but it was actually really darn good and bonus! Only $6.49. I would go back just for this appetizer and a Coke any day. 

 The best fried chicken, mashed potatoes and creamed corn in the land from Babe's Chicken
O and amazing flaky biscuits-that you can smother in honey.
You pay a flat fee for either chicken fried steak or fried chicken but then the sides are unlimited.

 I can't say I was adventurous enough to try any of these sodas but they did make me laugh. 
Our friend tried the bacon soda and said it was disgusting. No surprise there! haha.

 This is the Western. Delish.
  Great burgers from Twisted Root Burger Company in Roanake, Texas. Really creative burgers, fun sides like sweet potato chips, fried green beans and pickles and a fun atmosphere. They give you a character or celebrity name for your food so they call "Britney Spears" and you have to go pick up your food. It was also featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

 Few things in life I love more than cookies. Wait, I love cookie sandwiches more. 
And a little treat for $1.50?
 Life is good.

Where should I eat next? Let me know if you have any recent favorites I need to check out!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

For my brother's 40th birthday party I wanted to make him a special birthday treat. We were planning a big party with lots to do, so although I wanted to use a homemade recipe we didn't have the time. So this semi-homemade recipe was perfect since it uses a basic white cake mix with a few add ins to make them even better. Since my brother loves snickerdoodles, I knew he would love them!

Although they say Snickerdoodle cupcakes I would say they taste a lot like cinnamon roll cupcakes. But either way, they are delicious! Also, the icing is delicious so you could always use that on a simple vanilla or chocolate cupcake.

Don't mind the Mickey decor, the party was Mickey themed! Blog post with full photos to come soon!

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes 
recipe courtesy

makes 24 cupcakes 

1 package white cake mix
1 cup milk
1 stick of butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Frosting Ingredients
1 stick butter
3 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
3-4 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake pan. Place cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Blend for three minutes (stop to scrape once). Pour into pans and bake for 22-25 minutes Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the frosting, beat butter until fluffy for frosting. Add all other ingredients and beat until fluffy.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Meet Austin: Savory Spice Shop

With a New Year comes new things! You may have noticed a little update on my blog design and I hope you like it!

I am also excited to announce a new series called Meet Austin. I am going to post periodically about different food related places or events in Austin: restaurants, stores, products, festivals, etc. I am excited to share this part of my life and of Austin with everyone! It is such an incredible city and has so much to offer!

My dad recently came to visit me and I was so excited to show off all the fun food places in Austin! My dad has been one of my biggest inspirations for me - he really is the one who taught me how to cook and he I share a passion for cooking, spices, and ingredients. So I was so excited to visit Savory Spice Shop on 6th Street with him.

The walls were covered in spices...basically my dream! They have different sections of all different kinds; sweet, savory, exotic. They even have whole sections of different peppers and salts. 

 I love that you can get whole jars of spices or you can have them measure out as much or as little as you want. This is great for recipes that call for only 1/8 teaspoon and you make it once or a year. 
Or if you bake a lot, you could get a big bag of cinnamon!
 I love the flexibility beyond just buying a jar at the grocery store.

 I want one of these! You cook meats on them in the oven and they have a slight saltiness from cooking on this salt brick. Very cool. 

The store was just so charming and I loved wandering around looking at all the 
different spices and dreaming of what I can cook up! 

I can't wait to buy this rose water and make homemade baklava-it is on my list this year! They also have all kinds of extracts like almond, vanilla, peppermint, cherry, chocolate etc.

 My dad and I had a blast in there!

He even was able to purchase some Ghost Pepper Salt. For those of you who don't know, ghost peppers are the hottest peppers known to man! You aren't event allowed to open the containers in the store and Karen had to go in a back room with special gear to measure it out for my dad. 
He loves crazy spicy but that is too intense for me!

It was such a pleasure to meet Karen, the owner, she is so kind and helpful, as all of the staff there were! They helped me pick out the different cinnamon and spiced paprika I needed. 

 My loot! These spices are for some Thai dishes I want to make.

Karen was also kind enough to give me one of their gift boxes of spices 
as a member of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance.

 I got the popcorn seasoning kit and it was fun to try all the different kinds on my popcorn!
 I can also use the seasonings in the kit for other things like macaroni and cheese or the honey powder for baking-I can't wait to try them more!

They had lots of other fun gift sets like BBQ spices, Steak Lover's, Cocoa powders and all kinds of other fun gift sets. This would be a great place to get your favorite foodie whatever they wanted.
 (hint hint)

I hope for your next culinary adventure that you will stop by the Savory Spice shop! I am so excited to have featured them for my first Meet Austin post! Look for a Savory Spice Shop near you too-in case you can't come visit Austin anytime soon!

I went to Savory Spice Shop all on my own. Once there, the owner generously offered me the popcorn kit as a gift. But all opinions are my own and I genuinely really liked it and will be going back!

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