I'm not going to lie, I've never been to a mardi gras party. Ever. However, last April I went to New Orleans for a neurology meeting, and I fell in love. I've learned that New Orleans is a place you either love or hate. Either you will think it's dirty and smelly and gross or you will be captivated with the people and liveliness of the city. I am in the latter category. I love the random live music throughout the city, the art, the food, the architecture. I love it all, and I can't wait to go back as soon as possible.

So did you know that Fat Tuesday is next week on the 12th? I'm going to have myself a little King Cake and celebrate at home by playing some fun jazz music and having a drink or two. Maybe I'll get some beads from my husband!

If you've never had a King Cake, watch out. Did you know it's basically a giant cinnamon roll? With frosting and sprinkles and gooey cinnamon filling? It's so good! And it's really easy to make, which is another bonus. Be careful when you roll the dough out because if it's too thin, it could blow out one of the sides. If that happens, just cut the "blown out" part off after baking (it makes a great snack!). The glaze and sugar will hide it. I highly recommend to the full filling recipe (I only did half as you can see in the picture below and wished I did more) but know that it may leak out because it's a lot (but so good!). If you're worried about that happening, you can halve the filling recipe. Be sure to hide a plastic baby (after baking) or a bean (before baking) in the cake; whoever gets that piece will have good luck in the upcoming year. Just make sure to warn people that it's in there so someone doesn't choke! Choking=bad luck. For reelz.

King Cake Recipe
Makes one cake (about 18 servings)
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Note: If you like a lot of gooey cinnamon filling, leave the filling recipe as is. If you want less of the goo, it works great to halve the filling recipe, too.

For the dough:
8 ounces sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 egg
3-3 1/4 cups bread flour 

For the filling:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons cream
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon

For the glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon butter
2-4 tablespoons milk

Gold (or yellow), purple, and green sugars

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the first four ingredients (sour cream, sugar, butter, and salt) and stir until the butter has melted. Set aside and cool the mixture to 100-110 degrees.

In the bowl of your mixer, stir together the yeast, warm water, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. Let sit for about 5 minutes until foamy. When the sour cream mixture has cooled, add it into the mixing bowl with the egg and mix using the paddle attachment until incorporated. Slowly start adding in the flour while mixing on low until a soft dough forms. Switch to the dough hook and mix on low until smooth and tacky.

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in it. Cover and let rise for about one hour or until doubled.

While the dough is rising, make the filling by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add in the brown sugar and whisk, bringing it up to a boil. Let it boil for about one minute, remove from heat, and whisk in the cream. Add the baking soda and cinnamon and whisk until combined. Set aside.

When the dough has risen, place it on a well-floured counter. Roll it out into a 22x12 inch rectangle and spread the filling on it, leaving about a one-inch border. Roll it up from the long side, jelly-roll style, and pinch the seam together. Place it seam side down on a greased cookie sheet and bring the ends of the roll together to form a ring. Secure the ends together by pinching them and moistening them with water. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.

While it's rising again, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned on top and baked through. While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the powdered sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Add the milk one tablespoon at a time until it's just thin enough to spread.

When the cake is finished baking, let it cool for 10 minutes and then brush the glaze on top. Sprinkle with the colored sugars, alternating the colors, in bands. Let cool completely. Cut out a small piece of the bottom and hide a plastic baby in it.

Adapted from myrecipes.com.  
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So here's the thing. I've been searching for years for the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe. And while I cannot guarantee that this will be my favorite years from now, it is the best I've found. Hands down. It tastes like butter and vanilla, it has a slightly crunchy top, it's moist (sorry) and fluffy. It's perfection. Oh, and did I mention it's easy to make? There's no creaming of the butter and sugar, there's no sifting of the dry ingredients, and there's no softening of the butter. It's a different method, which makes it fun. To me at least. I might be one of the few who gets excited about things like this.

I've tried dozens upon dozens of different vanilla cupcake recipes. Seriously. When I did my most recent search, I printed out this recipe first and another one second. Of course I started with the other recipe first and tried five different variations of that one. Five. It was a recipe that had melted butter and oil in it so I tried it that way and then all oil and then all butter and then half apple sauce (which had great texture but tasted like apples not-so-surprisingly) and then with an extra egg (which made it taste like egg cupcakes-disgusting!). So I was about to give up and go with the half butter/half oil mixture but I told myself to try the other recipe. Just. In. Case.

And then I did a happy dance. In the middle of my kitchen with my dogs wondering what the heck I was doing. That was two weeks ago, and I've made this five times since then. It is by far the best recipe I've found. To clarify, I haven't eaten it five times since then, just made it. I have, however, wanted to eat it all five times.

A couple of notes: when you make this, you are going to question everything you've ever read on here because there's no way this recipe can be that good when there are really large chunks of butter in the batter. Trust me. It will work. That's how it's supposed to be. However, the amount of butter in these is slightly ridiculous (but worth it--don't skimp!), and you will probably pour some out of the cupcake tins after they bake. Just roll with it. Place the cupcakes on a paper towel while cooling to soak it up, too. Let the cupcakes cool completely before trying them. Also, these are the best the day they are made. I don't recommend making them a day before you're going to serve them.

I had to adapt this recipe for high altitude so I made a few changes, but it's nothing too complicated. Be sure to check those out if you're baking at high altitude (in bold below). Also, since it's the Superbowl on Sunday, I recommend tinting some frosting to celebrate the Ravens and 49ers.
The Perfect Vanilla Cupcake Recipe
Makes 24 cupcakes
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*Note: The high altitude adaptations are in bold.

For the cupcakes:
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon (*2 1/2 teaspoons*) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter cut into 1-inch cubes
4 eggs
1 cup (*+ 2 tablespoons*) whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the vanilla buttercream:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla (clear vanilla keeps it white)
1 pound powdered sugar (about 3.5-4 cups)
1 cup shortening

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (*350 degrees for high altitude*) and line muffin tins with liners.

To make the cupcakes, add the dry ingredients to the bowl of your mixer and mix on low until combined. Add the cold butter into the dry ingredients and mix on low using the paddle attachment just until the butter is coated with flour.

In a large glass measuring cup or bowl (preferably with a spout), whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla. With the mixer on medium low speed, add the wet ingredients in three parts, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Beat until all the ingredients are incorporated but don't overmix. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full or with about 1/4 cup of batter. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 17-20 minutes (*high altitude about 16-18 minutes*). Place the cupcakes on a paper towel to cool completely.

To make the buttercream, place the butter, milk, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium using the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer) until everything is blended. Add in half the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. Add in the shortening and mix on medium until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the rest of the powdered sugar and mix on medium high until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and mix until smooth. If the frosting is too thick, you can add more milk one teaspoon at a time.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a spatula or a piping bag to frost the cupcakes and add whatever decoration you desire. Serve the same day.

Cupcakes adapted from Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes
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Have you ever wondered about or wanted the recipe for that beauty in my header? Well here you go. I love this cupcake. A rich chocolate cake, vanilla bean salted caramel filling, and chocolate ganache frosting topped with sea salt. They are the most perfect, most rich cupcake ever. These will knock you off your feet. If I could marry a cupcake, I would be Mrs. Salted Caramel Cupcake thank you very much. The only wedding present we'd need would be a treadmill. And I would happily hop on one every day.

And it's not just me who loves these cupcakes. It's everyone except for those people who hate chocolate (I don't understand those people by the way). I've seen people devour these proudly, and I've seen people hide in corners lost in their own experience. I know that sounds super strange, but when you try one you will understand. These certainly make other desserts pale in comparison.

Since there's three parts to these cupcakes, I recommend making the caramel sauce a day before (or you can use something store bought). Then you can make the cupcakes and frosting the day of and assemble. They are definitely worth any time spent. Oh, and don't forget the sea salt at the end. If you skip that, it definitely won't be the same. The salt helps to temper the sweetness and provides the perfect balance of salty and sweet. Ahhh...and I'm going to go have another one. I've just convinced myself again. 
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe
Makes 12 cupcakes
Print this recipe

*Note: If you're making these at high altitude, use 3 eggs instead of 2 and increase your oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the cupcakes:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs*
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

About 1 cup caramel sauce, divided

For the frosting:
8 oz good semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter

Sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
*High altitude: preheat to 375 degrees.*

For the cupcakes, in a medium bowl, combine the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot coffee. Let sit for one minute and then whisk until smooth. Set in the refrigerator to cool completely, about 15-20 minutes. Whisk in the oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla until blended. Add in the salt and baking soda and whisk until incorporated. Add in the sugar and bread flour and whisk until smooth. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups in a muffin pan (about 1/4 cup of batter each). Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 17-19 minutes (*16-18 minutes for high altitude*). Cool cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes and then remove to the counter and let cool completely.

While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, make the frosting. In a small saucepan, mix together the cream, sugar, and corn syrup. Heat over medium until sugar has dissolved and mixture is very hot. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes, giving the chocolate time to melt. Stir until chocolate has melted, add the butter, and stir until melted. If the chocolate won't fully melt, you can heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Let the frosting sit for about 10-20 minutes, stirring periodically. It will firm up as it cools. If it hardens too much, simply reheat for about 10 seconds until it's spreadable again.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, core out some of the middle using an apple corer or a knife. Fill the space with the caramel sauce. Pipe the cooled frosting on top of the cupcakes and sprinkle with sea salt.

Chocolate cupcake recipe from America's Test Kitchen.
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Can we get any better than vanilla beans, sea salt, and homemade caramel? I didn't think so. Let me just repeat that to be sure. Vanilla beans. Sea salt. Caramelized sugar. Got it? Good.

I tend to cheat when I make caramel by using brown sugar. It's easy to achieve the caramel color when you start with it, right? But the thing about using brown sugar is that the sugar doesn't caramelize, so it's not a true caramel. So this was the first time I've made a true caramel sauce, and it won't be the last.

I'm not going to lie to you and say it can be done in 10 minutes. Well, maybe it can but it took me much longer. One of the annoying things about making caramel sauce is that when you add the cream, it lumps together and then you have this clumpy mess and you're left with this inedible sugar rock and cream floating around it. Or maybe that's just me. But....if you keep cooking it on low heat, the rock of sugar will melt again and it will get smooth and creamy like the picture above. Or below. You just have to patient (which is definitely not my virtue). However, this is so worth it. When you stick a spoon of it in your mouth, you will want to sit with the jar, devour the entire thing, and then wonder accusingly who ate all the caramel. Trust me.

This took me an hour to make but I know how to shorten that time. Use a large pan. Either a saucepan or a skillet. I used a 6-inch saucepan, and it took forever. If you have a bigger surface area to caramelize the sugar, it will happen quicker (duh!). So I highly recommend doing that because the sooner you can get this in your mouth, the better. Seriously.

Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe
Print this recipe

1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in addition to the vanilla below)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large heavy bottom pan, spread the sugar in an even layer and turn the heat on medium low. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean and add them to the cream. Heat the cream in the microwave for about 1 minute so it's not really cold.

Keep an eye on the sugar without stirring, and once the edges start to liquify, slowly stir the sugar together until it all melts and is liquid. If it starts to turn brown too quickly, turn the heat to medium. If it starts to clump, turn the heat to low and let it melt. Don't stir too often so it can liquify.

Once it's liquid and is a deep amber color (you can test a drop on a white plate if you need), slowly add the cream while whisking. Be careful because it will boil violently. If it clumps (good chance it will), return the pan to the burner on medium low and slowly whisk it until it melts. While you're stirring it, add in the sea salt and extract. Once the sauce is completely smooth, remove it from the heat and let it cool for a couple of minutes and then place it in a heat-proof container (like a mason jar). Store in the fridge for up to one month.

Source: Smells Like Home
 
 
I get a lot of questions about baking without gluten. Thankfully I'm not adversely effected by gluten, so I don't have to worry about developing gluten-free recipes. However, that means that I can't help some potential bakery clients. So...when I come across a naturally gluten-free recipe, I cheer. And do a little happy dance. It's a little one but it's there nonetheless.

So listen to this ingredient list. Peanut butter. Oats. M&Ms. Chocolate Chips. Raisins (wait--don't leave yet), and then the normal eggs, sugar, leavener, etc. Oh...and the raisins are totally optional. I really like them, but I know that's a deal breaker for some, and you really shouldn't break up with these cookies! The other good thing about this recipe is that it makes a lot of cookies! It's great to bring to a party (playoff or Superbowl party anyone??) and people will be begging you for the recipe. Trust me.

Speaking of playoffs...I know that I can't complain (and that you don't feel sorry for me) but I'm going to the Broncos-Ravens playoff game on Saturday. Super excited to see the Broncos crush the Ravens again but you guys...the high on Saturday in Denver is 18 degrees. As in 14 degrees below freezing. And that's the high when the sun is up and shining. We only see the sun for the first quarter and then it peaces out to shine on warmer places. Jerk. So basically I'm going to freeze my everything off because sitting outside for 4 hours when the high is 18 degrees is miserable. Any tips on staying warm?? I need every tip you have! Every single one. Please...my toes beg you!
Monster Cookies Recipe
Makes about 4 dozen
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1/2 cup butter, softened
12 ounces creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, peanut butter, and sugars until incorporated. Add in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. When fully incorporated, add the oats. Then mix in the M&Ms, chocolate chips, and raisins.

Drop by tablespoons (or use a cookie scoop) about two inches apart from each other on the sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes (don't overbake!) and let sit on the sheet for 3 minutes before removing to a flat surface to cool. Store in zippered bags or a sealed container.

Barely adapted from Food Network and Paula Deen
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The first time I was fortunate enough to try palmiers was when I took a pastry class. Oh. my. goodness. Hello buttery flaky pastry with cinnamon sugar. I love all things cinnamon sugar. A lot. And then you mix that with oodles of butter? I am so in. Big time.
My apologies to those of you who are on diets. Save this for when you are off of it. Please.

When I made these in my pastry class, we used homemade puff pastry. While I love the homemade kind, it takes some time to make it. Eventually I'll get to that and share it on here because it's not hard, just a touch time consuming.

Funny thing is that when I watch cooking shows, they pull out the store-bough puff pastry sheets, so it can't be that bad (although the homemade definitely tastes better).

Anyway, this recipe is just three ingredients. That's it. These French beauties will have you swooning. They're fancy enough for the best dinner party or brunch but they're perfect for a football game or a lazy Sunday in your PJs. So go, buy some puff pastry. You will thank me.
Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers Recipe
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1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle about half of it on a clean counter. Unfold the puff pastry sheet on top of it. Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on top of the pastry sheet and rub it in. Flip it over and make sure that the cinnamon sugar is rubbed into the whole pastry. Sprinkle any additional cinnamon sugar on the top.

Roll the left and right sides (long sides) in toward the middle, jelly roll style, until they meet (should look like the picture above but unbaked). Slice the rolled pastry into 1/2 inch slices and lay flat on the pan, leaving about 2 inches between the pieces.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are browned and middles are cooked. Let cool slightly before serving.
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Merry Christmas! These cookies are quintessential holiday cookies, and no Christmas would be complete without them. At least in my house. Every year when I plan my holiday baking, these always make the list. I've been making them since I was a kid, and I fondly remember eating a lot of almond-flavored green dough and red hots. And I still do the same thing as an adult.

You have to have a cookie press to make these, but you can get one for pretty cheap. I seem to buy a new one every couple of years because they don't last too long. This year I got mine at a craft store, and it's the Wilton brand. It works great so far. I've also had problems finding red hot candies the last few years, but I've seen boxes of them at Walmart and Walgreens. Do you have any must-make cookies this time of year? Or am I the only one who has these traditions? 
Christmas Tree Cookies
Print this recipe

1 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
Green food coloring
Red hot candies

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Cream the shortening and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the egg and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the almond extract, baking powder, and salt, and mix until incorporated. Stir in the flour until combined. Stir in the food coloring until it's as dark as you like.

Stuff portions of the dough into the cookie press and use according to the manufacturer's instructions. Press a red hot or two into the pressed dough. Bake for 10 minutes or until set. Let cool on a flat surface.
 
 
I'm sorry about the third mint dessert recipe in a row. And if you hate mint, I'm really sorry. However, if you like thin mints, these are the cookie for you. But if you don't like to use prepackaged mixes, these aren't the cookies for you. Because they're made using a cake mix and topped with a thin mint or grasshopper cookie. And in spite of all that, they are awesomely delicious. And easy. Super easy. Since Christmas is just a few days away, easy is where we need to be right now...or at least where I need to be right now.

Six ingredients. Four days till Christmas. Make these.

Mint Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 40 cookies
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1 package Devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 tablespoon water
Powdered sugar
40 thin mints/grasshopper cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together the cake mix, shortening, eggs, and water until fully combined. Form the dough into one inch balls and roll in powdered sugar. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart from each other.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set. Once you pull them out of the oven, immediately put a thin mint on each cookie. Let cool for one minute on the sheet and then remove to a flat surface to cool.

Source: Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies & Candies 2010
 
 
Are you guys cookied out yet? I know I am! And I still have more to bake. I discovered these bad boys a couple of years ago, and they have been a huge hit. Think Russian teacake cookies with pecans instead of walnuts. And then instead of them being rolled in powdered sugar, they're dipped in white candy melts and topped with crushed candy canes. They're pretty and delicious....and perfect for Christmas!

Since I've made a few dozen (or thousand) cookies this year, I'm going to share some of my tips, which don't completely apply to these cookies. But in general, these tips work best for me. Of course, please experiment to find what works best for you.

1. I soften my sticks of butter in the microwave for 7 seconds. It's enough so the butter can break up in the mixer easier.
2. I always use my stand mixer for cookies, and I always use the paddle attachment.
3. You know when cookie recipes say to sift the dry ingredients together? I never ever do this. Instead, I mix the baking soda, salt, etc. in after I mix in the eggs. That way there's enough liquid for the small dry ingredients to get mixed in well before I add the flour.
4. I don't fold in the chocolate chips, nuts, etc. by hand. I mix them in with my mixer just until they're distributed throughout the dough.
5. I use airbake cookie sheets so I never use parchment paper or grease the baking sheets. I love these cookie sheets, and I use them for all of my cookies (except macaroons). This means that when I write cookie recipes down, I'm always at a loss on what to say for greasing the sheets.
6. I always bake my cookies for the least amount of time indicated and let them cool on the sheets for at least one minute. Underbaked cookies=softness and awesomeness. Overbaked cookies=crunchiness and yukiness.
7. I never let my cookies cool on wire racks because I underbake them and I don't want them to fall through the rack. Plus, I don't like having indentations on the underside of the cookie. I let them cool completely flat on the counter or on foil on the counter.
8. I store my cookies in zipper bags or airtight containers.

What do you do with your cookies?
Candy Cane Snowballs Recipe
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
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2 cups butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
8 ounces white candy coating, melted
1/3-1/2 cup crushed candy canes

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixer, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla. Add in the flour and mix until combined. Stir in the pecans.

If you feel it's too messy/hard to work with, chill the dough. Roll into one inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets 2 inches apart from each other. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the bottoms are light brown. Remove to a flat surface and let cool completely.

Follow the directions on the package to melt the candy coating. In a separate bowl, place the crushed candy canes. Dunk the top of the cookies into the candy coating (allow the excess to drip off) and then into the candy canes. Let stand until set.

Source: Taste of Home
 
 
So Christmas is in less than a week. Are you ready? I am not. at. all. I have finally finished the majority of my baking orders, so I feel like I can start cleaning, planning meals, and wrapping presents. At least my shopping is done...mainly because I had to stop buying gifts when I got laid off. So I have one thing crossed off the list. Whew!

In the last few days, I've made twelve 9x13 pans of brownies, and I've thrown almost everything in them. These were one of my favorites. Quite frankly, putting Oreos in brownies is genius. Who doesn't love slicing into a brownie and seeing creme filling? I know I do. To make them more "Christmas-y" I added Andes creme de menthe pieces into the brownie batter. If you like the chocolate/peppermint combo, these are the brownies for you.

I'll say that since I've made a lot of brownies lately, I've become fairly quick at it (and know the recipe by heart). I can get these made in about 10 minutes in one bowl. They're quick, easy, and there's minimal cleanup. That is a win in my book. By the way, I also tried another variation that was good. I left the brownie batter alone and used grasshopper cookies instead of Oreos. Yum.
Peppermint Oreo Brownies Recipe
Makes a 9x13 pan
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Note: If you want to cut this recipe in half, you can bake it in a 9x9 pan. Just reduce the baking time (probably around 20-30 minutes).

12 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup Andes creme de menthe pieces
1/2 cup chocolate chips
20 Oreo cookies

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.

Place the chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Heat for one minute and then stir. Heat for 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted. Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Crack in the eggs and whisk until incorporated. Fold in the flour. When everything is incorporated, fold in the creme de menthe pieces and chocolate chips. Spread half of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Lay the Oreo cookies in a single layer on top of the batter. Spread the remaining batter on top of the cookies. If your batter feels too firm to spread on top of the cookies, heat it up for about 10 seconds in the microwave and then spread it on top of the cookies.

Bake the brownies for 38-40 minutes or until set.