Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

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Entries in cake bars (3)

Monday
Sep292014

Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

How was your weekend?

Ours was really nice. Saturday we visited our friends and their brand new baby boy. I forgot what it felt like to hold a baby who weighs practically nothing and it was glorious. We both fell asleep pretty early on Saturday night, but were up early Sunday morning for music class and my brother-in-law's birthday celebration. Sunday ended later than I wanted, as always. I made these bars for Steve's birthday party. It felt really good to get creative and baking in the kitchen again. 

I always love apple desserts. Is it me, or is there just no better smell than apples mingling with cinnamon and sugar? I need to bottle that and carry it around with me. Our whole apartment smelled unbelievable on Saturday evening. While Shaun watched college football, and Penelope snoozed, I worked on finishing these bars with a glass of wine in hand. It felt like old times. Windows cracked with a cool breeze, candles burning, decadent smells permeating the house and everyone feeling sleepy on a Saturday night. It's one of my favorite feelings...all of us home, cozy and taken care of.

I used a bunch of recipes that finally led to my inspiration for these bars. I love bars so much. They are perfect for sampling and snacks, and really perfect for taking to a birthday celebration. They require no cutting once at the party. Instead, they can just be grabbed and eaten, with sticky fingers and cake crumbles tumbling down. I added kosher salt to the tops of these. It melted right into the caramel topping, but make no mistake, the saltiness was the perfect balance to these super sweet bars.

As for the caramel topping? Though you can use caramel from a jar, I really recommend this topping. The key here is that it sets, so you don't have to worry about the caramel running once you cut into them. It's an easy topping and I really think it's worth it. I could just eat it all with a spoon.

 

Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

For the crust:

1 box yellow cake mix, minus 1 cup

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 egg

For the apple cheesecake filling:

2 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1/2 C + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 baking apples, peeled, cored & chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

For the salted caramel topping:

1/2 C butter

1/2 C brown sugar

3 Tbsp evaporated milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 C confectioners sugar

1/4 tsp coarse salt

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13" pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the cake mix (removing 1 C of the plain cake mix; set it aside, pack it away. we won't be needing that 1 C here), oil and egg with a wooden spoon. Once incorporated, press into the bottom of the pan. 

Peel, core and chop up the apples. I used Granny Smith. In a bowl, mix them with 1 Tbsp sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese, 1/2 C sugar, vanilla and eggs with a hand mixer until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Fold in the apple mixture.

Pour apple cream cheese mixture over the crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Mine had a few crumbs on it and I took it out to continue cooking in the hot pan while it cooled.

Once cool, make the caramel.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and evaporated milk and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and confectioners sugar until smooth. Pour over the tray of bars and let set. Sprinkle immediately with salt.

Once cool and before cutting them, refrigerate the tray for 30 min to 1 hour, or overnight. Use a sharp knife and cut carefully. Since the bars are now cold, they should cut nicely and cleanly. 

Sprinkle extra salt before serving if needed.

I hope you like these bars. I had a lot of fun creating and baking them! I think they were a hit at the party. Too bad I'm starting back hardcore on Dukan today, or I'd be having one of these babies tonight. Instead, I'll live vicariously through my weekend self, when I devoured many!

How was your weekend? 

What is your favorite apple dessert?

 

Also: chocolate caramel apple bars, apple upside down cake, apple cupcakes + cinnamon frosting, apple cranberry strudel, caramel apple cider shake


Monday
Sep222014

Crunchy Cookie Butter M&M Bars

Soft, gooey bars made with cookie butter and M&M's...if you like treats that are really sweet and indulgent, then this is for you!

 

You guys. I'm really excited. Not because it's Monday {obviously}. 

I'm really excited because today is Lauren's virtual baby shower!

 

 

Lauren was my first real blog friend, another northern NJ resident, maker of all things sweet and wonderful. When Lauren announced that she was pregnant, I couldn't wait to participate in her virtual baby shower. Lauren hosted a virtual baby shower for me when I was pregnant, and I was really touched by this. She is so thoughtful. I love blogging for many reasons, but one big reason is the relationships that I've built and at the top of that list is Lauren!

So.

When I started brainstorming something to make for Lauren's shower, I knew that something sweet was priority numero uno. I also know that she loves cookie butter. Oh and chocolate. Must.Have.Chocolate. So I devised these awesomely sweet, cookie buttery, M&M-filled, cake mix-crusted bars. They were pretty simple and it was a gamble to see if it would all come together. I'm happy to say that they did...in a soft, gooey, speculoosy yumness. But I must warn you...if you are the type of person who thinks certain desserts are too sweet, too rich, or just too much...well then these bars probably aren't for you. If you are into that kind of thing though, well, then I'm sorry and you're welcome.

I want to thank Lauren for inspiring me to get back in the kitchen and bake something. It's been a really long time since I've enjoyed getting creative and baking something delicious in my kitchen, and this felt like rekindled love. I hope you like these bars. I added blue and green M&Ms for baby boy, but of course any M&Ms of your choosing will do. They add just a hint of chocolatey goodness, and some much needed pretty color, especially the way that they melt into the crust. I'm off to have one right now before my diet starts again tomorrow.

 

Crunchy Cookie Butter M&M Bars

1 box yellow cake mix

3/4 C butter, softened + divided

1 egg

1 C crunchy cookie butter (speculoos; creamy cookie butter will of course work too!)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 C M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and liberally grease a 13x9" pan.

Mix together the cake mix, 1/2 C butter and egg until combined, about 30 seconds. Gently stir in M&Ms. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the cookie butter, sweetened condensed milk and 1/4 C butter. Microwave about 1 minute until melted and stir until all ingredients are combined and butter is fully melted. Pour over the cake mix 'crust' and spread with a rubber spatula.

Drop the rest of the cake mix batter on top in small blobs all over.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until set. The top cake mix blobs will sink into the cookie butter mixture and get all swirled together in a truly awesome way.

Let cool, cut into bars and devour.

 

These are so good. A little too good, if you ask me.

Lauren, thanks for being a wonderful bloggy friend. You couldn't be sweeter and I wish you all the best for the coming months with your sweet baby boy. It's the best, yet hardest, thing in the world and just make sure to enjoy every moment! And if I could say just one thing to you I will tell you what my boss told me just before I went on maternity leave...you will sleep again! It might not seem like it at the time, but you will :)

 

Have you ever baked with cookie butter? This was my first foray!

What advice would you give to Lauren as a new mom?

 

Be sure to check out the rest of the party for Lauren from these truly amazing ladies:

Mini Pumpkin Layer Cakes from The Baker Chick

Mini Apple Spice Cupcakes from Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

Mini Nutella Brownies from The Cooking Actress

Mini Iced Oatmeal Cookie Apple Pies from Girl Versus Dough

Pickles in a Blanket from The Lemon Bowl

Mini No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecakes from Bake or Break

Mini Cookie Cocktail (and Mocktail!) from We Are Not Martha

Mini Chocolate and Peanut Butter Fondant Cakes from London Bakes

Double Decker Birthday Cake Blondie Bites from Baker By Nature

Mini Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes from Eats Well With Others

Roasted Caprese Stack with Peaches from Warm Vanilla Sugar

Crunchy Cookie Butter M&M Bars from The Avid Appetite

Mini Pumpkin Streusel Pies from Espresso and Cream

 

Also, for more baby goodies, here's my surprise baby shower, what I made and froze before baby, my baby to do list, what I packed in my hospital bag and the baby's hospital bag!

Sunday
Aug212011

Layered Oreo Cake Bars

Hi friends!

It's Monday. I'm on detox from the weekend and I'm sadistic. It's only fair that I drag you into my masochistic ways so I'm sharing some eye candy to get you through the day. Can you handle it?

I made these yummy, decadent bars for a dinner party at my aunt's house on Friday evening. It was so fun to spend time with my Dad's side of the family, who we do not see too often (but we're trying to change this!). She has 2 little girls who have stolen both mine and Shaun's hearts since they are just about the cutest little kids ever.

I thought it only fitting to test out a recipe I've been wanting to try for a while now. I always love bringing some kind of bar to parties because I think they are easy to eat and always a crowd pleaser. These were no different. I may have eaten half a tray before I even left for the party. The cakey bar topped with a gooey Oreo layer made these one for the permanent collection.

Layered Oreo Cake Bars
*Adapted from + inspired by Picky Palate
1 box moist chocolate cake mix
1 box moist yellow cake mix
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 eggs
2 sleeves Oreo cookies, slightly crumbled (I use Double Stuff 'cuz the rock the house)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Baking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 13x9" baking pan by lining with foil and spraying all over with baking spray (I use Baker's Joy w/flour). Take out 2 mixing bowls. Place the chocolate cake mix, 1 stick of butter and 1 egg in one of the bowls. In the other, place the yellow cake mix, 1 stick of butter and 1 egg. With your hands, mix each one until the cake mix is completely moistened and a dough forms. Press the chocolate cake dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Repeat with the yellow cake, on top of the chocolate.

Crush the Oreos; I placed them in a plastic baggie and slammed them a few times with the rolling pin. Spread over the top of the yellow cake layer. Pour the condensed milk over top of the Oreo layer. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Let cool completely. To remove from the pan, simply lift the foil and peel away from the bars. Cut into squares (I cut off the rough edges and ate most of them myself) and serve. Be prepared for them to disappear immediately.

I can think of like 1 million more combinations that would be suitable for these bars.

I can't wait to try them all.

So there you have it. Delicious, decadent, super easy cake bars that are a total crowd pleaser.

Questions of the Day:

Regular Oreos or Double Stuf? (I say Double Stuf all the way!)

Do you take part in the Monday detox? (Somehow, I always feel like I'm detoxing on Monday morning!)

psst...I'm blogging about my cousin's engagement party over on The Peach & The Pit today...check it out!