Thousand Dollar Bars { aka Homemade Twix Bars}

I LOVE Twix bars. Always have, always will. Back when I was in elementary and middle school, I used to ride the bus after school to a certain drop off, then walk to the hospital where my mom works. I’d promptly find her, ask for some money, and head to the vending machine. My choice in a snack? Twix bars with Dr. Pepper. Almost every time I went to the hospital after school, this would be my snack. To this day, when I buy Twix, I feel the need to pair it with some Dr. Pepper. There’s just something about that combination that makes me quite happy!

Not going to lie, I found this recipe through Pinterest. While I’m not crazy-addicted to the site, I will admit I enjoy it as it’s easy to find new recipes to try. I saw the picture of these homemade Twix bars and knew immediately I was going to try them out. They were just too good to pass up. Plus, if I can made Twix at home, and not buy them occasionally, it’s a win win for me!

I brought these bars to work, and barely had a chance to snap a quick picture to put on here. They went that fast. The ooey-gooey of the bars must have attracted my co-workers! I got a lot of “they do taste like Twix bars!” comments, so know that this is a pretty good replica of the real deal. Poor Ryan was able to snag just one bar the night before I brought them to work. I think he was a bit bummed I didn’t leave a few for him!

Thousand Dollar Bars {Homemade Twix Bars}

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Shortbread Layer:

1 c. (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature

1 c. confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 c. all-purpose flour

Caramel Layer:

2 c. caramel, cut into small chunks

3 Tbsp. heavy cream

Chocolate Layer:

3 c. chopped milk chocolate or dark chocolate, melted (I used milk chocolate chips)

1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening (optional)

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 pan lightly with cooking spray, or line with parchment, and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour. At first the mixture may seem dry, but will come together as you continue to beat at medium speed.

Take the dough (it will be somewhat stiff) and press it evenly into the pan. Lightly flouring your fingertips will help with any sticking.

Prick the crust all over with a fork. The holes will alow steam to escape and the crust will bake evenly with fewer bubbles.

Bake the crust until it’s lightly golden brown on top and the edges are deeper golden brown, about 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edges to loosen the crust. Set it aside to cool completely.

For the caramel layer:

Melt the caramel and cream over low heat in a small saucepan. Pour the caramel over the cooled crust and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill and firm up.

For the chocolate layer:

Melt the milk or dark chocolate slowly in a double boiler or over very low heat (I used the microwave, checking after 30 seconds until semi-melted, then every 15 seconds until completely melted). If it seems very thick, add a tablespoon of shortening to thin it. Pour evenly over the chilled caramel layer to cover all the caramel. Return to the fridge until the chocolate is well set.  Cut into 2 x 2 squares to serve. It’s best to store the bars in the refrigerator.

These bars can also be cut and dipped in milk chocolate to resemble Twix bars. After the caramel layer has chilled firm, cut down the length of the pan, splitting the bars into two long, narrow bars. Then cut each long strip into “fingers”. Dip the chilled bars into melted chocolate and place on parchment paper to set for several hours.

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Crazy-Easy Apple-Stuffing Pork Chops!

Hi all!  Just so you know, this is NOT Kate, but the next best thing… her dear wife, Crystal! 😉  Also, just for the record, I have NEVER written a blog in my LIFE.  The first time Kate suggested me being a guest blogger for her, I thought she was joking.  But, during a recent conversation which was very heavily food-related (okay, actually the entire purpose of the phone call was to talk about food…), I was telling her about this recipe and she again told me to write a blog.  Under the powerful conviction that every person should have this recipe memorized, I consented… for the greater good of humankind.

I received this recipe from a very dear friend of mine, Kristina, who is a wonder woman in the kitchen as well as in life in general.  I get so much inspiration from her kind, generous, patient, sweet spirit.  On the recipe card she wrote out for me, it is titled simply, “Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing”.  Every time I make this, my husband is basically in heaven.  As it bakes, it fills the house with a warm, happy aroma that makes you excited for Thanksgiving; it is the BEST quick recipe for a chilly autumn day!  The bottom layer of apple pie filling is like eating your dessert right along with your dinner.  Something I was confused about before the first time I made it was that you put the chops in the oven raw.  Don’t worry.  They will come out in perfect deliciousness, cooked through, and just add to the easiness of this recipe.

Side note:  Not until about a year ago did I find out how very nutritious pork is for you!  Many cuts of pork are as lean or leaner than chicken, including these chops!

“Pork Chops with Apples & Stuffing”

1 package (6 oz) chicken stuffing mix

(4 Tbsp butter to make the stuffing)

1 can (21 oz) apple pie filling  (or, if you’re Kate, you’ll probably just make your own homemade apple pie filling;)

4-6 boneless pork loin chops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is seriously all you need.  Yes, I do shop off-brand at Wal-Mart.  Don’t judge me.

Heat oven to 375.  Prepare the stuffing as directed.  This is as hard as it gets.

Spread the pie filling onto the bottom of a 9×9 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with uncooked chops, then stuffing, and cover with foil.

Apple pie filling topped with uncooked chops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bake 30 minutes, take the foil off and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Take it out and DEVOUR.  Yes, that easy.  Make sure you have some cheery Christmas music playing while your house is filled with what Heaven must smell like.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

I had the pleasure of baking with my cousin Michaela recently. Michaela is a college freshman at a local school in the area, so I figured she needed a break from her studies and could use some treats. Plus, she’s a great baker! I knew we’d have no problem sharing the kitchen to accomplish our recipe.

I should have known from the moment Michaela went, “You named your mixer?!” that we’d have many laughable and eyebrow raising moments. We had decided Michaela would handle the batter, and I’d make up the cookie dough so we wouldn’t be baking all night long. Long story short, I messed up, and ended up doubling my dough, and Michaela forgot to alternate milk and dry ingredients so it was one soupy mess adding in the milk until it was blended. Oh, and Michaela forgot the chocolate chips. Who does that?! 😉 It’s the best part of the batter!

For all the mess-ups we had, we just laughed them off, and kept on trucking. Those errors weren’t going to stop us from getting these cupcakes! I think they actually made things even more enjoyable than they already were! We ended up having success in coring, inserting dough, and frosting the cupcakes once they were done. Success in photographing the cupcakes at 9:00 pm…not so much! After many tries of getting the cupcakes to look right, we gave up, and Michaela was sent back to the dorms with cupcakes to share with her floor. I’m told they didn’t last long 🙂

If you’re a cookie dough and cupcake lover, definitely give these bad boys a try!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Recipe from Bake at 350

For the cupcakes:

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed

4 large eggs

2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or bittersweet)

To make the cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners (24 total).

Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, combine the butter and brown sugar. Cream together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. Alternating add the dry ingredients to the miser with the milk on low-speed, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated. Blend in the vanilla. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between 24 cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes bake and cool, prepare your cookie dough filling.

For the cookie dough filling:

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 Tbsp. light brown sugar, packed

1 c. plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

7 oz. sweetened condensed milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

To make the filling:

Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (approximately 2 minutes). Add flour, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up a bit, (approximately 1 hour).

After the cupcakes have cooled, fill the cupcakes by cutting a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake. Fill each hold with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Brown Sugar frosting:

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed

3 1/2 c. confectioners sugar

1 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. milk

2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the frosting:

Beat butter and brown sugar with the paddle attachment on high-speed until creamy and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners sugar until smooth. Beat in the flour and salt. Mix in the milk and vanilla until smooth and combined.

Frost cupcakes using a pastry bag and 1 M tip. Decorate with mini chocolate chips and if you have them, mini cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re like us, and want to eat some of the cored pieces, frost them, sprinkle with chips, and you’ve got a mini-cupcake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!