Chocolate and Caramel Brownies

Chocolate and Caramel Brownies

Chocolate and Caramel Brownies


Brownies – 

  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 C semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 1½ C granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 1¼ C all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt

Caramel Filling – 

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil.  Grease the foil well with cooking spray or butter. In a double boiler, combine 1 C semi-sweet chocolate and butter.  Melt, stirring occasionally, until mixture is smooth and lumps are gone.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the sugar, eggs and vanilla.   Add chocolate/butter mixture to the mixing bowl and stir until incorporated. Stir in the flour and salt just until combined. Spread half of the brownie batter in the bottom of the prepared pan.  Smooth out into an even layer.  Bake for 18 minutes.  Remove from the oven (leave the oven on) and let the brownies cool for 20 minutes.  Clean your double boiler and proceed with making the caramel filling.

To make the caramel filling, combine the caramel and cream in your double-boiler on the stove.  Melt caramel into the cream, stirring occasionally.  Try to time it so that the first brownie layer will have cooled for 20 minutes by the time the caramel mixture has melted and combined (about 15 minutes from the time I put my double boiler on the stove to heat).  Once the caramel mixture is smooth (no lumps), immediately spread it over the bottom brownie layer.

Use a spoon to scoop the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer and spread it evenly across the caramel layer.  Dropping the batter in spoonfuls over the caramel will help to get an even layer of batter over the caramel.  Use a spatula to spread out the batter after dropping.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups of chocolate chips on top of the final brownie layer.  Bake for 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.  Transfer to your refrigerator and allow to chill for a couple of hours for easier slicing.  Before serving, lift the brownies from the pan using the edges of the foil. Remove the foil and cut the brownies into individual squares. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate if preferred.

Servings – 24 Chocolate  & Caramel Brownies

Have questions regarding the double boiler?  Read here:  How to Use a Double Boiler

Chocolate and Caramel Brownies





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Bananas Foster with Dulce de Leche Filled Crescent Bread

Bananas Foster with Caramel Crescent Bread

Flaky crescent bread roll filled with creamy dulce de leche, topped with ice cream and a simple, warm Bananas Foster sauce.

1 can refrigerated crescent rolls or a seamless roll-out dough sheet
1 cup dulce de leche (caramelized 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large bananas, sliced lengthwise then into thirds (to make six pieces per banana)
Vanilla ice cream

1) Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.

Dulce de leche filled flaky crescent roll

Dulce de leche filled flaky crescent roll

2) Unroll the dough onto your cutting board.  If using perforated crescent roll dough, pinch together seams where the crescent rolls would normally be separated.  Spread evenly with prepared dulce de leche (see recipe below). Cut into 1 1/2 – inch strips. Starting at one end of the first strip, roll up to other end, then place cut side up in center of pie plate (like a cinnamon roll would look). Wrap second strip around center roll. Repeat with all strips to form one big spiral roll.  Note: This step can get a little “sticky”, but the results are worth the clean-up.

Caramel filled crescent roll and banana slices

Caramel filled crescent roll and banana slices

3) Bake 25 minutes. Cover lightly with aluminum foil.  Bake 15 – 20 minutes longer or until thoroughly baked in center.

Making of the sauce

Making of the sauce

4) In 10-inch skillet over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, water and vanilla.  Stir occasionally until the butter is melted. Add banana slices; cook and stir until tender.

Although this recipe omits the usual dark rum and banana liqueur, this sauce still has a traditional Bananas Foster taste.

Although this recipe omits the usual dark rum and banana liqueur additions, this sauce still has a decidedly “Bananas Foster” taste.

5) Remove pie pan with roll from the oven. Cool 5 minutes. Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream and the saucy bananas.

Caramel Crescent Bread with Bananas Foster Topping

Caramel Crescent Bread with Bananas Foster Topping

The banana sauce can be made and then reheated for serving, but only within about a half an hour of the bake time.  It must be made close to the serving time due to the banana content.  If you wish to store the base sauce longer, remove the bananas.  Sauce will retain a bit of a “banana-y” flavor.

See below for how to quickly prepare the Dulce de Leche from sweetened condensed milk.

Caramelized Milk (Dulce de Leche)

Microwave Preparation Instructions

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk


Note: Do not heat the milk in the can.

Pour 1 can (14 oz) of sweetened condensed milk into large microwave-safe bowl. Cook at 50% power for 4 minutes, stirring halfway through the heating time. Reduce the power to 30% and cook for 8 to 12 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until milk has thickened and is a light caramel color.

Note: Microwave ovens may vary.  Adjust timing accordingly.

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Recipe: (Healthy) Cheesy Sloppy Joe Celery Boats

I’m on the Medifast® program.  It’s no big secret.  I started six days ago, and I already feel better – less “bulky”.

I have found some foods that I like and some foods that I like only after they have been “doctored” up a bit.  One of the foods that didn’t really excite me much either way was the Sloppy Joe meal.  I ordered two boxes with my first shipment, and I was wondering what I was going to do with all of those packets… until today.

I’d noticed that a lot of the Medifast and Take Shape For Life (TSFL) recipes that I had seen online called for various different types of The Laughing Cow spreadable cheese wedges.  I love Laughing Cow cheese and was excited to see that the light varieties are allowed on my program.

While out shopping yesterday, I picked up a package of Laughing Cow Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle cheese wedges.  This morning, I brainstormed about how to use a wedge in my lunch.

Sloppy Joe Mix

Preparation of the regular Medifast Sloppy Joe meal

Enter: “Sloppy Joe” meal!

Medifast compliant Cheesy Sloppy Joe Celery Boats – Created by Me :)


1 Medifast® Sloppy Joe packet + 1/4 c. water

1 Laughing Cow Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle spreadable cheese wedge

3 celery stalks

1 drop of Wright’s Liquid Smoke

Sprinkle of your choice of scallions, tomato bits and/or jalapeno pieces

164 calories (not including the sprinkling of veggies) – Counts as: 1 Medifast Meal, 1 Condiment and 1 Optional Snack


First, I soaked the mix in water for about an hour before I cooked it.  This isn’t really part of the recipe, but it helps with the texture of the meal.

Sloppy Joe with cheese wedge and veggies

Sloppy Joe with cheese wedge and veggies

Secondly, I cooked my Sloppy Joe mix as directed on the packet.

Next, I added in a few little tidbits from my pre-sorted “greens” that will primarily be used for my Lean & Green meal this evening.  One of my half cup containers holds chopped scallions and one holds a combination of jalapenos and tomatoes (about a quarter cup each).  I added a few little pieces of each  to my Sloppy Joe meal.  I also added one wedge of the Laughing Cow Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle cheese wedges. Then, I added a drop of Wright’s Liquid Smoke and mixed it all together.

Next, I washed three stalks of celery and cut each into thirds (for a total of nine “boats”).  Into these celery pieces, I scooped the Sloppy Joe mixture.  Once the celery pieces were filled and placed on a plate, it was time to eat!

Medifast compliant Cheesy Sloppy Joe Celery Boats

Medifast compliant Cheesy Sloppy Joe Celery Boats


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A Good Argument

Michael: “I read something about how a guy said that if someone traveled in time to 2013 from the 1950s, he thought he’d have the hardest time explaining that he carried in his pocket a device that holds all of the world’s knowledge but he uses it to look at cat pictures and argue with strangers.”

Me: “That’s exactly what Vesper does, except she looks at cat pictures and argues with people she knows.”

Vesper: “I do not argue with people I know!”

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A Bear for Carol

It’s been a while since I have pulled out the acrylics and put brush to canvas.  However, my friend, Carol, had a birthday recently and I had no idea what to get her as a gift.

She’s purchasing a home nearby and she enjoys original art, so I decided to paint a painting for her.  Carol is a spiritual person, and her spirit animal is the Bear.

Here is Carol’s Bear:


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Easy Cheesy Lemon Squares

Nice & Easy Desserts Cookbook by Cyndee Kannenberg

Ideals Nice & Easy Desserts Cookbook by Cyndee Kannenberg (1979, Paperback)

I found the following recipe in my Ideals “Nice & Easy Desserts Cookbook” by Cyndee Kannenberg, published in 1979.  I had to make some modifications to the recipe because my local grocery store does not carry packages of dry frosting mix.

So, I am going to include both Cyndee’s original recipe and my variation.  I can’t post any photos of the completed Easy Cheesy Lemon Squares dessert right now because I took it to a get-together (of 9 people) and came home with an empty 9×13 pan.  It was that popular!

The original recipe book titles them “Easy Cheesy Squares”, but I think it is worth noting that they actually are very “lemony”.  So, I have added that to my blog title.

Easy Cheesy Lemon Squares

Easy Cheesy Lemon Squares
(As pictured: Created using the “modified” recipe below)

– – – – – – – – – –

Original “Easy Cheesy Squares”

1 pkg lemon cake mix

1/2 cup melted butter

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 pkg lemon frosting mix

1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

Combine cake, butter and 1 egg.  Mix with a fork until moist.  Pat into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan, greased only on the bottom.  Blend package of frosting mix into cream cheese.  Set aside 1/2 cup of this mixture, and add 2 eggs to the remaining cheese batter.  Beat 3 to 5 minutes. Spread over cake mixture in the pan.  Bake in a 350 °F oven 30 to 40 minutes.  When cool, spread with reserved frosting.  Cut into squares.  Serves 24.

– – – – – – – – – –

Modified “Easy Cheesy Lemon Squares” (when dry lemon frosting mix cannot be found)

Ingredients - Cheesy Lemon Squares

Ingredients – Click on any of the photos to view a larger version.

1 pkg lemon cake mix (I used Betty Crocker® SuperMoist®, Lemon cake mix)

1/2 cup melted butter (I used Tillamook® unsalted sweet cream butter)

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh squeezed is preferable)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

A drop to 1/8 teaspoon imitation butter flavor (Probably optional – I used Durkee®)

3 cups of confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 °F.  Grease only the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass dish.  Combine cake mix, butter and 1 egg in a medium sized bowl.  Mix with a fork until moist.

Crust Batter

Crust Batter

Press into the bottom of the bottom-greased 9 x 13-inch pan.

Pressed Crust

Crust pressed into a greased (bottom only) 9 x 13 inch baking pan

In stand mixer bowl (I used my wire whisk), on a low speed setting blend cream cheese until softened, then slowly add the 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar, the lemon juice, the vanilla extract and the imitation butter flavoring.  When mixture is combined, mix on medium-high to high speed until mixture is very smooth – 1 to 2 minutes.  Set aside 1/2 cup of this mixture as “icing” for later, then add 2 eggs to the remaining cheese batter.

Cheesy Batter

To the right, in the mixing bowl, is the cheesy batter with eggs (before mixing). On the left is 1/2 cup of batter (before eggs were added) set aside for later use as icing.

Beat 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high to high. Spread cheesy batter over cake mixture in the pan.

Cheesy Batter on Crust

Cheesy batter spread on top of the pressed crust.

Bake in a 350 °F oven 30 to 40 minutes (I baked it for 30 minutes using my convection oven setting.  The top was golden brown and firm when I removed it from the oven).

Just pulled out of the oven

Just pulled out of the oven and placed on a cooling rack.

When cool, spread with reserved icing.

Icing On Top

The reserved icing has been spread on top of the cooled dessert.

Cut into squares.  Serves 24.

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My New KitchenAid® Refurbished Professional 600™ Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer

I recently ordered and received a refurbished KitchenAid® Professional 600™ 6-qt. “Bowl Lift” style mixer.  It’s a manufacturer refurbished machine that could have been used for up to a year before being returned.  The company representative told me that it might have a scratch or two on it.  However, upon careful inspection, I could not find a single blemish on the machine, and no obvious spots of “touch-up” paint.  It’s flawless!  It came with a 6 quart stainless steel bowl (with handle), a PowerKnead™ spiral dough hook, a flat beater and a stainless steel wire whip.

I chose this model because I wanted the more powerful 575 watt motor and the larger bowl capacity (as compared to the Classic and Artisan series mixers).  Mine is “Gloss Cinnamon” and that color fits beautifully into my kitchen.

KitchenAid Mixer Bowl Lift StyleIts new home is on my counter top, where it slides perfectly under one of my cupboards when not in use.

Refurbished KitchenAid Mixer Professional 600I chose the KitchenAid® Professional 600™ for my stand mixer because I like the idea of the drive transmission, all-steel gears and all metal construction.  Even refurbished these mixers aren’t inexpensive, but they are constructed to last for years.

KitchenAid Mixer in Gloss Cinnamon

It seems to work flawlessly.  I have already used the ice cream maker attachment to make homemade ice cream, and the two of the pasta maker attachments to make fettuccine.

I can’t wait to try out my other attachments and accessories!

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Czech Potato Dumplings Recipe

My husband’s step-father is Czech, so Michael spent a number of years of his childhood in the what was then Czecholslovakia (now the Czech Republic).  One of his favorite dishes growing up there was Czech potato dumplings.  They are denser than the bread dumplings with which many westerners are familiar.

Years ago, Michael’s sister, Alice, taught me how to make them.  The method we use today is roughly based on the recipe found at:

Czech Potato Dumplings Ingredients


  • 3 large, unpeeled baking potatoes (600 g);  Russett potatoes are great for this recipe.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup of Wondra flour (100 g)
  • 1 cup of semolina flour
  • pinch of salt
One egg, plus one egg yolk, added to the mashed-up, boiled potatoes.

One egg, plus one egg yolk, added to the boiled. peeled and mashed-up potatoes.


  1. Boil the potatoes with skins on until the skins just begin to crack open (approximately 40 minutes for big potatoes). Peel the potato skins off while the potatoes are hot.
  2. Shred the potatoes, add the egg and the yolk together with flour, semolina and salt.
  3. Knead it into a dough.
  4. Divide the dough into 3 parts and make three loaves (see photo below).
  5. Carefully put the 2 loaves into a pot of boiling water and make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  Boil for about 15 minutes, using a spoon to turn/stir the loaves occasionally.
  6. Pull  the loaves out of the water, slice them into circles and serve. Use regular sewing thread for the cutting process.

Clicking on any of the photos will bring up a larger image in another window, if you would like a better view.

Adding the flours to the potatoes and eggs

Adding the flours to the potatoes and eggs

Above I added the Wondra flour and the semolina flour.  Then I began kneading the mixture.  It’s gooey, messy and requires some upper body strength, but it’s fun.

Adding More All-Purpose Flour

Adding More All-Purpose Flour

I had extra moisture in my dough because of my large eggs and just-cooked potatoes, so I added some all-purpose flour to the mixture.  I continued to knead the added flour into the dough ball.

Adding a little more Semolina flour

Adding a little more Semolina flour

The dough was still just a little on the sticky side, so I added a bit more Semolina flour.  More kneading was necessary to incorporate the last bit of added flour.

Czech Potato Dumpling Dough

Czech Potato Dumpling Dough Ball

It’s difficult to describe how the dough should feel when it’s ready.  It should easily form a dense dough ball that doesn’t stick to a lightly floured wooden cutting board, but does have a very slightly sticky feel to the kneading fingers.  Too much flour will produce dumplings that are overly dry in taste and texture.

Potato Dumpling Loaves - Before Boiling

Potato Dumpling Loaves – Before Boiling

Above I formed my potato dumpling dough into three loaves, each of which fit into my boiling pot.  I was not able to fit all three in at once, but I was able to boil the first two smaller loaves together.

Two potato dumpling loaves - Boiling

Two Potato Dumpling Loaves – Boiling

I added the two shorter loaves to a pot of water that I had at a rapid boil on the stove.  Once the loaves were added, I made sure the water returned to a boil and used a slotted spoon to keep the dumplings from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Once the pot had returned to a boil, I turned the heat down to maintain the boil while preventing the water from boiling over.  I stirred the dumplings every few minutes for about fifteen minutes, until they were slightly “floaty”.  I then removed them from the pot and drained off the excess water.  I repeated the process with the last, larger loaf.

Potato Dumpling Loaves - After Boiling

Potato Dumpling Loaves – After Boiling
The two outside loaves have been cooing a while. The inside loaf just came out of the boiling pot.

Shown above are the potato dumpling loaves after boiling.  The two outside loaves were boiled first and have been cooling a while.  The larger inside loaf just came out of the pot.

Chicken Thighs and Pork Chops - Pre-Cooking

Bone-In Chicken Thighs and Pork Chops – Before Cooking

Cooked Chicken Thighs and Pork Chops With Caraway Seeds

Cooked Chicken Thighs and Pork Chops With Caraway Seeds

Czech potato dumplings are traditionally served with roast duck, roast goose or smoked meat and cabbage.  However, Alice taught me to serve it with pork and chicken.  I just use what is readily available in my local grocery store, because neither Michael nor I really care much for the meat anyway.  What we are after are the flavorful juices produced by the meat and caraway seed combination.  We drip the juices over the finished dumplings and the result is a delicious, filling meal in itself.  The photos here show how I placed chicken thighs and pork chops sprinkled with salt and caraway seeds into an 8×8 inch pan.  I added a little bit of water then covered it with aluminum foil.  Meat prepared like this needs to bake in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees F for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, until the meat is cooked through.  In my experience, thin pork chops over-cook when getting the chicken cooked to a safe temperature, but Michael and I are basically only concerned about the juices anyway and we prefer the chicken meat with our dumplings.  If having your pork meat cooked perfectly is important to you, you will want to adjust your pork cut selection and thickness to accommodate the required extra cooking time for the chicken.

Cutting the Potato Dumpling Loafwith Thread

Cutting the Potato Dumpling Loaf with Thread

Shown above I am slicing the potato dumplings with a piece of thread.

Czech Potato Dumplings_Served with Chicken and Pork

Czech Potato Dumplings Served with Chicken and Pork

Above is the finished product.  I did drizzle more of the meat pan juices over the dumplings before eating these dumplings.  Delicious!

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Vesper's computer painting of an owl

Owl – created by Vesper Stevens

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Come “Ear” and Take a Look at This!

Last night, Vesper mentioned to me that she would like to make ear cuff jewelry.  She explained that she likes the wire wraps and Steampunk styles.   She emailed me a link to some ear cuff jewelry samples so I could get an idea of what she meant.  Here is the link:

After dinner, I pulled out some of my jewelry making supplies and told her that I’d be happy to give her some jewelry making lessons if she wanted to wait until another time.  However, the Blazers game was about to start, and I wanted to watch it.  She assured me that she would be fine without my help.

At the beginning of the third quarter, Vesper came down the stairs wearing her creation.  I have to admit, I was stunned by what she had made.  This is the first time she has ever worked with wire and beads.  It’s the first time she has ever attempted to make jewelry of any sort.  She made this by herself, without any assistance, in about an hour and a half:

Vesper's first ear cuff design

Vesper’s first ear cuff design

Whoa!  Nice job, Vesper!

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