Happiness Project#78: Chocolate Chip Monkey Bread!


In light of the recent tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo last weekend, this chocolate chip monkey bread recipe apparently was calling my name. Or my heart perhaps. And I couldn’t resist it’s pull.

The frenzy (& madness) that flooded social media after the tragic killing of the zoo’s incredibly popular silverback gorilla, Harambe, has drawn the attention of parents, zoo patrons, and animal right activists alike. And after watching an eye witness’ horrifying video of the terrifying encounter between the 4 year old boy, and Harambe the gorilla, I dove into the fray, as well.

As a parent, I believe that I am entirely responsible for the actions of my 3 year old daughter. Because she’s ONLY three, and because of this young age, relies entirely on myself & my husband for guidance, encouragement, and love. So because I accept full responsibility for her, I am incredibly vigilant with how I parent.

Thus being said, in response to the situation that led to the little boy falling into the gorilla habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo, followed by a harrowing 10 minute encounter with the gorilla, Harambe, one incredibly important reminder came to mind. This being that all parents, no matter the situation, are responsible for the actions of their children, particularly, and especially, when a parent’s child is very young, and still learning prompts and behaviors from his or her adult figures. I know how brutal this may sound, and can only imagine how many individuals may not agree with my stance on responsible parenting. But this stance is something that I believe makes me a better person, and a better mother to my beautiful little girl. I believe that vigilance, because of how ever-changing this world is, is pivotal, and essential to my daughter’s well being, as well as to that of the general public.

Vigilance is not always easy. Especially with toddlers. But no matter how challenging it may be, it’s one of the most important aspects of who I am as a mother. Something I would never change. Because my daughter’s safety and happiness will always be worth it.

From last weekend’s tragedy, I hope that from this situation, good will come, and the importance of individual responsibility will be forefront within the near future.

So in honor of the gorilla named Harambe, and the legacy that he has left behind, I’m sharing this delightful, buttery, chocolatey monkey bread recipe for all who need a little bit of simple comfort. Here’s all you’ll need:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/2 cup salted butter, melted

1 (4 ounce) package cream cheese

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 can giant refrigerated biscuits, 8 count

Firstly, preheat the over to 350d. Lightly butter a 9 inch round cake pan.

Mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Set aside.

Pop open the can of biscuits. On a wooden surface, flatten out each biscuit. Cut up the cream cheese in 8 small squares, and add 1 square to (the center of) each flatted biscuit. Press in a small handful of chocolate chips to each square of cream cheese. With your fingers, fold up each biscuit until all 8 biscuits resemble the shape of a ball.

Space out each biscuit ball into the buttered cake pan. With the melted butter, lightly brush the tops of each ball. Followed with a generous sprinkling of the cinnamon-sugar. Yummy!

Pop the pan into the oven and let bake for 18 minutes.

Pull out those lovely rolls of monkey bread from the oven, deposit the pan on a cooling rack, and throw on some more chocolate chips! Yes, MORE! Must I convince you?

From my heart to yours, and to all of the many grieving fans of the majestic, Harambe, may the memories of this gentle giant live on forever.



Happiness Project Recipe #27: Mini Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Cups!


With only 3 weeks to go before I hit 40 weeks in my pregnancy, I have this unexplainable feeling that next week might be THE week! Within this past week, I’ve been a bundle of nervous, anxious, excited energy & this unexpected onslaught of emotions has left me feeling a bit off balance. All of a sudden, something akin to fear hits me. All predominately based on very normal parenting uncertainties. Will I be a good Mother? Do I have what it takes to be everything that my little girl truly needs? Fortunately, I’m sensible enough to know that most first time, new moms feel like this, to various degrees. That’s simply how life is when embarking on a mementos new adventure. The most important adventure a person can possible begin: that of becoming a parent. So in lieu of all of my jumpy emotions, I wanted to squeeze in one more recipe before what I suspect might be THE big week. And since one of my very first pregnancy cravings was for a classic vanilla bean cheesecake, I decided to end (temporarily) on a similar note. With cheesecake, in my favorite dessert form: a cupcake. Although I had originally planned on using mini chocolate chips within the recipe, I ended up settling for standard sized chocolate chips instead, after discovering a sadly diminished lack of mini chocolate chips in my baking cabinet (tis a sad day, indeed). Overall, using a standard sized chocolate chip certainly did not take anything away from the desired taste. If anything it packed an even heftier punch of chocolate, which isn’t actually a bad thing, right? So here it is…


1 cup graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons brown sugar

pinch of kosher salt

3 tablespoons salted butter, melted


8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened at room temperature

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line 12 cupcake tins with paper baking liners.

In bowl #1, mix together the graham cracker crumbs with the brown sugar and salt until well combined. Pour in the melted butter and mix with your fingers until evenly coated and crumbly.

In a 2nd large bowl, on a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl to prevent any lumps in the batter from forming. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until well combined. Set aside.

In your cupcake pan, scoop up about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the graham cracker crust into each paper liner, pressing the crumbs down into a nice, even layer. Now, evenly divide the cheesecake batter between the cupcake liners, pouring the batter over the graham cracker bottom, filling each liner nearly to the brim. Sprinkle however many mini chocolate chips over the top of the cheesecake batter as you desire.

Bake for 18-21 minutes until the tops are nearly completely firm to the touch. Remove the cupcake pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about an hour before popping them into the refrigerator for another 2 hours to let them set up correctly. When not serving immediately, store in a airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Happiness Project Recipe #16.5: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars!


Have you ever walked through a grocery store & come face to face with a certain food item that put your knickers in a twist? A few nights ago, after unsuccessfully attempting to fend off a ruthless craving for granola bars, I was faced with a rather odd food dilemma. I could have very easily just cheated by buying a package of pre-made granola bars but nooooooo, the invisible pastry chef sitting so snugly next to my ear (much like the devil on one shoulder & the angel on the other) refused to let me succumb to such unusual laziness. “Why buy when you can make your own?” she asked. So with a tiny bit of grumbling, I did. Hence this now perfect opportunity to share my favorite granola bar recipe with you!

½ cup creamy peanut butter

1/3 cup honey

1 egg

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3-1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

½ cup brown sugar

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup peanut butter chips

1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl (either in a stand mixer or by a hand held mixer), beat the peanut butter, honey, egg, oil and vanilla until blended. In another mixing bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar & salt and mix together with a spoon (or by hand, if you want to add a little extra fun to your day). Now pour the dry mixture into the wet (peanut butter) mixture and mix well. Make sure your entire batch is nicely, evenly coated. Gently stir in your peanut butter chips & chocolate chips. Your batter will now be very, very sticky (and will smell quite divine!).

Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Since the batter is quite sticky, with your fingers, gently & tightly press the mixture into the edges of the pan until evenly spread throughout. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven & let cool on a wire rack for about 30 to 45 minutes to let the granola harden properly. Once the granola is cooled & set, take a serrated knife & gently cut up into however many bars you would would like (I like to cut up longer bars so I usually end up with around 12). I also tend to like a crisper granola bar versus a chewier one, so after initially cutting up each bar, I drop my oven temperature down to 300F, spread out my 12 bars onto a second sprayed cookie sheet & pop them back into the oven for another 5 minutes. So whether you want to go crispier or chewier, it’s all a matter of preference. You’ll be happy with the end result, either way.

Fun, right? Now every time you too come across your own grocery store dilemma, you won’t be haunted in the least by that ruthlessly nagging little pastry chef on your shoulder. Granola bars from scratch? Why yes! Yes, indeed!

Happiness Project Recipe #13: The BEST Chocolate Chip Muffin!

Gooey, gooey chocolate!

Lately, finding the best of all muffin recipes has become an all consuming obsession (besides my nuttiness with collecting beautiful cake stands) & since I’m such a sucker for the classics, I had to create the BEST Chocolate Chip Muffin! Had to! After consulting a vast variety of cookbooks, I finally found “the one.” With my own cinnamon twist, of course. So here’s what I created…

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup low fat buttermilk

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Butter 12 muffin cups or line 12 cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a medium sized bowl (you can easily do this with a hand-held mixer), beat together the butter, buttermilk, egg & vanilla until just smooth (for about 1 minute.) If your batter is visibly very clumpy, it was over beaten & you will need to start over with a new batch.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and optional cinnamon (if using). With your hands, make a shallow well in the center of the flour mixture, add in the buttermilk mixture, and beat until smooth and well mixed, 1-2 minutes. Using a large silicone spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Do not over mix, or the batter will fall flat (& won’t rise correctly when baking). The desired batter should be relatively thick (similar to that of cookie dough) & very sticky. Spoon the batter into each muffin cup or cupcake tin, filling it nearly level with the rim.

Bake your muffins for 20-24 minutes for standard size muffins or 18-20 minutes for standard size cupcakes. They should be lightly golden & springy to the touch when removed. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

After bringing home the left-overs last night from a friends 4th of July party, I discovered a catch. I didn’t & still don’t  want to share any of them. That’s how much I adore this recipe. You will too!

*Recipe adapted from “The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book”

Happiness Project Recipe #2: Chocolate Chip Blondies!


Since finishing Pastry School, I’ve recently become a wee bit obsessed with finding the BEST dessert recipes to tweak & re-invent to my own super snobbish version of perfection. One of these said recipes is creating a bar a bit more adventurous than a traditional chocolate brownie (though what’s NOT to love about a chocolate brownie??). Enter the classic Blondie. The wondrous thing about the Blondie is that you can add just about anything to it & it comes out tasting just the way you want it! Nuts, fruits, frosting, even a cup or so of your favorite whiskey! It’s that easy to create your own slice of personalized bliss! Drooling now, aren’t you? Here’s the recipe!

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, completely melted

1 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthurs Flour, which you can find at any Whole Foods Market location)

One of the most important things I learned in school, was that with baking, you MUST follow recipe directions in a timely & exact manner. With any good recipe base, there’s not usually much wiggle room for change (though tweaking bits of it can be fun once you’ve figured out what your individual preferences are). So when preparing this lovely bar, remember to take heed to any specific directions. Ready?

Lightly butter an 8×8 pan. Lightly, because otherwise, the bottom of your Blondies will end up being a bit greasy.

Mix your melted butter with brown sugar & beat until smooth (on medium speed in a stand mixer for a few minutes). Beat in the egg and then the vanilla extract.

Add the salt & stir in the flour until fully combined. If you are using any additions, such as chocolate chips, nuts, fruits etc, mix this in now. I’ll list a few of my favorite additions below.

Additions can be as follows: 1 cup chopped nuts, 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1/2 cup dried fruit (stirred into batter), 1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey (most of this will burn off while baking & will only add a very subtle bit of extra flavoring); increase the flour by 1 tablespoon

Pour your mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. With most bar & brownie recipes, the sides will begin to brown & peel away from the edges when done. Cool completely on a rack for 20-30 minutes before cutting them. Since I’m not a big fan of flaky edges, I usually cut the browned edges off in the pan (with a small serrated knife) before I slice up the actual bar pieces. It’s just prettier (and we all know how much I like pretty things!).

Now, serve & enjoy!

Yum? Oh yes!

*Recipe adapted from “How To Cook Everything”

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