staying hungry : cake box cookies

Let me show you something that will make you want to hug me:

Let me tell you something that will make you want to rise up and call everything and everyone blessed:

There are 4 ingredients in these cookies…and one of them is boxed cake mix.


I’m not even kidding. These rank among the best cookies I’ve ever had. They are perfectly textured – soft yet chewy – rich, and decadent. And they’re definitely the easiest I’ve ever made. I think I’m bringing a version of these to any and every social event I attend from now until eternity. Amen.

Thanks to Cookies and Cups (and Lovin’ from the Oven) for originally posting this recipe!

Cake Box Cookies


  • 1 box cake mix (I used Pillsbury Dark Chocolate with Pudding)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • Mix-ins (I used the mini Reese’s because on Fridays I don’t have the patience to unwrap 30 bite size Reese’s)


Preheat the oven to 350. Empty the cake mix into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs and the oil (I skipped this step…don’t do that). Stir the wet mixture into the cake mix until just combined (it will be thicker than thick), then add in the Reese’s or add-in of your choice.

I made 12 big cookies and baked them for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through because my oven hails from earlier times (think covered wagons) and tends to heat unevenly (think Pisa).


My brain is exploding with other ideas. Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies! Vanilla Candy Bar Cookies! Marble Chocolate Chunk with Rainbow Sprinkle Birthday Cookies!

I think I might have to steal the corner market on cake box cookies because oh my word…I’m in love.

Happy baking! Let me know what you discover!

staying hungry : favorite repeat! salsa chicken! and more!

I was a whirlwind of kitchen productivity on Sunday.

Two hours yielded a decent bounty. To the tune of:

1. Salsa Chicken

Yes, this is my dinner challenge meal this week. And yes, it’s totally a repeat. But I can’t help it! I’ve been wanting to make it again ever since I made it the first time in January!

2. Lunch Salads

I came home from the farmer’s market very enthusiastic about fresh greens. So I decided to make all of my salads for the week, because, you know, that’s not crazy. In the mix: Spinach, Arugula, Beets, Blueberries, Tuna, Sheep’s Milk Feta, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Apple Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette. It just works.

3. Raspberry Peach Iced Green Tea

This was such a happy accident. I started off making peach tea but didn’t have enough tea bags. So I thought I’d just throw some raspberry bags in and call it a day. But I didn’t have enough of those either. So in went two green tea bags just for the heck of it to complete the tea bag to water ratio. And of my goodness…a star was born. So good.

4. Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies

These guys need no introduction. Please make them soon. For your own sake.

I know some people don’t enjoy cooking, but I think for me it’s active therapy. Seriously. The combination of productivity and healthy food and creativity and Sunday sports and/or good music in the background…it’s like all of my favorite things in one place. Sunday afternoons in the kitchen fill my heart up and keep me sane.

Anyone else?

beka stays in rochester : good smoke bbq

This is Ashley.

She had the tall order of choosing between 8,000 different restaurants for our get together over the weekend because I make decisions about as well as I walk gracefully.

So… not very successfully. At all.

But luckily she’s a woman after my own heart and made a decision based on the dessert menu. Nicely done, Smash.

We went to Good Smoke BBQ in East Rochester, a practically brand new brick-and-mortar from a team that’s been traveling around winning BBQ competitions for years.

(FYI: the address is 326 West Commercial, not 376. If you accidentally put 376 into your GPS you will arrive about a block south of your desired location and wonder where in the world you are.)

In another feat of great decision making, Ashley ordered this turkey sandwich which was basically Thanksgiving on overdrive. Her reviews were very positive.

I opted for the pulled pork sandwich: kiddie size.

Or more aptly described: fat kiddie size.

But OH MY LAND was it ever amazing! Great smoky flavor, just enough sauce, and really crisp slaw. What more can you ask for from BBQ?

Hiding out in the back of the photo is the best cornbread I’ve ever had. Crunchy on the outside and SO moist on the inside – not dry at all like cornbread can be sometimes. And not pictured but equally delicious: a side of smoked potato salad. Wonderful.

And of course, the reason we gathered together in sisterly love at Good Smoke, the Gooey Bar:

That right there is a vanilla gooey bar topped with a banana caramel sauce and smoked bacon.


It was too decadent for description.

Now, since I’m making strides to be healthier than ever, I haven’t indulged in anything even slightly shady for over a month. So I was overdue for an oh-my-goodness-my-stomach-is-going-to-explode kind of meal. And I did really well with this one. I split everything in half to take home for later, dessert included!

At least, that was the plan.



Dessert, I just can’t quit you. And to be honest…I kind of don’t want to! You bring me too much joy!

(But only getting together every now and then is probably best for both of us.)

(But mostly for me.)

good things part III : DIY chocolate greek yogurt

Would you like a snack that tastes like dessert and has 0% fat and at least 15 grams of protein?

Me too!

That’s why I created this:

DIY Chocolate Greek Yogurt


  • 1 Container Greek Yogurt (I used 0% fat but feel free to go crazy and use 2%! I would have if I’d had it on hand!)
  • 1 Tbsp Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1/2 Tbsp Toasted Walnuts
  • 1 tsp Honey


Stir the yogurt and cocoa powder together until completely blended. Top with pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and honey. Enjoy!

(And yes, you can just buy flavored Greek yogurt. But it’s always filled with so much sugar! Even though this version is sweetened by honey I still feel better about it because the honey is a secondary ingredient, and one of only a few ingredients total. It’s so much better for you!)

good things : carmelitas

I’ve made three pans of these since Valentine’s Day with the intention of sharing them. “Intention” being the operative word.


pinned here via lulu the baker

Oh my word. These things are out of this world amazing. And since I don’t want to be the only one in a sugar coma want to share the love, here’s the recipe:


slightly adapted from lulu the baker


32 caramel squares, unwrapped
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth and then set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, baking soda, and salt.

Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 8 pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle bittersweet and semisweet chocolate over crust. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel.

Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

Side Note 1: These are especially good just slightly warm with a glass of cold milk.

Side Note 2: On Monday I’m starting a new healthy initiative, new blog (with only nutrition/fitness focus) included! (It’s not because of the Carmelitas…but it kind of is.) (And beka stays is still staying – no changes there!) Stay tuned!

beka stays hungry : valentine’s whoopie pies

I think this post is going to be my valentine this year. I love it that much.

My love for whoopie pies knows no bounds. It’s almost as intense as my love for shoo fly pie. But just almost.

Also, why is Pennsylvania fond of naming non-pie desserts as pie? Whoopie pies? Basically hand-held cake. Shoo fly pie? Basically cake with frosting on the bottom. Dear PA, perhaps we need to have a cake vs. pie tutorial. I’ll be happy to provide examples. And help sample.

But that’s neither here nor there. The important thing is that Valentine’s baking + Saturday morning + a wonderful friend  =

A pretty perfect day.

These bright red beauties came from a recipe recently featured on Annie’s Eats. As always, she did not disappoint.

Also not disappointing: a free e-book! If you are feeling a bit unprepared for your big Valentine’s date tonight (as in: you have no idea what you’ll be doing 8 hours from now) check out my friend Carrie’s free e-book 101 Cheap Dates. It’s sure to give you the inspiration you need for planning tonight’s festivities (and 100 other exciting date nights, too)!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

good things : sugar coma

Dessert and I…we’re BFF’s.

One time I was at a wedding sitting next to someone I didn’t know. We were making small talk when it was announced that the cupcakes were about to be served. “Oh my word…” I started, “I can’t wait to try these!!!” I then listed in order which ones I was most excited about (probably overkill). To which she replied, “Oh…I’m not really a dessert person.” To which I replied, “I don’t understand. What do you eat?” To which she replied, “I like cheesy things.”

And then I decided that we couldn’t be fake wedding friends anymore.

If you are in the cheesy camp then this post probably won’t make any sense to you. However, if you are normal are in the dessert camp, then you’re going to be inordinately excited about what follows (and I wholeheartedly support that!).

Yesterday I realized that I’ve been pinning/bookmarking quite a few desserts lately. And not just any desserts…over the top indulgent desserts. Since I do not wish to be thrice my size and/or instantly obtain diabetes I can’t make all of these recipes come to life at one time. It’s the sad truth.

But I can share them with all of you!

Here’s what I’d be making in the next 24 hours if sugar suddenly took on the nutritional properties of spinach:

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these caramel brownies

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these brownie cookies with peanut butter frosting (OH MY WORD…)

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these homemade snickers bars

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these chocolate peanut butter cup cookies

these chocolate chip s’mookies

these salty caramel oat bars

this mocha coconut fudge

and…most definitely…these risque brownies

I think I need to go for a run.

beka stays hungry : triple chocolate brownies

If one of your resolutions was to eat more brownies, you’re in luck. If one of your resolutions was to eat more healthy foods, like black beans, you’re also in luck.

What a great way to start a Wednesday!

I made these Triple Chocolate Brownies with black beans from the January/February issue of Everyday Food last week and oh my goodness…I’ll never look at black beans the same way again. These brownies turned out so well! I’d recommend baking them for a little less time than recommended, cutting them into 16 squares as opposed to 12, eating them while still warm, and (if you have any left after 5 minutes) freezing the rest to maintain optimal freshness. Then you can reheat them with a little jam, a few chocolate chips, and a dollop of whipped cream for an extra chocolatey dessert.

I’m about 100% sure the toppings negate the health factor of the black beans. But let’s refrain from discussing that and just focus on the facts: homemade brownies are the best.

Joy the Baker also made these and has the recipe so nicely demonstrated here. I think you should go take a look and give these a try!

(And don’t hate on the black beans. They’ll repay you for giving them a chance!)

the 25 days of pinning (and christmas eve musings) : day 24

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pinned here via here

My family is weird.

We have more desserts than people in the house right now. (Two shoo fly pies, one pan of brownies, one chocolate cake, and a rustic apple tart…and we would have made cranberry bread if I hadn’t left the recipe in Rochester. Meaning the ratio is two desserts per person. I call the pies.)

Our tree is BRIGHT RED. No really, it’s like Rudolph’s nose. If you squint from wherever you are you can probably see it.

We don’t leave the house on Christmas. If you hadn’t noticed from our similarly antisocial Thanksgiving celebration, we don’t get out much.

Speaking of, this year we’re repeating Thanksgiving for Christmas dinner this year because it was just so darn good the first time around. The turkey is brining as we speak.

And this year is happier than most because we can watch a lot of football. A LOT of football. Which means we can watch a lot less Lifetime Christmas movie marathons. (And all of God’s people said, Amen.)

I’ve never known anything but our off-kilter Christmas traditions. But really, is any family on-kilter? I think to qualify as a tried-and-true family you have to be at least a little abnormal.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Merry Christmas Eve, friends! Hope you are spending it with the ones you love in whichever fashion fits you best.