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  • June 2018
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Gooey Chocolate Butter Cookies

Paula Deens Chocolate Butter Cookies

On Sunday we had a few family members over for a bit of pre-holiday visitation. We opted for  pot-luck appetizer kind of food and everyone brought something. I was not in charge of dessert but could not resist making these cookies as an extra treat. They were so easy and any cookie with “gooey” in the title is sure to be a win.


  • 1 (8-ounce) brick cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (18-ounce) box moist chocolate cake mix
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


  • Preheat Oven to 350
  • Beat cream cheese and butter together
  • Once smooth beat in vanilla & Egg
  • Mix in cake mix. The batter will be thick, it will want to eat your beaters up and climb up them, it will stick to everything do the best you can with a hard spatula to help combine everything
  • Chill in fridge 2 hrs
  • Roll tablespoon size balls in powdered sugar and place on ungreased cookie tray 2 inches apart
  • Bake 12 minutes
  • Cool completely and dust with additional powdered sugar.


Football Brownies

Football Brownies

I have been a major slacker in the kitchen. I’m quite a dainty eater at the moment so I haven’t been cooking much at all. Hopefully this is all going to change in the next few weeks as the holidays are upon us.

So I’ve got this gorgeous friend, Christa, who luckily gets to be family too since she’s married to my fabulous cousin together they have 2 heartbreakingly handsome boys. She made these fabulous brownies for her oldests football banquet and has been lovely enough to share here. Enjoy!

Rachel has only been asking me to do this for a year or so.  Finally I have something cute and worth sharing.  I hope you enjoy:

 My family lives and breathes sports of all kinds.  We play, watch, cheer, and even party around sports – whether it be youth sports, amateur sports, or even professional – WWE – you name it.  My boys (7 and 2) do not play with toys, instead they favor anything with a ball, bat, stick, glove, hoop or bases.  Who knows what Santa will bring this year?  Not many families can say that the whole family unit loves sports.  Some members pretend to watch, pretend to be interested, or downright let other know that they loathe sports (accchhheemmmm…Rachel).  We however cannot get enough of them. 

We can often be found on the weekends at youth or high school sporting events, running around in our backyard, or of course one of our favorite things to do is entertain friends and family around lots of beer, food and one of our favorite teams.  Which one you might ask, well the Philadelphia Phillies or the Pittsburgh Steelers….yes, I did say Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  Many people ask how this happened…the condensed version can best be explained in one word: COMPROMISE.  Before I married the man of my dreams we only had to settle one major debate: we would NOT live in a divided household.  Some people compromise on religions before marrying , determining what faith and beliefs they will teach their children.  Nope, not the McCusker’s we compromise on sports teams.  My Dad raised me a Philly girl…Phillies, Eagles, 76ers.  My husband on the other hand has familial ties to Pittsburgh…Steelers, Pirates, Penguins.  So after a fair amount of debate it was decided; Phillies (because the Pirates blow – always have and probably always will), Steelers (because the Eagles have broken my heart way too many times over the years), Penguins (Too many greats to even start naming names – even though I have to admit that from time to time I do root for the Flyers whenever I catch a game), and there was no debate that “as for me and mine” we’ll cheer for Penn State.

Our oldest son Gavin is seven, and of course inherited his mothers athletic abilities, ok, and SOME of his fathers.  He plays football, basketball, ice hockey and baseball….whew.  How do we keep up with him?  I have no idea.  This past fall was Gavin’s first tackle football season.  His team was incredible.  I am not saying that to brag, but to tell you that his team of seven and eight year olds, learned a complete offense and defense and ran plays that high school teams utilize.  It was incredible.  They went undefeated, pretty much crushing every team they played.  One coach came up to ours and stated, “I’ve been coaching Knee Hi Football for over 10 years, and your team, by far, is the best team I’ve ever seen!”  The season finally wrapped up on Halloween weekend.  Don’t think the Mac’s have been twiddling their thumbs though, Hockey already started way back in September, so we’re already underway.   

To conclude the football season, we have been planning a HUGE BASH for the boys.  Everyone is so proud of them.  We rented the community center in our town so that all “cheerleaders” of the boys could attend.  We have over 60 people coming!  There will be decorations, a slide show, the boys will be receiving huge trophies and “undefeated” t-shirts.  It’s guaranteed to be a ton of fun.    We opted for pot luck as this would be the easiest way to feed the masses.  We are ordering $100 worth of pizza (provided by the league), and then everything else will be provided by the players families.  So what did I sign up to bring?  BROWNIES!  I decided on this for three reasons; 1 – quick, 2 – Easy, 3 – Cheap.  That was the plan at least….then I “kicked it up a notch!”

Football Brownies


  •  1 Box of Duncan Hines Brownie Mix (family size)
  • Ingredients per box (water, oil, eggs)
  • 1 Container Duncan Hines Chocolate icing
  • 1 Bag Nestle Milk Chocolate Mini Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Easy Decorator – piping bag and tip – (twist cap and ready to ice)
  • 1 emptied soup can – bent into an oval
  • Large Bar Pan (Pampered Chef of course, is there any other kind?)


  • To make the football brownies. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Spray Large bar pan with cooking spray (most P Chef cookware does not need to be pre sprayed but since the footballs need cut out of the pan, it just increases the ease). 
  • Mix brownie batter as specified on box – adding oil, water and eggs. 
  • Once blended together fold in ½ bag of mini chocolate chips. 
  • Once combined pour batter into greased bar pan. 
  • Cook for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out “almost” clean.  You do not want to overcook the brownies as they will become rock hard on the bar pan. 
  • Once done baking, let cool overnight.  This seemed to work better. 
  •  Use the emptied soup can as a cookie cutter to cut out the desired shape. 
  • You may need a sharp knife as well, to carefully pry the brownie shape out of the can. 
  • Place cut brownie on decorative plate and ice with chocolate icing. 
  •  Once all brownies are iced, take the piping bag and pipe the following design:
  • )  +++  (   For a football
    ) (  For a Baseball
    ) (  and add a horizontal line for a basketball.  

These will be great for any type of football party or Super Bowl party.  I box probably makes about 20 footballs.  Could also be done with baseballs, basketballs, etc.  Just all in all a fun, quick and easy idea – and of course remember the team colors for the decorative icing.  Food coloring for vanilla icing could also achieve the desired look of your team.  Gavin saw the finished product this morning before heading to the bus and he thought it was awesome.  Not only did they look cute, but I saved all the scrap brownies for the boys to mix in with vanilla ice cream for the rest of the week. 

While I haven’t been cooking I have been updating a bit at thegrowinggibsons.blogspot.com Today I have a sneak peak at my neuorsis over chair rails and paint.

Pretty In Pink Strawberry Cupcakes

Strawberry Cupcakes

I got this recipe and this picture from QuickandSimple.com. I had to use their picture because my piping skills are a work in progress and well I just didn’t take pictures of them.

On Saturday Ms. Michelle and I had Mrs. Reginas nearest and dearest over for a little celebration before little baby Allison arrives. Since there were 8 of us we decided to have a luncheon with Panini’s, salad and the best gossip instead of embarrassing everyone with lame shower games. Kind of an adult tea party. Seriously, who wants to guess the melted candy out of a diaper, gross. Personally I had a great time, I hope everyone else did too!

For dessert I made these Strawberry cupcakes. I was a bit leery of them and unsure of how they were going to turn out. I have never had so many people compliment cupcakes before. I was a bit surprised. So much so that even I tried one and enjoyed it. (I don’t like cake)

This is going to definitely be my go-to cupcake, especially for girly baby showers.


  • 1 Box Yellow Cake Mix (I used the beautiful Betty)
  • 1 Can Cream Cheese Icing
  • 3/4 C. Milk
  • 3/4 C. Oil
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Packet Strawberry Gelatin (3 oz)
  • 1 C. Strawberries Chopped w/ Juice
  • 1/2 C. Strawberries Sliced for Garnish (optional)
  • Red Food Coloring (To make the icing pink!)


  • Forget the mixing instructions on the back of the box. Use the measurements above.
  • Mix cake mix, oil, eggs, milk, chopped strawberries and gelatin in a large bowl and combine with mixer. Scrape down the sides as necessary. Do not over mix, should not take longer than 2 minutes to combine.
  • Scoop batter into 24 lined cupcake cup filling it 3/4 full
  • Bake according to time and temp on the cake box. Usually 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Start checking them at 20 minutes.
  • Mix the red food coloring with the icing until you get your desired color of pink!
  • Allow the cupcakes to cool at least 30 minutes before icing.

 This did not take up nearly enough of my day.

Feel free to stop by TheGrowingGibsons.blogspot.com if you are interested in my ever growing midsection. I updated this week but since pregnancy is much more anticlimactic than anticipated its not edge of the seat thrilling.

Pear Cake with Pine Nuts

I suck!

Seriously, blowtastic.

My inability to blog as of late has not been linked to my lack of excitement in my life. Rather, I don’t know what to share with you all. Mid July the hubs and I decided we were going to turn to Nutrisystem so cooking hasn’t been happening.

Update on that? The Man is down near 25lbs, looking hot too! I, on the other hand, took one look at the small lunchable like pizza laughed and said, “bleh”.  I may give it a whirl again but for the time being I am not.

With the Man on Nutrisystem and I on people food it’s added a bit of enjoyment to my evening meals. For example, yesterday he had a large salad and a Nutri Pizza. I had a (by ‘a’ I mean 2) Stoufers French Bread Pizzas with Ranch dippy. Don’t read too much into it, it was a cheat dinner, or so that’s they way I’m playing it. Don’t judge.

I smoked on Saturday July 31! ::gasp:: Now you may judge. I was having a really really bad week and one day I might just share that with you but for now it’s my secret. ::sticks thumbs on temples and sings nanny nanny boo boo:: I didn’t have a whole cigarette, instead I randomly searched out people in my party who would share drags with me. In my mind this made it all better. So I ruined my most phenomenal non-smoking streak ever. Back on the wagon I guess! I have not touched since that day though so I’m good, right?

Now the cake! It’s like a coffee cake and is so freaking fab! Mi Madre watched our dogs on July 4th so I made her this cake. Even trade right? I stick you with my annoying furbabies and you get a cake? I thought so!

It’s from Cooking Light circa 2001 and each serving has 252 Calories


  • 1 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Chilled Butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 Tbls Pine Nuts
  • 1/4 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/3 Cup Fat-Free Sour Cream
  • 1/4 Cup 1% Low-Fat Milk
  • 1 Tsp Lemon Rind
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Lg. Egg
  • Cooking Spray
  • 2 Cup Thin Sliced Pear


  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Combine flour, sugar & salt in large bowl and whisk well
  • Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives (see below) until it resembles a coarse meal.
  • Remove 1/3 cup flour mixture & place in small bowl, stir in cinnamon & pine nuts and set aside
  • Combine the next 6 ingredients (sour cream through egg) with the remaining flour, beat on medium speed until well blended
  • Coat 9-in round pan with cooking spray and pour in batter
  • Layer the top with the sliced pear
  • Sprinkle the flour, cinnamon & pine nut mixture on top
  • Bake for 45 min

Pastry blender? WTF no I don’t have one nor do I know what they are talking about. I tried two knives and that was a waste of time and my butter started warming and even I knew that wasn’t ok. So I got out the potato masher. Why I have one of these I have no idea, but I did and it saved my pear cake.

It was fabulous!

Cinnamon Buns

I know they don’t look all that appetizing but it was the first go round.

This recipe was chock full of errors and mistakes. The picture alone shows the over crowded and slightly too done buns. Also do you see any icing on those babies? No, I didn’t think so.

Did any of this change the fact that they were ooey, gooey, sweet and delicious? NO!

I was going to make the Pioneer Womans buns that she featured on Fox and Friends until I realized she used 8 CUPS of flour and other massively large amounts of ingredients. I searched far and wide looking for an easy dough recipe that used normal quantities. I finally settled on Paula Deen and set to work.

This is where I learned that you cannot, no way absolutely cannot make a dough with a whisk. Epic fail doesn’t even begin to cover what was sitting in my mixing bowl. Every time I think about it I stop and bonk myself on the head and say duh, that was stupid.

Weeping, internet recipe searches via the iPhone and lots of whining later I remembered I had a bread machine. Certainly a bread machine would have a sweet dough recipe and according to the booklet that came along with it, I didn’t have to do anything but feed it ingredients.

Let me just say that this thing is amazing. I just put the ingredients in hit “mix and need” and left to get my nails done. When I returned the dough was mixed, kneaded, risen, soft and ready to be rolled. This is the day I truly fell in love with an appliance.

If you don’t have a bread machine, go get one. They are worth their weight in cinnamon rolls alone. Just kidding! You can easily make the dough in a mixer with a dough hook. Just set your mixing bowl in a pan filled with hot water to get it to rise properly, about 1-2 hrs should do.

My next issue was where in the world I was going to roll out 2lbs of dough. I didn’t have my schmancy new counter yet.

P.S. I’m only giving you the recipe for 1.5 lbs of dough because as you can see my pan was severely over crowded.

SHHH! That’s me in the dining room behind our nice, somewhat new dining room table.

That’s the Mans empty chair, he was at a Dude Fest far far away.

That’s my messy, floury dough rolled out on the dining room table

That’s still the messy dough although now it’s covered in a cup of melted butter, 2 cups of sugar and bucket of cinnamon. Still on the dining room table.

I’m going to leave the picture of me rolling and cutting the dough out. From where I am now the Man could get to me within 20 minutes or so. Thats just not long enough to finish everything I want to in this life.

So here’s what you do…
Printable Version

  • 2 Eggs at Room Temperature (gently warm by placing whole eggs in a bowl w/ moderately hot tap water for 10 mins)
  • 6 Tbls Water
  • 4 1/2 Tbls Sour Cream
  • 4 1/2 Tbls Unsalted Butter, Room Temp. cut in 1/2 in pieces
  • 4 1/2 Tbls Sugar
  • 3 Cup + 1 Tbls Bread Flour (I used all-purpose, I have no idea the difference, wing it)
  • 2 1/4 tsp Yeast (active dry or instant)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 Cup Melted Butter
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Walnuts or raisins (if you’re into that kind of thing) 
  • Pre-heat oven to 350
  • Follow your bread machines instructions if you’re using one for the dough. If not see below
  • Put all of the ingredients in the order listed into your mixing bowl
  • Use the dough hook to mix everything together. Walk away.
  • Once the dough is all combined remove the hook and put dough in a bowl spritzed with cooking spray.
  • Place the bowl in a pan filled with hot water
  • Cover with a towel and wait 1-2 hours until the dough doubles in size
  • Once risen punch the dough down and roll out into a 15×9 inch rectangle
  • Pour melted butter over surface
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
  • Sprinkle with raisins or walnuts, if your into that kind of thing)
  • Beginning on the 15in side roll the dough and pinch edges to seal
  • Slice into 12 to 15 slices
  • Coat the bottom of your pan with more melted butter and sprinkle with sugar
  • Place rolls close together in pan and let rise for another hour
  • Bake for about 30 mins (mine should have come out at 25)
  • Melt butter in a sauce pan
  • Add powdered sugar and vanilla
  • Add hot water 1tbls at a time until it reaches desired consistency
  • Pour over slightly cooled rolls

Seriously, when I said walk away, I meant it. Get out of your kitchen. Let me mixer do what it’s supposed to do. I almost lost a finger or two when I felt that I could do a better job and stuck my hand in the machine to help combine everything. It will eventually all come together into a nice little ball of dough.

You also can’t see my icing because I added to much water and poured over the flaming hot rolls. It all just seeps down into the dough. Really, do it tablespoon by tablespoon.

And a lifetime and a good work out later you have wonderful cinnamon rolls. For sure this will be a company only kind of task if I ever do it again. Even though it’s all waiting for the dough to rise it’s still felt like a major pain in the patoot for me.

I am currently on a mission to find an easier way to do this. One that doesn’t include a pressurized can and cute dough boy.

Operation Baking GALS

Operation Baking Gals (give a little support) is an organization of volunteers who send homemade baked goods to solders stationed in areas of war. Each month there is a new group of soldiers selected to receive the baked goods. You can read there stories and choose who you’d like to send to. Each soldier gets a group of about 20 bakers, who each send him a package of goodies. The idea is to show them that their sacrifice for our freedom is noticed and appreciated.

They review every baker and today I got my acceptance email saying that I was welcome and could start signing up for rounds!

I just finished signing up to bake for Jesse. Jesse has been stationed in Afghanistan for 6 months and has an additional 6 months to go. While Jesse was away he became a father, he will meet his son for the first time around his first birthday. I got a little weepy and couldn’t imagine not having Paul around for the first year of our childs life.

These men and women sacrifice so much for us and so many are unacknowledged. I know baked goods really can’t compare to what a soldier has done for me, but it’s still something. It’s what I can do. Hopefully it will help someone smile or at least make them feel appreciated.

Now I just need to figure out what to send!! Maybe alittle 7 Layer Magic Bars

Apple Dumplin’s

I could and should be talking about that stupid slow cooker corned beef. I’m choosing to ignore it for the time being because I don’t even know where to begin. I will always be one up on the rutabaga because I will never use one again.

To make up for my very tasty but PITA corned beef I treated myself and the in-laws with apple dumplin’s. Another Pioneer Woman favorite. I swear, I’m going to leave her alone! I just had to try these.

I’m not talking church bazaar apple dumplings with a whole apple, dry crust and almost no cinnamon-ey gooey goodness. There is nothing dry about these dumplings.

The best part is there are only 8 ingredients and 10 minutes to prepare (40 to bake).


  • 2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and cored
  • 2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 2 Sticks Butter
  • 1 1/2 cup White Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 can Mt. Dew (yes, for real)
  • Cinnamon & Nutmeg


  • Pre-heat oven to 350
  • Cut the apples in haf and cut each half into 4 wedges.
  • Wrap each wedge in a crescent roll
  • Place all 16 wrapped wedges in a buttered 9×13 pan
  • In a small saucepan, melt the 2 sticks of butter.
  • Dump in all of the sugar and mix just to combine
  • Add vanilla and mix just to combine, you want it lumpy and gooey
  • Pour butter mixture over wedges. The butter and sugar will separate in the pot causing most of the butter to come out first. Evenly distribute the butter over the wedges and then the sugar, don’t try to get them to combine.
  • Pour the can of Mt. Dew around the edges of the pan
  • Top with as much cinnamon as you want and a couple dashes of nutmeg.
  • Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

OHHHH MY! I ate 5 of them yesterday. 3 of them after I realized I had to go fat clothes shopping prior to our family vaca at the end of March. No self-control. The Man responded with “I know”, I’m not sure how I should take that! I don’t think I will ponder that one to hard. DUDE, I’m jiggle because I love. And I love a lot!

I’m supposed to have 5 servings of fruit and I had 5 pieces of apple! Right? Anyone? It’s all about denial!

Warm or room temp they are good. Always pair them with vanilla ice cream!


Turn the stove burner off when your done melting and pouring your butter/sugar mixture. Don’t be me and leave the burner on low with no pot on it for 40 minutes, then take your dumplins out to cool and place the pan on lit burner to walk away for 20 minutes while the deliciousness “cools”. Thank goodness it was on low, we only lost 2 dumplins to crispy bottoms. This is the second time I’ve done this, both with a baked good. The first time was much worse. You’d think I would have learned. I wish I knew where my brain was at that moment.