Gasparilla Cookbook


Good morning! I hope you are having a great week so far. If you live in the Tampa area then you know that Gasparilla is right around the corner and these brownies happen to be from the Gasparilla cookbook!

It is a super easy recipe and they are quite delicious. Perfect for your pirate festivities or a casual ladies night in! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 1 ounce chocolate squares unsweetened
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 well beaten eggs
  • 1 cup sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the chocolate and margarine over hot water and blend. Gradually add sugar then eggs and beat well. Add flour gradually, mixing just until it disappears. Add nuts and vanilla. Pour into two 8 x 8 2 inch pans which have been greased and paper lined. Cook 25 to 30 minutes at 350. Cut each pan into 16 squares. Let stand for 5 minutes before turning out to cool. Makes 32.


Gasparilla Cookbook

Chocolate Drop Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate Drop Oatmeal Cookies – Gasparilla Cookbook pg. 272

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups uncooked oatmeal

1/2  cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4  cup all purpose flour

This recipe was pretty straight forward and easy to follow. I substituted butter for shortening because I like the flavoring of it better. I started by combining the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. I then creamed the butter, granulated  sugar and brown sugar in a separate bowl. I added the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture until it was well incorporated.

I then added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Lastly, I added the oatmeal and chocolate chips. I used a cookie scooper to scoop out the dough and placed the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. I baked them at a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

They were a hit with everyone who tried them. This is a great quick recipe to have on hand when you are craving something sweet. I will definitely be making these again!



The Life of the Party

Double-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Double-Chocolate Shortbread CookiesThe Life of the Party, Page 116

We don’t believe there is such a thing as too much chocolate, which is why we included these delectable cookies. As a part of a dessert tray or enjoyed with a cappuccino, they are a rich treat. They make a festive presentation when cut into shapes.


1 ½ cups flour

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ cup baking cocoa

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

½ teaspoon almond extract

¾ cup mini chocolate chips


Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking cocoa and salt in a bowl. 

Beat the sugar and butter in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the almond extract. 

Add the flour mixture and beat until well blended. Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Shape the dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm. Roll out ¼ inch thick on a lightly floured surface. TIP: Instead of making everything a mess with flour, I use two pieces of saran wrap with the dough in the middle. Then, use the roller on top so the dough does not touch the roller and stick. Pell back the saran wrap when you’re ready to use the cookie cutters. 

Cut into rounds using a 2-inch round cookie cutter. Or use a festive shaped cookie cutter. Place about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until set and firm to the touch. Cool on wire racks. 

 Yield: 2 dozen


Bunco Jumble

Bunco Jumble

This is a delicious sweet and salty snack that you can be creative with to make your own. Feel free to add mini cookies, graham cracker bears, popcorn, candy corn or pecans. The possibilities are endless!

1 box mini Ritz peanut butter sandwich crackers 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
12 oz bag mini pretzel sticks or twists
1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 oz package mini or regular M&M’s chocolate candy

Combine the sandwich crackers, peanuts, and pretzels in a large roasting pan.

Heat the sugar, butter and for syrup in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the vanilla and baking soda.

Pour over the cracker mixture, stirring to coat well.
Bake at 250 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes.
Remove to waxed paper to let cool completely. Add the chocolate candies. Break up the mixture into small pieces as necessary.


White Chocolate Party Mix

White Chocolate Party Mix

This is a great dessert for a party favor. Change the coloring of your packaging and M&M’s to reflect the season you are celebrating.

1 pound white chocolate

3 cups rice Chex cereal

3 cups corn Chex cereal

3 cups Cheerios cereal

2 cups pretzel sticks

2 cups dry-roasted peanuts

1 (12-ounce) package “M&M’s” Chocolate Candies

Melt the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, stirring frequently. Combine the cereals, pretzels, peanuts and chocolate candies in a large bowl. Pour the white chocolate over the mixture slowly and stir gently until evenly coated. Spread the mixture on waxed paper and let stand until cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.




Savor the Seasons · Uncategorized

Brownie Mint Squares

Tis the Season! These brownie mint squares are the perfect dessert to bring to any holiday party or cookie exchange.  The prep is a bit more than your average brownie mix but the result are SO WORTH IT. People will be talking about these treats for many Christmas’ to come! The mint layer on top is what really sets these above the rest. Of course following the cookbook recipe for this layer is the way to go, however for those events that you just don’t seem to have the time I do have a little shortcut in mind ☺

What you’ll need:

For the brownies:

1 cup (2 sticks) of butter

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I recommend Bakers brand chocolate bars)

4 eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

For the mint layer:

½ cup (1 stick) butter softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1.4 cup crème de menthe

¼ cup (1/2 stick butter)- Yes that’s 3. 5 sticks of butter total!

1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips

3 tablespoons water

For the brownies; heat 1 cup butter and the unsweetened chocolate in a saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter and chocolate are melted, stirring frequently.

Let stand until cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the chocolate mixture with the eggs, granulated sugar, flour, vanilla, and salt in a bowl. Pour into a 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for 30 minutes.

For the mint layer:

Mix ½ cup butter, the confectioners’ sugar, crème de menth and half-and-half in a bowl. Spread over the brownie layer. Refrigerate until completely chilled. Heat ¼ cup butter, the chocolate chips, and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter and chocolate are melted, stirring frequently. Pour over the mint layer. Refrigerate until chilled. Cut into small squares to served! (I sprinkled peppermint flakes on top to add a little extra holiday cheer☺ )


If you’re short of time it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these tasty treats, skip the instructions for the mint layer and use andes mint chips instead, just pour on warm brownies immediately after taking them out of the oven. Spread melted chocolate evenly on the brownies. Refrigerate until a hard layer forms then cut and serve!



The Life of the Party

The Best Brownies

The Life of the Party, p.117

Looking for a delicious brownie recipe? Look no further because The Junior League of Tampa’s, The Life of the Party cookbook (p.117) has you covered. If you don’t own this cookbook, become friends with someone who does or go online and buy it! This recipe is quick, easy and doesn’t call for a lot of tricky ingredients. Other than the unsweetened chocolate, many of the ingredients are items you probably have on hand! The recipe also has options to modify the recipe. I enjoy the basic brownie recipe but if you want to have a caramel brownie or an espresso chocolate brownie, those are options too with this recipe.

Basic brownie batter:

31/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (baker’s chocolate)

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

For basic brownie batter, melt the chocolate (break into small pieces or squares) in a double broiler; cool. I use a metal bowl that fits into one of my sauce pans because I couldn’t find my double broiler and it worked perfectly. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and salt and beat on low until well blended. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans (optional). I just like some on top of the brownies, so again, this is an optional step. Spread the batter into a greased 8×8 inch baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons pecans on the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. Because of the consistency of the brownie you may initially think it needs a lot more baking time- be careful increasing the time too much because it may over bake them.

Cool 1 hour before cutting. For the best flavor, serve the next day. Makes about 20 small brownies despite the recipe which indicates 2-3 dozen small brownies. If you bake in a larger pan you may yield more but be sure to watch your baking time if you are adjusting the pan size.

For directions on the caramel brownie or the espresso chocolate chunk brownies check out the cookbook.


The Life of the Party · Uncategorized

Valentine’s Day Fix: Chocolate Chip Cake

One of our fabulous Cookbook Chairs shares her sweet experience from this past Valentine’s Day’s….

I don’t know about everyone else, but if you ask me, going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day is never as fun as it sounds. It’s impossible to get a reservation and when you do, you have to eat an expensive prix fixe menu with a dessert you don’t even want, that sometimes has coconut in it. Well, this year, we took a stand for chocolate (the true hero of Valentine’s Day) and stayed home to enjoy a delicious steak, a bottle of wine and the star of the show: the Chocolate Chip Cake from the Life of the Party.

Chocolate Chip Cake

Verdict: this is one of the best cakes I have ever made! It’s easy to make, only has a few ingredients, can be made ahead and really doesn’t need any icing or accompaniment – though we paired it with freshly whipped cream. It was Valentine’s day and it looked so lonely.
The hardest part of the recipe was grating the chocolate bar which was really not a big deal, but a little messy and slow. Next time I might consider just using a knife to slice the bar really thinly instead of using a cheese grater. However you make it, this is a simple, delicious recipe that everyone will love.

Confession: we ate it for breakfast too.

Choc Chip Cake

Chocolate Chip Cake, Life of the Party pg 109

The grated chocolate is the key to this light, moist cake. You might find yourself making excuses to bake it.

4 eggs

1 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 (2 layer) package yellow cake mix

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated

1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips

Confectioner’s sugar

Beat the eggs, water and oil in a mixing bowl. Add the cake mix and pudding mix gradually, beating for 2 minutes. Stir in the grated chocolate and chocolate chips. Pour into a greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Invert onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Yield 16 servings

Choc Chip Cake


The Florida Strawberry Festival By Mia Hendrick


Each year on February 2nd, Americans turn their attention to the much-anticipated, post-hibernation arrival of a sleepy groundhog by the name of Punxsutawney Phil. As legend has it, if Phil comes out of the ground and sees his shadow, we are doomed to 6 more weeks of winter weather. However, this year, Phil’s shadow was nowhere to be seen, and thus, springtime must be closer than we think.

So whether or not you choose to believe that a little rodent has the capacity to determine our seasonal fate, there’s one event here in the Sunshine State that always marks the arrival of spring, temperatures aside: the Florida Strawberry Festival of Plant City, FL. The Strawberry Festival is an annual event that dates back to the year 1930, and is one that celebrates Florida’s rich agricultural industry. Visitors come from near and far to enjoy a plethora of parades, contests, social events, and youth development programs just to name a few. And, at the center of the festival’s focus lies a dedication to preserve the historical and agricultural legacy of the Florida strawberry.

The Florida Strawberry Festival has become one of the best festivals in the United States, and ranks among the top 40 fairs in North America. More than 10,000 acres of strawberries are planted annually in the local area, and the festival is a great way to enjoy the ripe, juicy fruits that local berry farmers work so hard to harvest each year.

And so, with this year’s festival just around the corner, what better time to gather some Florida strawberry-inspired recipes from the Junior League of Tampa Cookbook Collection. There’s nothing like a little taste of spring to whisk away those winter blues.


Strawberry Shortcake with Sweet Cream Biscuits

 Capture the Coast Cookbook

If you can’t visit Plant City during the annual Strawberry Festival in February, you can bring home the heavenly flavors with this presentation of the classic shortcake.


2 cups strawberries

¼ cup sugar


2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar


2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups heavy cream


Whipped cream

           For the strawberries, rinse the strawberries. Cut into slices and place in bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir to coat. Chill, covered with plastic wrap, for 30 minutes or longer before serving. The strawberries will make their own syrup as they chill.

            For the reduction, bring the vinegar and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan. Cook until the mixture is reduced by half.

            For the biscuits, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the cream gradually. Continue to mix with floured hands until well mixed. Place on a lightly floured surface and roll 1 inch thick. Cut with 2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown.

            For the assembly, place two biscuits on each serving plate. Top with the strawberries and drizzle with the reduction. Garnish with whipped cream.

 Yield: 6-8 servings


Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

 Capture the Coast Cookbook

Melt 8 ounces of milk, dark or white chocolate with ¼ teaspoon vegetable oil in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Wash and dry 12 large, ripe strawberries. Dip the point of each strawberry in the melted chocolate to coat. Place on baking parchment to cool. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled for a luscious but light after-dinner treat.




New Year’s Celebration

Before you know it, New Year’s Eve is upon us and we’re just about spent (financially, energy and time wise).  Throwing a New Year’s party is probably the last thing on our minds; however,  with The Junior League of Tampa’s Cookbook Collection, we have put together a simple and easy to assemble menu that will kick off your 2013 to the perfect start!

New Year’s Eve Celebration Menu

Mini Tomato Rounds

Capture the Coast

This simple appetizer will earn rave reviews at your next gathering.

¼ cup mayonnaise

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 French baguette

4 plum tomatoes, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the mayonnaise, cream cheese, basil, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper in a bowl and mix well.  Chill, covered, until serving time.  Slice the baguette into sixteen rounds.  Place on a baking sheet.  Bake until toasted.  Spread each round with the cream cheese spread.  Top each with a tomato slice.  Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper.

Yield:16 servings

Bacon and Swiss Tarts

Savor the Seasons

1 (10 count) can flaky biscuits

8 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled

1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped

½ small onion, chopped

3 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded

½ cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon basil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut each biscuit into thirds and press into greased miniature muffin cups.  Combine the bacon, tomato, onion, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise and basil in a bowl and mix well.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin cups.  Do not overfill.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. 

Yield: 30 servings


Good Luck Bean Dip

Savor the Seasons

 A delicious way to get your lucky serving of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.

3 (15 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained

5 to 8 jalapeno chiles from a jar, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon jalapeno chile liquid from a jar

½ onion, chopped

1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Mash a few of the black-eyed peas in a bowl with a fork.  Add the remaining black-eyed peas, the jalapenos, jalapeno liquid, onion, green chiles and garlic and mix well.  Combine the butter and Cheddar cheese in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water and heat until melted, stirring frequently.  Add the black-eyed pea mixture and mix well.  Cook until heated through.  Serve warm with corn chips or tortilla chips.  You may prepare the mixture in the microwave, if desired.  Combine the butter and cheese in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on Medium, stirring every 30 seconds.  Add the black-eyed pea mixture and cook until heated through, stirring every 30 seconds.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


Easy Chocolate Truffles

EveryDay Feasts

An elegant, sweet treat at the end of a meal or the perfect gift.  Kids can make their own version by rolling the truffles in colored sprinkles. 

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup sifted cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles or finely chopped sprinkles or finely chopped hazelnuts

Place the chocolate in a non-reactive bowl.  Microwave on High just until melted, stirring every 30 seconds.  Combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in bowl and mix well.  Add the chocolate and vanilla and mix well.  Shape into small balls.  Roll in the cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles or hazelnuts.  Place on a waxed paper-lined tray and chill for 2 hours or longer.

Yield: about 1 dozen

Cava Cocktail

Savor the Seasons

This cocktail is the perfect drink to accompany our Holiday Tapas menu or any holiday open house.

2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice

1 cup brandy

1 cup Triple Sec

½ cup Chambord

4 cups ginger ale, chilled

1 (750-milliliter) bottles cava, chilled

Combine the pineapple juice, brandy and liqueurs in a large bowl.  Chill, covered for 4 hours or longer.  Pour the mixture into a punch bowl.  Add the ginger ale and cava and mix well.  You may substitute extra-dry Champagne for the cava.

Yield: 29 (4 ounce) servings