Tuesday, November 20, 2012

cinnamon biscoff macarons

I bought a kitchen scale over a year ago with all intentions of making macarons. I'd read how long and hard the process of making them could be and kept putting it off because I was so nervous I wouldn't get it right. But with help from my pro macaron-maker mom (through facetime) I made perfectly crispy, soft, chewy macarons on the first try! I couldn't be happier with how these macarons turned out and once you get the hang of the process, I don't think they would take nearly as long the second time around. These cookies have a light crispy shell, with a soft chewy center that is unlike any other cookie. Then you add the biscoff filling and they are irresistible, one of my favorite cookies I've ever baked!

Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you get leggy, crispy, soft, chewy macarons: 

1. Use older eggs, like let your eggs sit in the fridge for a week or two

2. Always weigh everything before starting, it's so much easier

3. I would recommend using a mesh strainer to sift the dry ingredients

4. Let your macarons have time to 'mature' before eating. Meaning, after you bake and fill them, don't eat them for at least 24 hours. Let them sit in the fridge for at least a day. They are good when they come out of the oven but they are 10000x better after you let them sit for a day or two, trust me

Cinnamon Macarons
makes 35 sandwich cookies

for the cookies:
7 ounces powdered sugar
4  onces almond meal/flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of cream of tarter
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

large pastry bag
1/2 inch round pastry tip (I used #12 Wilton tip)

for the biscoff filling:
1 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 c. marshmallow fluff
1/2 c. creamy biscoff
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2-4 tbsp whole milk

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Print the macaron template here and slide this under the parchment paper (don't forget to remove it before you slide the macarons in the oven!). 

Pulse 1/3 of the powdered sugar, cinnamon and all of the almond meal together in a food processor until it forms a fine powder. Pour this mixture into a mixing bowl along with the remaining powdered sugar and sift 3 times. Set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment, whisk whites and cream of tarter on medium speed until foamy and slightly bubbly. Gradually add granulated sugar until incorporated and scrape down sides of bowl and increase mixer speed to high, whisking until very stiff and glossy. Note: when you pull the beater out of the egg whites, my egg whites stuck to the beater and created a crater in the bowl. This is how stiff you want your egg whites to be. 

Fold in 1/2 of the sifted dry mixture to the egg white mixture and continue until it has all been added and the mixture is smooth. 

Transfer batter to a large pastry bag fitted with small round pastry tip and pipe rounds onto parchment paper using your macaron template. Hold the pastry bag straight up and squeeze straight down and let the batter form a circle on it's on. If you want to smooth the small peaks in the center of the cookies, wet your finger with water and lightly push down on the peaks to ensure smooth, flat macarons. 

Once you have piped all the macarons, light bang the cookie sheets on the counter to release any air bubbles in the cookies. Let cookies stand on cookie sheet for 45 minutes or until they no longer stick to your finger when lightly touched. 

Bake one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway though. Let macarons cool for 2-3 minutes on baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack. Let them cool before filling them.

To make the filling:

Cream the butter, biscoff and marshmallow fluff together. Slowly add in the powdered sugar and scrape down sides of the bowl after each addition. Lastly add milk and beat until smooth and creamy. Pipe filling onto a cooled macaron shell and sandwich with another shell and repeat until all shells are used. 

Macaron recipe from Sur la table

Sunday, October 28, 2012

two-ingredient pumpkin muffins

Well it's been awhile! I've been cooking, just not blogging. Can't say I have any great excuse for not sharing any new recipes over the past few months. But hopefully this recipe makes you happy and you forgive me. You only need two ingredients! But if you want them to be extra pumpkin-y, then they are 3 ingredient muffins because you should add some pumpkin pie spice. My boss brought these into work for a breakfast pot luck and on the first bite, I had to know the recipe. They are so moist, like melt in your mouth and had the perfect amount of pumpkin spice. I could not believe when she told me they only had two ingredients in them, they tasted like they had a stick or two of butter in them. I couldn't wait to share the recipe because you can have hot pumpkin muffins in as little as 25 minutes, it's that easy. 

Ok so now you are probably thinking... there is no way that nutty, buttery topping is only two ingredients. You're right. I tricked you a little. The picture shown below is of the muffins with no pecan topping, which are still amazing. But add a little butter, sugar and chopped pecans and they are unbelievably good. 

Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins
makes 19 large muffins

for the muffins:
1 box of spice cake mix
1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, optional

for the pecan streusel:
1/4 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c. flour
4 tbsp cold butter

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease or line 19 muffin cups. 

In a medium bowl, beat the pumpkin puree and the spice mix together until well combined. Spoon mixture evenly between 19 muffin cups. 

If making the streusel -- 
Combine chopped pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour and stir together. Add the butter and mix until it resembles a crumble. Sprinkle topping on batter. 

Bake muffins for 20-23 minutes or until set. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

lemon berry crumb cake

My mom gave me the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook for my birthday back in May and I've read it front to back. I love Christina Tosi's baking success story and mostly the fact that she isn't scared to share so many of her kitchen secrets in the cookbook. I won't give any of the secrets away but I will tell you that while the recipes can seem intimidating (example: one of her recipes calls for freeze dried corn), it always results in an incredible dessert. My mom and I made this lemon berry crumble cake that was inspired by Tosi and her layer cake techniques and absolutely loved it. This recipe is not in her cookbook, though I definitely felt more confident in my ability to assemble it after reading the cookbook. The bottom two vanilla cake layers are brushed with warm blueberry preserves, topped with homemade lemon curd, white chocolate berry milk crumbs and raspberry frosting (that tastes like real fruit!). To finish it off, the top cake layer is covered in raspberry frosting and sprinkled with lots of the white chocolate berry milk crumbs. Now go make this cake, it's worth all the work. Oh and the cake will keep in the freezer for up to two weeks, so it's the perfect dessert to make ahead of time for a special occasion.

Recipe here:

Friday, July 6, 2012

berry crumble bars

I'm backkk! I know you missed me or at least my treats. Honestly, these berry crumble bars were too good not to share. Berries are the one millionth reason I love summer. When I walked into the grocery store today, I had the choice of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or blackberries... all in one place! I'm like a pack rat when berry season comes around, I buy a ton and throw them in the freezer to find them a year later and make bars like these. Ha just kidding, I used fresh berries to make these but I will not think twice about making them again this fall with frozen berries. These bars have a buttery, shortbread crust, layered with sweet gooey berries, and a sprinkle of crumble on top... it doesn't get much easier. The hardest part of these bars is waiting for them to completely cool before cutting into them. I say that wait time is only necessary if these bars are going to make it out of your kitchen because I'm not sure mine will. I used blackberries and raspberries in these bars but strawberries or blueberries or any mix of them would work.

Berry Crumble Bars
makes 9x13 pan

for the berry layer:
5 c. berries (any mix of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or blueberries)
juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 c.)
1/4-1/2 c. sugar, depending on sweetness of berries
4 tsp of cornstarch (or 8 tbsp of all-purpose flour)

for the crumble:
1 c. sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. cold, unsalted butter -- grated
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line or grease a 9x13 pan.

Stir together berries, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch. Set aside. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, baking powder, and flour. Using a pasty blender or your hands, mix the cold, grated butter and the egg into the flour mixture until it is crumbly. Spread half of this mixture in the 9x13 pan and pat down. Evenly spread the berry mixture over the crust. Sprinkle the remaining flour/butter mixture on top of the berry layer. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until berries are bubbly and crust is slightly golden. Cool bars completely before cutting into squares.

And make sure to check out the crumble creations from the lovely bloggers listed below, we started a recipe club last month and will be picking a new recipe each month to each make our own way!

Parsley Sage at The Deep Dish: http://psdeepdish.blogspot.com/
Maureen at the Orgasmic Chef: http://www.orgasmicchef.com/

Matt at Grad School Chef: http://www.gradschoolchef.com/
Claire at Simply Sweet Justice: http://www.simplysweetjustice.com

Adapted recipe from: Erica's Sweet Tooth

Friday, June 1, 2012

italian cream cupcakes

Italian cream cake is what I ask my mom to make me for my birthday or really any special occasion. It's my absolute favorite. My mom always uses this Cooking Light Italian creme cake recipe but whenever I try to make it myself, it never turns out quite as good as hers. So I decided if I was going to make Italian cream cake myself, I wanted to try a different recipe to see how it compared. I found this Italian cream cupcakes recipe from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen that uses cream of coconut in the cupcakes and the frosting. For the first 20 years of my life I hated coconut and now it seems like I'm trying to make up for lost time because I can't seem to get enough now, the more coconut the better. I'd never used cream of coconut before and was curious so I decided to go for it. These cupcakes were a completely different flavor than my mom's Italian cream cake because of all the added coconut but they still turned out amazing. But that might not be saying much because I would eat almost anything sprinkled with toasted coconut and pecans!

Italian Cream Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

for the cupcakes: 
1 box French Vanilla cake mix
1 stick of butter, melted
4 eggs
1/2 c. cream of coconut (I found it in the Hispanic section of my grocery store)
1/2 c. water
3/4 c. pecans, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut

for the frosting:
1 stick of butter, slightly softened
8 oz block cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp cream of coconut
3 c. powdered sugar

for the topping:
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut 
1/2 c. pecans

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line or grease 24 muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, combine cake mix, butter, eggs, cream of coconut and water. Beat on low speed for about a minute and then increase speed to medium high and beat for another minute. Fold in coconut and pecans. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the toothpick test comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool before frosting.

In a clean medium bowl, beat butter, sugar, cream cheese and cream cheese until combined. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat on low until combined. Increase mixer speed to high and beat for a minute and a half until frosting is light and fluffy. 

For the toasted coconut and pecan topping -- place the coconut and the pecans in a pan and turn the stove on medium heat. Stir constantly for 10 minutes or until coconut is golden brown. Once topping is toasted, set aside and let cool. Once cool, sprinkle on cupcakes.

And make sure to check out the Italian cream cake creations from the lovely bloggers listed below, we just started a recipe club and will be picking a new recipe each month to each make our own way!

Parsley Sage at The Deep Dish: http://psdeepdish.blogspot.com/
Maureen at the Orgasmic Chef: http://www.orgasmicchef.com/
Matt at Grad School Chef: http://www.gradschoolchef.com/
Claire at Simply Sweet Justice: http://www.simplysweetjustice.com

Thursday, May 31, 2012

chipotle shrimp kabobs

By throwing a Kabobs from Around the World party on Saturday night as part of June's Foodbuzz 24x24, I found a new go-to summer meal. I love anything I can throw on the grill, it makes life so much easier. These chipotle shrimp kabobs were my favorite from the party, the sweet mango and onion cuts some of the spiciness of the chipotle pepper. I decided to try brining the shrimp before marinating it because I read in Cook's Illustrated (best food magazine ever) that it improves the taste and texture of the shrimp. I used salt and sugar in the brine because the salt helps improve the texture and the sugar adds flavor and as Cook's Illustrated puts it "promotes better browning." I'm not sure the brining made a huge difference but the shrimp did turn out great so I'll give partial credit to the brining and partial credit to the delicious marinade.

Chipotle Shrimp Kabobs
makes 20-30 small kabobs, depending on size of shrimp

for the brine: 
1 pounds uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used frozen but fresh works too)
1 cup of water
2 cups of ice
1/4 c. kosher salt
1/4 c. brown sugar

for the marinade:
1/8 cup packed brown sugar 
1 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped plus 1/8 cup adobo sauce 
3 garlic cloves, minced 
1 tablespoons water 
1 tablespoons lime juice 
1/2 tablespoon olive oil 
1/8 teaspoon salt 

1 small sweet onion, cut into chunks
1  mango, cut into cubes 
skewers (soak in water for at least 30 minutes before assembling kabobs) 

 To make the brine:
Place thawed shrimp in water, sugar, salt mixture and refrigerate for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from brine and set aside.

To make the marinade:
In a small saucepan, bring brown sugar, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, garlic, water, lime juice, olive oil and salt to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool completely. 

Transfer cooled marinade mixture to a large resealable plastic bag. Add the shrimp; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

To make the skewers:
Layer mango cube, onion chunk and shrimp on skewers. Repeat until you have about two inches free on each end of the skewer.Grill for 6 minutes, turning them once time or when the shrimp turn light pink. 

Recipe from: Taste of Home

Sunday, May 27, 2012

foodbuzz 24x24: kabobs from around the world (and beer too!)

This month Foodbuzz chose to sponsor my Kabobs from Around the World party idea! I had so much fun hosting a Foodbuzz 24x24 party last August and couldn't wait to do it again. Foodbuzz 24x24 is where 24 food bloggers each host a dinner party or in this case a kabob party on the same day and share their parties on each of their blogs. I've always loved trying foods from around the world and by making bite- sized kabobs to represent flavors from different countries, you get a chance to taste travel to six different countries in one meal! To make the party a little more fun, I stocked up on beers from around the world to pair with each of the kabobs. If you decide to throw a similar party, I'd recommend having small drink glasses and arranging them into a beer flight so you can pair each mini kabob with the beer from that country. All the kabobs turned out great, but I'd say the favorite of the night was the Mexican kabob that layered chipotle shrimp with sweet onion and mango. Below is a list of all the kabobs I made for the party and I'll be sharing the recipes this week. 

Pictured--top left to right:
Mexico: chipotle shrimp with sweet onions and mango -- paired with Dos Equis
Greece: vegetable souvlaki served with homemade hummus -- paired with Aris beer
Thailand: mango chicken -- paired with Chang beer
USA: low country shrimp boil kabobs -- paired with Abita Golden beer
Jamaica: jerk chicken and pineapple -- served with Red Stripe beer
Lebanon: kafta beef kabobs served with tzatziki sauce

Here's a closer look at each kabob:

And can't forget the beer: 

 I'll be posting the recipes for these kabobs throughout the week, so check back!

Friday, May 11, 2012

oatmeal peanut butter cup carmelitas

From the moment I meet someone, I want to know what they do, what their favorite restaurant is, what they ate for lunch and the list goes on. I've realized I mostly post my favorite foods, tell you I love them (which I really do) and leave you with a recipe. So this time I'm leaving you with a recipe and a little extra.

My family moved around a lot when I was little. I was born in Nashville, TN, moved to Singapore for two years, then to Montreal, Canada and by the time I was 8 years old we settled in Raleigh, NC. Now I live and work in Charlotte, NC

I studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia during college and day dream from my desk at least once a week about the Whitsunday Islands

I wear a lot of black and grey, like a lot

I don't drink coffee

My all -time favorite desserts are oatmeal cookies (no raisins) and berry cobbler with ice cream

I talk to my mom every day, most likely multiple times a day

I can never have enough nail polish

I hate mayonnaise, olives and mushrooms

I sadly love Lifetime movies (especially True Movie Thursday's)

My favorite TV show is The Good Wife

My favorite restaurant is Mellow Mushroom

I play in Excel all day, everyday (except the weekends)

And as I'm typing these, all thoughts circle back to food...welcome to my life!

Ok now to these bars. I just bought an individual squares brownie pan and couldn't wait to use it. These peanut butter cup carmelitas are made with an oat crust base, topped with a gooey peanut butter caramel made with sweet condensed milk and crunchy peanut butter and then sprinkled with oat topping, peanut butter cups and chocolate chips. Served warm and slightly melty... it doesn't get much better! Also, this recipe is simple to double if you want to make a 9x13 pan instead of an 8x8.

Peanut Butter Cup Carmelitas
makes 8x8 pan

1/2 butter, melted
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c. old fashioned or quick cooking oats (I used old fashioned)
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c. peanut butter (I used crunchy)
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
4 peanut butter cups, chopped
1/2 c. milk chocolate chips (I used mini's)

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Spray or line with parchment paper an 8x8 baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together melted butter, brown sugar, baking soda, oatmeal, flour and salt until it's crumbly. Set 1 cup of this mixture aside. Pour remaining mixture in the bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until light golden brown.

In a separate small bowl, stir together the peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk. Once the crust is done baking, evenly pour and spread this peanut butter/condensed milk mixture over the top of the warm crust. Evenly sprinkle the reserved 1 cup of crumbly oat mixture you set aside and sprinkle chopped candy and chocolate chips on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until it doesn't jiggle in the middle.

Monday, April 23, 2012

biscoff cookie dough bites

I have had an unopened container of Biscoff sitting in my pantry since Christmas. I had been searching for it the past year in Charlotte with no luck but finally found it in California when I was visiting my parents over Christmas. I think I did a little dance in the middle of the Whole Foods aisle when I found it, that stuff is not easy to get your hands on! So once I got home, I pushed it to the back of my pantry to save for a special occasion since I felt 99% sure it wouldn't show up in Charlotte anytime soon. And then, a few weeks ago... I found the creamy and crunchy versions of Biscoff at Wal-Mart! Of all places! So now that I know I have access to an unlimited supply of Biscoff I decided to break into the jar I had from Christmas. I wouldn't have used any of the Biscoff until I knew I could easily find more. Just like I don't want to wear my favorite sandals too often because I know when they get worn out I won't be able to find them again. Tell me I'm not the only one that thinks like this. 

For all of you that can't find Biscoff, Trader Joe's started selling a cookie butter that is very very similar. And for those of you that don't have a Trader Joe's near you, I'm sorry! But you can order Biscoff online. It's worth searching out, so delicious and addicting. If you can manage to not eat the entire Biscoff jar by the spoonful then you have to try these cookies. These cookie dough balls are perfectly undercooked. I love the baked cookie chewy exterior and the cookie dough middle, can't get much better! And the fact that they are bite sized, makes it that much easier to justify eating half the batch. 

Biscoff Cookie Dough Bites
makes 30 cookie dough bites, using a 1 inch cookie scoop

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

6 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 c. biscoff spread (you could use peanut butter if you don't have biscoff)
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. granulated sugar
 2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c.semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini's)

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter, biscoff, and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat together until combined. Add the remaining half of the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together. Stir in chocolate chips. Scoop into balls using a 1 inch cookie scoop or use your hands to roll the dough into balls. Place cookie balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 8-11 minutes. Let cool and set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. 

Note: the cookies will seem under baked when they come out of the oven, don't worry they will set up! 

Recipe adapted from: The Novice Chef

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

caramelized onion, bacon & gruyere cheese monkey bread

I feel like I haven't been in my kitchen in forever. Sadly, I think it's mostly due to the fact that I've been lazy but I did get a chance to think up some super delicious recipes. This savory monkey bread is my absolute favorite, I couldn't wait to share! I'd sadly never heard of monkey bread until this past year, much less tried it. I'm not sure how I went twenty-three years without ever trying it considering I'm a cinnamon sugar freak. I'm going to blame it on my parents as I've realized they never introduced me to monkey bread or sausage balls. Have you ever had a sausage ball? It's just bisquick, sausage and cheese, served warm and so addicting. I love and hate when coworkers bring them into work because I have no self restraint. I do have to give my parents some credit though, they have always encouraged me to try new foods so I'm thankful for that!

This savory monkey bread is inspired by well-known baker, Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar. In her cookbook, she has a recipe for Volcanoes which are large homemade bread bowls filled with caramelized onions, bacon, scalloped potatoes and then stuffed with Gruyere cheese. My family made these for Easter breakfast this year and they were awesome. They just took forever to make from start to finish. There are tons of steps to all of her recipes. Each step is totally worth it in the end but I wanted to find a way to create something similar but easier. This savory monkey bread does require some prep work but once you have the onions caramelized, the bacon cooked and the butter melted, it is a quick assembly. I absolutely love the caramelized onion, bacon and Gruyere cheese flavor combination and all of them stuffed inside pizza dough only makes it that much better.

Caramelized Onion, Bacon & Gruyere Cheese Monkey Bread
makes 4 small ramekins

for the monkey bread:
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp oil
5 strips of cooked bacon, diced
1 1/2 c. Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 can of pizza dough (I used Pillsbury from the refrigerated section of the grocery store)

for the garlic rosemary butter:
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp garlic
2 tsp rosemary, removed from stem

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Melt butter in small pan over medium heat and then add garlic, saute garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add in rosemary and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Brush inside of ramekins or loaf pan with this garlic rosemary butter mixture and then set remaining butter aside.

In a separate pot, over medium-high heat add oil. Once oil is hot, add in onions and cook for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown, stirring every 4-5 minutes. Set onions aside.

Pull off large marble-sized pieces of pizza dough and flatten each one. Then place a small amount of onions, bacon pieces, and gruyere cheese in the middle of the flattened dough ball. Wrap the dough around the onions, bacon and cheese, pinching well to seal the ball shut.

Lightly brush each pizza ball with the melted garlic/butter/rosemary mixture.

Repeat until all the pizza dough has been used. Add pizza balls to your baking dish of choice. Sprinkle top with gruyere cheese.

For ramekin sized monkey bread, bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is very brown.

Note: If you want to make this into a bundt sized monkey bread, double the recipe and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

peanut butter cookies

I am guest posting for Erin at The Spiffy Cookie today, go check it out to get the recipe for these yummy peanut butter cookies!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

s'mores swirl brownies

I never knew I loved s'mores so much until I started this blog. First there was the s'mores pizza (deeeelicious) then there were the giant s'mores cookies and most recently, I made these white chocolate s'more cake bars. Now I'd like to introduce a new favorite, s'mores swirl brownies. These brownies are rich, gooey and a bazillion times better than boxed versions and almost as easy to make. I was determined to make these brownies with things I needed to use up in my kitchen. I had mini graham cracker pie crusts I needed to use, a small jar of marshmallow fluff that would need to be eaten by spoonfuls if I didn't bake with it soon and a huge milk chocolate Toblerone bar (thanks Kavel). The s'mores swirl adds a slightly chewy texture and even though the graham cracker crumbs were ground up finely, you could still taste them perfectly. I was so happy with how these turned out. I'm just hoping next time I make these they last long enough for me to have one with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

S'mores Swirl Brownies
makes 4 very large brownies (8x8 pan)

1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 c. chopped chocolate chunks (I used milk chocolate)
1 c. marshmallow fluff
3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs

Note: I think these brownies would be great with all types of chocolate, for example Hershey's Kisses or dark chocolate. Get creative!

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Grease or line with parchment paper an 8x8 square pan. Chop your chocolate.

Melt the butter. Beat in sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Once the mixture is combined, add in the cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking powder and blend until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Pour batter in to pan and spread evenly. 

Melt marshmallow fluff in a microwavable safe bowl for 10-20 seconds or until it is drizzle consistency. Drizzle the fluff over the brownie batter. Then sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over the marshmallow fluff. Using a toothpick, swirl the marshmallow and graham crackers together.

Bake brownies for 35-45 minutes or until middle of the brownies don't jiggle anymore.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

cinnamon - crusted banana bread pancakes

Happy National Pancake Day!

Ok it's really only National Pancake Day at IHOP but I had originally scheduled this post to go up later this week but decided I just had to post it today to celebrate! I don't make pancakes very often because I got spoiled eating nutella and banana filled pancake bites (ebelskivers) at my parents house, that normal, flat pancakes just didn't cut it. But now I take that all back. These pancakes are my new go-to weekend breakfast because they were easy (thank you bisquick) and tasted like fluffy banana bread sprinkled with a warm, sugary cinnamon streusel ... only better, somehow. The pancakes have the perfect amount of banana flavor without being overpowering and the cinnamon crust is the best thing ever. The cinnamon streusel melts into the pancake and creates a slightly crunchy topping. It's reminds me of the cinnamon topping on the cinnamon crunch bagel at Panera, pure cinnamon heaven. I'm already looking forward to Sunday morning because I will definitely be making these again.

Cinnamon-Crusted Banana Bread Pancakes
makes 8 large pancakes

for the cinnamon streusel
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into chunks

for the pancakes
2 c. bisquick
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 c. milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 bananas, mashed

To make the cinnamon streusel,  combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Mix together with your hands or a fork until it is well combined and crumbly.

To make the pancakes, whisk together bisquick, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a separate bowl,  whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla until combined and then stir into the flour mixture. Stir in mashed bananas until batter is combined.

Heat a pan to medium low and coat with coking spray. Drop 1/3 cup of batter onto the heated pan and then sprinkle 3 tbsp of the cinnamon streusel on top. Cook on the first side until bubbles begin to form, about 2-3 minutes. Flip pancake over and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat this process with the remaining batter.

Cinnamon Streusel recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod

Sunday, February 26, 2012

spicy black bean soup

I can't wait until I regularly cook for someone other than myself. Usually I don't mind cooking for just myself but after making this soup today, I wanted to call all my friends over for dinner. Which by the way, might not be enough people to finish all the soup I had. If I ate all this soup, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to eat another black bean for years. So I threw a container or two or three in the freezer. I'm not much of a freezer person because I never think it tastes as good as the first time around but this soup is an exception. It freezes perfectly, just pour it into a freezer bag and pull it out when you need a quick meal.  

Ok and I have to say it is hard to make black bean soup look as tasty as it really is. Especially when it's pureed. I texted my boyfriend a picture of the soup and his response was something along the lines of 'where are the black beans?' I know you can't see them but they are there, just pureed, ok! This soup is super healthy and surprisingly leaves me feeling happy and satisfied. The best part about this low-cal, high fiber soup is you can afford to throw on some less healthy toppings. I can easily justify topping it with an entire avocado (versus my usual half) or as shown in the picture, a pile of queso fresco. 

Oh and did I mention I gave up carbs for Lent? Really just flour and potatoes. I don't like to talk about it because it just reminds me of what I can't eat but I'm happily accepting no carb recipe suggestions.

Spicy Black Bean Soup
makes 6 servings

3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1/2 tsp salt
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 ham hock slices (see note below)
1 15 oz. can of diced tomato
2 15 oz. cans of black beans
4 cups chicken broth
juice from 1 lime
queso fresco
jalapenos, sliced

Heat oil over medium-high heat until simmering. Add in onions, carrot, bell pepper, jalapeno and salt. Cook until vegetables are soft and lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, cayenne pepper and cumin. Stir constantly until vegetables become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in bay leaves, ham hock slices, beans, chicken broth and diced tomatoes. Increase heat to medium-high and bring soup to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, squeeze in juice of 1 lime and puree soup to desired thickness. I used a hand blender to puree the soup but you could easily use a blender. Serve with cilantro, jalapeno slices, and queso fresco.

Note: You can usually find ham hock slices in the meat section of the grocery store, not refrigerated. I use ham hock in soups to add a bit of a smoky, salty flavor. If you can't find a ham hock, you could substitute smoked bacon, smoked sausage, smoked ham or just leave it out completely and add a little extra salt.

Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

mexican fiesta salad with cilantro lime vinaigrette

I've been on a total salad kick lately and I'm trying to go with it because it doesn't come around very often. Every week for the past month I have craved this grilled chicken mexican salad from one of my favorite mexican restaurants. After eating way too many chips and salsa and ordering this salad more times than I'd like to admit, I decided I had to start making this salad at home. It really is one of my favorite salads ever and it's made with the simplest ingredients. You can spice this salad up with some roasted jalapenos or use the cilantro lime vinaigrette to marinate chicken or shrimp.

And if you are anything like me and want to make leftovers out of everything in sight, you can save an opened avocado for later if you leave the pit in the unused half. To save guacamole, throw the avocado pit in the bowl and store the guacamole or unused avocado in an airtight container.

Mexican Fiesta Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
makes 4 salads

for the salad
1 head of lettuce
1 c. pico de gallo (store bought or homemade)
1 c. queso fresco, crumbled
1/2 red onion, diced

cilantro lime vinaigrette
1 c. packed cilantro
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. orange juice
1 tbsp honey
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of salt and pepper

Blend or puree cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, orange juice, garlic, salt and pepper together in a blender or food processor.

Toss lettuce, pico de gallo, queso fresco, red onion, avocado and dressing together.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

vanilla bean cupcakes

I'm slowly realizing that I need to be planning fun, festive recipes weeks before a holiday actually hits so I can post them pre-holiday. Since I've surprisingly never baked cupcakes for my blog, I decided Valentine's day was the perfect occasion to try something new. My plan was to bake cupcakes with pink hearts baked into the middle. I decided to stick to basics with vanilla bean cupcakes so that the pink heart in the middle would really pop. But bad news, the pink heart would not stand up! I dyed about a cup of the cupcake batter pink and baked it into a thin layer, let it cool, cut-out small pink hearts with a cookie cutter and tried standing the hearts in the tin on a small amount of cupcake batter. But for some reason my pink hearts would not stand up in the cupcake tin. I keep telling myself they wouldn't stand up because the cupcake hearts were just so fluffy, but I'll probably never know because it was discouraging. Even through the hearts didn't work out, these cupcakes are so delicious and super vanilla-y. I can count the number of times I've used actual vanilla beans on one hand because they are expensive and a bit of a hassle but these cupcakes made me realize what a flavor difference they can make. Happy almost Valentine's day, hope you celebrate with someone special!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
makes 18 cupcakes

for the cake:
2 1/4 c. cake flour or all-purpose flour would work
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 c. whole milk, room temperature
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 stick of butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
seeds from one vanilla bean
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

for the buttercream:
3 sticks of butter, softened
seeds from one vanilla bean
2 tsp clear vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar
4 tbsp whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until butter and sugar is light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and one third of the flour mixture and mix well. Beat in half of the milk/egg mixture and then beat in half of the remaining flour mixture. Add the rest of the milk and eggs and beat mixture until it is smooth. Then add the last of the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Pour batter into cupcake tins.

Bake cupcakes for 18-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.

To make the buttercream, beat butter and vanilla bean seeds until fluffy. Slowly add confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. Add in vanilla and 3 tbsp of milk, blending on low speed until combined.

Recipe from My Baking Addiction

Monday, January 30, 2012

white bean chicken chili

I rarely get excited about a soup. They never leave me feeling as satisfied as I had hoped and then I'm left eating ten cookies to make up for the fact that dinner was far from delicious. But this white chicken chili is one of my favorite soups because it is packed with flavor and doesn't take long to throw together. I love making a batch of soup because it's easy to pack for lunch to take to work and the best part, this soup is super healthy but doesn't taste like it! Usually I am hesitant to make soups that come together in less than three hours because I feel like that's not enough time for all the flavors to... meld? come together? whatever, this soup proves me wrong.  I topped my soup with a little extra cheese and tortilla strips but there are so many more options like avocado slices, sour cream or salsa. You can also adjust the spiciness of the dish by using more or less green chilies. 

White Bean Chicken Chili
serves 5

1 pound dried Great Northern beans (or 3 cans)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 (4.5 oz) cans of chopped green chiles, undrained
3 cloves of garlic
3 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
6 cups chicken broth
5 cups cooked chicken breast
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

Rinse beans and place in a large pot and cover with water, about 2 inches above beans. Let beans soak overnight. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and saute onion until tender. Add green chiles, garlic, cumin and oregano and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth and beans. If you are using canned beans instead of dried beans, add the beans an hour into simmering so the beans don't turn to mush. 

Bring to a boil then cover pot and reduce heat. Simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender. Add chicken, 2 cups of cheese, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Sprinkle individual bowls of soup with cilantro. 

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated

Monday, January 23, 2012

caramel pecan cheesecake cookie bars

Cheesecake is rarely my go-to dessert of choice because it's so rich that I end up only wanting a few bites. Which may be a good thing for some of you but I feel so guilty leaving a delicious dessert behind, it pretty much never happens. If anything, I eat my dessert and help finish off everyone else's too. I love these bars because they are the perfect balance of cheesecake and cookie, I wanted to eat every single one. Luckily I didn't get a chance because I took them to the Charlotte food blogger meet-up this past week to share with the group. These bars have a chewy sugar cookie crust, smooth caramel cream cheese filling with a sugar cookie crumble, pecan, caramel topping that make them hard to resist. I'm not sure how I managed to only eat a few but I know next time I make them, I will be stock piling a batch in the freezer.

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake Cookie Bars 

1 pouch of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1/2 c. cold butter
3/4 c. chopped pecans
3/4 c. toffee bits
2 packages of cream cheese (8 oz each)
1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 c. caramel topping
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Spray or line a 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray or parchment paper. Place cookie mix in bowl and using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. Set 1 1/2 cups of the sugar cookie/butter mixture aside. Spread the remaining amount in the bottom of the pan and press down evenly. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes. 

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, 1/4 cup of caramel topping, vanilla and egg with an electric mixer until smooth. Evenly spread this mixture over the cooled partially baked cookie dough base. Then sprinkle the reserved sugar cookie/butter mixture, pecans and toffee bits on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool for 30 minutes then refrigerate for 2 hours or until cooled completely. Drizzle with remaining 1/4 c. caramel topping. Store covered in the refrigerator. 

Recipe adapted from: Betty Crocker

Friday, January 20, 2012

breakfast mac & cheese

Today is National Cheese Lover's Day

I love cheese almost as much as I love sugar so when the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board asked me if I would be interested in creating a unique mac and cheese recipe to share on their 30 Ways in 30 Days Macaroni & Cheese blog to celebrate National Cheese Lover's Day, I could not have been happier. I can't tell you the number of times I've wanted to eat mac and cheese for breakfast, not leftover mac and cheese but fresh from the oven mac and cheese that tastes like breakfast. This recipe combines all my favorite breakfast add-ins into a delicious mac and cheese. I decided to go with Wisconsin Colby Jack, a mild cheese that would be perfect in a savory breakfast dish. I used all the usual ingredients you would find in an omelette like sausage, onions, peppers, cheese and eggs and then combined them with pasta and crumbled biscuit pieces. The sweet breakfast sausage, creamy Colby Jack and spice from the jalapeno and Pepper Jack Cheese seriously makes this dish taste like the best breakfast casserole you have ever had. You might even eat mac and cheese for breakfast instead of dinner from now on. Or both, I won't judge! 

Check out the Macaroni & Cheese blog for the next 29 days to see what mac and cheese creations other participating food bloggers came up with! 

Breakfast Mac & Cheese
serves 6-8

1 pound of pasta (I used cavatelli shaped pasta)
1 pound breakfast sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, discard seeds and dice
1/2 tbsp garlic salt
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tbsp butter
6 tbsp flour
4 c. whole milk
5 c. colby jack cheese
1 c. pepper jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs
6 toasted breakfast biscuits, crumbled (homemade or the from the refrigerated aisle of the grocery store) 

Preheat oven to 375°F. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. 

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the sausage until browned. Remove sausage from the pan, drain the fat off and set sausage aside. In the same skillet, add the onion, peppers and garlic salt and cook over medium-high heat until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove onion and pepper mixture from heat and set aside. 

Add butter to the same skillet and stir constantly until melted. Add the flour and stir constantly over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk continuously until it is smooth and has thickened, about 4-6 minutes. Remove skillet from the heat and stir in 4 cups of colby jack and 1/2 cup of pepper jack along with salt and pepper to taste. Add the pasta, cooked sausage, onion/pepper mixture to the cheese mixture and stir until combined. Pour into a large buttered baking dish. 

In a small bowl, whisk all the eggs together. Add in remaining cheese and crumbled biscuits, stir until combined. Pour this mixture over the pasta in the baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. 

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. I received compensation for ingredients and my time but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

What's your favorite cheese?

Monday, January 16, 2012

chai snickerdoodles

I don't drink much caffeine but the exceptions to that are always a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato or black tea. Chai tea is a mixture of spices and black tea and is one of my favorite teas so when I saw these cookies on The Novice Chef, I couldn't wait to try them. I've actually never made homemade snickerdoodles and I'm not sure how that is even possible considering snickerdoodles are always perfectly chewy! I'm considering putting cream of tartar in all of my cookies from now on because I swear that's what makes these the perfect texture. I had a store-bought chai tea mix from the grocery store (from the tea aisle) and rolled the cookies in that before baking. I took these to the Charlotte Food Blogger cookie swap last month and everyone seemed to love them, they even got a shout-out from Mary at Fervent Foodie. They didn't last long enough for me to get a picture of them last time I made them so I had to bake up another batch to share.

Chai Snickerdoodles
makes 19 large cookies

2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
powdered chai tea mix

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Pour powdered chai tea mix in a bowl. Then in a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and whisk together. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time and beat well. Slowly add dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until combined. Form uniform dough balls and roll them in the chai tea mix. Place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake large cookies for 15-17 minutes. Once you pull them out of the oven, let them sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then remove them to cool. 

Recipe adapted from The Novice Chef

Monday, January 9, 2012

white chocolate s'mores cake bars

I'm back! I didn't know I was taking a blog break until the holidays hit and I felt overwhelmed with so much going on (I know, we all did). I hope everyone had a great holiday and happy New Year! I spent the holidays in California this year visiting my family and could not have been happier. It was the first time my younger brother and I have visited my parents in San Jose since they moved this past August. And they took us on the full Northern California tour, we went to Pebble Beach and did the 17-mile drive of the coast, Monterey, San Francisco, Sonoma and Napa. Here are some of the highlights (thank you, instagram):

Cliff Lede Winery in Napa Valley
Golden Gate Bridge

Bi-Rite Creamery Ricanelas Ice Cream
(cinnamon ice cream with snickerdoodle cookie pieces)
Family time (don't ask where I got the blonde hair)

Cheering NC State on in the Belk Bowl
Never heard of these until I got to San Fran, they are ice
cream sandwiches made with oatmeal cookies, mmm mmm
Ok now we need to talk about these white chocolate s'mores cake bars. They are exactly as described and hopefully exactly like you are imagining! Oooey gooey doughy buttery cake layer topped with graham crackers, white chocolate chips, marshmallows, more cake layer and then drizzled with sweet condensed milk to give the top a slightly crispy, sugary outside. The recipe is easy to put together, the hardest part is waiting for the bars to cool before cutting into them. The best part about these bars, they are good cold, room temp or heat one up in the microwave and scoop some ice cream on top.

White Chocolate S'mores Cake Bars
recipe adapted from: Picky Palate

for the cake mix:
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

4 1/2 full graham crackers
10 oz bag of white chocolate chips
2 cups of marshmallows (I used regular size cut into chunks)
1/ 2 c. sweet condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Line an 8x8 inch pan with aluminum foil, this will save you a lot of clean-up time. Grease the aluminum foil lined pan. 

Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking powder until combined. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until combined. Add in vanilla and egg and mix until a dough forms. Press half the cake dough into the bottom of the pan. Layer with graham crackers, white chocolate chips then marshmallows. Top with remaining cake dough and press down evenly. Drizzle sweet condensed milk over top and bake for 28-30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes and then run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sticky marshmallow. Let cool completely and then remove bars from pan with foil edges. Cut into squares and serve.
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