Monday, July 16, 2012

perfect peanut butter cookies

I have been pondering what to call these cookies. Triple Threat Peanut Butter Cookies? Tres Peanut Butter? Holy fricken good god these are seriously delicious peanut butter cookies? Yes, perhaps that is an appropriate name for these. Because that pretty much describes them. 

The recipe comes from a blog I am have mentioned here before, and will definitely at some point again without a doubt- Smitten Kitchen, which she adapted from a NYC bakery, Magnolia Bakery . I adapted it slightly to what I had on hand. Deb added peanut butter chips and chocolate chips. I adapted, slightly, by adding chopped peanuts and miniature peanut butter cups. Oh yeah baby, that's right peanut butter cups. I think you can see one right there in that picture. It may seem to be just ordinary chocolate chips until you bite in and get that extra hit of peanut butter enrobed in smooth milk chocolate. 

These cookies take only about 10 minutes in the oven. At that point, Take. Them. Out. I know, they look slightly underdone. It's ok, trust me. Take them out of the oven, you will thank me later. They will continue to firm up into peanut butter nirvana. Sometimes peanut butter cookies to me are just TOO peanut buttery. Stick to the roof of your mouth in a way you don't want a cookie to do. These, on the other hand hit every note perfectly. They are moist. Peanut buttery, without being dry at the same time. I think you get it, right? Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies. There that is what I should call them. Your mouth will thank me. Your hips, on the other hand not so much.

Peanut Butter Cookies

You can print the recipe, here
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from the Magolia Bakery Cookbook

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what we used, but I am pretty sure they use chunky at the bakery)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup miniature peanut butter cups, cut into small pieces

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter, peanuts, and cups. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

best ever banana bread (slightly healthier)

Ok emphasis on the slightly part. I'm not going to count the calories and compare. Just tell myself that by swapping out the oil for applesauce it totally means I can have two pieces. Right? Oh wait...I also added in a couple tablespoons of butter. like I said..slightly healthier. You have been warned.

This original recipe comes from a well-known (like on Food Network kind of known) bakery here in Boston, Flour Bakery. And the original recipe seriously doesn't need any messing with. It's fabulous. Hands down the best banana bread recipe I have ever come across. Perhaps it's the laborious time spend whipping the eggs and sugar together. Or those couple of tablespoonfuls of sour cream added in. Either way, the recipe is flawless.

So why go messing with it? Out of necessity comes genius right? Well I was out of oil. (Ok so not really a genius moment.) That really is the only reason I changed it up. I had to. Otherwise there would have been no need to.  I had 3 frozen bananas in the freezer and a fourth lonely one hanging out on the counter that needed to be used, but no oil to go with it. I did however have butter, and applesauce. I figured what the heck let's add a little of both! I added equal parts of applesauce, and threw in a little butter because well everything is better with butter right? I was right. 

I decided to bake it in a cake pan instead,, which required about 10 minutes less bake time. I would recommend just watching your oven closely on this if you decide to use a cake pan. I originally set my oven timer to 45 minutes and kept a close watch on it from there. I  used up the remaining half of a banana to slice up on top just for fun. The banana bread was still as delicious as ever. But if you want the original recipe, click here.

My (slightly healthier, but probably not) and slightly adapted version you can find it here. Bake it up and feel perhaps a slight less pang of guilt when you enjoy.

best ever banana bread (slightly healthier)

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
½ cup applesauce
2 1/2 Tbs. butter, melted
3 ½ very ripe medium bananas (1 1/3 cups mashed)
2 tablespoons crème fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Heat the oven to 325ºF degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, beat the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (Or whip by hand with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes.)

With the mixer on low speed, slowly drizzle in the butter. Be sure NOT to pour the butter in all at once; add it slowly so that it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn't deflate the air you've just beaten into the batter. This took about 1 minute. Then add your applesauce in the same fashion.

Add the mashed bananas, crème fraiche, and vanilla and mix on low speed until just combined. Fold in the dry ingredients and nuts by hand until thoroughly combined, so there are no more flour streaks in the batter.

Pour the batter into a buttered 9×5-inch loaf pan and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until the top of the banana bread is golden brown and springs back when you poke it in the middle. If your finger sinks when you poke it, it needs to bake a little longer. Let cool for at least 30 minutes and then pop out of the pan and serve. Keeps for 2 to 3 days at room temperature, tightly wrapped. Or store in the freezer, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 2 weeks and defrost overnight at room temperature.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cherry Crostata

It has been a few days now since my last post..ok a couple weeks if I'm being honest. I was on vacation in New Hampshire, relaxing by a lake, eating, drinking, and being merry. There is something about being unplugged from the world for awhile that is truly refreshing. It gets you back to center. Know what I mean? I highly recommend it. 

This crostata was also quite rewarding. My culinary counterpart has been asking for a cherry pie for awhile now. A co-worker had told me about the cherry pitter she got and how much fun it was. Seriously, she wasn't kidding. A cherry pitter can relieve alot of tension. I highly recommend it. My pitter pits four cherries at once, making the job ridiculously easy and mess-free. 

I decided to turn those plump, juicy, pitted cherries into a crostata. If you're scratching your head at the word crostata, don't be. Basically it's Italian for open-faced, free-form pie. It's a great introduction to pie-making if you're the word "pie crust" has you hiding behind your biggest kitchen bowl. It's a rustic looking dessert, which is another way of saying it doesn't have to look pretty! *Sigh*. 

This recipe came from a newly purchased cookbook, Pie, by Ken Haedrich. I LOVE this book. If you love making pie, want to know more about making pie, or have that huge fear (I'm speaking to those that still haven't come out from that big bowl you have been hiding under) then get this book.

I decided to use the all butter pie crust recipe again. I had used the all butter crust recipe for the Nectarine Pie I had made recently and again another fabulous crust came out of it.  I still want to try to make a crust with shortening and butter, just to compare. The all butter crust, though, for those of you squeamish of shortening still produces a light and flaky crust.

This crostata was a fairly simple dessert to throw together. So come out from under that bowl, roll up your sleeves, and get to pitting those cherries. Life can be stressful, and definitely is not perfect and neither should be your pies.

To print recipe, click here

All Butter Pie Crust Recipe
Single crust

**I have been making my crusts by hand, which can be more forgiving and also produce a flakier crust.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup cold water

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Toss well, by hand, to mix.  Scatter butter over the dry ingredients and toss to mix.  Using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or fingertips, cut or rub the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of split peas.  Sprinkle half of the water over the dry mixture.  Toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture.  Add the remaining water in two stages and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl.

Test the dough by squeezing some of it between your fingers, if it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the dough and work it in with your fingertips.  Using your hands, pack the dough into a ball. Knead once or twice, then flatten the ball into 3/4-inch-thick disks on a floured work surface.  Wrap the disks and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

Cherry Pie Filling

3 to 4 cups of cherries, pitted
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup sugar (you may need more depending on the sweetness of your cherries)
1/4 tsp. almond extract
juice of 1/2 orange
2 Tbs. of cornstarch
3 Tbs. of butter, cut into small chunks
1 Egg, beaten (mixed with a couple Tablespoons of water) 
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Roll out your dough to a 12-inch circle. Put the ingredients in the center of your pie crust. Bring up the sides of your pie dough around the filling, leaving the center of the crostata exposed. Scatter the butter pieces on top of the filling. Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until filling is bubbling and crust edges are golden brown.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

d.i.y. cornbread mix

Let me ask you a question. How do you save money? I am not talking about the BIG savings- you know 401 K's and 403 B's and all that but the little day to day stuff. Do you make your own coffee, skipping that long coffee shop line and keeping a few bucks in your pocket? Take the bus or train, and skip using your car saving you on returning to that gas pump again this month? I keep trying to find different ways to not spend the green these days. Especially now that is summer, and I am not working full-time. Today I rediscovered the library. I know, the library! I first walked into Barnes and Noble. The scent of new cookbooks, coffee, and (ugh!) over-priced books. I prefer if I can to buy them online for a little cheaper. I am leaving for vacation in a couple of days and definitely do not have time to order any pleasure-reading books for the trip. So after a quick trip around, I had an aha moment. Why spend my  money here on a guilty pleasure book I plan to read once, when the library is only a hop, skip, and a jump away? And free! 

My other way to save money is to make things from scratch. On the upcoming lake vacation I am going on, I promised I would make cornbread for the barbequed ribs we will be having one night. Now, yes cornbread mix is pretty cheap. But so is making it yourself! I already had the ingredients on hand, so I quick threw them dry ingredients together so they will be all set when I want to make fresh cornbread on vacation.

The mix is great because it saves you so much time when you actually do plan to use it. Isn't that what you pay for with those mixes in the story anyway is convenience? And this way, I actually know what the ingredients are in my cornbread! When you are ready to use the mix, all you have to do is add your eggs, milks, and butter. Stir it up and throw in it on the oven! 

I made a double-batch of the mix. The original calls for 9, but with 10 people on vacation and little ones running around a single batch would surely not do! 

This d.i.y. cornbread mix has inspired me to think of what other "diy" mixes can I prepare ahead of time? Any suggestions?

d.i.y. cornbread mix
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated "Golden Northern Cornbread"

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a sealable container. Whisk or stir to combine. When you are ready to use add:

2 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup whole milk
2 Tbs. butter, melted and cooled

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2.  Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
3.  Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients, aka "diy cornbread mix". Add in your eggs. Stir gently with a wooden spoon.
4. Add your milks, and quickly stir your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until almost combined. 
5. Add your butter and stir just until combined.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until top is golden brown and lightly cracked and edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan about 25 minutes.
7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 5 to 10 minutes. Serve.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Can I admit something? Ok..good. Summer has started and instead of being full of energy and getting lots done I have been...exhausted. Am I that programmed that without a set schedule everyday, alarm clock buzzing in my ear, and a mile-long to do list I am eh? Blah? *Sigh*  Perhaps I need some protein in my diet. Perhaps I need some sugar. Perhaps I need...a cupcake. I know!  A chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting!

Ok, what an argument to have a cupcake in your life huh? Did it work for you too? I hope so. These cupcakes were described as "the best thing I have made thus far" by my Culinary Companion. For a person who does NOT (I know..seriously how can that be?!?) eat sweets that is a BIG statement. I have to agree though, these cupcakes were packing a peanutty punch. Rich. Decadent. Satisfied after one, but kept help thinking of having another one. 

The chocolate cupcake base was the Hershey's Chocolate Cake recipe. The boiling water in this recipe I think is the trick. Yes, don't worry, the batter is runny but results in a fabulously moist cupcake. Nothing is worse than a chocolate cupcake that is dry. Yech. The frosting had me skeptical at first. There was quite a bit of powdered sugar in the recipe. I ended up cutting back on it, and adding a touch more milk. To me, it was just a matter of taste. Add. Mix. Taste some more. Repeat until Peanut Butter Frosting Nirvana is reached. Lick beaters when no one is looking. Oh come on, you know you do it too.

So if your summer is starting on a bit of a low point and is need of a pick me up I suggest these. That July 4th picnic coming up? These will definitely be a hit, I promise. Ok sure they aren't red, white, and blue, but chocolate and peanut butter? An American Classic! You can't go wrong, and maybe after you have one of these your summer will be kicked into high gear.



  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare muffin tins with cupcake liners.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Peanut Butter Frosting
Adapted from Cookies and Cups

1/2 cup butter, room temp (1 stick)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk (you can add more if your prefer a creamier frosting)

1. Combine butter and peanut butter on medium speed until combined.
2. Slowly add powdered sugar until combined.
3. Add milk until desired consistency is reached.
4. Pipe frosting on cooled cupcakes and garnish with miniature peanut butter cups (optional, but totally worth it)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seven Layer Bars

It has been a week or so since I have posted anything. School ended. Summer started. The sun blazed on. In the simplicity and heat of summer I wanted a simple and easy dessert. Seven layers. Ladies, if you want a dessert to impress, and not a lot of fuss start here. The ooey gooeyness presented in this bar recipe, will let anyone forgive you for really not stretching your baking muscles here too much. This is a light day at the gym. This is a lazy Sunday, keep the pajamas on, I don't feel like doing much kind of dessert. And boy, oh boy is it much appreciated.  I made these for a Pampered Chef party I hosted and unfortunately for my waistline I made too many to be eaten for the small group of us and now I have a large plate of them left behind. My tummy appreciates. My thighs, not so much.

There are seven easy layers to put together. Let me break it down for you.

1. Crush a package of graham crackers (there are 9 in one package- that is how many you need. How easy is that?)
2. Add a stick of melted butter. Mix and press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.
3. Then (are you ready for this?)..sprinkle on your walnuts, your three different kinds of chips, and coconut (that has been toasted in the oven prior for 4 minutes..that is as culinary as we get here folks).
4. Pour a can of sweetened condensed milk over.
5. Done. Bake. Enjoy.

A few of my baking challenged friends came by for the P.C. party, and I convinced them this is a recipe they need to try. You really can't get any easier. I am now on though to thinking how can I change this gooey concoction. Add nutella? Hmm. Pecans? Salted caramel. Oh boy...Possibilities. Are. Endless.

Oh all these free things I get to purchase through Pampered Chef? Yea, expect me to be making delicious things with all of those gadgets soon. Oh boy, I can't wait to use those!

Seven Layer Bars
15-24 bars (depending on how big you like your bars!)

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
9 graham crackers (5 ounces), crushed
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup butterscotch chips
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the pan with two overlapping pieces of foil or parchment paper, leaving overhang to act as handles for lifting the bars out of the pan. Spray with non-stick spray.
2. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and bake until the outer flakes just begin to brown, about 4 minutes. (Keep a close eye on it – coconut can go from slightly browned to burnt in a matter of seconds.) Set aside.
3. Melt the butter and combine with graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl. Toss with your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed. Press the crumbs evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan.
4. In order, sprinkle the walnuts, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut over the graham crumbs. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the entire dish.
5. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours.
6. Remove the bars fromthe pan using the foil or parchment handles and transfer to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or bench cutter, cut into 2 by 3-inch bars.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nectarine Pie with Almond crumb topping

Is there anything homier and more comforting than pie? Seriously think about it for a second. I think you will agree there is not. And pie is something I think seems to have a place all year round. I adore pie in the wintertime with all the holidays. Nothing is more satisfying than a slice of pie after my Thanksgiving meal. I honestly cannot have any other kind of dessert afterwards. In the summer time, I get excited about peach pie, and berry pies galore. Pie always has a place on my table.

Enjoying pie and making pie though two very different topics. Pie dough and me have not always been a perfect union. I have tackled different culinary/pastry techniques and for some reason pie dough is the one that always befuddles me. Sometimes its too sticky, then it won't roll out, it's too soft, too crunchy, not enough flakiness- you get my point. I have the answer though! Use. Your. Hands. Put that food processor away. Take the jewelry off. Roll up your sleeves. Get to know your dough. It is so much more forgiving. Oh and one more point. Use butter. There are many debates about using half shortening/half butter to achieve the perfect flavor/flakiness ration. Shortening, though, is well- it's icky. Seriously, what is that stuff? Trust me, use all butter, and your hands and you will get that great flavor to flake ratio. Using the food processor, can result is overworking your dough, causing that gluten stuff to act up resulting in a tough dough. Your hands, can't work as fast and therefore you stand a better fighting chance of not overworking your dough. Besides, it's just plain fun to get in there and get messy. My last major tip. Use very, very, cold butter.  I like to cupt up my butter into small chunks and then re-freeze it aftewards. Just the warmth of the knife can soften it too much. For a great step by step tutorial, check out smitten kitchen's post on how to make perfect pie dough.

For this pie, I decided to use nectarines. This was just a perfect juicy summer pie.  It's the simpler cousin of peaches. I didn't have to blanche my nectarines like I would normally with peaches (put them in boiling water for a minute in order to remove the skins). I just simply sliced them and they were good to go- which made this pie pretty fast to throw together! The almond crumb topping with this pie was a perfect balance with the nectarines. The almond taste was subtly in the background, not too overpowering.  After this pie, I definitely want to try and make more pies by hand. So be ready for that. Pie, pie, and more pie!

You could definitely skip the making pie dough part if summer is calling your name. Use a store-bought pie crust and this pie is ready in no time. Fill up your sangria glass (I'm not judging) and get ready to the enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Nectarine Pie with Almond Crumb Topping
Adapted from William-Sonoma "Home Baked Comfort", and "Pie" by Ken Haedrich

Pie Dough, single crust

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar (if making a savory dish, omit)
7 tbsp very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
5 tbsp ice water, more if necessary

makes enough for one 9-inch pie

In the bowl of your food processor or by hand using a pastry cutter stir together the flour, salt, and sugar, if using.  Sprinkle the butter over the top and pulse for a few seconds. If by hand, cut the butter in using your pastry cutter until it slightly broken up into the flour but is still visible in pieces. Evenly sprinkle the ice water over the flour mixture, then process just until the mixture starts to come together. Dump the dough into a large zip lock bag and press into a flat disk. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes or up to 1 day, or freeze up to 1 month.


6 cups pitted and sliced ripe nectarines, unpeeled
Scant 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Almond Crumb Topping

3/4 cup whole or slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1. Refrigerate pastry for crust until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
2. On a sheet of lightly floured wax paper, roll half the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, with out stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400F.
3. In a large bowl, combine the nectarines, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the lemon juice, and lemon zest. Set aside for 10 minutes to juice. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and the cornstarch in a small bowl, then stir the mixture into the fruit. Stir in the almond extract. Scrape the filling in to the chilled pie shell, smoothing the fruit with a spoon. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make the topping. Combine the almonds and the sugar in a food processor, pulsing in short bursts to chop the almonds well. Add the flour and the salt and pulse briefly to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Dump the crumbs into a large bowl and rub between your fingers to make large, buttery crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375F. Carefully dump the crumbs in the center of the pie, spreading them evenly and tamping them lightly with your hands. Return the pie to the oven, placing it so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum-foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any spills. Continue to bake until the juices bubble thickly around the edge, 30 to 40 minutes.
6. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Monday, June 11, 2012

old-fashioned graham crackers

I should start out by saying that graham crackers are nothing I ever really think about until there is a campfire, a bag of marshmallows and couple Hershey bars involved. Sure, they can be a fine snack. Just not one I gravitate towards on their own. I want them to be the vehicle behind my lovely perfectly charred marshmallow and soon to be melted chocolate. Otherwise, I can leave them. 

These crackers on the other hand? Well it insulting really to put them in the same category as the store bought version.  These are just..well better. That's it. Hands down. Not even a contest. Where have these crackers been all my campfire days? Oh Smores you don't know what has hit you this summer. I beg you to try and make these at least once this summmer.  Put down that blue box with their brown paper wrapped crackers inside. Walk away. Instead go get the ingredients for these. And say hello to a better smore. Or at least a very addictive snack.  A snack you will feel much better about eating.

This was the first recipe in the book, One Girl Cookie. I borrowed the book from the library in a feeble attempt to save money and stop buying so many cookbooks! Yes, folks. I admit it. I have a problem. A cookbook buying problem. There I said it. I feel so much better now. Doing something about this problem..well that will just have to wait for another day. This was just a warm, fuzzy, comforting cookbook if cookbooks can be described that way. Each recipe had a name, a story, that you immediately fell in love with each one and the owners of this bakery in Brooklyn. I really do like this cookbook. Perhaps I will put this in my Amazon Shopping Cart. Don't judge me.

My little tip for making these crackers is this: If you own a silipat baking mat, put that down underneath your first piece of parchment paper. It will help prevent the paper from sliding around you and yelling out profanities you aren't proud of.

Also, after you roll and cut them out, place them on your cookie sheet, pop them back in the refrigerator. If you are like me, I never seem to work fast enough in this area and my dough always softens up. I hate when they say, work fast before your dough becomes too soft! Ugh the pressure! I just can't deal with that. My kitchen time is my sanity, get back to center time, not wreak extra havoc on my already busy life! So do what I did, work at your own pace and then use the fridge as your friend. Boy, I sound like a teacher don't I?

I think I'll go pop a few of these in my lunchbox.
Old Fashioned Graham Crackers
Makes 24 Cookies


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the flour mixture and 1/4 up of water.  Mix for 30 seconds. Repeat this step once, then add the remaining flour mixture and mix just to combine.  Turn the dough out onto a a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about 10 seconds.  Divide the dough in half.  Cover one half iwth plastic wrap and set it aside.

3.  Place a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface, put the dough on the parchment, and top with a second sheet of parchment.  Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thickness.  Repeat with the second half of the dough.  Chill the dough for about 30 minutes.

4.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, peel off both sheets of parchment, and put the dough on a cutting board.  Using a square cookie cutter, cut out the dough, rerolling the scraps twice.  Put the cookies on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of turbinado sugar. (Please note: I did not have turbinado sugar, and sprinkled with simply granulated sugar to give it that extra sweetness.)

6.  Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, for 20 minutes, or until the cookies are a dark golden color around the edges.  Let cool for 10 minutes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

raspberry coconut oat bars

Meet Leona. She is sweet. Unassuming. Another streusel bar you're saying. blog...but wait! There is  more to this girl's story. Is that coconut I smell? And oats I see? Yes and yes. These bars were the second recipe I decided to try in the cookbook I borrowed from the library, One Girl Cookie. A cookbook I have since returned to the library, but added to my amazon shopping cart. Each cookie has been given a name from which a good story I am sure lies behind each and every name chosen.  The desserts are wonderfully rustic, yet simple, and so far proven to be quite delicious. These bars are a close cousin to a raspberry streusel bar, but which calls for yes the aforementioned coconut and oat addition, but also a touch more salt then you may be used to adding. Don't be afraid, you read right. A WHOLE teaspoon. The salinity, Dawn, cookbook author and owner of the Brooklyn-based bakery, says marries wonderfully with the sweet raspberry jam. "Bottle rockets in your mouth" she promises..and well she delivers folks.

For me, I have my own little story now for this cookie. Does anyone remember the sunscreen song? I am pretty sure that this song was my senior year song. "If I could offer you one piece of advice for the future. It would be this. Wear sunscreen." Well sunscreen, yes that's important. My advice? Turn the oven on. I can hear you laughing now. Obviously you didn't turn the oven, you're saying. You got it. Perhaps you have been there? You know those days, where everything you touch doesn't work out quite right. It is like the anti-Midas touch I call it.  I am happy to say though it was a mistake that did not cost me in the end for these scrumptious bars. (Of course, they took a little more time then I was expecting. A bar cookie! Perfect I will be in and out of the kitchen in no time!) Right if you remember to turn the oven on.

Ideally, the recipe calls for you to bake the bottom layer. Let the bar cool for 10 minutes. THEN spread the jam and sprinkle with a reserved portion of the coconut and oat mixture. Me? Nah. I decided to let the bar get acquainted with my oven first, sans heat. I then, took the bars out. Spread the jam on and sprinkled the crumbly, yummy coconut, oat mixture and popped them back in. Seven minutes later...Hmm, my raspberry filling is not bubbling. I wonder, why? Oh- Oven. Not. On. Right. So my bars cooked all at once, all three layers. The good thing?... nothing seemed to compromised. Granted, I have nothing to base this on, except myself and co-workers gobbled them up. So if you try this recipe, let me know what you think if you bake them the way you are supposed to. You know, oven on first.

Raspberry Coconut Oat Bars
Makes 24 small, or 12 large bars


3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 raspberry preserves


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast it in an oven for 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool. (Leave the oven on.) I am not kidding it actually says that in the recipe! So much for that!

3.  Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking pan by greasing it with cooking spray and then lining the bottom with parchment paper.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt.  Mix on low speed to combine.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the dough just starts to come together.  Add the toasted coconut and the oats.  Mix on low speed for 1 minute.

5.  Reserve 3/4 cup of the dough.  Transfer the remaining dough to the prepared pan.  Using your fingers press it evenly over the bottom of the baking pan.  Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through for 14 minutes, until the crust is golden around the edges.  Let the crust cool for 10  minutes.  Spread the raspberry preserves evenly over the crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

6.  Crumble the reserved dough over the preserves.  Bake for 7 minutes, or until the preserves are bubbling. Let the bars cool completely.

7. Loosen the edges of the crust with a small metal spatula.  Invert the pan over a large baking sheet, releasing the bars onto the baking sheet. Remove the parchment paper, and invert the bars again onto a cutting board.  Using a thin, sharp knife, cut them into 2-inch squares.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Salad Nicoise with Seared Salmon

To encourage healthy eating I have prepared my version of a salad nicoise. Typically, a salad nicoise is made with tuna, but well salmon was on sale. Are you getting a theme yet of my recipes? On sale.  In season. Already in my pantry. This was one delicious salad. This is the way salads are suppossed to taste. I prepared mine with egg, boiled small red potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, steamed green beans, and kalamata olives, and avocado on a bed of spring mix. A salad like this makes it easy to eat healthy. The nice thing is too you can adapt it to your own tastes. Don't like salmon? Try it with chicken or no meat at all! There is plenty of protein from the egg and avocado.  Use up whatever your veggies you have on hand. Although definitely try it with the potatoes. It is a really nice addition to a salad.

I also in attempt to be healthy and fresh, made my own dressing. Feel free to use a good bottled vinagrette. If you haven't made your own dressing though give it a shot. You will be surprised how easy and versatile homemade dressings can be.

Salad Nicoise with Seared Salmon
Adapted from Tyler Florence, Food Network

This salad also makes quite a lot. This recipe is for 8 servings. Adjust to how many people you are making it for or just have extra for lunch. I halved the recipe and it was a perfect amount for 2 dinners and 2 lunches the next day!

Also to save time. I bought the green beans that steam in the bag and popped it in the microwave. Feel free to save yourself a few minutes that way and open a bottle of wine instead!


  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey (or more to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  • 1 pound small red new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 pound haricots verts or French green beans, stems trimmed
  • 2 pounds salmon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint teardrop or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup nicoise olives (I used kalamata olives. Use whatever you can find in your grocery store.)
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • cucumber slices
1. To make the vinaigrette: combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Set the dressing aside while preparing the salad so the flavors can marry.

2. Cooking the potatoes, eggs, and green beans in the same pot cuts down on prep time and clean up. To do this, put the potatoes in a large saucepan, add water to cover and a nice pinch of salt; bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer the potatoes for 12 minutes to give them a head start, and then add the eggs. Place a steamer basket or colander on top of the simmering water. Put the green beans in the steamer and cover with a lid. Steam the beans for 5 minutes until crisp-tender while continuing to cook the potatoes until fork tender. Drain out the water and put the potatoes, eggs, and green beans in a colander; rinse briefly under cold water. Peel the shells off the eggs and cut them in 1/2 lengthwise.

3. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Rub the salmon on all sides (or one side if the skin is on) with olive oil, and a bit of the vinaigrette; season with a fair amount of salt and pepper. Lay the salmon in the hot pan and sear for approximately 6-8 minutes on each side; as the salmon cooks, the pink meat will become whiter. Transfer the salmon to a cutting board and slice equal portions.

4. To assemble the salad: combine the potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives,  in a large mixing bowl. Take the vinaigrette and give it another good shake to recombine. Drizzle the salad with enough vinaigrette to fully moisten and toss gently to coat; season with salt and pepper. Take care not to mush up the ingredients - the important thing about salad nicoise is that it is arranged nicely on a platter with all the elements keeping their individual integrity. Put the tossed salad down the center of a serving platter and lay the seared salmon attractively across the top and the eggs around the rim. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and serve.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

cake batter truffles

I hope this post brings back happy memories of sprinklers, flip-flops, freeze tag, and other care free summer moments. Memorial Day has come and gone marking the beginning of summer in my book. And this truffle to me is a little package of happy summer moments.  Even as an adult, I still love a funfetti cupcake above all others. Why is that? What is it about adding sprinkles to a vanilla cupcake that puts a smile on my face. Now I suppose I enjoyed a funfetti cupcake more than just in the summer moments, but for some reason it just screams back yard barbeque and pool parties. 

This is a little twist on the funfetti cupcake- cake batter truffles. You can definitely use whatever vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream you would like to make these truffles. I chose a recent recipe I posted earlier about. Why? Well, yes those cupcakes were phenomenal. But like the red velvet cupcakes that recently turned into cheesecake truffles, I had leftover vanilla cupcakes in the freezer that succumbed to the same cake truffle fate. Not a bad way to go if you ask me. Roll me in sprinkles and dip me in white chocolate. You won't hear any complaints for me. 

Happy Beginning of Summer everyone. 

Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted from Annie's Eats

For this recipe I had about a dozen leftover cupcakes. I also used about a half portion of the frosting. I added 1-2 Tbs. of sprinkles. This is one of those "eyeball" recipes. I added enough frosting so the cake crumbs came together, and enough sprinkle to satisfy my soul. 
Please note: the original recipe called for vanilla bean. I, having none on hand  (Let's face it vanilla beans are't cheap!) I simply doubled the vanilla extract to 2 tablespoons. If you choose to use the bean (and I only imagine it can enhance an already great cupcake) scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use.)  

3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside. 
3.Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.
4.Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
5.Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells.I managed to make a full 3 dozen cupcakes)  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.
Yield: approximately 30 cupcakes (like I said I got 36 cupcakes!)

Easy Vanilla ButtercreamIngredients:20 tbsp. (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted1/8 tsp. salt2 tsp. vanilla extract2 tbsp. heavy cream  Directions:In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

red velvet cheesecake truffles

What makes red velvet cake better? Add cheesecake. I had some leftover red velvet cupcakes in the freezer that were taking up way too much space. I wanted to do something different with them then simply de-frost and ice with frosting. (Not that it would be a bad idea.) That was when I found this recipe, for carrot cake truffles, originally from Momofuku Milk Bar. These are similar to a cake pop, but instead of combining cake crumbs with frosting, you combine it with what is called liquid cheesecake. It is cupcake meets cheesecake meets truffle. Sorry bikini are just going to have to wait.

To make the liquid cheesecake:

 With a mixer, cream the cream cheese for two minutes.

Add the sugar. 

Cream for another 3-4 minutes until smooth.

In another bowl, combine the cornstarch and salt. Then add your milk and egg and whisk until it is all combined.

Combine the egg mixture with the cream cheese mixture. Mix until combined. Then pour into a lined pan. Then Bake!

For the cake crumbs:

In a bowl, crumble the cupcakes with a fork. Until they look like this:

Then add the liquid cheesecake and roll into balls.

Roll in white chocolate and let cool. This process will be messy! (At least it was for me)

For the red velvet cupcakes (for this recipe I used 12 cupcakes)

2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
For the frosting:*
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes.  Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large, unlabeled star tip to frost these cupcakes.)

For the liquid cheesecake:
8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 c. white sugar, granulated
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. milk, whole
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 300°.
Put cream cheese into a medium sized bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the sugar and mix for 1-2 minutes until the sugar has been completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Whisk together the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the egg until the slurry is homogenous.
With the mixer on a medium-low speed, stream in the egg slurry. Paddle for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is smooth and loose. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Line the sides and bottom of a 6″ x 6″ baking pan with plastic wrap. Pour the cheesecake batter into the pan and bake for 15 minutes. It is done when it is set on the edges but still jiggly in the center. If the edges aren’t quite set, bake for 5 minute increments until it’s done, no more than 25 minutes.
Cool completely to finish the baking process and allow the cheesecake to set. It will be creamy and spreadable and can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to a week. 

For the truffles:
Please note: I used 12 regular sized cupcakes for this recipe so I had a little bit more than the recipe called for, I just added a few more tablespoons of the liquid cheesecake. I was able to get almost 2 dozen truffles with the cupcakes. If you don't have red velvet? Feel free to use any flavored cupcake. I just happen to have red velvet in my freezer.

3-4 c. cake scraps
2-4 tbsp. liquid cheesecake
white chocolate, melted

Combine the crushed-up cake with 2 tablespoons of the liquid cheesecake. Mix using your hands. If it is moist enough to knead into a ball then you’re set, if not add some more liquid cheesecake until it will hold its shape. Portion out 12-14 balls of the mixture.

Dip each ball of cake into the white chocolate until well coated. Place finished truffles on parchment paper and put them in the fridge for at least 5 minutes to fully set the chocolate before serving. Truffles can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.