Saturday, April 28, 2012

Oatmeal White chocolate-walnut cookies

Remember those walnuts on the side of the carrot cake? And in those shortbread cookies? Well I still had some left. And since Whole Foods charged way, way too much (sorry Whole foods- but seriously I'm on a teacher's budget here!) I had to make sure I used them up. And what better way then to throw them into a cookie.

I am actually quite proud of this little cookie. I think because I took the basic recipe from Cook's Illustrated and I adapted it to what I had. The original recipe called for bittersweet chocolate (I had white chocolate on hand), pecans (enter, walnuts!), and dried cherries (maybe, next time cherries) and came out with this cookie.

Someday- probably in a much much distant future- I will write my very own cookbook with my very own recipes. Until then, this is as adventurous as I get recipe-wise.  How sad am I that I actually got nervous that this combination would not work. But I had never seen an oatmeal white chocolate-walnut combination! Or at least never googled it. And I google a lot of recipes. Either way, I had a hankering for oatmeal cookies, with the rest of the ingredients on hand, and at 8:00 p.m. at night there would be no running to the store. White chocolate and walnuts would have to suffice. And suffice they did. Boy, oh boy, these came out good. Move over expensive macadamia nuts! We got a new nut in town that pairs very nicely (perhaps a little too nicely- I had one for breakfast and lunch) with white chocolate. 

On that to the gym.

Oatmeal Cookies with white chocolate and walnuts
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Makes about 16 large cookies

1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 (3 3/4 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.  In second medium bowl, stir oats, walnuts, chocolate together.
3.  Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed.  Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Gradually add oat-nut mixture, mix until just incorporated (I did this with a spatula and some elbow grease.) Give it one final stir to make sure no flour pockets remain.
4.  Working with 1/4 cup of dough at a time, roll into balls and place 2 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Press dough to 1-inch thickness using bottom of a greased measuring cup. (I used the palm of my hand and it worked just fine. And saved me dirtying up another utensil!)  Bake until cookies are medium brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will seem underdone, and will appear raw, wet, and shiny in cracks) about 20 to 22 minutes switching and rotating baking sheets half-way through baking.
5. Let cookies cool on baking sheets (always recommended but who am I kidding- I snuck a bite) for 5 minutes; transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Walnut Shortbread

I usually get an itch to bake at least once a day (if I'm lucky!). Unfortunately, my pantry doesn't always match my aspirations. A slim pantry doesn't tend to stop me. In fact, I kind of like it. I feel like I've been given a challenge. What can you make with no eggs, no milk, and no chocolate? Ugh...why bother!.. some might say! Not me.  I did have one stick of butter left in the freezer. Thank goodness. At least I had butter! I scoured my cookbooks- my cookie ones mostly- knowing that there had to be a few recipes out there that would scratch my itch with just a few ingredients. And lo and behold, on page 55 of Good Housekeeping Cookies cookbook I found a Walnut Shortbread recipe. 

It called for just four ingredients!
1.Walnuts (I had exactly the 1/2 cup it called for!) 
2. Flour
3. Sugar
4. Butter (exactly 1 stick)'s like the Baking Gods were calling for me to make this today! On an 80 degree day no less

Of course, being the baking dweeb that I am I decided to consult my Cook's Illustrated Bible on shortbread.  What did the experts have to say on shortbread?  The CI experts said the all flour recipe tends to create too much gluten resulting in a dry and tough shortbread. Ugh who wants that? They subbed in some oats. Well I didn't have any of that! I did have cake flour though.  The recipe on page 54 used half AP flour and half cake flour to make them "tender as authentic Scottish Shortbread". Now how come the page 55 recipe didn't call for half cake flour? Hmmph. I wanted authentic shortbread just like the next person! The CI experts also said using confectioner's sugar instead of granulated resulted in a better texture.  Well taking all this into consideration, and my pantry, I was able to come up with this modified version of page 55. 

This recipe comes together quickly as well. First start by toasting your walnuts.
Then transfer the walnuts and 1/2 cup of flour to your food processor fitted with the blade. Pulse until the walnuts are finely ground.

Transfer the walnut mixture to a medium sized bowl. Add the remaining flour.

Add in the butter. And mix it in with your hands. So messy but so satisfying!

Mix until it is nice and crumbly. See..I told you totally satisfying!

Now press into a 9-inch square pan. (Or whatever you have on hand. I used 8-inch pan and mine turned out just fine!)

I think this would go great with a cup of tea. If I had any.

Walnut Shortbread
Adapted from Good Housekeeping Favorite Recipes, Cookies!

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
3/4 cup AP flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar (granulated or confectioners- I used confectioner's)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick), softened

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast walnuts in a single layer for about 5-7 minutes.  
2. In food processor with knife blade attached, process walnuts with 1/2 cup flour until finely ground.
3. In medium bowl, combine remaining flour, cake flour, sugar, and walnut mixture until blended.
4. With fingertips, blend butter into walnut mixture until well combined and crumbly. With hand, press dough onto bottom of ungreased 9- inch baking pan. (I used an 8- inch baking pan and adjusted my time).
5. Bake until light golden, 25 to 30 minutes. While still warm, cut into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 6 pieces. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
6. When cool, with small metal spatula, carefully remove cookies from pan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Simple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

I don't know what it is about bringing a cake to someone's house. Especially a carrot cake. Everyone is always incredibly impressed. I always feel a tad guilty accepting all of the wonderful praise. One, it's not my recipe (thank you again Cook's Illustrated!). Two, it truly is easy to make a cake from scratch. You just have to be willing to invest a little bit more time and elbow grease. This recipe though definitely is a good go to carrot cake recipe. It was moist, full of carrot and spice flavor. I am usually very, very critical of my own baking (even when I am getting all that praise), but this cake I have to admit did deliver. I hate when a carrot cake is really just a glorified spice cake overloaded by a cream cheese icing flavor. Don't get me wrong, I love any good cake. And cream cheese icing? Don't get me started. It is just that when it comes to carrot cake I want a CARROT cake.  This recipe I believe did succeed. Of course, knowing me it will not be the last carrot cake recipe I will try.

To make the cake, I grated all my carrots by hand. Yes, you can definitely use a food processor. I chose to do this by hand. It's a great way to not feel guilty when you have to skip the gym because you just HAD to make a cake.

I also only added toasted walnuts to my cake. Feel free to add pecans, or omit. You can also add pineapple chunks, raisins, or coconut. Me? I am a carrot cake purist! Ok- and it is just easier and cheaper. Personally, the cake was delicious without all the add-ins. To each his own.

Making a cake from scratch is truly satisfying though. And I am truly on a "make everything from scratch" kick (more like a moving train that has no plan of stopping). The more you read box labels (or attempt to because you can't read half of what is on the label!) the more you may be tempted to also bake everything you can from scratch. Even grate your carrots by hand.

Simple Carrot Cake
Originally from Cook's Illustrated

makes one 13 by 9-inch cake- I baked mine in two 9 inch round pans.

you can add walnuts and raisins, both or neither, if you do both, add about ten minutes onto your baking time.

I also added toasted crushed walnuts to the outside of the cake. It looks pretty and also covers up any frosting faux-pas one might have.
Ingredients:2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound (6 to 7 medium) carrots, peeled

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups safflower, canola, or vegetable oil

1. for the cake: adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. spray 13 by 9-inch baking pan (or two 9-inch round pans) with nonstick cooking spray. 
2. whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in large bowl; set aside.
3. Grate 6-7 medium carrots by hand. Set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, combine sugars and eggs and mix until frothy and thoroughly combined. While mixer is running, add oil. 
5. Stir in dry ingredients, until no flour remains.
6.If you use a food processor- in food processor fitted with large shredding disk, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); transfer carrots to bowl and set aside. Wipe out food processor workbowl and fit with metal blade. process granulated and brown sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. with machine running, add oil through feed tube in steady stream. process until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. scrape mixture into medium bowl. stir in carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. 
7. Pour into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
Originally from Annie's Eats

* I ended up making 3 batches of this frosting to frost my cake. I did have a little leftover. But I would prefer that as opposed to not enough. If you make a sheet cake- I would put money on it that one batch would suffice!

8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1. Cream together cream cheese and butter.
2. Add vanilla extract.
3. Add sugar (I add a 1/2 cup to a cup at a time- just to avoid a huge mess!) and mix until delcious and creamy!
4. Try to avoid eating it straight from the bowl and allow your cake to cool to frost.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I adore red velvet. Adoration might not even be a strong enough word. This is absolutely pure love-a forever and ever I do kind of love.This recipe for red velvet cupcakes is divine. I had my go-to recipe for red velvet cupcakes, and was extremely hesitant to try another one. If  it ain't broke why fix it? Boy am I glad I did though! I found this recipe on Annie's Eats. Surprise, surprise! I love her blog and can't seem to get enough. Amazing photos and just an overall beautifully done site. Do you give photography lessons? Annie are you listening?

Ok- back to the cupcakes! Red velvet if you are somehow unfamiliar to this delicious dessert it is a buttermilk based cupcake with a hint of cocoa, and of course red food coloring added in! According to history, during World War II, because foods were being rationed bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes and also to help retain moisture.  I know some people shy away from the food coloring and still prefer to use the beet method. No beets for me please.  The thought of beets somehow doesn't sit well with me, and frankly food coloring is just plain easier.  A full 2 oz. is used in this recipe and I think the final color on these cupcakes is spot on. 
Frost these with cream cheese frosting and you will surely, sinfully, be grabbing more than one.
P.s. Annie suggests using clear vanilla extract to get an even more pure color.  Having none, I stuck with my favorite brand of pure vanilla extract.

P.p.s I only made one batch of the frosting and was only able to frost half of the cupcakes. What can I say I'm a girl who likes her frosting. If you like frosting as much as I do I would double the recipe. I ended up freezing my "naked", aka unfrosted, cupcakes. Can't let those beauties go to waste!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Adapted from Annie's Eats
For the cake:
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.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Broiled Tilapia with Mustard-chive sauce

This recipe has it all.
Delicious? Check.

Quick? Check.

Affordable? Check, check, check.

Oh and its friendly on your waistline!  I love eating fish as much as possible. I do get a little bored though with tilapia and am always trying to mix things up a bit. Tilapia is always so affordable, so I try to keep it in rotation as much as possible.  I saw this recipe on Food Network and it is one of the recipe in Giada's new cookbook, Weeknights with Giada. I haven't purchased a copy yet, but I have a feeling it will find its way into my amazon shopping cart soon.  I adore Giada and love her take on healthy, quick, italian dishes. And this dish did not disappoint. When the sauce (which takes about 5 minutes to throw together) hits the fish (which took no more than 8 minutes it self) it is a delicious union.

No offense Rachael. But 30 minutes? This dish was ready in about ten. You gotta love that. I added a quick side dish of cous cous cooked in vegetable broth for a little more flavor and I added some frozen peas (you know so I felt that I had some of that green stuff on my plate).



  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 4 (5 to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 1/4 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the fish: Preheat a broiler. Spray a small baking sheet or glass baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.
Drizzle the tilapia fillets on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and broil until cooked through and the flesh flakes easily with a fork, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
For the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, agave nectar, and mustard until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice and chives. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Transfer the tilapia to a serving platter and drizzle with the sauce.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Almond Puff Loaf

I love when I am given an actual reason to bake as opposed to my own simple desire to try a recipe. My boyfriend asked me to make a breakfast treat for his boss' birthday. This is how the conversation went.
 "Will you make some breakfast pastries?

"What kind do you want?"

"Whatever I don't care."

"Ok how about  muffins"?

"No I don't like muffins"

"Ok then..."  So much for not having an opinion.  After a loooong Friday night looking up the perfect recipe to make (ok who am I kidding I had fun while doing this)  I stumbled upon this almond puff loaf. This danish- like pastry looks fancy and people will think you spent hours doing this, but it is truly is a simple pastry to throw together. So simple  I made two batches. Yea- I'm that crazy. This recipe is definitely going into my baking arsenal and will be made it again without a doubt. It has a perfect buttery flaky crust, with just enough sweetness and one of my all-time flavors (it says so right in the name) almond.

Each batch makes 2 almond loaves. I made one with a blueberry jam and the other with strawberry. I originally  was going to make raspberry (but someone- names will be left out) got strawberry at the store. Oh well both turned out fantastic.

If you are a little hesitant at first, take a look at the original blog for this recipe because its gives you fabulous step-by-step instructions.

But if you are in need of an upcoming breakfast treat for this Easter weekend. Look no further. This is it. It's so quick and easy I promise it will leave you time to for that Easter egg hunt or whatever Easter traditions you and your family have.

Almond Puff Loaf
from King Arthur Flour


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter*, cut into pats or 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • *If you're using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter*
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature; warm them, in the shell, in hot tap water for 10 minutes if they're cold from the fridge
  • 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • *If you're using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt.


  • 2/3 cup jam or preserves
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted in a 350°F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until they're a light, golden brown


  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons milk or water (approximately)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a large cookie sheet.
1) First layer: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, and salt (if you're using it), working the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork, your fingers, or a mixer. Mix until everything is crumbly, then stir in the water. The dough will become cohesive, though not smooth.
2) Divide the dough in half; if you're using a scale, each half will weigh about 4 5/8 ounces. Wet your hands, and shape each piece of this wet dough into a rough log. Pat the logs into 10" x 3" rectangles on the sheet, leaving at least 4" (but preferably 6") between them, and 2" on each side. These puff up in the oven (hence the name), and you need to leave them room for expansion.
3) Second layer: In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Stir until the butter melts, then add the flour (and salt, if you're using it) all at once. Stir the mixture with a spoon till it thickens, begins to steam, and leaves the sides of the pan; this will happen very quickly.
4) Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat it at medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to cool it down a bit.
5) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat until the dough loses its "slimy" look, and each egg is totally absorbed.
6) Mix in the almond extract.
7) Divide the batter in half. Spread half the batter over one of the dough strips on the pan, covering it completely. Repeat with the remaining batter and dough.
8) With a spatula (or your wet fingers) spread the batter until it completely covers the entire bottom layer of dough. Smooth it out as best you can.
9) Bake the pastry for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it's a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and transfer each pastry to a wire rack.
10) Topping: Spread each warm pastry with about 1/3 cup of jam or preserves. (Any flavor is fine, but our favorites are raspberry and apricot.)
11) Sprinkle the toasted almonds atop the jam. By this time, your beautifully puffed pastries are probably starting to sink; don't worry, this is all part of the plan.
12) Icing: Stir together the sugar, vanilla, and enough milk or water to form a thick but "drizzlable" icing.
13) Drizzle the icing atop the pastries.
14) Cut into squares or strips to serve.