Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies

A few months ago I got a craving for peanut butter cookies. I had not had any in a while, and I craved a cookie that would yield a crunch of peanut butter in every bite. Doesn't that sound yummy!

Once a craving knocks on my door, it tends to make itself at home until my taste buds are sufficiently satisfied. I browsed through lots of recipes, and tried one that I thought might fit the bill... but the end result was not that exciting. I mean, they were great for a sweet fix throughout the week, but my peanut butter craving still lingered. So, I continued to keep my eyes peeled in case something popped up that might help me shake this hunger. A month or so later, I stumbled upon these cookies from Brown Eyed Baker and knew that I had to try them. Raise your spatulas -- the results were delicious and my taste buds were happy!

I highly recommend this recipe to all you peanut butter lovers out there; whether you have a craving or not, you won't be disappointed. These cookies are full of crunchy goodness! Such a treat. :)
*Note: I baked mine for a minute or two longer than the original recipe indicated because they seemed like they still needed to bake. You may want to pull them out earlier than what's noted below if you're trying to retain a softer center.

Yields about 40 cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, separated
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
3/4 cup peanut butter chips 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat unsalted butter and peanut butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add light brown sugar and 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition; scrape down sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Reduce speed of mixer to low and gradually add your dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in peanuts and peanut butter chips until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar into a small bowl. Using a cookie scoop, roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll balls of dough in sugar to coat and place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using the tines of a fork, press down on each ball to flatten rounds; press down twice in opposite directions to make a crisscross indention.

Bake cookies until lightly browned, about 11-13 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to sit on baking sheets for a couple of minutes, then transfer cookies to wire cooling racks. Store in air tight container.

Source: slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Monday, October 10, 2011

Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares

One of the only ways I know how to say "Happy Birthday" is by baking. I'm terrible about sending cards. I always battle internally over whether or not I should spend $4 on a greeting card, and most of the time I just buy from the 99 cent stack, but those cards are never as cute or clever. And as opposed to spending money on a gift for someone which they may or may not like, I'd rather apply my time and money towards baking something I know the birthday guy or gal is sure to enjoy! Baking is thoughtful, full of heart, and sings yummy goodness. :) So if you don't care for sweets, then you don't leave me much choice and you'll likely get a birthday card that's really not that funny and even less cute... sorry, but now I've warned you!
I baked these salted toffee squares for Matt's co-worker's birthday. Lane (who I absolutely adore) loves to sample my baking, so I thought she might appreciate a birthday gift from my oven. :) I was really struggling over what I should bake for her... I wanted it to be something good! I flipped through tons of recipes over several days. Finally, I opened my inbox one morning to see Martha's Cookie of the Day email, and low and behold, there sat these salted toffee-chocolate squares. "This is it!" I thought to myself.
These bars were so delicious! I could have happily eaten all of them on my own. The sweet and salty balance was superb, and the crunch of the toffee and pecans was delectable! I think these would make a delicious dessert for a pot luck or cookout. One thing I'll change next time is chopping blocks of chocolate instead of using morsels. I found that the morsels didn't melt that much. I think chopped chocolate will melt easier and help seal in the loose peanut butter chips and pecans once it hardens. But the flavor was perfect, and this recipe could easily be adapted to suit your palate. Go make a batch and have fun with it!

Yields 24 bars
13 graham crackers
1 bag (8 oz) toffee bits
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place graham crackers on the baking sheet in a single layer, with the edges of the crackers touching. Sprinkle toffee bits and pecans over graham crackers.

In a small saucepan, bring sugar and butter to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and cook at a rapid simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy. Immediately pour the mixture over the graham crackers. Bake until sugar topping is bubbling, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire cooling rack and immediately sprinkle chocolate, peanut butter chips and salt over graham crackers. With a sharp knife, carefully cut into 2-inch squares. Let cool completely after separating.

Source: slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bridal Shower Cake

What do you love most about a bridal or baby shower? I love the details! Themes, invitations, decor... refreshments, games, gifts... I love it all! So much thought and preparation goes into planning a shower, and I love to soak up every little detail. :) The baker inside me loves to check out the dessert table. Whether there's cake, cupcakes, petit fours... cookies, brownies, tarts... pass me a plate and shower me in sweetness!
I made this cake for a wedding shower at my office. Just so happens, both the bride and groom work in my department - two wonderful people, therefore twice the celebration!! I couldn't resist signing up to make a cake. I love baking for special occasions... it gives my flour and sugar a more meaningful purpose. :) I made a traditional vanilla cake with a hint of almond, and topped it with a classic buttercream frosting. Yum! It tasted delicious, and it seemed to be a big hit amongst my co-workers.

Cheers to the bride the groom (who have since wed)!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

M&M Doozies

One thing I used to love about shopping at the mall was strolling by the delightful display of Great American Cookies. Tempted by the sweet aroma, luring me closer, it would take all my will power to re-direct my eyes forward and continue on my merry way. (Until I'd come upon a stand of Auntie Anne's pretzels, and then, well... that's a whole other craving!) Last year, I tried my hand at a homemade chocolate chip cookie cake -- simply delicious! It was every bit as tasty as the ones you would buy from the mall, and it was such a hit with my hubby that he requested his own cookie cake for his birthday this year. And I gladly obliged... :)
There is one other taunting treat in those Great American Cookie displays that can catch my eye from twenty feet away... the Double Doozies! Oh my heaven, how I love the sweet divinity of a Double Doozie! Since the cookie cake was such a success, I decided to use the same recipe to recreate the doozie sensation right here in my own kitchen. Hooray, another great success!
My preference is always the M&M doozie, so I subbed the bittersweet and white chocolate chips for a bag of plain M&Ms and 1/2 cup of mini chocolate morsels. I baked them at 350°F for 10-12 minutes. Once the cookies had cooled, I topped half the batch with my favorite buttercream frosting and sandwiched them together with the other half. Perfection!
Of course I could not leave all these sitting on my counter, screaming for my affection. No, that would not do so well for my waistline. :) Instead, I piled them up in a sweet little cookie jar and escorted them over to our friend's housewarming party. Treats like these are made to be shared, and I think they made the tastiest gift!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes

And I'm back by popular demand -- popular amongst me, myself and I -- demand from my taste buds and my sweet tooth!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I've been off enjoying the summer. :) How about you? Are you staying cool in this insane heat?

I thought these cupcakes would be a good way to ease back into blogging mode. I made them for Matt's co-worker's birthday, and I must say, they were yummy! When Matt said the birthday girl liked strawberry cake, I was ecstatic! It just so happens that strawberry cake is my absolute favorite cake flavor!! I discovered this about myself a few years ago when I was trying to master my grandmother's strawberry cake. I absolutely love it! This recipe is nothing like my grandmother's cake, but I've wanted to try some sort of strawberry cake to pair with the delightful strawberry frosting I made a couple months ago. I was drawn to this recipe because of the fresh chunks of berries mixed into the cake batter. I must say, these are delicious! They remind me of a strawberry shortcake, but in cupcake form. Most definitely a refreshing treat!
Yields 30 Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin pans with paper liners, set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine both flours, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend.

In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, cream butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and egg white one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla and mix well. Adjusting the mixer to low speed, gradually add half of the flour mixture, milk and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing just until combined after each addition. Gently fold in strawberries with a spatula.

Fill prepared muffin pans with batter, filling each liner 3/4 full. Bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool in pans for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Frost cupcakes and enjoy! Click here for strawberry frosting recipe. 

Source: cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes, recipe found on Annie's Eats

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Turtle Brownies

I have had a dire need to bake something! I feel like I have neglected my kitchen for the past couple of weeks because work has been super busy. I have been so mentally exhausted by the time I get home that I cannot fathom doing anything else that involves using my brain. Do you ever have those moments? Well now, my brain is screaming for some baked stimulation! Work is going to be a bit insane for the remainder of the month, so I need some fuel to recharge and stay focused. Plus Matt has literally asked me five times this week to bake something. How can I say no to the man I love so dearly? :)
These brownies were just what I needed to top off my weekend. They are phenomenal!!! I had no trouble deciding what I wanted to bake... I wanted to recreate the sweetness of a turtle candy into the form of a brownie. I stumbled upon a few recipes for caramel brownies that were recently adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather. I do not have this book, so I have not seen the original recipe, but I might have to run out and buy it tomorrow. :) These brownies were definitely some of the best brownies I have had in a long time, and I'll make sure to keep this recipe handy because I sense that I might have future cravings for these sweeties. Delicious!!

Yields 9-12 brownies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
7 oz caramel candies, unwrapped
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp light cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches of overhang along two sides. Grease parchment and sides of dish with baking spray; set aside.

Cut butter into 6 cubes and combine with chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until completely melted. Transfer chocolate mixture into a medium size mixing bowl, and whisk in both sugars, eggs, and vanilla until incorporated. Stir in flour and salt just until combined. Evenly spread half of the batter in the prepared dish and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place pecans in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine caramel candies and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Stir in half of the pecans, and immediately spread caramel mixture over the bottom brownie layer. Carefully pour and spread the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer. Top with the remaining pecan pieces, and bake for 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Lift the brownies from the pan and remove parchment paper. Cut into squares. Store brownies in airtight container.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Corn And Black Bean Salad

As the weather starts to really heat up outside, I felt it was time to share with you this refreshingly cool, tasty salad. Black beans and corn tossed with a little cider vinegar and cilantro... this salad is delicious and addicting! Matt and I love this dish, and I love to make it during the summer months. It is the perfect side for any backyard cookout; and if you serve it with a bowl of baked scoops, you'll have yourself a perfect appetizer that your friends and family will love to munch on.
Try it... and I'm certain you'll love it as much as we do! :)

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 cans of corn (White, Yellow and Mexicorn), drained and rinsed
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Ground red pepper (or paprika) to taste

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together cilantro, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Add corn, beans, onion and red pepper; gently mix to combine all ingredients. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Can be stored up to three days in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mario Bros (Chocolate) Cake

Life, where are you going? You're whizzing right by me everyday! Sometimes I wake up and think, wait a second... where have the past few years gone? Life, slow down! You're going by way too fast!!

My nephew's birthday was this past weekend, and I'm baffled at the fact that he is now eight years old! I remember the day he was born... I remember getting the call from my sister saying her first little baby was here and then rushing up to the hospital to hold him in my arms. I was in such awe over him! I was delighted to finally be an aunt!! But now, my little buddy isn't a baby anymore... He's now a super inquisitive, extremely bright, creative and funny little man who loves video games! :) So for his birthday party, I made this deliciously chocolate Mario Bros cake. 
I went with the Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake recipe. The flavor was chosen (without hesitation) by the birthday boy himself. The Hershey recipe is super easy, super moist, and super delicious! Yum and fun... What more can a kid ask for? :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Deviled Eggs

My family members are huge fans of deviled eggs. I'm talking, huge fans! We love them. If ever there were a holiday where deviled eggs were not on the table, well... I'm really not sure what would happen. A holiday without deviled eggs is just unthinkable!
Typically, I make deviled eggs by adding a little of this and a little of that to the filling... tasting... then adding a little more of this and a little extra of that. So when I made a batch for Easter, I decided to measure out my ingredients and lock these down to a written recipe. They are delicious! And their presence will continue to grace the table at our holiday meals. Obviously, you don't have to wait for the next holiday to roll around before you crank out some tasty deviled eggs (because I definitely won't be waiting!). So whenever you're ready, here you go!

Yields 36 deviled eggs
18 large eggs
2/3 cup light mayo
2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 tbsp sweet pickle relish
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper 

Place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with water. On the stove-top, bring water to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Fill a large bowl with ice water, and transfer eggs to the bowl to let cool for about 5 minutes.

Once eggs have cooled, crack and peel them. Cut eggs lengthwise down the center. Remove yolks and place in a small mixing bowl,  and arrange egg whites on a serving dish. Add mayo, mustard, pickle relish, salt and pepper to the bowl of yolks. Using a fork, mash ingredients together until well combined and smooth. Spoon filling into the hollow center of the eggs. (I placed filling in a piping tube fitted with a star tip for a fancier presentation.) Sprinkle with paprika.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Strawberry-Vanilla Cupcakes filled with White Chocolate Ganache

Vanilla cupcakes...

Filled with white chocolate ganache...

Topped with a delightful strawberry buttercream frosting...

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about these springtime beauties. :)

My hubby called me at work a couple weeks ago because his office announced a bake sale they were hosting to raise money for Relay for Life. "Would you want to bake something for it?" he asked. Hmm, would I want to bake something... absolutely, yes! Would I want to bake something to help raise money for a great cause... most definitely, yes!! After hanging up the phone, I instantly started brainstorming what to bake. The sale was categorized as a Spring Bake Sale, so I immediately thought of strawberries. I figured cupcakes would be a nice addition to any dessert table, so I went with it... I decided to make vanilla cupcakes with strawberry frosting. It wasn't until the day before baking that I decided to add a little extra sweetness by filling them with ganache. White chocolate and strawberries - YUM!
Since people were going to purchase the cupcakes, I didn't want to get too experimental. I made vanilla cupcakes which I've made before because I knew they were tasty. I doubled the recipe, so that I would have 24 cupcakes, and used 4 large eggs (instead of separating a lot of yolks). I ventured out with the frosting and tweaked it until I found just the right flavor (delightful!). The frosting was definitely my favorite part of these cupcakes! Now I'm on a mission to find the perfect strawberry cake to go along with it. :)
These cupcakes were so delicious! It was hard to part with all of them. Matt came home with great feedback from his office, so I know I'm not the only one who swooned over these babies. :) This is an excellent dessert for any springtime party. Whip up a batch, and your friends won't leave until they've finished off the last one. So tasty! 

Below are the recipes for the ganache and frosting...

Yields enough frosting and ganache for 24 cupcakes
1/4 cup whipping cream
4 oz white chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3-4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz fresh strawberry puree
2 tbsp whipping cream

For the ganache... Place chocolate in a small bowl. In a small sauce pan, bring cream to a boil. Pour boiling cream over chocolate; let stand for a couple of minutes. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Cover and refrigerate to thicken. 

For the frosting... In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer to low speed. Gradually add in 3 cups of sugar, and mix until well blended. Add vanilla, strawberry puree, and whipping cream; blend until well combined. Gradually add (up to) an additional cup of sugar until you reach your desired consistency. 

To assemble cupcakes... cut a cone-shaped portion out of the center of the cupcakes. Gently cut off the tip of the cone. Fill the cupcake by spooning the ganache into the center of the cake. Replace the top of the cone over the filling. Frost cupcakes.

Source: frosting adapted from My Baking Addiction, ganache adapted from Martha Stewart

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jubilee Jumbles

Hi! Have I got some yummy goodness to share with you today. :) It's my first guest post, and here to present these darling Jubilee Jumbles is my friend, Megan. You may recall Megan from my baking extravaganza post. She is a friend of mine that shares my passion for baking, and I am delighted to host her here on my blog! Megan and I love to talk baking… we share recipes and baking tips, we love to bounce ideas off each other when we’re trying something new, and most of all we LOVE to sample each other’s creations! These cookies were among the first baked goods that Megan shared with me, and I was in awe over the yumminess. These cookies are absolutely amazing, and it only seems right to let Megan share these with you. So without further ado, I’d like to welcome Megan to Burn Me Not!!
Jubilee Jumbles, or as I’ve always called them, “Icing Cookies”!

I have many fond childhood memories of baking with my Mom and of all the cookies we’ve ever made, these cakey, glazed beauties are by far the most requested and beloved by our family and friends. Every time we made them when I was a young, kids would come from surrounding houses to get a bite—a tradition, I might add, that continued even after I went to college. Have you ever seen a group of hungry college students stampede towards a box of homemade cookies? It’s not pretty, but it sure makes for fast friends!
Now I should give fair warning—these cookies are extremely addicting and once people taste them, they are bound to ask for more. For me, the most dangerous (or delicious?) part is the glaze. I must admit that even as an adult I have a tendency to make myself sick swiping the extra glaze from the wax paper! 

Now, whip up a batch and feed your sweet tooth---it will thank you!

Adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Book, 1961

Yield: 4 dozen

For the cookies:
½ cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¾ cups flour
½ tsp soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the browned butter glaze:
½ cup butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 Tbsp hot water


Mix shortening, sugars, and eggs thoroughly. Stir in sour cream and vanilla. Add flour, soda, and salt and stir until well incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons (I use a medium cookie scoop) onto greased baking sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees, or until almost no imprint remains when touched with finger. Cool cookies on wax paper.

To make the glaze, melt the butter until golden brown. Blend in sifted confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Stir in hot water until icing spreads smoothly. (A note about the glaze: be sure the water is hot…it makes a big difference. Start with 2 Tbsp—it’s usually enough to get a smooth, thick glaze, but add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until you get the consistency you desire.)

Once cool, dip the top of each cookie into the browned butter glaze.  Let cool on wax paper until the glaze sets. Store in airtight container, if they aren’t gone by then!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Carrot Cake

Did you all have a nice Easter? Ours was fabulous! It was a beautiful day spent with family. Doesn't get much better than that! My sister hosted a lovely brunch, and I volunteered to bring dessert (real shocker, I know). I have wanted to make a carrot cake for some time now, so I knew exactly what I was going to bring when I marked myself down for something sweet. There are certain days of the year when a carrot cake just makes sense, and to me, Easter is one of those days.
I haven't always been a huge fan of carrot cake. Some cakes tend to have a lot going on with the added ingredients, and I think that can take away from the delicate spice of the cake. I decided to tweak the original recipe a bit and keep this one fairly simple by only adding in chopped pecans and raisins. Excellent choice! I used a maple cream cheese frosting and it paired beautifully with the cake.
This is one recipe that definitely lands a slot in my recipe box. Such a treat! I would highly recommend this for Mother's Day, a backyard barbecue, or a bridal shower. Whatever the occasion, this cake is a winner!

Yields 12-14 servings
For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups packed light brown sugar 
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 3/4 cups peeled, shredded carrots
1 cup raisins (soaked in warm water for one hour)
2 cups chopped pecans, separated

For the frosting:
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 8-inch pans with parchment paper, and grease bottom and sides of pans with baking spray; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, both sugars, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk together to blend, breaking up any large lumps of brown sugar with your hand. In another large mixing bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, oil, and buttermilk. Whisk until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated. Add in carrots, 1 cup of pecans, and raisins. Fold gently into batter with a spatula until incorporated.

Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until cakes are golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I recommend rotating cakes halfway through baking. Transfer to wire racks and cool 5-10 minutes in the pans, then turn out cakes directly onto wire racks and cool completely.

For the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add maple syrup and vanilla, beat until combined. Gradually add confectioners' sugar and continue beating until well combined and smooth.

To assemble the cake, level layers (if necessary) using a serrated knife. Place one layer on a cake stand or cardboard cake round. Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting over the top. Place another cake layer on top and repeat frosting. Place the final cake layer on top. Frost the top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, reserving up to 1 cup for detailing if needed. Press remaining cup of pecans along the sides of cake.


Source: cake adapted from Annie's Eats, frosting from Martha Stewart

Monday, April 18, 2011

Brown Butter Blondies

So here's a question for you... are you a brownie or a blondie person? If I were still 10 years old, I would shout "brownie" at the top of my lungs without a second of hesitation. I was one of those kids that loved anything chocolate... and I mean l-o-v-e-d chocolate. Now don't jump to any conclusions, I'm not about to declare that I no longer love chocolate. But with age, my taste buds have matured a bit. Now I love such a variety of flavors, that chocolate is not usually my first choice anymore. I guess it all depends on my mood. :) So which do you prefer? Actually, before you answer that question, I would highly recommend that you give this recipe a try. These blondies are amazingly scrumptious!
I made these blondies for a co-workers birthday, and they were a huge hit at the office. The combination of browned butter and light brown sugar is a delicious foundation for the pecans and chocolate toffee bits housed inside these delectable goodies... and of course I threw in a few white chocolate chips, just because I felt like it. :) I'm keeping these bars on deck for the next party or gathering we go to where I need to bring a dessert. Guaranteed crowd pleaser!!
So tell me, are you a brownie or blondie person? Today, I am most definitely a blondie person! :)

Yields 24 blondies
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup chocolate toffee bits
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it turns golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch pan with baking spray. Line with parchment paper, allowing a 2-inch overhang on the longer sides. Grease parchment (not overhang). Set aside.

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

In a large bowl, stir browned butter and both sugars with a wooden spoon until combined. Using an electric mixer, beat in eggs on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until thoroughly combined. Mix in pecans, toffee bits, and white chocolate chips. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Lift out of the pan and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 24 squares.

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baking Extravaganza: Tarts, Truffles, Doughnuts & Cupcakes

So lately I've been slipping into a bit of a baking slump... sad, but true. The past few months have been busier than normal, and I haven't been in much of a baking mood. The few times that I have felt like baking, haven't really gone quite like I expected. How discouraging, right? So how do I snap out of it? How do I find a way back into my groove? I guess there is the option to take a break for a while, and just give it a rest for a couple of months... but that option doesn't settle too well with me. Another thought would be to continue on the track I'm headed down... baking infrequently, and accepting the failures that emerge from my oven. But that doesn't sound like much fun. Or... I could dive right in, head first... shove myself into my kitchen for hours and not let myself out until I have some yummy goodness to show for it. That's what I'm talking about! And that's exactly what I did. :)

My friend/co-worker, Megan, and I have talk for a while about baking together. We both love to bake, and we love to trade baking tips and secrets with each other. So we finally marked a day on our calendars, and set out to make some fantastic recipes. And let me tell you, it was just what I needed to get my bearings back. We baked for hours, and I loved every minute of it! It was a baking extravaganza!! And it was amazing!!

Now, let's check out what we made... We gathered several recipes from other food blogs, narrowed them down to just four (which we deemed the "chosen ones"), and went to town!

First, lets start with the chocolate caramel tarts. Oh the tarts! Ooey-gooey, yummy caramel embedded in a delightful crust, then sealed into captivity by an exquisite chocolate ganache. Man, oh man, these little beauties are sinful! These are a definite keeper... I can't wait to serve these at our next dinner party!
Recipe from Spache The Spatula
Next up... doughnuts! Megan and I wanted to tackle a yeast recipe, so what could be better than trying our hands at homemade doughnuts. Um, yum! I found this recipe over at Brown Eyed Baker. It was a guest post from Sugarcrafter for cinnamon-sugar doughnuts. We couldn't settle on just one type of doughnut, so we went with 1) traditional glaze doughnuts, 2) chocolate frosted doughnuts, with sprinkles (of course!), and 3) cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes. Dee-lightful!
Still with me? :) Good! I wouldn't want you to miss out on these truffles!! I have seen lots of recipes incorporating cookie dough, and I love reading about all the new creations. They always look so tasty. I mean, hello, who could resist a bite full of chocolate chip cookie dough?! These truffles are heavenly! They're a little time consuming to make, but they're really not that difficult. The dipping process can be a bit challenging if you've never done it before, which I had not. But after dipping the first few, you'll start to get the hang of it. The hardest part for me was dropping the truffles onto the wax paper without excess chocolate pooling at the bottom, but hey, that just means more chocolate with each bite. :)
Recipe from The Recipe Girl
We also made mocha truffles, but I'll share that recipe another time... so make sure you check back! :)

Have you overdosed on sugar yet??? Nah, I think you can handle one more. ;)

This baking extravaganza just wouldn't be complete without a cupcake. Lucky for us, Megan has had her eye on these vanilla almond cupcakes. Talk about scrumptious! The vanilla and almond are paired beautifully in both the cake and the frosting, so you really taste the best of both worlds. Delicious!
Recipe from The Curvy Carrot

Well, there you have it... if you ever find yourself sinking into a baking slump, find a friend who enjoys baking as much as you do and go to town! :) Now, make sure to check out each of these recipes. I highly recommend ALL of them!

Hope you have a wonderful day!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Steak Fajita Burritos

Everyone has those go-to menu items that are simply irresistible in their household, right? You know, when you can't decide on anything else to make, or perhaps you don't feel like cooking but you obviously have to eat, or maybe you're crunched for time and unable to experiment with a new recipe. That's when you turn to one of those recipes that you know best (and love most!). A go-to recipe that you've tested, you've mastered, and that you've probably revamped a time or two. For me, one of those go-to recipes is fajitas. Yum! I taught myself how to make fajitas right after getting married, and I haven't stopped making them since. I love them! They're super easy to throw together, and I almost always have the ingredients on hand. Not to mention, they taste so darn good!

Now, I don't actually have a steadfast recipe for fajitas because I make them a little different each time. But that's what's so great about them... you can customize them to your liking! And since I'm only feeding myself and my husband, I buy the larger tortillas and wrap them up like burritos. If you're preparing these for more people, then buy the smaller tortillas and serve them taco style with extra fixings.

Yields 4-6 servings
2 medium size steaks
1 box Zatarains Spanish Rice (Note: I also LOVE to make these with the Zatarains Black Beans & Rice)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 medium onion, sliced into thin wedges
1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
sharp cheddar, shredded
flour tortillas

Slice steaks into strips. Season as desired... I seasoned these with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, cumin, and garlic powder. Let steaks stand about 20 to 30 minutes after seasoning.

Meanwhile, prepare rice as directed on the box (I omitted adding the canned tomatoes).

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak. Cook about 7 to 9 minutes, turning only once. (Feel free to cook your steak a little more or less depending on how you like your steak prepared.) Remove meat from skillet and set aside. Add garlic, onion, and peppers to the skillet. Cook until tender. Return meat to skillet and cook a minute longer, or until heated through. Serve immediately.

To assemble burritos, place tortillas on a microwave safe plate and heat in microwave for 20 seconds (I heat the tortillas individually). Fill the middle of the tortillas with rice, meat and veggies, and cheese. Fold tortilla and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

Have I ever expressed my love for shrimp? If not, I'll express it now... I heart shrimp! With my whole heart. Undeniably so. If I wanted to, I could ramble off all the shrimp variations that I love -- blackened shrimp, shrimp scampi, coconut shrimp, shrimp alfredo, shrimp kabobs, shrimp po-boys, shrimp cupcakes. Ha! just kidding about the cupcakes, but I think you get the picture. So there... I've expressed my love. :)

You can definitely add this shrimp in garlic sauce to my list of favorites. This dish is super easy to assemble and so tasty! I mean seriously, can you ever go wrong with onions, bell peppers, and garlic? Not likely. My only complaint was that we didn't have any leftovers. I plan to double the recipe next time.
Yields 4 servings
4 cups water
2 cups (1 Boil-in-Bag) Uncle Ben's brown rice
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp butter, separated
1 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium green pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
3 tsp minced garlic
1 (10 oz) package frozen, peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed

Prepare rice as directed on the box. Drain water and fluff rice. Add green onion and season to taste; cover and set aside.

In a measuring cup, combine broth and cornstarch; stir and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a wok over medium-high heat. Add peppers, onion, and garlic; cook about 3 minutes or until peppers and onion are crisp-tender. Remove vegetables from wok and drain any liquids that may remain in the pan. Add shrimp and remaining tbsp of butter. Stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink.

Push shrimp from the center of the wok. Stir broth mixture; add to the center of the wok. Cook and stir sauce until thickened and bubbly. Return vegetables to the wok and stir to coat all the ingredients with the sauce. Cook and stir about a minute more or until heated through. Serve immediately with rice.

Source: adapted from Borders at Home Simple Meals

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Tea Cakes

As a little girl, I used to play in my tree-house with my little kitchenette, and host tea parties for my friends (sometimes they were pretend friends, but they were friends none the less). Now as an adult, I still fantasize about hosting tea parties and all the delightful treats I would make to accompany the tea (or coffee). I think it would be a wonderful way to visit with my girlfriends and fulfill my urges to bake for others. But with life and all the busy schedules, I often talk myself out of the idea.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the Foodbuzz Editorial Team announcing an Electrolux Tea Party Top 9 Takeover. Foodbuzz will donate $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for every tea party recipe created by a Featured Publisher. And this Friday, March 25th, they will showcase recipes in their Daily Top 9 section. So how could I resist! Here was my chance to partake in a tea party and contribute to a great cause! I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to use... I have had my eye on these lemon poppy seed tea cakes for over a month. :)
All cancer research is extremely important, and as a woman, ovarian cancer research obviously hits home a little more. I'm happy to spread the word, and the great news is, you can help support this cause too! Join Kelly Ripa and Electrolux for a virtual tea party for a cause, at Kelly Confidential. When you do, Electrolux will donate $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Check it out!
A few notes about this recipe... When you whip up the egg whites, make sure your beaters are absolutely clean. Otherwise, the exposure of other ingredients will prohibit the thickening of the meringue. Also, feel free to fill your muffin pans to the rim with batter. I wasn't sure how much they would rise, so I only filled them 3/4 full, but as you can see they didn't have much of a top (like the ones shown in my cookbook).

Overall, I loved these tea cakes! They were the perfect companion for my morning cup of coffee. And when I get around to hosting my own tea party, these little darlings will be featured. But until then, they're just for me... and you! :)

Yields 6 tea cakes
2/3 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 6 standard muffin cups with baking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and 1/3 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and poppy seeds until well combined. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, combining the mixture well. 

In another large bowl, beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, and beat until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Stir 1/4 of meringue into the cake batter and fold in the remainder gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden. Remove tea cakes from the pan immediately and cool on wire racks.

Source: adapted from Gourmet's In Short Order cookbook 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Pasta

My calendar tells me that today was the first day of spring. Ah, spring. Flowers are blooming, trees are looking vibrant, and I am itching to get outside each day and enjoy the beautiful weather! Can you believe that spring is already here? The weeks are passing so quickly, and I am struggling to hold onto to my weekends. When our schedule gets this busy, I have to reach into my recipe box and dig out those quick, yet tasty, meals that come together with minimal effort.
This is one of those recipes that we tried and loved, but then it was somehow buried away. I was excited to stumble upon it again! This pasta is full of flavor and has a nice kick from the fire roasted tomatoes and red pepper flakes. 

Yields 6 servings
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 tsp sea salt
8 oz angel hair pasta
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Romano cheese

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper; cook 5 minutes or until onion is tender, stir frequently. Add tomatoes and salt; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed on package. Drain; transfer to serving bowl. Pour tomato mixture over pasta; toss gently to coat. Add basil, both cheeses, and remaining oil; toss to combine. 

Source: adapted from Muir Glen

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Cream Whoopie Pies

Ah, whoopie pies... decadent cookies, sandwiched together with utter sweetness, beckoning to be devoured. I just can't seem to get enough of them! I've made three variations in the last month, and I'm swooning over the heavenly goodness that continues to find its way out of my oven. In celebration of St. Patrick's Day (and my love for Baileys!), I decided to try an Irish Cream Whoopie Pie.
I adapted the cookie portion from the chocolate pumpkin whoopies I made in the fall. Then, I whipped up a delightful Baileys buttercream filling.

These turned out SO good... they're intoxicating!

Yields about 20 whoopie pies
For the cookies
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup Baileys Irish Cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the filling:
12 tbsp (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp Baileys Irish Cream

Preheat oven to 375°. Line baking sheet with non-stick baking mat or parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine butter and both sugars. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium/high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg and mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Adjust speed to low and gradually mix in half the flour mixture, then the Baileys and vanilla, and finish with the remaining flour mixture.

Drop tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies spring back when lightly touched. Place baking sheet on wire rack and let cool 5-10 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling, combine butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add Baileys and beat until combined. Transfer buttercream to a prepared pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

To assemble, pipe filling on the flat sides of half the cookies then sandwich with remaining cookies.

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