November 27, 2013

Pin It Nutter Butter Cookie Turkeys

 Happy Thanksgiving!
 From my army of Nutter Butter Oreo cookies turkeys to yours.

November 6, 2013

Pin It Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies

Taken From Table for Two
I'm doing it, I'm doing it!

As you may have noticed I've haven't posted in a while. A while being over 2 months, sorry :/ Between work, travel and moving (the worst!) posts were definitely put on the back, back burner.

However, I have baked a few things in my new (and tiny) oven and this was one worth sharing.
In the spirit of fall and the overuse of pumpkin flavored things, I bring you pumpkin blondies.  The original recipe from Table for Two called for white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and nuts. I said too sweet and eww, respectively, to that combo of things and instead used white chocolate and dark chocolate chips.  I think the dark chips worked nicely to balance out the sweetness of the pumpkin and white chips. 
I used an 8 x 8 but I think these could definitely go in a larger pan.  I ended up with super thick blondies, which were a little intense. However, they were super rich and yummy and very fall flavored.  I really like this recipe but may have to hold off on making them again as it takes time and perseverance to go through a batch.  My advice is to share with friends and workers! People love free food, and like my sister says, food at work has no calories. Enjoy that morsel of a "fact" as you continue to graze on leftover Halloween candy in your office.
Happy fall and pumpkin flavored things!

August 17, 2013

Pin It Fudgy Chocolate Chunk and Toffee Brownies (The Best Brownies I've Ever Made)

Taken from Something Swanky
I know I've been MIA but how's that for a post title!

I almost want to delete all other brownie recipes from my Sweets board on Pinterest so I never stray from this shining star of a brownie recipe again. Besides the fact that I'm awesome and full of baking magic, my other realization while making these was that brownies from scratch are soooo easy. Pretty much as easy as making them from a box, but you can feel better about eating half a pan since you know exactly what's in them, or at least that can be your reasoning :)

Seriously, I can't say much more besides the fact that they are amazing if you love fudgy, rich, super chocolaty brownies.  This recipe didn't call for toffee bits, but this one did so I felt inspired.  Don't be alarmed if it seems like your batter can't hold all of the morsels you're trying to mix in, it'll all work out.  I added a whole bag of toffee bits (8oz.) and about 1 1/2- 1 3/4 cups of chocolate chips and it worked out perfectly.

July 6, 2013

Pin It Deep Dish Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Covered Pretzel Crust

Taken From Yammie's Noshery
Another ridiculous dessert successfully made and devoured! Tom and I went to his parents for a 4th of July potluck BBQ and we brought fruit salad and a secret dessert.  I knew there were going to be a lot of people there (~25) and I wasn't sure how this recipe would turn out, so I didn't say we were also bringing a dessert in case it was a fail, and we then showed up empty handed.

I knew it was likely going to fall apart the moment I cut into it, but at the point I figured it out, it was too late to correct the problem.  The crumbly crust made it pretty visually disappointing, but it was still delicious. The issue was that I wanted to make sure there were plenty of pretzel crumbs to create a nice tall crust, so I increased the amount of pretzels, but I didn't also increase the amount of melted butter. With not enough melted buttery-ness to hold it together, the outer crust crumbled as I cut the slices.  However, the bright side was that no one seemed to mind! Everyone loved it and couldn't stop raving, with actual comments like, "This is the best dessert I've ever had," and "I could just live in this."  So that made me feel good, even though the perfectionist in me knew I could have done better, and felt compelled to reply to every compliment with, "Thanks, but I didn't put enough butter in the crust which is why it looks like a hot mess."

I'm working on not over-sharing; it's a process.

In actuality, this was a really quick dessert to whip up.  There was minimal baking involved and it really is something you could put together in a pinch.

As I was trying to get this dessert out of the way so it didn't take up my whole day off, I neglected to photograph this one in its entirety...but here is what I've got.
Deep dish pretzel crust, complete with a layer of once melted milk chocolate chips, smothered with the essence of this pie: peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar.
Topped with whipped cream. I cheated and used Cool Whip, which was a great time saver.
Decorated with chopped mini Reese's peanut butter cups.
The "best" looking piece I could find.  

Like I said, the end result wasn't so picture worthy (although I should have taken one of the halo of crumbled pretzel crust remnants around the pie plate, which was pretty absurd). However, it was still delicious and something I'd like to try again with a prettier final product.

June 26, 2013

Pin It Nutter Butter S'more Bars

Taken From Something Swanky
I don't know why, but I felt compelled to make these.  I didn't have most of the ingredients on hand, so it look a special trip to the store, and I didn't even have an occasion to make them, but somehow it all seemed worth it.  They are ridiculous and I'm sure terrible for you, but they were really that all balances out, right?
It takes very few ingredients as you can see above, and very little prep. 
I did have to take out my food processor for the crust, but that was the most exertion involved. 
After you bake your butter/Nutter Butter crust for 10 minutes, remove and pile on the s'more bits.  Then smother the whole thing with the secret (worst thing for you ever) ingredient: sweetened condensed milk.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden.
They are delicious right out of the oven; ridiculously gooey and sweet.  Once they've cooled they are sticky and crunchy and equally ridiculous and sweet.
I probably won't make them again (not that they weren't good) but come on, you can really only get away with something like this once :)

June 20, 2013

Pin It Mint Pesto Pasta with Asparagus and Shitake Mushrooms

Taken From A Food For Thought
I did it! I made dinner...and it was good!  I haven't been very good about making dinner lately, so putting this together after work and bootcamp, plus getting my food processor out was quite the feat. I bought all of the ingredients last weekend with the intention of making this at some point, but it took me a while to actually work up the energy to get it done.
I thought the mint pesto would be pretty overwhelming in flavor, but it was actually mild and lovely. I'd never made anything like this in the past (although I have dabbled in roasted red pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, and almond pestos) and the mint was a nice change from some of the more traditional pestos.
Despite having to get on a chair to get my food processor down, this didn't take long at all to throw together.  Just a little blending, chopping, sauteing, and boiling some pasta (I used brown rice pasta from TJ's, my new favorite) and we were really to roll.
I topped it with extra parm (because more cheese is always necessary) and it was delicious. It kept nicely for a few days and will likely be worked into our monthly rotation.

June 14, 2013

Pin It Red Velvet and Raspberry Supreme Cake

Taken From Sweetapolita

It's been a while since I've been able to whip up something totally ridiculous, as a crowd is really required for an event like that. Not only do I need people to witness the creation, but I need them to help me eat it!

To go with Bonnie's Louisiana inspired dinner on Sunday, I decided to continue with the theme and make this red velvet cake. I've never made a three-layer cake before and I always feel a little discouraged by cakes from scratch.  I just feel like boxed cake mixes (although totally cheating) tend to turn out so much better (lighter, fluffier, moist-er) than cakes from scratch.  However, I'm not a cheater so a from scratch cake is what I delved into.

I followed the directions as closely as I could to make sure my efforts were not totally in vain.  I baked my cake using two non-stick pans and one that's not coated, and the non-coated pan produced a taller cake.  I've definitely ranted about my dislike of non-stick baking sheets in the past, but I'm not sure if my flatter cakes can really be blamed on the pan. I don't think I have a large enough sample size to definitively say it was the pans, but it's a theory I'm going with.
After I made the cake I got started on the frostings...yes, frostings. This recipe calls for 3 different frosting, which I thought was a little overkill.  I decided to skip the pink whipped vanilla cream frosting and just doubled the marshmallow cream cheese frosting recipe (and added red dye, of course). Doubling the marshmallow cream cheese frosting worked out to be the perfect amount, plus I didn't have to go out and buy gelatin, so that was nice.
After allowing my cakes to cool completely (they spent a little time in the fridge) I started to assemble the cake.  I'm not sure why Sweetapolita says to but down a dollop of frosting on your cake pan, so I skipped that step. 
Also, from her photos it looks like she put the layer of raspberries between the bottom and middle layer, although that's not what her directions said. Probably best to put them near the top so they aren't supporting as much cake weight, so that's what I went with.
After the layer of raspberries had been placed (takes about a pint of raspberries) I slathered on a thick layer of mallow cream cheese frosting to seal them in place.
I put on my top cake layer and placed it in the fridge to chill.
While that was happening I make the chocolate frosting, which turned out delicious and fluffy.  Then I got to frost my cake!
I had made this the night before so I wanted to wait until the day of to put on the raspberries, lest they bleed their juices onto my delicately frosted masterpiece.
I may have gone a little overboard with the raspberries on top AND around, but overboard is really the theme of this cake, so why not?!
People were impressed by the sight and size of this thing but I really had no idea how it was going to look on the inside or how it was going to taste. Turns out, pretty good on both counts. I was really happy with the slice profile and thought everything looked pretty even, which was a nice surprise. 
The cake had been chilling overnight and Sweetapolita said to bring it to room temperature before serving. Even after 4 hours out of the fridge mine never really got there. Just something to keep in mind if you ever make this cake. It's a big mama jama so there is large volume that needs to warm up.  It may have been a little lighter in texture if it hadn't still been cold, but was delicious just the same.  

It's hard to serve a three-layer cake in moderate slices, so everyone had a pretty hefty chunk.  Unless you're hard-core, I'd say try and make the slices pretty skinny so you don't give you guests sugar overload.  I couldn't even finish my piece and I love me some sugar.

June 5, 2013

Pin It Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad

Taken From Ambitious Kitchen

So as you may have noticed, I've completely given up on the Cook the Books challenge, likely for the remainder of the year.  BUT I'm ok with it and I hope you are too :) With my new job there is just a lot less free time and my posts have definitely taken a back seat.  My plan from here on out is to post new recipes when I can, hopefully once a month. They may be recipes I find online, they may be from my cookbooks.  Who'll be a surprise!
With a little bit of time on my hands I decided to actually make dinner this week.  With some vacations and a busy field work schedule, dinner has mostly been an afterthought at the end of my day, either consisting of a bowl of cereal or eating out.  Today I managed to muster up the energy to not only go to the store and get ingredients, but to throw it all together in time for dinner.

I made a few adjustments to the original recipe based on what I had and personal preference. I ended up really liking this salad.  It felt very healthy and the dressing made it super flavorful. I definitely preferred it over the other Brussels sprout salad I'd made in the past.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups Brussels sprouts, shaved
1 yellow peach, chopped
1/2 cup blueberries
1 avocado, diced
Feta cheese, for serving

I know the idea of raw Brussels spouts may weird some of you out, but try and think of it like a slaw. Brussels sprouts are essentially mini cabbages and I know everyone is ok with slaw from time to time.

I would absolutely make this again.  It felt very healthy and cleansing and was a great light summer dinner (or side dish).

May 8, 2013

Pin It Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Taken From Smitten Kitchen

Strawberry rhubarb is my absolute favorite pie, which may be in part because you can't order/make it year round.  For whatever reason, I love it and was super excited to get the opportunity to make it. It's hard to make a whole pie just because, so a dinner party was the perfect excuse.

For this pie I used a mashed together a bunch of recipes.  For the crust I used my friend Emily's recipe, which I used in the past for my mini blackberry pie. This time I used an all butter version instead of half Crisco and half butter. Ingredients and directions are below:

Crust Ingredients (for a crumble top pie, so only one crust is needed)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick unsalted butter)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons ice water

Chill 2/3 of the butter in the fridge and 1/3 in the freezer. Only freeze butter for ~15 minutes.
Sift then measure the flour. Then re-sift with the salt into a large bowl. Cut the fridge butter into the flour/salt mixture with 2 knives or pastry cutter. Then cut in the freezer butter.
Add water by sprinkling in one tablespoon at a time, and toss with a fork (or pastry cutter) to combine. The amount of water needed will depend on the humidity. You want it to be just enough to hold the dough together when you squish it between your fingers.
Flatten the dough a bit, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough disk. (I refrigerated the dough for ~1 hour).
For the filling I used the recipe and directions from Smitten Kitchen (pasted below):

Filling Ingredients
3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if tiny
1/2-3/4 cup granulated sugar (depending on desired sweetness. See Smitten Kitchen site for notes)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a well-floured counter, roll pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. 

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca in a large bowl. 
Mound filling inside pie crust and dot with bits of unsalted butter.
For my topping I used my Aunt's crumble top, which I also wrote about in my peach blackberry pie post. Ingredients and directions for the crumble top are below:

Crumble Top Ingredients
1 cup flour
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar

In small bowl, cream butter, brown sugar and flour.  Blend with a pastry cutter. Sprinkle crumble top over berries until everything is covered.
Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 400 then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly. I like to put a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any overflowing juices.

Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. When fully cooled (several hours later) the juices gel.
I served this with vanilla bean ice cream and it was a huge hit!  It got rave reviews and I hope I have an excuse to make it again soon. 
I'm even thinking about freezing some rhubarb so I can make this during the off-season too!
It was delicious and my favorite strawberry rhubarb pie recipe to date.

May 4, 2013

Pin It Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Taken From Ambitious Kitchen
Well hello again.  I know I've been slacking lately (especially on the Cook the Books Bouchon Bakery front) but I have a good excuse: I got a new job!  I started a couple weeks ago and my free time went out the window! Also, in my defense, I did attempt to make a coffee cake from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook, but it called for 200 grams of eggs, and I promptly gave up.

For my recent visit to DC, I came with treats in hand as requested by my sister-in-law. She sent me this recipe months ago, and I promised I'd make them when I came to visit.

These are delicious, especially if you are a fan of Nutella.  I don't even really like Nutella but thought these were amazing.  Plus it got me thinking about all the other things I could stuff inside chocolate chip cookies, like peanut butter, or chocolate peanut butter!  It also reconfirmed the superiority of using brown butter in cookies.  I finally figured out what it is exactly that makes it so amazing.  When you brown butter it's like you are making caramel without the sugar, but the butter still gets this amazing caramel flavor and color.  Even the raw cookie dough is superior.  I love it and will always (unless I'm feeling particularly lazy) use brown butter in my chocolate chip cookies.

I'll try and share more recipes soon but I'm not making any timeline promises. Please don't hold it against me :)

April 10, 2013

Pin It Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

Taken From Baked Sunday Mornings with notes from Bourbonnatrix Bakes
Again a post with no solid pictures but here it is anyway. For my going away potluck at work I wanted to go out with a bang, so I whipped up this little number.  I regret not documenting this one throughout because it's definitely more impressive that way, but you can check out the Bourbonnatrix Bakes site for photos.

I think the fact that this lone piece was all there was left (and that was because I specifically set it aside for Tom) speaks to what people thought: they loved it! People were raving about how good it was and the chef/baker always appreciates the compliments. My co-worker said I should re-name it "The Elvis," on account of his love of fried PB and banana sandwiches. 

This was the perfect layering of Nilla wafer crust, homemade vanilla pudding, freshly sliced bananas and peanut butter cream topping. Is there anything better?! Love the PB banana combo, love the pie. Plus it was easy enough that I would actually make it again. However, if you are looking for a shortcut, you can always use instant pudding mix instead. Try this one next time you've got someone you'd like to win over through their sweet tooth. 

April 2, 2013

Pin It April Cook the Books - Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

I'm a little behind on posting what April's cookbook is but that's just how it goes, so here it is.
For this month I'm going to be highlighting recipes from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery Cookbook.
Do you like my pretty lilacs? They are making my whole kitchen smell amazing!
Kristen got me this as a holiday gift and I'm so excited to get back into baking with this amazing cookbook. Gluten-free March was ok, but not life changing, so I'm excited to start working on some starchy delicious sweets!

This book will definitely prove to be challenging as I know Thomas Keller is all about French breads and patisserie, but I'm always up for a good challenge.

When I'm feeling particularly ambitious I'll take a crack at these for sure!

March 29, 2013

Pin It Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Figs

Taken From: Jerusalem: A Cookbook
For Sedar I wanted to try something a little different this year.  I'm not really into making things during Passover that are pretending to be other things.  I'd rather just make something that can stand on its own, made with ingredients on the "things you can eat" list. I quadrupled the recipe (which was about twice as much as we needed) but it was great to have leftovers.  This was really good and really filling. I would definitely make it again, any time of year, but maybe just stick to the original quantities in the recipe.

4 small sweet potatoes
5 tablespoons olive oil
Scant 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
12 green onions, halved and cut in 1 1/2 inch segments
1 red chili, thinly sliced
6 ripe figs, quartered
5 oz. goat cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 475.
Wash sweet potatoes, halve lengthwise and cut each half again into 3 long wedges. Mix with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and some black pepper. Spread wedges out, skin side down, on a baking sheet and cook for about 25 minutes, until soft but not mushy. Remove from oven and let cool.

To make balsamic reduction, put balsamic and sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Decrease to simmer for 2-4 minutes, until it thickens. Make sure to remove from heat when the vinegar is still thinner than honey (it continues to thicken as it cools). Add a drop of water before drizzling if it ends up being too thick before serving.

Arrange sweet potatoes on a serving platter. Heat remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add green onions and chili. Fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring often to make sure not to burn the chili. Spoon oil, onions and chili over sweet potatoes. Dot figs among the wedges and then drizzle on the balsamic reduction.  Crumble cheese on top. Serve at room temperature.