Buttermilk Biscuits



I have always been a big biscuit fan. Even as a little kid I remember going to McDonald’s and opting for the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit sandwich when everyone else was ordering Egg McMuffin sandwiches. It’s something about the density and the buttery goodness that would prompt me to choose a biscuit over an English muffin every single time. I don’t eat biscuits as often as I would like, which is probably a good thing. I reason with every biscuit you’re eating you can guarantee yourself you’re eating a tablespoon of butter. And that’s without adding any butter to the biscuit. But when I lived in Portland, Ore., I seemed to eat more biscuits than is usual for me. This was thanks to the fact that I tried biscuits and gravy at almost every breakfast joint I visited. When you live such a rainy, dreary climate as Portland’s tends to be in the fall and winter, trust me that you need yourself copious amounts of biscuits and gravy to stick to your ribs.

So I was surprised when I perused my biscuits and scones category to see that I did not have a plain buttermilk biscuit recipe/post. I found plenty of biscuit and scone recipes that included bacon and cheese — always a winning combination — but no trusty buttermilk biscuit recipe? Hmph. It was time to change that. I had decided that I needed some biscuits to sop up the extra portion of (noodle-less) chicken stroganoff sitting in my fridge. So I googled “buttermilk+biscuits” and was drawn to the pictures in this Chowhound.com recipe.

This recipe is a winner. No seriously. Look no further. If you follow the directions below to a T, you will have yourself some nicely risen biscuits with flaky layers and a crispy, buttery bottom. I watched as my biscuits began to rise in the oven and the butter melted and seeped out of the rounds of dough giving the bottom a nice brown color and buttery taste.

I could not wait for the biscuits to be done. I wanted to whip something fabulous up to go with what I knew were going to be the best biscuits ever. I had nothing in my refrigerator to make a breakfast-y sandwich with (other than eggs, and trust me that I did debate on making a plain ‘ol egg and biscuit sandwich) so I instead ate two right out of the oven with plenty of butter. I sure did not need a second biscuit but realized as I was eating my way through the first one that I wanted to take pictures of the inside of the biscuit. So I had to eat another one in order to get proper pics. The sacrifices you make for your food blog, ya know?

ingredients.

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. fine salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 8 T. cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 c. cold buttermilk

directions.

  1. Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Whisk the measured flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl to aerate and combine. Add the butter pieces and toss to just coat them in the flour mixture. Place the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  3. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, and working quickly so as not to soften the butter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it’s in pea-size pieces. Use your hands if you have to; I did. Drizzle in the buttermilk and stir just until a moist, shaggy dough comes together. Do not use your hands for this step! I did and could not get the dough off my hands.
  4. Generously dust a work surface with flour. Scrape the dough out onto the surface and dust the top with more flour. Using floured hands, gently pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick circle.
  5. Using a 2-1/2-inch round cutter dipped in flour, cut out as many biscuits as possible–I got eight biscuits. (Chowhound’s directions say to press straight down through the dough without twisting the cutter. Apparently the biscuits will not rise properly if you twist.)
  6. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them at least 1 inch apart. Gather the scraps into a ball, pat it into a 1-inch-thick circle, and cut out more biscuits. Repeat as needed discard any unused shreds of dough.
  7. Bake until the biscuits have risen and are golden brown on top, about 15 to 16 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.


I promptly succumbed to a carb coma after eating two biscuits in the name of food blogging and melted into the couch. But let me tell you, the carb coma is well worth it.

If I have any leftover biscuits (and I know I’m not able to eat the leftover biscuits immediately), oftentimes I will freeze them to take out for later use. Once frozen, you can allow them to come to room temperature and then throw into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes to imitate that just-out-of-the-oven taste and feel. I would not recommend microwaving to reheat unless you absolutely have to. I’m never a fan of microwaving any bread or bread product (such as leftover biscuits or pizza).

These biscuits were fabulous on their own and I know would make a phenomenal breakfast sammie, but I have to tell you they worked very nicely as a base for leftover chicken and biscuits. I cobbled together a chicken and biscuits-like dish using leftover chicken stroganoff.

{crockpot} Shredded Chicken Stroganoff



Have you ever asked someone if they’ve ever had hamburger stroganoff and gotten a blank look? Like they had absolutely no idea what “stroganoff” is? That happened to me once and I thought it was weird. I thought everyone grew up eating stroganoff on a regular basis. My mom made this classic dish my entire life. (Though I didn’t start eating it until my teens or 20s, however. As a child I ate very plain food and avoided vegetables such as mushrooms.) But in this person’s defense, he was born in another country (though grew up in the States since a young age). He may have grown up eating the old country’s food instead of classic American cuisine such as stroganoff.

The only stroganoff I ever encountered growing up was of the hamburger variety but found recently that there are many different types of stroganoff. Chicken, meatball, lamb, steak, etc. It’s like you can use any kind of meat in place of hamburger. I once made lamb-burger stroganoff–this was way before Pinterest revolutionized the sharing of recipes. I thought I was pretty clever for coming up with a spin on the classic hamburger recipe (and name)! I’ve also made ground turkey, browned butter hamburger and Italian sausage stroganoff. See? You really can make stroganoff using any meat!

Recently I found a recipe my grandma sent me for crockpot chicken stroganoff, which seemed like something I wanted to try. One, because I had most the ingredients already on hand. And two because crockpot cooking is so easy. And three because I need something to take to work for lunch and any recipe that yields a large amount will feed me for a week. Or more!

In a nutshell, stroganoff is comfort food–for those of you who’ve never had it. It’s a creamy noodle casserole often made with processed crap like condensed soup. I am not overly fond of recipes that use canned foods versus fresh and, actually, once made my own “condensed soup substitute” for stroganoff; however, I do think there is definitely a time and a place for canned goods and processed foods. Specifically for classic foods from my childhood days.

My recipe below is an adaptation of the one my grandma sent to me. I cannot actually find a link to the recipe like I usually can but I suspect she clipped it from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

ingredients.

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, frozen
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz) cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz) cream of chicken soup
  • 1 package (1 oz.) onion soup mix
  • 16 oz. mushrooms, washed and quartered
  • 1 small brown onion, diced into large pieces
  • 1 16 oz. container of sour cream
  • wide egg noodles (I used a 12 oz package and did not have enough noodles)

directions.

  1. Place chicken in a four-quart (or larger) crockpot. Add to the crockpot the cans of condense soup, onion soup mix, mushrooms and onions. (You could first mix all these ingredients together. I did not and the only thing I didn’t like is that the onions didn’t cook as much as I would have liked. But they probably would have had I had them covered by sauce.) Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  2. When chicken is cooked (mine was around 6 or so hours), remove chicken and shred. Return to crockpot and stir until combined. Add sour cream.
  3. Make noodles according to package directions. Mix noodles with chicken mixture. (I did this in my noodle pot; I added enough of the chicken mixture until I felt as though there was a good ratio of noodles to chicken and sauce.) I found that 12 ounces of noodles was not enough–I had leftover chicken mixture.


So this recipe was good, but I wasn’t overly psyched at first. It didn’t remind me all that much of the hamburger stroganoff I grew to love. I had a few bites, took some pics and packaged up the rest for lunch. Honestly I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of leftovers I had in my fridge. Later on I was sitting down to write this blog and I thought … eh … I’m still hungry. So I got the smallest container I had packaged from the fridge, and it was actually still warm. So I dove in. And remembered how much better stroganoff is after it sits for a bit and even cools down slightly. It gets thicker. And the flavors seem to meld. And then I was suddenly very satisfied with my choice and the recipe.

I was also stoked because I had some leftover chicken in sauce and my mind began drifting as to how I could use it. I figured I could make some biscuits and turn the leftovers into something like chicken and biscuits. Which I did. And it was even better with biscuits!

No-Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars



I don’t know why raw cookie dough gets such a bad rap. I mean, scientifically, I get it, but realistically I’ve been eating raw cookie dough (in large quantities) for about the last 30 years and nothing adverse has ever happened to me. But whatever.

I was eyeing up recipes for no-bake cookie dough bars on Pinterest quite some time ago. And then again today. In the spirit of my coworkers asking me on Friday “what are you baking this weekend (and bringing in to share with us),” I decided I would try this no-bake dessert. There are several variations of this recipe floating around on the internet. The one I saw on Pinterest was from the Recipe Critic. I also found a recipe similar to the Recipe Critic’s at the view from great island site and another one at Family Feast and a healthy vegan, gluten-free option at Chocolate Covered Katie.These were the top four recipes on Google.

I tried making vegan, gluten-free cookie dough once using a recipe somewhat similar to the Chocolate Covered Katie healthy option one. I really can’t remember what inspired me other than the promise that the recipe tastes exactly like raw chocolate chip cookie dough. Snort! You can see the recipe never made my  blog which will tell you how I felt about it (if something isn’t blogged about it wasn’t good enough for sharing). I have this thing about healthy recipes that are trying to mimic unhealthy/classic recipes. Like making pizza dough out of cauliflower instead of flour. Yes, I have tried it. Yes, it even made my blog. But, no, in case you are wondering if you have never tried cauliflower pizza crust it tastes NOTHING like normal pizza crust. Have you ever had cauliflower?? It’s a very distinct taste. That’s what cauliflower pizza crust tastes like, and I won’t try to convince you of other. In fact, my cauliflower pizza crust blog did not try to persuade you that cauliflower pizza crust tastes as good or better than regular pizza crust. Anyway, back to the cookie dough. So basically I felt that the vegan, gluten-free cookie dough I made (and never blogged about) tasted nothing like real cookie dough. To be fair, it’s probably a decent substitute if you are vegan and/or gluten-free. But if you choose not to be vegan and/or you do not eat gluten-free, I would not suggest such a recipe.

So anyway, I discarded the healthy option (sorry, Katie!) because I was won over by the versions that contained sweetened condensed milk. I guess the sweetened condensed milk takes over for the egg in the cookie dough? Which confounds me because it seems like there’s way more milk in the recipe than there would be eggs and the texture and taste are totally different. But I guess when you’re not baking something it works? At any rate, I have had a mild obsession with sweetened condensed milk for over a year now. So I went with the Recipe Critic’s recipe as it contained peanut butter in the chocolate topping, and I had already decided to add peanut butter chips to my dough. Kismet!

So I happily set out to make these no-bake bars knowing they would be easy to make. Here’s what happens every time I clean my floors. I immediately get them dirty. So I cleaned my floors yesterday and this afternoon while I was making this recipe not only did the flour go flying out of my mixer and land all over my floors, cupboards and the stainless steel oven (that I happened to also polish yesterday right along with the floors I scrubbed) but also I walked away for a millisecond (crossed over to my dining room to grab some chocolate chips on a shelf) and in that millisecond the bowl to my stand mixer became dislodged and the spatula with all of its sticky dough and a thick strand of condensed milk went flying off the bowl and landed where else? You got it. On my once clean floor. Grr.

Once I got past the irritation of the messy floor I tasted the “dough” and became overwhelmed by the dichotomy of the taste versus the texture. It tastes just like normal cookie dough (after I added 5x the amount of salt to combat the sweetened condensed milk) but the texture is nothing like normal cookie dough. And I have to say … it’s not exactly a texture I like. So immediately I became annoyed and wanted to push past the three-hour chill time before I slapped the chocolate on top because I wanted to taste the finished product. I did not want to waste two whole sticks of butter and two whole cans of sweetened condensed milk on a bad dessert. That would make me really mad. I especially hate wasting butter. It’s so expensive and I’m nearly out!

Alas, it was late enough in the evening by the time I pressed the dough into my pan that I needed to wait until the following day to add my chocolate on top, let it chill again and then taste the finished product.

ingredients.

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  •  1 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 to 2 1/2 tsp. salt (the recipe calls for 1/2; I used 2 1/2 – go with your tastes here)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 c. all-purpose flour (I probably used 4 1/2, at the least)
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed mi
  • 2 c. mini chocolate chips
  • 2 c. peanut butter chips (or additional mini chocolate chips; I threw in a tiny amount of mini m&ms – those would be a good option too!)
  • 2 c.  milk chocolate chips (for the “frosting”)
  • 1 c. peanut butter (for the “frosting”)

directions.

  1. Cream the butter and sugar and salt together until fluffy. I use my stand mixer, but you don’t have to. Just beat it really good so it’s light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  2. Beat in the condensed milk and the flour, alternately, mixing after each addition.
    Mix in the chocolate chips.
  3. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper and/or spray with cooking spray. Do this especially if you do not use the parchment paper.
  4. Dump the dough into the pan and pat down evenly with your hands or a spatula. You may want to flour your hands if the dough is sticky. Mine wasn’t. Smooth it out as evenly as possible. You can press down on the dough with your hands; cover with waxed paper to make a barrier between your hands and the dough.
  5. Cover and refrigerate until firm, (about 3  to 4 hours) or overnight if you like. The texture of these bars are similar to fudge.
  6. To make the chocolate topping, put the milk chocolate chips and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup and microwave for one minute. Stir, and then, if needed, return to the microwave for short bursts of 15 seconds until the chocolate is totally smooth and melted. My frosting was ready to go after one minute.
  7. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dough. Spread out evenly. Return to the refrigerator until the topping is firm. Cut into squares. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

I was surprised/relieved to find out that the finish product was GOOD. I had talked myself out of liking the bars during the no-bake process. I will tell you this though: a little bit of this bar goes a long way; they are rich. I ate too many during the plating/staging/picture-taking process and felt a bit sick afterward (not in a good way). I also have a tendency to think this is a dessert women will like more so than men. Why? I guess I don’t know that many men who go ga-ga over cookie dough. Do you? Cookie dough seems kinda girly to me. Not that men won’t enjoy these treats; I just can’t see them gobbling these up.

The standard recipe you’ll find on the internet is for a small square pan. I doubled the recipe and threw it in a 9×13-inch pan. I also doubled the recipe for the chocolate topping which, in my opinion, worked out well. The topping on my bars is relatively thick. Some of the other bars I’ve seen floating around the internet and Pinterest contain a rather thin layer of chocolate on top. These bars are so rich I feel like they need a thicker chocolate topping. But you decide, you be the judge, when you try these out.

Like cookie dough? Try out these other cookie dough inspired treats:

Brown Butter Sour Cream Waffles



It’s that time of the month where I just paid my mortgage and I’m in shock over the lack of money in my checking account. It’s that time of month where I try to eat what’s in my fridge, freezer and cupboards without having to buy any groceries (if humanly possible).

I noticed last night that I have half of a half-gallon of milk in my fridge that expired approximately 10 days ago. Then I remembered seeing recipes for sour milk pancakes (etc.) in my grandma’s recipe box back in the day, so I googled “sour milk” to determine if sour milk actually was milk past its prime or … something else. And low and behold I found all this good stuff about how you can use milk that is past its prime. So I decided to try to find a recipe (or some recipes) to use up the “sour” milk in my fridge. On my search to find a perfectly good pancake recipe I stumbled upon a recipe for Vanilla Sour Cream Waffles at thesugarhit.com (a blog that’s right up my alley!) and decided to give it a go using sour milk for regular milk and browned butter for regular old melted butter.

ingredients.

1 + ¼ cups flour
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
½ c. sour cream
½ c. sour milk (or regular milk if you’re on top of your milk drinking)
1 T. vanilla extract
6 T. butter, browned

directions.

  1. Brown your butter (you know how to do this, right?) and set aside to cool.
  2. Heat your waffle maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. My waffle maker only has one setting-on. Preheat oven to at least 200 degrees–250 may be better.
  3. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl, and stir with a whisk to combine.
  4. Add the eggs, sour cream and vanilla, and begin whisking them slowly into the flour. Stream in the milk, and mix everything together until you have a very thick batter. Pour in the butter slowly, and stir until completely incorporated.
  5. Scoop a heaping third of a cup of batter (or follow manufacturer’s guidance) into the middle of the grid, and then close the lid and let it cook according to manufacturer’s directions. When it’s ready, carefully remove the waffle, and place on a cooling rack (this keeps them from going soggy).
  6. Place the cooling rack on a tray and into a low oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the waffles. Eat them how you like them with butter, syrup, fruit, whipped cream, etc. I like mine with butter and Lyle’s golden syrup.


It has been sooooooo long since I’ve made waffles (at least two years because I haven’t moved my waffle maker since I put it on the top shelf of my kitchen cupboard when I moved back to SoCal going on two years now) I stared at my waffle maker trying to remember the directions. Mine is one of the variety that you’re supposed to flip over (half-way through, I’m assuming). But it’s not one of those fancy ones. It’s kind of cheap. It took me a minute to figure out the appropriate amount of a batter to throw in the griddle (a heaping third cup) and how long to cook the waffles (approximately four to five minutes).

One of the reasons I always choose pancakes over waffles is … when do you ever see a stack of waffles? Never, right? Even when I was a kid and my mom would make me waffles, she would ask me if I wanted a second one after finishing my first. I mean, I get it – a waffle maker only makes one at a time. Or two to four depending on how big yours is. But still, I like things in tall stacks. Like six-layer cakes. This is why most often I opt for pancakes.

But this morning I thought … well I’ll just make myself a stack of waffles. Why not? I’m an adult. I can do what I want. Well it’s hard to make a stack of waffles, I figured out, because the waffle did not really want to remain whole; it broke itself into neat fourths when I tried to move it from iron to oven. Oh well. I tried.


I can’t tell you that I noticed the brown butter, sour cream or sour milk taste in these waffles but they were a solid waffle nonetheless. If they weren’t at least decent I wouldn’t even be telling you about them. (Much like the 15-minute pasta carbonara I made last night and threw out. Notice I’m not giving you that recipe?!)

Blondie Scotcheroos



Disaster is what happens when you over-commit yourself. Say … you commit yourself to making one six-layer cake for every day of the week of your birthday week. It’s also what happens when you decide to make something “quick” in the eleventh hour.

“I rather like having a large brownie for breakfast each morning,” I said to myself today. Having eaten through the pan of brownies I made last weekend, I decided I wanted to make something again this weekend after I realized there’s no possible way I can go low carb this week. (That idea lasted about three hours!) I simply do not have money to put into low-carb food at this point in time. But I have plenty of full-of-carb food in my condo to feed me without having to go to the store and spend more money. I decided I wanted to make some sort of sweet treat at about 5 pm Sunday night after spending the day studying for an exam I have coming up at the end of September. I should mention that my normal bedtime is between 8 pm and 9 pm, so making this realization at 5 pm did not give me a bunch of time to make something elaborate. So I pilfered through the recipes my grandma sent me and found one she had clipped from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that seemed easy.

Why, oh why, can’t I just settle for easy?

After having frosted brownies last week, I decided I wanted frosting on this week’s treat, too. I wanted to make a butterscotch-chocolate “ganache” like the one that goes on Scotcheroos. But I used all my butterscotch chips up in the blondie batter, dog-gone-it! So I had to come up with something else. My original idea was to have a peanut butter filling and then do a ganache. But I struck that idea as it seemed too time consuming. Plus I wanted a special butterscotch ganache. Not a regular ole chocolate ganache. Boring. So then decided I needed a frosting that was complimentary to butterscotch and peanut butter naturally came to mind as I had been thinking about it earlier anyway. So I borrowed a peanut butter frosting recipe from a brownie post found at epicurious.com.

Let me be clear that this frosting recipe was supposed to be just that. A frosting. But whatever happened in my mixer did not produce a frosting texture whatsoever. I started out following the recipe but the consistency just didn’t look right to me. So I added another 1/3 cup of powdered sugar. Then some milk. And for a minute I had a glossy and smooth frosting consistency. I turned my back for a few seconds and when I went back to my mixer, which was still running, I no longer had a frosting. Whatever was going on in my bowl had a gravelly consistency. No one wants gravelly frosting! So I played around a bit more. Usually I can save these kitchen disasters. I was sure I could reconstitute a frosting consistency. But I couldn’t. No matter how much milk/powdered sugar I added, the consistency remained the same. (I refused to add more butter because I’m running low on butter.) It was then I decided to turn the “frosting” into a filling. Which was my original idea anyway that I had forgone out of laziness. Alas, the simple two-step process was not meant to be. I was meant to make a three-step blondie topped with a chocolate ganache.

blondie ingredients.

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. lightly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 package butterscotch chips

blondie directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar with electric mixer on high speed 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well, scraping down bowl after each addition. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. With mixer still on low, slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture. Fold in butterscotch chips and with a rubber spatula.
  3. Spread batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Don’t overbake! The toothpick may have melted chocolate on it, but it shouldn’t have wet batter. Cool completely in pan and cut into bars.

peanut butter frosting ingredients.

  • 1 c. creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)
  • 3 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 c. powdered sugar + more to make your frosting into a disastrous filling
  • milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

peanut butter filling directions.

  1. Combine peanut butter and butter in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat until well blended and smooth.
  2. Spread frosting evenly over blondies in pan.

chocolate ganache ingredients.

  • 16 oz. dark chocolate (I used a mixture of dark and semi-sweet)
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1-2 tsp. sea salt (I used Maldon’s flaky sea salt)

chocolate ganache directions.

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter using a double boiler or in a glass bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. (I have not used the double boiler method once and I am 1 for 2 on my attempts. Heed my warning.) Stir until melted.
  2. Pour and spread the chocolate over brownies/blondies/whatever you’re cooking that has cooled sufficiently.


Or, more correctly, I was meant to have a kitchen disaster tonight. After the peanut butter filling step, I decided to make a chocolate ganache from a recipe I just made about two weeks ago. The recipe was a success. The ganache was a success. Can’t go wrong, right?

Pfft. Somehow when I was ignoring the double-boiler directions (same as I had last time) I ended up scorching the chocolate and butter. I refused to toss 16 ounces of chocolate. So I began to add more butter to try to smooth it out. Well that never happened. Several butter and margarine additions later I got a thick, gravelly chocolate looking FROSTING. I was not intending for a FROSTING. This was supposed to be ganache! Grr. I spread it across the blondies anyway. And as I sat there staring at it, I knew that even if the chocolate “firmed up” it wasn’t going to look or taste like ganache. To cover up the embarrassment of my error, I threw a bunch of mini m&ms on top. Now this project was so belabored with so many different conflicting flavors I just knew it was an entire pan of blondies I probably wasn’t going to be able to share with anyone. Except for maybe a neighbor or two that I happen to dislike and wouldn’t care if they thought my blondies were bad/over-the-top/burnt. I was so horrified by the whole ordeal, I didn’t take any pictures along the way. I couldn’t have evidence of such failure mocking me on my phone.

But here’s the magic part in all of this. Oftentimes when something starts out as a disaster, it turns into something beautiful. Well. I can’t account for what happens in life but I will attest to this in cooking. These bars are amazing. After covering them in m&ms I was worried there would be too much going on in these bars but biting into them put my fears to rest. I forgot how much I loved the m&m donut from Voodoo donuts until I took the first heavenly bite of this bar and was reminded of just how much I love mini m&ms in dessert.

Originally I was going to call the bars Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Stuffed Butterscotch Blondies, which is an apt name to describe them but also a mouthful. Then I decided to change it to the ever simple Blondie Scotcheroos. I don’t know that “scotcheroo” is a technical cooking term but I find myself using the name to describe various desserts that involve peanut butter, chocolate and butterscotch. This blondie TASTES like Rice Krispies Scotcheroos. Or the Flapjack Scotcheroos I’ve made. (Side note, I should make a “scotcheroo” category for this blog. I think I’m onto something here!)

I texted my coworker/friend a bit after 10 pm tonight when I had finally cut into the bars after throwing them in the freezer for about an hour or so and asked her permission to bring them in to work tomorrow. She had proclaimed this upcoming work week to be the start of her new diet and I didn’t want to sabotage her efforts. Luckily for me, she gave me permission to bring them on in because I can’t be alone with these bars. I will eat the whole batch! Yep. They are that good.

This recipe is such an experiment gone awry I’m not sure I could ever recreate these as is. But I’m confident that whatever attempt to recreate these (yours or mine) would render a stunning/impressive result.

Bacon Blue Cheese Roasted Tomato Grilled Sandwich



For reasons I don’t care to get into in this blog, I found myself needing to use up bacon I had cooked. My first thought was, of course, grilled cheese. I don’t have much cheese in my fridge at this point. Some Dubliner, which doesn’t melt well. Not enough Tillamook Colby-Jack to make a good grilled cheese, a huge brick of Parmesan and blue cheese.

I often get blue cheese (and bacon) on a burger (whenever it’s an option), so I thought why not have the same flavors in a grilled cheese sandwich? I found a recipe that looked good on Martha Stewart’s website and decided to give it a try.

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You can roast the tomatoes and cook the bacon in time to make this sandwich so that everything is hot. If you have pre-cooked bacon and pre-roasted tomatoes, don’t worry if they are cold. They’ll heat right back up again when you’re making this sandwich.

This recipe is for one sandwich but obviously do the math to make two or more sandwiches!

ingredients.

  • 3 slices bacon, cooked
  • 2 slices bread, your choice
  • 2 T. sweet onion jam (I used Balsamic Sweet Onion Jam)
  • blue cheese crumbles or sliced blue cheese (if you can find it)
  • cherry tomatoes, roasted

directions.

  1. One side of bread, spread 2 tablespoons onion jam. Butter the other side of the bread. Top the onion jam side of the bread with blue cheese. Set the bread down in a large pan, butter side down. Top with roasted tomatoes.

  2. Butter one side of the other piece of bread and place in pan, butter side down. Top with blue cheese and bacon.

  3. Cook over medium-low heat, covered, until golden brown on both sides and cheese has melted. Cut in halves or quarters, and serve hot.

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This sandwich somehow seems to be messier than any other grilled cheese sandwich I’ve made. It also seemed to retain the heat much longer! Not sure if that happened or if I was trying to eat the sandwich too fast and my mind was playing tricks on me. The sweet onion jam is very complimentary to this sandwich. If you don’t have it or don’t want to use it, the sandwich will be fine without, I’m sure. But really, if you like onion, I urge you to get some onion jam to spread on your sandwich.

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Hibachi Noodles


Begrudgingly I thought about going low carb next week for two reasons. One, my coworker whom I get hot chocolate with every morning at our company’s “Starbucks” announced last week that she’s gaining weight and needs to lay off the daily hot chocolate. Sigh. It’s no fun to drink hot chocolate alone, I tell you. Two, one of my dogs is diabetic and I’m cooking him no carb foods (eggs/egg whites and chicken). What I’ve noticed is that when I’m eating my normal dinner (chock full of carbs, usually), he still begs for food like the days when he used to be able to eat carbs and I used to feed them to him. So now I have to either feed my other dog the leftovers on the sly while my diabetic dog goes hungry or give my diabetic dog a no-carb treat while the other one happily gobbles up my leftovers. You see my conundrum?

 So I was looking on Pinterest the other night looking for a noodle recipe for my next food night with my friend Darrah and found this recipe. I’ve never actually had hibachi noodles, though I’ve had hibachi once or twice before. But I love any kind of noodles so I thought for my last hurrah for the weekend I would have myself a huge bowl of noodles. Or two. And some green grapes that I bought this morning before I somewhat committed to low carb.

ingredients.

  • 1 lb. linguine or noodles of your choice, cooked al dente
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 T. garlic, minced
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 4 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. teriyaki sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 T. sesame oil (I used hot sesame oil)
  • 1 T. sesame seeds

 directions.

  1. Over medium high heat in a wok, melt the butter. (If you don’t have a wok, as I don’t, do this step in a small pot.) Toss in garlic and saute until fragrant. Toss in noodles and stir to mix. (Again, if you are wok-less, throw the garlic butter into the pot that you used to cook the noodles along with the noodles.)
  2. Add sugar, thin soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and combine. Season with salt pepper, if desired. I didn’t use either. Remove from heat and drizzle in sesame oil, tossing to mix. Dish and serve hot sprinkled with sesame seeds.

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At first I was really excited to eat this dish. Then as I was adding the finishing touches to the dish (the sesame oil), my happiness eroded a bit. The noodles looked kind of blah when all was said and done. Who wants ho-hum noodles? I certainly don’t. But then after I took my noodle pics, I dug in with my chopsticks, which is not an easy feat. I’ve never been great with chopsticks though I can do fine with sushi. It’s noodle or rice dishes that perplex me. Anyway, I dug in with my chopsticks and low and behold, there was nothing ho-hum about this dish. It was amazing. I kept trying to shovel in big bites of the steaming hot pasta as best I could with the chopsticks, anyway. It took me a while to work halfway through the bowl and then I was sniffling either because it’s a bit spicy thanks tot the hot sesame oil I used or I ate too much. My body tends to tell me I overindulged by giving me the sniffles. This pasta dish is spicy, salt and sweet all at the same time. Normally I don’t like “sweet” entrees. Sweet should stick to dessert! But for these noodles I will make an exception.

And the best part? So. Easy. To. Make. Try them. If you like Asian-inspired food you will love these noodles.

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Pioneer Woman’s Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheese


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I love the Pioneer Woman’s recipes. Two of my favorites (and worst for you, I’m sure) are her Fettucine Alfredo and Broccoli-Cheese Soup. I have this darn butternut squash that’s been sitting on my cupboard for way too long, and I decided I need to do SOMETHING with it. Prior to glancing at my butternut squash, I had been planning on a simple lunch of Kraft Mac and Cheese with tuna mixed in. I begrudgingly decided I would have to delay my guilty pleasure boxed mac and cheese for the time being in favor of using up my butternut squash. So I searched the internet for butternut squash mac and cheese recipes (having seen many a recipe on Pinterest in the past). The first recipe to come up during my google search was the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. It was a no-brainer to try it; after previewing the recipe I didn’t bother to search for a different or better recipe. Because I was pretty sure one that fit that description didn’t even exist.

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ingredients.

  • 12 ounces, weight macaroni (I used a 13.75 oz. box of whole wheat shells but ended up dropping some cooked noodles in the sink accidentally)
  • 1/2 whole butternut squash (approximately 4 c. pureeed)
  • olive oil
  • 2 whole yellow onions, sliced
  • 8 T. butter
  • 2 T.flour
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 c. grated cheese (I used a mixture of Colby Jack and Parmesan) plus more for topping the dish
  • 1/2 c. breadcrumbs

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directions.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut a whole butternut squash in half lengthwise. Drizzle half the squash with olive oil and place it on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up. Roast it in the oven for 20 to 50 minutes (depending on the size) until fork tender, watching it to make sure the surface doesn’t get burned (it should have some brown areas.) Store the other half of the squash in the fridge for another use. When the squash is roasted and tender, scrape out the flesh and puree in a blender such as a Vitamix or in a food processor. You may have to add some liquid (water or milk) to get the puree nice and smooth. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and set it aside.
  2. While you’re roasting the squash, add the onions and 2 tablespoons of the butter to a large, ovenproof skillet over low to medium-low heat. Stir occasionally, cooking the onions until they’re deep golden brown. Remove to a plate and set them aside.
  3. To the same skillet you used to cook the onions, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Sprinkle over the flour and whisk it to make a thin paste. Cook it for 2 minutes, then whisk in the milk. Cook it, whisking gently, for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Meanwhile cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process, and set aside.
  5. Turn the heat to low and stir in the butternut squash puree. When it is warmed, stir in the cheese. If the sauce is overly thick when the cheese is melted, add a splash of milk. Keep stirring until the sauce is nice and hot, then stir in the macaroni. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  6. Melt the remaining butter and combine it with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle onions, additional cheese, and the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and bake it (I do it straight in the skillet!) at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and the edges bubbly.

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I was on this butternut squash kick a few months back because it was an acceptable vegetable on a detox I was doing before my friend’s intended wedding. I forgot what I learned back that then: I’m not overly fond of butternut squash. It’s just a bit too sweet for me. That being said, I remembered that when I was making this dish. To counteract the sweetness I ended up adding a A LOT of salt. Maybe too much. What I briefly thought about doing and now wish I would have done was add bacon to this dish. I have some nice thick stuff in my freezer. The bacon would very nicely complement the sweetness of the squash.

If you like butternut squash and you like mac ‘n cheese and you want to try them together, I would recommend the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I love how bright orange the dish looks because of the addition of the squash. Even if you don’t use a cheddar cheese, as I didn’t, the noodles still turn out bright orange. I wasn’t overly fond of this dish when it was straight out of the oven. It tasted too butternut squash-y to me. But I’m not one to waste leftovers, so I took them in my lunch to work the following week and I noticed that the butternut squash flavor seemed to calm down or meld with the caramelized onions, maybe. In short, I thought the leftovers were great! Just heat up with a little bit extra cream and butter and stir and you will recreate the original creaminess of the recipe.

Gail’s Frosted Brownies


My mom sent me this recipe earlier in the week for brownies she’s made and shared with old family friends. This is not the brownie recipe I remember from my youth but apparently they were so popular with one of my parents’ friends that they would make them all the time and they dubbed them “Gail’s Brownies” (after my mom). Since I didn’t remember the brownies at all, I decided to give the recipe a try. Plus it’s been a looooong time since I’ve made any brownie recipe.

brownie ingredients.

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 c. sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
  • 4 1 oz. squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

brownie directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare 9×13-inch pan by greasing or spraying with cooking spray.
  2. In a stand mixer cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and cream until light and fluffy again. Mix in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla. Stir in flour, melted chocolate and nuts (if using). Batter will be thick with a whipped-like consistency.
  3. Bake 30 minutes.

frosting ingredients.

  • 1/4 c. butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 T. cocoa
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. coffee (I subbed coffee for malted milk powder and some milk)

brownie directions.

  1. Cream butter. Add powdered sugar and cream well. Add cocoa, salt, vanilla and coffee. Mix until smooth
  2. Spread on completely cooled brownies.

Somewhere in the midst of baking these brownies I turned the timer off. I don’t know how I did this. I walked over to the oven perhaps to turn the oven light on to glance inside and instead … off went the timer. I realized it a few minutes later and thought I remembered that there were 9 minutes left on the timer. At any rate, I reached into the oven and tested the brownies and found that a toothpick came out clean. So I pulled the pan out … having no idea how long the brownies had been in the oven.

I doubled the frosting recipe because when I was making it … it just didn’t seem like it was enough frosting. Also, instead of using coffee, I threw in some Ovaltine malt powder and milk. I’m obsessed with malt flavoring recently.

I wanted to throw some mini-chocolate chips on top these brownies. I swear I bought some at my last grocery store run but it appears I bought regular old semi-sweet chocolate chips instead. (I already have a Costco bag I’m still making my way through so another smaller bag wasn’t needed. Oh well.)

Cheesy Garlic Rolls



I was challenged to recreate these awesome garlic rolls that are a must when ordering pizza delivery from a local pizza joint, Broadway Pizza. OK. After having a conversation with a coworker about how great they are I basically challenged myself to make them. The rolls really are best if you eat them at the restaurant versus getting them less than piping hot when you order delivery. But admittedly staying in and enjoying your air conditioning, sweatpants and delivery is always so much more appealing than walking to the pizza place. At least in my mind. So I was convinced that a happy medium would be to make your own rolls at home.

I decided to use a no-fail pizza dough recipe that I’ve been using for about a year now. I actually had some dough in my freezer to use for this recipe but decided to make another batch because seriously you should always have this dough on hand. My grandma sent me the recipe, which is taken from a Penzey’s spices catalogue. This dough has served me well in the past when making grilled pizzas and has received lots of compliments. On top of that, it’s super easy to make. So I figured I would start my cheesy garlic rolls with the tried and true dough recipe and go from there.

The only thing I was thinking I would need for the toppings were butter, garlic, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and maybe some Italian seasoning such as basil. (There’s already seasoning in the pizza dough.) I envisioned rolling the dough out into a rectangle, topping the dough with butter, garlic, and cheese, rolling the dough up and then slicing into pinwheels. I found a good recipe to imitate at flouronmyface.com which had directions to let the rolls rise for 30 minutes before baking. Sounded like a good idea to me!

ingredients.

  • 1/2 recipe pizza dough
  • 2 c. shredded cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella with some cheddar in it and Parmesan)
  • 4 T. melted butter, divided
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder or 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • ½ tsp. parsley

directions.

  1. Grease a baking tray or pie pan.
  2. Using a rolling pin on a floured surface roll the dough into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle.
  3. Mix two tablespoons melted butter with garlic powder and spread on the top of the rectangle of dough. Or just spread melted butter on the dough.If you’re using fresh minced garlic omit the garlic powder in this step and save the garlic for step 6. Evenly cover dough with 1 cup of the shredded cheese.
  4. Tightly roll the dough up starting at one of the 9 inch edges.
  5. Cut the dough into 12 pinwheels by first cutting it in half. Then cut the halves in half. Now cut each section into 3 pin wheels for a total of 12.
  6. Arrange on a baking tray or pie pan. Drizzle the reserved butter and minced garlic over the tops of the pinwheels. Only add minced garlic if you omitted the garlic powder in step 3. Loosely cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled.
  7. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over the top of the rolls.Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.


These rolls turned out to be SUPER garlicky because I used both garlic powder and freshly minced garlic in my rolls. I LOVE garlic. But they were almost too garlicky for me. I don’t think I’ve said that about any dish ever before in my life! Which is why I make the suggestion to use one or the other in the above recipe.

I put the rolls in a pie pan all scrunched together like you would when making cinnamon rolls or some other type of sweet or savory roll. I decided after the fact that I would have rather have kept them individually separated because the dough doesn’t crisp up when they are all squished together and touching. The garlic rolls at Broadway pizza are crusty on the outside. All-in-all, my recipe was a good first try but not necessarily what I would have wanted it to be. Also, the part in the directions where it says to tightly roll the dough? Yeah. I don’t know how to do that. What I thought was “tight” ended up not being tight at all because when I cut into the roll to make slices the ingredients were all loose inside.

I guess I’ll have to try this recipe again with a few tweaks. Aside from the minor differences in appearance texture and the overly garlicky taste, these rolls were pretty darn good tasting. But anything with that much cheese pretty much has to be. Right?

Salted Caramel Squares



OMG. OMG. OMG. Why haven’t I tried this recipe sooner? I was sifting through a stack of recipes sent to me by my grandma when I came across this beauty. Let’s face it, salted caramel anything sounds amazing but how about caramel made with golden syrup? I don’t think I’ve seen a recipe outside of flapjacks, fruitcake or chicken legs that uses golden syrup so needless to say I was excited to see it called out in this recipe from Penzey’s.

This recipe was simple, simple, simple. I mean it’s harder than making toast or boiling water but comparatively it’s rather simple. You mix together the crust ingredients and bake it, make the caramel and bake again and throw together the chocolate ganache. It couldn’t have taken me more than 30 to 45 minutes total (not including melting time for the chocolate, maybe).

I ate three (er-maybe four-if you consider the fact that I saved some poor soul from having to eat the rounded corner pieces while I was cutting these bars into squares) of these squares straight away and I had to stop myself from eating more despite the fact that I was super full. They are THAT good.

Run, run, run to your kitchen and make these squares. I swear you won’t be disappointed. well, first you’ll probably need to run, run, run to a specialty grocery store that sells golden syrup. If you’re lucky enough to live in Portland, Oregon, I will let you know you can find golden syrup at QFC. Well. You could in 2014 anyway!

base ingredients.

  • 1 c. self-rising flour
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. shredded coconut
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional-I used a pinch)
  • pinch salt

caramel ingredients.

  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 T. Lyle’s golden syrup
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

chocolate ganache ingredients.

  • 16 oz. dark chocolate (I used a mixture of dark and semi-sweet)
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1-2 tsp. sea salt (I used Maldon’s flaky sea salt)

directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 360°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, coconut, butter, cinnamon (if using) and salt. Mix well on low. Press onto an ungreased rectangular baking sheet (about 10×14; a 9×13 pan would also work), about 1/4-inch thick. Bake at 360° for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.
  2. For the caramel, combine the milk, golden syrup and butter in a small heavy saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until big bubbles form and the mix is thickened and a light caramel color, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the vanilla—adding it at the beginning will make it much harder to tell when the milk turns a caramel color. Pour and gently spread over the base. Return to the oven for 10 minutes. Let cool.
  3. For the chocolate, melt the chocolate and butter using a double boiler or in a glass bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. Stir until melted. Pour and spread the chocolate over the cooled caramel. Sprinkle with the sea salt. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set, about 2 hours. Cut and serve or refrigerate the cut pieces in a cookie tin.

The Only Pizza Dough Recipe You will ever Need {Penzey’s}



About a year ago I was on a streak of making grilled pizza. I was both making them at home and taking the show on the road to make grilled pizza at other homes as well. My inspiration was a recipe my grandma sent me that she pulled from the Penzey’s Spices catalog. This is dough that you should always have on hand. The recipe makes two balls of dough that you can use immediately if you’re feeding a crowd or store in your refrigerator or freezer for later use. On top of that – it’s so simple to make!

ingredients.

  • 4 c. bread flour, plus 1/3-2/3 c. extra for kneading
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp. yeast
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper,
  • 1 to 2 T. Italian seasoning (or something similar), to taste
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 c. warm water

directions.

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar, yeast, pepper and seasoning. Stir to combine. Make a well in the center. Pour the olive oil in the well and mix with just enough warm water to form a soft dough. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly-floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes, adding extra flour to the surface as required as long as the dough is sticky, kneading until smooth and elastic. (I did all the mixing and kneading in my stand mixer. I kneaded the dough at medium-high speed for approximately 5 minutes.)
  2. Place the dough in a lightly-greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. You can cover and refrigerate overnight at this point if desired.


Old-Fashioned Iced Oatmeal Cookies


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For years my Grandma has been clipping recipes from all sorts of sources (the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Parade magazine, Relish magazine, Penzey’s magazine etc.) and sending them to me. I pull out the ones I find immediately interesting and save the ones I don’t with the idea that my tastes are always changing and maybe some day I’ll find that particular recipe interesting. I have an entire drawer in guest bedroom night stand dedicated to the recipes I find interesting. And the drawer is mega-wide. I must have hundreds of clipped magazines in that drawer organized into piles such as “cookies” or “cakes” or “pies” or “Thanksgiving.”

I have all these eggs in my fridge right now. Winco had eggs on sale (a dozen for $.99) a few weeks ago and I bought three-dozen thinking I would be eating a lot of eggs, I suppose. But I haven’t been. So I’ve been trying to think of something to knock off a few eggs here and there and cookies will usually knock off one or two if you make a standard batch. So I began sifting through my piles of recipes to look for some good-looking and easy cookie recipes. I found this one. Oatmeal cookies are not a cookie I’d normally gravitate toward but I loved the simplicity of the recipe. Plus I figured these would be cookies I could easily share with coworkers.

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ingredients.

  • 2 c. rolled old-fashioned oats
  • 2 1/2 c. flour (I used cake flour)
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, browned, cooled
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. butterscotch chips (optional)
  • 1/2 c. cinnamon chips (optional)
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 5 T. milk

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directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two cookie sheets. (I used parchment paper instead…)
  2. Brown your butter. In a small saucepan melt butter over medium low heat until it bubbles, the bubbles subside and then browned bits begin to float to the top. Don’t remove from the heat immediately but don’t let the butter burn either. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, mix oats, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. In another large bowl, beat together the melted butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time and vanilla. Mix in the dry oat mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined. Add in chips, if using.
  5. Drop heaping tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake in preheated oven 14 to 16 minutes, or until browned, rotating halfway through. Let cookies rest on the baking sheets 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Once cookies are completely cooled, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Generously frost each cookie.

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So here’s what I changed about the recipe. The recipe called for melted butter so I decided to brown the butter. I always feel like browning the butter in any recipe that calls for melted butter makes the recipe that much butter. I added salt and vanilla because both ingredients seemed inconspicuously missing. I also believe every recipe should have call for salt in some capacity. I also decided to add some butterscotch and cinnamon chips because … I like the idea of a cookie containing some sort of “chip” as opposed to not.

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I decided I was glad that I added the salt because you frost the cookies with a glaze. There’s so much sugary sweetness in the glaze (and the cookie!) you need the added salt to contrast. I probably would have added a touch more flour to these cookies to get them a bit thicker were I to make them again. Normally I never put the exact amount of flour into a cookie per the recipe directions. I always, always add additional flour until I get the consistency of dough that I like (slightly stiff, not sticky). Not sure why I didn’t this time, but I didn’t. The cookies flattened a wee bit more than I would have liked but they aren’t pancake-thin (or crepe-thin, rather) so I wasn’t totally annoyed.

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Banana Bread & PB Chocolate Chip Cookies


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Over a week ago I bought a bunch of bananas to make a bunch of banana “ice-cream.” I guess I was overzealous in my thoughts because after a week passed the bananas were still sitting on my counter only by then they were too brown to eat and past the point where I would want to freeze them for “ice-cream.” I’d unearthed some banana chips in my cupboard that I suspect are about a year old. I think I bought them with the intention of making some sort of Spirulina granola bar or something of that sort. In the same search where I unearthed those banana chips I also found two bags of almond flour/meal.

I took to Pinterest to try to find some recipes using banana chips. I was picturing peanut butter banana bread, to be honest. I found one recipe for peanut butter banana muffins. I’m not a muffin fan so I contemplated turning the muffin recipe into bread. But then I found a recipe for banana chocolate chip cookies and I was inspired to make cookies out of all the ingredients I had in my cupboard.

After finding the one recipe for banana chocolate chip cookies I perused a few more. I don’t normally go with the first recipe I see. I like to check out other recipes to make sure I’m going with the right one. What I found on the internet was a lot of either super thick or super thin cookies. Because of what I perceived the texture would be for the cookies (thanks to the banana) I didn’t want to go with a super thick cookie. And, in general, I’m not at all a fan of super thin cookies. So I stuck with the original recipe that I’d found and tweaked and tweaked from there.

Tweaking a recipe can sometimes be a bust. It’s happened to me many times but you’ve not heard about it because … well … I don’t generally blog my mistakes (unless I heroically fix them, of course). But the tweaks I made for these cookies turned out to be spot on. One of the things I added to the recipe was malted milk powder. I don’t advertise “malt” flavor in the title of these cookies because I really don’t think the malt comes through. I do think it gives the flavor profile more complexity, however. And it makes me wonder if I should try adding malt powder to other cookie recipes.

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ingredients.

  • 4 c. almond flour/meal
  • 2 c. oat flour
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. malted milk powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 T. corn starch
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. chocolate chips, plus more for garnish
  • 1 c. peanut butter chips, plus more for garnish
  • 1 c. banana chips, plus more for garnish

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directions.

  1. Whisk together the flours, malted milk powder, baking soda, corn starch, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream butter, and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add in peanut butter and vanilla extract, beat until combined. I dropped the bananas in whole, one at a time, and beat the batter at a high speed out of laziness (instead of mashing the bananas first). This technique seemed to work fine but you could always mash the bananas with a fork first if you are so inclined.
  3. Stir in the flour mixture just until combined. Stir in chips.
  4. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375F. Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray. (I did both, actually.)
  6. Use a tablespoon to spoon batter out of bowl and roll the dough into balls in your hand. You should be able to get 12 to 15 balls on a sheet. Flatten the balls slightly with the bottom of a juice or rocks glass. Place bits of banana chip and chocolate chips on top. img_0414
  7. Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or just until they start to turn light, golden brown on the bottom. Let cookies cool a few minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.I baked one sheet at a time, letting one sheet “cool” while I was prepping a third sheet. If you don’t have three cookie sheets, you can make it work with only two.

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These cookies taste like banana bread right out of the oven when you eat them still warm. That’s why I named them “banana bread” cookies instead of just … banana cookies. They taste best warm, in my opinion, so I’ll probably be reheating them in the microwave before eating them.

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Garlicky Lemon Greek Yogurt Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Feta



It was determined after the Saturday night fat bomb late night snack that a lightened up dinner was needed on Sunday. I’ve always shied away from using Greek yogurt in pasta because… Why would I want to eat pasta unless it was full of fat? However, I was persuaded to try Greek yogurt in pasta just this one time if I could find a recipe that looked appealing. And then if I didn’t like it … I wouldn’t have to try it again. I have always said I’ll try anything food or drink-related at least once. So why not give Greek yogurt in pasta a whirl, right?

So of course I went to Pinterest for some immediate inspo and pretty immediately found a recipe that didn’t look half bad (because it happened to have lots of garlic in the recipe). I liked two things about the author of the website: 1) she lives in the state in which I was born and raised and 2) she likes garlic so much that she doubles the amount called for in whatever recipe she’s using (so do I!).

I’m not much on meatless pasta (unless you’re going with a classic fettucine alfredo), so I decided I wanted to add a meat. I happen to have a plethora of homemade smoked salmon on hand (which is a huge rarity), so I thought smoked salmon would be the way to go. Also, what’s pasta without cheese I thought to myself as I was dreaming up this recipe in my head. So in went a small container of crumbled feta and teeny-weeny bit of Parmesan cheese. It just feels wrong to me to eat pasta without Parmesan cheese. Know what I mean? Thus, the below creation was born.

ingredients.

  • 1 lb pasta cooked according to package directions, drained, pasta water reserved
  • 3 T. butter
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large lemon, juiced (or 2 small lemons)
  • 2 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 8 oz. smoked salmon, torn into small pieces
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt, to taste

directions.

  1. In a large non-stick pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in garlic for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Whisk in lemon juice.
  2. Remove from heat, and whisk in Greek yogurt, lemon zest, and salt to taste. Place back on low heat to warm.
  3. Poor in pasta and stir to combine. Add some of the reserved pasta if you need to thin out the sauce. (I added A LOT – the sauce was super thick.) Add in the smoked salmon, feta and Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Garnish with additional smoked salmon and Parmesan cheese.
  4. Serve immediately.

Per Jennifer’s instructions, the pasta gets much drier the next day. I noticed this actually as the pasta started to cool. She suggests that you add extra Greek yogurt or butter when reheating. I think I’m going to go with butter and/or half-and-half

I’m not sure what I think of the combination of flavors in this dish. But I’ll be able to decide after a few more helpings – I have a few containers of leftovers. But I will tell you this: I am sold on Greek yogurt in pasta. When you stir in some of that pasta water it really looks like a nice, thick and creamy Alfredo sauce.

 

Cheesy Garlic Bread Sticks



When I moved back to Southern California from a four-year stint in Portland (Oregon, not Maine), I was horrified to find there was nary a Papa Murphy’s near me. The closest one (only one, I believe) is about 30 miles away. One of the things I loved most about Papa Murphy’s was their cheesy bread. I almost never got a pizza without buying cheesy bread – normally because I had a free coupon, but still, I almost never went without it. That being said, I found myself gravitating more toward the cheesy bread than the pizza. I would almost always fill up on cheesy bread and barely have enough room for even one slice of pizza. I used to go to Papa Murphy’s monthly, if not more. So it was an adjustment being without down here in SoCal.

I was browsing Pinterest recently and found a recipe by Grandbaby Cakes (aka the cutest website ever – really – you should check it out!) that looked near darn close to Papa Murphy’s cheesy bread, so I decided to give it a whirl. I mean what goes better with a Saturday night movie night than cheesy, garlicky, buttery bites of bread?

ingredients.

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp. dry active yeast
  • ¾-1 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 4 T. salted butter
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 c. Italian Shredded Cheese blend
  • ½- 1 T. Parmesan cheese
  • parsley for garnish
  • Optional: Warm pizza sauce for serving

directions.

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, garlic salt, sugar, Italian seasoning, and yeast and slowly add in water.
  2. Mix together until dough is created. Using your hands knead for one minute and form a ball. Spread 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a separate bowl and transfer pizza dough to that bowl. Cover bowl with a plastic wrap, a towel or paper towel for 1 hour or until dough has doubled.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  4. Roll out dough on a smooth surface and transfer the dough to your pizza stone or baking sheet. Add butter, garlic powder and Italian seasoning to a small bowl and microwave until melted. Whisk together then brush on dough.
  5. Next sprinkle dough with shredded cheese then Parmesan cheese. Lastly, sprinkle with parsley.
  6. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until dough has browned and cheese is melted and golden. (After 16 minutes I was too eager to let the dough brown so I took it out of the oven but it probably could have stayed in there another few minutes.) Cut bread into sticks and serve with warm pizza sauce if desired.


I promise you I’ve never said this in my life but you can probably cut down to two or three tablespoons of butter in this recipe and still be fine. I’ve never believed it possible for there to be “too much” butter in a recipe (or cheese, for that matter), and I’m not going to go ahead and say that now, but I don’t think you would be sorely disappointed if you cut down on the butter a bit.

You can probably swap out bread flour for the all-purpose flour in this recipe if you have any in your kitchen/pantry. I’ve made some excellent pizza crusts in my day using bread flour and some Italian herbs.

This “snack” is perfect for two people to share–more if you’re having it as an appetizer only. I do suppose if you’re super hungry you could eat the entire recipe on your own as well.

While this recipe wasn’t quite as good as Papa Murphy’s in my opinion (because I basically worship their cheesy bread), it was very good nonetheless. It was the perfect pick for a late-night craving and went great with movie night. Would I make this again? You better believe it.

Roasted Tomato and Blackened Andouille Sausage Fettucine Alfredo



A few weeks ago my friend and I had a Fettucine Alfredo showdown. We made and compared two “classic” (read: simple) recipes for Fettucine Alfredo. Though we liked both recipes the winner ended up being the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, which I had made several times before. The recipe is so simple, so basic, and so quick but the pasta turns out seriously so amazing and creamy you would think it’s some complicated and ridiculous recipe made at a restaurant or by professional chef. So it’s the Pioneer Woman’s basic recipe that I used as the base for this pasta dish.

I had a pint of cherry tomatoes I’d bought over a week ago (for what purpose I couldn’t recall), and I needed to use them up before they went bad. I’d found some (chicken) andouille sausage in the bottom of my freezer earlier when I was looking for some pork breakfast sausage I swear I had in there. I thought the tomato and andouille sausage would go nicely in a Cajun-style alfredo pasta. I was right!

ingredients.

  • 1 pound noodles
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 fully-cooked andouille sausages (approximately 3 ounces each)
  • butter
  • blackened seasoning
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes

directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the cherry tomatoes with a bit of olive oil and place on a half cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the tomatoes have shriveled a bit, burst and maybe even browned. By the time the tomatoes have finished roasting you should be ready to assemble the dish. img_0441
  2. Meanwhile, get pasta and sauce started. Grate Parmesan cheese and place half of it into a large serving bowl.
  3. Get the sausage cooking. Slice the sausages on a diagonal not all the way through and keeping the links in tact. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle the links with blackened seasoning. Cook over medium-high heat until the links are blackened, turning so that all sides are blackened/cooked evenly.img_0442
  4. Begin cooking pasta according to package directions. Reserve some pasta water for later.
  5. Meanwhile in a saucepan or skillet, warm butter and cream. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour warm butter/cream mixture over the top of the bowl that contains the shredded cheese.img_0439
  6. Drain pasta and immediately pour it into the bowl with cheese and cream.
    Toss a couple of times, then sprinkle in the other half of the Parmesan. Toss to combine, thinning with pasta water if necessary.img_0440
  7. Top the pasta with roasted tomatoes, andouille sausage links and additional Parmesan cheese. img_0443
  8. Then mix everything together. Serve immediately topped with more Parmesan cheese if you’re so inclined.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The Pioneer Woman says you must use heavy cream in this recipe.I’m not a huge fan of making fattening items “light” or “thin.” I think if you’re trying to lose weight you should just not eat Fettucine Alfredo. Or ice-cream. Or at least not eat huge helpings of either. So while I wholeheartedly agree that you should use heavy cream if you can, I will let you know that if you do not have heavy cream on hand you can probably substitute and it will turn out just fine. I did for this dish. I had a tiny amount of heavy cream in my fridge but plenty of half-and-half. So in my measuring cup I added the bit of heavy cream and nearly filled the rest up with half-and-half. I put a dollop of Greek yogurt in the mix to retain that thickness that goes along with heavy cream. I don’t think anyone would have noticed the difference. I know I didn’t.

img_0445

Peanut Butter Granola Dessert Parfait



I found a recipe for Chewy Peanut Butter Granola at the website Something Swanky (thank you, Pinterest) and I knew I had to try it. I love granola. I love peanut butter. I love the idea of having something snack-y on hand. So I tried the recipe and I got to thinking … this is really chewy. Like really chewy. So chewy it doesn’t really resemble granola to me. It’s more dessert-like. Like peanut butter rice krispies or peanut butter cheerio bars in a crumbled form. I liked the taste, but couldn’t decide if I liked the texture or not. So I threw it on some Greek yogurt to eat it in the manner in which Ashton of Something Swanky does.

Let me tell you how I feel about Greek yogurt. I keep wanting to like it. It’s so good for you. And it has so much protein. But dang there’s just something about it – that tanginess – that kind of startles me every time. And then it’s also not as sweet as other yogurt. Which you would think would be fine if you were mixing in some sugary peanut butter granola crumble stuff and chocolate chips. But it was just a clashing combination of flavors. I found that I had to keep adding granola to drown out the taste of Greek yogurt. Sigh.

chewy granola ingredients.

  • 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. old fashioned oats*

chewy granola directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil, parchment, or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a large bowl, microwave the honey and the peanut butter together in 30-second increments until easy to mix together. Stir in the vanilla. Mix in the oats.
  3. Spread granola on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool completely. Crumble into bite sized pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

* I was worried about how thick and gooey the granola was so I added more oats than what’s called for here. I probably added another 1/2 to 1 cup.

parfait ingredients.

  • chewy peanut butter granola
  • chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate-I’m normally not fond of milk chocolate chips but I do feel like there are instances when milk is better than semi-sweet or bittersweet), bananas, chocolate candies (such as m&ms) – the possibilities are endless!
  • Greek yogurt
  • cool whip

parfait directions.

  1. Mix cool whip and Greek yogurt together in a small bowl. I did a ratio of about 2:1 or 3:1 cool whip to Greek yogurt. I found that when I did the 2:1 ratio the sour yogurt taste pretty much completely masked the cool whip. It seemed to only change the texture of the yogurt.
  2. In a glass bowl, wide-mouth glass or  glass jar layer chewy peanut butter granola, bananas (or other, fruit if using), chocolate chips (or other desired candy), and Greek yogurt mixture starting with the granola and ending with chocolate chips (or other desired candy) until you reach the top of the bowl, cup or jar. I ate immediately but I suppose you could let this sit in the fridge a bit before eating if you felt the need to do so.

While I was originally going for a “healthy” sort of dessert, after experimenting a few times I turned this into and indulgent granola parfait dessert with a hint of health (thanks to that one to two tablespoons of Greek yogurt mixed in). The first time I made the parfait I used granola and chocolate chips. On the second go round I added some thinly sliced bananas which I have to tell you was an excellent addition to the parfait. I think I could eat this every night for dinner/dessert. I would eat it again tomorrow had I not already eaten my way through the granola!

Flourless Oatmeal Cashew Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


After sipping a nice warm mug of hot chocolate on this nice warm muggy California morning, I decided I want to go back to my cookie-hot chocolate diet and that I needed some cookies on hand in order to do so. I took to Pinterest and immediately found this recipe in my feed. I’m not gluten or dairy-free so none of that was important to me, but I liked the idea of simple ingredients used in the Meaningful Eats recipe. The original recipe called for almond butter. I had a tub of cashew butter I got as a present about a year ago that I decided I needed to get rid of so I went with cashew butter instead.

ingredients.

  • 2/3 c. gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 c. cashew butter
  • 2/3 c. dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 c. chocolate chips (dairy-free)

directions.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray. This is an important step otherwise your cookies will stick.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cashew butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  4. With the mixer on low, slowly add the oat mixture. Mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be very sticky!
  5. Scoop rounds of dough onto the prepared cookie sheet. I got 12 cookies out of this recipe but they were very large cookies. You could easily get 24 smaller cookies. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Cool 2 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For a “healthy” cookie, this was a decent recipe. You almost can’t even tell it’s not a traditional cookie but for the texture. It’s chewy but flimsy. It would mold to an uneven surface if given the chance. I stuck the cookies in the freezer which helps to stiffen them up and I enjoy them right out of the freezer. They are perfect for breakfast, in my opinion!

S’mores {birthday!} Cake


I’m not sure why but I’ve been obsessed with S’mores recently. I like marshmallows. I like chocolate. I’m not overly fond of graham crackers or their taste. Yet when my favorite local cupcake shop offered S’mores as their flavor of the month in June, I was all over that sh!t. And it inspired me to make a layer cake of the same variety for my birthday this year. Their cupcake involved a graham cracker cake base, chocolate frosting and toasted marshmallows complete with a tiny cram square stuck into the delicious chocolate frosting. Easy as pie to create a layer cake based off that cupcake, right?
There are many recipes for graham cracker cake out there but I wanted one that didn’t involve separating the egg yolks from the egg whites and whipping the egg whites into a frenzy. It’s putzy. Folding the egg whites into the batter takes forever. And I’m not overly fond of the texture of cake that uses whipped egg whites. It’s too chiffon-y. So I found exactly what I was looking for at food52.com.

cake ingredients.

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 c. graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. buttermilk

cake directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, and baking powder and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
  4. Add the flour mixture and the milk a little bit at a time, alternating between each. Mix thoroughly but be careful not to overbeat.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between your two prepared pans. Bake for about 25 minutes (or until golden brown and starting to pull away from the sides of the pans). Cool in the pans for at least 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling.

toasted marshmallow filling ingredients.

  • 32 large marshmallows (I used 13 mini-marshmallows for every large marshmallow called for in the recipe)
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 c. butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 (7½-ounce) jars Marshmallow Fluff

toasted marshmallow filling directions.

  1. Place the marshmallows on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place on the lowest rack of oven, and broil marshmallows until nice and brown on top, keeping an eye on them the entire time so they don’t burn.
  2. Beat the butter and powdered sugar on low-speed until blended together, about one minute. Add the vanilla extract and increase the speed to medium-high; beat for three minutes. Stop the mixer, add the Marshmallow Fluff and toasted marshmallows, and mix on the medium-high speed until thoroughly combined.

I hadn’t settled on a chocolate frosting yet when I stumbled upon the food52.com graham cracker cake with what looked like chocolate frosting. The recipe described the frosting as a whipped chocolate caramel ganache (frosting), which, let’s face it, had me at hello.

 Makes enough frosting to fill and frost a 9-inch cake


chocolate caramel sauce ingredients.

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 6 T. salted butter cut into tablepoon-size pieces
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 oz. dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

chocolate caramel sauce directions.

  1. Put the heavy cream in a glass measuring cup and microwave on high for 45 seconds, add chocolate and microwave another 30 seconds Stir until its smooth, add the vanilla extract and stir to combine, set aside so that it will cool before adding to the caramel.
  2. In large saucepan add the sugar, turn heat to med/high and let sit until it starts to liquefy. Start stirring with a heat proof spatula. The sugar will crystallize but that’s alright — keep stirring until it’s all liquid. Stop stirring and let it cook until it turns amber in color, then add the butter and stir to combine.
  3. Remove from heat and add the chocolate cream. Stir until its incorporated. Store in a container at room temperature until ready to use. Note: If you make this ahead of time, simply place the bottle or jar in hot water to warm the caramel so it’s pourable.

ganache ingredients.

  • 4 oz. dark chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 4 oz. milk chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 1 c. plus 2 T. heavy cream
  • 1 T. liquor or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. chocolate caramel sauce

ganache directions.

  1. Heat cream to scalding (not boiling). Pour over the pieces of chocolate that are in a mixing bowl. Let sit 5 minutes then stir until there are no pieces of chocolate and it’s smooth and shiny, then add the chocolate caramel sauce and stir to combine.
  2. Let ganache cool. I let mine cool in the fridge for several hours; do not let it get stiff. Mine was still sorta runny when I started to beat with a mixer. Beat until the ganache is fluffy and spreadable. Frost the cake immediately. Best served at room temperature.

AA few things. One the chocolate caramel sauce was a bit awkward to make. I’ve made caramel before using a similar method with a candy thermometer and it turned out. I somehow ended up with hard shards of caramel that I could not incorporate into the sauce. It still tasted caramel-y but I’m not convinced that the texture was spot on (seemed slightly runnier than it should be). Whatevs. I still used it.

I was particularly fretting about the cake. It seemed like the layers did not raise at all. I should note that I used buttermilk instead of milk and had to appropriately add baking soda to the ingredients and decrease the amount of baking powder. I did this based upon my research of how to substitute buttermilk for milk. The layers were so thin and flat I was afraid I couldn’t cut them in two, but I was still able to do so. Also, I baked the cakes for 25 minutes and the toothpick came out clean. I normally like to have a few crumbs clinging to the toothpick. This tells me the cake will be moist. I was terrified the cake was going to turn out dense and dry. What a bad combo! And, because the cakes never domed, I couldn’t slice off the dome and try the cake like I normally would.

This is a putzy cake. It’s two different frostings (the frosting and filling) and the ganache I made was putzy as well. I wanted toasted marshmallows on top my cake. And I wanted bits of graham cracker stuck into the frosting.

I wanted one of those creme Brule torches to toast the marshmallows but did not want the expense of the purchase and also didn’t want to have to go buy butane. So I was talking to my manager and we figured I could use one of those butane wands that you use to light your gas grill or gas stove. I bought one at a local grocery store for less than $4 so I was happy with my purchase.


Turns out that trying to toast a regular-sized marshmallow takes forever using one of those wands. So I discarded that idea. I decided to flip over the pan I used to bake the cake and line it with parchment paper and then spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. I lined up the marshmallows along the outside and threw the pan into the bottom rack with the setting on broil. After a few minutes (and one rotation) I had evenly browned, melty, toasted marshmallows.


Then I attempted to stick the graham crackers in between. I should have stuck the grahams in between the marshmallows before toasting because it was difficult with the meltiness of the marshmallows to try to stick the grahams in between. It ended up fine, I would have done it differently in hindsight. Then once the marshmallow-graham ring had cooled slightly, I moved the ring on top the cake in sections. I had to allow the ring to cool because I didn’t want the hot marshmallows to melt the ganache frosting.


I stuck the whole cake in the fridge overnight, took it out by 5 am and by 10 am we were eating cake during our morning meeting.

I got a ton of compliments on this cake. One of the things my manager noted is that I always add salt to my frosting, which she likes. I don’t like overly sweet frosting and I feel like adding salt can cut down on the sweetness – especially in frostings that call for a lot of powdered sugar.

I would definitely make this cake again and would recommend it for any S’mores lover you know!

Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream {vegan}



I’ve seen recipes for vegan banana “ice cream” floating around Pinterest for a while now. I’m big into real ice cream (have my own ice cream maker and cardboard pints for storing in the freezer) so I thought I would try out the substitute and see how it compares. This particular recipe was found at detoxinista.com.

I’m not going to tell y’all how many servings this recipe yields because I don’t want y’all to judge what I think is a serving…

ingredients.

  • 4 bananas, sliced into chunks and frozen
  • 1 c. organic natural peanut butter (see note)
  • pinch of salt
  • water, if needed to facilitate blending

directions.

  1. Put the frozen banana slices and peanut butter in a food processor and blend until the bananas break down into a soft-serve consistency. Salt as necessary.
  2. Add water, as necessary, to facilitate the blending. If you’re not worried about being vegan and you want a special treat, toss some mini peanut butter cups into the mix at the end. 
  3. Eat immediately as soft-serve or pack into air-tight containers and store in the freezer to eat at a later time.


Note: OK, OK. The original recipe called for a ratio of one tablespoon of peanut butter for every one banana used. I tried that. I swear to God I did. But the result was a hint of peanut butter bland low-sugar soft serve. (No, offense, Detoxonista.) So I upped the peanut butter quotient (a lot) and, man, I could have eaten straight through a pint of that stuff! It is blissful peanut-buttery goodness. If you are health conscious, worried about calories/fat, etc. I guess I would either stick to the original recipe or go with an amount of peanut butter somewhere in between my amount and the Detoxinista’s. Now if you try my amount of peanut butter, I promise you won’t be sorry.

This recipe yielded 3 pints of peanut butter banana ice cream, but two of my pints had peanut butter cups in them so I don’t think the recipe would quite yield three pints of the no-peanut-butter-cup variety. I don’t really think I have to pint this out to anyone but clearly the version that contains peanut butter cups is not vegan.

I must also tell you that the soft serve version is hands down better than the frozen version. The frozen version isn’t very creamy (unless you let it sit out a bit) and, honestly, crystallized within 24 hours. I’m sure this is because I added water to the mixture while whirling it in my food processor. Don’t get me wrong; freezing it won’t be a total loss. Just let it sit out a bit before diving back in. 

Sausage, Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Frittata



This weekend I laid down a lot of credit to purchase some new furniture for my bedrooms. Feeling the pinch immediately upon arriving home and having a slight case of buyer’s remorse (but not enough to cancel my purchase), I began thinking of ways I can scrimp and save until I pay off the furniture that hasn’t arrived yet. Slight decrease my 401K to make my paycheck higher? Check. Stop eating out (as if I do this a ton)? Check. Spend less on groceries?

Bummer. I supposed I could try check-marking that one. I mean I do spend an awful lot on groceries, but that’s mainly when I’m trying to eat more healthy so it seems justified. Right? I took a look around my fridge and glanced over at my kitchen cart scanning for ingredients to put something together with my existing foods. Then I took to Pinterest for some inspo and found a recipe to use up the rest of the chicken breakfast sausage I have in my fridge, one of my sweet potatoes, loads of eggs and one of two onions in my pantry. My recipe is based off one found at paleorunningmama.com.

What’s magical about this dish is that (if I used myfitnesspal app correctly), each slice is only 245 calories. On the downside, after I ate one piece I felt like I could have had two more. But I’m experiencing some weird hunger phenomenon the last week or so, so that didn’t really surprise me.

ingredients.

  • 1 small sweet potato, or half of a large one
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • ¼ lb sausage, cooked (I had leftover chicken breakfast sausage that I used; I measured the amount after the sausage was cooked)
  • ¼ c. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil (or cooking fat of choice) for the sweet potatoes
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • sea salt and coarse black pepper, to taste

directions.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 inch pie plate or baking dish. Wash your sweet potato and chop off the ends. Slice it into very thin rounds using a mandolin if you have one to make sure the slices are even. Place the rounds onto the bottom. Brush with olive oil and pop into the oven to cook your crust while your onions are caramelizing. Note: you can place sweet potato rounds along the sides of your pie dish but they’ll shrink down to the bottom of the pan while roasting, so … you can save yourself a step in the beginning and only layer the bottom of the dish.
  2. First caramelize the onions. Melt ¼ cup of butter in a medium saute pan over med-low heat. Cut the onion into quarters and then slice very thin and evenly. Add the onions to the pan and toss with the butter to coat. You will stir every once in a while to make sure they cook evenly. They will cook for about 30 minutes.Don’t forget to stir the onions! After the onions have been cooking 10 minutes, stir in the ¼ tsp salt and continue to cook over med-low heat.
  3. Once the sweet potatoes are starting to brown and your onions are almost done, remove the pie dish from the oven. 
  4. Salt the sweet potatoes and sprinkle the paprika on top. Add the cooked sausage to the dish on top of the sweet potatoes distributing the sausage evenly.
  5. By now the onions should be pretty caramelized – a light to medium golden brown color. Add them to the dish over the sausage. Sprinkle the minced garlic over the onions.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until uniform. Pour the egg over the onions, sausage and sweet potatoes. Allow the eggs to spread around so it covers everything. It will look like there’s not quite enough egg in there but trust me, there is.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the eggs are set and the frittata is bubbly. Remove from oven and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

The only thing I wished had turned out different is that the crust was kind of mushy. I thought that by pre-baking the potatoes the crust would turn out … crusty. But it didn’t. I suppose I could have cooked the potatoes longer, so if you try this recipe and want a crispier crust, I would try pre-baking the crust a wee bit longer. I should note that when I put my the “crust” into the oven it was not yet preheated. So the 30-minute duration that I cooked the potatoes included the preheating part.

This is a dish that should reheat nicely, which will work well for taking it along to the office this week for breakfast! Money crunch solved. For this week, anyway.

Baked (Stacked) Breakfast Quesadillas



This recipe is a riff from one that Bobby Flay does with bacon and hash browns. I’ve tried  this recipe before using bacon. Today I used what I had on hand in my fridge (chicken sausage breakfast links and avocado). I mean you can make a breakfast quesadilla out of almost any breakfast food, right?

ingredients.

  • small tortillas of your favorite variety (12 tortillas serves four)
  • 8 to 10 oz. shredded cheese
  • breakfast meat, cooked and chopped (bacon, sausage, potato if you’re vegetarian)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • hot sauce, optional
  • ancho chilli pepper
  • garnish such as: pico de gallo, sour cream, cilantro

directions.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Lay out 4 of the tortillas on a work surface. Top each tortilla with a sprinkling of cheese and your breakfast meat choice. Sprinkle with hot sauce if you’re so inclined. (Don’t be skimpy on the cheese!) Top each with with a tortilla and sprinkle with cheese. Add some avocado to the cheese. Sprinkle with hot sauce if you’re so inclined.Top each tortilla stack with the remaining tortilla. Sprinkle a bit more cheese on for good measure. Sprinkle the cheese with a bit of the ancho chilli pepper.
  3. Transfer the quesadillas to a large baking sheet and bake until golden brown and the cheese has melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. When the quesadillas are nearly ready, melt butter in a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Carefully crack eggs into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny, about 2 minutes.
  5. Remove quesadillas from the oven. Top with a dollop of sour cream, if you’re so inclined. Top with the fried eggs and any other garnish you may be using.

Baking the tortillas gives these quesadillas a different texture than the traditional version. They are light and crispy and sorta melt in your mouth. I put a wee bit too much toxic green hot sauce on my tortillas so unfortunately hot sauce was the majority of the flavor I tasted tonight. On the bright side, the heat stopped me from cleaning my plate!

I use low-carb tortillas because they have a ton of fiber. But use whatever tortilla you feel is best. I’ve only ever tried this recipe with flour tortillas so I can’t vouch for the corn variety.

Almond Flour Buttermilk Pancakes



I have always, always, always wanted to try almond flour pancakes but have been a bit scared to do so afraid they would be nothing like the buttermilk pancakes that my mom made on weekends when I was growing up. As is, I’m always a bit leery of gluten-free recipes because any that I’ve tried (and I haven’t tried that many) just don’t seem to measure up to their gluten-full counterpart. But, alas, I decided to bite the bullet this weekend to use up some buttermilk I bought for the last few cakes I made to take to work.

What I didn’t want was flat, thin almond flour pancakes. I found a recipe at foodandwine.com that boasted crispy on the outside and “fluffy” on the inside pancakes. I figured “fluffy” is as good as thick is going to be when you’re using almond flour instead of regular flour.

ingredients.

  • 2 c. almond flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c. buttermilk
  • 1 T. vegetable oil, melted vegetable shortening or melted butter
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. granulated sugar

directions.

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites on low, gradually increasing the speed to medium. Beat until soft peaks form.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar and salt. (Start with 1/2 cup buttermilk and add more buttermilk if you think necessary. My batter was extremely thick so I added at least 1/4 cup, if not more.) 
  4. Add to the almond flour mixture and stir to incorporate. Fold in the whipped egg whites.
  5.  In a large nonstick skillet, melt one tablespoon of butter or shortening over moderate heat. You can also use vegetable oil or spray with a cooking spray. My last resort would be the cooking spray. When the butter/shortening has melted, pour batter into the pan using a 1/8-cup or 1/4-cup measuring cup, leaving space between the pancakes. 
  6. Cook at least two minutes on the first side (or until the cakes start to bubble and the bottom is browned), then flip, and cook for one more minute (or until you deem the pancakes thoroughly cooked). Repeat the process with the remaining batter. Serve immediately or place in a preheated 200º oven for up to 10 minutes.


To me, the hardest part about making pancakes is figuring out what temperature works best on your stove. I started out at a medium-low heat and eventually increased the heat to medium but found that eventually my pancakes were starting to brown faster on the bottom and not cook so thoroughly on the top, which makes it a bit of a mess when you’re trying to flip the cakes. I ended up turning my stove down to medium-low heat. So play around with your stove and pans or pancake griddle, if you have one.

These pancakes are a good substitute if you are avoiding flour and/or gluten, but I will warn you that the consistency of them is different than a traditional pancake. It’s very egg-y (thanks to all the eggs and the whipped egg whites). It almost has the consistency of French toast, if you will. They are “fluffy” as promised in the original recipe, so I will give foodandwine.com credit for that! This recipe yielded eight pancakes for me. I used a 1/4-cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into the pan.

Also, the originally recipe did not have any sugar in it. I was a bit confused by this, wondering if almonds have a sugar flavor that would allow for you to not have to add any additional sugar to the recipe. (They don’t.) I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar to the recipe just to be on the safe side. It wasn’t enough. It needs the full amount of sugar you would find in a pancake recipe. I would recommend at least one tablespoon. When I was plating the pancakes for photos, I topped my pancakes with golden syrup. I’m not normally a syrup person for pancakes but honest to God the syrup was the only sweetness on the plate. If you do not add sugar to your pancakes you will most likely have to douse your pancakes in syrup. Maybe you do anyway!

Red Velvet Cake with Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting



For many years it was tradition on my birthday that my mom would make red velvet cake. It was hands down the best cake ever. And, if I must confess, it got to the point somewhere in my twenties where she would actually make me two cakes. One for me to share with everyone and one for me to eat. I would eat red velvet cake (and ice cream!) for breakfast, lunch and dinner days after my birthday until I had none left. I was probably at least 10 or 15 pounds heavier back in those days. No wonder, huh?


Then when I moved across the country it was up to me to make my own red velvet birthday cake. Which I did for a while. But I haven’t kept up on the tradition in years. There was a period of time when I started doing cake week for my birthday. I would make a different cake for each day of the work week. It gave me an excuse to try different cakes and/or fit in that red velvet cake that I loved so much. I did that for two years before I moved again. I stopped cake week because at my new job my department was very small and my coworkers seemed less cake-happy than my coworkers of the past. Don’t get me wrong. They love cake. They especially love my cakes. But I think cake week would be a bit overwhelming for them.

Still, I made my own cake for my birthday and brought into work the first year (and plan to do so again this year). But I also make birthday cakes every year for my coworkers. My manager’s birthday is at the end of June, approximately two weeks before mine, and (two years in a row now) when I asked for her flavor request she requested red velvet with cream cheese frosting.

So here’s what. I’m not a fan of cream cheese frosting. Not the butter cream variety anyway. It’s too sweet. And too cream cheesy. So whenever anyone would ask me for a cake that traditionally comes with a cream cheese frosting (red velvet or carrot cake, namely), I would cringe inside knowing the cake recipient would expect cream cheese frosting. Then I found a gem of a recipe for cooked cream cheese frosting that was basically a game-changer. I don’t know why but this frosting is so much better to me. It’s less sweet. The consistency is silkier. It’s less cream cheesy but still comes across as having a cream cheese flavor to which, oddly, I’m not opposed!

I tried this recipe for red velvet cake from the Portuguese Girl Cooks on a whim once instead of using my mom’s tried and true Red Velvet Cake recipe and have found this recipe to be a an all-around winner. I can’t believe I haven’t blogged this recipe yet – especially because I made it last Christmas for my then-boyfriend’s family Christmas. Since my manager’s birthday was last weekend, and she again requested red velvet, I figured it was time to blog this red velvet cake.

Makes one six-layer 8-inch cake.

 red velvet cake ingredients.

  • 4 3/4 + 1/8  c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp.salt
  • 18 T. butter, at room temperature
  • 3  c. granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 T. red gel food color (not taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 T. natural cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 1/4 c. butter milk or whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/4  tsp. apple cider vinegar (when using whole milk)

red velvet cake directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom of each with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and sides of the pans. Throw some flour in each pan and shake the pans around until the pans are coated in flour. Tap to get rid of excess flour.
  2.  In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, salt (and baking soda if using buttermilk) together. Set aside.
  3.  In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and the sugar together and cream on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla and food coloring. Mix on low until well combined.
  5.  Add in one-third of the flour mixture, mix until combined, then add in one third of the milk. Mix until combined and repeat adding in the flour then milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  6.  Omit this step if using buttermilk. In a small bowl, add the baking soda to the vinegar. Mix well and add to the batter. Mix until just incorporated, about 10 seconds.
  7.  Pour batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake approximately 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist cake crumbs stuck to it. Do not over-bake. This cake is easy to over-bake!

cooked cream cheese frosting ingredients.

Frosting recipe adapted from one found at thekitchn.com. Note that you may want to make a bit extra frosting. I ran our of this frosting before finishing the cake! However, I have a heavy hand when it comes to filling the layers.

  • 16 oz. (2 bars) full-fat cream cheese, softened at room temperature for at least 1 hour
  • 8 oz. (two sticks) butter, softened to room temperature or near room temperature
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. corn starch
  • 2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

cooked cream cheese frosting directions.

  1. Whisk the flour, sugar, corn starch and salt together in a small saucepan. Turn the heat on to medium and slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. It will look lumpy at first but whisk vigorously to create a smooth paste. Continue whisking as the mixture comes up to a simmer. It will thicken rapidly and dramatically as it comes to a boil . Simmer for 1 full minute, then turn off the heat. Scrape the flour and milk paste into the mixer bowl. (If you want to be 100% sure there are no small lumps, pour it through a mesh sieve.) Chill completely.
  2. Once the flour-milk mixture has completely cooled, turn on the mixer or beaters and whip the flour-milk mixture until it is lightened in color. Drop in the butter and cream cheese. I dropped in one stick/brick at a time and then beat completely until moving on to the next stick/brick. Add the vanilla. Continue whipping until the the two are completely combined and smooth and silky. The texture of your frosting should be thick.
  3. Let the frosting firm up a bit more by refrigerating for a few hours or overnight before filling and frosting the cake.



Note: To make a six-layer cake, cut the three layers in half using a serrated knife. I like to freeze my cake layers before doing this and let them thaw slightly. I find it makes less crumbs. Additionally, every time I make this recipe the cakes come out of the oven with a very large dome on top. To make the cake more even, I cut off the domes. Because I hate wasting so much extra cake, I make cake parfaits with the leftover cake domes. I will tell you that I needed to make extra frosting to have enough frosting for the cake parfait!


This cake turned out to be one of the better ones I’ve ever made. Why? I’m not sure. I do know that red velvet cake in general can happen to over-bake rather easily. Since I’m cognizant of that, I do my best to not let that happen when I make red velvet cake. This cake was perfectly moist. I ran out of cream cheese frosting and made a double recipe of cooked frosting sans cream cheese (I didn’t have any on hand!) which I used to finish frosting the cake and to make those gems of parfaits you see above.

Red velvet cake is hard to frost because the red coloring tends to bleed through. I did a quick crumb layer, chilled the cake, and then coated the cake a second time with a verrrrrrrry thick layer of cooked frosting. Two thinner layers would have worked equally as well.