Cookies and Kindness

I wanted so badly to have a cookie recipe to share today, but I made these cookies, and they were a total bust.  They weren’t Dorie’s cookies, hers would never be a bust.

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I will still tell you about Cookies and Kindness, this campaign that Dorie launched just in time for her cookie cookbook to come out.  It’s so simple, and so brilliant.

Bake cookies.

Spread kindness.

The end.

While I won’t be surprising anyone with these bummer peanut butter cookies, check back in here between now and New Years and we’ll see if I can’t come up with a couple of ways to participate.

Exhausted Moms Rejoice [deb’s favorite brownies]

AGOMYR touts one of Smitten’s brownie recipes as her favorite ever.  If I’m not mistaken, she calls them quiet brownies because they can be made without a noisy mixer, and all in one bowl.  But that’s not what Deb calls them, and I always have to go back to the site and remind myself which recipe she loves.  It’s this one, isn’t it, AGOMYR?  I’ve made them multiple times, and they always disappear before I can snap a photo and blog about them.

And I was going to make them (and properly blog them) for a little friend coffee date I had coming up, but then I remembered Deb also had a “favorite” brownie recipe, one she posted after her cocoa brownies.  So I clicked on that one, and I read the post.  Reread would be more accurate, because I’m sure I read it when it went up in 2012.  But oh, how I looked on it with fresh eyes.  Or tired eyes.  The eyes of a mother who also has a tricky sleeper.  One who appreciates a brownie recipe that can be started and finished within 45 minutes on an entirely new level.  I owed it to sleep-deprived mothers everywhere to try it out.

It works.

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To make 16 small squares, you will need:

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (I might even cut this to 1 C next time!)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
*And of course I added chocolate chips because I just don’t believe in brownies without them

Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides, or foil. Butter the parchment or foil or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula, stir in chocolate chips, and scrape batter into prepared pan, spread until even. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free.

Let cool and cut into desired size. If you’re like me, you will prefer these and all brownies, cold or even frozen. But I bet you’re normal and will just eat them hot from the pan. If desired, dust the brownies with powdered sugar before serving.

 

A Different Muffin Entirely [banana muffins with olive oil and dark chocolate]

Perhaps above anything else I know how to make, I know how to make banana muffins.  I’ve been making Giada’s recipe since 2005, and if you’ve known me since then, you’ve probably eaten one or two.  There has never been a better banana muffin.

But when I saw Jessica’s, I paused.  These were a different muffin entirely.  They had olive oil and dark chocolate, and made me think of my favorite toast toppings.  They were worth a try.

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If you want a classic banana muffin that reminds you of the kind of banana bread a neighbor would bring just because they made an extra, then Giada’s recipe(sans Mascarpone frosting, is the way to go.

But if you’re in the market for a sophisticated muffin (did you know such a thing existed, dear readers?) I highly recommend these.  They feel like just enough of a departure from the classic that they’re worth hanging onto.  The olive oil and chopped chocolate (chop it somewhat unevenly, please, so that there are both flecks and huge chunks of chocolate studded throughout) give the muffins a tinge of fanciness.

To make 18 muffins, you will need:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 6 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, chopped (I used 3.5 oz. dark, and 3 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside. Line a muffin tin with liners.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg and brown sugar together until smooth and no lumps remain. Add in vanilla extract, olive oil and bananas, whisking again until combined. Gradually add in dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in the milk and mix until just combined. Fill each muffin liner 2/3 of the way full with batter (I use a 1/4 cup measure to get the muffins to be of equal size). If you’d like, you can place a very thinly sliced banana slice on top of the muffin before baking.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until tops are no longer wet and become slightly golden. Remove and let cool until cool to the touch.

Oops [white chocolate churro crunch]

For the past several weeks, I have been constantly hungry between 11-3.  I eat breakfast, and then lunch is this on-going affair that usually involves some attempt at a “meal,” mixed with handfuls upon handfuls of whatever is closest.

And then I listened to my beloved Sorta Awesome (I don’t even remember which episode, I’m sorry!), and I believe it was Kelly who mentioned that when she is taking care to eat well, she’s not constantly hungry throughout the day.

Oops!

I have not been eating particularly well lately.  Suggestions for easy, filling, and healthy breakfasts and lunches welcome!

I had already purchased the ingredients to make white chocolate churro crunch before having this epiphany, so I felt a little bit like the person who always says the diet will start tomorrow. What else am I going to do with a box of Honeycomb cereal?

That all worked out kind of great for me, because this snack mix is simply amazing.  It involves melted chocolate, so my picture is a bit of a lie. But if this blog had an alternate title it would be, the misadventures of a horrible chocolate melter, so I just ate all my globby-chocolate-blobs and snapped a picture of the rest of the mess.

I could not stop eating this. It’s absolutely addictive, and while I won’t say it’s better than muddy buddy mix, I will say it hits a different sweet spot. There’s room for both o rely sweet cereal concoctions in your life, too, I’m sure. 

To make snacks for a little group, you will need:

  • 4 cups Honeycomb Cereal
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup melted white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Toss honeycomb with melted butter in a large bowl.  Then add cinnamon and sugar, and toss to coat.  Bake for 15 minutes.

When Honeycomb mixture has completely cooled, drizzle with melted chocolate*.  Refrigerate or freeze till chocolate is set, then serve.

*I hate working with melted chocolate, because things always come out so much blobbier for me than other, more seasoned food bloggers.

The Point of it All/How to Celebrate Everything [half birthday cake]

I am six months into life with The Gooplet, and I often tell people that I feel as though I have maybe, finally, possibly stopped treading water.  I say maybe, finally, possibly, because I’m so hesitant to commit to saying the words out loud, lest everything we worked so hard the past half a year to establish be swiftly taken from us in one blow.  Because babies.

But I think, maybe, finally, possibly, we have a semblance of normal.

I was big on half birthdays in elementary school, as I imagine almost anyone with a summer birthday would be.  I lived in the golden age of elementary school, when you could still bring in cupcakes on your birthday, which meant that those of us who celebrated in June, July, or August got to spice up those boring winter months by adding our half birthdays to the slate of students celebrating the real day  January 26 was my (half) moment to be the center of attention.  And oh man, am I ever into being the center of attention.

Fast forward thirty-odd years, and here I am with a little person celebrating his very first half birthday.  There must be cake!  Half a cake, to be exact.  We’ve done this before.  We’ll do this every year!  I made the cake on his birthday, but I wasn’t paying full attention, and it didn’t turn out.  Like, sunk completely, didn’t turn out.  What would Mary Berry say?

There must be some piece of me that knew not all was lost, because I hung onto the cake, and lived life for three more days, when Jenny Rosenstrach’s latest cookbook arrived on my doorstep.  Jenny speaks my love language.  It’s family dinner.  She writes about people and food and the serious connection between the two in ways that get at the deep, mushiest parts of my soul.  That’s not an exaggeration.  Ina is aspirational,  Jenny is inspirational.  And her newest book tells us to celebrate everything.  Because babies crave routines.  Families crave rituals.  And the best ones are the ones that happen around the table.

So about a week after Gooplet’s half birthday, we celebrated his half birthday anyway.

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With the ugliest, and most disastrous half-cake ever.  But we started something.  And I hope it continues for years and years and years to come.

Thanks, Jenny.

On Gooeyness [Ali’s Cookies]

In college, I spent junior and senior years living in my sorority house.  If I remember right, there were 33 of us there at any given time, and plenty of other sisters who would drop by for dinners, especially on nights when the cook, Blanca, put out her cookies. There were always several flavors, but the ones we all went crazy for were some magical combination of chocolate chip and toffee, completely underbaked, so that everything remained as gooey as possible. We were all hopelessly addicted.

 Ali’s cookies are the closest I’ve come to repeating that gooey-ness in my ten (!) years since graduating. The entire point of these cookies is that they are loaded beyond belief with chocolate chips, both white and semi-sweet.  Like, you can’t take a bite without landing at least five. They’re amazing.

The recipe comes via her husband’s family, and is famous among our friends and former coworkers.  Just like with a regular chocolate chip cookie, you can prep the dough, and leave it in the fridge or freezer to have it at the ready anytime. That is, in fact, how I recommend making them because it is absolutely impossible to eat just one.

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And maybe, just maybe, I used them as a vehicle for my Ben and Jerry’s brownie ice cream the other night. For testing purposes, of course.

To make Ali’s cookies, you will need:

  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • 1 C brown sugar, packed
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 3/4 C flour
  • 1 1/2 C chocolate chips
  • 1 C white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter and sugars with a mixer till light and fluffy, a couple of minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat till incorporated. Add baking soda, salt, and flour and do the same. Fold in chocolate chips by hand.

Bake cookies on a parchment-lined cookie tray for seven minutes. They will still look underbaked. And they might be a little. And that’s part of the magic.

On Junk Food

Dear readers, what are your junk food weaknesses?  My number one is probably M&Ms.  Either plain or peanut butter.  I can get into the coconut ones for about two handfuls before I’m over them.  And second is ice cream, a dessert to which I cannot say no.  When it comes to crazy desserts, I’m hit or miss.

AGOMYR sent me these browned butter oreo nutella blondies, and I made them almost instantly.  And they were good.  But maybe, a little much?  Maybe a browned butter blondie, sans Oreo and Nutella would be better?  And maybe an Oreo and Nutella blondie would work too?  But everything all together? Too much for me.

I would say I’m more of a junk food purist, but some of my most recent pins would dispel that theory.  Here’s what I want to make soon:

chocolate churro crunch.:

White Chocolate Churro Crunch, please and thank you.

waffle cookies.:

Chocolate Dipped Waffle Cookies (Oh, hey Lauren Conrad)

Simple frosted circus animal cookie bark recipe - sugar and cloth:

Animal Cracker Bark, but I think I’d make mine with dark chocolate

On Drinking Kale [peanut butter chocolate chip energy bites]

The other day I realized that I run on nothing but sugar from the minute I wake up, till whenever I eat lunch. And because I’m not willing to change my Starbucks order, I was hoping some healthier choices for later in the day would fall into my lap.

Cue Ali Cheaterbites

She posted a recipe for those energy bites you always see on Pinterest, made by those people who drink kale for breakfast. I am not those people (see above). But Ali Cheaterbites is a real person I’ve met in real life, and I don’t think she drinks kale for breakfast, at least not every day, so if she’s talking about them, I’m much more likely to trust her sage advice. 

I made these late one night, set them in the fridge, and scooped and rolled them the next morning. 


The state of my life right now is such that if these did give me a boost of energy, I didn’t notice. But I bet if I ran marathons and drank more kale, I’d feel the extra pep. What they did do was give me a good alternative to the handfuls of M&Ms I shove in my mouth around 3:00 every afternoon. And make me feel better that I don’t have to run on straight sugar throughout the whole entire day. 

To make about 2 dozen energy bites, you will need:

  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted
  • ½ cup ground flax meal
  • ¼ cup mini cinnamon chips (I didn’t have these, so I doubled up on chocolate chips)
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg

In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract. Add in the remaining ingredients and then mix everything together until well combined. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Once chilled, shape mixture into 1 inch balls. Store in the fridge for up to a week…if they last that long. 

Forever Summer

Besides being the name of one of Nigella’s cookbooks, it’s a state of mind I try to hang onto as long as possible.  As much as the heat and humidity get to me, summer is by far my favorite season, and this year, I’m primed to make it last a little longer.  Let’s try these recipes, and see if we can keep it going.

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos with Summer Peach & Tomato Salsas

Slow cooker carnitas tacos with peach and tomato salsas

prosecco margaritas.:

Prosecco martinis

Cold Sesame Noodles are incredible versatile. Pair them with your favorite protein. Find the recipe on Shutterbean.com

Cold sesame noodles

pineapple peach agua fresca.:

Pineapple peach agua fresca

peach pie scones with vanilla glaze.:

Peach pie scones with vanilla glaze

Balsamic-Roasted Eggplant and Arugula Sandwiches

Balsamic roasted eggplant and arugula sandwiches

 

 

 

Years in the Making [boston cream cupcakes]

When Pinterest first became a thing, I pinned Boston Cream cupcakes.

I can pass on almost any donut unless you come at me with Boston Cream.

Please, come at me with Boston Cream.

So this was the perfect merger, my favorite donut flavor in one of my favorite dessert forms.

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But time passed, as it always does, and I never made them. I am slightly afraid of custard, or really, anything that requires precision in baking. I would always cycle back to the recipe when picking cupcakes to make, but never commit to the time it would take to make them.

And then I found a cheater version, and I adapted it even more, and here we are.

I’ve finally made Boston Cream cupcakes, and shared them with people I love.

To make 2 dozen, you will need:

  • Your favorite yellow cake mix, with the necessary ingredients (some eggs, some oil)
  • A small box of French vanilla pudding mix, and the necessary milk
  • Your favorite chocolate frosting (yep, I used store bought here…the horror)

Make the cupcakes according to the directions on the package.  Let them cool completely, and while doing so, make the pudding.  When the cupcakes are completely cool, unwrap them and slice the cupcakes in half cross-wise.  Spread frosting on the top half (it is so much easier to do it now, then once there’s a smushy layer of pudding in the middle).  Once the pudding is set, spread a layer of it in each cupcake, and sandwich the cupcake back together.

Store, wrapped, in the fridge, until you serve.