Monday, October 22, 2012

Soft Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

The turn to autumn is one of my favorite things about living in New England. The air turns crisp, the leaves turn beautiful orange, yellow, and red hues, football starts up (go Pats!), and I can finally use the oven again without complaints that it's too hot. My husband's sweet tooth has suddenly come alive, as he has recently requested both caramel brownies and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.
Life has been a little crazy (evident by the tumbleweeds rolling through this blog), but I jumped at the chance to make cookies. They are usually pretty quick to throw together and would curb my yearning to get back to baking. I went straight to my blog to pull up the cookie recipe, only to discover it wasn't there. When I thought about it, I could barely remember ever having made pumpkin cookies before.

I pulled up my trust excel spreadsheet of recipes, and right there was a recipe for soft pumpkin cookies, rated five stars - my highest rating. I'm not sure why I never blogged about them, but I'm so happy to have 'found' them again. I threw in a few tweaks and my usual substitutions, and the result was a soft, but sturdy, cookie that is perfect for fall!
Soft Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
Soft Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies Source: Adapted from Joy the Baker and Big Fat Cookies
Yield: about 2 dozen cookies
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/4 cups evaporated cane juice
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) butter, at room temperature**
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
**I actually make this with Earth Balance butter sticks and it worked well.
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Stir the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the eggs, one at a time. Add the pumpkin and vanilla, mixing just until blended. Slowly add the flour mixture to incorporate it. Mix in the chocolate chips and cranberries.
  4. Scoop mounds of dough, roughly 2 tablespoons each, onto lined sheets.  Space cookies at least 2 1/2 inches apart.
  5. Bake cookies about 14 minutes, until the edges are just lightly brown. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transfering to a wire rack to cool completely.  The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No-Bake Mint Brownies

Clean eating has changed my life in many ways, but one particular change was definitely unexpected. Growing up, I was never a huge fan of chocolate, and most certainly wanted nothing to do with dark chocolate. I viewed chocolate simply as a vehicle for delivery of other delicious things such as mint (my favorite) or peanut butter filling, almonds, raisins... you get the picture.
As clean eating adjusted my taste buds, I came to have an appreciation for a nice high quality piece of dark chocolate. While it still wouldn't be the first thing I reach for, I do enjoy the smooth, velvety texture and deep, complex flavors. (Just don't ask me to eat cacao nibs. I'm not THAT appreciative yet!)
Naturally, brownies were never something I would go nuts for, but when I stumbled on this recipe for no-bake mint brownies, I just had to try them. Clean dessert + mint + quick to prepare = a happy balanced baker who doesn't actually have to bake! I was so in love with these after making them, that I went out the next day for a jumbo bag of dates so I could make more. These brownies are super dense and fudgy, and I love the little crunch from the bits of walnut.

 I found that the amounts in the original recipe didn't fill an 8x8 pan without being paper thin, so I scaled up the whole recipe to yield a decent sized brownie.
No-Bake Mint Brownies
No-Bake Mint Brownies Source: Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie via Eva Bakes
Yield: 16 brownies

  • 2 cups walnuts 
  • 2 and 1/2 cups pitted dates (make sure to use whole, not chopped dates) 
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract 
  • ½ cup cocoa powder 
  • 10 drops of pure peppermint extract (you can add more or less if you like, I felt like this was a good middle-of-the-road amount) 
  • Chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional) 
  • Dash of salt (optional but recommended)
  1. Combine all ingredients, using a food processor or blender. Press evenly into an 8x8 inch pan. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 min to help firm up the brownies for slicing. Slice into 16 squares and serve. I stored these in the refrigerator because I liked them chilled!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Spiced Chicken Stir-fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime

Stir-fry dinners are wonderful to have in your arsenal. They can be made quickly, and, if you ask me, are downright delicious for something that takes such  minimal effort. We've made other stir-fries before, but variation is key in our house so I'm always willing to try something new. IMG_0011c
This version was an easy choice because most of these ingredients are ones that I always have on hand - ginger is kept in the freezer wrapped in foil, scallions are chopped and bagged and kept in the freezer, and limes and cilantro are standby ingredients in our fridge.  Mirin, however, is something I don't keep on hand since I have trouble finding it.  I substituted some dry sherry cooking wine in place of the mirin and it worked well. We loved this dish for the depth of flavor and how quickly it came together.
Spiced Chicken Stir-fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime
Spiced Chicken Stir-fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime Source: Slightly adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations
Yield: Serves 2

  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced into 2-bite pieces
  • Spices: 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp dried red pepper flakes, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth 
  • small head of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • cooked brown rice, for serving
  1. Toss chicken with the spices and half of the lime juice.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat.
  3. Add the chicken and stir fry until almost cooked through.
  4. Lower the heat to medium high and add the garlic and ginger; saute 1 minute.
  5. Add broccoli, soy sauce, mirin, chicken broth, and the rest of the lime juice.  Bring to a low simmer, cooking until the broccoli is crisp-tender.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in the scallions and cilantro.  Serve over brown rice.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Frozen Berry Delight


I feel fortunate to live in New England where we have four distinct seasons. Winter is my favorite, by far, because I adore snow. Even if I have to drive through it.

Culinarily speaking (I think I just made up a word), there’s something to look forward to with each changing season. By the time one season ends, I’m tired of making whatever it was that was appealing a few months earlier. With September upon us, I’m getting all warm and fuzzy at the prospect of baking and cooking with pumpkin, making huge batches of chili, my favorite McIntosh apples, pumpkin beer, and – of course – Patriot’s football. I’m totally over salads topped with grilled chicken, burgers, and loads of zucchini-anything to use up the abundant harvest.

There is one thing that I am always sad to say goodbye to in the fall, and that’s frozen drinks. Of course I could enjoy them year round, but they are most enjoyable on a warm summer afternoon or evening. One day this summer, I just started throwing things into the blender, and ended up with quite a refreshing beverage! Here is one more to enjoy while the final days of summer still linger.

Frozen Berry Delight
Frozen Berry Delight

Serves: 1


  • 1 (6 oz) cup lemon italian ice
  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • 1/2 cup strawberry ice cream
  • 1 cup fruit juice (I used cranberry juice, but it’s up to you!)


Combine all ingredients in a blender. Let sit about 5 minutes soften the berries and italian ice for easier blending. Blend until smooth, serve immediately. If you have a Vitamix, A) I’m jealous and B) you can probably skip the 5 min wait.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Whole Wheat Frosted Zucchini Brownies

We didn't plant a garden this year because I knew I simply wouldn't have time to tend to it. I really love fresh veggies from the garden, but even without my own, I wouldn't be out of luck this summer. My dad is a habitual over-planter. There are always plenty of extra zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, etc to go around when he starts harvesting. This year is no exception, and his zucchini are beautiful and ready for picking. On a visit last weekend, my parents brought me four zucchini, and as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew exactly what I'd be doing with two of them!
Nicole already made one adjustment that I normally do in baking, which is to replace all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour. I took it a step further and used my favorite sugar adjustment - evaporated cane juice. I loved her suggestion of using applesauce instead of oil, but decided to go for the glory on the first try, and use that one later if I make them again. I reduced the sugar to 1 cup, as she suggested, but after a quick sampling of the final batter, decided that was too little and added 1/4 cup more. It was definitely an interesting batter to work with, and they turned out to sort of be a cross between cake and brownie. No matter what you call them, though, they certainly are delicious!
These brownies are well on their way to being a great dessert for clean eaters, and it almost pained me to pour the full-of-powdered-sugar frosting on top. The frosting is quite sweet and is a fabulous complement to the brownies, but I was hoping for something a little more healthy. The good news is that I might have just the right frosting recipe! It's been waiting on the sidelines, for just the right companion to come along. I will definitely be making these brownies again to test out this (hopefully) great match!

Whole Wheat Frosted Zucchini Brownies
Whole Wheat Frosted Zucchini BrowniesSource: Slightly adapted from Prevention RD
Yield: 30 brownies


For the brownies:
  • 1/2 cup safflower or canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cups evaporated cane juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup (dutch processed, if available) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups zucchini, shredded (about 2 zucchini)
For the frosting:
  • 6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking dish, or line with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl mix together oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract until well blended. In another bowl combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. A little at a time stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in zucchini. Note: the batter will be dry and crumbly. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the brownies spring back when gently touched. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.
  4. To make the frosting, melt together the cocoa powder and butter in a small sauce pan over low heat. Set aside to cool. In a medium bowl blend confectioner’s sugar, milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in the butter/cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled brownies and cut into squares. Refrigerate 1-2 hours to set.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Salsa Verde Crockpot Chicken Tacos

Since my last 6 posts have been decadent desserts, I guess it's time to give you a delicious, clean, easy meal to get back on track. IMG_0002cThis is another great recipe where you let the crockpot do most of the work. Slow cooking the chicken with tomatillo salsa gives it great flavor without drying it out. I chose to make my own salsa verde and corn tortillas, but you can also use store bought to make this dish even easier.

We loved the combination of flavors here - bright red onion, creamy cojita cheese, earthy black beans, and of course the wonderful salsa verde. It's a new favorite of ours!
Salsa Verde Crockpot Chicken Tacos
Salsa Verde Crockpot Chicken TacosSource: Slightly adapted from The Novice Chef
Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 pounds chicken breasts
  • 3 cups medium salsa verde, divided (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the tacos
  • 8-10 corn tortillas
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 jalapeno, stem removed (remove seeds if you don't like the heat)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • lime, for squeezing on top
  1. Whisk together 1 cup salsa verde, chicken broth and garlic salt in crockpot. Add chicken breasts and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.
  2. Combine black beans (do not rinse/drain) and jalapeno in a small sauce pan. Heat on medium-low until beans are cooked and pepper has softened, about 8-10 minuted. Puree in a food processor or blender.
  3. Remove chicken from crockpot and discard remaining liquid. Shred chicken with two forks and place in a medium bowl. (You can also shred chicken by beating on low spead in a stand mixer for about 30 seconds - works great and is very quick!) Add remaining 2 cups salsa verde and chopped cilantro to chicken. Mix to combine.
  4. Fill tortillas with a scoop of black beans, a scoop of chicken, a few slices of red onion, a healthy scoop of crumbled cotija cheese and a squeeze of lime!

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Source: slightly adapted from Rick Bayless
Yield: about 3 cups

  • 1 1/2 pounds (12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • Fresh hot green chiles to taste (3 serranos or 3 jalapenos), stemmed
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off), roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 small white onion, finely chopped
  • Salt
Roast the tomatillos, chile(s) and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, until blotchy black and softening (they’ll be turning from lime green to olive), about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side. Cool, then transfer everything to a blender, including all the delicious juice the tomatillos have exuded during roasting. Add the cilantro and water, then blend to a coarse puree. Scoop into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove excess moisture. Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually 1 teaspoon.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Reese's Cheesecake Brownie Bites

The dessert gods where smiling down on my husband the day this recipe graced my computer screen. He's not much of a sweets guy, but he does love peanut butter cups, cheesecake, and brownies. What would be more perfect for him, than one dessert that combines all three? I couldn't wait to make it, and neither could he!
There's a lot to love here - chewy, fudgy brownie topped with rich, peanut buttery cheesecake, decorated with drizzled chocolate and Reese's Pieces. It's a decadent dessert that we just can't resist!
Reese’s Cheesecake Brownie Bites
Reese’s Cheesecake Brownie Bites Source: Slightly adapted from Bru Crew Life via So Tasty, So Yummy, brownie recipe from Baking Illustrated, from the Editors of Cook's Illustrated
Yield: about 20 cheesecake brownie bites

For the brownie layer
  • 5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick) cut into quarters
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake layer
  • 16 Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For decorating
  • 2 ounces chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 bags of Reese’s Pieces

  1. Place the peanut butter cups in the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners.

  2. In medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost-simmering water, melt chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

  3. Whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture; then stir in flour with wooden spoon until just combined. Divide brownie batter evenly between lined muffin tin cups.

  4. Beat cream cheese, butter and cornstarch in a medium bowl until fluffy. Beat in milk, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Chop up the peanut butter cups and stir into the cream cheese mixture. Spoon the cream cheese mixture over top of the brownie batter. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool completely.

  5. Drizzle with melted chocolate and sprinkle Reese’s Pieces on top. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cranberry Orange Pecan Cookies

Every fall I stock up on fresh cranberries. It's the only time of year you can get them, and I love to bake with them. Last fall I got 6 or 7 bags and tossed them in the freezer.

Guess what? They are all still there.

I never got around to doing anything with them over the winter (for shame), so I figured there's no time like the present!
These cookies are soft, which I love. They are sweet enough to balance the tart cranberries, and have a little hint of citrus from the orange zest. Pecans add the perfect crunch. Still have some cranberries kicking around in your freezer? Make these today!
Cranberry Orange Pecan Cookies
Cranberry Orange Pecan Cookies Source: Adapted from Short and Sweets
Yield: 30 cookies
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 3/4 cup evaporated cane juice
  • 1/2 cup sucanat
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • zest from one medium orange
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups cranberries, chopped or whole
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or line cookie sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add the orange juice and zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla extract.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Slowly mix flour into the batter. Add the pecans and cranberries, mix until just combined.
  4. Using a spoon and your fingers or a cookie scoop, form rough balls of dough (approximately 2 tablespoons) and place them on your prepared cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 12-17 minutes, until the edges are slightly brown. Let cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely

Monday, June 4, 2012

Root Beer Float Brownies

It’s no secret around here that I love ice cream.  Since cracking open my ice cream maker several years ago, I’ve purchased ice cream from the store only a handful of times.  Lately, I’ve been finding that the store bought stuff just doesn’t live up to what I make at home.  It just tastes… off.  But, I digress…
Since ice cream is and always has been my favorite dessert, I’m no stranger to the various applications of ice cream in the dessert world.  Root beer floats are an excellent use of ice cream, and a great way to jazz up the plain vanilla variety.  Although, I have to admit – growing up, my favorite combination was actually ginger ale and vanilla ice cream.  They are great together!
I saw these brownies and knew I had to make them for the nostalgia factor.  I didn’t see how I could just leave it as a brownie and frosting, though – what’s a root beer float without ice cream??  The result is a delicious frozen treat, perfect for the summer.  In full disclosure, I actually found these to taste very little like root beer.  A disappointment, for sure, and in the future I will have to seek out the root beer extract to give the frosting a kick.  
Root Beer Float Brownies
Root Beer Float Brownies Source: Slightly adapted from Coffee and Cannolis
Yield: 30 ice cream brownies
For the brownies:
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 cups cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. chopped semi sweet chocolate
  • 3 oz. chopped white chocolate
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 8 oz. root beer
For the filling and frosting:
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup root beer,simmered until reduced to 1/4 cup
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp root beer extract (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.   
  2. Sift flour, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. 
  3. Over a double boiler (or in microwave) melt the butter, semi-sweet and white chocolates together.  Remove from heat when just melted and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Using your mixer mix the eggs, sugars and vanilla together.  Slowly add in the cooled chocolate mixture.  Add half the flour and half the root beer. Mix on low, scraping the sides. Repeat with the remaining flour and root beer until just combined. Batter will be very thin.
  5. Pour batter into your muffin tins, filling each about halfway.  Bake about 15 minutes, until the center is just set.  Let cool completely.
  6. Let ice cream sit out to soften while brownies cool.  Once cooled, fill liners with ice cream.  Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. 
  7. Meanwhile, prepare frosting.  Beat butter on medium speed until smooth. Slowly add in your powdered sugar and mix in.  Add concentrated root beer and extract, if desired. Beat on medium until smooth and all ingredients are incorporated.
  8. Frost cupcakes, then store in the freezer until serving. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cheesecake-Style Lime Squares

My husband is not a sweets guy. Once in a while he'll eat cheesecake, caramel brownies, and he loves peanut butter ice cream, but other than that, you are hard pressed to get him to eat dessert. When the latest Clean Eating magazine arrived in the mail, I saw this recipe for cheesecake style lime squares and knew they would be right up his alley. Since they were from CE, I knew they wouldn't be too sweet. And lime + cheesecake is a match made in his heaven.


These definitely lived up to our expectations, and he loved them! The lime adds a bright flavor to the tangy cheesecake base, and I was right - they aren't too sweet. Just perfect for us.
Cheesecake-Style Lime Squares
Cheesecake-Style Lime Squares Source: Slightly adapted from Clean Eating Magazine, June 2012, page 39
Yield: 16 squares
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes, plus 8 hours to chill
  • 14 all natural whole-wheat graham cracker squares (or 7 rectangular sheets)
  • 3 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 ounces light cream cheese
  • 1 cup low-fat sour cream (or plain greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup organic evaporated cane juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest (from about 2 limes), plus additional for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving 2 to 3 inches hanging over 2 opposing sides.
  2. In a food processor, process graham crackers into fine crumbs.  With machine running, pour butter through feed tube and process until just combined, 2 to 3 seconds.  Transfer mixture to baking dish and press into bottom with your hands to form an even layer.  Bake until edges are very light brown, about 9 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack. 
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Wipe out food processor  and add cream cheese and sour cream or yogurt; process until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add cane juice and lime zest and juice.  Pulse, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until combined.  Add egg and pulse until just combined.  Spread mixtures evenly over top of graham cracker crust and bake until edges are just set and center is still moist and slightly jiggly, 38 to 40 minutes. 
  4. Transfer to wire rack and let rest for 10 minutes.  Run a thin knife along the edges of dish to loosen.  Let cool to room temperature.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.  Transfer cheesecake to cutting board by lifting edges of parchment.  Garnish with additional lime zest and slice into 16 squares.  Serve chilled.  After slicing, squares will keep refrigerated for 1 day. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cooking Challenge: French Macarons

French Macarons! The temperamental, yet adored, cookie is a cooking challenge that many home bakers one day aspire to make. A group of fellow food bloggers decided to conquer this cookie together, so we could share our questions, successes, and tales of woe. See the round-up here!

In my search for macaron recipes, I came across some adorable Easter bunny macarons, and instantly knew that was what I wanted to make. I kept the flavoring simple - vanilla bean, and let the caramel buttercream from my Glee cupcake pull double duty for the filling.


This was definitely a learning experience for me. I was so happy that, by all appearances, everything went well with the macarons: they have feet and for the most part they did not stick to the parchment. Going through the process of making them, I had a few concerns that I will pay more attention to if I make them again.

First, I think I would have benefited from sifting the almond meal/powdered sugar mix. When I added it to the egg whites, the batter was very lumpy. I had to do a lot of folding/mixing to get it smooth, and I think by then I had deflated it too much and the batter was more runny than it should have been (though it wasn't flowing like ribbons, either, so all around it was a little confusing). It probably would have been fine for just piping rounds, but the ears require a thicker batter to stay separate, and clearly my poor bunnies ended up with uni-ears.

I also think that I under baked the bunny faces by maybe a minute. In hindsight, I should have put all the faces on one sheet and the rounds on another. The rounds didn't need as long as the faces and a little extra time in the oven would have helped the faces that were reluctant to release from the parchment.

Sadly, after all that, I was a bit underwhelmed with them. I've never had macarons before, so perhaps I need to taste some made by someone who actually knows what they are doing, but I felt very take-it-or-leave-it. However, my aunt ate three of them at Easter, so I must have done something right.


Vanilla bean bunny macarons with caramel swiss meringue buttercream were a fun addition to our Easter dinner!

Vanilla Bean French Macarons with Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Vanilla Bean French Macarons with Caramel Swiss Meringue ButtercreamSource: Adapted from Annie's Eats and inspired by Raspberri Cupcakes
Yield: About 12 bunnies
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus one hour resting time
Cook time: 12-18 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes


  • 110 grams almonds (blanched or slivered), or almond meal
  • 200 grams powdered sugar
  • 100 grams egg whites (about 3 large eggs), aged at room temperature for 12-24 hours or in the fridge for 3-5 days
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 50 grams granulated sugar
  • 50 grams granulated sugar
  • chocolate sprinkles, sugar pearls, and foodwriter pen for decorating
  • caramel swiss meringue buttercream


  1. Pulse the almonds and powdered sugar in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground and well blended. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod into the mixing bowl. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until a smooth, shiny meringue with stiff peaks forms. Blend in the vanilla extract, if using.

  2. Add the ground almond mixture to the bowl with the meringue and quickly but gently fold together using a wide rubber spatula until no streaks remain. You want to achieve a thick batter that ribbons or flows from the spatula when lifted.

  3. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip. Pipe into small rounds on the prepared baking sheets (each round should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter, with 12 rounds on one sheet and 12 rounds with bunny ears on another), spaced about 1 inch apart. Add sugar pearls for nose and tails (I used a cluster of about 7 to make a tail), and sprinkles for whiskers. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to develop a hard shell.

  4. Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Bake for 12-18 minutes, depending on size. (Baking time can vary widely due to humidity and other factors of your kitchen environment. To test whether or not the cookies are done, let cool for a minute until cool enough to touch. Carefully attempt to remove one shell from the silpat. If it cracks at all or does not remain intact, continue to bake until one is removed intact.) Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before moving the cookies. Draw eyes on bunnies with foodwriter pen.

  5. Pipe a small dollop of buttercream onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair. Sandwich together with the remaining cookie, pushing the filling to the edges. Store in the fridge overnight in an airtight container. Serve at room temperature

    Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    Glee! Banana Nut Cheerio Cupcakes

    I am so excited that Glee is returning tonight after the late winter break. Last episode left us hanging on the fate of Quinn after her car accident, so I wanted to make Quinn's cupcake for this week.


    It would be an understatement to say Quinn has had a few ups and downs in her time at McKinley High. Her fall from high atop the Cheerios (and school popularity) pyramid due to her teen pregnancy sent her into a bizarre downward spiral in season 3. An attempt to sabotage the custody rights of her daughter's adoptive mother was definitely b-a-n-a-n-a-s. Inspired by A) Quinn's nutty behavior and B) the many flavors of Cheerios cereal, I created Quinn's cupcake.


    I am definitely glad to see that she was able to come full circle in the last episode and regain the status she has longed for: to once again be a Cheerio.


    Quinn's Banana Nut Cheerio cupcake combines cinnamon banana cake with a Cheerio covered peanut butter center, and is topped with caramel swiss meringue buttercream.
    Banana Nut Cheerio Cupcakes

    Banana Nut Cheerio Cupcakes

    Source: Adapted from Apple a Day
    Yield: Serves 24
    Preparation time: 25 minutes
    Cook time: 20 minutes
    Total time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (with cooling time)

      For the cupcakes:
    • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3 eggs, at room temperature
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 mashed overripe banana (1 large)
    • 3/4 cup buttermilk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 scant cup sugar

    • For the filling:
    • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 cups crushed peanut butter Cheerios cereal

    • For the buttercream:
    • 8 ounces egg whites (from a carton is fine)
    • 12 ounces sugar
    • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3 tablespoons caramel sauce

      For the filling:
    1. In bowl, with mixer on medium speed, mix powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla until blended.
    2. Shape mixture into 24 balls using heaping measuring teaspoons. (Balls will be sticky and don't need to be perfectly shaped.)
    3. Roll in crushed Cheerios cereal. Place balls on waxed paper-lined cookie sheet; set aside.

      For the cupcakes:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with 24 paper liners.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, 1/4 c. at a time, beating on medium speed until light and fluffy and scraping down sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl after each addition.
    3. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
    4. In a small bowl, combine banana, buttermilk, and vanilla.
    5. Add in flour and banana mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour, and mix on low speed until just combined.
    6. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Insert a Cheerio covered peanut butter ball into the center of the cupcake and push down to cover with batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
    7. Allow to cool completely, then frost with buttercream.

      For the buttercream:
    1. Add egg whites and sugar to a heat-safe bowl. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk lightly until the mixture reaches 140 degrees F and the sugar is dissolved.
    2. Pour hot whites into a room-temperature bowl and whip with a wire whip until double in volume on medium-high speed. When the mixer stops, the meringue should not move around in the bowl. Meanwhile cut up butter into 2-inch pieces. (The butter should be slightly moist on the outside but cold inside.)
    3. On your mixer, remove the whip and attach the paddle. Add half the butter into the bowl immediately and pulsate the mixer several times until the meringue has covered the butter completely. To pulsate the mixer, turn it on and off in a jerky motion. This forces the butter on the top to the bottom of the bowl. Add the balance of the butter and pulsate mixer several times. Slowly increase the mixer's speed, starting with the lowest speed and increase the speed every 10 seconds until you reach a medium-high speed.
    4. Continue beating until the mixture begins to look light and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Reduce speed to low. Add vanilla and caramel and continue to beat on low speed for 45 seconds. Then beat on medium-high speed for an additional 45 to 60 seconds.
    5. Leftover buttercream can be placed in plastic containers with lids and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost completely (several hours) and rewhip before using.

      Thursday, April 5, 2012

      Slow-Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

      I've come to the realization that I don't make enough use of my crockpot. I tend to make the same few easy recipes over and over. Part of the reason, I think, is that I tend to think of the crockpot as something to use during the week to save time. I load it up at night, cook overnight, and then pack the food up for lunch and take it to work. Since I only have the morning to complete the last steps of the meal, I tend to make recipes that go right from crockpot to plate with little other necessary intervention. It's always seemed like cheating to use the crockpot on the weekend, since I actually have time to prepare a "real meal." I'm slowly coming to realize that crockpot meals are real meals, too, and it can be quite freeing to make them on the weekend! This is one recipe that caught my eye recently (along with another I'll be sharing soon - chicken tacos), and helped me reclaim a little time on a busy weekend afternoon.


      Enjoy this sweet and slightly spicy easy slow-cooker meal!
      Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken
      Slow Cooker Honey Sesame ChickenSource: Slightly adapted from The Dainty Chef
      Yield: Serves 4
      Preparation time: 5 minutes
      Cook time: 4 hours
      Total time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

      • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
      • salt and pepper
      • 3/4 cup honey
      • 1/4 cup soy sauce
      • 1/2 cup diced onion
      • 1/4 cup ketchup
      • 2 tablespoons safflower oil
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced, pressed or grated
      • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
      • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
      • sesame seeds
      1. Season both sides of chicken with lightly with salt and pepper, put into crock pot.
      2. In a small bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken.
      3. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or on high 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours, or just until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from crock pot, leave sauce.
      4. Dissolve cornstarch in 6 tablespoons of water and pour into crock pot. Stir to combine with sauce. Replace lid and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes or until slightly thickened.
      5. Shred chicken or cut into bite size pieces, then return to pot and toss with sauce. Serve chicken over rice or noodles, garnish with sesame seeds.

        Thursday, March 29, 2012

        One Pot Meal: Spicy Asian Chicken and Rice

        We are slightly unorthodox when it comes to meals during the week. We tend to have a bigger lunch (and several smaller meals through the day) and no formal dinner. We prefer not to have a large meal at the end of the day, and there isn't much time for me to cook at night, anyway. I do cook dinner on the weekends, but we try to be sitting down to eat by 5 or 5:30pm. This was a meal I'd planned for a Sunday night, but when my husband ended up having to work, and I had an exhausting day chasing our son around, I pushed it off until Monday.

        I was so happy to see how quickly this dish came together while our son had his dinner, and my husband was able to finish it off while I put our son to bed. I was really impressed with how flavorful the dish is - though it didn't end up being very spicy for us. You may want to leave in the jalapeno seeds or add some cayenne to the chicken if you want an extra burst of spice.


        This quick one pot meal boasts a ton of flavor is easy enough for a busy weeknight.

        One Pot Meal: Spicy Asian Chicken and Rice

        One Pot Meal: Spicy Asian Chicken and Rice

        Source: Reworded from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations
        Yield: Serves 4
        Preparation time: 10 minutes
        Cook time: 25 minutes
        Total time: 35 minutes

        • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
        • salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
        • 1 small onion, diced
        • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
        • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
        • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
        • 1 cup uncooked rice
        • 1 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
        • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
        • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
        • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
        • sesame seeds, optional
        1. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven
        2. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes; add to pan and cook 3 min per side. Transfer to a plate.
        3. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and jalapenos to pan; saute 3 minutes.
        4. Add rice, stir 1 min to toast the rice.
        5. Combine the broth, soy sauce, and hoisin in a small bowl or measuring cup; add to pan.
        6. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat, and return chicken to pan (nestled into the rice). Top with broccoli florets, cover and cook over low heat (make sure it's still lightly simmering) approximately 15 minutes or until rice and chicken are cooked through, and the liquid has absorbed.
        7. Garnish with sesame seeds, if desired.

        Monday, March 26, 2012

        Irish Trinity Cake

        My brother's birthday falls around Saint Patrick's Day, and every year we celebrate with a corned beef dinner. Traditionally, he has always asked for a marble cake with chocolate frosting, but this year I suggested something different.

        I thought this cake would be a welcomed departure from tradition, because what's not to like? Guinness chocolate cake, Jameson tinted ganache filling, and Bailey's frosting: an Irish (holy) trinity. Forever, and even, amen.

        This is a fantastically rich cake with bold flavor that is perfect for any Saint Patrick's Day celebration!

        Irish Trinity Cake

        Irish Trinity Cake

        Source: Adjusted from Beantown Baker/Smitten Kitchen
        Yield: One 3-layer 8" or 9" cake
        Preparation time: 45 minutes
        Cook time: 30 minutes
        Total time: 3 hours

        For the cake:
        • 2 cups Guinness
        • 2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks)
        • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder (dutch processed preferred)
        • 4 cups flour
        • 4 cups sugar
        • 1 tablespoon baking soda
        • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
        • 4 eggs, at room temperature
        • 1 1/3 cups sour cream

        • For the ganache filling:
        • 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate
        • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
        • 4 tablespoons butter
        • 1 tablespoon Irish whiskey (optional)

        • For the frosting:
        • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature (3 sticks)
        • 1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar
        • 4 tablespoons Bailey's Irish cream (can subsitute milk or cream)
        For the cake:
        1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8" or 9" cake pans*. Bring Guinness and butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
        2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.
        3. Add Guinness-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine.
        4. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
        5. Divide batter evenly among cake pans, filling about 2/3 of the way full.
        6. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes on a rack completely.
        7. For the ganache filling:
        8. Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.
        9. For the frosting:
        10. Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar.
        11. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
        12. Assembly:
        13. Level cake layers with a large serrated knife. Pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of the first layer to build a dam for the ganache. Spread a thick layer of ganache over the top of the layer.
        14. Repeat with second layer, then top the with the third cake layer.
        15. Frost outside of the cake with remaining frosting and decorate as desired.

        *I only have two pans; you can bake 2 cakes, cool slightly and remove one from the pan, cool the pan and then bake the third.

        Cakes can be baked one or two weeks in advance, and stored in the freezer, well wrapped. They do not need to be thawed before assembly, but the cake should then sit at room temperature for several hours before serving.

        Sunday, March 4, 2012

        Tostones (fried plantains) with Creamy Garlic Cilantro Dip for a Virtual Baby Shower

        I am so excited to be bringing you this recipe today, because it was made for a very special friend, Krystal, from Mrs. Regueiro's Plate. Krystal is a fellow Gleek, and the inspiration behind my Glee Cupcakes series. Today, I'm participating in a virtual baby shower for Krystal, who is expecting her first little one (appropriately nicknamed "Cookie") with her husband, Eric, in just 2 short months! As a tribute to their heritage, all the recipes for this baby shower will be inspired by the Filipino or Cuban cultures. IMG_0018cI've been dying to make fried plantains, or tostones, since I discovered them during my brief stint at Columbia University. I spent one fabulous semester of graduate school up in Washington Heights, where a local restaurant, El Malecon, serves up the best chicken (and fried plantains) around. Krystal's baby shower finally gave me the occasion that I needed to take the plunge and try to make them at home. IMG_0005c

        These crisp fried plantains are a treat in and of themselves, but when paired with a cool, tangy, creamy dip - they are out of this world!

        Tostones (fried plantains) with Creamy Garlic Cilantro Dip
        Tostones (friend plantains) with Creamy Garlic Cilantro DipSource: Adapted from GoodVeg
        Yield: Serves 2-4 as appetizers
        Preparation time: 15 minutes
        Cook time: 20 minutes
        Total time: 35 minutes
        • 2 green plantains
        • 1-4 cups canola or safflower oil
        • sea salt
        • 4-5 cloves roasted garlic
        • 1 cup sour cream or plain low fat greek yogurt
        • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
        • juice of one lime
        • 1 green onion, roughly chopped
        • pinch salt
        • pinch fresh cracked pepper


        1. To make the garlic dip: Add roasted garlic, sour cream/greek yogurt, cilantro, green onions, and lime juice to a food processor or blender. Process until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill until tostones are ready.
        2. To peel the plantains: Start by running a paring knife 3-4 times along the length of the plantain, only going deep enough to slice the thick skin. Peel away the skin of the plantains.
        3. Slice the plantains, on the bias, about 1/4 inch thick.  Place slices in a bowl of lightly salted water to prevent browning before cooking.
        4. Heat 1 to 4 cups oil (depending on the size of your cooking vessel) in a large pan over medium high heat (oil should reach 350-375 degrees F). Dry the plantains and carefully add to the hot oil, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry the plantains 2-4 minutes on each side, then remove to a plate lined with paper towel.
        5. Carefully press the plantains between two sheets of wax paper, using a tortilla press, or the bottom of a large glass. Fry the smashed plantains another 1-2 minutes in the hot oil.
        6. Sprinkle with sea salt, and enjoy!

          Tuesday, February 14, 2012

          Valentine’s Pound Cake


          I'm mildly obsessed with baking a surprise shape into a cake or cupcakes. I can envision something for almost every occasion - shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day, bunnies for Easter, stars for the 4th of July (or Rachel Berry), pumpkins for Halloween, and of course, hearts for Valentine's Day. I am only limited by my horrible 3-dimensional carving skills or my supply of mini cookie cutters. Cupcakes are easy because you can use the cookie cutters to create your cake inserts, but baking into a cake takes more... artistic talent.


          A heart shape is relatively easy to carve free-hand, and since I chose pound cake as a medium, all I needed was one long piece of cake for carving. To make this cake, I first baked one pound cake with enough red food coloring to make it pink. I let it cool completely, and froze it to help make it stiffer for carving. Then I carved out the heart shape with a good knife. I prepared the batter for a second pound cake, and inserted the pink heart cake into the batter before putting it in the oven. Pound cake is supposed to rise a bit in the oven, so you might not be able to completely cover the pink heart cake with the batter for the second cake. Mine started out covered, but the batter melted down and evened out before starting to rise. In the end, some of the heart cake was poking out the top, but I almost preferred the look of that part of the cake, once sliced. I was very happy with the way it turned out, and it was a huge hit at the Valentine's Day Tea that I attended!IMG_0007cc

          This is a cute way to celebrate Valentine's Day. A classic pound cake with a heart baked in the middle, served with strawberries and whipped cream is sure to be a hit!

          Valentine's Pound Cake

          Valentine's Pound CakeSource: Baking Illustrated
          Yield: Serves 12
          Preparation time: 20 minutes
          Cook time: 70-80 minutes
          Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes


          • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still cool
          • 1 1/3 cups sugar (9 1/3 ounces)
          • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
          • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
          • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
          • 1 1/2 teaspoons water
          • 1/2 teaspoon salt
          • 1 1/2 cups plain cake flour (6 ounces) (note: Bridget recommends adding 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. I definitely would have done so if I'd see her post before making this.)


          1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan ( 7.5 cup capacity). Fit a sheet of foil or parchment paper lengthwise in the bottom of the greased pan, pushing it into the corners and up the sides. Fit a second sheet crosswise in the pan in the same manner.
          2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 15 seconds. With the machine still on, sprinkle the sugar in slowly, taking about 30 seconds. Beat the mixture until light, fluffy, and almost white, 4 to 5 minutes, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
          3. Stir together the eggs, yolks, vanilla, and water in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. With the mixer running at medium-high speed, add the egg mixture to the buter and sugar in a very slow, thin stream. Finally, beat in the salt.
          4. Place 1/2 cup flour in a sieve and sift it over the batter. Fold gently with a rubber spatula, scraping up from the bottom of the bowl, until the flour is incorporated. Repeat twice more, adding flour in 1/2-cup increments.
          5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula or wooden spoon. Bake until a toothpick or thin skewer inserted into the crack running a long the top comes out clean, 70 to 80 minutes. (I found it did not take this long in my oven. 60 minutes was enough for mine, so check early!) Let the cake rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Place a second wire rack on the cake bottom, then turn the cake top-side up. Cool to room temperature, remove and discard the foil, and serve. If not served immediately, wrap the cake in plastic, then in foil. Store the cake at room temperature.