Nov 30, 2009

Rainbow Cake!

Rainbow Cake for Erin's 2nd Birthday!

I made this cake for my niece's second birthday party.   You can find more detailed instructions about how to actually make the cake a rainbow here, but it really is as simple as the top photos look - you dye the cake batter, layer the cake and bake!     I used two boxes of Dunkin Heinz white cake box mix (but you can very well make your own white cake from scratch!)  And Wilton gel food dyes to dye the cake.   

This cake was so much fun to make and eat!  I love the surprised look on peoples faces when you pull out the first slice ~ Rainbow cake is something that makes everyone smile :)

But for me the best part of cake is the frosting.  Here is the recipe I used:
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. white sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 lb. (4 sticks)  unsalted butter, room temp - cut into tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a heatproof bowl of your stand mixer over a pot of simmering water. 
2. Whisk constantly by hand until the sugar dissolves (~160 degrees with an instant read thermometer)
3.  Attach the bowl to you stand mixer, Starting on low and increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff peaks form and pan is cool (about 10 minutes)
4. Set mixer to medium-low speed and add butter, one tablespoon at a time - mixing well after each addition.   Add vanilla.
5. Switch to paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 2 more minutes.

Frosting Source:  Martha Stewart Cupcakes
Cake inspiration from: Ominomicon 

Smore's Cupcakes

I have seen so many iterations of Smore's cupcakes on blogs for the longest time now - I was so excited to finally make them!  Some of them have a graham cracker cake base - with a chocolate filling - some are chocolate cake with a marshmallow filling and graham cracker crumb topping - no matter how they are constructed they are bound to taste good.  I liked this version for two reasons - I got to use my creme brulee torch and I liked the graham cracker crust and chocolate cake combination.   Everyone who had one loved them - I am excited to try these out again (hopefully sooner rather than later). 

One note about the torching - I had some of them in the foil wrappers and some in just regular paper wrappers - I found that some of the paper wrappers caught on fire while I torched the frosting!  I was able to just blow out the flames and it didn't seem to harm the cupcake - but just be careful with that torch!  

(makes 24 cupcakes)

For the graham cracker crust:
  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

For the cake:
  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ plus 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:
  • 8 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper (preferably foil) liners.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter; mix well with a fork.  Drop about 1 heaping tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom. 
3. Sprinkle a small amount of the chocolate chips on top of the graham cracker crusts.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and maintain the oven temperature.
4. To make the cake batter, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on low speed just to combine.
5. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract; whisk together.
6. Add to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
7. Add the boiling water and stir just to combine (batter will be very thin).
8. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ of the way full.  Return the pans to the oven and bake about 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
9.  To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in your mixer bowl placed on top of a pot of simmering water.
10.  Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160° F with an instant-read thermometer.
11. Move the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form.  Mix in the vanilla until combined.
12. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.  Brown with a kitchen torch and garnish with chocolate and graham cracker segments.

As seen on Annie's Eats,  cake from Hersheys 

Nov 29, 2009

Italian Supreme Burgers

My husband and I love watching the food reality shows - and I happened to watch one episode of The Next Food Network star where they had a burger challenge.  I knew right away that this burger was something that both of us would love - but after the show ended - I forgot about it.  Luckily, one of my favorite food bloggers   also saw this episode and made the burger!   I knew then that I had to try this - I made it once over the summer on my outdoor grill and this time inside on my grill pan.  It doesn't matter the time of year - this burger is divine.  I slightly adapted this recipe (I don't like bacon or pancetta on my burgers!)

For the patties (makes 4 burgers):

  • 1 lb. ground sirloin
  • 2 tbsp. yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1-2 dashes of balsamic vinegar
  • Sliced fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh basil leaves

For the basil ketchup:

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves - chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes

For serving:

1. To make the patties, combine the ground sirloin, onion, garlic, salt, Italian seasoning, pepper and balsamic vinegar in a large bowl.  Mix well to thoroughly combine.  

2. Divide the mixture into four equal portions; divide each of these further into halves so that you have 8 equal portions of the meat mixture.   Form each portion into a thin, round patty.  Place a slice of fresh mozzarella and a few basil leaves on top of four of the patties.  Lay the remaining patties on top of these, sandwiching the mozzarella in the center.  Pinch the edges of the patties together to form one large patty with the cheese in the center.   Place in refrigerator to firm up - for at least 30 minutes. 

3. To make the basil ketchup:   Combine the ketchup, basil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and stir.   Set aside.
4.  Cook the burgers on a preheated grill (indoor or outdoor) until cooked completely and until the cheese inside has melted.  Just before the burgers are done cooking, split the Kaiser rolls in half.  Toast the buns and then spread with garlic butter.  Assemble the cooked burgers on the rolls with fresh lettuce, tomato, and basil ketchup as desired.

Adapted from and seen on Annie's Eats, originally adapted from the Mulberry Street Burger, garlic butter from Allrecipes

Light Wheat Bread

Who doesn't love homemade bread?    This is a great mix of white and wheat - and makes a great sandwich or toast for breakfast.   I'm definitely going to be making this many times in the future.  What I love about Peter Reinhart's bread recipes is that he gives you weights and measurements - I actually made this by weighing out all of the ingredients on my food scale - so it came out exactly as it should. 


Makes one two-pound loaf
  • 2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz.) whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (.75 oz.) granulated sugar or honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 oz.) salt
  • 3 tablespoons (1 oz.) powdered milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 oz.) instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz.) shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) water, at room temperature

1. Stir together the high-gluten flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the shortening, honey (if using), and water. Stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water. The dough should feel soft and supple. It is better for it to be a little too soft that to be too stiff and tough.
2. Sprinkle high-gluten or whole-wheat flour on the counter, and transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Add more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Kneading should take about 10 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The dough should pass the windowpane test and registers 77 to 81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
3. Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl and press it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long. Form it into a loaf by working from the short side of the dough, rolling up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. It will spread wider as you roll it. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan; the ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
5. Proof at room temperature for approximately 60 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
7. Place the bread pan on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished loaf should register 190 degrees F in the center, be golden brown on the top and the sides, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
8. When the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

From  The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Nov 28, 2009

Pasta Fazool

This is one of my favorite soups to make in the fall - I've tried many different versions of this - but this one is my favorite - the addition of the sausage makes it a really filling meal.  Enjoy!  


  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (20 oz.) package hot Italian (chicken or turkey) sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 large (or 1 medium) onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 32 oz. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. small dry pasta (such as ditalini)
  • Parmesan cheese for serving.


1.  Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil  in a Dutch oven or large stockpot over medium-high heat. 
2.  Add the sausage to the pot and brown, crumbling as it cooks.  Once the sausage is browned, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon.
3. Add the other tbsp of olive oil to the pot.  Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, and saute over medium heat until vegetables are soft ( 8-10 minutes). 
4. Return the sausage to the pot, add the can of diced tomatoes with juices, stir briefly, and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the beans, chicken broth and tomato sauce to the pot.  Add in the parsley, basil and salt - stir well, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. 
6. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer at least 30 minutes.
7.  Boil a separate pot of salted water and cook pasta according to package directions.   Drain and add a dash of olive oil to coat pasta (to prevent sticking). 
8.  Scoop pasta into bowls and ladle soup over noodles - garnish with parmesan cheese. 

[tip: keep the pasta and soup separate until just before serving - it keeps the pasta from soaking up all of the broth and you can then freeze the leftover soup for another meal - all you would have to do is make more pasta]

Adapted from Annie's Eats

Nov 25, 2009

Chicken Chow Mein

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This is a recipe that my mom made when I was a kid - its something her mom also used to make.   It's an easy meal - especially if you have some chicken breasts already cooked up that you're looking to use.   

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 yellow onions sliced
  • 4 stalks of celery sliced diagonally 
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced in cubes
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water
  • 1 package of fresh bean sprouts or 1 can of bean sprouts (drained)
  • soy sauce
  • chow mein noodles
  • cooked white or brown rice according to package directions


1. Saute onions and celery in oil over medium heat in a 10-inch skillet until softened (approximately 5 minutes).
2.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. (5 - 10 mintues)
3.  Add cooked chicken and cornstarch.  Heat until thickened - another 5 minutes.  
4.  Add bean sprouts and a few dashes of soy sauce.  Cook until sprouts are softened.  
5.  Serve over rice and top with chow mein noodles and extra soy sauce.  

Nov 24, 2009

Chicken Parmesan & tomato sauce

This is my absolute favorite recipe for chicken parmesan - its very easy and does not involve frying - which is messy and can take forever.     It's great the next day - and we even used them to make chicken parm sandwiches for lunch!   Enjoy! 

for the Chicken:

  • 1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 c Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3 Large Boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed of excess fat and sliced into 6 servings
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh Basil

1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
2. Toast the breadcrumbs and oil in a a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until golden brown. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl and allow to cool, then stir in Parmesan.
3. In a second dish, combine flour, garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  
4. In a third dish, whick together egg whites and water.
5. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top.  (The rack is imperative if you want the bottom of the chicken to be crispy.)  Pat chicken dry then season with salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken the flour mixture (shaking off the excess), then egg whites, then coat with bread crumbs.  Lay chicken on the rack.  Repeat with each piece.
6. Quickly spray tops of the chicken with cooking spray, we used canola oil spray.  Bake until the meat is no longer pink and then center feels firm, about 15 minutes
7. Remove the tray from the oven.  Spoon 2 tbsp of the tomato sauce (recipe below) then a 1/4 oz of shredded mozzarella  to the top of the chicken and return to the oven until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Quick Tomato Sauce  


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves - minced
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh basil
  • salt and black pepper


1. Combine olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, sugar, oregano and red pepper flakes in a large sauce pan over medium heat, until fragrant - 1 minute.

2. Stir in crushed and diced tomatoes with their juice. 

3. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened - 15 to 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook 


Nov 15, 2009

Turkey Chili

This is my favorite turkey chili recipe - its easy to make - but takes a while to simmer.   It's relatively spicy - so you can adjust the cayenne and red pepper to suit your tastes.  


  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions - diced
  • 1 red bell pepper - cut into chunks
  • 6 garlic cloves - minced through a garlic press
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 lbs. 93% lean ground turkey
  • 2 (15.5 oz cans) (light or dark) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28 oz can) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 (28 oz can) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • salt, pepper
  • optional:
    • lime wedges
    • chopped fresh cilantro
    • shredded cheddar cheese
    • diced avocado

1. Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
3. Increase heat to medium-high and add half the turkey; cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.  
4. Add beans, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, and 1 teaspoon salt; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
5. Pat remaining 1 pound turkey together into ball, then pinch off teaspoon-sized pieces of meat and stir into chili. Continue to simmer about 40 minutes longer, stirring occasionally (if chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer), until turkey is tender and chili is dark and slightly thickened.
6. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges and other condiments as desired.

from Cooks Illustrated

    Grilled Chicken Ceasar Salad


    I usually just make a Caesar salad with bottled dressing and store-bought croutons - but over the summer I wanted to try making it from scratch.   The addition of the grilled chicken - makes this a meal in itself.   But the highlight for me was the croutons - I will be making these again and again.  I also really liked the dressing - its a oily ceasar dressing - not creamy.    For a salad - this requires a bit of prep - that should either be done the night before or on the weekend - which might make this hard to pull together on a weeknight. 


    For the dressing:

    • 4 canned anchovy fillets
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    • Juice of half a lemon
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • Kosher salt
    • Ground black pepper
    • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    For the croutons:

    • 1 baguette French bread
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
    • Kosher salt

    For the salad:

    • Romaine lettuce, washed and dried
    • Thin-sliced chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper
    • Parmesan cheese

    1. To make the dressing, combine the anchovy fillets, garlic, Dijon, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse, or blend on low speed for several seconds, until well-combined.  Scrape down the sides.  

    2. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, and process again to thoroughly combine.   Add a dash of kosher salt and black pepper. 
    3. Add the Parmesan cheese.  Pulse once more until well combined.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the flavors to mingle.

    4. To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.  
    5. Cut the French bread into 1-inch cubes.  Spread the cubes of bread on a baking sheet.  
    6. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. 
    7. Crush the whole cloves of garlic and add them to the oil.  Stir them around for about 5 minutes to infuse the oil with the garlic flavor.  Remove from the heat and discard the garlic cloves.  
    8. Drizzle the oil over the bread cubes.  Toss lightly with your hands to help coat the bread with the oil.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  
    9. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
    10. After the croutons have baked for 1 hour, turn the heat up to 400 degrees F.  Bake the croutons at 400 degrees for 3-5 minutes, just until they have been lightly browned - do not walk away from the oven since they will burn very quickly!  Allow the croutons to cool.

    11.  Season chicken breast with pepper and salt and brush with olive oil.  Grill chicken breasts, either on an indoor or outdoor grill until cooked though.  Set aside.

    12.  To make the salad, cut or tear the romaine lettuce into pieces.  
    13. Transfer the lettuce to serving bowls and top with croutons and sliced chicken breast. 
    14 Top with Parmesan cheese (either shaved with a vegetable peeler, or grated) and the homemade ceasar dressing.

    adapted from Annie's Eats - originally from Pioneer Woman 

    Nov 14, 2009

    Starry Night Cupcakes

    This summer we had a surprise 60th birthday party for my Aunt.   She is an artist and a retired art teacher - so when I found out about the party I volunteered to make the cake.  I looked through my copy of Hello, Cupcake! - and I knew the "Van Gogh - Starry Night" cupcakes would be perfect for her!     The party worked out great and she was completely surprised.   
    You can use any cake or frosting recipe that you want (even a box!), but I decided to make both of them homemade.   There are 'instructions' in the book - but really to make these you just have to make all of the different colors and try to follow the picture.  The actual decorating part was surprisingly easy. 


    For the cake - Hershey's Perfect Chocolate cake.   I liked the texture and taste of this cake - but my cupcakes all sunk in, which bummed me out.  Luckily they was a lot of frosting used to cover them up - so no one really knew except for me!  

    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup Cocoa
    • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup boiling water
    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 30 cupcake tins with paper liners.
    2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. 

    3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). 
    4. Pour batter into cupcake liners (2/3 full). 
    5. Bake 22 - 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove cupcakes to wire racks. Cool completely.  

    Frosting - Swiss Meringue Buttercream (this recipe make a LOT of frosting - but I wanted to make sure I had enough - and I make extra cupcakes on the side - check out the other options on the Smitten Kitchen link for a smaller batch)

    • 2 cups of egg whites (approx. 12 large)
    • 3 cups sugar
    • 5 cups butter, softened (2 1/2 pounds, 10 sticks)
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.
    2. Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size.
    3. Add the vanilla.
    4. Add the butter a stick at a time and whip (on high speed for about 15 minutes)

    from Smitten Kitchen

    Nov 13, 2009

    World Peace Cookies

    These cookies have quickly become one of my favorite cookies - and they are easy to make - which is even better!  One of the best things about this recipe is that you can freeze the dough and bake it as you need it. 

    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 stick plus 3 tbsp. (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. fleur de sel
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
    1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
    2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
    3. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.
    4. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. 
    6. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.
    7. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. 
    8. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)
    9. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
    10. Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.
    11. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes (exactly) — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. 
    12. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

    Recipe from Dorie Greenspan in her book Baking from My Home to Yours

    Vanilla Bean Poached Pears

    I am still mourning the end of Peach season - my favorite fruit.   I saw this tutorial about how to poach pears at David Lebovitz and I thought I'd give it a try!  It is so easy to do - and delicious.   


    • 2 quarts of water
    • 2 2/3 cups of vanilla sugar
    • 8 bosc pears, pealed, cored and sliced in quarters
    • 1 vanilla bean sliced lengthwise


    1. In a large saucepan, heat the water and sugar until warm and the sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla bean.
    2. Slide in the pears and cover with a round of parchment paper, with a small hole cut in the center.
    3. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer the pears until cooked through, 30 minutes, depending on the pears.
    4. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid.

    5. Store the pears in their liquid in the refrigerator, in a covered container, until ready to use.

     adapted from David Lebovitz

    Chocolate Chip Muffins

    We love chocolate chips in anything.   These are some really easy, moist muffins that are quick to pull together at the last minute.  And they make a great mid-morning snack.

    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
    • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
    2. Line 16 muffin tins with paper liners.
    3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir together with a whisk. 
    4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. 
    5. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. 
    6. Mix in the vanilla until well blended.  
    7. Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Add the milk and mix until just combined.  Mix in the rest of the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. 
    8. Fold in the chocolate chips using a rubber spatula.
    9. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin liners.  
    10. Bake for 21-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
    11. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

    As seen on Annies Eats  , originally from Williams Sonoma

    Printer friendly version of this recipe

    Swordfish in a Lunchbag

    The lunchbag is a fun presentation for any meal! I think this is the third time I've made this meal and it is great every time. Just make sure you have some wine, b/c you're going to want to celebrate this one when you're done (and using swordfish makes any meal fancy-schmancy)

    I first lined a baking sheet with two parchment baskets:

    You then add the pasta and sauce, then top with swordfish and more sauce:

    The hard part is getting it into the bag but that looks like this:
    Once it's done it looks like this (watch for the steam!):
    And add some grated fresh parm:

     Some updated photos from the last time I made this:



    For the sauce:
    • 3 cups vine-ripened plum (Roma) tomatoes, cored and cut into thin wedges (or a 28oz can of diced tomatoes)
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 1/4 cup (1 small) minced red onion
    • 2 tablespoons rinsed, drained, and roughly chopped capers
    • 1/2 cup roasted red or yellow bell peppers, coarsely chopped
    • 12 pitted and sliced Greek olives (such as kalamata)
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons pepper olive oil or 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
    • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    For the rest of the meal:
    • 1/2 pound linguine (cooked according to package directions)
    • 2 brown paper lunch bags or 2 large sheets parchment paper or waxed paper
    • 2 (6-ounce) swordfish steaks


    1. Put tomatoes in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
    2. Add oregano, parsley, garlic, onion, capers, peppers, olives, lemon juice, pepper oil, and 4 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil.
    3. Stir gently just to mix and set aside at least 1 hour. Adjust seasonings, if desired. Mixture will become more liquid and sauce-like over time.

    4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
    5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguine until al dente. Drain and toss with remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Reserve.
    6. To cook the fish: Place a small square of parchment or waxed paper at the bottom of each paper bag. Place small pile of linguine in each of the bags. Top with a spoonful of tomato sauce, making sure to moisten the linguine with the juices. Lay a piece of fish on top and arrange with another spoonful of sauce. Moisten again with juices from the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
    7. Fold over the tops of the bags, place them on a baking sheet, and bake for approximately 15 minutes (will greatly depend of the thickness of the fish - check the temperature with an instant read thermometer - should be 130).
    8. Let each diner cut open the package to enjoy the aromas.
    9. Garnish with parmesan cheese

    Adapted from Michael Chairello from Food Network