Dec 31, 2010

Best of 2010


Can you believe that 2010 is already over?  For myself – 2010 was a year filled with happiness, sadness and everything in-between.  I am really looking forward to the new year and what it means for me and my family.  I’m not too into making ‘resolutions’ – but I definitely have goals set for myself to accomplish in 2011.  One of my main highlights of this year has been the joy I have gotten out of this food blogging hobby of mine.  I joined the Daring Bakers and made some desserts that I never thought I would ever attempt to make.  I got a new camera – and am working on improving my photography skills, both personally and for the blog.  I have enjoyed each and every one of your comments or kind emails on my blog – it really is humbling to know that people read and enjoy my posts.   

And now for a year-in review of sorts – I am going to post a link to the favorite recipe I made from each month over this past year.  I am going to try my hardest to not post all desserts. Smile

JanuarySpicy Baked Chicken Tenders


These are still one of my favorite easy treats – and a much healthier version than something you would get from a fast food place.  The super crunchy coating tastes like it was fried, even though it is baked.  YUM!



This is easily the most popular post on my blog – thanks in part to a link on Mother Nature Network.   But it is also for a good reason – Samoas are one of the most popular girl scout cookies – and everyone wants to enjoy them during the time of year when they are not available.  I love this easy bar version – I was amazed at how much they tasted like the real thing – I need to make these again soon.

MarchPork Tostadas


March was a tough choice – I made several of my favorites (check out these Greek Turkey Burgers, Chocolate Chip Treasure Cookies and Tin Roof Ice Cream).  But these pork tostadas earned the top spot – they were the biggest surprise for both my husband and me – so flavorful and delicious.  Worth every bit of effort – I can’t wait to make them again soon – I’ve been on the hunt for queso fresco and if I find it – I’m making these stat!

AprilThick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


This was an easy choice  - you cannot beat the perfect, classic chocolate chip cookie.  And the bonus is that they are super easy to whip up.   I have made these many times since I discovered this recipe – and you can never grow tired of perfection. 

MayChocolate dipped Strawberry Ice Cream


Hands down this is my favorite ice cream recipe of the year – I love chocolate and strawberries and adding ice cream to the mix makes it even better.  If you make one ice cream recipe next summer when strawberries come into season – make this your choice. 

JuneSummer Pasta Bolognese


Once zucchinis and tomatoes start coming into season – this is the first dish I turn to make.  It is super easy to whip up and healthy too.  It’s the type of dish that when I’m full – I could still eat more because it’s so tasty – and that I have no problem eating leftovers for lunch for days. 

JulyLemon Meringue Cupcakes


I definitely have a cupcake addiction – I like them so much better than eating a piece of cake – no utensils needed and everyone gets the same size piece.  These lemon meringue cupcakes were so cute and fun to make.  And any recipe involving a kitchen torch is all right with me.     

August Buttermilk Waffles


August was a hard choice since I love fresh, local summer produce.  But these buttermilk waffles (topped with fresh local blueberries, of course) are probably the most repeated item I’ve made all year.  Once I found this recipe – I was craving waffles every weekend.  In fact, we just had them on Christmas morning and I want them again already.

SeptemberPeach Shortbread Bars and Oreo Cupcakes



Ok – I couldn’t choose just one for September.  Peaches are my absolute favorite fruit – so I had to pick something that I made with peaches.  And I could not let this best-of post go by without including the infamous Oreo cupcakes.  They are both too good not to give a second look at! 

October – Apple Cider Doughnuts


One of my favorite Daring Bakers challenges from the year.  I’ve never attempted to make my own doughnuts before – but they are amazing.  They actually turned out to be much simpler than I thought – but worth all of the trouble.  Perfect for a fall get together to celebrate the season.

November – Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese


My favorite macaroni and cheese recipe of the year.  The butternut squash adds a flavor that is so perfectly balanced with the cheese.   It’s actually a very simple recipe to mix up – I can’t wait until next fall to make this again (or I bet I can still find some squash at the store and make this sooner).  

DecemberCaramel Apple Cheesecake Pie


In December I only posted 4 non-dessert recipes – so I obviously have been baking up a sweet storm.  But this pie is hands down the winner for the best of the year.  Graham cracker crust, homemade caramel, apples, cheesecake and fresh whipped cream – yes please! 

Well, I hope you enjoyed my pick of the best of 2010.   Here is to a another year filled with yummy treats and healthy dinners in 2011! 

Dec 27, 2010

Rocky Road Fudge

rocky road fudge 1

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and Santa brought you everything you wished for this year.  I made this fudge for yet another holiday party last week – and I was tired of baking cookies – so I wanted something quick, easy and delicious.  Well, I found it in this fudge – it doesn’t get much simpler than melting chocolate, butter and sweetened condensed milk in the microwave and then mixing in nuts, marshmallows and more chocolate chips. 

rocky road fudge 2

Santa really enjoyed his plate – and so did I!  Winking smile 

rocky road fudge 3


  • 1 bag (12 oz.) bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or peanuts
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips


1. Combine the bittersweet chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, butter and salt in a glass bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring at 30 second intervals.

2. Once chocolate mixture is completely melted, immediately stir in marshmallows, nuts and additional chips.

3. Pour mixture into a greased 8 x 8 dish and press down to spread out evenly.

4. Cover and refrigerate at least one to two hours, until completely firm.

5. Cut fudge into squares and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Source: adapted from The Sweets Life

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Dec 25, 2010

Candy Cane Cookies

candy cane cookies 1

Merry Christmas! 

I hope this day is filled with wonderful memories and time with you closest friends and family.  Relax and enjoy this special time of year! 

I made these cookies for my annual co-worker cookie exchange – and they were definitely time consuming but totally worth it in the end.  I love how cute they turned out – and the cookie was perfect – not too soft but not too crisp either.    They are also a fun cookie to make with kids – they can help to roll out the dough and twist into canes.

candy cane cookies 2

candy cane cookies 3


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. peppermint or almond extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Red food coloring 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (for topping)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and powdered sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy.

3. Then add the egg and extracts.  Beat until smooth. 

4. Add in salt and then stir in the flour, beating on low speed just until the flour is blended.

5. Divide the cookie dough in half.  Take one half of the dough and knead red food coloring into it until the dough is tinted red. 

6. To assemble each cookie: Take one rounded teaspoon of red dough & one rounded teaspoon of white dough and roll each into a ball.

7. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 4-inch long rope.   Place 1 red and 1 white rope side by side on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Press the 2 ropes together lightly, twist them together, and then curve the top of the cookie down to form the handle of a candy cane.

8. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes.  Immediately after taking them out of the oven, sprinkle the cookies with the granulated sugar.  Cool slightly on the pan, and then remove them from the cookie sheet to cool completely.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

Source: Cooking with Karen

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Dec 24, 2010

La Cuisine Chocolate Cookies

la cuisine cookies 1

I made a double batch of the Oreo Cheesecake cookies – with the hopes that I would have enough for me to bring to work and for my husband to bring with him to a group he was working with.   Well, I may have made my cookies too big – since I didn’t get the amount I was hoping for.  Since I didn’t have enough cream cheese to make another batch – I went searching around to find another recipe to make very quickly.  The first recipe I found required a 2 hour chill – which I definitely did not have time for.  Then I found these – and I had all of the ingredients and they were super simple to mix up together. 

la cuisine cookies 3

la cuisine cookies 2


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract


1. Over a double boiler in a heatproof bowl melt together butter, chocolate chips, and sweetened condensed milk.

2. Remove from heat and stir in flour, nuts and vanilla.

3. Drop tablespoon’s of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes until the tops are crackly.

Source: adapted from The Sweets Life and Eat Well. Love Life.

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Dec 23, 2010

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

oreo cheesecake cookies 2

It was a really good thing that I made these cookies.  There was one (of many) holiday party at work that said it was optional to bring something.  Well, I refuse to show up empty handed – and since I am an obsessive baker, I will use any opportunity to try something from my ‘to-bake’ list.  It turns out I must be the only person that feels this way – because I was the only person to bring anything at all.  Luckily the pizza and wings were provided – but I saved the day with these cookies for dessert.  

I was skeptical of them though – since they had no egg, no baking soda or powder either.  But they came out perfectly – what was I thinking – you can’t go wrong with Oreos or cheesecake.  

oreo cheesecake cookies 1

O-R-E-O   C-H-E-E-S-E-C-A-K-E   C-O-O-K-I-E-S! 

oreo cheesecake cookies 3


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Oreo cookie sandwich crumbs (from about 8 Oreos)


1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, cream cheese and salt on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy.

3. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, and then add the flour and mix on low just until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Drop the dough balls into a bowl of oreo cookie crumbs and roll to coat. Arrange the dough balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

5. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until the edges just start to brown and the tops are set. Cool for a minute or two on the sheets, then transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

Source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles

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Dec 22, 2010

Caramel Corn

caramel corn 1

I have made a resolution and its not even New Years yet – I need to make more ‘real’ popcorn.  And by ‘real’ I mean the type in my air popper and not in the microwave. I have forgotten how fresh it tastes and you control exactly what goes into it.  And this caramel corn is about as far from healthy as you get – but it is amazing!  I had no idea how simple it was to make – and that means I plan on making this many more times in the future. At first I was concerned when I stirred the caramel in the popcorn and it started to seize up – but when this is cooked in the oven at a low temperature – the caramel softens again and you thoroughly coat the popcorn with it.  If you don’t believe me – try it – it is out of this world good! 

caramel corn 2

And if you can manage to share just a little bit of this amazingness – it does make some really great gifts.  Perfect for someone you forgot at the last minute!   

caramel corn 3


  • 1 cup popcorn kernels, unpopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


1. Pop popcorn using whichever method you wish.  Place the popped popcorn into two large bowls (plastic works better).

2. Preheat the oven to 250° F. 

3. To make the caramel, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, mix in the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.

4. Once the mixture reaches a boil, let the mixture continue to boil for 5 more minutes without stirring. 

5. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract.  The mixture will bubble up and become frothy. 

6. Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn in the bowls and toss to coat thoroughly. 

7. Spread the popcorn evenly onto two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, removing from the oven to toss/stir every 10 minutes.  After 40 minutes, test a cooled piece of popcorn.  If it is not completely crispy (i.e. still slightly mushy when you bite it), bake for 10 minutes more.

8. Remove the baking sheets to a wire rack and allow popcorn to cool completely before breaking apart for serving or packaging.

Source: Annie’s Eats who adapted from Christie’s Corner

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Dec 21, 2010

Blueberry Scones

blueberry scones 1

Scones have become my new favorite breakfast treat to make.  Over the summer, during peak season – I bought a massive quantity of blueberries for my freezer.  Besides throwing them into my yogurt or into pancakes – I haven’t done much else with them.  Well, not until making these scones.  Oh my – are these amazing or what?!  They are tender, flaky and the perfect contrast to the juicy sweet blueberry.  It’s like a little bite of summer in the midst of winter.

blueberry scones 2

Can’t wait to make these again!  YUM!

blueberry scones 3


  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen whole
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted


1. Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat to 425˚ F. 

2. Grate the frozen butter on the holes of a large box grater. 

3. Whisk together the milk and sour cream in a medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. 

4. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine. 

5. Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.

6. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula just until combined. 

7. Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface.  Dust the top of the dough with flour, and knead with well floured hands, 6-8 times, just until the dough holds together in a ragged ball.  Add small amounts of flour as needed to prevent sticking.

8. Roll the dough into a 12-inch square.  Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter (a dough scraper really helps with these steps).  Fold the short ends of the dough into the center in thirds, to form an approximate 4-inch square.  Transfer the dough to a plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.

9. Return the dough to the floured work surface and roll into an approximately 12-inch square again.  Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough, and gently press down so that they are slightly embedded in the dough surface.  Using a dough scraper, roll the dough up to form a tight log.  Lay the log seam side down and press the the log into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle. 

10. Using a sharp, floured knife, cut the rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles.  Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles.  Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.

11. Brush the tops of the scones with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with sugar. 

12. Bake until the tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Cooks Illustrated via Annie’s Eats

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Dec 20, 2010

CI’s Chicken Enchiladas

chicken enchalidas 2

You may not remember – but just about a year ago I posted my favorite recipe for Chicken Enchiladas – a recipe by Tyler Florence.  What I love about those are the filling – the addition of stewed tomatoes, chipotle chilies and corn, really make those extra special.  Well, I couldn’t pass up trying a new recipes – since with this Cook’s Illustrated recipe, you actually make the enchilada sauce.  And since I love to try and make every single component by scratch – I loved these.   And they are really not as hard as they seem – but definitely a weekend recipe or when you have more time.

I think next time I will combine this sauce with the filling from Tyler’s recipe – and they may just become ultimate chicken enchiladas.  Enjoy!

chicken enchalidas 1


  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 12-16 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 8 ounces Monterey jack cheese, grated (2 cups)
  • 10 corn tortillas (six-inch)
  • Vegetable cooking spray


1. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes.

2. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

3. Add garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, salt, and sugar; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until coated with spices, about 30 seconds.

5. Add tomato sauce and 3/4 cup water; stir to separate chicken pieces. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and flavors have melded, about 8 minutes.

6. Pour mixture through medium-mesh strainer into bowl, pressing on chicken and onions to extract as much sauce as possible; set sauce aside.

7. Transfer chicken mixture to large plate and allow to cool, shred chicken with two forks then combine with cilantro and 1 1/2 cups cheese cheese in medium bowl and set aside.

8. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees.

9. Warm the tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds then fill roll, and sauce enchiladas in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

10. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake enchiladas on lower-middle rack until heated through and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and serve immediately. Top with additional fresh cilantro. 

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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Dec 15, 2010

Crunchy Honey Chicken Stir-fry

honey chicken stir fry

When I am working on my weekly meal plan – I use several sources for inspiration.  These include recently starred items in my google reader, magazines, blogs, cookbooks and recipes I’ve already made from my blog.  Well, last week when I went to look through my recently starred items – I realized that every single thing was a dessert (I know, I have a problem) – except for this dish!  So I knew I had to try it.  It’s just a simple stir-fry – but the cornstarch coating on the chicken and the honey make the chicken crunchy, sweet and delicious.  The soy sauce gives it a nice balance of flavor to the sweetness of the honey.  I also love that it uses three of my favorite vegetables – broccoli, red peppers and sugar snap peas.   This is definitely a winner for an easy weeknight meal. 

honey chicken stir fry 2


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders, diced in cubes
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • dash of crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • cooked brown or white rice, for serving


1. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 Tbsp. olive oil until shimmering.

3. Dip chicken pieces in egg whites and then lightly dredge in cornstarch.

4. Add to the skillet in batches, being careful to not overcrowd the pan. Let brown for 2-3 minutes, then flip. Continue with remaining chicken pieces until all are cooked.  Set aside on a plate.

5. Add remaining Tbsp. of olive oil to the now empty pan.  Add veggies with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add in soy sauce and garlic and stir about 60 seconds.

6. Return the chicken to the skillet with the veggies. Add honey and red pepper flakes and thoroughly mix to combine. Serve with rice.

Source: How Sweet It Is

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Dec 13, 2010

Chocolate Whoopie Pies

chocolate whoopie pies 1

After my first attempt at whoopie pies – they quickly moved up to the top of my list of favorite new treats to bake. They are like eating a mini cake – with the frosting in the center.   And I love the combination of chocolate and marshmallow – two of my favorite things. 

My husband asked me to bake something to donate to a local charity on behalf of his business – and these were my choice.   We packaged them up and sent them off.   

chocolate whoopie pies 2

Well, not without having a bite or two for myself – YUM!

chocolate whoopie pies 3


for the whoopie pies:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk

for the marshmallow filling

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1/4 tsp. salt dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl sift together, flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, shortening and sugar on low until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.

4. Add egg and vanilla and beat for two more minutes. 

5. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk and beat on low until incorporated. Repeat alternating with remaining flour and milk and beat until combined.

6. Using a tablespoon, drop batter on baking sheet two inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes each or until pies spring back when pressed gently.

7. Remove from oven and cool for about five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

To make the marshmallow filling:

1. Beat together the butter, shortening, sugar, and marshmallow till well combined.

2. Dissolve the salt in the water, and add to the marshmallow mixture. Add the vanilla, and beat till smooth.

3. Spread the flat side of half the cakes with the filling. Top with the remaining cakes, flat side towards the filling.

Source: The Novice Chef blog

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Dec 10, 2010

Maple Pecan Pie

maple pecan pie 2

Pecan pie is such a classic recipe.  But surprisingly – I have never even thought or attempted to make it myself.  I’m always just the one consuming it.  So this year for Thanksgiving – I added it to my list of pies that I made at the very last minute.  See – I had a stash of pecans in my cupboard and when I looked at how simple the recipe was – I was instantly sold. 

I used my go-to pie crust recipe (found in this post) that I had stashed in my freezer since the summer when I made this Strawberry Cream pie.  And honestly – I found absolutely no difference between this crust and the one I made fresh for my other pies. 

So lesson learned – you can definitely make pie crust in advance and freeze it for months – in case you get a sudden pie attack.   

maple pecan pie 3

I loved this pie so much – here is another photo, just because.

maple pecan pie 1


  • 1 recipe single-crust pie dough, fitted into a 9-in. pie plate and chilled
  • 4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped coarse


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Line the chilled pie crust with foil and pie weights.  Bake until light in color – 25 to 30 minutes. 

3. Remove pie to wire rack and remove foil and weights. Lower oven temperature to 275 degrees F.  (The crust should be warm when the filling is added)

4. Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl set in a skillet with water maintained at just below a simmer. 

5. Remove from skillet and stir in the sugar and salt until absorbed.

6. Whisk in the eggs, maple syrup and vanilla until smooth.

7. Return to the hot water and stir until shiny and hot to the touch and measures 130 degrees.  

8. Off heat, stir in the pecans.

9. Pour the pecan mixture into the warm pie shell.  Bake until set – around 50 to 60 minutes. 

Source: America’s Test Kitchen – Family Baking Book

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Dec 9, 2010

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

caramel apple pie 3

I’ve been dying to try this recipe since I first saw it!  It just has too much goodness packed into it not to try out – did you say – homemade caramel – apples, pecans, cheesecake and fresh whipped cream?  Ummm – yes please!     I also wanted to use my new pie dish – so I opted to make this in that instead of a cheesecake pan.  I think it worked out great.  

I was a little nervous about the crust – since I used gluten-free graham crackers (so my Aunt with celiac could eat it).  But you would never know the difference – they tasted exactly the same as regular ones (although they did cost a small fortune for graham crackers!). 

After the graham cracker crust is baked – you layer in some caramel and then chopped pecans….

caramel apple pie 1

Then you layer in some cooked apple slices….. 

caramel apple pie 2

Next is a layer or cheesecake batter and once baked – topped with fresh whipped cream and garnished with pecans and caramel.

Are you drooling yet?   If so - go make this dessert!

caramel apple pie 4


For the caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 5 1/3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup caramel
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

For the apple filling:

  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

For the cheesecake:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the topping:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup caramel
  • Chopped pecans


1. To make the caramel: Put the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to combine.  Heat over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber.  As the sugar is caramelizing wipe down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.  Lower the heat and and add the cream and butter.  Once done bubbling – stir until smooth and remove the pan from the heat.   Cool and refrigerate until ready to use (can be made in advance).

2. To make the crust:  Preheat the oven to 375° F. 

3.  In a mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter and combine until all the crumbs are moistened and the ingredients are evenly mixed. 

4. Transfer the mixture to a 9 inch springform pan or deep dish pie plate and press the crumbs in an even layer over the pan bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Bake for 6-8 minutes, until golden in color.  Let cool for about 10 minutes. 

5. Pour a layer of caramel into the bottom of the crust and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pecans. 

6. To make the apple filling: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Mix in the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute, until bubbling.  Mix in the apple slices and toss well to coat.  Cook over medium to medium-high heat until tender and most of the liquid has been reduced, about 15-20 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes and pour into the prepared pie shell.  Set aside.

7. Reduce the heat of the oven to 350° F. 

8. To make the cheesecake layer: Combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  

9. Mix in the vanilla, egg and lemon juice until fully incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes. 

10. Spread the cheesecake filling into an even layer over the top of the cooked apples in the crust.  Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

11. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

12. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.  Spread gently over the top of the chilled cheesecake layer.  Top with dollops of caramel sauce and swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.  Sprinkle with a handful of chopped pecans.

Source: Annie’s Eats, caramel from Baking from my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

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Dec 8, 2010

Apple Spice Cookie Bars

apple spice cookie bars 1

Although its very close to the official start of winter – for some people in Buffalo it has come full force (Luckily, we avoided the major storm that trapped people in their car for 20 hours).  These fall inspired treats will keep you satisfied all winter long.   They are super simple to whip together and the best part is the gooey apple inside and the way the top crisps up.  The hardest part is letting them cool so you can cut them and eat them right up!


  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • pinch ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 apples, cored and diced
  • cinnamon sugar for sprinkling


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 9x13 pan with foil and baking spray.

2. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Whisk to combine and set aside.

3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine sugars and butter and beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine. Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.

5. Turn mixer on slow and fold in flour mixture a little at a time until just combined. Fold in apples.

6. Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan and sprinkle top generously with cinnamon sugar.

7. Place in oven and bake until cooked through, when top slightly bounces back to the touch, about 30 minutes.

8. Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from pan, cutting and serving. Bars will be very soft.

Source: Beantown Baker – originally from Good Things Catered

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Dec 6, 2010

Spinach, Feta & Sun-dried Tomato Turkey Burgers

spinach tom feta burgers 1

I was talking with a co-worker the other day about working a full time job and having time to cook dinner every night.  I told him that I have no issues with finding the time to cook a meal every day – I plan my menu each week and on days when I know we are going to be busy – I plan easy meals.  And for a quick and easy meal – it does not get much simpler than these burgers.   You can mix them up in minutes – and cook on a grill or grill pan – and dinner is ready in no time at all.   I served these on some homemade burger buns (from my freezer) and for a really easy side – Alexia fries (love them!). 


  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • 5 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper


1. Combine turkey, feta, sun dried tomato, spinach and seasonings in a mixing bowl.

2. Form into 4-5 burger patties and set aside (or freeze if making in advance).

3. Pre-heat grill, grill pan or broiler. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through.

Source: Erin’s Food Files

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Dec 3, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken noodle soup 1

Oh – chicken noodle soup – the wintertime necessity.  My husband recently had a cold that lasted for three straight weeks.  I made this soup and miraculously he was better after eating two huge bowls of this! Well, I don’t think you can say it was exclusively the soup – but that doesn’t matter – because this soup is so good you can eat it if your sick or not!  I took a major shortcut with this recipe – and it totally paid off.  I bought a plain rotisserie chicken and shredded it and added to the soup – it was so moist and delicious – any way better than if I had cooked the chicken myself.  I’m definitely going to be doing that again – especially if I am the one that ends up sick next time. 

chicken noodle soup 2


  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and diced
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock
  • 8 ounces dried noodles
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped


1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat and pour in the olive oil.

2. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.

3. Pour in the chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil.

4. Add the noodles and simmer for 5 minutes until tender.

5. Fold in the chicken, and continue to simmer for another couple of minutes to heat through; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Source: Tyler Florence – Food Network

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