Nov 30, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Pie

chocolate toffee pie 1

I made six different desserts this year for Thanksgiving.  This pie went quicker than anything else.  Any recipe with chocolate and toffee in the title automatically catches my attention because my husband is crazy about anything toffee.   I also wanted to make something with chocolate to balance out the fruit and nuts in the other pies.  This turned out to be super easy to mix up and super delicious.  

chocolate toffee pie 3

I actually only ended up trying one bite of this pie myself – I couldn’t believe how quickly it was gone.   I waited until just before serving to add the additional toffee bits on the top – since they have a tendency to get melty when stored in the refrigerator.  This way they were nice and crunchy.   So if you need a quick and easy (and tasty) pie this holiday season – make sure you add this one to your repertoire. 

chocolate toffee pie 2



  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar


  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or use chips)
  • 3/4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped chocolate covered toffee candy


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the wafer crumbs, butter and sugar. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie place. Bake for 10 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool.

3. Prepare the filling: Measure the heavy cream in a 2 cup measuring cup. Heat the cream in the microwave for 1 minute until warmed. Remove the cream from the microwave and add the chopped chocolate/chocolate chips to the cream. Let stand, covered for 5 minutes, then stir until cream and chocolate combine and gets smooth.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

5. Gently beat in the chocolate/cream mixture into the bowl until fully incorporated. Fold in a 1/2 cup of the chopped toffee candy into the mixture.

6. Pour this filling into your cooled chocolate crust. Chill the pie until firm, about 2 hours or overnight to allow flavors to meld.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup chopped toffee bits before serving.

Source: What’s Cooking, Chicago

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Nov 28, 2011

Pecan Pie Bites

pecan pie tartlettes

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Last year, I made a pecan pie for the first time.  Since its so rich and most people want to try slices of all of the desserts – I decided to make these mini pecan pies this year.  Perfect one or two bites – they are all you need when you are already full and you-can’t-help-but-keep-eating-because-its-Thanksgiving.

pecan pie tartlettes 3

The only issue with a dessert like this is that it takes longer to make than an actual pie!  I only have one mini muffin pan – so I had to make these in two batches.  And its more involved because you have to press in all of the crusts and bake them – then pour in the filling and bake that – and then cool in the pan.   But I promise you that its worth all of the effort.  I’ll definitely be making these again next year!   Enjoy!

pecan pie tartlettes 2



  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 6 oz. chopped pecans
  • Kosher salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat mini muffin pans with nonstick spray.

2. Cream butter and 2/3 cup brown sugar in a bowl with a mixer until blended. Add the flour and salt; mix until sandy. Dough will seem dry.

3. Press 1 Tbsp. of dough into each well of prepared muffin tins, shaping up the sides. Prebake the shells for 6 minutes or until set and lightly golden around the edges.

4. Remove from the oven and pat the bottoms down lightly with a small spoon. Set the shells aside.

5. For the filling: whisk both sugars, eggs, maple syrup, butter, vanilla, table salt, and pecans together in a bowl. Pour about 1 Tbsp. filling into each shell. Bake for 15 minutes, or until filling is set and crust is browned.

6. Sprinkle tartlets with kosher salt, then let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. To remove, run a knife around each and carefully lift out.

Makes about 4 dozen tartlets.

Source: Kokocooks

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Nov 23, 2011

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

peanut butter m&m cookies 1

I think I need more mini M&Ms in my life – I just love them - they are the perfect size for baking and snacking.  These peanut butter cookies were super easy to mix together – which is perfect if you don’t have a lot of time.  The were also soft and chewy and crisp around the edges – which I think is the way a cookie should be.  Enjoy!  

And have a very Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!! 

peanut butter m&m cookies2


  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cups M&M’s (mini or regular)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda, whisking until combined.  Set aside.

4. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

5. Add the sugars and peanut butter, mixing until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.

6. Reduce the mixer speed and add the egg, vanilla, and milk, mixing until completely combined.

7. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the M&M’s.

8. Drop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets and bake the cookies until lightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Makes about 36 cookies

Source: The Curvy Carrot

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Nov 21, 2011

Coconut Banana Bread with lime glaze

coconut banana bread 1

I have a tendency to buy too many bananas – and everyone knows the problem with bananas are that they are all under-ripe and then since you don’t eat all of them the day they are perfectly ripe the rest are over-ripe before you even get a chance to eat them.   I decided that this time I must make banana bread with them before fruit flies decided to infest my kitchen. 

banana coconut bread 3

This bread has coconut throughout and on the top and then its covered with a simple lime glaze.  The banana/coconut/lime combination make this the perfect tropical treat.   So enjoy and pretend you are someplace tropical and warm while you eat it!

banana coconut bread 2


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • Topping: 2 Tbsp. additional coconut
  • Glaze: 1/2 C powdered sugar whisked with 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until blended.  Add eggs and beat to combine.  Add banana, sour cream or yogurt, milk, and vanilla.  Beat until blended.

4. Add flour mixture and beat at a low speed until just combined.  Stir in 1/2 C coconut.

5. Pour batter into a 9×5″ loaf pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle additional 2 Tbsp. coconut on top.

6. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour or until a knife or skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Check bread after about 40 minutes.  If the top has browned and the coconut pieces are looking toasty, cover top of bread lightly with a piece of foil.  Continue baking until done.

7. When done, remove pan from oven.  Let cool on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes and then carefully remove from pan.  Whisk powdered sugar and lime juice together for the glaze and then drizzle over top.  Cool for at least another 15 minutes before slicing.

Source: adapted from Our Best Bites

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Nov 17, 2011

Buttermilk Chocolate Cookies

chocolate buttermilk cookies 1

I had some buttermilk in my fridge – left over from making my favorite waffles – and I wanted to figure out what to do with it.   When I’m stressed or upset – I like to bake – it keeps me occupied and gives me time to think.  I should probably try to exercise more for the same reasons – but baking is much more fun (for me!) than exercising. 

chocolate buttermilk cookies 2

These cookies were so easy – sometimes I love a dessert that doesn’t require a mixer and can be easily mixed up in one bowl.  I recommend using good quality cocoa powder (I use Penzeys) and chocolate chips (Ghirardelli) – it makes a world of difference in something like this that has just a few ingredients.  The cookies turn out very soft – perfect with a glass of milk.  

chocolate buttermilk cookies 3


  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liners.

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

3. Melt the butter in a small, microwave safe bowl.  In a large bowl, combine the melted butter with cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Whisk in sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until no streaks of flour remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

4. Drop dough in 1-inch balls into prepared baking sheet, leaving about two inches between cookies to allow for spread.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set around the edges.  Cool for 2-3 minutes on a baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack with a spatula to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Source: Baking Bites

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Nov 11, 2011

Homemade Oreos

homemade oreos 1

I know you are excited just seeing the title – who doesn’t love an Oreo?   And these surprisingly taste much like the real thing – actually better since the cookie was just a bit softer than the real thing.

homemade oreos 3

I made these for a bake sale at work where we were raising money for the Susan G. Komen foundation – in honor the several women at our office that have or are fighting breast cancer.  That is why I chose to make the filling pink!  But the fun thing about these cookies are that you can leave the filling white (like the original Oreo), red or green for Christmas, pastels for springtime, orange for Halloween, etc. etc.  

In total we raised $400 from the bake sale – definitely an amazing fundraiser in a short period of time.  I am so proud of my coworkers! 

Enjoy these cookies – I know I’ll be making them again!

homemade oreos 2


For the cookies:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 10 Tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg

For the filling:

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

2. In a food processor, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add the butter to the bowl and pulse briefly to incorporate.  Add in the egg and mix until the dough forms a cohesive mass.

3. Scoop a scant tablespoon of batter onto the baking sheet.  Continue scooping, spacing the dough balls a couple of inches apart.  With moistened fingers, gently press down on the dough balls to flatten slightly. 

4. Bake for 9-11 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack and let cool completely until the cookies are firm and set.  Be sure the cookies are completely cooled before filling.

5. To make the filling: combine the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth.  Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix on low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

6. To assemble the cookies, pair them up by size.  Use a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip to pipe a swirl of filling onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair.  Sandwich together with the remaining cookie and press down so that the filling reaches the edges.

Yield: about 20-24 sandwich cookies

Source: Annie’s Eats

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Nov 9, 2011

Sausage, spinach gnocchi soup

sausage gnocchi soup 1

I kept moving this soup around my weekly menu – I just wasn’t in the mood for it.   Then I finally had to make it – since baby spinach does not last forever in the fridge!   I’ve since regretted every second I didn’t make this soup sooner.   

sausage gnocchi soup 2

It’s so comforting and filling – sausage, spinach, red peppers, and potato gnocchi in a chicken broth.   My husband kept saying, “I really really like this soup!” while eating it.   My grocery store had ‘mini’ gnocchi – which were perfect for this soup – so use those if you can find them (I shop at Wegmans by the way)  Enjoy!

sausage gnocchi soup 3


  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1 pound chicken or turkey Italian sausage, ground or removed from casings, hot or sweet
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 32-48 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound gnocchi (mini or regular)
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves,
  • Parmesan cheese, fresh grated, for serving


1. In a large pot over medium heat, pour in olive oil and sauté onion and red pepper until tender, 5-8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the sausage to the pot to brown, breaking it apart as it cooks.  When sausage is cooked add garlic to pot and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Add the basil and chicken broth and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Add gnocchi and spinach, bring to a simmer and cook until gnocchi puff up and start to float (check package for cooking time). Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Source: adapted from Cinnamon Girl Recipes

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Nov 7, 2011

Beef and black bean chili

beef and black bean chili 1

It’s definitely fall – which means time for chili!  There are so many different varieties – you can get pretty crazy with your ingredients and toppings.  My work recently had a chili cook-off and while I didn’t participate as a cook – I did taste them.  And I have to say – I am a purist when it comes to chili – I don’t like it when people mix too many crazy things (can you say pineapple, three different kinds of meats and chocolate?).  Its just too much!!  So what I like about this chili is that its simple – beef and black beans, with lots of chili powder spices and topped with fresh cilantro, red onion and monterey jack cheese.   I served it with Frito scoops – I love Fritos – I don’t buy them too often but they were great to dip in this chili.  Enjoy!

beef and black bean chili 2


  • 3 (15 oz.) cans black beans
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 diced chipotle chili pepper (in adobo sauce) 
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef 
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • Pinch ground chipotle chili powder (optional)
  • 2 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 cups beef stock 
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste


1. Drain two cans black beans into colander and rinse well, set aside.  Let beans drain while you use a food processor to puree the third can of undrained beans, diced tomatoes and liquid, and the diced chipotle chili pepper.  Process the beans and tomatoes about 1 minute, until they are fairly smooth.

2. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil and then add  beef, using a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces.

3. Remove beef to bowl and set aside.  Add a bit more olive oil to the pot and the onions.  Lower heat a little and cook onions until they are softened but not starting to brown.  Add all the chili powders and cumin and sauté about 30 seconds.

4. Add beef stock, browned ground beef, pureed bean mixture, drained beans, and tomato paste and simmer over low heat, uncovered, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Stir the chili occasionally to prevent any sticking on the bottom of the pot.  After 45 minutes, check the seasonings and add more chili powder, salt, and/or pepper as needed.

5. Just before serving, stir in the chopped cilantro and lime juice and cook about 5 minutes.  Serve chili hot with toppings of your choice.

Source: Smells like Home

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Nov 1, 2011

Chocolate Peanut butter Cupcakes

chocolate peanut butter cupcakes 1

I’m sure you know someone who loves peanut butter and chocolate.  Well, this cupcake is truly the ultimate peanut butter and chocolate experience.  The chocolate cake is filled with a peanut butter cup, then topped with a peanut butter whipped cream and dipped in a chocolate ‘magic’ shell.  I promise they are worth the effort – although you may want to the split up the work over two days.

chocolate peanut butter cupakes 2

Get yourself a glass of milk right now – because you are going to need it!

chocolate peanut butter cupcakes 4

I made these for my brother-in-law for his birthday – and I can definitely say that they were enjoyed by all!  Hope you had a Happy Birthday Jay!

chocolate peanut butter cupcakes 3


Dark Chocolate Cupcakes (with Reese’s PB Cup Center)
Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 12 mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pan with liners.

2. Combine butter, chopped chocolate and cocoa in a small bowl. Microwave 30 seconds then stir. Microwave at 15 second intervals until smooth. Do not overheat. Cool until barely warm.

3. In small bowl, combine flour, soda and powder.

4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs then whisk in the sugar and salt. Add the cooled chocolate mix, beating until smooth and well combined. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. Whisk until fully combined. Add sour cream, mixing well, then add remaining flour mixture, whisking till flour is fully incorporated and batter is thick.

5. Scoop batter into lined cupcake liners. Place a mini Reese’s cup in the center of each cake. Press into the batter until nearly level with the top.

6. Bake 15-20 minutes and check doneness with toothpick.  Cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then move to a wire rack to cool thoroughly before frosting.


Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup heavy cream


1. Beat peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar until thoroughly combined. Add cream and beat until light and fluffy (adding more if needed). Spread onto cooled cupcakes or pipe with your preferred decorating tip.


Homemade Magic Shell

  • 3 regular size Hershey bars, broken into smaller bits
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil


1. Combine chocolate and oil in small, deep bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir.  Microwave at 15 second intervals until the mixture is smooth.

2. Dip frosted cupcakes that have been in the freezer at least 15 minutes. Take cupcakes out just a few at a time. If you’re double dipping, place cupcakes back in the freezer for a few minutes before re-dipping.  (Note: any leftover can be re-microwaved and used over ice cream – yum!)

Source: seen on Something Shiny Blog [cake originally from Cooks Illustrated, frosting Brown-eyed Baker, magic shell Confessions of a Cookbook Queen]

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