Mint-Chocolate Brownies (2)


Years ago, the cyclist was told (by a wise, wise man) that you should always have a little something sweet after dinner. Just to let your tummy know that the meal is over. For this reason, I always have Junior mints or York Peppermint Patties in my freezer. They are the perfect little after dinner treat. I love the chocolate mint combination.

I found this recipe in an Everyday Food magazine and just got around to making them (the second treat served at this year's progressive dinner.)

Delicious, moist, fudgy, minty, perfect.

Mint-Chocolate Brownies
from Everyday Food

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
25 small (1 1/2 inch) peppermint patties (use York's, not those sad imitations they sell at Costco)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides; butter foil. Set aside.
Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat. Whisk in sugar and salt until smooth; whisk in eggs. Gently whisk in flour and cocoa powder just until smooth (do not overmix).
Spread 1/3 of batter in prepared pan. Arrange peppermint patties on batter in a single layer, leaving a narrow border on all sides. Top with remaining batter, and smooth surface. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 45 to 55 minutes.
Cool completely in pan. Use foil to lift from pan; peel off foil and discard. Cut into 16 squares (4 rows by 4 rows).

Cranberry Salsa

This is one of my all time favorite holiday appetizers (have I said that before? because I mean it about this one). Everywhere I take it, someone requests the recipe. It has a vibrant color, and such a fresh, tangy flavor. It is excellent simply served with tortilla chips. We also love it spooned over a brick of cream cheese and eaten with crackers. I've even enjoyed it spread on a turkey sandwich.

Try it. You'll thank me.

Oh, and make a double batch. It stores well in the refrigerator (for a couple of weeks if it doesn't get eaten first.)

Cranberry Salsa
(I found this recipe a few years ago. I wish I could remember where. Maybe my local newspaper or one of the morning news shows)
1 (12 oz) package of fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 medium jalapeno, seeds removed, roughly chopped (throw in some seeds if you like it spicier)
1 green onion, roughly chopped
2 T fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp cumin

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until mixture is coarsely chopped. Store in refrigerator overnight to allow flavors to blend.

Eggnog Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats

Every December, we have a progressive dinner with my family. We always start at my sister's house. She makes delicious appetizers. We make our way over the river to my sister-in-law's next. She is the expert salad maker. Then it's through the woods to my mom's for delicious lasagne and garlic bread. And we always end up at my place for dessert.

Here is one of our offerings for this year's festivities.


Egg Nog Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

Crust
5 T melted butter, divided
1 1/4 cups Grape Nuts cereal
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
Dash of kosher salt

Filling
24 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup eggnog
1 T vanilla extract
1 T (scant) rum extract

Candied Kumquats
12 oz fresh kumquats (about 45), stems removed
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water

Heat oven to 375. Butter a 9 or 10 inch spring-form pan with 1 T of the melted butter; set aside.

In bowl of food processor, process cereal for about 2 minutes, until a fine crumb forms. Add the 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Process to combine. With processor running, add remaining butter through feed tube and process until just combined. Press crumb mixure on bottom and 1 inch up sides of prepared pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

In clean food processor bowl, process cream cheese until smooth (you can do this in a mixer as well). Add 1 cup sugar until combined. Add eggs; process until creamy, scraping down sides once or twice. Add eggnog, vanilla and rum extract; process until combined.

Gently pour filling into baked crust. Bake 45 minutes to one hour, or until sides are slightly puffed and starting to brown. Turn off oven and leave the door ajar. Let cheesecake stand in oven 1 hour.

Transfer to wire rack; cool 15 minutes. Using a small, thin knife, loosen crust from sides of pan. Cool another 30 minutes. Remove sides from pan. Cool one hour. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours to overnight. To serve, top with candied kumquats. Makes 12 servings.

Candied Kumquats
With a paring knife, piercing only the skin, cut four evenly spaced slits around each kumquat. Place in medium saucepan; add cold water to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook five minutes. Drain in colander.

In a medium saucepan, dissolve 1 1/2 cups sugar in 3/4 cup water. Add kumquats. Bring t a simmer over medium heat. Reduce to low to barely simmer. Cook, uncovered, 30 minutes, until glazed. Remove fruit from syrup wit a slotted spoon. Place on wire rack over tin foil. Cool 10 minutes.

Place the remaining 1 cup sugar in a small bowl. Roll whole kumquats in sugar. Space on rack and let stand overnight. Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place up to 3 months. Slice before topping cheesecake.

Tortilla Rolls

This delicious appetizer makes its way to many family gatherings. The filling flavor can easily be altered depending on your taste. Add more or less onion. Throw in some chopped cilantro. If you like spice, how about some chopped jalapeno?

You'll be amazed at how quickly these will fly off the plate.

We're taking this to a holiday gathering, so to make it more festive (and who doesn't like festive?), I used white flour tortillas, green spinach tortillas, and red sun-dried tomato tortillas.

Tortilla Rolls

based on a recipe from "A Pinch of Salt Lake"...excellent cookbook by the way
32 oz softened cream cheese
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
1 (4 oz) can chopped olives
1 bunch green onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
12-15 flour tortillas
Your favorite fresh salsa

Mix together cream cheese, chilies, olives, onions, and garlic. Spread one side of each tortilla with cream cheese mixture. Roll up jelly-roll style. Pack tightly in a freezer bag and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
To serve, cut each roll into 1/2 inch rounds and place cut-side up on a serving tray. Serve with salsa.

Cranberry Trifle

There is not much I love more than a festive holiday dessert. And as far as festive holiday desserts go, this is one of the best.

Here are my top ten reasons you should make this trifle
1: It tastes fantastic.
2: It looks impressive.
3: It travels well (just keep the trifle dish upright).
4: Many of the components can be made way ahead of time: the cranberry compote can be refrigerated at least a week. The pound cakes can be frozen a good month or so--easier yet, buy frozen pound cakes at your supermarket. And the entire trifle can be assembled the night before.
5: Cranberries are good for you.
6: While all butter pound cakes aren't necessarily good for you, they are oh so tasty.
7: Whipped cream is delicious.
8: Add cream cheese to whipped cream and the deliciousness compounds exponentially.
9: The candied orange zest looks gourmet and adds a wonderful zing.
10: You might as well indulge now. January will be here before you know it.



Cranberry Trifle
from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food
2 bags (12 ounces each) cranberries, fresh or frozen
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger (I cheated and used "Christopher Ranch" chopped ginger--find it in the produce section)
1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 homemade or store-bought all-butter pound cakes (12 ounces each), cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices (If using store bought, I recommend Sarah Lee)
Candied Orange Zest, for garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, 2 cups granulated sugar, ginger, and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium; cook until cranberries begin to burst, 8 to 10 minutes. Let compote cool completely.
Make cream filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, brown sugar, remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and vanilla on high until well combined. With mixer on medium, gradually add heavy cream; continue beating until soft peaks form.
Arrange 1/3 of the cake slices in a 3-quart serving dish. Spoon 1/3 of compote over cake; spread to sides of dish. Dollop 1/3 of cream filling over compote; spread to sides of dish. Repeat twice, ending with cream filling. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 1 day). Garnish with Candied Orange Zest, if desired.


In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add zest of one orange (peeled into long strips with a vegetable peeler); simmer, swirling occasionally, until zest is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a plate. Dredge zest in sugar, and thinly slice.

Lime and Honey-Glazed Salmon with Basmati and Broccoli

This salmon dish was a refreshing oasis in a sea of heavy holiday meals.

And clean up was a snap as it all cooked in one skillet.

Adapted From Bon Appetit

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons finely grated lime peel (I used about 4 limes total)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for sprinkling
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup sliced shallots (I got enough from one LARGE shallot)
1 1/2 cups basmati rice (9 to 10 ounces)
3 1/4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
4 5- to 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
1 bunch broccoli, bottom inch trimmed, stalks separated if necessary

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 450°F. Whisk lime juice, lime peel, honey, 2 tablespoons cilantro, and soy sauce in small bowl; set aside.
Heat oil in large deep ovenproof skillet or casserole (with lid) over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until beginning to soften and brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in rice, then 3 1/4 cups broth; bring to boil. Cover skillet tightly with lid; place in oven and bake 10 minutes (rice will be almost cooked through and most of broth will be absorbed; mix in more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry).
Remove skillet from oven. Sprinkle rice lightly with salt. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper and arrange on rice, pressing in lightly. Tuck broccoli in around fish, with stems anchored in rice. Spoon 1 tablespoon lime mixture over each salmon fillet. Cover skillet tightly and return to oven; bake until salmon is just opaque in center and broccoli is crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drizzle remaining lime mixture over fish and rice; sprinkle with additional chopped cilantro and serve from skillet.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


I love a good chocolate chip cookie.

This is the recipe that I grew up on. In my mind, these were the be-all, end-all.

Until I met the cyclist.

He baked his cookies for me and I was blown away to find that I could equally love a chocolate chip cookie with NO oatmeal (of course, I could have just been hypnotized by his charm and good looks).

But these are still a favorite.

(Do NOT ask me to pick between the two.)

Mom's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 pound butter, softened or 2 cups shortening
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 T vanilla (if you know me, you know I swapped some almond extract for a bit of the vanilla)
2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
5 cups oatmeal
4 cups flour
1 bag chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla. Mix in soda, baking powder, salt, oatmeal and flour. Add chocolate chips.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 9-10 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Let cool on wire rack on pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

French Bread


This is a SIMPLE, SIMPLE French bread recipe. It takes two hours from start to finish (only about 5 minutes of that is hands on time). I got the recipe from our neighborhood cookbook. My family gobbles up an entire loaf hot out of the oven. The second loaf is generally made into delicious French Toast on day two.

6 Cups flour (maybe more)
2 T yeast
3 T sugar
1 T salt
2 1/2 Cups warm water
1/3 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds

Put 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt in bowl of food processor. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the water and the oil. While the food processor is running, slowly add the water/oil mixture alternately with 3 additional cups of flour (or more if needed). Process until a soft dough forms.
Leave dough in food processor for an hour and push the pulse button every 10 minutes.
Divide dough in half and form into two elongated loaves. Place on cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal. Let rise for thirty minutes then slash tops on diagonal, brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds (if you plan to save a loaf for French toast, omit the sesame seeds). Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes.

Pineapple Pound Cake


Before we get into all the holiday baking, I have another vacation inspired recipe. (Lindsey--I'm working on a macadamia nut ice cream so you can make your own shave ice. I'll let you know how it goes.)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cup + 2 T sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup pineapple juice (I got enough from draining the crushed pineapple)
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 t vanilla
3/4 cup sour cream
2 1/2 c + 1 T flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour 2 loaf pans. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between each. Add vanilla, pineapple juice, pineapple and sour cream. Add dry ingredients and mix until only just combined. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean (about 45 minutes).


Brownie Pudding

My oldest turned ten yesterday.

I officially have a "Tween".

We listen to a lot of Hannah Montana, Aly and AJ, Jonas Brothers, and (much to her father's dismay) her new discovery: Michael Jackson. She is my mini-me (but goofier) and I love to have her around.
She picked this for her birthday dessert. It is mouth-watering. Rich, fudgy, perfect with ice cream. And so simple to make. It's like a brownie, but crack through the top crust and you will find warm, gooey, molten chocolate.

Brownie Pudding
adapted slightly from barefoot contessa back to basics

Ingredients
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (if you forget to get them out, put them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes)
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder (I use Hershey's...Ina would probably frown on that)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (I get mine at Costco...the best deal I've found so far)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving (As I learned from Luke, a dessert is not a dessert without a scoop)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval baking dish. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.

When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. (I used a rimmed cookie sheet.) Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish (I think it is easiest to put the brownie in the oven and then add the water to the cookie sheet with a teapot) and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.

Allow to cool to room temperature and serve with vanilla ice cream.

POST EDIT TIP: Don't throw out the vanilla pod after you scrape out the seeds. Toss it into an airtight container and top it with sugar (I added 5-6 cups). The next time you make a pound cake or the like, use the vanilla sugar. The sugar turns a little clumpy, but smells and tastes divine.

Post Bathing Suit Cookies


You may have noticed that there has been a bit of a baking embargo in my kitchen. Something about me trying to squeeze my body into a swimming suit (the cyclist parades around in spandex most of the time, so he is very much at home in a Speed-o).

Well, we just returned from Paradise. No more bathing suits until summer.

Get out your mixers and preheat your ovens!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
1 t vanilla
2 eggs
2 c white chocolate chips
2 c lightly salted, roasted macadamia nuts (coarsely chopped)

Combine flour, soda and salt in a small bowl. In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate and nuts. Chill dough thoroughly (about 4 hours). Preheat oven to 375. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

While in Hawaii, Luke and Bunny introduced us to the "eat a large dessert every night" lifestyle. We ate all sorts of tasty treats. Chocolate lava cake, macadamia nut tarts, caramelized pineapple upside down cake, bananas foster bread pudding, mango cheesecake, shave ice with macadamia nut ice cream...

This recipe is for you, Luke, to help you use up the two suitcases worth of macadamia nuts that you brought home.

Apple Spice Cake



This cake is SO good....

Come on guys, you've heard this type of joke...Now you're supposed to ask: "How good is it?"

This cake is SO good. Let's say you were on day two of a (so far very successful) seven day cleansing diet...

You'd break it for this cake.

I applaud you, Zach and Brenda. You made it further than I ever will.

Apple Spice Cake
adapted slightly from marthastewart.com

Cake

3 cups flour
1 T cinnamon
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 1/3 c vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3-4 (I used four) Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I had about 3 1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts (OPTIONAL...and if you're like me, you'll just leave them out.)
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. Flour the pan. (Or use the nonstick cooking spray with flour). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, soda and salt. Set aside. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine oil, sugar and eggs. Mix on high speed until lemon yellow. Gradually add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Add apples (and nuts, if you're into that) and mix to combine. Add vanilla. Mix until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 60-90 minutes (mine took about an hour and ten minutes). Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack and let cool completely (actually, it might be good warm). Serve with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Caramel Sauce
this is the simplest caramel sauce I've ever made
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 t vanilla
pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until thickened to desired consistency.

We made this Friday night for my Mother-in-Law's birthday. There was some leftover (I don't know how). We wrapped the cake up airtight and left it on the counter and put the rest of the caramel in the fridge. Let me tell you, it was still just as moist and tasty when we ate it for our Sunday snack two days later!

...man shall not live by bread alone...


...but if you had to live on bread/muffins alone, you could happily live on these.

Stuck on a deserted island? Take these muffins (and a raft).

If I weren't already HAPPILY married, I'd marry these muffins.

If these muffins were one of my kids, I could EASILY pick a favorite.

On death row and requesting your last meal? I hate to sound repetitive, but ask for THESE muffins.

If you haven't got the picture yet, these are quite possibly the best conference muffins I have ever made.

Mini Butter Puffs
loosely based on a recipe from Joy of Cooking
Makes 2 dozen standard size muffins, or 4-5 dozen mini muffins (I like the mini...you can eat them like popcorn.)

Muffins

4 cups flour
2 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 cup sour cream
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) warm melted butter

Coating
1-2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon


Muffins
Preheat oven to 375. Coat muffin cups with baking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, sugar and butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over-mix. The batter should not be smooth. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into one or two muffins comes out clean (about 10 minutes for mini muffins, 12 minutes for standard size muffins.)

Coating

Melt butter in a small bowl. Combine sugar and cinnamon in shallow bowl. While muffins are still quite warm, remove from muffin pan. Dip the entire muffin (one at a time) in melted butter and roll in the cinnamon sugar. Set on a wire rack to cool.

Almond Cake


School is back in and we are almost back on a schedule.
There's a chill in the air, and I am excited to turn the oven on and start baking again.

Here is another delicious recipe from the cyclist's mother. She made this often while the cyclist was courting me. Ha, ha. That makes him sound so smooth.

I love to make it because it is a snap to whip up. I have all of the ingredients on hand. And--most importantly--it tastes great. It has a dense, moist crumb, and a rich almond flavor. You'd think it was made of marzipan.

Give this one a try. You'll be impressed.

Almond Cake

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. almond extract
2 eggs
slivered almonds

Mix sugar, flour, butter, almond extract, and eggs on high for 3 minutes. Pour into greased pie pan. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

See. Isn't that simple!

Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies


This weekend, we made our annual trip to Jackson.

Can I just say I love this trip.

For me, it entails a nine to ten hour drive in an air conditioned Suburban with some great girl friends.

Sure there are some mad dashes to the feed zones, several frenzied hand-offs of musette bags, lots of yelling (and whistling) out the window at men in tight shorts...Who's complaining?! But the drive was also spent enjoying excellent company.

When we arrived in Jackson, we met up with our husbands, who treated us to a nice dinner and then took us to a fancy hotel (props to Jenn, the hotels are a lot nicer now that she is booking them).

The cyclist, however, has a different idea of fun when it comes to road trips. You see, he spent those same nine and a half hours ON A BIKE.

206 miles.

Over a lot of hills.

Just for fun.

On a bike. Did I say that already?

The kind you pedal.
handsome, huh?

Oh well, I guess it doesn't matter how he gets there. Just as long as he meets me at the finish line. Jackson's no fun without him.

This year, he found these tasty little cookies in his feed bags.

Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups quick one minute oats


Combine sugar, milk, butter and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla, peanut butter until peanut butter melts. Add oats. Stir until mixture begins to stiffen a little (a minute or two). Drop by rounded clusters onto foil or waxed paper. Let set.

Orange Sherbet with Sugar Cookie Spoons


You know that refreshing, tart-sweet flavor of store bought orange sherbet?

Mmmmm...sherbet.

Make it yourself and you get refreshing and tart-sweet times ten plus an incredibly fresh flavor.

I found the little cookie spoons in Martha Stewart Living. They are so cute. The kids will love them (as will the adults). Make a few per person. You will probably break one or two.

After all, you'll be eating this sherbet with gusto.

Sally's Orange Sherbet

6 cups FRESH SQUEEZED* orange juice, strained (I bought a box of oranges from Costco and used about 3/4 of the box...sorry, I should have counted the oranges)
1 1/2 cups FRESH SQUEEZED* lemon juice, strained
4 to 4 1/2 cups sugar (depending on the sweetness of your oranges)
3 cups whipping cream
6 cups whole milk

Mix all together and freeze in a six quart ice cream freezer. (I have a four quart maker, so I split it into two batches.)

*Some of you may be asking "Can I use store bought orange juice if it's 'not from concentrate'?"

Sorry. No.

All I have is a little hand held juicer, but I juiced and I juiced (and I juiced). It probably took me thirty minutes or so. But believe me, the sacrifice is well worth it.

Sugar Cookie Spoons
adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Makes about 30 cookies
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 T cream or milk (my addition...see below)

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until dough comes together. (I made two batches. The first batch I made as written and my dough was quite dry and crumbly and rather difficult to work with. The second batch, I added a tablespoon of cream and it made a world of difference. The dough was soft and rolled out beautifully. You can play it by ear. The taste and texture of both batches was the same.) Shape dough into 2 disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days).
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll out 1 disk of dough to just less than an inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Using a paring knife, cut out spoon shapes, each about 3 inches long. (I looked around for a spoon shaped cookie cutter, but couldn't find one. Go to your baking supply store and see what they have. A tennis racket would work perfectly. I found a guitar shaped cutter and manipulated it into a spoon shape.)
Transfer to baking sheets. Roll out scraps, and repeat once. (I took a cookie baking class from an expert cookie baker once and she gave the same advice. Roll your dough out more than twice and your cookies will be tough.)
Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, about 12 minutes. Transfer sheets to wire racks to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

Zapple Crisp

Do you like apple-cinnamon desserts?

Do you have an abundance of zucchini?

Most importantly...do you like to be sneaky?

I saw this recipe demonstrated on a local television news show.

"Interesting," I thought.

Two days later, when Dr. Gardens-For-Fun * offered us some freshly picked zucchini, I knew it was fate stepping in, telling me to bake.

We served this to a sister-in-law who enjoys an apple dessert or two (ask her what she did when Costco stopped making the Caramel Apple Pie). I waited until she had tried it and liked it and then I dropped the bomb.

Try this with your family and friends. If you don't tell them it's zucchini, they'll never guess.

Mock Apple Crisp

6 cups chopped zucchini (*I got enough from one gigantic zucchini...I'm telling you, this guy has a green thumb. I want to live in his garden come late summer-early fall).
1 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 c sugar
3 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 1/2 T cornstarch
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 t. salt
2/4 cup cold butter

Filling:
Peel zucchini and scoop out seeds (scoop out all of the softer center--I used a soup spoon and scraped until I got to the firmer flesh). Cut into bite size pieces. Measure out six cups.
In a saucepan, combine zucchini, applesauce, and lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch. Add to zucchini. Heat over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly.

Crust and topping:
Combine flour, 1 cup sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two sharp knives, cut butter into flour until butter is about the size of peas. Press half of this mixture into a 9 by 13 inch pan. Don't worry that is VERY dry. It will come together as a nice crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and top with the hot filling. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture over the zucchini mixture. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

Seriously.

Try it.

Sinless Pancakes


Contrary to popular belief, I do not sit at home, eating home-baked treats all day. Oh, how I wish I could.

Ninety percent of my meals are pretty strictly healthy, and, dare I say, maybe even  boring. Watching what I eat quite closely, coupled with the 25-30 miles I run, helps me justify eating one to two indulgent treats each week.
Oh, how I wish it was eight or nine.

This recipe is one of my secret weapons. I eat it almost every morning for breakfast. It was given to me by my ultra-fit sister-in-law. It tastes decadently "carb-y", but actually provides an average woman with 63% of her daily protein (just over 50% for a man). I can eat this right after a run and feel satiated until lunch time rolls around.

Heather's Cottage Cheese Pancakes
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup oats
(I use "Old Fashioned Quaker Oats")
3 egg whites
2 packets Splenda
(If you're opposed to artificial sweetener, use sugar. It will alter the calorie count)
Splash of Vanilla Extract (I use about 1 teaspoon)
Sprinkling of Cinnamon
(about 1/2 teaspoon)
pinch of salt (my addition...I find it boosts the flavor a bit)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Cook on a hot griddle, sprayed with non-stick spray.

I think these are sweet enough to eat plain, but you can serve them with any syrup (sugar-free if you're watching your waistline), jam, or fresh fruit. I love to add blueberries to the batter (1/4 cup will only add 15 calories...plus some extra fiber and antioxidants). I've also experimented with flavor a little bit. When I'm feeling spunky, I add a pinch each of nutmeg, ground ginger, allspice, and cloves and get gingerbread pancakes. 

This makes one serving. I usually get six average size pancakes out of one batch.

290 calories
4.5 g fat
0.5 g saturated fat
15 mg cholesterol
33 g carbs
4.7 g fiber
29 g protein

This is probably the only time I'll post nutritional info. With desserts, ignorance is bliss.



Sinful Peanut Butter Brownies

Come November, the cyclist and I are boarding a plane and heading to a lush tropical island somewhere.

I have only three months to get this body bikini ready!!!

That means high protein cottage cheese pancakes for breakfast. Egg white omelets for lunch. Chicken and veggies for dinner.

But with a diet that healthy, there has to be room for some dessert, right? I'm not talking about angel food cake, or sorbet, or fresh fruit. I'm thinking something decadent...something that I can really sink my teeth into...something that will stick to my ribs....


Good-bye, bikini.

Hello, MuuMuu.


In all seriousness, these brownies are sooo good. Cut them small (1 inch x 1 inch is perfect...if you still want more, eat another square). They are moist, rich, fudgy. The saltiness from the nuts and pb cups put them right over the top.

Brownies:
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup peanut butter chips 


Combine melted butter and cocoa, add sugar then eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bake in greased 9X13 pan @ 350 for 30 minutes.


Frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon water
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 1/4 -3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter, whipping cream, water, cream cheese and vanilla in a bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in cocoa and powdered sugar until smooth. 



Here's the kicker:
3/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
30(ish) small Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, quartered

Sprinkle over frosted brownies.

A word of warning: only make these when you can take them somewhere. Unless you are the type that can walk past a half eaten pan of brownies all through the day and not feel the need to nibble each time you go by. I am not that type.

Baked Peanut Butter Cookies


I have made several things from my "Baked" cookbook. So far, nothing has disappointed. These cookies are divine. The perfect peanut butter cookie. Rich, moist, and with big chunks of chocolate throughout. Don't you just love the PB and chocolate combination?

The dough must chill for a few hours, so plan ahead!

Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted slightly from Baked
1 3/4 c flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar plus more for sprinkling
1 c firmly packed dark (yes dark) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I'm a Skippy fan)
1 bag milk chocolate chips (I like Guittard--they are larger than the regular chocolate chip)

Sift the flour, soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. The mixture will look light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and peanut butter and beat until just incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least three hours (I was anxious and got away with two hours).

Preheat oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or spray well with cooking spray.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared pans, at least 2 inches apart. (I used a large cookie scoop and ended up with 27 cookies). With the palm of your hand, very gently press each cookie down ever so slightly; you don't want them flat.
Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the tops of the cookies just begin to brown.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the individual cookies to wire rack to cool.
Eat a few while they are still warm.

Fresh Peach Dessert

This is a favorite fruity dessert. Look for fresh ripe peaches at your farmer's market. Or if you're lucky, in the tree in your back yard. Whenever I eat this, I'm transported way back to the summers when I was dating the cyclist. His mom would make this for us and we would sit around the back yard visiting and enjoying the fresh peaches. Those were the salad days.

Try it. It tastes like summer.

Fresh Peach Dessert


Crust:
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 T powdered sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

Combine and press half in bottom of a 9 by 13 pan. Set aside remaining crumbs to sprinkle on top.

Filling:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 (3 oz) package peach Jell-O
4 cups diced peaches (about 4 large peaches)

Boil water, sugar and cornstarch in medium saucepan. Cook until thick (it thickens quickly...thirty seconds to a minute). Add jell-o and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool while you peel and dice the peaches. Spread peaches over crust and pour Jell-O mixture over peaches.
Refrigerate until set (I generally let it sit in the fridge overnight at this point).

Cream topping:
1 pint whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
8 oz softened cream cheese

Whip cream with sugar. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whip cream cheese until fluffy. Add in the whipped cream and fold until combined. Spread over set gelatin layer. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Sprinkle with remaining crust before serving.

Cornmeal Pancakes


I love pancakes, and I love cornbread. These are deliciously buttery and the cornmeal gives them a nice bite.

Cornmeal Pancakes
from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook

3/4 c flour
2 T sugar
1/2 c yellow cornmeal
1 T plus 1 t baking powder
3/4 t kosher salt
1 cup milk
5 T unsalted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
canola oil for griddle (I use Pam)

Preheat electric griddle to 375, or place a griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
Combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan, and warm over low heat until the butter melts. Let cool to lukewarm, then beat in the eggs. Whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and combine. The batter should have small to medium lumps.
Cook on heated griddle. Can keep warm in a 175 degree oven.

Cinnamon French Toast with Caramel Syrup


One of the Cyclist's coworkers paid him for some artwork with some delicious French Toast from Kneaders. He raved about it. He found the recipe for me and requested that I make it for Sunday Brunch. The original recipe is an overnight French Toast casserole, but Saturday night was a bit hectic, so I adapted it to work on the griddle.

This is melt in your mouth, serve to good company, watch your socks French Toast.

Cinnamon French Toast
adapted from Kneaders

1 loaf Kneaders Chunky Cinnamon Bread cut in 8 slices (when I went to buy it, it was sold out so I made my own*. If you don't want to make it and you don't live near Kneaders, look for a good cinnamon swirl bread at your local bakery)

4 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 T. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 T. vanilla
Butter for pan

Preparation:

Heat frying pan or electric griddle to about 300 (medium-medium/high). Combine eggs, milk, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla in a shallow pan. Dip bread slices in egg mixture. Cook in butter in hot pan.

Serve hot out of the frying pan with warm caramel syrup.

Kneader's Caramel Syrup

1 c. Brown sugar
1 c. Whipping Cream
1 c. Light Karo Syrup
Blend together and heat on stove top until sugar is smooth.
Serve warm.

*Homemade chunky cinnamon bread


Bread dough
2 T butter, melted
cinnamon/sugar mixture

Follow the directions for bread dough, stopping after step two.
After the dough has risen in the bowl, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut off golf-ball size bits of dough. Roll into a ball. Dip in melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place in a greased bread pan.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350. Place a large pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Bring 3 cups water to a boil on the stove. Pour the hot water into the preheated pan to create a steam bath for the bread.
Bake the bread for 30 to 40 minutes until crust is golden. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and cool completely on a rack.

Mini Cheesecakes for The Cyclist

I bought the new Martha Stewart Cupcake cookbook. So many cupcakes, so little time! That's where the cyclist found his birthday treats this year.

These little cheesecakes are so good. They are baked in a water bath (simple, don't worry) which makes them wonderfully creamy. They have a homemade graham cracker crust (again, simple, don't worry). Maybe you're thinking that the Nilla Wafer in the bottom is so easy, why make the graham cracker crust? Let me tell you--the homemade crust whips up in minutes. And the results? A rich, buttery, crunch. You'll be converted after one bite.


Marble Cheesecakes
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 12 sheets; use a mini chopper or food processor)
3 T unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups plus 5 T sugar
1 container (6 ounces) fresh raspberries (I made half with raspberry, half blueberry)
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
pinch of salt
1 t pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins (makes 24) with paper liners. Stir together ground graham crackers, butter, and 3 T sugar. Measure 1 tablespoon of crust mixture into each lined cup. Flatten with the back of a plain (not measuring) spoon. Bake until set, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer tins to a wire rack to cool.
Process raspberries (or blueberries) in a food processor until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve or mesh strainer into a small bowl, pressing with a flexible spatula to remove as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Whisk in 2 T sugar.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese until fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in a steady stream. Add salt and vanilla; mix until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each.

Spoon filling mixture evenly (about 4 tablespoons each) over crust in each cup. Dollop 1/2 teaspoon of berry puree in a few spots over each. With a toothpick, swirl sauce into filling.

Prepare your water bath. (I made them twice and this way was the easiest). Put large rimmed cookie sheets (half sheet pans) in oven. (I put them on two different racks). With pitcher or teapot, fill each about half way with hot tap water. Place each tin in a cookie sheet.

Bake, rotating pans halfway through (carefully...try not to slosh the water), until filling is set, about 30 minutes. Carefully remove tins from water bath and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate (in tins) at least 4 hours (or out of tins up to five days in airtight containers). Remove from tins just before serving.

A Birthday Cake for Number Four


So I'm only two and a half weeks late, but that's what happens when it's not your first child...or second...or third. I made up for it. What one year old doesn't need a five layer cake of her own?

You should have seen her eat it.

"You can do it, Brucie!"


This is a delicious and simple chocolate cake recipe. It's baked in a half sheet pan (I cut out rounds to make the layer cake). It will definitely serve a crowd. Make it and take it to your next pot luck or picnic.

Mississippi Mud Cake
2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 t vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 15 1/2-by-10 1/2 inch (jelly roll or rimmed cookie sheet) pan with cooking spray.
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir well to combine and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter, milk, and cocoa powder. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently, until the butter melts completely. Add the cocoa mixture to the flour mixture, whisking until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in the pan.
If you just want to make a sheet cake to take to a party or picnic, frost at this point, transport and serve right out of the pan.
To make the layer cake, I used a 3 1/2 inch round cookie cutter and cut out five circles from the baked cake. Place one round on cake stand. Spread with about 1 T frosting. Top with additional layers and frosting. Spread a very thin layer of icing around the sides and let set in refrigerator until icing is firm. (This is a crumb-coat: it suspends the fine crumbs so they won't appear in the final layer of frosting. The second layer of icing will now slide neatly over this layer).
Remove from refrigerator frost with the final layer of icing.

Chocolate Satin Frosting
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 t vanilla
Roughly chop chocolate. Set aside.
In small saucepan, bring evaporated milk to boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate pieces, without stirring. Cover and set aside for exactly 10 minutes. Scrape into bowl over mixer or food processor and add sugar, butter and vanilla. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let sit in refrigerator until it reaches desired consistency (I let mine sit about 15 minutes)
This frosting keeps refrigerated for about 3 weeks, or can be frozen for 6 months. Let soften before using.

Mint Chocolate Brownies


Are you in the mood to indulge? Looking for something truly decadent? Maybe you've been thinking, "Hey, I have an entire pound of butter here, what can I make that would utilize all four sticks?"
Well, here you go. And you're welcome!
Boy, these are tasty! They're so rich, I cut them into little one inch by one inch squares (but it was hard to stop eating after just one little square).

Oh well, I worked hard this weekend, so I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

Layered Mint Chocolate Brownies
From the "Worldwide Ward Cookbook"


Brownie:
1 cup butter, melted
2/3 cups cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour

Mix butter, cocoa, and sugar; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Stir in flour. Spread into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

Mint Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
1-3 T milk
1/2 t mint extract
green food coloring

Mix butter and powdered sugar. Add only enough milk to make a smooth consistency (I used all three tablespoons). Add mint extract and enough food coloring to make a light green color. Frosting will be very thick. Spread over cooled brownies. Refrigerate until firm.

Chocolate Topping
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter (it will melt better if you cut it into small pieces)

Combine chips and butter in microwave safe bowl. Melt on high, in one minute increments, stirring after every minute. (Don't microwave for too long, it's best to take it out when there are still lumps, and then stir for a minute to get it all melted and combined.) Pour over frosted brownies, covering mint frosting completely. Refrigerate until topping is set and hardened. Let brownies sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting.

Favorite Whole Wheat Bread


This is my go-to bread recipe. I make it a couple of times a month. (I usually make four loaves at a time--it freezes well). My family loves this bread. My girls actually prefer it to store-bought white.

Do you have kids? That's saying a lot.

It could have something to do with the fact that they don't know it's whole wheat. We just call it "home-made".

Anyone who tells them differently is asking for it.

Whole Wheat Bread
from Whitney of Peacocks on My Porch fame
makes two loaves
3 cups warm water
1 T yeast
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
1 T salt
5 - 6 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add oil, then honey (it slips out of the measuring cup easier this way), and salt. Slowly add flour until beater bar scrapes the sides of the bowl clean. Let dough mix for ten minutes. Let dough rise in bowl for 30 minutes (optional but I generally do it). Punch and divide dough into 2 loaves, shape and place in greased bread pans. Let loaves rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

The original recipe makes 4 loaves, but it kills my Kitchenaid, so I generally make this half batch twice. If you have a Bosch, double the above ingredients and make all four loaves. They'll get eaten.

Delicious eaten warm out of the oven with real butter and homemade jam.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Crostini




A delicious and fresh tasting appetizer.
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

1 baguette, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and coarsely chopped
1 garlic cloves, peeled
2 T slivered almonds, toasted (350 degrees for 8-10 minutes)
3 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 T finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 oz. goat cheese

Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Put under broiler just until lightly toasted on one side. Remove from oven, flip toasted side down and set aside. Set oven to 350.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the red peppers, garlic clove, almonds, cheese, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil and cayenne pepper. Pulse until a coarse puree forms. Season with salt and black pepper.

Place the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Spread about 2 tsp. of the goat cheese on each slice. Bake until the cheese is slightly soft and the crostini are warm, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter and top each with about 1 T of the red pepper pesto. Enjoy.

Giant Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


I love Oatmeal Raisin cookies.
These are not soft, cake-like cookies.
These are big (like 6 to a cookie sheet big), flat, and CHEWY. The edges are almost crisp-caramelly.
Don't be alarmed when you remove them from the oven. They spread quite a bit.

Delicious warm with a cold glass of milk.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
from The Silver Palate Cookbook

12 T unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 T water
1 t vanilla
2/3 cup unbleached flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheets.

Cream butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add egg and beat thoroughly. Mix in water and vanilla.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, salt and soda; add to the egg mixture and mix well. Add oats and raisins and mix.
Form cookies (I used a LARGE scoop...golf ball size) six to a sheet. Bake for 14-17 minutes, until edges are done but centers are still soft. Remove to a rack and cool.
Makes about 18 large cookies.

Cocoa Banana Cake

This is a delicious and different way to use up your over-ripe bananas.

adapted from crave; a passion for chocolate by Maureen McKeon

flour and unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
1 1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4 large)
1 cup sour cream
1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
14 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a standard size bundt pan. Sift together flour and unsweetened cocoa powder. Dust pan.
Mix together the bananas and sour cream. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Beat in half of the flour mixture. Beat in the banana mixture, then beat in the remaining flour. Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until well risen and cake tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert onto wire rack and cool completely.

Lemon Cheesecake Squares with Sugared Berries

The latest issue of Bon Appetit came in the mail last week. I love this magazine. So far I've made two delicious desserts and I have many more recipes bookmarked.
I loved these little cheesecake bars so much, I have made them twice. I altered the recipe a bit the second time. The first batch, the bars just weren't as thick as I wanted, so the second time, I tripled the recipe, but split it into two pans. (I would have just "one and a halved" the recipe and made one pan worth, but I actually needed a lot and I didn't want to mess with "halving" an egg.)
If you want a thicker bar, experiment with the ratios. I think you could even double it and make it in a nine by nine pan.

Also, you'll notice the graham cracker crust doesn't call for any additional sugar, so it's not especially sweet. That's why I amped up the berries a bit with a shimmery sugar coat. (As Nigel Tufnel would say, "These go to eleven.")

This is the original "singled" recipe..adjust the ratios if you want thicker bars.
CRUST
9 whole graham crackers
5 tablespoons butter
FILLING
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel (I was able to get all of the juice and zest for a single recipe from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh berries (the sugared berries* are SO good, but if you don't have the time, any fresh berries will do)

FOR CRUST
Preheat oven to 350°F. Fold 16-inch-long piece of foil to 8x16-inch strip; place in 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan, leaving overhang on 2 sides. Repeat with another sheet of foil in opposite direction, lining pan completely. Spray foil with cooking spray.
Place graham crackers in heavy-duty plastic bag. Using rolling pin or mallet, crush crackers finely. (I used my food processor). Melt butter in medium skillet over low heat. Remove from heat; add crumbs and toss to coat. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until deep golden, about 12 minutes. Cool crust while preparing filling.
FOR FILLING
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg and sour cream, then lemon juice, lemon peel, and vanilla. Spread batter over crust.
Bake cheesecake until slightly puffed and set in center, about 30 minutes; cool completely in pan on rack. (For the one and a half recipe, I started checking them every five minutes after 3o minutes. I just jiggled the pan until the middle was set. It took about 45-50 minutes total.) Chill cheesecake until cold, at least 2 hours.
Using foil overhang as aid, lift cheesecake from pan. Cut into 16 squares; arrange on platter. Top each square with berries. Chill until ready to serve, up to 3 hours. Serve chilled.
Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

*You must try these berries. They are simple to make, they look beautiful, and the crisp sugar crust makes them even juicier. They really burst in your mouth. I sugared strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. The raspberries didn't work as well as the others. Make sure you keep the berries whole, don't even stem the strawberries, or their juices will dissolve the sugar crust.

Fresh berries, washed and air dried
2 egg whites
1 T water
sugar

Whisk together egg whites and water. With a fine basting brush, paint a thin coat of egg white on berry. Sprinkle with sugar. Set on a cooling rack to dry (about 2 hours).

If you are concerned about using raw egg whites, you can buy pasteurized egg whites, or use powdered egg whites or meringue powder.

Sesame Baked Cream Cheese


This is a delicious and SIMPLE appetizer. You probably have all of the ingredients on hand. I buy my sesame seeds in the spice aisle, then toast them myself--just put them in a dry pan over medium heat--toss the pan frequently and you'll hear the seeds pop around and they will turn a nice golden brown. If you have extra toasted seeds, store them in the pantry in an air tight container.

Sesame Baked Cream Cheese

Cream cheese (can use Neufchatel)
Soy Sauce
Toasted Sesame Seeds

Place brick(s) of cream cheese in a shallow dish. Cover with soy sauce. Cover dish and refrigerate two hours to overnight. The longer it marinates, the more intense the flavor.
Spread sesame seeds in a shallow dish or pie plate. Remove cream cheese from soy sauce and roll in sesame seeds to coat.
Bake in a preheated 275 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.
Serve with crackers.

The first time I made this, the cyclist looked at me like I had no business being in the kitchen...and then he tried it. The salty-toasty-creamy combination is
fantastic.

Roasted Ginger Salmon with Mango Salsa

Another perfect summer recipe. I'd make the salsa just to eat with chips.
Roasted Gingered Salmon with Mango Salsa

(Serves 4)

4 center cut salmon fillets (6 oz each)
1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
Fresh grated ginger to taste (we used about 1 teaspoon)
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste.

Rub salmon all over with lime juice, oil and brown sugar. Season with
ginger, salt and pepper. Let marinade for 30 minutes. Roast, skin side down,
on a foil-lined baking sheet in upper third of oven until fish is just
cooked through, about 12 minutes. Discard skin and serve with salsa.

Mango Salsa

(serves 4)

4 mangos, cubed
1 red onion, diced
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, or to taste
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Leave at room temperature for 15 minutes
before serving.

Brown Butter Raspberry Tart


It's almost 90 degrees. We ate our first meal of the year on the back patio last night. I'm getting excited for summer. All that fresh fruit! (Most of it baked into desserts of course).

Brown Butter Raspberry Tart
from Bon Appetit

CRUST
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
FILLING
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
2 6-ounce containers fresh raspberries (get three just in case...you want to fill the whole tart shell)
PREPARATION
CRUST
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom (next time I will spray the pan). Using fingertips, press dough evenly onto sides and bottom of pan.
Bake crust until golden, about 18 minutes (crust will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.
FILLING
Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Cook butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often, about 6 minutes. (When browning butter, use a saucepan with a light-colored bottom so that you can gauge the color of the butter.) Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.
Arrange raspberries, pointed side up and close together in concentric circles, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over berries. Place tart on rimmed baking sheet. Bake tart until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool tart completely in pan on rack. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.
Remove tart pan sides. Place tart on platter. Cut into wedges and serve.