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"

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 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.
9 whole graham crackers
5 tablespoons butter
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)

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.
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

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.