Mint Chip Chocolate Cookies

I love shortcut baking. Especially around the holidays. This simple cookie recipe starts with a chocolate cake mix (I say the darker, the better). I don't know if the baking chips are seasonal, but if you find some, stock up. They are delicious and festive in cookies, would make a great brownie topper, my girls even stirred some into their hot cocoa when they got home from sledding in the blizzard.

Chocolate Cookies with Mint Crunch Chips
1 chocolate cake mix
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 c oil
2 eggs
1 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips (if you can't find them, any minty chips would work)

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix together cake mix, sugar, oil and eggs. Stir in chips. Drop dough balls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool.

Double Chocolate Bundt Cake

My oldest daughter turns 11 today. She had some friends over for a little get together this weekend.

Who knew that 7 eleven year olds made more noise than the monkey house at the zoo?

Double Chocolate Bundt Cake
from bunny
1 chocolate cake mix
1 small pkg instant chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
3/4 cup water
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 10-inch bundt pan with cooking spray and dust with flour. Beat cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, sour cream and oil in large bowl. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into pan. Bake 55-60 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool 15 minutes in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Set on serving plate and glaze.

Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T butter
2 T corn syrup
1-2 tsp hot water

Melt chocolate chips, butter, and corn syrup in saucepan over low heat. Cool about 10 minutes. Stir in hot water, 1 tsp at a time, until consistency of thick syrup. Pour over cooled double chocolate cake.

Chocolate Banana Snacking Cake (Vegan)

I haven't done much vegan baking. I am more comfortable with eggs and butter.
However, this recipe made a delicious, moist cake. Added bonus: no raw egg, so go ahead and lick the spoon.

4 cups flour
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 T baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup oil (I substituted apple sauce...still very moist)
3 cups hot water
2 t vanilla
3 bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt.
In a large bowl, combine oil/apple sauce, hot water and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix just to combine. Add bananas.
Pour batter into greased 9-x-13 inch pan. (If your pan is not very deep, you may want to set aside some batter and make 8 cupcakes or so). Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle of cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool in pan on wire rack.
Store leftover cake in refrigerator

Torta Strata

This is a great appetizer. The flavors are delicious and it looks impressive.

The colors are perfect for a holiday gathering!

I clipped the recipe from from a magazine ten years ago or so (I want to say it was an In-Style magazine). Every time I make it, someone requests the recipe.

8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup prepared sun-dried tomato paste (I find this in the Italian section of my local supermarket)
1/3 cup prepared pesto (I like Buitoni, find it in the refrigerated section)
1 T garlic paste
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and goat cheese with electric mixer until smooth.
Evenly divide mixture into three bowls. Add sun-dried tomato paste to one bowl, pesto to the next, and garlic paste to the last bowl. Stir each to combine. Season all three with salt and pepper to taste.
Line a 3-cup straight sided mold (I've used a small spring form pan, a small cereal bowl, ...for this one, I just used a small round gladware container) with dampened cheesecloth, draping excess over rim. Spoon sun-dried tomato mixture into bottom of mold and smooth with spatula. Next add garlic mixture. Smooth with a spatula. Cover garlic mixture with pesto mixture. Press down and smooth the top.
Fold cheesecloth over the top and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour. It can be made a couple days ahead of time and stored well covered in the refrigerator.

To serve, invert mold onto platter and remove cheesecloth.
Enjoy with crackers.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

While looking through some of Bunny's recipe collection, I came across this yummy little cookie. Bunny had a knack for picking out tasty recipes...especially for sweet treats.

These cookies are wonderful. You all know my fondness for the
chocolate-mint combination*.

The cyclist said they remind him of starlight mint ice cream.

Bunny's Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T milk
1 T vanilla
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 t salt
3/4 t baking soda
1 cup mint chips
1 cup chocolate chips

Combine shortening and brown sugar in a large bowl (I used a wooden spoon for the entire process). Add milk, vanilla and egg. Stir well. Add flour, salt and soda. Combine. Stir in both chips.
Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes on greased cookie sheets. I used a #40 cookie scoop (holds a generous tablespoon of dough), but split each scoop into two cookies. The recipe made about 4 1/2 dozen cookies that way.

Almost as good as chocolate and peanut butter!

Cake Mix Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are the simplest autumn cookies to make.

And I'm all about simplicity right now.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 box Spice Cake Mix
1 (14 oz) can pumpkin puree
1 bag (2 cups) mini chocolate chips (or omit the chips and frost with a good cream cheese frosting)

Combine cake mix and pumpkin puree. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

Italian Salsa

This is just a "top-it-yourself" bruschetta. You can flavor it to taste. We prefer more balsamic vinegar than olive oil, try equal parts at first, then adjust.

Italian Salsa
5-6 tomatoes, diced (we used a variety of heirloom tomatoes from Matt's Garden)
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
pinch coarse salt
few turns of the pepper mill

Combine tomatoes, basil and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a thinly sliced, toasted baguette.

Quick! Make this before the first frost gets your tomatoes!

Chocolate Chip Muffins


My contribution to the semi-annual omelet brunch.

Chocolate Chip Muffins
from the Worldwide Ward Cookbook
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (8 oz) plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add yogurt and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to creamed mixture just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill paper lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from muffin tins.
Makes 1 dozen.

Fresh Apple Cake with Warm Vanilla Sauce

The weather here has finally cooled down. I'm in the mood for some good old fashioned autumn baking. This moist, cinnamony-apple cake tastes delicious...and will make your house smell divine!

Fresh Apple Cake
adapted from Peacocks on my Porch

1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp soda
3 cups shredded apples (I prefer granny smith)

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9-x-13 inch pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, cream shortening, sugar and eggs. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and soda. Add to creamed mixture along with the apples. Beat until combined.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Warm Vanilla Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla

Combine in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over individual cake slices.

World Peace Cookies

If you are craving something intensely chocolaty, give these cookies a try.

Divine with a glass of COLD milk.

World Peace Cookies
Recipe from Dorie Greenspan via Bon Appetit

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
11 T unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
5 oz extra-bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 85% cacao), chopped (no bigger than 1/3 inch)
(I substituted Guittard Extra-Dark Chocolate Chips)

***all my cookie dough lovers out there: UNITE! no eggs in this dough. eat with reckless abandon!***

Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth but not fluffy. Add both sugars, vanilla and sea salt; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; beat until just blended (mixture may be crumbly). Add chopped chocolate; mix just to distribute (if dough doesn't come together, knead lightly in bowl to form ball...mine came together easily). Divide dough in half. Place each half on sheet of plastic wrap. Form each into 1 1/2-inch diameter log. Wrap each in plastic; chill until firm, about 3 hours. (Can be made 3 days ahead...just keep in refrigerator.)

Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using thin sharp knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11-12 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

Creamy Lemon Squares

These treats reminded me of a tangy lemon cheesecake. You could certainly use full fat cookies and cream cheese, but believe me, they are satisfyingly decadent as is.

adapted from Kraft Food and Family

20 reduced fat vanilla wafer cookies
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butte, cut into half-inch cubes
8 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. lemon zest, divided (you should get enough juice and zest from 2 large lemons)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350ºF.

Line 8-inch square pan with foil. Put cookies in bowl of food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until you have fine crumbs. Add 1/2 cup flour and brown sugar. Pulse to combine. Add cold butter cubes and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; press onto bottom of prepared pan. (If you don't have a food processor, stir the crumbs, flour, and sugar together in a bowl, then cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or two knives.) Bake 15 minutes.

Beat Neufchatel cheese and granulated sugar with mixer until well blended. Add eggs and 2 Tbsp. flour; mix well. Blend in 1 Tbsp. zest, juice and baking powder; pour over crust.

Bake 25-28 min. or until center is set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and remaining zest before serving.

We loved this refreshing dessert after a spicy Mexican dinner. I think next time I make it, I will try limes!

Frozen Brownie Sundaes, or "Cousin Lindsey Strikes Again"

Thursday afternoon, I got a text-recipe from Cousin Lindsey (the cyclist said I couldn't mention her syrup or you know that I would).

I've said it before...I've learned from experience, her recipe suggestions are are her crafting ideas...and her style advice. I wonder if she gives stock tips?

Frozen Brownie Sundaes
from Giada (via Lindsey)

Brownie Layer
2 T water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, room temperature
1 3/4 cups brownie mix
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 (1.4 oz) Heath or Skor bars, coarsely chopped

Ice Cream Layer
1 pint dulce de leche or caramel ice cream (Haagen-Dazs), softened
(if you think you may want to sneak a bite, just to taste, take my advice and just buy two pints...unless you're superhuman and can really stop at just one bite)

Chocolate Layer
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 3/4 cups milk chocolate chips

1 (12 oz) bag frozen strawberries, thawed
(could substitute raspberries)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Brownie layer:
Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8 x 8 inch glass baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, allowing at least 2 inches overhang
(you will use this to pry the entire dessert out of the pan...much easier to cut that don't skimp. You'll need the leverage). Spray the parchment with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the water, oil and egg. Add the brownie mix and stir until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and candy bar pieces. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely (in the pan, on a wire rack), about 1 1/2 hours.

Ice Cream Layer:
Using a spatula, spread the softened ice cream on top of the brownie layer and freeze until firm, at least four hours, I say overnight.
Go ahead and lick the spatula.

Chocolate Layer:
In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate mixture over the ice cream layer. Freeze for at least one hour or until ready to serve.

Put the strawberries, powdered sugar and lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth.

To serve:
Remove the layers from the pan and peel away the parchment paper. Cut the layers into squares and drizzle with the strawberry sauce.

We took them to one of the last cookouts of the season. The filmmaker ate three servings.

Truffle Brownies

These brownies are dec-a-dent. And they are just as delicious the second day (like you'll be able to save any).

The original recipe is baked in a 9-inch square pan. I thought the wedges made the presentation a bit more fancy.

Truffle Brownies
recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

12 oz bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped, divided
11 T (1 stick plus 3 T) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
1/4 t salt
1 cup unbleached all purposed flour
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line bottom of a 9-inch round pan (I used a spring-form pan) with parchment paper. Spray paper with nonstick spray.

Combine 6 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate and butter in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and cool chocolate mixture until lukewarm, 5-10 minutes.

Whisk sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt in large bowl to blend. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Stir in flour. Transfer batter to prepared baking pan.

Bake brownies until tester inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes. Transfer pan to cooling rack and let brownies cool completely.

To make ganache, bring cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add remaining 6 ounces chocolate to hot cream and let stand 5 minutes to soften, then whisk until melted and smooth. Pour chocolate ganache over brownie in pan and spread to cover completely. Let stand at room temperature until topping is set, about 4 hours.

Using foil as an aid, lift brownie from pan. Fold down foil edges. Using large sharp knife, cut browniet into wedges, wiping knife with hot, moist cloth after each cut.

Banana Bars

I buy bananas every week, which means that I regularly have brown bananas. I love the idea of eating fresh bananas. We usually go through 4 or 5 that first day. My problem is once they are even the slightest bit over-ripe, they are far too mushy for they sit on the counter for a week, then I start to get a craving for banana bread. Subconsciously, that must be why I buy the bananas in the first place.

We took a break from the usual banana bread to try these little bars. The sour cream makes them so tasty. And cream cheese frosting...what doesn't taste better with a schmear of cream cheese frosting?

These delicious banana bars come from Lindsey of Cinnamon Syrup fame. I've tried many of her recipes...she has a knack for picking good ones.


1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter
2 eggs
1 c sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 med ripe bananas (1 cup)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c butter, soft
2 tsp. vanilla
4 c powdered sugar

Cream sugar, butter and eggs. Add sour cream and vanilla. Combine and add dry ingredients. Mash then stir in bananas. Bake at 350 for 20- 25 minutes in a jelly roll pan.
Let cool completely before frosting.

Margherita Pizza on Honey Wheat Dough

Homemade pizza is one of my favorite dinners. We love to make this variety in the fall, when the basil and tomatoes are ripe in our garden. You'll love this dough. The whole wheat flour gives it a great flavor, and the chewy texture......mmmmmmm......

Invest in a pizza stone* and peel. These two tools will help you turn your kitchen into a pizzeria.

Margherita Pizza

one recipe pizza dough (this will make one large, thick crust pizza, or two thin crusts)
1-2 large, garden tomatoes, thinly sliced (we used a delicious Black Krim tomato...grown in our garden, from one of Matt's seedlings)
Fresh Basil (we cut some thinly and cooked it on the pizza, then garnished with fresh leaves after removing it from the oven)
Fresh Mozzarella, sliced as thick as you want it (find it packed in water. We also topped the whole pizza with a little of the shredded variety)
Balsamic Reduction (this stuff is excellent on pastas and veggies as well.)

Honey-Wheat Pizza Dough
from The California Pizza Kitchen Cookbook

1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon warm water (105-110 degrees F)
1 cup bread flour (can use all-purpose in a pinch)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon for coating
Cornmeal, for dusting

Dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside for 5-10 minutes.

If using an upright mixer, use the mixing paddle attachment because the batch size is too small for the dough hook to be effective (I tripled the recipe to serve a crowd, so I used the dough hook). Add the flours, honey, salt and 1 T olive oil. Mix gradually using the lowest 2 speeds. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. If mixing by hand, place the dry ingredients in a 4- to 6- quart mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the liquids (reserving the 1 teaspoon olive oil). Use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. Once initial mixing is done, you can lightly oil your hands and begin kneading the dough. Knead for five minutes. When done, the dough should be slightly tacky (barely beyond sticking to your hands).

Lightly oil the dough ball and the interior of a 1-quart glass bowl. Place the dough ball in the bowl and seal the bowl with clear food wrap. Set aside at room temperature (70-80 degrees F) and allow to rise until double in bulk ; about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

The dough can be used at this point, but it will not be that wonderful, chewy, flavorful dough that it will later become. Punch down the dough, re-form a nice round ball and return it to the same bowl. Cover again with clear wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

About 2 hours before you are ready to assemble your pizza, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Use a sharp knife to divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll the smaller doughs into round balls on a smooth, clean surface, being sure to seal any holes.

Place the newly formed dough balls in a glass casserole dish, spaced far enough apart to allow for each to double in size. Seal the top of the dish with clear plastic wrap. Set aside at room temperature until the dough balls have doubled in size (about two hours).

About one hour before you assemble your pizza, put your stone in the COLD oven and preheat to 400 degrees. If you put your room temperature pizza stone into a hot oven, it will probably crack.

To form the dough, sprinkle flour over a 12-inch by 12-inch smooth surface. Use your hand or a rolling pin to press the dough down, and roll or stretch into a 9-inch circle. Pinch the edges to form a lip. If you are adventurous, you can try the "toss and stretch".

Dust both your pizza stone (it's heating in the oven by now) and your peel with cornmeal.
Put your pizza dough on the peel and pierce all over with a fork (this will prevent those huge bubbles from forming). Shake the dough on the peel back and forth just to make sure that you have enough cornmeal. The dough should slide around on the peel. If you don't have enough cornmeal, the dough will not slide and will be a mess when trying to get it into the oven after you have already put all of the toppings on.

Arrange tomato slices and mozzarella over dough. Slide the pizza onto the stone. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is done (you may need to use your peel to peek at the underside or rotate) and the cheese just begins to brown. Remove from oven using the peel. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, garnish with fresh basil, cut and ENJOY!

*I use my pizza stone for more than just pizza.

Mint-Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

These cookies come from the September 2010 issue of Everyday Food. Crisp little chocolate mint sandwich cookies...perfect for dipping into a mug of hot cocoa.

Mine tasted like a to work on getting them to look like a Milano.

1 1/4 cups flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
4 oz semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 325, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on high, scraping down bowl as needed, until light and fluffy, four minutes. Add vanilla and beat to combine. Add egg and beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Transfer dough to a quart-size zip-top bag. With scissors, snip a 3/4-inch hole in one corner (or use a pastry bag with a plain tip). Pipe 54 cookies (3/4 by 2 inches), 1/2 inch apart, onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. (Mine didn't pipe out so pretty, so I had to reshape them a bit by hand.) Chill until firm, 20 minutes.

Bake until cookies are light golden at edges, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer immediately to wire racks and let cool.

Place chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted, 2 minutes. Remove bowl from pan. In another medium bowl, whisk together confectioners sugar, peppermint extract, and 4 teaspoons water. With a small offset spatula or table knife, spread chocolate on flat side of half the cookies and mint glaze on the other half. Sandwich cookie halves together.

Strawberry Mascarpone Cupcakes (for Bunny)

Many of you are familiar with the tragic accident that took my dear, dear friend and sister-in-law, Bunny last month. I can't tell you how much I miss her.

She was my go-to girl when I wanted to talk baking. I loved working out a recipe idea with her. I loved getting random emails and phone calls from her telling me about a foodie blog that I had to check out. I loved to hear about what she had planned for her weekly "baking Thursday". I admired her ability to eat just one treat every Thursday and pass the rest out to her neighbors. That's why she was able to bake like she baked, and look like she looked!

She was a favorite running partner. She could push me up a hill better than anyone (I should say pull--she was always in the lead).
If you were lucky enough to know her, you loved her. If you didn't know her, well, I wish you had.

She left behind a sweet and good husband, and two adorable little girls. Boy, do they miss her.
I have learned so much this past four weeks.

I have learned the power of service. As a family, we have been utterly humbled by the incredible outpouring of love and support that we have felt. I can't count how many times we came home to a plate of cookies on the front porch, or a sweet note in the mail. Phone calls, drop-by's, flowers, hugs, prayers...people were inspired.  

I have learned the value of having people to mourn with you as you mourn, to help you bear your burden. I hope that I have become a more empathetic person.  We have been surrounded by so many good people.  

I have learned that I need to live every day so that I don't have any regrets. That's how Bunny lived. Everything she did, she did her best. She was a wonderful wife, mother and friend...someone who will never be forgotten.

These cupcakes were brought to us by a kind cousin. They were so delicious, I had to make them and share the recipe.
It is based on a Giada recipe, but Giada used a cake mix. Cousin Katelyn went above and beyond with this fantastic homemade cupcake batter. (Seriously, if any of you are batter lovers, don't even lick the spoon, or you'll find yourself making only 12 cupcakes, because you've eaten half the batter like it was pudding. Not that I did that.)

Strawberry Mascarpone filled Cupcakes
makes 2 dozen
1 cup butter
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter with water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl. Pour in butter and water and mix with mixer on slow speed. Pour in muffin cups/tin and bake for 13-15 min. Wait til cupcakes cool to fill and frost.

(8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese, chilled
1/2 cup thawed and drained frozen strawberries (if using fresh strawberries, use 4-5 large berries, sliced)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a food processor combine the mascarpone cheese, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Process the mixture until smooth. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Push the tip gently into the bottom of a cupcake and squeeze in the strawberry mixture until the cupcake plumps. (I baked mine in cupcake cups, so I filled from the top of the cakes. They are probably prettier if you fill from the bottom.)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar

In a small saucepan make a vanilla syrup by bringing the 1/2 cup sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved. In a medium bowl combine the vanilla syrup with the confectioner's sugar. Stir until smooth. Working quickly, use a rubber spatula spread the icing on the top of the cupcakes. If the icing begins to firm up, place in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up again.

Bunny would have loved these cupcakes. And if she made them, they would have tasted better and looked prettier than mine. I promise.

P.S. Thank you all for indulging me in a long, and personal post.

Zucchini Cranberry Bread

I am always looking for ways to use up zucchini. This bread is delicious.

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup finely grated zucchini (I got more than enough from one medium sized garden zucchini)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries (I always buy a few extra bags during the holidays and toss them right into the freezer for later use. I think you can find them in the freezer section of your supermarket. If not, substitute blueberries, sour cherries, use your imagination...)

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a bread pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the zucchini. Add the flour mixture, and stir to combine; do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cranberries.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake, rotating halfway through, until top is golden and cake tester comes out clean (45-50 minutes). Transfer to wire rack to cool before serving.

Can also make 12 muffins with this batter, just decrease the baking time to 25 - 30 minutes.

Fresh Fruit Dip

This simple, tangy fruit dip goes very well with berries, melons, citrus fruits, pineapple, you name it. (I'm on a bit of a strawberry kick, if you haven't noticed.)

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese (can use reduced fat), room temperature
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
zest and juice of one lime (also delicious with orange or lemon...just use a teaspoon or two of the juice)

With an electric mixer, mix all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Serve with fresh fruit.
Will store well in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart

This is a delicious, fresh summertime dessert. You can make the filling and topping up to 3 days ahead. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the tart.

Recipe adapted from the Best of Cooking Light

36 honey graham crackers (9 sheets)
2 T sugar
2 T melted butter
4 tsp water
8 oz light cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond
6 cups small fresh strawberries, divided
2/3 cup sugar
1 T cornstarch
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T sliced almonds, toasted (350 for about 8 minutes)

Preheat oven to 350.
To prepare crust, place crackers in food processor and process until crumbly. Add two tablespoons sugar, butter and water. Pulse just until moist. Place mixture in 9-inch round removable bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray (springform pan would work as well). Press into bottom and up sides of pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and almond. Stir until smooth. Spread over bottom of cooled tart shell.

To prepare topping, process 2 cups strawberries until pureed. Combine puree, 2/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch in saucepan over medium heat. Stirring with a whisk, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook one minute. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (you will only use half of the topping on this tart...use the rest as a topping for pound cake or ice cream).

To assemble tart, combine 4 cups strawberries with lemon juice, toss to coat. Arrange whole berries, cut side down, in a circular pattern over filling. Spoon 1/2 of glaze evenly over berries. Sprinkle almonds around edge. Cover and chill for 3 hours.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

My girls couldn't be convinced that these muffins were healthy.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

adapted from Cooking Light
  • 1 2/3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk (an easy substitute: put 1 1/2 T lemon juice or vinegar in a 2 cup liquid measuring cup. Add enough skim milk to make 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind (I needed almost 2 lemons worth)
  • 2 large eggs or 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt or sour cream (optional: I often add a big spoonful to muffin recipes...makes them more moist)
  • 2 cups blueberries (if using frozen blueberries, toss them with 2 T flour to keep the batter from turning purple)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Place oats in a food processor; pulse 5 to 6 times or until oats resemble coarse meal. Place in a large bowl.

3. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flours, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt to oats; stir well. Make a well in center of mixture.

4. Combine buttermilk, oil, zest and eggs. Add to flour mixture; stir just until moist.

5. Toss berries with 2 tablespoons flour (you can omit the extra flour if your blueberries are fresh), and gently fold into batter. Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle 2 tablespoons granulated sugar evenly over batter. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove from pans immediately; place on a wire rack.

Bunny's Rocky Ledge Bars

A cookie party recipe in July?!?! That's almost as good as finding an unwrapped Christmas present in March!

Sister in law Bunny brought these yummy bars to the party back in April. They are chock full of tasty little morsels...milk chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, caramel, marshmallow. There's something for everyone.
They would be excellent to take to a family picnic.

Rocky Ledge Bars
(Martha Stewart recipe)

2 1/4 cup flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used milk chocolate chips)
1 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used chips, again)
1 cup butterscotch chips (next time, I might substitute toffee bits...mmmm)
18 soft caramel cubes, coarsely chopped (maybe into quarters)

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9x13 pan. Line with parchment paper with an overhang and butter. (Cooking spray will work as well.)
Whisk flour, baking powder, salt in bowl. In another bowl, mix butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until well combined. Mix in flour mixture until combined. Fold in half of each of the marshmallows, chocolates, butterscotch chips and caramels.
Spread batter into prepared pan. Scatter remaining marshmallows, chocolates, butterscotch, and caramels on top. Bake until top is golden brown and cake tester comes out clean about 35 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Lift out of pan and transfer to refrigerator until set, at least 30 minutes. Remove parchment, cut, and enjoy!

Cinnamon Rolls for a Giant (or the cyclist)

My husband loves cinnamon rolls. So much so that when we are in the mall or at a sporting event and they are making those cinnamon roasted almonds, he gets very upset. He feels like he's being cruelly teased.

How can it smell so much like a cinnamon roll, but not be a cinnamon roll? Oh, the humanity!

So last week, for father's day, I made him cinnamon rolls, but not your ordinary cinnamon rolls, these were HUGE. One roll could easily serve 8-9 normal size people.

Or one cyclist.

I can't blame him. These were SOOOO good.

(Oh, the humanity!)

Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls
recipe adapted from
Lion House Bakery

2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
2 T active dry yeast
1 cup granulated sugar
1 T salt
7 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted

Place water, oil, eggs, vanilla, and dry milk in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and stir vigorously until milk is dissolved. Sprinkle yeast over liquid mixture, then add the 1 cup sugar, salt and flour.

Put dough hook on mixer and mix for 10-15 minutes on low speed. The dough will be VERY sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap
(If you want to make the dough a day ahead, mix dough to this point, cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator over night. The next morning, roll out the dough and proceed. It may take the dough a little longer to double in house was warm, so it doubled in 90 minutes) and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and roll out into a rectangle shape. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. Roll up rectangle lengthwise and cut into 1-inch slices. Grease 2 round pizza pans. Place one slice of dough in the center of the pan. Take the next slice of dough, line up the ends, and wrap it around the center roll, uncoiling the second slice as you go. Do this with additional slices until you've made a dough spiral that fills the pan. Repeat with remaining dough on second pan.
Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes. After baking, let jumbo rolls cool slightly before frosting.

Buttercream Frosting

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
6-8 T cream or evaporated milk
1 t vanilla

Combine powdered sugar, butter and 3 T of the cream in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, on low speed, combine well. Slowly add the rest of the cream, 1 T at a time, until creamy and smooth but not at all runny. Add vanilla and mix again.

This recipe will make two pizza-pan sized cinnamon rolls, or 18 standard size cinnamon rolls. I suggest the jumbo was such a fun presentation, plus you there is so much more of the soft inside to enjoy.

What a good dad.

Whole Wheat Waffles with Honey Cinnamon Syrup

Heaven knows I love brunch. But I really LOVE a brunch that I can feel good about serving my gals. We enjoy waffles a great deal, so we decided to whip up a batch with some fresh ground whole wheat flour. If you don't have a wheat grinder, store bought whole wheat flour should do just fine.

Whole Wheat Waffles

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
4 T oil
1 T honey
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

In a blender, blend the eggs, milk, oil and honey. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Blend well. Cook in a hot waffle iron.

Honey Cinnamon Syrup
1 cup honey
1/2 cup butter
1/2 t cinnamon

Heat honey and butter in a saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Add Cinnamon. Stir well. Serve warm syrup over hot waffles.

Both the waffle and syrup recipes are from Wheat Cookin' Made Easy

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

This cake is delicious on its own. The brown sugar gives it a rich, caramel flavor.
Add the berries and special sauce...delectable, delightful, delish, distinctive, divine, enjoyable, enticing, exquisite... (thank you online thesaurus).

Brown Sugar Pound Cake
Pound Cake Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

3 T dry bread crumbs
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 T vanilla
3 large eggs
1 cup fat-free milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 10-inch angel food cake pan with cooking spray and dust with the bread crumbs.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside.

Beat the butter in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add brown sugar and vanilla, beating until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with the milk, beating at low speed, beginning and ending with the flour.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and five minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve with fresh sliced strawberries (any berries would do I'm sure) and the special sauce.

Yogurt Sauce
equal parts brown sugar and plain yogurt (I use fat could certainly substitute the yogurt for sour cream to make this sweet and tangy sauce)

Mixed Greens with Baked Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Any of you who have been reading for a while know about my garden woes. We live right next to the mountains, so wandering deer get a lot of our veggies. However, we have never had to go without garden fresh produce, thanks to brother-in-law Matt from Magpie Gardens. Almost weekly through the summer, I get a call to pick up an overflowing basket of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, melons, zucchini, you name it.

Last summer we ate purple, orange, yellow, red, pink and striped tomatoes. All from Magpie Gardens.

Some of you may know Matt. For those of you who don't I'll let him introduce himself:

"I'm a teacher during the winter months and a gardener during the summer. I grow over 20 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, each with its own unique flavor. I also grow over 30 varieties of chiles and bell peppers, from mild Cal Wonder Green Bells to the Bhut Jolokia, widely regarded as the hottest chile in the world. I'm committed to local, sustainable food that doesn't deplete our natural resources...and tastes good.
"One of my friends once told me I ruined her life. I was quite stunned bu such an accusation. I asked her why. She told me that once she had tasted one of mu fresh, heirloom black krim tomatoes, she could never go back to eating hot-house store tomatoes again because they tasted like cardboard. It's nothing unique I do that makes the tomatoes taste so good, rather it's honoring and cultivating the varieties that were bred for taste (rather than how uniform in size they are, how fast they grow, or how well they ship), that generations of farmers, gardeners and others have been committed to."

He starts everything he grows from seed in his office/greenhouse...the chilies as early as February. Who thinks that far in advance? Matt. (P.S. all of his seeds are purchased from certified organic seed suppliers.)

This summer, his garden is looking so promising, he is offering his produce to the masses along the Wasatch front (hopefully that includes you). Already he has a variety of salad greens for sale. Soon he will be offering peas, beets, carrots, and in another month or so, the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers will be ready. Throughout the summer, he will have onions, chilies, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, beans, peas, eggplant, and greens. He also has oregano, cilantro and seven varieties of basil.

If you would prefer to grow your own, go pick up some little seedlings...he has several varieites of heirloom tomato plants, various herbs, and many types of peppers.

His garden is completely organic. The only fertilizer he uses comes from the chickens that roam his garden. (He is not USDA certified, because that takes an enormous amount of paperwork.)

I got my first sampling from Matt this week. A variety of salad greens: lettuce, spinach, mustards, romaine freckles, lolla rossa, four seasons, bloomsdale spinach, bourdeaux spinach, arugula, black seeded simpson, osaka purple mustard (these are the rounded purple/greenish leaves, try just nibbling on one and wait for the spicy afterkick), spoon mustard, and mizuni mustard. The osaka purple mustard greens were my very favorite.

Contact Matt through his blog. You will LOVE the things he grows!

Mixed Greens with Baked Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
adapted from Colorado Colore

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
1 (8 oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained
3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

Proces the red peppers in a blender or food processor until pureed. The puree should measure 3/4 cup. Add the oil, vinegar, cilantro, salt, black pepper, sugar and red pepper. Process until blended.

Baked Goat Cheese
1 (5 oz) log soft fresh goat cheese, such as Montrachet, chilled
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
olive oil for sauteing

Slice the goat cheese with dental floss (unflavored, obviously). Chill, covered, in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Coat the slices with the flour, then dip them in the eggs. Coat them with bread crumbs (if during this process, the cheese starts to get too soft, cover it and stick it back into the freezer for a bit).

Saute the cheese slices in hot olive oil in a skillet for 30-60 seconds per side (until lightly browned). Freeze on a baking sheet for 40 minutes, or until firm. You may prepare up to this point 2 weeks in advance. Store the frozen cheese slices in a seal-able plastic bag in the freezer.

When you are ready to serve the salad, arrange the frozen slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

12 oz mixed greens (grown by Matt of course)

Divide the salad greens evenly among serving plates. Arrange the warm goat cheese on top of each serving. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

This salad is unique and delicious. Not something you would take to the neighborhood potluck...this is sit-down-dinner-party salad.

Matt also offers landscaping services (he is an expert on native, drought tolerant plants), he builds grow boxes...heck, he'll even build you a hen house.

Pastry-wrapped Cream Cheese and Pesto

This is an elegant appetizer that is very simple to make. No complicated ingredients, no need to mix or sautee...just assemble and bake.

My family loves this and it is devoured each time I make it.

Pastry-wrapped Cream Cheese and Pesto
adapted from Kraft Foods
1 (4-oz) can refrigerated crescent dinner roll dough
8 oz cream cheese
2 T prepared basil pesto or sun-dried tomato pesto
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350. Unroll dough on lightly greased baking sheet. Split in half so you have two squares of dough. Press together any seams. Using a sharp knife, cut brick of cream cheese in half horizontally.

Place one half on top of the dough. Top cream cheese with one tablespoon of the pesto.
Cover with other half of cream cheese. Top with remaining pesto. Lay second half of dough over top of cream cheese. Press edges together to seal all the way around, or use a pastry wheel to seal.
Brush with beaten egg.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes. Serve with crackers and fresh vegetables.

This recipe works well with reduced fat crescent rolls and Neufchatel cheese (this is how I generally prepare it). The Neufchatel is quite soft, so I freeze it for an hour or so before so it is firm enough to cut in half.

Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Would you believe that by using just three simple ingredients, you can make delicious cookies?

Just like my stone soup recipe, you can make them even more tasty by adding a little something something (your choice).

Unlike my stone soup recipe, these are actually divine without the frills.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Combine all ingredients, roll into balls, bake on lightly greased cookie sheets at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

Frills: mix in chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, roll the dough in coarsely chopped roasted peanuts. You could place an unwrapped peanut butter cup in the center, or press your thumb in the middle and fill the indentation with jam.