Chocolate Chunk & Heath Cookies

These Chocolate Chunk Heath cookies are made to be eaten Cookie Monster style.  Even though they’re thin and delicate looking, the cookies pack a huge flavor punch with the addition of almond extract, big chunks of milk chocolate, and crunchy Heath toffee bits.

Chocolate Chunk Heath Cookies- smittenkitchen

Chocolate Chunk & Heath Cookies

(Adapted from smitten kitchen)
Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (25 grams) turbinado sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (165 grams) packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 heaping teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1 3/4 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 pound (225 grams) milk, semi-, bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup Heath toffee bits

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 360°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the egg and beat until incorporated,
  4. Scrape down the bowl, and add the vanilla and almond extracts, beating until thoroughly combined.
  5. In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking soda until well combined.
  6. On low speed, combine the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until until just mixed.
  7. With a spatula, fold/stir in the chocolate chunks and Heath toffee bits.
  8. Scoop the cookies into 1 1/2 tablespoon mounds, spacing them a few inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, until golden on the outside, and remove from oven.
  10. Let the cookies rest on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Caramel Pecan Bars

Looking for a passive-aggressive way to tell someone they’re nuts?  Give them these Caramel Pecan Bars and tell them, “I thought of you while baking these.”  These bars are the nuttiest bars I’ve come across with 6 cups (!!!) of pecans in the recipe. I only had 3 cups of pecans, so I halved the recipe.  The result was chewy, nutty, caramely, pecans riding atop a buttery, shortbread crust.  This may be one of the sweetest ways to throw some shade.

Caramel Pecan Bars- All the good cookies1

Caramel Pecan Bars

(from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer – All the Good Cookies by Gretchen Holt-Witt)
Makes 6 dozen squares

Ingredients

Crust

1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling

2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar
6 cups pecans
1/3 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with foil.

Crust

  1. Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer bowl until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  2. In a separate, large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, and beat until everything is incorporated.
  4. Press the dough into the bottom of the foil-lined pan.  Set the pan aside while you make the filling.

Filling

  1. Put the butter, honey, and sugars in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in the pecans, cream, and vanilla
  3. Pour the filling over the crust, and transfer the pan to the oven.
  4. Bake until set and deep brown, 35 to 45 minutes.
  5. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.  When cool, remove from the pan and cut in 72 pieces.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Box Brownies with Flair

Trader Joe’s truffle brownie mix makes up one of my favorite batches of brownies hands down.  So, I never thought to improve on them until I came across a brownie recipe that included Andes chocolate mints.  I didn’t have time to whip up a batch of brownies from scratch, so I used the Trader Joe’s brownie mix, added half a teaspoon of espresso powder, and mixed in a package of chopped Andes mints.  And 25 minutes later, voila, brownies with flair.

Here are the ingredients to get yourself some brownie flair.

TJ brownies w andes1

If you look closely, you can see part of an Andes mint peeking out from one side of the brownie.

TJ brownies w andes4

Pickled Hot Peppers and Garlic

I’m Thai, so spicy foods are part of my usual food routine.  But, I have to admit, I am slightly terrified of my recent creation.  My friend gave me a bagful of tiny, super spicy peppers from her garden, and they came with a hearty warning of their heat.  Since the peppers are so hot, I pickled them along with some garlic cloves to add a layer of flavor in addition to flaming heat.  This is the first thing I’ve made that I’ve been afraid to try, so for now, I don’t have anything to say about the taste or flavor.

Pickled Hot Peppers & Garlic2

Pickled Hot Peppers with Garlic

(Adapted from David Lebovitz)
Makes 4 1/2 pint jars

Ingredients

1 pound of a combination of fresh hot peppers and peeled garlic cloves
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons coarse salt, such as kosher
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns

Directions

  1. Wash and dry the peppers and peel the garlic cloves.  Place them in the glass preserving jars.
  2. In a non reactive saucepan, bring the other ingredients to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and pour the brine over the peppers and garlic.  Place the lid on the jar and let cool.  Once cool, refrigerate for at least a week before using, if possible.

Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits

Just a quick public service announcement that if you ever come across Red Lobster’s Cheddar Biscuit mix at your grocery store, buy it.  In fact, buy two boxes.  You won’t be sorry when you bite into these spongy, tender, cheesy, garlicky biscuits.  They are best eaten the day they’re made, so eat up!

Cheddar Biscuits-red lobster2

They looked just like the picture on the box.Cheddar Biscuits-red lobster1

Vanilla Hot Milk Cake

This tender, airy, fluffy Vanilla Hot Milk Cake measures in at two inches tall.  The addition of whole milk makes it extra flavorful without being dense and adds a beautiful, slightly crunchy top crust.  I love it when a cake is so delicious that it doesn’t need any frosting.  It’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite vanilla cake recipes.

Hot Milk Cake - KAF2

Vanilla Hot Milk Cake

(from King Arthur Flour)
Makes one 9×13 inch cake, about 2 dozen servings

Ingredients

2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) canola oil
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter
1 cup (8 ounces) milk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan that’s at least 2″ deep.
  2. Beat the eggs and sugar together until they’re light and fluffy, about 2 minutes at medium-high speed using an electric or stand mixer.
  3. Slowly beat in the canola oil.
  4. In a separate medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix at medium speed.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then beat again, to fully incorporate any sticky bits.
  6. In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the butter and milk just to a boil. Add the vanilla. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir the mixture until the butter is completely melted.
  7. Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the cake batter, mixing until everything is well combined. Scrape the bowl, and mix briefly, just until smooth.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and the top feels set.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.
  11. Serve in squares, as is. Or top with icing or caramel sauce.

S’Mores Rice Krispie Treats

Nothing beats making fresh s’mores over a campfire.  But if all you have is a microwave, you’re still in luck, because with a few pushes of a button and some stirring, you can make these S’mores Rice Krispie Treats.  Melted marshmallows are spread over the bottom layer of graham crackers, and a mixture of milk and dark chocolate, cashew butter, and rice krispies cereal tops it all off.
Smores rice krispie treats-Kelloggs4

S’Mores Rice Krispie Treats

(Adapted from Kellogg’s Rice Krispies)
Makes one 9×13 inch pan of bars

Ingredients

7 rectangular sheets of graham crackers (each cracker sheet measures about 5×2 inches and is scored into 4 pieces)
2 1/2 cups marshmallows
2 cups(12 oz.) chocolate morsels or chopped chocolate bar (you can use a mixture of milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate)
2/3 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup nut butter, smooth or crunchy (I used cashew butter, but you can also use peanut or almond butter)
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Directions

  1. Coat 13 x 9 x 2-inch microwave-safe pan (I used a glass pan) with cooking spray.
  2. Put rice krispie cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Arrange graham crackers in single layer in the pan, breaking the crackers as needed to fit.
  4. Arrange marshmallows evenly over crackers, making sure that nearly all of the surface is covered.
  5. Microwave the pan on high for 1 minute or until marshmallows are puffy. Remove from the microwave and set aside to let cool.
  6. In a microwave-safe mixing bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Microwave on high for about 1 1/2 minutes or until chocolate is melted, stirring every 30 seconds.
  7. Add the nut butter to the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth.
  8. Pour the chocolate-nut butter mixture over the rice krispie cereal, stirring until combined.
  9. Spread the mixture evenly over the marshmallows.
  10. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour or until firm. Cut and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

World War II-Era Chocolate Cake

If this World War II-Era chocolate cake recipe had been part of the curriculum, I probably would have remembered more from history class. The ingredients, or lack of the use of dairy ingredients, are said to reflect food rationing during World War II. This uber dark, extra chocolatey cake is tender, moist, and airy, but packs an intense dark chocolate punch due to the addition of espresso powder (which I assume is an updated add in). It’s delicious with or without the thick, gooey chocolate ganache frosting, but I always say if you’re going to go chocolate, you might as go all the way.       Chocolate Cake Pan Cake- KAF1 Chocolate Cake Pan Cake- KAF4

World War II-Era Chocolate Cake

(from King Arthur Flour)
Makes 16 servings

Ingredients

Cake

1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (3/4 ounce) Dutch-process cocoa or natural cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional (I always use espresso powder when I see it listed in a recipe)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) vinegar, cider or white (I used cider vinegar)
1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) canola oil
1 cup (8 ounces) cold water.  While the original, non-dairy version of this recipe calls for water as the liquid, feel free to substitute milk, for a slightly richer cake. Or try cold coffee, for a mocha version; or even 3/4 cup water mixed with 1/4 cup rum, for an “adults only” cake.

Quick and Easy Chocolate Frosting (optional)

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup of half-and-half or heavy cream

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease an 8″ square or 9″ round pan that’s at least 2″ deep. If you don’t have a 2″-deep pan in either of those sizes, use a 9″ square pan.
  3. WWII-era method: Measure all the dry ingredients into the prepared pan. Blend the ingredients together thoroughly with a fork or whisk and scoop out three holes, or indentations. Pour the vanilla into the first hole, the vinegar into the second, and the vegetable oil into the third. Take the cup of water and pour it directly over everything in the pan. Stir all the ingredients together with your fork until well blended.
  4. 2015 method: Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk the vanilla, vinegar, vegetable oil, and water in a separate bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring until thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
  6. Cut the cake into squares and serve right from the pan; warm from the oven.

Frosting (optional)

  1. To make the frosting, in the microwave, heat 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips with 1/2 cup half & half or heavy cream until the chips melt.  Stir until smooth.
  2. Once the cake is cool, pour/spread the frosting over the cake.

Bacon, Salami, Spinach, Zucchini, & Goat Cheese Quiche

When I was a kid, I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books.  Now as an adult, it’s no surprise that I like Choose Your Own Ingredients recipes.  This quiche was born out of random ingredients in my fridge that needed to be cleared out including bacon, salami, spinach, zucchini, and goat cheese.  You can find the quiche recipe maker at Fine Cooking.  I’ll include the recipe I “created” below, but why follow my recipe when you can make your own?

Bacon, salami, spinach, zuchinni, goat cheese quiche-FC3

Bacon, Salami, Spinach, Zucchini, & Goat Cheese Quiche

Ingredients

Crust

Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (one day I will learn to make my own pie crust, but today is not the day.  If you want to make your own pie crust, the Fine Cooking create your own quiche recipe provides detailed directions.)

Filling

8 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped, cooked bacon
1/4 cup chopped salami (Trader Joe’s has some good ones)
1/3 cup sauteed, drained and chopped spinach
1/3 cup diced, sauteed zucchini

Directions

Crust

  1. Follow the directions on the pie crust package and blind bake the crust.  I weigh my crust down with pie weights during baking because it if prick the bottom of my crust, some of the filling might seep through.  Cool the baked pie shell on a rack to room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Filling

  1. In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the yolks, cream, milk, nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  3. Put the blind-baked crust on a rimmed baking sheet, and scatter the goat cheese, bacon, spinach, and zucchini over the bottom, being sure they are evenly distributed.
  4. Whisk the custard, and slowly pour it into the crust, taking care not to shuffle the add-ins around too much.
  5. Cover the edge of the crust with a pie shield or a ring of foil to keep it from browning too much. Carefully transfer the quiche on the baking sheet to the oven and bake at 325 degrees F until the custard feels set to the touch in the center, 45 to 55 minutes. It should be golden-brown and slightly puffed and should not slosh when you jiggle it.
  6. Let cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes, then slice and serve warm or at room temperature. Or, for the best-looking slices, cool the quiche completely, then refrigerate, slice when cold, and reheat.

Note: The quiche can be made and baked up to 2 days ahead. Once cooled, tightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, cut the quiche into slices, then reheat in a 350-degree F oven, edge covered with a pie shield, until warmed through, 20 to 25 minutes.

Coconut-filled Lemon Cake

Originally this Coconut-filled Lemon Cake was supposed to be a play off of a twinkie with a coconut-cream filling nestled in the middle of a tender, tangy lemon cake.  Unfortunately some time during baking, the coconut meringue filling was absorbed into the cake batter and totally disappeared from view.  But I didn’t dwell too long on the case of the missing meringue because this cake was so delicious with it’s tender, light crumb, bright tangy lemon flavors, and slightly crispy top.  Plus, the coconut meringue flavor did reveal itself in each bite in a subtle, “I’m not quite sure what I’m tasting but it’s delicious”  way.

I wasn’t as accurate as I should have been when portioning my cake batter, so I didn’t have quite enough cake batter to fully cover all of the coconut meringue that was supposed to sit in the middle of the cake.  But when the cake baked up, the top had some nice swirls and patches of light, crispy texture due to the exposed meringue.  So luckily my little “ooops” became an “ooooohhh”.

Lemon-coconut cake- KAF1

At first I was disappointed to see that my tunnel of coconut-meringue filling had disappeared into the cake batter during baking, but even though I couldn’t see the coconut meringue, I could taste it in each delicious bite.

Lemon-coconut cake- KAF3

Coconut-filled Lemon Cake

(From King Arthur Flour)
Makes 16 servings

Ingredients

Filling

2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon coconut flavor OR 2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded or flaked sweetened coconut (if you only have unsweetened coconut, see this link for substitution instructions)
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) all-purpose flour

Cake

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt*
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 (8 ounces) cup milk
finely grated rind of 2 lemons OR 3/4 teaspoon lemon oil
*Use just 1/2 teaspoon salt if you’re using salted butter.

Glaze

1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar

Directions

Filling

  1. Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl till the mixture is soft and fluffy.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, and beat at high speed till the mixture forms fairly stiff peaks. When you scoop some up in a spoon, it should hold its shape easily.
  3. Stir in the coconut flavor or vanilla.
  4. Toss the coconut with the flour, and add to the egg white mixture, stirring till thoroughly combined. Set it aside while you make the cake.

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a a 9″ to 10″, 9- to 10-cup capacity bundt-style pan, or a 10″ tube pan.
  2. Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt, first till combined, then till fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after you’ve added the first 2 eggs.
  4. Add the baking powder, then add the flour alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in the grated lemon rind or lemon oil.
  5. Spoon about 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. You want to add enough to cover the bottom, and start to come up the sides; but not so much that you don’t have enough left over to cover the filling.
  6. Distribute the stiff filling atop the batter, centering it within the ring of batter so it doesn’t touch the sides of the pan. Pat it down gently.
  7. Dollop the remaining batter on top, again smoothing it with a spatula.
  8. Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the lemon juice and sugar. Set it aside.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. After 5 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, and turn the cake out onto a rack. Place another rack on top, and flip it over, so it’s right-side-up.

Glaze

  1. Poke the hot cake all over with a cake tester or toothpick.
  2. Stir the glaze to combine, and immediately brush it on the hot cake. Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze, continuing until all the glaze is used up.
  3. Allow the cake to cool before slicing.