Monday, January 31, 2011

No Bake Cookies

Confucius once said, "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." Such words never rang more true. 

I am a simple baker. I don't like anything too fussy or recipes that call for too many ingredients. This is probably why I don't make my own bread as often as I would like to or make my Grandma's gorgeous Seven Layer Torte - unless the occasion is extra special.

Take these cookies for instance. These babies are so simple that a 5-year-old can make them. In fact, that's how I came to make these delicious heaps of bliss. I found this recipe in a box my Mom gave me when I moved out of the family home and on my own at 21. Attached to it was a Polaroid of me with my Kindergarten class proudly making these cookies - complete with paper chef hats! I've been making them ever since.

The moral of the story: Never underestimate simplicity. The goodness of a simple homemade chocolate chip cookie can do wonders for a bad day. It's not fussy, but damn can it make life a bit more bearable.

Even if only for a few minutes.


½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup milk
3 Tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar

3 cups oatmeal (you can use quick oats or steel cuts oats)
½ cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Combine first 4 ingredients together in a saucepan. I like to use a whisk to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.

Boil for one full minute. Remove from heat. Add  peanut butter and vanilla. Whisk.

Add oatmeal.

Drop by tablespoons onto foil or wax paper. Allow to cool.

Happy Baking!

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dinosaur Cookies for Noel

We love parties in our household. My husband and I have been known to throw parties for the most ridiculous reasons just so we can entertain. Ask anyone we know and I guarantee they have been to at least one of our get togethers. One year, we had 8 parties. This is not counting birthday parties.

We especially love birthdays. Our friends invited my family to their son's 5th birthday party/dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. It's all my daughter has talked about for DAYS! So, naturally, she asked if we could make cookies for him. Not that I ever need a reason to make cookies, but it always makes it that much more fun when we make them for someone else.

She chose to do butterflies and hearts, but I had to explain to her that he probably doesn't like them as much as she does, so we settled on a dinosaur theme instead - only because that's what he likes.

He went crazy when he saw them. His reaction was worth all the work we had put into them. As we were stepping out of our seats to go have a look around, someone walked by and asked if the cookies were made of modeling clay.

They get out of the hospital on Wednesday.

Okay, okay, I'm kidding.

But seriously. 

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Broccoli Bread

My daughter loved green foods from her first bite.  Spinach, zucchini, peas, brussel sprouts, asparagus - you name it! Out of the green family, her most favorite is broccoli. Her eyes would light up and start jumping out of her high chair when she saw me coming with it. She couldn't get enough. I felt like the luckiest Mom on the planet.

However, my luck was about to change. We were into the first couple of weeks of Kindergarten when, suddenly, she didn't like broccoli anymore. Ah, the joys of peer pressure.

I was no longer allowed to send her to school with broccoli and dip in her lunch bag because it was 'yucky'. If I did, it would come back the same way I sent it. I was so disheartened because we had worked so bloody hard from the age of 6 months to 11 months; the time frame most children are likely to eat anything and set the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits, only for her to go to school and have all that work flushed down the toilet in one day. I had to find ways to get her to eat it again.

I stumbled upon this recipe a few weeks later when I was sitting in the dentist office, reading old issues of Cooking Light. I had 5 heads of broccoli in the refrigerator at home, one stubborn little girl, and desperation on my back. Willing to try anything, I made it that afternoon hoping for the best. Guess what?

Broccoli's back bitches!

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Cooking Light Issue March 2002

4 eggs, beaten
¾ cup fat-free cottage cheese
½ cup fat-free sour cream
2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, melted
¾ teaspoon salt
1 package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained OR 1½ cup fresh broccoli, chopped
1 package corn muffin mix (such as Jiffy)

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.

Add onion, broccoli, and muffin mix; stir until well blended.

Pour into 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 27 minutes.

Yields: 12 servings.

Happy Baking!

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Maple Fudge

I appreciate a nice piece of fudge. I'm not talking your average run-of-the-mill fudge. I mean a niiiice piece of fudge. The sort that makes you moan with pleasure until the last bite. 

Unfortunately, fudge is something that usually misses my radar when I need a sweet treat for a few reasons:

A. To buy a slab of fudge, it's a hefty price to pay for a small indulgence.
B. To make it at home, I find it is as temperamental as my ex-boyfriend. If I ruin the first batch, it could cost me more than if I would have just spent the $15 per pound to buy it in the first place.
3. Candy thermometers scare me.

After looking through countless recipes that didn't require a candy thermometer or ingredients that are equivalent to the cost of my weekly grocery shop, alas, I found the fudge recipe. The 'moan-through-every-bite fudge'. The fudge that will not break my bank account to make AND is foolproof.

My sweet tooth is high-fiving my taste buds as we speak.


3 cups of brown sugar - you do not need to pack it
1 cup butter
½ cup of sweetened condensed milk
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon maple flavoring or vanilla extract

Put the first 4 ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

Boil for a full 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Stirring is the key to this fudge being smooth and creamy. If you don't stir enough, it can become crumbly once cooled. It's also best to stir with a silicone spatula or spoon so it won't stick. 

After it's boiled, it should look like this....

Remove from heat. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of maple flavoring or vanilla extract. I highly recommend sifting the sugar before adding it to the pan.

Beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared 8 x 8-inch pan - one that has been sprayed with cooking spray or lined with wax paper).

Chill and cut into squares.

Happy Baking!

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lemonade Cake

There is a famous saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." When life hands me lemons, I bake.

It all started when my friend, Bal, asked me if I would help stage her home to put on the market. I'm not a stager by any means, but I watch enough design shows to know what buyers of today look for and what makes them cringe. Plus, she's a sweetheart and I couldn't say no.

As we were moving and rearranging furniture, I mentioned to her I was a firm believer that bowls of fruit placed strategically in main living quarters sell a home. She looked at me like I had a third eye, but she must have taken what I said at face value, because she went and bought 12 out-of-season lemons at $1 each to display in her kitchen. Yikes! I mean, you can't just eat lemons on their own. Apples. Absolutely. Pears. Of course. Lemons. Ugh.

Funny enough, the day after the open house, her home sold! It was only on the market ONE DAY! I am now completely convinced it was the lemons that sealed the deal.

So here we are, left with 12 lemons that need to be used up. We could make lemonade or make a refreshing Lemonade Cake. 

No contest.


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel

⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
⅔ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease two 8" or 9" loaf pans. You could also use a bundt pan, but I find it's a cake worthy of sharing with a friend or neighbor! In this post, I used two 9" loaf pans.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add one egg at a time and mix well.

Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, and beating only until blended after each addition.

Stir in lemon peel.

Note: When zesting a lemon, be sure to avoid the white pith. It's very bitter and not very nice!

                                           LIKE THIS....

                                          NOT THIS....

Divide and scrape batter into prepared pans.  Level batter.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Please know that no matter what size pan you choose to use, the bake time will not change!

Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes. Remove cake and place on foil or wax paper.

Prepare glaze. My Grandma taught me to warm the lemon juice and melt the sugar within it. It makes a clear glaze that is the consistency of lemonade and with no sugar granules in each bite.

Poke holes with a skewer. This step ensures the glaze gets into the cake, making it lush and lemony from the inside out!

Brush glaze over entire cake.

Cool completely and enjoy!
Happy Baking!

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Super Chocolate M&M Cookies

My daughter loves to go through my cookbooks.

My BFF, Beth, gave me a fabulous cupcake cookbook for my birthday last year and my daughter immediately claimed the book as her own (partially because the cover was pink). It now sits on her bookshelf alongside the other best loved books and bedtime stories. One night, she actually chose that book for my husband to read and he actually made up a story about a little cupcake and it's adventures. It was quite riveting and incredibly heartwarming.

We thought we would make some cookies for a playdate she had this afternoon with her BFF. She opened up the cupboard that houses the plethora of cookbooks and choose carefully, but wisely. Monster Cookies was the winner. 

These cookies are huge and definitely live up to the title of the cookbook. As she skimmed her little fingers through the pages, she chose the Super Chocolate M&M Cookies.

These gorgeous mounds of heaven have a little something for everyone. Chocolate. M&Ms. Raisins. Peanuts.

Mmmm. Mama like.

Recipe adapted from the Monster Cookies Cookbook

2 cups all purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened at room temperature
½ cup shortening
1 ⅓ cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup M&Ms or candy coated chocolate pieces
1 cup raisins
¾ cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

Beat butter, shortening & brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating at low speed until well blended.

Stir in candy, raisins, and peanuts.

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. I like to use silicone mats whenever I bake. Space 3 inches apart and flatten slightly.

Bake cookies 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets and transfer to wire rack. Cool completely.

Yield: 18 to 20 4-inch cookies

Happy Baking!

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Zucchini Spice Cupcakes

Martha Stewart is my hero. Seriously. Who else can make a poncho the hottest must have item of the season all from the confines of a 6x8 jail cell? Although, I'm not a poncho girl, I do love her recipes.

The first time I made Martha's Zucchini Spice Cupcakes, it was for a friend's backyard BBQ party. To say they were a hit would be an huge understatement. They flew off the plate and left it rocking in its wake. The second time I made them was for a girlfriend's baby shower. I was almost adopted by the family.

There is something wonderful about zucchini. Aside from all the health benefits, it's such a versatile fruit. Yes, that's right, I said fruit. My mother would grow it in her garden every year. She would plant it one week and be cursing the high heavens the next because it had taken the entire backyard hostage. Yet, there she was every winter planning for her next bountiful crop with, you guessed it, zucchini taking first place.

I am thankful for zucchini. Although it's virtually tasteless on it's own, pair it with roasted red peppers, onions, and goat cheese on a panini and you got yourself the best damn sandwich this side of the hemisphere. Zucchini bread with a nice cup of tea on a cold January morning?

Sign me up. Like yesterday.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 cups packed grated zucchini, drained VERY well
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

In another bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, vanilla, and zest until well blended; whisk in brown sugar until smooth.

Stir in zucchini

Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in walnuts. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full.

Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Now for the best part....


I halved the original recipe because it made SO much!

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, ½ cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth.

Yield: About 24 cupcakes.

Happy Baking!

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