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The beauty of a tried and true recipe is how easily you can change it up. If you love the buttery, chewy deliciousness of a blondie and you’re a peanut butter fan, you’ve gotta try these. You could easily add chocolate chips if you like, but I thought I’d make these a little different and add my favorite chocolate lovers’ frosting.

PEANUT BUTTER BOURBON BROWNIES with CHOCOLATE LOVERS’ FROSTING
adapted from Mark Bittman’s original recipe for blondies

1 stick salted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup peanut butter (I like Skippy creamy)
1 large egg
2 tablespooons bourbon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoons flour (the extra amount is to compensate for the Maker’s Mark)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 x 8″ baking dish. Combine melted butter with brown sugar till smooth. Beat in peanut butter, then egg, bourbon and vanilla.

Combine salt, soda, baking powder and flour. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in chopped chocolate.

Pour into baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely, then frost with chocolate lovers’ frosting.

CHOCOLATE LOVERS’ FROSTING (half batch for 8×8″ treats)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) salted butter, softened
2  tablespoons milk (or sour cream, if you have it handy)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cocoa (by now, you know my heart belongs to Valrhona)

Beat together butter, milk (or sour cream) and vanilla, then gradually add cocoa and sugar. Frost blondies and enjoy the two great tastes that taste great together!

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A dough you simply spread in a skillet rather than scoop as individual cookies sounds like the right recipe for right now. You see, I’m getting around on one foot for the next month as I recover from surgery. Not to worry–soon, I’ll be back in action without the pain of plantar fasciitis to slow me down.

In the meantime, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish at your kitchen table–measuring, whisking, chopping–with some brief hops into the kitchen to gather ingredients. Oh, and your mom to run the mixer and put the skillet in the oven. Thanks, Ma!

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The dough is spatula-licking good. My shared birthday buddy, Cookie Monster, concurs!

Cookie Monster licking spoon

So let’s get on with the recipe already!

CINNAMON-CHOCOLATE CHUNK SKILLET COOKIE
adapted from Epicurious

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup dark chocolate in chunks (my weapon of choice is Valrhona Guanaja 70% feves)

The original recipe calls for a 12″ cast iron skillet. We have a 10″ skillet, so it’s just an adjustment in baking time I’ll share when it’s time to put this in the oven.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter skillet and set aside.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, espresso powder, baking soda and Kosher salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together two large eggs and vanilla extract.

In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add egg/vanilla mixture and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, till mixture is pale and fluffy–again, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add dry ingredients. Beat just till combined. Fold in chocolate chunks with a spatula.

Spread dough evenly in skillet. This is a handy job for an offset spatula. Bake till cookie is golden brown around the edges and center is still soft.

For a 12-inch skillet, bake for about 20-25 minutes.
For a 10-inch skillet, it’s more like 25-30 minutes. Take a peek at the 25 minute mark, but it may take even a couple more minutes than 30, depending on your oven.
It’s OK that the center remains soft–when the cookie cools, it will be perfect.

Let cookie cool completely before slicing into wedges and serving. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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Warmer weather calls for easy dishes that come together quickly and take advantage of what’s fresh and may be even growing outside your door. For a pasta salad that practically screams TAKE ME TO A PARTY! look no further than this easy recipe. 🙂 And for a simple summer supper at home, just halve the recipe and enjoy.

CAPRESE PASTA SALAD

Dressing
good handful of fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
2/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
zest of 2 lemons (and juice of 1 lemon)
Optional: a couple of thyme sprigs

Pasta Salad
1 pound pasta, cooked/drained (I used bite-size rigatoni; double elbows would be great, too)
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 pound ciliegine (small, cherry-sized fresh mozzarella), halved
1/3 pound peppered salami, sliced about 1/4″ thick, then cubed–about two slices
1/4 cup basil (I used a combo of Genovese and lemon basil), chiffonade

Whisk together dressing ingredients to let the flavors meld. Just before I started cooking the pasta, I let the tomatoes hang out in the dressing a bit.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Right before you’re ready to add the pasta, combine dressing, tomatoes, mozzarella, salami and basil–mix well. Drain pasta, add to other ingredients, making sure everything is coated/combined. Serve warm. Leftovers go in the fridge, of course. GNAM GNAM GNAM. Mangia! Mangia!

 

 

 

carrot cake cookies

As a carrot cake lover, I was intrigued when I started seeing carrot cake cookies. Not a fan? It might help to think of these cookies as a convenient delivery system for my very best and favorite frosting: bourbon salted caramel. I halved a recipe from Land o’Lakes and adapted ever so slightly, adding coconut and my own frosting. I’d rather bake, share and enjoy a small batch than drown in cookies. Though, if I had a choice, drowning in these cookies wouldn’t be so bad. At all.

CARROT CAKE COOKIES WITH BOURBON SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING

1 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup coconut
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup carrots, shredded (you’ll need about 2 medium carrots to shred 1 cup)
½ cup pecans, finely chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In your mixing bowl, combine butter and sugars. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; beat till well incorporated. Sift (or whisk) together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well combined. Stir in carrots, coconut and pecans.

I used my Zeroll #60 (pink) scoop to portion the dough. Barring a scoop, drop by rounded tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets. I baked mine 6 minutes on the upper rack of the oven, then swapped front to back and top to bottom for another 6 minutes, for a total of 12. I found the cookies easiest to move to the cookie rack after letting them sit a minute or so after taking them out of the oven. As the cookies cool, let’s make the frosting.

BOURBON SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING

First, make the salted caramel. In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, whisk together:

1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
good pinch of salt

Continue to whisk till sugar dissolves, then cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, get the rest of the frosting together.

3 oz. cream cheese (I got away with Neufchâtel, so can you), softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Cream together butter, cream cheese, bourbon and vanilla. Gradually blend in powdered sugar. Then blend in salted caramel. This makes plenty of frosting, so you can frost generously and should still have some extra frosting to enjoy on a spoon or your fingers!

Enjoy with a cuppa tea, a glass of milk and/or a good friend.

carrot cake cookies and a cuppa

 


A brilliant idea crossed this kat’s path recently–cheesecake batter baked between a layer of CCC (that’s chocolate chip cookie) dough with more dough dropped over the top. Two great tastes that taste great together–all in one easy pan! And the crumbled cookie dough on top adds a delightful layer of crunch in contrast to the creamy cheesecake. As an added bonus, letting cookie dough drop through your fingers kinda feels like making a sandcastle. A showstopping, scrumptious sandcastle you can eat!

Oh, did you notice the sunny yellow hue of the cheesecake layer? That sunshine comes straight from New Hampshire where my friend Michele’s hens lay the most phenomenal eggs on the planet. They take these straight to eleven on a scale of 1 to 1o. So, turn it up and let’s get things started!

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE CHEESECAKE BARS

CCC layer
1 stick butter (salted), softened
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup dark chocolate, chopped (I love my Valrhona Guanaja feves)

Cheesecake batter
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Butter and line an 8 x 8″ pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For the CCC layer
Cream the butter and the sugars until light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add lightly beaten egg and vanilla; mix just till egg is incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a separate bowl. With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients. Mix only until combined: do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chunks.

Separate dough into roughly two halves–a little more dough for the bottom works nicely so you can cover a lined/buttered 8 x 8″ pan with ease. Pat down evenly. Put the pan in the fridge while you work on the cheesecake layer.

For the cheesecake layer
In your mixer, combine cream cheese (I used Neufchatel, lower-fat), sour cream, teaspoon of vanilla, egg and 3 tablespoons sugar. Spread cheesecake batter evenly over CCC dough.

With the remaining CCC dough you set aside, drop it in small pieces through your fingers. Got that sandcastle feeling going? If so, you’re doing it right.

Time to bake now–into the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. In my oven, it was 37 minutes on the money. Look for pieces of the dough starting to turn golden brown and the center of the cheesecake part should be set (not jiggling). When it’s finished, it should look like this.

Cut, cool, store in the fridge. These are WOW at first bite. I know because it was the first word out of my mouth after my first nibble. Funny enough, hours later, didn’t my mom take a bite and say the exact same thing? 🙂 Enjoy, amici!

Something about marshmallow treats brings me directly back to being a kid–piano recitals, playing hide ‘n seek and marshmallow treats. Low energy days call for an update to classic comfort. Brown butter, more marshmallows, and a combination of Rice Krispies and crushed Golden Grahams make these treats extra special EXCELLENT. Not only do they come together quickly, but they just might make you want to break into a happy dance, like our old friend Snoopy.

BROWN BUTTER MARSHMALLOW TREATS WITH GOLDEN GRAHAMS

4 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups Golden Grahams cereal, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick salted butter, browned
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 10-oz. bag mini marshmallows
2 cups (additional) mini marshmallows–keep these separate

Butter an 8 x 8″ baking dish.

Gently crush (in a Ziploc bag, roll with a rolling pin or bottle) the Golden Grahams cereal so it becomes roughly the same size as the Rice Krispies. Combine with Rice Krispies and salt. Set aside.

Brown the stick of butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, stir and watch carefully to be sure it gets just a bit brown and nutty–like so.

Stir in the 10-oz. bag of mini-marshmallows and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla till it’s nice and melted. Now, remove from the burner and stir in the cereal. Once the cereal is combined and evenly coated, add the final 2 cups of mini marshmallows (these won’t melt all the way–that’s our goal) and press into the buttered baking dish.

Cool, cut, happy dance! It’s that easy!

Have you heard about chicken crust? It’s a carb-free way to make a pizza. Now, as a woman of Italian-Irish heritage, carbohydrates and I go waaaay back–particularly with pizza! So, while I have no intention of abandoning a traditional crust, I wanted to play with this idea.

First, let’s take this in a proper Italian direction and use hot sausage instead of ground chicken as our base. Next, instead of ordinary red sauce and toppings, let’s roast some vegetables and let those be our sauce. Ah, brillante! Let’s make the magic happen, amici!

SAUSAGE CRUST PIZZA WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES

For the crust
1 pound hot Italian sausage (I used Lamberti’s)
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used a Parmesan-Pecorino blend)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

For the roasted vegetable topping
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 a sweet onion, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips
4 mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife
olive oil to coat everything
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

To top it all off
2 medium sized balls of fresh mozzarella
fresh basil chiffonade (roll it, slice it)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Let’s work on the veggies first–everything into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of Kosher salt. Into the oven for 15 minutes, shake everything around, then send it back for 20 minutes more. At this point, you should have some decent color on the onions and shrooms, and you’ll be able to put a gentle squeeze on the tomatoes to flatten them (let them cool a bit before you do).


Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and combine crust ingredients in a bowl. Form the crust in a circle and pat it out evenly. I covered mine with plastic wrap and rolled a bottle over it to thin it out and keep it even.

Into the oven this goes for 20 minutes. Your cooked crust should look something like this.

Now it’s time to load it up with the goods. Evenly distribute the roasted vegetables over the top of the crust, then top with slices of fresh mozzarella, basil chiffonade and freshly ground black pepper.

Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes, till the mozzarella gets nice and melted. Carefully drain fat from pan. Now your pizza is ready to cut and serve.

Good food, like good music, is meant to be shared all over the world. CHEERS!