September 2013

The year I turned 22, a dear family friend made me a birthday present I’ve never forgotten: an entire shirt box filled with homemade peanut butter blossoms–a.k.a. peanut butter kiss cookies. You know the ones, peanut butter cookies rolled in sugar with a Hershey’s kiss on top. All for me!

Peanut butter blossoms are high on my list of all-time faves, yet I don’t make them very often. Then someone mentioned seeing the Pioneer Woman making them, but putting peanut butter cups in instead of kisses. And making them in mini-muffin tins. But she made them out of cookie dough from a tube. Whattt? No, no, no!

If you’re gonna be a pioneer, you’re gonna bake from scratch, dammit. And if you want to truly blaze a new trail, invite bourbon to the party. While we’re taking a classic recipe in a new direction, we may as well make it extra buzz-worthy. And speaking of new, wonderful things, did you know Reese’s makes dark miniature peanut butter cups now?!


1¼ cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour  (the extra tablespoon is to compensate for the Maker’s Mark)
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons), room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons Maker’s Mark (If you omit the bourbon, just cut back 1 tablespoon of flour–but why would you want to do that?!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
48 miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups, unwrapped (Try the dark ones!)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously butter two mini muffin pans. If you have a set of four, game on. Otherwise, do this in two batches.

Unwrap the peanut butter cups so they’re ready to go as soon as the cookies come out of the oven.

One last word of advice before we get going—I found it handy to have my tongs to help me grab the cookies from the oven (without accidentally sticking my mitt into the dough), so I’ll just pass this along to you, my amici.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In your mixer bowl, cream butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add both sugars, again, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, bourbon and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture until well combined.

I used my my Zeroll 60 pink scoop (roughly 2 heaping teaspoons) to portion out the dough.


Bake for 10 minutes. They’ll be slightly puffy. Remove from the oven, then immediately push a miniature peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie. The top of the peanut butter cup will be even with the top of the cookie when it’s in place.


Cool for a good 15 minutes before moving them to a baking rack to let them cool completely. I used my offset spatula to remove them from the pan–about a half turn around the cookie so you can get underneath, then WHOOSH–off you go the baking rack! Makes 48 delightfully delicious little bourbon-laced bites! Al Pacino approves–HOOO-AHHH!

I recently tried cake batter ice cream for the first time. The kid in me really enjoyed it. After all, my birthday cake of choice, even still, is Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden with homemade chocolate lovers’ frosting. Yeah, they changed the name, but it’ll always be “Butter Recipe Golden” to me.


Now how silly is that, really? Let’s make homemade gelato so it’s made with fresh–often local–ingredients. Then let’s add in boxed cake mix and junk it up. Hmm. In a word, YES! And why? Because we can. And because some things just plain taste good even if they’re a little trashtastic. You only live once. Let’s enjoy the ride. With rainbow shots. WHEEEEEEEE!


1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, halved the long way and scraped
½ to 3/4 of a cup (I went all out and used 3/4, but ½ might do the trick just as nicely) boxed cake mix

Combine milk and cream in a saucepan. Scrape vanilla bean seeds with the tip of a sharp knife. Add both seeds and pod to the milk mixture.

Heat on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, till small bubbles form at edge of pan. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep for half an hour.

In a separate bowl, beat together egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk till smooth. Temper egg mixture by slowly adding to hot milk, whisking constantly.

Cook over medium-high heat and continue to whisk until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Do not let it boil!

Strain through fine-mesh sieve into clean bowl, remove pod. Whisk in cake batter. Let cool to room temperature. You can make an ice bath to speed up the process. Chill custard overnight or at least four hours.

Just before turning the chilled custard into your ice cream maker, place the custard and the dasher from your machine into the freezer for up to 10 minutes. And now, time to spin it up: process according to your ice cream machine’s directions.

I wanted little rainbow goodies in mine, as I had in the cone I tried. But I learned it’s better to sprinkle the shots–sprinkles, Jimmies, nonpareils–over the top when you serve the gelato. It’s a party and you’re invited!

P1160680Buon caturday and happy weekend, amici!


All summer, I’ve been making variations on this black bean soup. And now that I’ve got it just right, it’s time to share. It’s easy, it’s healthy and, best of all, it’s super-tasty. While you can still grab native corn, there’s no better time than right now to get cookin’! Local amici, please head for Berruti’s Harvest House on 17 in Glastonbury for the biggest and best corn I’ve found all season.

Quick side note about a new spice blend I used–Berbere from Penzeys Spices–for those of us who like it hot! If you don’t have it on hand, you might substitute ¼ teaspoon of cayenne. Or if you run a little cooler than this cat, you can skip it altogether. But if you’re here in the Land of Steady Habits and want to give it a try, why not take a ride to West Hartford Center?

olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan
½ a large sweet onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon epazote
½ teaspoon Penzey’s Berbere seasoning
2 15-1/2 oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
juice of half a lime
kernels from 2 fresh cobs of corn (or 1 cup frozen corn)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2/3 cup prepared salsa (my favorite salsas for this recipe are from Rick Bayless Frontera: guajillo, chipotle or roasted habanero; Green Mountain Gringo also works nicely)
¼ teaspoon salt

Garnish with any or all of the following for optimal deliciousness:
fresh cilantro
diced grape tomatoes
chopped green onion
sour cream
tortilla chips

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5-6 minutes minutes. Add garlic, red pepper, Berbere seasoning, chili powder, cumin and epazote. Cook a couple of minutes more, stirring as you go. Add beans, chicken stock, water, salsa and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Add the corn at the very end–just for a minute or two. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Now, take about three ladles of beans/corn/peppers (more or less, depending how chunky you’d like your soup to be) and set aside. Use an immersion (stick) blender to blend remaining soup in the pot. Stir beans/corn/peppers back in. Serve with your choice of garnishes. Enjoy the soup break!

Some people just don’t love a creamy soup. I know, I know–who are these people? And why can’t I be more like them, total worshipper at the church of all things creamy that I am?! MOO.

The good news is, it’s easy to tinker with recipes to change ’em up a bit. I played with my chowder recipe to make a deliciously sweet, corny soup, which just happens to be a fantastic vehicle for…bacon. And basil and shredded cheddar, too, for that matter.

It’s always a treat to showcase what’s fresh and local, but even more so if it’s something my #1 taster and I can both enjoy. So let’s go be corny together, shall we?


6 ears corn (today’s corn came from Route 68, the corn that’s great!)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and crinkle-cut (otherwise cubed)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (leave it whole, you’ll fish it out later)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk (I used Simply Smart 1 percent)
1 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Garnishes (optional)
crumbled bacon (2 slices per person is a nice idea)
chiffonnade of fresh basil
shredded cheddar
diced avocado
chopped fresh cilantro

Hey, is this the year you’ll buy a stripper? I bought one earlier this summer and and highly recommend you do, too. Local amici, you can find one at Chef’s on the Berlin Turnpike. It zips corn right off the cob like nobody’s business!


Strip kernels from cobs, set corn aside and save cobs. In a large stockpot with olive oil, cook onion and garlic till onion is tender, but not brown–about 5 minutes or more. Add peppers.

Next add broth, milk, water, potatoes, salt and cobs. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes, or till potatoes are tender. About two minutes before you’re done, add the corn, just to warm it.

Remove cobs. Using a spider, strain out as many scoops of corn, potatoes and pepper as you’d like to save for some texture within the soup.


Then use a stick blender to buzz up what you’ve left behind in the pot. It’s a pretty color, isn’t it? And the texture is rather bisque-y.


Add the corn, potatoes and pepper back. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

When it’s time to serve, top with any (or all) of the following: crumbled bacon (mmm-Meadow Meat!), a chiffonnade of fresh basil, shredded cheddar, diced avocado, fresh cilantro.

Speaking of being corny, look who decided to photobomb my picture–hi, Ma! Happy Labor Day weekend, amici! 😀