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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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1 3/4 cup unsifted flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Ghirardelli)
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout (or Guinness)
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (dissolved in the stout)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine dry ingredients in large mixer bowl.
Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.
Beat 2 minutes at medium speed.
Combine Guinness and instant espresso powder; stir into batter–batter will be thin.
Pour into greased and floured 13 x 9 x 2″ pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool. Frost.

What really makes an Irish Car Bomb out of this cake is the frosting, so let’s get it together!

IRISH CAR BOMB FROSTING
3 oz. Neufchâtel, softened
4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Maker’s Mark (originally Jameson’s, but what is not to love about Maker’s?!)
1 tablespoon Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
good pinch of salt

Cream together butter, cream cheese, Maker’s, Bailey’s and vanilla.Gradually blend in powdered sugar and a pinch of salt. And now, it’s time to frost–then eat!
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Happy St. Pat’s, amici! And happy spring!
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peanut butter pie

Two great tastes that taste great together–chocolate and peanut butter– come together beautifully and easily. Start with a store-bought Oreo shell, then whip up (literally) a quick ‘n tasty filling.

PEANUT BUTTER PIE

1 Oreo pie shell
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter (Skippy is my fave)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon Maker’s Mark
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream till stiff peaks form. Move to a small, separate bowl in the fridge till it’s time to add to the pie.

Again, using a stand mixer, cream together the peanut butter and Neufchatel cheese till smooth. Add sweetened condensed milk, bourbon, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat till smooth, scrape down sides to be sure everything is incorporated. Next, fold in about 1/3 of the whipped cream you set aside. Then fold in the rest.

Pour into the Oreo shell and smooth the top of the surface. I saved one dollop of whipped cream for the center, just to be fancy. Refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving. Delicious!

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Looking for a sweet ‘n easy way to start your day? Apricot almond bread pudding coming right up! Ultra-almond-y, custard-y inside, with a toasted almond, slightly crunchy sugar top! I adapted this from my favorite, tried and true chocolate bread pudding recipe.

ALMOND APRICOT BREAD PUDDING

1 baguette, sliced into 1-inch cubes (2 mini baguettes = 12 oz. in today’s batch)
canned apricots, slice each half in three slices
1.5 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup (½ stick) of butter
½ cup sugar (I used ½ light brown, half Sugar in the Raw)
3 eggs
2 teaspoons almond extract
½ cup sliced almonds for top

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Arrange half the bread in a buttered 8 x 8″ baking dish. Distribute sliced apricots evenly across the bread so each serving will have a few pieces.

Heat the cream, milk and butter. Add to the eggs, sugar and almond extract you’ve beaten in a separate bowl.

Pour this mixture over the bread. Sprinkle evenly with almonds and 2 teaspoons sugar in the raw.

Place this pan into a larger (9 x 13″) pan filled with an inch or so of hot water. The water should come no higher than two thirds of the way up the side of the pudding pan. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the edge of the pan comes out clean.

Serve warm or cold–it was breakfast today, but would be a great dessert! To take it over the top, pour a little heavy cream over the top. 🙂 Or add whippy cream. Whatever you do, enjoy!

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With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, the idea of a Mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodle caught my attention. Of course, the recipe I saw was vegan and I’m not, so it’s back to the ol’ Steady Habits-style with butter and eggs à  la the same trusted recipe I modified for the chai spice version. This time the snickerdoodle gets a Mexi-twist with chocolate, almond extract, ground chipotle and ancho chili powders. ¡Vámonos!

I spied the vegan version of these cookies on Foodbuzz and loved the concept. Thanks kindly to Two Bites in Suburbia for the inspiration! http://twobites.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/mexican-chocolate-snickerdoodles

The aroma of Mexican hot chocolate as you remove these little treats from the oven is something I wish I could bottle and send your way. Since I can’t, you’ll have to bake a batch for yourself and see.

MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE SNICKERDOODLES
(STEADY HABITS-STYLE, NON-VEGAN!)
A riff on Mrs. Nelson’s recipe, circa 1975, The Hartford Courant, tested by the Connecticut Light & Power Test Kitchen–with twists, of course, from Katty’s Kitchen!

2 sticks butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cup flour
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa (I used Valrhona)
1 tablespoon baking powder (I used Paneangeli lievito vaniglinato per dolci)*
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle
¼ teaspoon ground ancho chile

*Thanks to my friend Joanna for explaining  this is a double-acting baking powder, incorporating both baking soda and cream of tartar.

SUGAR ‘N SPICE FOR ROLLING 

1½ tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

Cream sugar, shortening, extracts and eggs. Add dry ingredients. Combine and chill in the fridge for approximately 1.5 hours. 

Use rounded teaspoonful of dough to form small balls. Roll in sugar ‘n spice mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees F about 9 to 10 minutes.

Breakfast is served!

With St. Pat’s just around the corner and Guinness in the house, my thoughts turn to Irish Car Bomb Cake. Rather than follow other recipes I’ve seen, I took Hershey’s Deep, Dark and made a car bomb out of it. It’s fantastic. Dare I say: It’s da bomb. 🙂 Ready for these easy modifications?

http://www.hersheys.com/recipes/recipes/detail.asp?id=4608

IRISH CAR BOMB CAKE (MODIFIED HERSHEY’S DEEP, DARK)
1. Substitute the cup of boiling water for Guinness.
2. Replace 2 cups of white sugar with 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup light brown sugar
3. 1 tablespoon vanilla instead of two teaspoons
 The changes in steps two and three are negligible, so you can easily follow the original recipe with just the Guinness substitution to keep it simple. It makes a truly “deep, dark,” moist, delicious cake. Once I even forgot to put the eggs in–and though the cake was flatter than usual, it still tasted good. How’s that for foolproof?

What really makes an Irish Car Bomb out of this cake is the frosting, so let’s do it!

IRISH CAR BOMB FROSTING

1 stick butter, room-temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon Bailey’s Irish Cream
2 teaspoons Jameson’s Irish Whiskey
dash salt

Beat butter at medium speed for a few minutes. Turn mixer to low to add sour cream, Bailey’s and Jameson’s. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar and salt and increase mixer speed to get the frosting nice and fluffy.

I’d like to thank Bill Cosby for telling me it’s OK to eat chocolate cake for breakfast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K5YBNQq-Qo

It may not be breakfast of champions, but it certainly is a tasty treat…and leaves my (partially) Irish eyes a-smilin’!

The great American chocolate cake, Irish-style, with milk!