Tag Archives: baking

Friday Finds: Cookbooks I Love

29 Jun

Given that I’m a kitchen-cooking-appliance-tool-food junkie, I’m often asked questions about which is the best pasta maker (it depends on whether you want electric or a hand crank), what type of butter I buy (always purchase unsalted, you can always add salt in later), and what are people going to give me at my wedding, since I already own every kitchen gadget known to man (there is this green paper stuff called “cash,” as my mom says, it’s just as good as money).

But my favorite questions are always around what recipes I like and what cookbooks I own. Now, some people are all snobby and of the “I don’t cook from a recipe” persuasion, but they can go kick rocks. Cookbooks are great because the recipes have ALREADY BEEN TESTED and therefore there is less chance of YOUR FOOD SUCKING. Plus, a recipe is a great starting point and you can always change and spice it up however you like.

Here are five of my favorites. Open any one of these at my house and you’ll find the pages filled with notes, fingerprints, and turned corners marking whats really good.

  1. Dinosaur Bar-B-QueAlthough Dino has been spreading to posh areas like NYC, the restaurant was born and bred in Upstate NY. Their cookbook is filled with amazing recipes for sauces and spice rubs, plus the phenomenal dishes they are known for. My loves are the ginger green bean salad and the mac & cheese.
  2. The Glorious Pasta of ItalyIf I cooked from this book every day, my food life would be amazing. Sauces, pastas, casseroles, raviolis, italian grilling…just love this book. I suggest checking out the smoked mozz and eggplant twist on traditional baked ziti.
  3. The Joy of Cooking: If you don’t own this book, go buy it. Or, scour a good garage sale and you can probably find a copy. Mine cost me $1.00 at a church yard sale. JOC is a kitchen staple—each section gives you the basics of what you need to know on any topic, from baking to broiling to tin foil. My favorite recipe is the mac & cheese. (Yes, I might be slightly obsessed with anything that involves pasta and cheese…)
  4. The Big Book of Cupcakes: Betty Crocker really ups her game with this book. It has hundreds of creative recipe ideas for every possible occasion and holiday. Plus, it’s full of recipes hacks, each recipe has instructions on how to make it from scratch or how to doctor up a box of cake mix for the same effect. I’m partial to the peanut butter cupcakes.
  5. Everything Tastes Better with Bacon: I don’t think this book needs much more of an explanation. Every delicious recipe involves bacon, with recipes for breakfast foods, sauces, side dishes, main courses and desserts. (Yes, bacon desserts.) You can find this cookbook in my kitchen, my mom’s kitchen, my sister’s kitchen, my friends’ kitchens…it’s just that good. I love the bacon-vodka sauce and the bacon-spinach-parmesan mashed potatoes.

Happy Friday and happy weekend cooking!

What are you favorite recipes or cookbooks?


Banana Maple Chocolate-Chip Pancake Muffins

12 Jun

For all those times you want a pancake in travel-friendly form. Or for when you can’t decide between a muffin or a pancake.

Just make a pancake muffin.

Like this.

You don’t even need a mixer.

Just combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and give them a good whisk to fluff them a bit.

And mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. With the mashed bananas.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet.

And mix in some chocolate chips, just to ensure maximum deliciousness.

Divide, bake, and conquer.

The secret is in the maple syrup. I always add in a bit extra than the recipe calls for. Just make sure you are using pure maple syrup—not the imitation kind that comes in a squeeze bottle with a smiling lady on it. Even better if you have a friend who makes their own. Liquid gold people. Pure and amazing.

Banana Maple Chocolate-Chip Pancake Muffin Recipe:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) melted unsalted butter
  • 2-3 ripe mashed bananas
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk briefly to combine ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, eggs, maple syrup, and melted butter together until well combined. (If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute regular milk mixed with white vinegar in a 1 cup milk to 1 tablespoon white vinegar ratio.) Mix the mashed bananas into the buttermilk-egg mixture. Slowly fold in the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips. Using a large cookie scoop, divide among 24 muffin cups and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until done.

Hazelnut Chocolate Brownies, the Old-Fashioned Way

5 Jun

And by old-fashioned way, I mean “from scratch.” Not from a box or from Wegmans. And, contrary to what everyone may say or think, a box of brownie mix is not equivalent to chocolate-filled brownies made with white sugar and butter. But it’s just the same ingredients, pre-mixed.

Erroneous. It’s not the same. It’s not like these.

White sugar and butter, people. It’s amazing.

Start by melting two sticks of butter. Yes, two. This is where it’s super handy to have a glass bowl for your mixer. Add in the sugar, vanilla and then the eggs. Butter + sugar + vanilla + eggs = yellow goodness.

Next, add in the chocolate.

Then flour, salt and baking powder.


As if this mix didn’t look good enough, I decided to be especially gluttonous delicious and top the brownies with a hazelnut spread before baking. It helps to have a friend who works for a peanut butter company…who gives you things like hazelnut chocolate spread. Mix up with butter and confectioner’s sugar, and you’re good to go.

Serious chocolate goodness. And way better than anything out of the box.

Hazelnut-Topped Brownie Recipe

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the topping:
  • 1 cup hazelnut spread
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Heat the oven to 350F. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Add in the sugar, and stir until well-dissolved. Mix in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the cocoa and mix until the ingredients are throughly combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add to the chocolate mixture, until just blended. Pour into a greased 13 x 9 pan.

To make the topping, melt the butter and then mix in the hazelnut spread. Add in the vanilla and confectioner’s sugar. Evenly spread pour over the brownies and swirl a knife through the batter/topping to combine slightly.

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

Buckeye Brownie Cupcakes

3 May

Some days, I’m just too cool for frosting.

Don’t get me wrong—I love, love, love frosting. But some days, it’s nice to pull a cupcake out of the oven and not have to worry about piping bags and couplers and which size star tip I should use.

Which is why you always need a good frosting-less recipe. I prefer the ones that involve, you know, multiple bags of chocolate chips and peanut butter…

The other good thing about this recipe? It’s great for days when you are too lazy to haul out just don’t have the counter space for a KitchenAid mixer. If you find me a kitchen with room to store a KitchenAid mixer near a plug and out in the open ready for use, you’ve found the Moby Dick of kitchens. And quite possibly my next house…

So just pull out a good-sized microwave safe bowl and let’s get this party started. First, melt together butter and sugar in the lazy-girls’ stove, aka the microwave.

Then mix in some chocolate chips. They’ll melt into the hot butter-sugar mixture and become just…nice.

Add in eggs and vanilla, mixing until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Then slowly stir these into the aforementioned chocolate mixture.

Let everything cool down for a few minutes, and then add in some more chocolate chips. Because, why not?

Get out a cookie scoop (have I raved about my Oxo large cookie scoop lately? AMAZESAUCE.) and portion out into lined muffin cups. Bake for 13-15 minutes at 350F.

If you have noticed that I never use an unlined muffin tin, you’re correct. IMHO, unlined muffin cups are just a mistake. Hard to get cupcakes out of and hard to clean. And we all know I hate cleaning.

When you pull the brownie cupcakes out, you need to let the centers fall as they cool. If this doesn’t happen, help them along by giving a couple taps with the back of a spoon.

When the brownie centers have all sunk in a bit, it’s time for peanut butter.

I am beyond brand loyal to Peter Pan. I highly suggest you try it.

Heat a couple scoops in the microwave for 30 seconds, and then spoon into each of the brownie cupcake tops.

Give the peanut butter a minute or two to cool, and then (surprise, surprise) top each with more chocolate chips. I like to use a mix of semi-sweet and milk chocolate for the topping.

If this was a cooking show, this would be the part where I show the buckeye brownie cupcakes with an ice-cold glass of milk.

Buckeye Brownie Cupcakes Recipe:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus 1/3 cup for topping
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips, plus 1/3 cup for topping
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Combine butter, sugar, and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt together in microwave for 30-60 seconds. Stir until sugar is combined with butter. Mix in 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips while butter is still warm. Chips will melt as mixture combines. Stir in egg and vanilla. Add flour and baking soda, mixing until just combined. Mix in 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips and scoop into cupcake tin. Bake at 350F for 13-15 minutes. After brownie centers fall, melt peanut butter in microwave. Spoon onto top of cupcake brownies and garnish with remaining chips. Finish cooling in pan.

Cinnamon Cayenne Pepper Brownies

3 Apr

No, I’m not losing my mind. And yes, I actually did make brownies with cayenne pepper.

They look like this.

They started out looking like this.

And at one point looked like this.

And in the end just looked good enough to eat.

So how did the whole cayenne pepper brownie idea start?

I saw these cinnamon baking chips at Wegmans. And I pretty much had to have them. Like, IMMEDIATELY.

Because…I might have a slight fascination with all things cinnamon and chocolate. And by fascination I mean…mild addiction and/or obsession. I even buy this crazy Abuelita Mexican hot cocoa that Nestle makes because it has cinnamon in it. And don’t even get me started on how much I love cinnamon lattes. I can quit any time, I swear.

Since the cinnamon chips aren’t chocolate, I needed to combine them with something that was chocolate. And since cinnamon has a bit of a kick, it’s the perfect spice to join forces with cayenne pepper.

I also had some semi-sweet chocolate chips left over from the 16 ounces debacle, so I added those in just to make things extra gluttonous yum. Don’t judge. Lent is over in like six days.

If you’re worried that the cayenne pepper is going to make things too spicy, don’t be. It gives the brownies a little something extra, you know, like if my resume was pink and scented.

And besides, when was the last time you got to say “oh, these are spicy brownies” in normal conversation?

Cinnamon Cayenne Pepper Brownie Recipe:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bag cinnamon baking chips
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips (maybe 6 ounces??)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the butter and them combine with the sugar in an electric mixer. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and mix until well combined. Mix in the cocoa powder. Slowly add the spices, then gradually add the flour and mix until smooth. Stir in the baking chips and pour into a greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Bake it Forward

30 Mar

How far would you go to make someone smile?

I’ve got this aunt. She’s awesome. And super fun. And she let me wear lipstick when I was nine. Or maybe eight.

And I pretty much thought she couldn’t get any more awesome until yesterday.

When I got this.

Bake it forward.

The concept is simple.



Spread the bake love.

Track your tin.

Because a cup of kindness goes a long way. I love this. It’s like asking to borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor only you’re not asking, you’re just sending a bunch of sugary goodness.

I love this entire idea. It’s so simple and straightforward and it captures one of the best things about baking–you get to make people smile. Like I did last night when I came home and I had a) a package to open and b) said package was filled with awesome sauce.

And hello, who doesn’t want a polka-dot magnet?

My aunt knows me pretty well, because she included a note, with instructions that I must find a young, hip way to spread happiness via baked goods. Because then I can trademark it, become fabulously wealthy, and spend my days eating bon-bons and baking cakes.

Or, I’ll buy a Mega Millions ticket.

On the topic of sugary goodness, Bake it Forward is from the Imperial Sugar Company. We don’t have Imperial Sugar here in Upstate NY, but the name sounds fancy.

To learn more about Bake it Forward and the happiness movement, click here.

**On a side note, I also came home to bon-bons yesterday, in the form of a delicious goodness known as sponge candy. Sponge candy is my absolute favorite thing in the world and probably reason #257 why my mom is rocks.

Share Some Love: Karma Cupcakes

21 Mar

I work with some AMAZING people. They’re smart, talented, and a little…quirky.

Did I mention that they’re also award-winning?

Last Thursday night was the Rochester Advertising Federation’s 2012 Addy Awards. The Addys are an annual celebration of all the mind-blowing creative work that happens in the ROC. Because let’s be reasonable…ad people love to do two things. 1.) Talk about their own ads and 2.) Talk about other people’s ads.

But on to the cupcakes.

Delicious, mutli-colored, velvety, cream cheese frosted cupcakes.

These use a red velvet cupcake recipe, which I doctored up with some neon (yes, 1980’s neon) food color. And for the record, as a flavor, “red velvet” is just regular cake with a few teaspoons of cocoa powder and red food coloring.

But with neon you can make lots of colors. Like blue. And pink.

And orange. And green. Just like Karma Water.

In case you didn’t guess already, my coworkers won two Addy Awards for work done with Karma Water. You can see it online here.

I do need to take one small moment to point out casually mention that I did not use my cookie scoop to make these. Yes, they’re perfectly round and evenly portioned because I’m just that good.

It also helps to only bake one pan of cupcakes at a time. It does take longer, but air flows through the oven more evenly if you only put in one pan at once. So things bake more evenly. Yet another reason why I need a double-oven and two kitchens. Just saying.

These cupcakes made me a true believer in cake flour. If you want light, fluffy cupcakes, you need to use cake flour. Why? Cake flour has less gluten–and gluten is great for things like breads and brownies, but bad for cupcakes. So use cake flour. It’s awesome sauce.

See? Light and fluffy. With mmmmmmm delicious frosting.

Neon velvet goes well with cream cheese frosting–and I’d advise using lots. LOTS. OF. FROSTING.

I’d advise against asking your mom if eight ounces was half a poundwhen you have a MS in MathSHAME RATTLE.

YUM. Perfect for Karma. Or Easter? Or March Madness? Or Gay Pride Week? You decide.

Red Velvet Cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 generous teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring (or neon!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
For the frosting:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups confectionaire’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine the wet cake ingredients in an electric mixer and mix until thoroughly combined. Sift together the dry ingredients (or not) and slowly mix until the wet ingredients. If you’re doing different colors, separate the batter into batches and add food coloring to each. Bake one pan at a time for 15-20 minutes. Makes about 24 cupcakes.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together in an electric mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add in the vanilla, and slowly add in the confectionaries’ sugar until the frosting has reached desired consistency.