Tag Archives: cooking

Mini Monkey Breads

12 Sep

So several things that I am prejudging myself on here.

First, I try to avoid making recipes that have an animal in the name. Like, duh.

Second, I don’t like recipes whose consumption method is prime for hand contamination. I’d rather not get Ebola or a tapeworm, thankyouverymuch.

And third, I canNOT stand Sandra Lee, so anything that resembles a recipe she would feature on “Semi Homemade” makes me want vomit. Do you think she “tablescapes” the governor’s mansion?

But I will make an exception for monkey bread. Because it is delicious.

And I made it in mini, individualized portions, which eliminated issue 2 above. And…I can always mitigate issues #1 and #3 with a large glass of wine. Just like Sandra Lee would do.

Monkey bread is super easy and super delicious. It’s five ingredients. The recipe calls for sugar, cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter. Plus Pillsbury biscuits.

Like I said. Start with these, semi-homemade.

Then you chop the biscuits into 6 pieces each, and toss with sugar & cinnamon.

Press the pieces together into the pan.

Glaze with melted brown sugar and butter.

And bake.

Omfg yum.

I used a mini-bundt pan for this monkey cake, but you could easily use a large muffin tin as well.

Mini Monkey Bread Recipe:

1 can Pillsbury Grands Buttermilk Biscuits

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/8 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the uncooked biscuits into 6-8 pieces. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon, and toss with the biscuit pieces. Press biscuit pieces into lightly greased pan, about 5-6 pieces per tin. Mix together melted butter and brown sugar, and pour over biscuits in pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool 5-10 minutes in pan, and then remove.

For a full-size monkey cake recipe, visit the Pillsbury recipe page.


Homemade Happy Hour

25 Aug

Do you ever have those times where you just wish there was a place that served bottomless chips and salsa, alongside bottomless margaritas? It would be even better if said place had a happy hour that didn’t require you to drain your bank account.

And don’t lie…I know I’m not the only one.

So I really like doing happy hour at home, on my porch. I’ve got a sweet glider swing and the weather is amazing lately. Plus, I can have as many margaritas as I want when I’m at home.

The problem issue is, I’m a bit of a salsa and margarita snob. I haven’t ever found a grocery-store jar salsa that I really like—they are all either too chunky, too watery, or too full of artsy things like “mango” and “jicama.” And as for margaritas, I have a recipe that I like, but I’m always open to suggestions, as long as I’m not going to end a) stinking drunk or b) with heartburn.

(Personally, I can’t decide if I prefer a or b.)

Which is why this salsa is pretty much perfect for me. It’s a restaurant-style salsa, not too chunky, not too spicy, just right. It was also served with a margarita that I didn’t have to make, which clearly upped the delicious factor.

The restaurant-style salsa recipe is pretty simple. Canned whole tomatoes, some Rotel, garlic, cilantro, onion, cumin, lime, and a jalapeno. You just blend everything together in a food processor, and you’re done.

Make sure you buy good, quality tomatoes, as these are the base for the salsa. Look for whole Roma tomatoes, or, San Marzano tomatoes taste amazing when you really want to splurge.  And yes, not all canned tomatoes are the same.

As for the margarita, I have no idea on the exact ratio of ingredients, but I do know its tequila, gran marnier, lime juice, and simple syrup. These are cp-bf’s specialty, so I just leave the mixing and magic to him.

Plus, the salsa makes a big enough batch that I was able to fill up three smaller mason jars with it, and still have some leftover. Which was perfect, as I had a housewarming party to go to last weekend. Yet another great easy and inexpensive DIY present.

Restaurant-Style Salsa:

  • 1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes in juice
  • 2 cans (10 oz. each) Rotel tomatoes and green chiles
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 to 1 cup cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all the ingredients in a 12-cup food processor. Squeeze in the lime juice. Pulse the ingredients until the desired consistency is reached. Adjust seasonings as needed.

You do need to use a larger food processor, as this makes a decent-sized batch. If you don’t have a 12-cup processor, you could pulse the ingredients in batches and then combine together in a large bowl.

If you want your salsa to be less spicy, remove the seeds and veins from the jalapeno before using.

(and in the spirit of honesty, I first saw this recipe on Pioneer Woman.)

Eggs Benedict, aka Eggs Delicious

24 Aug

A few weekends ago I went to visit one of my biz school girlfriends in her hometown of Chagrin Falls, OH. Jessica and I are both into anything delicious, which usually means anytime we see each other its guaranteed to be a food bender. With intermittent fancy drinks mixed in.

This past visit was no different. High points included homemade crab cakes with sirracha mayo, waffles topped with peaches and fresh maple syrup, mimosas, margaritas, and eggs benedict.

Did I mention the eggs benedict?

Quite possibly my favorite breakfast dish. Of. All. Time.

You start by making some hollandaise.

And maple-glazed canadian bacon.

Then poach your eggs.

(This looks grosser than it really is.)

Layer it all on an english muffin.

And enjoy.

Just try not to think about how you are having carbs loaded with bacon topped with a poached egg topped with buttery egg sauce. You can always go running tomorrow.

Don’t even bother asking me for the recipe…because I will openly admit I did not contribute a single thing to the construction of this meal. Hey, I can’t cook all the time, right?

Many thanks to the lovely Johnson family for a great weekend and some amazing eggs benny.

Love: Chocolate Chip Cookies

9 Jul

I have a huge soft spot in my heart for chocolate chip cookies. My mom baked them almost every week when I was growing up…and almost very week my sister and I were plotting new ways to steal cookie dough from the bowl when she wasn’t looking. (Hint: it is very easy when the oven is in a different room from the kitchen…)

For a while, I was using the Toll House recipe, but then my friends at America’s Test Kitchen did a chocolate chip cookie recipe test, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

It’s almost the same as Toll House (which ATK based their recipe on) but has a few differences. Namely, more brown sugar then white sugar, one egg and one egg yolk instead of two whole eggs, and you are supposed to brown the butter. (Being that I have zero patience am leaving on a business trip today at five, I just went for melting the butter.)

Another reason why I love ATK is that this recipe also included a baking chip taste-test (Ghiradelli 60% Cacao won), tips on how to measure flour (apparently “by weight” is the preferred method, ugh idonthavetimeforthis), and reinforced what I always say about baking things one pan at a time (yes, I do love being right).

The recipe said it made 16 cookies, and I ended up with around 21 cookies of deliciousness. I highly suggest reading the ATK article on how they came to this recipe, baking more than 700 cookies in the process.

Got milk?

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl, or brown the butter in a skillet. Add both sugars, salt, salt and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add in egg and egg yolk, stirring for about 30 seconds. Let the mixture stand for three minutes, and then whisk again for 30 seconds. Repeat this process two more times. (This gives the sugar time to dissolve into the butter, giving your cookies a nice caramel taste.) Stir together the flour and baking soda, and mix into the butter mixture until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Scoop dough onto parchment paper lined baking sheets, about 2-3 tablespoons per scoop. Bake at 375F or until cookies are golden brown and puffy. Cool completely on wire racks.

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.

A Frosting-Less Orange Pound Cake

15 May

So I’m still not up for making frosting.

But I still love cake.

And I still go on fruit kicks, and last week I was really craving oranges. Or, I just really wanted a mimosa.

But, day-drinking is frowned upon (lame), so I made orange cake.

You start by zesting (i.e. grating the rind) of two medium oranges. You need about two tablespoons, give or take.

Next, whisk the dry ingredients together in a stand mixer. I’ve never made a cake with the whisk attachment before…but, as we all know my opinion on sifting dry ingredients (lame) I figured why not.

Be sure to use cake flour for this recipe. Regular flour is too heavy and has too much gluten to make a light, fluffy cake.

Here’s the fun part. Cut the butter into chunks and toss into the flour mixture.

Whisk on medium until it’s all chunky. It will first look like this.

Keep whisking. When it’s like this, stop.

Mix the eggs, milk and vanilla together in a separate bowl.

I substituted maple syrup for vanilla, since I am out of vanilla.

Two side notes. One, stop having t-rex arms, and spring for real vanilla. Imitation vanilla, while cheaper, is sub-par. Two, if you ever travel south of the border, hit up one of the local shops—you can find pints (yes, pints, not the lame tiny bottles that they sell in the US) of pure vanilla extract. With a price that even t-rex arms love.

Back to cake. Slowly add the egg mixture to the butter-flour mixture. When it is just moistened and everything has loosened up, stop. Overmixing will bring out too much of the cake flour’s gluten.

Pour into a greased bundt pan, and bake at 350F for 30 mins. Check to make sure the edges aren’t getting overcooked, and bake another 15-30 minutes, until the top bounces back when you press on it slightly.

While the cake is cooking, juice the zested oranges. You need about 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice. Heat the OJ together with 1/3 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons triple sec until it boils and the sugar is dissolved. I knew I could work booze into this recipe somewhere…

Pour the juice-sugar mixture over the cake while it is cooling in the pan. When the juice has absorbed into the cake. remove the cake from the pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.

I’d suggest serving with a mimosa. Just saying…

Glazed Orange Pound Cake:

  • 13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoon milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec

Preheat oven to 350F. Zest the orange with a small grater or zester. Combine the cake flour, sugar and baking powder in a mixer. Add in the orange zest and butter and whisk until clumps form. Mix together the eggs, milk and vanilla and slowly add to the flour mixture. Pour into greased pan and bake until top is springy. Boil together the OJ, remaining sugar and triple sec. Pour over cake and let glaze soak in. Flip cake out of pan and finish cooling on wire rack.

The Lasagna Recipe

7 May

So I’ve gotten a few angry comments requests in for my eggplant lasagna recipe, that I featured here. I, apparently, did not share.

And, I just saw on FB that the lovely, smart, beautiful (and she’s my Hokie bff) VCM made her own version. Which LITERALLY made my day. As in, I was clicking the “like” button and commenting like a pre-teen on a Justin Bieber post.

Which means I need to share the love. Here’s the recipe.

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 5/8 cups whole milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Whisk in the whole milk and increase heat to medium-high. Continue whisking until sauce has thickened, about 6-10 minutes. Add in nutmeg and remove from heat. When sauce has cooled slightly, use it to coat the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking dish.
Red Sauce:
  • 28 ounces San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Garlic, chopped
  • Tomato paste
  • Olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • Dried basil
  • Fennel
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
In a large saute/saucepan, heat up the olive oil (about two turns of the pan) on medium heat. Add in the chopped onion and mix until the onion begins to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add in good-sized scoops of chopped garlic, and the seasonings/spices (start with about a teaspoon of each). If you crush the dried spices in your hand before adding to the pan, it will open up the flavor. Next, mix in two tablespoons of tomato paste and the San Marzano tomatoes. If the tomatoes aren’t chopped (which they probably aren’t, as San Marzano tomatoes come whole), chop the entire can of tomatoes in a blender first. Adjust seasonings and add salt & pepper to taste. When the sauce bubbles, remove from heat.
It should be noted that I am going out on a SERIOUS LIMB and risking getting ostracized from the Italian community by releasing my sauce recipe. But, I really, really, feel for the people who don’t have a good sauce recipe. So I’m sharing.
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 9 pieces
  • 15 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 9 slices of good prosciutto
  • Whole-milk mozzarella, grated
  • Olive oil

On a rimmed cookie sheet, coat both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake for 15 minutes at 450F until the eggplant has softened.

To make the lasagna filling, mix together the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, and spinach. Top each slice of eggplant with a piece of prosciutto, then filling, and top with some grated mozz.

Roll up, and place in the bechamel-coated pan.

It looks a bit like this.

Top with the red sauce, and grated mozz. Cover with foil, and bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Uncover, and bake for 10-15 minutes more.

The best part? You can make this recipe in advance/in pieces. Make the marinara the day (or week, months, etc) before. The sauce freezes well. The filling keeps, without separating, for about five hours, so you can prep the eggplant part a few hours before and throw in the fridge. Top with the sauce just before baking. Be sure to add 10-15 minutes to cook time if you’ve refrigerated the eggplant part.

A special bit of cakerypapery goes out to VCM. You’re more than just my Hokie bff—you were the one of the reasons I got up and out of the pitch-dark places after April 16, because you were there to help pull me up and out. I love you always.

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.