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My Favorite Lemon Bars

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lemon bars 2015 031

Here’s another rustic dessert for you – and this time it’s lemon!!  I’ve been making these lemon bars since I was a kid. . .which was a bit ago.  ;-)  I love this recipe because it has a lot of lemon filling (to me the ratio of filling to crust is perfect) and a delicious buttery crust.  And it’s big on lemon flavor – what’s not to love?

lemon bars 2015 058

Don’t omit the baking powder from the filling – I know it’s odd, but it makes the bars set up like a dense pie filling.  And be sure to take these out when the middle is no longer jiggly – mine take about 25-27 minutes.

Lemon Bars Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Crust:

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

pinch of coarse kosher salt

1 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 x 8 inch glass pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Using a handheld mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and salt until creamed.  Then add in the flour and beat until the mixture turns sandy.  Then use your hands to continue mixing the dough together – making sure to incorporate any remaining butter mixture with the flour.  It will be sandy, but will hold its shape when squeezed together.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spread it around evenly, and then press the dough into an even layer with your hands.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, make the lemon filling.

Lemon Filling:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 lemons, zested with a microplaner

6-7 Tablespoons of lemon juice (fresh squeezed from the lemons you zested)

1/4 cup flour

pinch of coarse kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, flour, salt and baking powder with a handheld mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes.  Pour the lemon mixture over the hot crust when it comes out of the oven.  (The lemon mixture will look foamy on top – that’s okay).

Bake in the oven for 25-27 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center doesn’t jiggle when shook.

Take the pan out of the oven, and let the bars cool in the pan for about 30 minutes.  Then place the pan in the refrigerator covered with a paper towel on top.  Let chill for 5 hours (if you can wait that long) before cutting.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Store any leftovers in the refrigerator covered.

Enjoy!

 

Molten Lava Cakes

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January 2016 1007

Okay, so this is one of those desserts that’s been on my to-make list for awhile, and darn if it’s not incredibly simple & delicious!  I just can’t believe I waited so long to make it.  Don’t make the same mistake – make these right now!

January 19 2015 014

Molten Lava Cakes Adapted from Baking Illustrated

2 Tablespoons flour

1 stick unsalted butter

8 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used Baker’s)

4 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

powdered sugar & raspberries for decorating, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with 4 (8 ounce) disposable baking cups,  I used these.

On the highest speed – using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat for 5 minutes.  The mixture should become thick, yellow, and double in size.

In the meantime, melt the butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl, in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until the chocolate is almost completely melted.  Stir together the butter and chocolate until completely incorporated; set aside.

When the egg mixture is done, pour it over the melted chocolate mixture.  Then sift the flour on top, and fold it all together.  This will take about a minute of constant folding.

Using a 4 ounce scoop, place 2 scoops of batter into each disposable baking cup.  Place in the oven for about 12 minutes.  Watching carefully towards the end.  The edges will puff up and the middle should still be sunken.  Take out of the oven and carefully remove from the baking pan; serve immediately with powdered sugar, raspberries, whip cream, ice cream – or all of the above!!

If you cook these completely through they are still delicious, almost like a dense, moist, chocolate cake (if you want your cakes like this, then bake for about 15 minutes – they’ll still jiggle just a little in the center), if they are baked for too long, the cake ends up dry).

*This recipe makes only 4 – 8 ounce cakes.  Store any leftover molten cakes (covered) in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  The dense cakes do not require refrigeration.

 

Rustic Orange Cake

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January 5 2016 033

I love books.  Maybe it’s because my mother was a librarian for a time when I was growing up, and we spent many summers at the library while she worked?  Who knows!!  I do imagine however, that it would be no surprise to anyone that I own a lot of cookbooks.  I even have a closet under the stairs that we affectionately call the “Harry Potter closet,” and that is where I store all of them.

Unfortunately it’s not big enough for my entire collection. . .anymore.  So I’m cooking and baking my way through them.  This cake came from one of those cookbooks!

It’s quite deceiving because of the brown color (brown often = dry), but it is incredibly moist, light, and has a delicious slight orange flavor.  I contemplated adding orange extract, but my husband loves it just like it is and even requested it for his birthday a good 11 months from now!   However, I did add the orange extract as an option below if you’re interested in punching up the flavor.

And just a heads up, there is a soaking syrup so be sure to make that while the cake is baking!

Rustic Orange Cake Adapted from Grace’s Sweet Life

6 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons sugar, divided

grated zest of 3 oranges (using a microplane grater)

1 cup of freshly squeezed oranges, approx. 3-4

1 teaspoon pure orange extract, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and spray a tube pan with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Separate the eggs: place the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl and the whites into a medium mixing bowl.

In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the canola oil, vanilla, orange zest and 1 cup of sugar.  Set aside to beat in a moment.

With a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy and slowly add in the 2 Tablespoons of sugar in small increments, while continuing to beat until stiff peaks form; set aside.

Using the same hand mixer, beat the egg yolk mixture together for about 2 minutes, or until light in color.  Beat in the orange juice, orange extract (if using), baking powder, and salt until combined.

Beat in the flour until completely incorporated.  Then fold in the beaten egg whites until there are no more white streaks or lumps.

Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake for 35-40 minutes (rotating the pan halfway through), until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pour the orange syrup over the cake right out of the oven.  Let it soak in for about 5 minutes.  Then invert the cake (the top will be sticky from the syrup – so perhaps invert the cake onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and then flip it right side up onto a cake round or serving platter, and carefully peel the parchment off the top.  I flipped mine straight onto a wire rack and that is why it has those ridges on top – I’m trying the parchment method next time!

Dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar before serving.

While the cake is baking make the orange syrup!

Orange Syrup Adapted from Grace’s Sweet Life

1/2 cup of fresh squeeze orange juice (1 – 2 oranges)

1/2 cup sugar

strips of zest from 1 orange, using a zester

In a small pot, add all of the ingredients and boil on high just until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Take it off the stove and strain through a sieve, set aside to pour over the baked cake.

 

 

 

Cranberry Spiced Pecan Goat Cheese

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January 2016 091

So who knew this whole cranberry-pecan-goat cheese was a thing?  I guess I’m a little late to the party.  I actually just happened upon this combination this past weekend while searching for some cheese for a platter I was putting together.

You see, every New Year’s Eve we have seafood (lobster, scallops, shrimp, and sometimes crab).  And every New Year’s day we have appetizers.  It’s a great way to keep everyone noshing while watching football or playing board games.  It’s also a well deserved night off for me!!

I’m not big on blue cheeses, so my husband suggested I try the last slice of a cranberry pecan goat cheese that our local Fresh Market was offering.  So we brought it home and I think I ate all but a few bites (luckily it was only 1 ounce).  It was fabulous!

So of course I had to recreate it, and I think mine is even better!

Cranberry Spiced Pecan Goat Cheese Adapted from Cooking with Curls

5 ounces of Goat Cheese (I bought 5 – 1 ounce slices of goat cheese)

1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1/4 cup whole pecans, chopped

1 Tablespoon shelled pistachios, chopped

2 Tablespoons Turbinado sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon salted butter

In a small sauce pan on low heat, toast the pecans and pistachios in the butter for 2 minutes.  Then add in the sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cranberries.  Stir constantly to make sure the mixture is coated in  butter, and that nothing burns.  Heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until the spices and nuts are fragrant and the butter has all but disappeared.  Set aside to cool.

Place the nut mixture onto a cutting board and roll the goat cheese in it, being sure to press the mixture firmly into the cheese.  Also, make sure to coat the ends of the cheese.

Place on a serving tray and serve with crackers, or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.

*I like to sprinkle some extra nut/cranberry mixture around the cheese – you can not have too much!

 

Triple Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

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December 2015 030

My family is full of chocoholics.  So when we decided to make crinkle cookies this year, I knew we had to add some chocolate chips to the batter!

The dough is not thick, like typical cookie dough.  In fact, it’s soft and pourable, thus the need for chilling!  So definitely do not skip this step.  ;-)

Triple Chocolate Crinkle Cookies Adapted from Food Network

1 cup flour

1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Brute)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

4 ounces of semisweet chocolate

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment; set aside.

Place the powdered sugar into a wide rimmed bowl and set aside.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and chocolate together in 30-second increments until melted.  Stir together, and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together for about 2 minutes, until thick.  Add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and beat until combined.

Beat in the cocoa powder and the flour just until incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the mixture into a container and cover.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

When the dough has chilled and become firm, using a dough scoop; scoop 1 1/2 Tablespoons of dough into the bowl of powdered sugar and roll around coating the dough entirely.  Place on the prepared parchment-lined baking sheet.

These spread quite a bit, so make sure there’s at least 2 1/2 inches of space between each cookie to allow for spreading.

Bake for 12 minutes; then let the cookies rest on the hot baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing from the parchment.

 

Plaid Mint Chocolate Brownies

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Plaid Brownies 2015 002

Plaid is so in right now, am I right?!  I was flipping through Rachael Ray’s latest magazine with my friend and we both loved the plaid shortbread she had in there.  So we decided that plaid mint brownies had to be made.

Plaid Brownies 2015 018

Plaid Mint Brownies Adapted from Celebrate Magazine & Rachael Ray

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa (I used Cacao Barry Brute)

1 1/4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lin a 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray generously with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy (with a handheld mixer).  Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each.  Add in the vanilla, baking powder, and salt.  Beat just until combined.

Add in the cocoa powder and the flour, and beat until incorporated.  Do not over beat.  The batter will be thick.  Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the brownies cool completely in the pan.

Mint Frosting Adapted from Celebrate Magazine

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 Tablespoons milk

2 Tablespoons Karo syrup

1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

Beat the butter and the powdered sugar together with a handheld mixer – add in the milk as you beat to bring the frosting together.

Beat in the Karo syrup and peppermint extract.  Tint half of the frosting with mint green gel food coloring.

Spread the mint green frosting on the brownie in a thin layer.  Then color half the frosting red, and the other half a dark green.

Place in piping bags fitted with different tips and pipe lines.  Place the finished brownies in the refrigerator to cool (at least an hour), so the brownies will be easier to slice.

Slice brownies and serve!  Enjoy!

Store any leftovers in a covered container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Monterey Jack Queso

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Queso 2015 010

Queso is one of my very favorite foods.  The one thing that I’ll almost definitely order at a restaurant if it’s on the menu.  That being said, I’m kind of picky.

I have standards, you know?.  I like it cheesy (but not processed), creamy, slightly spicy, and it has to have colored peppers.

This queso, is all of those things.  It’s made with real Monterey Jack Pepper cheese from the refrigerated section (no less)!  It’s creamy, cheesy, and it has chopped up fresh jalapenos and red bell peppers.

It’s like angels singing, well almost.  ;-)

Just a note: Please be sure to pick up the block of cheese instead of any shredded cheese in a bag – I used Tillamook!  The shredded cheese has a powder on it to prevent the cheese from caking in the bag, so the block cheese will melt much better.

Monterey Jack Queso Adapted from BHG Appetizers

1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, more as needed to thin

2  heaping (lightly packed) cups of shredded Monterey Pepper Jack Cheese (I buy the block & shred myself)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch (or flour)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sugar

large pinch of coarse kosher salt

1 – 2 jalapenos (seeded and finely chopped)*

1/3 of a large red bell pepper (seeded and finely chopped)*

cilantro, chopped (optional)

In a medium bowl, toss the shredded cheese with cornstarch to coat.  Set aside.

In a medium pot, sauté the onions in butter (on medium heat) until they are translucent.  Add in the heavy cream, cumin, sugar and salt.  Then stir in half of the cheese, stirring for a few minutes until melted.

Add in the remaining cheese, and stir in until melted.  Add in the peppers.  Stir until combined.  Add more heavy cream if needed to thin sauce consistency, if you prefer.

Serve warm with a sprinkling of cilantro.

Enjoy with tortillas, tortilla chips, on top of enchiladas, or fresh veggies.  Store any leftovers in a covered container, and use within 3 days.

*Feel free to add more peppers if you like it spicy!  Just taste as you add.

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