Tag Archives: dessert

Peanut Butter. Fudge. Pretzel. Brownies.

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The best pairs in life are unexpected. Mac ‘n cheese on pizza. Tequila in beer. Justin Timberlake and The Lonely Island. The best of them all is the perfect trifecta: peanut butter, pretzels and brownies.

It was Erica’s birthday and bar was set high. I didn’t want to do something like the expected cupcakes or cake…but what’s better than cupcakes? I think I found it.

Peanut Butter Fudge Pretzel Brownies
Recipe from How Sweet Eats

  • 1 3/4 cups crushed pretzels
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cups chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  1. Mix together melted butter and pretzel crumbs – you’ll want to create the crumbs with a food processor or by crushing them with a mallet.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a square 8×8 baking pan and press pretzel crust into the bottom of the pan.
  3. In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter with an electric mixer until slightly fluffy. Slowly add eggs and then vanilla.
  4. Keeping the mixer on medium, add in cocoa, flour and salt. Mix for a few minutes until just combined.
  5. Mix in chocolate chips by hand in you’re using them. Then spread it evenly into your pan.
  6. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. When you have just a couple minutes left, melt the peanut butter.
  7. Stir in your powdered sugar and mix until there are no lumps.
  8. Remove brownies from the oven. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the top.
  9. Allow them to cool and then refrigerate for a few hours before cutting and serving.
I ate these brownies for breakfast, and I don’t regret it one bit. They were RIDICULOUS. Sweet, salty, chocolatey and peanut buttery. These brownies are so m.o.i.s.t and fudgey. Make these yourself because they really were not that hard to bake (even if you don’t have any special redheaded baking powers like I do).
I’m pretty sure Erica had a good birthday. Especially since a friend sent her these…
It’s hard to compete with Sprinkles Cupcakes.
So, what did we learn from this baking experience? Sweet and salty are pretty damn good together. Make sure you serve your dessert before the Sprinkles Cupcakes arrive. And don’t eat three courses worth of dessert in one day or you’ll feel really sick. No matter whose birthday it is.
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Red Velvet Cupcake Throwdown

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It’s that time of year again. The sun is starting to shine, farmers markets are popping up around the block and I’m no longer hibernating in my apartment for fear of another Snowpocalypse. It’s also time for another throwdown.

If you’re a dedicated reader of my blog – and I assume you all are – you remember the famous peanut butter cookie throwdown of 2010. It was pretty epic. Because I lost. I know, I know. It was a huge shock to us both. But I have to say, my competitor really put his best foot forward. When I ran into Chad a few weeks ago and found out we both live in Chicago, we knew it was fate. A rematch would ensue.

I suggested cupcakes for round 2, and Chad came up with the red velvet theme. I’m no red velvet expert, but I am a ginger who loves cream cheese frosting, so I wasn’t about to complain.

I scoured the internet for every red velvet cupcake recipe out there, and you’ll never guess where I found the winning recipe. My weird friend Sarah (the one who doesn’t like sweets) sent over a recipe from Paula Deen, Food Network’s Southern butter-lover, and I knew it was going to be the winner.

I was a bit concerned about Paula at first because of a few of my long-standing pet peeves:

  1. People who refer to their husbands as “hubby.”
  2. Anyone who describes food, or anything for that matter, as “yummy.” I’m fine with the word without the “y”, though (the same does NOT apply for #1).
  3. Not enough frosting.
If I had to guess (not that I watch her show often), Paula Deen has a problem with two out of the three of my pet peeves. Not enough frosting? I was not concerned. The theme was set. We just needed a place and time. I suggested Saturday because my friend, Joanna (red headed videographer from the last throwdown…see below) was in town visiting.
A personal photographer AND a day of cupcakes? That’s my kind of Saturday.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Food Network’s Paula Deen 

Makes about 24 cupcakes, or 12 full size and a ton of mini cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I used a dark chocolate variety)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring (a bit less than 1 entire container)
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
A GingerFoodie Creation

  • 1 pound (or 2 regular sized packages) cream cheese (please don’t buy the low-fat variety for this one)
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ~ 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp real maple syrup (I use the leftovers from my morning brunch)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
    1. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and cocoa powder. Well, really you should sift. But we aren’t all so lucky to own one of those.
    2. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring and vanilla. I saved a couple drops of red dye for my frosting decorations.  Beat with an electric mixer. Be sure to watch those sneaky eggs…
       Oops. When that happens, you have nothing to do but replace it with a fresh one. But that won’t be room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, this is the process to warm the egg. That’s not weird at all. I think babies were on the mind this weekend…
  1. Anyways…then, add in the dry ingredients to the wet with your hand mixer until well combined.
  2. Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 of the way full (trust me on this one). Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes.
While the muffins (this is what they’re called without frosting) are in the oven, get to the good stuff. I sort of eyeballed this recipe since I made it up, so go with your gut.

Make sure that the cream cheese and butter are fully softened before even attempting to mix them together. An electric mixer is sort of a must. My opponent found out the hard way. Then, slowly add in the powdered sugar. Finally, add the vanilla, salt and cinnamon. I mixed in the maple syrup last by hand since it can get pretty sticky. Wait until your cupcakes are fully cooled (read that one friends I will leave unnamed who don’t wait long enough before frosting). You can even put them in the fridge for a bit if necessary.
The frosting technique is to move the cupcake, not the knife. Don’t tell anyone I told you. My videographer/frosting master/Joanna may have shared this piece of information. I made some minis for my guests tasting. And they we’re pretty darn cute.
Let’s get to the competition. My competitor Chad walked in with his crew and cupcakes. They were not red. The cupcakes I mean. Advantage to me? I thought so. I didn’t want to get too cocky after last time. But just look at these things.
Some people said they resembled something else…if you can guess in the comments what it is (appropriate jargon only) you win a prize.



The three judges did an incredible job of deciding on the criteria and rating system. Check out how they rated us plus the final verdict by watching this very special video.

In case you were too lazy to watch my awesome video, I’ll spoil the surprise…
I won!! Check out that killer prize. I know, I know. I’m one lucky girl.

So the score is 1-1. We’re in need of a tie-breaker. And it looks like it’s going to be lasagna. Stay tuned for more to come. GingerFoodie Out (I’ve been watching too much American Idol).

Moving Out (Plus the Best Molten Chocolate Cake)

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In case you haven’t heard (or guessed by my clever title)…I’m moving! Yes, the day has finally come.

I found an apartment a few weeks ago with my friend from work, Missy, whom I’m sure will be featured in many future blog posts, and we’re moving this weekend. Are we packed and all set to go? Um…sure!

It has been pretty hectic around my house, and I’ve had a ton on my plate – both literally and figuratively, since I am a hungry ginger, after all. One of them (the figurative one) was to check out Make It Your Own by cookbook author Jamie Miller. The connection is a long story, and all you really need to know is blah, blah, blah she sent me her cookbook to try out her recipes. The book looked great, so I agreed to do it.

Her book basically focuses on using different sauces for a variety of dishes to make each one your own…hence, the title. If you always find yourself making the same chicken recipe, for example, and are looking to spice things up, this book is for you. The only problem is that you need some unique ingredients for most of these recipes – ones that I don’t usually have in my pantry. I wanted to make the gruyere stuffed salmon burgers with maple-mustard glaze. Maybe next time after I go grocery shopping.

I settled on the Provençal grilled lamb chops minus the recommended aioli. I don’t even eat lamb! It was a tight pantry. The recipe was super easy – and according to my dad, it was flavorful and perfectly seasoned.

This is what happens when you take pictures on your camera phone.

 

Provencal Herb Paste
Recipe by Jamie Miller

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary (I used dried)
3/4 tbsp minced fresh thyme (ditto)
1/2 tbsp minced fresh tarragon
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic (out of the jar in my fridge)
1/4 tsp chopped dried lavender buds  (I omitted)

Because I’m a last-minute kind of gal, I spread this paste on the lamb chop and let it sit for 10 minutes instead of the recommended 2-4 hours. I think we made it out okay. The lamb chop wasn’t such a great quality, as you can see, but this was an easy recipe in a book for a serious cook.

I had to scrape together something else for this meal, and I had the perfect go to recipe that calls for just 5 ingredients. It is a crowd favorite, and I would really recommend making it because it’s extremely easy – and impressive, if I do say so myself.


Molten Chocolate Cake

Adapted from the Food Network

3 oz. butter
3.5 oz chocolate
2 egg yolks (Save the whites. You’ll thank me later.)
2 eggs
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup flour

  1. Spray four ramekins** with Pam. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter together. I’d recommend a double boiler, so you don’t burn the chocolate. To create a makeshift one, just boil a pot of water and place a glass bowl with the chocolate and butter over the top, stirring carefully as they melt. Unless your butter is frozen, put the chocolate in first because it will take longer.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk yolks and eggs together.
  4. Mix in powdered sugar and then flour.
  5. Let the melted butter and chocolate cool for a few minutes. Very slowly incorporate it into the egg mixture. I say slowly because if you aren’t slow enough you can boil your eggs. True story.
  6. Fill your ramekins 3/4 of the way full. Bake for about 6 minutes. If you add on time because of your oven, just add a minute or two because these are very delicate cakes.
  7. Top with powdered sugar and serve.

**Note: If you don’t have ramekins, you can use large muffin tins. Just be sure to watch them very carefully. You can pop them out after letting them cool for a bit.

Amazing. And yes, it tastes as good as it looks.

Eat as directed: straight out of the oven, with a spoon for the molten center, preferably with ice cream if you have some (not all of us are so lucky). Think I’m bringing those ramekins to my new apartment on Saturday? You’d better believe it.

Mardi Gras King Cake Isn’t That Easy

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Most people don’t look at Mardi Gras as a big food holiday. But then again, I am not most people. My office was planning a big Mardi Gras party this week and, of course, my office manager, Kim, asked if I’d be interested in baking a few King cakes to help us celebrate. I said of course, but that my family didn’t have any of the traditional baby jesuses to put in the cake – we are Jews after all.

I looked up the recipe online and noticed it contained yeast. A bit more work than I was used to for a dessert, but I knew I could handle it. I got to work at 7 pm right when I got home from work. It was the beginning and ending of my night.

I decided to increase the recipe to feed the office. Don’t do that unless you are crazy or own a professional bakery. I let the dough rise for two hours and this was the result:

I know. It’s huge. I had to tackle that dough into 3 separate ring shaped cakes. Each was filled with a pecan, raisin and brown sugar mixture- with a little butter for good measure. The result?

At this point it was nearing 11 pm. I had an unbaked King cake on my hands. And I was tired. I had to let the formed cake sit for 45 minutes before baking. Waiting is super fun.

Words cannot begin to explain what this thing looked like when it emerged from the oven. It was actually 3 loaves. Enough to feed a small army, or some really hungry Mardi Gras celebrators. But it looked and smelled incredible. See for yourself.


I don’t even need to share the recipe because let’s be honest – you’re never gonna make it.

It was good. Really good. And it was way too much for my office. Did we finish it a mere two days later for a sizeable snack? Of course. They say whoever finds the baby Jesus has to bring the next king cake. I decided to put a plastic coin in my cake as a sub.

I’ll bet you can guess who found it.

Top Secret Spinach-Artichoke Dip Recipe

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I’ve been getting a little behind on my blog updates – considering it’s now Christmas and I’m updating for Thanksgiving. Don’t judge. I have a life. I mean…I’m too busy baking to write on my blog. Honest truth. I did promise a Thanksgiving recap, and it was a really memorable Thanksgiving. Everyone stepped up their game, and I mean aside from myself. We started off with…

this Raspberry Coffee Cake for breakfast – it’s even more incredible than it looks.

I may have woken up extremely early to sneak into the kitchen to make it. Mission accomplished. Check out the super-easy recipe from Buns in My Oven – and if you don’t have cream cheese like me, you can substitute with something like sour cream.

Then, just a few hours later, we moved on to the appetizers. If I do say so myself, my baked spinach artichoke dip was the hit of the evening. I doubled the recipe for my 9 x 13 inch pan since we had almost 30 hungry guests, but here’s the basic recipe:

 

Marly’s Spinach-Artichoke Dip
1 8 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach
1 can of quartered artichoke hearts
1/4 of a yellow onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of cream cheese
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan
1/2 cup of cubed pepper jack
1. Saute chopped onion in olive oil until browned.
2. Saute spinach in a separate pan.
3. In large bowl, mix can of artichokes (drain first), onions, spinach, mayonnaise, cream cheese, garlic, 3/4 of parmesan and pepper jack cheeses. Add salt & pepper to taste.
5. Cover mixture in pan with more parmesan and pepper jack cheese
6. Cook at 350 degrees F for 25 min. For 2-3 minutes, or until browned, put dip under the broiler. Be careful not to burn.
This is also a great recipe to make in mini ramekins, especially since the crunchy top is the best part. This dip is seriously good.

The spread. Check out my corn souffle, recipe courtesy of Chef Jamie Rotter, in the front. So good.

The Savory Acorn Squash and Ricotta Tart was delicious…but a lot of work.Thanks Food & Wine Mag.

The piece de resistance was supposed to be my apple tart from my fave blog, Smitten Kitchen. But, unfortunately, my practice you saw on my Thanksgiving preview was just way better. Proof that using farm-fresh apples and making crust the day-of really is worth it. It still was pretty good, though. And it looked delicious enough that one unassuming guest broke off a chunk before dessert was served.

 

There’s still a lot to catch up on. Because apparently all I’ve done this past month is bake and cook. More to come soon!

Seriously Homemade Pumpkin Pie – A Thanksgiving Preview

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I know you’re probably thinking this is a little early, but it’s actually pretty late. A few weeks ago, Abby and I made a homemade pumpkin pie. Okay so, obviously, everything I make is homemade. But this was really homemade. The pumpkin from the patch was IN the pie. No can required. Curious to see how we did it? So am I.

We followed a recipe from an extremely ghetto website called PickYourOwn.org – it’s surprisingly difficult to find a true homemade pumpkin pie recipe anymore. Probably because no one makes them. Anyhow, we used a small pie pumpkin, and be sure to use a “pie pumpkin” because it is much sweeter than other varieties. Cut it up into small chunks, remove the gook (I have so many technical terms) and roast it in the oven, skin on for a really, really long time. How long, you ask? No clue. Turn your oven to about 450 degrees and let it roast until you can push a fork right through the pumpkin with pretty much no resistance. The tops and bottom will burn a bit, but you can just remove these bits. And be sure to save the seeds. Rinse them well, coat lightly in salt and pepper and roast until light brown.

Back to the pie. Once you’re done roasting the pumpkin, remove the skin and put the chunks in a food processor. If you don’t have one, try to strain out the pumpkin to get the stringy parts out. We did not do this and our pie just wasn’t as light and fluffy as it should’ve been.

Seriously Homemade Pumpkin Pie
PickYourOwn.org

  • 3 cups processed/sieved pumpkin (Note: you can sub in canned pumpkin here if you aren’t as adventurous as we were)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1.5 cans (12oz each) of evaporated milk (we used the non-fat version, but it would probably nice and creamy if you used a higher fat content)

Flaky, Doughy Pie Crust
Smitten Kitchen

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) very cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  1. Fill 1 measuring cup with water and drop in a few ice cubes. Let sit.
  2. With your hands combine flour, sugar and salt.
  3. Dice the butter and slowly incorporate it into the mixture. The result will be uneven with small chunks of butter.
  4. Slowly, start to incorporate in the water. We didn’t use it all. The mixture shouldn’t be gummy, just completely mixed together.
  5. Knead into a ball, roll into plastic wrap and put in the fridge (or freezer for only 1/2 an hour).

Now, on to the pie. Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together. Take the pie crust out of the freezer and roll it out with a rolling pin in a very thin layer. We made two 8-inch pies instead of a deeper 9-inch.

And the end result? They were good. The crust was a bit undercooked, but it was delicious. Was it worth the extra effort? Not so much. But if we had pureed the pumpkin I have a feeling it would have been much better. Thanksgiving preview? Here it is…I’m making FIVE things for Thanksgiving next week. Not sure yet what will be the star of my blog. But from the looks of my trial run apple tart, this could be it:

Birthday Surprises and Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Layer Cake

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My friends know that when there is a birthday coming up (and there usually is) to expect some sort of birthday treat. I’ve made everything from espresso blondies (maya’s favorite) to spinach artichoke dip (don’t ask…some weird people don’t like sweets). A few weeks ago I decided to tackle something new for my friend Abby’s birthday: a double layer cake. This wasn’t just any double layer cake. It was a chocolate cake with a Nutella espresso mousse.

Chocolate Cake

The best part? I lied. Okay, lying is not good. But in the name of a birthday surprise it is a very good thing. Abby knew I was baking something, but I wanted to save it for her surprise party. So I told her it wouldn’t be ready, and then when she showed up she was shocked to see a beautiful–if I do say so myself–chocolatey birthday cake.

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Layer Cake

Original Recipe from Erica’s Sweet Tooth

I wasn’t quite as ambitious as the original recipe so I decided to bake only two layers instead of splitting them in half after baking.

1-3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk (note: if you don’t have buttermilk, substitute with sour cream or milk with a few teaspoons of lemon juice)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, salt and cocoa and mix together.

3) In a separate bowl combine the eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla.

4) Add the wet ingredients to the dry, preferably with a mixer on low.

5) Stir in the coffee.

6) Pour mixture into two 8″ pans or two different size pans in my case. It all works out–just be sure to adjust cooking time depending on cake thickness. Bake for 35-40 minutes depending on your oven.

Important: allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before removing the cake from the pan. Otherwise you’ll lose part of the bottom and be forced to eat it. Not pretty. In the event that you do loose a chunk of the cake, don’t stress because the mousse will help even it out.

Hazelnut Mousse and Nutella Coffee Topping

Mousse Adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth

*Note: this may not be enough mousse if you decide to do a 4-layer cake.

2 cups or 1 pint heavy whipping cream

3/4 cup Nutella or Hazelnut spread

3 tbsp hot water

3 tsp espresso powder

1) Add the espresso in hot water, mixing until dissolved.

2) Add the Nutella, beating until reaching a smooth consistency.

3) With a mixer (definitely necessary) whip the cream until stiff peaks form. To test for peaks, stop the mixer when the cream begins to get firm and pull the beater gently upwards. If the cream pulls out of the bowl with the beater and doesn’t immediately fall, you’ve got peaks!

4) Gently fold the Nutella mixture into the whipped cream.

It is much easier to put any type of frosting on a cake that isn’t crumbly. Solution: freeze the cakes briefly before mousse-ing them. Otherwise wait until they are thoroughly cooled or the mousse will melt. Put a thick layer of mousse between the two layers and a thick layer on top as well. I decided to do the sides as well, but you can use your artistic vision here.

For the garnish on top, combine about 2 tbsp of Nutella (what you’ll have leftover) and some leftover coffee. Spoon a small amount of coffee into the Nutella until it is thin enough to drizzle but not watery. Then drizzle on top of the cake and down the sides. Finish off with semi or bittersweet chocolate shavings if desired.

On the topic of birthday surprises, happy birthday Mom! I surprised her this weekend by coming home–with homemade granola bars in tow (recipe for those coming soon). I had to promise not to put these photos “on the Internet,” but I’m pretty sure that was a euphemism for Facebook so I think I’m safe. Besides, who knew she looked so glamorous in a sombrero?

Mom in Sombrero