almond butter brownies

almond butter brownies

almond butter browniesALMOND BUTTER BROWNIES!!!  Yes, you heard me right, almond butter brownies, not chocolate fudge brownies, so I apologize for those of you that were looking for something chocolately, next time!  These are a bit of a healthier brownie, if there is such a thing as a healthy brownie. These brownies are made with 6 simple ingredients, almond butter, honey, an egg, vanilla, salt, and baking soda.  Yep, there’s not flour or sugar in these brownies and you honestly won’t miss the sugar or flour, as these brownies are gooey on the inside and a bit crusty on the outside. They’re super simple to whip up, (only takes 1/2 hour) super tasty, kid and co-worker approved (yes, my kids and co-workers loved these) and gluten-free to boot!

My friend Kimber introduced these brownies to my girlfriends and I on our recent girl’s trip.  We all absolutely loved them, and we agreed as we literally devoured the pan, that I needed to get this recipe posted on my blog sooner than later. I was super excited to bake these up and share the recipe with all of you, but I wasn’t excited to photograph them because although they taste great, they’re not the most attractive things to photograph.  So before I get to the recipe I thought it would be fun to show you two of the photographs that did not make it to the cutting room floor.

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pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frosting

pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frosting

pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frostingThanks to everyone for voting this week on which recipe you wanted to see posted next.  As you can see from the comments, this pumpkin cake won hands down.  I’m totally not surprised because it’s fall and everyone has pumpkin and cake on their minds. It really wasn’t a fair competition, was it?  I mean salad vs cake?  I knew who the winner was before I finished the post, but I just wanted to double-check and make sure that’s what you all wanted.  So thanks :)

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homemade almond joy and mounds bars

homemade almond joy and mounds bars

homemade almond joy and mounds barsI teased some of you late this summer on Instagram and Facebook with photos of these homemade Almond Joy and Mounds bars.  Many of you were asking for the recipe like NOW, but I couldn’t give it out just then because I was photographing and getting it ready for Marin Magazine.  Well, the magazine called me this afternoon and told me that the issue is out digitally and going to be in stores tomorrow!  Yippee!  So that means that I can finally share this recipe with you all.  Double Yippee!  How cool is it that Marin Mama is in the Marin Magazine?  I think it’s pretty cool!  You can check out the article here or pick up a magazine at your local Marin store!

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chocolate Oreo ice cream

chocolate Oreo ice cream

chocolate Oreo ice creamThis chocolate Oreo ice cream tastes like my favorite ice cream from Sebastian Joe’s in Minneapolis. It’s pure, creamy, full of big chunks of Oreo cookie, and it’s oh so chocolaty.  It’s not too rich tasting nor too bland, it’s just perfect.  I know some of you are intimated by the thought of making homemade ice cream, but please don’t be, it’s seriously one of the easiest desserts to make. You just stir a few simple ingredients together over the stove top, let it come to a boil and then whisk in the rest, throw it in a blender for 30 seconds, let it chill for a bit and then let your ice cream maker churn it into ice cream.  You can’t go wrong.  The hardest and longest part is waiting for the ice cream to freeze up, so this is not one of those make it and eat it right away desserts. This is one of those make it in the morning and then eat it after dinner desserts.

chocolate Oreo ice cream

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frozen s’mores

frozen s'mores (1 of 1)

frozen s'mores (1 of 1)I was going to post these bad boys next week, but I received so many emails and comments from friends wanting the recipe for these, that I decided to post the recipe a bit early. See, I really do listen to you all!  Here’s the perfect summer s’more for those hot summer nights. These s’mores are a twist from the traditional s’mores because the chocolate is on the outside and they’re frozen. Yes, they’re frozen, am I tempting you yet? The best part is that they can be made year round, as they are cooked under a broiler instead of roasted over a campfire. So for those of you that don’t have a backyard fire pit, you’re in luck. These s’mores can be made up in your kitchen and ready in under 30 minutes (they take 5 minutes to assemble, the freezing time is the longest part).  How awesome is that? It’s the perfect after dinner no fuss summer (or anytime of year) dessert.  You can eat them as is, (which is John’s, Zoe’s and my favorite way) or break them into smaller bite-sized pieces and top them on your favorite ice-cream (which is Eli’s favorite way).  Your friends will be impressed when you pull out these bad boys for dessert, because they’re a pretty unique twist on the old fashioned s’more. I will warn you that these are super addicting and you can’t just stop at one piece, you will find yourself breaking off another piece and then another, until you just have to walk away and commit to being done.  Life is about moderation folks, so it’s ok to have a sweet here and there.

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the best chocolate chip skillet cookie

the best chocolate chip skillet cookie

the best chocolate chip skillet cookieWhy am I calling this the best chocolate chip skillet cookie? I mean thats a pretty bold statement, right? Well, I have tested this cookie out on my family and friends and we think this cookie rocks. I took my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, threw it in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, topped it with a bit of sea salt, and oh my,  it turned into this delicious PARTY cookie. Yes, you heard me right, party cookie, because you will want to throw a party when you make this cookie. The chips are all gooey and melty and you feel like you’re eating a slice of the best cookie pie. Top it off with a scoop of ice-cream and some hot fudge, and you have the best cookie sundae ever!

the best chocolate chip skillet cookieThis is now one of the most requested desserts in the house and I’m happy to make it at anytime because it’s super simple to throw together. What I love most is that you can throw it together at the last minute because you don’t have to bring any of the ingredients to room temperature first. Just grab everything out of the pantry and fridge, mix it together and throw it into a skillet to cook, easy peasy.

This cookie is the perfect and unique dessert for your next potluck, summer picnic, birthday or school party or summer sleepover, as it serves a crowd and then some. People are always impressed with a big cookie. Bring this to a party and your friends will think you’re the bomb. If  you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you have to get one because it will become one of the most used pans in your house. You can get a pre-seasoned 12-inch skillet for under $20. I seriously use this pan all of the time from cooking eggs, to sautéing chicken and pastas to making cookies. So what’s holding you back?  Go out and purchase one or take yours out from the cupboard and make this cookie!

the best chocolate chip skillet cookie

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peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy bars

peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy bars

peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy barsI know, don’t these look amazing? I’ve never been a huge rice crispy bar fan, as I’m more of a cake or cupcake sort of gal, but this particular recipe caught my eye. I just love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate and to throw it together in a crispy and crunchy treat, yum! These bars were a total hit in my house, and I was sort of surprised because as I said before, rice crispy bars are not our go-to choice for dessert. John and I kept sneaking back in the kitchen for seconds and even attempted to share a third. I even think we liked these more than the kids, which is funny because I usually associate rice crispy bars as more of a kid kind of dessert rather than an adult one.

These bars are so simple to make and something that your kids might even be able to do on their own.  I thought of having Zoe whip up these bars for a cooking with kids post, but honestly, that girl has been too busy to do a post for the blog. I’m hoping to get her back on here this summer though!

These bars, like any rice crispy bar, taste best day one or two, so eat them up.  I’m warning you that these are not an instant gratification treat because you have to wait a few hours for the chocolate to harden a bit. It doesn’t have to be rock solid, but just firm enough that you can cut into the bars. The bars actually taste amazing when the chocolate is still a bit soft on top.

peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy bars

peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy bars:

recipe adapted from Everyday Food magazine

  • 1 package (12 ounces) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips – I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chips
  • 6 cups puffed-rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • non-stick baking/cooking spray for the spatula

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salted caramel brownies

salted caramel brownies

DSC_0036What do you get when you take your absolute favorite brownie recipe and add caramel and sea salt to it?

IMG_3287You get a masterpiece, I’m saying a brownie lovers dream. These brownies are not your typical cake-like brownies, they’re more fudge-like in consistency, but fudge-like in a good way, like mouthwatering lick your fingers and plate sort of way.  I absolutely love these brownies, hence the name, Robert’s absolute best brownies.  Zoe and I have been talking about making caramel and sea salt brownies for sometime, so I decided to surprise her one day after school. I didn’t research another brownie recipe because these are our family’s favorite recipe, so why re-invent the wheel, right? I’m so glad that I added the caramel and sea salt, because not only do we have one favorite brownie recipe, but we now have two. I must warn you that these brownies are not low in calories and they’re not for the faint of heart.  These brownies are decedent, rich, and oh so fudgey, but so worth the indulgence. You will be licking your fingers, plate and fork after eating not one, but possibly two of these brownies.

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chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt

chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt

chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt I saw this recipe in the most recent issue of bon appetit and knew I had to make it. When I opened up the magazine and saw these cookies and the words salty and chocolate in the title, they had me. I’m one of those gals that loves salty and sweet combinations. Chocolate covered pretzels are my weakness.  I will admit that I was a bit hesitant to try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, because I have my absolute FAVORITE chocolate chip cookie recipe already on this blog.  If you haven’t tried those chocolate chip cookies, you must!

OK, so lets move onto these cookies. I quickly made up a batch of these cookies one Sunday afternoon and posted a photo of them on Facebook and Instagram.  My readers saw the photo and asked me to post this recipe ASAP.  I didn’t take any pictures the first time around (besides that one quick shot) because I was just making them up for the family.  I made them up a second time so that I could take photographs and get the recipe down for you all. I followed the directions given in the magazine perfectly, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t like the cookies very much. They were almost meringue-like in texture and very crispy. I was stressed because I had promised these cookies to you all and I wasn’t feeling to great about them. I wondered what had happened between the first time I had made then up and the second time to make them taste so differently. I decided to make them up the way I did the first time, (by not following the directions too much) and they turned out perfectly  The original recipe called for whipping the batter for 4-5 minutes and by doing this, the texture of the cookies changed and became something entirely different.  I’m sure that people like their cookies that way, but we like ours to be a bit chewy and not so crisp and dry tasting. So after baking 3 batches of these cookies, I’m literally cookied out.

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chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (1 of 1)I sincerely apologize for all of those crazy emails you received yesterday. I did an update on word press (still getting use to word press) and at the same time I was working on the draft to this post. For some strange reason the post then got published and thus the emails instantly went out to you all. I’m glad that my email notification is so efficient, but at the same time, it’s a bit too efficient.  The post was obviously not fit to be published, as it was in total draft form, but now at last it’s all ready, so here it is.

So, lets move away from the hassles of computers and technology and onto these cupcakes or should I say happy cakes.  Zoe used to call cupcakes happy cakes when she was little, and I really think it’s a fitting name, don’t you? Cupcakes make people happy, at least everyone I know. I can still her cute little raspy voice and see her big grin every time we went to a birthday party and she saw cupcakes.  She would jump and down saying, “happy cakes, happy cakes.”

These are the ideal party or celebration cupcakes. They’re moist and chock-full of rich chocolate flavor.  The cream cheese frosting is the perfect accompaniment to the cupcakes, making them not too sweet.  I took my family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe and transformed it into cupcakes.

chocolate cake with cream cheese frostingI initially made the cupcakes using the whole cake recipe and ended up with 24 cupcakes. Ummm, 24 cupcakes are perfect for a party or event, but a bit too much to pawn off on the family, so I decided to cut the recipe in half, and now it’s perfect. I was worried that the cupcakes would be a bit dry or loose some of their moistness (I know, I hate that word) being reduced down to cupcake size, but they didn’t loose either of those qualities. They honestly taste like mini versions of my cake.

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chocolate chip pumpkin bundt cake with chocolate ganache

chocolate chip pumpkin bundt cake with ganache

chocolate chip pumpkin bundt cake with ganacheHappy Holidays everyone! I’m not doing my normal weekly menu post this week because it’s a holiday week, so I’m taking a holiday.  I’m actually going to take an extended 2 week blogging holiday so I can just “be” and enjoy time with my family and friends.  I plan on hiking, skiing, reading and cooking tons with the kids.

I didn’t want to leave you all high and dry so I’m finally posting this recipe from my friend Averie, that I have made at least 5 times.  Averie did an amazing update on the chocolate chip pumpkin bunt bread.  She took the bundt bread recipe and turned it into a bunt cake. This is dessert guys, no longer an afterschool snack.  If you haven’t checked out Averie’s site, Averie Cooks, you must.  Averie has been blogging for years and she has it down. If you have a sweet tooth, then she’s your gal. She has over a million desserts on her blog as well as some great bread recipes that I can’t wait to try. Over the past year she has become a great blogging friend, and she’s taught me so much about blogging, so thanks Averie!

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chocolate coconut pie

chocolatepie

chocolate coconut pieOk, if you like coconut and dark chocolate, then this is the pie for you.  It’s seriously like eating a chocolate covered macaroon.  This is my new Thanksgiving pie. I’ve been making it each year for Thanksgiving, and honestly it’s the first pie to get devoured, so move over pumpkin and apple pie, because there’s a new pie in town and it’s rich and oh so chocolatey! This is a great Holiday or party pie because it serves a crowd and looks fancy with the shiny gnache filling and the crispy coconut crust.  People will be impressed thinking you spent hours slaving over this pie, when in reality you didn’t. It’s an easy pie to throw together and requires only 4 simple ingredients, plus its gluten-free to boot.

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easy chocolate mousse – cooking with kids

potsofchocolate

Hi everyone!  Zoe here!  Now, I know you’re used to my wonderful mom writing these posts, but today I’m posting on her blog.  This post if for all of you kids out there that want to start cooking. I’m going to show you how to make the best, and easiest chocolate mousse ever.

I remember how I found this recipe. We were down in Carmel at this restaurant and for dessert we all split a chocolate mousse pie. It was one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten. I decided then and there, that I needed to make this recipe. So about a week or two later we were in the library, and I saw this kid’s cookbook from William and Somona.  For fun I flipped through the pages, but then something caught my eye. It was their chocolate mousse recipe. Immediately, I checked out the book solely for the mousse recipe. I went home and whipped it up that same afternoon. Everyone in the family loved it and I have been making it ever since.

This recipe is so easy. It only requires two ingredients; semisweet chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream. Really, almost anyone can make this delectable treat, even my brother Eli.

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homemade dark chocolate magic shell – cooking with kids

hardshell

I‘m starting a new series on my blog called, cooking with kids.  I have a lot of families that read my blog, therefore a lot of kids. Some of my readers are actually kids, believe it or not.  Moms come up to me and tell me their children look at my blog, and then come up to them with dinner and dessert requests.  I love that!  Zoe and I decided that it would be fun to have a kid’s series of posts for this blog, recipes that Zoe loves to make with her friends and by herself.  We want to inspire kids to get in the kitchen and cook more.  All the recipes are things that any child over a certain age (with adult supervision) can handle.  We hope you enjoy this new series.  

Here’s a super simple, 2 ingredient (yes only 2 ingredients are required) classic summer dessert idea. Remember the chocolate magic shell that you would buy and squeeze over your ice cream, and it would instantly harden? Remember how fascinating that was? Well, I have figured out how to make a homemade version that is a bit healthier than the squeeze bottle variety. All you need is dark chocolate, coconut oil, oh, and some ice cream to slather it over.

dark chocolate magic shell:

recipe from NY Times 
serves 6-8 scoops
  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 7oz bittersweet chocolate chips
  • your favorite ice cream
  • optional – toppings and cones 

Below are some of the ingredients that you will need to make a killer ice cream treat.  You’ve got your ice cream of course, some cones, sprinkles and the two main ingredients for this recipe; virgin coconut oil and bittersweet chocolate chips. 
Now that you have all the ingredients, go grab your kids and lets get started. 
Meet Zoe and her buddy Madelaine.  They are today’s chefs.
Measure out 7oz of chocolate chips.
Pour the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
Note: You can also throw the chocolate chips and coconut oil into a microwavable heatproof bowl and microwave them for 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until they are melted.
Melt your chocolate chips, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula to prevent burning.
When the chocolate chips are almost melted, add the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
Stir in the coconut oil until its dissolved.
Turn off the heat.
Pour your sprinkles into a small bowl.  
Now its time for the magic to begin.
Get out your ice cream and your favorite ice cream scooper, and scoop the ice cream into a bowl or onto a cone.  It’s your choice!
Zoe will demonstrate how to put the magic shell onto an ice cream cone.  
Take the ice cream cone and tip it to its side over the pan.  Take a large spoon or small ladle and dip it in the chocolate.  Pour the chocolate over the ice cream and keep turning the ice cream cone until you have covered the whole scoop of ice cream.
 The chocolate will harden into a shell within a few seconds when spooned over ice cream.
That is the magical part!
Dip the cone into the sprinkles before the chocolate fully hardens.
Madelaine is demonstrating how to pour the magic shell onto a bowl of ice cream.  
Take your spoon and pour the chocolate sauce over the ice cream.  
Top it with some sprinkles before it hardens. 
Be sure to make one for the rest of your family, and then go out and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

There’s nothing better on a hot summer day than ice cream.  This was such a fun way to spend a hot summer afternoon, and the kids were so proud of themselves that they whipped up this treat.  The kids were amazed at how instantly the chocolate sauce hardened.  It was a math and science experiment all in one.  
If you have extra sauce, (and you will if your just serving up the family) just put the leftover sauce into a microwaveable small container with a lid, and refrigerate till needed.  All you have to do is microwave it briefly till it melts, (stirring between intervals) and then you can recreate the magic again!
My kids start school on the 22nd, so I’m going to take a small blogging vacation, so I can be present with the family and enjoy our last week of summer.
 I’ll see you all soon.

no campfire s’mores

photo[1]
photo[1]

Everyone loves a good old s’more. S’mores and summer go together like peanut butter and jelly. There’s nothing better then roasting a marshmallow over a campfire till it’s browned and crisp, and then mashing it between two graham crackers and a hunk of chocolate. The marshmallow and chocolate ooze out over the sides, and you just have to get in there and devour it before it spills out all over the place. Am I enticing you? Do you want a s’more?

S’more’s are not just for camping anymore. They can be made at a moments notice in the comfort of your kitchen (though it’s not as fun as roasting them over a campfire). The hardest part is coming up with a clever name to call these favorite childhood treats. I am calling them no campfire s’mores, but I’m willing to create a merit badge for all you Boy and Girl Scouts out there who can come up with a better name. Send me your suggestions, and I will change the name. I would call them homemade s’mores, but I’ve already done a post on that where I actually made the graham crackers from scratch (Ok, I love s’mores!). I reserved that recipe for the fall and winter because honestly, I’m not much of a cookie baking gal in the summer. I would rather be out enjoying the outdoors than baking away in the kitchen.

All you need for this recipe is a broiler, a box of graham crackers, chocolate and some marshmallows. I keep these ingredients on hand for those last minute dessert ideas which come in handy for those last minute sleepovers.

no campfire s’mores:

  • your favorite brand of graham crackers
  • your favorite brand of marshmallows
  • chocolate – we prefer the dark chocolate carmel squares from Ghirardelli

Below are your run of the mill s’more ingredients but with a slight twist. We chose to use these Ghirardelli dark chocolate carmel squares. They take your basic s’more to a whole new level. The melted chocolate and carmel oozing together with the marshmallow is pure bliss to your tastebuds.

DSC_0118Turn on your broiler.  

Get out a baking sheet, and top one half of the graham cracker with the chocolate and marshmallow.
Put the s’mores under the broiler, and broil till the marshmallow browns and the chocolate starts to melt.
Take the s’mores out of the oven and top them with the other graham cracker half.  
That’s all there is to it. 
No stick or campfire needed for these s’mores and the clean up is a cinch!

These could also be called the lazy mama or city mama s’mores.
Got a better name? Let me know!

Like s’mores, then you have to try my frozen s’mores.

frozen s'mores (1 of 1)

blueberry coffee cake

coffeecake

I am so excited today because I am going to Berkeley to meet my blogger friend Em!  Em and I started commenting on each others blogs about 3 months ago and we just clicked.  We actually wrote “real” comments on each other’s blogs instead of the usual, “yum, your dish looks great.”  Em is witty and funny and her posts always give me tons of information as well as a chuckle.  Her blog is full of nutritional facts (as she is a nutritionist) and delicious recipes, check it out here.  Em resides in London but recently moved back to Berkeley to study for a few months.  Perfect timing as far as I’m concerned.  I promise to take pics!  Em, is that OK with you?  You better put something cute on, just kidding.

Anyway lets move onto to this scrumptious recipe.  This is my go-to Easter brunch cake.  I have been making this cake for the past 5 years and it has become an Easter hit!  When I get invited to the Fisher’s for brunch each year, the one request I get is to be sure to bring this cake.  I am beginning to think that it’s actually the cake that is invited to brunch and not me.  Hmmmm….

You don’t have to save this cake for Easter brunch, as it’s a great cake for any occasion.  I often make this up to enjoy on a lazy weekend with a nice strong cup of coffee.  This cake goes quickly so make sure to grab yourself a slice before the crowd dives in.

blueberry coffee cake:

recipe from Celebrate!

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces – You will use 10 tablespoons for the cake. Make sure to place the remaining 2 tablespoons in the fridge till you make the topping.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • Optional – confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Combine the following into a large bowl:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons cold butterMix up the ingredients with either a pasty blender or an electric mixer until it resembles coarse meal.  

I actually used a pasty blender to break down the butter and then used my electric mixer to combine it all.  Remove 1 cup of this mixture from the bowl and set aside for the topping.Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the remaining mixture in the bowl and stir to combine.

With the mixer running on low, mix in the 3/4 cup buttermilk until combined.
The batter will be a bit thick at this point.Once the buttermilk is combined, add in the egg and the 1 teaspoon vanilla; mix the ingredients together until combined.

Mix the batter for 1 minute on high speed to aerate the batter.

See how much lighter the batter got after adding the egg and vanilla? Fold in the blueberries, using a rubber spatula.Mmmmm, I just love fresh blueberries.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to flatten the top and make things even.Place the reserved 1 cup topping mixture into a bowl and add the 1/4 cup brown sugar and the 2 remaining tablespoons of cold butter.  Mix with a pastry blender or your fingertips until crumbly.

Tip:  Make sure that you get the 2 tablespoons of butter out from the fridge right before you are going to use it.  You want your butter to be cold for this step.Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the cake batter.Bake the cake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.Allow the cake to cook in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Then carefully remove the sides of the springform pan and place the cake on a serving plate.
Throw on some confectioners’ sugar if you want to make it look fancy.
I usually do this last step, but I forgot to today!   Pour yourself a nice dark cup of coffee, sit back, read the Sunday paper or your favorite blog and just relax!

Bring this coffee cake to any brunch and you will be sure to be invited back!

chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting
chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting
This is a celebration cake so lets celebrate! I baked this cake to celebrate my blog being in the Marin IJ today. 
OMG, I just saw that I’m on the front page!  
You can click here to see the article if your interested in viewing it, come on, check it out!

This chocolate cake was actually one of the first recipes I posted on my blog, (way back in October) and I wanted to post it again with some updates because it’s just that good folks!  Seriously, this is the best chocolate cake and it’s pretty famous among my group of friends.  I am always getting requests to bake this cake for dinner parties, birthday celebrations or just for plain old enjoyment.  I’m a cake gal.  Give me the choice of cake or ice cream and cake will always win hands down.  I have since made this cake into cupcakes and honestly they taste just as good as the cake and don’t dry out like typical cupcakes.  
chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
This cake is so chocolaty and moist and the cream cheese frosting adds a perfect balance to the cake making it not too sweet!  Zoe brought a piece to school the other day to share at lunchtime and there was a long line for a bite!  Zoe has actually made this cake by herself by going through the steps-by-steps below on my blog.  She wanted to practice making it with me overseeing her, so she could make me this cake for my birthday (since I always get the store bought version).  Isn’t that sweet?  

There is a secret ingredient to this cake and that is…

You guessed it coffee!  I actually brew a strong batch of Peet’s coffee (love that stuff).  When my kids first saw me add coffee to the batter, they were like, “Mom what are you doing adding coffee to the batter, the cake is going to be sooo gross.”  I smiled and told them to “trust me” and they did, and loved it.  So now when they see me adding a bit of wine or vodka to a dish, they do not question me, they may make a yucky face, but they just go with it.  
 Anyway, I am getting off track here, below is the recipe for the actual cake. 
chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting:

for the cake:
  • butter for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed good quality hot coffee-  Don’t be turned off by the coffee in the recipe, you honestly don’t taste it at all. The coffee enhances the flavor of the cocoa powder, resulting in a more chocolaty cake, not a coffee-flavored one. 

cream cheese frosting:

  • approximately 3-4 cups unsifted confectioners sugar – this is to taste – You will then sift the confectioners sugar so there are no lumps in the frosting
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2  8-ounce packages of cream cheese (1 pound), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Let’s start out by making the chocolate cake.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (I have 2 oven’s so I preheat both).  Butter two 8-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.  
Tip:  I trace the pans on the parchment paper to get the correct size, and then cut out the circles and place them on the bottom of the buttered pans.
Butter and flour the pans. 
 Tip: I use cocoa powder instead of flour when making this cake.  It totally works and you’re not left with any white flour on your cake.
Here are 2 more quick tips before I go on!
 Tip: In order not to waste that precious and expensive cocoa powder, measure over a bowl and parchment paper so the excess can be put back in the container after.  
Tip: To make sure you always have fresh baking soda, fill out the “change by” section on the box when you open it.  I have started doing that, and found it really makes a difference.  I mean who honestly remembers when they bought their baking soda.  It really helps to have fresh baking soda when baking. 

In a large bowl whisk the following ingredients together until combined:

 1 3/4 cups flour
 2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
In small bowl combine the following:
1 cup buttermilk – make sure the buttermilk is well shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 room temp eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla 
 Looks appetizing right?  
With either a hand held mixer or an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.  
This is what your batter will look like once the wet and dry ingredients are combined and before you add the coffee.  It will be pretty thick.
Now it’s time to add that freshly brewed coffee.  
I always use a good strong coffee like Peets.  I don’t know if that’s what makes the cake taste so rich, but I’m sure it has some part to play in it.
With the mixer still on low, add the 1 cup coffee and mix until combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  
Sidetrack here, doesn’t that coffee look good?  I always make sure I make enough for an extra cup to drink!
Below is what your mixture will look like before you pour it into the pans. See how much thinner it is once you add the coffee?   
Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Make sure you make them even.
Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.  I have 2 ovens so my cakes are done at exactly 35 minutes. 
Baking tip:  It’s hard to give an exact cooking time when it comes to baking because every oven, pan and even geographic locations, can command a slightly different cooking time.  A great way to know when a cake is done, is to do the finger test. Press your finger down gently in the middle of the cake, if it’s done, it should puff back up automatically on it own. If it stays dented, then the cake is not ready to come out yet. Also, a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean as well.
Cool the cakes in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.  
After those cakes are completely cooled, it’s time to make the frosting.  The frosting recipe was passed down from my dad.  He’s actually a wonderful cook, as well as my mom. 

Pour 3-4 cups unsifted confectioners sugar into a sifter and sift the sugar into a large bowl and set aside.  Sifting the sugar helps to ensure you don’t have lumpy frosting. Put your softened butter and cream cheese into a bowl and get your handy dandy mixer out.  Beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until well blended. Add the 2 teaspoons of vanilla and then slowly add the confectioner’s sugar to taste.  Pour in at least a cup or two and then taste it.   

If you add to much confectioner’s sugar it will be really sweet and you won’t really get that cream cheese flavor.  Just keep adding and tasting it till it reaches a flavor you like.  You want it to be sweet, but not too sweet.  I usually taste it and have my kids taste it as well.  They are pretty accurate when it comes to the finished product!  

Below is what your finished product will look like! Yum!  Scrape off the mixers and then save them for the kids to lick!Put one cake layer on a flat plate or cake pedestal.  With a frosting knife or spatula, spread the top with frosting.Then the side.DSC_0058-3Once you spread the frosting on the top of the first (bottom) layer, its time to place the 2nd layer on top. 

 I like to the place the top part of the 2nd layer (rounded part) upside down so that the flat side (bottom side) is up. It makes the cake look taller and prettier because you have the natural flat top.   

Now, frost away, making sure to spread the frosting around evenly on all sides and to get a nice fluffy layer on top.  
Tip: Warm your frosting knife/spatula under hot water then dry. This will help get sides of your cake smooth.  
This is what your cake will look like when you’re finished frosting it.  Now, comes the fun part, the decorating!
I didn’t decorate this particular cake because I was photographing it for the blog.  
Slice off a piece, (or two) and dollop it with some fresh vanilla ice cream or enjoy with a tall glass of milk.  
chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting
This cake is so easy and so good.  
As Barefoot would say, how easy is that?
I have also made a cupcake version of this cake and I have to say that the cupcakes taste just as moist as the cake.  Give them a try!
chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (1 of 1)
chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting

chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting

Ingredients

    for the cake:
  • butter for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed good quality hot coffee - Don't be turned off by the coffee in the recipe, you honestly don't taste it at all. The coffee enhances the flavor of the cocoa powder, resulting in a more chocolaty cake, not a coffee-flavored one.
  • cream cheese frosting:
  • approximately 3-4 cups unsifted confectioners sugar - this is to taste - You will then sift the confectioners sugar so there are no lumps in the frosting.
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (1 pound), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Let's start out by making the chocolate cake.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (I have 2 oven's so I preheat both).

Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.

Tip: I trace the pans on the parchment paper to get the correct size, and then cut out the circles and place them on the bottom of the buttered pans.

Butter and flour the pans. Tip: I use cocoa powder instead of flour when making this cake. It totally works and you're not left with any white flour on your cake.

In a large bowl whisk the following ingredients together until combined:

1 3/4 cups flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small bowl combine the following:

1 cup buttermilk - make sure the buttermilk is well shaken

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 room temp eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

With either a hand held mixer or an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.

Your batter will be pretty thick at this point.

Now it's time to add that freshly brewed coffee.

I always use a good strong coffee like Peets. I don't know if that's what makes the cake taste so rich, but I'm sure it has some part to play in it.

With the mixer still on low, add the 1 cup coffee and mix until combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter will be much thinner with the coffee added to it.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Make sure you make them even.

Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. I have 2 ovens so my cakes are done at exactly 35 minutes.

Baking tip: It's hard to give an exact cooking time when it comes to baking because every oven, pan and even geographic locations, can command a slightly different cooking time. A great way to know when a cake is done, is to do the finger test. Press your finger down gently in the middle of the cake, if it's done, it should puff back up automatically on it own. If it stays dented, then the cake is not ready to come out yet. Also, a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean as well.

Cool the cakes in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

After those cakes are completely cooled, it's time to make the frosting.

Pour 3-4 cups unsifted confectioners sugar into a sifter and sift the sugar into a large bowl and set aside. Sifting the sugar helps to ensure you don't have lumpy frosting.

Put your softened butter and cream cheese into a bowl and get your handy dandy mixer out. Beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until well blended.

Add the 2 teaspoons of vanilla and then slowly add the confectioner's sugar to taste. Pour in at least a cup or two and then taste it.

If you add to much confectioner's sugar it will be really sweet and you won't really get that cream cheese flavor. Just keep adding and tasting it till it reaches a flavor you like. You want it to be sweet, but not too sweet. I usually taste it and have my kids taste it as well. They are pretty accurate when it comes to the finished product!

Put one cake layer on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a frosting knife or spatula, spread the top with frosting.

Then spread some frosting on the side.

Once you spread the frosting on the top of the first (bottom) layer, its time to place the 2nd layer on top.

I like to the place the top part of the 2nd layer (rounded part) upside down so that the flat side (bottom side) is up. It makes the cake look taller and prettier because you have the natural flat top.

Now, frost away, making sure to spread the frosting around evenly on all sides and to get a nice fluffy layer on top.

Tip: Warm your frosting knife/spatula under hot water then dry. This will help get sides of your cake smooth.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/03/chocolate-cake-with-cream-cheese-frosting/

skillet-baked chocolate chip cookie

cookiepan
Here was my Friday.  It was crazy raining and the kids had the day off from school so what did I do?  I baked 3; count them 3 things in my cast iron skillet.  I was cast iron crazy!  

I started off the morning making the kids a big dutch baby (recipe soon) via the skillet.  I did not of course eat this, I had a bite, teeny tiny.  I am a creature of habit in the morning.  I either have a big bowl of grapenuts topped with cafe fanny granola and some fiber one or a big bowl of oatmeal.  I also always have to have at least 2 cups of Peets coffee, the stronger the better.  I proudly admit it; I am a carb girl in the morning and always have been.  Protein alone does not work for me.  

So my kids happily ate the big dutch baby for breakfast along with some eggs for protein.  For lunch I prepared them my sausage & arugula skillet pizza, (sans the arugula as it was just for them).  They happily ate that along with some fruit and a few bites of kale salad (I pushed this last part on them).  My 12-inch skillet was getting lots of attention and my 10-inch was sad, so I decided to bake a GIANT chocolate chip cookie in it!  Bring on the sugar folks!

Please don’t criticize me, it’s been raining cats and dogs all week and my kids came home with amazing report cards, so they deserved this Friday treat, right? 

Have you picked up a cast iron skillet yet?  If so, have you ever made a cookie in it?  I didn’t until today, and I am so glad I did as this cookie was YUMMY and super easy to make.  Way easier in fact than baking up a bunch of cookies.  This is the way to go folks if you want a quick and easy dessert.  It could even be a great birthday cake.  Just throw some candles on top and singHappy Birthday!  

skillet-baked chocolate chip cookie:

recipe from Martha Stewart

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda & 1/2 teaspoon salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the 1 1/2 sticks of butter, 1/2 cup sugar & 3/4 cup brown sugar until mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the egg and the 2 teaspoons of vanilla; mix until they are fully incorporated.
Slowly add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.
Stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula.  A note about chocolate chips, my family prefers dark chocolate to milk chocolate, so we use these Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.  They are amazing, and they do say that dark chocolate is good for you, so that may help take some of the guilt away.  Try them in your next recipe that calls for chocolate chips.  
Transfer the dough to a 10-inch cast-iron or ovenproof skillet (if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, then you can use a pie dish).  
Press the dough down with a spatula to flatten, covering the bottom of pan.

Bake until edges are brown and top is golden, 40-45 minutes.  My cookie took 40 minutes to bake to perfection.  Don’t over bake, as it will continue to cook a few minutes out of the oven. 

Transfer to a wire rack or oven top to cool, 15-20 minutes.

Cut into wedges and enjoy with a glass of milk or top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
  • As you can see, the kids and their friends got to the cookie and were all part of the clean plate club.
This cookie went fast, but we did have leftovers.  
To keep those leftovers tasting out of the oven fresh, I re-heated individual slices in the microwave for about 12 seconds.  The cookies got warm and the chocolate chips were all melted again.
Make sure you wrap your leftovers up tightly as big cookies can tend to dry quickly.

What is the most exciting or favorite thing you have cooked in your cast iron skillet?

BTW, I wrote post for Paradise Foods, (which is a local fine foods grocery store). Check it out here...

pots de creme

potsdecream
TGIM (thank goodness it’s Monday), I know people are use to TGIF, but I wanted to change things up here a bit.  I’m so happy that it’s Monday and also so very happy that my kids are back in school.  Yippee!  I really enjoyed having them at home last week, but honestly I didn’t accomplish a single thing.  I didn’t cook anything new or get any work done on my blog.  It was a nice and much needed vacation for all of us, but I am ready to get back to work and ready to cook again!  Routine works best for me as I’m a creature of habit.
 
I honestly missed cooking for my family and I missed my “mommy” healthy lunches.  We were on-the-go so much last week that I either crammed a PB& J in my mouth for lunch or we ate out.  I can only eat out so many times before it gets old and I really like eating at home.  Home cooked meals are usually healthier and the portions are smaller.  I find that we eat way more when we go out to dinner as opposed to eating in.  The portions that these restaurants serve these days are enormous.  What’s up with that?  
 
Anyway, here I am talking about portions and healthy eating as I am showcasing this utterly decadent and chocolaty dessert.  Doesn’t make much sense does it? 

This is definitely the easiest dessert in my recipe book. Now, it does need to chill for 2 to 3 hours before serving, so it does require a tiny bit of planning, but the preparation couldn’t be easier, so easy in fact that your child could make this entire dessert!  You might have to supervise on the coffee pouring part, but otherwise it’s easy-peasey-lemon-squeezey (that is another one of my favorite sayings)!  

 
Serve this dessert up at your next dinner party and your guests will be impressed.  They will think you spent all day slaving over this dessert, when all you actually did was throw 5 ingredients into a blender and blend away (shhhh… they never have to know how easy it was). This dessert is very rich so you will definitely want to add some fresh whipped cream to the top.


pots de creme:

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman 
Makes 7 to 8 desserts

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips 
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup (8oz) very hot and strong coffee - You can always use a good strong decaf  if your worried about the caffeine, especially if you have kids
Place the chocolate chips in the blender.  Crack in the 4 eggs and then add the pinch of salt and the 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  
 Blend all the ingredients together till combined.  
Grab some very hot freshly brewed coffee—as in, hot-hot—and slowly drizzle it through the hole in the blender lid while the blender’s on. The mixture will slowly expand and rise in the blender, but do not fret, just keep the blender on a low speed while adding the coffee.  Once the coffee is added, put the top back on the lid and blend away until the mixture is pureed and smooth.  
Note: The coffee will heat the eggs so you will not be eating a raw egg dessert.  
Pour the mixture into some glasses, small mason jars or ramekins.  You can use whatever you desire.  I actually used some 9oz glasses and some recycled jam jars.  I actually loved the way they looked in the recycled jam jars.  
Place the glasses and jars in the refrigerator and refrigerate them for 2 to 3 hours, or until firm.  
 
Now you just need to add some whipped cream to top these off.  This whipped cream is the perfect topping for any dessert from chocolate mousse to pumpkin pie.  I even use it to top ice-cream sundaes!  
 

sweetened whipped cream: 

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Note:  Whipped cream is best served fresh, so if you’re just serving dessert for your family then you may want to cut the above recipe in half. 
Beat the cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until it becomes frothy.  
Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until the cream holds soft peaks.
Do not overbeat.
When you’re ready to serve up the pots de creme just place a fresh dollop of whipped cream on each one!  You could also be fancy and add some chocolate shavings on top.
These are rich little desserts so don’t make your portions too big.  I actually had to cover and refrigerate mine for the next day as I was stuffed halfway through eating it.
 My kids devoured theirs though!  Eli was even licking his glass.  
Here’s to a fancy no fuss dessert!

gingersnap cookies

gingersnap cookies
gingersnap cookiesIt’s Monday and most likely cold, snowy or rainy where you are so I thought I would treat you all to a sweet today rather than an entree.  Sometimes we need a little sweet to kick start our week. I’ve always loved gingersnaps and molasses cookies and this cookie is a combination of the two.  This is not a true gingersnap cookie, which tend to be thin and crispy.  This cookie is more of a molasses cookie with a spicy ginger flavor.  It’s chewy, spicy and dark.  I know gingersnaps may not be the most exciting cookie to people, but they are to me, and they have always been one of my favorite cookies.   
 
I was perusing through my borrowed copy of Marin Organic, where I found my butternut squash soup recipe, and saw this gingersnap recipe from Table Cafe.  Table Cafe is another one of my favorite local lunch spots.  The owner is always there and greets you with a smile.  Her food is all local and organically grown and her signature item is a dosa.  A dosa is a delicious gluten free wrap (which resembles a crepe, but it’s not sweet like a crepe) filled with delicious ingredients such as, marinated & grilled chicken breast with wilted spinach & goat cheese or smoked wild salmon with grilled frisee and onions, and aioli.  There are many different options as well as some amazing vegetarian ones.  The cafe also has wonderful salads, soups and of course, sweets.

gingersnap cookies:

Recipe from Organic Marin
makes about 36 cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses – I used blackstrap here
  • Sugar in the raw – optional - I used this to top my cookies
 I have heard wonderful things about blackstrap molasses so I picked up a bottle.  These molasses give gingersnap and molasses cookies their dark rich color. 
I poured the molasses into a dry measuring cup, as the molasses are thick and gooey and would be difficult to measure out in a glass measuring cup.  Also, they have the consistency of honey and I always pour honey into a dry measuring cup as well.
Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, salt and white pepper in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to blend.
Cream the sugars and butter together in a large bowl using either a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand held mixer, do this for about 4 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. 
Beat in the egg and then the molasses.  
Don’t the molasses look like fudge?
Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until well combined.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.  I actually refrigerated my batter for 2 hours.
 
I wanted to top my gingersnaps with some sugar to make them sparkly and pretty so I pulled out some Turbinado (sugar in the raw) for that.  It is light brown in color and coarse grained, with a slight molasses flavor.  Pour some into a shallow bowl and set aside.
Once your dough is chilled, preheat your oven/ovens to 350 degrees.  
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  
 
Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and gently dip the top of each ball into the raw sugar. Be careful not to get too much on there.  I drenched one batch of cookies in the sugar and they were way to sugary for our taste.  Less is more if you know what I am saying.   
You don’t have to top them with sugar, as they taste great without it.  John actually prefers his cookie sans the sugar.
Place them on the baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  
 With the bottom of a small glass, flatten the cookies slightly.  
 
Bake the cookies for about 12 -14 minutes or until they feel dry and firm on top.  Maybe check them at 11 minutes to see where they are at.  Everyone’s oven has different cooking times so your cookies might take longer or less time.
Note:  The original recipe called for 8-10 minutes of cooking time, but when I first did that, my cookies war raw, yuck!  I cooked the next batch for 12-14 minutes and they were perfect.  So as you can see, my cookies took a bit longer than the original recipe called for.
 
Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. 
Transfer the cookies to a wire track to cool completely.  
Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
gingersnap cookies
 I know it sounds strange, but these cookies actually taste better the next day.  Isn’t that weird?  They get a bit chewier and spicier.  
These cookies are my kids favorite after school snack. 
Pair it up with a tall glass of milk and your in heaven!

homemade s’mores

smores
 
Who says you can’t have s’mores in the winter?  Marin mama is saying you can!  These s’mores are are a bit more fancier than their campfire cousins but just as rich and delicious.  The only thing missing from here is the campfire and the mosquitos.  
 
The kids and I recently visited Modern Cookie Company, a local cookie shop in Larkspur, where we ordered these decadent s’mores on homemade graham crackers and we just about flipped out of our seats they were zoo good.  The s’mores were so amazing that I wanted to turn this experience into something I could replicate at home, so I challenged myself to creating a version of my own.
 
I already made and posted the recipe for homemade graham crackers.  If you don’t want to go through the hassle of making your own graham crackers, then check out my no campfire s’mores. 
It’s really an easy recipe and worth making.  These graham crackers are more buttery and cookie-like than the store-bought variety.  They are sweet but not to sweet.  Once you try this homemade cracker you may never go back to the store bought variety again.
 
Now it’s time to assemble the s’mores.   There is a secret ingredient to these that makes them so special and rich and that ingredient is, (drum roll please)
Ghiradelli dark chocolate caramel squares.
 
The combination of the homemade graham cracker cookie, topped with the dark chocolate carmel and homemade marshmallow (homemade by Whole Foods that is) is what makes this s’more like nothing you have ever tasted.  
I used these marshmallows below from Whole Foods.
Are you ready to get started?  Well, lets go….  
First off, get a baking sheet out and build your s’more like the photo below.
The marshmallows were huge so I cut them up in thirds.
 Maybe you should make up 2 s’mores while your at it.
Turn on your broiler and place the s’mores underneath until the marshmallows brown and the chocolate melts.
 
 Let it cool for just 1 minute and then I give your permission to devour!  
One bite, two bites, gone!  
These are just to good for words and something that I will be making over and over!  You can use other types of chocolate as well like milk chocolate caramels or regular milk or dark chocolate.
 
Want a bit of summer, then try these s’mores :)

Homemade Graham Crackers

graham

Ever thought of making homemade graham crackers?  The thought never crossed my mind until recently when we visited Modern Cookie Company, a local cookie shop in Larkspur.   We ordered these decadent s’mores on homemade graham crackers and we just about flipped out of our seats they were soo good.  The s’mores were so amazing that I wanted to turn this experience into something I could replicate at home, so I challenged myself to creating a version of my own.


Update:  I have posted the s’more recipe and you can see it here.  It’s wonderful because it’s something you can make year round.  It also has a unique topping.  Enticed are you?


I didn’t even have a clue as to what ingredients even went into a graham cracker so I googled homemade graham crackers and stumbled upon Tracey’s Culinary Adventures.   Her recipe looked easy enough and I like the fact that they had some whole-wheat flour in them as it made them seem a bit more nutritious that I had originally thought.  The other bonus was the ingredients required were all things I had on hand at home.  I wanted to replicate the graham crackers I ate at the cookie shop so I used a cookie cutter here instead of making them into the traditional graham cracker shape.  If you like the look of the traditional graham cracker then link over to Tracey’s site and she will show you how.  


These graham crackers are more buttery and cookie-like than the store-bought variety.  They are sweet but not to sweet.  Once you try this homemade cracker you may never go back to the store bought variety again.


Graham Crackers or should I say cookies:
Recipe adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures
Makes about 36 cookie sized graham crackers

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey


In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.  
In a large bowl, combine the butter, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and honey.  
Use either a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand held mixer.  Mix on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. 
Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, letting the first fully incorporate before you add the second.

Lay out some plastic wrap on your table, place the dough on it, and roll it out into a large rectangle.
Roll up the flattened dough tightly in the plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes or up to 2 days.  I refrigerated mine for a day and it felt like a log when I took it out (don’t worry the dough will soften from the heat of your hands when rolling it out).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
 
Unwrap the chilled dough, and on a lightly floured surface, roll it out till it’s about an 1/8 inch thick.   Note:  I didn’t roll out all the dough at once.  I rolled it out in smaller sections and then used my cookie cutter on each section. 
Please ignore the brown spots in the dough, that is just my brown sugar that didn’t incorporate.  Take your cookie cutter and cut away.
Keep re-rolling the scraps of dough and repeat the cutting process until all of your dough is gone.  Place all of the cut crackers on your two prepared baking sheets.  Note:  At this time you can top each cracker with some cinnamon and sugar or just sugar if you want.  I didn’t add anything as I knew I was going to make s’mores with most of them and didn’t want the added sugar.    

Bake the graham crackers, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until they are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Oven cooking times vary, so just keep your eye on them after 12 minutes.  I had one batch that was perfect and another that was a bit crispier, but still great!
Cool crackers on a wire rack. 

 They were just too good that I had to take a bite :)
Store your graham crackers in an airtight container at room temperature and they should keep for a week.
I had just finished lunch so I helped myself to that glass of milk and 2 graham crackers.  
They were the perfect afternoon treat.  

Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies

Robert's Absolute Best Brownies (1 of 1)-3
Robert's Absolute Best Brownies
I have searched high and low for a homemade brownie recipe that I like as much as the boxed Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix.  I have tried all sorts of homemade recipes for years and they have never lived up to those boxed brownies.  That is until today!  I found the BEST from scratch recipe thanks to David Lebovitz!  These brownies are dark, oh so dark, rich, moist, and chocolaty.  They are literally a chocolate lovers dream. Be forewarned, they are not your standard cake-like brownie, these are more fudge-like in consistency, but fudge-like in a good way, like a mouthwatering lick your fingers and plate sort of way.

Robert’s absolute best brownies:

Recipe from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert

Printer friendly recipe at bottom of post

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped – I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet cacao   
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large (or extra large eggs), at room temperature – FYI, I always use extra large eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose-flour
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips – I used my favorite 60% bittersweet chocolate chips from Ghirardelli 
  • You can also add in chopped walnuts or any nut of your choice – we tend not to add nuts to our sweets as my kiddos are not fans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the inside of an 8-inch (I used my 8-inch glass baking dish) or 9-inch square baking pan with 2 lengths of foil or parchment paper, positioning the sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan.  Then lightly butter the foil or parchment paper.  I always butter the bottom piece so that the top piece sticks to it.  
DSC_0006
Chop up and measure out your dark chocolate.  I love using these Ghirardelli bars because they are each 4oz (8oz total) so I do not have to measure anything.
These bars are also thin enough to break apart with my hand so I don’t have to actually chop them up with a knife. I break them apart in little pieces (I’m strong like bull) right over the heatproof bowl that I’m going to melt the butter and chocolate in (I do this before I set the bowl over the simmering water). It saves me a cutting board and knife to clean up. If you don’t have thin chocolate bars like these, then chop up your chocolate using a serrated knife. 
Tip: I always place some parchment paper on top of my cutting board when chopping up chocolate as it helps make clean up easier and you can always just lift and pour those small pieces of chocolate into your pan.  It’s easiest to chop chocolate with a serrated knife.
 Placed the chopped chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl.  Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, (make sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until melted and smooth.
DSC_0009
DSC_0010Immediately remove the chocolate from the heat and pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl (unless the bowl you’re using to melt the chocolate in is large).  Make sure you use a spatula here so you can get all the chocolate goodness into the bowl.
Add the 3/4 cup sugar and the 1 teaspoon vanilla to the melted chocolate and mix until combined.
 Using a whisk, add in the eggs 1 at a time until combined.
Add the flour and stir the batter energetically for 1 minute until the batter loses it graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the bowl. The batter will also lighten up a bit in color.
Note: This is a very important step!!  Make sure that your stir vigorously for 1 full minute or a bit more.  I suggest timing yourself as I did (see photo below).  By doing this step you will end up with a batter that’s rich, thick, satiny smooth, and glossy as can be and brownies that are rich and fudge-like.  
See, I really timed myself.  I’m going to warn you that you are going to have one tired arm after stirring vigorously for a minute, believe me!
DSC_0014
Using a spatula, gently fold in your chocolate chips.
DSC_0016
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan using a spatula to make it even.
DSC_0025
Bake until the center feels almost set and the edges are a bit firm, about 30-35 minutes.  Do not over bake.  In my oven, my brownies are done around 32-33 minutes. Note:  Ovens vary in temperature and baking times, so get to know your oven and know how long it takes to bake things.  If your oven tends to cook things faster, then check it before 30 minutes etc. 
 The first time I baked these, I honestly thought they were underdone, but that is the way they are supposed to be. They’re truly more of a fudge-like brownie than cake-like one.  They will also firm up as they sit and cool.

Let the brownies cool completely in the pan (about an hour or so) before lifting the foil or parchment paper and the block of brownies out of the pan. Peel the parchment paper and cut the brownies into squares and store them in a sealed container.See how rich and gooey they are?  Serve these up with a tall glass of milk and make sure you have a napkin handy.These brownies are finger and plate licking good!

I’ve made these brownies better by adding carmel and sea salt.  You have to try these salted caramel brownies.

salted caramel brownies

Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies

Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped - I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet cacao
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large (or extra large eggs), at room temperature - FYI, I always use extra large eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose-flour
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips - I used my favorite 60% bittersweet chocolate chips from Ghirardelli
  • You can also add in chopped walnuts or any nut of your choice - we tend not to add nuts to our sweets as my kiddos are not fans

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the inside of an 8-inch (I used my 8-inch glass baking dish) or 9-inch square baking pan with 2 lengths of foil or parchment paper, positioning the sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan. Then lightly butter the foil or parchment paper. I always butter the bottom piece so that the top piece sticks to it.

Chop up and measure out your dark chocolate. I love using these Ghirardelli bars because they are each 4oz (8oz total) so I do not have to measure anything.

These bars are also thin enough to break apart with my hand so I don’t have to actually chop them up with a knife. I break them apart in little pieces right over the heatproof bowl that I’m going to melt the butter and chocolate in (I do this before I set the bowl over the simmering water). It saves me a cutting board and knife to clean up. If you don’t have thin chocolate bars like these, then chop up your chocolate using a serrated knife.

Tip: I always place some parchment paper on top of my cutting board when chopping up chocolate as it helps make clean up easier and you can always just lift and pour those small pieces of chocolate into your pan. It's easiest to chop chocolate with a serrated knife.

Placed the chopped chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, (make sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until melted and smooth.

Immediately remove the chocolate from the heat and pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl (unless the bowl you're using to melt the chocolate in is large enough). Make sure you use a spatula here so you can get all the chocolate goodness into the bowl.

Add the 3/4 cup sugar and the 1 teaspoon vanilla to the melted chocolate and mix until combined.

Using a whisk, add in the eggs 1 at a time until combined.

Add the flour and stir the batter energetically for 1 minute until the batter loses it graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the bowl. The batter will also lighten up a bit in color.

Note: This is a very important step!! Make sure that your stir vigorously for 1 full minute or a bit more. I suggest timing yourself. By doing this step you will end up with a batter that's rich, thick, satiny smooth, and glossy as can be and brownies that are rich and fudge-like. I'm going to warn you that you are going to have one tired arm after stirring vigorously for a minute, believe me!

Using a spatula, gently fold in your chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan using a spatula to make it even.Bake until the center feels almost set and the edges are a bit firm, about 30-35 minutes. In my oven, my brownies are done around 32-33 minutes. Do not over bake.

Note: Ovens vary in temperature and baking times, so get to know your oven and know how long it takes to bake things. If your oven tends to cook things faster, then check it before 30 minutes etc.

The first time I baked these, I honestly thought they were underdone, but that is the way they are supposed to be. They're truly more of a fudge-like brownie than cake-like one. They will also firm up as they sit and cool.

Let the brownies cool completely in the pan (about an hour or so) before lifting the foil or parchment paper and the block of brownies out of the pan.

Peel down the parchment paper and cut the brownies into squares and store them in a sealed container.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/12/roberts-absolute-best-brownies/

dark chocolate chip cookies

darkchocolate

Are you a dark chocolate fan like me?  I mean, do you crave chocolate?  I adore anything chocolate.  Bring on the chocolate layer cake, chocolate ice cream and chocolate mousse.  Can you see a pattern here?  I was sick of the Thanksgiving fare of pies and more pies so I decided to bake one of my favorite cookie recipes.  

This is not a recipe for the vanilla loving person, this is for the chocoholic.  This cookie is sinful, dark and gooey.  My mouth is watering just saying those words, so I’m going to get myself a glass of milk and chow down. 

Oh, and this cookie is family, kid and friend approved.  I made these for Zoe’s class party one year, and they were the hit of the party.  I get requests all the time to make these along with my chocolate chip cookies.  You can’t go wrong with either of these cookies.

Black Forest Cookies:

Makes about 22 cookies

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped – I used Ghirardelli semisweet 60% cacao bars
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 package semisweet chocolate chips or chunks – I used Ghirardelli bittersweet 60% cacao chips
Preheat your oven/ovens to 350 degrees.  Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Chop up and measure out your dark chocolate.  I love using these Ghirardelli bars because they are each 4oz (8oz total) so I do not have to measure anything. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In a larger bowl, whisk together your granulated and dark brown sugar; set aside.

Placed chopped chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
Stir chocolate and butter until melted and smooth. 

Remove from heat and pour chocolate into the bowl containing the sugars. 

Whisk together the sugars and chocolate and then whisk in your 2 eggs until smooth.
 Whisk in dry ingredients until just combined (do not over mix).Fold in your chocolate chips.  I used a spatula to fold in the chips here at the batter was thick.
Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of dough, and refrigerate until firm, 30 to 45 minutes.
Drop mounds of dough onto your prepared baking sheets.  I used my ice-cream scooper here to measure out the cookie balls.  I ended up with about 8 for 2 baking sheets and 6 for the other sheet.  Make sure you set the cookies apart to give each cookie room to grow when baking.
Pop the cookies in the oven and bake just until edges are firm (but not darkening), 11 to 13 minutes.  
Note:  I always bake one sheet at a time in the oven.   
Cool cookies on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
These cookies are extremely rich, so don’t forget your milk!

Tangerine bundt cake with citrus glaze

tangerine

I saw this cake on the most recent cover of Everyday Food Magazine and said to myself, “I just have to make that.”  I was looking for a breakfast cake for Thanksgiving morning and this one fit the bill perfectly because it looked so refreshing and it gave me an excuse to use my bundt pan again. This bundt cake was a bit labor intensive as you have to zest and squeeze about 8 tangerines.  It was well worth it in the end, as we all enjoyed an extra large slice of this on Thanksgiving morning.

Note:  It’s best to make this cake a day ahead so that the glaze can set overnight.  Just cover and store the glazed cake at room temperature. 

Tangerine bundt cake with citrus glaze:

Recipe from Everyday Food Magazine

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated tangerine zest (from 6 tangerines)
  • 1/2 cup tangerine juice (from about 6 tangerines)
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek or low-fat plain yogurt –  I used Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Citrus glaze:

  • 1  1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tangerine juice (from 2 tangerines)

OK, so I did not have any orange liquor lying around the house, nor did I want a whole bottle of it (yuck), so I went to my local BevMo and asked if they had any travel size bottles of Grand Marnier.  I was in luck as they had tons of these travel sized bottles hidden in back.  Isn’t it just the cutest thing, so tiny against the tangerines?   

As you all know, I like to prep my ingredients ahead of time, so lets do that.  Zest your 6 tangerines, then cut them in half and squeeze the juice out over a glass measuring cup until you get 1/2 cup full of juice.  
I just love all this vibrant orange color!

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a bundt cake pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, using a standing or hand-held electric mixer, beat your room temperature butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  

Add your eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Your cake mixture will get creamy fast just by adding the eggs.
Beat in tangerine zest, tangerine juice and liqueur.  
Your mixture will look a bit curdled at this point.  Appetizing, right?
With mixer on low, add the flour mixture and yogurt in three additions. You will add in a bit of the flour then the yogurt and then the flour again and so on. 
Beat to combine and then beat in the vanilla.  Your mixture will thicken up and look like this.

Pour the batter into your bundt pan, smooth the top, and firmly tap the pan on a flat surface to remove any air bubbles and to help smooth the batter as well.
 Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.  My cake was done in 50 minutes.  
Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.  Invert cake onto a cake plate or platter and let cool completely.  
Once your cake is completely cooled, you can move onto making the glaze.  
Whisk together confectioner’s sugar and tangerine juice until smooth.  
Note: My sauce was a bit thick so I added a bit more juice till it got thinner.  The glaze will look yellow at this point, but as it sets on the cake it will turn white.
 
As you can see from my professional glaze job, this was my first time ever glazing a bundt cake so I was not sure what to do.  I thought about researching how to glaze a bundt cake on the Internet, but it was late and the night before Thanksgiving so I decided to wing it.   I just took the glaze and poured it around the top of the cake and let it drizzle down the sides.  I ended up with a lot of drizzle on the bottom that I scooped up with a spoon and added to the top.   If you want to get fancy and make your cake look beautiful, I would recommend this method:
 
Take your glaze and pour into a ziploc bag.  Twist bag (so it looks like a like a pastry bag) so that the glaze can settle into one corner of the bag.  Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle the glaze over the cake.  Make sure you get a lot of glaze on the top of the cake.  The glaze does soak in so you want to use all your glaze. 
 
If you want to delve into your cake that day, then let cake sit for one hour to let the glaze set.  If your eating it the next day, then cover the glazed cake and store at room temperature. 
This is the perfect cake to serve up at breakfast or brunch or to have with your afternoon tea.  It was a hit with my whole family and friends!

Happy Sunday!

Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Sea Salt

chocolatebark
Here’s a dessert that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating. It’s dark chocolate bark, and it’s as amazing as it looks, but yet so simple to whip up.  You can mix up a batch in literally 5 minutes before chilling it in the fridge.  You may even have all the ingredients at home, I did.  
 
Pair this up with a nice glass of red wine and you have the perfect after dinner dessert.  Wrap or box some up, and you have the perfect Holiday hostess gift. 
 

Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Sea Salt:

Recipe from Whole Living Magazine

  • Vegetable or olive oil cooking spray
  • 9oz dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), melted
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Lightly coat at 8-inch pan with cooking spray.  Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a small overhang.  Chop up your pistachios.
Melt your chocolate over a double boiler.
Pour melted chocolate into your prepared pan and smooth with a spatula into an even layer.  Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and coarse sea salt.  
Chill in refrigerator until completely set, about 30 minutes.  Pull cooled chocolate out of the refrigerator and peel off parchment paper.  
Rest on plate or cutting board and cut it up into pieces or just break it apart into random pieces.

There are so many different combinations of toppings you can try.  I am going to try almonds and coconut next.  I am also thinking of adding some chopped peppermint for the Holidays.  

the best chocolate chip cookies

The best chocolate chip cookies
The best chocolate chip cookies
These are the best chocolate chip cookies folks, seriously, you do not need to look any further. This recipe came from Cooks Illustrated so you know it has been tried, tested and approved. These cookies have also been tried, tested and approved in my house as well as many of my friend’s houses, and they are always declared by all as the “best chocolate chip cookie.” I bake these up all the time for bake sales, classroom birthday parties, but I mostly bake them for pure pleasure because they are just so darn good.  These cookies have crunchy edges, chewy centers and there are chips in every bite. They’re the perfect afternoon craving throw together at the last minute cookie because you don’t have to plan ahead and bring any of the ingredients to room temperature first. Just grab everything out of the pantry and fridge, mix it together, drop some cookies on a baking sheet and bake away. There’s no need to write more, you just have to trust me and make some up.
the best chocolate chip cookies

the best chocolate chip cookies:

Recipe from Cooks Illustrated
Makes 21-24 cookies using a 1 3/4″ ice cream scooper

  • 1  3/4 cups all purpose flour – I use King Arthur’s unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (dark brown sugar adds more flavor) – Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry.  I like and use the brand, Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Dark Brown Sugar, as well as the Whole Food’s organic brown sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg – The recipe doesn’t call for the eggs to be at room temp, but if I know I’m making them up ahead of time, I will take them out a bit beforehand.
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 bag (10-ounces) of chocolate chips or chunks (preferably 60% cacao) – I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.

 I like to prep all my ingredients ahead of time so when I have to add them they are ready to go.

Adjust rack (or racks if you have 2 ovens) to middle position and preheat oven/ovens to 375 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Crack your egg over a small bowl using an egg separator or your hand to separate the egg yolk.  Put the egg yolk in a small bowl and set aside.  Whisk 1 3/4 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whisk the 1/2 cup sugar, the 3/4 cup brown sugar and the teaspoon salt together in small bowl and set aside.  Divide up the butter, put 10 tablespoons into a 10-inch skillet.

 Note:  Avoid using a non-stick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gage when the butter is browned. Put the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into a large heatproof bowl.

I recommend cutting up the butter once its divided, so it melts easier.
DSC_0020
 Heat the 10 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.
Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to the heatproof bowl that holds the 4 tablespoons of butter.  Stir the butter together until completely melted.
DSC_0022Add the sugar and salt mixture plus the 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.
DSC_0025Add in the egg and the yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.  Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds.
*Chocolate lovers addition! I wanted to share with you all an adaption that my little 8-year old friend Tatum did!  Tatum is a chocolate lover, so she decided to add 1/4 cup of melted chocolate chips to the batter at this point.  She just melted 1/4 semi-sweet chips (or you can use bittersweet chips) and added it to the batter, making an even more chocolately cookie!   I sampled a few of her cookies, and they were super yummy!  Thanks Tate, you’re truly a chef in the making!  
DSC_0028
Repeat process of resting and whisking 2-3 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.  NOTE: This whisking and waiting time is an important step and really makes a difference with the texture of the cookies.
The brown sugar mixture will thicken and lighten up as you whisk it and let it rest.
Note:  Your batter may not look as thick as my batter in the below photo, but it should still thicken up.
DSC_0029Using rubber spatula or whisk, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips, (you can even be sneaky and add in a couple handfuls of M&M’s as my little friend Mattie likes to) giving dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.  At this point, I  put my batter into the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, as it can sometimes be too soft to handle.  A note about chocolate chips, my family prefers dark chocolate to milk chocolate, so we use these Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.  They are amazing, and they do say that dark chocolate is good for you, so that may help take some of the guilt away.  Try them in your next recipe that calls for chocolate chips. Divide dough into 8 portions per cookie sheet.  I use my handy dandy ice-cream scooper here.

The ice cream scooper I used is 1 3/4″.  If I use my 2″ scooper than I get 16 cookies per batch.  Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. You will have 8 dough balls per sheet. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time (or both trays if you have a double oven) until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes.  You will want to rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking (after 5 minutes).

In my oven the total cooking time is about 10 minutes.

Note:  They may look under baked in the center but don’t fret, they will brown and firm up once they are out of the oven.Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. We always have a cookie when they are still warm and the chocolate chips are gooey!  Pair it up with a tall glass of milk and you have the perfect dessert or snack!

The best chocolate chip cookiesI just recently took this recipe and threw it all into a 12-inch cast iron skillet to make the best chocolate chip skillet cookie.  So, if you’re looking to make up a “big” cookie then give this skillet cookie a try.

the best chocolate chip skillet cookie

the best chocolate chip cookies

Rating: 51

Yield: makes 21-24 cookies

the best chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour - I use King Arthur's unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (dark brown sugar adds more flavor) - Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. I like and use the brand, Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Dark Brown Sugar, as well as the Whole Food's organic brown sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg - The recipe doesn't call for the eggs to be at room temp, but if I know I'm making them up ahead of time, I will take them out a bit beforehand.
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 bag (10-ounces) of chocolate chips or chunks (preferably 60% cacao) - I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips

Instructions

I like to prep all my ingredients ahead of time so when I have to add them they are ready to go.

Adjust rack (or racks if you have 2 ovens) to middle position and preheat oven/ovens to 375 degrees.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Crack your egg over a small bowl using an egg separator or your hand to separate the egg yolk. Put the egg yolk in a small bowl and set aside.

Whisk 1 3/4 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whisk the 1/2 cup sugar, the 3/4 cup brown sugar and the teaspoon salt together in small bowl and set aside.

Divide up the butter, put 10 tablespoons into a 10-inch skillet.

Note: Avoid using a non-stick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gage when the butter is browned.

Put the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into a large heatproof bowl. I recommend cutting up the butter once its divided, so it melts easier.

Heat the 10 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to the heatproof bowl that holds the 4 tablespoons of butter. Stir the butter together until completely melted.

Add the sugar and salt mixture plus the 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.

Add in the egg and the yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.

Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2-3 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. NOTE: This whisking and waiting time is an important step and really makes a difference with the texture of the cookies.

Note: The brown sugar mixture will lighten up and thicken as you whisk it and let it rest.

Using rubber spatula or whisk, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips, giving dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain. At this point, I put my batter into the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, as it can sometimes be too soft to handle.

Divide dough into 8 portions per cookie sheet. I use my handy dandy ice-cream scooper here.

The ice cream scooper I used is 1 3/4". If I use my 2" scooper than I get 16 cookies per batch. Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. You will have 8 dough balls per sheet.

Bake cookies 1 tray at a time (or both trays if you have a double oven) until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes. You will want to rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking (after 5 minutes).

In my oven the total cooking time is about 10 minutes.

Note: They may look under baked in the center but don't fret, they will brown and firm up once they are out of the oven.

Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. We always have a cookie when they are still warm and the chocolate chips are gooey! Pair it up with a tall glass of milk and you have the perfect dessert or snack!

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/the-best-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bundt Bread

chocolate chip pumpkin bundt bread

chocolate chip pumpkin bundt breadI don’t know about you, but when my kids come home from school, they are HUNGRY! The first words out of their mouths are, “Hi mom, what’s for snack?”  I get it, they’re growing and had lunch a couple of hours ago, and so they need some fuel!  When Zoe gets home and smells something baking in the oven, she does her leap of joy and yells a big “Yippee!”  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Here’s a great fall afternoon snack, or anytime of the year snack.  It almost qualifies as a dessert, it’s that yummy.  I serve this up for the kids with a tall glass of milk, and after its devoured, I get that sigh of contentment and the rubbing of the belly!  I made a few variations to the original recipe to make it healthier.  The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. I’ve replaced it with 1/4 virgin coconut oil and 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce.  I’ve also tried it using 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/4 cup unsweetened applause. I’ve also added in 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt at times to give it a bit more moisture.  All 3 variations have been wonderful,  so play with this bread and make it your own, and let me know your favorite way to enjoy it!  chocolate chip pumpkin bundt bread

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bundt Bread:

If you want to add a bit more moisture to this bread, then you can add in 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt to the wet ingredients.
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree – my favorite brand is Farmers Organic Pumpkin and I love that the cans are BPA free.  
  • 1/4 cup fresh-pressed virgin coconut oil, (the coconut oil that actually smells like a coconut) in liquid form (I show you how to melt the coconut oil below) or 1/4 cup vegetable oil – Note: the old recipe called for 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and if you like and want that version, then just use the 1/2 cup vegetable oil and omit the unsweetened applesauce below as well as the 1/4 cup coconut oil.  
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce 
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips – I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease up a Bundt pan.  I always use a paper towel and some room temp butter to grease up my Bundt pan.  Make sure that you grease the pan up along edges and middle.

ingredients for chocolate chip pumpkin Bundt breadMeasure out 1/4 cup coconut oil using a dry measuring cup.  Add the solid coconut oil to a small pan and turn the heat to simmer.  Simmer the oil, using a spatula to stir it occasionally, until it melts.  Set it aside to cool a bit.  It won’t have to cool too much as it won’t be that hot.

melting coconut oilWhisk together the 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup applesauce, 2 large eggs, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon allspice and the 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice until well combined.Whisk together the 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda until combined and then add in the 1 cup of chocolate chips and give it another stir. A note about chocolate chips, my family prefers dark chocolate to milk chocolate, so we use these Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.  They are amazing, and they do say that dark chocolate is good for you, so that may help take some of the guilt away.  Try them in your next recipe that calls for chocolate chips. Using a spatula or wooden spoon mix the dry into the wet until JUST combined. Spoon into the Bundt pan and even out slightly using a spatula.  Give the bundt pan a slam on the counter to release any trapped air and to help the batter get a bit more even. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 42-46 minutes.  Different ovens have different baking times, so the baking time is just an estimate here.

Baking tip: It’s hard to give an exact cooking time when it comes to baking because every oven, pan and even geographic locations, can command a slightly different cooking time. A great way to know when a cake is done, is to do the finger test as well as the standard toothpick test. To do the finger test, press your finger down gently in the middle of the cake, if it’s done, it should puff back up automatically on it own. If it stays dented, then the cake is not ready to come out yet. Also, a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean as well.Cool briefly and turn out onto a plate or rack.Enjoy this as a snack with a tall glass of milk, some tea or coffee, or add some vanilla ice cream and have it for dessert.

chocolate chip pumpkin bundt bread

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bundt Bread

Rating: 51

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bundt Bread

If you want to add a bit more moisture to this bread, then you can add in 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt to the wet ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree - My favorite brand is Farmers Organic Pumpkin and I love that the cans are BPA free.
  • 1/4 cup fresh-pressed virgin coconut oil (the coconut oil that actually smells like a coconut), in liquid form (I show you how to melt the coconut oil below) or 1/4 cup vegetable oil - Note: the old recipe called for 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and if like and want that version, then just use the 1/2 cup vegetable oil and omit the unsweetened applesauce below as well as the 1/4 cup coconut oil.
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips - I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease up a Bundt pan. I always use a paper towel and some room temp butter to grease up my Bundt pan. Make sure that you grease the pan up along edges and middle.

Measure out 1/4 cup coconut oil using a dry measuring cup.

Add the solid coconut oil to a small pan and turn the heat to simmer. Simmer the oil, using a spatula to stir it occasionally, until it melts. Set it aside to cool a bit.

In a large bowl, whisk together the 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup applesauce, 2 large eggs, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon allspice and the 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice until well combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda until combined and then add in the 1 cup of chocolate chips and give it another stir.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the dry into the wet until JUST combined.

Spoon into the Bundt pan and even out slightly using a spatula. Give the bundt pan a slam on the counter to release any trapped air and to help the batter get a bit more even.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 42-50 minutes. Different ovens have different baking times, so the baking time is just an estimate here.

Baking tip: It’s hard to give an exact cooking time when it comes to baking because every oven, pan and even geographic locations, can command a slightly different cooking time. A great way to know when a cake is done, is to do the finger test as well as the standard toothpick test. To do the finger test, press your finger down gently in the middle of the cake, if it’s done, it should puff back up automatically on it own. If it stays dented, then the cake is not ready to come out yet. Also, a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean as well.

Cool briefly and turn out onto a plate or rack.

Enjoy this as a snack with a tall glass of milk, some tea or coffee, or add some vanilla ice cream and have it for dessert.

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