Thursday, February 28, 2013

snickers peanut butter cookies

Have I discussed yet how I am a cookie dough addict? The actual act of baking cookies is an afterthought to cookie dough consumption. I wish that I suffered a bad experience from eating raw egg to curtail this bad habit, but my stomach is ironclad and cookie dough is a part of my daily diet. 

I'm so glad that I spared some of this unbelievably good dough to bake, though, because these cookies are amazing. Not that it would have been the worst thing in the world to have to make another batch in order to confirm their deliciousness. 

So let's break down these cookies. The peanut butter keeps the cookie soft and chewy, while the snickers add a caramel and nougat layer of chewiness that pairs so well with the peanut butter flavor. It's important to freeze the chopped snickers pieces prior to stirring them into the dough to avoid a caramely mess. Caramely- technical term. The frozen caramel ensures that it melts just enough to infuse into the cookie without seeping out onto your cookie tray. As with most dessert, more chocolate is better so the added chocolate chips make these cookies a medley of delicious textures and flavors. Chocolate caramel goodness. I know that you will love these!

Snickers Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup chopped Snickers candy bars (about 4 regular sized bars), frozen
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, set aside
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, & salts, set aside
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy then add sugars and beat until smooth
Add the egg and mix until combined
Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix again
Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined
Stir in the chopped Snickers and chocolate chips
Drop by heaping tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets
Gently flatten each ball with palm of hand
Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned on edges
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5-10 minutes, then remove to rack to cool completely
Store in an airtight container


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

homemade funfetti cupcakes

Nothing screams birthday more than a funfetti cupcake.

I made a batch of homemade ones for Kent's birthday last week. Funfetti cake is his favorite cake, but I couldn't find a great recipe for cake that didn't require complicated ingredients, so I settled for a cupcake recipe from my favorite blogger. 

Most cake recipes call for oil as the wet ingredient, but this recipe uses butter to add a rich buttery taste. I personally thought that it made the cupcake texture a bit too dense, but the butter flavor was delicious. 

I was pleased with how pretty the cupcakes turned out. The rainbow sprinkles contrasted with the white cake and fluffy white frosting look like a cup of happiness.

These cupcakes were so simple to whip up and they received rave reviews from Kent's team at work. The frosting was a bit labor intensive, but it was my own fault. I bought piping tips and an icing bag so that I could attempt a professional look, but it turned out disastrously so I resorted to the ol' knife to spread my frosting. Then added some sprinkles to garnish.

Homemade always beats out a box mix, so I encourage you to try making your own cupcakes from scratch. You can do it!

Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes

1 and 2/3 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1/4 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
3/4 cup milk (I used whole, but I think 2% would be fine)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sprinkles

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners, set aside
Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside
Melt butter in large microwave safe bowl, let cool
Add sugar to melted butter then stir in yogurt, eggs, milk, and vanilla
Slowly mix in dry ingredients
Gently stir in sprinkles, be careful not to overmix or color with bleed

Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners
Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
While cupcakes cool complete, make the frosting

Beat butter softened butter on medium speed with electric mixer or standing mixer until smooth and creamy
Add powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla with mixer running and increase speed to high for 3 minutes
If frosting too thin, add more powdered sugar; if too thick, add more cream
Frost cooled cupcakes and store in airtight container up to 7 days


Sunday, February 24, 2013

weekend review

I know. I said that I wouldn't begin another weekend review with a picture of cake, but it was a weekend of birthday celebration. Two birthdays.

There were a few changes to the original weekend plan. Kent was supposed to drive to New York after work on Friday, but he decided to wait until Saturday morning. My dear friend Anna and I celebrated Erica's birthday at a cute restaurant in the theater district called Becco. It's reputable for their twenty-five dollar bottle of wine menu as well as featuring three daily pasta specials. For twenty-three dollars, you receive unlimited amounts of each pasta freshly served to you tableside. I'm sure this sounds familiar to Olive Garden, but their pasta is authentically Italian, homemade, and delicious. 

Shrimp & Arugula, Pureed Beet Ravioli, and Tomato & Farfalle

Anna and I reunited

Erica, her cake, & her cute friend Tracey

After wining and dining, we ventured to a bar called Surf Bar. All I want to do after eating a large meal is change into my sweats and curl up on the couch, but I couldn't pass on enjoying the NYC nightlife with my sister and Anna. So, I sipped on a cup of water and held out as long as I could lol. We were surprised with a visit from an old friend from CU swim & dive, which was fun. I left Erica so that she could continue her birthday fun with her friends and headed back to Brooklyn. The 2 and 3 trains weren't running that late, so I had to channel my former New Yorker self and figure out how to get home. It took me an hour, but I made it unharmed. 

Saturday morning I encountered the ultimate blow to our weekend plans. The birthday boy had the birthday blues and didn't feel like making the drive. Ugh, plans officially thwarted. I couldn't very well leave him alone on this birthday, so I bought an afternoon bus ticket (well actually, first I bought myself a bagel sandwich at the best bagel shop in the city) then called Anna to meet us for lunch before the trek home to Baltimore. I wanted to try a new restaurant, but Erica had a particular place in mind and she was the weekend honoree.

Serendipity's enormous menu

Serendipity's world-renown Frozen Hot Chocolate

We were on our way to pay Levain Bakery a visit when I made the quick decision to hop in a cab and catch an earlier bus. Forgoing a Levain cookie= true love. I stewed a bit on the way home thinking about the cancelled dinner and night out with my family and friends because somebody took umbrage to turning 27, but once Kent's parents heard that he wasn't joining me in New York, they drove from Philadelphia to take us to Ruth's Chris for dinner, so all's well that ends well.

We turned that birthday frown upside down

My pictures from our dinner didn't photograph well, so I'll spare you more food photos, but the meal was amazingly delicious. Dessert was three-fold. Kent received a complimentary slice of chocolate sin cake (pictured above) that I polished off. I ordered a molten chocolate cake sundae, and Kent's mom enjoyed a banana cream pie. Thank you J-mom and J-dad for saving the day!

Today has been pretty leisurely. I baked cookies twice- once for the blog, and the other batch for no real reason.  I did my version of P90X's kenpo in the morning, then went for a run in the afternoon. Trust me- a double was needed. I've been eating dessert everyday like it's my last since we moved to Baltimore in November, so it's time to get back to moderation. I'm resolving to start that tomorrow, maybe. I'm happy to be getting my mileage back to around 8 miles since my knee injury.

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Happy happy birthday again to the love of my life and my sweet sister- I love you both!

Friday, February 22, 2013

friday favorites

Happy Friday everyone! Does anyone else feel like this week was a quick one? I was away in Georgia until Wednesday night, and I arrived in NYC this morning, so the choppiness of the week has left me a bit disoriented with the days.

I am so happy to be here in NYC. I have only been back here a handful of times since graduating, so I like to make the most of each visit. We will be celebrating my sister Erica and Kent's birthdays. Celebrations in my family always center around food, so I'm looking forward to eating very well. I can't wait to spend time with family and my wonderful friends Anna and Nicole. 

Here are a few things that caught my eye this week:

Favorite indulgence: S'more Peanut Butter Cookies. I mean, brilliant idea. I've seen countless plays on the traditional s'mores in cookie form, but this is my favorite idea.

Favorite quote: I tend to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders worrying over things that I can't control. I'm continuing to work on implementing this mentality.

Favorite Funny: Ryan Seacrest tweeted this photo from the set of American Idol. It made me laugh, but I think that there is a great message attached. The picture prompted me to do a quick background check on Seacrest. This face you see here led his high school's morning public announcements. He was teased and ridiculed, but he persevered to develop his craft and now...he's everywhere. I say good for him though. You should really take a look at that man's resume.

Favorite workout: Cardio Kickbox, Trenna and Joanna style. I was able to make all of four of my kickboxing classes during my Georgia visit. I was so relieved that my two favorite instructors didn't sub out their classes for any reason while I was home. They deliver the best workouts that are so challenging and fun. No broken toe was going to stop me from getting my behind kicked by those lovely ladies.

Favorite DIY: Using a curtain rod to hang frames. This is quite clever and resourceful. 

Favorite Escape: I don't know much about the origin of this photo, but I imagine it to be a summer night's dinner on the Inner Harbor because I hope to have a similar evening this summer. Come visit me this summer if you'd like to join :)

Favorite Doggie: Continuing with the summer theme, I don't think this sweet pup could look anymore cute.

Favorite Read: My thoughts about the recent events of The Office are conveyed quite well in this article. If you find yourself hating the new Pam & Jim then I recommend this piece. Seriously, why toy with the one last good thing about this show? 

Source 6

Favorite Sandwich: Grilled Cheese, adult style. This sandwich incorporates my favorite sandwich ingredients, roasted red peppers and mushrooms, into a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. And caramelized onions make everything taste better. 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

fudge brownies

Do you prefer a fudge-like brownie or cake-like brownie?

I enjoy a fudge-like brownie myself.  Gooey and chocolatey. 

That's the kind of brownie I'm featuring today. I understand the preference for a lighter and fluffier brownie, like a boxed brownie mix provides, but how can you resist these fudgey bites of heaven?

Cutting brownies sure can be dangerous. I'm a cut-until-half-the-pan-is-gone girl, so this blog is forcing me to work on my self-control around dessert. These were excellent though. The recipe was supposed to feature a sea salt component, but it somehow got lost during the baking process. I still highly recommend these as a go-to fudge brownie recipe.

Fudge Brownies
Recipe from Food and Wine Magazine

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degres
Line an 8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, draping foil over side for an overhang
Lightly butter the pan
Melt unsweetened chocolate and butter together in large saucepan over low heat, stirring occassionally
Remove from heat
Add in sugar, eggs, vanilla, cocoa, and flour to melted chocolate mixture and mix until smooth
Pour batter evenly into prepared pan
Sprinkle salt evenly over batter and swirl with a knife
Bake brownies for 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean
Let cool for an hour at room temperature, then refrigerate for an hour to firm up before cutting

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

chewy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

These cookies would normally be a treat to share. 

They're delicious, of course, but they weren't mean to debut until later this week. I had to adjust this week's lineup due to the unexpected shut down of my macbook. I spilled a cup of water onto it yesterday morning, and it's been out of commission since. As my family and friends can imagine, I'm in a state over it, so I won't go on about the incident, but these cookies are subbing in for the peanut butter cheesecake brownies I had promised you. Those pictures are hopefully safe and sound on my *sleeping* laptop.

I'm fairly accepting of most cookies (except dry cumbly ones- bleh), but oatmeal raisin normally get passed over. I think that this is pretty common when provided with a choice of cookie. I'm not sure if it's the raisins or the oatmeal that deter people, but I fall on the side of  "chocolate makes everything better, so why grab a cookie sans chocolate?"

These chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are chewy, thick, and chocolately. This recipe comes from another one of my favorite food bloggers, Jessica at How Sweet It is. I have experiemented with countless oatmeal cookie recipes (not quite as many my best chocolate chip cookie quest), and this really is the best.

I wish you could see the melted chocolate goodness trapped inside that mound of cookie heaven. Don't you want a bite?

Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe from How Sweet It Is

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened to room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat over to 375 degrees
Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 2-4 minutes
While sugars and butter mix, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl and set aside
Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined
Slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix until just combined
Stir in oats and chocolate chip
Drop tablespoon size balls onto ungreased cookie sheet
Bake 9-11 minutes, or until lightly golden brown

Sunday, February 17, 2013

weekend review

I promise that I won't begin all of my weekend reviews with a photo of cake, but this particular cake holds a special place in my heart.

Well, not this exact one as there is a visible crack and my mom's name is spelled wrong, but Publix's Chocolate Lover's Delight cake. It's the best cake, ever. Layers of chocolate cake filled and frosted with rich chocolate fudge frosting. This probably should have been my wedding cake, but I conformed to tradition and served a regular tiered vanilla cake. Oh well. Kent and I try to visit my parents every year around my mom's birthday and we always enjoy this cake during the trip. We visited later than usual this year, so Kent was honored with his name on the cake as his birthday is next weekend.

Yesterday, we took a 6am flight to Atlanta that put us in with exactly enough time to attend my favorite kickboxing class. The class was fun and challenging, and it was definitely worth the 4am wakeup call. Kent probably would not agree with that, but not everybody wins.

The weather was frigid yesterday, so we enjoyed some quality lounging inside until dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant called Lucia's located nearby the house. Aside from the delicious food served, the restaurant has a cozy atmosphere and features neat decor like this wine bottle chandelier.

Here are a few highlights from the meal:

spinach and pear salad w/ a walnut vinaigrette 

ciopinno (seafood stew: mussels, scallops, shrimp, tilapia, little neck clams)

obligatory couple photo

After dinner, we came home to indulge in the aforementioned cake. I was criticized indirectly for polishing off a good third of the cake myself. I reasoned that it's meant to be enjoyed. And it was most enjoyed.

My dad built us a fire to set the ambience for a comfy night in. My mom recommended A King's Speech for us to watch, but she was the only one who made it through the entire movie. Kent and I conked out from our early morning, and I think that my dad was just not interested in King George VI's speech impediment. 

This was one of the first few scenes. I don't remember much beyond this scene.

I woke up around 6:30 this morning feeling very well rested because of our early turn in last night. Kent is a sleeping champ, and he was still able to sleep until a reasonable weekend hour. I am pretty sure that I broke my toe this past Wednesday, so a Sunday morning run was sadly out of the question. I don't know how kickboxing didn't aggravate the pain, but it didn't and I refused to be sidelined. Instead of a run, I took a spin class. This class promised to be hardcore and awesome based on the demand for it. I was shut out from this particular class during Thanksgiving because I didn't know about the early sign up sheet. This morning I arrived 30 minutes early to claim a bike. These spinners were intense. They were already warming up on the bikes by the time I walked into the room. Maybe this is normal, but I was impressed by their commitment to this morning's ride and expected a great class. I'm disappointed to report that it was very blah. The music stunk, and I found myself watching the clock the whole time. I wanted to leave before the end, but I'm not one to quit a workout. Plus, I figured that I had taken a regular's bike and didn't want their seat to be taken in vain. 

I came home after class and ate a piece of cake to reward myself for putting up with such a boring workout. We all had lunch then ventured outside for a little outing. A new neighborhood is going up across the street from my parents, so we walked over as inquisitive neighbors. The model house was beautiful. It included all the bells and whistles money can buy and decorated impeccably. 

This home is identical to the model. Purchased for a mere $534,000.

Tonight my mom grilled salmon for dinner. I love coming home for her delicious cooking. I contributed with my roasted potatoes. We topped the meal off with a trip to our favorite ice creamery. Our tv lineup should be interesting considering that the four of us don't watch the same shows. Apparently there is an important basketball game on tonight. I might be overruled. 

I'm here until Wednesday, so I'm happy that I have a few more days of the comforts of home. I hope that you all had a good weekend! For those that have the day off tomorrow, enjoy! Stay tuned for a brownie recipe on Tuesday :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

friday favorites

Happy Friday!

Tomorrow morning Kent and I are off to Atlanta for a long weekend to visit my parents. The weather isn't expected to be as warm as I had hoped, but we will still have a lovely visit. I plan to relax, eat well, and get my behind kicked at my favorite kickboxing classes. I can't wait.

Today I'm introducing a series that I plan to feature weekly. On Fridays I will share some of my favorite finds from around the internet including food, articles, fashion, home decor, etc. that I came across during the week. Have a great weekend everyone!

Favorite quote:

Favorite funny: Free Bates Cookies. Downton Abbey became my latest TV obsession. I finished season two last weekend, so I'm not sure if Bates has been released from prison yet during the current season, but I thought that these were pretty funny. I'm not quite talented enough to pull this idea off. I do love that Mr. Bates though.

Favorite indulgence: Carbonara w/ Pan Seared Scallops. I am on a major bacon kick these days. I've been adding it to almost all of our dinners recently. And since my wedding (where we served the most delicious scallops with sweet corn risotto), I opt for scallops at any opportunity. This sounds like a heavenly meal that I'll attempt to recreate at some point.

Favorite treat: Cookie Butter Cup Cupcakes. These cupcakes look amazing. If you don't know what cookie butter is, then please pick up a jar during your next grocery trip.

Favorite look: casual chic. Lauren Conrad has the cutest spring line this year at Kohl's. I've ordered a few of her pieces online previously, but they never translate in person. She clearly has a great stylist for her shoots. I love the contrasting blues with the accent belt. 

Favorite read: Make Mistakes Every Day. I think that this is particularly relevant for twenty-somethings, but any age group can benefit from this insightful piece from Thought Catalog.

Favorite Dog: Winter Pooch. Too sweet.

Favorite Space: Built in Desk. I love this little nook. It looks so comfy, and the blue wall is quite soothing.