Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt (Dairy Free!!)

ImageSo with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, today I attempted to make macarons for the first time ever. It was a huge disaster. Whenever I make something that doesn’t turn right, I feel so sad, like I have failed. I know macarons are extremely difficult to make, but I just couldn’t help it. Fortunately I’ve been sitting on this recipe adapted from Ambitious Kitchen for a while! These cookies are very very tasty and can definitely be a treat to make for your Valentine. There is nothing quite like the combination of sweet and salty goodness. My boyfriend, Matt, is allergic to dairy, so I made these dairy free so he could enjoy them as well. May you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day!

Ingredients:

  • Image11/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup earth balance, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plain soy yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups carob chips 

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer, mix the softened earth balance and peanut butter together until thoroughly blended.
  3. Add the sugars and beat until smooth.
  4. Next beat in the egg, honey, vanilla, and yogurt until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined.
  6. Gently stir in the carob chips.
  7. Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes-1 hour, or place in freezer for 20 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Once ready to bake, roll dough into 1-inch balls and place onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  10. Bake for 9-12 minutes (depends on size of your cookie) or until cookies begin to turn a tiny golden brown and crisp up around the edges. Do not overbake!
  11. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes and sprinkle cookies generously with sea salt.
  12. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
  13. Devour!!!

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Smores Hand Pies

So I originally made these for the 4th of July but never got around to posting about them.  Luckily they have become relevant again for two reasons. First: it is HOT in southern California. Like 90 degrees. So it still feels like summer, which makes summer treats appropriate. Second, and more importantly: yesterday was election day! I am so proud that our country spoke up and re-elected President Obama, and that same sex marriage has been protected in four states! AMERICA!!!!!

I am very saddened that Prop 37 which would have required food containing GMOs to be labeled as so did not pass, but this was just the beginning. The fight against GMOs will continue!

Anyway, these pies were so yummy. They require a bit of backstory: back in April, my wonderful mother bought me a Breville electric personal pie maker (she knows me so well) and this was my first time using it. The manual suggest using puff pastry, but I love my mom’s pie crust that I went ahead and made my own from scratch!

It’s simple. You press your crust into the pie maker, then add in some graham cracker crumbs or chunks and some chocolate chips. Cook until the pie crust begins to brown on the edges, then, while they are still hot, top with marshmallows. And that’s it! Your own personal smores pie!

 

Devil’s Food Cake with Vanilla Frosting for my Brother’s High School Graduation

This past weekend my little brother graduated from high school, and I felt old.  But I also feel very proud and so happy for him to be going onto college (especially because he is coming to the same one I go to!!).  I asked him if I could make him anything for the special day, and he asked for devil’s food cake with vanilla frosting.  I found the cake recipe at The Cooking Photographer, and the icing recipe at Lisa is Hungry. The two recipes complemented one another very well, and my brother enjoyed the cake!

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 
1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour two 9 inch, 8 inch, or a 13×9 inch pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium high to high speed for 30 seconds.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well combined.
  5. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each.
  6. Add cocoa powder, salt and water and mix well.
  7. Mix in the baking soda then add flour beating on low speed until combined.
  8. Pour batter into the prepared pan(s).
  9. Bake for 33 to 40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Cool layer cakes in pan for 10 minutes.
  11. Run a knife along the edges and remove cakes from pans.
  12. Cool thoroughly on wire racks.
  13. Make your frosting: Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in an electric mixer fit with a paddle attachment on medium low speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer speed to low.
  14. Combine the milk and the vanilla extract and slowly stream it into the butter and sugar mixture.
  15. Once incorporated, turn the mixer to high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
  16. Give to your baby brother for his graduation.

A Belated Birthday Thank You

It has now been twelve days since my twenty-first birthday and I have yet to write real thank you notes or this public thank you to all of my loved ones who yet again showed me just how loved I am!

Thank you to my boyfriend, Matt, for brewing a batch of beer just for me!  He may think it is too fruity but it is just what I wanted!  Everyone can learn more about it at mAltintel.

Thank you to my dad, who got me a cake carrier and wire cooling racks so I can now treat my baked goods properly when they exit the oven.  He also gave me a fabric steamer so I never have to iron again (the bane of my existence!!).

Thank you to my sister, who was a proper bad influence and mailed me a shot glass, single shot of Patron silver, a lime, and a plastic knife to ensure that I would do a birthday shot.  She also sent me beautiful engraved wooden spoons, one of which you can catch a glimpse of in my birthday cake post.

Thank you to my brother who gave me a beautiful purple picture frame which I will be filling with a photo of us from his prom day, as we were both appropriately wearing purple!

Thank you to my Aunt Mary Jo, (who actually I am thanking for the Easter gift she sent me)- an adorable set of rabbit napkin ring holders that were my grandmothers.  Someday I will host an Easter brunch with pretty napkins and use them proudly.

Thank you to the Leahy family who sent me a new bunt pan to replace my crappy one, such a thoughtful gift from a family I am so happy to think of as my own and to have grown up with in my life.

Thank you to my many relatives who sent cards and money, so I can now fuel my expensive cooking and baking habit even more.

And, as usual, an enormous thank you to my mom.  She is a beautiful, generous, inspiring, and thoughtful woman who showered me with gifts from kitchen heaven, William Sonoma, including, but not limited to, a Breville personal pie maker, recipe books, cute cupcake papers, an epically awesome icing gun (which looks like a weapon from outer space), and a mermaid bottle-opener (after all I did turn 21).

Keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of many of these gifts in future posts!!

This post does not suffice to express how thankful and grateful I truly am to all of these people.  As I use all of these gifts over the years I will think of you all and my heart will grow warm and tears will come to my eyes, because I know I am lucky, and I am happy to have such wonderful people who care so dearly for me, and encourage me to keep doing what I do.  I had a wonderful birthday, and I have all of you to thank for being such a wonderful part of it and of my life!

Aunt Lucille’s Brownies

This is the only basic brownie recipe I will ever need or use.  It is simple, easy, delicious, and can be doctored to your liking in many ways.  I usually make them just like this, but in the past I have added chocolate pudding, which made them a bit fluffier/cake-ier, as well as chocolate chips which makes them more chocolatey!  You could also add nuts, or whatever else your heart desires to the recipe to personalize them.  This recipe makes a brownie that is moist, but not too rich.

I first experienced these brownies when I was only five years old… In 1997 my Grandfather, who us grandkids called Poppy passed away due to complications from a recent heart attack.  My younger brother, Matthew, who was only two, and I were deemed to young to attend an open- casket funeral ( I am now very thankful for this for several reasons) so instead we were sent to the house of my mom’s life-long friend, our “Aunt” Lucille to play with her kids who were around our age.  It was a strange and confusing experience.  I was dressed up in all black because once the funeral was over, my brother and I would be picked up and brought to the dinner that followed.  I knew Poppy had died, but I didn’t understand it- here I was being sent out for a play date!

Cousin Jack, Cousin Brian, Poppy, Matthew, Me, Meagan

Well, as we played, Aunt Lucille made us brownies from scratch.  I can still remember clearly how good they smelled coming out of the oven, and watching her cut them into perfect squares.  They were (and are) SO GOOD.  We were all allowed a taste, and then the next thing I knew I was leaving, paper bag full of brownies (and the recipe!!!) in hand.  Matthew and I were reunited with our big sister Meagan, parents, and the rest of the family at an Italian restaurant.  Everyone was dressed nicely, in dark clothes, and I knew something sad had happened and Poppy wasn’t there, but everyone seemed happy as they reminisced over Poppy’s life.  Needless to say, I did not understand what was happening, but I did understand that there was a bag of brownies waiting for me to gobble up later.

In psychology there is a lot of debate about so-called “flashbulb memories.”  The most common example used is September 11th.  Basically they are memories for emotionally impacting or important events, which people often have very detailed and vivid memories for.  There is empirical controversy over whether these memories are actually better than normal memories, and I haven’t formed much of an opinion myself, but the events of that January day fifteen years ago are still fresh in my mind, and the same brownies are fresh in my belly!  Though I wish Poppy had been around for more of my life, I will never be sad that I inherited this brownie recipe (Thank you, Aunt Lucille!!!).

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup salted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
  2. Grease an 8×8 pan with vegetable shortening and set aside.
  3. Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl, then add eggs one at a time.
  4. In a separate medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa, and baking powder together.
  5. Slowly add flour mixture to egg mixture in even increments.
  6. Pour into greased pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.
  7. Enjoy!!

I am thankful, lucky, and loved.

My entire life I have been fortunate enough to have merry and generous Christmases, year after year.  The greatest Christmas was 10 years ago when I was given my pet cat, and this year was just as special, but in a different way.

This year I asked for kitchen and baking items that would be both pretty and practical, and my wonderful family more than came through.  I take a lot of pride in giving good gifts, but this year everyone beat me at my own game.

Thank you to my wonderful mom who got me a KitchenAid stand mixer.  It is not only beautiful, but it is a heavy duty machine that I never dreamed I would own so early on in life, but thanks to mom I do, and my baking will be easier and better!  I hope to collect various attachments over the year, the first on my list is the ice cream maker, and to eventually make anything and everything with my amazing new mixer!!  I have been calling it “My Machine” which will likely stick and become its life-long nickname.  This was such a generous and exciting gift to receive, but it makes sense to come from the person who has inspired my love for baking.

Thank you to my awesome Dad who diligently monitors Woot! on a daily basis, where he found a great Pyrex Bakeware set which was then shipped, wrapped, and placed under the tree for me.  Pyrex is amazing and an incredible upgrade from the horrible old pans I have been using that burn everything and are odd shapes, and I am thrilled to use this set.

Thank you to my big sister whose creativity is unchallenged for a new set of home-made place-mats to make my kitchen table more hilarious and aesthetically appealing, as well as my new measuring cups which have feet, a tail, and a cat face/head on them! These could not be more appropriate for my kitchen in any possible way.

Thank you to my little brother who is secretly a total sweetheart for a beautifully wrapped perfectly appropriate Christmas gift- a gingerbread cookie mix, gingerbread man cookie cutter, gingerbread man rubber spatula as well as mini holiday spatulas from Williams Sonoma where he works.  Williams Sonoma stuff is great quality and these new holiday items will probably last more Christmases than me!  We made the gingerbread men on Christmas night for dessert (watch for post about this) and they were delicious and he enjoyed a few of them which couldn’t have made me happier.

Thank you from my boyfriend and I to our next door neighbor who surprised us with a gift that had my name written all over it- cat salt and pepper shakers.  These things are freaking adorable and useful, and just by chance happen to match my new cat measuring cups.  Amazing!!

Thank you to my various relatives and boyfriend’s family who were all very generous and thoughtful as well.

And last but certainly not least, thank you to my boyfriend, my best friend and biggest fan for a new purple laptop case (which I have wanted for three years), and a Nintendo 3DS so that I can have fun outside of the kitchen too!

I hope you all also had a great holiday, and I am sorry this post is photo-less, I am too tired to do that much work but wanted to get this up while it is still relevant.  You will surely be seeing all of my new kitchen items in future posts!