Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pantry Cookies

These are my ultimate care package cookies.

These are my "I can't decide if I want oatmeal, peanut butter, or chocolate chips in my cookies" cookies.

Usually, multiple types of chocolate go into this cookie. Nuts and dried fruit often make an appearance in these cookies. (White chocolate and dried cranberries? Amazing.) Peanut butter and oats are a must for these cookies. How else can I make myself believe they are a legitimate breakfast item?

The beauty of these cookies is that you make them your own. Have some spare M&Ms lying around? Toss them in. Like pecans, but love walnuts too? Sure, have both! Can't decide between dark or milk chocolate? Mix and match, pick and choose, it all works out in the end.

The base for this cookie is an oatmeal cookie recipe. When you add your favorite mix-ins it becomes your own. Pantry Cookie is what I'm calling it, but call it what you want because it's yours!

Pantry Cookies
Originally "Garbage Cookies" by i am baker.

1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups whole oats

(measurements are only suggestions, feel free to alter to your liking)
1/4 to 1/2 cup peanut butter (optional) 
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 white chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup dried cranberries (not pictured)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the 1 1/2 cups flour, the teaspoons of salt, baking powder, baking soda, the 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and the 1/2 teaspoon of allspice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the 3/4 cup of softened butter, the 3/4 cup of brown sugar, and the 3/4 cup granulated sugar. When fluffy, mix in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, along with the 1 and 1/2 cup of oats. Add peanut butter (if desired), mixing until just combined.
Fold in your additions to make this cookie your own masterpiece!

Using a tablespoon, drop rounded mounds of cookie dough on baking sheet. Bake for 8 - 12 minutes turning halfway through. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Disclaimer: you can make pantry cookies even if you don't own a pantry.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dirt and Worm Cupcakes

A friend from college said that one of her best childhood memories was a birthday party that her mom had planned for her. In place of cake, her mom served dirt and worm cups out of a pot that had a flowers growing in the middle. I imagine it looked something like this.

This week's baking challenge, "candy decorations", left room for lots of creativity. As soon as I thought of gummy worms paired with oreo crumbs and chocolate, I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather make.

Instead of pudding, these worms call chocolate frosted chocolate cupcakes their home. Unfortunately, this wasn't good enough for the dirt cup enthusiast in my life, so the worms found themselves in a totally unique (read: diabetes-inducing) environment.

Here, the cupcake is more of an island, surrounded by the pudding-loving worms. It's a dirt bowl! The best of both worlds.

Easy Chocolate Cupcakes
slightly adapted from G.R.

these quantities makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup and 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup and skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon light sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with 12 baking cups.

In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk and the sour cream. Stir until just blended.

Scoop the batter into the prepared cup liners, dividing the batter evenly.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan set on a wire rack. Frost and serve.

Rich Chocolate Frosting
By Amy Via

These quantities make enough for a dozen cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into cubes, softened
  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
In a medium mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

For Dirt & Worm Topping:
1 row of Oreos, crushed.
1 package of gummy worms

Place Oreo crumbs into a small bowl. Frost cupcakes.

Using a pairing knife, cut a small triangle portion from the top of the cupcake. Stuff half of a gummy worm into the little triangle space. Fill remaining space with more chocolate frosting. Dip cupcake tops into the bowl of crushed Oreos, making sure to lift the worm and covering entire surface.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Slow Cooked: Baby Back Ribs

Slow cooking is the ultimate case of delayed gratification. It reminds me of that experiment they did on the preschoolers, where they offered them a chocolate/marshmallow/gummy bear, but told them that if they wait in the room, alone with the gummy bear, and not eat it until the adult comes back, they will have TWO gummies.

Sure, you could have ribs right away, but if you cook them at a low temperature, and wait a few hours, the meat will be so tender, juicy, and practically falling off the bone mouth-watering-delicious.

Luckily, it isn't 3 full hours of cooking time with a hungry chef confined to the kitchen, but since it smells so good, you might spend the hours there willingly.

This was not my first time making these ribs. This was, however, my first time making these ribs and enjoying them on the same night for dinner.

My ribs Dos and Don't

-DO read the full recipe before the night you plan on making them.
This will prevent you from coming home from work only to realize that dinner is going to cook for 2 hours, after marinating for one.

-DO use an oven thermometer.
This way, you know you are using the right temperature, and the ribs will take closer to the listed 2.5 hours, and not 4+ hours

-DON'T use regular-sized tin foil
The regular foil rolls will not make a large enough piece. Out of desperation, DON'T use two halves per slab of ribs. Later in the recipe, this will lead to juices flowing away from the ribs, and you'll end up with dryer meat, and less glaze.

-DO consider making these on your day off and be prepared for any obstacles along the way.
Once you make these ribs, error free, they are so, SO, worth the effort.

Slow Cooked Baby Back Ribs

Slightly adapted from Alton Brown


  • 2 slabs pork baby back ribs

Dry Rub:

  • 8 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Braising Liquid:

  • 1 cup white cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 chopped cloves garlic


Mix the dry rub ingredients in a bowl.

With a baking sheet underneath, Place the slabs of ribs on two separate pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil, (wider than regular foil) making sure that the shiny side is not touching the meat. Sprinkle each side of the slabs with the dry rub. Pat and spread over the meat. Using neat folds, bring in the long sides of the foil, fold them down, before folding the short ends. (Watch Alton do it on this video, about a minute and a half in.) Refrigerate the ribs for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Combine the ingredients for the braising liquid in a microwavable bowl, and heat on high for one minute.

Open one short end of each foil piece, forming it into the shape of a funnel. Pour half of the braising liquid into each foil "container", tilting the baking sheet up so that the liquid distributes evenly in the foil with the ribs. Close the foil, and braise the ribs in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours, or until you can twist one of the middle rib bones and feel it has loosened from the cartilage.

After the ribs have been braised, open the foil funnels and carefully pour the braising liquid into a medium sauce pan. Bring the liquid to a steady simmer and reduce by half, until you have a thick glaze. Brush the syrupy glaze on the ribs. Place the slabs under the broiler and caramelize the tops.

Slice into two-three rib bone portions, and serve with remaining hot glaze.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate and Peanut Butter

We have a great partnership, the boyfriend and I.

He can count on me to make delicious meals and desserts, and I can count on him to enjoy them. Sometimes, I end up giving away the treats I've made, and leave him feeling betrayed, offended, and truly hurt.

Take the cupcakes from the other day for example. He only enjoyed two of them before I whisked the roses away to work. He was not pleased. I had every intention of making up for it with a valentine's day dessert, except the dessert totally tanked :(

It was a sad day for us both. Fortunately, we were able to move past the failures that occurred that day, and enjoyed a dessert that was familiar, and comforting, but still lovely and wonderful.


Although I'm sure it's served in countless restaurants, this pie-sized chocolate chip cookie, (or other variety), topped with ice cream was made famous by BJ's . I've made it a few times, serving it with the best mint patty yogurt in Massachussetts. This time, I set out to make a special edition for the special chocoholic in my life.

PB Chip Chocolate Cookie
(baked in a 9" pie plate)
Serves 6-8

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup peanut butter chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" pie plate and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and both of the sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla to the butter/sugar, mix in well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the cup of flour, 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until well blended. Mix in the cup of peanut butter chips.

Using a spatula, spread the cookie dough in the greased 9" pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool cookie in pie plate on a cooling rack before cutting.

Serve topped with a generous helping of your favorite ice cream!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Moqueca de Chicken

I kind of go nuts for reversible items.

I was pretty big on them growing up: hats, jackets, you name it. It would drive me nuts if the zipper only worked on one side, or if there was a tag that would be exposed....which now leads me to believe that maybe these so-called reversible items were actually just regular clothes?

Ok, so it's possible that I spent a lot of my childhood with my clothes inside-out. There were also a lot of cargo pockets, overall shorts, corduroys, and colored denim, but I don't want to get into that right now.

Basically, I love things that can turn into other things. I also loved two things coming together as one, the way shorts and skirts do in the skort. I always wanted a skort.

Today, I combined two recipes into one as I made an attempt at Brazilian cooking for week 6 of the challenge. I found the first recipe, Moqueca de camarão, and liked what I saw. The only problem was that I already begun defrosting chicken. (Also, shopping for shrimp is so much work. Is it wild or farm-raised? Is it from a country that raises concern? Also, is this a decent price? Raw? Tail-on or off? No thanks. I'll just have the chicken.) Then, I found a similar recipe for Brazilian Chicken with Coconut Milk and decided to combine their powers for my dinner.

My delightfully delicious dinner. It also helps that I've been craving curry for days!

Moqueca de Chicken
Inspired by the recipes above.

4 skinless, boneless, chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can coconut milk

Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Combine in a medium bowl with the teaspoons of cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Add the minced garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1/5 teaspoon of pepper and set aside while you chop the remaining vegetables.

After chicken has had time to marinade, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Place chicken in the skillet and cook through for about 10 - 15 minutes. Definitely ok to cut into your thickest chicken piece to make sure they are cooked well. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and return to heat. Cook the chopped onion and bell pepper over medium heat, stirring until softened. Around 8 - 10 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in the can of coconut milk and bring to a boil before adding the cooked chicken pieces. Add the 2 tablespoons of lime juice and bring to a simmer, stirring often for 5 minutes.

Serve over rice, maybe even Brazilian White Rice, and enjoy.

A Dozen Roses

Can you trust someone who doesn't like dessert?

I am always a little disappointed when people turn down a baked good. I can understand not ordering dessert after a huge dinner, but turning down a cupcake that I hand crafted for you? I don't know how to respond to a person like that. Except for my uber-healthy-on-the-verge-of-vegan friend Drew, I am always a little guarded around these people who claim they aren't a fan of sweets.

Besides, I can trust Drew because even though he doesn't always want a cupcake, he'll eat it if I insist.

It has been a very long time since I made cupcakes. I didn't even bring any of my cake pans from California. Then, week 6 of the baking challenge came along, and I decided to work on my decorating skills. The challenge: elegant.

It was a really fun challenge to prepare for. I loved going through cupcake pictures for inspiration, and shopping at Michael's for supplies is always fantastically overwhelming. (The only store where I could spend hours standing in front of the same aisle). I bought the cute liners, and the pearlized sprinkles at decent prices, (one on clearance, the other with a coupon). I also did a lot of youtube research on making frosting roses. (NEVER made them before!) All sorts of new learning going on.

Vanilla-bean Butter Cake
slightly adapted from organic and chic

Makes 12 happily domed cupcakes*

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

*Some of my ingredient amounts are pretty wonky since I "halved" the recipe. To make 24 cupcakes the sugar and flour amounts would be 1 3/4 cups and 2 3/4 cups, respectively. I'll let you figure out the rest.

Place rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl cream the stick of butter butter and the 1 1/4 cups of sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir to combine the 1/2 cup of milk and the tablespoon of vanilla. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the 1 3/4 cup, 1 tablespoon, and 1 teaspoon flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

While stirring between each addition, add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar, followed by half of the milk mixture. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, and the remaining half of the vanilla milk. Combining until just incorporated, add the final portion of the flour mixture. Stir batter well, making sure to scrape the edges of the bowl.

Distribute batter evenly between the 12 cupcake liners and bake for about 25 minutes, turning halfway between. Cupcakes should be golden, and can be tested by inserting a toothpick to the center that comes out clean.

Let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes, before placing on rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spicy Veggie Chili

I saw a recipe title that confused me.

There was a blogger that was referring to their non-meat chili as vegan. Which made me realize that the chili I made for Superbowl Sunday was also vegan. (Up until the moment that I topped it with shredded pepper jack and a dollop of sour cream.)

I kept this realization to myself, in case the boyfriend refused to eat something so healthy-sounding on one of the nation's most junk-food-filled celebrations.

Alas, there were too many non vegetables to be enjoyed during the most disappointing football game of the season. Many of my friends, (boyfriend included), found themselves too full to have a cup of vegetables/beans. I happily carried my pot home knowing that this stuff only gets better with each reheat.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili

adapted from Joy the Baker


3 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced

1 cup beer (I used Sam Adams Irish Red)

3 heaping tablespoons steak seasoning (eg. McCormick Montreal)

2 heaping tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/3 cup spicy barbecue sauce

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed

1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed

1 15-ounce can great northern, rinsed

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with garlic

2 cups vegetable stock


In a large pot, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions and saute until softened, and when you see they are beginning to brown. Add the diced bell peppers and zucchini and cook until they begin to soften, about five minutes. Add the 3 tablespoons of steak seasoning, the 2 tablespoons of chili powder, the tablespoon of cumin, the teaspoon of coriander, and the diced jalapeño in the pot with the vegetables. Stir occasionally as you cook them together for two minutes.

Next, pour one cup of beer into the hot pan. If necessary, scrape the bottom of the pot with your cooking utensil to stir in any stuck pieces. When the beer has settled, add the barbecue sauce, beans, diced tomatoes and both cups of vegetable stock. Raise the heat to medium high to get the ingredients in the lidded pot to boil, bring heat down to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, leaving pan on the residual heat for at least 10 minutes.

If you decide not to be vegan, serve warm with shredded pepper jack cheese, and sour cream. If you are vegan, I'm sure you'll still be pleased.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Jalapeño Pepper Jack Scones

I am not a domestic goddess.

I use one of those scrubbing bubbles drop-ins because I hate cleaning.

My plants' leaves are sad and droopy.

It took us about 6 months before we finished hanging our photo/decor frames onto our walls.

You know what makes me feel a teensy bit like a domestic goddess?

Baking scones.

Making chili for said scones.

Serving up chili for friends at a party.

You know what reminds me that I'm not Martha Stewart?
Forgetting to bring the scones to the party and instead having to eat them in my apartment.

Jalapeño Pepper Jack Scones
By Joy the Baker