Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies


Forget comfort food, comfort cookies are what you need to satisfy your cravings. For some reason, I always get a hankering for these cookies when the warm weather comes. There is something about the dried fruit mixing with bittersweet chocolate - followed by the subtle almond flavor that is just so delicious. It all comes together in a moist, slightly chewy, crunchy on the outside package. These are an easy-to-make, dirty-one-bowl, yields-the-perfect-amount cookie.

They also happen to be a favorite of my boyfriend's sister, and this happens to be her birthday week! I took the time to gift wrap some of these beauties just for her! A little cling wrap and black ribbon goes a long way.






Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

1 C. Butter, softened
1 1/2 C. Brown Sugar
1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Almond Extract
1 3/4 C. Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
3 C. Oats
1 C. Dried Cranberries
1 C. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, mix butter, sugars, eggs and almond extract well. Add in flour and baking soda. Mix well.

Mix in oats, then chocolate chips, then dried cranberries.

Using a teaspoon, scoop dough on to a greased cookie sheet leaving about two inches between each cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool slightly & then remove from cookie sheet.

Enjoy!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bridal Showers & Bling Bling

I had not one, but two bridal showers to attend today & both were so lovely!

It is so nice to spend time with family and friends to celebrate such a beautiful milestone in someone's life.

I was asked to make cupcakes for one of the showers to which I gladly agreed to do! I had so much fun making these!

These are white cakes with almond butter-cream frosting topped with candy pearls & white chocolate diamond rings adorned with sparkling white sugar crystals.



I added "bling" to these white chocolate rings by painting the top of the chocolates with royal icing and sprinkling sparkling sugar on them. Sparkles like a diamond!


The groom's mother brought these adorable cupcake-to-go boxes which she then decorated herself with ribbon & fabric cupcake appliques! Adorable!

Coda's New Do


Behold my adorable eight year old Cairn Terrier, Coda.

Before Friday, he looked a lot more like Chewbaca and a lot less like this.

But now he is sportin' his new summer do & stylin' in his red bandana.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Congrats Grads! (and Almond Buttercream Recipe)


This weekend I made six dozen cupcakes for a graduation party. The student's school colors were orange and black, so instead of using any type of black frosting (doesn't taste good & the dye will DEFINITELY stain your teeth), I incorporated Oreos as a way to incorporate the black & as a palette to write the graduation year on. Sure, they look slightly halloween-y, but sometimes that's inevitable when all you have to work with is orange and black.

Of course, I topped these cakes with my favorite frosting: Almond Buttercream.

I am constantly asked for this frosting recipe - so here it is!:


Almond Buttercream Frosting

4 C. Confectionery Sugar
3 tbsp. Milk
1/2 C. butter (1 stick)
2 tsp. Almond Extract

Make sure butter is room temperature. Mix with 1 C. Confectionery sugar until well blended.

Add in milk & 1 more C. of Confectionery sugar. Mix well.

Add in Almond Extract & one more cup of Confectionery sugar. Mix well.

It's usually at this point that the frosting will get tough to mix. Feel free to mix in another tablespoon of milk to smooth out the frosting. Frosting should be smooth & easy to spread with a knife.

Add in last cup of Confectionery sugar. Mix well. Add small amount of milk to smooth out frosting if necessary.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to two days in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fabulous Five Minute Fudge for Father's Day



All of the men in my family harbor a massive sweet-tooth.

My father's sweet tooth springs to life in the evening. Sometimes after I was supposed to be asleep, I would hear the cookie jar lid open (mostly when a Celtics game would cut to commercial) or the faint clinking of a spoon against an empty ice cream bowl after he'd just finished an impromptu sundae. My adolescent mind would seethe ("I can't wait until I'm a grownup so I can eat cookies whenever I want!").

My Nonno's sweet tooth is less predictable - he never knows when it will strike, only that it will. To be prepared, he hides Hershey miniatures all over his home - some in his desk, some on the stand next to the television. Ready, available and easily accessible should the craving strike.

I'm pretty sure that Father's Day is the only day where it's still acceptable for a grown-woman to give someone a homemade gift so this year, I'm going to give them exactly what they want. Chocolatey, marshmallow-y sustenance.


Five-Minute Rocky Road Fudge

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz) pkg. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
1/2 C. miniature marshmallows

Line a 9x9 inch brownie pan with tin foil. Lightly grease pan & set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk & chocolate chips. Microwave on high for one minute. Stir. Microwave for another minute. Stir. Chocolate should be smooth and creamy. Add almond extract. Stir.

Add in chopped walnuts & miniature marshmallows. Stir.

Pour mixture into the brownie pan & smooth evenly with a spoon. Refrigerate until set (1-2 hours). Cut into squares and enjoy!

-----

Does your guy like things simple?: Omit the marshmallows & walnuts. This fudge is delicious plain as well!

This fudge makes a great gift for any guy! Stack a few pieces - wrap in cellophane - tie with a ribbon and voila. Gourmet gift.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Audrey Hepburn Speaks the Truth

"Let's face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me."

-Audrey Hepburn



Agreed, Ms. Hepburn. Agreed.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mom's Italian Brownies


My mother has been making these Italian Brownies for years and never does an occasion go by where someone does not request the recipe immediately after tasting one! They are an easy-to-make crowd-pleaser and are made from a recipe that is super simple to memorize.

This is one recipe where I would never substitute another extract for Almond. The Anise flavor is what makes them unique and undoubtedly "Italian"!

The original recipe never made enough for us to make a plate for others....and keep a plate for ourselves to enjoy which is why the recipe you see below has been doubled.

Give these a try - Your house will smell amazing and your taste-buds will be doing a happy dance.

Get ready to eat more than one! These things are an antidote to dietary willpower. Even my younger cousins (sometimes fickle eaters at the ages of 8 & 10) can't get enough of these babies.


Italian Brownies

4 eggs
2 C. Sugar
2 tsp. Anise Extract
2 C. Flour
1 C. Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream eggs and sugar well. Add anise extract & oil.

Then add flour. Mix well. Mixture will be thick.

Pour into a greased 11 x 13" pan. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top. Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are slightly golden.

Wait until completely cool before cutting.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

ICE CREAM FOR A CAUSE

Image courtesy of The Jimmy Fund

June 7-9, 2011
12 - 8 pm
City Hall Plaza, Boston
Admission: $8 for adults (10+), $4 for kids (3-9)



If you live in Boston and you don't know what the Scooper Bowl is, well, then I probably wouldn't believe that you have lived in Boston very long.

Each June, The Jimmy Fund hosts this all-you-can-eat ice cream extravaganza at City Hall Plaza. For $8.00 (proceeds benefit The Jimmy Fund), you are given a plastic spoon and unlimited opportunities for your taste buds.

This is the perfect event to kick-off your summer! Check it out!

2011 vendors include Baskin Robbins, Ben & Jerry's, Breyer's, Edy's, Friendly's, SoCo Creamery, Ciao Bella Gelato among many tasty others.


TOP 5 FLAVORS TO TRY THIS YEAR:


1. Friendly's : Hunka Chunka PB Fudge
2. SoCo Creamery: Mexicali Chocolate
3. Hood: Frozen Tangy Yogurt Raspberry Vanilla
4. Ben & Jerry's: Bonnaroo Buzz
5. Ciao Bella Gelato: Wild Blueberry Sorbet


Need more details?:
2011 Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl

Monday, June 6, 2011

French & Fancy


My mother always taught me how important it is to have a dessert on hand in case someone decides to drop by & say hello. As soon as they walk in the door, you must be armed with a smile, one finger on the espresso machine and the other hand holding a plate of something freshly baked. Cookies, brownies, cake - there had to be something at the ready to compliment the espresso and the conversation.

Madeleines are perfect for this type of occasion. This lovely french cookie is delicate and light, simple to make and pairs perfectly with coffee.

MADELEINES

3 eggs
1 1/4 C. Flour
1/2 C. Sugar
1 tsp. Orange Zest
1 tsp. Orange Extract
(Pinch) Salt
1 Stick Butter

Yields: Two Dozen (Expecting a big crowd - Definitely Double It!)

FIRST OFF - You will need a Madeleine baking tin. Madeleines are famous for their shell shape formed by this specific type of pan. You can buy one at your local home goods store or online:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl & beat well.

Place flour in a separate mixing bowl. Add sugar to the flour & stir.
Add orange zest in to the flour & stir. Add salt to the dry mix & stir well. Add the eggs to the dry mixture.

Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl and remove 1 tbsp, placing this in a small bowl. Pour the remaining melted butter into the batter & mix together well.

Add 1 tbsp flour into the small bowl with the butter. Use this past to brush the cookie molds well.

Place dough carefully into each buttered mold, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake until the edges just turn slightly golden (about 5-8 minutes). Cookies will cook quickly. Remove cookies from the pan gently with a spoon and turn over to reveal shell shape.

Once completely cool, dust cookies with confectionery sugar to your liking. Store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Bon app├ętit!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Almond: The Underdog of Extracts

I want you to know that I love the flavor of vanilla as much as the next person, but about three years ago, I discovered that another extract actually packed more flavor when added to my culinary confections.

Enter my love affair with almond extract.

Oftentimes, vanilla extract gets lost in the mix & is unnoticed in the flavor of the final product.Using almond extract in place of vanilla extract in your baking recipes adds a wonderful, slightly stronger flavor. Also, the almond flavor enhances the flavor of chocolate in chocolate-chip cookies, adds another dimension of flavor to a plain chocolate or vanilla cake mix and gives homemade butter cream frosting a unique & delicious taste.

Try it out! Once you go almond, you'll never go back!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

FREE DONUT DAY: MY NEW FAVORITE HOLIDAY

Yes, people. You read that right. FREE. DONUT. DAY.

National Free Donut Day is tomorrow - June 3, 2011.

National Donut Chains Dunkin Donuts & Krispy Kreme are offering free donuts to their customers in celebration of this wonderful holiday.

DD is offering a free donut with any size beverage purchase.

Krispy Kreme is being more generous - they're offering one free donut per customer regardless of purchase.

What type of donut will you get tomorrow?

I'm a pink frosted type-o-gal.


So make sure you set a reminder on your phone! Email yourself - your friends - your coworkers. Is there a better way to kick off your weekend than with a circular ring of sugary carbs? I think not.

Want to learn more about National Donut Day?
Check out this article by Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/06/BAEQ181KO9.DTL

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

End of the World Double-Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

So for the first time in recorded history (or rather that I can remember during the course of my life), there was a tornado in my home state of Massachusetts! A tornado! My city was on tornado watch the whole evening – but do you know what even a tornado can’t stop me from?! Baking, of course.

Looking for a distraction, I decided to make some delicious Double-Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes topped off with Chocolate Cherry Almond Frosting.

Wouldn’t mind being stuck with these little babies in a storm shelter, now would ya?


Cupcakes

For the chocolate-cherry cupcakes, follow the chocolate cake mix instructions as listed on the box. Cut up ¾ of a small jar of maraschino cherries (without stems) into bite size pieces and stir thoroughly into the cake mix. Be sure to leave at least 24 cherries aside to garnish the cupcakes. Add in ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips and stir. Spoon cupcake mix into cups using a 1/3 cup measuring cup. This ensures your cakes will be even & fills the cups just right! Bake cupcakes as instructed on the box. Let stand for 30 minutes or until completely cool.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Frosting

½ C. room temperature butter

4 C. confectionary sugar

3 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice

1 tsp almond extract

1 tbsp chocolate cocoa mix

Milk as needed

Start off by beating butter & 1 c. confectionery sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in cherry juice and almond extract. Mix in additional confectionery sugar 1 cup at a time. Frosting should be thick, but easy to spread with a butter knife. Peaks should form when you stick a spoon in to the frosting and pull it out. If you find your frosting is too thick, add in milk ½ tbsp at a time and mix until desired thickness is reached. If you find your frosting is too thin, add in additional confectionery sugar until desired thickness is reached.

I frosted my cupcakes using a large tip & piping bag, topping them off with a maraschino cherry. Make sure you blot your cherry on a paper towel before putting them on top of your cupcake. These retain a lot of red liquid that will bleed on to your frosting if you don’t blot them first.

Want more chocolate? Shave a chocolate bar on top of your cupcakes before putting the cherry on top!! Leftover Easter bunnies are perfect for chocolate shavings!