Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Maple-Glazed Pork Chops

Sometimes, entire meals can be built around one single ingredient. For example, if you're craving something really cheesy, you might decide to make macaroni and cheese. My kids love cinnamon toast, but let's face it: the toast is merely a vehicle for the cinnamon-y, sugary topping they so crave. And of course, there are times when you look in your pantry, see something that strikes your fancy, and decide to plan your meal based on using that something. This pork chop meal was born in a similar fashion.

I have had this little jar of coarse, grainy mustard sitting around in my cabinet for a little while now. I never wanted to open it until I had a really great use for it. Finally, I found this recipe for Maple-Glazed Pork Chops, and I decided that this would be the recipe that would finally have me cracking open that little mustard jar.

Here's the kicker: the original recipe didn't even call for grainy mustard! It's a simple maple glaze recipe, with pure maple syrup, ketchup, prepared mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. To me, though, it was screaming out for this grainy mustard. I know I've seen maple mustard pork chop recipes elsewhere, but I loved the method of preparation (oven-baking) in this particular recipe, so I decided to go with this one and modify it.

I pan-seared the chops on both sides for a few minutes, then transferred them to a baking dish. The glaze, which had been boiled to slightly thicken, was brushed on and then the pork chops were put into the oven to bake. Every 8 minutes or so, I removed them from the oven and basted them with the glaze. After a half hour or so, they were ready to eat! I put together a side dish of veggies with rice, and made some dinner rolls with the aid of my bread machine. Voila, dinner!

The pork chops turned out absolutely delicious! The glaze, in particular, really was the star of the whole shebang. I will say, though, that it is quite dominantly a maple flavor that you get, more so than a mustard flavor. It's sweet, it's tangy, and it's got a saltiness from the Worcestershire. Make sure you use a really good quality maple syrup for this, since it's so noticeable in the finished product. Good ol' Aunt Jemima will not do here!

Maple-Glazed Pork Chops
adapted from Food.com
makes 4 pork chops

4 pork chops, 3/4-inch thick
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. ketchup
2 Tbsp. grainy mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rub pork all over with the salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients; mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Set aside.

2. While the sauce comes up to a boil, heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the pork chops on both sides, about 4 minutes per side, then remove to a baking dish lined with aluminum foil.

3. Brush the chops with the glaze. Bake the pork chops for 30 minutes, basting with the glaze every 8 to 10 minutes. When finished basting, bring any remaining glaze to a boil and serve with the pork chops. Rest chops for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

This is it. The pie I had been waiting a year to make. It's the Baked Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. Ever since I first purchased the original Baked cookbook, nearly a year and a half ago, I have had my eye on this recipe. I arrived late to the pecan pie party of life. I never tasted one until 3 Thanksgivings ago, and it was love at first bite. I vowed to make one myself at that moment. Finally, three long years later, I am making good on that promise. And it is quite a doozy.

As with anything the Baked boys come up with, this is a fresh, exciting riff on a traditional pecan pie. Take your ordinary model, then jazz it up with a shot of bourbon and a healthy sprinkling of semisweet chocolate. The result is a purely sinful, nutty, interesting dessert that definitely belongs up there with the big boys at the Thanksgiving goodie table.

Now, I have always had an irrational fear of pie dough, but since I trust the Baked book I decided to just stick to their Classic Pie Dough recipe. The recipe calls for butter, no shortening, and the use of a food processor to easily throw everything together. It all sounded good to me. Things went smoothly, I'm happy to say, and then I put half the dough into the freezer, for another use, and half into the fridge, to firm up before the next steps.

Thanks to a phone call to my mom (the most seasoned pie baker I know!), I made the decision to blind bake my crust. Although the Baked book did not explicitly state to do so, I felt it was a good way to ensure the crust would be cooked completely throughout, and would not become soggy after the pie filling was put on top of it. It was super simple: I placed parchment paper on top of my empty pie shell after pricking the shell a bit with a fork. Next, I filled the parchment with dried split peas and rice, until they measured 1 pound. I placed the pie shell into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, then removed it to cool.

I froze the cooled crust until it was time to bake it again with the filling. At this point, I wasn't sure whether the whole thing would work well, but I needn't have been concerned. The crust was just as I wanted it to be after everything was said and done. It's funny; when I tasted it I could tell it was an all-butter crust. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I did notice that it was less flaky than the pie crust I'm used to. I know shortening lends that unique texture to pie crust, so maybe next time I'll try that out. But for this, I was happy with my crust.

And the rest of the pie? How was that, you ask? Well, it was heaven! I will say this, though: if you attempt it, be warned that it is very rich and very chocolatey. Just a little slice will be more than enough! I toned down the bourbon in this and used semisweet chocolate that I cut into small chunks, instead of the recommended chocolate chips. The chocolate was a dominant flavor in the pie, and while it was decadent scrumptiousness, it didn't taste like an everyday pecan pie. But then again, that was kind of the point of making a Baked pie! I loved this, and I was very happy to have conquered my first from-scrach pecan pie. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed!

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
makes one 9-inch pie

For the Classic Pie Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup ice cold water

For the pie:
2 cups pecan halves, toasted
3 large eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3 Tbsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. bourbon
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate pieces

Assemble the pie dough: 1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. Cut the cold butter into cubes and toss the cubes into the flour mixture to coat. Put the mixture in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the pieces of butter are the size of hazelnuts.

2. While pulsing in quick, 4-second bursts, drizzle the ice water into the food processor through the feed tube. As soon as the dough comes together in a ball, remove it from the food processor and divide it into two equal balls. Flatten to a disk and wrap each disk first in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the disks until firm, about 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe. Only half the recipe, or one disk, will be used for the pecan pie.)

Make the pecan pie: 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Unwrap the ball of chiled dough and put it directly on the work surface. Roll out into a 12-inch round. Transfer the dough to a pie dish and carefully work it into the pie dish, folding any overhang under and crimping the edge as you go.

2. Prick the pie shell a few times with a fork. Place a layer of parchment paper on the pie dough, pressing into the edges gently, then fill the pie shell with dried beans or rice. "Blind bake" the pie shell for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

3. Wrap and freeze the crust until firm, about 2 hours, or up to 3 months. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Coarsely chop about 3/4 cup of the pecans. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until combined. Add the corn syrup, sugars, butter, salt, vanilla, and bourbon. Whisk again until combined. Stir in the chopped pecans and set the filling aside.

5. Spread the chocolate pieces evenly along the bottom of the frozen pie shell. Slowly pour the filling on top of the chocolate chips. Arrange the remaining 1 1/4 cups pecan halves on top of the filling.

6. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, then cover the edges of the crust loosely with aluminum foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Test the pie by sticking a knife in the center of the filling. If the knife comes out clean, the pie is done. If the knife comes out with clumps of filling sticking to it, bake for another 5 minutes and test again.

7. Cool the pie on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature. The pie can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 2 days.

Friday, November 26, 2010

CEIMB: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

How was everybody's Thanksgiving? Ours was great; tons of food, lots of people around, and our kids were really well-behaved. Now there's something to be thankful for!

I'm going to keep this post short because I'm preparing it on Thanksgiving evening, and quite frankly I'm exhausted! A food coma awaits me.

For this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly assignment, we got to choose our own dish! Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, we all agreed that it would be best to have each member of the group select an Ellie recipe they would like to make. Then, we had our deadline extended to Friday, so everybody could have Thursday off if they wanted it. I decided to make something that could easily serve as a side dish at Thanksgiving dinner, even though we actually ate this a few weeks ago. It's Ellie's Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and it was my first time working with these little green marvels.

My mom made me some the last time I was out on the East Coast for a visit. I had never eaten a Brussels sprout before that, but I really loved them the way she prepared them. They were so simple; salt, pepper, and olive oil to roast them, balsamic vinegar to taste. The sprouts get all nice and caramelized in the oven, and so nice and tender on the inside.

Ellie's take on the sprouts is even easier: salt, olive oil, and the sprouts themselves. You bake them in a 375 degree oven for an hour, and then you're good to go. I have to say, while I thought they were delicious, I think I liked them with the balsamic vinegar more. What can I say? The vinegar adds such a great tart/sweetness, and I can't often resist that flavor combo. I'm still glad I finally tried it Ellie's way, though. Now I know what my preference is!

To find out what everybody else in the group decided to make this week, be sure to check out the blogroll, here. And stop on by next Thursday; the next CEIMB is my pick!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
makes 8 servings

2 lbs. Brussels Sprouts, halved
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper (not in Ellie's version, but I added)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and toss them with the oil and salt. Roast until they are golden brown and crisp on the outside and softened and tender inside, about 1 hour.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gingerbread Biscotti

It seems to me that as soon as we get Halloween out of the way every year, I am ready to get into the kitchen and start baking festive treats! Festive holiday treats, that is. And right up there at the top of my list of favorite holiday nibbles is Gingerbread Biscotti. I love anything gingerbread. I can't get enough of it this time of year. In my former life, when I worked for Starbucks, I was particularly obsessed with their take on Gingerbread Biscotti. Dotted with macadamia nuts and dipped in white chocolate, they were interesting and spicy and just so good.

Well, I have finally found a biscotti recipe that just may rival the Starbucks version. I'm always willing to try something traditional that contains unusual ingredients, and these biscotti fit that bill. They contain the spices you normally taste in gingerbread, such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. But then you throw in some ground black pepper and ancho chile powder (one of my husband's favorite secret weapons for chili) and these biscotti become over-the-top zesty and delicious.

My biggest concern with this recipe was, would they be too spicy? The answer is no, they're just perfect. I loved the addition of the pepper and the chile powder; both added a deeper warmth without burning your mouth. The biscotti dough was easy to work with; even though the recipe calls for you to cut the dough into two equal logs for baking, I just shaped mine into one big mass, and it worked out fine. I like to do it this way because then the very center of your mass remains kinda soft, and even after the final bake of your biscotti slices, they still retain just a hint of chewiness.

This recipe utilizes almonds in place of the macadamia nuts, which I thought was a great substitution. In the future I will try these with the macadamias, because i'm just partial to them. When you don't have them on hand, though, almonds are definitely the way to go. These biscotti also contain some candied ginger, which I had never worked with before until now. My verdict is: score! I loved it. The ginger zings you with added spicy flavor, concentrated in a little sugar-coated nugget. It's a flavor surprise when you bite into one.

Finally, I dipped the bottoms of my cooled biscotti in some white chocolate, then sprinkled my gingerbread men sprinkles over the chocolate. They turned out so cute, and they were unbelievably scrumptious. The added bonus here is that my two year-old enjoys gnawing on the end pieces. You know, the log ends that you never know what to do with? Turns out they make a great teeting biscuit! Who knew?

Gingerbread Biscotti
adapted from My Own Sweet Thyme
makes about 24 biscotti

1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground ancho chile powder
2 Tbsp. minced candied ginger
1 cup whole almonds, chopped
1/4 cup white chocolate, for dipping
Holiday sprinkles, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs. Blend in the molasses and mix to combine.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, and ancho powder until combined. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just incorporated. Fold in the candied ginger and nuts.

3. Divide the dough in half (oops, I didn't do that!) and turn onto a lightly greased baking sheet. With greased hands, shape each half into a log approximately 3 or 4 inches wide and 1 inch high. Make sure the logs are 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until set in the middle, then remove from oven.

4. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Cool biscotti on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then remove to a cutting board. Carefully cut each log into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices back on the baking sheet, cut side down.

5. Place slices back into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the biscotti over and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set biscotti on a cooling rack.

6. When cookies are cool, melt 1/4 cup white chocolate until smooth. Using a spoon or small spatula, spread white chocolate over the bottom edge of each biscotti. Allow each to dry white chocolate-side up. If desired, sprinkle with holiday decorations. Keep in an airtight container.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara

I have my ever-changing opinions about Rachael Ray. Sometimes she drives me nuts. Sometimes I feel indifferent to her. Other times, like the other night when I made this Spaghetti Carbonara, I feel grateful to her. After all, it was only after watching her on The Food Network about 4 years ago that I became inspired to learn how to cook, once and for all. She seemed so passionate about cooking, and wanted to share that enthusiasm with her audience. Nowadays, I'm every bit as enthusiastic as she seemed to be when I first watched her. I love talking food, I love making food, and of course, I love eating food!

This Carbonara is one of the very first Rachael Ray recipes I had ever made. I had never eaten Carbonara before, but her way seemed very simple and quick, which I loved about it. The first time we did try this, I was in pasta heaven. As I have professed plenty of times, I just adore pasta, and eggs are right up there with it. Put them together, and you have a winner in my book.

Rachael's method goes like this: cook up some pasta, and then cook some pancetta in oil (which I think is redundant; I mean, why would you cook fatty pork products in oil?). Throw in your crushed red pepper, garlic, and white wine to deglaze the pan. Then, you temper 2 egg yolks by adding a bit of hot pasta water to them. This allows you to add in the egg yolks without cooking the egg to a scramble. You toss the pasta with the bacon and oil, then pour the yolks in and toss very well to heat the eggs through and make them almost creamy. So simple, so delicious! Throw on some grated cheese and parsley, and you have dinner!

I made my most recent version more of a one-dish dinner by adding a healthy handful of peas and fresh spinach. All the major food groups were represented here! I also used bacon in place of pancetta, because I think we just like the flavor of bacon a bit more. Instead of frying the bacon in oil, I baked it up in the oven, crumbled it, and then added it to the pan just before the garlic and red pepper. This would be great with shredded chicken, or shrimp, and I've seen Carbonara made with cream and other luxurious ingredients, too. For my money, this version just can't be beat. It's one of those back-pocket recipes that I've made countless times, thus negating my desire to never make the same meal twice. It's that good!

Spaghetti Carbonara
adapted from Rachael Ray
makes 4-6 servings

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. spaghetti
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. bacon
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 large handful fresh spinach (frozen can be used; just thaw and drain well)
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional, I omitted)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place bacon strips on a cooling rack that has been set over an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 17-20 minutes, until bacon has fully cooked. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, and then chop once cool enough to handle.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water, add the spaghetti, and cook according to the package directions. Before draining water, reserve 1 cup of pasta liquid.

3. While the spaghetti cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and chopped bacon; heat for 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the wine to deglaze the pan and loosen any bits from the bottom of the pan.

4. In a small bowl, beat the yolks, then add about 1/2 cup reserved pasta water. This tempers the eggs and keeps them from scrambling when added to the pasta.

5. Drain pasta well and add it directly to the skillet with bacon and oil. Add the peas and spinach and allow them to heat through. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss rapidly to coat the pasta without cooking the egg. Remove pan from heat and add a big handful of cheese, plenty of pepper, and a little salt. Continue to toss and turn the pasta until it soaks up the egg mixture and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if desired, and extra cheese.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Monster Cookies

In honor of my son's birthday party, which was Sesame Street-themed, I baked some Monster Cookies. Get it? Sesame Street's full of monsters, so I served cookies named after them! Oh well, I thought it was clever.

These cookies, like so many baked goods I have made lately, are straight out of my Baked: New Frontiers in Baking cookbook. Talk about a behemoth of a cookie! This one's got just about anything I could ever ask for in a cookie: chocolate chips, oats, peanut butter, M&Ms. And they are generously sized; the recipe indicates you should scoop 2-Tablespoons' worth of dough per cookie! The result? A big, chewy, delicious, hearty cookie that will please any crowd.

Now, one quick observation I made. Along with these cookies, I also baked the Chocolate Chip Cookies out of the same cookbook. These, while also delicious, turned out a bit differently than expected. Because the recipe calls for dark brown sugar, the cookies come out of the oven so dark one might think they had burned. I mean, I am only guessing here, but I believe that the dark brown sugar is the reason for this. Once you get past the way they look, you're pleasantly surprised at how flavorful they are. Plus, this recipe actually calls for an entire bag of chocolate chips, plus nearly half of another bag! I wasn't sure I would like the cookies that loaded down with chips, but they were very yummy. If you would ever like to attempt those Chocolate Chippers, I found the recipe on the How To Eat a Cupcake blog, here.

In the meantime, though, you should absolutely try these Monster Cookies! I'm already planning on making these a part of my Christmas cookies tray this year. One final note: I thought it was strange that this recipe called for cold butter, when normally you need softened butter for a cookie recipe that requires the creaming method. However, I saw why this worked after I had added all 5 (5!) eggs and the peanut butter to the mix. These two added ingredients make it so wet, I was glad the butter hadn't been super soft when I began. Anyway, I just wanted to say that the cold butter instruction was not a typo, as I had originally thought. It does work out great that way!

Monster Cookies
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
makes about 24-36 cookies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
5 3/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 tsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups creamy peanut butter (I used half creamy, half chunky)
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 ounces) M&Ms (Reese's Pieces would be a good idea here, too!

1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Add the oats and stir until the ingredients are evenly combined.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth and pale in color. Add the sugars and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth (about 20 seconds) and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and beat until just incorporated.

3. Scrape down the bowl and add the peanut butter. Mix on low speed until just combined. Add the oat mixture in three additions, mixing on low speed until just incorporated. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to fold in the chocolate chips and M&Ms. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for 5 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use an ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to scoop out the dough in 2-Tbsp.-size balls onto the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until the cookies just begin to brown. Let cool on the pans for 8 to 10 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

CEIMB: Cioppino (Or My Heavily Altered Version of It!)

For this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe, chosen by Margaret of Tea and Scones, we were supposed to make Ellie's Cioppino, found in her So Easy cookbook. Since Cioppino is a savory fish stew, and I am not a big fan of seafood, I was close to skipping this one. However, I decided to give the recipe a read-through, and after I did I thought I'd go ahead and make it, albeit with a bunch of alterations. I do love shrimp, and there was a 1/2 pound of shrimp in the original version, so I figured I would still be close enough to call it Cioppino!

My rendition went like this: first, I halved the recipe, since I had just enough shrimp to do it that way. Then, I proceeded with the onions, the garlic, and the celery. I added two jalapeno peppers, and left them whole with the bottoms snipped off. I wanted to add a bit of heat without going too nuts, so I allowed the peppers to simmer with the broth and then removed them at the end. I also added about a pound of Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces, so that there would be a bit more substance to the stew. I pureed my diced tomatoes (because that's just how I roll) and used Marsala wine in place of white, because that is what I happened to have open already. For the broth/water, I used chicken broth. I let the whole aromatic thing simmer for quite a while, then added in the shrimp during the last few minutes of cooking.

I know my pictures aren't the most colorful (I blame the lighting in my house now that it gets dark so early), but this dish turned out to be vibrant, full of flavor, and incredibly satisfying. I know I took some liberties, but I was very happy with what I made. I can't wait to see how everybody else in the group liked theirs. For the blogroll, click here. I could not find a link anywhere online for Ellie's recipe, but Margaret has handily posted it on her blog.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but I never really ate pumpkin-flavored anything until about a year or two ago. I have no idea why now; they're delicious! So far, I've tried out some pumpkin fudge, some pumpkin Hershey's kisses, pumpkin coffee cake, and thoroughly enjoyed them all. I even baked (and posted about) pumpkin cheddar muffins and loved every bite of those. Clearly, I have been missing out on a whole lifetime of pumpkin-y treats, and I deeply regret it now. So, obviously, I need to start making up for lost time!

These Pumpkin Whoopie Pies are a wonderful step in the right direction. Yet another treat from the Baked boys' first cookbook, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, these are just further proof (not that I needed it) that these guys are geniuses. Two luscious pillows of soft pumpkin cookie encase a sweet/tart cream cheese filling that's spiked with a generous splash of maple syrup. Now, the maple syrup is actually not in the Baked version of these whoopie pies. I found an adaptation of this recipe on the blog Brown Eyed Baker. When I read that hers had maple syrup, I was sold on it. I thought that would be the perfect addition to the filling.

Once again, I used my trusty whoopie pie pan to make these. I love that thing! I don't know if it's really necessary for these, but it sure does make a perfectly-shaped little whoopie. Isn't symmetry grand?

These are some of the most delicious whoopie pies I've ever eaten, pumpkin or otherwise. The cookies are spiced perfectly, and the filling is an amazing blend of smooth, creamy, decadent, and sweet. I would have stuffed these with even more filling, if I could have, but the ratio really was spot-on. The extra filling would have just made me greedy, and gluttonous, and who needs that?

Anyway, I couldn't recommend these whoopie pies any more highly to you. They're a fantastic fall treat, easy to make, and even easier to devour (just have a napkin handy!). They would not be a bad idea to bring for dessert at Thanksgiving this year. No matter what the occasion, just try them! Serious yum.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling
adapted from Baked and Brown Eyed Baker
makes about 24 assembled whoopie pies

For the whoopie pies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the maple cream cheese filling:
3 cups powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or lightly spray a whoopie pie pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and the oil. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix until completely combined.

3. Using a small cookie scoop or a large spoon, drop rounded, heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets (spacing 1 inch apart) or whoopie pie pan. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes, making sure that a toothpick inserted into the center of a whoopie pie comes out clean. The cookies should also spring back when touched. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on a wire rack.

4. To make the filling, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth with no visible lumps, about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, then add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth.

5. To assemble the whoopie pies, turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies have been filled and sandwiched. Refrigerate the whoopie pies for about 30 minutes to firm before serving. These will keep in the fridge for about 3 days. Do not stack them; line a baking sheet or covered container with wax paper to place the pies on.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chocolate Chip Sesame Street Cupcakes

Usually, on the 15th of each month, I will post a cupcake that has been chosen by a member of the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club. This month, I just had too much going on, what with throwing my youngest son and his cousin a birthday party this past weekend. I decided to skip the MSCC for this month, as much as it pained me to do so. However, it just wouldn't be the 15th without a new cupcake recipe to post here! So I'm going to tell you about the cupcakes I made for my son's birthday.

Since the birthday boys were turning 2 and 1 this year, I decided to throw a Sesame Street-themed party, and to decorate some cupcakes to look like a few Sesame Street characters. In honor of the Cookie Monster (my son's favorite), I made some of Martha Stewart's Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. I'd been itching to try them anyway, and now I finally had a bona fide excuse to do so! I browsed the internet briefly, just to see what other creative souls had done to design Sesame Street character cupcakes. In this post, you see the results of my searches, adapted to represent my own style. I'm pretty proud of these little guys, because when it came time to actually decorate them, I did it all freehand, without a picture in front of me as a guide.

Here's the lowdown: I whipped up 2 dozen regular-sized cupcakes and 3 cupcakes that were baked in oversized muffin cups (because the recipe yield was 30 cupcakes, and each jumbo cupcake was the equivalent of 2 regulars). Meanwhile, I had tinted some of Martha's Fluffy Vanilla Frosting (which I love, and have posted about before, here) in various colors, to represent Elmo, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and Ernie. I sliced some large marshmallows in half, and these served as eyeballs for Elmo and Cookie, as well as for jumbo Oscar. I would use mini marshmallows for Oscar's and Ernie's eyes, and jumbo marshmallows, sliced thinly, to represent the eyes of jumbo Elmo and jumbo Cookie.

When it came time to decorate, I used a Wilton piping tip that is used to create "hair" (tip 233) for Elmo, Cookie, and Oscar. For Ernie, I just piped medium-sized dots for his skin, but I used the hair tip again to give him his black patch of hair on top of his head. Then came eyes, noses, and mouths. Instead of a mouth on Cookie Monster, I inserted half a chocolate chip cookie into the cupcake, to make it look like he was in the middle of eating a cookie. Those ended up being the biggest hit, and were the first to disappear. I can see why; you get a cupcake and half a cookie, all in one fell swoop!

I gave the giant Elmo cupcake to my one year-old nephew, and the giant Cookie Monster to my two year-old son. I wish I had a picture of him actually sticking his face right down into the cupcake (because he totally did that) but this picture of his blue mug will have to suffice. He loved the cupcakes, but I think he loved the cookie more!

I know they're not perfect, and I have a long way to go before my cupcakes look bakery-ready, but I was happy with these. More importantly, the birthday boys enjoyed the whole experience, so my goal was accomplished. Oh, and the cupcakes were pretty delicious, although I have to say that they almost reminded me more of chocolate chip muffins than cupcakes. That was fine with me, but just be warned about Martha's recipe. Good, but not super light and fluffy.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
makes 30 cupcakes (or in my case, 24 cupcakes and 3 jumbo cupcakes)

3 1/4 cups plus 1 Tbsp. sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 cup plus 6 Tbsp. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
Fluffy Vanilla Frosting (recipe found here)
Gel-paste food coloring
Various-sized marshmallows (mini, large, jumbo)
3 small chocolate chip cookies, halved (or more, if you want to make more Cookie Monsters)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together 3 1/4 cups cake flour, the baking powder, and salt. Stir the vanilla into the milk to combine.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until smooth. Adding the sugar in a steady stream, beat until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk mixture, and beating until just combined after each.

3. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form (do not overmix). Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whites until just combined. Toss chocolate chips with remaining tablespoon cake flour, and gently fold into batter.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch, about 22-24 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes (although I removed mine after 10 minutes). Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

5. Prepare Fluffy Vanilla Frosting. Divide the frosting into 1/2 cup black, 1/4 cup brown, 3/4 cup orange, 1 cup red, 3/4 cup blue, and 3/4 cup green. Using a Wilton 233 tip (or hair/grass tip), pipe fur onto 6 cupcakes in green, 6 cupcakes in blue, and 6 cupcakes in red. Using a Wilton 21 tip, pipe skin onto 6 cupcakes in orange. (I then piped fur onto 3 jumbo cupcakes to make one Elmo, one Cookie, and one Oscar.)

6. Using the Wilton 3 or 4 tip in black, pipe smiles onto the red, green, and orange cupcakes. Place halved large marshmallows on the red and blue, and mini marshmallows (whole) on the green and orange for eyes. Pipe small black dots onto the marshmallows for pupils. (When I did my jumbo cupcake characters, Elmo and Cookie had jumbo marshmallows, sliced thin, for their eyes. Oscar had large halved marshmallow eyes.)

7. Complete Elmo by placing an orange nose underneath the eyes. Complete Cookie Monster by placing half a chocolate chip cookie towards the bottom of the cupcake, to look as though it is sticking out of his mouth. Complete Oscar by piping his brown eyebrows over his eyes with a Wilton 16 tip. Complete Ernie by piping his nose with a Wilton 21 tip in red, and give him some black hair with the Wilton 233 tip. There you have it: Sesame Street cupcakes!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pepperoni Deep-Dish Pizza

After making a pizza last week for my Craving Ellie group, and failing pretty miserably at making my crust from scratch, I wanted to show everybody that I actually am capable of making a knockout pizza! I actually made this Pepperoni Deep-Dish Pizza about two weeks ago, but for some reason I'm just now getting around to posting about it. Please don't think for a second that I forgot about this recipe, because it's been quite the opposite. We're all still thinking about that pie, and my son keeps wanting to know when I am making "that really yummy pizza" again. I'm hoping the answer is soon!

I keep my back issues of Cooking Light magazine for at least six months, if not longer. I remembered recently that they had done a special feature on pizza back in their May issue, and there were several things that had caught my eye. Plus, I really had been wanting to graduate from pizza dough made in my bread machine to a more complicated, from-scratch dough that required a bit more from me. So I decided to try my hand at deep-dish dough, just to get my feet wet.

The dough was actually much easier to assemble than I thought it would be. In fact, the most challenging thing about it was the fact that you need to refrigerate the dough for 24 hours before using. Just add warm water and flour to a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, mix together, then add a mixture of water and yeast, along with some olive oil and salt. Allow all of this to mix together for about 5 minutes, then it can be covered and kept until the following day.

Once the dough has come to room temperature, it can be pressed into a 9x13-inch baking pan. In this particular recipe, the secret to a perfect crust with no soggy middle is the cheese. You divide the cheese so that most of it is layered underneath the sauce, thus protecting the dough from coming into direct contact with the liquid. The pepperoni covers the sauce, then the cheese tops it off. The pie is baked all the way on a rack in the very lowest part of the oven, further ensuring that the crust will be baked through completely and evenly.

This pizza tastes like heaven. It's an amazing blend of creamy, tangy, spicy, and savory, all on an abundant crust that tastes too good to be homemade. I think if I served this to company, they would have a hard time believing it came out of Cooking Light. It just tastes way too good to be healthy (but it totally is!). I think part of the reason is because I swapped out the recipe's basic pizza sauce, and subbed in a tried-and-true sauce that has been a winner here every time. My son thought the sauce was really pretty spicy, and it is. But it can always be toned down to please more sensitive palates, and in the end it didn't stop him from gobbling down two big pieces! Oh, one more thing: I used turkey pepperoni instead of the recommended "regular" pepperoni, and we didn't miss a thing. Dare I say, I actually made the recipe even healthier than Cooking Light did?

Pepperoni Deep-Dish Pizza
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 6 servings

1 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees F), divided
12 oz. bread flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp.)
4 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Cooking spray
1 1/4 cups (5 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups pizza sauce
2 oz. turkey pepperoni slices
2 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. Pour 3/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flour to 3/4 cup water; mix until combined. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Combine remaining water and yeast in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add yeast mixture, oil, and salt to flour mixture; mix 5 minutes or until a soft dough forms. Place dough in a large bowl coated in cooking spray; cover surface of dough with plastic wrap lightly coated in cooking spray. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

2. Remove dough from refrigerator. Let stand, covered, 1 hour or until the dough comes to room temperature. Punch dough down. Roll dough out to a 14x11-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Press dough into bottom and partially up sides of a 9x13-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap.

3. Place a baking sheet in the oven on the bottom rack. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

4. Arrange 3/4 cup mozzarella evenly over dough; top with pizza sauce, pepperoni, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella. Place pan on baking sheet in oven; bake at 450 for 25 minutes or until crust is golden. Cut pizza into 6 rectangles and serve.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

CEIMB: Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Walnuts and Feta Cheese

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe was selected by the fabulous Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table. I love checking in on her blog at least once or twice a week, if not more. Her food always looks delicious, and she belongs to some really cool cooking groups (like our Ellie group, of course!). For this week's dish, she chose the Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Walnuts and Feta Cheese, from Ellie's The Food You Crave book.

Same as last week, when we made Ellie's Mushroom, Onion, and Basil Pizza, I couldn't believe that this week's recipe had never caught my eye before. I've had this cookbook for almost three years, and use it very often. Plus, pasta is my ultimate favorite comfort food. Yet, somehow, I've never made this pasta salad! Well, thank you very much, Kayte; because of you, now I have.

It's a snap to put together. Boil up some pasta, toast some walnuts, chop some onions (and green bell peppers, in my case), whisk together a simple vinaigrette of oil (I used avocado oil and it was yummy!), vinegar, Dijon mustard, and garlic, then throw everything in a bowl with fresh spinach, feta cheese, and salt and pepper. Funny story: I didn't have fresh spinach when I assembled my salad (I prepared it a day ahead of eating it as a side dish for dinner), so I had planned on adding the spinach in at the last minute, after we had picked some up at the grocery store. But when it came time to eat this for dinner, the spinach completely escaped my mind. Before I knew it, we were all eating, and there was no spinach in sight. It was safely tucked away in my fridge. It was still delicious, though! We have leftovers of this pasta salad, so I just added some spinach to the leftovers and we'll be able to enjoy it that way next time. Oh well. My planning was good; my execution was lacking!

As predicted, I loved this dish. The flavors really had a chance to mix and mingle while the pasta salad sat in the fridge overnight, so it was very vibrant and robust. The hubby said he was surprised that he loved this as much as he did. I was a bit concerned that the dressing wouldn't contribute enough flavor to the salad, but I should have trusted Ellie, as always. It all worked beautifully, and now I have a new pasta salad recipe under my belt!

Thanks again, Kayte! This was perfect for us this week. The original recipe can be found on Food Network's website, here, and the CEIMB blogroll can be found here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

I am a big fan of the first Baked cookbook, the one that spawned such hits as the Sweet and Salty Cake, the Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks, the Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl, and the Millionaire's Shortbread. Whenever I want to create a fabulous dessert that will more than likely get people talking, this book is normally the first place I start to look for recipes. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out they were publishing a second cookbook!

Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented is the next offering in the Baked series, and it is a doozy. Thumbing through it when it first arrived at my house, I was amazed that the book's authors (and the bakery the books are named after's owners) managed to think even more outside the box than last time. There are so many amazing recipes that I am already dying to try. There's the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, the Monkey Bubble Bread, and the Grasshopper Bars, just to name a select few. But, since I was going to be baking for a pumpkin-loving houseguest, I decided to make the Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins first out of the book.

It seems like it would be an odd pairing, pumpkin with cheddar cheese. However, I can assure you that this works amazingly well. These muffins are more the savory variety than the sweet; there's only a half cup of brown sugar in the whole recipe. The spices are cayenne and black pepper, rather than the more pie-ish cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. The result is a slightly spicy, complex flavor that really surprises and pleases the palate. They're wonderful straight from the oven, but they keep pretty well, too. I'm glad I broke through my doubt about these muffins, because everybody loved them. I'm excited to see what else the Baked book has in store for me!

Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins
from Baked Explorations
makes 12 muffins

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne peppers
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups (4 oz.) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds (mine were shelled, roasted, and salted)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and the sour cream. Add eggs and butter, and whisk until combined.

2. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and dark brown sugar. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and with a large rubber spatula, fold until just combined. Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.

3. Evenly divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the pumpkin seeds evenly over each muffin.

4. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the muffin pan cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before gently removing muffins from pan. These should be served warm, but they can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 200 degree oven.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Spicy Stuffed Peppers

I used to think I didn't like stuffed peppers. I don't know why that is. Maybe I just never had a really good stuffed pepper, the kind that you want to shout about from the mountaintops and make for everybody you know, so that they can also experience the deliciousness that you've discovered. Well, I am happy to tell you that I have found such a pepper, and I can't wait to share it with you right now!

They're filled with a deceptively simple ground meat mixture, topped with an even more deceptively simple tomato sauce, and then baked for close to an hour. The preparation is so simple; the hardest part is waiting for them to finish cooking. I love the fact that everything goes into the peppers as is. You don't need to saute anything beforehand, or make sure the meat is already cooked. Everything cooks together, in the oven, including the pepper itself. That's something I did differently than the recipe I was following. The original instructs you to blanch the peppers briefly before stuffing them. I read somewhere that it's just fine to stuff the peppers while they are raw, so I wanted to try it that way because I think I always disliked the sogginess of stuffed peppers when I've had them in the past.

This worked amazingly well. The peppers were soft, but they still had structure and texture. The meat mixture inside was moist, flavorful, and packed a slight punch thanks to the chopped jalapeno I added to it. The quick, simple tomato sauce was surprisingly yummy, and of course you could use any tomato sauce recipe on these peppers if you have a favorite. I'm so glad I decided to try my hand at stuffed peppers instead of just basing my opinion of them on what I've had in the past. These have quickly become one of my reliable standbys, and now I want to experiment with different fillings and make stuffed peppers often. When it's this easy and delicious, I have no excuses not to!

Spicy Stuffed Peppers
adapted from Food.com
makes 6-10 peppers

For the peppers:
Nonstick cooking spray
6-10 green bell peppers, tops and seeds removed
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil

For the tomato sauce:
1 cup tomato sauce (I used a plain can of tomato sauce)
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients, from ground meat to dried basil; mix well, without overmixing. Using a spoon or a small cookie scoop, fill each bell pepper with the meat mixture.

2. In a medium bowl, combine all the tomato sauce ingredients. Spread about 2 Tbsp. of the sauce across the bottom of the baking dish. Add the stuffed peppers to the dish. Drizzle all but about 1/4 cup of the sauce over the tops of the peppers.

3. Bake peppers for about 50-60 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and the peppers are tender. Serve with the remaining sauce on top of each.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

CEIMB: Mushroom, Onion, and Basil Pizza

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe was chosen by Joanne of Apple Crumbles. It was the Mushroom, Onion, and Basil Pizza from Ellie's The Food You Crave book. It's funny; I don't think I ever realized this recipe was in there! It was kind of a nice surprise, discovering it for the first time.

This is a very simple, very tasty pizza. And, like so many of Ellie's dishes, it can be adapted to suit your family's preferences. I happened to have plenty of green bell peppers on hand, so I added some to the veggies on the pizza. Also, I had some leftover turkey pepperoni in my fridge, so I just used one servings' worth on this. I knew the pepperoni would go over well, and frankly I don't know if my oldest son would have even tried the pizza if it hadn't been for the fact that he knew there was pepperoni! I'm glad he did try it, though, because he ended up liking it, and he even declared that he loved mushrooms. Thanks for that, Ellie!

I decided to use a pizza crust that I made myself, and I wish I could say we loved that, too. Unfortunately, I messed it up. I guess this particular crust should have been cooked at a higher temperature than Ellie's pizza, or cooked for much longer, because the center of the dough was pretty much completely raw the first time I removed it from the oven. I had even already cut two slices before realizing that it wasn't merely cheese stringing and stretching between the pieces; it was raw dough! Ugh. So back in went the pizza. Finally I was able to salvage the rest of the pizza, although I did kinda burn the basil, having already scattered it over top the first time I removed the pie from the oven. I think you can tell from a couple of the pictures. It was fine, though; we still thorougly enjoyed it. Next time I know to use a different crust recipe, or just buy one at the store!

Thank you for the pick, Joanne! This was a really yummy pizza and I even learned that my son likes mushrooms because of it! That is victory to me. Be sure to check out the other members' pizzas by stopping by the blogroll. The original recipe can be found here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Candy Bar Cookies

I love this idea. This, to me, is just such a brilliant and creative use of leftover Halloween chocolate. Take all the candy bars your kids won't eat (because my kids are weirdos and do not eat chocolate bars), dump them in some cookie dough, bake them up, and send the cookies off to work with your husband! You don't have the candy staring at you every day on the kitchen counter, because it's gone! It's been baked into delicious treats that everyone can enjoy!

As I promised I would, I posted a picture of my boys dressed as Scooby-Doo and Shaggy this year. The greatest thing about their costumes is that they both truly loved their getup. In fact, my eldest even said he wants to be Shaggy again next year! We'll see if the costume still fits, or if he's really still into Scooby a year from now. Suffice it to say, though, they both had a really fun weekend. Lots of sugar!

These cookies, though they are a genius way to utilize your unwanted candy, do have their limitations. Turns out, not every type of candy will work well in them. For example, I threw in two boxes' worth of Milk Duds. Guess what? Not the best idea. The melted caramel on the inside leaked and oozed out of the cookies onto the baking sheets, and then once they came out of the oven, the caramel hardened into little growths on the outside of my cookies. It was not attractive. It was, however, still delicious! Also not the best idea? Putting in the Milky Way. Again, melted caramel all over the place. But now I know. The things that worked very well were Butterfingers, M&Ms, Kit Kats, and my personal fave, the leftover salted pretzels that we were distributing this year. Mmm, salted pretzels in cookie dough! Just another genius idea, and one I will have to try sans leftover candy next time.

So, if you have anybody at your house that can't be bothered with all the remaining Halloween chocolate, give these a whirl. I am so impressed with how much emptier our candy bowl is after I whipped these up and shipped them out!

Candy Bar Cookies
adapted from Food.com
makes about 24-30 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
6-8 oz. Halloween candy, any non-caramel variety, coarsely chopped


1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Mix in vanilla; scrape down the sides.

2. In three separate additions, add the dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed. Scrape down the bowl between each addition. Mix until just combined. With a flexible spatula, fold in the chopped Halloween candy. At this point, the dough can be chilled for an hour or so.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons (or more, if desired) about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges of cookies are just beginning to brown. Allow cookies to sit on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.