Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Crab" Cakes & Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every woman is "lucky" enough (and I use the term loosely) to get a few days each month prior to 4-5 God awful days following it, where it is socially acceptable to be less than nice to people at any minute, wear your pajamas all day long, complain, and of course.. each sweets by the handfuls. Today....was that day (sorry if thats too much info for you) but it was... & I knew exactly what I wanted the second I woke up this morning. Even during my morning run I thought with each stride and every time my foot hit the pavement "Cookies. Cookies. COOKIES.". And I meant Chocolate Chip Cookies. Not just any cookies mind you; soft, chewy, warm from the oven, absolutely irresistable cookies. And fortunately, thats what I got.

Throw in a cup of almonds to any chocolate chip cookie recipe (or whatever nuts you prefer) and it's instantly heaven in your mouth. I've had two so far and I can tell you this is not going to be one of my normal days where I can have one cookie after dinner and be satisfied. I'll be surprised to see any less than 5 cookies enter this mouth of mine before the nights over! I guess tomorrow morning will consist of kicking my own butt with a workout it looks like because I cant stay away from these... ;)

Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies:
-2 sticks butter; room temp
-3/4 c. white sugar
-3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
-2 large eggs
-1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-2-1/4 c. flour
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1-1/2 c. chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark)
-1 c. chopped nuts of your choice

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or tin foil.
  • Cream the butter in a bowl.
  • Add white sugar and brown sugar and mix until fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time mixing well in between each addition.
  • Add vanilla to the mixture.
  • In a seperate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, & salt
  • Add the dry ingredients gradually to the wet ingredients, mixing well in between each addition.
  • Add the chocolate chips and chopped nuts.
  • Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto lined baking sheets and bake 12-14 mins. (mine came out perfectly soft with a little crunch around the edges at 12 mins total)
I mixed semi-sweet chocolate chips with about a cup of chopped almonds... didn't chop the nuts too finely because I love big crispy bites to still remain in the cookies..

Delicious, thick batter! Why even put them in the oven, I could eat it with a spoon out of the bowl...

Perfection *sigh* just the right antidote for what ails ya :)

The "Crab" Cakes luckily came first before my meal of cookies... I've been craving crab cakes for some time ever since I had the most delicious appetizer portion of these at Time Out Taverne in Madison. They were deep fried, however, which I'm not a huge fan of therefore I only sampled about 3/4 of one small cake but with ME holding the spatula and controlling the fat going into the cakes, I was able to create a fantastic last minute dinner for myself.
I can't call these crab cakes because they're definitely faux crab... I used imitation crabmeat (I know, I know) but it's what I had in the freezer and our kitchen is stuffed to the brim in every cabinet, drawer, etc. and it was time to clear it out. I also had alot of shrimp on hand so I made a mixture of the two for the "meat" portion of the crab cake. Making a few minor alterations (and failing completely at my first attempt to cook up these babies) resulted in some overall crispy on the outside, moist on the inside "crab" cakes... perfect with just a bit of fresh lemon juice squeezed on top and a side salad!
"Crab" Cakes:
-12 oz. crabmeat (I used 8 oz. imitation, 4 oz. chopped shrimp)
-1 cup breadcrumbs
-1 egg, slightly beaten
-1/4 c. green onions (I added a few tablespoons of chopped white onion also)
-1/4 c. chopped Red pepper
-1/4 c. reduced-fat mayo
-1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
-1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
-1 tbsp. butter
  • Combine crab/shrimp, 1/3 c. of breadcrumbs, the egg, onions, red pepper, mayo, garlic powder, lemon juice,, & cayenne pepper in a bowl.
  • Divide into 8 even balls.
  • Roll in the remaining 2/3 c. of breadcrumbs.
  • Flatten to 1/2" thickness.
  • Cook in the butter, 3-4 minutes per side; drain on paper towel and serve with fresh squeezed lemon juice over the top; serve hot.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Calamari Stew & Banana-Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

Today was a "comforting food" day beginning with breakfast all the way through to my dessert after dinner... First of all, I wish I had captured a picture of my oatmeal this morning.. just a hint of sweetness from the real VT maple syrup, a sprinkle of cinnamon & nutmeg, a few slivers of almonds and it just melts in your mouth and sticks with you longer than anything else, which is why I became such a fan of it on days when I'm racing back and forth all through the afternoon and won't have time to eat or even remember lunch... like today.

An interview after breakfast (which I aced, by the way) led me to Panera Bread which was in the same plaza as the company so I of course needed coffee by this point and sprinkled a little cinnamon in that too with just a splah of skim milk. I'm not sure what it was about that batch of coffee but it tasted perfect... just made, not too strong, and gave me a nice little pick me up.

And the Bridgewater Fair was in town so I of course needed to go to that with my mom, stepdad, and my Grandma. It was actually too hot out today to be TOO happy to be there unfortunately. I was getting dizzy spells every so often and it was not pretty... I did see the largest albino pumpkin I've ever seen before...

The other downside of the extreme humidity is the affect it has on my hunger. I was cranky and couldn't even think about eating any of the steaming roast beef sandwiches piled with horseradish sauce, giant 1/2 BBQ chickens, burgers, pizza, etc. But I happily settled for a delicious and refreshing snack of pineapple on a stick, a few pretzels with some homemade dips (like Chardonnay yum yum), and a piece of real Vermont cheddar cheese.

Now dinner was another story... I took Giada's recipe for Calamari Stew and tweaked it just a bit to add even more comfort elements. For me that includes onions, garlic, and a perfect sauce for dipping bread in. I also threw in a littel parsley for color. The sauce ended up a little spicey for my liking but a glass of good wine was all I needed to fix that ;) It was filling, with intense flavors, and satisfied my need for something almost home-y tasting.

Giada's Calamari Stew: (usually serves 6 - this is the recipe halved)
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-2 cloves garlic, cut in half
-1/2 one small onion
-1 c. good marinara/tomato sauce
-1/2 c. dry white wine
-1/2 tsp. fresh chopped thyme leaves
-1 pinch red pepper flakes (I substituted a dash of cayenne pepper)
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. black pepper
-1 cup thinly sliced rounds of drained and cleaned calamari

  • Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat & add onions and garlic until onions become slightly translucent
  • Remove the garlic & onions from the pan
  • Add the tomato sauce, wine, thyme, a couple chopped parsley leaves, red pepper, salt & pepper
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer
  • Add the calamari and onions/garlic back into the saucepan and cook another 5 mins or so.
  • Serve with toasted garlic bread

Next came dessert... I've made these moist and chewy cookies before with the original recipe but because our house is overrun with fresh blueberries, I decide to sub out the chocolate chips and throw in the blueberries instead. This recipe comes from a book I consider my Bible... Naturally Thin by Bethenny Frankel. Its full of healthy, easy recipes (some vegan options and organic substitutions included) that just about anyone can handle... I've already cooked my way through the majority of the book and I've gone back to this recipe today to retry it with fruit rather than chocolate.

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip (or Blueberry) Cookies:
-1-1/2 c. oat flour
-3/4 c. rolled oats
-1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 c. raw sugar
-1/3 c. chocolate chips (I used a little more than 1/3 c. of blueberries... give or take an extra small handful)
-1 tsp. canola oil
-1/3 c. soymilk or 1%, 2%, etc.
-1/2 c. banana puree (about 1 medium banana)
-1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl & combine all wet ingredients in a seperate bowl
  • Mix the dry and wet ingredients together until well combined
  • Fold in the chocolate chips (or blueberries) to the batter
  • Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop batter onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper
  • Bake for 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, or bake until the edges of the cookies are light brown.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Apple-Cinnamon Scones

Finally...a break in the heat wave we've been having for the past three or four days! I'm scared to death of tornadoes and I wasn't exactly "panic attack free" when I saw the alert all over the TV, but luckily nothing happened. No damage, no tornado sightings, no hiding in the basement with all 3 kitties... but it was scary for a while there.

I decided to bake today because I knew some rain was coming though and I didn't see myself getting outside much because of it. I was craving something to go with my cup of coffee this afternoon and immediately remembered a recipe I'd been meaning to try that I found in my Mom's collection of recipes. It's from 1988 and I was a booming 2 years old when it came out HA! From Better Homes and Gardens, the Apple-Cinnamon Scone.

The cinnamon is what attracted it to me at first because I was planning on having spiced coffee and knew it would go perfectly with it...

I used a Golden Delicious apple... more of a medium size rather than small as the recipe suggested because I love love love chunks, even mouthfuls, of warm apple in any dessert.

The end result... I cut mine into 8 rather than 12 because I need a bigger scone than what the 12 slices would have given me; and it just sounded much better.

And THIS is what I see outside my kitchen window when the scones have 2 minutes left in the oven....eeeeeek!!!

Ready for testing....

The storm has passed... my coffee is fresh, hot, and ready to enjoy... and I topped my still warm scone with a light spread of All Fruit strawberry jam to add just a touch of sweetness. Mmmm-mmmm :) Nothing better...

Apple-Cinnamon Scones:
-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
-1/2 c. wheat flour (I used Whole Wheat Graham Flour)
-1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
-1/3 cup margarine
-1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
-1 small apple (I used a medium sized Golden Delicious and left the chopped pieces somewhat large)
-2 egg whites
-2 tbsp. apple juice OR skim milk
-2 tbsp. honey


  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a small mixing bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  • Cut in margarine until mixture resembles course crumbs.
  • Stir in oats and chopped apple, then add egg whites & either apple juice or skim milk, and honey.
  • Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray & with floured hands (the dough is very sticky) pat dough into a 7-inch circle on the baking sheet.
  • Cut into wedges (recipe says 12 wedges, I cut 8 instead) and seperate the wedges slightly (about a 1/4 inch in between each slice) with a spatula
  • Brush the tops with more skim milk.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until tops are golden colored. Serve warm with tea or coffee :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Iced Italian Cookies

For dinner at my boyfriend's house tonight, I really wanted to come with a dessert prepared. As the last name Catalano would imply, they're a family of Italians and my boyfriend's dad especially loves Italian cookies. I'm not really a big fan of them, probably because I always think of the bland, boring cookies that usually get labeled "Italian" and whenever I try one I always wonder WHERE the sweetness is. I know they're supposed to be subtle cookies but there's nothing wrong with adding a little something to satisfy the sweet tooth.

The recipe I used was from over at Bunny's Warm Oven and it changed my perception of GOOD Italian cookies in a second. The recipe is quick, easy, and makes a big batch. I packed up about half of the cookies to bring for dinner tonight and was still left with an entire two cookie sheets of these morsels.

Italian Cookies:
-1/2 c. butter
-1/4 c. shortening
-3/4 c. sugar
-4 eggs
-3 c. flour
-5 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. salt
-2 tsp. vanilla extract
-2 c. powdered sugar
-3 tbsp. milk
  • Melt butter & shortening together; add sugar & mix well
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition
  • Mix in vanilla extract
  • In a seperate bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, & salt and add gradually to the creamed mixture
  • Roll into small balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets (I added about 1/2 cup more flour because the dough was too sticky to handle)
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 8 or 9 minutes; they should be browned slightly on the bottom but still light on top
  • Remove to wire rack to cool before icing
Make the Icing:
  • Mix milk one tablespoon at a time into the 2 cups of powdered sugar to make the glaze (keep it somewhat thick)
  • Dip the top of each cookie into the icing (when completely cooled) and sprinkle with nonpareils
  • Add them back to the wire rack until icing sets
*Putting a piece of wax paper underneath the wire rack assists in easier cleanup after icing the cookies!

Layered Ice Cream Cake & White Wine Peach Sangria

Hope everyone's enjoying the scorching heat... I personally cannot wait until Fall arrives. It's the perfect season... I love the colors, the smells, the cool breeze that makes the weather just chilly enough for a scarf, a cardigan or sweater, and a hot cup of caramel apple cider at your favorite coffeehouse. My favorite recipes incorporate all of the best "Fall" spices... nutmeg and cinnamon... Oh and of course... Fall means PUMPKIN ANYTHING. Not to mention Thanksgiving and Halloween which I look forward to every other day of the year! I'm very blessed to live in a quiet, country setting like mine and people travel from all over to head to this part of CT and take in all the oranges, reds, browns, and yellows. Ah, it's beautiful. Apparently I'm the only person excited for Summer to head on out but who cares! So it's cook time....

It was my Mom's birthday this past weekend and I was in charge of making dinner, appetizers, and desserts (yikes) but I was excited to do it... especially because of the dessert portion of the birthday. My Mom absolutely loves the Carvel ice cream cakes with those chocolate crunchies and she had said she wanted an ice cream cake so I thought... rather than spending $20 on a cake that is exactly the same each and every year, why not make one instead? My mom always appreciates originality and loves when I take the time to make something rather than buy it.

So I found this recipe in the Family Circle magazine and it came out perfect! I made a few minor adjustments... added crushed Oreos in between each layer of ice cream to add the "crunchies" my Mom craved so very much, and used Organic Chocolate ice cream and Vanilla Bean for the three layers inside the cake. It was surprisingly easy to make and tasted out of this world delicious. My other family members/friends/and boyfriend are already asking me if I can make a spin off of this one for their birthdays using their favorite flavors....

Find the recipe here.... and enjoy it! I substituted lower fat and organic ice creams, light whipped topping and extra crushed Oreos because I prefer fewer calories when I'm going to indulge in something that's already so rich but you can substitute your favorite flavors!

To go along with dinner (and because it was borderline what felt like 100 degrees in the kitchen that day) my family always needs a "beverage" of some kind... Rather than stick to our regular Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon pairing, I spiced it up (literally) with a summer peach cocktail recipe that my friend Kathryn discovered and shared with everyone at a pool party Saturday. It is refreshing, delicious, and if you love fresh fruit as I do then there's nothing better!
I garnished the tops with extra slices of peaches. Why? Why not!? They're the perfect summer fruit!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes

So I mentioned a few days ago that my friend Luna is have a "pot luck" pool/cocktail party on Saturday and I've been trying to decide on something to make for a while now... I wanted to try something new and different and needed to settle on something that would be easy to serve and taste good to just about anybody.

I found this recipe for Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes on Nicole's blog at Sweet and Sassy. They came out perfect. SO moist and delicious... I ended up having to use the total 6 cups of powedered sugar to make sure the frosting was thick enough and even afterwards it was a little runny down the sides of the cuppys but finger-licking good and worth the mess! Wish I had gotten a better picture of the final product but trust me, they're mm-mm-gooooood....

My VERY helpful baking assistant doing what she does best... per usual... :)

The coffee buttercream frosting ended up thick, buttery, and easy to spread. I threw in about a teaspoon or so of extra instant coffee granules... just to increase the coffee flavor because the actual cake could have used a tad more of it.

Just to please all of the other coffee lovers besides me (I strongly believe there's NO such thing as too much coffee flavor in ANY kind of dessert...) I topped each with chocolate covered coffee beans. It looked pretty and gives a little crunch to these rich and decadent cupcakes.

Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes:

-A box of Devils Food cake mix
-3 tbsp. instant coffee
-1/2 cup GOOD & strong brewed coffee

Buttercream Frosting:

-1 stick butter (softened)
-1/4 c. milk
-5 or 6 cups powdered sugar
-3 tsp. instant coffee (maybe a bit more if you really like the coffee flavor)
-1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Prepare the Devils Food cake mix according to the directions on the box
  • Add the 3 tbsp. of instant coffee to the batter and mix well to incorporate
  • Distribute the batter evenly to 24 paper-lined muffin cups (about 2/3 full or so)
  • Bake at 350 degrees according to directions (mine took about 18-19 mins)
  • Brush tops of the cupcakes with the fresh brewed coffee using a pastry brush
  • Make the buttercream frosting: mix instant coffee with milk in a seperate bowl
  • Add butter & sifted powdered sugar, one cup at a time, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until you reach desired frosting consistency
  • Frost generously and top with chocolate covered coffee beans for something a little extra

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Is there any person out there who doesn't love chocolate & peanut butter combined?? I can't imagine that there is. Especially when it combines SOFT chewy peanut butter cookies and gooey chocolate in between. These cookies were easy to make and look/taste perfect...

-1-1/4 c. reduced-fat smooth peanut butter
-3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1 egg
-1 tsp. vanilla

For Chocolate Filling:
-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
-4 tbsp. butter, cut into two pieces
*Makes ALOT of chocolate filling; can most likely cut this amount in half

-Heat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets with wax paper
-In a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, and baking soda at medium speed
-Add egg and vanilla at low speed
-Shape level tablespoonfuls of dough into 1 inch balls and arrange 1-1/2 inches apart (Don't press them down)
-Bake one tray at a time until puffed and cracked slightly (About 12 minutes)
-Transfer the cookie tray to wire rack for 10 mins.
-Make the Filling -- Melt chocolate chips and butter with a double boiler or in the microwave & let cool for 20-30 minutes
-Add a spoonful of the chocolate filling onto the flat side of a peanut butter cookie and top with another peanut butter cookie, flat side facing the chocolate; repeat with the rest of the cookies
-Let sit for at least 20 mins. or so before DEVOURING.

Before mixing....

Ready for the oven... :)

Waiting for them to cool before frosting.... and I hate hate hate waiting....

Anddd DONE!!!! Enjoy :)

I've never met a brownie I didn't like

Today, while out for my morning run around the pond, I was praying I wouldn’t get struck by lightning (lovely) as the dark clouds started crawling in. Ugh… the ONLY good thing about rain is that it creates a good day to stay inside and get those things done that we put off for, surprise surprise, a “rainy day” aka those things we don’t ever WANT to do but have no excuse not to once it’s dark as night out at 2pm.

So I got those things done… laundry, my internship paper, grocery shopping, blah blah… and then got to the fun part: the baking. One of my best friends, Luna, is home from San Francisco for the month of August and, as she can always be counted on to do, is throwing a fun little pool/pot-luck party at her new house which, of course, made me SO happy when I realized I get to bake something extra delicious to bring with me. Now, small-town girl Luna has officially become a full blown fashion model in CA and about to take off to Korea for 2 months for work through Ford (so so happy for her!) which inspired me to make a delicious but still somewhat healthy and light dessert to bring so that she (and the other guests) can enjoy the sweetness but not have to worry about working it off (prior to leaving the States in Lu’s case).

Me with Lu (on right) at the most perfect town-y bar you could ask for (yikes)

After going through endless different ideas, I settled on none other than brownies. Who doesn’t like a rich, moist, and fudgy brownie? The only thing that can make it better is a glaze on top. My preference is either white chocolate or peanut butter with brownies because both compliment them so well. I also never mind a sprinkle of nuts inside but not everyone is too keen on those. So I’m going to keep it basic… Fudgy Healthy Brownies with a light peanut butter marble for just a hint of flavor? I’m leaning towards it… Pictures & recipe will follow!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Low Fat Blueberry Muffins

Well this is my first time doing this... both a blog and baking like a fiend while documenting each recipe but I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited about it!

I woke up this morning already knowing it was going to be a good day to be in the kitchen. It was already a "work from home" day so I was prepared to keep the productivity going after I got all of my work projects and the first half of my 6 page paper for my internship class finished and that's exactly what I did.

We have what used to be about 100 blueberry bushes in our lot which may have dwindled down to a few less and each week we come back into the kitchen with about 3 medium sized bowls worth... and that's without putting a significant dent in the berries... so naturally I started off with basic Blueberry Muffins using a low-fat recipe on I made a few minor substitutions such as omitting the regular white sugar for raw sugar (which I feel tastes exactly the same) and was more than happy with the results. I'll be even happier tomorrow when I have one of these delicious muffins alongside my morning coffee.

Low-Fat Blueberry Muffins
-2 c. flour
-1/3 c. sugar (I used raw sugar instead)
-1 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1 cup milk (I used skim milk to omit some of the fat)
-2 tbsp canola oil
-1 egg, beaten slightly
-1 cup fresh blueberries (I just eyeball it - there's no such thing as TOO many blueberries)

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a 12-muffin pan with cupcake liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • In a small bowl, combine milk, canola oil, and egg
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the milk mixture to this space
  • Mix well; fold in blueberries gently
  • Using a medium size ice cream scoop, distribute the batter evenly to 12 muffin cups
  • Bake 18-20 mins or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
  • Allow to sit while still in pan on a wire cooling rack; remove and store in air tight container or enjoy warm with a light spread of butter. Delicious!