chambord brownies

With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, I wanted to make my husband a special treat.  We've been obsessed with Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies.  They are the most delicious brownie ever.  They are fudgy, chewy, and easy to make.

We both LOVE creme de menthe brownies, but I wanted to make something a little more Valentiney.  I swapped the creme de menthe for chambord and added a little food coloring to make the filling pink.  I also made a few brownies a silicon hearts pan I've had lying around for years.

These brownies are rich, indulgent, and a perfect treat for my Valentine. . . as long as I don't eat them all first.

Chambord Brownies

Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies

1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)
8 ounces plus 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 large eggs
1 1/2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 9x13 pan (I usually make this in a 9x13, but for Valentine's I put a little batter in a heart mold silicon pan).

Melt the butter, 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate in a bowl. I put the bowl in the microwave for 40 seconds, stirred, and continued to heat at 10 second intervals until melted, stirring after each 10 second interval in the microwave. (You can also place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring until melted).

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla extract and sugar.  Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  In a small bowl, mix the 6 ounces of chocolate chips and 2 Tablespoons of flour so that the chocolate chips are coated in flour.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the flour to the egg and chocolate mixture and mix until just combined.  Gently mix in the chocolate chip and flour mixture until just combined.

Pour batter into greased pan and tap the pan a few times on the counter to release any air.  Bake for 20 minutes, then tap pan again on oven shelf to release air again, then bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.  Do not overbake; an inserted toothpick should come out clean.

Cool pan completely and refrigerate.

Chambord Filling
adapted from my grandmother's recipe for Creme de Menthe Brownies

4 Tablespoons of Chambord liqueur *
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
a drop of red food coloring, optional

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth. Spread evenly over cooled brownie layer in pan.
* To make traditional Creme de Menthe brownies, use 2 Tablespoons of Creme de Menthe liqueur instead of 4 Tablespoons of Chambord.

Chocolate Topping

6 Tablespoons butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, melt butter and chocolate chips in microwave or over simmering water.  Pour over Chambord covered brownies and spread out to make an even layer.

Store brownies in the refrigerator.  Cut brownies into small squares or use a cookie cutter if you want a shaped brownie.


sprinkle snakes

I really love this time of year.  I love the lights, decorations, music, cheesy movies, you name it.  Unfortunately, this time of year fills my head with these Hallmark perfect ideas.  Take making and decorating these cookies- my favorite cookie of all time.  What I envisioned to be this Norman Rockwell, heartwarming and fun activity turned out more like a toddler hurricane of sprinkles and chocolate.

I was getting the melted chocolate bowl and sprinkle bowls in place.  My son was so excited, and chanting "sprankles, sprankles" (he has a little twang).  Every 5 seconds I would move the sprinkle bowls closer and closer towards me (and further and further from my son).  His little arm would shoot out so fast and grab fist fulls of sprinkles.  Next I watched him try to put the fist full of nonpareils in his mouth, while hearing thousands of the minuscule little balls falling all over the floor.

Next, I tried letting him dip the cookies in the melted chocolate, and then dip the chocolate part in the sprinkles.  He dipped the cookie into the chocolate, then into the sprinkles.  Instead of putting it on the drying rack, he grabs the melted chocolate and sprinkle end and begins smooshing it, spreading chocolate and sprinkles everywhere, while simultaneously grabbing more handfuls of sprinkles to eat.

So, I ended up decorating the cookies, while he pillaged all of sprinkle/chocolate globs that would drip from the drying rack.  He also ate LOTS of cookies, and a few more handfuls of sprinkles.  At the end, we had great looking cookies and a toddler covered in red, green, and chocolate.  Although it was nothing like I had envisioned, we both had a lot of fun.

Growing up we called these cookies "snakes" because my mom always shaped the cookies into an "S" shape.  Even if I only make 1 batch of cookies at Christmas, it's these.  They are perfect!

Sprinkle Snake Cookies
makes: about 6 dozen

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour

For decorations: semi sweet chocolate chips and sprinkles.

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer until smooth.  Add sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Mix in the egg yolk and vanilla extract.  Add the flour and mix until all of the flour is incorporated.

To shape:  It is easiest to use a cookie press with star disc and shape cookies into the letter "S", or circles for wreaths (my grandmother always did that), shells, rosettes, or even straight or squiggly lines.  My cookie press is packed away in a box somewhere (we've been trying to move for awhile), so I used a pastry bag with a star tip.  The dough is very stiff, so the disposable bags tear easily unless you only fill it with a little bit of dough at a time.  I still went through 4 disposable bags- but I was not willing to rummage in the garage for the box that has my cookie press.

Press or pipe the cookies directly onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  The dough doesn't spread, so you can fit a lot of cookies on each sheet.  Bake 7-12 minutes until you just begin to see a couple of the tips turn a slight golden brown (do not let the cookies get golden all over- it is supposed to be pale).  Cool completely before decorating.

Chocolate- you can melt the chocolate in a heat-safe bowl over a pot of simmering water or in the microwave using short increments of time.  When I microwave chocolate, I do 30 seconds, stir, 10 seconds, stir, and then 5 second intervals until just melted.

Dip end of cooled cookie into chocolate, and then dip chocolate end into sprinkles.  Place decorated cookie on a cookie rack and allow chocolate to set.


overnight baked pumpkin & cranberry french toast

I love Thanksgiving!  This year my in-laws are coming up from Georgia.  It will just be the 4 of us adults and my son eating, and it seems so strange to have such a small group.  Usually we invite some friends when we host Thanksgiving, but with the new baby we decided to keep it small.  It seemed like the easiest (and most flexible) option, but I will miss having a full house.

Like Thanksgiving, I also love overnight french toasts.  They are easy to make, delicious, and we usually have leftovers of it.  This recipe idea originally came from a baked french toast by Giada De Laurentiis that has blueberries and lemon zest.  I tweaked her recipe (a lot) to make it satisfy all of my fall foods cravings.  I've used chopped apple as a fruit add in, but it was disappointing because the flavor was too subtle.  Next, I tried adding fresh cranberries, and it was exactly what I wanted.  I'm prone to prefer tart things, but combine that with the sweet and warm flavors in the casserole, it makes the perfect Thanksgiving week breakfast.

Overnight Baked Pumpkin & Cranberry French Toast
recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

6 eggs
1 cup pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
3 cups milk (I use 2%)
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 lb loaf of day old french bread (challah or sourdough would be great), cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups cranberries
Cinnamon sugar mixture (1 Tablespoon cinnamon and 3 Tablespoons of sugar mixed together)

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.  Whisk in pumpkin puree until mixture is smooth.  Whisk in the milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves until blended. Mix in the bread until coated. Cover and put in fridge for at least 5 hours or overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350.
Remove mixture from the refrigerator and give the mixture a good stir.  Mix in the cranberries.  Pour into a greased 13" baking dish. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Bake 40-45 minutes until the top is  lightly golden and the filling is set.

Note: I always forget to add the cranberries, which is why I add them the next morning.  I assume it would be fine to mix them in after you've mixed in the bread.


a baby and corn pudding

October was a really great month for my family.  We welcomed the sweetest baby girl into our family.  My husband was able to have a couple weeks of paternity leave, which was wonderful.  My 2.5 year old has fallen in love with his baby sister, but has given his parents a run for their money!  Now that life is getting back to our new normal, he's doing a better job remembering the rules.  I can't complain, he has fared this change much better than I expected- although I think we've permanently traumatized him when we woke up to him carrying his 2 week old sister around our room in the middle of the night (my heart still races at this thought).

Those 31 days went by way too fast, I can't believe it is already November!  We'll be hosting my in-laws for Thanksgiving this year, and I've already begun to menu plan.  I wanted to share some the dishes we'll be eating for Thanksgiving, and this first one is my absolute favorite!

This corn pudding recipe is one that has been on my family's Thanksgiving table ever since I can remember.  It is sweet and delicious, and I could eat the whole dish (but since it is my husband's favorite too, he always forces me to share it with him).  The recipe comes from a cookbook my mom and her friends created as a fundraiser for my elementary school.  21 years later, I use this cookbook more than any other cookbook.  The original recipe was from our family friend, Mrs. Welch, but there have been changes made to the recipe in my mom's handwriting.  So for crediting sake, I'll say it's my mom's version of Mrs. Welch's recipe- I guess this is right?

Corn Pudding
serves 6

3 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 heaping Tablespoon flour (I use unbleached all-purpose)
dash of nutmeg
pinch of salt
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cans creamed corn

Preheat oven to 350 .  Melt 3 Tablespoons butter in casserole dish.  Mix sugar, flour, nutmeg and salt together.  Stir in beaten eggs.  Mix in milk, vanilla, and creamed corn.  Pour mixture into the casserole with melted butter and stir.  Bake 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown.


lost things and a secret apple pie

My husband turned 30 several weeks ago. . . he finally caught up with me.  He loves to take the month and a half in between our birthdays to daily tell me how I robbed the cradle.  He chose his cake flavor, and I made these creme de menthe cupcakes that we fell in love with.  I grabbed my camera to take a picture I could blog, and the camera battery was dead.  I then spent the next week checking every nook, shelf, and dark corner in my home.  I was unable find it.  With our next baby being born next week, I went ahead and ordered a new charger. . . so now I have a lot of catching up to do!

So, on to apple pie!  About 10 years ago I cut out a Southern Living recipe for apple pie.  I loved that recipe, and the only thing I remember really loving about the recipe is that it was a crumb topping.  I'm not a huge fan of crust. . . so I'm a total sucker for any crumb topped pie.  

Shortly after I finished culinary school, I went to make an apple pie for Friend Thanksgiving (an annual holiday held by a group of friends).  Apparently I have a real talent for losing things, and I had lost the recipe from Southern Living.  I decided to take my freshly learned skills and create my first pie recipe.  I didn't have internet (it was 2005- and considered a luxury for my budget), and all of my cookbooks were still packed in boxes.  I used what I had in my cupboards, and after a few tweaks this has become my go-to pie.

I debated whether or not to share this recipe in the beginning, and eventually decided to keep it a secret.  Here I am, 6 years later, blogging about it.  So this is the recipe debut for my apple pie.  I hope you love this pie as much as my friends and family do.  

Secret Apple Pie
(original by Meredith)
Makes: 1 deep dish apple pie

1 deep dish pie crust (you can use homemade or store bought)

6-8 apples; peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (my favorite combination is honeycrisp and granny smith- amount of apples depends on size of pie plate and personal preference)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon Frangelico liqueur
2 Tablespoons melted butter 

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
5 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into 5 pieces
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F .  Place pie crust in deep dish pie plate.

For the filling, whisk brown sugar, sugar, flour, salt, and spices (all the dry ingredients) in a large bowl.  Add the apple slices to dry ingredients and toss to evenly coat all of the apple slices.  Stir in the Frangelico and melted butter.  Pour the apple slices and any leftover liquid into the pie crust.

For the topping, place brown sugar, flour and butter in a medium bowl.  With a pastry cutter, 2 forks, or your hands, cut or mix ingredients until it resembles a crumb topping (about 3 minutes).  The flour should incorporate with butter pieces, making the butter pieces about pea size. Mix in the chopped pecans.  Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the apple slices (do not pat topping down, just sprinkle).

Bake for 40-50 minutes until the top begins to turn golden brown, the apples are tender if inserted with a fork, and the juices are bubbly.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.


red, white & blue cream scones

Scones never used to be my thing. I'd enjoy them on occasion, but I usually found them dry and lackluster. Why would I make or eat something that left my mouth feeling parched for water? I think being a picky eater has rubbed off on my son. . . if only he was willing to eat vegetables like he eats fruit. . .

One day I was browsing through smittenkitchen.com and found a scone recipe I was willing to try. These had promise that they wouldn't be dust biscuits. I made them, and fell in love. I love them so much that I haven't made a scone from a different base recipe in several years.

What I normally do with this recipe is double it. Not because I could eat a whole batch by myself, but because I can freeze the scones before baking. This way I always have scones on hand for a breakfast (or afternoon) treat, or for drop in company. For potluck breakfasts with friends, I like to bring "sconies," which is this recipe, shaped into smaller scones. I usually end up making these smaller size scones because my 2 year old loves them, and it's easier for him to hold. Now if only I could find some clotted cream in eastern NC. . .

Red, White & Blue Cream Scones
Makes: 8 large scones, or 16 sconies

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/3 cup dried blueberries, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

Place oven rack to the middle level and preheat oven to 425°

In food processor, fitted with metal blade, place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Pulse 6 times.
Remove the cover, and sprinkle butter cubes evenly over dry mixture. Replace cover, and pulse 12 times, with each pulse lasting 1 second. Remove cover and sprinkle the dried cherries, dried blueberries and white chocolate chips evenly over mixture. Replace cover and give the food processor 2 to 3 more pulses.

Pour mixture into a large bowl. With a spatula, stir in the heavy cream until mixture is just moistened, about 30 seconds. Do not over mix or you will have hard scones.

Turn bowl out onto a clean work surface, and make sure to get all the little pieces and excess flour. Give the dough about 5 kneads, while working it into a rough ball (if making sconies, at this point divide the ball in half). Take the dough ball and gently pat down to an 8 inch circle (for sconies, press both balls into 4 inch circles), working so that it has an even top and patting the sides to keep them somewhat structured (you can also press it into an 8 inch cake pan, then flip over to release). Cut circle (or circles) into 8 wedges, using a bench scraper (preferred) or a knife.

Place wedges on a ungreased sheet pan and bake 12-15 minutes (sconies 10-12 minutes), until tops are lightly browned. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

*If freezing: after cutting wedges from dough circles, place wedges on a lined sheet pan and freeze. Once frozen I place wedges in ziplocs or wrap well in plastic wrap. To bake, just extend bake time a couple minutes.


frosted peach cupcakes

What happens when you leave your in-laws home in Georgia with a giant box of peaches? The original intent was to split the box between us, but as we left our visit, they insisted we take the entire box. As much as my husband, 2 year old and I would love to devour all of these peaches while perfectly in season, realistically the 3 of us could never do it.
So, what could I bake? What could I cook? I began thinking about ideas and cupcakes were the first thing that came to mind. I started with a recipe from smittenkitchen.com, while although tasty, it wasn't what I was craving in my 7 months pregnant-knowing exactly what I wanted state (believe me I was shocked since I love everything that comes from that blog).
I decided to write down a list of ingredients I wanted to use, and tinkered from there. After a couple batches, I finally found what I was looking for. A buttery, slightly tangy, sweet cupcake frosted with a not-so-cream-cheesy cream cheese frosting with the crunch of brown sugar.
Peach Cupcakes with Crunchy Cream Cheese Icing
(original by Meredith)
Makes: 12 cupcakes (this recipe can be easily doubled for 24 cupcakes)

1 1/2 cups Cake Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter, softened
3 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup light Brown Sugar, packed
1 Eggs, large
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Frangelico liqueur
2 fresh Peaches, peeled and pitted
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with liners, or lightly grease tins if not using liners.

Finely chop both peaches, or if you’re lazy like me just whir them in the food processor. Pour the Frangelico on top of the peaches, set aside.

Combine cake flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a bowl; whisk to sift.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on low-medium speed for 5 minutes. Add egg and scrape sides and bottom of the bowl completely (if you double, add one egg at a time, scraping after each addition). Mix until egg is completely incorporated into the mixture. Stir in vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredient mixture to the bowl, stirring until just combined. Scrape down bowl. Fold in peach and Frangelico mixture, by hand, until just combined.

Fill muffin liners a little over 3/4 full, leaving a little space at the top to prevent overflow. Bake in a preheated oven, 28-30 minutes (in my oven it takes 30 minutes), until tops are slightly golden, a cake tester comes out clean, or when you press lightly on the top of the cupcake, it springs back quickly. Allow to sit in pan for 5 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack. *Because of the fruit and brown sugar, you want to give these cupcakes plenty of time to bake so you don't have mush in the center, which is why this is a longer bake time than normal cupcakes.
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
1/2 cup Butter, Softened
3 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add both sugars and allow to mix for several minutes, until light and smooth. Mix in vanilla extract. Spread or pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes (I always pipe).