Monthly Archives: February 2012

Orange Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am a cookie fiend. I love baking up the little devils, and I love devouring them even more. Cookies are just so fun. There are a myriad of flavors, textures, shapes, and sizes in the cookie world, a cookie for everyone. Plus, they’re generally pretty simple to make, a great choice for the beginner baker or for any foodie craving something sweet. They’re shareable, delicious, and addicting. Cookies are, dare I say, the perfect dessert.

One of my favorite things to do with cookies is shake up a classic. I love me some Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. They are honest-to-chocolatey-goodness the best I’ve ever had. I didn’t think they could get any better, that is, until I added some chunks of orange-toffee chocolate into the batter.

Sweet mother of toffee.

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Greens: Two Ways

The pizza here in CNY may not be my cup of tea, but what the area does do right is greens. If you’re unfamiliar with the dish, greens are typically some form of leafy green (escarole, spinach, etc.) sauteed with other good stuff like chicken stock, butter, bacon, hot peppers, and more. Utica is famous for its greens. Every restaurant has its own rendition, and every native has their favorite version. Greens are quite possible the area’s best kept secret. Once you try them, you wonder how you lived a complete life beforehand.

Now, I’m well aware that greens are also popular in the South, but Central New Yorkers take green-making very seriously. It’s not just a side dish, it’s an essential that must be mastered if you don’t want to be exiled from the area.

Oh, your restaurant doesn’t serve greens? Good luck with that.

What I love about greens is the versatility. There are so many ways to mix it up and make them your own. Nothing is off limits; pick your favorite leafy green and seasonings, and go to town.

Since there are so many ways to serve up a bowl of steamin’ hot greens with all the fixings, I’m bringing you two versions. Both are delicious, so pick one or try ‘em both. You can’t go wrong.

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PB & J Dip (Video)

Sometimes, when you least expect it, a stroke of genius hits you.

That’s how I get all my greatest foodspirations*. I’ll be sitting around (hungry), thinking about food (is there anything else worth thinking about?), and then some beautiful idea hits me out of the blue so suddenly that I’m practically knocked right out of my chair. This PB & J Dip was born from such unexpected grace.

It was one of those situation where the second I thought of it, I had to make it right then and there. Well, sort it. I thought of this when I was tucked snugly in bed, trying to fall asleep, so I didn’t exact hop up from my half-conscious state and flee to the kitchen. But I did make if first thing the next day. Thank goodness I did.

This is the easiest dip you will ever make in your life. You only need four ingredients, peanut butter, jelly, whipping cream and powdered sugar, and it comes together in mere minutes. But that’s not the best part, my little cookies. This dip is crazy-insane, blow-your-mind, hug-your-grandma, praise-the-heavens delicious. So, it’s easy to whip together and downright divine to eat…is this real life?

Well, if I am dreaming, then no one pinch me. I wan to stay in my bowl of PB & J deliciousness forever. With layers of luscious, fluffy peanut butter mousse and tart yet sweet jelly, it is like dipping into heaven’s bowl. Top it off with a layer of salty roasted peanuts and discover textural bliss between the light, creamy dip and the crunchy nuts. This is what all salty-sweet foods dream of being.

It’s that familiar flavor combo you loved served up in a new, indulgent way. Grab your dipper of choice and dive in.

I serve this PB & J Dip with hunks of moist pound cake, salty pretzels, and crisp mini vanilla wafers. They are all perfect vessels in their own way. Which one you choose is entirely up to you.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Want to whip you whipped cream really fast? There are two keys to speedy whipping: super cold cream and a chilled bowl. Keep you cream in the fridge until you’re ready to use it so it’s nice and chilled and, if possible, let your bowl chill out in the fridge for a while too.
  2. Use whatever flavor jelly you like best.
  3. I don’t recommend using crunchy peanut butter. It will ruin the smooth texture of the mousse.
  4. Crackers, brownie chunks, shortbread, and celery sticks would also make great dippers.
  5. Instantly turn this dip into a trifle: Layer crisp ladyfingers between the PB and J layers and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
  6. This dip is PERFECT for parties. Dip is the ideal party food, plus who doesn’t love peanut butter and jelly?
  7. Make sure you watch my how-to video below!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Dip
By the Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 12-oz. jar of jelly (your choice of flavor)
  • Salted roasted peanuts for garnish and crunch
  • Assorted dippers: chunks of pound cake, vanilla wafers, pretzels

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream and sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  2. Gently fold in the peanut butter until well incorporated.
  3. In a large glass bowl or trifle dish, spread one-third of the peanut butter mousse onto the bottom of the bowl. Top with half of the jelly and spread out evenly. Add another third of peanut butter and spread out. Top with the other half of jelly, followed by the last third of the peanut butter. Smooth out evenly. Your layers should be: PB, jelly, PB, jelly, PB.
  4. Top with a generous sprinkle of roasted peanuts and serve. Store leftover covered in the fridge for up to 2 days.

*Foodspiration – n – a brilliant inspiration involving food.

Don’t Forget!

Don’t forget to submit your questions for this week’s Smart Cookie Chatter Session. Head over to the SC Chatter Page right now and ask your question, and it will be featured in this week’s video! The topic this week is “pasta,” but nothing is off limits. Want to know what “al dente” means? Do you need to know the secrets to making the perfect mac and cheese? Or are you wondering what my go-to pasta dish is? Ask whatever you wish and I shall answer. Your wish is my command!

Remember, without your questions, there can be no response video! So what are you waiting for? Start asking!

Waffle Brownies

What will a waffle maker want when waffles won’t work?

It’s a riddle. And a tongue twister.

The answer: BROWNIES.

At the risk of stating the obvious, brownies are such a wonderful treat, even in their most basic form. Almost every loves brownies. They’re soft and comforting, like a delicious chocolate bear who decided he wanted to be friends and encased you in an embrace of sweet love. If a bear like that ever came up to you requesting a hug, would you turn him away? Of course not, just as you would never pass up a perfectly good brownie.

However, there is always a way to make fantastic things even more fantastical. In the case of brownies, you can swirl in some peanut butter, throw in some nuts, or maybe add a layer of cookie dough if you’re feeling adventurous. What’s my latest and greatest way of serving up these chocolatey treats?

Make ‘em in the waffle maker.

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Healthy Cookie: Kale, Feta, & Tomato Veggie Burger Wrap

I have a lot of resentment towards healthy foods, and towards my stubborn taste buds for not liking them. It’s a constant battle. Despite what you might assume from the decadent recipes that make up the majority of this site, I actually eat healthy foods most of the time. About 75% of my week is healthy, & 25% is whatever I want to shove down my gullet. This makes things difficult. I try so hard to eat healthy, but whenever I’m munching on an apple, I’m wishing it was a honkin’ slice of pizza with extra cheese.

I don’t understand why my taste buds are so against consuming what my body needs, and I know I’m not alone in this debacle. It doesn’t make sense when you think about it. According to evolution, we crave sweet things because sweetness signifies that they are good for us (or at least it used to), fruit for example. In contrast, we have a natural distaste for bitter things because bitterness is a sign that food may be toxic or poisonous.

Evolution, however, neglected to account for the invention of chocolate cake and other things that are sweet but basically not good for you at all. Talk about a miscalculation.

So if I’m supposed to like sweet fruits, why must I force them down my throat? Have I somehow devolved to crave processed sugars and foods that are full of fat? It’s definitely a possibility.

Or maybe I’m just a pig. There’s that too.

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The First Ever Smart Cookie Chatter Session

As you all know, I gave you guys the opportunity to ask me anything your hearts desired, then vowed to personally  answer all your questions in a video. I was thrilled with the questions you asked, and couldn’t wait to respond! This week, I answered your inquiries on everything from tempering to nail polish. So, without further ado, here is the first ever Smart Cookie Chatter video.

Got a question weighing on your mind? Then head over to the Smart Cookie Chatter Page and let me hear it.  I’ll give you an answer and a shout out in next week’s Smart Cookie Chatter. Don’t be shy!

Candy Bar Cake (Video)

What’s the one problem you didn’t know candy bars had?

They don’t have cake in them.

It’s okay, because we can easily resolve this candy-cake conundrum: We’ll make a GIANT candy bar stuffed with cake. The end result is what you would get if a Snickers bar and a cake had a baby. You’ve got a layer of moist, dense pound cake topped with fluffy chocolate frosting and a caramel-nut filling, all cradled inside a smooth milk chocolate shell. Your mind will explode from the sweet symphony encompassed within this cake: chocolate, caramel, frosting, nuts, cake…It’s a sweet tooth’s dream.

You better hurry up and grab a slice before it evaporates, because this candy bar-cake hybrid is too good to be true.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. This cake looks really fancy and complicated. Here’s a secret: It’s not at all. It’s so easy, you’ll want to make one every day!
  2. In fact, you can see just how easy it is by watching my step-by-step video below.
  3. Do not use store-bought frosting. It is too rich and fudgy along with all the other indulgent components of the cake. This frosting is light and fluffy like a mousse, and it’s super quick and easy to make.
  4. Don’t like nuts? Skip ‘em!
  5. If you’re more of a dark chocolate person, feel free to use that instead.
  6. This would be a great present for the candy bar lover in your life.
  7. Yes, I give you the option of buying a store-bought pound cake, but I implore you to make your own. Homemade is so much better, and pound cake is the easiest cake to make on the planet. I have the Perfect Pound Cake recipe; it’s moist, buttery, and to die for.
  8. You can bake the cake in the morning (or the day before) and assemble it later.
  9. Whatever cake you use, make sure it’s the size of a standard loaf pan.
  10. You know what would be good besides the caramel nut filling? Peanut butter.
  11. You must have the chocolate coating warm when you pour it on so that it doesn’t harden up before you can spread it out. However, make sure it’s not hot or it will melt the caramel below.

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SC Essentials: Perfect Pound Cake

I need to dispel a rumor that’s been running rampant for far too long.

Pound cake is not boring.

I know how it looks to the untrained eye: a vanilla cake devoid of frosting. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, pound cake is traditionally served without frosting, but I ensure you, my little cookies, it does not need it. And if you believe otherwise, then it’s for one of two reasons:

  1. You’ve never had pound cake.
  2. You’ve never had a good pound cake.

Let’s look at the facts here: I have what it possibly the most insatiable sweet in existence. If I can be pleased by a pound cake, then anyone can. In fact, pound cake is my very favorite kind of cake. Sure, I love chocolate cake and carrot cake and all kinds of other tantalizing flavors, but what I really love is pound cake’s sweet simplicity, the fact that it is so buttery, moist, dense, an delicious that it doesn’t need frosting. Would I eat any other flavor of cake without the frosting? Probably not. (Eh…okay, I probably would, but only if I had no other choice and only because I love cake. I would still much prefer them with frosting)

Having a good pound cake recipe is absolutely essential. As a baker, it’s a treat you’ve always got to have in your bag of tricks. For one, it’s dead simple to make, possibly the easiest kind of cake to make ever. There is nothing better than whipping up a loaf (or a bundt cake) and indulging in a fresh, warm slice slathered in butter. That is simplicity at its finest.

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I Want You!

This Tuesday, I’ll be posting my latest video which will feature a new segment: Smart Cookie Chatter. We’re going to talk about whatever you guys want to talk about. This is where you come in. I want you to ask me anything. How do you temper eggs? What’s a roux? What’s the worst thing you’ve ever cooked? What’s your dogs name? It could even be a request for the types of recipes you want to see more of.

Nothing is off limits! But I need you to supply the questions. Ask whatever your little heart desires, and your question may be featured in next week’s video, along with my answer for you!

Ask your questions below or you can submit them to the Smart Cookie Chatter Page. Just be sure to leave your name.

I can’t wait to hear from you guys! I hope you enjoy the new segment next week.

Now start chattering!